Christian Baptist Volume II Number 3 October 1824
Address to the Public.
"There is one spirit in all the clergy, whether they be Romanist or Protestant, Baptist or Paido Baptist, learned or unlearned, their own workmanship, or the workmanship of others." Sentimental Journal.
AMONGST the Baptists it is to be hoped there are but few clergy; and would to God there were none! The grand and distinguishing views of the Baptists must be grossly perverted before they could tolerate one such creature. The Baptist views of a congregation of saints, if understand them correctly, are such as the following:--
1. A congregation or church of Jesus Christ is an assembly of intelligent individuals, who, "by the washing of regeneration, and renewal of the Holy Spirit," voluntarily associate to walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord Jesus Christ, declaring allegiance to the King Eternal, Immortal, and Invisible; and renouncing every other authority in heaven, on the earth, or under the earth.
2. Such a society having pledged themselves to one another, by the profession of the faith, and by the baptism ordained by Jesus Christ, have all power, liberty, and right to administer all the ordinances of Christ; and to do every act and thing that appertains to the order, discipline, and worship of the christian church; to choose out from among themselves bishops and deacons, that is, overseers and servants, to ordain or appoint such; and then to submit themselves to such, as to them that watch for their souls, and must give account, and all this without the interference of any ecclesiastical authority on earth.
A pretty good illustration of this principle, we find in the first Baptist church in the United States, A. D. 1636, a little over a hundred years after the reformation. Twelve persons, among whom was the famous Roger Williams, the first settler and founder of Rhode Island, desirous of forming a church, and first of being immersed in the primitive style--did meet together to deliberate on these topics. How to obtain a suitable administrator, was a point of some difficulty. "At length," as Benedict said, when they understood the scriptures, the "candidates for communion nominated and appointed Mr. Ezekiel Holliman, a man of gifts and piety, to baptize Mr. Williams; and who, in return, baptized Mr. Holliman and the other ten." Although the circumstances of the case compelled this measure, yet if it were not essentially right, that is, scriptural, it never could be justified; and I think that man is very inadequate to teach the Christian religion, who is not able to justify this procedure upon the grand principles of revelation and of reason. This first church in the union also appointed its own bishops and deacons according to the primitive style.
Every person possessed in a good degree of the qualifications laid down by the apostle Paul as essential to the christian bishop, and who, after having been first well proved by a congregation of disciples, is ordained or appointed by the congregation to the overseer's office, in which he is to exercise the functions of a bishop, every such person, I say, is to be esteemed and valued as a bishop, and by no means to be ranked among the clergy. But some few Baptists, tickled by the love of novelty, and lured by the false majesty of Presbyterianism, exhibited in a classical priesthood, of ordinaries, co-ordinates, subordinates, priests and Levites; ruling elders, licentiates, reverends and doctors of divinity, have compromised the distinguishing features of their own grand peculiarities, and palmed upon themselves a species of demagogues, who, while they have all the airs, hauteur, and arrogance of some Paido-Baptist priests, have neither their erudition, nor their talents, nor their policy. They can neither wear the gown decently, nor conceal the cloven foot.
To do this in such a way as not to give umbrage to the pious members of this community it is necessary to mock the ancient principles of this once humble and unassuming people. And so it comes to pass that a number of pious young men, of poor circumstances, but of virtuous habits, are taken out of the churches, to be made bishops of other churches, and after taught to conjugate amo and tupto, are sent to a theological school, now called a school of the prophets, and being drilled in the art and mystery of making a sermon, set out to find a church which wants a young foppish gentleman, who says to the old bishops, "Stand by--I have seen, and sure I ought to know." But how will he get into the church so as to be chosen from among the brethren is the point! The teachers of the schools of the prophets have settled this point. He gives in his letter, becomes a member a week or two, and is then chosen from among themselves; and so the Baptist principles are compromised. Thus a young gentleman filled with vast ideas of his own little though noble self, mounts the rostrum, and is called elder, though the word is a lie when applied to him, and obliges all the old and experienced saints to be silent, who are a thousand times better qualified than he to be overseer. Thus I have known a young Baptist priest made and finished in Philadelphia, go to the state of New York, preach a few times to a rich congregation, give in his letter, and in two or three weeks be called out from among the brethren to become their bishop; and that too, before he has got a wife, or a house, or a family to rule well. Such teachers I must rank among the clergy, and, indeed, they soon prove themselves to have a full portion, and sometimes a double portion, of the spirit of the priesthood. I hope, however, the number of such amongst the Baptists is small. Perhaps the whole aggregate number is not greater than the aggregate of good well meaning men among the Paido-Baptist clergy. They are not all Israel, which are of Israel, is proverbially true, of Baptists, and Paido-Baptists; though in different acceptations of the word Israel.
There is one vast difference, one essential and all-important difference betwixt the Baptists and Paido-Baptist views and societies. The Baptist views of the church of Jesus Christ are constitutionally correct; the Paido-Baptist views are unconstitutional. To make myself more intelligible--there are to be found in the Baptist system such views of the christian church, as, if carried out to their legitimate issue, will place them on apostolic grounds; but the Paido-Baptists would, if carried out, place them to the bosom of the Roman pontiff. Yes, the one system would place the church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself the chief corner-stone. The other system would place it upon St. Peter as the rock. The Baptist system is capable of being reformed or brought back again to the constitution of the kingdom of heaven; the Paido-Baptist cannot. It must be destroyed. The one system carries in its bosom the means of its purification, the other, the fire  that must consume it.
