Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate/Volume 1/Number 7/Letter from M. C. Nickerson (Jan. 30, 1835)
Perrysburg, N. Y. Jan. 30, 1835.
Dearly and well beloved brother in the Lord, it is with no small degree of satisfaction that I take my pen to inform you of my present state of mind, and the dealings of God with me since I left you last summer, and shall notice some things relating to this church and the branch in Canada. As our heavenly Father has been pleased to call us to rejoice in the same hope of our calling, for which I desire to be very thankful, and feeling as I do a great anxiety for the prosperity of my Master's cause, and believing that any information relating to the advancement of his cause and kingdom will be gratefully received by every true believer, I shall proceed to give you a short sketch of all that I consider worthy of note since I left Kirtland, and likewise my views on certain passages of scripture that are particularly interesting to believers in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. The scriptures alluded to are those giving a description of the spiritual gifts as set forth by the apostles, which gifts were given "that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive: but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: Eph. 4:14,15.
After leaving Cleveland on board the brig Illinois, which is a fine craft, we arrived at Buffalo after three days' sail, and was obliged to wait for the Canada Steam Boat two days. While there, the scourge, or judgment of God, known by the name of the Cholera, was raging greatly, calling from time to eternity very many with a few hour's warning: how sensibly did I realize the necessity of being prepared for the change that awaits all flesh.
After a fateaguing [fatiguing] journey we reached home in good health, and found the little branch of Latter Day Saints much as when we left.—There have been some added this summer and I think they are growing in grace, and the knowledge of the truth as it is in Christ Jesus our Lord. We have the gifts as exercised anciently by the apostles; that is, the gift of tongues, and in many instances the interpretation—and the gift of healing has been exercised in several instances.
I shall here make a few remarks on the gifts. As it is a subject which interests every true believer, and but little understood by the majority of professors, and altogether denied by many, I shall call your attention to the 14th chap. of John, where the Holy Ghost was particularly promised to believers. John 14:12. Verily, verily I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. In the 14th chap. the promise was made of the Holy Ghost, and in Mark, 16th chap. from the 15th to the 18th verse. The commission was there given to the apostles to "go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved, but he that believeth not, shall be damned.—And these signs shall follow them that believe: in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."—What was this but a promise of the Holy Ghost? You will discover that the command was to the apostles, but the promise to those that believed. Let us follow the apostles for a short time, and see if it did produce the effect which was promised. The first appearance of the Holy Ghost was on the day of Pentecost. Acts 2nd chap. from the 1st to the 5th verse. Did not the Holy Ghost produce the effect that was promised? Peter quotes the prophecy of Joel. Acts 2:17. And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, &c. If their sons and daughters should prophesy, would they not be prophets and prophetesses? And if we have got beyond the last days, it will not apply to us. Peter says in the foregoing chapter, when they were convinced of the truth, and made the enquiry, "men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.—For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." You will discover that the promise was made to all that should comply with the terms of the gospel. Let us trace it a little further and see if it produced the same effect at all times. The effect that it produced on the day of Pentecost was to speak in tongues. "And they were all amazed, and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these that speak, Galileans? and how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?" and so goes on to enumerate 14 different languages in which they spoke: and this was wisely given to prove to the understanding of man, that the tongues that the Holy G[h]ost moved men to speak with, were the tongues of men. It does not follow that this should always be the case, that the nation whose tongue it is that the Holy Ghost should move men to speak with, should be present, for, says Paul while treating on the subject, 1st Cor. 14:2, For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue, speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the Spirit he speaketh mysteries. Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. Wherefore, let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue, pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. How is it possible for his understanding to be unfruitful, if he understood the language that he spoke? and where would be the necessity of praying for the interpretation, if the person speaking understood it already?
Let us follow the apostles a short time and see if the Holy Ghost always produced the same effect. Acts 10:46. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Acts, 19:6. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues and prophesied. Was not this the effect that Mark said should follow? Was not this what Joel said should follow in the last days, which commenced at the day of Pentecost? Let us turn to the 1st Cor. 1:1, 2, and there we shall discover that that epistle was not addressed to the Corrinthians [Corinthians] exclusively, but to all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord—both their's and our's. So that if we are of the number that call upon the name of the Lord, it is addressed to us; if so, let us see what use we have for the 12th, 13th, and 14th chapter of this epistle, unless we have the gifts. But, says one, the gifts were to be taken away. I would ask when? and give you Paul's answer. Cor. 13:8, 9, 10. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. But, says one, they have been lost or taken away: so say I, and so says John the revelator, 13th chap. for he saw the beast arise, that had power over every nation, kindred, tongue and people. In the 12th chap. of Rev. the church is beautifully set forth in the person of the woman. In the 12th chap. of Cor. Paul calls or compares the church to a perfect body, and John the revelator, to a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of 12 stars, which woman brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. Can any person of any discernment, read the 12th chap. of Rev. and say that it does not mean the church of Christ as established by the apostles, adorned with the glory and power of God? This once established, we shall discover that the church goes into the wilderness where she was to continue a thousand two hundred and three score days, or a time, times and a half time: which is a representation of the same thing, 1260 years, how would it be possible for the woman to be in the wilderness, and the beast represented in the 13th chap. of Rev. to have power over every nation, kindred, tongue and people, and the church still to retain her order with all her gifts and graces? Take a view of the woman set forth in the 17th chap. of Rev. clothed or arrayed in purple and scarlet color, and decked with gold and precious stones, and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand, full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication. What a disparity there is, when compared with the former woman, Rev. 12. If one was a figure of the first, or perfect church, as sanctioned by God, is not the other the church stripped of all her spiritual gifts and graces, and adorned with the works of men? It is plain to my mind that it is. If in the days of the apostles it took first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, then helps, governments, gifts of healings, tongues and interpretations of tongues, to constitute a church of Christ, and we are believers in the doctrine they held forth, which we ought to be, for Paul says, Gal. 1:8, But though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that we have received, let him be accursed. If we will but turn our attention to the 3rd chap. of 1st Cor. And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? for while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? If divisions show carnality, there is an abundance of it in this generation.
I feel that I cannot be thankful enough for what the Lord has done for me and my father's family. There were two members added to the church since I came home, which makes 22 since July, and there are many enquiring—may the Lord still carry on his work, for the harvest is truly great. Broth-er Snow was laboring in the church in Canada.
I remain in the best of bonds,
your brother, and well wisher
to the cause of my Master.
M. C. NICKERSON.