A BROTHER at the West has called on us once and again to give a statement of the origin, rise and progress of the popular modern religious institutions which have divided the Baptist denomination throughout our country, together with our objections to them. If our time and ability were equal to such an undertaking, our brother must be aware that a large volume would be required to contain so extensive a work.
The institutions claiming to be religious are very numerous; among them will be found the American Bible Society, American and Foreign Bible Society, Foreign and Domestic Missionary Society, American, Baptist and other Tract Societies, Infant, Bible Class, Sabbath and Theological Schools, Religious Education Societies of various names, and under the patronage of as many organized denominations, a number of different kinds of Temperance Societies, Abolition Societies, Dorcas Societies, Penny Societies, Mite Societies, and societies to manufacture dolls, pin cushions and fancy articles for Religious Fairs, &c., &c., &c. Now to trace each of the above catalogue to its origin, and give its distinct history, would be a task of no ordinary magnitude, and, so far as we can discover, of no more real consequence than the animated discussion now going on in reference to the origin of his Satanic majesty, the present prince of darkness. That such an enemy to God and the church does exist, we have sufficient demonstration, if we are as familiar with his devices as were the primitive saints; and that the dark catalogue mentioned does also exist, none, that we are aware of, will pretend to deny. The question then, with consistent bible-loving Baptists, should be, Are they taught, required or sanctioned by the scriptures? It is of little or no consequence where they are from, if they are not found warranted by that testament which we hold as the only rule of our practice, standard of our faith and man of our counsel. In searching the sacred oracle, not one of the above named institutions can be found; and this fact has been frequently admitted by the most zealous advocates of them. They have frequently been challenged to produce one passage of scripture to sustain them; but that one passage has never yet been produced. The Old Fashioned Baptists have unitedly stood pledged to cease their opposition and fall into the ranks of those who patronize these institutions whenever a plain “Thus saith the Lord” can be found to warrant them. But this world shall wax old with years, the planets cease their revolutions, the heavens be rolled together like a scroll, and the elements of nature melt with fervent heat, before the ingenuity of man shall be able to so torture the scriptures as to wring from their blessed pages one approving expression.
When the editor of this sheet united with the Baptist Church in 1811, not one of the above institutions was known to exist in connection with or under the patronage of the Baptist denomination in the United States of America. – About twenty or twenty-five years ago some of these leading institutions began to be introduced among the Baptists of this country. The models after which they were to be fashioned were generally imported from Europe, and preceded by the heresy of Andrew Fuller. In those early days they were insinuated into Baptist favor with the utmost caution, and under a mask which they have long since thrown off. The missionary system professed only to have in view to aid those fathers in Israel who were in indigent circumstances, that they might devote themselves more exclusively to preaching the gospel. Not a hint was given that this society was to become a great national church and state monster, demanding and receiving as it does over $100,000 annually, to be disposed of in rooting out those gifts from the church that God has bestowed for the edification of the body, and bringing in a host of hirelings who, but for this missionary fund, would plead law, dose calomel or have to work for a living.
When the gilded project of a bible society was whispered among the Baptist churches, it was only pretended that it was designed to furnish the poor with copies of the bible, without note or comment; but the hint was not given that it was to be deified and regarded as a savior of millions, who without it would be for ever lost. The bible societies (for they are now divided and become plural) are a link in the connection of mammoth institutions for uniting the church and state, for monopolizing power and wealth in the hands of an aspiring clergy, and, what is worse than all, for superseding the blood of Christ, the grace of God, the work of the Holy Spirit and faith of God’s elect.
We were residing in the city of New York when Sabbath Schools began to find a place among the Baptist churches of that city, and when we expressed our misgivings as to what they might result in, we were met by the solemn protestation of every Baptist dabbler in them in the bounds of the city, that they did not contemplate the religious instruction of any, that the design was only to collect from the haunts of vice and from the streets those poor neglected children who had no other opportunity to acquire an education, and give them, as far as practicable, an English education. We do make the assertion, without the fear of contradiction, that there was not a Baptist to be found in the city of New York twenty-five years ago, that would admit he believed the religion of Jesus Christ could be taught as a science to unregenerate children or adults in Sabbath or theological schools. But we have lived to realize all that we then feared would result from Sabbath Schools. We have seen the children of these Sunday Schools paraded through the principal streets of New York in martial style, with the “minister of the gospel” [what a burlesque upon the sacred name!] at their head, and his male and female subalterns in charge of their respective platoons and files; and to hear it announced from pulpit and press, by governors [address of Governor Seward on L. I.] as well as parsons, that on these schools the future destiny of our country depends, that these are the nursery of the church of God and the bulwarks of our national liberty, that by these our presidential seat shall be filled with pious occupants, and no more disgraced [this very term has been used] with non-professing men, [like Washington, Jefferson and others of like character.] Sunday School pupils have been trained to sign petitions praying the national and state legislatures to interfere in matters of religion, as in the case of stopping the transportation of the mail on Sunday, the abolition of slavery as an anti-religious practice, for preventing the plying of steamers, regulating licenses for the sale of spirits, &c., &c. We might greatly enlarge on the characteristics of this horn of the image of the apocalyptic beast, but our space forbids.