The foundation of the former needs but to have the rubbish cleared away; the foundation of the latter must be totally razed. The constitution of the one is essentially of Divine construction; the constitution of the other is altogether human. The good confession of the King of Martyrs before Pontius Pilate, is received by the Baptist and rejected by the Paido-Baptist system.
Essays on the Work of the Holy Spirit, in the
Salvation of Men.
DAVID the king and prophet foretold that when Messiah the Lord would ascend to his throne, he would bestow gifts upon men. This passage of Psalms, lviii. 18. Paul (Eph. iv. 8.) applies to our Lord. When he ascended he says, "he gave," and by spiritual gifts qualified "some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers." Peter also, on the day of Pentecost, ascribed all the stupendous gifts vouchsafed on that day to the Lord Jesus. "Therefore," says he, (Acts ii. 33.) "being exalted by the right hand of God, and having received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, He hath poured out that which you now see and hear."
These "distributions of the Holy Spirit," as Macknight renders Heb. ii. 4. issued in the perfect qualification of apostles with "the word of wisdom;" prophets with the "word of knowledge;" evangelists with "tongues and miracles;" pastors with an immediate possession of all the requisites to feeding the flock, and teachers with the means necessary to instructing the novices in all the christian doctrine.
It may be necessary to remark, that the pastors and teachers mentioned in this passage are to be distinguished from the ordinary bishops or elders of a christian church, inasmuch as the elders or bishops are to be qualified by ordinary means and to be selected by their brethren for the possession of those ordinary attainments mentioned by Paul in his epistles;
whereas those pastors and teachers given on the ascension of the Lord, were as instantaneously prepared for their offices as Paul was made an apostle; they were not only converted to the christian faith, but, in an instant, by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, qualified to teach the whole religion.
That this is no conjecture, but matter of fact, will appear from Eph. iv. 8-13. Three things are distinctly stated in this context to which we refer the reader, and these three must be distinctly noticed to understand the passage.
The first is, that these apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, were gifts bestowed by Jesus the Lord on his receiving the throne of the universe.
The second is, that they were given for an immediate exigency, or for a purpose which the infant state of the church required, that is, says the apostle Paul, (v. 12.) "for the sake of fitting the saints for the work of the ministry, in order to the building of the body of Christ"--(Macknight)--for fitting the converted Jews and gentiles for the ordinary work of the ministry or service requisite to the building of the church.
The third is, that these supernaturally endowed apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, were to continue only for a limited time, marked by an adverb in Greek and English, which always denotes the time how long--mechri, "until we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, even to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, that we, the church, be not always composed of nepioi, babes."--
Dr. Macknight in the following words: "These supernaturally endowed teachers are to continue in the church until, being fully instructed by their discourses and writings, we all who compose the church, come through one faith and knowledge of the son of God, to perfect manhood as a church, even to the measure of the stature which when full grown it ought to have: so that the church thus instructed and enlarged, is able to direct and defend itself without supernatural aid."
These three things being noticed, it is evident that these apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, were all supernatural characters,for a precise object, and for a limited time;
that this object was answered by their discourses and writings, and, that this limited time has expired
For the benefit of those of weak understanding it may be observed, that although apostles were appointed before Pentecost, even from the commencement of the Lord's ministry, yet they were not qualified fully for this peculiar work,
until endowed with those supernatural gifts bestowed on Messiah's sitting down on the throne of his Father, after his ascension into heaven; and consequently, it might be said, most justly, that on his ascension, "he gave apostles," as well as "prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers."
It may also be noticed for the benefit of the same class of readers, that while the word of wisdom was given to one--the word of knowledge to another--faith to work miracles to a third; to another the gifts of healing; to another the inworkings of powers, that is ability to produce or work in others the ability of working miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another diverse kinds of foreign tongues; to another the interpretation of foreign tongues by one and the same spirit;
yet some individuals possessed more than one of those gifts, and the apostles many, if not all of them; and one in particular, which distinguished them from, and elevated them above all others, viz. the ability of conferring some particular gift by the imposition of their hands.
These gifts differed both in their nature and dignity, and some envied those possessed of the more splendid gifts, which gave rise to the apostle Paul's illustration of these gifts, in the 12th, 13th, and 14th chapters of his first epistle to the Corinthians, where he shows that although there was a great diversity of gifts, yet the matter of those gifts, if I may so speak, was the same; for they were all distributions of the same Spirit; their object was the same, for they were ministries of the same Lord; and their origin or authority was the same, for the same God inworked them in all the spiritual men. And while some were eminent for the word of wisdom, which appears to have been the doctrine of the gospel communicated by inspiration; others for the word of knowledge, or an inspired knowledge of the types and prophecies in the ancient revelations; others for faith which, as a spiritual gift, "led the spiritual men, without hesitation, to attempt the working of miracles;"2 others for the gifts of healing, &c. &c.  it was to be remembered that these distributions or these manifestations of the Spirit were given to every member of the church of Corinth; or a manifestation of the Spirit was given to every spiritual man to profit withal, not for his own honor or benefit, but for the good of the brotherhood; which the apostle in the subsequent context compares to a human body composed of many members--no member created for itself, or for its own benefit, but for the service of the whole.1Cor. 1:2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth,
to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints,
with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:
1Cor. 1:3 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
1Cor. 1:4 I thank my God always on your behalf,
for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;
Titus 2:10 Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may1Cor. 1:5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;
adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.
Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
Titus 2:12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
Titus 2:13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
Titus 2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
Titus 2:15 These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee
Grace and peace be multiplied unto you
through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, 2 Pet 1:2
1Cor. 1:6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:
1Cor. 1:7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
- 1Pet. 1:11 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.
- Rev. 19:10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
- 2Pet. 1:19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
To shew more fully the nature and use of those gifts, it may be necessary to take a view of the church of Corinth, of which church the apostle says, "It came behind in no gift." "You," says he, speaking to the Corinthians, "are enriched with every gift by him, even with all speech and knowledge." "When the testimony of Christ was confirmed among you by the miracles which I wrought and the spiritual gifts I conferred on you, so that you come behind in no gift." In the history of this church, then, we may expect to learn the nature and use of those gifts, to as much advantage as from the history of any other.
Corinth at this time was the metropolis of the province of Achaia, and was as famous as Athens itself for the Grecian arts and sciences. Cicero calls it "totius Gręcię lumen," the light of all Greece; and Florus calls it "Gręcię decus," the ornament of Greece. Refined and intelligent as Corinth was by Grecian sciences and arts, it was, through its luxuries and wealth, the most dissolute, lascivious, and debauched city in its day. Here Paul preached and taught for eighteen months the doctrine of Christ, and converted a very numerous church, composed of some distinguished Jews, but chiefly of the idolatrous and profligate Pagans. Luke tells us, "Many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized." From the history of this church, gathered from the Acts of the Apostles and these epistles, it appears that there was a schism in it, envying, strife, and many irregularities; so that the presence of those gifts did not place the church out of the reach of those human corruptions, but were necessary to the illumination and confirmation of the disciples in the faith which purified the heart by its intrinsic influences. Indeed, we find that even the spiritual men themselves needed the word of exhortation and admonition for their imprudence in the management of those gifts; which at once teaches us that those gifts had no general influence, and were not necessarily productive of the appropriate effects of the saving and sanctifying truth in the minds of the subjects of them. No wonder, then, that the apostle Paul commended the cultivation of brotherly love as a "more excellent way" than the coveting of the most splendid gifts. It is evident from the face of the first epistle, that even among the spiritual men there were blemishes and imprudences that required the castigation of the apostle. The apostle, indeed, settles the contest about the precedency of those gifts, and places them in due subordination to one another. A free and full translation of the 28th verse represents the matter thus: "The chief members of the church are thus to be ranked as God has distinguished them by gifts. First, apostles, who being endowed with the word of wisdom, from them all must receive the knowledge of the gospel. Secondly, the superior prophets, who, possessing the word of knowledge, are qualified to interpret the ancient revelations. Thirdly, teachers, embracing all who boldly declare the doctrine of Christ, illustrate it, and confirm it by miracles. Next, those who communicate to others the spiritual powers. Then, those who possess the gifts of healing diseases. Helpers, who, speaking by inspiration to the edification of the church, are fitted to assist the superior teachers, and to help the faith and joy of others. Directors, who, by the gift of discerning spirits, are fitted to direct the church. Lastly, persons who, having the gift of speaking different kinds of foreign languages, can preach to every nation in its own language." But yet the church can never be composed of all such, no more than the body can be all eye or all ear; for, says the apostle, "Are all apostles? Are all prophets?" No, indeed. The nature of those gifts, however splendid, was evidently only adapted, and their use merely designed, to illustrate and confirm that doctrine, which in its primary and essential results, when received and understood, purges, purifies, elevates, and ennobles the mind of the recipient. Hence the Holy One prayed, "Sanctify them through your truth?"
Again, when the Lord spake of the Holy Spirit, (which was to proceed from his Father and himself, when he should be glorified,) he assured his disciples that this Monitor would testify of him, and would not only conduct them into all truth, but when he is come, "he will convince the world concerning sin, and concerning righteousness, and concerning judgment: concerning sin, because they believe not on me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the Prince of this World is judged. He will glorify me."3 The signs and wonders, and distributions of this Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul declared were the confirmations by which Jesus was glorified in the world, and the testimony of the witnesses rendered credible and omnipotent. So, on Pentecost, the unbelieving Jews were convinced of their sin in not believing that Jesus was Lord Messiah, by the Holy Spirit confirming their word by signs following or accompanying. They, were  convinced of his righteousness, or of his being the righteous Messenger of Jehovah, by the proofs the Spirit gave of his having been well received in heaven by his Father; and they were convinced of judgment, because it was evident from the testimony of the apostles, confirmed by those splendid signs of the Holy Spirit, that, by his cross, Jesus had triumphed over principalities and powers, and had vanquished him that had the power of death. Thus the Saviour promised and thus it was performed, and thus the world, infidel Jews and infidel Gentiles, were convinced of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. The apostle Paul also declares in that same epistle, chapter xiv. that "foreign languages are for a sign, not to believers, but to unbelievers." Now the sign by which the Holy Spirit glorified Jesus on the day of Pentecost, was that of foreign tongues; diverse, or separated tongues of fire, appeared on the heads of the witnesses, and they spake in foreign tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. This, then, was such a sign to the unbelieving Jews as to convince three thousand of them of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment; and hence they gladly received the word that announced to them the remission of their sins and the promise of the Holy Spirit. Thus the word came in "demonstration of the Spirit and with power," and their faith rested not on the wisdom of human reason, but on the power of God, thus exhibited with the word.
