Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate/Volume 2/Number 4/Letter from Sidney Rigdon (Jan. 1836)
For the Messenger and Advocate.
A short time since I got the 12th No. of the 4th volume of the Evangelist (as the editor calls its) my attention was particularly arrested with some quotations taken from some paper which by the by is not mentioned; but appears from the editor's remarks on them, that they were written by somebody whom the editor calls "our respected brother Stone;" and he is spoken of as holding a very grave rank among the brethren of that faith. How the brethren of that faith are divided into ranks I am not able to say, but it appears that there is one rank which they call the grave rank, whether it ascends from this into graver gravest, or whether it descends into less grave least grave or some other way, is not for me to say, neither is it a matter of any consequence.
It would seem however that Mr. Scott thinks he [Mr. Stone] has acted injudiciously in publishing his sentiments to the world in the manner in which he did, as it has given great occasion to the Mormons whom Mr. Scott represents as making a great ado about it. How true or false this is, I do not know;—for my own part, all the ado I have heard about it, is in the Evangelist, and from the pen of the grave Mr. Scott its editor; for of course I conclude that he belongs to the grave rank of that brotherhood as well as Mr. Stone; for from his writings I conclude he thinks himself graver than Mr. Stone; indeed Mr. Scott seems to be too grave to either utter the sentiments of the bible, or to believe them when they are uttered by others. It is the very perfection of a false religion, to make its subjects so grave that they dare not utter the sentiments of the bible nor at all believe them, at least their gravity should be greatly disturbed.
While reading the remarks of Mr. Scott on Mr. Stone's piece, I was led to ask myself, What is the difficulty with Mr. Scott? What has Mr. Stone said which is calculated to so much disturb his feelings as to call forth his public disapprobation? I cannot see that Mr. Stone has done any thing more or less, than to profess belief in the things which are written in the New Testament. Now if he had quoted from the book of Mormon, it would certainly have been but right to give Mr. Scott the privilege of objecting, though it should be the very words which are written in the old and new testament; for transcribing them into the book of Mormon would surely make them untrue; but the words quoted by Mr. Stone are found in the new testament, yes, the new testament, the very book about which Mr. Scott has said so much and written so much and professed to believe with all his heart, and called upon others to believe also.
Mr. Stone has asked, "can we in these last days claim the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit? and answers unhesitatingly yes," and quotes the second chapter of the acts of the apostles as proof. Now that Mr. Scott should take exceptions at this is marvelous, marvelous we say, because who in all the world has said so much about the gospel as preached by Peter on the day of pentecost as Mr. Scott? not one man in this generation: the second chapter of the acts of the apostles has been his theme, and the pentecostean gospel the topic of his conversation, and the substance of his public ministry; and Mr. Stone has done no more, and said no more, than to profess his belief most unhesitatingly in it.
That Mr. Scott should take exceptions at this is marvelous, that he should have the afrontery to assert, that he did not believe the ancient gospel, is placing himself in the most awkward attitude in which any human being can be placed; after preaching it with the most untiring perseverance, and indefatigable exertion, and now after all his toil, and labor, openly declare he does not believe it. Mr. Scott has filled the country with his proclaiming to the people and his great zeal to get them baptized for the remission of their sins, assuring them, if they did so, they should receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, as set forth by the apostle Peter on the day of pentecost; but no sooner does Mr. Stone declare his firm belief that those who are baptized for the remission of sins have a right to claim the gift of the Holy Spirit, and that because the apostle said so on the day of pentecost, then Mr. Scott demurrs [demurs], and declares his unbelief and undertakes to prove, or rather says that Mr. Stone's opinion is founded on mistake. And who does not know that if Mr. Stone's opinion is founded on mistake, he is in good company, for the apostle Peter's was so before; for Mr. Stone founds his belief on the apostle's declaration and that on the notable day of pentecost, that the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit, on condition of repentance and baptism for remission of sins, was to them, and their children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
That Mr. Scott should feel disposed to charge Mr. Stone with a want of gravity, because he has thus freely expressed the honest convictions of his mind is rather surprising, more particularly, as he has been such a champion for free investigation, and open and frank declaration. Mr. Scott never found fault with a baptist preacher, or a methodist preacher, for expressing his feelings in the most public manner, particularly, when he was about to leave his former connection and join the one with which he is associated; but change the scale, and it is soon found that Mr. Scott is as unfriendly to free investigation as any other. It is a fact that "as face answereth to face in water so does the heart of man to man." Mr. Scott could cry free investigation; free expression of sentiment; but as soon as he got a few flatterers around himself, he begins to plead their grave station, and manifests grief at such freedom in writing; thus shewing [showing] that he is of the same spirit as those whom he condemns.
