From Hassell's History:
Elder William Fristoe was born in Stafford County, Va., in 1748, and died in 1828. He was a strong predestinarian, and vigorously condemned Arminian doctrines and methods. Though not versed in the learning of the schools, he had uncommon natural and spiritual abilities. For sixty years he was an earnest, solemn, laborious minister of Christ, serving from three to five churches monthly, one being forty and another seventy miles from his residence, at a period when almost all riding was on horseback, and when most of the country was a wilderness. He was a man of extraordinary scriptural knowledge, and of unblemished character, and adorned the doctrine of God his Savior.
Written by William Fristoe
CONCISE HISTORY OF THE KETOCTON BAPTIST ASSOCIATION
WHEREIN A DESCRIPTION IS GIVEN OF HER
Constitution --- Progress and Increase --- the Intention in associating --- the Doctrines holden by her --- reasons for the names of regular and separate Baptists --- an Account of the Death of sundries --- the Constitution and Order of Churches --- the manner of administering Baptism --- of the Ordination of Ministers --- bounds of the Association --- the Doctrines preached --- providing for the Ministry --- annual Meetings --- the number of Ministers --- of Persecution --- the Mode of Redress --- of circular letters --- Objections to the Baptists replied to --- of good Works --- and of her Civil Policy.
BY WILLIAM FRISTOE,
Minister of the Gospel
Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the Towers thereof --- Mark ye well her Bulwarks, consider her palaces: that ye may tell it to the Generation following. Ps 48:12-13.
PRINTED BY WILLIAM GILMAN LYFORD
IT has appeared of a long time, an incumbent duty to transmit to posterity what has transpired in our day, respecting the success the preaching of the gospel has been attended with, and the happy change that has taken place in turning many from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. The inhabitants within the bounds of this Association, prior to the Baptist preachers coming among them, were in a state of great ignorance respecting the vitals of religion; nothing or very little said about the fallen, guilty and depraved state of mankind; of the necessity of regeneration -of redemption by Jesus Christ - pardon of sin by His blood -of justification by His righteousness -of receiving at present an earnest of the heavenly inheritance -and the final exaltation, and glorification of the bride, the Lamb's wife -and such like important subjects.
The blessing (through divine goodness) was reserved for our day, it being the set time to visit Zion, and a wonderful time it was, when the day spring from on high visited us, an Almighty and irresistible arm made bare, and a people called out of the world by rich, free, irresistible and unfrusterable grace; wonderful indeed, that so barren a desert should become a fruitful field; the minds of many that were blind, made to see, and tongues that were dumb, stimulated to adore and praise the riches of divine grace. I n a little time a number of congregational churches were constituted -so mightily grew the word of the Lord and prevailed.
The attentive Reader will easily discover that the following history, is not only a statement of facts, but of sentiment likewise. As we were surrounded with sects holding different tenets, it appeared the more necessary that we should be the more clear and expressive of ours; for honest men have nothing to fear in giving an account of themselves -therefore the following may be called a sentimental history. In the following pages the Reader will be informed of the different species of persecution the Baptists had to encounter, and the measures pursued by them for redressing their grievances, and securing their just rights.
Should defects appear in the following work, it need not be wondered at, for the author is no scholar, nor affects learning, and in the course of his life never made any notes, nor kept any journal -neither has he been supplied with any from any other hand, only the little aid from our associational records, the production has been principally from recollection, and the little strength of his own judgment; but apologies are vain -the work will speak for itself. Should the relation of the work of grace among us, the religious sentiments holden by us, carry conviction to the heart of any, it will be an ample compensation for our trouble; or should the account given of our hardships and persecutions, aid others under like circumstances, it will be a great good done. Hoping this little book may be of use to mankind, and to the manifest glory of God, it is sent into the world under the patronage of the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.
FROM the best information we can gather, the first Baptist Preacher that settled within the bounds of this association, was Elder John Garrard, in Berkeley County, Virginia, between the years 1750 and 1755, but being interrupted by the ravages of the Indians, he removed below the Blue Ridge, and for some length of time lived in Loudoun County. His labors in the ministry being blest there, a church was gathered in, and when constituted, was called Ketocton Baptist Church. Times growing more peaceable, Elder Garrard returned to Berkeley County, and the pastoral care of the church at Ketocton, devolved on Elder John Marks. The latter continued his ministry within the limits of that church until his death.
The second Baptist church was constituted on Mill Creek, Berkeley county, called for distinction Mill Creek Church. Elder John Garrard exercised the pastoral care over this church.
A third church was constituted in Shenandoah County, called Smith's Creek Church. Elder John Alderson pastor of said church.
Some of the members that composed these churches, emigrated from the Eastern States, and some were baptized in Virginia. The three preachers above cited, came from the Eastern States.
The churches above, when constituted, joined the Philadelphia Baptist Association, being of the same religious sentiments.
About this time, Elder David Thomas, on his travels from Pennsylvania, called in at Mill Creek, and took from thence a tour to Broad Run, in Fauquier County, and settled. Here we deem it our duty to inform the reader, how the overruling hand of Providence directs events, when the purposes of divine grace are to be accomplished. Prior to David Thomas' coming among them, God had been pleased to operate by His Spirit on the hearts of some individuals, and engage them in seeking the salvation of their souls, though they were not favored with the external ministry of the gospel; these few being filled with apprehensions of future misery, and hearing that the Gospel was preached in Berkeley County by the people called New Lights, two men from the neighborhood of Broad Run set out and traveled about sixty miles across rough mountains. When they arrived there, they were much gratified and their expectations answered; the doctrine of salvation through a crucified Jesus, was sweeter than honey to the natural taste -the word of the Lord was precious in those days. These same men at their second going, related their experience, and were baptized, at which time they met with Elder Thomas, and prevailed on him to go with them; and by this means the Gospel light shone in Fauquier and the adjacent Counties, where ignorance and superstition had long prevailed.
The preaching of the Gospel by Elder Thomas was attended with great success, and in a short time a church was constituted, Elder Thomas, pastor, who, after spending the prime of his life in preaching the Gospel of Christ, principally within the bounds of this association, removed to Kentucky, leaving many witnesses behind of his distinguished usefulness as a preacher of the Gospel, whose fruitful mind, improved by close study, and aided by a supernatural influence, enabled him in his public ministry to preach powerful, edifying and comfortably, so that the saints were fed with marrow and fatness -and in his turn, a son of thunder, who could well discharge the artillery of Sinai, and exhibit the divine law to the arousing and alarming of many a poor sinner. He was a great patriot, and took an active part in our national revolution. From every consideration his absence has been a great loss to his acquaintance.
The formation or constitution of Ketocton Association, the four churches before named, lying remote from Philadelphia, and the inconveniences arising from an annual attendance, inclined them to petition to that of Philadelphia for a dismission, in order to form a distinct and separate association in Virginia. Their request was granted, and in August the 19th, in the year of our Lord, 1766, these four churches met by letter and messenger, in order to transact business that might be conducive to the interest of religion and glory of God. The number belonging to the four churches at this time, was 142.
The place of the association was at Ketocton Meeting-House, Loudoun County, State of Virginia; and as the association met at this place the first time, it has retained the name of the Ketocton Association ever since. The messengers being met, they began to form regulations as an associated body, and became organized as follows:
First, proceeded to a choice of Moderator and Clerk, by a majority.
Second. It shall rest with the Moderator to state subjects or questions that are to be investigated in the association, and call for the vote.
Thirdly. To reprove any member acting disorderly during their sitting.
Fourthly. Any member speaking, shall direct his speech to the Moderator.
Fifthly. That no member shall be allowed to speak on the same subject more than twice, without leave of the association.
Sixthly. That no member during his speaking is to use language offensive to any other member .
Seventhly. That all questions shall be decided by a majority.
Written by William Fristoe
The Association in her Progress and Increase
THE association being formed, we have to inform the reader of its progress. In this instance we are not able to give an accurate statement; for the first three years, the churches did not make any regular return of their numbers, in which time five churches were constituted and joined the association. We find the number belonging to this body in the year 1770, to be 624.
A statement of the church at Chappawamsick was the first received into the association. This church was gathered chiefly by the instrumentality of Elder David Thomas. Violent opposition to the preaching of the Gospel appeared here, and worship sometimes prevented by the enemies of the same; but notwithstanding the opposition, the Lord God Omnipotent reigned, and the work of God prospered, so that in a little while a church was constituted, containing a considerable number of members, who joined the association August 17, 1767. This church proved a fruitful vine -out of her arose Elders William Fristoe, Daniel Fristoe, Jeremiah Moore, and William Grinstead.
Same year the church in New Valley, Loudoun County, was received into association -Elder Joseph Thomas, pastor.
August 1769, the church on Little River, Loudoun County, was received into the association. This church was gathered in under the preaching of Elder Thomas, and when constituted, Elder Richard Major was ordained their pastor, being one of those whose qualifications the church was satisfied with, and whose loving, tender carriage and plain manner of preaching, rendered him very acceptable among his people and popular abroad. He was advanced in years when he entered on the ministry, and continued pastor of the above church until his death, and died (we suppose) about threescore years old, leaving an ancient widow and several desolate congregations, to bewail their loss.
Same year the church on Mountain Run, Orange County, joined the association -Elder Nathaniel Saunders ordained their pastor. This last church was a part of the fruits of the ministry of Elder David Thomas.
In the year 1770, Birch Creek Church, Halifax County, joined the association -Elder John Creel their pastor .
About this time the church on Potomac Creek, Stafford County, was taken into association. This church was gathered in under the ministry of Elder William Fristoe. Something wonderful appeared in this church: the weakness of her members was in common such, that she was scarcely ever able to direct her own discipline, and yet out of her arose a number of useful, and some very eminent gifts, viz. Lunsford, Mason, Hickerson, and several others that are less known abroad.
In 1772 the church on Buck Marsh, Frederick County, was taken into association. When the Gospel prevailed in this place, the people were visited by different preachers, among which were Elders William and Daniel Fristoe; the two last went to preach to them every month during their gathering in, (tho' the distance was about seventy miles,) until their constitutions were impaired; but some time after, neither Winter's frost, nor Summer's heat was to be dreaded -frowns of men, and rage of Devils must be borne, when the object was the winning a bride for, and the espousing of souls to Christ.
Same year the church on Thumb Run, Fauquier County, became a member of the association. This church was collected principally by the ministry of Elder William Fristoe, who continued to preach to them monthly, though he lived about forty miles from them.
Same year the church at great Bethel, Redstone Settlement, joined the association -Isaac Sutton, pastor.
In 1773 the church on Mad River, North Carolina, was received into association -William Hill their pastor.
Same year the church at Brentown, Fauquier County, was received into association -Elder Daniel Fristoe, pastor.
Same year a church at Seneca Creek, in the State of Maryland, was admitted into the association. Elder Daniel Fristoe attended this church, whose ministry had been blest for the gathering of them in, and subjecting them to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Same year the church in Fredericktown, State of Maryland, joined the association. This year, (1773) we find the sum total to be 1050.
In 1775 Linville's Creek Church, Shenandoah County, joined our body -Elder John Alderson, pastor.
Same year, Ten Mile Creek Church, Patterson Creek Church, the church in Goshen, belonged to Redstone district. The preachers in that district, were Isaac Sutton, John Corbly, Joseph Barnett and James Sutton. At this time they both joined and requested a dismission, which request was granted in order to form an association westward of the Alleghany Mountain. The number dismissed for that purpose was 121.
In 1776, Occoquan Church, in Prince William County, gave themselves a member of this body. This church was under the care of Elder Thomas, being a part of the fruits of his labor.
In 1783, the churches of Shenandoah, and South River, Shenandoah County, became members of this association -Elder James Ireland, pastor of said churches.
In 1785, the church in Greenbrier County was received into association -Elder John Alderson, pastor.
Same year Battle Run Church, Culpeper County, joined the association.
About this time the church at Mount Poney, Culpeper County, became a member of this association. This church, since she was constituted, has passed through several revolutions of declensions and revivals, has had different pastors at different times, but for a number of years, Elder William Mason has been their stated pastor. Numbers have been baptized within her limits, and several useful public gifts have arisen in her. At her request she was dismissed from Ketocton, in order to join Culpeper association, in the year 1803.
In 1786 the church on Long Branch, Fauquier County, joined this association.
In the year 1787, the churches of Waterlick and North, in Shenandoah County, became members of the association.
In 1793, the church in Nanjemoy, State of Maryland, joined the association.
In 1794, the church at Rich Creek was received into association.
In 1797, Apequan Church, Berkeley County, joined the association.
In 1799, the church at Zoar, Jefferson County, joined this body -Christopher Collins, pastor.
In 1803, Tuscarora Church, Loudoun County, was admitted into the association -Elder William Thrift, pastor.
Same time received the church in Alexandria, Columbia District. This year the number belonging to this association, appears to be 2317.
In 1804, the church at Ebenezer, situate in Loudoun County, was received into association.
Several other churches belonging to this association, are not enumerated here, owing to their not being stated in our records, or we have overlooked them.
Written by William Fristoe
The Bounds of this Association, and the number of Churches belonging to her before any were dismissed.
HER length, from King George County, in the northern neck of Virginia, to Redstone Settlement, back of the Alleghany Mountain, we may compute at three hundred miles; and in width, from Orange County, south of the Rapadan, to Fredericktown in Maryland, we suppose to be one hundred miles, or more.
The number of churches contained within these limits, were, as well as we can ascertain, 40; and the number of persons baptized within this association, to the present time is about four thousand. A number of the above-cited churches have been dismissed in order to join elsewhere, viz. -Birch Creek and Maho Churches joined some association to the south; Linvilles Creek Church, Mount Poney and Battle Run Churches joined Culpeper association; Great Bethel, Laurel Hill, Ten Mile Creek, Patterson Creek, and Goshen Churches were dismissed to join the Monongahela association; Frederick and Seneca Churches joined the Baltimore association. Several churches have become extinct by deaths and removals to the western country and elsewhere, and some that still exist, have by the same means become very few in number. Some of our ministers have likewise removed, and others are dead, and instances are latterly very rare of young ones being raised up among us; so that the number of our preachers are very few, and generally far advanced in years. When we attend our annual meetings, we behold so many of us (out of the few) with hoary heads, looking through our glasses, which ought to excite us to cry to the great Shepherd to send forth laborers into His harvest. At this time the bounds of this association are much lessened, and the number of members much decreased.
An Account of the Death of Elder Daniel Fristoe.
DANIEL FRISTOE was born in December, 1739, of parents of middling circumstances in the world. When young he received a tolerable English education -was not addicted to profane language, or the grosser immoralities of the times and place where he lived; but in what is called civil recreation he excelled, attending balls, fiddling and dancing, and other fashionable sports in which his heart was delighted, until he arrived at about 22 or 23 years of age, at which time he went a considerable distance to hear a Baptist minister preach. At the meeting his horse got away, which obliged him to tarry all night at the place. It being at the house of a Baptist, and several others coming in, who professed to be converted, and entering on religious conversation, brought strange things to his ears; their talk was about the wretched state sin had involved them in; of the absolute need they were in of the precious blood of Christ to wash them from pollution, and remove their guilt, and the robe of His righteousness to adorn their souls; the need they stood in of the supplies of grace, to bear them up under all their trails and conflicts -after which he returned home quite serious, and conversed frequently with his friends and relations on these important and interesting subjects. He had to wade for a considerable time through much distress of mind, and under a weighty load of guilt, until through rich, free, and sovereign grace, God was pleased to remove his burthen and reveal a Saviour to his soul, which through his life afterwards he gave proof of. He then repaired to the church of God, related his experience, was baptized, and gave himself a member of the Baptist church. Soon after he accustomed himself to pray in public, and delivered exhortations with a great deal of warmth. In this course he continued for several years, until the church called him to exercise his gift in preaching, in which he gave general satisfaction. Although his knowledge in the sacred scriptures, and his manner of communicating his ideas in that easy and intelligible manner, was not equal to many others, yet his warmth and engagedness in treating on common and interesting subjects, rendered him very useful in awakening sinners, and stirring up and warming the hearts of Christians. He was employed but a few years in the ministry, before he was sent a messenger from Ketocton to the Philadelphia association. When there he took the smallpox, and after a short tour of preaching in New Jersey, returned again to Philadelphia, and was taken with the fever, but continued at Marcus Hook, (a small town this side of Philadelphia,) where he died in the thirty-fifth year of his age. His remains were carried back to Philadelphia and interred in the Baptist burying ground. He left several desolate congregations, a widow, one son and six daughters, to make their way through this desert land and vast howling wilderness.
The Purpose and Intention of the Baptists in forming an Association.
THE intention of the Baptists in associating together, was to answer several purposes. First -when each church sent a messenger and letter, and when met in one place, it proved a medium of giving general information of the success of the Gospel -the happy conversion of souls to Christ, and extension of the Saviour's spiritual kingdom among the human family, which cannot fail being matter of transport to all the spiritual sons and daughters of Zion. Secondly -information is obtained respecting desolate churches, or congregations who are destitute of the ministry of the word of God and administration of the ordinances thereof, which gives an opportunity of devising ways for relieving such churches in their widowed state, by nominating individuals, and--encouraging preachers to visit and preach to them, to forward their growth in grace and improvement in the knowledge of spiritual things. Thirdly -when associated, an opportunity offers for receiving intelligence of any church proving erroneous in principle. We consider immorality in practice, unworthy the Christian character, in which case they are to be dealt with accordingly, and if they cannot be reclaimed, are excluded from the association. Fourthly -as an advisory council, when application is made by any of the churches by way of enquiry in matters or questions intricate or mysterious, the association gives her opinion and advice, but never attempts to enforce her measures so as to infringe on the Independence of church government; for it is a doctrine held sacred in this community, that a congregational church of Christ is the highest court God hath established on earth, and that she has an undoubted right to decide on all matters respecting her internal government -and that it is arbitrary, tyrannical and antiChristian, to usurp over her, or pluck the reins of government from her, forasmuch as this right is vested in her by the great Law-giver.
A Summary of the leading Principles holden by this Association.
ALTHOUGH this association has a small system, wherein their religious sentiments are expressed; yet as many Into whose hands this concise history may fall, may possibly never have read the Baptist Confession of Faith, it has been deemed necessary to insert here a few of the leading doctrines of the same, for the satisfaction of the attentive reader.
FIRST -We believe there is one living and true God; that He is self-existent and independent, in whom all power, wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness and truth centre; who is omniscient and omnipresent -the Almighty Creator of all things that do exist, visible and invisible; who upholds and governs all things by His providential hand, according to the council of His own will.
SECONDLY -That in the Divine Essence there are (according to the Scriptures) three persons, or subsistences, distinguished by the relative names of Father, Son and Holy Ghost; that each subsistence possesses proper Deity -that the work of creation is ascribed to them -divine worship is addressed to each of them; each of them are called by the same divine names -and in the name of the three in one the New Testament ordinances are to be administered.
THIRDLY -That the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the word of God; that they were given by divine inspiration, and that this system of divine revelation comprehends everything necessary for us to know concerning God and the direction of our obedience to Him. By this divine book God hath made revelation of His gracious design in saving poor sinners, and pointed out the way through the mediation of the Lord Jesus, that by the instrumentality of this sacred word, stubborn and obstinate sinners are brought into the obedience of faith, and the incorrigible left without excuse; and that by this word of the Lord all men shall be judged in the last day.
FOURTHLY -That man was created upright, free from sin, and possessed with holiness of nature; that he fell from that innocent state in which he was created, by transgressing God's command, by which he became morally dead, and subjected himself to bodily and an eternal death -and as a public head, involved his unborn progeny in the like ruin; for all descending from him by ordinary generation, are born in a state of pollution, and under the dominion of sin, and guilty before God.
FIFTHLY -That in eternity, God out of His own good pleasure chose a certain number of Adam's progeny to eternal life, and that He did not leave the accomplishment of His decrees to accident or chance, but decreed all the means to bring about the event; therefore they are chosen to salvation through sanctification of the spirit unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. Their calling was decreed in the purpose of election: It is said, when called, that they are called according to His purpose and grace given in Christ Jesus before the world began, and all in order to manifest the glory of His grace.
SIXTHLY -That the covenant of redemption was between the Father and the Son -that the elect were given by the Father to the Son, to be by Him redeemed and finally saved; and that the Son, as head and representative of His people, engaged to perform everything necessary or requisite to carry their complete salvation into effect. It is called in scripture, a well ordered covenant in all things, and sure.
SEVENTHLY -That in the fulness of time, the Son of God was manifested by taking human nature into union with His divine person, in which capacity He wrought out a righteousness for the justification of His people; yielding a perfect and spotless obedience to all the requisitions of the divine law, and submitted Himself to a shameful and ignominious death on the cross, as an atonement for their sins, and reconciliation of their souls to God.
EIGHTHLY-That those that are redeemed by Christ, are in due time called to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus -embracing Him as the only way to God, and saviour of poor sinners. This effectual calling is accomplished by the agency of the Holy Ghost operating in a free, irresistible and unfrusterable manner, by which the understanding is enlightened, and the will subjected to Christ. Hence the scriptures testify that they are made willing in the day of His power. This internal change, or new birth in the soul, is wholly ascribed to the power of God; for it is said of the regenerate: They are begotten of God, quickened of God, born of God -all expressive that it is the Lord's work, and He is entitled to the praise.
NINTHLY -All that are effectually called by efficacious grace, are freely justified of God. The perfect obedience, or in other words, the righteousness of Christ being imputed to them, their sins are pardoned, and their persons accepted in God's beloved Son. Such are taken under the care of the great Shepherd of souls, and rests on the infallible promises and power of God, which has engaged to protect them under all their trials; to succour them when tempted; to supply all their wants, and withhold no good thing from them; to continue the good work of grace begun in them, and crown the end of their faith in the complete salvation of their souls.
TENTHLY -That being bought with the precious blood of Christ, and called by rich grace, it becomes a bounden duty to walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, although justified by grace, to which our works can add nothing -yet by good works the declarative glory of God is manifested, and the genuineness of faith proven, which, while others behold, they may be led to glorify God, who is in heaven. And,
LASTLY -That God will guide men and angels in the last day, by Jesus Christ: That when Christ appears in the clouds of Heaven with the sound of the trumpet, the dead saints shall be raised incorruptible and reunited to their souls; then shall they, together with the living saints, be caught up to meet the Lord in the air -and so shall they be forever with the Lord. The wicked will be raised likewise in that sinful state in which they died; and never having been regenerated and qualified by grace for the kingdom of Heaven, will be sentenced to unspeakable torments, for ever and ever, from which there will be no recovery to endless duration.
Written by William Fristoe
Of the disagreeable name of Regular and Separate Baptists, in use in the early times of the Association.
THESE different names for a considerable while kept the parties at a distance from, and shy of each other. The regular Baptists were jealous of the separate Baptists, because, as yet, they never formed nor adopted any system of doctrine, or made any confession of their faith, more than verbally; and it was thought unreasonable, that if they differed from all other denominations, why they should nut in a fair, open and candid manner, make known their principles to the world, and in so doing, act as children of the light; and on the other hand, the separate Baptists supposed the adopting a confession of faith would only shackle them; that it would lead to formality and deadness, and divert them from the Bible; but upon a more intimate acquaintance, the imaginary conjectures were in some measure removed, and their hearts softened with affection towards each other; for upon close conversation and frequently hearing each other preach, it was found that they agreed in sentiment, held forth the same important doctrines, and administered the gospel ordinances in the same manner, and of course children of the same family, the difference being only in name. For these reasons the parties (especially the better informed) wished for a removal of all differences, and an union to take place. In order to bring about this union, letters and messengers were sent at different times from the one to the other, and propositions made for the accommodation of the differences between them; but not with that success that was desired, until the year 1787, at Dover Meeting-House, on James River, at which time the messengers from the several district associations agreed to adopt the regular Baptist Confession of Faith, in the manner following.