In our next essay this same topic will be further illustrated. As we promised to investigate this important subject with some degree of attention, we must request the patience of our readers to be put into requisition; and we must also remind them, that our object is to present just what the scriptures teach on this subject, not attempting to support any system of divinity, however canonized or extolled. But in these things every disciple of Christ will suffer no man to judge for him while he is able to read the revelation of God in his own tongue--at least such ought to be his determination.
To the Editor of the Christian Baptist.
DEAR SIR--AS you are decidedly opposed to all intrigue, corruption, and tyranny of those courts called ecclesiastical, in whatever denomination they exist, I have concluded to make a statement to you for the benefit of the whole religious community at large, and of the Baptist community in particular, of some recent occurrences in an association with which you are well acquainted. You not being present at that association, but as I understood the church of Wellsburgh being now a member of the Mahoning Association, Ohio, it was supposed you had been there; and therefore I suppose that you will be yourself, as much as others, much interested in hearing of this matter.
You need not be informed that there have been, for seven years, two or three choice spirits of the old hierarchal system in that association, who have been, for some time, in the spirit of Diotrephes, seeking for the pre-eminence. Baffled in every attempt for a long time, their zeal, like a concealed fire, only waited for a fair opportunity of bursting forth with destructive fury. By a concurrence of fortuitous incidents, as we sometimes say, they conceived a favorable opportunity had occurred, which gave them some hopes of realizing their darling project. There were a few churches, and one in particular, whose messengers some way or other stood in the way of their gaining the ascendant. How to get these out of the way was the difficult point. And how these gentlemen could acquire the eminence which they courted, without getting them out of the way, was a point still more difficult. There was one scheme which, of all others, seemed to favor their project. It was known that some of the churches, in their annual letters, simply appealed to the scriptures, and gave from them a statement of their faith; and that some clause or article in the archives of the constitution of this association required an acknowledgment of the Philadelphia Confession of Faith. The junto, before the meeting of the association, began to intrigue in this way: they as far as possible, obtained an appointment of such messengers as would favor their project, and I can assure you that I know of one church whose appointment of messengers was set aside by the parson, a member of the junto, and two of them removed because they were supposed to be men of an independent mind.
As soon as the association met, all the letters that did not appeal to the aforesaid Confession, were ordered by the head of the party to be "marked for further investigation." When the letters were all read, it appeared that but nine had appealed, and thirteen had not. After the reading of the letters a committee was appointed to arrange the business, and chiefly of the leading members of the junto. They agreed that the nine churches only should be the association, and therefore made out a list of the messengers of the nine churches--and at once proscribed the thirteen. But, on a number of the messengers from the proscribed churches declaring that they would leave the house instantly if not permitted to take their seat, it was agreed to give them a seat while they investigated their claims. Then came on the investigation of their claims.
Various reasons were assigned for not appealing to the Confession by the messengers, as severally interrogated by the court. Some of the churches had not seen the little book called the "Confession of Faith," and knew nothing about it but from report. This was a fact true of the most of them, and not all the members of any one church in the association had ever read it. Some of these who had seen, did not understand it, but said that as far as they understood it, they made no objections to it. Some alleged that there was so great a diversity of opinion about the lawfulness, propriety, and utility of such confessions, that they could not decide the point. Others affirmed that the scriptures were sufficient, and that stating their faith in them in direct terms, which they understood, appeared more consistent and satisfactory, than a mere appeal to any creed made ready to their hand. Two only of the churches, in their letters, utterly refused to adopt it as an expression of their faith; not, however, as opposing its doctrines, but on principles of pure scriptural independency. These things were all known to the junto, as well before as after the investigation; and therefore the long investigation of these letters was but a mere covering for their plot. One of the two churches was the one for which the whole plot was laid, and nothing now remained but to reject the one and to retain the other by an arbitrary usurpation of power. Several things were alleged in order to make a difference to cover the design, but nothing could be proved, or even investigated. The measure was carried amidst the frowns and marked contempt of every umpire in the assembly. Thus churches  have been distracted into schisms, and an association, in fact, rent in twain by the unhallowed ambition and manifest envy of three or four leaders, at the expense of their own disgrace and public reprobation. Other acts of injustice and wanton tyranny were perpetrated by these individuals, under the pretence of being an ecclesiastical court, which I will not at present trouble you with. I am resolved, however, with your permission, to exhibit, if the case may require, some of the most flagrant violations of right which the ecclesiastical history of this century affords. In the meantime, I cannot conclude this communication without declaring the striking resemblance which appeared to me between this would-be ecclesiastical court and an ecclesiastical court of courtiers, that procured the signature of a Median prince to their decrees. This council sat two thousand three hundred and sixty-one years ago. Daniel, a prophet of the God of heaven, had been elevated to very high honors by the king, and was extolled above all the nobles of the land. "Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom or church; but they could find no occasion nor fault, forasmuch as he was faithful; neither was there any error or fault found in him." So far the cases are exactly similar. "Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God." So far the coincidence is striking. "Then these presidents and princes assembled together," that is, the ministers and messengers associated; "and they said, O king! live forever!" So said these--O constitution! live forever! Again, "all the presidents of the kingdom and counsellors have consulted together to establish and make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man, for thirty days, save of you, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions." The resemblance is still apparent by substituting the words "whosoever shall acknowledge the bible as the confession of their faith, or any other confession of faith, save the Philadelphia one, shall be cast into purgatory." These pious divines well knew they had got Daniel now, provided they could establish the decree. Daniel, as soon as the decree was established, invoked the God of heaven as before. The consequence was, might gave right, and into the den of lions he was cast. The only essential difference between these two courts is, that the former was the most impartial and consistent of the two, because it cast all who departed from the decree into the den of lions; but in the latter, of thirteen which did not comply with the decree, but one suffered the vengeance of the law.
