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Observer, July 1, 71
wished to be freed, that the “human compact” with which he was identified and which compelled all its ministers to suit their interpretations of the Word of God to hard and stern dogmas, irrespective of whether they thought any of these dogmas right or wrong,—was so offensive to his progressive and liberal views, that any one would have been justified in believing that here was indeed a clergyman by whom a step or two was to be boldly made towards primitive Christianity. Mr. Brodie, of Lasswade, was one of Mr. Ferguson's chief accusers, and in the course of his speech he stated that among the statements of a questionable nature which Mr. Ferguson
had made was this, that he (Mr. Ferguson) seemed to insinuate very serious doubts with regard to the completeness of the Church's views of Scripture doctrine, to the extent of asserting the probability of facts being discovered such as would have the effect of revolutionising the whole of them, and to speak in contemptuous language generally of the Confessions of the Church, as well as of the ministers who were in the habit of conforming their teachings to them. Whether Mr. Ferguson had been influenced to change his mind by the dread of being placed at the bar of the “reverend” tribunal, or whether his views remained unchanged, will not be asserted; but it does appear somewhat singular that when a competent enquiry was instituted by the Synod he did perform an operation which
upon the face of it looked very much like a recantation of the beliefs and views he was generally understood to have promulged. He stated to the brethren appointed to conduct the inquiry that with regard to the salvability of the heathen, the views which had been set forth by him were not expressed dogmatically, but simply as his present view of the matter; and that it never was his intention to bring into question the certainty of the fundamental doctrines of Christianity as exhibited in the standards. This however was not sufficient to satisfy the representatives of the Synod, who then placed before Mr. Ferguson four test propositions, which were to the effect that none dying unsaved would after death have an opportunity of obtaining salvation, and that all unbelieving would be fully answerable for the rejection of the offer of salvation which the Gospel makes to them. The acceptance by Mr. Ferguson of the propositions ended the famous “Dalkeith heresy case,” and the Synod expressed its satisfaction with the manner in which all parties had become one in mind. Such a strange and unexpected ending! Here is a man who had sighed for a state of things which might bring them fully round to the "simplicity and spirituality of the apostolic age,” with its unsectarian Christianity, and absence of any creed but the Bible, embracing the cords which bound him, and preferring to remain bound than to be bold or courageous enough, at the cost of some selfsacrifice, to burst them and endeavour to obtain that freedom which every true believer ought to enjoy in Christ Jesus. If Mr. Ferguson desires a speedy return to primitive Christianity, he must not only speak but act, and had he been as sincere in his wish as he was understood to be, he would have taken such a stand before his “reverend” brethren as might have materially helped to bring about the consummation he so ardently desired. Still it is to be hoped that the time may soon arrive when creeds and sects will fall into greater disrepute, and that,Mr. Ferguson will be found, not bound down to conform his teaching to human dogmas, but striving after the purity and simplicity of Christianity as at first
taught by the apostles. The circumstances of this case will recall to the recollection of any close observer of the changing and conflicting opinions which prevail regarding religion, the strange fact that there is now a tendency in Churches to preach doctrines from the pulpit at variance with those
Observer, July 1, '71.
contracted for, and when a competent enquiry is instituted to quietly withdraw or gloss over what was objectionable, or swallow any quantity of test propositions, and then go on preaching as if nothing had happened! To what strange and awkward straits are men sometimes driven through want of candour and firmness! For worldly position and comfort-truth and conscience, it would seem, are sacrificed !
T. Y. M.
BAPTISTS AND DISCIPLES IN AMERICA, . Our readers are generally advised of the fact that a Committee from the Ohio Christian Missionary Society visited the Baptist State Convention, in session at Columbus, last October, and bore to them a message of good will and fraternal sympathy. They were very cordially received, and a committee of Jeading men was appointed to return the visit, and bear a reply to the communication of our committee. On the morning of the last day of our Convention at Dayton, May 25th, that committee' came, and in return received a most cordial welcome. The following is the reply they brought with them :
THE BAPTISTS OF OHIO TO THE DISCIPLES OF OHIO. Brethren of the Ohio Christian Missionary Society :
At the last meeting of the Baptist Convention of the State of Ohio, a deputation from your body appeared bearing from you to us “ words of Christian greeting and fraternal sympathy."
