W. D. (William Dool) Killen.

A reply to the Rev. Isaac Nelson, of Belfast, and Rev. William Dobbin, of Anaghlone, or, Revivalism, assurance, the witness of the spirit defended, in speeches delivered at the General Assembly, June 12, 1866 online

. (page 6 of 8)
Online LibraryW. D. (William Dool) KillenA reply to the Rev. Isaac Nelson, of Belfast, and Rev. William Dobbin, of Anaghlone, or, Revivalism, assurance, the witness of the spirit defended, in speeches delivered at the General Assembly, June 12, 1866 → online text (page 6 of 8)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

occurs, p. 17 of his second pamphlet, I select as the one which contains the
fullest statement of his views on this sacred subject : —

" It is alleged that I have given an incorrect view of the indwelling of
Christ. In my Eemarks, (p. 15) I have taught, * When you form a Scrip-
tural conception of your Redeemer, Christ Jesus is in your soid, and when
that Scriptural conception influences your feelings, governs your moral
principles, and sanctifies your life, then Christ dwells in youi* heart by faith.'

" I advisedly re-affirm this statement, even though my brother, Mr. Craw-
ford, asserts that it * falsifies one of the choicest declarations of God's Word,
and constitutes one of the most damaging blunders of my ill-advised tract.'
(p. 12.)

' Enchanted with the love of fame.
He seeks the jewel in his neighbour's shame.'

" WeU ! what is the meaning of Christ dwelling in the heart by faith ? Christ
is the name of the great meditator — God and man in two distinct natures and
one person. He is now in heaven, and it is unscriptiiral foUy to speak of
Christ's glorified material body dwelling or abiding in a human soul. The in-
dweUing of Christ, therefore, must be interpreted, not HteraUy, but figiu*-
atively. Mr. Crawford alleges that Christ dwells in the hearts of believers by
His Spirit — meaning, of course, the third ' person in the Godhead.' God the
Father dwells in His people ; Christ dwells in them ; the Holy Spirit dweUs
in them. In each case there is a distinctive difference. This is a matter


never dreamt of in Mr. Crawford's philosophy, or in his theology eithei?.
I affirm, however, that the indwelling of the Holy Ghost is not the indwelling of
Christ. Jesus dwells in the minds of believers. He dwells in their minds by our
ideas or conceptions of him, and when these conceptions are Scriptural, influ-
ential and sanctifying, Jesus dwells in us — in our hearts as a power."

Has it come to this, Mr. Moderator? Is the indwelling of Christ a
mere figure of speech ? Why, sir, this is naked, bald Socinianism. It
is just the moral-power theory of the Gospel. The only indwelling of
Christ which Mr. Dobbin wiU allow, is just the indwelling which a
Socinian would cordially admit. Christ in the soul is simply neither more
nor less than such a Scriptural conception of Him as influences the believers
feelings, governs his moral principles and sanctifies his life ! If anything
additional to the following were necessary to show that such is Mr. Dobbin's
views on this subject, the foregoing passage which occm-s, pp. 11, 12 of this
same pamphlet, may suffice. In commenting on 1 John v. 20 : " We are in
him that is true, even in his son Jesus Christ," he thus writes : —

" You quote (1 John v. 20) ' We know that we are in him that is true,'
and you ask, ' what does our objector say to this ?' The objector says you
quote the passage incorrectly. It stands simply thus — ' We are in him that
is true.'

" The passage refers to God the Father — ^the true God in opposition to aU
false gods. The Apostle says we are in him that is true, in the true God.
What is the meaning of the expression ? I despise mysticism. I appeal to
men's judgment — not to their imaginations. Mark, then, the interpretation.
God is love. He that cherishes the love of God, clings to it, rejoices in it,
exemplifies it, abides in it as the sweet home of his heart — that man is 'in
God ' — ' he dwells in God.' God is love, and love divine is the atmosphere
in which His children breathe ; and by which they are surrounded : it is the
sweet encirclement by which they are encompassed, the fathomless ocean in
which their souls ever bathe. They live in it with supreme dehght, thus
they are ' in God.'

