header image
Home arrow 50 Yrs Among The Baptists arrow Letters--Oliphant's First Letter
Letters--Oliphant's First Letter PDF Print E-mail
Written by James Oliphant/Silas Durand   

 

Elder S. F. Cayce:  Dear Brother: I send you herewith my reply to an article by Elder Durand, in the Signs of the Times, of December 1, 1899. Please examine this reply carefully, and if approved, publish in your columns. But unless you endorse it fully, be SURE not to publish it, and oblige yours, affectionately in the gospel,
J. H. Oliphant.
CRAWFORDSVILLE, IND.

Dear Brother Durand: I notice your letter to me is published in the Signs of the Times of December 1st, I suppose, from what you wrote me, that the Signs of the Times would not be willing to publish my views, and so I will reply to you through Elder Cayce's paper, if agreeable to him, I will not complain of the Signs of the Times for publishing your letter in answer to mine without giving me some notice or opportunity to reply, but will try to review some things found in your letter.

In the first two pages you consider the question whether my writing indicates that I am a Christian. This is an important question to me, and has been for many years. Taking all you say on this subject, I understand you to believe that I am a Christian, and I am glad that you have this opinion. 

I understand you, in this part of your letter, that at such times as I am in a proper frame and "walking in the Spirit" I am most likely to agree with you; and also I understand you  that the fact that I differ with you is evidence that I am “forgetful of the most important things in my life and walk before God.” On the whole, you seem to judge of one's spiritual condition by his agreement or disagreement with yourself. You say, "The few that I have known of preachers who have been left for a time to believe that their meritorious work, in the performance of conditions, had secured their daily or 'time' salvation, have been, while under the power of that delusion, a hindrance instead of a benefit to the Lord's afflicted and poor people.”

I understand you in this to set forth the sentiments that we hold, as you understand it, and so you judge a man to be "left for a time” if he fails to see with you on the subject in hand.You regard him as "under the power of that delusion" so long as he differs with you relative to this matter. When you say, "As in your own case the Lord alone can restore your soul,” etc., your mind seems to be that I am now, while differing with you, wholly given over to an evil influence, and nothing but the Spirit of God can restore me to the right paths.

Now, my dear brother, I have given you the impression that this part of your letter made on my mind, but I will not make any reply to it. You say, "you seem to insist that they can do the things that they would, and that God has left all spiritual advantage and comfort dependent on their own will and work." If I wrote this to you I regret it. This is one disadvantage to me in the Signs of the Times publishing your review of my letter without printing the letter itself. I certainly do not think that "all spiritual advantage and comfort is dependent on their will and work." But I suppose the readers of the Signs of the Times will so understand me to believe.
In the Monitor of October you say, "In the beginning of my ministry I sometimes spoke of a "conditional" salvation inside the church, referring to the fact that only when we are walking in obedience to the commands of Jesus can we enjoy the power and comfort of that salvation. In my letter to you I do not think I contended for more or less than is contained in this quotation. Had you not shifted your position you would have the hearty endorsement of our brethren now. I do not think you intentionally misrepresented me, but I would be far from endorsing the sentiment you have attributed to me. You say, "To me it is a new and strange thing to find Old Baptists claiming praise for works of obedience,” etc. Elder Cayce and those of his views are not occupying "new and strange ground" to you. They only stand where you first stood, and when you changed your attitude they did not see fit to go with you to your new-found position.

You complain of me, saying, "you can not have meant to discourage the helpless, but how could it be otherwise than discouraging to them to insist that they are not helpless, but are given freedom of will and are left dependent upon themselves whether they will be happy or miserable?" etc. Relative to the "helpless” ones you refer to, if they are too helpless and poor to be “willing,” I will retract. I think you will admit that, poor as they are, they are willing. They are not too poor to "desire.” The man at the pool, (John, v, 6,) although too "poor" and "helpless" to get into the pool, yet he was not too poor to be willing. If you have poor ones there that are so poor they can't “desire the sincere milk of the word," I confess I am due an apology, but I am sure the Lord's dear ones are not too helpless to be willing. Now, the best evidence that a man has the liberty to do a thing, is the fact that he does it. If the dear brethren you refer to are willing, if our Savior were to say to them, "Wilt thou be made whole?" and they could answer in the affirmative, then they have all the liberty of will I have ever contended for at any time.