These late events have contributed more to demonstrate the correctness of the principles delineated in your paper, than any thing I have witnessed; for, to use an ancient proverb, "If these things be done in a green tree, what shall be done in a dry?" If, amongst a people who advocate the independency of the church of Christ, and who, in their meetings, say they are no more than an advisory council, such flagrant assumptions of power and violations of right can take place, what may not be expected from those who declare that all the congregations in the land are under the control of inferior and superior church judicatures? I know that such occurrences are extremely rare in our connexion; but although I am a Baptist, and the son of a Baptist, I would not conceal these flagrant abuses of principle amongst Baptists more than had they happened amongst Paido-Baptists. I send you a number of new subscribers which grew out of the late scenes of ecclesiastical despotism. I have only to add, that I was an impartial contemplater of these occurrences, and neither a minister nor a messenger at this meeting, and that I can vouch for the truth of all that I have stated. Your friend,
To the Editor of the Christian Baptist.
SIR--IN the numbers of this work already published, we meet with several essays upon the christian religion, all justly tending to enhance its value by pointing out its consummate excellence, and peculiar adaptation to ameliorate, as far as possible in this life, the wretched condition of a guilty, ruined, perishing world; not only, by bringing into view the consoling prospect of a blissful and glorious issue to all our toils and sorrows, by a revelation of good things to come; but, more immediately, by inspiring us with principles, and leading to practices which have a direct, tendency to strengthen our minds against the pressure of worldly calamities and guilty fears; filling our hearts with joy and gladness in the apprehended favor and fellowship of God through the Spirit, by the mediation of Jesus Christ. See Hebs. xii. 22-24. I could wish, however, to see those things more distinctly developed, not only by pointing out, as above, the high and distinguishing peculiarities of the christian religion; and by an upright endeavor, to extricate and defend it from the innumerable perversions and abuses, with which it is, and has been corrupted and subverted; as you evidently have been in the habit of doing from the commencement of this work; and which, indeed, appears to be the very design of it; but also by pointing out, and defending as clearly as possible, the religion of christianity, (pardon the expression;) for in this, if I mistake not, the christian religion has suffered most. For what does the Spirit predict, as the combined issue of the evil and perilous times that should come in those last days of the Gospel Dispensation, when the great body of professors should be such as are described in 2d Tim., 3d and 4th chapters--"lovers of pleasure, more than lovers of God,--after their own lusts heaping up to themselves teachers, having itching ears,--turning away their ears from the truth, and being turned to fables,--not so much as "enduring sound doctrine, having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." Mark this--these professors of the christian religion would have a mere form of godliness, instead of the religion--the pure, blissful, and substantial religion of christianity. If you think, sir, the following essay any way conducive to answer the above purposes, and you approve of the sentiments it contains, as I believe you do, please give it an insertion in your useful paper.
I remain, sir, yours, very respectfully,
Essay on the Religion of Christianity.
WHILE many writers and teachers, some of them too of high repute in the christian world, so called, compliment christianity, I mean the New Testament exhibition of it, upon the superexcellency of its moral dictates, who, at the same time are ignorant of, and even averse to, the religion it inculcates; and whilst others profess to embrace it as a system of religion, without imbibing the spirit, realizing the truth, and experiencing the power of its religious institutions; but merely superstruct to themselves,  rest in, and are satisfied with, a form of godliness; and that, very often, a deficient, imperfect form, or such as their own imagination has devised; let us, with an open bible before us, distinguish and contemplate that religion which it enjoins and exhibits--I mean the religion of christianity, for it also exhibits the religion of Judaism; but with this, in the mean time, we christians have nothing directly to do--we derive our religion immediately from the New Testament.
The author and ultimate object of our holy religion, is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, by his Spirit, speaking in Christ and his holy apostles. The principle of this holy religion within us, is faith, a correspondent faith; that is, a belief, or inwrought persuasion by, and according to, the word of truth, in all points corresponding to the revelation which God has made of himself through Jesus Christ by the Spirit. Hence, being rooted and grounded in the truth of this revelation, by faith in the divine testimony, we contemplate and worship God inwardly; that is, adore and reverence him in our souls, according to the characters and attributes under which he has revealed himself to us. Thus we worship the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit, relying upon his teachings in and by the word, to lead as into all the truth which he has testified for our edification and salvation; and also upon his internal influence to excite, instruct, and comfort us, by the truth; to help our infirmities, and to enable us to think and pray as we ought, both as to the matter and manner of our prayers. See Rom. viii. 26, and Jude 22, 21, with a multitude of other scriptures. Thus we have the internal religion, the habitual worship of the real believer, the sincere bible-taught christian with its principle; which is the faith above described. See Rom. x. 12-15.