"Again, God is light, and he that comes to the 'light ' is penetrated by the
light— yields himself to the light — loves the light ; whose heart dweUs as in
a peaceful happy home in the sweet contemplation and grateful adoration of
the Holy Judge and condemner of aU Gnostic ' darkness,' and aU deeds of
* darkness,' that man is ' in God ' and ' dwells in God.' Finally, God is
truth — He is the Being that is true ; and the man that receives God's truth,
— yields himself to God's truth — who, in opposition to the Cerinthian lie,
and all falsehood, and deceit of which Satan is the father from the beginning,
has the sweet home of his heart on the broad deep sea of God's holy, and
sanctifying, and saving truth, and with more than a Briton's courage
keeps it there — I say, that man is ' in Him that is true.' Sir, I may be
wrong in this interpretation, but, if so, my error must be proved. Flippancy
is not eloquence, and assertion is not argument. In regard to the passage
under review, there may be different opinions, but few, I opine, without a
system to prop up, will venture upon the interpretation you have endorsed.
Behold it. We are in Him that is true, writes the Apostle John. In Him
we live, and move, and have our being, says the Apostle Paul ; therefore, says
Mr, Crawford, * I, from these passages, vehemently vindicate as the privilege
of believers,' in Loughbrickland, that they know, with undoubting and in-
fallible certainty, that they are regenerated by the Spirit, and that their sins
are forgiven. Of a verity some people's faith is great."

I refer to this passage not for the pm-pose of exposing the inaccuracy of its
exegesis. This, I take it for granted, is self-evident. I refer to it simply to
show what are Mr. Dobbin's views of the union with God to which the sinner
is raised in Christ. He despises mysticism, and believes nothing on the sub-
ject which he cannot understand. The believer is in God, as he is in love, in
light, in truth. Dwelling in love, walking in the light and abiding in the
truth, are not, in Mr. Dobbin's estimation, evidences of the believer's being
in God — in imion with him — but explanatory phrases which teach wherein


tliat -union consists. He cites as a parallel passage a portion of Paul's ser-
mon to the men of Athens, " In him we live, and move, and have our being."
This, of course, leaves no room for a second opinion in regard to what are his
views on the nature of this union. He admits of no relation, as existing
between the soul of a believer and his reconciled Father, beyond what is
purely moral, except such relation as is common to the believer and the
heathen who know not God !

And what is the argument by which he would sustain this EationaKsm ?
The only thing in the shape of an argument is, that " it is unscriptural folly
to speak of Christ's glorified material body dwelling or abiding in a human
soul. The indwelling of Christ, therefore, must be interpreted, not literally,
but figuratively." That is, the capacity of our enthroned Eedeemer is to be
limited by the capacity and finite conditions of His human nature ! I tell
the appellants that this is not the theology of the Bible. Were this true,
Mr Moderator, how could the Redeemer grasp and wield the sceptre of
xmiversal dominio:^, to which, as the Slain Lamb, He has been raised ? Oh !
blessed be Grod, He, the glorified Eedeemer, is not limited as to His presence
or power, to the locus of his human nature. He who could say to Nicodemus,
*' the Son of man which is in heaven," can, now that He is on the right hand
of the Majesty on high, be present in the hearts of his people here on earth.
Why, sir, to treat this subject as it ought to be treated, I should have to go
into the entire Christology of the Old Testament.

Oo on ! go on !

Br. Watts — I shall merely state in general terms, that I can quote every
passage in the Old Testament which an Arian would quote to prove Christ's
pre-existence and which a Trinitarian would quote to prove His Deity, in
opposition to the doctrine advanced by Mr. Dobbin. In a word, the Media-
tor, prior to His in-carnation altogether, was dwelling with, and in. His people.
Are we to be told, then, that the church has become a loser by the Incarna-
tion — that by the asumption of our nature, our blessed Eedeemer reduced
and cii"cumscribed His capacity to hold fellowship with the members of His
mystical body ? The principle in regard to the local presence of the Saviour,
advanced by Mr Dobbin, involves this, and is for this, as well as for other
reasons, to be rejected.

Besides, if such be the only species of union subsisting between Christ and
His people, how could infants be saved ? If he dwells in us only as we have
correct conceptions of Him. in our understandings, and right afiections to-
wards Him in oiu* hearts, is it not manifest that union between Him and
infants is impossible ?

But there is another difficulty in the way of this moral-power theory of
union with Christ. Our Standards teach that the very bodies of God's saints
are in union with Him. " The souls of believers are, at their death, made
perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory ; and their bodies,
being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection."
These are precious words — words worthy of being written in letters of gold.
Verily the men who compiled these imperishable Standards were not Eation—
alists. They believed that there was something beyond a mere moral bond
uniting the ];^eliever to Christ. And so do we. We beheve that the very
dust of God's redeemed is in union with the enthroned Head in heaven. We
believe that the hour is coming when that Head, whose eye now watches
oyer, and whose hand now guards that sleeping dust, shaU come forth, and
with that key, which He has won the right to bear, shall unlock the prison
house of death, and bring forth His ransomed to wear His own image, and
that He shall do all this because of their union with Him as members of His
mystical body.

