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PUBLIC DISCUSSIONS IN AMERICA.
Observer, Feb. 1, '71.
THE Churches of New Testament order in America seem to have entered upon a new Era of Debate. We receive several weekly papers, but scarcely one comes to hand without advertizing, or commenting upon, some public debate, either taken place or about to take place, or the report of which is published or preparing for publication. Christians and Universalists, Christians and Methodists, and others, enter the lists, and some really fine debates have been held, the reports of which supply profitable reading. Concerning one of these we have the following:
"Discussion seems to be the order of the day, and so prevalent has this order become that the conflict in theological controversy thickens from one end to the other of the traditional ground of Kentucky.
It may be that in this State there are opposing forces peculiarly belligerent-that here the truth springs her most redoubtable opponents and confronts them with her chief representatives and defenders. Perhaps here, the grand series of battles are being fought between the word of the Lord and the traditions of the elders, which shall result in the triumph of the former and the overthrow of the latter and the verdict, thus rendered, be accepted as authoritative and final by the people of all other States.
The debate was opened promptly according to announcement. L. B. Wilkes, supported by Messrs. Briney, Grubbs, Dawson and Keith, was on hand with an air of very becoming gravity upon his earnest contemplative face. He looks languid and even haggard, as if the toils and severe employments of his life as preacher and debater drew very heavily upon his physical strength. Still there was evidently a considerable force of patient energy within him, which, when occasion presented itself, would leap forth in the vindication of truth. Jacob Ditzler, the Methodist champion, duly came upon the platform. A very pretentious staff had been announced to support him, but I presume at the last moment had either deserted him or had been relieved from service; however, Jacob was furnished with a numerous company of books very ostentatiously displayed, and to the eyes of some men might have appeared formidable or very dangerous. His easy, self-possessed movements might have indicated that he felt himself to be the master of the situation, but his very extensive preparations showed that he realized that the work before him would reach at least to the extremity of his resources.
The umpire is Judge Bunch, ex-speaker of the State Legislature. Benjamin Pittman, Esq., and daughter, are reporting the proceedings for publication.
The debate was opened by prayer from Mr. Brush, presiding elder of the Methodist Church.
The first question, to be discussed for three days, was then announced: Is infant baptism authorized by the word of God?' Mr. Ditzler affirms. Mr. Wilkes denies.
Mr. Ditzler dashed into his speech of an hour with the utmost sang froid, as if he had the lines and issues of the contest entirely at his command. He displayed, with sophomoric lavishness, the tinsel and jargon of the smatterer in literature and religion, throwing out a multitude of passages and comments, without logical connection, argumentative skill, or the least perceptible discrimination.
Here are a few of his assertions:
'Baptism introduces into the visible Church, but no ordinance can introduce into the invisible Church the subject of baptism must have
Observer, Feb. 1, '71.
previously belonged to the invisible Church. No ordinance is necessary to salvation. Religion existed thousands of years before ordinances. The first ordinance was established for the benefit of children. Christ and his apostles lived and died in the same Church in which they were born. Christianity did not cut off the rights and immunities of the Jews. Jewish religion was spiritual. God should have given notice when infant membership was abrogated. The Jewish Church has never been abolished, only more largely spiritualized. The Jewish ordinances were to teach spirituality. God had a spiritual Church; that infants were members of it in all ages, and that they are such to-day,' etc.
Mr. Ditzler is an easy and rapid speaker; he has a remarkably retentive memory, and a sprightly and entertaining address and delivery. He has apparently at the tip of his tongue a voluminous array of scraps of ancient history, liberally interspersed with scraps of Scripture, many of which he delivers in the original tongues-Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Syriac is held in reserve for the convenient season. Mr. Ditzler is a debater of unquestionable talents, and, so far, has maintained the courtesies and fairness which should characterize the theme and the occasion.
Mr. Wilkes, in his terse and emphatic style, scattered the vague generalities of his opponent like chaff before the wind. It was truly edifying to watch the effect of a few quotations from Scripture, and a few pointed and well directed statements, upon the broad foundation which Mr. Ditzler had laid. Had it been entirely of sand, it could not have been more utterly demolished.
