Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Instruments in his hands - lamb-like meekness

The eminently humble Christian is as it were clothed with lowliness, mildness, meekness, gentleness of spirit and behavior, and with a soft, sweet, condescending, winning air and deportment; these things are just like garments to him; he is clothed all over with them. 1 Peter 5:5, "And be clothed with humility." Colossians 3:12, "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering."

Pure Christian humility has no such thing as roughness, or contempt, or fierceness, or bitterness in its nature; it makes a person like a little child, harmless and innocent, and that none need to be afraid of; or like a lamb, destitute of all bitterness, wrath, anger and clamor, agreeable to Ephesians 4:31.

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With such a spirit as this ought especially zealous ministers of the Gospel to be clothed, and those that God is pleased to improve as instruments in his hands of promoting his work. They ought indeed to be thorough in preaching the Word of God, without mincing the matter at all; in handling the sword of the Spirit [Ephesians 6:17], as the ministers of the Lord of hosts, they ought not to be mild and gentle; they are not to be gentle and moderate in searching and awakening the conscience but should be sons of thunder. 

The Word of God, which is in itself "sharper than any two-edged sword," ought not to be sheathed by its ministers, but so used that its sharp edges may have their full effect, even to the "dividing asunder soul and spirit, joints and marrow" [Hebrews 4:12] (provided they do it without judging particular persons, leaving it to conscience and the Spirit of God to make the particular application); but all their conversation should savor of nothing but lowliness and good will, love and pity to all mankind; so that such a spirit should be like a sweet odor diffused around 'em wherever they go, or like a light shining about 'em; their faces should as it were shine with it: they should be like lions to guilty consciences, but like lambs to men's persons. 

This would have no tendency to prevent the awakening of men's consciences, but on the contrary would have a very great tendency to awaken them; it would make way for the sharp sword to enter; it would remove the obstacles, and make a naked breast for the arrow. 

Yea, the amiable Christ-like conversation of such ministers in itself would terrify consciences of men, as well as their terrible preaching; both would co-operate one with another, to subdue the hard, and bring down the proud heart. 

If there had been constantly and universally observable such a behavior as this in itinerant preachers, it would have terrified the consciences of sinners ten times as much as all the invectives, and the censorious talk there has been concerning particular persons for their opposition, hypocrisy, delusion, pharisaism, etc. 

These things in general have rather stupefied sinners' consciences; they take 'em up, and make use of 'em as a shield, wherewith to defend themselves from the sharp arrows of the Word that are shot by these preachers: the enemies of the present work have been glad of these things with all their hearts. 

Many of the most bitter of them are probably such as in the beginning of this work had their consciences something galled and terrified with it; but these errors of awakening preachers are the things they chiefly make use of as plasters to heal the sore that was made in their consciences.

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Spiritual pride takes great notice of opposition and injuries that are received, and is apt to be often speaking of them, and to be much in taking notice of the aggravations of 'em, either with an air of bitterness or contempt: whereas pure, unmixed Christian humility disposes a person rather to be like his blessed Lord, when reviled, dumb, not opening his mouth, but committing himself in silence to him that judgeth righteously [Isaiah 53:71 Peter 2:23]. 

The eminently humble Christian, the more clamorous and furious the world is against him, the more silent and still will he be; unless it be in his closet, and there he will not be still. 

Our blessed Lord Jesus seems never to have been so silent as when the world compassed him round, reproaching, buffeting and spitting on him, with loud and virulent outcries, and horrid cruelties.

There has been a great deal too much talk of late, among many of the true and zealous friends of religion, about opposition and persecution. It becomes the followers of the Lamb of God, when the world is in an uproar about them, and full of clamor against them, not to raise another noise to answer it, but to be still and quiet. 

'Tis not beautiful, at such a time, to have pulpits and conversation ring with the sound, "Persecution, persecution," or with abundant talk about Pharisees, carnal persecutors, and the seed of the serpent [Genesis 3:15].

Meekness and quietness among God's people, when opposed and reviled, would be the surest way to have God remarkably to appear for their defense. 

