« הקודםהמשך »
BETHANY, VIRGINIA: Sugu
INTRODUCTORY REMARKS. IT was twenty-one years on the 15th of July last, since I first stood up in a public assembly to address my fellow-men on the authority and excellency of the holy scriptures, on their perfect adaptation to all classes of men, and alone sufficiency, without human amendments, to guide the sinner into the way of life, and to furnish the saint to every good work. In that address I read the whole of the Messiah's Sermon on the Mount, but dwelt particularly on the conclusion of it, viz. “Not every one who says to me, Master, Master, shalı enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven." The parable of the wise and foolish builders, the foundations of the rock and the sand, were my topics that day. To these themes my attention has ever since been turned; still, I trust, progressing in knowledge, and waxing bolder in the work of reformation as my age and experience advance. Too young, for many years after my commencement, to achieve much, but little was done: for neither wisdom nor prudence are expected from youth; and influence never can precede, but must, in the order of things, depend upon, and follow after character. Sanguine, however, that the time was fast approaching that human platforms and human religious establishments must yield their place to the faith once delivered to the saints, and that the Apostles would soon hurl from their thrones those usurpers who presumed to legislate for the saints, I had that much faith in God's promises as to address the first congregation formed under the measures of the light then enjoyed chiefly by the instrumentality of my father; I say, I had the pleasure, on their first meeting to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus, to address them from a sentence in the book of Job, viz. “Though thy beginning be small, yet shall thy latter end greatly increase.” This was accommodated to a congregation of some sixty or seventy disciples, a number of whom remain to this present time, but some are fallen asleep. This congregation, composed of believers from different nations and sects, and meeting on the New Testament alone, was supposed to be an omen of that long-prayed-for day, when all the disciples of Jesus will lay aside all their bickerings about human institutions, and unite on the writings of the Apostles of Jesus Christ.
Since that time we have continued to follow the truth whithersoever it leads us, never having once deviated from the principles from which we set out. In forming a union with the Baptists we protested against their constitution, and refused to unite with them if any other creed than the New Testament was presented to us. A document of several pages to this effect was presented to the Redstone Association in the year 1813, and is now, or ought to be, in the hand of William
Brownfield, Secretary of the Association, who then opposed, and
Convinced that the greenest tree in the whole territory of christen-
For the last ten years we have been, for the most part, before the public as an Editor; and, truly, we have had a stormy time. Head winds and fierce winds have driven us to and fro over all the seas and oceans of human speculation upon religion. We have touched the fervid regions of the torrid zone, and found ourselves almost lost among the icebergs of the frigid regions of the North. Our compass was as true as ever guided mariner over the deep; but never did Satan more fiercely enrage the wind and the tide. Some of our crew exclaimed, “There is a Jonah in the hold;" but when they cast him into the sea it raged more fiercely than before. · The pilot's skill has often failed him; often has he lashed the helm and let the vessel drive: but still she rides upon the waves with her flag nailed to the mast head. Our calms have all been treacherous, and our smoothest seas have only preceded the mountain waves. More propitious gales now set in; but still we fear "the Bull's Eye," and dread another "Euroelydon."
But figure apart. We have had much controversy, and no doubt too much of its spirit. It is hard for a person to take fire into his bosom and his clothes not smell of it. We have no Daniels now-a-days to pass through fiery furnaces without the smell of fire. But we are often reminded that the New Testament itself is a series of controversies with Priests high and low, Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, Gnostics, Judaizers, and Mystics. The Son of God brought both a fire and a sword into the world, as well as peace and salvation. And while Error builds her temples, sustains her hierarchies, and musters her crusades, the sons of peace must lift their voices like trumpets,
and show (srael his transgressions and Jacob his sins. We must, at least, blow our rams' horns until the walls of Jericho are in ruins. The Editor can say, or sing with David,
"I am for peace; but when I speak,
For battle they are keen." What religious wars have been waged! what battles have been fought! what captives have been taken! The Lord says, I will fight against some with the sword of my mouth. Our weapons are not the bow or sword of steel. Anathemas belong to our opponents. But Balaam's curses have all been blessings.
Many of the reformers have been cast out of the synagogues and have suffered much of the wrath of men, which works not the righteousness which God requires. They have nicknamed them “Campbellites," though their motto is, “No Leader but Christ;" and, as “Campbellites," have been persecuted to strange cities. It is a curious fact, however, in the annals of bulls, decrees, and proscriptions, that the Editor, not being a “Campbellite," I suppose, has never been arraigned before any ecclesiastical council, nor excluded from any church in all the hierarchies. He yet stands with the Baptist society and with christendom just in the attitude he once placed himself, and has never been condemned for heresy by any congregation or association, by any form of trial ever adopted in any ecclesiastical court
Rome or out of it.
In rooting out the tares it is difficult not to root out some of the wheat. This is true not only of persons, but of error and truth In unlearning our errors, 0 how hard the task! we are in danger of unlearning the truth which we have been taught. To say that we have performed a work of this sort—to say that we have only disabused ourselves or others of error, would be as unwise as it would be presumptuous. We can only say, that all the items of our faith being facts supported by the testimony of Apostles and Prophets, there can be no article of faith in danger in all that we have written. But in our views of certain sayings, or in our opinions of these facts, it is possible we have not always coincided exactly with the Apostles. Hence the necessity of founding christian union, communion, and cooperation upon the belief of facts-upon faith and obedience, rather than upon agreement in opinions.
