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Messenger and Advocate/1/2
Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate: Volume 1, Number 2
Summary:Source document in Mormon Publications: 19th and 20th Centuries online archive: Messenger and Advocate Vol. 1
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Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate: Volume 1, Number 2
|LATTER DAY SAINTS'|
|MESSENGER AND ADVOCATE|
|Volume I. No. 2.]||KIRTLAND, OHIO, NOVEMBER, 1834.||[Whole No. 2.|
[Continued from the Star, No. 23.]
There can no difficulty exist in any candid mind in relation to the true state of the Gentile world at present, having the Jews for their pattern. The apostle Paul, in the 11th chapter to the Romans, after he had told the Gentiles upon what principles it was, that the Jews both stood and fell, warned them to take care; for they, (the Gentiles,) like the Jews, must stand by faith; and if they lost their faith as the Jews did their's, that they like the Jews, should be cut off, also. See the 19th, 20th, and 21st verses: "Thou wilt say then, the branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high minded but fear: for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he spare not thee." So that the Gentiles must either stand by faith, or else they must fall; for so the Jews had to stand by faith, or else they must fall for want of faith. And the Gentiles, when they became fellow-heirs, and fellow-citizens, with the Jews, must stand as they stood, or fall as they fell, after the same example of faith, or of unbelief. "Thou standest by faith, be not high-minded but fear." The apostle knew that the Gentiles were in great danger of falling after the same example of unbelief, therefore he warns them to fear, lest this should be the case.
Let us enquire whether the Gentiles have continued in faith, or whether like the Jews they have fallen into unbelief? for if the Gentiles have continued in faith, then will the fruits of faith be found among them. We have previously seen what these fruits are; that they consist in prophesyings, healings, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, in all their various forms; in tongues, and the interpretation of tongues; that when men were living under the influence of faith there were apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelist, &c. &c. that all these were nothing more than the fruits of faith, and were always enjoyed in every age of the world, and among every people who lived by the faith of the Son of God; and were always enjoyed by every people whom God acknowledged to be his. And when any people it mattered not how righteous they might have been, ceased to bring forth these fruits, they stood disapproved of in the sight of heaven. On this subject there is no dispute in relation to the present Gentile world: all agree that the fruits of the kingdom of heaven are not found among them; that the fruits brought forth by their fathers, when the kingdom was given to them, have ceased to exist, and are at this time not to be found among any people. I say, on this subject, there is no dispute: there is a universal agreement—all the difference is this, that this generation of Gentiles, believe that both the Jews and Gentiles of this age, can be saved without these fruits; as well as the others among whom they were found, could be with: but as to the fact of the fruits having ceased, it is no where disputed; or at least among the sects.
That the Gentiles have fallen from their high standing before God, and incurred his displeasure, cannot be doubted by any man acquainted with the scriptures: all the grand distinguished characteristics of the kingdom of heaven have disappeared among them; that faith which Paul said should abide with hope and charity, is not known among them; all the powers of the spiritual kingdom have ceased to exist, and all their glory has faded; God is no more known among them, and they are wandering in darkness, and in blindness; lashing against one another like a troubled sea; crying lo here is Christ; and lo he is there! But in truth, there are none of them, who know any thing about him. There are no apostles among them to administer in the name of the Lord Jesus, nor no prophets to reveal unto them the things which await them. In short, every thing which rendered the kingdom of heaven desirable, has fled away. And they are in the same situation as the Jews were when it was said to them, "The kingdom shall be taken from you and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof." Let an inspired man make his appearance among them, and with one consent they will cry imposture! false prophet! knave! villain! and every other evil epithet that malice can invent; so done the Jews; and for this the Gentiles upbraided them in the bitterest terms, and yet they themselves, are doing the same things. If God cut off the Jews because they did not bring forth the fruits of the kingdom, surely the Gentiles must share the same fate, if God is no respecter of persons.
This subject is so clearly set forth in the 11th chapter to the Romans, that none need mistake it. The apostle says that the severity of God towards the Jews in cutting them off was goodness towards the Gentiles, if they [the Gentiles] continued in his goodness: if not, they, like the Jews, should be cut off. See the 22nd verse. "Behold, therefore, the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity: but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou shalt also be cut off." Now let the reader particularly mark the apostle's expression, "otherwise thou shalt be cut off." That is, unless they "continued" in his goodness they should be cut off. There is no allowance made for them, that they might apostatize, and corrupt the kingdom of heaven, and then be reclaimed, and reformed, and still retain the goodness of God, previously bestowed on them, in giving to them the kingdom of heaven: but if they continued not in his goodness they should be cut off. So the matter stands thus: That if the Gentiles continued in the situation in which God placed them, when they received the kingdom, they should partake of his goodness; but if they did not continue in that situation, they should be cut off. So says Paul, and who
will say to the contrary! If we ask, how were the Gentiles to continue in his goodness? the answer is at hand, by faith; for says the apostle, in the 20th verse, of this same 11th chapter to the Romans, (speaking to the Gentiles,) "and thou standest by faith." Mark reader that the apostle had said in the preceding part of this 20th verse, that the Jews had fallen because of unbelief; and then told the Gentiles that they were to stand by faith. For the sake of having the subject clearly understood even by the most careless, I will here quote both the 19th and 20th verses at full length. The apostle is speaking to the Gentiles and says, "Thou wilt say then, the branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well, because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high minded but fear."—Who cannot see that the apostle shows plainly to the Gentiles, that their standing before God, depended on their faith; and that if their faith failed, they would lose their standing before him, and like the Jews, be cut off? Another thing to be particularly noticed is, that they [the Gentiles] must continue in his goodness, and if so, must continue in faith: for unless they continued in faith, they could not continue in the goodness of God; for the goodness of God could alone be enjoyed by faith. So that the apostle has made the subject exceedingly plain, that all may understand, who have the least discernment.
Let us follow the apostle a little further, and see how he disposes of the whole matter. After he had warned the Gentiles to beware lest they should fall after the same example of unbelief by which the Jews had fallen, continues his discourse, speaking to the Gentiles concerning the Jews; in the 23 verse he says, "And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be grafted in: for God is able to graft them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive-tree which is wild by nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive-tree; how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive-tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, (lest ye should be wise in your own conceits,) that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, there shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins." See from the 22 to the 28 verse. In the above quotation, the apostle carries the subject to its proper issue, and shows how God will eventually dispose of the whole concern. He says that blindness in part has happened unto Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in; then all Israel shall be saved. When? why; when the fulness of the Gentiles shall be come in. Observe that the apostle had said in the 23 verse, that they, if they continued not in unbelief, should be grafted in again; for God was able to graft them in. When will the Jews be grafted in again? the answer is at the time when they are all to be saved. And when is that time? When the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. But when will the fulness of the Gentiles be come in? The answer is again at hand.—That is; when they all shall have ceased to bring forth the fruits of the kingdom of heaven, of all parties, sects, and denominations, and not one of them standing in the situation in which God had placed them: so that like the Jews, there is none of them doing good, no not one: for though there be hundreds of sects, and parties, yet all of them have gone out of the way, so that the fruits of the kingdom of heaven, or of God, have ceased to exist among them; then is the time that the world may prepare themselves to see the God of heaven set his hand the second time to recover the remnant of his people that shall be left from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the Islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the out casts of Israel; and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. Isa. 11:11, & 12.—But why? we ask? Shall Israel be gathered from all the lands whither the Lord God had scattered them? because, all Israel shall be saved, says the apostle; and this cannot be done unless they are gathered together: and not a small part of them, but all; for all Israel is to be saved. Let it here be observed, that it was the judgments of God which scattered them, and while they continue in their present scattered condition, the judgment of God rests on them; and whenever the mercy of God returns to them, they will also return from their dispersion, and be gathered from all countries whithersoever they have been scattered, or else all Israel will never be saved. But they will not only return, but the kingdom which their fathers lost, by reason of transgression, will be given to them; for before this time, the Gentiles shall have rendered themselves unworthy of it, and it shall be taken from them, and they devoted to destruction, while all Israel shall be gathered, and saved in the kingdom of God, or of heaven, which is the same thing.