In this last quotation you say, "But are given freedom of will and are dependent upon themselves whether they will be happy or miserable." In this you certainly place a strained interpretation on my words. I hold that our enjoyment is, in some degree, dependent on our obedience. Read my article in the October Moniter. In that article I say, "We are liable to extremes on both sides. If we urge that the work and presence of the Spirit is necessary to obedience, just as it is to regeneration, we are not voluntary; for, in regeneration, we are not voluntary, and so regeneration is not a virtue on our part, and if the Spirit's power and presence is exerted in our obedience, just as in our regeneration, then there is no duty in obedience, as we perform no duty in regeneration; and so on the other side, we are liable to forget that we must have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably," etc. If we take one extreme we take away all vice or virtue from the conduct of God's people, and if we take the other we substitute cold formality for the spiritual worship of God. Now, here I insist that we must have grace, and that we can not serve God acceptably without it. I do not, as you say, hold "that they are dependent upon themselves," etc. Our Savior, (John i, 13,) speaking relative to regeneration, says, "Nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man," but he nowhere tells us that our obedience is independent of our will.

The meaning of the word requires that it be dependent, or resultant from the will, and voluntary; so nothing but a willing service is acceptable. I hold just the views you did before you changed to your present position.

So far as I can understand you, you quote the dear brother at your prayer meeting as saying "Some talk about free will, but it seems to me that my will is only free to do evil.” To will, is to choose; so his choice is only free to do evil. His words, if quoted rightly, denote that he only chooses to do evil, or they denote that his will is only free to do evil. I do not think he means that he only chooses to do evil, because he adds, "when I do feel some holy desires,” showing that there are times when he does not choose to do evil. You say of yourself, "I do, or wish to do, what the Lord directs me to do." I think the brother meant about what you say of yourself, and if so, he now possesses all the liberty of will contended for in my book entitled "Thoughts On the Will.” If the brother meant that his will is “only free to do evil," then he believes in freedom of will while doing evil. But his first words indicate that he does not believe in freedom of will at all in any sense. So I must think you either misquoted him, or he failed to express just his true case.

I will notice your words, "It is better to minister only what we have tasted," etc. I endorse this, and I am sure that while I can not be happy just any moment I wish, yet I find that if I do the things I esteem as duty I enjoy myself better than in the neglect of those things.

You quote the words, "I came down from heaven not to do my will, but the will of him that sent me; "Not my will, but thine be done." You refer to these words to show that Christ was not "situated to do as he pleased.” As I wrote to you; I understand these texts to teach that Christ dreaded death and its pains, and not that he was unwilling to obey his Father. If death had no pains for him, it would be no evidence of love for him to die for us. But he at no time betrayed disloyalty to God.

I will try again to prove that he was situated to do as he pleased in all he did and suffered for us. He "became obedient unto death;" Phil., ii, 8. Obedience is voluntary, and to act  voluntarily is to do as one chooses. Jesus says, (John x, 18,) "I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” No man taketh, it from me, but I lay it down of myself." Paul says, "Who gave himself for our sins;" Gal.! i, 4. If he "gave himself" surely he did as he chose in the matter, and if he did as he pleased he must have been "situated to do as he pleased,” as I wrote you. But you say, "That kind of language appears to imply some kind or degree of uncertainty. Now this depends on the faithfulness of Christ. If there is any  unfaithfulness in him, it would make the matter uncertain for him to be "situated to do as he pleased," for a good mother to be situated to do as she pleases will not endanger the well-being of the child. When Jesus was confronted by the terrible scene of suffering in the garden and on the cross, there was joy in his view so that be was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; and if the word "obedient" means here what it does in other places, he did as he pleased, and so was situated to do as he pleased, as I wrote to you. But why should it make everything uncertain for him to be situated to do as he pleased? Suppose one should be unwilling for you to be situated to do as you pleased about taking his goods---would not this show a want of confidence in you? So, when you express the idea that all would be uncertainty if he should be situated to do as he pleased, it seems that in order to defend this new-found notion of yours, it is necessary to hold that it would be exceedingly hazardous for Jesus to be situated to do as he pleased.

