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of life, its agency in shaping the maxims and genius of the people is everywhere witnessed among the Baptists. Their example in this respect has also within late years proved contagious, and the Methodist Episcopal and Protestant Episcopal Churches in America have been compelled to yield to the demands of the times, and admit those who stand below either of the so-called holy orders to a share in their ecclesiastical legislature. This inconsistency with their principles is more clearly appreciated by the latter communion as a body than by the former, which has heretofore maintained a closer sympathy with the great masses of the people. But in either case it must be recognized as a concession to the ideas of those who acknowledge no sacramental efficacy in the ceremony of ordination.
In concluding our discussion of the position of Baptists in the history of American culture, we will venture a general reflection concerning the genius of the denomination and the policy to be observed by those having its interests in charge. It is evident to the most superficial that churches professing the principles above enumerated must be in all essential particulars popular; or, if you will, plebeian. Men of high position in the world, if their hearts are not filled with something of the generous fire that inflamed the tribunes of the people, will soon find that the levelling and humbling doctrines of the Baptists are inconvenient and probably distasteful to them. By the same ratio in which their aristocratical tastes increase is their broad sympathy for humanity, and the fervor of their loyalty to truth likely to decline. But if, with a full consciousness of the meaning of our ecclesiastical institutions and of the genius of the system we teach, they preserve the freshness of their loyalty to truth, they are greatly blessed and strengthened in the act, and tread the path of duty with a firm unhesitating step. While it is refreshing and instructive to observe the lives of men of this kind, who-we say it with gratefulness to God—are not too rare among our people, we nevertheless find that it is among the yeoman class-stronghanded, simple-mannered, intelligent and virtuous—that Baptist principles are most readily welcomed and embraced, and most passionately loved and defended. It need not excite the wonder of those who know what a dread they have of too much legislation, that the larger number of our communicants are found in rural districts and quiet villages, afar from great marts of commerce and corruption. And when they appear in the great centres of life you shall usually find them resembling one of the city churches of apostolic times in the respect, "that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called.” From the nature of the case, it is
impossible for them to meet the conditions of a fashionable denomination. Their mission is too earnest and benign; the truth they hold is too broad and true; their spirit is too evangelical and their labors too practical. This is far better for the cause of pure Christianity, and for the interests of our country, a very large proportion of whose citizens receive their education and the enduring impress of their character from these people. It would be extremely unfortunate for the Baptists themselves, and for our national progress, if they should degenerate to flippant panderers to corrupt and changeful tastes; should degrade themselves by striving after the honors of men more than the favor of God; or cease to lay a strong but kindly hand upon the moral character of the thousands whose development is committed to their charge.
And we may congratulate ourselves that there are agencies in constant, extensive, and necessary operation, which are, as if by Divine appointment, suited to preserve the purity of their faith and practice. They are reproached for nothing more frequently than their devotion to the letter of the divine commandments. In Europe, probably, more than in America, is their attitude with reference to the Word of God, as "the only certain and authoritative rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience,” persistently misrepresented. They are accused of neglecting the spiritual in favor of the formal, and resolving the whole of religion into the superficial observance of ceremonies. None are better persuaded of the injustice and falsehood of these allegations than Baptists, who emphasize the fact that the main distinction between themselves and all other religious bodies, is the absolute distinction they would see observed between the church and the world, and the absolute necessity of spiritual regeneration, in order to procure admission to the ordinances and privileges of the organized body of God's people. But while laying so much greater stress than others upon the spiritual element, it is of equally vital consequence to emphasize the authority of the Scriptures, and the binding force of the gospel order, as therein taught. Otherwise there would be no barriers set against mystical subjectivity on the one hand, and rationalistic subjectivity on the other, either of which is a direct and blasphemous imputation of the authority of the King in Zion. Moved, then, by no capricious love of singularity, but rather by holy reverence for Divine authority, the Baptists observe the original and only mode of baptism; and, as a necessary sequence of this, practice what is opprobriously stigmatized as “close communion.”
