“He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbor cometh and searcheth him.” - Solomon.
We now come to an examination of the subject of Missions and Tracts.
“Is it scriptural for missionaries to be sent out, and to be sustained by the churches?”
The bare statement of the question discovers much of that cunning craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and which is so very characteristic of the general course of all those who advocate the newly invented measures of the day. The writer would have the question abstractly considered, without reference to societies, modes, forms or anything else which may be involved in the consideration, and without waiting a reply, answers his interrogation in the affirmative, adding: “Because the apostles were missionaries.” This assertion the writer easily proves by another copious draft upon the documents of the convention, wherein we are informed that the term missionary, from the Latin, and apostle from the Greek, are perfectly synonymous. Without disputing with our very learned antagonist upon the prcci8c signification of terms in the Latin or Greek tongue, we will attend to the question before us. And first, It is scriptural for our Lord Jesus Christ to send out apostles; “These twelve Jesus (not the Mission Board) sent forth, and commanded them saying, Go not in the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” - Matt. x. 5, 6. Here then we have scriptural testimony that our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Zion, did actually send forth certain apostles, or in modern language missionaries, with special instructions where to go, what to do, and on what to be sustained.
It evidently did not occur to our Lord at this time that a Missionary Society, made up of members who had bought their membership at a stipulated price, would be useful, either for the comfort or support of his little band of missionaries, the promotion of the glory of God, or the salvation of some millions that his Father had not given him, and which otherwise must be damned for want of missionary labor; for while ample provisions were made to secure the support of the apostles, and the accomplishment of all that he designed, independently of societies, purse, scrip, coats or staves, the organization of moneyed institutions for the support of what should be called the gospel was reserved, with which to fill up the measure of the iniquities of a future generation.
But taking this question, as We must, in connection with the first leading question in the investigation, viz: Have we any authority from the scriptures to do, as individuals or as churches, the things which are contemplated in the operations of the benevolent societies, so called?” We necessarily understand the writer to mean, Is it scriptural for us, as individuals, or as churches, to send forth and sustain apostles? To which inquiry we answer, No. Some of our reasons for this conclusion, we will give. First, The scriptures no where record any such authority; hence it must be unscriptural. Second, That authority is exclusively vested in the Lord Jesus Christ, who has said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth, Go ye, therefore,” &c; consequently it is unscriptural for us, individually or collectively to arrogate to ourselves that prerogative. Third, Because the full number of missionaries or apostles, ordained of God, was confined in scripture to precisely “the twelve,” and that number was chosen, ordained, called, commissioned, named and sent forth by our Lord Jesus Christ, eighteen hundred years ago; and all that have been sent forth by men as individuals, churches or societies since the apostles’ of the Lamb have fallen asleep, are in scriptural language called “false apostles.”
Will Mr. Stevens, or his convention of Western diviners say, that the seventy sent forth by our Lord, were also missionaries? Then let them, if they can, reconcile their own jargon; they tell us that the terms, apostle and missionary, signify the same thing; and if so, the seventy were not missionaries, for they were not apostles; and if they were, it would by no means help the cause of the New School, or advocates of modern missionary institutions, since they were neither called nor sustained by men as individuals nor as churches.
That God has supplied his Zion with a regular succession of gospel ministers from the days of John the Baptist unto the present, and that he will continue to supply his church with able ministers of the New Testament, until Zions King shall come unto her again without sin unto salvation, we do most cheerfully admit; but these are not called, qualified or sent by men, nor by the will of man, but of God. They are called with an holy, an irresistible calling, taught by the Holy Spirit in the old school of Christ, sustained by him who feeds the ravens, who takes care of the sparrows, and who has numbered the very hairs of their heads. When a company of this sort of Old School preachers returned from a preaching tour, where they had been sent by their divine Lord and Master, we hear from them no croaking and boastof how many they had converted or baptized, or how many Sabbath Schools, Mission, Tract, or Pin-cushion Societies they had organized; nor did they come back to their Master, saying, Lord we have come well nigh starving to death, for the people would not pay us for our preaching, or that we suffered from want of a purse, scrip, staff, coat or anything else. But when the good Master demanded of them whether they had lacked anything, they answered promptly, “Nothing.” Why, said they, “Lord, even the devils were subject to us through thy name.” They fared much better than that greedy old missionary did, who trusted in Balak’s house full of gold.
In saying that the ministers of Christ are not sustained by men, as individuals, or as churches, we would not be understood to contend that these servants of the Lord received nothing for the support of their mortal teniments from their brethren, or those among whom they labored. They did, indeed, receive an ample supply of temporal things from their brethren, but was it the contributions of their brethren and friends, that sustained them as the ministers of Christ? By no means; gold and silver, food and raiment would have been poor stuff to sustain Paul and Silas when cast into prison. We judge by their songs of praise to the God of their salvation, that to them it was given to eat of the hidden manna; they were clothed with salvation, arrayed in white robes, and sustained by the unbroken arm of the mighty-God of Jacob. We are often reminded by the New School. disciples, of Paul’s robbing other churches, that he might do service to. the saints at Corinth. Do these lovers of filthy lucre mean to insinuate that Paul practiced such a course of roguish, deceptive and dishonest trickery, as is so common with the religious mendicants of our day, in order to enable him to preach among the Corinthians the exceeding riches of Missionary Boards? How absurd the thought! How many, we inquire, of the modern missionaries can adopt the language of Paul, and say in truth and righteousness, “I have coveted no man’s gold and silver; these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.” - Acts xx. 33, 4. Hereafter we intend to take a more enlarged view of the Mission and its kindred societies; but for the present we shall pass to the consideration of the subject of Tracts; and in the meantime we challenge Mr. Stevens to produce his “Thus saith the Lord,” which he tells us he has, authorizing the christians of America to support an Apostle in Burmah, and especially an Arminian sent by a board of Presidents, Directors & Co.