If I should express the thought, with tongue or pen, that it would make matters uncertain for Jesus to be situated to do as he pleased, I think I would retract at once; and if I held to any sentiment making it necessary for me to defend such a notion, I would abandon it. I grant that his obedience was predestinated, but if it was predestinated just as the resurrection of the dead was predestinated, this would destroy the idea of obedience. In regeneration we are passive, but in obedience we are active. Resurrection is a physical act of God, but obedience is a willing moral act of Jesus or his people. So there is a distinction between God's decrees touching our obedience and our regeneration.

You will admit that God's people are tried, and yet the final salvation of every one of them is certain. Now if this be true how is it inconsistent to hold, too, that Christ was tried and yet certainty attended his whole history? If you deny that Christ was tried, you must also deny that we are tried, or admit the possibility of apostasy.

You say, "I do not find two kinds of predestination spoken of in the Bible. You certainly admit that predestination is efficacious, causative, respecting our regeneration, creation, etc. So, if you know of but one kind of predestination, you would hold that sin is also efficaciously predestinated. In your article in the Church Advocate, October, 1896, you say, "Can we think that he predestinated salvation, and all the times and ways of its experience, * * and did not predestinate that which made it necessary? * * Did the Lord predestinate the rainbow and not the dark cloud in which he set it to display its glorious beauty?" From these and many of your expressions we would understand you to hold that God is as much the cause of evil as he is of good: and what is this but to destroy the distinction between right and wrong?

You quote the text "For thou also hast wrought all our works in us. What do you understand by the words "all our works?” Did God work David's works in his behavior with Uriah and his wife, in him. Did he work Peter's conduct in denying his Lord, in him? You complain of a heart deceitful and desperately wicked. Did God work all this deceitfulness in you? You quote this text several times as if it were your main reliance. If all our sins and wickedness are wrought in us by the Lord, then wherein does right differ from wrong? You also quote Heb., xiii, 20, 21, "Working in them that which is well pleasing in his sight." Is there anything in or about God's people that is not well pleasing in his sight? Paul mentions some, (I Cor., x. 5,) "With many of them God was not well pleased." If every work was wrought in them, how does it occur that God was not well pleased with them? In Heb., xiii, 16, "With such sacrifices God is well pleased.” But if God is pleased with all our conduct and all our ways, why mention that "With such sacrifices God is well pleased?"

There is as much difference between right and wrong as there is between heaven and hell, and yet you do not make a distinction, that I can see. "Only one kind of predestination, etc."
Now, in relation to the words, "Work out your own salvation, for it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure;” i Phil. , ii, 13. What does this text teach that God works in them? To will. First, when he blesses his people with a new nature and heart they are willing. So, the will to do is of the Lord to work in them to do---to incline them, to do, to prompt them to do; so now those who have been prompted or inclined to obey should obey this text. If this text teaches that all the works necessary were included in the words, “It is God that worketh in you," why does he say, "Work out your salvation?" There should be some distinction made between God's unconditional act in working in us, and our duty to him as a result thereof. Your position seems to be, that, when our Savior said of regeneration, “Nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man,” he should have said the same of all our duties. The Savior denies that regeneration is in any sense dependent on the will, while you seem to deny that obedience is in any sense dependent on the will. The word "obedience" denotes that the will is essential to it. So, when Elder Thompson insisted that the brethren were called on to “work out their salvation," there was something they were to do besides the act of God in working in them the will, etc.: not that they were to do something not required, or something besides what they were inclined to do by the grace of God; but there was a duty on their part required---a salvation for them to work out---and no twisting of this text can destroy the sentiment and truth that these brethren were exhorted to work out a salvation. The fact that God has worked in them to will and to do does not destroy the fact that something yet remained to be done, and that that something was to work out their salvation. All that God had done in them and for them did not destroy the fact that they were yet called on to obey and to work out their own salvation; and as obedience must be a willing obedience, or it is no obedience at all, so these people were called on to obey willingly. I am willing to admit that regeneration is independent of the will, but I deny that obedience is independent of will. So I hold that the will is ever connected with obedience and essential to it; that men who serve God CHOOSE to do so.

