David B. Updegraff

Clark, Dougan and Smith, Joseph H. David B. Updegraff And His Work. Cincinnati: Published for Joseph H. Smith, by M.W. Knapp, Revivalist Office, 1895, pages 123-136.

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Even civilized life would be impossible, if the world did not have its code of forbearance and comity. There are wide differences of opinion as to our duty as citizens, and these differences are to a certain extent the proper subjects of friendly conference and debate. But there is a limit to an insistence upon our views, and if this boundary of general principles be exceeded, personal animosities and feuds are engendered, and there comes an end of good feeling and neighborliness, and all sensible men know this. The same statements are true in a still higher degree in domestic and social life. He who violates these laws in a contemptuous disregard of the rights of private opinion, or diverse practice, soon turns his home into a pandemonium, and receives the reprobation of all right-thinking men. A wise parent cannot afford to treat with impatience or intolerance even the crude or foolish opinions of his child. If so, the strong presumption would be that the parent was wrong, whether the child was or not. Now that such a spirit of mutual consideration and forbearance is a prime necessity to the state and to society, needs no proof--it is indisputable. Much more, then, do we affirm that it is a necessity for the Church of Christ to exercise tolerance toward those of its members holding diverse opinions.

This, then, is our present thesis, proven from several stand-points, but, first, and in this paper, because it is a .necessity in the interests of the truth itself, of which the church is the custodian by divine appointment. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a "trust," committed to His church for the declared purpose of accomplishing certain results. It was put into the hands of the early church as a completed system. It was as perfect, both in substance and form, when Peter and Paul preached it, as it ever was, or ever will be. It was nothing less than the wisdom of God and the power of God unto salvation then, and it is just that to-day. Every real improvement in theology takes us back into the "old paths." There is no gospel for our age that was not enjoyed by the first gospel age. No additions have come from God, and those proposed by man are only subtractions in disguise. An emasculated gospel, or a gospel of private interpretation, or amalgamated with human discoveries, is not the Gospel of Cod. It can never germinate, but is a barren and fruitless thing, because the power of the Holy Ghost is not granted to accompany it. And the Holy Spirit always gathers to a person and not to a system, or a name, or a creed, or a sect. And thus it is that all evangelical Christianity has crystallized about the person of our Lord Jesus Christ who is "the truth" incarnated, and the principle of absolute obedience to Him is the central principle of that new life which is begotten in the individual Christian. But this is a uniting, gathering principle, and so it came to pass that we being many are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.' And this oneness in Jesus Christ. or the invisible unity of His mystical body, is the foundation of the visible unity of the outward and militant body known as church organization. When this organization was first completed on the day of Pentecost, this unity was perfect, both within and without, in the church, and for a brief day there was indeed the supreme headship of her risen Lord. But when thousands came to be added, there existed at once a wide variation in experience, and consequently in conscience, and in apprehending the will of God. The treasure was committed to earthen vessels, and "contentions" resulted in the formation of differing seem. We will here assume that each sect has been formed with a view of reforming the existing church, either as to its interior or exterior life, or both. And in every such case there was the endeavor to return, as nearly as possible, to the apostolic church, both in doctrine and practice. Any other standard would be a false standard, and wholly inadmissible. All of the evangelical sects have found common standing ground upon the essentials of the Christian religion, but besides these holding views more or less peculiar to themselves. The search for the truth made by successive reformers, age after age, has been graciously rewarded by its repeated rescue from the rubbish and captivity of error. To put it mildly, this has not been accomplished without the clash of conscientious convictions, and a free use of every weapon known to legitimate controversy. This was especially true in the early days of our own church. Its founders encountered the most skillful and strenuous opposition, aud their conflict with an intolerant and persecutiug spirit was prolonged, sharp, and wearisome, but resulted in good. There was in a good degree a restoration of primitive Christianity and true, spiritual worship. Now let us inquire if their discoveries of hidden truth were complete? Did they comprehend all of the truth? Were they so wise as to exclude all error? Was theirs a finished and a fixed theology, incapable of improvement? Were they called to formulate a faith for their posterity, as well as for themselves? And is every loyal Quaker to be born with an irresistible penchant to subscribe to the creed they built? Were they the last persons to receive new light on old truths? And did they receive all the light in certain directions that God has to shed? Were the principles of our fathers living things, to bring forth buds, and leaves, and fruits, or merely a species of sarcophagi for the safe-keeping of sacred relics and sainted dead? And if they are true expression of life, is it not possible that they may mean something more or something different to us than they meant to them? Or if we are capable of receiving new light, are we capable of walking in that which was given to them, though it be withdrawn from us? We ask these questions well knowing that true Quakerism gives an emphatic negative to every one of them, and my readers know it, too. But we know, also, that there is a practical adherence to the idea of the infallibility of "Early Friends," and this idea has been asserted and defended, though in indirect ways, for nearly two hundred years. Occasionally it has been in unequivocal language, as, for example, a leading elder said, fifty years ago, "the writings of Early Friends are something that have risen up between us and the Scriptures, and we must not go beyond them." And quite recently another one publicly declared, "the Lord did lead our ancestors into an interpretation of Scripture that has stood us for two hundred years!" The venerable Benjamin Seebohm warned the church against this tendency to "claim a kind of infallibility on the part of Early Friends," which was "undermining the very foundation of all true Quakerism," and "falls little short of absolute Popery." No doubt many devout and godly men have quietly acquiesced in this state of things, perfectly satisfied with their unquestioning confidence in the religious views of their ancestors. With these good people we have no controversy. But there are those, also, who are led in spite of themselves to question their inherited opinions, and to bring once more both doctrine and practice to the direct test of the Scriptures.

