“ He that is first in how own cause seemeth just; but his neighbor cometh and searcheth him. ” - Solomon.
HAVING in the preceding number bestowed some attention on the claims of the modem religious inventions to the high character and title by them assumed, we shall now attend to the questions stated, viz:
1. Have we any authority from scripture to do, as individual christians, or as churches, the things which are contemplated in the operations of the benevolent societies so called?
In answering this inquiry, our champion for new isms has proposed to draw freely from the documents of the General Meeting of Western Baptists, held in Cincinnati, in 1833. But why not draw freely from the bible? We, of the Old School, are in the habit of drawing our scriptural authority from the word of God, and not from the documents of any body of uninspired men; and why, since Mr. S. well knows the difference, does he promise scriptural authority, and then, forsooth, transcribe for us the documents of those who by this very craft have their wealth? This slip of his unruly pen cannot be attributable to ignorance; it must be attributed to convenience, or necessity, or both. We have never pretended to dispute that of this sort of testimony abundance may be brought to sustain this or any other extravagance in doctrine or in practice. How easy it is, for example, for the Protestant Pedo-Baptists to show the validity of infant or adult sprinkling, by adverting to the documents of the Pope, or the Mother of Harlots. If there is authority in the bible for these institutions, produce it; tell us the chapter and verse where such authority is recorded; put your finger upon the passage, and that shall suffice us; but if there is no such authority in the good book, honestly confess your poverty, and let your readers know that your calling is to teach for doctrines the commandments of men.
But to the question. And what, we inquire, do these societies contemplate doing? The answer to this interrogation is given us by the New School in a language as confused as that in use among the effort-men who were engaged in the building of Babel. We are often assured that these societies contemplate the evangelization of the heathen the conversion of the world to God, sending the gospel among the destitute, multiplying and qualifying ministers of the gospel, and the performance of many other wonderful works. The question then appears to be, Is it the duty of christians, as individuals, or as churches, to convert the world, save souls from hell, or perform the works which none but God can do? But Mr. S. appears aware of the difficulty of making a fair statement of the question. No one will decide that the scriptures authorize individuals or churches to give life to the dead, hearing to the deaf, or sight to the blind; yet the performance of these works are contemplated by the institutions called benevolent. But to avoid, if possible, the light upon this subject, Mr. S. has very ingeniously stated his questions so as to have them embrace nothing objectionable, as in the following instance:
“Is it right to circulate the bible in the world?”
Let it be distinctly understood that the right of individuals or churches to circulate the scriptures in any lawful manner has never, to our knowledge, been disputed; hence the position assumed in the statement of the above question is wholly gratuitous. The question concerning which we are at issue, as far as the Bible Society is involved, is not the right to distribute the copies of the bible, but rather the right to institute National Religious Societies, sufficiently powerful, according to their own declarations, to weild a power over the destiny of the world, without the shadow of authority in the word of God, or to call into being, under the notion of doing God service, a religious society based upon money, and giving membership, religious privileges and flattering titles indiscriminately to all who will advance the grand sine qua non - money - irrespective of any further qualifications; or which will amass to itself the wealth of the country by a system of popular mendicancy, under the pretence of supplying the poor and destitute with the bible gratuitously, and then sell the scriptures at an advance affording a generous profit to the establishment, which, when added to the amount received from a thousand other revenues that constantly pour their gold and silver into their coffers, not only cover the current expenses of the establishment, but enable the officers, agents and supernumeraries of the institution to live in affluence, and roll in luxury, while their surplus funds are employed in erecting stately mansions, or largely invested in bank, or other profitable stock. Now let the question, embracing its legitimate bearings, be answered, and say, Is there authority in the scriptures of truth for these things? If so, where may it be found? But if there is no such authority, do not attempt to establish positions which, if sustained, would not touch the point at which the Old and New School are at issue, and then seek to blind the eyes of the unsuspecting by words of deceit and dishonesty. Let it be forever remembered that the cause of God can be sustained without the aid of intrigue or deception.
The lengthy quotation made by Mr. S. from the documents from which he promised to draw so freely, among other things declares that the whole body of the Jewish people were acquainted with the prophecies of the Old Testament from their youth up. But does this fact, which we freely admit, show the necessity of Bible Societies, in order to give a general knowledge of the bible? Were the whole body of the Jews supplied with the books of the law, the prophets and the Psalms, by Bible Societies similar to those now in being? By no means; and yet we are gravely told that they were acquainted with the scriptures from their youth. If then the method of instructing the whole body of the people of Israel in the scriptures, which the all-wise Jehovah had provided, was sufficient, what authority have any to say that the provisions he has made for the promulgation of bible knowledge, are inadequate to secure the accomplishment of the purpose of his pleasure now?