The next thing to be considered, agreeably to the arrangement laid down in the Cross and Journal, is the religious instruction of the young, or Sabbath Schools. We would notice the arguments in favor of Mr. Stevens’ position, but for this good reason, we find no arguments used in their defence, or anything which appears to demand from us any special attention.
The Tract question is thus stated, viz: “Is it right, or does it come within the duty of a christian, derivable from. the moral precepts of the word, to publish a religious tract?”
For the purpose of reducing the subject to the capacity of those of us who have not been brought up exactly at the feet of Gamaliel, Mr. S. has favored us with an explanation of the term tract, which he tells us will apply to the Minutes, Circulars, &c., of Associations, and consequently Associations are Tract Societies. As to the meaning of the term tract, we will not dispute the explanation given, as this can, have no direct bearing upon the subject on which we are at issue; the question being, Is it the duty, derivable from the moral precepts of the word, &c., to publish tracts? and not what does, or does not constitute a tract. The right of any individual or association to publish what they please in a tract, or any other form upon their own responsibility, and sell or give the same away, has never been disputed by the Old School Baptists. We rejoice in the freedom of the American press; hence, Mr. S., either through ignorance or design has attempted to give a very wrong impression, as though the Old School Baptists were so strangely inconsistent as to deny to others that use of the press which we claim for ourselves as a right, or that we only objected to the tract form in which their publications were issued. Our objections to the American, and the Baptist General Tract Societies have often been clearly stated:
1. Because they are both national institutions.
2. They are both calculated to unite the church and world in an unscriptural amalgamation, which would involve both in serious difficulties.
3. Because these institutions both claim to be religious, and profess to be an instituted means of salvation.
4. Because they interfere with the independent government of the church; and instances, not a few, can be given, where church members have been expelled from church fellowship, for refusing to support these and similar institutions.
5. Because the publications of both institutions, as far as we have had an opportunity to examine them, teach doctrines subversive of the faith of the bible.
6. Because they give flattering titles to men, and hold mens’ persons in admiration because of advantage, and do sell titles of flattery and worldly honor for money.
7. Because for the support of these humanly invented institutions, the most dishonorable and dishonest trickery and mendicancy is resorted to, and without which they cannot be sustained.
To the above, we might, were it necessary, add many other objections. But to the question: Is it the duty of a christian, derivable from the moral precepts of the word, to publish tracts? We answer, It is not. Our reasons for this decision are as follows:
1st. Allowing nothing objectionable to attend the, publication of tracts, and supposing them entirely free from the difficulties enumerated above, we should be compelled to make the same decision; because there is nothing stated in the moral precepts of the word commanding christians to publish tracts. To constitute even the publication of truth, a duty obligatory upon christians, would require a command from the Lord. The Lord has given no such command. If, in the absence of a special command, the duty was binding upon christians to publish religious tracts, then the apostles and primitive saints fell infinitely short of the performance of their duty, for neither the former nor the latter published religious tracts, unless our opponents will argue that the scriptures themselves were tracts; and if so, when they shall be able by infallible testimony to show that they are as well qualified by the special inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and that they have the same divine authority, which the inspired writer had, then, and not till then shall we, as bible Baptists, admit that the publication of tracts, either good or bad, is a duty binding upon christians, derivable from the moral, positive, ceremonial, or any other precepts of the Word of God.
2d. The publications of Old School Associations - Minutes, Circulars, Corresponding Letters, &c., are not published upon any such ground. We wish it distinctly understood that the printing of the Minutes and other documents of the proceedings of our Associations, and other meetings of Old School Baptists, is merely for the accommodation of the parties concerned in such meetings, at their own expense; and are not viewed as moral duties, derived from the precepts of the word of God. Hence in all such meetings we feel perfectly’ free to publish, at our own expense, and upon our own responsibility, such documents, or forbear to publish, and yet violate no moral precept of the word.
3d. Our third reason for deciding that the moral precepts of the bible do not make it the duty of christians to publish Tracts, we will give in a quotation from the very documents of the Western Baptist Convention, from which, as his oracle, Mr. Stevens promised to draw so freely and in which the reader will find it expressly stated by the New School themselves, that they are without bible authority for the innumerable and diversified details of their benevolent action. Consequently, by their own showing, the duty to publish Tracts is not derivable from the precepts of the word of God. We purpose giving in our next an extract from their proceedings.
Having thus briefly reviewed the numbers published by Mr. Stevens, we arrive at the final conclusion, that we have no authority from scripture, as individuals, churches, associations or societies, to do the things which are contemplated in the operation of the Benevolent Societies, (so called.) We have not followed Mr. S. through his four numbers; but we believe have noticed all that can have any bearing upon the subject on which we are at issue. We now leave the subject for the present, and at the same time admonish our brethren who fear the Lord and tremble at his word, to search the scriptures for themselves. It is not true that we have entered upon a new dispensation, the exigencies of which requiring such duties as were not binding upon the primitive disciples of the Lamb; therefore let the important words of our Lord, with which divine revelation closes, never be forgotten: “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. He which testifieth these things saith surely I come quickly, Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” - Rev. xxii. 18 - 20.
NEW VERNON, N. Y.,
February 26, 1836.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 288 – 295