On this subject, Mr. Moderator, I would only add that union with Christ
is threefold : 1. federal, 2. vital, 3. voluntary. The federal union lies at the
foundation of the vital, and the vital at the foundation of the voluntary.
The federal is from eternity, and is simply the covenant union established
between Chi ist and His people in the everlasting covenant into which the


Father entered with the Son before all worlds. Of this federal union, the
vital union effected by the Holy Spirit in regeneration, is the fruit. This
vital union, again, leads instantly to the voluntary union. The sotiI, as soon
as it is born again, turns instinctively to its Saviour, and casts itself right
willingly into His mediatorial arms.

Such is the Scriptural view of union with Christ, and it is at an infinite
remove from the Eationalism of these pamphlets. The Saviour, with whom
this union is effected, is never contemplated as a Saviour afar off. The soul
cleaves unto Him, and communes with Him, as a present, living, sympathiz-
ing Redeemer, who reciprocates its love, and assures it that the arms into
which it has fallen, by a living faith, are not the arms of a delusive phan-

Mr. Moderator, I must here insist on closing. I have said before, and say
now again, that these pamphlets, which Mr. Dobbin has scattered over oiu'
Church, are irreconcilable with our Standards. What course the Assembly
ought to pursue in regard to them, I shall not ventm-e-to suggest. Mr,
Dobbin and Mr. Nelson ought to be allowed to explain what they mean by
such heterodox statements, and they should be allowed all the advantage of
such explanations, but the doctrines set forth in these pamphlets, are, so far
as I can see, utterly at variance with the doctrines of the Westminster
Divines. With regard to the finding of the Commission, I have no doubt
that the Assembly will endorse and confirm it.*


Mr. MoDEBATOR, — Considering the length of time that this subject has
been before the house, I do not think it requisite to occupy your attention
long with any additional observations of mine. It may be necessary, how-
ever, after the eloquence we listened to last night, to remind the house of
the real subject at issue. Mr, Dobbin has stated this very plainly in his
pamphlets again and again. The subject which came before the Commission,
and which was fully treated of by Mr. Crawford and Mr. Dobbin, was,
" Whether the true and genuine Christian can attain the faith of assurance in
this life ? " There are, no doubt, subordinate points introduced into the dis-
cussion, but this certainly was the real subject of debate, and to this the
members of Assembly are requested to give their attention.

Mr. Dobbin, in the 6th page of his pamphlet, which I hold in my hand, says
" When the question is raised. Can a man in these days justly affirm that he
knows with undoubting and infallible certainty that he is regenerated by the
Holy Spirit? That proposition Mr. Crawford affirms, and I deny." This lan-
guage is certainly plain enough, so plain as to piit it beyond the possibility of
•feeing misunderstood by the humblest mind. That is, Mr. Crawford affirms
that the Christian man in these days may know with undoubting, and infallible
certainty that he is regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and Mr. Dobbin denies it.
This, then, being the real subject of debate, I hold that much of what Mr.
Nelson, and Mr. Dobbin have said on the opposite side has been irrelevant.
If the question at issue had been " Is assurance of the essence of faith ? "

* Note. — My reasons for the course taken in the foregoing speech, are simply as follows : 1. One
of the reasons of appeal, assigned by Mr. Nelson — viz., that Mr. Dobbin was defending the doc-
trines of our Confession of Faith. This reason, as the Clerk and Moderator ruled, opened up the
whole question. 2. The avowed desire of the appellants that the whole question of Assurance,
as connected with the late Revival, should be discussed 3. One of the charges brought by Mr.
Dobbin, against Mr, Crawford— viz., that he taught that the direct testimony of the Holy Spirit
to a believer's adoption, is a third, distinct, and an additional ground of Assurance. As I regard
the thing here charged as a precious doctrine of our Standards, I feel bound to vindicate, at once,
the Confession and the accused. My speech was extempore, but the members of Assembly will
see that, both as regards language and ideas, it was substantially the same as that now sub-


then I aflfirm the greater part of all that these gentlemen have said, and said
at such length, and with such apparent confidence, would have been to the
point; and then, I believe, their sentiments would have met with the sym-
pathy of this house. But I maintain that Mr. Crawford has never mooted
this topic, much less maintained it in any of his pamphlets, though Mr. Dob-
bin has frequently attempted to drag him into the discussion of it. Having
made this statement as to the subject-matter of the debate between the two
brethren, I v*^ill, in the meantime, rest satisfied with the proof which the mem-
bers of the Commission, who have preceded me, have offered in favour of
assurance being the privilege of the true believer, and proceed to notice a
few of the statements of Mr. i^elson, which, so far as I am aware, have not yet
been alluded to.