'Tis particularly observed of Moses, on the occasion of Aaron and Miriam their envying him, and rising up in opposition against him, that he "was very meek, above all men upon the face of the earth," Numbers 12:3; doubtless because he remarkably shewed his meekness on that occasion, being wholly silent under the abuse. And how remarkable is the account that follows of God's being as it were suddenly roused to appear for his vindication? And what high honor did he put upon Moses? And how severe were his rebukes of his opposers? The story is very remarkable, and worth everyone's observing. 

Nothing is so effectual to bring God down from heaven in the defense of his people, as their patience and meekness under sufferings. When Christ girds his sword upon his thigh, with his glory and majesty, and in his majesty rides prosperously, his right hand teaching him terrible things, it is because of truth and meekness and righteousness, Psalms 45:3–4. God will cause judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth shall fear and be still, and God will

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arise to judgment, to save all the meek of the earth, [paraphrase of] Psalms 76:8–9

He will lift up the meek, and cast the wicked down to the ground, Psalms 147:6. He will "reprove with equity for the meek of the earth, and will smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips will he slay the wicked," Isaiah 11:4

The great commendation that Christ gives the church of Philadelphia is that, "Thou hast kept the word of my patience," Revelation 3:10. And we may see what reward he promises her, in the preceding verse, "Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship at thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee." 

And thus it is, that we might expect to have Christ appear for us, if under all reproaches we are loaded with, we behaved ourselves with a lamb-like meekness and gentleness; but if our spirits are raised, and we are vehement and noisy with our complaints under color of Christian zeal, this will be to take upon us our own defense, and God will leave it with us to vindicate our cause as well as we can: yea, if we go on in a way of bitterness and high censuring, it will be the way to have him rebuke us, and put us to shame before our enemies.

1808 at 68982

Thursday, September 7, 2023

‘The Opening of the Protestant Mind’ Review: The Early Evangelical Outlook

Review in the Wall St. Journal:

‘The Opening of the Protestant Mind’ Review: The Early Evangelical Outlook


In Mr. Valeri’s interpretation, though, a figure like Jonathan Edwards, famous for preaching “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” may have been among the most liberal and progressive thinkers in the Anglophone world.

[the formatting on the website is damaged so I'm reconstructing the full article here.]

‘Evangelicals,” or born-again Protestants—Christians who believe in converting non-Christians to their faith—haven’t had a lot of great press of late. The mainstream media all but blamed them for the 2016 election of Donald Trump. Going further back are evangelical ties to the Moral Majority and the religious right. Evangelicals in both politics and religion have a reputation for intolerance. They may have earned it: In 2017, the Pew Research Center found that evangelicals, more than any other Christian group, viewed Hindus, Buddhists, Mormons, atheists and Muslims unfavorably.

Mark Valeri’s “The Opening of the Protestant Mind” isn’t about 21st-century America, but his exploration of born-again Protestantism’s historical roots upends assumptions about religious conversion. Instead of making Christians intolerant, coming to faith by conversion historically went hand in hand with reasonableness, civility and religious toleration. Most readers would likely assume the opposite: If you believe other people need to convert to your faith from theirs, chances are you won’t give them much of a hearing. In Mr. Valeri’s interpretation, though, a figure like Jonathan Edwards, famous for preaching “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” may have been among the most liberal and progressive thinkers in the Anglophone world.

Mr. Valeri’s narrative of Anglo-American Protestantism between 1650 and 1750 is not as oxymoronic as it initially sounds. The Protestant outlook that prevailed in English society at the time of Charles I’s execution in 1649 assumed that the “health of the state depended on a . . . religious confession” to supply social coherence. For the rest of the 17th century, when English writers (including American colonists) encountered non-Christians, they saw “illegitimate, dangerous, and demonic” religions.