Now we proclaim that it is in the interests of truth itself for the church to exercise true Christian tolerance, or the fullest liberty of investigation and expression in all such cases! In all seriousness, we challenge the assent of reasonable men to this postulate. Who does not know that in every age of the church the converse of this proposition has been the fortification of error; and of the enemies of the truth as it is in Jesus?

Let us quote from some Catholic authorities. Bishop O'Conner says: "Religious liberty is merely endured until the opposite call be carried into effect without peril to the Catholic world." The Catholic Review says: "Protestantism of every form has not, and never can have, any right where Catholicity is triumphant." The Boston Pilot says "There can be no religion without an Inquisition, which is wisely designed for the protection and promotion of the true faith." Pope Pins IX. said: "The absurd and erroneous doctrines or ravings in defense of liberty of conscience are a most pestilential error." The same sentiments are found in an editorial of "The Star and Crown," which is not Catholic authority, but it says (italics are ours): "Toleration in conscientious religious eccentricities, when coming under the seal of genuine loyalty, is often to be indulged and commended; but since it is certain that a conscience which finds its natural pabulum outside the boundaries of wholesome and preservative church law, can never assimilate itself to the spirit of the church, it seems neither safe nor politic to consent to its propagation within the organized lines."

Need we add, that the errors of the school-men, so constantly exposed by early Friends, were entrenched behind the bigotry that compelled an exact agreement of thought with the dogmas of the church? And when we are met in this day of grace by this newly-recruited regiment of the devotees of the revived gospel of the Inquisition, we wonder if it is not the vanguard of that army that shall one day come from the Vatican demanding "of every human creature subjection to the. Roman pontiff!" Some of these recruits are young in the cause, but their present zeal atones largely for the time lost while foraging in other fields, and they may easily be distinguished by the freshness of their war-paint, and by the reckless vigor with which they flourish their weapons of invective, misrepresentation, and that reliable old war-club, the odium theologicum. Socrates is reported to have said to his judges: "In another world they do not put a men to death for asking questions." Of course, we must be clearly and always understood as claiming this tolerance of which we speak, within the limits of what may be termed a general creed or consensus of the church. In fact, just such an one as our fathers left us, and not such a particular and narrow creed as the distortions of tradition and custom would fasten upon us, "descending to minute details as to interpretations and applications of particular texts of Scripture," etc., as fitly described by B. Seebohm. He denounced such an imposition as Popery, and so it is; yet it is sought "to be made the Shibboleth of Quakerism today." We most solemnly and lovingly admonish brethren to wash their hands of this enormity. A persecuting bishop once advised the king of France to put all who refused to think as they did into iron cages, in which they could neither lie clown nor stand up. It was an awful torture, but the bishop himself spent fourteen years of retribution in one of them, apparently because he had offended the king, but really because he offended God.

Bishop Ryan has lately said: "We hate heretics with a perfect hatred, and when the Catholics get the majority in this country, as they will, there will be an end of religious liberty in the United States." Let men beware of that "Mischief that shall return upon their own heads, and a violent dealing that shall come down upon their own pates" (Ps. 7). Let us beware of that which is inimical to moral and mental freedom; of that which degrades reason, stifles conscience, and resists the Holy Ghost. And for a looking-glass, we may paraphrase the teaching of Cardinal Bellarmine: "If the church should err by enjoining vices or forbidding virtues, the members would be obliged to believe vices to be good and virtues bad, unless they would sin against the church's conscience! Away, forever away, from every Protestant heart, be such blasphemy against the ever-living God and His eternal truth! "But what is that general creed, within whose limits the tolerance of which we speak is not only safe but necessary ? For undisputed authority we quote William Penn (Works, Vol. II, 1726): "It is generally thought that we do not hold the common doctrines of Christianity, but have introduced new and erroneous ones in lieu thereof; whereas we plainly and entirely believe the truths contained in the creed, that is commonly called The Apostles', which is very comprehensive as well as ancient." Again he says: "For, setting aside some school terms, we hold the substance of those doctrines believed by the Church of England, as to God, Christ, Spirit, Scripture, repentance, sanctification, remission of sin, holy living, and the resurrection of the just and unjust to eternal rewards and punishments." He then declares that "we differ most about worship and the inward qualification of the soul by the work of God's Spirit thereon, in pursuance of these good and generally received doctrines." Here is a full statement of the grounds of a common religion, and also those of dissent.