Mr. Nelson dissents from the finding of the Commission, because, as he
says, " they had not read all the pamphlets on the subject."

I ask Mr. Nelson how does he know this ? or what right has he to make
such an assertion ? I beg to say for myseK, that I read them every one most
carefully ; and that more than once, or even twice. Nay more, I entered upon
them with a mind prepossessed in favour of Mr. Dobbin. I knew him very
well. I had met him in circumstances calculated to impress me favourably
with the qualities both of his head and heart. I esteemed him as a fi-iend ;
and I did expect that, when he felt it necessary to make a charge against a
brother minister for doctrinal error, he would have good and sufficient grounds
on which to proceed. On the other hand, I did not know Mr. Crawford even
by appearance. I had never seen him so as to know him by name, till he ap-
peared in this debate, and, in consequence, I entered on the examination of the
pamphlets with the conviction that some grievous error was to be discovered
by the perusal. As I was not able to procure Mr. Dobbin's pamplilets in
Belfast, I read Mr. Crawford's first, and felt somewhat astonished that I
could discover no error whatever in them. There were, no 'doubt, some
sentences which were not very clearly expressed, and which a practised writer,
having time to correct or recast his manuscript, would have avoided, but in
my opinion there is nothing that any unprejudiced mind could consider
erroneous, examined in the hght of the Standards of our Church. Having
read Mr. Crawford's, I was exceedingly anxious to examine Mr. Dobbin's. I
wrote him for them, and he very kindly sent them by return of post. Perhaps
Mr. Dobbin's pamphlets are not properly before the house, yet I cannot but
express my belief that they convey, in many instances, false interpretations of
Scripture, as well as incorrect views of the real subject in debate. Besides,
Mr. Nelson, in his speech, has introduced the late Dr. Cunningham and Sir
William Hamilton into the debate, in a manner not very complimentary to
his own scholarship. He spoke as if the subject of controversy between these
two distinguished authors was. Whether "assurance was of the essence of
faith." This is not the matter of fact, and I charge Mr. Nelson with misre-
presenting Dr. Cunningham. Dr. Cunningham's sole object in reply to Sir
William Hamilton was to defend the Reformers against what he considered
a very unwarrantable attack, made upon them by that gentleman. Sir
Wniiam charged the Eeformers with holding the view that " assurance was
of the essence of faith," and Dr. Cunningham vindicates them satisfactorily,
I think, against this accusation. Mr. Nelson is, evidently, not a reliable
authority in matters of this kind. He either reads very incorrectly, or other-
wise calculates largely on the ignorance, or the credulity of his audience,
either of which is exceedingly dangerous in this Assembly, independent
altogether of the morality of the principle involved.

Again, Mr. Nelson has objected to the ignoring of the finding of the
Banbridge Presbytery by the Commission. I cannot see, however, how this
finding could have saved his friend, Mr. Dobbin, in as much as it cleared Mr.
Crawford of any doctrinal error. I believe, I was the cause of ignoring that
finding. The Banbridge Presbytery had expressed an opinion of Mr. Crawford' s
pamphlets. The Commission had ruled that Mr. Dobbin's pamphlets were
not before them. We were advised by a member of the Banbridge Presbytery


to be cautious, lest we should give one party an undue advantage over the
other, and when Mr. Macnaughtan moved, and Dr. Gooke seconded a motion
to the effect, " that the finding of the Banbridge Presbytery be affirmed," I
objected to the motion, on the grounds that it was unfair to affirm the finding
of the Presbytery, which expressed an opinion of Mr. Crawford's pamplets,
when we were not at liberty to express any opinion of Mr. Dobbin's — the
motion was, consequently, withdrawn ; and the finding with which you are all
now acquainted was come to. This statement, I believe, will serve to show
that there was no foundation whatever for the observations made by Mr.
Dobbin in the course of the debate, that the decision of the Commission was
influenced by a stranger, meaning the Eev. Mr. Macnaughtan

The next objection of Mr, Nelson was, that " this whole matter was a,
branch of the Revival of 1859."