But after the Glorious Revolution in 1688, in which the threat of a Catholic monarch was decisively ended, English Protestants began to distinguish “loyalty to the kingdom” from “conformity to any one creed.” English writers—some zealous Protestants, others philosophically inclined—“minimized theological orthodoxy” as a requirement for social standing. Not only did these authors discover “republican ideas of toleration and moral virtue” in other religions; they also revised Christianity. Conversion became the path to faith not by submission to dogma but by persuasion. This shift aided the ascendant Whigs in governing a diverse religious constituency. It also prompted Protestants to regard conversion

 (and awakenings) as the mark of true faith. Mr. Valeri, a professor of religion and politics at Washington University in St. Louis, refers to a variety of authors well known and obscure. In the “Letter Concerning Toleration” (1689), the key to civil liberty was separating the purpose of the state from that of the church. If religious contro 

public order, the state should intervene. Otherwise government should leave religious groups to themselves. Locke’s outlook extended to Native believe that they please God and are saved by the rites of their forefathers, they should be left to themselves.” Jonathan Edwards, who for a time served as a missionary to Native Americans, echoed Locke. Although an advocate for the First Great Awakening, Edwards regarded the Mohawks and English people as because they shared the same sinful human nature. For that reason, Edwards thought acculturating Native Americans to Anglo-American conventions as unimportant compared with converting them through persuasive preaching. 

The 1733 English publication of “The Ceremonies and Religious Customs of the Various Nations of the Known World” is Mr. Valeri’s best example. Compiled by two French Protestants, Bernard Picart and Jean Frédéric Bernard, this popular book reinforced the ideal of conversion. Especially appealing to Anglo-American Protestants was the French catalogers’ contention that ceremonial religion represented an illegitimate “alliance between priests and secular rulers who persecuted religious dissenters.” Ritualized Christianity went hand-in-hand with imperial ambition and produced “uncivil, unreasonable, and coercive” religion 

Mr. Valeri does not hide the anti-Catholicism of British Protestants, whether Enlightened or awakened. But his argument relies too heavily on lit enough on political history. He maps changes in “the discourse” about the religious “other” as the best way to track perceptions of non-Christian discounts the significance of imperialism. Between 1653 and 1763, the British Empire grew considerably in size and might. To govern adequately, followed the playbook of other imperial administrations by tolerating cultural and religious diversity in provincial peripheries.

Roman Catholics, for their part, well knew the intolerance of British Protestants. Until at least 1829, with the Catholic Emancipation Act, holding civil or military posts required membership in the Church of England. A similar pattern prevailed informally in Scotland, the United States and Canada. As late as 1870, the popular essayist and historian Anthony Froude, by no means a devout Protestant, celebrated Elizabeth I’s 1588 victory over the Spanish Armada as the moment when Protestant and English fortunes combined to secure Britain’s political sovereignty and Protestantism’s long-term viability in Europe and colonial North America. It’s true that religious outsiders in 19th-century Anglo-American society enjoyed a measure of liberty at the local level. But in government, Protestants generally reserved the levers of power for themselves.

The Protestant air of superiority is a missing piece in Mr. Valeri’s book. Had he spent more time on the nature and persistence of anti-Catholicism among British Protestants, he could well have resolved the riddle of Protestant tolerance in politics and insularity in religion. He might even have facilitated understanding those Protestants who to this day show a capacity to live with and sometimes be governed by non-Christians even while praying for their conversion.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Disposition to act contrary to reason

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That disposition of mind which is a propensity to act contrary to reason, is a depraved disposition. 

'Tis not because the faculty of reason, which God has given to mankind, is not sufficient fully to discover to 'em that forty, sixty, or an hundred years, is as nothing in comparison of eternity, infinitely less than a second of time to an hundred years, that the greatest worldly prosperity and pleasure is not treated with most perfect disregard, in all cases where there is any degree of competition of earthly things, with salvation from exquisite eternal misery, and the enjoyment of everlasting glory and felicity; as certainly it would be, if men acted according to reason. 

But is it a matter of doubt or controversy, whether men in general don't show a strong disposition to act far otherwise, from their infancy, till death is in a sensible approach? 

In things that concern men's temporal interest, they easily discern the difference between things of a long and short continuance. 

'Tis no hard matter to convince men of the difference between a being admitted to the accommodations, and entertainments of a convenient, beautiful, well-furnished habitation, and to partake of the provisions and produce of a plentiful estate, for a day or a night; and having all given to them and settled upon them as their own, to possess as long as they live, and to be theirs, and their heirs' forever: there would be no need of men's preaching sermons, and spending their strength and life to convince men of the difference. 