“Shall mortal worms presume to be
More holy, wise or just than he?”
But the most extraordinary language of the extract is that in which the Convention of Western Baptists aver that the “bible is the only authority to which we have any right to appeal in matters pertaining to the religion of Christ.” So then the Convention must either conclude that their cause is not the religion of Christ, (which would be a very just conclusion,) or they have exceeded their own sense of right, in attempting to sustain, as religious institutions, the societies for which this same convention, in a report upon another subject, acknowledge they have no authority in the bible. How strangely inconsistent for them in one breath to tell us that the bible alone is the rule of their faith and practice, and deny the right of any to appeal to any other standard on religious matters, and in the next that it was never intended to embrace the entire duty of the saints, but merely the great outlines, &c. Indeed, were it not for exciting levity while dwelling upon a serious sub we would here insert the anecdote of a convention of the Dutch inhabitants of some county, who convened for the purpose of considering the propriety of building a new court-house, after considerable discussion on the subject, passed the three following resolutions, viz:
1. Resolved to build a new court-house.
2. Resolved that the new house shall be composed of the materials of which the old house was composed.
3. Resolved that the old house stand entire until the new one is finished.
But is it less ludicrous for an assembly of professed divines to resolve unanimously that the bible is their only rule [of practice, that no one has any right to appeal to any other standard, and then resolve to patronize, as a religious institution, and an instituted means of grace and salvation, such things as they unanimously resolve they have no scriptural precept or example for?
Mr. S., after giving the lengthy paragraph from the document alluded to, sums up thus: “Now the first Baptist in the world has yet to come forward and say that it is not right to circulate the bible, at least as extensively as the preaching of the gospel.” But why, we inquire, is one called from the dead to assist Mr. S. in proving a negative? Does he wish to play off upon John the Baptist the same trick which Saul and the witch of Ender did upon Samuel? For us, we see no necessity for disturbing the ashes of the slumbering dead. We would rather answer the New School as Abraham did the rich man, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rise from the dead.” - Luke xiv. 31. We cannot conceive the necessity of a new revelation upon the subject; John the Baptist certainly carried nothing to his grave with him which could be of any service to the church of God; and if John should rise, he would not dare, like the New School, to add to the words of the prophecy or teaching of God’s book, “lest God should add unto him the plaugues written in that book.” - Rev. xxii. 18. We should hardly expect a Baptist of common modesty would insinuate, as the editor of the Cross has done, that the scriptures were an insufficient revelation, and that the sepulchres of past ages must be ransacked, and their dead exhumed to furnish us with a more sure word of prophecy.
But leaving Mr. S. for a moment to cut himself among the tombs, we will say on the part of the Old School brethren, with the poet:
“Let others trust what names they please,
Their saints and idols boast;
We’ve no such advocates as these,
Nor trust to the heavenly host.”
Nor would we say in our hearts, Who shall ascend up into heaven, that is, to bring Christ, or the gospel, which is Christ, down from above, or who shall descend into the deep to bring him up from the dead? “Behold the word is nigh us, even in our heart and in our mouth, even the word of faith which we preach.” - Rom. x. 7, 8. It was neither the practice of John, or of any of the primitive Baptists, to connect with the preaching of the word the distribution of copies of the scriptures, and much less to make this thing indispensible; nor did the apostles, or other primitive Baptists, complain, when going among the pagan Gentiles, of laboring under a disadvantage for the want of Bible Societies, or copies of the scriptures; but in all places where the word was preached, as many as were ordained unto eternal life believed. When they heard these things, (not when they had compared the testimony of the apostles with the scriptures then extant,) they believed and were baptized, &c. That it is right to publish and circulate the scriptures in any lawful manner, we do not dispute; but that it is indispensibly necessary as an auxiliary to the preaching of the gospel, and to give efficacy to it, as contemplated by the New School, we cannot admit; for if such were the case, none but such as were capable of reading the bible for themselves could be saved, and all idiots, infants, and others who are destitute of the knowledge of letters, must inevitably be lost.
In our next we design to notice the subject of Missions and Tracts, and examine the arguments, or substitutes for arguments, given in Mr. Stephens’ first number on the subject.
NEW VERNON, N. Y.,
February 12, 1835.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 282 – 288