The conduct of Mr. Scott in this instance reminds of Mr. Campbell, one of the same brotherhood in relation to Mr. Bosworth, also a preacher of the same order. Mr. Bosworth like Mr. Stone was led to inquire, seriously whether or no, we were authorized to claim the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit as promised by Peter on the day of pentecost. At the time his mind was called up to investigate this subject, Mr. Campbell had one of his big meetings in the town of Wadsworth Medina county Ohio,—as Mr. Bosworth resided in an adjoining town, he concluded that he had a fair opportunity of getting his mind satisfied on the subject, and not being willing to take a hasty step, he goes to the meeting and calls on Mr. Campbell, telling him in a frank manner the honest feelings of his heart, and the difficulties which existed on his mind in relation to the gift of the Holy Spirit; but what was his astonishment, instead of receiving from Mr. Campbell that kind reception which honesty and candor demands, he was told (whether gravely or not gravely I am at present not able to say,) that he ought not to have condescended for one minute to have investigated the subject, and that it was not surprising at all that the brethren should feel hurt at him for attempting to investigate it. So much for the honesty of these gentlemen when they call upon others to investigate the subject of religion.
Investigation is very commendable when it tends to advance their cause, but when it does not, silence is much better. The weakness of their cause is beginning to be discovered, and they soon raise the cry do not investigate, you hold too grave a rank among the brethren, you ought not to do it. And in order to avoid investigation, this brotherhood will condescend to mean low subterfuges, to which a noble minded man would never condescend; no, he would suffer martyrdom first. Witness Mr. Campbell's recommendation of Howe's book, while he knows, as well as every person who reads it, that it is a batch of falsehoods. Mr. Booth the author of a series of letters (which have found their way into that book and forms a principle part of it,) has long since proven to the world that his letters were a bundle of falsehoods; for though he declared that he was willing to appear before any tribunal either human or divine in vindication of the truth of them, yet when called upon to do so, he dare not appear in their defence because he knew his letters were false, and would not bear the test of investigation any more than the religion of the Campbellites, which has to be hid under a refuge of misrepresentation to conceal it from the shafts of truth.
Mr. Bentley's bombast in Wethersfield in Trumbull county in this State, will not be soon forgotten, where he cursed the author of this piece, as the Indian did the king on the other side of the hill, and declared that he dare not meet him [Mr. Bentley] and investigate the subject of religion; but when he was called upon to support his challenge, and show as much boldness in my presence as he had done when he was fifty miles off, dare not venture, and to hide his shame, indulged himself in slandering my character, because he dare not expose his religion to investigation.
Let me here mention Simonds Rider as another instance of the same kind, he could blow like a porpoise when there was no person to oppose him;—but when called upon to be as bold in the presence of those whom he envied, as in their absence, he had recourse to the same means of slander and abnse [abuse]: but to the credit of Simonds, we will say that since that time he has been silent on the subject, in this he has displayed more honesty than some others of his brethren.
