An 1849 Letter from Nauvoo by Elder John Harper

Nauvoo, Hancock Co., Ill., March 10, 1849.

Much Respected Brother Long:-- I wish to say to you, and the readers of your interesting paper, I am still alive and as well as common, and have come home from trying to preach a funeral sermon of one of our townsmen. I still believe in the same Lord, the same faith and the same baptism that I ever have done for near 30 years. Many of my dear brethren that I used to take sweet council with, are scattered in different parts of different States; and in all probability I shall see the most of them no more in time. But I will say to you, and them, one and all, that when I was baptized about 29 years ago, my experience taught me then, that salvation was all of grace, my experience and the Bible has taught me ever since that "it is not by works of righteousness which I have done; but according to his mercy he has saved me." I was licensed to preach, by the Nettle Creek Church of Regular Baptists, in Champaign Co., Ohio, in the year of our Lord 1827, in a short time I moved to Indiana, in Bartholomew Co. I soon joined the Louis Creek Church and in 1828 I was ordained to the work of the ministry. I have been trying to preach Christ and him crucified as the only Saviour of poor lost sinners ever since. I have been in Illinois about eleven years. I have travelled considerable, in different parts of the State, and some in Iowa, but the last year I have been very much confined in the town and vicinity. The above is most designed to let my brethren who were once acquainted with me know where I now live, so I may have the pleasure of hearing from them, if I cannot see them. Bro. Long, it does my soul good to read the communications in the "Evangelist" from many dear brethren: but the last number that I have read, except two, is entirely editorial, and I think it is the best, or as good at least as any one that I have read, the subjects therein contained were set forth with that simplicity of the gospel; and that I can bear testimony to. When the gospel is preached in its native beauty and simplicity, I believe God's children are fed, and comforted, but when the speaker or writer, tries to dress up the gospel to suit the fashionable, it is not so sweet to the poor lambs of the fold. Bro. Long, since the above was written I have been over the River in Iowa to preach to the Church at Nashville, where the brethren seem to rejoice in the truth, and desire that I should attend them as often as possible. In concluding this letter I will say that I am truly sorry that I have not had the opportunity of getting more signers to your paper, but I will send what money I have on hand, and still hope to get more when the weather gets so I can get out from home again.

I am yours as ever in gospel bonds.

John Harper

An 1850 Letter from Nauvoo by Elder John Harper

Nauvoo, Hancock Co., Ills.

RESPECTED BRO. LONG: -- My mind has been traveling of late, on various subjects, and more especially on the reasons why there are so many notions among the Baptists, on different points of doctrine; while all admit that salvation is all of grace, and that God is immutable. I have thought that the doctrine of election and reprobation, as taught by some, is at least one reason why some who are "born again," and use milk only, startle at the word "Election and Predestination." They seem to think, that if God's people are elected or predestinated unto the adoption of children, that it necessarily follows, that all that are lost were reprobated from the time (if we may so use the phrase, time,) that God's people were chosen in Christ, and as the latter is easy proven that they were "chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world," and that there was "grace given us in Christ Jesus before the world began," and being "preserved in Christ Jesus and called," and being "beloved of God and called to be saints," and many other passages of scripture goes to establish the doctrine of election and predestination. And then the conclusion is that all that are lost, were lost from before the foundation of the world.

My main object, in giving a few thoughts on the above subject, is, I once was difficulted on this subject for years, after I professed a change of heart, and became a member of the Regular Baptist Church. But, through the blessing of God, and careful searching of his word, I have my mind clear on the above subject, which I believe most positively the doctrine of the "Election of Grace," and the union of Christ and his Church, as set forth in the Old and New Testament, yet in all of my researches in God's word, I cannot find that He made man to punish him, irrespective of sin, or his transgression. I cannot believe that God made man a sinner, or caused him to become a sinner, for I view God to be good, and not only good but perfection itself. And then to conclude that the cause of sin came from God, would be absurd in the extreme, and conflict with holy writ, where it says, "sweet and bitter water cannot come out of the same fountain," also "a good tree cannot bring forth corrupt fruit." No, if God was the cause of sin, either directly or indirectly, he would not be a God of perfection. But when we trace sin to its origin we find that it made its first appearance to Eve in the garden of Eden - and she received the seeds of sin from Satan, transformed into the form of a serpent, and then the bible stops giving any further information on the subject, only says that the "mystery of iniquity doth already work," &c.

Again - "to Him that hath the power of death, which is the devil." So when we trace the cause of death, we find it springs from "the mystery of iniquity," which is Satan. And on the other hand we search for the cause of any doing good, we find this holy principle comes from God, and nowhere else. When this doctrine is carried out according to the Bible, it gives God all the glory and honor of our present and eternal salvation, and that all the pain, sorrow, distress, disappointment and death, all come from Satan. Now brother Long, I contend "that sin when finished, produces eternal death." So then sin is that, which reprobates mankind; and life and immortality beyond the grave, is a gift of God, to poor helpless sinners. And if we could only see our entire helplessness, and our entire dependence on the blessed Savior, and content ourselves with revealed truth, and pray for more grace to help in time of need. I conclude our Baptist brethren would avoid many errors, and christian love and fellowship would abound. Our believing an error, will not make it a truth, and our believing the truth will not alter the truth, for God's purposes will stand, and He will do all his pleasure; and I believe that God will save his heart's delight, which is his spouse, the Church; and he will by no means clear the guilty.

Now may the blessing of God rest upon his Zion, and that peace and joy may abound amongst the people of God, is my fervent prayer.



In the March 1851 issue of "Western Evangelist," the following extract appears: "The following note from our friend and agent, G. C. Bradley, will gratify many readers, as well as the Editor, since it gives an item of news from Bro. Harper:

"Elder John Harper requested me to say to you, to change his papers, from Nauvoo, Ills., to Knoxville, Marion Co., Iowa - also to let you know he has a church constituted near Knoxville, of 13 members."

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