After a good deal of deliberating respecting the utility of a confession of faith, we do agree to adopt the regular Baptist confession of faith; but to prevent its usurping a tyrannical power over the consciences of any, we do not mean that every person is to be bound to the strict observance of everything therein contained, yet that it holds forth the essential truths of the gospel and the doctrine of salvation by Christ, and free unmerited grace alone, which ought to be believed by every Christian, and maintained by every minister of the Gospel; and that from henceforth the word Regular and Separate, be buried in oblivion, and that we be known in future by the United Baptist Church of Christ, in Virginia. This was signed by the Moderator and Clerk, and confirmed by the different associations, at the return of their messengers.
The reader may observe, that the term Separate Baptist did not arise from their withdrawing from any society of Baptists; but the way it originated was from some old men to the Eastward, or Northern States, who were Presbyterians by profession, and who hearing some lively, heart-affecting preachers, got, as they hoped, converted, and withdrew themselves from the Presbyterians, because they deemed the Presbyterians to be fallen into a lukewarm and lifeless state -and inasmuch as they withdrew they were called Separates. Some of them came and lived some time on the frontiers of Virginia, where they became satisfied of the right of believers to baptism, and that of immersion. After some time they removed to the Carolinas, still retaining the name separate, with this difference - they were formerly separate Presbyterians, but now separate Baptists. When settled to the South, they began to advocate the cause of religion, to spread the interest of the Redeemer, and like Elijah's cloud, though small in its beginning, soon spread over the Heavens and afforded flooded torrents. So these few, feeble, and despised followers of Christ, began zealously to exhort and preach, and employ their gifts in the most profitable manner. I n a little time superior gifts were raised up, and souls in great numbers converted to Christ. By these means the Southern States have enjoyed the light of the Gospel, and the bright rising of the great Illuminator of the spiritual world. How wonderful are the judgments of God and the dispensation of His providence, together with the mode of communicating His grace, past finding out.
The Constitution and Order of Churches belonging to this Association.
FOR the convenience of public worship and direction of discipline of the Lord's house, it is thought necessary that independent congregational churches should be constituted, being consistent with, and founded upon apostolic custom in primitive times. When a number of persons having been baptized according to the institution of Christ, upon profession of their faith in Christ, who lie remote from, and inconveniences preventing their assembling with or forming in with a church of Christ, it makes it necessary that they should form into a distinct and separate society, for the purposes aforesaid.
It has been customary where individual baptized persons have labored under inconveniences as before stated, to propose a constitution, if their number be sufficient. Should they have joined any church, a regular dismission is necessary; when that is obtained, a day is then appointed, which is observed as a day of fasting and prayer, ministers being called upon to attend. On meeting together for this very solemn and important purpose, on the day and place appointed, enquiry is generally made by the preachers present respecting their religious sentiments -whether an agreement in sentiment, (as it appears necessary they should be agreed in order to walk together;) whether each of them do purpose in his heart to live in obedience to the word of God, and aim to fill his place in the church of Christ. -Sometimes there is a short written covenant, expressive of the principles on which they unite, which they severally subscribe.
This being done, they are publicly acknowledged and declared by the minister or ministers present, to be a church of Christ, and the right hand of fellowship given to each of them, accompanied with prayer to God for the prosperity and growth of his Zion, and that his dwelling may be in this temple, raised up for his name.
A church being thus formed, has certain rights granted her by the great Law-giver and Head of the church, which no power civil of ecclesiastic has a right to deprive her of, without a gross insult offered to the bride, the Lamb's wife; she hath a right to search and peruse the holy scriptures, as the unerring rule of faith and practice, and sufficient in every instance to furnish Zion's citizens with every good work.
The several members have a right to assemble and meet together for the purpose of divine worship, and go up to the Lord's house to be taught of His ways, and that they may walk in His paths, seeing the law goeth forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem:
That she hath a right to the choice of her own officers, as was the case of the first officers chosen in the church by the direction of the apostles:
That she hath a right to judge of the qualification of such as sue for admission into her communion; if qualified according to scripture, she receives such -if not so qualified, she rejects them:
That she has a right to look into and make diligent search among the members of her body, lest any thing erroneous in doctrine or immoral in practice should be imbibed by any of them, and to reprove such, and endeavor to reclaim them if possible; but if such offending members cannot be reclaimed, then to exclude them from the church, that in so doing she may purge out the old leaven of wickedness, and so be a new lump.
Her privileges are many, her dignity is great; she is the ground and pillar of truth, the object of Christ's complacency, and all ministers of the Gospel and other officers in the church, are nothing more than her servants.
The manner of Conduct in administering the Ordinance of Baptism.
BAPTISM is considered, in this association, an ordinance of the New Testament, submitted to by the Lord Jesus, and enjoined on those whom He sent to preach the Gospel, to continue it to the end of the world; but as there is such a variety of sentiments, found in what is called the Christian world, it will be the more necessary to be particular in our statement here.
It is holden by this association, that believers exclusively have a right to baptism, and the mode by immersion is a conclusion drawn from the New Testament; because, when application was made for baptism, the person so applying, confessed their sins and were taught to believe in the Lord Jesus. When commission was given to the apostles, they were first to teach, and then baptize. It appears these first preachers well understood the mind of their Lord and Master -and therefore, those that received the word under their preaching, were baptized, both men and women.
It appears clearly, that when a request was made for to be baptized, that faith was required as a prerequisite and necessary qualification; and it is the language of holy writ, that without faith it is impossible to please God. Upon reading the New Testament and comparing its several parts, and, finding that those that were baptized were receivers of the word, were rejoicers, were confessors, penitent believers, the conclusion is, that believers' baptism is established on gospel premises, and whatever is opposed to it is an invention of men.
As to the mode, it is sufficiently clear that it was by immersion; because they, in order to comply with that duty, went where there was much water - went into the water, were baptized in the water, and came up out of the water; beside, according to the scriptures, a death, burial and resurrection is represented in a striking figure when a believer is immersed in baptism and raised up again; for thereby a death to sin and a resurrection to newness of life is represented, and the shadow and the substance ought always to bear a resemblance.
It is expected, that the person that applies for baptism, will come from a conviction on his mind, that it is an incumbent duty on believers, and that if they act in obedience to the injunction of Christ in His word, they ought not to omit the compliance with it.
It is required by the Baptists, that the person coming forward, should give satisfaction of their new birth and faith in the Lord Jesus -not the answering a few doctrinal questions, or head knowledge of externals that will be satisfactory, though that is valuable in its place; for it is beyond question, that a person possessing a good genius and retentive memory, may acquire a very extensive knowledge of the doctrines the scriptures inculcate, and speak in a refined manner fluently on them, and yet destitute of the grace of God, and in a state of nature. It is necessary, therefore, that as clear evidence as the case will admit, of an internal change of heart; for in this change the heart of stone is taken away and an heart of flesh is given, and that the candidate should give an account of the deepest sense of the corruption of his nature, the weighty burthen of guilt pressing his soul down, and for which the Almighty might cut him off by death and send him to utter destruction; that he is sensible his duties and performances are mixed with sin and imperfection; that he found himself unable by all his exertions and endeavors to extricate himself from that wretched state of guilt and condemnation; and that an Almighty must effect a deliverance, and give rest to his weary and heavy-ladened soul; that he could not come up to that perfection the law required, and that he stood in need of a better righteousness, a righteousness wrought out by the obedient life and rich atoning death of the Son of God; that his hope is that an application of the blood of Christ hath been made to his soul, purging his conscience from dead works, and the robe of the Saviour's righteousness put upon him, through which he expects to be justified and rendered acceptable before God, and that in the Lord alone he hath righteousness and strength; his confidence is in Almighty power to preserve him, meet, qualify and preserve him for an inheritance with the saints in light, and at last bring him to the fruition and enjoyment of that glory that is reserved for all the followers of the Lamb.
It is customary for the above relation to be given to the minister, the church being present, (if there be a church in the place,) though it is the preacher's province to teach and baptize, and of course the proper judge of the qualifications of the candidate; and frequently when ministers have been in remote places and distant from any constituted church they have separated from, and without the church, receive experience and baptized, on the strength of their commission, (baptism not being a church ordinance,) but is administered and complied with in order to church membership, and does not appear that any were admitted into the church of Christ, in primitive times, without this prerequisite; but as it is in common the intention of persons baptized to give themselves members of some gospel church, it appears more convenient, where there is a church, to bring both under one, and the person proposing to join, to give in his experience at the bar of the church; for in so doing, satisfaction is given to the minister that is to baptize him, and the church with whom he intends to join, and is likely to keep up a good understanding between the minister and his brethren. The candidate having given a satisfactory account of his faith in Christ, enquiry is made respecting the strictness of his morals, and if common report recommend his manner of life, he or she is considered a proper subject for baptism. The minister and such person or persons repair to the water, sometimes with singing an hymn or psalm. When come to the water the minister says something suitable on the occasion, followed with prayer. The minister then takes the subject by the hand and walks down into the water, where the whole body of the person is immersed in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Upon coming up out of the water, another hymn is generally sung, after which those present are dismissed. Should enquiry be made, whether we do not make baptism essential to salvation, and that a person cannot be saved without it, the answer is ready -we do not; or a person must, according to our principles, be in state of salvation prior to baptism, and of course, were they to die, would be received into Heaven, though they were never baptized. It is surprising that an accusation of this sort should arise from certain quarters, or from some societies who call themselves Christian; and one would suppose that persons so apt to find fault and reflect on others, would blush when examining the principles of their own church, and hearing their ministers after sprinkling little children, thank God that such children were regenerate and born again by the mystical washing away of sin. When such children are grown capable of being taught, they are instructed and taught that they were made children of God and heirs of the kingdom of Heaven in their baptism. Others say and write, that they did not sin away the grace they received in infant baptism, until they were ten years old! This is in very strong terms allowing great things to be done by the external rite of baptism, which the Baptists entirely disown, and practice it as a duty enjoined by Christ, as a badge to distinguish His followers from the rest of the world, and do not view that their title to the heavenly inheritance is in any way secured to them by their compliance with this gospel ordinance, or any other external performance of theirs, salvation being procured by the obedience and death of Christ, revealed in the Gospel and applied by the Holy Spirit; and that which meet them for the kingdom of Heaven, is the internal sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit of the living God.
The Mode in practice among the Baptists of initiating their Ministers into sacred Office.
IT has been considered by the Baptists, that the preaching of the Gospel is the greatest work in this world, and that ministers have the highest office conferred on them of any others upon earth; therefore it requires due caution lest persons should be introduced into this work, of whom the Lord never required it.
Sometimes persons designed for public usefulness, have manifested it to their fellow members by a gift in prayer above usual, and in their lively exhortations to the church of God, and to others that might resort with them, and by their apparent knowledge of divine things, discovered in their conversation, accompanied with an upright walk and concern for the prosperity and success of the Gospel of Christ.
Sometimes, persons who have become eminent, have laid in obscurity for a considerable while, and gifts and qualifications unknown to the church to which they belonged; in this case, before the church can act upon it, the person signifies to his brethren that he is impressed in his own mind with a sense of the duty of exercising his gift in preaching the Gospel publicly. In either of the cases above stated, the church proceeds, in a church capacity, to call such members to the exercise of their gifts; but it has been thought advisable that it should be done under certain limitations, confining them within the bounds of the church and under the care, in the presence and hearing of the members, who are the proper judges of his public performances.
According as the young candidate improves and appears useful, he meets with encouragement, his limits are enlarged, and sometimes licensed, recommending him to favor and respect. When the church is fully satisfied with his gifts and qualifications for public preaching, the church form a council, and enquiry is made whether the young candidate answers the character and possesses those good qualities, at least in some good degree, as laid down in God's word; for such a person must be found in the faith -full confidence is placed by him in what the Bible reports, his mind being enlightened from above to understand the scriptures, and a knowledge of the connection of the various doctrines contained therein; that such an one is apt to teach; inclines to be engaged in opening and explaining the word of the Lord in his private conversation, and in his public ministry as much as possible, diffusing divine knowledge and administering grace to all that hear him; sober minded, not flighty and fickle, but firm and steady, persevering in the ways of God, without wavering. He is likewise to support a life of sobriety, not given to much wine, or subject to intoxication, but sober, just, temperate, holding forth the word of life; not self-willed, sensible of his own weakness, and that he may possibly err: he therefore ought to be open to conviction, and to receive instruction; not a novice, not a person of a weak mind, for such are generally very conceited; not a person lately converted, for such have not had time to experience their own weakness and the force of temptation, it being a time of Christ's love to them, and their enjoying the rays of the sun of righteousness: were such put forward and encouraged, they might be puffed up and fall into sin, and of course into the condemnation of the Devil; for a proud preacher as much resembles a fallen angel as it is possible for a human creature to do; not soon angry, meet persecution with fortitude, and bear insult for the sake of the Gospel with a becoming patience, as a legacy assigned him; encounter opposition, when contending for the faith, with calmness and composure: he is by found words to convince gainsayers, words expressive of good sense, words consistent with and drawn from the word of God, and by well founded arguments and weighty reasoning, detect and confute those that oppose the truth; no striker, not tyrannical in governing, nor harsh in conversation, so as to wound the feelings of others, but gentle as a nurse in the family of Christ -nor use his bodily strength in wounding or hurting the bodies of men: One that rules well his own house, having his children in subjection, (if he has any) guards their morals, prevents reveling and wantonness, and thereby fits himself the better to rule the church of God; faithful as the steward of God, (he being the vessel in which the rich treasure of Gospel truth is deposited) in dealing out the doctrines of the word of God, feeding Christ's servants and handmaidens on the fat things prepared in his holy mountain, in which he is to labor and use all diligence at all times and seasons, being willing to spend and be spent in the good cause. He is to take heed to himself and to the doctrine; guard well his conduct and manner of life, lest he should disgrace his high calling, his acquaintance and hearers lose confidence in him, and be disgusted at his conduct, by which he may be (in his ministerial character) a castaway; he is to preach the truth in its purity and simplicity, without partiality or respect of persons, aiming to shun everything erroneous or absurd, and well support what is advanced with a thus saith the Lord; of good report among those that are without; that he supports an honest character among those that are not members of the church, and that they are led to believe that he goes forth to preach from good motives, and with an aim to be useful.
Although all the rare qualifications may not be possessed in an eminent degree by all that are sent to labor in Christ's vineyard, yet where they do not possess them in some moderate degree, it follows it will disqualify them for the discharge of the important duties enjoined on a Gospel minister. Should such unqualified persons be set forward, they will prove a dead weight on the church, and be a preventative to their being better supplied; and it has appeared among us in this association, (especially to those of better discernment) where a person lacks those talents so essentially necessary to the Gospel ministry, and his judgment so weak that he is not able to teach ethers, that the church under his care and her several members will remain in a state of childhood, or continue to be dwarfs.
After due enquiry being made, and finding the person proposed for the work of the ministry possesses in some good degree these necessary qualifications, the conclusion is, that such an one be set apart for the work of the ministry, in the way and manner following:
A day is appointed by the church for his solemn ordination. Some neighboring ministers of the same community are requested to attend in conjunction with, and aid to the church. The proposed person for ordination being informed of the intention of the meeting, and his attendance requested. The church, the ministers and the candidate being met at the place and time appointed, the church signifies to the ministers present their call of a certain individual member of their body to the work of the ministry, and that they are satisfied with his gifts, his knowledge of divine truth, and the goodness of his moral conduct, of which they have satisfactory trial, and that in their judgment such an one promises public usefulness, and as such they desire the ministers, according to divine precedent and primitive example, to set him apart or appoint him to the work to which he hath been called.
The ministers then proceed in concurrence with the church, first, to enquire of the young preacher respecting a work of grace in his soul, and what evidence he enjoys of his new birth, and whether he ever exercised faith in the Son of God, embracing the Saviour as his all in all; looking to Him as his righteousness and strength, and the only foundation on which his hopes rest for eternal life. If satisfaction be given respecting an internal change, they proceed in asking questions concerning some doctrinal points, such as the being of the one living and true God -of His existence and perfections -of the Holy Trinity -of the incarnation of God's dear Son, and the great work of salvation accomplished by His mediation -of particular election and particular redemption -of the fallen and degenerate state of Adam's progeny -of effectual calling by unfrusterable grace -justification by imputed righteousness -protection of the saints and their certain perseverance in grace, their everlasting rest in ultimate glory, and the entire ruin of the wicked in everlasting destruction.
Proof being given of the soundness of his faith and his knowledge of the doctrines of the Gospel, the next enquiry is made into the motives that induced him to enter into the work of the ministry; whether a deep sense is impressed on his mind that it is a duty enjoined on him to preach the Gospel and that disquietude and guilt would lie on his conscience was he to decline the work; whether he has well considered the importance of declaring the whole council of God; whether he is sensible of his own weakness and the need of an Almighty arm to support and bear him up; whether he has counted the cost; whether he is willing to meet insult and persecution, withstand temptations, lay aside the world and self-interesting views, and yield up body, soul, time and talents, and count the office of a Bishop a goodly work under every circumstance, be it ever so trying.
The answer to the above questions being satisfactorily given, the subject for ordination kneels down and the ministers impose their hands on his head, expressing words something like the following:
"In the name of the Lord Jesus, we lay hands on thee our Brother, whereby thou art openly declared and appointed a minister of Jesus Christ, vested with full authority to preach the Gospel, administer the ordinances thereof, to walk in and comply with every duty Christ hath enjoined on His servants or ministers of His word."
They then withdraw their hands, prayer being made before hands were laid. Often when hands are withdrawn, prayer is again made, after which the right hand of fellowship is given to the newly ordained person, by the ministers present, and he welcomed into the Lord's vineyard, rejoicing that one more is brought into the help of the Lord against the mighty. They then, according to custom, in few words, give him his charge:
"Brother -It is an important work you are called unto -try to magnify your office -you are entrusted with the gospel; give attendance to reading and close study of the holy scriptures; be instant in preaching the word, whenever opportunity offers; feed, take care of, and nourish Christ's sheep and lambs, for they are precious in His sight; labor in birth for souls, it is the laborer that will meet with a recommendation; in your public preaching, give each of your hearers their portion in due season, as a workman that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth; steadily look to the chief shepherd for increase of strength, for warmth of heart, and that He may give you high and sublime ideas in great variety, making your mind a treasury to contain useful knowledge, out of which things may be brought forth, both new and old: -It is a great, a good and profitable thing to be an able Minister of the New Testament, and may you be made as a polished shaft in God's quiver, and the fruits of your labor be in abundance, that when the chief Shepherd shall appear, you may receive a crown of life, and shine as the stars for ever and ever in the kingdom of our Father, and dwell in the light of God and the Lamb."
But some may be surprised, that among the many qualifications necessary for a Gospel Minister, that that of a liberal education and acquaintance with the original languages is not included; school learning is highly esteemed among the Baptists, and those who have been called to, and exercised public offices, have very sensibly felt the inconvenience they had to labor under for want of it; but it is not considered essentially necessary -and that without a person cannot be a Gospel Minister. Where the author of nature has endowed a person with strong intellects, and formed the mind with a superior capacity, capable of taking in high and sublime ideas, of digesting mysterious and intricate subjects, and of acquiring great things; in addition to nature the God of Grace has renewed him in the spirit of his mind, and drawn the divine image on his heart, and given him to know God and His dear Son, whom to know is life eternal. In addition to all this, His gifts and talents are conspicuous, and shine with lustre -and give clear evidence that they were bestowed by Him who ascended on high and gave gifts unto men.
For a person of this description, forever to remain in silence, merely for the want of a school education, would be a pity: -It would be like a beautiful flower blooming in a desert, unnoticed but by few and enjoyed by none, sending forth its fragrant perfume, and godly favor, then fade, withers and die; so where distinguished talents are confined in obscurity and never make a public appearance, it proves a great and unspeakable loss to mankind.
Men of great learning, and able divines, candidly say that all their learning never helps them to one spiritual idea.
Written by William Fristoe
The doctrines inculcated by the ministers of this association, which have appeared most successful.
THO' a Sovereign God, may work above, beyond, and without means, according to His own good pleasure, yet as He hath been pleased to ordain means, and accompanied them by the displays of His power for the conversion and salvation of multitudes of poor sinners, it has been thought, by our ministers, a duty to obey the commands of, and copy after the precedents left on divine record; it hath been customary to lay open the purity of the moral law, and shew how it takes cognizance of all we do; how it reaches to the innermost thoughts and interests of the heart; that it will not, nor does not allow of the least sin or disobedience, and that all are under the curse who continue not in all things written in the book of the law to do them; for what is the divine law but a revelation of Jehovah's mind and will, manifesting thereby His right to the obedience of His creatures? The holy law holds forth and reveals nothing but wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doth evil; that it will not accept of a partial or imperfect obedience, and that justification by the law cannot be short of a complete, perpetual, and uniform subjection to its requisitions and commands. While the law has been holden up in its extent, and opened in its spirituality, poor sinners have taken a view of themselves, of the ruin that sin has brought upon them, and the wrath they are exposed to on account of it.
When under the ministry of the word, God has been pleased to apprehend poor souls, discovering to them the purity and perfection of His nature, His purpose to revenge all disobedience, and that He will by no means clear the guilty. The preachers have directed their speech to the hearers, and besought them to contrast their actions, words and thoughts, with the righteous law and prove whether they agree, or whether there is not an awful disparity and contrariety.
When the sinner has taken a view of himself, by means of the spiritual law shining into his heart, many have been made to tremble, being filled with apprehensions they were on the verge of ruin, and that one day the heavy judgments of God would be inflicted upon them, as the just reward of their transgressions. In the early time of the gospel being among us, some who went to hear the people called new-Lights, got so alarmed they could get no quiet in their minds, and as an expedient to soothe their sorrows and ease their troubled breasts, they have repaired to some one or other of the parish parsons, supposing the priest's lips was to keep knowledge, and the law was to be sought at his mouth; the cordial given in their council was that they were low spirited, and had given way to a religious melancholy -which if they indulged would eventually destroy them - besides they would impoverish their families, and render themselves useless citizens -that they ought to cheer up, go into merry company, and join in civil recreation -be an honest man, speak truth, be kind to your neighbors, use industry and take care of your family, and come to church, and no doubt all will be well and they taken to Heaven when they die, but whatever you do abstain from hearing the new-Lights, for they are an illiterate, ignorant set, preaching up hell and damnation, telling the people they must be converted, and who knows what - such stuff might do for uncivilized savages -but for us who were made Christians in our baptism, and brought up in the Christian faith, and basked in the sunshine of the established church, and after all to be told we have no religion, is preposterous.
It is sometimes the case in later days, when persons have been under considerable awakenings, that some of them have fallen in with another set of strange physicians of souls, whose custom it is in a clumsy manner to prevent truth, and lie in wait to ensnare the unguarded and ignorant; being filled with ambition to increase their number; this tribe begins (under a great appearance of sanctity) to build up, establish and confirm blind and depraved nature in her delusion, by telling those who apply to them, that salvation is conditional; that man is so far restored, that it is in the power of man to embrace, or reject the Lord Jesus, and that it rests with him to go to Heaven or Hell -therefore, pray diligently and fervently; go to meeting and join the good people, and they will exhort you and pray for you, and no danger you will get converted; all the while you are under our tuition and instruction, deafen your ears to the sound of God's love -reign, free, and discriminating love -harden your hearts against, and never admit the idea of irresistible, unfrustrable grace, in renewing, quickening, and making the soul alive to spiritual things, spurn at the notion that efficatious grace is absolutely necessary in drawing the soul to Christ -never open your ears to pay the least attention to that doctrine that pleads for justification by a righteousness imputed to the sinner; a righteousness wrought out by the obedient life, and rich atoning death of the son of God, for which God justifies the guilty, and renders the sinner complete, in which we had no hand, nor could afford the least aid: if this doctrine be once assented to, our whole fabric is demolished; human pride will be leveled with the ground, and boasting excluded from the whole of our fraternity- besides, should you give credit to the above cited principles, it will effectually prevent our being of any use to you, so that no medicine we can administer will have the least operation on you, and we shall forever deem you incurable; before you go too far and be totally ruined take counsel; we have a great love for you, and ours is a good religion; it was founded by the best man that has ever lived; some of our preachers affirm that he excelled the apostles; it originated so lately we are all but in sight of its birth -so that we need not ransack the history of antiquity, nor be much concerned about consulting the ancient doctrines of the Bible; for we have an unerring rule laid down by our progenitor, and adopted by our people, that makes it quite easy for every member of the community - in this state things go on well, our numbers greatly increase, and our cause is in a flourishing condition;1 dear creature, form in with us -we will hover around you -we will put forth all our strength -we will exercise ourselves, in many different ways and throw ourselves into different positions, that will affect your passions and agitate your bodies, and reduce you to a state of insensibility, then, upon reflection returning, we hope you will be one of us, and we will proclaim another converted. Being thus formed to our minds, and agreeable to our own plan, you will possess a hardened quality that will render you invincible, and lead you to deal in positive assertions, though opposed to reason and the declaration of divine oracles.