The question is this, have the Gentiles continued in the goodness of God? for if they have, they have nothing to fear; for while their services are in righteousness before the Lord, the powers of darkness cannot overthrow them, neither can the gates of hell prevail against them: but if on the contrary, they have departed from the doctrine of Christ, and are following after fables, as certain as the testimony of the prophets is true, so certain they will suffer an overthrow, and be cut off in the displeasure of the Lord; for so says the spirit of inspiration, and who, that believes in the Lord Jesus, dare deny it? Peter says, in his second epistle 2:1, that if the false teachers among the Gentiles, should introduce heresies, or sects among them, as the false prophets did among the Jews, that it would bring on their heads swift destruction. Paul says, that if the Gentiles did not continue in the goodness of God, they should also be cut off. And in another place he says, that when Christ should be revealed from heaven in flaming fire, he should take vengeance on them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now, if the Gentiles have departed from the foundation of the apostles and prophets, they do not obey the gospel, and must be destroyed when the Lord shall be revealed in fire.
But to bring this subject to an immediate
decision, where is the sect or party but confesses that the Gentiles have not continued in the goodness of God? I answer, there is none; no, not so much as one. All the Catholics declare that the protestants have departed from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; while all the protestants say, that the Catholics have corrupted the kingdom of heaven at the very root, so that there is no fruits of righteousness among them. And each sect and party among the protestants, charges the other sects with error, and a want of strict conformity to the truth. So that we have got the testimony of both Catholics, and protestants, in all their various sects, and parties, all testifying to the same thing, and that is, that the Gentiles have not continued in the goodness of God. And what settles the question forever is, that Jesus, and the apostles, have concluded the whole in unrighteousness. And every man who has eyes to see, or ears to hear, must set to his seal and say AMEN: for who that has read his bible through once, but must see that the religion of the whole Gentile world is very different from the religion of the new testament, and the churches very different, from the churches mentioned in the new testament so that all parties agree that there are no such churches now as mentioned in the scriptures, and the conclusion is inevitable, that if the churches are not the same, they cannot both be equally approved of in the sight of heaven: and if the churches mentioned in the new testament were in the goodness of God, those in modern times have not continued in that goodness: for if they had they would have continued to have been as those were.
FAITH OF THE CHURCH. No. VIII.
[Continued from the last No. of the Star.]
There is no subject, I have thought, and now think, about which the religious world seems to be more bewildered, than that of spiritual blessings: and truly it is of the first importance that we should be correct on this subject above all others; for it was that we might be made partakers of spiritual blessings, that the Lord ever revealed himself to man; it was that we might be made partakers of the Spirit of God, that the gospel was ever proclaimed to the world: it is because of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, that we are raised from the dead, to enjoy the glories of the heavenly kingdom; and indeed, every thing we enjoy in relation to eternal life, is through and by the Holy Spirit, working in us, and through us, until by the power of that Spirit we are made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Let me here observe, that it is by reason of the Holy Spirit which our heavenly Father sends down among men, that any portion of the world is made heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ: men are dependant [dependent] on it for salvation: without it, the death and sacrifice of Jesus would have been in vain: for no creature would have been benefitted thereby. All the wisdom and knowledge that is worth enjoying among men, is by reason of this gift bestowed upon men in the flesh; for it is the province of this Spirit to convince, or reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment; so says the Savior. John, 16:8.—So that the knowledge which we have of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, brought forth by reason of its influence on men in the flesh. For says the Savior, If I go not away the Comforter will not come unto you, but if I depart I will send him unto you. John, 16:7. In order that we may have the subject of spiritual blessings, or of the work of the Holy Spirit, in the salvation of men, fully before us, let us examine first what the Savior said to his disciples at the last feast of the passover, previous to his crucifixion. The discourse alluded to, is found in the 13, 14, 15, 16, & 17 chapters of John's gospel, or testimony. In the 14 chapter, 15, 16, and 17 verses, the Savior thus addresses his disciples: "If ye love me, keep my commandments: and I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever: even the spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him; but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you and shall be in you." In the 26 verse he says: "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." In the 15 chapter and 26 verse we have the following sayings: "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you, from the Father, even the Spirit of truth which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me."—In the 16 chapter, from the 6 to the 15 he said: "Nevertheless, I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. Of sin, because they believe not on me: of righteousness; because I go to my father, and ye see me no more: of judgment: because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak; and he shall shew [show] you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you."
In the preceding quotations the following things are very clearly set forth.
First, The spirit of truth, which the apostles were to receive was to be in them.
Second, It was to abide with them forever.
Third, It was to teach them all things, and bring all things to their remembrance whatsoever Jesus had said unto them.
Fourth, It was to testify of Jesus.
Fifth, It was to be a spirit of prophecy in them, teaching them things to come. And,
Sixth, It was to reprove the world.
These six things are clearly manifest in the above quotations. It may be necessary here for the sake of clearness, to examine some other things in the course of the address of the Savior to his disciples, form whence we have taken the above quotations, in order that we may see the true light in which the Savior sets forth the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the vast importance he attaches to it.
In the 17 chapter, which records his prayer for his disciples, which he offered up unto his Father, he said, concerning those disciples to whom he gave the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit, "I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Now they have known, that all things whatsoever thou hast given me, are of thee: for I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I have come out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me." See 6, 7, and 8 verses.—Now reader notice particularly, that the Savior says to his heavenly Father concerning his disciples, that he had manifested his name, (the Father's,) unto them, & he says, that they have kept thy word, and they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee. And again, he says, I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I have come out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me; and yet with all this, they had not received the gift of the Holy Ghost: so that a man may believe on Jesus Christ; receive his words, acknowledge his testimony, and keep his words, and yet not have received the gift of the Holy Spirit. For after all this, the disciples had the promise, that after that time they should receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, which should be in them, and teach them and refresh their memories of past things, and make them acquainted with future things, and lead them into all truth; and make them acquainted with things past, present, and to come; I say reader, is it not marvelous, that after the disciples had known surely that the Savior had come out from God, and had received his word, and kept it, and had had the name of God manifested unto them, that they still needed this gift of the Holy Spirit, distinct from all this, to teach them ALL things? not some things, but ALL things? but so it was, for so says the Savior, and you and I are not at liberty to deny it. From these sayings of the Savior, we have learned this important fact: that the gift of the Holy Spirit, is separate from believing the word of God, and receiving it, and keeping it; for after a man does all this, he is then entitled to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Such was the case with the disciples who lived in the days of the Savior.
