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Written by James Oliphant/Silas Durand   

SOUTHAMPTON, PA., Feb., 16, 1900.

Elder J. H. Oliphant; Dear Brother: Your views upon the subject of the will were published for some time continuously in the Apostolic Primitive Baptist, a periodical which declined to publish articles expressing contrary views. My understanding of the subject of “the will” and of conditional time salvation, as expressed to you in private letter, I published in the Signs of The Times, without mentioning your name. You have replied to me through the same paper in which your views have been published at length. I can not write to you through that paper for two reasons. First, because Elder Cayce declines to pub1ish my views on the subject, which was his right, and I find no fault with him for it; and, second, because his associate editor, Elder J. V. Kirkland, professing to quote from an article of mine published in the Signs of the Times, put together with studied accuracy parts of two widely separated sentences, so that they appeared as one sentence, and expressed the opposite meaning from that which my article advocated. Brother Cayce wrote me that he would publish my correction as soon as he could give Elder Kirkland an opportunity to write an explanation or an apology. But I heard no more from him, though I urged the necessity, on their account, that the correction should be published by them. I finally published it in The Gospel News. I have WISHED that there might be some explanation that would be consistent with an honest intention, though I could see no reason to expect it. I have HOPED there might be repentance and an acknowledgement on the part of the wrong done.

I will how refer as briefly as possible to some things in your reply. I must assure you that your impressions upon reading the first part of my letter, as you have expressed them, are at fault. In your private reply to me you spoke of no such impressions, but expressed yourself as pleased with the spirit in which I wrote in both of my letters. I am not conscious of such a feeling as you there attribute to me. When I referred to the experience of the Psalmist, Ps., xxiii, 3, which is the common experience of the saints, and said, “As in your own case the Lord alone can restore your soul, etc.,” I had no thought of intimating that your soul at present needed any special restoring because you differed with me, but appealed to an experience which I supposed you to have many a time had, with all the saints, constraining you to say, “He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

You say I do not correctly express your sentiments when I 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 upon their own will and work.” That was my impression as to what you seemed to teach, not in your private letter merely but in your published writings. But I accept your disclaimer. I have no intention or desire to misrepresent you, and I know that I have at no time quoted you incorrectly. It is just what you do believe that I want to know, and in reply to wherein I regard the Scriptures as teaching differently.

In this “reply” you say that you “do not believe that we are dependent upon ourselves whether we will be happy or miserable,” but that you “hold that our enjoyment is in some degree dependent on our obedience.” I also believe that, and have so written and published.

But you say that obedience is dependent upon the will, and you say that gospel rewards are conditional, and that they are not all of grace. Then it must follow that the gospel rewards of peace and comfort and a good conscience are partly of grace and partly of works. Can it be that I have stated your views incorrectly in this? You say that you “do not believe that all spiritual advantage and comfort are dependent on our will and work;” but you say that “our enjoyment is in some degree dependent on our obedience,” and that “our obedience is dependent on our will.” Then it must follow that grace and works are combined here---are yoked together. This, however, I think you will not allow, for you know that they can not go together. The one must precede the other always. It must be either grace the cause of works (good works,) or works the cause of grace.

Now, I will refer to one place where you have, likely without intention, misplaced and slightly misquoted a sentence of mine. Referring to the declaration of yours in the Primitive Baptist concerning which I first wrote to you, that “Jesus Christ was placed upon  probation,” I said, “That FORM of language appears to imply some kind of degree of uncertainty.” By the expression, “that form of language,” I referred exclusively to the words, “placed upon probation.” You have quoted me as saying, “that kind of language, etc,” and as referring by the expression to another sentence, viz; “Jesus Christ was situated to do as he pleased,” and have dwelt at some length upon it.

I will now present my understanding upon two or three of the principle subjects that are involved in our correspondence, which will be a sufficient answer to your reply, in the main, and will correct your misunderstanding of my positions. So far as I am responsible for the tone of much of your reply I am sorry. I will not refer to that any farther.