But not all the device or artifice exercised by men can disappoint the divine purpose, or destroy the child of promise, nor prevent his conversion a moment longer than divine power thinks proper to delay his interference, when the day of power is come, and divine illumination, from God, shines into the benighted mind; he becomes sensible of his poverty of soul, and that sin has reduced him to such a state, that he lacks both will and power to do anything in the great matter of salvation that he cannot make himself spiritually alive; that he cannot remove the burthen of guilt from his conscience, nor cleanse his heart from pollution; that he is utterly unable to keep the law, or act forth in the Lord Jesus. When he has this view of himself, them old ifs, conditions, do and live, he knows are out of the question, and that hay stubble will not answer in the spiritual temple built of God, in which are none but lively stones.
When taking up this scriptural idea of their state and condition, it has been seldom, if ever, that one of them have gone back for counsel to their old teachers, being impressed in mind that nothing but omnipotence can deliver them -none but Christ can answer their purpose. To such laboring and heavy laden sinners, the news of a free and full salvation is glad tidings indeed. In the gospel declaration such have been addressed, and it has appeared the duty of preachers to describe the beauty, fulness and excellence of Christ, and know nothing but Christ as fulfiller of the law both moral and ceremonial, and in whom the prophesies respecting a Messiah had their accomplishment; that He is the grand source of all spiritual life, and in whom all fulness dwells, and in whom all grace is deposited, the foundation on which His church is fabricated -by Him sin was atoned for - the works of the devil destroyed, and an everlasting righteousness brought in, that He possesses all power in heaven and earth, and of course able to save to the uttermost all that come to God by Him, seeing He ever lives to make intercession for them; that with the Lord there is fulness of redemption -that the Almighty can justify a sinner through Christ, without infringing on His law, or impeaching His justice -such hungry and thirsty souls have been invited to take wine and milk without money or price, to come and enjoy the feast of fat things -for it is the poor, the lame, the halt and the blind that are welcome to the supper; the person that knows his disease and feels the force of it, is to be intreated and encouraged to look to Jesus from whom all saving virtue flows -to view Him on the cross as the great atonement for sin -view Him rising triumphant over death, and ascending to heaven, to give repentance and remission of sin. The preachers have exhorted, intreated and invited them to believe in, and embrace the Lord Jesus; informing them that Christ came into the world to save sinners; although their debt is great, He is a complete ransom; although corruption be interwoven in all their powers, original and actual sin lie heavy on them, the blood of Christ cleanseth from sin; this balm in Gilead is calculated to effect a cure in the most desperate cases. While a Saviour has been held up on the pole of the gospel, many have been melted down beholding Him who was pierced for them; they have wept bitterly, and felt their souls drawn after Him, enraptured with the way of salvation so well suited to their needy condition; in this view the soul is led to cast its confidence, and repose his trust in Christ alone.
When these good effects are produced by, and accompany the gospel, the consequence has been among us, that persons so wrought upon, begin their enquiry, what shall I render to God for all His benefits? How shall best express my love to Christ and yield obedience to Him who loved me, and hath called me by His grace? I will search the scriptures, as they direct I will follow. Upon reading the scriptures, he finds that when John the Baptist was preaching in the wilderness and preparing the way of the Lord, that the people came from Jerusalem and round about in the land of Judea, and were baptized of John in Jordan, confessing their sins; and Jesus himself was baptized to fulfil all righteousness, that Jesus when on His public ministry made and baptized disciples, that all the people were baptized, that on the day of Pentecost three thousand were baptized, and numbers the days following were baptized, that when Philip preached to the Samaritans, they professed faith in Christ and were baptized, both men and women -that when Peter preached the Lord Jesus to Cornelius, and those assembled with him, and the Holy Ghost came upon them, they were baptized; when Lydia's heart was opened, and she received the word under Paul's preaching, she and her household were baptized; the jailor and his household were divinely wrought upon, and he and his household believed in God -he and his household rejoiced, and he and his household were baptized. Here he makes a pause -and were all the primitive disciples baptized? is this the path in which the followers of the Lamb trode in ancient times? and shall be turned aside, and not walk in the footsteps of the flock? my desire is to imitate their example; my desire is to be baptized, and form in with that little flock -for I esteem them as the excellent of the earth, and I choose a place among them, rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; it will be greater satisfaction to me, than to live in a guilded palace, enjoy the most sumptuous living, or shine in the most illustrious manner in the annals of fame. Persons thus wrought upon and taught from above, have been deemed by this community the proper subjects for baptism, and in compliance with the commission given by the head and lawgiver of His church, ministers have proceeded to baptize them, as a prerequisite, and preparation for their reception into the gospel church. It remains that such, baptized persons are to be taught all things Christ hath commanded.
These babes in Christ need the sincere milk of the word that they may grow thereby, under a spiritual ministry- their knowledge improves, and their faith is strengthened and confirmed, and they grow as the corn and flourish as the vine.
The aim among us has been to lead these little ones to high and exalted ideas of the great Jehovah, whom the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain - who is exalted above all blessing and praise; when creation at large, with all the different orders of beings contained therein, is brought in competition with the great Creator, all is found less than nothing and vanity. How wonderful that the high and lofty one should pay any regard to fallen man; but such is His condescension, that He casts a look of mercy towards such that are poor, of a contrite spirit, and trembles at His word. Nothing so humiliating to man, as a raised, elevated and exalted idea of the great God; of course the more we know, the humbler we live. Next to inculcate the doctrine concerning Christ's mediation, as prophet, priest and king of His church; who is the executor of the Father's purposes, and the sum and substance of the gospel -the bright Sun of righteousness, by whom the hearts of His people are illuminated -the bright and morning star, that leads on an heavenly day -the tree whose fruit affords life to the dead -the fountain of living water whose refreshing and cleansing current ever flows; a great rock that affords shadow and protection from all harm -the precious vine from whence nourishment flows to all the spiritual branches -the bread of life, which if a man eat thereof he shall never die -the great shepherd, who has provided for, and takes care of His flock -the husbandman that prunes, trims, and manures the trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord -the loving bridegroom, who will not suffer His love, His dove, His fair one, to be torn from His breast -the prevailing intercessor at the right hand of God, who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, who administers grace to them here, and reserves glory for them thereafter, and no good thing will be withheld from them.
It has appeared a duty to open and illustrate the sacred scriptures, and preserve that order in which they were delivered; some parts being purely historical, or the relation of facts or events, the reading of which proves encouraging to those who are bound for a heavenly country; for that hand that protected the saints formerly, and wrought notable deliverances for them, will be mindful of His saints in later days; some parts are figurative, some are prophetic, and some are doctrinal. Although we do not suppose it is the province of anyone man, to fully comprehend and fathom these infinite depths contained in the Holy Scriptures, still it has appeared right as far as capacity allowed, to keep up a proper arrangement and distinction between the several parts. It has appeared needful that the law and gospel should be distinguished, and their use and intent described; that the law is made use of to shew the sinner his ruined state, the exceeding evil that is in sin, and the just condemnation he is exposed unto on the account of it; the gospel proclaims liberty to captives, and life to the dead; the gospel brings to view a Saviour in His fulness, His capacity and willingness to save, and all in a way of sovereign grace. For the comfort of those who dwell in Zion, it appears necessary that the marks and character of the Christian, in distinction from the world, should be described -whether they are divested of self-righteousness, and looking to Christ's righteousness, as the matter of acceptance before God; whether there is a longing and panting for the living God, and conformity to Him; whether communion with Him be diligently sought after; whether a striving for the mortification of the corrupt deeds of the body; whether the world in its highest glory, is looked upon with contempt in comparison of Christ; whether the success of the gospel, the conversion of souls, and the prosperity of the church of the living God; whether diligent in supplication at a Throne of Grace for these things; whether sin in all its forms is hateful, and a desire to live entirely free from it, and to walk in all the commands and ordinances of the Lord blameless; whether a fervent glow of affection prevails in the heart, towards Christ's little ones; whether not under every tie and obligation to yield up body and soul, time and talents, and to live in compliance with every duty enjoined in God's word, and all from a childlike love, and with a view to manifest the glory of God.
Although our little imperfect services can render the Almighty no happier, nor add anything to Him who is self-existent, yet they may be good and profitable unto men; the naked may be clothed, the hungry fed, the widow and the fatherless visited in their affliction, public worship resorted to, where the word is dispensed, and souls are led as with marrow and fatness; a constant waiting at a throne of grace, and praying without ceasing; a circumspect walk, and conversation about heavenly things -while others behold your good works they may be much profited; the ungodly may be struck with conviction, and acknowledge God is in you of a truth; and those that fear God may be stirred up to love and good works -it is, therefore, by no means a vain thing to serve God.
In a word, the greater part among us have taken the Bible as our unerring guide; and the declaring the whole council of God (as far as we possess capacity) have been the work of the ministry.
In some few instances among us, in addition to preaching the gospel in its simplicity, something of human invention, or contrivance, have been brought forward to aid the good work, such as these -when done preaching, the preacher passing through the congregation singing an hymn on some tender and affecting subject, with a tune of mournful sound, or if thought proper, of lively cheerful sound; for when this method is adopted there is no certain rule to go by, and the people are to be taken as they are found. The above is accompanied with shaking of hands and exhortations with a great appearance of affection; by these means soft and tender passions have been wonderfully wrought upon, and some have expressed their desire to be prayed for, and sometimes enquiry is made whether some do not desire to be prayed for; the person or persons affected fall on their knees, at the preacher's feet, while prayer is made for them -all this is done with an air of solemnity, as much as possible, that it may affect all around; why such a mode of conduct has been adopted by any, is not so easy to say; to suppose, for a moment that it has been done to ingratiate themselves into the esteem of the people, and so make their way easier through the world seem too severe and harsh, or that they thought they could effect and bring about the conversion of souls by human exertion, cannot be admitted. We are ready to conclude that as antichrist has been so successful in making proselytes by this means, that the honest and sincere have been ensnared; and led away by a misguided zeal, and lost sight of the unerring word of truth, and the primitive example of the faithful.
We are well satisfied that where a work of God has been carrying on, and in a time the elect are gathering in, that enthusiasm, more or less, has accompanied; but at the same time it is no way related to, nor forms any part of religion, and therefore blameworthy, and cannot be justified, and ought to be discountenanced by the wife (the church).
It is a matter understood by us, that the great Creator endowed rational creatures with noble passions, and made them capable of sorrow, joy, love, hatred, desire, etc. and proper use of those passions ought to be exercised, when under the ministry of the gospel, or employed in divine contemplation, or otherwise; the understanding is enlightened and spiritual ideas possessed; it is no wonder the passions are raised while the heart glows with love to God and Christ, and everything sacred and divine; at such a time the conversation will be lively, and divine subjects will be conversed on intelligibly and with good sense; songs of praise will be offered up with true devotion, and an aspiring after perfection and the complete enjoyment of God; such a frame fits man to live or die. But for the passions to be overwhelmed by sound, and fabulous reports, by clash and noise, to the confounding of reason where the understanding remains uninformed and the person so exercised quite unable to give any rational account of himself, what discovery he had more than at other times, or why it was that he was wrought upon, is a great abuse of the passions, and although it may be a momentary satisfaction to seducers, to obtain such ascendency over their hearers, the consequence has often been very dreadful, and injurious to the souls of men; it is an invariable rule with many of us, to appeal to the scriptures for precedent or example, both in preaching and worship; for all is darkness, error, and confusion that stands opposed to the law and testimony.
The Lord Jesus in His public ministry taught the people what He had learned in the bosom of the Father, the intent of the Father in sending Him into the world, and His own design in laying down His life a ransom for many; that when He was lifted on the cross the kingdom of darkness should be destroyed, and numbers from all nations drawn to Him; that He had all life in Himself, and that it was His pleasure to give eternal life to as many as the Father had given Him; that in Him all the purposes of God were to be accomplished, all the prophesies fulfilled, the whole law strictly kept, and made honorable; that He was possessed with power to cast out devils, remove leprosies, restore cripples, open the eyes of the blind, heal the sick, and raise the dead; that He had power to quicken souls dead in trespasses and sin, pardon sin and transgression, and confer grace and the gift of the Holy Ghost, and many other interesting truths; what was the result? why the audience were so informed, they asserted, they never heard man speak like this man, and were astonished at the gracious words that proceeded out of His mouth -He taught salvation by rich, free, unfrustrable grace, in a warm, powerful, and striking manner; and not like the ignorant scribe, proud Pharisee, or conceited expounders of the Jewish law, having their minds clouded with superstition and invention of men. When the apostles and disciples went forth to preach, they declared the wretched state man was in by nature and practice, and urged the necessity of repentance; they were careful to inform their hearers that they could not be justified by the law of Moses, and that justification was by Christ alone without the deeds of the law; the effect of their preaching was, a number took conviction, became sensible what poor sinners they were, and made enquiry what they should do to be saved.
In the whole of the ministry of Christ and His apostles, the preaching of the gospel in its simplicity appears to have been the means of the conversion of sinners, and spreading the Redeemer's kingdom; it is wonderful had some other method have answered the purpose, and been more effectual, why it had not been adopted; but we have no account that Christ or the first set of preachers even quit preaching and took to singing and shaking hands with their hearers, in order to convert their souls. But as we have no example in God's word, for such behaviour, we shall have it among the antichristian lumber, for it has ever been the business of the leaders in the kingdom of Antichrist, to keep their pupils in gross ignorance, for that gives an opportunity of swelling their own importance, and of imposing their arbitrary measures, and superstitious customs upon them.
A very great difference appears between the primitive preachers and some modern ones; when persons were wrought upon and their hearts opened, and enquiry made, what they should do to be saved -the former instructed them to believe in the Lord Jesus, to repent and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, for the remission of sin, and they should receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; but the latter say, Come be prayed for: after prayer they are sometimes asked if they feel no better -whether some alterations have not taken place -whether some comfort has not been afforded to the mind -and then a loud toned exhortation, until weak minds, and soft, tender passions have been reduced to a state unaccountable to themselves. -How easy for persons so confounded to be persuaded they are converted, and so be lulled into the embraces of a strong delusion.
We suppose it is acknowledged by all, that Jesus Christ, who is wisdom itself, knew what was in the womb of futurity -had He foreseen that length of time, that commotions and revolutions in the world would affect and alter human nature, so as to make it necessary that different means, and different modes of conduct, in order to bring souls home to Christ, should take place, it is surprising that some hint, some information in some way had not been given; besides we have lived to see that these men made converts, is but of short duration; their seeming grace or religion pass away as the morning cloud or as the early dew; it becomes the sons and daughters of light to guard against every imposition, and every device of imposters, and follow no man any farther than they follow Christ; take heed that none beguile you, with a perverted gospel, and not the gospel of Christ.
The method customary among us in providing for the ministers of the gospel.
THAT it is a duty incumbent on those that enjoy the gospel, to contribute for the support of the preachers thereof, appears to every attentive and unprejudiced reader of the holy scriptures. It is found there to be one of the divine councils -it is ordained that they that preach the gospel shall live of the gospel -it is likewise founded in justice -the laborer is worthy of his reward -the soldier is entitled to his pay, by the power that employs him, and careful husbandmen, who feed, pasture and defend their flock, eateth of the milk of the flock: this truth is generally assented to by our people, and deemed obligatory on them.
But the compliance with this institution (in a very partial way) has been differently practiced in some of our churches -it has been frequent to have a written subscription, and each member of the meeting, by a voluntary act of his own, sets his name with the sum subscribed, which sum is expected to be paid up in the course of the year -in some churches it has been much confined to the members only as subscribers -others, where they have a written subscription, have proposed it to the congregation, as well as to their own particular members, which proposition has appeared gratifying to many of our friends, and their aid considerably felt in the support of the ministry. Some churches have objected to a subscription, and have submitted to the several members, to act at their own discretion -when to contribute to their preacher, and the amount, as it might be convenient, or never, if not disposed to do it; the latter of which has often been.
Other meetings have sometimes calculated the sum necessary to be raised, and the several members, by mutual agreement have submitted to the deacons, or some other two or three members of their body, who are acquainted with their circumstances, to judge what the proportion of each shall be, and have found no hindrance to the peace and tranquility of such churches -for, if such a mode should prove burthensome to an individual under some distressing circumstance, it is made known to his brethren and the person sympathized with, and his burthen removed. But with the curious, there may be a great anxiety to know what the preachers get -for the conclusion is often that they get a great sum, though the person so concluding never gave anything, neither does he know where it comes from -but it must be so, they get a great deal of money -for the satisfaction of such we will give them a candid relation of the matter. Most of our preachers do receive some aid from their brethren and friends, without which they would not be able to go as much as they do -but as far as we are acquainted, they have never received to that amount (exclusive of their own care and industry) what would support them, and enable them to travel and dispense the gospel -it has been found necessary for the preachers with us, to accustom themselves to farming, mechanical business, or some honest course of industry, and train their families to labor -without which they would have become a reproach to the cause, and their traveling abroad to preach the gospel much obstructed.
But there are several reasons why public characters lie neglected. Time was when preaching was a lucrative job, and men divined for hire. So soon as the gospel was preached in its simplicity, it was readily supposed the propagators acted from purer motives than the former, and lest any should be prejudiced, there was an objection raised to receiving what was necessary, and which would have been expedient under other circumstances: another reason; the Baptists, generally speaking, are of the common people, and low in circumstances in the world; and feel their difficulties in providing for themselves and families, and therefore much is not to be expected from them -besides, in early times of the gospel among us, the preachers could have no view of gain, or worldly honor; there was no such temptation offered, but quite the reverse -they were exposed to sneers, ridicule, reproach and contempt -bonds, afflictions, persecutions, and distress, marked their way as sheep appointed for the slaughter; so that had their inclination for gain been never so strong, the circumstance in which things were, at once forbid their succeeding in such lucrative views; it does not appear to be the mind of Christ, that His ministers were to accumulate and hoard up wealth by their preaching the gospel; a competency is what the great lawgiver has assigned His servants, and they are entitled to no more. They that preach the gospel shall live of the gospel -it is, by far, greater satisfaction to the man of God, when he can make his way in traveling and preaching without receiving anything from the people -for the two following reasons: when a laborer in the vineyard examines himself respecting the motives which inclined him to preach, how satisfactory to the mind when he can readily decide it was not gain, honor, nor anything of a worldly nature that proved a stimulus -but a consciousness of duty, out of love to Christ, and bowels of compassion to the human family -and an earnest desire for the conversion of souls, and a general spread of the kingdom of God among men. A second reason -when a collection hath been spoken of, for the preacher, the motion has been treated with so much indifference, and often by those from whom a different conduct might be expected, together with severe reflections, they are all after money -and many (as we hope) of the truly pious seem never to have taken up the idea of the expense of constant traveling, wearage of clothes and horse, the giving up interesting business at home, leaving wife and children to shift for themselves, and the melancholy reflection of almost continual absence from family -but we suppose this last conclusion is from the retired situation that such Christians are placed in, the little acquaintance they have with traveling, and that they are at but little expense, being supplied by the productions of their own manufactures, by which means they become contracted, and lose that generosity of sentiment that ought to occupy the breast of each heir of glory.
Under these circumstances, the laborer, seeing and hearing how the subject is treated, cannot fail shattering and wounding his feelings; and naturally leads him to desire he could fulfil the work of the ministry without receiving anything as a compensation for his labors -but where the preacher is poor, so that he cannot go without help, better for him to reconcile himself to inward wounds, and outward aspersions, than flop in the progress of his ministry, or lay down the gospel of salvation. But there is a considerable difference between thirty or forty years past, and the present time, as to the conduct of the populace towards ministers- prejudices are much conquered, and their judgments better informed -so that preachers of late are not held up in contempt as formerly; whether it arises from want of zeal for God, honesty and faithfulness to man, and a want of circumspection in life and conversation, or whether it arises from an opposite behavior, we will not, with confidence, assert.
The conclusion among the honest and laborious is, that they are to go and preach as much as in their power lies -it being the principle they first set out on, and the principle that still prevails; if the people to whom they preach be so confined and hard hearted that they refuse to deal out to Christ's servants that which is just and equal, and which is enjoined on them that are taught in the word -a people thus negligent must abide the consequence to their own master- they stand or fall, but the laborer is not to measure his duty by their conduct, nor slacken his diligence and engagedness because of their negligence. So far from giving up the work-, that there appears a greater necessity for standing on Zion's walls and sounding the alarm, and holding up the signal of approaching danger - shudder not at poverty nor disgrace, when employed in declaring the divine counsel, and spreading the favor of the knowledge of Christ -it is a point acknowledged that he that labors with one hand for his daily bread, and with the other hand holds out the gospel of life, is entitled to double honor -but how trifling the honor conferred by man, in comparison with that honor which comes from God -the great shepherd will one day appear, and bestow a crown of life, and welcome all His faithful servants into the joy of their Lord.
Written by William Fristoe
An account of our regular annual meetings.
EVER since this association was constituted, we have had two annual meetings, one called the association, and the other the yearly meeting. The association, for a long time, has been holden on the Thursday before the third Lord's day in August -Thursday and Friday are generally employed in reading letters of intelligence from the several churches, and arranging and conducting such business as may appear of public utility to the churches -Saturday and Sunday have been generally taken up in preaching to the inhabitants, where many thousands frequently attend -this meeting has not been confined to anyone place, but has been appointed at many different places as it might appear most convenient. Our yearly meeting has been on the Saturday before the second Lord's day in June; this meeting is designed for the purpose of preaching. We have other preaching meetings occasionally, but not annually.
This association, at an early period, cultivated a correspondence, by letter and messenger, with the Philadelphia association, and that of Monongahela; and thereby received information of the progress and prosperity of religion in different places to a considerable extent -until the different associations of Baptists in Virginia thought proper to unite in general committee, for the purpose of securing our rights, for remonstrating against oppressive laws or unjust measures in government, and the petitioning for the repealing of laws which were injurious. When this committee was established, it became the medium of correspondence. Since the general committee discontinued, we have correspondence only with two or three of our neighboring associations; but we are favored in common with the minutes of most of the Baptist associations from north to south, and of the westward country, by some hand or other, either designedly or accidentally -so that knowledge is circulating and very informing, and heart-affecting intelligence afforded- in return it is our aim to circulate our minutes, and so join in diffusing information abroad.
A detail of the ministers that have, and some of which do, at present, belong to this association.