Another fact equally as plain is, that notwithstanding a man may have the name of God manifested unto him; his word given unto him, and he believe it, and receive it, and keep it, still, he needs the gift of the Holy Spirit after all this, to teach him all things; to take the things of Jesus and show them unto him; or at least, it was the case with the disciples in the days of the Savior.
A third fact is, that the object of giving the Holy Spirit, is, that it may dwell in a man, and teach him all things; to strengthen his memory, and bring past things back to his recollection, and unfold future events to his view. In a word, to be in him a spirit of revelation, and prophecy: or it was so in the days of the Savior and his apostles.
And the conclusion from all these facts is, that the knowledge, which is necessary in order that a person may be saved, is not attainable, only by the Holy Spirit dwelling in a man, and teaching him the all things necessary to be known: enlightening his mind into the knowledge of all truth; extending his acquaintance with futurity, and being in him an instructor, a teacher, a revealer of hidden things; and in this way enriching his mind with divine knowledge.
THE GOSPEL, No. II.
[Continued from the last No. of the Star.]
I conclude that there are no people on earth who believe in the plan of salvation, or gospel, as set forth in the scriptures, but that believe also, that all that will ever be saved, will be saved by virtue of the sacrifice of Jesus—for this is what was taught by prophets, and apostles, as far, at least, as we have knowledge of their teachings: they all testified of Jesus, and had knowledge of his coming into the world, in order that he might save it. Abraham saw his day and when he saw it was glad. John's gospel 8 chap. 56 verse. The Savior says to the Jews "Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me." John's gospel 5 chap. 46 verse. And the author of the epistle to the Hebrews says of Moses "that he esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt." 11 chap. from the 22 to the 27 verse. "By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents; because they saw that he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king's commandment. By faith Moses when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God; than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season: esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompense of reward."
It cannot be a matter of dispute, that these men were made acquainted with the mission of Christ into the world, and if so, they were acquainted with the gospel or plan of eternal life, which Paul says, was, before the foundation of the world. But in order that we may have a clear view of this matter let us enquire, what it was that was proclaimed to the world, which is called the gospel; for be that what it may, it is God's plan of saving men: for Paul says that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to all them that believe. See Romans 1 chapter 16 verse "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation, to every one that believeth: to the Jew first and also to the Greek." So, let the proclamation be what it may that was made to the world, by divine authority, that the inspired men called the gospel, that proclamation was the only thing which could save any person of the human family, and that was the thing which existed before the foundation of the world, the purpose, or scheme of things, which was devised in eternity, through which purpose of his own will God designed to save them that believe.
This proclamation, is set forth so clearly in the scriptures, that none need mistake it, not only in the commission given to the
twelve after the resurrection of Jesus from the dead; but in different of the epistles, so that the enquirer after truth on this point, need not be mistaken. It is so manifest, that it would require a good deal of ingenuity to render it so obscure that a person could not see it at the first reading: a person must be greatly blinded by tradition, who cannot see it if he reads his bible once through with any degree of attention.
When the Savior gave commission to the apostles after his resurrection from the dead, he said unto them, as recorded by Matthew, 28 chapter, 19 and 20 verses: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
Freedom, Oct. 28, 1834.
When the world, from time to time, has been deluged with the blood of those who dissented in their faith and practice from the professing world around them, it may be thought difficult to discern between the real followers of the Lamb of God and the hypocrite; for the reason that all dissenters were once few in number, compared with their opposers, and were compelled to receive the curses and reproaches of an unholy throng. From such premises, would it not be an irrational conclusion, and tax the Almighty with mutability of purpose to say that they are all alike accepted of him? that he looks at their sincerity only and that he has respect to any and every ordinance, even though they may not be of divine appointment?—One believes that baptism should be performed by immersion; a second by pouring; a third by sprinkling; a fourth is satisfied with any method, and a fifth believes that no ordinances are now required, but that all are done away. Some believe that revelations from God were once received, but that he has now for a long time ceased to reveal his mind and will to the children of men. I would ask such as are willing to accept any thing or nothing, for baptism, if our Savior has given a new commission since the days of the apostles, and left out baptism and the laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Ghost, as nonessential? Prove that position from the scripture and I yield the argument. If this point cannot be supported by scripture argument, it must be by modern revelation, or one of two points must be conceded: first, it is untrue, or, it of necessity follows, that the sincere infidel who believes in neither, has as good a hope of endless felicity beyond the grave as the most zealous christian. For it follows of necessity that God is constantly changing his purposes; varying his ordinances, even in the same dispensation, and does not, (on the principle believed by a majority of the sectarian world,) condescend to reveal it to the children of men, and yet requires an implicit obedience to all his commands, as the ground of their acceptance with him.
On the subject of revelation there is diversity of opinion. Many of those who believe only in ancient revelation: But should such an one perchance tell me he was called of God to preach, I would challenge him to show me his commission from the high court of heaven, or convince me he was sent of God on that all important errand, or has even been renewed by divine grace, without a revelation of God to him. Perhaps, the objector will be willing to admit, for his own safety, and that of his sectarian friends, that he or his friends, have had so much revelation as to convince him that his sins are forgiven and that God has called him to preach his gospel. Admit so much, and then see the dilemma into which the objector has fallen. If God has revealed to one in these degenerate days, that his sins are forgiven; that he has called him and committed to him a dispensation of the gospel, certainly he may do so by another, coeteris paribus; for he has done so anciently, he has done so in these last days; he may do so again, and more also, for he is immutable, and "is no respecter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted with him." The objector may say, that God has for a long time ceased to reveal himself other than as above admitted. To which I would reply, that in every dispensation from the creation down to the present time he has revealed himself by his mercies and his judgments, and even having the ordinance before them, and yet disbelieving them, never changes the purposes of the most High, nor destroys one fact. Did the antediluvians believe the preaching of Noah? certainly not. Did the sectarians heed the admonitions of righteous Lot? not in the least. Did the company of Kora, Dathan and Abiram give ear to the commands of the Most-High by the mouth of his servant, Moses? By no means. Did Saul follow the Lord and hearken to his counsels and precepts as did David, the man after God's own heart? He did not. Did the Jews, as a nation, receive the Messiah? They did not. Did they then, or do they now admit, as a nation, that he rose from the dead? They did not, neither do they now; but the bare denying of a fact will never disprove it. Though they fabricated, and perpetuated a most barefaced falsehood to corroborate their erroneous sentiments, still it did not obtain universal credence? Hear them: "Say ye, his disciples came and stole him away while we slept; and if this come to the governor's ears we will persuade him and secure you:" From the preceding admissions of the objector two points are incontrovertibly established: first, That God has had, in every dispensation, those who feared him and worked righteousness: 2nd That in every dispensation those who disbelieved, and disobeyed, were cut off in and for their unbelief and rebellion.