Such is the measure of light and liberty which I now enjoy under Jesus Christ, that I could unite in all christian communion and cooperation with all the baptized believers in all the sects in America, so far as their opinions are considered; provided only, that they hold the head, Jesus; believing all the facts attested concerning him, and are obedient to his commands. And farther than this, we hnmbly conceive, christian union, communion, and co-operation can never legitimately extend.
If divisions, then, are made, it is easy to see who causes them, He that excludes, and not he that is excluded, is the schismatic and the heretic in Paul's estimation. Offences will come: for truth is offensive to errorists, Telling the truth to them has caused rivers of
human blood to flow. As well, however, might our opponents blame the martyrdom of Jesus, his Apostles, or the first Christians upon themselves, as any divisions now existing upon us.
He that would have once gathered together the sons and daughters of Jerusalem as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, was, by the rulers of that people, crucified without its gates. The true disciples of this Prince of Martyrs never can, while they think of him, even put cut of the gates of their city, much less anathematize any one who holds him and is willing to obey him, for any opinion, which, as private property, he may hold; and still less cause can they have for proscribing a disciple, zealous for the honor of the word and institutions of the Apostles.
But these are with us trite themes. The past volumes of this work and the Christian Baptist have been copious upon such topics. We must advance to subjects of more elevated character. "Leaving the principles of the doctrine of reformation, let us proceed to perfection." The first principles will not, however, be altogether lost sight of. Our opponents will push them upon our notice, and therefore we will not be permitted to forget them.
We have found in the experience we have had in pleading the cause of reform, that the differences among the sects are much less than we once imagined. The good among all parties are wishing for reform, for they see the need of it. That the christian religion has been for ages interred in the rubbish of human invention and tradition, is confessed and felt by many, very many in all societies. Hence the question of reform is agitated in all sects. Even the Presbyterians are shaking from North to South. The Methodists have split upon this question and the Presbyterians will split before this volume is completed, or many signs will fail.
The carnal, the ambitious, and the worldly spirits in all establishmonts are for sustaining the schemes which sustain them. They are now in the possession of their reward, and fear a change which might again whip the buyers and sellers out of the temple. Like the Kings and Nobles of the old world, they fear innovation; because innovation must be against them, if it be for the people. It is always a bad order of things when the casts in religious society have separate and antagonist interests. In every conflict for truth and righteousness meum and teum, or, as an English Bishop once said, miney and thiney are identified with the question What is truth? This is a bribe offered to the understanding, and they that present it little tbink that they are inflicting bondage on themselves. The articles of agreement between a congregation and its Pastor place the parties in the most unpropitious circumstances. He promises to teach such a creed, and they promise to pay him for teaching that creed. He binds himself to certain principles, and is bound at the hazard of his bread and butter, to teach the aforesaid system. They are also bound to make that system the length and breadth, the height and depth of their knowledge and faith. Hence the keeping of the covenant is often a misfortune to both parties. The preacher has the loaves and fishes
for his reward, and this is often virtually a bribe to his understanding and a snare to his judgment.
We are thankful to the Great King that, in the face of all opposition, the reformation principles have found acceptance in the understanding and affections of many of the most enlightened in society, both among the teachers of religion and the taught. Many persons, devout and intelligent, were found waiting for an impulse, and have now put forth their energies in the cause of reform. They were before convinced that all sects had gone out of the way and lost sight of the primitive institution. These were ready to take up the line of march and rally under the banners of reformation, or rather a restoration of the ancient order of things, so soon as the signal was given and a prospect of success appeared. The aggregate of this class was mach greater than we had any idea of. llence more talent and intelligence are found on the side of reform than we ever expected in our day to see engaged in pleading for the long lost honors of the Holy Twelve.
These co-operators in the cause of reform have given it a free course throughout the land, so that already it is plead from North to South and from East to West in this union and elsewhere. Thus the cause is much strengthened, and much more light than could have been elicited by any one individual in a patriarchal life time, has been shed forth upon society. But we are only beginning, much remains to be done, and the time is short in which it should, and must be done.
Should the present advocates keep steady to their purpose and use all diligence to maintain the ground they now occupy, and to live, as well as to proclaim the way of righteousness, there is nothing in prophecy, nor in reason, more certain than the triumphant spread of the emancipating principles of this victorious cause.
The "harvest home” will yet be sung with shoutings of grace; for in due time we shall reap if we faint not. The Lord will soon slay the many-headed monster which has long oppressed the nations of the earth. The days of sectarianism will soon be numbered, and the funeral dirge of Babylon the Great will echo through all the vacated marts of her spiritual merchandize, from the Tiber to the ends of the earth.
But all hands who are on the Lord's side, must be employed; for the Captain of our Salvution, like other Captains, gains all his conquests by his troops. Every man, therefore, to his post, and we shall gain honors that fade not away. The Editor will himself endeavor to reform as well as to plead the necessity of it in otbers: for he is aware that he needs to reform as well as others : for reformation is not the work of a day. And a reformation of the temper and behaviour is more difficult than a reformation of the creed,