Now the first of these ordinances long since lost the right of presentation in the saloons of fashionable circles. Persons, therefore, who contemplate entering upon ecclesiastical relations out of any of
the numerous motives that are devoid of the
moral earnestness, being met upon the threshhold by the requirement to imitate the example of Jesus in submitting to immersion, are most likely to demur, and, going elsewhere, to seek out something more in consonance with their tastes. Leaving out of view, for the present, the arguments by which this is shown to be the only mode of baptism, and the obligation that binds us to yield implicit obedience to positive commands, this custom has doubtless been—as a matter of sound policy alone—of incalculable advantage to our churches, and it is likely in the future to yield them yet more important service. Charles II declareid that "Calvinism was no religion for a gentleman," and turned away in disgust from the Presbyterians, averting from them, thereby, one of the greatest calamities that could possibly befall a religious community; since the church of Christ has always suffered more from the smiles and patronage of princes, than from the frowns and enmity of persecutors. It would be a sad day for Baptists should they ever become the most wealthy and powerful of the religious denominations of America, if they at the same time learned how to push their cause in the halls of legislation, and the drawing-rooms of ministers of state; if they should become the leaders of those circles of society where flippancy is prevalent, and moral and intellectual earnestness are despised. They would forget full soon the simplicity of the gospel and single-eyed devotion to its tenets. The frailties of human nature would put in an appearance, and pride and luxury and all uncharitableness might usurp the place of stern virtue, unaffected humility, and broad and wholesome principles. Such, at least, has been the history of other churches when blessed, or rather cursed, with an undue measure of outward prosperity and authority. It is, therefore, well for the Baptists and for our whole people also, that the first ordinance they administer to those seeking their communion, imposes upon the thoughtless and flippant a burden too heavy to bear.
The other practice --strict communion - is the logical sequence of the former. Notwithstanding the circumstance that this logical sequence is perceived and admitted by all persons of common intelligence, the usage of our people in this particular, is urged on every hand as a reproach, and the unlovely charge of bigotry is often alleged against them. I have no doubt that by this means many honestminded persons have conceived prejudices that have driven them entirely away from contact with us; but in most cases this charge is felt to be unfounded, and the odium which it excites among a certain class like that mentioned under the former head, has ministered almost entirely to the advancement of the more solid interests
of the denomination. And it is possible that we do not in general sufficiently appreciate the circumstance that while both of the counts in the charge made against Baptists, in respect to their practice in the case of the two ordinances, are entirely groundless, they minister, though silently, very largely to the maintenance of spiritual religion and gospel purity among them. If, in addition to this, the firmness of primitive discipline could be everywhere maintained, the friends of uncorrupted Christianity would have even greater reason to be gratified.
It is well from time to time to examine from the standing point of the historian of culture, or of the philosophical politician, the nature of our ecclesiastical institutions, and the meaning of our principles, in order that we may arrive at steadier views concerning the mission of Baptists, and the methods which they should adopt. To young ministers, just entering upon their life-work, such a review ought to furnish some practical and guiding lessons. The people with whom your lot is cast, my brethren, have emancipated the intellect, and have opened the Bible to all. You will be called to move among men of active, independent minds. Your principal claim to their respect and, as a consequence, your best prospect for usefulness will depend upon your intellectual and moral endowments and culture. They recognize the validity of no sacramental theory. You will therefore be surrounded by no halo of priestly sanctity. Hence it is imperatively necessary that you should employ diligence in arming yourself thoroughly for the duties before you. You will remember, too, that the pulpits of a people professing these levelling, humanitarian principles, are no fit theatre for over-cultivated, weak-thoughted, intellectual exquisites, doling out diluted and harmless treatises on philosophy or æsthetics. Men of robust spirit are in demand, who keep in sympathy with the common people, and are gladly heard by them; who, in connection with apostolic ruggedness and vigor, cultivate also apostolic gentleness and simplicity.
W. H. WHITSITT.
GREENVILLE, S. C.
Note.—Parts of this address are omitted, in order to bring it within the compass of a Review article.
THE SECOND CENTURY: A CHAPTER IN CHURCH
THIS paper is an inquiry into the state of Christianity during the
first century after the death of the apostle John (which is believed to have taken place about the year 100), with a view to ascertain whether Christian truth was preserved in its integrity, and whether Christian churches retained the simplicity and purity of the earliest times. There is so much difference between the Christianity of these days, as exhibited in certain communities, and the Christianity of the apostolic age, that the question is naturally asked, How was the change brought about? And it must be peculiarly interesting to study the characteristic features of the churches which flourished in a period so closely connected with the influences of the last survivor of the inspired band.
During all this time Christianity was steadily on the advance. Churches abounded in northern Africa. They were numerous in Gaul, and had penetrated into Germany. That Britain was Christianized in the second century may be reasonably believed, considering the intercourse, commercial and otherwise, between that country and Gaul; but the facts are so wrapped in mist that we are unable to gain a clear view of them. In the east, the messengers of the gospel had reached as far as Edessa, and doubtful traditions represent India as the seat of churches, though it has not yet been satisfactorily decided what country was meant by that name. Throughout those