Who then, I ask, were they to whom he ever condescended to reveal himself? certainly not to those who believed he would not, for their acts have not been characterized with that strict regard for all his commands which has always been the prominent features in the conduct of all those to whom he ever condescended to reveal himself. Therefore, he came out against them in judgment. If he dealt so with his people anciently, will he not deal with them now in the same manner under similar circumstances, if he be the
same God? He has certainly (as admitted by all) sent a pestilence in our time, that has walked in darkness and wasted at noon day. "Surely (says the scripture) the Lord will do nothing but he revealeth his secrets to his servants, the prophets;" and if the prophets warn the people to repent and they give no heed to their warning, you must admit that it is no more evidence that they are not the prophets, and that the Lord has not revealed this unto them, than that the unbelief of the Jews did away the validity of the mission of the blessed Savior into this lower world.—But says the objector, your prophets are bad men, and deceivers. In reply, I would say, So said they of the ancient prophets: even the Savior of the world was called a deceiver, and yet he was no less than the Son of the living God. The Jews denied the new testament and its divine authority, but that does not render it nugatory.
From the foregoing remarks we may infer, 1st, That the more righteous, holy and pious any people are, the more sure they are of having their names cast out as evil, by an unholy throng: 2nd, That the unbelief of a wicked world in the testimony of the Lord's prophets, never averted the calamities that have, from time to time, been foretold should come upon the ungodly: 3rd, That the unbelief and sinfulness of a wicked world is what destroys the communications between God and the children of men: 4th, That the unbelief of the many will not destroy the belief nor the intercourse with heaven of the few, whom God has chosen even in these last days: And 5th, That his truly faithful followers are sure of persecution here, and crowns of glory hereafter.
W. A. COWDERY.
To OLIVER COWDERY.
P. S. Our little church, are, as a body, growing strong in faith. We had an excellent meeting on Sabbath and Sabbath evening.
I have had thoughts of requesting you to enquire what is the will of the Lord concerning me, and what he would have me to do.—It appears to me, that I am willing to submit to any privations, or perform any thing that I can be made fully sensible he requires of me. Sometimes I think I can be useful in the vineyard of the Lord, but if that time ever comes, I must have more purity of heart, more of the Spirit of the living God, and stronger faith. I must have that wisdom which is from above which is first peaceable, then pure; easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.
I have read the last Star with a great deal of interest. Your address to the patrons of the Star is admirably written. There are a few orthographical errors; but the sentiments, I think, are excellent. In your answer to mine of the first ultimo, I think you handle Mr. Beebe of the Baptist Register, rather unceremoniously; but, perhaps no more so than he deserves. I hope you will soon find time to review the affidavits published in Mr. B's Register, and give the world a statement of what you deem facts on the subject.
Although I have never seen your lady, I feel an interest for her welfare, and hope you will assure her, and our other relatives in that place that they all share amply in my affections.
I remain cordially yours,
W. A. C.
Liberty Mo. October 20, 1834.
LETTER NO. 1.
Much as I desire to be faithful in the office which the Lord appointed me, I shall not be able to labor in it till spring: wherefore, to answer your request, I shall send you a few letters relative to the region of the "far west."
My source of learning, and my manner of life, from my youth up, will exclude me from the fassionable [fashionable] pleasure of staining my communications, with the fancy colors of a freshman of Dartmouth, a sophomore of Harvard, or even a graduate of Yale; nothing but the clear stream of truth will answer the purpose of men of God. With that they may glide along amid the tornadoes of persecution, and among the wrecks of departing things, "faithful friends and fearless foes," till "the cities are wasted without inhabitant and the houses without man:" yea, they may live in mansions of perfection, holily, when the epitaph of this world's vanity, may be written in its ashes!
To begin my subject—I shall give a few sketches of the country often called the Upper Missouri; situated in the borders of the vast prairies of the Great West. Very little difference is perceptible, in the upper counties of Missouri, in soil, productions, settlements, or society. If there be an exception, it must be in the position and soil of Jackson. The appearance, soil and productions of Lafayette, Saline, Van Buren, Ray, Clinton, and Clay counties, are so near alike, that I can only say there may be a preference, but no difference. These counties, in general have a tolerable rich soil, composed of clay, fine sand, and black mold, especially upon the prairies. The cultivated produce consists chiefly of small quantities of wheat, large quantities of corn, some oats, hemp, cattle, horses, a few sheep, hogs, in score, and a variety of vegetables, but not to any extent.—Sweet potatoes, cotton, tobacco, and perhaps other plants, grow, in fair seasons, very well.
The face of the country is somewhat rolling, though not hilly, and, owing to the great deapth [depth] of soil, the branches, or brooks, are worked out and present ugly ravines from ten to fifty feet deep; one of the great causes why the Missouri is ever rily. Every rain starts the mud.
Unlike the martial-like wildernesses of the timbered States, except upon rivers and water courses, which are striped and specked with a rather small than sturdy growth of trees, as far as the eye can glance, swell peeps over swell, and prairie lies beyond prairie, till the spectator can almost imagine himself in the midst of an ocean of meadows.
The timber is mostly a mixture of several kinds of oak, hickory, black walnut, elm, ash, cherry, honey locust, mulberry, coffee bean, hack berry, bass wood, and box elder, with the addition upon the bottoms, of cotton wood, button wood, pecan, soft maple, with now
and then a very small patch of sugar maple. The shrubbery, in part, is red bud, dog wood, hauthorn, nany berry, hazle, goose berry, summer and winter grapes, paupau, persim[m]on, crab apple, &c.
The climate is mild and delightful nearly three quarters of the year; and, being situated about an equal distance from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as from the Allegheny and Rocky mountains, in near 39 degrees of north latitude, and between 16 and 17 degrees of west longitude, it certainly affords the pleasing hope of becoming as good a spot as there will be on the globe, when the wolf shall lie down with the lamb. The coldest weather comes in December and January, with, hardly ever two day's sleighing: so that sleighs and bells are among the unmentionables of this great center of North America.—February is not unfrequently a mild month, and March so much so, that potatoes planted the latter part of it, are sometimes digable the last of May. April though it has some frost, is the opening season for business, for gardens, for corn, and, in fact, for every thing for summer crops, if you wish a good yield. The spring is often wet, and the summer warm and dry. The fall beautiful. As the October frosts change the green strenght [strength] of summer into golden age, the Indians begin their fall hunt, and fire the prairies, till the western world becomes so full of smoke, that, as it eventually spreads by the fall winds, for all I know, it makes the "smoky days," or "Indian summer," throughout the continent.
The wild game is an important link to the living of many in the west. In the inhabited sections, however, it grows "less plenty;" and where the hunter could once drop the huge buffalo, the surly bear, the stately elk, the sly beaver, and the proud swan, he can now find difficulty in bringing down the deer, the wolf, the fox, the turkey, the goose, the brandt, the duck, &c. while the squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, and many other small animals sport as they please. Of the fish I will speak hereafter.
Besides some common birds to almost every State, the red finch, and the green bodied, gold headed paraquet [parakeet], live and die as habitual settlers. The turkey buzzard, makes this clime his summer house, and goes to other warmer quarters before winter. The crow, the raven, and in mild winters, the robbin [robin], stay here through cold weather, and mostly emigrate to the north with the return of spring.
The honey bee is a large stockholder in the flowers of the variegated prairies; so much so, that when they have not been used up by swarms of bee hunters, they yet form one great staple of the inland commerce of the west. Honey is frequently sold at 25 cents per whole sale, & 37 cents at retail, a gallon.
Among the serpents, the rattle snake, and the copper head are the worst, though not very plenty. That bird, whose image, if not worshipped, has more adorers in this nation than the Lord of glory, for it stands alike in the gold eagle, and silver dollar, and perches as gracefully on the soldier's cap, as on the officer's hat, and appears larger upon the sign of a tavern, than upon the seal of the United States,—I mean the American Eagle is a commoner among the great ones of the west.