The WILL. The word is used in your reply somewhat indefinitely, I think there should be discrimination. There is a natural will and a spiritual will. When I say that it is not of our own will that we obey the Lord, I always refer to our natural will. The will to obey in spiritual things must be wrought in us by the Lord. I will now refer to Jesus, who was our Leader in all the experience of salvation. He said, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” And in the next two verses is told in glorious words the good news of the Father’s will; and it includes the whole work of salvation, and also (40th verse) the experience of salvation to the final revelation of its fullness in the last day. Now you say this text and the one, “Not my will, but thine be done,” “teach that Christ dreaded death and its pains.” But the Scriptures do not give you warrant to limit the meaning of this declaration to the hour and article of death. The Scriptures teach a broader meaning. His own declaration covers all the times of his sojourn on earth, in which he was engaged in the work of salvation. But if, as you say, it meant merely that he dreaded death, that greatest enemy includes all others. He was made of a woman for the very purpose of suffering and death. “He was holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners, but his will as a man he could not do. From the first of his ministry that will must be crossed. He must be “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” on that very account. He must know all our temptations and infirmities by all experience of them. You say that he “was situated to do as he pleased,” but the apostle says, “Even as CHRIST PLEASED NOT HIMSELF; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me;” Rom. , xv, 3. The apostle’s quotation from the Psalms does not refer to the hour and article of death merely, but to the reproaches, the sins, the shame, of his people, which made his life in the flesh, a life of sorrow. But do not understand me as denying that he always pleased the Father, that he offered himself willingly, that “he never betrayed disloyalty to God,” nor ever felt it. His will as a man was pure and sinless, but it was a man’s will and could not lead him into the terrible work and awful suffering necessary to accomplish salvation, and to raise his people up at the last day. Therefore he says, “I came to do the Father’s will which sent me.” And he says, “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The word that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: BUT THE FATHER THAT DWELLETH IN ME, DOETH THE WORKS.” Again, “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge; because I SEEK NOT MINE OWN WILL, BUT THE WILL OF THE FATHER, which hath sent me;”

John, v. 30.,. The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise:” v, 19. Now all these scriptures declare so plainly that which I esteem to be the truth, that I feel, at least, I should be free from reproach for asserting it. It was the Father’s will that was wrought in him, and done by him.

Now in regard to exhortations, preaching, and all the work of the ministry, I must repeat what I said, “I could neither preach nor exhort if I thought the benefit depended on my ability.” In reply to this you make twelve statements of what you understand me to believe according to that declaration of mine; and conclude that when I have laid all those things before my people it would be difficult to go about an exhortation. From this I have concluded that you DO believe that the benefit of an exhortation depends upon the ability of the one who exhorts, though I hesitate to conclude so, and will here say that I really think it we should hear each other exhort we should find a greater similarity than now appears in our correspondence. These twelve statements of what you suppose I would tell my people, are not all of them justly deducible from what I have written. They seem so expressed as to appeal to the fleshly sympathies of the reader rather than to the experience of the spiritual man. Now I repeat that it is not according to my experience, nor according to my  understanding of the teaching of Christ and the apostles, that I am authorized to teach those to whom I give needed exhortation or rebukes that their obedience, and the consequent manifestation of God’s favor, depend upon themselves and their own will, but upon the grace of God, to which alone they can look. Neither can I offer them in the name of the Lord any reward as an INDUCEMENT to obedience. While I urge and beseech them that they receive not the grace of God in vain, I must teach them what the Spirit teaches them and me, that the character of the motive fixes the character of the word or work; that only through the Spirit can they do a righteous work. If Jesus could do nothing of himself how can we do anything of ourselves? Paul says, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God.” II Cor., iii, 6. He puts grace ahead always, as the cause of all works of obedience. “I labored more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” I Cor., xv, 10.