That religious schools existed in earlier ages of the church, and in connection with what was called the church, for the purpose of teaching religion to children, and for preparing young men for the ministry, and that these schools have been patronized by kings and emperors of the earth, we readily admit; but that these very schools have in all cases exerted an influence prejudicial to the simplicity of the gospel, and ruinous to the liberties of mankind; that they have opened the floodgates of heresy, and nurtured and brought into being the papal beast, with its infernal inquisition, horrid tortures, racks and dungeons; that it has lit up the fires of martyrdom, and drenched the earth with rivers of human gore, we challenge any to deny. And are we now to be gravely referred to the school at Alexandria, or other institutions of the kind, as a precedent worthy of imitation by our churches and associations, instead of regarding the last will and testament of our Lord Jesus Christ as the only infallible guide and directory to the Baptist Church ~ May heaven prevent!
The following table, from Stocton’s Christian World; showing the time at which the various bible societies have originated, from the most ancient to the present time, together with the number of copies issued to 1841, may be interesting to some of our readers, and gratifying to our correspondent, who will also therefrom perceive the impracticability of giving a detailed history of the numerous brood of institutions concerning which he inquires:
|British & Foreign Bible Society, England,||Instituted.||Bible & Test.|
|Waldenses, at LaTour,||1814,||36,651|
|Wurtemberg, at Stuttgardt,||1819,||5,000|
|Grand Duchy of Baden,||1812,||283,961|
|Waldeck and Pyrmont,||1816,||73,565|
|Lubeck, city of,||1814,||4,726|
|Eutin, for principality of Lubeck,||1814,||7,156|
|Prussian, at Berlin,||1835.|
|Saxon, at Dresden,||1818,|
|Bavarian, Prot., at Nuremberg,||1825,|
|Finnish, at Abo,||1815,||10,445|
|Russian, at St. Petersburg,||1812,||43,000|
|French and Foreign,||1818,||161,974|
|Ionian, at Corfu,||1833,||25,334|
|Colombo Auxiliary, Ceylon,||1812,||17,437|
|AM. NATIONAL, at N. Y. City,||1816,||2,353,968|
In the above table the parent societies only are mentioned. There are 3,100 auxiliary societies in Great Britain, and 1,000 in the United States. The English have translated the bible-into 158 languages. The missionary, tract and other religious societies are so numerous that it would be impossible to insert a list of them in this place. The earliest was the “society of Jesus,” (Jesuits) founded in 1539. The next was the congregation for the propagation of the faith, 1632; for propagating the gospel in New England, 1649; for promoting christian knowledge, 1698; London missionary, 1795.
As we have before intimated, we have neither time nor space to call the attention of our readers to each of the popular institutions of our degenerate age. It is sufficient for every child of God and disciple of the Lamb to know that these institutions are none of them sustained by divine authority; they are therefore, at best, but human inventions, and we are solemnly admonished that God will take vengeance on the inventions of men.
The hydra headed monster has thrown its cursed fangs into-the councils of our nation, and infused its poison into the sanctuary of every state. Its abominable innovations upon the christian faith and practice were introduced among the Baptists when in their embryo state, but as fast as the public mind could be prepared to favor them, they have not only multiplied, but thrown off the deceptive guise in which their master spirits introduced them. And as they have grown in years they have grown in strength; they now acknowledge no limits, they yield to no restraints; and like the green bay tree, they have spread themselves beyond the Allegany, have invaded the camp of the saints in the Mississippi Valley, and laid waste, so far as heaven would suffer them, the order, peace and harmony of the church throughout our wide spread, once happy states. With the increase of these institutions, vice and immorality of every name has also increased, and but few such reformations as these institutions have effected on the community would be required to subvert and prostrate every social, civil and religious privilege that we as disciples of Christ and as citizens of the world hold dear, and establish in their place an unlimited hierarchy of priestcraft, and inscribe indelibly, as with a pen of iron, Ichabod, upon the fair edifice of freedom, and on all our institutions of equal rights.
In addition to what we have written and copied, we might refer our brother to the annual reports of the self-styled benevolent institutions, together with their constitutions, &c.; but we are limited for room. Our objection to the whole of them may be summed up in a few words, and is implied in what we have already written, viz.: that they are unwarranted by any divine authority, and that we cannot patronize them without subjecting ourselves to the reproof, “Who hath required these things at your hands?” That they are subversive of the order of the kingdom of Jesus, is demonstrated by the present scattered state of the Baptist community, in consequence of their introduction among us.
New Vernon, N.Y.,
July 1, 1842
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 2