But, lest I become irksome on too many things at once, let me turn to some of the advantages and disadvantages, which are natural to the land as it is. It is a great advantage to have land already cleared to your hands, as the prairies are; and there is no small disadvantage to lack timber for fencing, fuel, and buildings. Notwithstanding there are many good springs of water, yet there is a want upon the prairies in some places: and, generally, water privileges for grist and saw mills, and carding machines and clothier's works are scarce. That patriotism, which results in good roads and bridges, labor-saving machines, and excellent mills, is yet dormant. I do not know of a clothier's works in the Upper or Lower country. It costs one fourth or one fifth of our grain to grind it.—Run-round horse mills, or those on the inclined plane order, for horses and oxen, are all the dependence at present. There is a small steam saw and grist mill, of about ten horse power engine, in Clay; a steam saw mill at Lexington and a flouring mill nearly finished, on the Little Blue, in Jackson. It may be supposed, in those States where negroes do the work, that they can saw boards with a whip saw, and drive team to grind in an animal power mill.
Let it be remembered that the most of the land is free from stones, even too much so, for, excepting lime stone, in some places, there are very few if any for use. But suffice it to be, that, with all the lacks and inconveniences, now extant, grain is raised so easy, that a man may live as well on three day's work in a week, here, as on six in some other distant places. It is not uncommon for wheat, when ripe, to be let to cut and thresh at the half. Corn at 20 cents per bushel, and wheat at 40, are, however the lowest selling prices latterly; and I conclude, that from the great quantity of corn and wheat, or flour, necessary to supply the garrison, it will never be lower. So much on things as they naturally are.
Now with all the country has, and all it has not, without witty inventions, let us reflect, that God has made and prepared it for the use of his people, like all the rest of the world, with good and bad to try them. Here are wanting many things to expedite ease and opulence. Here sickness comes, and where does it not? The ague and fever; the chill fever, a kind of cold plague, and other diseases, prey upon emigrants till they are thoroughly seasoned to the climate. Here death puts an end to life, and so it does all over the globe. Here the poor have to labor to procure a living, and so they do any where else. Here the saints suffer trials and tribulations while the wicked enjoy the world and rejoice, and so it has been since Cain built a city for the ungodly to revel in.
But it is all right, and I thank God that it is so. The wicked enjoy this world and the saints the next. They, exercise their agency, and the saints theirs, are left to choose for themselves, and blessed be God that it is so, for it saves heaven from torment, and righteousness from blemishes.
The lacks that seem most prominent will soon sink with the fading glories of perishable things; and then the banks of long continuance will be thrown down, and the rough places made smooth; yea, the glory of Leba-
non will come upon the land of the Lord, the fir tree, the pine tree, and the box together to beautify the place of his sanctuary, and make the place of his feet glorious. Then, there will be a river of pure water to gladden the soul of the saint. Then, every man will speak in the name of God. Then, the righteous will feed themselves on the finest of wheat.— Then, the enmity of man, and the enmity of beasts will cease. Then, the vail spread over all nations, will be taken off and the pure in heart see God and his glory. Then, for brass the Lord will bring gold, and for iron silver, and for wood brass. Then, the saints' officers will be peace, and their exactors righteousness: and then the land will be worth possessing, and the world fit to live in.
With all these glories ahead, who would fail to seek them? Who would idle or revel away a few years of fleshly gratification, and lose a thousand years' happiness, and an eternity of Glory? Who would serve the devil to be a demon in darkness, when, by pleasing the Savior, and keeping his commandments, he may be a son of God, in the celestial world, where praise, and glory, and power, and dominion, have an eternal now for space and duration, and the best from worlds to expand and beautify their sublimity? O that the whole empire of God might shout—NONE!—But, it will not be so, for satan spreads himself and copes with thousands that must welter in woe unutterable, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. Alas! alas! alas! for their fate! who knows it?
Men of God, from this let us learn to take oil in our lamps from the great Spirit fountain above, and light them in the blaze of that noble fire, where a Hancock, a Jefferson, and a Washington, lit their tapers, that while there is a hope in heaven, or a gleam on earth, we may not covet this world, nor fear death, but, as Peter, as Paul, as James, die for the sake of righteousness, having fought the good fight, and overcome through grace: Amen.
W. W. PHELPS.
TO OLIVER COWDERY, Esq.
Saco, Maine, Oct. 20, 1834.
BROTHER O. COWDERY,—
Agreeable to your request in the Evening and the Morning Star, I proceed to give you a short account of my travels since the conference in this place.—On the 18th of June I started in company with bro. Josiah Butterfield, to visit a small church in Farmington, about 80 miles from this place, which consisted of ten members. We labored a short time with them and the people round about, and baptized seven: one of them a Methodist preacher, who is now preaching the whole gospel, and bids fair to be a very useful member in this church.—We tarried with them until the 10th of July, when we returned home. I then attended to my domestic concerns until the 30th of August, when I started for the East again, and on the 5th of September, arrived in Farmington and found the brethren and sisters strong in the faith, and rejoicing in the Lord. I then took bro. Kempton with me and labored in the back towns for the space of six weeks, occasionally visiting the church: and where ever there was a door opened to us we preached the gospel according to the ability given unto us. And I trust our labor will not all be lost. We have met with considerable opposition from the sectarian priests, and according to the appearance, they used all their influence against the work of the Lord: but notwithstanding, where we can get the ears of the people, and have the privilege of speaking to them once, they generally want to hear more—prejudice falls before the power of truth. There are many investigating the work of the Lord. I have baptized one and there are many more believers who have not yet obeyed; but expect there will be some on my return. There appears to be a considerable field open in this section, and a great call for preaching: and if there could some faithful brethren come into these parts they would find work enough, and would no doubt do much good. We should be glad if any comes into these parts that they may be competent workmen.
Yours in the bonds of the new covenant.
SYLVESTER B. STODDARD.
Paris, Tennessee, Oct. 11, 1834.
In much haste I set me down to inform you, that we have reached a State in which the gospel of Christ, in its fulness, has not as yet been preached.—We started from Missouri on the 12th of Sept. with recommendations from the Bishop and high council, to go out and proclaim the gospel to the sons of men; and being led by the Spirit to go to the south, like Philip of old, we took a Steam boat at Lagrange, one hundred and sixty miles above St. Louis, and landed at the mouth of the Ohio River, on Kentucky side, bending our course towards Nashville. We commenced preaching as we travelled across the south corner of Kentucky; but have not as yet baptized any. We are now in the flourishing town of Paris, where the Campbellites are holding a two days meeting. We have published an appointment to preach this evening in the court house in this place. All kinds of religion prevail here, (the religion of Jesus Christ excepted,) even to the "Live forevers," and "two seeds," or "Iron sides;" and we sincerely ask the prayers of our brethren in Kirtland, in our behalf, that God may dispose the hearts of this people to receive the ingrafted word that will save them in the celestial kingdom; for we have the power of tyranny that exists in slave States; the power of priest craft; the power of tradition; the power of the riches and honors of this world; and in short, the combined powers of darkness, to encounter; and we say in our hearts, O Lord, stretch forth thine Almighty arm to our relief; for truly the prophets of baal are numerous, and this people are joined to their idols. But notwithstanding all these seeming obstructions, we know that God is able, with a worm, to thresh a mountain: and we are determined, by his grace, to faithfully discharge our duty in warning this people, that our garments may be rid of the blood of all men. We expect to come to Kirtland between now and the first of May, next.
