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Observer, Mar. 1, 71.
Let us briefly notice wherein they changed, and wherein they did not change.
1. They laid aside the name Baptist, and took the name Christian.
2. They built upon the Bible alone, instead of the Philadelphia Confession of Faith.
3. They taught that the Church began at Pentecost, rather than with the preaching of John the Baptist.
4. They baptized men into a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus, that He is the Messiah, rather than into a Christian experience, made up of marvellous sights, strange voices, trances, and rapturous feelings.
5. They taught that in conversion and sanctification the Spirit operates through the truth.
Thus far the change was radical; but here a large minority paused, or brought with them their old Baptist polity.
The Baptists in the great West and South are known as Missionary Baptists, and Old Baptists, or " Hard Shell" Baptists. The Missionary Baptists are by far the most enterprising in all that pertains to the spread of Christianity; they are the most numerous, most wealthy, best educated, and most liberal. In translating the Bible into all languages, in carrying it into all lands, and in sending the Gospel into all nations, they have made some amends for that unrelenting bitterness which they have shown toward our own brethren from the first day till now. We shall glance at their present order in the South and West, by making certain extracts from the Central Baptist :
"In Arkansas, there are but four Missionary Baptist Churches that sustain a regular pastor, or sustain preaching other than once a month. In north Alabama, two; in the whole of Alabama, twelve; in Missouri, twenty-seven.
"Missouri has six hundred white Churches, with a membership of fifty thousand, which have preaching once a month.
"Once a month preaching by a secularized minister! Is it any wonder that the cause does not go forward faster?
"Not more than two dozen out of seven hundred Churches in Missouri have service every Sunday."
Let us pause a moment over this picture of Southern and Western Baptist Churches, drawn by themselves. In Arkansas, but four Churches have preaching every Lord's day; in Alabama, only twelve; and in Missouri only twenty-four out of seven hundred! Twenty-four out of seven hundred! In other words, only one in twenty eight of Missionary Baptist Church members, in the State of Missouri, sanctifies the Lord's day with Christian worship at the Lord's house!! Well may the writer ask, Is it any wonder that the cause does not go forward faster?"
Now let the members of a Christian Church fail to meet at the Lord's house for Christian worship on the Lord's day, and to what snares and temptations of the devil do they not subject themselves and their children? What temptations to idleness, and to wasting of the Lord's day in visiting and gossiping, or in drowsy lethargy! Again, let it be noted, that there is one Lord's day in every seven days. In every seven years there is, then, one Sabbatical year, and in fifty years there are seven unbroken years of Lord's days. Now when we consider man's relations to God, angels and men, to time and eternity, to earth and heaven, and that he must be educated in reference to all these relations, there is not one school on the face of the green earth, by whomsoever taught, that in all its results is equal to the school of Christ. What treasures untold reside in the Lord's house, the Lord's day, the Lord's Book, and the ordinances of the Lord! It is the glory of Christianity, that in a Christian country there is not one Christian
Observer, Mar. 1, '71
so oppressed with poverty and overwork, so utterly ignorant, degraded and cast down, that he may not spend seven years in a life of fifty years in the best school taught under these broad and high heavens. And what an audacious wrong and unutterable blunder would it be for God's people to adopt an order that defrauds themselves, their children, their neighbours, and their neighbours' children of such a glorious privilege!
If we could imagine two communities, one of which should, with their children and their childrens' children, diligently devote the Lord's day to purposes of moral, religious, and intellectual improvement, while the other community should waste the day in idle and frivolous dissipation, what unmeasured progress would ultimately be made by the one beyond that made by the other. And to which of these two classes will that favoured people belong; to whom will be awarded the high privilege of introducing among jarring sects and parties the true millennial Church.
Who will say how far these considerations may go to explain the contrast that is everywhere seen to exist between Protestant and Catholic communities? Among Protestants the day is a day to be sanctified to purposes of religious worship, among Catholics it is a holiday.
The excuse made by the Central Baptist for its Baptist brethren is, that "the poverty of the Church is the first excuse for monthly preaching, but the habit continues even when the Church has become rich." This, then,
is an evil habit, once excused because of their poverty, but continued in the Church by the force of habit, when the excuse for its original introduction has passed away. Now, therefore, if it should appear that our own brethren, that were once Baptists, have brought with them, into the Reformation, this ill-starred habit of monthly meeting, which must in the very nature of things bring such a blight on every religious community that adopts it, then we cannot at all award to such Churches, that their order is the "ancient order of things."