Now this internal religion, externally manifested by certain acts and exercises of divine appointment, is what is commonly called worship, and rightly too.
See the whole bible upon this word. The first instituted act of christian worship is baptism into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Why is it translated "in the name," &c. contrary to the literal and almost universal translation of the particle eis? In the name of any dignified character, universally imports, by the authority of such a person. Whereas this is not the proper and obvious meaning of the baptismal institution. For although it is done by virtue of the divine authority enjoining it, that is, by the authority of Christ; yet its proper and primary import is not a mere exhibition of authority on the part of the institutor, and of submission on the part of the baptized, though this is certainly implied in every act of worship; but it is of a much more consolatory and blissful import, being an expression of faith and obedience on the part of the baptized; nay, the very first instituted act of the obedience of faith, in and by which the believing worshipper is openly declared to be of the household of faith and of the family of God, being baptized into "the name of the Father," of whom the whole redeemed family in heaven and earth is named; and into the name of the Redeemer, the Son, and heir of all things, who makes his people free; and into the name of the Holy Spirit, the sanctifier, the comforter, and perfecter of the saints; that by virtue of his indwelling and sanctifying presence, he, the baptized believer, may be separated to God, with all the redeemed, for a habitation of God, through the Spirit. Thus a new and blissful relation to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, is publicly recognized towards the believer, by an ordinance divinely and graciously instituted for this purpose. Being thus openly and explicitly declared to be of the family of God, through Jesus Christ, by the Spirit, he is declared free--justified from the guilt, and washed from the pollution of sin, by this washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which is the privilege of all those that believe and thus obey the gospel, by a worshipful and obediential compliance with this divine appointment. His faith corresponding with every item of the divine testimony, thus exhibited, he joyfully recognizes his new, justified, sanctified, and filial relation to God; and realizing this, is filled with peace and joy in believing; and so goes on his way rejoicing, as well he may. See Acts viii. 39. So much for the first divinely instituted act of the worshipful obedience of faith.
The next in the immediate order of connexion is prayer. See Acts xxii. 16, with Luke iii. 21. With what a beautiful and holy consistency is the religion of christianity ordained and exhibited! First, "Be baptized and wash away your sins," then "Call upon the name of the Lord" The heart first sprinkled from an evil conscience by faith in the blood of atonement; and next, the body washed with pure water, declarative of the universal sanctification of the whole man, body, soul and spirit. Then, and not till then, can the believing subject draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, and worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, first having believed and obeyed the gospel. For "it is not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that, being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Tit. iii. 5-7. Now, and not till now, can the believing sinner, first sprinkled at the altar, and then washed in the laver, enter into the holy place without fear, as a qualified and acceptable worshipper. For as it was in the typical, so it behoved to be in the antitypical worship; the laver still keeps its appointed place; still stands between the altar and the tabernacle. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest of all, by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he has consecrated for us through the vail, that is to say, his flesh; and a high priest over the house of God; having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water, let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith. Compare Exod. xl. 30, with the above quotation from Heb. x. 19-22. The christian's faith, duly realizing those things, and observing the appointed way, he can draw near with confidence to his Heavenly Father, under the gracious and powerful protection of his Great High Priest, who ever lives to make intercession for him. Let him now pray with all manner of prayer and supplication, and intercessions for all saints, and for all ranks and degrees of men; let him also abound in praise and thanksgivings; offering up the sacrifice of praise to God by Jesus Christ continually; for this is he graciously instructed and authorized to do in his religious directory, with the goodly assurance that he is heard and accepted in all his addresses, according to the word of God; and that even when through ignorance he asks amiss, the Lord will  graciously pardon. Hence praise and prayer become the christian's delightful exercise, because he realizes the greatness of the privilege; not only of being thus permitted to address the glorious fountain of being and blessedness without servile fear, in confidence of being always graciously heard and accepted; but more especially because it gives vent to the grateful and dutiful feelings of his heart, both toward God and man, and always increases them; and thus constantly furnishes him with the happy opportunity of growing in every grace, of subduing every vice, and of promoting and strengthening every virtue; also, of alleviating every woe, of mitigating every affliction. In a word, of bringing down upon himself all the blessings of Heaven that can be enjoyed upon earth--as well as of doing much good, both spiritual and temporal to others. Where is the genuine bible-taught christian, then, that does not delight to abound in the exercise of praise and prayer--to embrace and improve every favorable opportunity for those goodly purposes.