You say, "Neither is it of our will (or choice) that we keep the commandments." If you are right in this, there is no such thing as obedience, if we pay any attention to the meaning of the word "obedience." If you pay any attention to the meaning of the word “obedience,” you make a sad blunder when you say: "Neither is it of our will,” etc. On your plan God's government of his people is like the boy's government of his marbles: you may say, “Neither is it of the will of the marble that it is in the right place.” Your theory requires a new dictionary, made expressly to suit your doctrine.

You quote, "If ye be led by the Spirit," etc ; Gal., v, 18. The word "lead" or "led" implies that those led are willing to be led. If the party led is not willing and active, then it would be "drag." So this word "lead" is fatal to your position that the will is not concerned in our obedience.

"If any man will do his will;" John, vii, 17. So here again the will is concerned in doing God's will. Numberless places could be found showing the will to be concerned in obedience. Duty would mean nothing, obedience would mean nothing, if we exclude the will from them.  Vice, virtue, right, or wrong, might be excluded from every language under heaven, and man is reduced in his conduct to the level of a watch or a clock.

What I intended by the distinction in the act of God in our regeneration, or the raising of Lazarus from the dead, and the act of God in leading us into the path of obedience, is, that we should make some distinction here. The raising of Lazarus was a physical act, and one wholly independent of his will; while in leading us, we are, and must be, voluntary. The fact is, when you deny the will of man being concerned in his obedience, you deny that man is a moral being. The planets obey the laws they are under, but not willingly---they are not moral beings. And so I understand you to deny man to be a moral being. The words obey, disobey, vice, virtue, leads, led, duty, reward---all these words denote a dependence on the will, and I understand you to change the meaning of all these words to suit your notion of things. And so the word "if." But I will notice this later on.

You say, “There seems to prevail in the mind of some the worldly view that a hope of reward or a fear of punishment is necessary to compel obedience.” Now, I want to show you that you are in love with this worldly view as much as those you oppose. You say:
No.1. "It is not for some precious fruits that we go along that road, * but for the beauty * of the road itself." In this you set a reward before the mind as truly as anyone has done; and you use the word "for" instead of "in."

No.2. "Will any offered reward cause one to seek righteousness as he does who hungers for it?"
No.3. "Will any fear of punishment turn one away from evil as effectually as a hatred of evil?"
No.4. "The apostle is not speaking of terror of some punishment, * but of the terror of the Lord's presence to one who loves him, but is found in transgression.” In this you place the worldly view you complain of as fully as I have seen it done by anyone.
No.5. “It is the terror of being found of the Lord in a fleshly ,sinful walk.” In this last you seem disposed to terrify them into obedience.

No.6. "The terror of being found in crime by one dearly loved would be greater than to be thus found by one who could punish us." You despise urging men to obey from fear of punishment, and yet you name a terror worse than punishment as a motive.
No.7. "Their reward is in the work."
No.8. "When we are spiritually led, his glory is what we seek."
No. 9. “He himself is our exceeding great reward.”

In all these nine places you set forth the hope of reward as fully as our brethren care to have it done, and then, after in these nine times you do this, you say, "I am tired and sick of this self, self," etc.

I know of none among us who contend for more “self” than is set forth in these sentences. Read carefully the following sentence from your pen (No.10:) "Keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me: not that I may not suffer punishment." In this you seem to think that grief is no punishment: so you would exhort men to dread grief, but not to fear punishment. Now, why find fault with the brethren for contending for the same things you urge yourself in these sentences? You say, "If they could not get the reward, would they do the work? If they were to go into darkness as a consequence of obedience, would they obey?" I believe the words---

"The soul that would to Jesus press,
Must fix this firm and sure---
That tribulations, more or less,
It must and shall endure."