But if this is the order of Missionary Baptists, now, in the year 1870, what must have been the order of the Old Baptists, seventy years ago, when Raccoon John Smith was groping his way out of darkness into the light of the Gospel, all unconscious in his utter blindness, that the reading of the Scriptures would in any way conduce, either directly or indirectly, to his regeneration or sanctification? And what a justification does this bring to Alexander Campbell for demanding reform among their people, even though the peace of the Church was sacrificed, and an inconceivable amount of bitterness and tumult were the result? * PARDEE BUTLER.
CIRCULAR LETTER. †
BRETHREN-No intelligent Christian can contemplate the present aspect of the various religious denominations, without emotions of bitter regret and painful apprehension. If like a well-disciplined army, their peculiarities of name and costume presented no obstacle to concentrated action
* In this country we have.no such instances. In America there are many. It appears, from the above, that the practice came in with the Baptists. Well let it go out entirely and immediately. Poverty is claimed as the cause; which means that they had not money to pay a parson every Sunday, and so they hired the fourth of a man and met once a month. But poverty is, after all, only a secondary cause. The confounding of preaching and worship is the true cause. A half dozen disciples can worship and break the bread in any locality every Lord's day; and for that they are bound to meet. Preaching they should have weekly, monthly, or yearly, as they are able.
ED. + This letter formed the Circular of the Philadelphia Baptists Association. It is reproduced here as testimony in the right direction and as containing lessons valuable to Baptists in this country. ED.
Observer, Mar.1, '71
against the common enemies, there would be no occasion for dissatisfaction and alarm; but alas! it is an undeniable and most melancholy fact, that their arms are frequently employed, and their ammunition expended against each other. The results are deplorably disastrous. Religion, whose origin is divine, and whose tendencies and results are glorious, even beyond angelic conception, is impeded, in her onward and triumphant march; her friends are dejected and discouraged; and her adversaries acquire fresh strength and energy. In order that this state of things may cease to afflict the churches, and that union and co-operation may be promoted, various plans have been suggested, none of which have secured universal concurrence. Imperfection, an attribute to everything that pertains to man's moral nature, is, in these systems, radical. The principal and obvious defects of them all are, that they are founded in carnal policy; that they endorse heresy, and therefore, virtually repudiate Scripture truths. They have not for their foundation immutable and eternal truth. While every biblical edifice is symmetrical in its proportions, and beautiful in its finishings, its grand and final attribute is, its foundation of truth. We conceive, then, that the only practicable method to secure harmony and concentrated action is, to "buy the truth and sell it not." That we may contribute our humble instrumentality, to facilitate a union, which is the subject of prophetic inspiration; which will clothe our holy religion in her most lovely attire, and which will constrain adversaries to acknowledge her heavenly origin, is our object, on the present occasion, in offering a plea for the Bible.
1. The Bible is the only infallible directory of faith and morals.
It is inconceivable that God should express his approbation of the man who trembles at his word, unless it comes to us clothed with authoritative majesty, requiring implicit faith and universal obedience. The origin, the perfection, the design and the practical tendency of the Scriptures are eulogized by the apostle of the Gentiles. To his beloved Timothy he writes, "From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith, which is in Christ Jesus." "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." To the Romans he testifies, "Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning; that we, through patience, and comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope." The apostolic exhortation, "Receive with meekness the ingrafted word which is able to save your souls," while it illustrates the power and grace of the gospel, teaches us that, with a patient temper, we must yield acquiescence and submission to its sacred instructions. The Master has distinctly and emphatically taught that practical concurrence in the divine will is essential to Christian integrity. every one that saith unto me Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father, who is in heaven." It was criminal inattention to the Scripture to which Christ referred, the sin of the Jews in rejecting him as the Messiah. "Search the Scripture, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me." It was a practical attention to them, which procured for the Bereans the commendation which the apostle so justly awarded them.
more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so." Universal respect to the commands of the Bible is explicitly demanded, and a partial conformity is reprehended by our Lord.
Observer, Mar. 1, 71.