But that this may be the case, the next immediate ordinance of the christian religion, namely, the reading, I mean the musing upon, or studying the Holy Scriptures; taking them up to their connexion, and meditating upon the subjects they propose to our consideration, with a fixed contemplation of the various and important objects which they present. This dutiful and religious use of the bible, (that most precious, sacred record of the wonderful works of God, the only authentic source of all religious information,) is inseparably connected with, and indispensably necessary to, the blissful and all-important exercises of prayer and praise. Without this, those exercises must dwindle away to a trite form--must degenerate into a lifeless formality. It is from this dutiful and religious use of the divine word, that we derive the proper materials for those holy exercises. Hence says the Apostle, "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever you do (of a religious nature) in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him." Col. iii. 16,17. And again, "Be you filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves, in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always to God and the Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Eph. v. 18-20. Hence it is evident, that if we would be spiritually minded, spiritually exercised in this delightful and heavenly employment, we must be filled with the Spirit; and if we would be filled with the Spirit, we must be filled with the word; the word of Christ must dwell in us richly; for we have no access to the Spirit but in and by the word. Therefore, "he that has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." To take up the Word, then, in this manner, that we may thus come to God by it, learn his glorious character, be taught by him, enjoy the blissful communications of his Spirit, be made wise to salvation, thoroughly furnished to all good works, is to make the proper and religious use of it; is to worship God by it; and to enrich our souls with all spiritual and heavenly blessings that can be enjoyed in this life. Thus says the Lord, "Hearken diligently to me, and eat you that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear and come to me; hear, and your soul shall live" Isaiah lv. 2, 3. Again, "Blessed is he that reads, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein." Rev. i. 3. "Moreover, we have more sure the prophetic word, to which you do well to take heed, as to a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts; for the holy men of God, spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." 2d Pet. i. 19-21. "This second epistle, beloved, I now write to you, that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandments of us, the apostles of the Lord and Saviour." 2d Pet. iii. 1, 2. "For whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we, through patience and comfort of the scriptures, might have hope." Rom. xv. 4.So much for the three primary, comprehensive and all-important ordinances of the christian religion; the particular and individual observance of which, constitute the religion of every real christian. Here let us pause a little, reflect, and compare these ordinances, in their proper and primitive import, order and connexion, as above deduced from the holy scriptures, and contrast them with the present views and practice--with the dull, listless, formal, ceremonious--nay, even superstitious and absurd formalities, which have almost every where, taken place of these.
What is the sprinkling of a few drops of water upon the face of a thoughtless, unconscious infant,
when contrasted with the all-important significancy,
and blissful effects of that first great ordinance of christian worship--
that first constitutional act of the obedience of faith. Courteous reader, do but reflect, compare, and consider.
Laying aside all popular prejudice, say which you would choose--the joyous, blissful baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch,
or the unauthorized sprinkling of a poor unconscious babe; never to be so much as remembered;
and, in consequence of which, it is never after allowed to enjoy this blissful privilege;
for which, through the grace of God, it might be duly qualified in due time.
Again, consider the principle upon which this baptism is to be enjoyed;
the inward preparation essential to its profitable reception,and then say what a sorry substitute is even the scriptural administration of this ordinance,(I mean as to the external form of it,) for the most part, in our day,
when, instead of the demand of a good conscience towards God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
in consequence of correct views of the gospel, rightly taught, understood, and believed;
the demand is concerning inward impressions, exercises, and feelings; predicated upon some peculiar inward work of the Spirit, in order to ascertain the regeneration of the subject; which, if approved, the person is then admitted to baptism;Thus this great gospel ordinance is sunk to the dead level of a mere moral duty;an ordinance great indeed in its import, and corresponding privilege, to the intelligent, believing worshipper;who, in the faith of its declarative and real import, receives it; and therein,and thereby, yields and presents himself, soul and body, a living sacrifice. holy and acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
not, indeed, as the first instituted act of christian worship; as a divine appointment, declarative of the justification, adoption, and entire sanctification of the believing worshipper;
but merely as an act of obedience to a positive command, and in imitation of Jesus Christ; having, thus, no farther tendency to produce a good conscience, than merely the pleasing sense of having performed a duty--of having obeyed a divine command.
See Romans, 6th chapter, upon the doctrine of baptism, with the consequent exhortations tendered thereon, chapter xii. 1--&c.
But herein is that old saying verified, "There shall be like people, like priest." "For the leaders of this people cause them to err, and destroy the way of their paths." Therefore "have they turned away their ears from the truth, and are turned unto fables;" for "they have heaped to themselves teachers, having itching ears." Again, to what a lifeless formality--nay, even disgusting drudgery is that next immediate and delightful ordinance, prayer, reduced under the present corruptions of christianity! Formerly it was from the altar to the laver, from the laver in to the holy place. Ex. xl. 30. Jesus being baptized, and praying, the heavens were opened to him; and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape, like a dove, upon him. Compare Matthew iii. 16. with Luke iii. 21. &c. Paul, also, having washed away his sins, calls upon the name of the Lord, (Acts xxii. 16.) and so of all the rest. The uniform doctrine was, First, believe the gospel--next be baptized--and then pray. Look back, courteous reader, to the doctrinal exhibition of this article, and you will not only see the propriety, but also the indispensable necessity of this order of proceeding, God having so ordered his worship; and, in this order and connexion, made ample provision for the comfortable and profitable access of his people. But how is it now? Some are taught forms of prayer from their infancy; others are taught to pray by set forms all their days. Prayer, or rather saying of prayers, is taught and considered by many merely as a duty, the neglect of which brings guilt upon their conscience; and the performance no other comfort but merely a sense that they have done their duty. Men are indiscriminately urged to pray, as a means of salvation, that they may escape hell, without any immediate respect either to the altar or the laver. Hence the great majority pray in their sins all their days, and, for aught that appears, die so. Do you not hear those men-taught, formal people, confessing always, from day to day, the same sins; the sins of their nature and practice; of omission and commission; of thought, word and deed; of childhood and youth, &c. or under whatever terms they are accustomed to make their confessions; withal, praying continually for pardon of the same sins; thus daily confessing their unbelief, their unpardoned, guilty condition.
