By Steve Wolfgang
Footnote John Augustus Williams, The Life of Elder John Smith (Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company, n.d.), pp. 412-413.
He [Smith) was once discussing the question of spiritual influence in conversion, with a worthy Baptist preacher who lived in Lincoln County, near Stanford. His opponent had denied that the sinner could believe the gospel on the simple testimony of the inspired witnesses, contending that in his natural (which meant his unconverted) state, he could not receive the testimony of such witnesses, for the Scriptures plainly declare that the natural, or unconverted, man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God. But he claimed that the Spirit wielded a sword, with which he opened the sinner’s heart; and he founded a specious argument on that metaphor of Paul. In reply to this argument Smith said:
If the brother’s position be correct, then it follows that no man will ever be converted while the world stands. No sinner can be converted by the Spirit alone, for Jesus declares that the world cannot receive it; neither can he, according to the brother’s theology, be converted by the words and testimony of the Spirit; for the unconverted, he says, cannot receive these things of the Spirit. If, then, the poor sinner can receive neither the Spirit, nor the words of the Spirit, by what sort of hocus-pocus is he to be converted at all?
True, there is a sword of the Spirit, but so called because the Spirit made it, and not because he wields it. It was made for the Christian warrior, who is commanded to take it in his own hand, and to go forth and right against Satan and error. Now, that very sword is the Word of God itself this blessed book – which my brother says the unconverted man can neither understand nor believe!
The discussion having closed the Baptist announced to the audience that, on the following Sunday, he would speak on the subject of Campbellism, at another place in the neighborhood, which he named.
Smith informed him that he could not be with him on that day, but proposed that some brother, then in the audience, should go along with him and reply; but to this his opponent would not agree. “Then,” said Smith, “I will select one of these good sisters, who will, I know, be more than able to defend the truth against all you may say.”
A deist, who was present during this discussion, and who had long rejected the gospel on the ground that while the preachers declared it to be good news, it was impossible to believe without supernatural aid, now confess that his infidelity had been only the disbelief of an error, and he now saw that the gospel was a rational thing worthy of all acceptation.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 16, p. 490
August 18, 1988