This was not the only effect produced, for a very visible sensation held the large audience in breathless silence, while the speaker briefly but powerfully discoursed on the following points: The commission is the only law for the baptism of any person. That it was the duty of the apostles to baptize, and that it was the duty of the people to be baptized. The invisible Church is a myth of the 16th century, and the artifice of a man who was hard-pressed in argument There is no baptism or membership in the invisible Church. The name Church of God,' excludes infants from membership. There never was a time when there was no ordinances, etc.
Mr. Wilkes gave a clear statement of the three dispensations-entirely refuting the assertion that the Jewish Church grew out of religion,' and demonstrating the invalidity of infant baptism and membership. He also made a very happy criticism on the high-flown style which Mr. Ditzler had adopted, expressing his preference for simple English, even at the possible risk of his reputation for scholarship. May the truth prevail and triumph." T. D. BUTLER.
THE VICTORY OF LIFE,
As sure as death or destiny there cometh a terrible brightness,
Decrees in sovereign might-BEHOLD I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW.
Observer, Feb. 1, 71.
The banners are torn and faded which old nations are unfurling,
The things which had golden light, on sea, and river, and shore,
"What shadows we are! What shadows we pursue!"
But still the decree is firm-BEHOLD I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW.
In deserts dark and old, how ghastly nations are pining
The valley is large, and the bones are exceeding dry,
And none of the airs of life come wandering by.
But though we feel the darkness, it remaineth verily true,
That God will speak in ripe time-BEHOLD I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW.
Where is the flame of life which once was so revealing?
The witchery strains which came over our senses stealing?
Mournful and dim as ghosts when the light of the moon is pale.
From the will supreme-BEHOLD I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW.
The very stars are eclipsed-robbed of their ancient glory
For freedom fails and truth lies bleeding in the street.
And hear the voice-BEHOLD I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW.
Lo! what a tide of splendour rolls down from purple mountains! What clouds of incense rise from fair fields and springing fountains! The glorious Lord is to us a place of solemn shores,
Broad rivers and streams where goeth no galley with oars.
Pain, sickness, and sorrow, darkness and woe areed,
For all evil shapes and works are numbered with the dead!
The giant evil weeds from sin and mortality grew,
But they perish in the voice-BEHOLD I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW.
And thou, most terrible sea, so ruthless and devouring,
When north wind blows and the heavens are black and lowering,
Observer, Feb. 1, 71.
O Death, thou dreadful king, thy black dominions languish !
To blacken the grain, and give us blood for wine;
Through the desolate land, where thy shafts of terror flew,
As the eye goes sweeping round that the soul its praise may render,
No place for rites or priesthood, where the conscience is at rest.
The golden streets-the fields-the silver shining river,
But canvas and colouring fail-no painter ever drew
A city like His who saith-BEHOLD I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW.
A. CAMPBELL'S MILLENNIAL HARBINGER.
W. K. PENDLETON.-Bethany, W. V.
THE last arrival of this Monthly (the October Number) bears upon its cover intimation that the present is the Forty-first Annual Volume. It contains the following notice :
"As the time is approaching when our friends will begin to renew their subscriptions for the HARBINGER, I deem it proper, in advance, to announce that we have concluded to discontinue the visits of this oldest of our periodicals, with the close of the present volume. Other work has so grown upon our hands, that we must either neglect it for the HARBINGER, or discontinue the HARBINGER for it. Between the two, it is thought by nearest friends best that we should prefer the former, and in this judgment we are constrained reluctantly to concur. The HARBINGER is now near the close of the 41st volume. If we are spared we shall bring it to completion. For nearly thirty years of its career we have been connected with its publication-and for seven years, its proprietor. We consent to its termination with feelings of sadness. It seems like the breaking up of a long communion, the parting of friends, with whom we have walked about the courts of Zion in sweet counsel for many years, the sundering of chords of loving fellowship, that shall be renewed on earth no more forever. It is not from fickleness that we take this step, this is not my nature; nor is it from the desire of respite from labour,-this, the position which I hold as President of Bethany College, and increasing demands for literary work in other fields, forbid me to expect. It is a question of relative duty—only this, and nothing more."