Not so the apostolic christians. These primitive worshippers, once purged, had no more conscience of sins. Heb. x. 3. For Jesus, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate, (xiii. 12.) and by one offering perfected forever them that are sanctified. (x. 14.)
Whereas the ancient sacrifices could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience, (ix. 9.) for in those sacrifices there was a remembrance again made of sins every year, (x. 3.) Hence those poor, men-taught, formal people, are in a much worse state than the ancient Jews, whose sacrifices &c. being a shadow of good things to come, though they could not perfect them as pertaining to the conscience, yet afforded them some relief against despondency, in hope of the good things that were to come: but now the good things prefigured being come, and, after all, those formal worshippers not being perfected, not being purged from the guilt of dead works, to serve the living God with a true heart, in full assurance of the faith of the remission of their sins, through the offering up of the body of Jesus Christ once--there remains for them no farther hope, no other sacrifice to be hereafter offered for sins: so they must either receive and enjoy pardon through faith in his blood, or live and die with a guilty conscience.
Alas! for the present corruptions of christianity! Alas! alas! for its corruptors! Thus says the Lord of Hosts, Hearken not to the words of the prophets that prophesy to you: they make you vain. They speak a vision of their own heart, not out of the mouth of the Lord. They say still to them that despise me, The Lord has said you shall have peace: and they say to every one that walks after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come to you. For who has stood in the counsel of the Lord; and has perceived and heard his word? Who has marked his word and heard it?--I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings. Therefore, behold I am against the prophets, says the Lord, that steal my words every one from his neighbor. Behold I am against the prophets, says the Lord, that use their tongues, and say, He says. Behold I am against them that prophesy false dreams, says the Lord, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness. The prophet that has a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that has my word, let him speak my word faithfully; what is the chaff to the wheat? says the Lord. Is not my word like a fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Jer. xxiii. 16-32.
In consequence of such teaching as this, how is the third great and fundamental ordinance of our holy religion, the religious use of the Divine Word, obscured and perverted.
With what uninteresting formality, and coldrife indifference, do many read it; even of those who place some part of their religious worship in daily reading a portion of Holy Scripture, as if the mere reading of it were to save them.
Under what a cloud of errors and prejudices are the generality introduced to this sacred book! Some calling it a sealed book; others, a book hard to be understood, nay, almost unintelligible, except to the learned or inspired; and others again, a dead letter.
The great majority of our modern teachers, like the false prophets of old, countenance and promote these errors and prejudices by their pretendedly learned or whimsical interpretations, spinning out lengthy discourses from a single sentence or clause of a sentence, thus teaching the hearers to believe that nobody can understand it but themselves. In this manner they steal the word from the people, feeding them with their own dreams and notions, instead of causing them to hear, and attend to the word of the Lord.
From this brief scriptural view of the private and personal religion of every intelligent bible-taught christian, both internally and externally considered; and this briefly contrasted with the popular religion of our day, we may clearly perceive an essential difference, and be hereby enabled both to examine ourselves, and admonish others.
1 See Benedict's History, vol. 1, p. 475. 2 This faith, which the apostle calls a spiritual gift, be contradistinguishes from the common faith of christian in this discourse. "A faith that removes mountains" he shows to be different from the faith of christians, in this grand respect, that the spiritual gift called faith was to pass away--was but for a time; but the faith that saves the soul was to abide always. The scope and spirit of his argument in the 13th chapter of this epistle, taken into view with the context, is, "You Corinthians are coveting the best gifts, but come, now, and I will show you a  better way;" for, says be, all these gifts shall cease, tongues, &c. shall vanish away. And when all these gifts shall have ceased, faith, hope, and love, these three abide co-existent with the present world; but the greatest of these three graces is love, which will continue forever, not only co-existent with the present state, but when this state shall be consummated. Now the better way is to cultivate love, than to he coveting spiritual gifts, though of the most splendid rank. To see that this faith, hope, and love, and even love which is the greatest and best of all, is emphatically contradistinguished from spiritual gifts, we have only to read the close of the 13th and the commencement of the 14th chapter. It reads thus: And now abides faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love. Follow after love, therefore, and desire spiritual gifts, but of these the chief is prophecy. The faith that was always to abide is not once classed amongst spiritual gifts. The only passage in our translation that might, by common readers, be so understood, is Eph. ii. 8. "For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." Leaving system out of view and following the scriptures, we find the sentiment to be as Macknight has rendered it. "For by grace you are saved through faith, and this affair is not of yourselves; it is the gift of God"--not charisma, a spiritual gift, but doron, a favor or common bounty. Indeed, the antecedent to that, every linguist knows is not faith; for pistis, faith, is feminine, and touto, that, is neuter. Let not, however, any systematic conscience be alarmed at this translation of the celebrated Calvinist. It is unanswerably correct. Nor does it at all interfere with the idea of salvation being of grace, of free grace; for if salvation, as a whole, is through the grace of God, faith, a part of that salvation, is of grace also; but here we are speaking of spiritual gifts, amongst which this faith is not one.  3 Campbell's translation of John xvi 8-14.