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Written by T.S. Dalton   


When I was only about two years old in the ministry, my brethren selected me to meet a Campbellite champion of West Tennessee. This almost took my breath. I was scared, but the brethren would not release me. So I went to work with all my might to get up my points, not that I was afraid to risk the cause of truth which was, and is now, held by the Old School Baptists, but my own weakness and inability was so forcibly presented before me. I studied almost night and day to have everything ready. The time came for us to meet and I went up with a heavy heart.

The first man I met on the ground was Elder J. K. Stephens, who was also very young in the ministry then. I said to him, "Brother Stephens, pray for me." He said, "I am praying for you, have been praying for you all the time; and God is going to give us one of the most glorious victories here over Campbellism that ever was known." His words so lifted me up in the strength of Israel’s God, that I should not have hesitated to beard a lion in his den.

After all arrangements were made, and the rules of Hedge’s Logic governing debates had been read and agreed upon; Brother Stephens (God bless his dear heart!) arose and read the first proposition with as much vim as I ever heard in my life. This filled me with new zeal, and made me anxious to enter the battle.

The proposition read: The Scriptures teach that the heirs of eternal life were by the God of heaven, chosen or elected thereunto before the foundation of the world. This proposition I affirmed. I had the opening speech of one hour. I here give some of my arguments.

I first defined the terms of my proposition thus: By the Scriptures I mean the Old and New Testament. By they teach, I mean they say it, either in the precise terms or terms necessarily conveying the idea. By heirs of eternal life, I mean those who shall be the happy recipients of the blessings of life in heaven, and shall praise God in glory; and what I mean by chosen, or elected, is that God chose them, out of the race of Adam to be the beneficiaries of these blessings. What I mean by the term before the foundation of the world, is that God in his divine purpose or mind, before the foundation of this material world, singled them out as those who should be the recipients of these great, and inestimable blessings. I asked my opponent if he would accept that definition. He said he would. So the battle opened. I first showed from Scriptural authority that God was an absolute sovereign, from Psalms 139: 15, 16; Acts 15: 18;  Job 23: 13, 14; Isa. 46: 9, 10, 11; Dan. 4: 35; Isa. 8: 9, 10, 11; which my opponent endorsed. I then began to lay down my arguments and give my proof texts as follows:

First. Election is unconditional because it is not of works.—Rom. 11: 1-11; II. Tim. 1: 9; Rom. 9: 11-26; II Tim. 2:19; Titus 3: 4, 5. These Scriptures show conclusively that the election is of God, and that it is without works on our part, and therefore must be unconditional.

Second. Election is unconditional because faith is the result of election and not the cause.—I. Pet. 1: 1, 2; Acts 13:48; John 15: 16-19; Isa. 43: 19-21. From these texts we showed that election was unto faith and good works, and these not the causes of election, and therefore the election was unconditional.

Third. Election is unconditional because God chooses the sinner and then causes the sinner to approach unto him. --Psa.65: 4; John 6: 37-46; 10 15, 16. From these texts we showed that sinners coming to the Saviour was the result of their having been chosen of God, and given to Jesus; hence their coming could not have been the cause of their election, and was therefore unconditional.

As soon as I had finished my first speech and my opponent got up to follow me, my fear all left me. I saw that he was writhing under God’s word, and never could answer the texts produced; while I had many more at hand which I brought in during the debate and which remained utterly unanswered.

When the evening had come and we were adjourned till next day, my brethren gathered around me and grasped my hand; while his brethren sneaked off and started for their homes with out a word of cheer for the poor fellow.

Next morning we met again. He was to affirm the following proposition: The Scriptures teach that to the penitent believer baptism in water is in order to the remission of past sins. He labored very hard to show that Acts 2:38, meant in order to, this being about the only text upon which he could rely at all. But we soon took all the wind out of his sails by showing that the leper in Mark 1: 40-44, was to offer for his cleansing, and the word for meant because he had been cleansed; and Acts 10: 43, showing that the believer had remission of sins without baptism; also Acts 13: 38, 39, showed that the believer was justified from all things which he could not be justified by the law of Moses, and yet without baptism. Again I. John 5: 1, showing that the believer was already born of God, and too late to baptize him in order that he might be born. To this argument we added, John 5:24, and 6: 35, and also 3: 36, and 11: 25, 26, all of these and others showing that the believer was already born of God, and enjoyed the remission of sins before baptism in water.

