BLACK ROCKISM. – “A Traveller,” has informed the public through the columns of the Cross & Journal, that the combined spirit of Anti-nomianism and Anti-Mission apostacy is denominated in Philadelphia, Black Rockism; and that one or two churches in that city present some dark spots of that apostacy, which as he intimates, also afflicts terribly some portion of the Baptist denomination in the west.
Now lest it should so happen that some of our readers should not exactly understand the lingo of the Traveller sufficiently to comprehend his meaning we will offer a word or two in explanation. – The Traveller speaks of two spirits. We will notice them in the order in which he has named them. And first, the spirit of Anti-nomianism: Without laboring to show the true etymology of this word, we will simply notice it in its present common use. It is most commonly applyed in modern times to the licentious sentiments, said to be held by some, that they must sin in order that grace may abound; and taking this as his meaning, we are left with our Yankee privilege of guessing what churches in Philadelphia hold such sentiments. The ‘Traveller,’ might have had some references to a Church in Sansom st, which some years ago built a very splendid Meeting-house on the circular plan, and in the building of which deeply involved themselves debt – having first given mortgages on the house and lot for security, and when mortgages would no longer answer for security, pledged their credit as Christians, as Baptists, &c.; and with this raised several thousand dollars from widows, orphans and others, who were led to believe that their living was invested in the hands of honest and responsible christians, and finally raised about $80,000, or involved themselves in a debt to nearly that amount, in order that grace might thereby abound. Now when this church could no longer bear up under the burden of interest which annually accumulated on this enormous debt, they Resolved what to do. And what reader do you imagine they resolved to do? To pay off the debt honestly and honorably as one would suppose a Christian people in duty bound? No, this was by no means their case. If our information be correct, and we have no just reason to doubt it, they adopted the following novel course, viz: First, dismissed a number of their members to form a new Church, and when these were constituted, dissolved the Church relation of the others and gave and received every one a letter to join the newly organized Church; whereupon the Trustees resigned their office, and suffered the deserted Meeting-house to be sold at Mortgage sale, which was struck off by the Sheriff under the hammer for about $7,000. It was afterwards purchased by the newly constituted church for about that amount, and thus by changing their name they were enabled to rid themselves of an intolerable debt, and to leave the widow, orphans, and all others who were thrown out of their honest dues, to make the best of it they could.
This might be viewed by the censorious Traveller as Anti-nomianism, or a sort of sinner that grace might abound. Had this people paid the debt which they so justly owed, it might have so seriously impoverished them as to render it impracticable for them to cut so conspicuous a flourish in their subsequent contributions towards the salvation of the world; or being pinched for funds they might not have been able to buy such expensive preachers as a Dagg, or a Gillett; or they might have been deprived at least of the privilege of publishing to the world their liberality in assisting to build the Machine which is now about to go into operation under the direction of the Central Convention, for the education and manufacturing of Ministers. As this sort of conniving would among infidels be considered sinful and wicked – and as the money thus withheld from their creditors is laid out for such pious purposes – we see no reason why this sagacious Traveller should not conclude that they intended to sin that grace might abound.
But we may be altogether mistaken in Traveller’s views; he might only have had his ey on such Churches in the City of Brotherly love, as have formerly stood in the faith and order of the gospel of Christ, and who for the purpose if assisting in the enterprize of converting the world have ventured to sin by forsaking the right way of the Lord, and running greedily after the error of an ancient Prophet whose name was Balaam, and who loved the wages of unrighteousness.
If we have been so happy as to hit upon the meaning of Traveller in his use of the vague word Anti-nomianism, we must try also to hit upon his meaning in the application of the word Anti-mission. This word in modern times is most commonly used to stigmatise those who refuse to go with the popular tide or new order of the day; yet it might possibly have been used by a transcient Traveller, to designate such as are opposed to that Mission which was established by the Great Head of the Church, and who in their opposition do persecute and endeavor to hedge up the way of those who preach by virtue of a mission which they have received from on high. If this was his meaning we marvel that he should have discovered no more than one or two churches infected with this corruption.
Traveller informs us that the amalgamation of these spirits has produced some dark spots of Black Rockism, in one or two of the churches. We recollect of being informed, when we were last in that City, of some dark spots which had attached to some of the City Churches; but we do not recollect of hearing them called Black Rockism. One of these dark spots was witnessed in a church somewhere in the vicinity of New Market St. where a poor blind man had been preaching; when after the close of his discourse, the Reverend Pastor arose and addressed the numerous assembly, and informed them that this was a poor and unfortunate man – that he had lost the use of his eyes, and had a large and dependent family – that he was entirely dependent upon on the generosity of those among whom he preached, for support for himself and his helpless family – that he had contracted for a small portion of land up on the interior of the state – which land would place him and family in comparatively easy circumstances if he cold but obtain a little help to pay for it, and with much sobbing and apparent bitterness of soul entreated the assembly to have compassion on the poor minister. A liberal collection was then taken up and put into the hands of the trusty pastor; and how much gentle reader to you suppose the poor Blind Preacher, in whose name the collected was lifted, received? Why he received Five Dollars!! and no more of that collection. He at the same time received in a note from an individual lady Five Dollars; but of the collection begged for him, but the bare Five Dollars was all that this Anti-nomian, Anti-mission Clergyman, paid over, and when he was closely interrogated by the blind man whether this $5 was all that was collected at that time; he confessed that it was not, but that the balance was reserved for other purposes.
Now this may be one of the dark spots alluded to by the Traveller. But why the people of Philadelphia should call this kind of wickedness, to use the Traveller’s words, apostacy – Black Rockism – we do not not pretend to know; unless they wish to pass themselves off for Old School Baptists, and to be called by our name to take away their reproach. We can assure them, if this be their object, that they have missed their mark; for there was not a Baptist at the Black Rock meeting, who would not blush to hold fellowship with the perpetrators of such deeds as are passed off currently by the Anti-nomian and Anti-mission apostates of the City of Philadelphia.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
New Vernon, Wednesday August 29.
Signs of the Time
Volume 3, No. 17
August 19, 1835