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inactivity of many who make their boast of what they term " sound doctrine," but who appear to have little or no sympathy with the practical bearings of the faith of Christ.
If the sentiments we maintain are worth anything, they demand our zealous exertion to diffuse them by every means in our power.
If our principles are, as we believe them to be, more scriptural and beneficial than those of others, it becomes us to exhibit a corresponding superiority in our zeal, spirit, and devotion.
We live in stirring times, and unless we are on the alert to maintain and spread the principles we profess, we must expect to see the diffusion of error and the influence of its abettors sweeping every thing before them.
Churches, so called, sustained by the civil power may be “disestablished," and we believe they will be, notwithstanding the tenacity with which their adherents cling to such worldly institutions, and the treacherous hypocrisy with which some professed Dissenters and even Baptist Ministers, affect to regard them as the bulwark of Protestantism. believe that State-Churches are hot-beds of Popish superstitions, and that they are doomed to extinction, as such, by the growing power of intelligence and the influence of the truth. But let us see to it that we also are not betraying that sacred trust which, not the State but, the Sovereign Lord and Head of the Church, whom we profess to serve, has confided to us; and thereby come to forfeit our claim to those higher “endowments" with which he has honoured us in that Church which is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the foundation stone.
Essays and Expositions.
THE VALUE OF OUR PRINCIPLES.
Truth is only rightly held when held for its own sake and its author's. If " principles " are ours by habit or education alone, they are of little more profit to us, or to any body else, than as though we professed them for mere expediency, or called them ours because too indolent or indifferent to examine whether right or wrong.
Truth is foc and clothing to the mind; furnishing sustenance-defence-comfort. It is, besides, the best hand to hold out to help our fellow, and the only weapon having
success” stamped on its blade, wherewith to defy the assaults and destroy the works of the “ father of lies.”
Whatever advantage may be won through error can be but transitory, and must eventually prove more loss than gain.
All truth is useful,—all revealed truth essential to usefulness. Whatever is of no use does not proceed from the all wise worker of all good.
The daily course of the outer world witnesses the true utility of every divine arrangement and gift; equally so is it (and of which ample proof is constantly present with the God-fearing searcher thereof) that “ ALL SCRIPTURE IS-PROFITABLE.
Now, we are called “ Baptists,” an epithet too often on the lip of ignorant scorn and silly assumption of superior wisdom, but of which it were at any time a pitiable weakness for its bearer to be ashamed, or shrink from avowing its ownership.
True, the term does not comprehend—much less define all our principles, and is, indeed, rather a cognomen of necessity than of choice. But it indicates our determined maintenance of an appointed service which is either wholly neglected or so altered as to lose all its original significance and use; a service in which we do see great comeliness and glory, and endeared to us specially through its open observance by our dear Master himself, who has left us an example that we should follow in his steps. JANUARY 1, 1868.
Can we then possibly pay too much deference or too strictly adhere to this ordinance ?
Even if we could as yet perceive no meaning or fitness in the appointment, it should be enough-quite enough for unquestioning obedience by every disciple who owes himself to his Lord—to know that that Lord has alike by example and precept pointed out the way he would have him walk.
But the baptism of a believer in the name of the Lord is not a blind compliance with an arbitrary decree. Surely and clearly is it connected with the great fundamental truths which are the meat and drink of souls hungering and thirsting after righteousness.
The particular and complete redemption of individuals, and their perfect clearance from all charge, power, and consequence of sin, by the death and resurrection of the Great Surety, have their fitting exposition in the voluntary immersion and emersion of the believing partaker of Christ, “Buried with him in baptism,” &c. (Col. ii. 12).
The omission of this ordinance, as well as its unwarrantable administration to unconscious infants, robs the profession of Christ of that distinctive personality which from commencement to completion is the prominent character of his kingdom.
Personal election,-personal redemption,- personal regeneration,-meet in the willing disciple of Jesus, who, believing with all his heart, thankfully embraces the instituted token of oneness with his Lord, and goes on his way rejoicing.