ALTHOUGH it may appear formal and very little for edification, the bare citing the number of preachers, and their names, yet our history would appear one were it entirely omitted, and our friends at a distance may be desirous to know who they are; we shall therefore give you information of them, and that in rotation: -Elder John Garrard 1, Elder John Marks 2, Elder John Alderson 3, Elder David Thomas 4, Elder Richard Major 5, Elder William Fristoe 6, Elder Nathaniel Sanders 7, Elder Jeremiah Moore 8, Elder Daniel Fristoe 9, Elder Lewis Lunceford 10, Elder William Mason 11, Elder John Hickerson 12, Elder Robert Sanders 13, Elder John Creel 14, Elder William Hill 15, Elder Philip Spiller 16, Elder Elderson Weeks 17, Elder John Hutcheson 18, Elder Andrew Leech 19, Elder William Thrift 20, Elder William Grinstead 21, Elder Christopher Collins 22; Elders James Ireland and John Monroe were members with those called separates, but for convenience joined with us. As we have enumerated them by strength of memory, should omissions be, they will be forgiven. Several others have been public preachers among us whose behaviour was such that entitles them to neglect, and we will leave them in obscurity. Elders Garrard, Marks, Alderson, Major, D. Fristoe, Ireland, Creel, Hill and R. Sanders are all dead. The preachers that were called in at an early time, were much employed in traveling and laboring among the people -among whom Elder Thomas was much engaged -Elder Major traveled much, but continued not long by reason of death -Elder Daniel Fristoe, while he lived, was considerable in touring and preaching; for a length of time Elders W. Fristoe, Mason, Moore and Hickerson, have been the principal travelers -the necessity has been such that there could be no retiring -so many desolate neighborhoods and churches, that called for diligence among Zion's watchmen (although it is desirable that every constituted church should have a pastor) but necessity with us compels one preacher to tend several, or the people must remain destitute of preaching.
The different species of persecution the Baptists had to labor under, in an early Period.
WE come now to give a narrative of the treatment the Baptists met with from their neighbors and countrymen at their first rise among us, and for a considerable time after, and some instances to the present time, they were stigmatized with every name that malice could invent -the general term of reproach with which the preachers and Baptist people were clothed, was that of new-Light -so soon as any person frequented meeting, appeared serious, and began to cultivate an acquaintance with the scriptures, it was reported such an one was going to turn new-Light; we suppose what gave rise to this name, was the doctrines taught by the Baptists, viz: the necessity of regeneration -the having natural darkness, ignorance and stupidity removed from the mind, by the illumination of rich grace from the God of light, and a revelation of Christ as the only way to God, the slaying the enmity of the heart, the bringing down every exalted imagination -and leading the soul to depend on the righteousness of Christ alone for justification and acceptance before God, and a capacity given to the understanding to conceive of spiritual things -these were strange things; but although new light was intended as a term of reproach, it occasioned many to go and hear, and as faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. -Upon hearing many got under deep concern and smote their breasts, saying, What shall we do to be saved? the language was, these preachers bring strange things to our ears. It is wonderful the devil, though of angelic form, of superior capacity, and that improved by an intimate acquaintance with man for so many thousand years -the experience he has gained -in knowing what temptation is most likely to succeed with the carnal mind -please sensual appetites, and establish the kingdom of darkness among men -that he should so far overshoot himself, and influence the children of his kingdom in fixing reproachful names on others which in the event terminates much in the overthrow of his kingdom, and the entire loss of many of his much admired and faithful subjects.
The new-Lights were charged with being disturbers of the peace, that they had occasioned uneasiness and disquietude in the minds of the people, when there was no necessity for it, and that such a people ought to be treated with contempt, ridiculed and disgraced, and all that keep company with them. This charge was mere wind, and could not be substantiated, for all the while the Baptists were behaving peaceably -professing and preaching the king of peace -advocating the cause of the gospel of peace, and the promotion of the spiritual kingdom of peace in the world. But what produced this calumny was, the religion of Christ revealed in the gospel was not suited to the carnal mind; the mortification and self-denial that characterized the followers of Christ, could not agree with their manner of life -and therefore rather than part with sin and their sensual gratifications, they chose to find fault with the religion of Jesus, and ridicule the gospel, and count concern about futurity unnecessary -that the great creator is a God of mercy, and never made anybody to be lost, we shall have peace though we add drunkenness to thirst, and walk in all the imaginations of our hearts.
The cant word was, they are an ignorant illiterate set -and of the poor and contemptible class of the people. Now if the learned, the wealthy, and those of great parentage had made pretensions to religion we might suppose there was some reality in it. These reflections were of great use to young converts, and greatly confirmed them that they were right -for in like manner the wicked ridiculed the Lord Jesus and His followers in primitive times -they said of the Saviour, As for this fellow we know not whence He is -asserted He was a friend of publicans and sinners -that He was of low parentage, being the son of Joseph the carpenter, and His brethren poor -and they were offended in Him. They likewise spurned at His followers, and declared they knew not the law, and were an accursed people. It was not the rulers that believed when Jesus Christ preached His own gospel -it was the poor the gospel proved effectual to, and the common people heard Him gladly, while the wise and prudent were left to judicial blindness; it is God's work to reveal salvation to the soul -and this He can easily do, at His own pleasure, to the weakest of the human race, unassisted by human learning, and abundantly enrich their minds with spiritual ideas, which is impossible for any person to acquire, though acquainted with all the different languages in use in the world, and though they understood all the arts and sciences taught by man.
They were charged with design -the vain supposition was that if the Baptists could succeed, and have a large increase of converts to their party -when once they supposed themselves sufficiently strong, that they would fall on their fellow subjects, massacre the inhabitants and take possession of the country. Groundless and stupid as this conjecture was, it was spoken of from one to the other, until many of the old bigots would feel their tempers inflamed, and their blood run quick in their veins, and declare they would take up arms and destroy the new-Lights. How much this resembled primitive times, when the gospel was preached in the land of Judea -the Jews being under the Romish yoke, and tributary to Caesar, but were favored with some privileges -but as their hearts stood opposed to God, and they determined to reject Christ. They brought this forward as an excuse that if they countenanced Christ, Caesar would be offended, and conclude they had an intention to revolt and cast off his yoke, and take protection under Christ as a rival of Caesar's. -This would raise his resentment and exasperate the Romans in general -and Caesar will send his army and take our inheritance, and destroy our nation.
Another charge exhibited was, that they were schismatics, and this passage of scripture often cited, mark them which cause divisions among you contrary to the doctrine ye have learned, and avoid them -this was supposed to apply to the Baptists, because some dissented from the high church and joined the Baptist meeting.
But, unhappy for our accusers, they had never learned doctrine; they were unacquainted with the articles of the Church, of which they professed themselves members; and many when asked about their articles could give no account of them, or in what book they were contained. The pursuit after the knowledge of religious subjects was neglected and lay foreign from the people prior to the Baptists coming among us, and after, when the doctrine contained in those articles was cited, it was supposed to be new-Light doctrine, and of course ought to be rejected. It was a time when gross darkness covered the minds of the people, and gave an opportunity for prejudice to act in its full strength without the least control. When we consider the look back to the times of ignorance, before gospel light shone on our inhabitants, and then take a view of the good effects produced by the gospel (as the means) it is truly wonderful -this ancient prophecy is accomplished, and desert is become a fruitful field -and where they were not the Lord's people, in the same place appears the children of the living God.
Another complaint brought forward with marks of distress, that if the Baptists were suffered to go on, and succeed as they were likely to do, it would terminate in the utter ruin of the high church; that nothing short of the entire desolation and extinguishment would be the event, and that it was high time to take the alarm. What, have our church brought to desolation! a church in its constitution so eminent, and one would have supposed so permanent and well established, having the king of Great Britain the head of the church, and defender of the faith! the bishops of England so exalted as to bear the title of Lords spiritual, possessed with so much sagacity and learning, as to fit them for governing in everything ecclesiastic, and supply every part of the dominion with pious clergy; we have likewise in every parish a vestry of twelve discreet men, chosen to direct and manage the affairs of the church -and we have persons inducted and settled in the different parishes, with a salary of sixteen thousand pounds of tobacco a year made sure to them, to be collected from the different tithes included in the parish with the addition of all fees for marriages and funeral sermons; a church established by law, with whom the governing powers rest -all nonconformists or dissenters from us we can bring to our feet, and it is at our option to allow them toleration or not.
Now after all this provision being made for our preservation and security, to be broken up, and our church brought to nothing, is intolerable; and we cannot think of it without strange emotions -a gloomy melancholy, and depression of spirits. -This distressing conclusion, it is clear, arose from want of understanding, for there is no danger of the church of Christ being destroyed, or the gates of hell prevailing against her -false prophets with all their art and cunning can never seduce the elect, for they are secured, preserved, and taken care of by the great Shepherd -and as they are built upon the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief corner-stone, and of course can not fail growing up into an holy temple in the Lord. But it is no wonder a church formed by the invention of man, supported by oppressive laws, governed by lucrative priests, compacted together of wood and hay stubble materials, should fail; for so soon as national policy loses its form, such church will cease to exist.
The preachers were deemed false prophets, a set of wolves in sheep's clothing, and often in early times men would prevent their wives and children from going to hear, lest they should be deceived; and, in some instances, where children have appeared affected with the gospel, parents have been much distressed, and threatened to cast them off and dispossess them, telling them they would render themselves ridiculous in the world and never more be in common credit; it is to be feared that there are many parents who in the coming day will be found guilty of the ruin and destruction of their tender offspring; and should it be beyond the power of the parent to do his child harm, owing to the interference of rich grace, and beneficence of the God of love, no thanks to the wicked parent; his guilt is the same: but could reason be admitted into the field, and the matter judged of without prejudice, there was but little chance of the Baptists being deceivers; their education was small, their language plain and easy, their religious tenets were open to the world, and when they preached it was usual in all cases to appeal to the sacred scriptures for proof of what they asserted; besides had it have been their intention to devour men's livings, and increase their own wealth, they would not have propagated such doctrine as they did, but the direct opposite as being more pleasing.
But the enemy not contented with ridicule and defamation, manifested their abhorrence to the Baptists in another way; by a law then in force in Virginia, all were under obligation to go to church several times in the year; the failure subjected them to fine.
Little notice was taken of the omission, if members of the established church; but so soon as the new-Lights were absent they were presented by the grand jury, and fined according to law; whether such fine was ever collected or not we cannot certainly say -however, the attempt to make them pay appeared very unreasonable. What, compelled to attend the church whose worship they could not join, and the ministry deficient -they could receive no advantage from it, and languish for want of gospel food, food calculated to refresh and strengthen the soul -it was burthenome and disagreeable to be compelled to pay our proportion of the parson's sixteen thousand pounds of tobacco, but to be confined in addition to that, to pay for not going to church, was distressing.
Soon they began to take other steps to deter the Baptist preachers, and obstruct the progress of the gospel, by objecting to their preaching until they obtained license from the general court, whose place of sitting at that time was old Williamsburg. Until such times that license was obtained, they were exposed to be apprehended and imprisoned, and numbers were compelled to give security for good behaviour -the good behaviour was, not to preach, and, in some instances, it was enjoined on them not to pray; the Episcopalian church was established by law in this country, and she was protected and directed by law -but there was no such provision for dissenters, neither could we understand there was any prohibition to their preaching inserted in the law, nor any penalty annexed -the law being silent on the subject as it respected dissenters and it gave a greater opportunity for malice to vent itself .
We will give a relation of a circumstance to the point, and as it was a case respecting the author, it is well known to him: Being in the country in which he lived, application was made by an individual to the leading character in the county for a warrant to apprehend the preacher for preaching; the magistrate to whom application was made, had been trained to the law and possessed an understanding above most people; the enquiry by him was, what had been preached? that he knew of no law in force among us that would punish a man for simply preaching, and as for dissenters, the law was silent about them as a religious sect; that if he should issue a warrant and the preacher be apprehended, unless it could be proved that he preached something blasphemous, in which case he would be liable to punishment; but if that could not be proven, he would be exonerated, and therefore to no purpose to apprehend such an one; at which the applicant returned without succeeding; fortunate for the preacher that there was for once a man of sense bearing the civil sword, whose prejudice was no preventative to the exercise of a sound judgment. As the law was silent about dissenters and no mode prescribed for their preaching, nor prohibition of it, nor for punishing them on the account of it, justices of the peace and courts of justice, took a different position, and pursued a different plan, pretended they were not persecuting religion when the Baptist preachers were taken and imprisoned, but that it was the peace and good order of the community they were aiming at; and so shifted the ground -they were not brought to the bar for religion, nor for their religious opinions, nor any of their rites, modes, or religious ceremonies, but as disturbers of the peace, the perverters of good order, and the calling unlawful assemblies together, taking the people from their necessary employment on their different farms and plantations, bringing the people into habits of idleness and neglect of their necessary business and interesting pursuits, and thereby reducing the inhabitants to want and distress.
We have been well informed that at times when a congregation has been assembled for divine worship, that persons of a persecuting disposition have taken the number of males at such meeting, have stated the sum that the day's labor of each man was worth, and then, by adding all together, have brought out the sum total. Here they would expatiate; all this loss is sustained by the wretched new-Lights, had it not been for them all this might have been saved, and our country much enriched; we fear times will grow worse and worse, without a stop can be made to the career, and some preventative devised that may bring them to silence.
Here notice, days could be spent in card playing, horse racing, cock fighting, fish frying, barbecuing, shooting matches, and other fashionable vices, without magisterial interference, and the perpetrators go off with impunity -and often those who bore the civil sword, were shamefully guilty of those enormities, and in some instances, the ringleaders.
Times grew such there appeared no probability of escaping prison without a license could be obtained, and to obtain them was difficult -for by this time the members of the general court had taken prejudice, being all of the established church, they resolved to discountenance the Baptists, and decreed to license but one place in a county.
It was in vain to apply to the general court for a license, without going prepared in the following manner: -a petition was drawn expressive of the desire of the people in the community where the meeting-house stood, or was to be built; this petition must be signed by twenty free persons, with the addition of two acting justices of the peace, certifying that the above signers were inhabitants of the place; and this was difficult at all times to obtain. A certain preacher drew a petition and obtained signers, and then made application to several magistrates in the county, and met with a stern refusal; one circumstance was favorable to him -there was at that time several that proposed themselves as candidates for the state legislature, and desired the suffrage of the freeholders, two of which gave him a certificate. Another hardship, when a license was obtained it was confined and limited, it was for the place and not the person, for the house and not the man, or in other words, the man was allowed to preach at the licensed meeting-house, and there only, and had no more right to preach elsewhere than he had before he obtained a grant from the supreme court. I knew the general court to refuse a license for a Baptist meeting-house, in the county of Richmond, because there was a Presbyterian meeting-house already in the county-although the act of toleration considered them distinct societies.
Under these circumstances it was both discouraging and mortifying; the attempt to offer a petition, when it was known, if granted at all, it would be with great reluctance, all the chance we had as British subjects to plead the act of toleration, and that was intolerable, for one set of men to make application to another set of men (cap in hand) and in the most humble posture, ask their consent and allowance, to worship the God that made them, to publicly own the Lord Jesus that died for them; to talk and tell of His love; to enquire into, and inculcate the precious word of life, the gospel of salvation, to sing H is solemn praise, and call on His name by prayer and supplication.
Intolerable as this was, necessity compelled us to comply, having no other alternative -and it was well understood that if license was denied, that preachers would be apprehended, imprisoned, or roughly handled in some way or other.
We come now to present our petition to the honorable general court, at which tokens of disgust appeared in the countenance of the members of the court; every enquiry was made, and every measure adopted to evade granting the petition.
If a license was granted for a certain place, the preacher who applied for the license had to pass an examination by a church clergyman before a license issued; the qualification in this case was, application was to be made to a minister of the church of England, by the person licensed, and there give his assent to the thirty-nine articles of the above church, except three, and a part of a fourth, after such examination, and subscribing to the above articles, the church parson gave, from under his hand, certifying he had examined such an one, and that he had qualified according to law -this certificate was bore back to court, upon which a license issued from the clerk's table.
Here arose another difficulty in the case of examination -after the court had granted license to a certain preacher, application was made to several Episcopalian preachers, then officiating in the college of William and Mary -the president or leading character was first addressed -and the request made that he should make the examination -the reply was, in an overbearing and disdainful manner, I will not, for I am head of the church here, and it is countenancing dissenters too much to afford them a hearing, or perform any offices for them. Application was made to the second -he appeared more mild, but said he had examined some dissenters before, and the other preachers had not, and as the leading character did not think proper to do it, he would not. The third was then sought to -he said he would not, for the other two had as much right to oblige the Baptists as he had, and as they would not perform the work of examination he would not. After which information was given of a preacher living on James River, a small distance from Williamsburg, and it was supposed he would oblige the preacher -upon which advice he was addressed, who in a friendly and courteous manner did the business. The articles were read and subscribed to according to law -a certificate was then given by the parson, by virtue of which a license was obtained.
It is easy for the reader to understand, that through the whole process of this business, from the beginning to the end, obstructions and difficulties lay in the way -first to get signers to a petition, second to get a certificate from two acting magistrates in the county from which the petition was sent, thirdly to find the court in such a temper and capable of exercising such generosity as to grant a license, and after all this, it was left uncertain and precarious, and depended on the will and temper of the clergy whether we should succeed or not. Oh! how disagreeable our situation at that time, when in combination the malice of the clergy, and courts of justice were inflamed and raged to a degree of madness, while we were by the common herd spoken against everywhere; we are left to conclude that our existence in the world, our preservation as a religious society, and the scanty privilege we enjoyed, of the exercise of conscience in the discharge of the duties of religion, was entirely owing to the superintending providence of God, whose almighty power preserved this burning bush, and therefore it was not consumed.
These are the effects of an establishment of religion by law; here we may see monarchical tyranny, and priestly policy, harmoniously uniting -the king supporting the favorite clergy of the established church, and the clergy knowing their preservation and support is dependent on the crown, afford their aid in support of the government, and of course all nonconformists must go to the wreck.
We have to inform the reader of still more violent attacks made by the persecutors of the Baptists, not satisfied with slander and reproach, with sneers and ridicule, but set about devising other methods, and so stop the preaching of the gospel; put aside or break up worshipping assemblies, and exterpate all appearance of religion from the earth -to effect this, violence and main strength was acceded to, and exercised by the baser sort.
That this may be understood, in how many different ways, and at different times, the Baptists suffered by the hand of violence, we will undertake to give a minute detail, so far as our knowledge extends, or have received well authenticated report.
Sometimes attempts have been made by an individual man to take the preacher from the stand, in time of his publicly preaching the gospel, for no other pretended cause than the persecutor's wife made some pretensions to religion, and that it was necessary we should be new creatures in order to happiness in a future world. This individual was repulsed in the attempt, and the mischief prevented.
At the same meeting-house, at other times, it has not been confined to an individual opposer; but large mobs have repaired to the meeting-house, and that of the more brave and lusty, provided with clubs and implements of mischief, and clearly manifested their design was to beat the preacher, and clear the place of the professors of religion; but as a preventative to their design that day, the minister was informed of their collecting at the meeting-house, before he reached the place, and it was thought most prudent both by himself and others to retire; by which means the preacher came off unhurt; the mob disappointed returned home much exasperated, but it was matter of lamentation that the gospel should be stopped in its administration, and divine worship prevented.
Another time, at the same place, a gun has been brought by a person, in a great rage, and presented within the meeting-house doors, supposed to shoot the preacher, but was prevented by his own brother, who suddenly caught the gun from him and prevented the execution of the wretched design. At another time, at the same place, a few being met at the meeting-house, to pray, sing praises and offer up their solemn devotion, and employ themselves in the most profitable manner; while at devotion, a mob having collected, they immediately rushed upon them in the meeting-house, and began to inflict blows on the worshipers, and produce bruises and bloodshed, so that the floor shone with the sprinkled blood the days following; upon which the few Baptists in the place concluded they would aim at a redress of their grievances, by bringing the lawless mob to justice, and inflict punishment upon them according to just deserts. A warrant was applied for, and obtained, for the principal leaders of the mischief -they were apprehended, and time and place appointed for trial -things being thus circumstanced, hopes are entertained that for once the oppressed might have justice shewn them; but the reverse was soon manifest. On trial the disturbers of the peace could prove anything, and everything, they wanted to prove favorable to themselves -they could prove that the meeting people were as riotous as themselves, and the magistrates at that time (a few excepted) so filled with prejudice, that full credit was given to evidence against the Baptists, and a refusal to hear anything favorable of them -the result was, it was deemed a riot, and all were discharged.
By this time it was a thing well understood, that justice could be perverted, and the oppressed had to bear their burthen without any hope of relief from men -and the persecutors triumph and exult in their oppressive measures -it afforded an opportunity of offering every kind of insult that ignorance and malice might prompt them to; with us it was quite common for persons to attack the preacher in time of preaching, and use abusive language, call him by every name that was supposed reproachful; mouth and throw themselves into every posture, if possible, to interrupt the preacher, and discommodate all that were seriously engaged in divine worship. Attempts have been made not only to disturb worship, and prevent preaching, but a little, low-lived, persecuting conduct has accompanied elsewhere -such as interrupting when we were going to administer the ordinance of baptism, talking, jumping, and, once in a while, insulting the preacher and challenging him to game. -When persons have been baptized, they have pronounced what their names should be; sometimes casting dogs into the water and muddying of it -all was done in a way to cast all that contempt on the sacred institution they were capable of; while the laity of the church of England were employed in spurning and scoffing religion out of the world, the clergy from the pulpit afforded their aid, and were employed in the same business.
A certain church person employed his oratory on a certain occasion in defaming the Baptists; he undertook to compare them with a number of things, and those of meanest description; at length he made a full stop, as though lost for comparison, or that the Baptists were beneath all comparison -what shall I liken them to? the diving ducks, or rather to the herd of swine running violently down a steep place into the sea, and perishing in the water; but the person was mistaken in the figure, for among the many that have been baptized, none have been drowned.
When persecutors found religion could not be stopped in its progress by ridicule, defamation and abusive language, the resolution was to take a different step and see what that would do; and the preachers in different places were apprehended by magisterial authority, some of whom were imprisoned, and some escaped: before this step was taken, the parson of the parish was consulted (in some instances at least) and his judgment confided in; his counsel was that the new-Lights ought to be taken up and imprisoned, as necessary for the peace and harmony of the old church. As formerly the high priests took the lead in persecuting the followers of Christ, in like manner the high priests have conducted in latter days, and seldom there has been a persecution but what an high priest has been at the head of it, or exercised influence. The reader may take notice, that in our statement of this species of persecution, we shall not cite names but facts.
The first that we know of among us, taken by a warrant, was three old men, who had been hearing the gospel, and become feasible their former conduct had been wicked, and that there was a necessity for a reformation; the conclusion with them was, that they would not loiter away the Sabbath as they had used to do, but meet together and endeavor to worship God: accordingly they met together, and in their feeble way, one of them read a sermon, and another went to prayer; after which they returned home: soon after, they, by the power of a justice, were ordered to appear before him, or some other justice of the peace, to answer for their conduct as touching a late meeting, etc. When they were brought to trail, it was before the parson of the parish who was an acting magistrate in the county, enquiry was made as touching the meeting; nothing appeared more than that they peaceably met together, one of them had read a sermon, and another had endeavoured to make prayer, without noise, multitude or tumult, and then separated from each other; at which information the parson tore the warrant, and discharged them, with giving a short caution, not to be righteous overmuch.
At another time, at a distant place, a preacher was apprehended as soon as done preaching, and taken from the place immediately to justice -the charge was, preaching; the magistrate enquired what had been preached? the evidence, when called upon, appeared confused, and when questioned and cross questioned, their testimony was contradictory; the justice could get no just information, or intelligible account from them respecting the matter: at which the preacher requested the magistrate to allow him to relate what he had asserted in his sermon, to which he supposed the evidence would agree; he was allowed, and when he had cited the same things he had before mentioned in his sermon, the evidence was brought to recollection and assented to it. -It appeared the greatest distress on this occasion, was that the above-cited preacher had advanced doctrine in direct opposition to the established church, which charge, could it have been substantiated, would certainly, at that time have procured his confinement in the dungeon; but when the matter came to light, and proper information obtained, it was quite the reverse; it was true the preacher in his sermon made mention of several things in the articles of the high church, but it was in a way of approbation of them, as being what himself, in heart espoused, and in public advocated; the truth was, their anger was raised, .and their resentment leveled against the preaching; because they are in a plain and pointed manner told that the articles of their church, as it respected the essentials of religion, was sound and orthodox; and that they were grossly ignorant of their contents, and careless about them; that they had adulterated and departed from their own system, and that their immoral conduct and dissipated behaviour gave abundant proof that they knew nothing of vital religion, nor ever felt its quickening power; and it followed their Christianity was no more than a name without the substance. When the magistrate was rightly informed, it was judged a malicious prosecution, and nothing deserving bonds or imprisonment; and accordingly the preacher was set at liberty.