Thus Harbingers, like Editors, pass away. We do not learn that any new Monthly takes the place thus made vacant. We shall miss the old friend, but shall not repine as though it had quitted the field on account of decreased demand for the Literature of the Reformation. When the Millennial Harbinger was started it took the place of the Christian Baptist and was the only publication devoted to the end it announced, both in America and Great Britain. Now there are perhaps twenty periodicals occupying the same ground, several of them handsome broad sheets published weekly. Farewell, then, to the Millennial Harbinger, and rich blessings upon W. K. Pendleton, who has conducted it since A. Campbell fell asleep.
Observer, Feb. 1, '71
THE EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIANITY IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY. BY ALBERT BARNES.--London, Blackie and Son.
THIS book was intended for notice in our last. Then we should have approached it with somewhat different feelings to those which now impress us. Then we should have been dealing with a living Author; now he is numbered with the men who have done their life's work and gone to rest. Albert Barnes has certainly served his generation. The volume under notice comes to us as the result of his latest labours. It is not merely a Book on Christian Evidence, but one upon the Evidences of Christianity in their Relation to the Present Century. Such a book was much wanted. In this one we have a highly useful contribution toward meeting the requirement. The volume contains Ten Lectures, entitled-The Limitations of the Human Mind on the subject of Religion-Historical Evidence as affected by Time-Historical Evidence as affected by Science-The Evidence of Christianity from its Propagation-Miracles; the Evidence in the Nineteenth Century that they were performed in the First-The Argument from Prophecy-Inspiration of Scripture, with reference to Modern Objections-Evidence of the Divine Origin of Christianity from the Character of Christ-The Christian Religion as adapted to the present Wants of Man-The Relation of Christianity to the World's Progress in Science and Civilization. In these Ten Lectures there are wise and precious thoughts. We may return to them on a subsequent occasion and give our readers a few pages. At present space only affords a glance at the hard task that man has to master who denies the Divine Origin of Christianity
"He must suppose that it made its way in the world on what was known to be falsehood. He must suppose that men everywhere embraced the system manifestly against their own interests, and with nothing to satisfy them of its truth. He must leave unexplained the conduct of thousands of martyrs, many of them of no mean name in philosophy and in social rank. He must explain how it was that acute and subtle enemies like Celsus, Porphyry, and Julian did not make short work of the argument by denying the truth of the main facts of the Christian history He must explain the origin of the numerous monuments in the world which have been reared on the supposition of the truth of the great facts of Christian history-the ancient temples, whose ruins are scattered everywhere, the tombs and inscriptions in the catacombs at Rome, the sculptures and paintings which have called forth the highest efforts of genius in the early and the medieval ages, and the books that have been written, on the supposition that the religion had the origin ascribed to it in the New Testament. He must explain the observance of the first day of the week in so many lands, and for so many ages, in commemoration of the belief that Christ rose from the dead. He must explain the ordinance kept up in memory of His death for nearly two thousand years, on the supposition that the death of Christ never occurred on the cross at all. He must explain the honour and the homage done to the cross everywhere-as a standard in war, as a symbol of faith, as a charm on an amulet, as an ornament worn by beauty and piety, as reared on high to mark the place where God is worshipped, as an emblem of self-sacrifice, of love, of unsullied purity; the cross in itself more ignominious than the guillotine or the gibbet-for why should men do such things with a gibbet if all is imaginary? And he must explain all those coins, and medals, and memorials which crowd palaces and cabinets, and churches and private dwellings, and which are found beneath decayed and ruined cities, on the supposition that all these are based on falsehood, and that in all history there has been nothing to correspond to them or to suggest them. Can the fossil remains of the old world, the ferns in coal beds, and the forms of fishes imbedded in the rocks, and the bones of the mammoths, and the skeletons of the ichthyosaurian and plesiosaurian races, be explained on the supposition that such vegetables and such land and marine monsters never lived? Will the geologist who happens to be an infidel in religion allow us to urge this in regard to these apparent records of the former history of the world? Will he then demand that all in history, in monuments, medals, tombs, inscriptions, customs, laws, sacred festivals, religious rites, that seems to be founded on