“Exhorting them that oppose themselves, IF GOD PERADVENTURE WILL GIVE THEM REPENTANCE to the acknowledgement of the truth;” II Tim., ii, 25. This is the principle which I understand is taught in the Scriptures, that we are to do what the Lord commands, to preach, to teach, exhort, reprove, but that the Lord alone can make the work effectual, and that we do, and must depend upon him every time.

I do see a distinction between right and wrong, vice and virtue, and the like. I believe that all disobedience, all wrong-doing, all wrong-thinking, are from the flesh, and that no good thing comes from the flesh. And I believe that every righteous thought, word and deed are from the Spirit; and that when the Lord is pleased to “work in us to will and to do,” then the exhortation to work out that salvation which he has wrought in us, will be as good seed falling into good ground: it will “bear fruit upward to the honor and glory of God,” not to the honor and glory of men.

I believe that everyone who is favored to walk in obedience to the Lord, will truly ascribe all the power and all the grace unto the Lord, and will thank him for it: even as David thanked the Lord for the willing heart with which he and his people gave of their precious things for the Lord’s house: “But who am I,” he said, “and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after their soul? for all things came of thee, and of thine own have we given thee;” I Chron., xix, 9-17. So I believe the saints of God feel to thank the Lord for every obedient thought, or word, or action. Paul thanks the Lord, not the saints at Philippi, for their “fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.”

True obedience of soul, worked out in an obedient walk, causes one to feel most humble and undeserving before the Lord. This is a paradox to the world, but it is the way the Lord leads his people. They are made to especially feel that they deserve nothing, and that it was most wonderful grace which brought them experimentally into the name of Christ, in whom is ALL our acceptance with God. The one that you suppose to have been most patiently obedient for a life time would shrink from the suggestion that on that account he deserved any reward. He would say, “not unto me, but unto the name of the Lord, be the praise.”  Why has the Lord kept me near to him, while others have been left to wander far away. What amazing grace! My reward has been with me all the way along.

You seem to wonder that I should say, “I feel that I need more grace than any other poor sinner,” and ask if in every case all needed grace is given, how I could need more at any time than I have. But I did not say I needed MORE than I had. The Lord has known all the time how much I needed, and when, and in what power and sufficiency, to supply it; and in wonder and admiration I have to say to-day, “By the grace of God I am what I am,” as a member of the church, the least of all, and as a minister of the gospel, though so weak and. unworthy, if a servant at all. By the grace of God, and by that alone, I have had for more than thirty-five years the most precious of all blessings on earth, the fellowship of the church of God, that fellowship which is with the Father and the Son.

I do not think that they who sing in the land of Judah, “Thou, O Lord, wilt ordain peace for us, for thou also hast wrought all our works in us,” meant that the Lord had wrought wicked works in them; but I do think that they meant all their works of righteousness.

The words “lead” and “led,” you say, “imply that those who are led are willing to be led. If the party led is not willing and active then it would be dragged,” But in all the figures used to represent the Lord leading his people, the willingness of those led is produced by the leader. He led Israel 40 years in the wilderness. Their will was contrary, but his will prevailed. He led his people like a flock; Ps., lxxvii, 21. The Shepherd makes the flock willing. “As an eagle stirreth up her nest etc., so the Lord alone led Jacob.” The young birds are unwilling to have the nest stirred up, but the will of the mother eagle prevails. He led them as a horse; Isa., lxiii, 13. The Spirit, when he will lead anyone of the Lord’s people in the right way, makes him willing. “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.” “All my times are in thy hand,” says the Psalmist. In the Lord’s own time, as you and I both believe, every redeemed soul will be restored from all his wanderings, made truly contrite and repentant, and will be brought, through riches of grace, to the Lord’s house above. I do not diminish the heinousness of sin, but I do exalt the glory of God. I do not say that the Lord bears the same attitude to sin as to holiness, but I do believe that everything that transpires in time was known to him eternally, and embraced and recognized in his eternal purpose of love and mercy, and that all shall be “for the lifting of Jesus on high.”