I believe with Peter, "Though now for a season, if need be ye are in heaviness, * that the trial of your faith,” etc. Trials will come: we must feel our hearts ache. The path of duty lies in sorrow, often, but in the midst of all there is something sweet and precious. The millions of martyrs who went into the flames were happier than they would have been to have fled from punishment. In fact, their punishment would have been greater had they denied their Lord.
What is a good conscience worth? Who of us would engage in the arduous task of the ministry if our conscience would be easy? So, where men have gone into the fires of persecution, they have had the sweetest and best of all rewards---a good conscience. When the prophet felt that he was left alone and that he was in an enemy's land, his conscience was a rich reward to him. Paul says, "Herein do I exercise myself to have always a conscience void of offense toward God and toward men." So Paul labored always to have a good conscience. This is all the “self" we contend for, and these sentiments may make you “sick," but a good conscience was the end the apostle aimed at.

See also Rom., xiii, 5, "Wherefore ye must needs be subject not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake." Also I Tim., i, 19, "Holding faith and a good conscience, which some having put away * have made shipwreck.” The Bible abundantly teaches that holy men of old prized a good conscience as of greater reward than gold. Who can have a good conscience in sin? What Christian has not learned that obedience only keeps a good conscience? I hesitate not to say that a good conscience is conditionally enjoyed. "If ye keep my commandments ye shall abide in my love.” A dear sister, in opposing the idea that we should hope for reward, said she understood us that money was the reward we aimed at. I asked her if she found any advantage in obedience. She said, "Yes; she felt a good conscience." "Well," said I, "that is your reward." Now, dear brother, this will satisfy me. Let us insist that obedience is better than disobedience; let us insist that the path of duty has more to cheer than the path of disobedience.

You quote the words, "Where the word of a king is, there is power." Your remarks about this indicate that you hold that God's commands are always obeyed. You say, "In every case just the measure of grace is given that is needed to be sufficient for us." If this is true, how is it that you say, "I need more grace than any other poor sinner?" If in every case all that is needed is given, I can't understand how you need more at any time than you have. Again, if all his commands are obeyed, you seem unwilling to admit that the Savior invites, or entreats, or persuades. You say; "He calls, and his call is always obeyed." Now, if his commands are always obeyed, how can you say, "I do, or wish to do, what the Lord directs me to do, because he commands it?” If his commands are always obeyed, how is it that you sometimes only WISH to obey?

You say, "I could neither preach nor exhort if I thought the benefit depended on my ability." It occurs to me that if you first explain your doctrine to your people---that they can not obey till the command of God comes, and when it does come they can not disobey; that the words in Isa., xxvi, 12, mean that .all our good works are performed by the Lord, and that the words in Phil., ii, 13, only express the works God does, and nothing at all for them to do; that there is no reward for their obedience, either in time or eternity; that they can claim no more in their obedience than they can claim in their redemption; that they shall have no reward in time or eternity for anything they do, either mentally or physically; that, all gospel rewards are of grace, and wholly unconditional; that the most patient obedience for a lifetime will never secure one moment's peace, or the least conceivable degree of happiness, either in time or eternity; that if one of God's true and called ministers should entertain the thought that a faithful life of a half century among the churches merited so much as a crust of bread, it would be evidence that he was left of the Lord, and that he never could get back till God brought him back; that God promises no advantage for obedience of any kind, either here or hereafter; that the words "obedience," "duty," etc., denote no dependence on the will of man; that Webster, and every other author, is in error about their meaning; that it is exceedingly doubtful whether God's people are moral beings at all; that his government is a spiritual one, and hence very doubtful as to its being a moral one,---I should think when all these things are laid before the people, it would be difficult to go about an exhortation.