On this branch of the subject the Chairman of the Congregational Union spoke thus candidly not long since:
“The prominence given by Baptists to the personality of the Christian character and profession becomes a valuable force arrayed on the side of Scriptural Evangelism against human traditions. It is the direct antidote and antagonist to that official virtue and authority upon which the Church of Rome has based the grand apostacy, and from which neither the Church of England, nor even the Church of Luther, to name no other man-made Churches, has purged, or will purge itself free. On this principle, perhaps, we may account for the dawn of a new Reformation in Germany, being apparently identified with the diffusion of Baptist sentiments in so many of its States, and for the virulence with which those persons who teach, and those who adopt them, are persecuted and oppressed by Governments inspired by Ecclesiastical jealousies and alarm. In like manner it may be expected, that in proportion as the same views of the strictly personal nature of religion come into contact with the rank and rampant Popery of Ireland, and with the scarcely less Popish, though greater sacerdotalism still infecting the rural parishes of England, the labors of the Baptist Irish and Home Mission Societies will tend to precipitate the final battle one day to be fought between the phalanxed forces of truth and error.”
In like manner the Moderator of the New York Baptist Association of last year emphatically enunicates and happily illustrates the value of our principles. He says:
“There can be no connection obtained with Christ by creeds, or votes, or formularies. For a congregation to vote to be a Church of Christ, will neither make it such, nor will it by such vote secure the approval of the Master. Neither will a subscription to a creed or a formulary unite the soul to Him and secure its life. The person must be united to Christ, not by the act of another, but by his own act, in the affectionate and hearty reception of Jesus as his Redeemer. Where this has been the case there has been no failure, but a steady progression in spiritual power. On the other hand, where this has been lost to view, retogression, loss of vital force, and a dead formality have ripened into ruin, or into avowed infidelity.
“To illustrate this we have but to look at the New England Congregational Churches previous to the great Unitarian apostacy that swept like the pestilence uver all that land, removing the ancient land-marks that the fathers had set, and bringing a cloud upon them from whose enfoldings they have been unable to.free themselves to this day. You know that about a hundred years ago a vast number of the Congregational Churches in New England became Unitarian, and the houses of worship with the Schools went into their hands. Now this terrible state of things was not the work of a day, but had been gradually coming to this for years. But how? The Churches were full of unconverted people, whose untransformed natures had no union or fellowship with Christ. Being brought into the Churches when children by a double perversion of Christian Baptism, they governed them when they grew up. From such men the ministry had to be taken; and an unconverted ministry is the direst calamity that can come upon a country or an age. Some good men, such as Jonathan Edwards, saw the fearful gulf to which the current was bearing them, and they set to work to avert the calamity ; but it was too late. The leaven had assimilated to its own likeness nearly the whole lump. The smothered fire burst forth and the conflagration could not be stayed. The good men were dispossessed of their pulpits, and they who were united to Christ by a living faith went with them and formed the Orthodox Churches. Now, if the divine rule had been followed of admitting none without evidence of regeneration -of baptizing only believers, the condition of things would have been widely different. But as the wages of sin is death, so the wages of every departure from divine direction are always deadly.
“How was it, however, with the Baptist Churches during that time of apostacy ? Not one of them swerved from the faith of Christ; and while the other Churches were rent in sunder, they remained unshaken; and good Dr. Godwin, a Congregationalist, who could not occupy his own pulpit, preached in the Baptist Churches where he could preach Christ and know that he had the fellowship of Christ's children. And why did the Baptist Churches stand firm ? Because the way they admitted members was by each man for himself giving evidence that 'flesh and blood,' had not revealed to him, but the 'Father in heaven,' that Jesus was 'the Christ, the Son of the living God,' and being founded on that fundamental truth of the Gospel,
they feared no more,
Than solid rocks when billows roar.' May God forbid that our Churches should ever depart from this saving truth,-from this saving practice.