Neither in this world nor in the next do I understand that any of the blessings of our God are received as rewards for merit on our part, but all for Jesus’ sake. The good conscience which is so desirable, the peace of God, the joys of salvation, the fellowship of the Spirit, in a word, all the gospel blessings, are the very atmosphere in which the new man lives and breathes. They are sought for by the principle of divine life within us, as the natural life seeks the air to breathe in.

I will refer to what I said a little back, that I can not offer in the name of the Lord any reward as an INDUCEMENT to obedience. While I am sure this is right, I see in my own mind how contrary it is to the ways of worldly wisdom. So I will dwell somewhat more particularly upon it. The principle of true obedience is in the divine life, and when that life is manifest, when the Spirit is exercising us, and the fruit of the Spirit, which are love, peace, faith, meekness, and the like, are felt and tasted, then we are obedient without conscious effort, as the tree is obedient to the life within, bearing foliage, flowers and fruit. But when we have in any measure experienced death by living after the flesh, then, instead of offering rewards to induce to good works again, the life must be touched by the exhortation, rebuke, or whatever is given; the pure mind must be stirred up. It will not avail if we offer a reward in order to induce the man to breathe again. As soon as life is in exercise, as soon as he begins to revive he will begin to breathe again. The Lord only can bring that reviving power to bear. So we beseech, exhort, rebuke, admonish, doing with our might what our hands find to do, waiting upon the Lord. If he, peradventure, will apply the word of exhortation with power, wilt restore the soul, “will give repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” The devil thought Job did not, and would not, serve God for naught, but the Lord made it manifest through Satan’s work against him that the principle of obedience in Job was proof against any power that the devil could bring against him. The divine life within him simply breathed forth in the words, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” “Shall we receive good at the hands of the Lord, and shall we not also received evil?” “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”

The will is concerned in obedience, but it is the will wrought in us by the Lord. It is of peace that we have that will. I must repeat we are to blame for disobedience, but our obedience is to the credit of grace, “to the praise of the riches of his grace.”

With reference to many things you have spoken of as my belief I will say that I do not believe there is any uncertainty with God, either under the old or the new covenant. His word, whether a command or a promise, or whatever it is, never returns to him void, but accomplishes that which he pleases, and prospers in the thing whereto he sent it; Isa., iv.

The old covenant was conditional, and the form was, “I will if you will.” The new covenant was not made according to the old covenant, Jer., xxxi, 31-34; it was unconditional, and the form of it was, “I will and they shall.”

Before the expression, “conditional time salvation,” had been used in any Old Baptist publication, so far as I know, I had sometimes spoken of a “conditional salvation inside of the church,” but do not remember of writing it. I soon saw, as I thought, that I was not warranted in the use of that word, that it did not express the truth of doctrine and experience. Concerning that doctrine and experience my mind did not change, but only as to the propriety of using that word to express the salvation that is experienced in time, while walking in the paths of righteousness. This time salvation, I understand, bears the same relation to eternal salvation that the beams of the sun, which fall upon the earth, bear to the sun in heaven. By them alone do we know anything of the sun, and so by our experience of salvation, in the various ways in which it is brought to us in time, are we made to receive a knowledge of that eternal salvation, which Jesus is the author of, and which shall be fully revealed to us “in the last time.”

I will write no more at this time. Those who do not see all of what we have written, but read only what one or the other has written, may find it difficult to understand the true positions of both, but, I hope the Lord will prevent any injury to any of his people by reading either. I am glad to know that the Lord’s dear people “have an unction from the Holy one and know all things,” and that they “have no need that any man teach them, for this annointing which they have of him teacheth them of all things;” I John, ii, 20-27. Only that teaching from either of us will be of true benefit and comfort to the spiritual readers which is according to the teaching of that annointing which they have received of our God.

I have desired to write in a spirit of brotherly kindness, and in such a way as to stir up no other feeling but brotherly kindness in you, and so that no injustice should be done to you in the mind of one who should read only what I have written, and not yours, to which this is in answer.

Your brother in the love of the truth.


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