I then showed from Romans 6: 1-4; Mat. 3: 11; I. Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3: 26-29, that the baptism which brought the sinner into Christ, and to the enjoyment of the remission of sins was not a water baptism at all, but the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

These arguments so completely baffled him that his brethren were disgusted the second evening; while my brethren were more jubilant than ever, and all gathered around me and grasped my hand in token of their love and good feeling for me, and the precious cause I was defending.

The third day I led off affirming the following proposition:

The Scriptures teach the direct and immediate influence of the Holy Spirit in quickening the dead sinner into divine life. In this I showed that God did the teaching in every case, as was set forth in the new covenant—Jer. 31: 31-34; Heb. 8: 7-13. I then showed that in this teaching the first thing was to teach them the need of it, and this was done by quickening them into life, and this was the work of God, without any human agencies, Eph. 2:1-6; John 6:63. I then showed from the parable Jesus used in Matthew 13 that the sowing of the seed did not prepare the ground, moved none of the stones or thorns out of the way, neither did it change the wayside land; but where the seed fell into good ground it brought fruit, which showed that the preaching of the gospel did not prepare the hearts of the people to receive it; but the Spirit must go before and prepare the heart for the seed, which showed that the sinner must be quickened into life by the Spirit before any of these agencies could reach him. Therefore the Lord must do the quickening without any of these means; and I showed that the Lord did the preparing of the heart by quoting Proverbs 16: 1.

My next argument was founded on II Cor. 3: 6-8, and Cor. 3:3; Ezek. 36: 26, 27, from which I showed that God did the writing in our hearts, and used nothing in the writing but the Spirit, and thereby made us the living epistles of the Lord, and this could not be done by the letter, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life; and this the Lord did by taking out the old feeling.

That evening my brethren gathered around me again to give me that cordial hand shake, telling me I had stuck to the truth; while my opponent had squirmed like a worm in hot embers, and had taken nearly every position he could think of to try to get out of the dilemma in some way, which only proved to be quicksands for him, for with every effort he was sinking deeper and deeper. By this time it had become really amusing to me; not that I felt at all exalted, but felt that my strength was in the Lord and His truth, which all the powers of earth and hell could never overturn. The next day was to close the debate, my opponent was to affirm the following proposition: The Scriptures teach that a saint, or child of God can so apostatize, or fall away, as to be eternally lost.

Next morning when we met, quite a number of his brethren had gone, and were there no more; my brethren were all there, and more added each day. He led off, trying to show that we could fall, and spoke of falling from grace as taught by Paul in Galatians, and had a great deal to say on the subject of falling, and I have no doubt he made as good a defense of the doctrine as any man could make; for we have often debated the same subject since with other men and we have never yet heard anything better.

But when we got up to follow him we just admitted what he had said on the subject of falling, and brought in Psalms 37: 23-26, to show that though the Christian falls, he should not be utterly cast down, for the Lord would lift him up again; also Proverbs 24: 16, showing that a just man falleth seven times and riseth up again; and Psalms 145: 14 "The Lord upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up every one that is bowed down." From this I challenged him to show where there was one that fell, whom the Lord left down to be eternally lost. I also called his attention to Micah 7: 8, "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; when I fall I shall arise;" which clearly shows that the Lord does not leave them to be eternally lost, because they fall. I quoted also Psalms 139: 29-37, showing that God’s people did transgress His law, and failed to walk in His statutes and failed to keep the Lord’s commandments, and were chastised with the rod; yet God said He would not take His loving kindness from them nor suffer His faithfulness to fail. I also showed from I. Pet. 1: 3-5, that God’s people were kept by His power, and not by their own, and were ready to be revealed at the last day; also what the dear Saviour taught in John 10: 27-30, that He would give them eternal life and they should never perish, and none could pluck them out of His hands.

I then shaped this argument: In order for an effect to cease, the cause must be removed. Jesus said, "Because I live ye shall live also." Hence Jesus living is the cause of His people living, for He is the Christian’s life. Col. 3: 4, "When Christ who is our life, shall appear," etc.; and Jesus said, "I am He that was dead and am alive for ever more," etc. And Paul said, "Death hath no dominion over Him." Therefore as long as Jesus lives, just that long His dear people will live. Paul capped the climax in Rom. 8: 36-39. Showing that nothing—no, not death itself—can ever separate one of God’s precious children from His love.