The horn is now sounding for Campbellite meeting, at 3 P. M. we wish to attend.
Yours in Christ. D. W. PATTEN.
To OLIVER COWDERY.
Messenger and Advocate
KIRTLAND, OHIO, NOVEMBER, 1834.
—> Communications.—We have received several letters since our last, a summary of which will be given in our next. The cause of our heavenly Master is represented in an unusually interesting attitude—There are numbers daily embracing the truth, and many calls are heard on the right and on the left, for the elders to fill. In fact, we know not when the work has been more prosperous, than at present.—There is a general enquiry wherever the word is preached.—What a field for labor!—How important that every proclaimer conducts with prudence, and exercises himself with patience—How consistent that we pray the Lord to send more laborers into the vineyard!
A communication from our esteemed brother, Elder JOHN MURDOCK, dated at Eugene, Indiana, the 11 inst. informs us of the sitting of a conference of the elders of this church in that place on the 30th, and 31st, of Oct.
From the minutes we learn, that the conference was composed of eleven elders, three of whom presided over three churches, as follows: Elder LEVI JONES, over the church at Eugene, Ia. composed of 55 members, in all. Elder CHARLES RICH, over the church at Pekin Ill. composed of 30 members, in all. Elder MOSES HARRIS, over the church at Liberty, Park co. Ia. composed of 6 members, in all. Making 91.
It is proper that our readers should be informed, that this conference was held in a thinly settled country, when compared with our populous cities and villages in the east; and that in consequence of the short notice of the conference, churches at a distance were probably prevented from sending their representations. We did not receive the intelligence in season to give it publicity; and if we remember, did not know of it until after its sitting.
Elder MURDOCK informs us that another appointment is given for the assembling of a conference at the same place, (Eugene Ia.) on the 29th of January, next.
We have frequently expressed our opinion upon the utility and propriety of conferences. What can be more heart cheering to the weary laborer, after a long time spent in disseminating the principles of the gospel, than to sit down in social council with others alike weary, and commune with numbers whose bosoms glow with the same ardor for the salvation of the world, and who, with him, have to communicate the happy intelligence of numbers having been persuaded, thro' their instrumentality, that the sacred truths of heaven thus delivered, though perhaps in weakness, are of sufficient importance to awaken the mind to investigation? This is not all.
By meeting frequently in conference, an acquaintance and familiarity is cultivated, which is so necessary for the promotion of the cause—Each elder is furnished with an account of the labors, and success of all; and is thus prepared, with authentic information, to carry the joyful intelligence to his respective congregation, where those whose duty requires their attendance on other matters, may be equally benefitted, and so the whole body of the saints of the Lord Jesus be refreshed with the news of the success of his cause.
It may be thought superfluous in us, by our brethren, to add our earnest exhortation that meetings of this kind be conducted with solemnity, and in order; and it betrays a want of confidence in us, of their ability and wisdom; but, however we may appreciate their ability and experience, we feel that this subject cannot be too often set before them, and its importance spoken of.—Much, they will see depends upon their conduct on these occasions, in order to derive that peculiar benefit designed in the institution; and while they are thus toiling, we assure them that our heart is equally devoted, and our feeble petitions frequently put up, that we, with them, may be gathered with that assembly which will never close!
—> Our patrons will remember, that we notified all correspondents, sometime since, that each article would appear over its proper signiture [signature]. Up to the present, we have heard no dissatisfaction expressed, and presume that the arrangement is such as meets the minds and judgment of our friends.
For a considerable length of time we have published pieces on the "Millenium [Millennium]; Faith of the church, and The Gospel." As we expect these subjects will
be discussed farther, it is only necessary for us to say, that they are from the pen of our worthy brother and friend, S. RIGDON, one of the Presidents of the church of the Latter Day Saints.
It is with a degree of pleasure that we call the attention of our readers to those articles, to which we have referred above, and believe, that every saint will read with care and cheerfulness every matter which may be presented for their consideration, on the all important subject of salvation.—[ Editor. ]
TO W. A. Cowdery, Esq.
I have received, of late, several communications from you, containing several questions. Not long since, you wished me to express my mind, either publicly or privately, upon a few remarks of the Savior, as recorded in Mat. 16:16, 17 & 18—
"And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
It is plain that the Savior never did nor never will build his church upon any other foundation, or sustain it upon any other principle, than he there represents to Peter, viz:—of revelation from the Father that he was the Christ. Erect a church upon any other foundation and when the storm comes it msnt [must] fall. And the only reason why his church was not always on earth, is, that men ceased to obtain revelations from heaven. And the only reason why they were deceived in time past, and will be in the last days, is because they do not know that Jesus is the Christ!
Men say they believe that Jesus is the Christ; but the Lord said to Peter that the Father had revealed it to him, and upon that Rock he would build his church and the gates of hell should not prevail against it. For if men know that Jesus is the Christ, it must be by revelation. To be sure, we may say, that the apostles testify of him, and that we believe they tell us the truth; but will this save a people from destruction, when the cunning arguments of the adversary are leveled as a mighty shaft to shake man from the foundation? No; he must have an assurance. The salvation of man is of that importance that he is not left to a mere belief, founded upon the testimony or say-so of another man! No; flesh and blood cannot reveal it—it must be the Father: and query: If the everlasting Father reveals to men that Jesus is the Son of God, can they be overthrown? Can floods or flames, principalities or powers; things present or to come; heights or debths [depths], swerve them from the foundation—the ROCK? No; said our Lord, the gates of hell cannot prevail! There is an assurance in the things of God that cannot be obliterated! There is a certainty accompanying HIS divine communications which enables the mind to soar aloft, and contemplate—not only contemplate, but mingle with the blessed in the blessed mansions, where all things are pure! It is this, then, which constitutes a certainty.
There can be no doubt but that the true church did exist after the Lord's ascension; but the query is, how shall we reconcile this point, when we say that it did not exist on earth for a number of centuries, and yet say that the gates of hell did not prevail against it? To the answer:
You will see above, that I have plainly contended that the gates of hell could not prevail against a man or society of men while they hold communion and intercourse with heaven.
I will now suppose a case, or propose a question: If Elijah had been the only individual on earth who kept the commandments of the Lord, he would have been all the church then upon earth. And you know that any and every people ceasing to keep his commandments, are disowned by him. If these points are admitted, I proceed:
When Elijah was taken up to heaven, did the gates of hell prevail against the church of God? Did they overcome the holy priesthood? No; neither.—Had Elijah been the last righteous man, and his enemies prevailed over his natural body, and put him to death, would the gates of hell have prevailed against the church? No; the holy priesthood would have been taken to God, and the gates of hell would have been as unsuccessful as in the case of his translation.
