Brethren, It constitutes a new era in the history of the Baptists, when those who would follow the Lord fully, and who therefore manifest a solicitude to be, in all things pertaining to religion, conformed to the Pattern showed in the mount, are by Baptists charged with antinomianism, inertness, stupidity, &c., for refusing to go beyond the word of God; but such is the case with us.
Brethren, we would not shun reproach, nor seek an exemption from persecution; but we would affectionately entreat those Baptists who revile us themselves, or who side with such as do, to pause and consider how far they have departed from the ancient principles of the Baptists, and how that in reproaching us they stigmatize the memory of those whom they have been used to honor as eminent and useful servants, of Christ; and of those who have borne the brunt of the persecutions leveled against the Baptists in former ages. For it is a well-known fact that it was in ages past a uniform and distinguishing trait in the character of the Baptists, that they required a "Thus saith the Lord," that is, direct authority from the word of God for the order and practice, as well as the doctrine, they received in religion.
It is true that many things to which we object as departures from the order established by the great Head of the church, through the ministry of his apostles, are by others considered to be connected with the very essence of religion, and absolutely necessary to the prosperity of Christ's kingdom. They attach great value to them, because human wisdom suggests their importance. We allow the Head of the church alone to judge for us; we therefore esteem those things to be of no use to the cause of Christ, which he has not himself instituted.
We will notice severally the claims of the principal of these modern inventions, and state some of our objections to them for your candid consideration.
If we were to admit that tracts have occasionally been made instrumental by the Holy Ghost for imparting instruction or comfort to inquiring minds, it would by no means imply that tracts are an instituted means of salvation, to speak after the manner of the popular religionists, nor that they should be placed on a footing with the Bible and the preached gospel, in respect to imparting the knowledge of salvation.
Again, we readily admit the propriety of an individual's publishing and distributing, or of several individuals uniting to publish and distribute what they wish circulated, whether in the form of tracts, or otherwise; but still we cannot admit the propriety of uniting with or upon the plans of existing Tract Societies, even laying aside the idea of their being attempted to be palmed upon us as religious institutions. Because that upon the plan of these societies, those who unite with them pay their money for publishing and distributing they know not what, under the name of religious truth; and what is worse, they submit to have sent into their families weekly or monthly, and to circulate among their neighbors, anything and everything for religious reading, which the agent or publishing committee may see fit to publish. They thus become accustomed to receive everything as good which comes under the name of religion, whether it be according to the word of God or not; and are trained to the habit of letting others judge for them in matters of religion, and are therefore fast preparing to become the dupes of priestcraft. Can any conscientious follower of the Lamb submit to such plans? If others can, we cannot.
Secondly, because such schools were never established by the apostles, nor commanded by Christ. There were children in the days of the apostles. The apostles possessed as great a desire for the salvation of souls, as much love to the cause of Christ, and knew as well what God would own for bringing persons to the knowledge of salvation, as any do at this day. We therefore must believe that if these schools were of God, we should find some account of them in the New Testament.
Thirdly. We have exemplified in the case of the Pharisees, the evil consequences of instructing children in the letter of the Scripture, under the notion that this instruction constitutes a saving acquaintance with the word of God. We see in that instance it only made hypocrites of the Jews; and as the Scriptures declare that Christ's words are spirit and life, and that the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, we cannot believe it will have any better effect on the children in our day.
The Scriptures enjoin upon parents to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; but this, instead of countenancing, forbids the idea of parents entrusting the religious education of their children to giddy, unregenerated young persons, who know no better than to build them up in the belief that they are learning the religion of Christ, and to confirm them in their natural notions of their own goodness.
But whilst we thus stand opposed to the plan and use of these Sunday Schools, and the S.S. Union, in every point, we wish to be distinctly understood that we consider Sunday Schools for the purpose of teaching poor children to read, whereby they may be enabled to read the Scriptures for themselves, in neighborhoods where there is occasion for them, and when properly conducted, without that ostentation so commonly connected with them, to be useful and benevolent institutions, worthy of the patronage of all the friends of civil liberty.
lst, That such a monstrous combination, concentrating so much power in the hands of a few individuals, could never be necessary for supplying the destitute with Bibles. Individual printing establishments would readily be extended so as to supply Bibles to any amount, and in any language that might be called for, and at as cheap a rate as they have ever been sold by the Bible Society.