You insist that the government of Jesus is spiritual, and hence you object to my article distinguishing between the moral and physical governments of God. You insist that the case of Lazarus being raised is parallel with the obedience of a Christian. If this be true, then the will of man is in no sense concerned in obedience. I grant that the will of man is excluded from regeneration, but you go farther and insist that the will has no concern in obedience. I need not cite the numerous places in your article in which you insist that the will of man is unconcerned in the matter of obedience, and this is to deny that God’s government is moral. In your effort to steer clear of Arminianism you have landed your bark on the sands of Antinomianism. If you are correct in holding that the choice of man is excluded from his obedience, I grant that the event of Lazarus being raised is parallel with obedience. I will quote one sentence from your article on this subject: "The form of expression in the New Testament never leaves the result (obedience to God's command) as depending upon the will and choice of man." I find many such sentences in your article. If a man's obedience to God is parallel with his having gray eyes, his will has nothing to do with it; and so he is neither to blame nor praise for these things; but you as effectually exclude his will from his obedience as it is from choosing the color of his eyes. If a man's will has no more to do with his obedience than it has in the color of his hair, I will confess I ought not to have written about a distinction between the moral and physical governments of God. If you can show that the will is not concerned in our obedience, you will have convinced me that God does not exercise moral government over his people. The planets ever obey, but not from their own will, arid you have tried to show that our obedience is as independent of our wills as the order and regularity of the planets is independent of their wills, and as there is no such thing as vice, virtue, crime, or innocence, among the planets, so on your theory these things have no place among God's people. You quote often the words, "Thou also hast wrought all our works in us;" Isa. , xxvi, 12. Also “It is God that worketh in you both to will and to do."  Also "Working in them that which is well pleasing in his sight." Your comment on these texts indicates that you think we are no more concerned in our obedience than we are in our height or the color of our hair.  We read of the daughters of men being fair; (Gen., vi, 2;) also that Sarah was fair. Now, while these are good qualities, they are not moral qualities, like chastity, virtue, obedience, etc. And I insist that in your zeal to set aside the choice of men in the matter of obedience, you reduce the moral qualities of men to a level in every way with their physical qualities, in regard to which they exercise no choice whatever. You quote the words, “Even to hoar hairs will I carry you," and so interpret it as to deny the truth of all those texts that speak of God's people as walking---Mic., vi, 8; Gen., v, 24, etc. But does the New Testament teach, as you insist, that the obedience of God's people is independent of the will? You admit that in the Old Testament obedience is dependent on the will. "If ye forsake the Lord and serve strange gods, then He will “turn and do you hurt." You seem to admit that in this command the will is concerned. The Saviour says, "if ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love." Can you see any difference in the form of these two commands? And if the will is concerned in the one, how can you say that the will is not concerned in the other? Let anyone hunt out the commands of God to Israel of old, and lay them down side by side with the commands of God to His people now, and show how or why the will is excluded from our conduct now and was not excluded from their conduct. I am sure the form of expression is the same. It is the same God, and the people of God are now just what they were then, and so now why should God's words to His people mean one thing in the Old Testament, and another in the New? The blessings resulting from obedience in the Old Testament were all confined to time and the curses for disobedience were all confined to time, and so it is now in the church. I think you are hard pressed if you espouse a theory that requires you to hold that the commands of God in the Old Testament were not all obeyed, but in the New they are all obeyed.

You quote the words, "Where the word of a king is there is power,” and your comment shows that you think the commands of Jesus are ever obeyed. You say, "His call is always obeyed," Jesus commands his people, "Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you." These are his own words, (Matt., v, 44.) Are these commands always obeyed by his people? And if not, how can you hold that his commands are always obeyed? In your effort to set aside the moral government of God you find it essential to leave nothing in any way dependent on our wills in the matter of obedience, and hence you must hold that his  commands are always obeyed. In the New Testament we find such commands as "Be kindly affectioned one to another, in brotherly love preferring one another;" "Avenge not yourselves;" "Recompense to no man evil for evil.” Are all these commands, and scores of others, always obeyed? On what principle do you hold that all his commands are obeyed? Perhaps you will say that "love is the fulfilling of the law.” I know we are commanded to love one another, but those who do love each other are commanded still to do other things. If to love God is all that is required of his people, why mention scores of things required of them who already love Him, and how can you say that all the commands of Jesus are obeyed when we love God? Now, if we are not voluntary in our obedience, and if our choice has nothing to do with it, I grant that I was wrong, as you complain, in distinguishing between the moral and physical government of God, and you are correct in holding that God's decree should not be regarded as applying to events in two ways.