In our closing speech at this debate we told about riding out one day, and hearing some one coming under whip and spur, as if to overtake us. We reined up our horse to see what was the matter, and we saw it was a preacher coming. He rode up to my side and began to talk about falling from grace, and I began to sanction what he said. After awhile he said to me, "I thought you Old Baptists believed in final perseverance of the saints." I said, "We do." "What," he said, "and you believe in falling from grace, too!" I said, "Yes, we believe in both." "Well," he said, "did you ever know any one to fall from grace?" "Oh, yes," said I. "Where is one?" said he. I said, "You are one." Said he, "Who told you so?" I told him Paul. "Why," he said, "what did Paul say about me?" I said, "Paul says if any among you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace." But the trouble is you are like the little negro that started up the ladder to get a middling of bacon. When he had gotten nearly to the bacon, the ladder broke and down he came, fell from the meat. If he had got the meat, it would have fallen with him; but he fell from it because he did not have it in his possession; and lots of people fall from grace because they are not in possession of it. But if a man falls who has grace in his heart, grace will lift him up again.

So we closed this my first debate; my brethren all rejoicing, and his all cast down. In a short while the Old Baptists organized a church on the very spot where the debate was held, and it is now one of the strongest churches in the state of Tennessee, while Campbellism has never been able to rally. I have had many debates since; but I never had one I felt better over than this, because I felt that the Lord was my whole strength in this one, and can’t say so much for all of them.
I have engaged in a number of public debates in my life, but I do not wish to weary my readers with them. But I want to tell you some of the fun I have had. I debated with a Methodist preacher of Water Valley, Miss., by the name of Fly; he had engaged with several men in debate and would tell anecdotes until they would become disgusted with it and quit; then he would go off and claim a great victory. When he challenged me, many people tried to keep me from meeting him; for they said he would just consume the time telling anecdotes and bulldozing. But I told them to be quiet, I was going to meet Fly; and if it was to be a debate of anecdotes, I had a supply. When we met, he got up to open the discussion, and began his anecdotes, sure enough. We all laughed, and he continued that course until his hour was nearly out; then he quoted a few texts, commented on them, and sat down. I arose and started off telling anecdotes and turning them all on the Methodists, and before I had finished the crowd were on their feet, some of them throwing their hats in the air, and yelling like a political meeting. I then devoted a few minutes to the Scriptures he quoted and took my seat.

It was a few minutes before he spoke. Then he said, "When a man beats me at my own game, then I quit." He went through that debate of four days, and never offered to tell another anecdote. A more pleasant debate I never engaged in. He and I debated at another time for six days, yet he never offered an anecdote; and we quit better friends than when we began.

We devoted one day of this last mentioned debate to "Infant Baptism," and Mr. Fly referred to all the households mentioned in the Bible. When he came to the case of the jailor, he said that the jailor and his household were baptized, men, women and children. I said, "Where did you get that, Brother Fly?" He answered, I inferred it, there are so few households in the world but what have children in them that I have a right to infer that there were infants here." When I arose to reply I referred to the case of the jailor, and told the people that at the time the jailor and his household were baptized, they had but one child and that was a daughter, and she had married the shoemaker’s son and was living on the other side of town. He jumped to his feet and said, "Where did you get that, Brother Dalton?" I answered, "I inferred it, just as you did that there were infants there; and surely my inference is as good as yours." He never referred to that case any more, and in the end of our debate on this subject he said, "I don’t care whether you have the babies or not, it will do them neither good nor harm." I told the people in my closing speech, "As Brother Fly does not care, and has left the matter entirely to our own decision, I would advise you not to have it done, as it is contrary to the teachings of God’s word; for Brother Fly himself has virtually admitted it.

Some years ago I was sent for to come to Texas to meet a Rev. Mr. Oliver, who felt himself specially equipped and armed, so much so that he thought he could withstand Israel; and like Saul, he was raving, and pawing the earth; and when the good brethren of Texas proposed to meet him, he said, "No, I want to meet Elder T. S. Dalton. He has a national reputation as a debater, and I want to begin with the top sheaf and thrash clear down to the bottom of the stack; and then the matter will be settled." So the brethren sent for me, and I gathered things together and went out there to meet the Giant. We met at Alexander, Erath County, Texas. The second day he got mad enough to kill me, the moderators could not call him down. He jumped up before me with his fist clinched, and said, "I’ll let you know that I am a Texas knot." I said, "Yes, and I have split many a one of them and never found anything in them but a little rotten wood; take your seat." The moderators called to him to sit down, but he refused; finally I took him by the lapel of his coat and put him down and said to him, "Sit there." Then I went on pouring arguments into him until he could stand it no longer; so up he jumped again and got just in front of me with his fist clinched and his teeth almost rattling in his mouth, and said, "I’ll give you to understand I am Texas pony." "Yes, yes," I said, "I have ridden several of them before, and they are easily ridden after you once get on them. I rose one here in this town several years ago by the name of T. R. Burnett, who was far superior. So I am used to riding Texas ponies. Take your seat."