Men know how to adjust things in their dealings and contracts one with another, according to the length of time in which anything agreed for is to be used or enjoyed. 

In temporal affairs, men are sensible that it concerns 'em to provide for future time, as well as for the present. 

Thus common prudence teaches 'em to take care in summer to lay up for winter; yea, to provide a fund, and get a solid estate, whence they may be supplied for a long time to come. 

And not only so, but they are willing and

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forward to spend and be spent, to provide that which will stand their children in stead, after they are dead; though it be quite uncertain, who shall use and enjoy what they lay up, after they have left the world; and if their children should have the comfort of it, as they desire, they will not partake with them in that comfort, or have any more a portion in anything under the sun. 

In things which relate to men's temporal interest, they seem very sensible of the uncertainty of life, especially of the lives of others; and to make answerable provision for the security of their worldly interest, that no considerable part of it may rest only on so uncertain a foundation, as the life of a neighbor or friend. 

Common discretion leads men to take good care, that their outward possessions be well secured, by a good and firm title. 

In worldly concerns, men are discerning of their opportunities, and careful to improve 'em before they are passed. The husbandman is careful to plow his ground, and sow his seed, in the proper season; otherwise he knows he can't expect a crop: and when the harvest is come, he will not sleep away the time; for he knows, if he does so, the crop will soon be lost. How careful and eagle-eyed is the merchant to observe and improve his opportunities and advantages, to enrich himself? 

How apt are men to be alarmed at the appearance of danger to their worldly estate, or anything that remarkably threatens great loss or damage to their outward interest? 

And how will they bestir themselves in such a case, if possible to avoid the threatened calamity? In things purely secular, and not of a moral or spiritual nature, men easily receive conviction by past experience, when anything, on repeated trial, proves unprofitable or prejudicial; and are ready to take warning by what they have found themselves, and also by the experience of their neighbors and forefathers.

But if we consider how men generally conduct themselves in things on which their well-being does infinitely more depend, how vast is the diversity? In these things, how cold, lifeless and dilatory? 

With what difficulty are a few of multitudes excited to any tolerable degree of care and diligence, by the innumerable means used with men to make 'em wise for themselves? 

And when some vigilance and activity is excited, how apt is it to die away, like a mere force against a natural tendency? 

What need of a constant repetition of admonitions and counsels, to keep the heart from falling asleep? 

How many objections are made? And how are difficulties magnified? And how soon is the mind discouraged? 

How many arguments, and

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often renewed, and variously and elaborately enforced, do men stand in need of, to convince 'em of things that are self-evident? 

As that things which are eternal, are infinitely more important than things temporal, and the like. 

And after all, how very few convinced effectually, or in such a manner as to induce to a practical preference of eternal things? How senseless are men of the necessity of improving their time to provide for futurity, as to their spiritual interest, and their welfare in another world? 

Though it be an endless futurity, and though it be their own personal, infinitely important good, after they are dead, that is to be cared for, and not the good of their children, which they shall have no share in. 

Though men are so sensible of the uncertainty of their neighbors' lives, when any considerable part of their estates depends on the continuance of them; how stupidly senseless do they seem to be of the uncertainty of their own lives, when their preservation from immensely great, remedy-less and endless misery, is risked by a present delay, through a dependence on future opportunity? 

What a dreadful venture will men carelessly and boldly run, and repeat and multiply, with regard to their eternal salvation, who are very careful to have everything in a deed or bond firm, and without a flaw? 

How negligent are they of their special advantages and opportunities for their soul's good? 

How hardly awakened by the most evident and imminent dangers, threatening eternal destruction, yea, though put in mind of 'em, and much pains taken to point them forth, show them plainly, and fully to represent them, if possible to engage their attention to 'em? 

How are they like the horse, that boldly rushes into the battle? How hardly are men convinced by their own frequent and abundant experience, of the unsatisfactory nature of earthly things, and the instability of their own hearts in their good frames and intentions? 

And how hardly convinced by their own observation, and the experience of all past generations, of the uncertainty of life and its enjoyments? Psalms 49:11, etc., "Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue forever. . . . Nevertheless, man being in honor, abideth not; he is like the beasts that perish. This their way is their folly: yet their posterity approve their sayings. Like sheep are they laid in the grave."