Relative to blame, you say: "The cause of blame was before we were born.” If God's government of His people is not a moral government, then I grant that the cause of blame was before we were born. The cause of a tree's bearing bad fruit is found in the nature of its first seed, and to bear bad fruit is a fault, but not a moral fault: but I hold that bad conduct is not such a fault as where a tree bears bad fruit. The one is a natural evil, the other a moral evil. Sin is not merely a physical evil, it is a moral evil and is punishable. Sin, either in saint or sinner, is a moral evil; but if you are correct in holding that the will is not concerned in our conduct, then you are correct in placing the cause of blame before our birth, and you may say before time so far as I am concerned.

Now I will call your mind to what you say of I Peter, iii, 10 and Phil., ii, 1. Your comment is "Neither of these apostles presents these exhortations as conditions uncertain of fulfillment, unsettling the sure covenant of grace. You certainly hold then that there was no uncertainty about their obeying. Let us notice these exhortations: In Philippians the exhortation you refer to reads, “Fulfill ye my joy, be like minded, being of one accord of one mind, let nothing be done through strife or vain glory." Were these exhortations obeyed by the apostles or early Christians, or are they obeyed by the Baptists now? Was there ever a period of time when God's people obeyed these exhortations entirely? And so how can you speak of this as not uncertain of fulfillment? I am glad you admit the language to be conditional, as it certainly is if a conditional sentence could be found in the English language. Turn now to I Peter, iii, 10; "For he that will love life and see good days let him refrain his tongue from evil and his lips that they speak no guile," etc. Now do God's people keep this command, and how is it any more certain of fulfillment than commands in the Old Testament were? You admit that some uncertainty attended the keeping of the commandments in that time. You say, "That was the form of the legal covenant," "and the conditional expressions made under that covenant are correctly quoted by you," but you reject conditional expressions from the new covenant on the ground that it would involve uncertainty in New Testament blessings. But how can a man who believes in the absolute predestination of all things hold that events are more certain at one period of the world than another? I am glad you admit that there was a moral government over Israel of old, even if you deny it now.

 Perhaps you urge that love is all the fulfilling of the law required, but in answer to this I urge that scores of commands are given to "those who love God.
In this connection you say, "Neither is it of our will that we keep the commandments.” I confess that the Ethiopian can not change his skin, etc., but what has this to do with our obedience? The Ethiopian can not change his skin, and this is a physical impossibility, and he is not to blame for not doing so, and if we are no more to blame for doing wrong than a negro is for being black, then you are right in denying the moral government of God, and right in your article generally; and I did wrong in distinguishing between the moral and physical government of God, and it is no more of our will that we keep the commandments, than it is of the Ethiopian's will that .he is black.

You say, "The word invite is never used by him nor concerning him in the Scriptures. He calls, and his call is always obeyed." Now read, “As though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.” He appeals to them in Christ's stead. Is this always obeyed? And if our wills are in no sense connected with obedience, why does he use the words "beseech" and "pray"? If our obedience is of God, just as regeneration is of God, or just as the raising of Lazarus was of God, how is it that Paul uses the words “beseech” and "pray " in urging to obedience, if it is of God as regeneration is Of God?  While the word "invite" is not used here, yet the words "beseech " and "pray " suggest as much dependence on the will as the word invite would suggest.