2nd, That the humble followers of Jesus could accomplish their benevolent wishes for supplying the needy with Bibles, with more effect, and more to their satisfaction, by managing the purchase and distribution of them for themselves; and such will never seek popular applause by having their liberality trumpeted abroad through the medium of the Bible Society.
3rd, That the Bible Society, whether we consider it in its monied foundation for membership and directorship, in its hoarding up of funds, in its blending together all distinctions between the church and the world, or in its concentration of power, is an institution never contemplated by the Lord Jesus as connected with his kingdom; therefore not a command concerning it is given in the decree published, nor a sketch of it drawn in the pattern showed.
4th, That its vast combination of worldly power and influence lodged in the hands of a few renders it a dangerous engine against the liberties, both civil and religious, of our country, should it come under control of those disposed so to employ it. The above remarks apply with equal force to the other great national institutions, as the American Tract Society, and Sunday School Union, &c., &c.
lst. In reference to the medium by which the gospel minister is to be sent forth to labor in the field. Agreeable to the Prophecy going before, that out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem, the Lord has manifestly established the order, that his ministers should be sent forth by the churches. But the mission plan is to send them out by a Mission Society. The gospel society or church is to be composed of baptized believers; the poor is placed on an equal footing with the rich, and money is of no consideration, with regard to membership, or church privileges. Not so with Mission Societies; they are so organized that the unregenerate, the enemies of the Cross of Christ, have equal privileges as to membership, &c., with the people of God, and money is the principal consideration; a certain sum entitles to membership, a larger sum to life membership, a still larger to directorship, &c., so that their constitutions, contrary to the direction of James, are partial, saying to the rich man, sit thou here, and to the poor, stand thou there. In Christ's kingdom, all His subjects are sons, and have equal rights, and an equal voice, as well in calling persons into the ministry, as in other things. But the mission administration is all lodged in the hands of a few, who are distinguished from the rest, by great swelling titles, as Presidents, Vice Presidents, &c. Again, each gospel church acts as the independent kingdom of Christ in calling and sending forth its members into the ministry. Very different from this is the mission order. The mission community being so arranged that from the little Mite Society, on the State Conventions, and from them on to the Triennial Convention, and General Board, there is formed a general amalgamation, and a concentration of power in the hands of a dozen dignitaries, who with some exceptions have the control of all the funds designed for supporting ministers among the destitute, at home and abroad, and the sovereign authority to designate who from among the professed ministers of Christ, shall be supported from these funds, and also to assign them the field of their labors. Yea, the authority to appoint females, and school-masters, and printers, and farmers, as such, to be solemnly set apart by prayer, and the impositions of hands, as missionaries of the cross, and to be supported from these funds. Whereas in ancient times the preachers of the gospel [were called] by the Holy Ghost. - Acts xiii. 1,4.
2nd. In reference to ministerial support. - The gospel order is to extend support to them who preach the gospel; but the mission plan is to hire persons to preach. The gospel order is not to prefer one before another, and do nothing by partiality. See 1 Tim. v. 17,21. But the Mission Boards exclude all from participation in the benefits of their funds, who do not come under their direction and own their authority, however regularly they may have been set apart according to gospel order, to the work of the ministry, and however zealously they may be laboring to preach the gospel among the destitute. And what is more, these Boards by their auxiliaries and agents, so scour every hole and corner to scrape up money for their funds that the people think they have nothing left to give a preacher who may come among them alone upon the authority of Christ, and by the fellowship of the church. Formerly not only did preachers generally feel themselves bound to devote a part of their time to traveling and preaching among the destitute, but the people also among whom they came dispensing the word of life, felt themselves bound to contribute something to meet their expenses. These were the days when Christian affections flowed freely. Then the hearts of the preachers flowed out toward the people, and the affections of the people were manifested toward the preachers who visited them. There was then more preaching of the gospel among the people at large, according to the number of Baptists, than has ever been since the rage of missions commenced. How different are things now from what they were in those by-gone days. Now, generally speaking, persons who are novices in the gospel, however learned they may profess to be in the sciences, have taken the field in the place of those who, have been taught in the school of Christ, were capacitated to administer consolation to God's afflicted people.
The missionary, instead of going into such neighborhoods as Christ's ministers used to visit, where they would be most likely to have an opportunity of administering food to the poor of the flock, seeks the more populous villages and towns, where he can attract the most attention, and do the most to promote the cause of missions and other popular institution's. His leading motive, judging from his movements, is not love to souls, but love of fame; hence his anxiety to have something to publish of what he has done, and hence his anxiety to constitute churches, even taking disaffected, disorderly, and as has been the case, excluded persons, to form a church, in the absence of better materials. And the people, instead of glowing with the affection for the preacher as such, feel burdened with the whole system of modern mendicancy, but have no resolution to shake off their oppression, because it is represented so deistical to withhold and so popular to give.