At an appointed time your deputation was introduced to the convention by our President in terms of cordial welcome. The Communication of your representatives which followed, awakened in all our minds most kindly and grateful emotions. A committee was at once appointed to express the heartiness of our pleasure at the presence of your delegation, and our satisfaction with the sentiments and spirit of their address. The response of our committee was a declaration of reciprocal feelings upou our part, and of gratification that you had been prompted to a movement so full of promise. This response was adopted as the sentiment of the convention by a vote of entire unanimity. All present seemed moved to tenderness ; the isolations and alienations of the past were forgotten ; we rejoiced that we could sit together as brethren in Christ Jesus. With a view to setting forth at greater length and in a more deliberate form the feelings of the body, a delegation was appointed to visit you at your present meeting, and convey to the Disciples of Ohio the fraternal greeting of the Baptist brotherhood of this State.
Your committee distinctly informed us that the design of their overture was not to propose any terms of organic union or co-operative affiliation between our respective denominations. They stated that you were not prepared for such a step, but that in surveying the different parties into which Christendom is divided, you regard the Baptists as being much more in accord in their aims and principles with your own than any other religious organization, or than was generally supposed among yourselves or us, and that you were prompted to give expression to this conviction.
The frankness of your avowal, and the simplicity of your purpose, render our service in responding auch easier and much more ag reeable than if we were at present called upon to discuss terms of union, or even the desirableness of any systematic co-operation between us. Before such a consummation can be reached, if ever it can be, you will need to know more of us, and we shall need to know more of you. Nor are we sure that the masses of either denomination are at present prepared to approach the discussion of this subject without prejudice and without partiality.
We take pleasure in congratulating you upon the progress you have made in the last eighteen years, as shown by the statistics you present to us. In your independant development you have grown into a large and influential denomination; you have occupied a wide extent of territory ; you have founded several flourishing institutions of learning, and in every department of denominational life you have displayed a consecration to your convictions, and an energy in spreading your principles, which command our admiration and challenge our imitation. During the same eighteen years, the growth of our own denomination, if not rapid, has, we think, been steady and sure. Sending a multitude of our members every year to the west, our progress is to be
Observer, July 1, 71
measured not so much by numbers as by intelligence and enterprise. While many of our smaller country churches have died out, other and stronger ones in more favourable localities have taken their places. Notwithstanding all the influences which have worked against us, our churches have increased in number, from 437 to 538; our ordained ministers from 285 to 428 ; our membership from 24,000 to a trifle short of 40,000. During this period there have been performed, under the superintendence of the conven. tion, between 350 and 400 years of missionary labour, while we have raised for the general work of missions about 200,000 dollars, half of which has been expended within the borders of the State. The past few years have witnessed the completion of an endowment fund of 100,000 dollars for Dennison University, our State college at Granville, which, with two vigorous female seminaries, and two denominational journals, one German and one English, attests our interest in the cause of popular, as well as ministerial education.
Although the record of growth in this State is not in all respects what we should desire, we feel that in the past history of Baptist principles, we have matter for just pride and gratitude. The history of the Christian world for three hundred years seems to us a history of the progress of these principles. Nor are we aware that during all these years there has been among us any extensive defection from them. We hold still to the same great truths for which our fathers contended even unto death, and in the most of which we have your sympathy: the sole authority of the Word of God; the freedom of conscience from all civil domination; the immersion of the believer in water in the name of the Trinity, on profession of his faith in Christ; the admission of none but baptized believers to the membership and ordinances of the church, and the right of every member of the church to a voice in its government and discipline.
All these principles have been well known to you. They have been the characteristic tenets of Baptist Churches. Other denominations of Christians have gradually come to see the same light, and have from time to time adopted part of our views for their own, while toward others of these views we think we see strong general tendencies. These things gratify us; we trust they are signs that Baptist Churches have not lived and laboured in vain. Yet with all our love for these characteristic principles of our faith, we gladly acknowledge that our love for the great doctrines of grace which underlie these, is deeper and stronger ; and that we contend more strenuously for these common truths than for those which make us merely Baptists.