In the church, said Paul, God has placed apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, miracles, gifts of healings, helps, governments, and diversities of tongues; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. But did that church exist? Are the fruits of that priesthood now to be found, or have they been among men from the apostles to the present? Where are the individuals who will pretend that this has been the case? And yet they say that Christ's church has continued on earth, and that the gates of hell have not prevailed against it! Here seems to be a trouble—To admit that the authority of administering ordinances, on earth, has been taken away, would admit, at once, that they have no authority. This places men under the necessity of saying, that the church of God has and does exist, in all these variegated forms and colors, scattered over the world—No more resembling the ancient church, than the ancient church does that of the Hindoos [Hindus].
It is revelation which constitutes the church of Christ; for this was the declaration to Peter, that the Father had revealed to him, and upon that principle his church should exist. Show me any other, and I confess that you will show me a something, the pattern of which I have not found in the holy scriptures, as coming from heaven!
You will begin to see my mind upon this matter. It is, that when men ceased to bring forth the fruits of the kingdom of God on earth, it ceased to exist on earth; and when it ceased to exist on earth, he took the authority to himself, and with it the holy priesthood. The gates of hell did not prevail against the church of God; and the decree of our Father is, that they shall not; but no man will pretend, (if he does it is in vain,) that the pure church, as existed in the days of Paul, and for a length of time afterward, has continued. If so, according to his theory; the gates of hell have prevailed against it; for he cannot trace its existence here. He may trace a supposed authority through a succession of Popes and bishops; but if the authority was there, where is and where was the fruit?
If we look into the 12th chapter of John's Revelation on Patmos, we shall see the church represented in a striking figure, so plainly shown to be taken from the earth, that it is impossible his beautiful vision should be misunderstood.—Editor.
To W. W. Phelps, Esq.
In the last Messenger and Advocate I promised to commence a more particular or minute history of
the rise and progress of the church of the Latter Day Saints; and publish, for the benefit of enquirers, and all who are disposed to learn. There are certain facts relative to the works of God worthy the consideration and observance of every individual, and every society.—They are that he never works in the dark—his works are always performed in a clear, intelligible manner: and another point is, that he never works in vain. This is not the case with men; but might it not be? When the Lord works, he accomplishes his purposes, and the effects of his power are to be seen afterward. In view of this, suffer me to make a few remarks by way of introduction. The works of man may shine for a season with a degree of brilliancy, but time changes their complexion; and whether it did or not, all would be the same in a little space, as nothing except that which was erected by a hand which never grows weak, can remain when corruption is consumed.
I shall not be required to adorn and beautify my narrative with a relation of the faith of ENOCH, and those who assisted him to build up Zion, which fled to God—on the mountains of which was commanded the blessing, life forever more—to be held in reserve to add another ray of glory to the grand retinue, when worlds shall rock from their base to their center; the nations of the righteous rise from the dust, and the blessed millions of the church of the first born, shout his triumphant coming, to receive his kingdom, over which he is to reign till all enemies are subdued.
Nor shall I write the history of the Lord's church, raised up according to his own instruction to Moses and Aaron; of the perplexities and discouragements which came upon Israel for their transgressions; their organization upon the land of Canaan, and their overthrow and dispersion among all nations, to reap the reward of their iniquities, to the appearing of the Great Shepherd, in the flesh.
But there is, of necessity, a uniformity so exact; a manner so precise, and ordinances so minute, in all ages and generations when ever God has established his church among men, that should I have occasion to recur to either age, and particularly to that characterized by the advent of the Messiah, and the ministry of the apostles of that church; with a cursory view of the same till it lost its visibility on earth; was driven into darkness, or till God took the holy priesthood unto himself, where it has been held in reserve to the present century, as a matter of right, in this free country, I may take the privilege. This may be doubted by some—indeed by many—as an admission of this point would overthrow the popular systems of the day. I cannot reasonably expect, then, that the large majority of professors will be willing to listen to my argument for a moment, as a careful, impartial, and faithful investigation of the doctrines which I believe to be correct, and the principles cherished in my bosom—and believed by this church—by every honest man must be admitted as truth. Of this I may say as Tertullian said to the Emperor when writing in defence of the saints in his day: "Whoever looked well into our religion that did not embrace it?"
Common undertakings and plans of men may be overthrown or destroyed by opposition. The systems of this world may be exploded or annihilated by oppression or falsehood; but it is the reverse with pure religion. There is a power attendant on truth that all the arts and designs of men cannot fathom; there is an increasing influence which rises up in one place the moment it is covered in another, and the more it is traduced, and the harsher the
means employed to effect its extinction, the more numerous are its votaries.—It is not the vain cry of "delusion" from the giddy multitude; it is not the snears [sneers] of bigots; it is not the frowns of zealots, neither the rage of princes, kings, nor emperors, that can prevent its influence. The fact is, as Tertullian said, no man ever looked carefully into its consistency and propriety without embracing it. It is impossible: That light which enlightens man, is at once enraptured; that intelligence which existed before the world was, will unite, and that wisdom in the Divine economy will be so conspicuous, that it will be embraced, it will be observed, and it must be obeyed!
Look at pure religion whenever it has had a place on earth, and you will always mark the same characteristics in all its features. Look at truth (without which the former could not exist,) and the same peculiarities are apparent. Those who have been guided by them have always shown the same principles; and those who were not, have as uniformly sought to destroy their influence. Religion has had its friends and its enemies; its advocates and its opponants [opponents]. But the thousands of years which have come and gone, have left it unaltered; the millions who have embraced it, and are now enjoying that bliss held forth in its promises, have left its principles unchanged, and its influence upon the honest heart, unweakened. The many oppositions which have encountered it; the millions of calumnies, the numberless reproaches, and the myriads of falsehoods, have left its fair form unimpaired, its beauty untarnished, and its excellence as excellent; while its certainty is the same, and its foundation upheld by the hand of God!
One peculiarity of men I wish to notice in the early part of my narrative.—So far as my acquaintance and knowledge of men and their history extends, it has been the custom of every generation, to boast of, or extol the acts of the former. In this respect I wish it to be distinctly understood, that I mean the righteous—those to whom God communicated his will. There has ever been an apparent blindness common to men, which has hindered their discovering the real worth and excellence of individuals while residing with them; but when once deprived of their society, worth, and counsel, they were ready to exclaim, "how great and inestimable were their qualities, & how precious is their memory."
The vilest and most corrupt are not exempted from this charge: even the Jews, whose former principles had become degenerated, and whose religion was a mere show, were found among that class who were ready to build and garnish the sepulchers of the prophets, and condemn their fathers for putting them to death; making important boasts of their own righteousness, and of their assurance of salvation, in the midst of which they rose up with one consent, and treacherously and shamefully betrayed, and crucified the Savior of the world! No wonder that the enquirer has turned aside with disgust, nor marvel that God has appointed a day when he will call the nations before him, and reward every man according to his works!