No society has been more clearly laid before the public within a short time than the Campbellites, and they have proven themselves to be destitute of candor and honest in their pretentions, they will cry to other sects investigate, it is through investigation that truth is brought to light say they, and then in the most bold manner declare we are ready to receive truth as soon as we can discover it, yet, in the face of all these pretentions, when they are called upon to investigate an item of the religion of the new testament, which they never had reached, that instant they have recourse to all kinds of stratagem to avoid it, and for no other reason, than they are sensible that their system will not bear close examination, and there is no way to keep it in existence, but hide it under the falsehood.
We venture to make the following declaration without fear, and that is, there is not a Campbellite preacher possessing the common intelligence which belongs to men, who dare hazard an investigation before the public, on the subject of the Holy Spirit as set forth in the new testament, and all the way they have to keep their followers, is to hush it into silence. But to return to Mr. Scott and Mr. Stone.
Mr. Scott's pretentions to belief in the ancient gospel is fairly put to the test, he is weighed in the balances and found wanting; Mr. Scott has come out and fairly denied the gift of the Holy Spirit as proclaimed on the day of pentecost, evidently proving that after all his pretentions he is an unbeliever in the ancient gospel; for it is in vain for him to hide himself under the vain subterfuge of modifying the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit into something different from what the apostle did on the day of pentecost, the promise that was made by Peter was one which consisted in prophesying, seeing visions, dreaming dreams &c. and he who does not believe in this promise, is an unbeliever in the ancient gospel, he might as well say that men were not to be baptized until they had received the remission of their sins, and then say that was what was published on the day of pentecost, as to say that the gift of the Spirit did not consist in the power of prophesying, seeing visions, and dreaming dreams, and then say that was what Peter proclaimed on the day of pentecost.
Mr. Scott's observations on Mr. Stone's piece, are too pitiful to come from a man of understanding, and if Mr. Scott were not such, he might be excusable; but being the man he is, he has no cloak for his sin.
He thus replies to Mr. Stone's queries. "The answers to the above extract (referring to the questions he had quoted from Mr. Stone's piece) are all founded upon misapprehension that every one who receives the Holy Spirit must needs be able to work miracles." Why should Mr. Scott have recourse to this vain subterfuge to escape from believing the bible? Is it not plain to the least discerning, that if all did not work miracles who received the Holy Spirit, that some did, and that the Spirit was so distributed in the body, that all the gifts were in it, some had one and some another, no man ever pretended that all must work miracles, or that all did work miracles, and there is nothing said in the quotations which he has made from Mr. Stone's piece, which involves such a conclusion, this attempt of Mr. Scott is a mere stratagem to keep his followers asleep.
To prove that all the saints who received the Holy Spirit did not work miracles, he brings up the case of John the Baptist, a very unhappy case for him; for in shunning Silly he is wrecked on Charybdes.
What a hue and try, himself, Mr. Campbell, and others, have made about false prophets, and all this, because say they, "God never sent a messenger into the world but he enabled him to prove his mission to be divine by miracles;" but now the case is changed, it answers the purpose of Mr. Scott better to deny this; for if he confesses it, then indeed, his brother Stone involves him in a difficulty out of which he cannot extricate himself, therefore, he is ready to assert or deny, as the case may require, and yet he is an honest man, seeking after truth. Who can believe it?
One would think that from this time forth, Messrs. Campbell, Scott, and company, would be in silence, as they have been driven to the necessity of confessing that he, of whom it was said there was no greater born of a woman, never worked a miracle to prove his mission to be divine.
Mr. Scott could not have found a case in all the books, which more effectually silences him on the subject of the messengers of the Most High proving their mission by miracles, and I hope for time to come, he will act accordingly. No man ever had a more important mission than John the Baptist: it was he who put a period to the Jewish polity: it was he who changed the services of the priesthood from sacrificing to baptizing: he was Messiah's harbinger to announce his advent, on which depended the fate of the Jewish nation, and yet, notwithstanding the vast importance of his mission; for so important was it, that those who rejected his baptism rejected the council of God against themselves, still not one miracles was wrought to prove him to be a messenger of the Most High.