In order that we may promote the end of our appointment and respond to your desire for a better understanding of the points of our faith, we think it well to set before you, very briefly, our views with regard to points on which it has been frequently held that you differed from us. We do this with the less reluctance from the fact that, in the general statement of belief presented to us last October, there was so much with which we could agree. There is always so much danger that words may be used by one party in senses which lead to misapprehension by another, that it seems to us all the more desirable to make to you a plain and simple statement of our faith.
First-With regard to the Holy Spirit and the Word : We believe in the deity and personality of the Holy Spirit. We believe that only the direct agency and effectual working of the Holy Spirit in the sinner’s heart can so convince him of his sin, or so reveal Christ to him, that he is made willing to forsake sin or to rely on Christ for salvation. We believe that the Holy Spirit commonly uses the word of truth as his instrument and means in turning the sinner's heart to God-not that all the converting power of the Holy Spirit is in the arguments or motives which he presents in the written word, but that there is an influence of the Sprit, internal, mighty, efficacious, differing from moral suasion, by which the sinner is turned from the love and service of sin, and made a new creature in Christ Jesus. While we hold this, we yet believe that this influence of the Spirit is in full harmony with the free and responsible agency of man himself.
Secondly-With regard to the significance and order of regeneration, conversion and baptism : We believe that regeneration is the sovereign act of the Holy Spirit, conversion being that same act, viewed from the human side, and considered as the turning of the heart with all its powers to God. We consider conversion, therefore, to be logically the result and consequence of regeneration. We do not identify baptism with regeneration, or consider baptism in any sense the completion of the new birth. Rather must the new birth be a completed thing before the believer has a right to be baptized. Baptism, therefore, is not essential to justification or acceptance with God, nor is it a means of making men children of God, but rather a' means of showing to the world that they are children of God, and a sign that justification and acceptance with God are already accomplished facts.
Thirdly-With regard to the duty and experience of believers who are yet unbap. tized : We consider that all the emotions and acts of the Christian, except those which
Observer, July 1, 71.
are dependant upon his formal reception into the outward body of believers, are possible to the unbaptized. Prayer, praise, active Christian work for others, are his duties Christian love and joy, a heart freed from the burden and guilt of sin, the gift of the Holy Spirit with all His enlightening, comforting, sanctifying influences--in fine, all that belongs essentially to the experience of the Christian, may be enjoyed by the believer so soon as he is a believer, whether he be baptized or not. These views, however, must not be so construed as to imply that we sanction either any unnecessary delay on the part of the believer in submitting to baptism, or any disparagement of the ordinance,
Fourthly-With regard to baptism and the remission of sins: We believe baptism to be not a ritualistic act performed as a means of obtaining the remission of sins, but a declarative act, indicating that the remission of sins has already taken place. Like the Lord's Supper, we regard it as symbolic and commemorative rather than as a channel of sacramental grace. The inward submission of the heart and the inward reception of pardoning grace come first. Baptism is the outward submission of the believer to Christ, and the outward reception of Christ's sign of renewal which correspond to the inward submission and the inward reception which have gone before.
Fifthly-With regard to tests and proofs of Christian experience: We consider that something more than a mere assertion that one believes is necessary before he can be admitted to the ordinance of baptism. We hold that more than this is required in order to furnish assurance of one's conversion equal to that which was given of old by the confession: “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." We believe that a church is properly a society of converted persons, and that all who are received into it must for that reason, be first required to give credible evidence of their being converted, not only by a change of outward life, but also by an inward experience of sincere repentance for sin, and of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Sixthly—With regard to the true basis of church fellowship: We believe that a church is a society, with a constitution to which those who compose it must submit. We believe that the constitution left us by Christ requires that every church shall be composed of baptized believers, and that it shall maintain the integrity of the truth in its doctrine, its practice and its government. With these views we cannot recognize as regularly constituted churches, those who in our judgement violate the fundamental principles of a church of Christ. This refusal to our recognition, however, is by no means a denial of the Christian character of those from whom it is witheld. It is simply a denial of ecclesiastical fellowship, and a confining to the church itself of the ordinances of which the church has been made the keeper.
We have thought it proper, dear brethren, to state thus frankly what we deem to be the prevailing views of the brotherhood we represent. Doubtless there are those among us whose opinions differ in some particulars from the foregoing statements, but we have aimed to set forth the views of the denomination at large. We have done so, not in terms of technical exactitude, nor in the spirit of sectarian dogniatism; not for the purpose of provoking controversy, but because it is proper that we should deal fairly with our brethren and candidly with you. And we trust that a kindly examination of our supposed differences may lead to a better understanding of our relative positions and help to develope a closer agreement between us.