Enoch walked with God, and was taken home without tasting death.—Why were not all converted in his day and taken with him to glory? Noah, it is said, was perfect in his generation; and it is plain that he had communion with his Maker, and by HIS direction accomplished a work the parallel of which is not to be found in the annals of the world! Why were not the world converted, that the flood might have been stayed? Men, from the days of our father Abraham, have talked, boas-
ted, and extolled his faith: and he is even represented in the scriptures:—"The father of the faithful." Moses talked with the Lord face to face; received the great moral law, upon the basis of which those of all civilized governments are founded; led Israel forty years, and was taken home to receive the reward of his toils—then Jacob could realize his worth. Well was the question asked by our Lord, "How can the children of the bridechamber mourn while the bridegroom is with them?" It is said, that he travelled and taught the righteous principles of his kingdom, three years, during which he chose twelve men, and ordained them apostles, &c. The people saw and heard—they were particularly benefitted, many of them, by being healed of infirmities, and diseases; of plagues, and devils: they saw him walk upon the water; they saw the winds and waves calmed at his command; they saw thousands fed to the full with a pittance, and the very powers of darkness tremble in his presence—and like others before them, considered it as a dream, or a common occurrence, till the time was fulfilled, and he was offered up. Yet while he was with them he said, you shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and shall not see it. He knew that calamity would fall upon that people, and the wrath of heaven overtake them to their overthrow; and when that devoted city was surrounded with armies, well may we conclude that they desired a protector possessing sufficient power to lead them to some safe place aside from the tumult of a siege.
Since the apostles fell asleep all men who profess a belief in the truth of their mission, extol their virtues and celebrate their fame. It seems to have been forgotten that they were men of infirmities and subject to all the feelings, passions, and imperfections common to other men. But it appears, that they, as others were before them, are looked upon as men of perfection, holiness, purity, and goodness, far in advance of any since. So were the characters of the prophets held in the days of these apostles. What can be the difference in the reward, whether a man died for righteousness' sake in the days of Abel, Zacharias, John, the twelve apostles chosen at Jerusalem, or since? Is not the life of one equally as precious as the other? and is not the truth, just as true?
But in reviewing the lives and acts of men in past generations, whenever we find a righteous man among them, there always were excuses for not giving heed or credence to his testimony. The people could see his imperfections; or, if no imperfections, supposed ones, and were always ready to frame an excuse upon that for not believing.—No matter how pure the principles, nor how precious the teachings—an excuse was wanted—and an excuse was had.
The next generation, perhaps, was favored with equally as righteous men, who were condemned upon the same principles of the former, while the acts and precepts of the former were the boasts of the multitude; when, in reality, their doctrines were no more pure, their exertions to turn men to righteousness no greater, neither their walk any more circumspect—the grave of the former is considered to be holy, and his sepulcher is garnished while the latter is deprived a dwelling among men, or even an existence upon earth! Such is a specimen of the depravity and inconsistency of men, and such has been their conduct toward the righteous in centuries past.
When John the son of Zacharias came among the Jews, it is said that
he came neither eating bread nor drinking wine. In another place it is said that his meat was locusts and wild honey. The Jews saw him, heard him preach, and were witnesses of the purity of the doctrines advocated—they wanted an excuse, and they soon found one—"He hath a devil!"—And who, among all generations, that valued his salvation, would be taught by, or follow one possessed of a devil?
The Savior came in form and fashion of a man; he ate, drank, and walked about as a man, and they said, "Behold, a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!" You see an excuse was wanting, but not long wanting till it was found—Who would follow a dissipated leader? or who, among the righteous Pharisees would acknowledge a man who would condescend to eat with publicans and sinners? This was too much—they could not endure it. An individual teaching the doctrines of the kingdom of heaven, and declaring that that kingdom was nigh, or that it had already come, must appear different from others, or he could not be received. If he were athirst he must not drink, if faint he must not eat, and if weary he must not rest, because he had assumed the authority to teach the world righteousness, and he must be different in manners, and in constitution, if not in form, that all might be attracted by his singular appearance: that his singular demeanor might gain the reverence of the people, or he was an impostor—a false teacher—a wicked man—a sinner—and an accomplice of Beelzebub, the prince of devils!
If singularity of appearance, or difference of manners would command respect, certainly John would have been reverenced, and heard. To see one coming from the wilderness, clad with camels' hair, drinking neither wine nor strong drink, nor yet eating common food, must have awakened the curiosity of the curious, to the fullest extent. But there was one peculiarity in this man common to every righteous man before him, for which the people hated him, and for which he lost his life—he taught holiness, proclaimed repentance and baptism for the remission of sins, warned the people of the consequences of iniquity, and declared that the kingdom of heaven was at hand—All this was too much! To see one dressed so ridiculously, eating no common food, neither drinking wine like other men; stepping in advance of the learned and reverend Pharisees, wise doctors, and righteous scribes, and declaring, at the same time, that the Lord's kingdom would soon appear, could not be borne—he must not teach—he must not assume—he must not attempt to lead the people after him—"He hath a devil!"
The Jews were willing, (professedly so,) to believe the ancient prophets, and follow the directions of heaven as delivered to the world by them; but when one came teaching the same doctrine, and proclaiming the same things, only that they were nearer, they would not hear. Men say if they could see they would believe; but I have thought the reverse, in this respect—If they cannot see they will believe.
One of two reasons may be assigned as the cause why the messengers of truth have been rejected—perhaps both. The multitude saw their imperfections, or supposed ones, and from that framed an excuse for rejecting them; or else in consequence of the corruption of their own hearts, when reproved, were not willing to repent; but sought to make a man an offender for a word: or for wearing camels' hair, eating locusts, drinking wine, or showing friendship to publicans and sinners!
When looking over the sacred scriptures, we seem to forget that they were
given through men of imperfections, and subject to passions. It is a general belief that the ancient prophets were perfect—that no stain, or blemish ever appeared upon their characters while on earth, to be brought forward by the opposer as an excuse for not believing. The same is said of the apostles; but James said that Elias [Elijah] was a man subject to like passions as themselves, and yet he had that power with God that in answer to his prayer it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and a half.
There can be no doubt but those to whom he wrote looked upon the ancient prophets as a race of beings superior to any in those days; and in order to be constituted a prophet of God, a man must be perfect in every respect.—The idea is, that he must be perfect according to their signification of the word. If a people were blessed with prophets, they must be the individuals who were to prescribe the laws by which they must be governed, even in their private walks. The generation following were ready to suppose, that those men who believed the word of God were as perfect as those to whom it was delivered supposed they must be, and were as forward to prescribe the rules by which they were governed, or rehearse laws and declare them to be the governing principles of the prophets, as though they themselves held the keys of the mysteries of heaven, and had searched the archives of the generations of the world.
You will see that I have made mention of the Messiah, of his mission into the world, and of his walk and outward appearance; but do not understand me as attempting to place him on a level with men, or his mission on a parallel with those of the prophets and apostles—far from this. I view his mission such as none other could fill; that he was offered without spot to God a propitiation for our sins; that he rose triumphant, and victorious over the grave and him that has the power of death.—This, man could not do—It required a perfect sacrifice—man is imperfect—It required a spotless offering—man is not spotless—It required an infinite atonement—man is mortal!
I have, then, as you will see, made mention of our Lord, to show that individuals teaching truth, whether perfect or imperfect, have been looked upon as the worst of men. And that even our Savior, the great Shepherd of Israel, was mocked and derided, and placed on a parallel with the prince of devils; and the prophets and apostles, though at this day, looked upon as perfect as perfection, were considered the basest of the human family by those among whom they lived. It is not rumor, though it is wafted by every galo, and reiterated by every zephyr, upon which we are to found our judgments of ones merits or demerits: If it is, we erect an altar upon which we sacrifice the most perfect of men, and establish a criterion by which the "vilest of the vile" may escape censure.
But lest I weary you with too many remarks upon the history of the past, after a few upon the propriety of a narrative of the description I have proposed, I shall proceed.— Editor.
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