A third prosecution was of a certain man whom the Baptist church had allowed and encourage as an exhorter, and was approved of as such; the same was engaged in a word of exhortation on Sabbath day, at a licensed meeting-house: soon after he began, he was arrested by a justice of the peace who had brought the sheriff with him; his commitment was soon written, and without farther ceremony hurried by the officer, and soon committed to the care of the jailor, who shut him up in a disagreeable dungeon, where he remained until court was in course for the county; at which time he was brought to the bar, and the charge exhibited. The king's attorney strove to render the prisoner ridiculous, his doctrine atrocious, and the sect to which he belonged enthusiasts and injurious to the community; an attorney was employed on the side of the prisoner, who managed the cause to advantage; here another opportunity offered for information that there was no law provided for the apprehending and imprisoning dissenters for simply preaching, and that the doing of it was arbitrary and tyrannical; the result of the trial was, the person was discharged, for the two following reasons: first, that he was allowed by the Baptist church to exhort, and secondly, he was exercising his gift in a licensed meeting-house; the court could not devise how they might detain the prisoner longer -he was therefore discharged. Another instance we have received information of, that will scarce admit of comparison: a magistrate issued a warrant for the apprehending one of our preachers -the contents of which was, the officer was to bring him before him or some other justice of the peace, to answer for his conduct as touching preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified; this was coming to the point in the nigh way, this was saying with a great deal of simplicity what the ground work of complaint was, while wit and invention in other instances, would have cast a cloak over it, and have given it a different colour. According to instruction the preacher was taken by the officer and carried to justice, but when the crime for which he was apprehended was examined, it appeared shameful to the last degree; enmity itself was stunned at it -the preacher was immediately discharged, and that evening held meeting in a large town where he had been taken for trial, and an end was put to that process.
Another instance of cruelty we have to remind the reader of a Minister (though not belonging to our association at the same time, but soon after his confinement became a member with us) the same was apprehended, torn from the stand by violence in time of prayer, and imprisoned; and such was the rage and malice of his persecutors, that a close prison was thought too good. In addition to confinement, those of the vulgar sort took occasion to collect disagreeable and ill-favored trash, nauseous combustibles, and burn them in the prison window which filled the close dungeon with smoke that made it difficult for him to breathe or support life; and in the event so impaired his health, though he lived many years after, he had to drag through life loaded with infirmity, distressing pains, disordered bowels, and a constitution throughout so affected and broke down, that made life often a burthen.
At other times persecution has raged to that degree, two, three and four at a time have been arrested, and brought to trial for preaching, and sometimes for only praying, and in some instances when brought into open court, presented there as criminals, and when the charge was read, in order to disgrace them, they asked, criminal like, guilty or not guilty? They were then required to give bond and security for good behaviour, or go immediately to prison.
We have been well informed, that it has been required of the prisoner as a condition of his or their releasement to give bond and security, not to preach or pray at his own house nor elsewhere; and upon refusal they were continued in confinement; after sometime confinement, some have given security not to preach without license, and immediately petitioned for them -others have given bond for good behaviour, and turned into preaching at risk, feeling no ways guilty of a breach of good behaviour in preaching the gospel; others have continued in prison where great congregations have resorted and heard the gospel through the iron grates, until their persecutors have been discouraged, and set them at liberty, concluding they would be less troublesome when going at large than when confined -and it was found by experience, the more they were oppressed the more they grew and multiplied -and it was evident that a tremor sometimes took hold of those oppressors, lest they should be found fighting against God -and where such distress has taken hold in the breast of a persecutor, he has declined touching God's anointed, or doing his prophets farther harm.
Imprisonment would in all likelihood have been the common lot of all the preachers, had not several of them obtained license in an early time -and we do not recollect any were taken by authority who had obtained license; but it was certainly owing to our enemies not knowing our situation -for our license afforded us protection only at one meeting-house, and left us exposed elsewhere - but our adversaries living at a distance from the metropolis, and not knowing the rules of the General Court, it was thought when a license was obtained it was unlimited, and self-preservation inclined us to keep the secret.
Written by William Fristoe
The method pursued by the Baptist for redress of their grievances.
WE come now to give the reader, some account of our proceedings, in order to extricate, and relieve ourselves from those grievous burthens under which we have been long laboring.
Burthens they were, very sensibly felt, and truly afflicting in their nature, to be compelled to pay our proportion of an exorbitant salary to the person of the parish, whom we never went to hear, and knew full well it was to little purpose to go to hear with any prospect of being profited; to aid in building stately edifices, improperly called churches, and the furnishing such churches with vessels and furniture fit for a magnificent parade, and all this was collected by authority, and must be had if it took the last mite -the ruling power not contented here, but undertook to prescribe rules for our conscience and say in what way we should worship, or incur the penalty they thought proper to inflict.
All this considered, it was thought full time to struggle hard for liberty but as we were few in number in this association, and but few Baptists in anyone place; being scattered throughout the state, it was thought most advisable for the Baptists to form and cultivate an acquaintance with each other, that their united efforts, by way of petition, might have greater weight with the legislature of Virginia.
This made way, for what has been called, the Baptist committee. This committee was composed of persons chosen by the different associations within this state -each association having a right to send four members of her body, or fewer if she thought proper; each association having nominated their messengers, it was common for them to meet once in the year, in general committee: the place of their meeting was intended to be the centre of the state, or thereabouts, that it might be rendered convenient to every part: when met, they by letter or in some way, signified they had been chosen by the association to which they belonged, as their messengers -they then proceeded to a choice of moderator and clerk, and then considered themselves organized for business, and the discharge of their trust.
It was never intended by the churches, that this committee was to exercise a lordly power over the churches, or have anything to do with her internal government, nor infringe on the right of independence in church government; nor to enforce systems of doctrine or creeds, nor direct in discipline.
But the intent in forming a committee was to guard our privileges as a society distinct from all others, who call themselves Christians -to draw up petitions and present them to the legislature, for the removal of our burthens, and the extension of our privileges; to remonstrate against oppressive laws in order to get them repealed -and to conduct and aim in every possible way, to secure our just rights and liberties, with others of our countrymen and fellow citizens.
This mode appeared most convenient, and likely to be most successful; for when the different district associations over the whole state sent their messengers to committee, the wisdom of the whole centered in one body; information was obtained by this means whether the spirit of persecution continued to rage, or whether it was moderating; whether any leading characters had espoused our cause, and appeared inclined to advocate our liberties; whether the face of things bore a pleasing aspect, or whether we might not set down with dejection of mind, apprehensive that we should never succeed in obtaining our just rights.
By means of this committee when petitioning was thought necessary, or remonstrance, or memorial, it was done by the authority and the name of the committee, on behalf of the Baptists in general; but this was not always the case -for sometimes the substance of the petition was of great importance to great numbers of the people, and it was necessary their concurrence or disapprobation should be known, in which case a petition was drawn up by the general committee, a copy of which was bore to the different parts of the state; this gave an opportunity to the inhabitants of examining the purport of such petition, and signify their approbation by signing of it -for great numbers gave weight to a petition in the house of assembly.
The Baptists having labored under oppression for a long time, inclined them to seek redress, as soon as a favorable opportunity offered. In the year 1776, they united in a petition to the assembly of Virginia, stating the several grievances they labored under, requesting a repeal of all such laws as might occasion an odious distinction among citizens, laws securing to some exclusive privileges and emoluments, and inflicting distressing burthens, and partial, narrow, limited privileges to others; this petition the Baptists were determined to persevere in presenting to the assembly, till such times they were attended to, and they rescued from the hand of oppression, and their just liberties secured to them -and it appeared at that juncture the most favorable opportunity offered that had ever been, a time when nation was struggling for civil liberty, and casting off British tyranny, a time of aiming to support their independence, and relieving of themselves from monarchical usurpation.
It became a common saying about this time, "united we stand, divided we fall;" there was a necessity for an unanimity among all ranks, sects and denominations of people; when we had to withstand a powerful nation and expel her by force of arms, or submit to her arbitrary measures, and the state legislature become sensible that a division among the people would be fatal to this country; but the assembly being chiefly of the Episcopalian order, and being in the habit heretofore of governing with rigor, it was with great reluctance they could pass a law favorable to dissenters, and raise them upon a level with themselves. What inclined dissenters to be more anxiously engaged for their liberty was, that if time passed away and no repeal of those injurious laws, and the nation to which we belonged succeeded in supporting their independence, and our government settled down with these old prejudices in the hearts of those in power, and an establishment of religion survive our revolution, and religious tyranny raise its banners in our infant country -
It would leave us to the sore reflection, what have we been struggling for? For what have we spent so much treasure? Why was it that from sentiment we united with our fellow citizens in the cause of civil liberty? Girded on our sword or took our musket on our shoulder, endured the hardships of a tedious war? Why clash to arms? Why hear the heart-affecting shrieks of the wounded, and the awful scene of garments enrolled in blood, together with the entire loss of many of our relations, friends, acquaintances and fellow citizens -and after all this, to be exposed to religious oppression, and the deprivation of the rights of conscience, in the discharge of the duties of religion, in which we are accountable to God alone and not to man?
The consideration of these things, stimulated and excited the Baptists in Virginia to use every effort, and adopt every measure embracing that particular crisis as the fittest time to succeed, which if past by might never offer again, and they and their posterity remain in perpetual fetters under an ecclesiastic tyranny.
The business then was to unite as an oppressed people in using our influence, and give our voice, in electing members of the state legislature; members favorable to religious liberty and the rights of conscience. Although the Baptists were not numerous, when there was anything near a division among the other inhabitants in a county, the Baptists together with their influence gave a cast to the scale, by which means many a worthy and useful member was lodged in the house of assembly, and answered a valuable purpose there.
Pursuant to their determined resolution the Baptists prepared their petition to present to the assembly, or rather instructions what we the people would have them do as our servants -for times had altered, we were addressing fellow citizens, and not a nobility. That we might the better be prepared to address the state legislature, petitions were circulated in every direction to the extremities of the state; the Presbyterians concurred with us, for they had in some respect been alike sufferers, and numbers of the Episcopalians had become sensible of the injustice with which we had been treated, and afforded their aid by signing our petition -so that when our address was presented in the house of assembly, the number of signers was found about ten thousand -and for the first time obtained a successful hearing, and by act of assembly, establishment of religion in part, was abolished so far as it respected compulsory measures to pay the parson's salary of sixteen thousand pounds of tobacco a year, and secured to every denomination the right of worshipping God according to the dictates of their own conscience, and that no person was to suffer in his person nor property on the account of his religious tenets, nor be prevented in the free exercise of them.
In this situation things continued for a number of years -the Episcopalian party appeared distressed, no provision by law to compel the people to pay for the support of religion, of course the clergy would come to want, the church would fall down, and scarce a trace of religion appear in a little time. Things being in this state, wore a disagreeable aspect; as a remedy for this disease, and the removal of this supposed consumption, a bill was brought into the house of assembly, and passed; the purport of which was to recommend to the people or inhabitants of this state, to maturely consider the necessity, expediency, and utility of a general assessment, and make up their minds and decide upon it, and signify at their next session their approbation or disapprobation, and thereby the public voice be manifest. Here note, this general assessment was for the support of religion, and should a law pass on that subject, it was intended to compel or oblige all and every individual to pay some preacher or other, only the person paying might have a choice and say to whom, but they were to pay at all events; if they had an objection to Christianity and were avowed infidels they were to pay, and should a Christian not have his choice of preacher, in the parish or district in which himself lived, he must pay, if the appropriation was for the support of free schools, etc.
Here again the Baptists considered themselves under the necessity of appearing on the public theatre and express their disapprobation to the above proposition, and use their influence to prevent its passing into a law, and that for the following reasons: -
First, it was contrary to their principles and avowed sentiments, the making provision for the support of religion by law, that the distinction between civil and ecclesiastical governments ought to be kept up without blending them together, that Christ Jesus hath given laws for the government of His kingdom and direction of His subjects, and gave instruction concerning collections for the various purposes of religion, and therefore needs not legislative interference.
Secondly, should a legislative body undertake to pass laws for the government of the church, for them to say what doctrines shall be believed, in what mode worship shall be performed, and what the sum collected shall be, what a dreadful precedent it would establish -for when such a right is claimed by a legislature, and given up by the people, by the same rule that they decide in one instance they may in every instance. Religion in this, is like the press, if government limits the press, and says this shall be printed, and that shall not, in the event it will destroy the freedom of the press -so when legislatures undertake to pass laws about religion, religion loses its form, and Christianity is reduced to a system of worldly policy.
Thirdly, it has been believed by us, that that almighty power that instituted religion, will support His own cause; that in the course of divine providence events will be overruled, and the influence of grace on the hearts of the Lord's people will incline them to afford and contribute what is necessary for the support of religion, and therefore there is no need for compulsory measures.
Fourthly, it would give an opportunity to the party that were most numerous, (and of course possessed the ruling power} to use their influence and exercise their art and cunning, and multiply signers to their own favorite party.
And last, the most deserving, the faithful preacher, who in a pointed manner reproved sin, and bore testimony against every species of vice and dissipation, would in all probability have been profited very little by such a law -while men-pleasers, the gay and fashionable, who can wink at sin and daub his hearers with untempered mortar, saying peace, peace, when there is no peace; who can layout his oratory in dealing out smooth things mingled with deception, the wicked, it is clear, would like to have it so; and it follows the irreligious and carnal part of the people would richly reward them for their flattery, and the undeserving go off with the gain.
When the assembly met next time, it was understood the proposed bill was disapproved of by a majority of the people and could not be submitted to; happy for us that this formidable imp was destroyed at the time of his formation, and never suffered to draw breath nor perform one action in this happy land of freedom.
But still there remained some vestiges of establishment; for according to the saying, neither Babel, nor Rome, was built in a day; and with truth it may be said, it is a work of time to demolish ecclesiastic establishments.
The reader is to understand that in every parish there was a tract of land purchased, and commodious buildings erected on it fit for the accommodation of a family, and all at the expense of the people within the parish; When a minister was inducted into a parish by the vestry, he was possessed with said plantation, called glebe land; now inasmuch as these glebe lands were purchased with money extorted from the people by an arbitrary law under a kingly government, it has been thought unreasonable, after a revolution has taken place, the shackles of monarchical government burst asunder, and republicanism set up, religious establishments abolished in part, and equal liberty secured to the different citizens, that this property should not return to the right owners, these original purchasers or their representatives.
And that it was a shameful partiality exercised by the government in favor of one particular sect, so incompatible with republican principles -moreover we were left to fear it would be made use of in a future day and the established church have it to say, there was a reserve of property to them in preference to all other sects, and that establishment was only in part abolished, and this cockatrice egg produce in time a fiery, flying serpent.
To remove this evil, a petition was drawn up and offered to the assembly, requesting them to pass a law for the sale of the glebe lands and appropriate the monies arising from such sale to public use as their wisdom might direct.
A memorial of this nature was continued to be offered to the assembly for several sessions; at length a law was passed, but with some reservation; though these lands were considered public property, yet inasmuch as the church of England clergy had been inducted into the different parishes and possessed with the glebe lands by a contract between them and the vestry of such parish, therefore the law reserved these glebe lands in the possession of such as had inducted under the old government, and considered the title claim vested in them during life -when the incumbent is removed, then the overseers of the poor in the county are to advertise and make sale of such vacant glebes, and the amount of sale to be appropriated to public use; and in proportion to the amount of sale, so proportionably the tax is lessened -so that in a long, roundabout and indirect way, the right owners came into the possession of what they had been deprived of for a long time.
An account of the life and death of Elder Robert Sanders.
ELDER ROBERT SANDERS, a native of Virginia, was born October 1743. During his youth he was accustomed to sport, recreations and diversions, common to youth in the neighborhood and place where he lived; the people being without the light of the gospel, and therefore free indulgence given to sensual appetites - though we never understood he was addicted to swearing and the grosser immoralities. About eighteen he married a reputable woman and formed a family; about this time God in providence directed the gospel into the neighborhood in which he lived, and was pleased to clothe it with power, so that it proved to him not the word of man, but in deed and truth the word of God, which proved the alarming of his soul. A discovery was made to him of the ruined state sin had involved him in, and the dreadful consequences that must follow, without a change of heart, and the removal of his guilt, by the peace speaking blood of Jesus Christ. When the Lord was pleased to remove his burthen of guilt, and impute to him the gospel righteousness, and afford him evidence of an interest in Christ, he conferred not with flesh and blood, but straightway in the twenty first year of his age, repaired to a Baptist minister and related his experience and was baptized; he then sued for admission into the Baptist church, and became a member, where he was singularly useful as a private member, for the following reasons: he was strictly circumspect in his walk, in keeping himself from a wicked and untoward generation, having nothing to do with its sinful customs and maxims, and by a prudent conduct manifested his abhorrence and detestation of the garment spotted by the flesh; his judgment was well formed, and his principles sound and orthodox; as he was careful of the chastity and sobriety of his life, he was likewise watchful over the lives of his fellow members, lest any root of bitterness should spring up among them and thereby many be defiled; this led to great usefulness in the church. His faithful and pointed reproofs in case of sin committed or duty neglected, compassion being mingled with faithfulness, proved the more successful; timely cautions were frequently administered by him to his brethren as a preventative to future evils; his endeavor was to keep clean the house of God, and that the vessels of the Lord should remain pure, and the wicked have no evil thing to say of them, his zeal for truth led him to exert himself whenever the doctrines of faith met with opposition, and he was ~Il equipped, and his manner well suited to stop the mouths of gainsayers; he was prudent in the pursuit of his temporal concerns, and, when duty required, he was generous, open and free, in whatever might be conducive to the interest of religion.
Such was his conduct in the church that procured the regard and esteem of Zion's citizens; by the world he was feared and respected; after a number of years of private usefulness, he was called by the church to the exercise of his public gifts, which met with their approbation; he was accordingly ordained and sent out; his custom as a preacher was to deal in plain and interesting subjects, and proved of considerable usefulness. He was not accustomed to travel far abroad, but confined his labor to a small circle, within which he proved a great good; he had not been employed but a few years in the work of the ministry before he was taken with a consumption, which continued to prey upon him until the earthly tabernacle was dissolved -he was removed by death, August nineteenth, in the year 1790; being the thirty-seventh year of his age; leaving a numerous family, brethren, friends and acquaintances, to mourn their loss. One satisfaction, although he has quit this region, the remembrance of his exemplary life, is similar to his speaking when alive.
A narrative of the life and death of Peter Cornwell.
ALTHOUGH Peter Cornwell was a private character, his history may be entertaining to the reader. The many occurrences accompanying this good man during his life, the statement here will be according to the relation given by himself. While young he became dissipated and shamefully wicked; and continued so a great part of the prime of life. But at a certain time, from what cause he was not able to say, conviction smote his breast; his actual transgressions were brought to his remembrance, and dreadful apprehensions of eternal damnation presented to his mind, as the just desert of his sin; when this presented to his mind, a resolution was taken up by him to reform his life, and act so wickedly no more; accordingly a reform took place; his outbreaking sins were quitted, wicked company forsaken, with a determination to be good, and if possible take the kingdom of Heaven; he engaged in fervent prayer; he reformed and prayed, until a persuasion prevailed with him that he was good, with which his mind was so transported, that when walking on foot he has run and leaped for joy, and concluded that others ought to layout concern about their souls; as for himself he was certain of a safe arrival in the kingdom of Heaven when he died; but here he met with a cross - his wife despised him and would ridicule and mock him, and shame him about his knees being dirty by kneeling down to pray; he aimed to disappoint his wife in that by taking down his stockings when he prayed and let his bare knees go to the ground: all this while he had no saving knowledge of Christ, nor salvation by Him, but entirely depending on his own performances for justification; neither had he as yet ever heard the gospel in its purity. At length, providentially a sermon of Mr. George Whitfield's came to hand, wherein that author gave a relation of his own exercise, and how long he remained wedded to the law -he prayed several times a day, fasted twice in the week, partook of the Lord's Supper frequently, and performed a great many external duties, and yet a stranger to a work of grace, and knew nothing of Christ.
Upon reading of this, he discovered himself in the like situation, a stranger to grace -and that all his prayers, reformations and performances of every kind, were only as filthy rags, imperfection and sin accompanied the best of them, and therefore could not justify the soul -at which sight he was stripped of all his law righteousness, and appeared a naked sinner without anything to shelter him from the devouring wrath of God; and should he die in that state must perish everlastingly. He used to say he never had quiet in his conscience from that time until he enjoyed an application of the blood of Christ to his soul, purging his conscience from dead works, removing the burthen of guilt, and giving him to view that new and living way through the dear Son of God -wonderfully brought through the pangs of the new birth, and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son before he had ever heard a gospel sermon. About this time he heard that there were a people called new-Lights living at the distance of about sixty miles from him -but although distance was far, and a rough tract of country between, his desire was so great to hear the gospel, that he repaired to the place of preaching, and for the first heard the gospel, and counted himself amply rewarded for his journey. It seems the word of the Lord was precious in those days.
Upon his second going to the same place he related his experience and was baptized; at which time he met with Elder David Thomas, and prevailed on him to come into the neighborhood where he Jived; and from that time to the present it has been a place of much preaching. When a meeting-house was erected it was near his dwelling; his manner of life, and spiritual conversation procured to him the name of St. Peter -and as he was a poor man and lived on rented land, which since has become a rich man's quarter, it is called after this good man, "Saint Hill Quarter", When he grew old it pleased God to afflict him with entire blindness, by covering his eyes with thick film; but although he had to labor under that heavy affliction of body, he appeared to enjoy much communication with God, and the lively exercise of grace in his soul. His conversation was much about the heavenly inheritance, and the blessed employment of the redeemed, he used to say in melting language it was so ordered that he could not see, but it was all right and beyond all question intended by infinite wisdom for his good. But a change would by and by take place and mortality put on immortality, and this corruptible body put on incorruption -then will these eyes behold my Redeemer for myself and not another; it was a common word with him, and spoken in full assurance, I shall have eyes at the resurrection of the just; then my sight will be clear eternally to behold the glory of God, and the Lamb, and my immortal powers be employed in the praise of Jehovah for ever and ever .
When he came to the close of life, as he had lived, in like manner he died -having an heart given him to love God, and to love the children of God. In his last words he desired his wife to remember his love to his brethren, and enjoined it on her to tell them he loved them -and then passed off the stage as though he was going a pleasant journey.
Love being the peculiar mark of the children of God, even when in health -how much more so when acting in full vigor, in the cold embraces of death. This beloved disciple departed this life, being old and full of days, leaving an ancient widow behind to make her way through this wilderness.
Written by William Fristoe
Addressed to the several Churches belonging to this Association.