We profess to derive our convictions from the teachings of the Word of God. We bow with reverence to it as our supreme and only rule of faith and practice, and hold ourselves ready to modify our conceptions of divine truth as the entrance of God's word shall give us light We desire this teaching the more earnestly, since we believe that true unity among Christians can be realized only as all shall come to the knowledge and acknowledgement of those great truths which the Bible has revealed as objects of faith. For that faith, it is the duty of us all to contend, remembering at the same time our liability to prejudice and pride of opinion, as well as the necessary imperfections which attach to all our conceptions of Christian Cootrice. While we contend for the faith, then, let us devoutly pray for that charity which is greater even than faith. Let us award to each other sincerity of conviction and honesty of purpose. Let our only strife henceforth be to “ keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.”
Brethren, “ whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing; and if in anything any of us be otherwise minded, may God reveal even this unto us.” As Disciples and Baptists we “have already attained" unto a substantial agreement regarding many of the essential principles of a pure and full Gospel. In the light of this great fact, it surely becomes us to be careful lest we needlessly oppose the leadings of the Spirit in calling us to a still closer unity, and to encourage any movement which, without the sacrifice of our consciences, holds forth the promise of a closer agreement in the truth, and of that coming day when all who hold to the one Lord, the one faith, and the one baptism, shall in united force constitute the
vanguard of God's elect in storming the strongholds of Satan, and in subduing the world to the sceptre of Christ, the Lord of all.
Praying that your present deliberation may be attended by a large measure of that " wisdom that cometh from above," and that these deliberations may render you still more efficient as labourers in the kingdom and patience of our common Saviour, we are, dear brethren, yours in the bonds of the Gospel,
Committee. After a brief response by the President, on motion of J. P. Robison, a committee of three was appointed—J. P. Robison, J. A. Garfield and W. T. Moore-to which this address was referred, with instructions to report thereon at the opening of the afternoon session. They brought in the following report :
THE OHIO CHRISTIAN MISSIONARY SOCIETY TO THE BAPTIST ASSOCIATION
Your committee to whom was referred the communication of the Baptist Convention of Ohio, respectfully submit the following:
First.We desire to say to our Baptist brethren that for the kindly spirit, candor and magnanimity of their address, they are entitled to the sincere and cordial thanks of this convention; and we assure them that their expressions of sympathy and good feeling are fully and heartily reciprocated. We bid them welcome, and hail their presence and generous words of fraternal interest as a promise of a better understanding between the religious bodies which we respectively represent.
Second—We recommend that one hour be spent in prayer and exhortation, in which our Baptist brethren are requested to participate, and that the President of the convention and such other persons as he may name be also requested to take part.
Third-We recommend that the address of the Baptist brethren be published in the minutes of this convention.
Fourth-We recommend that a committee of five, consisting of the following brethren,
J. P. ROBISON.
J. A. GARFIELD. Accordingly, an hour was devoted to prayer and conference—an hour which lengthened into nearly two hours, and even then we were not half through with what was burning for utterance in the hearts of all present. Brethren Strong, Jeffrey, and Colby, of the Baptists—Dr. Leonard having to leave and Bro. Melish not being able to attend—and Shepard, Garfield, Walker, Goodwin, Pendelton and Griggsby, of the Disciples, participating. The spirit and sentiment of all the speeches were admirable—we were about to say, faultless. They were, moreover, characterized by great thoughtfulness and tenderness, evincing a deep appreciation of the important consequences hanging on the words then and there uttered ; and some of them were really eloquent. We wish they could have been taken down, word for word, as they were spoken. There was, of course, no discussion of points of difference, but rather an affectionate recognition of points of agreement, and an emphatic statement of the principles on which we must proceed in preparing the way for more fraternal intercourse. It was especially emphasized, that our appeal must be to the word of God, and that if agreement ever was reached such as would warrant unembarrassed co-operation, it must be an agreement based on the plain and unmistakable teachings of the Scriptures. Dr. Strong's remarks were thoughtful,