Within such fundamental and universally well-established lines there is ample scope for independent thought and brotherly condescension. A past, if not a present mistake, has been to condone an assault upon these lines, while severe in our exactions of the tithe of mint, anise, and cummin. We have no sympathy with that idea of Christianity that looks upon it as a loose-jointed thing, lacking polarity, and falling abroa4 in an embrace of liberalism, philosophies, or so-called "modern thought." Certainly not. Nor yet is it all ecclesiastical strait-jacket, so exquisitely stitched and starched that it can only fit a few precious souls of fastidious form and cultured taste! The religion of Jesus cannot be reduced to a fine art, whose real beauties are only to be discerned and appreciated by such as have been especially trained to behold them through glasses of a rare and costly make! No! the church, if it will make any true advance, must turn backwards towards the old "faith once delivered to the saints," and not toward the "new theology." But diversities of opinion are the inevitable result of all progress in knowledge, and in important respects religious knowledge is no exception to the rule. It is also true that an advance in the divine life always promotes unity of the spirit. Now these great facts, apparently contradictory, can be perfectly adjusted by that catholicity which is peculiar to the highway of scriptural charity, or the 'more excellent way,' of which Paul speaks, and in no other way. This promotes fraternal unity, candor, and integrity, and it is a genuine conservator of all the truths of orthodoxy, while an enforced ecclesiastical unity pays a premium on envy and dissimulation, and is the very hotbed of error.