It was some time before the moderators could force him down; but after he had taken his seat I kept on with my arguments until he had his "fill" of Old Baptists, and instead of getting his national reputation as a debater as he wanted to do, he was so completely let down that I have never heard of any one of any denomination ever having debated with him.

But the funniest debate I ever had, was here in Virginia with a Seventh Day Adventist. He came into our town and raised quite a disturbance, and stirred the Methodists considerably, and finally got some of their members. They tried to get their preachers to meet him, but they backed out; I presume they were afraid to risk their cause. I was very anxious to get hold of him, but did not like to put in. Finally some of the Methodists came to me and asked me if I would meet him. I told them yes, I would; so the matter was soon arranged, and we met. He made his first speech, then I followed; and at noon the first day he wanted to quit and leave the field. He told his brethren he could not meet it, but they told him he had it to do; he had got them into it, now he had to fight it through. So they held him on, and I had my fun out of him for three days. The night we closed the debate he left, and would not get on the train there, but hired a man to drive him ten miles away to get on the train. He had never visited this part of the country since then, and I do not think that any one has ever heard from him. I felt sorry for the poor fellow; but I knew he was teaching false doctrine and it was right that his mouth be stopped, and I felt like it might as well be me as any one else to do it.

I debated with a Campbellite preacher once who had a great deal to say about a man feeling that he was a Christian. He said there were five senses, feeling, tasting, smelling, hearing and seeing, and one time he got very vociferous and said, "Brother Dalton, did you ever smell that you were a Christian?" I said, "No, sir." "Well," he said, "did you ever taste it?" I said, "No, sir." "Did you ever feel it?" "I hope so, sir." "No," he said, "you never did; there are four witnesses against you, and only one for you.

When I got up to follow, I turned to him and said, "Did you ever see a pain?" and he did not want to answer. I said, "Now be a man, don’t be a baby;" so he said, "No, sir." "Did you ever hear a pain?" "No, sir." "Did you ever smell a pain?" "No, sir." "Did you ever taste a pain?" "No, sir." "Did you ever feel a pain?" "Yes, sir." "No, no," said I, "there are four witnesses against you; so I affirm on your own reasoning that you never felt a pain."

I then asked him if he was ever hungry. He said, "Yes, sir." "How do you know? Did you ever read in any book or newspaper that a man by your name was hungry?" He said, "No, sir, I never did." "Then tell us," said I, "how you found out that you were hungry?" "Why," he said, "I felt it." "Oh, but hold on, sir! I want to know how you found out you were hungry without feeling? The Bible says, ‘Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.’

Tell us now how you found out that you were hungering after righteousness without feeling." And the poor fellow just had to come off his perch and admit that he could not do it.

Some time after this the same man met me at the post office one day and thought to have a little fun; so he said, "Why, here is Brother Dalton, and he claims that the Lord called him especially to preach," and he laughed heartily to call the attention of all present. I turned to him and asked, "Do you think that God ever made it the duty of any man to preach the gospel?" "Oh, yes!" he said. "Do you think that God ever made it your duty to preach the gospel?" "Yes, sir." "Now tell us how you found out that God wanted you to preach the gospel," and he could not do it. I said, "Did He not have some way of letting you know that you must preach?" "Oh, yes!" "Well," said I, "did He let you know it, or did you start before you got any word from the Lord?" And the crowd began to laugh, and some man halloed out, "He started before he heard from the Lord," and the poor fellow slipped out as easily as he could and left the crowd to enjoy the fun at his expense.

At another time a man came into the post office where we were getting our mail, a large crowd had gathered, and he thought it a good time to make himself heard and gain some notoriety; so he called out very loudly, "Brother Dalton, I think the interests of the cause demand that you and I should have a public discussion here in this town." He was a man of very small caliber. It is needless, however, for me to say that, for all thinking people will know that from the manner of his attack. I thought of Solomon "Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit." So I turned to him and said, "Elder______, when I start out killing lizards I will call around at your house; until then, don’t contemplate any debate with me." He sneaked out and left us alone in the fort.

In our next chapter we wish to leave off all these things, and tell you some of the dealings of Providence with us. We have passed through many hard struggles, and have often been where the two ways met, and have found the colt tied; but have often untied it and led it to the Master, and we feel very grateful to God for His preserving care over us up to the present.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 27 September 2006 )
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