Speaking of those times, Prof. Moses Stuart said that the Evangelical people of New England were indebted to the Baptists for the maintenance of Gospel truth in those days when its foundations were so hotly assailed. And he might have added, that the world since the days of Christ has been indebted to the same people for the maintenance of vital union with the Lord in every age that that faith has been assailed. Against this faith, or its faithful defenders, the gates of hell have not, nor shall they prevail.”
At the time of its delivery, we were delighted with the forcible and fair putting of the case by Mr. Aldis, in his address as the Chairman of the Baptist Union of 1866; some extracts of which we now quote, as enforcing in better and more powerful words than we can use, the truth we would urge on all our brethren.
“We are Baptists, and, therefore, Dissenters. Our denominational badge marks us off from the law Church of this land, and assures all men that we shall be the last to be included in it. We are regarded, and perhaps justly, as the dissidence of Dissent, the most extreme, incorrigible, and hopeless. We ought to feel our footing firmly, or of all men we shall be the most blameworthy. We must consciously rest in the authority and love of God, or we can never give an adequate account to man. We are not merely Nonconformists. That name is often given us. It is meant to be respectful, and is regarded as comprehensive and inoffensive; but it is very inadequate, and not quite correct. We are Nonconformists, but we are more. The name is historical, and designates the illustrious men who were expelled in 1662. Our ancestors were Nonconformists before the Nonconformists. That title is narrow, and points mainly to the external; ours is wider, and rests in that which is essential and vital.
“Our only care is to hold the truth, and breathe the spirit, and do the work of Jesus. If virtually united to Christ, our life is sure. If we are really Christians, it is the fault of others that makes us Dissenters. Dissent is essentially an affair of personal and spiritual religion, a Divine creation-one of the forms which the new life of grace has taken in order to quicken and renew the world—this is to this Reformation what that was to the Papacy, and what the Gospel was to paganism. The Reformation was the resurrection of conscience and faith. Men saw the nearness and certainty of the evangelical and supernatural, and were thus led to repentance and holiness. They awoke to the consciousness of the love and fear of God, and this led them to do and dare as heroes and martyrs. A living faith and spiritual devotion alone can perpetuate our existence; without these, men will assuredly abandon us. Education, habit, sympathy with our political life, admiration of some of our abstract principles, or a little official distinction amongst us, may retain and animate a few. These may be amongst the loudest and most obtrusive, and others will regard them as our representative men; but if they are not earnest Christians, in times of trial they will drop off like spring blossoms before the keen frosty wind. They may have found their education and early friends amongst us; but if they have not found Christ, they will soon go away. They cannot bear a faithful ministry—will take offence at it, and geek shelter from that which disturbs their consciences. The prospect of improving their social status, or securing a little gain a few flattering attentions, and a more cordial invitation from those who lead the fashion-the hope of getting free from pecuniary contributions to objects they no longer love-the escape at once from the gibe and sneer of the ungodly, and from the indirect oversight and control the saints, will be quite sufficient to drive them away. We can never keep our young people true to Dissent if they are not converted. The posterity of the noble Nonconformists lost their fathers' faith, and soon melted away into undistinguished nothingness. It is a deep satisfaction to my heart that I know of nothing which really fits men for Dissent but that which brings them to Christ and fits them for heaven. We may test this principle by our own consciousness as well as by our observations in others. Our personal love to our position as Dissenters, and the cheerfulness of our generosity towards it, are measured by our piety.* Though born and educated in it, yet the living tie that binds us to it is, that here we were first bowed to the dust in godly sorrow, and then raised with a risen Saviour to a new life.
“A costly building, refined psalmody, and gay attire, furnished by the tastes and wealth of those who used to be content with simpler things, may produce a flush and glow of congregational life which may be mistaken for health ; but it is the hectic
* We wish a truer word were commonly used than “piety.” It has been wrested from its original meaning (filial kindness), and feebly substituted the good outspoken, unmistakable word