This Eevival of 1859 is a grievous sore in the eye of Mr. Nelson. It seems
to jaundise his vision in regard to all the proceedings of this Church. Now,
I tell Mr. Nelson that this decision of the Commission has had nothing to
do with the Revival, at leasts in the sense employed by Mr. Nelson. It has
simply to do with " the truth as it is in Jesus," and with the Standards of
our Church. So far as I am myself concerned, the Eevival simply deepened
my conviction of the truth of the doctrine of assurance, in common with the
great principles of our beloved Presbyterianism.

I have held the very same views of assurance during the entire of my
ministerial life, that I hold to-day. A variety of circumstances, which are
still fresh on my memory, satisfy me of this.

I remember, when a. licentiate-, some forty years ago, I visited a Christian
lady on her death-bed. Among other truths stated to her, I urged the
importance of assurance of a personal interest in Christ, as the privilege of
the true believer. At first, she was like Mr. Nelson and Mr. Dobbin,
doubtful whether such a privilege was attainable in this life, but before her
death she expressed her deepest gratitude to me for turning her attention
to the subject, wMle she realised an unhesitating assurance of happiness in
the life to come through the merits of her Saviour.

I remember, too, in the early part of my ministry, preaching on the words
of the Apostle, " For we know that if the earthly house of this tabernacle
were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands,
eternal in the heavens," from which I enforced the doctrine now under con-
sideration. A few of my hearers took exception to it as savoring of
Methodism, which induced me to return to the subject and prove from, the
Westminster Confession, and Catechisms, that the view I held was the view
taught in these venerable Standards of our Chm-ch. I regret the necessity
of adopting this gtyle of argument, but I believe it of importance to expose
Mr. Nelson's statement, that our present views are a branch of the Eevival of
'59 — than which no assertion could be more groundless or absurd.

In fine I remark, that the whole tone of Mr. Dobbin's teaching in liis
pamphlets, savours too much of the Eationalistie school. I agree most
cordially with the views expressed by Dr. Watts, as to the personal relation
of Christ to the believer. How else can we xinderstand such portions of
Scripture as the following ? — " If a man love me he wiU keep my words, and
my Father will love him and we will come unto him, and make our abode
with him."—" Behold I stand at the door and knock, if any man hear my
voice and open- to me I will come in to Mm and sup with him, and he with
me." And the same line of thought will apply to Mr. Dobbin's views of the
Holy Spirit. He seems to ignore the indwelling of the Holy Ghost altogether
— or else he confounds his presence and his fruits — substituting the effects
and influences of his presence, for his presence itself : a mode of interpre-
tation utterly unworthy of sound reason, and equally at variance with the
true principles of hermeneutics. Such a mode of interpretation, I regret to
say, would be more becoming the pen of a Socinian writer, than a member of
the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church.


MoDEEATOR — It is with great diifidence, and not a little reluctance, that I,
a junior member of this house, and the junior member of the Commission,
venture to address this Assembly on the present occasion. After the very-
able, lucid, learned, critical, conclusive, and, I may add, exhaustive speeches^
which you have heard from the distinguished brethren who preceded me, any
thing now from me may seem superfluous, if not presumptuous. I feel con-
strained, however, as a member of the Commission, to say a word or two in
defence of our finding, against which these weighty appeals have been lodged;
and I hope, sir, that the house will bear with me, if, in doing so, my remarks
appear as crude as they ai'e extemporaneous.

Sir, in one sense I regret that this question has been allowed to assume
such undue proportions, and occupy so much of our precious time ; for, what-
ever others may think, I cannot (Hvest myself of the idea that, the difference
of opinion between our friends here, is very much a quibble of words. They
have misunderstood each other, and, I am sorry to say, they do not even now
seem inclined to understand each other. One gentleman charges another
with heresy — heresy that he repudiates — and will not accept of any explana-
tion however satisfactory. Mr. Crawford says to Mr. Dobbin, "You have
taken a wrong meaning out of my words — a meaning which I disavow — which
I did not intend they should convey ; " and Mr. Dobbin, when his own views
are criticised, cries out in similar terms, and yet, strange to say, after this
the charge is still persisted in. Sh-, I have read the pamphlets, and heard

1 2 3 4 6 8

Online LibraryW. D. (William Dool) KillenA reply to the Rev. Isaac Nelson, of Belfast, and Rev. William Dobbin, of Anaghlone, or, Revivalism, assurance, the witness of the spirit defended, in speeches delivered at the General Assembly, June 12, 1866 → online text (page 6 of 8)