In these things, men that are prudent for their temporal interest, act as if they were bereft of reason: "They have eyes, and see not; ears, and hear not; neither do they understand: They are like the horse and mule, that have no understanding" [Mark 8:18Psalms 32:9].

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Jeremiah 8:7, "The stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle, and the crane, and the swallow, observe the time of their coming: but my people know not the judgment of the Lord."

These things are often mentioned in Scripture, as evidences of extreme folly and stupidity, wherein men act as great enemies to themselves, as though they loved their own ruin (Proverbs 8:36), laying wait for their own blood (Proverbs 1:18). 

And how can these things be accounted for, but by supposing a most wretched depravity of nature? 

Why otherwise should not men be as wise for themselves in spiritual and eternal things, as in temporal? 

All Christians will confess, that man's faculty of reason was given him chiefly to enable him to understand the former, wherein his main interest, and true happiness consists. This faculty would therefore undoubtedly be every way as fit for the understanding of them, as the latter, if not depraved

The reason why these are understood and not the other, is not that such things as have been mentioned, belonging to men's spiritual and eternal interest, are more obscure and abstruse in their own nature. 

For instance, the difference between long and short, the need of providing for futurity, the importance of improving proper opportunities, and of having good security, and a sure foundation, in affairs wherein our interest is greatly concerned, etc., these things are as plain in themselves in religious matters, as in other matters. 

And we have far greater means to assist us to be wise for ourselves in eternal, than in temporal things. We have the abundant instruction of perfect and infinite wisdom itself, to lead and conduct us in the paths of righteousness, so that we may not err. 

And the reasons of things are most clearly, variously and abundantly set before us in the word of God; which is adapted to the faculties of mankind, tending greatly to enlighten and convince the mind: whereas, we have no such excellent and perfect rules to instruct and direct us in things pertaining to our temporal interest, nor anything to be compared to it.

If any should say, 'tis true, if men gave full credit to what they are told concerning eternal things, and these appeared to 'em as real and certain things, it would be an evidence of a sort of madness in them, that they show no greater regard to 'em in practice: but there is reason to think, this is not the case; the things of another world, being unseen things, appear to men as things of a very doubtful nature, and attended with great uncertainty. 

In answer, I would observe, agreeable to what has been cited from Mr. Locke, though eternal

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things were considered in their bare possibility, if men acted rationally, they would infinitely outweigh all temporal things in their influence on their hearts. 

And I would also observe, that the supposing eternal things not to be fully believed, at least by them who enjoy the light of the gospel, does not weaken, but rather strengthen the argument for the depravity of nature. 

For the eternal world being what God had chiefly in view in the creation of men, and the things of this world being made to be wholly subordinate to other, man's state here being only a state of probation, preparation and progression, with respect to the future state, and so eternal things being in effect men's all, their whole concern: to understand and know which it chiefly was, that they had understanding given 'em; and it concerning them infinitely more to know the truth of eternal things than any other, as all that are not infidels will own; therefore, we may undoubtedly conclude, that if men have not respect to 'em as real and certain things, it cannot be for want of sufficient evidence of their truth, to induce 'em so to regard them; especially as to them that live under that light, which God has appointed as the most proper exhibition of the nature and evidence of these things: 

but it must be from a dreadful stupidity of mind, occasioning a sottish insensibility of their truth and importance, when manifested by the clearest evidence.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Bias due to diversity of religious sentiment

In 1749, Edwards explained his views on participation in the church. Church leaders disagreed with his views. There ensued negotiations about how to resolve the disagreement. Edwards described the events, discussing the problem of bias and prejudice from "diversity of religious sentiment." 

Excerpts below.

 "Narrative of Communion Controversy"

They then told me that before they came they had agreed to make me this offer, viz. that if I would consent to it, they would endeavor to bring the precinct to yield, that I should preach in defense of my opinion, either in lectures appointed for that end or on the sabbath, as I pleased, provided I would first draw out each sermon that I intended to preach at large, in a legible character, and give it to them, and give them opportunity to carry it to some minister, that he might see it and prepare an answer to it before I delivered it; and that then I might deliver it, if I would consent that he should, from the pulpit, deliver his answer immediately after it. I told them that, at present, I could not think it to be my duty to comply with this proposal unless it were also allowed that I should beforehand see the discourse of my antagonist, as he was to see mine, that I might stand on even ground with him.