Brethren, we cheerfully acknowledge that there have been some honorable exceptions to the character we have here drawn of the modern missionary, and some societies have existed under the name of Mission Societies which were in some important exceptions from the above drawn sketch; but on a general scale we believe we have given a correct view of the mission plans and operations, and of the effects which have resulted from them, and our hearts really sicken at this state of things. How can we therefore forbear to express our disapprobation of the system that has produced it?
As to Theological Schools, we shall at present content ourselves with saying that they are a reflection upon the faithfulness of the Holy Ghost, who is engaged according to the promise of the great Head of the church to lead the disciples into all truth. See John xvi. 13. Also, that in every age, from the school of Alexandria down to this day, they have been a real pest to the church of Christ. Of this we could produce abundant proof, did the limits of our address admit their insertion.
The plans of these meetings are equally as objectionable; for, in the first place, all doctrinal preaching, or in other words, all illustrations of God's plan of salvation, are excluded professedly from these meetings. Hence they would make believers of their converts without presenting any fixed truths to their minds to believe. Whereas God has chosen his people to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the TRUTH. - 2 Thess. ii.13.
Secondly. The leaders of these meetings fix standards by which to decide of persons' repentance and desire of salvation, which the word of God nowhere warrants, such as rising off their seats, coming to anxious seats, or going to a certain place, &c. Whereas the New Testament has given us a standard from which we have no right to depart, viz: that of bringing forth fruits meet for repentance.
Thirdly. They lead the People to depend on mediators other than the Lord Jesus Christ to obtain peace for them, by offering themselves as intercessors for them with God; whereas the Scriptures acknowledge but the one God and one Mediator.
Some may be ready to inquire whether protracted meetings, as such, may not with propriety be held, providing they be held without excluding doctrinal preaching, or introducing any of these new plans. However others may judge and act, we cannot approve of such meetings for the following reasons:
lst. Because by appointing and holding a protracted meeting, as such, although we may not carry it to the same excesses to which others do, yet as most people will make no distinction between it and those meetings where all the borrowed machinery from Methodist campmeetings is introduced, we shall generally be considered as countenancing those meetings.
2nd. Because the motives we could have for conforming to the custom of holding these newly invented meetings are such as we think cannot bear the test. For we must be induced thus to conform to the reigning custom either in order to shun the reproach generally attached to those who will not conform to what is popular, or to try the experiment whether our holding a four days' meeting will not induce the Holy Ghost to produce a revival among us commensurate with the strange fire enkindled by others; or else we must be led to this plan from having imbibed the notion that the Holy Ghost is somehow so the creature of human feelings that he is led to regenerate persons by our getting their animal feelings excited; and therefore that in the same proportion as we can by any measure get the feelings of the people aroused, there will be a revival of religion. This latter motive can scarcely be supposed to have place with any who would not go the whole length of every popular measure. But 1st. We do not believe it becoming a follower of Jesus to seek an exemption from reproach by conforming to the schemes of men. 2nd. We believe the Holy Ghost to be too sacred a being to be trifled with by trying experiments upon him. And 3rd. We believe the Holy Ghost to be God. We would as soon expect that the Father would be induced to predestinate persons to the adoption of children by their feelings being excited, and the Son be induced to redeem them, as that the Holy Ghost would be thus induced to quicken them. These three are one. The purpose of the Father, the redemption of the Son, and the regenerating power of the Holy Ghost, must run in perfect accordance, and commensurate, one with the other.