I never heard you exhort a congregation. We are told to "exhort young men to be sober minded.” How would you do this? Certainly by putting before their minds some reason why they should do so, some benefit or advantage. If it be to glorify God, then this should be put before the young men as the great end they should aim at, and when this end is attained, then the reward is attained. It is not necessary to say, if we believe in placing rewards before the people of God, we put a carnal or fleshly reward before them, by no means. You can not exhort only as you present some end to be gained by the obedience you recommend, and that end is the reward you aim at. If you exhort by telling the people that their obedience will result in no reward of any kind, that the word "reward” does not mean in the New Testament what it does in other books, this would be no exhortation at all. We should exhort one another daily while it is called to-day. I insist that the word "exhort" suggests a dependence on the will of them exhorted, and it also places some kind of reward before the mind as an inducement to encourage to do the things desired. I do not know what authority you have for saying gospel rewards are not as other rewards are; in fact I deny your authority to change the meaning of words. It would be as wrong to take away the meaning of a word as it would be to "take away from the words of the prophecy of this book;" Rev., xxii, 18. I know the meaning of the words "reward;" "if," "obedience,” etc. I see that they are in your way and that you must do something to get rid of them before your theory can stand. They suggest that God's government of His people is moral, disciplinary, parental. They suggest that there is some end, comfort or delight that is in some sense conditional, aimed at by intelligent obedience, and this end, be it what it may, is the reward to be conditionally enjoyed, or attained. The word "if" denotes conditionality, and it is frequently used in the New Testament. You say, "The Savior and his apostles do not say, 'If you will,' but 'if you do.' It is never used to show a dependence upon the will of the creature," etc. But the Savior and his apostles do say, "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine,” etc. If some dependence is not here expressed, what sentence would express dependence on the will? Also, "If ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts,” etc.

You say, "I have wondered why spiritually instructed men should try to apply them to gospel things which are all made new. That was the form of the conditional covenant, and the conditional expressions are correctly quoted by you." In this you admit that God's people were under a conditional state of things then, but not now, because things were not as certain then as now. How one can hold things uncertain under the old covenant, but certain now, and yet believe in the absolute predestination of all things, I can not see. "How spiritually taught persons can use the same form of expression touching gospel things that were used under the law,” you can not see.

If the Israel of old was a type of the church, will we not find some things in the church answering to the things of Israel then? The type for the letter B will not make X; and so, if under the type we find God to have a disciplinary government of Israel, which you admit to be conditional, will we not find something in the anti-type answering to it, a parental government with its chastisements and rewards? We are not made heirs or sons by performing conditions, but does not God deal with us as sons, and chasten us when we go astray? You admit this order of things was in the type, and how can you deny its being in the anti-type? “But with many of them God was not well pleased. Now these things were our ensamples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.” Read this entire 10th chapter of 1 Cor. Paul applies the same principle of government that God exercised over Israel of old to us and warns us to avoid their sins. You will not say he was not a spiritually instructed man, yet he plainly does what you hold no spiritually instructed man will do. See also Heb., x, 28, "He that despised Moses' law died under two or three witnesses. Of how much sorer punishment suppose ye shall he be thought worthy?" etc, Here Paul again shows that the conditional covenant that Israel was under illustrates God's discipline over His people here, now, and shows that the anti-type corresponds with the type.

In conclusion I call your attention to Heb., ii; 2, 3, "For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" etc. Here again Paul applies the principle that prevailed among the Jews to the gospel, and as you admit that to be conditional, how can you deny that there is the same parental and disciplinary government now for us? Your theory makes the first "if" in this text mean one thing and in the last to mean another. Paul not only applies the same principle that prevailed in the government of Israel, but he applies it in the same form of expression. He first described God's government of Israel as conditional, and in language you admit to be conditional, and then applies the same principle to the gospel, and does it in the same form of words; and even the same words, and he was spiritually instructed.

We may well warn our people, "If ye bite and devour one another, take heed lest ye be consumed one of another."

I have all my life heard Baptists affirm that regeneration is unconditional and independent of our choice. We become sons and heirs unconditionally, but as His sons we are under a parental or disciplinary government, which is conditional. We may be tried and even burned, but a good conscience can only be maintained by paying the price of its maintenance, and a good conscience is of great value. My own experience is, that doing wrong is widely different from doing right.

My dear brother, I would have been glad for your letter and my reply to have both been in the Signs, but you refuse to ask the Signs to print my reply, and also you reviewed and criticized my private letter to you in the Signs, placing your own construction on my letter to you, so that its readers will never see the letter you review.

But I will not complain of your public review of my private letter.
I have been plain, but I have done what I esteemed as my duty in this matter.

Your brother in hope,

J. H. OLIPHANT

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 27 September 2006 )
< Previous   Next >

Purpose

The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.