Now, though perhaps it may be disputed whether unity of sentiment in matters of religion has an equal tendency to prejudice the mind in favor of particular persons and their behavior with consanguinity, yet I suppose it to be a point beyond dispute that it has a powerful tendency; and that diversity of sentiment has an equally powerful tendency to prejudice the mind, not only against the doctrines which are opposite to them we embrace, but against the persons who introduced and maintain them. 

In all ages and nations, diversity of religious sentiment has occasioned uncharitableness and censoriousness in mankind, one towards another; and the strongest prejudices which have appeared among men, have been owing to this cause. 

Very often has this been true, when the difference has been in things not fundamental. 

Such is the weakness of human nature on this point, that few men get the mastery of this temptation. Here and there, an eminently great man appears to have conquered its influence. Yet, even among great men, such instances are rare. 

How evident is it that men of distinguished learning and talents, and of eminent piety, are often powerfully influenced by this prejudice, and that insensibly to themselves. 

And if we examine the history of ages past, we shall find abundant evidence that even consanguinity itself does not render us more liable to powerful prejudices than this very cause.

The prejudices to which we are thus exposed are not merely against the persons of individuals, but against their conduct; especially against that part of their conduct which is immediately connected with their opinions, in avowing and maintaining them, and in endeavoring to introduce and propagate them. 

How greatly have the members, and especially the ministers, of the Church of England, even those among them who are great and good men, been prejudiced against the persons and conduct of Dissenters; and how have they accused them of bigotry, blind zeal and perverseness. 

And how fully has our liability to prejudices of this nature been exemplified of late in New England, in persons of opposite opinions, respecting the late extensive revivals of religion; how strong have been the prejudices occasioned thereby against the persons and conduct of many individuals. 

Especially is this true, when the controversy about the opposite religious [opinions] is in the height of agitation. 

Above all is the temptation great with respect to the individual who is the first and main occasion of the controversy, and appears as the head and spring of the whole debate, as moved and maintained in the given time and place: which is precisely my case in this existing controversy.

And the influence of this cause to bias the minds of men has been strikingly exemplified in this very case, in ministers of good characters, and such as in other respects have been very friendly to me. 

Since this controversy has existed at Northampton, I have had occasion to converse with many gentlemen in the ministry, on both sides of the question; and I find a vast difference between those on one side and those on the other, in regard to their charity with respect to me and my conduct. 

These on one side are more apt to give heed to reports which they have heard to my disadvantage, and to be inquiring with concern into such and such parts of my conduct. They receive with hesitation and difficulty the explanations which I give and the reasons which I offer, and entertain surmises and jealousies of my design and of the motives by which I am governed. 

But with the ministers of the other side, I find nothing of this nature.

It is very obvious that the members of this church themselves are perfectly aware of the tendency of religious opinions to bias the minds of men in this very controversy. 

When one of the brethren, at a late church meeting, spoke in my favor on one of the points now to be decided by the council, one of the influential members, an officer in the church and one of the church committee, rose and told the church that what that brother had said was the less to be regarded because he had manifested himself to be of my opinion with respect to the qualifications for communion. 

And the public acts of this people show how fully sensible they are of the strong tendency which sameness or contrariety of opinion will have [to] prejudice ministers and churches. 

To what other cause, but such a consciousness, shall we attribute the fact that they strive so laboriously and perseveringly to confine [me] exclusively, in the ultimate decision of this controversy, to judges who are now on their side of the question; and that they have hired able counsel to plead in their behalf for this very purpose. 

If identity or diversity of religious sentiment has no tendency to bias the mind, why all this anxiety, and effort, and expense and struggling to confine me to judges who differ from me and agree with themselves?

As to the neighboring ministers, I sincerely profess a very honorable esteem of them, and desire to be thankful that I have lived in peace and friendship with them; and I doubt not that they are gentlemen of too much judgment and candor to regard it as a personal reflection when I suppose them, as well as others, liable to prejudices from this cause. 