Having now shown that intolerance is the inveterate foe of the truth, it remains for us to prove that it is equally the destroyer of true unity in the church. That Christian tolerance is an absolute necessity to the unity of the denomination, is then the proposition now claiming our attention. That when it ceases to prevail, Christian unity and communion comes to an end, is so manifestly true that it seems strange that it needs to be proven. But there is all evident misapprehension of what tolerance means, as well as what true unity is, and also concerning the proper limitations of the church's authority. Webster, Worcester, ind others have no disagreement about the meaning of toleration, and there can be none with those who care to know what that meaning is. "Toleration: the allowance of that which is not wholly approved:--where no power exists, or none is assumed, to establish a creed and a mode of worship there can be no toleration, for one religious denomination has as good a right as another to the free enjoyment of its creed and worship." Of course such definition is clear and self-evident. But we are told by an editor ("Review") that "toleration is a much abused term," and in the light of his illustrations we fully agree that it is abused. He says: "We tolerate Romanists, Jews, and even Agnostics; that is, we do not attempt to punish them or compel them to accept our convictions of truth." Now it would simply be grotesque to speak of "our society" with its less than 100,000 members, as "not attempting to punish or compel," etc., the 7,000,000 Romanists of our land "to accept," etc. He must, therefore, speak of the nation where he says, "we" and "our." And if so, who can tell what "our [government's] convictions of truth" are? It has never assumed nor possessed the power to establish a state religion of any kind,(1) and consequently "Romanists, Jews, and Agnostics" have precisely the same rights that other denominations have, and the government cannot be said to tolerate Romanists one whit more than Methodists or Quakers, and such an "abuse of the term toleration," is most obvious. And yet another quasi editor, and also a "superintendent of education," instructs his readers that if they would only inspect the premises of a certain "publishing company," they would get a "practical demonstration of toleration." Now we saw in a moment how it might be correct to use that word in connection with a business office. For example, if a creditor who had a dishonest debtor in his power, should kindly forbear to enforce the law, and allow him to pursue a questionable business that might be "toleration." But when our editor came to explain his "illustration of toleration," it was both amusing and pitiful. That half a dozen different business men with different interests should get along together without "an attempt made to trespass upon or invade each other's economy," and that "individual rights are held sacred," ought not to be a remarkable thing. In Ohio we would not think of "toleration," in such a connection; we would call it simple honesty or common decency. We suppose if these brethren were charged with "tolerating" rum selling and licentiousness in Indianapolis they would speedily exonerate themselves by disclaiming both the power and the legal right to interfere. And without these "toleration is a much abused term" indeed. But "tolerance" does not mean indifference toward an opinion or custom supposed to be wrong. It does not even presuppose any change of conviction favorable to such opinion. It does not imply indifference to a supposed error, or a perfect willingness that it should continue. Not at all. It does imply conviction on the part of the "tolerant," and such conviction of the truth as to deplore error, and seek by all legitimate means for its extirpation. Now these legitimate means are not the same for the church as for the state. Legislation is the logic of the state, and the argument of kings. The weapons of the church are not thus carnal, and for it to "take the sword is to perish with the sword." God's ordained weapons for the destruction of error and the unification of believers in the truth are love, faith, patience, and mutual forbearance or "tolerance," and "the word of God." To abandon these for legislation, however great the emergency, is to "rely on the King of Syria, and not upon the Lord thy God--therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars." And this has been most fully verified in our history. All must agree that not only "unity of the Spirit" but unity of opinion, if it be in the truth, is a most desirable and blessed thing. And it is because we so fully appreciate this that we insist upon Christian tolerance, since that is the only possible way bring to bring it about. Love that is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, beareth all things, endureth all things, is the only platform upon which the Spirit can work as the unifier of God s people. And from this stand-point we affirm intolerance to be absolutely and forever inimical to, and incompatible with true Christian unity. Excision is not unity, nor can the real thing ever be reached on that line. A physician is not to secure the uniform health of a family by killing off the sick members of it, and burying them out of sight, but by restoring the sick to health. The first might be much the shorter and least expensive method, but the state would deal with the doctor for manslaughter. And he might plead in vain that he only helped his patient off to another country that was better adapted to him than this. How many homes have been hospitals for a score of years, where mothers patiently wait and pray for the recovery of their sick? They are tenacious of their loved one's lives, and anything else would be monstrous. And can it be any less monstrous for our mother the church to be less tenacious of her children than of her own ease and comfort or even of the truth itself? A man may have great tenacity of the truth in its outward formula, and not be himself inwardly transformed by it at all, and so be untrue to himself and all others, indeed be no more than a "whited sepulcher." But to be made free by the truth, is to hold it firmly and bring it to bear upon brethren that are held with equal tenacity. To relax this hold is to let them get beyond our reach for good. In fact it is not the errors of opinion held by our brother toward which we are required to exercise tolerance, but it is toward our brother himself. Between us there is a diversity of opinion. This of itself is not a good, but an evil. One of us is in the wrong. Neither party can claim infallibility. Possibly we may both be wrong. Christian love and mutual tolerance may conduct us to a middle ground that is right. Every consideration then points to this as most reasonable and right, while to turn from it is a forfeiture of all chances both for benefitting ourselves and our brother. Now this is not a tolerance that is to put a Christian on the same level as an "infidel," or a "scoffer," or a "fornicator," or an "idolator," or a "railer," or an "extortioner." It is not to invade that domain of fundamental truth which constitutes what all Christendom are agreed upon as the "Gospel of Jesus Christ." It is not to open a door for Liberalism, or Agnosticism, or any other ism that cuts the nerves of Christian life and work.

It is not to disparage church organization, and the proper and faithful exercise of its discipline under the direction and authority of its Holy Head. It is not to screen offenders who may have denied Christ, or the faith, or good morals, and from whom the church of Christ is commanded to separate itself. But it is to put the rights of Christian brethren parri passu, and upon the same level on all matters touching the non-essential or theoretical matters of the church. It is to preserve and guard a platform where individual responsibility to God, freed from the intimidations of tradition and ecclesiasticism, shall be at liberty to make a personal application of the general principles of the Gospel already accepted. It has been the glory of our church to insist upon this personal responsibility to God, and to set forth the sin and danger of shifting it on to a priest, or a church, or a council. Theoretically we .have claimed to be Spirit-directed, Spirit-controlled, but often with such mental reservation as to practically dictate the action of the Holy Ghost, and thus prevent it. The "immediate guidance of the Spirit" can be freely conceded to such as speak according to the "traditions," and whose interpretations of most Scripture passages can be as accurately foretold a month before they preach as after they have finished, while an intolerant spirit is quick to doubt and darkly insinuate against the fact of Divine guidance in case of a deviation from inherited opinions. Not only so, it is bold in its resolute purpose to destroy ministerial usefulness and character, and to invoke the anathemas of a church "decree!" Yet unkind and unchristian treatment from those who differ must not be resented, or murmured at, or even complained of by those who suffer; "but let them glorify God on this behalf." It therefore is in the interests of the church itself that we are constrained to insist upon it that true conservatism as well as true "unity" is best promoted by full liberty of investigation and utterance, aud. not by smiting honest men in the mouth, even though we obtain a priestly authority to do so.


1. And if it should do so to-day it would as probably be Romanism as any, in which case Friends might appreciate and understand "toleration" better than now.