IT has been charged that the Old School Baptists, if not opposed to those works which develop the christian character, are far from being sufficiently zealous of good works. With how much justice this charge has been made, we are not at this time inclined to investigate; we will say, however, that so far as our acquaintance extends among them, we hear them complain of their short comings, and pleading for grace to help them in the time of temptation. That the imputation is cast on us as a people by such as rely upon their own works as the ground of their acceptance with God, neither gives us sorrow nor pain; but that the wanderings of any of God’s dear children should justify the charge, is truly trying to such as love the Lord. While on the one hand we deny the notion that men can be saved or justified before God by their good or bad works, on the other we contend, as Old School Baptists, that all christians are called unto holiness, and that the grace apparent in bringing their salvation, teaches them that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, they should live soberly, righteously and godly in the present world. While we deny that works of any kind can produce the faith of Christ, we contend that the possession of that faith will invariably lead and direct its happy possessors to do and suffer, so far as they are enabled, what is enjoined on them by the King of Zion, whose laws are the only rule for their religious course. And it is in this particular, we conceive, that we are enabled with certainty to discriminate between that faith of which Jesus Christ is the author and finisher, and that of which men or devils may be the originators.
There are several reasons why the Old School are accused of deficiency in reference to good works.
1st. Because they are hated of all men, as their divine Redeemer assured them that they should be; therefore the world loves to accuse them.
2d. Because they do not depend on their works to commend them to God, or to secure their salvation; therefore legalists, Pharisees and arminians conclude that they have no sufficient motive to incline them to works of obedience. But in this they judge them by themselves, for they openly avow that if they believed their destiny was unchangeably fixed in the immutable purpose and grace of God, they would give loose to all their carnal propensities; and it is natural for them to conclude that in the absence of the fear of hell for disobedience, and hope of heaven as a reward for obedience, all men would be without an incentive to holiness and circumspection of life and conversation; and therefore they hesitate not to accuse the Old School Baptists of inertness.
3d. The Old School Baptists, believing in the sufficiency of the laws and ordinances, examples and instructions of Christ as a perfect and infallible rule of good works, and discarding as evil works all that are performed religiously, that are not authorized by the example or precepts of Christ, are compelled, as they would honor him, to stand aloof from and protest against all humanly devised religious institutions which their opponents profanely call good, including what are called benevolent religious societies for evangelizing the world, multiplying ministers and making a science of the religion of Jesus Christ; therefore they are branded as an inert, indolent and anti-effort kind of people.
4th. Because the numerous innovations which have been made upon the faith formerly held by the Baptists, by those who are called New School Baptists, have driven the Old Fashioned Baptists to expel them from their fellowship; in doing which the Old School have been led to preach more upon the subject of purity of faith than of circumspection of deportment, believing that purity of faith will lead to circumspection of life and practice, as it most certainly will where it is in reality possessed; they have formed a very striking contrast to those who harp only on what they call good works, and teach that the character or kind of faith possessed is a matter of indifference, or at least of minor importance; therefore are the Old School accused.
5th. Because all they are enabled to do in obedience to Christ,is done in a spirit of meekness, without that ostentation which is so common among carnal professors of religion; and instead of boasting of what they have done and mean to do for the Lord, blowing a trumpet when they do alms, disfiguring their faces when they pray, and making broad their phylacteries, that they may appear unto men to be amazingly pious, they are heard to lament that their best obedience is defective, and their best works are imperfect; hence they are supposed to be far behind mere carnal professors, in point of good works.
6th. Last, but by no means least among these causes, we may say, that many infest the churches of the saints whose only preference for the Old School is based on a false conception of the ground we occupy, and supposing us to be tenacious only for orthodoxy in a profession of faith, and indifferent about a walk and conversation seek a place among us, with a view of cloaking their licentiousness under a profession of assurance that our works have no necessary connection either with our faith or hope of salvation. It is a matter of real grief and humiliation, with those who fear the Lord, that those Nicolaitans and Jezebels find any countenance among those who bear our name. Through their overt acts, and licentious conduct, while subscribing to our doctrine and manifesting great zeal in their wicked attempts to defend it, they bring a reproach upon the innocent cause of the Redeemer and make the hearts of God’s people sad. We would recommend no hasty or unscriptural course to rid out churches of reproach, especially that which we are called to endure for righteousness, but certainly it is high time that the line should be more closely drawn between the living and the dead. If our christian fellowship is too sacred to be lavished upon heretics, it certainly should be withheld from all such as walk disorderly. May the Lord incline our churches to look well into this matter, and bear in mind that “Faith if it bath not works, is dead, being alone.”
New Vernon, N. Y.,
June 1, 1846.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials – Volume 2