There is, brethren, one radical difference between us and those who advocate these various institutions which we have noticed to which we wish to call your attention. It is this: they declare the gospel to be a system of means; these means it appears they believe to be of human contrivance; and they act accordingly. But we believe the gospel dispensation to embrace a system of faith and obedience, and we would act according to our belief. We believe, for instance, that the seasons of declension, of darkness, of persecutions, &c., to which the church of Christ is at times subject, are designed by the wise Disposer of all events; not for calling forth the inventive geniuses of men to remove the difficulties, but for trying the faith of God's people in his wisdom, power and faithfulness to sustain his church. On him, therefore, would we repose our trust, and wait his hour of deliverance, rather than rely upon an arm of flesh. Are we called to the ministry, although we may feel our own insufficiency for the work as sensibly as do others, yet we would go forward in the path of duty marked out, believing that God is able to accomplish his purpose by such instruments as he chooses; that he hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and the weak things of the world to confound the things that are mighty; and base things, &c., hath God chosen, that no flesh should glory in his presence. Though we may not enjoy the satisfaction of seeing multitudes flocking to Jesus under our ministry, yet instead of going in to Hagar to accomplish the promises of God, or of resorting to any of the contrivances of men to make up the deficiency, we would still be content to preach the word, and would be instant in season and out of season; knowing it has pleased God, not by the wisdom of men, but by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. And that his word will not return unto him void, but it shall accomplish that which he please, and prosper in the thing whereunto he sends it. Faith in God, instead of leading us to contrive ways to help him accomplish his purposes, leads us to inquire what he hath required at our hands, and to be satisfied with doing that as we find it pointed out in his word; for we know that his purposes shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure. Jesus says, ye believe in God, believe also in me. Ye believe in the power of God to accomplish his purposes, however contrary things may appear to work to your expectations. So believe in my power to accomplish the great work of saving my people. In a word, as the dispensation of God by the hand of Moses, in bringing Israel out of Egypt, and leading them through the wilderness, was from first to last calculated to try Israel's faith in God, so is the dispensation of God by his Son, in bringing his spiritual Israel to be a people to himself.
There being, then, this radical difference between us and the patrons of these modern institutions, the question which has long since been put forth, presents itself afresh for our consideration in all its force. "Can two walk together except they be agreed?" We believe that many who love our Lord Jesus Christ, are engaged in promoting those institutions which they acknowledge to be of modern origin; and they are promoting them too as religious institutions; whereas if they would reflect a little on the origin and nature of the Christian religion, they must be, like us, convinced that this religion must remain unchangeably the same at this day, as we find it delivered in the New Testament. Hence that anything, however highly esteemed it may be among men, which is not found in the New Testament, has no just claim to be acknowledged as belonging to the religion or the religious institutions of Christ.
With all who love our Lord Jesus Christ, in truth, and walk according to apostolic traditions, to gospel order, we would gladly meet in church relation and engage with them in the worship and service of God, as he himself has ordered them. But if they will persist in bringing those institutions for which they can show us no example in the New Testament, into the churches or associations, and in making them the order thereof we shall for conscience sake, be compelled to withdraw from the disorderly walk of such churches, associations, or individuals, that we may not suffer our names to pass as sanctioning those things for which we have no fellowship. And if persons who would pass for preachers, will come to us, bringing the messages of men, &c., a gospel which they have learned in the schools, instead of that gospel which Christ himself commits unto his servants, and which is not learned of men, they must not be surprised that we cannot acknowledge them as ministers of Christ.
Now, brethren, addressing ourselves to you who profess to be in principle, Particular Baptists, of the "Old School," but who are practicing such things as you have learned only from a New School, it is for you to say, not us, whether we can longer walk in union with you. We regret, as so do you, to see brethren professing the same faith, serving apart. But if you will compel us either to sanction the traditions and inventions of men, as of religious obligation, or to separate from you, the sin lieth at your door. If you meet us in churches to attend only to the order of Christ's house as laid down by himself; and in associations, upon the ancient principles of Baptist Association, i.e., as an associating of the churches for keeping up a brotherly correspondence one with another, that they may strengthen each other in the good ways of the Lord; instead of turning the associations into a kind of legislative body, formed for the purpose of contriving plans to help along the work of Christ, and for imposing those contrivances as burdens upon the churches, by resolutions, &c., as is the manner of some, we can still go on with you in peace and fellowship.
Thus, brethren, our appeal is before you. Treat it with contempt if you can despise the cause for which we contend, i.e., conformity to the word of God. But indulge us, we beseech you, so far at least, as at our request to sit down and carefully count the cost on both sides; and see whether this shunning reproach by conforming to men's notions will not in the end be a much more expensive course than to meet reproach at once, by honoring Jesus as your only King, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. And rebellion, you know, is as the sin of witchcraft.
May the Lord lead you to judge and act upon this subject as you will wish you had done when you come to see the mass of human inventions in connection with the Man of sin, driven away like the chaff of the summer threshing floor, and that stone which was cut out without hands alone filling the earth. We subscribe ourselves your servants for Jesus sake.
Minutes of the Proceedings and Resolutions
Drafted by the Particular Baptists, Convened at Black Rock, Maryland, September 28, 1832.