"Whosoever, therefore, shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be great in the kingdom of heaven." "Woe unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, for ye pay tithe of mint, and anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith; these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone." The commands of God are of perpetual obligation. The closing language of Christ's commission is, Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." To those who erroneously thought he came into the world to relax the claims of the divine law, he says, "Think not that I am come to destroy, the law or the prophets, I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill; for verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled." The sacred oracles are perfect and exactly adapted to the wants and conditions of the human family. "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes." Well, then, might the apostle exultingly exclaim: I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." The infallibility of the Bible is demonstrated by the fact that Infinite Majesty has interdicted any attempt either to increase or diminish it by denunciatory and penal language of terrific import.
shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish aught from it, that ye may keep the commadments of the Lord your God which I command you." "For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book; and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." In this consideration may be seen a satisfactory reason for the pertinent answer which the Father of the faithful is represented as having given to the earnest but fruitless prayers of the rich man: "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead." This may also reconcile us to the very strong phraseology employed by the apostle when rebuking the Galatians, whose marvellous instability furnished a sufficient provocation to denounce both the heresy with which their faith had been subverted and the authors and propagators of it. His words are, "But though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." Considering the Scriptural argument alone sufficient to prove the paramount and ultimate authority of the Bible, as a directory of faith and morals, we shall not employ any other.
2. In every age of the world, the disposition to neglect the sacred oracles has been deplorably prevalent.
The proofs of the truth of this proposition are so abundant that we are at a loss to make a selection. We shall content ourselves with two exemplifications, the first being drawn from the Old Testament, the second from the New. In the degenerate times of Isaiah, there was a very general
Observer, Mar. 1, '71.
propensity to delve into the future, to gratify which they sought familiar spirits and wizards, which was strictly forbidden in the law, and under appalling liabilities. And the soul that turneth after such, as have familiar spirits and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people." That this evil was of very extensive prevalence in the time of the prophets, is notorious. We shall satisfy ourselves with a few references:
Exodus, xxii: 18; Deut. xviii: 9-12; Lev. xx: 6; 1 Sam. xxviii: 9; Isa. xlvii: 12-5. This evil was the legitimate result of dissatisfaction with the communications of God by his servants, and in some instances of contempt; and as far as it prevailed, it set aside the inspired oracles. Hence as the appropriate corrective of it, the prophet exhorts them to come back to the Scripture, as the infallible standard: "To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." Although the divinity of Christ's mission was attested by the literal fulfillment of prophecy; by the supernatural appearance of the star which guided the eastern magi to the humble spot of His nativity; by the harmonious accents of the hymn of angels; by the signs which attended the baptism in Jordan; by the long line of His miracles; by His pure and energetic doctrine, and His immaculate life; yet the multitude of the Jews rejected this mass of evidence; and, excited and goaded forward by the lawless and infuriated rulers and priests, were clamorous in demanding His death. To what is this marvellous infatuation to be ascribed? The answer is furnished by him who possessed the faculty to inspect the thoughts. He traced it to the powerful influence of unbelief, resulting from criminal neglect of the Bible. "And ye have not his word abiding in you: for, whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. Search the Scriptures: for, in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me." The apostle to the Gentiles referred his unparalleled hostility to the gospel to the same cause-“ I did it ignorantly in unbelief." We do well, then, to take heed to the more sure word of prophecy as unto a light that shineth in a dark place."
3. Such a disposition is greatly offensive to God, and its practical tendency is injurious and dangerous.
Saul was commanded to destroy the Amalekites. Such had been their cruelty to the tribes that he was commisioned to carry on a war of extermination against them. His imperative orders were, "Now go and smite Amalek, utterly destroy all they have and spare them not; but slay both men and women, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass." -Saul spread death and carnage through the enemy's devoted country. Nevertheless, he did not fulfill the letter of his instructions. This was communicated to Samuel by the Lord. The next morning when Saul met the prophet, so confident was he of receiving expressions of his approbation, that he exultantly exclaimed, "Blessed be thou of the Lord, I have performed the commandment." Saul was doubtless surprised when the Seer of God thus addressed him: "What meaneth, then, this bleating of sheep in mine ears, and lowing of oxen which I hear ?" It was in vain that Saul referred to the piety of the motive which had governed him, to justify the conduct. He had not fully obeyed God. And Samuel in charging his sin upon him, assured him that, "to obey is better then sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." To the Pharisees who transgressed the commandment of God by their traditions, and made it of no effect, Christ addressed phraseology of fearful import: "Ye hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophecy of you, saying, This people draw nigh unto me with their