LETTER THE FIRST
Dear Brethren, -Being once more assembled as Delegates, and having gone through the business which came before us, as our minutes will shew, we proceed to address you, agreeable to a former resolve, on the divine authority of the sacred scriptures; and it is needless to observe, that the limits of a circular letter are infinitely too narrow for the illustration of a subject so vastly important and interesting: -A few, therefore, of the leading and most cardinal points, will be attended to at present. And first, the subject-matter of the sacred oracles merits our attention. Redemption, through the Lord Jesus Christ, is one of the main pillars on which all the rest depend, in a greater or lesser degree, is the principal subject of the sacred book -and this, when revealed, cannot be fully comprehended by any, or even all created existencies; and, until manifested, must remain locked up in the secrets of the eternal mind, hid from the scrutiny of either angels or men. The authors, therefore, of the inspired writing, could have no knowledge of this subject but by divine revelation -and had they been possessed of such a degree of invention, as to form this plan of imposition (if such it is) the manifest impossibility of success in the enterprise, would forever have discouraged them from attempting to impose on mankind a system, in all its parts so repugnant to the temper and disposition of all men, whilst in a carnal state. The religion recommended in the Bible, especially when reduced to its gospel form, has nothing in it to recommend it to the esteem of carnal men -its morals are too pure, its doctrines too spiritual, and its duties require a degree of self denial that nothing but grace can inspire. Neither is it probable to see how div1ne revelation made its way, either in the hands of Moses or the prophets, and the apostles of Jesus Christ, from time to time, without the interposition of some supernatural cause -Men destitute of all the accomplishments essential to imposture and intrigue, without learning, wealth or popularity; poor, despised and persecuted both by Jews and pagans, with all the wealth, wisdom and power of the world on their side. And still the veil has never been rent, and the delusion made manifest -a few fishermen, and shepherds have invented, and supported a system that baffles and triumphs over the wisdom of all the learned world -a strong presumption that a wisdom the world never knew guided the authors of this divine mystery. A second thing that merits our attention is, the time that passed from the beginning of the holy scriptures until their completion; the return from Egypt, we are told, was 1491 years before the manifestation of Christ in the flesh -and John wrote his revelation in the 96th year of the Christian era -a space of nearly sixteen hundred years elapsed while the sacred volume was incomplete -yet still those who went before, and they that follow after, embrace the same promises, point out the same object as the hope of poor sinners, and manifest the same meekness, humility and patience in suffering in the same interesting cause: so that we discover the utmost harmony amongst them in every respect -which never could have been, if the inspired writers had not been governed by some supreme supernatural cause -it is certain there could be no combination amongst the parties, neither could anything of a worldly nature inspire the later writers to pursue the path that their predecessors had taken -a path where nothing but sorrow, pain and death perpetually dwell, and why persevere in hope forlorn, and fail in seas so rough, and split on rocks hitherto fatal to all embarked in the same cause.
And thirdly the preservation of those sacred oracles, through the revolutions of time, till the present moment, is a strong proof of their divine inspiration -since it is a fact that cannot be denied, that every other religious system, however revered, has always shared the same fate of the nation or nations that embraced it, and with them have been lost and swallowed up in the awful vortex of national revolutions; but the Bible has stood the test of time, and survived the general wreck, and its advocates have never forsaken it in the midst of all their sorrows and sufferings; of this the Jews are still a standing evidence. And, fourthly, the Bible, and that only amongst the various religious systems proposed to the world of mankind, reveal the supreme Deity. Clothed with that majesty, glory and transcendent excellency, worthy of the Creator of all things. Here His justice, mercy, and every other attribute shine with a splendor that dazzles men and angels -and while they declare Him to be the author of the world, they teach us to believe that it is governed by His supreme agency; and that the final state of all rational intelligencies are at His divine disposal: and a final distribution of eternal rewards or punishments rests with His mercy or justice to determine. And once more, the doctrines of the Bible apply with propriety to the state of the human mind in every generation, which could not without divine inspiration -for although time, habit, and custom, have produced great and important changes in the language, manners, and external practices of mankind, still that radical depravity, expressed in the Bible, cleaves to them through every age, and is as visible amongst the learned and polite nations, as it is amongst the savage and barbarous -all equally opposed to the knowledge, love and service of God. And how could anything but divine inspiration determine that the humill1 mind would always retain its opposition to the divine law, and men, in every generation, possess the same internal enmity to virtue and religion, and still the Bible asserts this as most certainly true; and the experience of every generation has hitherto, and for ever will, demonstrate the awful truth in this respect.
And further, the Bible alone proposes a remedy equal to the evils it reveals, and the experience of every judicious observer proves sin to have been, some way, introduced into the world -the depravity of the human heart has, in every age, and still does demonstrate the necessity of something to repel its influence, and relieve the world from the pressing sorrows that have deluged the earth, from generation to generation. And can anything but the doctrines of the Bible act as an antidote against the prevailing malady? We never expect the physician to heal by increasing the disorder. Isaiah the whole human family sick of sin? does vice pervade the universe? the Bible proposeth the best, and only remedy; there sin is forbidden in all its forms; justice, mercy and love, and peace towards all men, is enjoined -their persons, their property and reputations made sacred -do justly love mercy, and walk humbly with God, are the injunctions that echo from this sacred, this heavenly book; which does not only propose a remedy for sin in general, but provides, especially, for those who feel it in their own hearts, and groan under its awful influence. It points to the celestial world that grace has made - where nothing that works an abomination, or loves or makes a lie, can enter; where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at eternal rest.
Thus, dear brethren, we have stated a few of the excellencies of this precious book -and have only to add, that to you they are not only the word but the power of God, to your present and eternal salvation -so that with unshaken confidence, you may sing -no weapon that is formed against Zion, shalt prosper; and every tongue that shall rise u p against her shall be utterly condemned: And when all the objects contemplated in the eternal mind, and revealed in the sacred scriptures, are accomplished, then shall Zion reign, far above the reach of all her present sufferings and sorrows, in the peaceful bosom of her incarnate Saviour, to whom with the Father, and eternal Spirit of all grace, be honor, power, and dominion, now and forever. -Amen.
On the doctrine of Regeneration.
Dearly beloved, -We shall address you upon an important, and interesting doctrine of the New Testament, to wit: that of regeneration, or being born again. -Joh 3:3 -"Verily, I say unto you, except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God" -consequently cannot enter therein. In order therefore, in a methodical manner, to investigate the subject, we shall in the first place, consider the necessity of regeneration -2d, enquire what it is, or where it doth consist -3dly the causes or means that effect the same.
First, then, in order, the necessity thereof, viz: that we cannot enter into, or inherit the kingdom of God -secondly, the reasons annexed, that we, by nature, stand connected with our own first sinful and depraved head and representative -and, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed on all men, for that all have sinned. Note; this is not to be understood by way of metonymy, or in consequence of Adam's depravity, and their's as his descendants or progeny; but for and in consideration of original guilt, and the imputation thereof unto them, as having a radical existence in him -and therefore, with some propriety as it is said of Levi, that he paid tithes in loins of Abraham; so it may be said, we all sinned in the loins of our father Adam -
Ro 5:19 -for as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, or constituted such; and as Adam, by his transgression became divested of all righteousness, so he became depraved in his soul, defiled and polluted in all his powers, and his mind and conscience defiled; insomuch, that the whole human race is considered as dead in trespasses and sin; see Eph 2:1 -gone out of the way -Ps 4 -destruction and misery are in their way, and the way of peace they have not known -children of wrath, saith the apostle, without God in the world, having enmity in their hearts against God, being not only enveloped in the blackness of darkness, but darkness itself; and all the concomitants, ignorance, blindness, infatuation and spiritual apathy.
From the impartial view of these things premised, it will appear to every unprejudiced mind, that a change of circumstance, and disposition is essentially necessary, in order to constitute man in a capacity to serve God, the ultimate end of his being; or to enjoy Him as the centre of perfection, and exhaustless source of blessedness, which leads us to consider what regeneration is, and agreeably to Jesus Christ -Joh 5:7 -it is a being born of the Spirit; whereas by natural generation, (wherein we were passive) we were conceived in sin, and brought forth in iniquity -see Ps 51 -so in regeneration, wherein also we were passive, we partake of a new and spiritual birth -being quickened together with Christ; created anew in Christ Jesus. Thus this great work is ascribed unto God, who effects the same by His infallible, efficacious grace.
Secondly, regeneration is expressed, as a renovation of our spiritual powers -a planting of divine law in the heart, and engraving it in the mind -yea, a putting off the image of God on us, or an assimilation into the divine likeness. And Paul to Titus speaks of it as a washing and renewing of the Holy Ghost. Thirdly, regeneration constitutes the subjects thereof as children of God -heirs and joint heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ. So that they who were servants of sin, drudges to iniquity, are now made free in Christ, and servants of righteousness -the spouse of Christ, His love, His dove, His undefiled one. O! what a glorious change -sons of God, having His spirit sent down into their hearts, whereby they say, Abba, Father. -Now, lastly, the cause or means that effect this divine change. God is the only efficient cause -His love the moving cause -His spirit and His word the ministering cause. Thus we are said to be begotten by the word of His truth through the gospel, born again to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, that fadeth not away; reserved in Heaven for you; who are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation. oh, brethren! what a rich display of infinite wisdom, sovereign power and unmerited love, in devising and accomplishing such a glorious system of redemption and deliverance for the wretched self-ruined race, that they may partake of this divine blessing here in time, and receive precious faith, and precious promises, all flowing from the more precious Christ! O, beloved brethren! what infinite obligations are we under unto the adorable Jehovah, who hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord, from the dead. O let us prize that blessed gospel, that reveals such a glorious hope -that accomplishes such divine purposes -and turns from darkness to light, from the power of sin and Satan, to serve the living God. Let us manifest in our lives, that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds, and that by the power of the Holy Ghost. So, farewell. Yours in Christain love.
On the subjects. and government of a gospel Church.
Dear Brethren -We have had an agreeable meeting; love and peace have prevailed among us. Letters from various quarters inform us, that peace, in general, is continued among the Churches; but complaints of the Lord's absence, in worshipping assemblies, and leanness among the sons of Zion. There is doubtless a cause why the spouse of Christ is left to mourn thus. Under such circumstances it becomes us, to be careful in strengthening the things that remain, and exert every power that we may glorify God, and promote Zion's interest. Let us aim at setting the house of God in order, and cleansing within Zion's walls. We would therefore address you on the subject of church government, and the exercise of discipline.
By a church of Christ, we understand a number of persons selected, and called out from an ungodly world, and subjected to the gospel by almighty, efficacious and sovereign grace; giving themselves to the Lord, and to one another, by the will of God, and are the ground and pillar of truth.
The rule by which such church is to be governed is the Holy scriptures, being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets; Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone. By those inspired, sublime and eternal doctrines, a gracious God makes discoveries of His love, and communicates the knowledge of salvation through a precious endearing Redeemer; and that which furnishes the man of God unto every good work; to this divine and supreme law due subjection is required.
Having sound subjects, and an unerring rule for the government of them, special care ought to be taken as to the mode of government; it becomes the preachers of the gospel first in order, to be faithful in preaching the word of life; reproving the obstinate, warning the unruly, and comforting the feeble-minded. The church is commanded to be subject to them, as those that watch, for their souls; whom Christ has employed as stewards in His house, and placed as overseers, to deal out to His servants and handmaidens their meat in due season. Such persons called to labor in Christ's vineyard, ought to shine with distinguished light, as stars in the firmament; and, without weariness, both by precept and example, diffuse knowledge wherever they go, and provoke others to love and good works.
It is likewise the duty of each member of a church, to watch over each other, lest there be any root of bitterness springing up, and thereby many be defiled. Dear brethren, urge on your fellow members -their constant attendance on divine worship, and meetings for private business. That word that forbids their neglect, will not excuse their absence; and, if they cannot be reclaimed, put them away; for it is unreasonable that the church should be encumbered and burthened with dead, useless members. Forbid idle visits, superfluous apparel, and carnal conformity to the sinful customs of the world, as unworthy and beneath the dignity of the heirs of glory. Look into it, and see that each fellow member maintains family worship, and suppresses sin and vice to the remotest branch of his household.
In case of crimes, let reproof be suited to their nature; if public, then reprove publicly, that all the rest of the church may fear; if private, then use admonition; in either case, if the person may be said to be overtaken, tenderness and compassion is to be exercised in restoring him -Clearly demonstrate your readiness to revenge all disobedience, and purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump.
As you profess to be renewed by grace, and enjoy the love of God, and now become a fellow citizen with the saints, and of the household of God, remember you are not your own; never boast your freedom, for you are professedly Christ's servants; your person, your time, your property, all belongs to Him; therefore under Christ, and in union with His church. You have a right to appoint a place for worship, and the time when it is to be performed, and, with the concurrence of the church, ascertain the expenses necessary to carry it into full effect; and defray every other expense, arising from your relation to each other as a religious body.
Each member of a gospel Church, according to the best regulations of society, and the supreme law of the spiritual kingdom, are to pay according to their several abilities, that there may be, according to the scriptures, equality; -if this rule be objected to, which appears the only scripture rule, we despair of any other being found, and the consequence will be, for the bride to wander at uncertainty without any correct rule.
Finally -engage, solemnly engage, in the important work of the Lord's vineyard; let the consideration of the love of God to us, when we were unlovely, stimulate, excite and stir us up to diligence. Short will be our duration here. Let us esteem it our highest honor, and greatest happiness, to serve the most high God, in which delightful work may we ever be employed, is the desire of your brethren in the Lord. -Farewell.
On the divinity of Jesus Christ.
Dear Brethren -As we addressed you last year, on the divine authority of the holy scriptures, you will permit us, for the present, to call your attention to the important subject of the divinity of Jesus Christ. Although Arians and Socinians acknowledge the sacred oracles to be the rule of faith and worship, yet both deny the proper deity of Christ: the former believing Him to be super-angelic, and the latter denying that He had an existence before His conception in the womb of the virgin. To describe His relation, as Son to the Father, is as difficult as to comprehend the existence of the eternal God, in His incomprehensible nature: yet He is called God's own Son, not in a figurative, but in a proper sense. Ro 8:32, "God spared not his own Son, etc." Therefore, the scriptures teach us, that Christ is "Emmanuel, i.e., God with us." Mt 1:23, as He is true man, so He is also true God; the same in substance, equal in power and glory with the Father; which is clear; first, from His names; secondly, from His attributes; thirdly, from His works; and fourthly, from His worship. First from His names. The same divine names which are given to the Father, are applicable, also to the Son. He is called God -"in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." -Joh 1:1. "Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh." -1Ti 3:16. "Feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." -Ac 20:28. "Herein perceive we the love of God, that he laid down his life for us." -1Jo 3:16. He is called Lord. -"The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." Ps 110:1 ; in a word, this is the common title through the New Testament; He is called the Lord of glory. - 1Co 2:8, and again He is called the LORD OF LORDS, AND KING OF KINGS. -Re 19:16. It may, perhaps, be objected, that these names are applied in several parts of the scriptures to mere creatures; such as angels, magistrates, and idols of the heathen worship. But let it be observed, that when those divine names are applied to mere creatures, there is always something annexed to discover, that they are applied to them in an improper sense; and that they are not God's by nature. Thus of magistrates, "I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men." -Ps 82:6-7. When angels are called gods, at the same time they are commanded to worship Christ. "Worship him, all ye gods." -Ps 97:7, compared with Heb 1:6, when the idols of the heathen are called gods, it is added, "they have not made the heavens and the earth; and they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens." -Jer 10:11. But these divine names are applied to Christ, absolutely, without any limitation whatever; thus He is called "the only wise God" -1Ti 1; 1:17. "The great God" -Tit 2:13, "and the true God" -1Jo 5:20. The name Jehovah is God's incommunicable name: "That men may know that thou, whose name alone is Jehovah, art the most high over all the earth." -Ps 83:18, which name is applied to Christ in several places in the Holy Bible. -See Jer 23:6; Isa 40:3,5,25, and Isa 45:24-25. These passages refer to Christ; "He alone is Jehovah our righteousness." John the Baptist alluded to Christ when he said, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord (Jehovah)" -Mt 3:3. Christ is also the person which Isaiah calls, the King, Jehovah of hosts," in his vision. See Joh 12:41, again He is the Saviour, "the word hath gone forth out of his mouth, and he is Jehovah, in whom his saints have righteousness, and strength" -that is applied to Christ as judge of all, in Ro 13:10,12. Thus we find the same divine names which are applied to the Father, applied to the Son also. Secondly, from His attributes. He is eternal as the Father. Not only before Abraham, as He tells the Jews, Joh 8:58, but He was in the beginning, Joh 1:1, hence He is Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever -Heb 13:8. Again, "the heavens shall wax old, as a garment -but he shall endure, and when all things perish he is the same" -See Ps 102:26-27, compared with Heb 1:10,12. He is omnipresent -when He was on earth, at the same time He was in heaven; "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven." -Joh 3:13. The promise (when He commissioned His disciples to preach and baptize) was, "Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." -Mt 28:19-20: and whenever they are scattered to and fro in the earth, He dwells in and abides with them -Joh 6:56. Isaiah the Father omniscient? So is the Son. "Lord, thou knowest all things," said Peter -Joh 21:17. It is Christ who searcheth the reins, and hearts of men -Re 2:23: and by Him God will judge the secrets of men -Ro 2:16. Surely He that knoweth the thoughts, words, and actions of all the men that have been, that are, or ever will be upon the earth, must be the omniscient God. Christ is the omnipotent God, as well as the Father; He is called the mighty God -Isa 9:6. He titles himself the Alpha and Omega, the Almighty -Re 1:8; and under this title the heavenly inhabitants praise Him -Re 15:3. Again He is called the most high and ever blessed God; of whom, concerning the flesh, Christ came; who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. -Ro 9:5: it is clear that all the divine perfections which belong to the Father, belong also to the Son, in their full extent; so that he who hath seen the Son hath seen the Father -Joh 14:9. He is the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of His person -Heb 1:3.
Thirdly, from His works, of old Thou hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Thine hands; which words are expressly applied -Heb 1:10: "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." -Joh 1; 1:3. "By him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:" -Col 1:16. As the creation of the world was by Christ, so the preservation of it, is by Him; for "by him all things consist" -Col 1:17. "And he upholdeth all things by the word of his power" -Heb 1; 1:3. Further, the raising the dead at the last day, is Christ's work, "I will raise him up at the last day" -Joh 6:54. And in like manner He quickens the dead soul, in the work of regeneration: "the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live." -Joh 5:25: hence He is called the life of His saints; and what is their life, but Christ living in them? Ga 2:20. The miracles which He wrought, and those which His disciples wrought in His name, being seen and acknowledged, even by His enemies, to be genuine, were all demonstrative proofs of His divinity.
Fourthly, from His worship. He is with the Father equally the object of religious worship, of prayer -Lord Jesus (said dying Stephen), receive my spirit; Ac 7:59. The primitive Christians are denominated, they that, in every place, call upon the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. He is also the object of praise. "And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy," etc., Re 5:9. And again, Re 5:12, : "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing." He is, in like manner, praised by the saints on earth: "To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen." -Jude 25. There are also many other assertions of praise to Christ, such as those in 1Pe 3:18; 1Ti 6:15-16; and 1Ti 1:17. He is also the object of divine faith, equally with the Father- "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me" -Joh 14:1. I know whom I have believed (or, as in the margin, trusted) and am persuaded that which I have committed unto Him against that day. Christ is the object of our supreme love, which is proper only to be given to God. "Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity." -Eph 6:24. Again, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha." -1Co 16:22. To worship a mere creature, however exalted, is idolatry; as religious worship is due to God alone. See Mt 4:10.
Seeing then that the same divine names, attributes, works, and worship which are ascribed to the Father, are also ascribed to the Son; it necessarily follows, that He is the true God: the same in substance, equal in power and glory with the Father, "in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." -Col 2:9. Observe the gradation in the words, "the Godhead; the fulness of the Godhead; the Godhead bodily dwelleth in him." All the perfections of the divine nature belong unto Him. Although in respect to His human nature, His Father was greater than He, and as mediator He was the Father's servant; who was sent into the world by Him, to finish the work of our redemption; yet, in respect to His divine nature, at the same time He and His Father were one -Joh 10:30; not one person, but one essence, one God. "He was in the Father, and the Father in Him;" so that He which had seen the Son, had seen the Father also -Joh 14:9-10.
When the Jews, from these expressions, concluded that He had made himself equal with God, He does not contradict the inference which they draw, which He would, certainly, had it been false. The apostle observes, that, He being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to equal with God. -Php 2:6. Yet, Oh, amazing grace! He made himself of no reputation, and humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Let us, therefore, rejoice, brethren, in our divine Redeemer; His divinity is an everlasting source of comfort to His church. Hearken and hear Him say, Fear not, for thou shalt not be ashamed, neither be confounded, for thou shalt not be put to shame; (it follows) thy Maker is thy husband, and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, The God of the whole earth, shall be called -Isa 54:4-5. Christ therefore, by the shedding of His blood hath procured a pardon to the chief of sinners. His power is omnipotent, and will subdue our most stubborn lusts, and support us under our sorest trials, in the accomplishment of His promises, made to His dear people. His fulness is the fulness of God, and can supply our greatest wants. Permit us then, brethren, to remind your union is with a divine person, and let us be cautious never to debase our heavenly birth; being bought with the precious blood of Christ. Let us remember, we are not our own, but the Lord's, and strive to glorify Him in our bodies, and our spirits which are His. Oh! let us be encouraged to trust in the mighty God, the captain of our salvation, and king in Zion! And proclaim Him as our Ruler, by walking in His statutes and ordinances.
May we be followers of God, even of Christ, as dear children, and walk in love; until we arrive at the summit of everlasting happiness and glory, is the prayer of us all. Brethren, pray for us. -Adieu.
Written by William Fristoe
A reply to several complaints respecting the conduct of the Baptists in this association.
ALTHOUGH we feel no inclination to quarrel with our neighbors for thinking and acting different from what we do, seeing each individual has to give an account to the great Judge for the deeds done in the body; and we hold it sacred that each, and every person is entitled to be free in the exercise of religious worship, without compulsion or violence in cases of conscience -
Yet inasmuch as we stand accused by many of being too confined and uncharitable, and do not exercise that generosity of sentiment towards other religious denominations which is becoming Christians; if we are found guilty of bad conduct and the charge can be well supported, we ought to take conviction, confess our fault, reclaim our conduct, and act different in future; but if upon examination we stand justifiable on Bible ground, we shall deem it our duty to maintain our position, and proceed as hitherto we have done. -We have ever felt, and yet feel, quite willing to bring our sentiments and practice to the unerring standard of God's word, knowing that whatever is not right in that divine balance will not stand in the coming day, nor pass current in the kingdom above.
One heavy complaint is, that the Baptists with us are so confined they will not commune or partake of the Lord's Supper, with any but those of the Baptist church; while other denominations can have fellowship with each other, commune together, and be in entire friendship as brethren of the same family; such conduct in the Baptists must be too confined, shy and reserve; and in so doing they effect too much singularity. The statement respecting our refusing to commune with the members of other religious sects we acknowledge to be just; we shall proceed to give our reasons for conducting as we have done.
Our reason for not admitting mixed communion is as follows: when we carry our enquiries and make search into divine record, we have never, as yet, found, that any were admitted transient communion, nor incorporated into, and became members of the church of Christ, in primitive times, but such as were baptized upon profession of their faith; we are in the plainest manner told, that except we deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow Christ, we cannot be His disciples; the meek and lowly Saviour submitted to this sacred institution before He entered on His public ministry, and when traveling up and down, doing good, and preaching His own gospel, He made and baptized disciples (by the instrumentality of His disciples;) it appears the method Jesus Christ was pleased to adopt, was to make disciples and then baptize them; in like manner He gave instruction to His apostles and disciples to conduct at the time of His departure from them -He gave them commission to go and preach the gospel to every creature; He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned, the first thing to be done, according to the commission, was, to preach -by which they were to be brought over to believe and exercise faith in Christ, and then be baptized, after which these baptized persons, were to be taught all things that were commanded; in aftertimes, when persons were wrought upon, under the ministry of the apostles, received the Holy Ghost, or believed in the Lord Jesus, they were baptized; corruption had not taken place so early as the day of Pentecost; there we have a passage to the point, and if prepossession did not prevent, is enough to decide in this important question. While Peter was preaching on that memorable day, a number of the hearers were pricked in their hearts, and said unto Peter, and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do? then Peter said unto them, repent and be baptized everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls -and continued stedfast in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayer," Here we have a plain statement of the qualification of those that joined the church of Christ, they were such as had been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ; the marks of repentance appearing in them, and the forgiveness of sin experienced by them, and with this agrees the whole tenure of Holy Writ.