Why then have these men said so much about all the messengers sent of God having proved themselves such by working miracles, when they knew all the time it was not the fact, and at last their brother Stone has compelled them to acknowledge it, and that to their shame too.
Mr. Scott asks again: "Do all christians work miracles? they do not, what is the reason? The writer of the extract who is our beloved brother Stone, is inclined to suspect their faith. But rather than suspect the faith of all the saints who have lived since the days of miracles, and all who now live and especially his own faith, I would much prefer suspecting his reasoning, yet, I do not suspect his faith but his reasonings."
Now, never did any sayings come from any person with a worse grace than these from the pen of Mr. Scott. This is the man who laid the platform of his preaching on the broad heresy of the world, read his proclamation to the people of New Lisbon in 1827—but now he has discovered that all is well now he has discovered that all is well in Zion; it is offering indignity to the grave rank of the Campbellites to suspect the faith of all christians since the days of miracles; but is this worse than to do what he has done? he has denounced them all as heretics, and yet now he says he should not call in question the faith of those whom he has called heretics, and called on them to repent. Why should Mr. Scott call on them to repent if their faith is not to be suspected? surely he cannot make them any safer than they are; for all things are possible to them who have faith was one of the Savior's maxims, and who will say it is not a true one, and if true, Mr. Scott may leave them where they are, for he can never place them in a better situation, for he cannot do more than make all things possible to them, and that is the case with them now if their faith is not to be suspected. So strangely inconsistent does a false religion make even men of sense.
Supposing Mr. Scott should prove that there were thousands of saints who never worked miracles. Would this prove that the apostle Peter did not tell the truth on the day of pentecost, when he promised the gift of the Holy Spirit. Did he mean to deceive, as Mr. Scott is inclined to do?
Mr. Stone, if I understand him, is not asking how many or how few worked miracles; but are we authorized in these last days to claim the gift of the Holy Spirit as promised in connection with the gospel, or rather as a part of the gospel published on the day of pentecost, or are we not, he thinks we are, Mr. Scott thinks not.
Mr. Scott seems willing to believe the ancient gospel, providing he can have the liberty of leaving out what he pleases and explaining the rest to suit himself: as to baptizing for the remission of sins, he has no doubt about that; but then the gift of the Holy Spirit, that must be modified, and explained. Why must that be done? because if he lets it stand, as the apostle proclaimed it, down goes his religion, and all his pretended reformation with it, therefore, it must be explained, not for the truth's sake, but to save his religion from ruin, and his pretended authority to administer in the name of the Lord Jesus from contempt; for let him admit the fact, that the gift of the Holy Spirit is our right as much to day as it ever was, and it will try every man's authority whether it is of God or not; for that gift was never enjoyed, only as it was administered by those who had authority to do so by direct communication from God and by his calling to themselves.
Let Mr. Scott or Mr. Stone either of them believe as firmly as they believe any other item of their religion, that it is our privilege in these last days to have the gift of the Holy Spirit as in days of old, but they will never see it enjoyed until it is administered by the laying on of the hands of those whom God has caused to be ordained unto this power, and let them once try to administer this unto them whom they baptize, and they will find that their ministry is vain; It is indeed administering this gift to the children of men, which puts to the proof who has a right to preach and who has not; but keep this gift out of view, and make it any thing and every thing but what it is, and nothing, and the world is all alike, one man has as much authority as another, and the disciples of one man, are as good as the disciples of another, and one religion as good as another.
The disciples of Ann Lee, Joanah Southcoat, the French Prophets, Jemimah Willkeson, Hull Barton, Matthias, Alexander Campbell, Walter Scott, or Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian or any other, are all alike, as far as their salvation is concerned one is just as near eternal life as the other. It is the gift of the Holy Ghost as administered by the apostles, by the laying on of hands, which makes the difference, and it is this alone, and the society which has this power are the people of God and those who have not are not.