I presume none of us are unwilling to own that we are the subjects of the common infirmities of human nature, and doubtless we have found this the fact in so many instances, that we should in some cases not think it wisdom to trust our own hearts.

This then being so evidently the case, if the decisive council are generally of an opinion contrary to mine and the same with that of my opposers on the matter in dispute, they cannot be regarded as impartial; and of course I shall have no fair chance of justice from them, and shall not, in debating and determining the matter in controversy, stand on equal ground with the other party. 

The point then is plain, beyond all question, that I ought not to be confined to such a council.

How tender does the wisdom and justice of all civilized nations teach them to be towards everyone who has a deeply interesting cause depending, with regard to the impartiality of his judges. When he has any objections against anyone proposed as a judge, how easily do they admit them, if there be the least appearance of any circumstance tending to bias and prejudice the mind. 

How readily, for example, are such objections admitted against any who are nominated to be of a jury.

Local proximity, I fully admit, ought ordinarily to be regarded as a circumstance of weight in calling a council who are to be judges in a religious controversy; but in no measure of equal weight with the essential qualifications of the judges themselves. 

And as to the qualifications of a judge, what is so essential as impartiality? What can be more essential in a balance, which is to determine the true weight of things, than that the scales be even?

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Manifestation of God's power

Jonathan Edwards, 1729:

If the Spirit of God should be immediately poured out, and that great work of God's power and grace should now begin, which in its progress and issue should complete this glorious effect; there must be an amazing and unparalleled progress of the work and manifestation of divine power to bring so much to pass, by the year 2000. 


So many wonderful things are ahead. In coming days, we will see the greatest manifestations of the Savior’s power that the world has ever seen. Between now and the time He returns “with power and great glory,” (Joseph Smith-Matthew 1:36), He will bestow countless privileges, blessings, and miracles upon the faithful.

Official portrait of President Russell M. Nelson taken January 2018

Russell M. Nelson
Prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Saturday, August 12, 2023

A gradual progress of religion

This is the sabbatism of the world; when all shall be in a holy rest, when the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and there shall be nothing to hurt or offend, and there shall be abundance of peace, and "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the seas" [Isaiah 11:9], and God's people shall dwell in quiet resting places. 

There is not the least reason to think, that all this will be brought to pass as it were at one stroke, or that from the present lamentable state of things, there should be brought about and completed the destruction of the Church of Rome, the entire extirpation of all infidelity, heresies, superstitions and schisms, through all Christendom, and the conversion of all the Jews, and the full enlightening and conversion of all Mahometan and heathen nations, through the whole earth, on every side of the globe, and from the north to the south pole, and the full settlement of all in the pure Christian faith and order, all as it were in the issue of one battle, and by means of the victory of the church in one great conflict with her enemies. 

This would contradict many things in Scripture, which represent this great event to be brought to pass by a gradual progress of religion; as leaven that gradually spreads, till it has diffused itself through the whole lump; and a plant of

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mustard, which from a very small seed, gradually becomes a great tree (Matthew 13:31–33); "and like seed which a man casts into the ground, that springs and grows up, night and day; and first brings forth the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear" [Mark 4:26–28]. 

And especially would this contradict the prophetical representation in Ezekiel 47, where the progress of religion is represented by the gradual increase of the waters of the sanctuary; being first a small spring issuing out from under the threshold of the temple; and then, after they had run a thousand cubits, being up to the ankles; and at the end of another thousand cubits, up to the knees; and at the end of another thousand, up to the loins; and afterwards a great river, that could not be passed over; and being finally brought into the sea, and healing the waters even of the vast ocean. 

If the Spirit of God should be immediately poured out, and that great work of God's power and grace should now begin, which in its progress and issue should complete this glorious effect; there must be an amazing and unparalleled progress of the work and manifestation of divine power to bring so much to pass, by the year 2000. 

Would it not be a great thing, to be accomplished in one half century, that religion, in the power and purity of it, should so prevail, as to gain the conquest over all those many things that stand in opposition to it among Protestants, and gain the upper hand through the Protestant world? 

And if in another, it should go on so to prevail, as to get the victory over all the opposition and strength of the kingdom of Antichrist, so as to gain the ascendant in that which is now the popish world? 

