"Will the editor of the "Signs of the Times" tell us how he accounts for it that the people whom he represents, and whose faith it has been his peculiar privilege to defend, has been for years decreasing in numbers? Is the true church of God to be soon annihilated?" - Eastern Baptist.
O Yes. To be sure we will tell the Editors of the Eastern Baptist all about it; especially when they ask it with such an air of candor. Had that people, the true faith of whom it is our peculiar privilege to defend, been satisfied in all ages of her existence, with that increase only, which is of the Lord, there would not have been at this time, so great necessity for her decrease; but such has not been the case. At various periods since the apostolic age, the church has discovered too much anxiety to enlarge her borders; but at no time has she manifested a more adulterous lusting after worldly popularity and affinity, than during the last half century. Under the influence of an ambitious and worldly spirit, so repugnant to the spirit of truth and holiness, who could wonder that she should have heaped to herself teachers having itching ears, and through their instrumentality have compassed sea and land to make proselytes, and, by their means, have brought into a nominal connection with herself such graceless persons as are in scripture language emphatically pronounced corrupter? In her rapid advances in humanly devised expedients, the church had condescended to submit to schemes and tricks which at an earlier period would have made her blush; but having indulged in this wanton course, and treated the dignity and authority of the great Head of the church with so much contempt, God, in his righteous judgment, has caused his children to feel the bitterness of their sins, and the folly of their departures from the law of the Lord, by causing them to be filled with their own ways. When sufficiently humbled under the mighty hand of her covenant God, the Lord in great mercy has displayed his holy arm in bringing again the captivity of his people.
The manner in which the Lord has displayed his hand in purging his church within the years mentioned in the interrogative of the Eastern Baptist, is forcibly illustrated in the type going before, in the case of Nehemiah when he came to Jerusalem to build up the waste places, and to restore the ancient order of things in that city. To execute the work of restoration, there was necessarily a great decrease of those children of mixed dialects, corrupted by an unhallowed affinity with Moab, Ammon and Ashdod; these illegitimates were put away from the Jews, and as they decreased, the return of the Jewish captives to their ancient city and order of worship bear a strong analogy to the present decrease of those churches, thrice blessed of the Lord, which he has visited in great mercy. God is, and has been for some years, scourging out the Ashdod kindred, and at the same time is bringing from a sore state of bondage and bitter captivity not a few who had been taken down to Babylon (confusion) in consequence of their departures from the law of the Lord. This, gentlemen, this is the true cause of the apparent decrease of the church of Christ; she is only cutting loose from the mass of corruption accumulated in consequence of her inordinate anxiety to increase her numbers. There is not the least danger of her being annihilated, Mr. Waller's prediction that the Old School Baptists will be annihilated in the next century to the contrary, notwithstanding. Her Savior has given her eternal life, and she shall never perish, neither shall any pluck her out of his hand.
It may be proper, while on the subject, to inform the inquiring editors that an apparent diminution of the number of the people of God is by no means peculiar to the present state of the church. When the heathen nations of ancient times witnessed the judgments of God in reducing the numerical strength of Israel, it may have been common for them, like these eastern editors, to conclude the people of Israel would soon be no more; and when Gideon was called to display to the vast host of Midian "the sword of the Lord," &c., the Lord required him to greatly reduce his already feeble army; but the result will show that God by no means intended to annihilate his people. When the gospel church was first organized at Jerusalem, the axe was laid at the root of the trees, and there was a great reduction of the number of the nominal people of God; yet the apostle says, "God hath not cast away his people whom he foreknew." - Rom.11:2. And in his language we will at this time say to our inquisitive editors, "Wot ye not what the scriptures saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars, and I am left alone, and they seek my life." But what saith the answer of God unto him? "I have reserved to myself seven thousand men who have not bowed to Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace: and if by grace, it is no more works, otherwise grace is no more grace."
The editors may do well to read the whole chapter; if they have a capacity to understand the divine testimony, they will discover that Israel, who, like our New School antagonists, were seeking the blessings of salvation by works, did not obtain that which they sought for; but, glory to God in the highest, "The election hath obtained it and the rest were blinded; (according as it is written, "God hath given them the spirit of slumber; eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear,) unto this day:" and their table or pulpit or places where they feed their carnal proselytes, has become a trap, a snare and a stumbling block unto them; their backs are bowed down always, and their eyes are darkened that they can not see.
Again, we might refer our friends to the times of papal persecution. How were the churches reduced in number when they took their stand against the corruptions of the Romish anti-christ, and were followed into the wilderness by the anathamas of the Pope. How easily might the Papists have used the same taunting insinuations in regard to the little, despised and persecuted band which had fled from their wrath into the valleys of Piedmont; and when they were butchered by thousands, human reason might conclude they were on the verge of annihilation; but to their mortification, God had his reserved ones then, even as he has a remnant now. Let us never forget that it is the Father's good pleasure to give the kingdom to a little flock.
After all, the Old School Baptists, as such, are not on the decrease. It is true some churches which have taken the stand have cast out the bond woman and bond children; but the children of the free woman are as numerous now as ever they were. There are at this moment probably ten churches occupying a decided stand against all the humanly devised plans and schemes of anti-christ where there was but one ten years ago; and our eastern editors may depend that in equal proportion with the increase of the new inventions and abominations among the New School Baptists, shall be driven out from their congregations by their abounding corruptions, until their New School churches shall be exhausted; exhausted we mean in regard to heaven-born souls; their house will be left unto them desolate, not one of the redeemed of the Lord shall remain with them; and as soon as this shall be accomplished, the New School Baptists, with all their new inventions, sorceries, witchcrafts, proselytes, merchandize, doctrines and moneyed institutions, will go down with old Babylon, like the millstone, and rise no more forever.
In turn, may we not inquire of these editors, Where will you be, gentlemen, when Babylon sinks? What will become of all your labors, your New School machinery for executing what God has never given you to perform? What will then become of your multitude of humanly contrived religious institutions - your presidents, vice presidents, directors, life - members, D.D.'s and Reverends? Where will that multitude be found who are now boasting over the saints, of their numbers, talents, wealth, worldly respectability and human learning? We have no disposition to boast, or to give a judgment that is not fully warranted in the New Testament; but the saints shall judge the world. And if there are any saints on earth, they may be found among the Old School Baptists, and there they are known as a humble people, ascribing all their salvation to the adorable plan of grace in the eternal purpose of God, to the ultimate glory that shall be revealed in them when all the saints shall reach the consummation of their everlasting happiness, and all their adversaries are plunged in endless night.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1