Were we to admit unbaptized persons to communion with us, we must feel guilty of departing from the primitive example, and bring guilt on our conscience; if any should desire to join us, and enjoy communion with us, let them believe and be baptized, and we shall consider it our duty to give them an hearty welcome to all the privileges of the Lord's house; but if the prejudice of education, or the sphere of life to which they are raised, deems it too mortifying to be baptized, they must continue where they are, though they were kings or emperors.
But here another complaint is brought forward, why none are baptized but professed believers, and that by immersion? for we believe those that were received into the church in their infancy, by having water sprinkled or poured on their faces, are as really baptized as any other, and of course have a right to partake at the Lord's table, and it appears ungenerous in the Baptists to object to such. -To which we reply -Could we find in the Holy scriptures, that infants were proper subjects for baptism, and sprinkling the mode, farther contending by us would cease; but until that can be found we shall continue to practice as we have heretofore done.
It has been urged again and again, that the children of the Jews were admitted into the Jewish church, and why should the infant tribe be prevented from entering into the gospel church, especially those of believing parents? Why this argument has been brought forward so often is not easy to account for, as there appears no similarity, or likeness between the two cases. When God gave to Abraham the law of circumcision, He commanded him to circumcise himself, and his male offspring; but we have no such command to baptize infants: circumcision was confined to the males, baptism to male and female, men and women -besides, circumcision was confined exclusively to the Jewish nation, but the gospel dispensation is extended to all nations, and they that believe, both Jews and Gentiles, have a right to the ordinance of the New Testament; the Jewish church was national, the gospel church congregational, and where such dissimilarity appears between the former dispensation and the latter, why should we consider the latter as substituted in room of the former, or the former figurative of the latter? But the flimsy argument is brought forward by the pedobaptist, that baptism came in the room of circumcision, and as formerly faithful Abraham was enjoined circumcision, that his children had a federal right to circumcision, being the offspring of faithful Abraham -just so the children of believing parents have a federal right to baptism under the gospel, and may claim it as their covenant right. -Circumcision was a positive institution, and when it was enjoined on Abraham to circumcise his male offspring, it was right it should be done; but if there had been no such command, we know of no federal right they would have had to that institution.
We are much surprised, when we are told over and over, that baptism came in the room of circumcision; we are desirous to know where the information came from; we have before shown the disagreement between the two, and we are well assured, from the whole of the New Testament, that the Old Testament dispensation is done away, the handwriting of ordinances blotted out, circumcision abolished among the rest, and the New Testament church established upon better promises.
When the gospel dispensation took place, we are informed by the New Testament writers, respecting typical things which served as shadows, or figures of good things to come; but the body or substance was Christ: among the many figures made use of under the old dispensation, a pointing out, and giving a lively representation of Christ and His church, which was explained, made use of, and improved by the writers of the New Testament; it is wonderful among the many things, they had not told us that circumcision was a type of baptism, and the latter came in room of the former -this would have ended all dispute about it: therefore as we can find no declaration of this kind, not a syllable about it in the New Testament, we shall conclude it is wrapped up among the unwritten traditions of the infallible council, whose traditions we have nothing to do with, neither in faith nor practice.
When the Abrahamick covenant is brought forward, seals of the covenant introduced, and federal claims set up, under the gospel dispensation, the New Testament knows so little of such terms, that we are at a loss for their meaning; and as they have been in use so long without any satisfactory explanation, we are left to conclude they have no relation to New Testament ordinances, and are words without meaning; it is enough for us to prove what is, we shall leave it to others to prove what is not.
But those of other persuasions say, that they are left to infer the divine right of infant baptism, from several parts of the New Testament, as well as by inference from the Old Testament. -For the support of which this portion of scripture hath often been cited -"for the promise is unto you, and to your children;" these words are cited with a view to confirm that idea, that where a parent is in the divine favor, their offspring are interested in the divine promises, and entitled to the same blessing with their believing parent; but when the passage has a fair reading, and the scope examined, the sense will appear very different, "the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even to as many as the Lord our God shall call." The sense is the blessings procured by the Lord Jesus were designed for those that were, or shall be called, by efficacious grace, and to none else; their being Abraham's descendant did in no way entitle them to the blessing; the qualification necessary was that of being called, whether His professing people the Jews, or whether remote idolatrous Gentiles -if called, the promise was made to them; it was not a transfer from their progenitors of anything of a spiritual nature, but was bestowed upon them by the Father of mercies, and it appears that such called ones and such only, to whom the promise will apply, are the proper subjects for baptism.
Another passage is brought, supposed to be much to the purpose, where the apostle instructed the believing husband, or wife, to continue with the unbelieving or idolatrous husband, or wife; for the unbelieving was sanctified by the believing party, else were your children unclean, but now are they holy; and after the long ramble it is supposed we are brought to the holy seed; but after all, it does not appear to answer the purpose for which it is brought; the apostle is not urging the right of those children to baptism, nor so much as dropping an hint about baptism, but concerning himself about a very different thing. It appears the young converts were under severe trials, and could not decide whether they should continue with their idolatrous husbands and wives, or whether they should leave them; the apostle very seasonably instructs them to continue with them; marriage being instituted by God himself, and is honorable in all, that by the solemn institution of marriage, they were set apart for the use, and enjoyment of each other as husband and wife; for where the word sanctification occurs, in different places of scripture, a setting apart a person or thing is meant, for instance, when the priests under the law, were (in the ceremonious way prescribed) set apart- it was said they were sanctified; it is clear that heart sanctification was not meant, for numbers of them were notoriously wicked.
Likewise the vessels made use of in the temple are said to be sanctified; when no more than a setting them apart as vessels of the sacred ministry can be understood: Jesus Christ is said to be sanctified, "for this cause I sanctify myself;" the thought would be shocking, to suppose heart sanctification was meant here; it will not apply to Him, who was holy from His conception, and must allude to His being set apart to the office of mediator -and a number of other passages to the same purpose might be produced to prove that sanctification means nothing more than a setting apart -which will fitly apply to marriage engagement of husband and wife -such as the sanctification of the wife, or husband -such is the holiness of the children -were husband and wife to wander from each other, it would expose the children to scandal and disgrace -for we cannot gather from the passage an entire separation, never to come together again like a divorce -sure those that resort to this passage cannot believe that it is in the power of the husband to cleanse and sanctify the heart of his wife, nor the wife the husband internally -was that the case that such power rested with men, and women, there is no believer would have an unbelieving companion long, neither can it be supposed, that any can believe that in natural generation it is in the power of the parent, to transmit holiness of heart, when it is evident before their eyes, a faithful Abraham, begat a wicked, persecuting Ishmael, and a righteous Isaac a wicked Esau -all that can be gathered from that passage is that the apostle instructed them to a lawful, and honorable cohabiting together.
We are again told, there were children in the church in the Apostolic age, and as a proof of it Paul's writings to the churches are produced, wherein he exhorts children to be obedient to their parents, and honour father and mother, etc. -and as Paul's epistles were addressed to the churches, these children it must be concluded, were members in these churches with their parents.
It is readily granted Paul's epistles were addressed to the churches, and not to the world; and it will not be denied by us that there were parents, and their children, both members in the churches, but they were such children that could read Paul's address to them, or hear it read; could understand the contents of those epistles, and form their conduct according to the instructions given therein -and of course capable of believing in the Lord Jesus, and acting worthy as members of the church: as to the duties enjoined on them in these epistles, it is well known the obligation children are under, towards a parent respecting honouring them, is never removed; had these have been of the infant tribe they would not have had understanding sufficient to have obeyed parents, and therefore can have no allusion to them.
The Jailor and his household, Lydia and her household, have been often brought, with a "before the Baptists will agree there were infants among them, and inasmuch as the household was baptized, it furnishes a presumptive proof at least, in favour of infant baptism;" to which we answer,
As to the Jailor we have a plain statement, that he believed in God with all his house; rejoiced in God with all his house; and he and all his were baptized straightway -so then from the account given they all made mention of, they were all of understanding to receive the word delivered by the apostles, all capacitated to act faith in Christ, all rejoiced through having a saving knowledge of God; and all submitted to the sacred ordinance of baptism, and serves as demonstrative proof of the divine right of believers baptism.
As for Lydia we have no account that she had husband or children, the account is that she worshiped God -that she heard Paul preach -that her heart was opened and she and her household were baptized; the natural inference is, that she had servants or assistants, in carrying on honest trade, and that they believed and were baptized; as we cannot with the scriptures, admit any to church communion without being baptized, on profession of their faith, we are often asked if we think there IS not Christians among other denominations, as well as among the Baptists, and if so, it is very wrong to disown or reject such; answer -
We have never called in question, that of being Christians in other sects; it is not their Christianity we scrutinize, but the supporting, and maintaining the institutions of the Gospel, in their purity, is what we are aiming after; those of our neighbors who are privy to our conduct know full well; we purchase books and read them with satisfaction, and for improvement, wrote by eminent and spiritual divines, belonging to other denominations.
But provided a person possessed with grace, should be guilty of a wrong, does grace in his heart make a wrong in his conduct right? by no means -for could that be supported there would never be a wrong done by a Christian. Suppose a gracious man was seduced and led away to worship an idol, could that worship be acceptable to God, because he possessed grace? by no means. It is so far from lessening the crime, or making it no crime, that it is, greatly heightened and aggravated; so when persons are enlightened from above, and enjoy the teaching of the spirit of grace, and then live in the wilful neglect of a known duty, 'tis dishonorable to God, and unbecoming their high calling.
We are acquainted with none of the pedobaptists but what acknowledge that in the Apostolic day, baptism was by immersion, and the subjects were believers; but while that is allowed by them, it is thought unreasonable the Baptists should not be equally liberal, in allowing the sprinkling of infants to be right likewise. Here our suit has been long and continues still at issue -it is out of the question for both to be right, because there is but one rule laid down in Holy Writ for Christ's followers to go by, as it respects baptism; and that is He that believeth and is baptized -Repent and be baptized -If thou believest thou mayest be baptized -Why tarriest thou, arise and be baptized -And they believed and were baptized -and Who can forbid water that these should not be baptized? -This appears to be the uniform language of the New Testament, being consistent with the command of the great Lawgiver.
When we make search for infant sprinkling, and open our ears to hear what the scripture reports, a dead silence takes place, and we go off without any information about it. We read of a prostitute church in the revelation made to John the divine, which had departed from the true worship of God, and addicted herself to superstitious, idolatrous worship; what says the voice of God in this case? Come out of her, my people, and be not partaker of her crimes, that ye perish not in her plagues. From this it appears that God had a people in that corrupt apostate church, but it was no reason because they had grace that they should stay there, but quite the reverse.
From all that has been said, we see no cause for retraction -or a change of our custom; we feel it obligatory on us to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints, and maintain the ordinances in their purity, as delivered by Christ and His apostles. Viewing it as a dreadful sin to change God's ordinances, being forewarned to touch not, handle not, which all are to perish, with the using after the commandments and doctrines of men; our Lord informs us that he that breaks the least of His commands, and teaches men so to do, shall be called least in the kingdom of God.
When God was pleased to establish the Old Testament dispensation, He gave His people laws and ordinances for the governing them -Moses was admonished of God, when he was about to build the tabernacle: "See (saith God) that thou do it according to the pattern showed thee in the Mount." Among the many rites and ceremonies pertaining to that worship, the priests were to offer sacrifice on the golden altar, and instructions in what manner it was to be done, -observe the ruin and destruction that fell on Nadab and Abihu, when they disobeyed the divine orders, and offered strange fire on the altar. The Levites were directed to bear the ark of God, and none else; when others attempted to handle that sacred chest, they met with the resentment of God, who is jealous of His own institutions, and heavy judgments fell on numbers of them.
Now if a departure from these instructions, under that shadowy dispensation, met with the divine resentment, what can be expected when there is a refusal to obey Him that speaketh from heaven? the conclusion with us is that Jesus Christ, in His own ministry, and the ministry of His inspired followers, gave every necessary instruction, for the government of His church; so that the man of God is furnished to every good work.
Wherefore we, receiving a kingdom, that cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear, for our God is a consuming fire.
This New Testament kingdom, the saints enter into the possession of, cannot be moved; the old dispensation had been of a long time shaking, and ready to vanish away; but not so under the gospel dispensation: the laws, ordinances, rules and regulations, were to continue permanent, from the time Christ instituted them, until His second coming, nor will admit of any change, n or alteration, nor substitute of anything in their room.
From the acquaintance we have cultivated with the scriptures, diligent search and perusal of them, we are left to believe that believers exclusively, have a right to baptism, and the mode immersion; and whatever stands opposed to it, has no foundation in the word of God; and that infant sprinkling is no scripture baptism, and that persons that have received no other baptism are not entitled to the ordinances of the Lord's house, no more than if they had never been sprinkled.
It is well known, that when any of our own members prove disorderly in practice, imbibe anything erroneous, or neglect, or treat the institutions of the gospel with contempt -if they cannot be reclaimed they are put from among us by excommunication -if our own members meet with such treatment, which we are obliged in (for the fulness to the cause of God) to exercise towards them, how can those of other sects look at our conduct as unnatural, to deny them communion, when they live in the neglect of the ordinance of baptism?
We cannot willingly quit the subject here, as our desire is, for our neighbors and ourselves to do right; we will suppose a case -Provided one among the savages was converted, then taught to read English, then had the gospel put into his hand, free now from the prejudice of any and every religious education: upon reading the New Testament which side may we suppose he would decide in favor of, as it respects baptism; whether he would be led to believe the person desiring baptism, repented of his sins; that he believed in the Lord Jesus, or that he had received the Holy Ghost; that he was an adult, and acted upon choice when baptism was performed -whether he went into the water, and was baptized in the water? -or whether he would be led to believe, that parents brought their children to the place of worship and desired the preachers of that day, to take them in their arms, and sprinkle or pour water on their faces and call that baptism? - Judge ye which way he would decide.
We can assure the reader, that this conduct among us, does not arise from a want to affect singularity, neither do we expect to promote our interest or rise in worldly honor -and it must be well known that if the increase of proselytes was our object, it would be wise to open our doors wider and make the way of access easier -but we dare not, at the expense of wounding our consciences, depart from what we conceive to be the example of the faithful in primitive times, and it is our choice to live alone and not be numbered among the people, than unite with those, who have departed from the doctrines of the gospel, or changed the form of Christ's ordinances.
It is our expectation to live alone, though few in number we do not conceive we have cause to fear, while truth is on our side; it has been the lot of the Baptists, in every age, to be a distinct people, from the present time back through the dark ages of popery, although they then might pass by different names, as Waldenses, Wycklifites, Hussites, etc. yet it is acknowledged, they held the same doctrines, and administered the ordinances in the same manner the Baptists do with us at this day -but we are at greater certainty still, we will not submit it wholly to historians, but trace it to its source, and there we find it open with the New Testament, and every opening leaf, and following page confirms the fact, John by name, Baptist by profession; now when all the people were baptized by John, shall we call them by this, that, or the other name, or shall we conclude they were Baptists? the latter is quite natural.
But it is said, by some, that John's baptism, and that of Christ's were very different; why, where is the difference? John baptized in the name of Him that was to come after, which was Christ Jesus; they were adults, they came to John, they confessed their sins, and believed on Him that was to come after.
After Christ had come, and accomplished the great work of redemption, how were they then baptized? why in the belief of Him who had already come, they were buried with Him in baptism, like unto His death, and raised up again like unto His resurrection; they relied on Him who had done everything necessary for their salvation, from which consideration there appears no difference in the qualification of the subject, nor the mode of administering the ordinance, and of course the supposed difference vanishes.
But the complaint has often been, and may be again, that we lay too great a stress on baptism: -For the satisfaction of the reader we will give you our opinion of its importance -we do not deem it essential to salvation; and it is well known, according to our principle and practice, before we proceed to baptize any person, we must be satisfied of his conversion, or at least have a charitable hope, that he or she, is a believer in Christ, and in a state of salvation, and were they to die, having never been baptized, beyond all doubt with us, would be received into glory -but we deem it essential to the orderly conduct of a Christian in this life: else why should Ananias have urged the speedy compliance with it on Paul, in these words, "why tarriest thou, arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling upon the name of the Lord." Why the apostle strictly enjoining, or commanding, the young converts to be baptized, if they could as well express their subjection to Christ in some other way?
We likewise look on this ordinance, when administered to a believer, by immersion, as holding forth great and important truths, for therein Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, is held forth; also the crucifying the old man, a death to sin, and a resurrection to newness of life is by a figure, in the most lively manner, represented and held forth. It is likewise a prerequisite, and necessary it should be submitted to, in order to become a member of the church of Christ.
But complaints still arise -it is said it is but an external ordinance, and circumcision or uncircumcision, matters nothing, and that the kingdom of God does not consist in meats and drinks -he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart. -To which we reply -it is agreed by us, that the kingdom of God does not consist in outward forms, and that except it is set up in the heart, outward forms will be of little avail to any creature. But it is an improper way of arguing, to bring circumcision in competition with baptism; for although circumcision was binding on the Jews, under the Old Testament dispensation, yet, under the gospel, it became null and void, subsided and was entirely abolished -considering it in this light, it was not a duty incumbent on them, that part of the heavy yoke was taken off them, and it would be only bringing them into bondage again, for them to be circumcised, for it had now become quite useless and unnecessary.
But not so with baptism, which was enjoined as a duty on every believer, the omission of which brings guilt on the conscience.
As for the meats and drinks alluded to, they were matters of entire indifference -which if they eat or eat not of, they were none the better nor worse, and therefore will bear no comparison with the weighty and important institution of the New Testament now in full force, and serves as the distinguishing badge of Christ's humble followers.
As to circumcision of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God: is what we deem essentially necessary; we view this effected and brought about by the hand of omnipotence, on which all present consolation of the mind depends, and without which no real happiness can be enjoyed -it is this circumcision of the heart, that fits rational creatures for the service of God -and enables them to perform duty from a principle of life, and from honest motives -inclines them to make the scriptures the golden rule of their conduct, and their aim the manifestative glory of God -it is this that inclines them to pray fervently, converse heavenly, and walk circumspectly -this renewing of the mind, is what restores them from fallen nature, and draws the image of God, and an humble dependence on Christ as their all in all and prepares them for their incorruptible inheritance in glory.
Written by William Fristoe
The light in which good works is considered by the Churches in this Association.
WE deem it consistent with our history, to give the reader an idea of our opinion of good works, for what they are performed, and what purpose they are to answer. The more so, because it is often said, we have adopted a system, and hold principles that exclude good works, and render the doing them of no avail.
It is a received opinion with us, that the salvation and entire saving of the soul is a work of sovereign free grace, in which creature performances form no part -but we do not conclude from hence, that good works are unnecessary, in other respects, but answer valuable purposes in their place: that is, we hold that the love of God to His chosen people, was voluntary, sovereign, and free -that He is of one mind, and none can turn Him, nor anything out of himself can control nor influence His eternal mind, nor alter, frustrate or disappoint His divine purpose -and that the whole reason why He has mercy on any is because He will have mercy -out of pure love He sent His dear Son to perform the great work of redemption for sinners -out of love He sends His gospel to call in His people, under the preaching of which Christ calleth His sheep by name and leadeth them out -out of love the Holy Ghost is sent by His renewing operations, to create the soul anew in Christ Jesus.
Justification is God's act, it is God that justifieth, and that through the Lord Jesus, the great and precious promises by which they partake of the divine nature, on which they rest, and by which they are supported, through the whole of their warfare, are said to be given. Grace is given to them here, and glory reserved for them hereafter, all bestowed freely, and comes to them by way of gift -and the reason why they shall certainly arrive in glory is, because it is their "Father's good pleasure to give them the kingdom." The scriptures assure us, that salvation is of the Lord, from first to last, and will admit of no co-partnership, nor dependent on human performance as a condition, but accomplished wholly by sovereign grace.
And it is so far from lessening our obligation to perform good works, and yield obedience to Christ, that of our being saved by grace, that we are laid under greater obligation by far from the consideration of the freeness of divine love, from their being called by unfrustrable grace, and from the certainty of their by and by possessing the heavenly inheritance. -They are so frequently exhorted in scripture to diligence; "seeing ye are bought with a price, glorify God in your bodies, and your spirits which are God's;" the glorifying of God was not to procure His favor, but being redeemed by the blood of Christ, and called by grace, adopted into God's family, subjected to the divine government, and brought into a spi ritual relation to God; all this being done for them by an omnipotent hand, it was reasonable God should have His own, and body and soul be rendered up and employed in good works.
On the same principle the apostle exhorted his brethren to set forth the praise of Him, who had called them out of the darkness into His marvellous light, that since God hath illuminated your dark minds, and gave you to see His glory in the fall of His dear Son, it is reasonable you should, and it is obligatory on you to set forth His praise -their title claim to the divine favor was not founded in part nor in whole, upon their setting forth the praise of God -but flowed as a natural consequence upon their receiving mercy. Again the apostle enjoins diligence in seeking those things that were above, under the consideration, that they were risen with Christ from a spiritual death and that their life was hid with Christ in God, and that when Christ appeared they should appear with Him in glory -when the apostle Peter, wrote of the dissolution of the present heavens and earth, and then according to the promise, they looked for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelt righteousness. -Under a view of your happiness being secure, the place of your residence will be where righteousness dwells, completely delivered from sin, and all the miseries attending it. Let the view of these things and the certainty of their accomplishment, stimulate and excite you to holiness of life and conversation: so that whenever good works or obedience is enjoined, it appears with no view to procure salvation, or to have been done as a condition of it, which leads us to consider what they are done for.
We will enquire first, what qualifications are necessary to the performance of a good work, a work acceptable to God?
First, it is necessary the Holy Spirit should be the influencer of the soul, for no man can call Jesus the Lord but by the Holy Ghost. Paul describes the worship he performed in these words: "I will pray with the spirit and with the understanding, and I will sing with the spirit and with the understanding;" no worship meets with acceptance, but what is performed in spirit and in truth.
A second ingredient, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ -for without faith it is impossible to please God -for where faith is wanting the worship meets with a rejection, as in the case of Cain, when he offered sacrifice with his brother Abel; "and numbers who heard God's word, were not profited, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it."
Third thing necessary, to constitute a good work is, a view singly to the glory of God; the exhortation is, that whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, all ought to be done to the glory of God; the direct opposite of this, is depraved man, while in a state of nature -instead of looking to, or depending on, a supernatural influence, he relies on the poor feeble arm of flesh: as to exercising faith in Christ, it is far from nature; while a strong inclination leads them to count upon merit in the performance, that there is some good in the duty, for the sake of which, they must be the more acceptable with God; as for the seeking the glory of God when complying with the duty, is a growth nature never produced: all being done by a person void of grace, from a principle of self, and with a view to serve his own purpose, either to still the gnawing and distresses of his troubled conscience, to atone for his gui1t thereby, or to appease wrath, and render Jehovah propitious. It is as impossible for a person with an unsanctified heart to perform an act spiritually good, as it would be to form a world, or take wing and flyaway to heaven -for an unclean thing has never yet, nor never will, produce a clean thing: a bitter fountain cannot yield sweet water, nor a bad tree good fruit, and figs might as soon be gathered of thorns, as for a natural man to perform, what is spiritually good.
But although good works cannot atone for sin, procure a pardon, nor justify our souls, cannot purify our hearts, nor melt us for the kingdom of heaven -yet they are of great importance in other respects, and answer very valuable ends, and therefore ought not to be omitted, for the following reasons:
God hath enjoined on His people the performance of good works, and the walking in all His commands and ordinances blameless, throughout the sacred writings; and reasonable it is, obedience should be yielded, when the sovereign of heaven and earth directs it to be done. For if a father is right he should be honored, and if a master he is much to be feared: when the great Lawgiver, who always does right, issues His commands, due subjection is to be exercised by His rational creatures; it is wicked to enquire into the reasons why such a command, or refuse obedience to it, for the right of commanding is with the Almighty, who does His pleasure, in the armies of heaven, and inhabitants of the earth.