And if in a third half century, it should prevail and subdue the greater part of the Mahometan world, and bring in the Jewish nation, in all their dispersions? 

And then in the next whole century, the whole heathen world should be enlightened and converted to the Christian faith, throughout all parts of Africa, Asia, America and Terra Australis, and be thoroughly settled in Christian faith and order, without any remainders of their old delusions and superstitions, and this attended with an utter extirpation of the remnant of the Church of Rome, and all the relics of Mahometanism, heresy, schism and enthusiasm, and a suppression of all remains of open vice and immorality, and every sort of visible enemy to true religion, through the whole earth, and bring to an end all the unhappy commotions, tumults, and calamities occasioned by such great changes, and all things so adjusted and settled through the world, that the world thenceforward should enjoy an holy rest or sabbatism?

I have thus distinguished what belongs to a bringing of the world from its present state, to the happy state of the millennium, the better to

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give a view of the greatness of the work; and not, that I pretend so much as to conjecture, that things will be accomplished just in this order. 

The whole work is not the less great and wonderful, to be accomplished in such a space of time, in whatever order the different parts of it succeed each other. 

They that think that what has been mentioned would not be swift progress, yea amazingly swift, don't consider how great the work is, and the vast and innumerable obstacles that are in the way. 

It was a wonderful thing, when the Christian religion, after Christ's ascension, so prevailed, as to get the ascendant in the Roman Empire in about 300 years; but that was nothing to this. 

Monday, July 17, 2023

Wearing away sandy foundations


Though some may be ready to object against the Christian religion that there seem to be innumerable difficulties and inconsistences attending it, which would appear to be insolvable but only as a multitude of heads have been employed for many ages to find out solutions for 'em, innumerable attempts have been made, and multitudes have been rejected one after another as insufficient, for the sake of others that have been thought less liable to objection, till at length such solutions have been found out for many of them as are in some measure plausible: but there is nothing— no history, nor scheme of doctrine, nor set of principles whatever, however inconsistent, absurd and confused— but what might be made to seem consistent at this rate; no difficulties nor inconsistences, but what something plausible might be found out to color it over and hide it, by so much search and study, by a combination of such multitudes through so many ages.

To this I answer, that as there have been a long time to answer objections, so there have been many ages to strengthen them. 

As there have been many ages to solve difficulties, so there have been as many to find out difficulties and inconsistences. 

Falsehood in things that are in like manner complicated, as all that is contained in the whole compass of the scheme of the Christian religion, must needs be attended with numberless things that may discover it, more and more of which will appear by time. And besides, there has been all this time to make difficulties more plain, and bring out inconsistences more to the light, and by thorough

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and exact consideration to make them more manifest and apparent, by setting all things forth more exactly and minutely as they be. 

Time is a thing that wonderfully brings truth to light, and wears off by degrees false colorings and disguises. If the truth be of that side that would have most advantage by time, appearing inconsistences, being founded on truth, would grow plainer and plainer, and difficulties more and more evident. 

It would discover more circumstances to strengthen and confirm them, and pretenses of solution would appear more and more evidently absurd and ridiculous. 

When there are contending parties that contend by argument and search and inquiry, time greatly helps that party that have truth of their side, and weakens the contrary side. It gradually wears away their sandy foundation, and rots away the building that is not made of substantial materials. 

The Christian religion has evermore in all ages had its enemies, and that among those that were learned men. Yea, 'tis observable that there have commonly been some of the most subtile of men to scan the Christian scheme, and to discover the objections that lie against it, and have done it with a good will to overthrow it. Thus it was in Judea in the infancy of the church, the scribes and Pharisees and the wise men among the Jews employed all their wisdom against it. 

Thus in the first ages of the church not many wise, not many mighty, not many noble, were called; but Christianity had the wisdom, learning and subtilty of the world to oppose it. 

So of latter ages: how many learned and subtile men have done their utmost against Christianity, so that the length of time that there has been for persons to strengthen their own side in this controversy, that is brought as an objection against Christianity, is much more of an argument for it, than an objection against it.

["sandy foundation" is a nonbiblical term found in the Book of Mormon three times]