Another reason why commands are to be obeyed, ordinances walked in, and institutions complied with: God hath ordained and appointed them as the means and way by which He is pleased to make himself known and reveal His gracious designs to His people. The revealing the divine law, God manifests - the holiness of His nature, the inflexibility of His justice, and His almighty power to execute His purposes of vengeance -by this means, a discovery is made of the perfections, and attributes of deity, which we must have remained ignorant of, had not such revelation been made -and lessons are taught there which we could not have learned, from the wide extended creation, with all its contents; in the gospel a gracious God is pleased to make still clearer discoveries of himself, as a God of love, as well as a God of holiness and justice; by means of these sacred gospel pages Jesus arises with His refulgent beams, and cheering rays, to expel and burst in sunder the lowering clouds and thick darkness in which all the progeny of Adam are fallen. In this gospel the grand source of rich grace is made known, and God's loving gracious design, in saving sinners, made manifest -by the gospel the remedy is pointed out, a remedy for every disease sin has brought on us -this blessed volume brings sweet intelligence of an eternal life, and a blessed immortality, and many other important and interesting truths are made known by the gospel, which we could never have learned from the works of nature. When the naturalist carries his researches and philosophies on the creatures to the greatest extent, what has he learned? at most that an almighty hand formed them, and acknowledges a grand display of infinite wisdom in the order, harmony, and convenience of the whole system -a system bound by unerring laws, so that confusion cannot take place, but entire harmony continue while time endures, both in the terrestrial and celestial regions -but after all this improvement and discovery, the wise man may know nothing of the way, in which the love of God is manifest to the soul of a rational creature, know nothing how he, an offender, is to be reconciled to an offended judge, be ignorant how his sins are to be pardoned, and he stand justified at the bar of a God of inflexible justice.
Nature, it appears, was never designed to teach these things, and therefore infinite wisdom saw fit to give a law, and send His gospel -now if hearing and perusing the divine law -if attention to the gospel, a frequenting the place where the word is administered, a trying to understand it and derive instruction from it, be deemed a good work, there can be nothing meritorious in the creature's act, when he consults the law, or hears the gospel, nor once to be thought of, as a condition of salvation -but being God's method of revealing himself, He is pleased in instances beyond number, to bless His appointments, attend His law with energy, and shew the sinner his condition, and the need he is in of a cure - the gospel brings forth the healing medicine and makes application of a Saviour's benefits, and leads the soul to embrace Christ as his all in all.
From this consideration, there appears reason sufficient, why we should wait upon the Lord, and attend on His institutions, as the means of receiving the blessing -the same may be said of public worship, when congregations meet, to preach and hear, to pray and praise; we have no idea of carrying money, or price along with us to purchase the blessing: but view the rich feast, and reviving entertainment provided by the great ancient of days, flowing through Jesus Christ, as the mediator, and elegantly brought forward in the rich variety of gospel doctrines, and all the spiritual sons and daughters, welcomed to eat and drink abundantly, being the subjects of Christ's love -when the gospel doctrines are illustrated, we receive food for the soul flowing as a free gift from God -when attempting to pray, we just form a position and open the heart to receive a blessing, no more of merit in it, than in a poor destitute beggar asking alms at a benefactor's door, and every person must know that a beggar's asking and receiving a blessing, is no compensation or reward to the giver. But shall we conclude, since there is no merit, in our presenting ourselves before the Lord, no condition of our salvation, our going to, and joining in worship -why go at all? There are good reasons why; we are not only in God's appointed way and under the means of His grace, but God's glory is thereby set forth, the manifestative glory of God is set forth in this world by the instrumentality of His church and people, when they unite to preach, and hear, and comply with every institution appointed in God's lower house, and unite their voices in the solemn praise of God -it is the grandest performance rational beings are capable of, from which glory redounds to God.
The glory of God being the great end for which man was created, and continues to exist, let none say it is to no purpose to serve God if our works are no condition of our salvation -when baptism is submitted to, there is no merit in it -but being an institution of Christ's, it becomes a duty incumbent on a believer, thereby the death and resurrection of Christ is represented, and the death of the old man in the believer and his resurrection to newness of life -so of the Lord's Supper, nothing of merit in it, but the pleasing lesson concerning the Saviour's death is taught, redemption by the shedding of His precious blood, and the interest every believer has in His mediation.
As to hospitable acts, there is nothing of merit in them, it is praiseworthy among men, but adds nothing to God; when gifts are bestowed on the needy, it is no more than duty calls for, seeing the great proprietor of the world, has lodged in the hands of individuals, the good things of this life, and enjoins it on them to act as faithful stewards -these things have often been good and profitable unto men, and therefore the omission ought not to be allowed.
From what has been said, there appears reason sufficient, why good works should be maintained, although they form no part as a condition of salvation - but complied with, because commanded, and used as a means that God is pleased to bless, in the use of which He affords His people communion with himself - and in their compliance with duty the glory of God is advanced.
But we are told by some, that if they are not rewarded they will not work -we do not dispute the truth of what you say, it is the language of nature; but true as this saying is, it shews that such a person never saw himself -such answers the character of a slave, and not a son; one thing we are conscious of, we never served God as much as we ought to do, although no justification by the deeds of the law, yet from a child-like love they serve God.
An account of Elder James Ireland.
ELDER JAMES IRELAND was born and raised in Scotland, until a man grown -at which time providentially he removed to Virginia, and became a resident here. -Serious reflections occupied his breast, and as he had a natural turn for poetry, he set about composing some verses, which were of so serious a nature, that upon perusing, and considering them, and the importance of what was contained in them, occasioned heavy distress to fall on his mind, and awful apprehensions of the ruined state to which sin had reduced him. Conviction for the sin of his nature, and the guilt contracted by the fall, together with the guilt of his actual transgressions, ran him into a state of almost desperation -under this view of his state, he wandered from place to place, feeling himself justly condemned, until his bodily powers were much afflicted, and grief of mind with difficulty supported up under; under which he must have sunk, had not an omnipotent hand afforded relief: but at God's appointed time he was delivered of his burthen (burthen), his guilt removed, and his desponding soul set at liberty - clouds and darkness expelled, by the bright rising of the sun of righteousness - soon after which he felt himself much impressed with a sense of the duty of preaching the gospel, and before he joined society he used at different times, to exercise his gifts publicly which were satisfactory to his hearers. About this time it appeared his duty to be baptized; he accordingly related his experience to a Baptist minister and was baptized -soon after which he met with encouragement by the Baptist church, and he set forward as a minister of the gospel -in which work he continued till death. His manner of preaching was very agreeable -he was much of an orator -in good language and well chosen words he communicated his ideas -he was close to his subject, and produced pertinent proofs to confirm the doctrines advanced -his sermons were well calculated to feed the church of God with knowledge and understanding, being delivered with so much warmth, and filled with useful instruction. After nearly forty years' labor in the work of the ministry, he was removed by death, in the spring of the year 1806 -and it is no wonder, that Zion trembled and felt her distress, when a pillar of this description fell -but happy for him, an exchange of the transitory things of time, for an enduring substance above, a putting off this tabernacle, and putting on an house from heaven.
The worldly circumstances of those, in general, that have become Baptists in this Association.
WE shall here give the reader an account of the condition of those whom the gospel, in a gelleral way, proved most effectual to. In a general way, those among us who have been wrought upon under the preaching of the gospel, and professed conversion to Christ, have been of the mediocrity, or poorer sort among the people -instances have been very few, of persons being called who were rich in this world -and we have been encouraged to believe that it gave clearer proof of the genuine quality of religion among us -for in times of the promulgation of the gospel it was the common people that heard the truth preached with gladness -when the Lord Jesus called a few disciples, and sent them to preach, wonders, were effected under their ministry, and though they were unlearned, the devils were subject to them through Christ's name. In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank the Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes -even so Father, for so it seemeth good in Thy sight. When the apostle Paul wrote his first epistle to the church at Corinth, he brought to their remembrance that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble were called -but that God had chosen the poor, the weak and base things, to confound the rich, the mighty, and the wise, that no flesh should glory in His presence.
Not that we suppose that poverty in itself is any qualification for embracing the gospel, or the reception of grace, neither does their being poor, lay the Almighty under obligation to bestow His grace upon them -neither do we suppose, a person being rich in this world, though surrounded with the most valuable property, can be a preventative to their conversion, if God should see fit in His good pleasure to operate on them by His unfrustrable grace.
But God is a sovereign; governs all creatures, and all events, in the dispensation of His providence -and affords to mortal man the effusion of His grace, in His own sovereign way, none can stay His hand, nor say, What hast thou done? Why it is so, is not our province to account; but that it is a fact cannot be denied, that the poor have the gospel preached unto them; by this means human pride is brought down, and all the glittering world must stand abashed.
For what is the acquired knowledge of all the arts and sciences, the ingenuity and invention of the mechanic, the wisdom of the politician, the industry, observation and improvement of the agriculturalist, the close study, enlarged discoveries, just calculations, and exalted ideas of the philosopher, in comparison of that wisdom, that comes from heaven, those divine teachings, and bright illuminations the soul receives from God?
Persons under disadvantages of poverty, destitute of education, rude and uncultivated in their manners; when such are wrought upon, their manners are reformed, the stubborn wills subdued, their hardened tempers melted down in pious grief, their dark minds enlightened, Christ becomes the object of their highest love, and foundation of their hope -their conversation sensible and intelligible on topics truly sublime; how evident that it is the Lord's work! how illustriously does His wisdom and power appear! And it has been the case among us, that by the means of such as above described, God has been pleased to carryon, and promote the interest of His spiritual kingdom, in defiance of all the rage, and combined malice of earth and hell.
The glory of God is not only conspicuous in the effectual calling, and enlightening of the poor of this world, but His manifestative glory is much more promoted by them in their manner of life, and conduct afterwards. When in a few, and very few, instances, the rich have made profession of religion -there are so many temptations to divert them from their religious duties, it is wonderful for such to be ornamental to the cause they profess: unless such have a great degree of humility at their entrance into a gospel church, they are apt to think themselves superior, and their poor brethren inferiors, and of course themselves are entitled to honor, for their sphere in life, and their better information claims it, and they are often offended if it is not allowed them. Another disadvantage, their estates are large and unwieldy, calls for so much thought, and engagedness, to carryon business to advantage, so as to improve the living, for almost anyone has got to know, that if a living is not improved it will lose. Their circumstances, being raised in the world, it naturally leads to associate with those of like circumstances; and as it is seldom, the rich have the fear of God before their eyes, the conversation turns on subjects in their nature quite trifling and light; the visit closes, and they come to a farewell; but when will you repay this visit? O, make it convenient soon! By and by the visit is returned, with the addition of several others of the quality; then must come on a genteel parade, the poor domestics are hurried until almost surfeited, credit must be supported, and what is deemed a complacent behaviour, kept up, lest they should give an offense. -Where the pride of life has been so predominant, and courting the favor of the great, many of whom are scarcely moral, and very far from everything truly religious, it is not to be expected that such professors will cut any great figure in the religious world, nor enjoy the life of religion in their own souls; for it is impossible to court popularity and the friendship of the carnal world, and enjoy communion with God at the same time.
And as it is common where persons are raised in good circumstances it is their desire their children should enjoy every advantage of advancing their fortunes; they meet with indulgence, visit and resort with those in high life, who are freed from hard labor, by having slaves to labor for them; when the children of professors mingle with others -soon they resort to balls, and every place of sport and diversion, until some have arrived at great lengths of dissipation; for where balls and sports are carried on, it diverts the mind from everything serious; it is opposite to, yea the avowed enemy of devotion; and though mirth is often plead for, there are none of its advocates would approach a ball-room provided they knew death was near, which they might do as well as be elsewhere, were there (as they say) no harm in it; besides, we have lived to see and hear of numbers who have been addicted to sport, when taken sick, and when struggling with the pale king of terrors, ever called for one of their jovial companions, with whom they used to meet at balls, to pray for them and give them some profitable counsel; but rather those of a graver cast who had always been cautioning them to abstain from such practices.
When professors of religion, suppose they gain credit by conforming to the world, they take up with a mistaken notion; our neighbors are too well informed, they know that a person that professes to be born again ought to live circumspectly; and it is bartering at sad rates to lose the comfort of religion, incur the hard thoughts and censures of the men of the world, be light in the esteem of God's people, and indulge the family in the practice that leads to greater dissipation, and all, for the mere prospect of getting worldly honor and greatness.
We do not suppose there are any of Christ's followers without having trials while in this tenement of clay; but by a comparison, between those ill middling circumstances in the world, and the rich, the poor will be found to have fewer trials, and a fairer opportunity to adorn his profession, especially where each possess grace.
The person that possesses but little worldly property, has not so much anxiety, over reaching, and striving after wealth, (as those who have got and in the way of getting) for their circumstances being such, and the means of acquiring wealth so few; they feel discouraged in the attempt, and that evil is escaped; their company is not solicited by the world, and especially those in high life, by which they often escape a great deal of light and unprofitable conversation; their little in the world is within a small circle and under their notice, and affords greater quiet to the mind; and as they are accustomed to plain and cheap clothing, it is easy procured and at a small expense, and by the by they escape a gaudy, superfluous appearance, a stream whose rapid current has swept the polite world away.
Persons thus circumstanced enjoy a life of solitude, and the opportunity is fair for self-examination and enquiry into the state and condition of their souls; whether their manner of life is worthy the Christian name, whether their conscience is freed from guilt, by any late application of the precious blood of Christ, whether their prospect is clear of the heavenly inheritance, and their title to it well founded.
Retirement being a great friend to devotion, the heart of such are much engaged at a throne of grace, imploring the increase of grace in their own souls, the advancement of spiritual knowledge, deliverance from temptations, the mortification of his inordinate affections, and that strength may be equal to his day; he forgets not to pray for Zion's prosperity, and the increase of her converts. Being freed from anxious cares, leisure time offers for the searching and perusing the Holy scriptures, that grand source whose salutary streams make glad the city of God, whose variety of doctrines afford a feast to the mind, and whose interesting lessons mark out the pathway of duty; whose opening pages bring sweet intelligence of a blessed immortality, and leads the soul to desire the possession of their final rest in the ultimate glory.
Care, in some good degree, dismissed from his mind, and his daily labor not so urgent, when there is an appointment for worship he repairs to the house of God, to be taught of His ways and to walk in His paths, accounting one day in the house of the Lord, better than a thousand elsewhere; for by experience he knows that while enquiring in the temple he has to behold the beauty of the Lord, and his soul made like the chariot of Aminadab; when duty calls he can furnish something of his worldly property, for the purposes of religion and the honor of his great Lord and Master; when necessity leads him into company he is cautious lest he act imprudent; grave, expressive of God's fear, being before his eyes. Happy the man, though poor in this world, who is rich in faith and an heir of the kingdom of heaven.
Reasons why the Baptists, generally, espouse Republicanism.
IT is well understood by our neighbors, that the Baptists with us are generally Republicans, and we suppose it consistent with our history, to assign our reasons for adopting that policy. We have numerous reasons for it, but we will comprise the whole in as few as possible.
When duty was laid by act of parliament on articles imported from Great Britain to the United States of America, and the purchaser compelled to pay the duty, although the then colonies had no representation in parliament, nor ever consented to it; this conduct appeared so arbitrary in the British government, Americans took the alarm, and after petitioning and remonstrating without success, the alternative was a resort to arms, and a manly resistance of such usurpation and tyrannical procedure. The amount of taxation as yet might have been borne, but it was the assumption of power claimed by them to tax us in all cases whatever. As parliament claimed that power, had it been given up none could say where it would end; in process of time every article imported might have been loaded with an enormous tax, and if in all cases, a duty might have been imposed on home manufactures as well as on imports, a compulsion might have been for our furnishing for Britain, from American citizens, a large part of the British army, to be taken to remote and distant parts of the world, build and equip a great portion of her shipping, and so tax after tax, until the load would have been insupportable, and we reduced to abject slavery. Human foresight could not tell the length it would go, or where the oppressive measures would terminate. For monarchial usurpation cannot be glutted, it never cloys; the desire of pomp and enlargement of empire has never met with an entire gratification.
Things being thus circumstanced, the Baptists took an active part with their fellow citizens in opposing British usurpation and aiming to secure our just rights which we deemed right then, and we have never retracted since.
The procedure of monarchial government, as above stated, leads us clearly to decide in favor of a government by the people. A second reason, it is the people that is to bear the expense of government, to expel an enemy when their country is invaded, and suppress insurrections among themselves, should they arise. This is not done by an individual despot, nor by a limited monarch, nor by a senate, but by the people -and therefore reasonable the people should be represented, by those of their own choice, and so have a voice in government -it is not to be expected that a perfect government, free from errors will ever be composed by frail man, but it is most likely to be freest from blemishes when composed by the representatives of the people, and should there be defects it will be submitted to with greater care and may be remedied as soon as the public mind can be collected.
Besides, the wisdom of a nation, is contained in the great body of the people; man in high life, and live as they suppose, at the source of information, may conclude wisdom dwells wholly with them, and better for individuals to judge for, and govern the nation, than for the people to govern themselves -but this cannot be admitted in a country where they enjoy the freedom of speech, and of the press, the means of aiding their enquiries and investigating and discussing political questions, and a free communication of their sentiments to each other on points interesting to the nation. By these means the wisdom of the nation is collected and the representatives of the people are the better fitted to legislate, knowing the sentiments of their constituents.
For after all the clamor, tyrants designedly have made about government, supposing it wrapt up in obscurity and hid from the people, there are but two leading portraits in the system of policy, first to have a government so formed that will secure the protection of the persons, and property of the citizens: - And secondly, at as little expense as will answer the purpose, pursue these two leading objects, and the other parts of a well directed government will of course take place; we therefore think it most safe to leave the government with the people, and that it will be less subject to corruption.
A third reason that determines us in favor of a government by the people is, we have not lost the remembrance of the hardships and persecutions we endured under monarchial government and the oppressive measures exercised on us by that government; our desire is that such times may never return; it is natural for burnt children to dread the fire -monarchial government, and an establishment of religion, are twins; wherever the one is, the other appears. To talk of a national church is so far from the construction of Christ's church in primitive time, that it appears no more than a name; it is in fact a church in name adulterated into a wicked nation, and the ruling power in such nation becomes an engine of oppression and cruelty, and all that cannot conform to the established system, and the rules of the established church, must reconcile themselves to suffering, for it is sure to be their portion. -
A fourth reason is, our religious education agrees with and perfectly corresponds with a government by the people; for where men possess capacity to form a system in their own minds, or a mind strong enough to digest a written system, it has ever been, and will continue, a coincidence and agreement between their religious and civil systems, as much so as temporal and spiritual things can agree.
Facts are stubborn, and it is a fact that cannot be denied, that where unlimited monarchy prevails and a single despot governs a nation, that establishments have been set up and the clergy possessed with an unlimited control over the church, and it never has failed that where the civil power exercised unlimited control, and the clergy considered absolute, where these two have united it has ever terminated in the deprivation of the rights of the subjects, and the loading them with enormous burthens (burthens), and the shutting them up in gross ignorance. When we cast our eyes abroad and carry out enquiries into distant countries we find a similarity between the civil and ecclesiastical authorities; for instance, despotism in the civil, and supremacy in the ecclesiastic, limited monarchy and some small checks to the ruling clergy, a people governed by a senate, and the church by the clergy in general -where things are thus circumstanced, the body of the people have no hand in the governing themselves as a nation nor have they a voice in governing the church of which they are members -all that is expected of them is due subjection to the decree, proclamation, or council, if the ruling authority, be it civil or ecclesiastic; and if there should be a turning aside by any of the people or a complaint uttered, they share the fate of the poor innocent beast on which wicked Balaam rode.
When we consult the divine oracles and draw our conclusions of the form of Christ's church as described in the gospel, it appears to have no connection with the world; for Christ has declared His kingdom is not of this world, His people being called out from the world and fitted by grace for a spiritual house, when compacted together becomes a standing temple for the divine residence, and will remain an everlasting monument of His rich, free, and unfrustrable grace; it would be degrading the bride, the Lamb's wife, for her to draw her maxims and rules of government from worldly policy, for the church of Christ is the highest court God has established on earth, her code of laws were given her by the King of Zion, the Lord Jesus Christ, in which every instruction is given that is necessary for the furnishing the children of God to every good work; the head of the church is a spiritual King, His subjects are spiritual, His laws and ordinances spiritual, and it is the province of Christ's subjects to worship God in spirit and truth -the church being purchased by the precious blood of Christ are all renewed by the same efficacious grace, and born heirs of the same heavenly inheritance, and of course have an undoubted right to a voice in the church of Christ; the New Testament clearly decides in favor of a free and independent government by a congregational, constituted church, from whose bar there is no appeal to any higher court; this independence of church government and the right each individual member has to a voice in such government, appears from many passages in the New Testament; the apostle's instruction to the church at Jerusalem was to choose out from among them, men possessed with necessary qualifications, that they might appoint to the office of serving tables; this power of choosing their first officers rested wholly with the church: it appears the prerogative of the church and the church alone to exercise discipline on an offending member or one who had trespassed against his brother; the right of excluding disorderly members from church fellowship, is given up by the apostle to be vested in the church. When the members of the church at Corinth met together, having the apostle's judgment with them, they were to deliver the wicked member to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus; and the apostle takes care in his second epistle to the same church, (where signs of repentance appeared in the excommunicated person) to confirm their love to him, for the punishment inflicted by many was sufficient; and it became their duty to take him into brotherly affection and restore him to his former privileges in the church, it follows, the right both of exclusion from, and reception into, rested with the church -it further appears by the instruction to the church, that if any member be a fornicator, profane person, or drunkard, or liar, or extortioner, no, not with such an one to eat, they ought therefore to purge out the old leaven that they might be a new lump: from these passages the power was vested in the several members of the church, united in one religious body, to choose their officers, to exclude disorderly members or receive them in.
Christ has so tempered His mystical body and united the several members, that they form but one body, and all are designed for usefulness; in this congregational form Christ's church appeared in the apostolic age, and the grand reason why we admire it in later days.
Taking into view the ruin and destruction that has been brought upon so many different nations in different ages, by usurping tyrants, leads us to admire the easy government under which we live which extends privileges to us which the subjects of tyrants never enjoyed the sweets of. -It appears that despots and kings have ever been a curse to the nations of the world -their thirst for the extension of empire, and to immortalize their memory, have led them to every excess. Armies have been raised by them and millions slaughtered in the field or drowned in the deep, while laborers at home have been burthened (burthened) with taxes until life has become burthensome (burthensome); populous countries have become thinly inhabited, and productive fields turned into barren deserts; while we set under our vine and fig tree, quite tranquil, and none to make us afraid. Taking a view of the whole ground, and contrasting despotism or monarchial government, with republicanism, the depriving the people of their rights, the burthens (burthens) with which they are loaded, and exaction of everything their monarch requires, and not even allowed to complain -a government by the people is very different, no ambition for empire, but what they honestly purchase; no going to war, but on the defensive, and when under absolute necessity, for the safety of our persons, and our property. The right of expressing our sentiments, wherein the national good is concerned, in petitioning to government for redress of grievances, and the repeated elections of men into the national councils that are avowed advocates for equal liberty , the encouragement such a government gives husbandry and manufactures, trade and commerce, and hangs our premiums to discoveries and inventions, merit, and not high birth, weighs heavy in the scale of public opinion, and the applause of the wise. Put all these things together, attaches us to our republican form of government, and it is our desire it may long continue in its purity, free from corruption; that the administration may be in wisdom, and her councils filled with such as fear God. -May peace and prosperity long spread her beneficial wings over these united and confederated States!