THE EVIDENCES USED IN SUPPORT OF THE NEW RELIGIOUS
INVENTIONS OF THE DAY, BRIEFLY CONSIDERED.
By new religious inventions, we have special allusion to those modern innovations upon the faith and practice of the Baptist Church, by those who profess to be missionists, benevolent, &c., in distinction from the old-fashioned order of Baptists. These consist, in part, of Missionary, Bible, Tract, Education, (Theological) and other kindred Societies; the doctrine of indefinite atonement, the obligation and ability of sinners to repent, believe, and comply with what they denominate the requisitions of the gospel; together with the modern practice of protracted meetings, anxious benches, magic lanterns, national and state conventions, &c., &c. In testimony that these are approved of God, we are frequently told of their astonishing success, the multitudes converted to their views; and in further confirmation that they enjoy the smiles of heaven, we are referred to the zeal, activity, and liberality of their converts. But all this testimony is urged in the absence of any direct authority found in the scriptures of truth to sustain them. This fact has been frequently admitted by the advocates of these new things; the Convention of Western Baptists, some years since, reported that we might search the bible in vain, for direct authority; such authority was not there; and they have also assured us, that the bible was never designed to embrace a precept for every thing which was obligatory on christians. And although some have pretended to assert the abundance of scriptural authority with which they say the bible abounds, yet they have invariably failed to produce any; and the more candid among them frankly acknowledge, with their western brethren, that they find none. They are necessarily driven, therefore, to hinge all their arguments on the ground of what they consider indications of divine approbation. The most prominent indication which they bring forward, is that of the great increase of their number, and the apparent success which has attended their efforts. This argument standing first, and being, for aught we know, as plausible as any they have ever produced, claims our first consideration.
We readily admit that prior to the introduction of these things among them, the Baptists were by no means what they now are. A retrospect of the Baptist Church for eighteen hundred years, will present them as a poor and afflicted people, trusting in the name of the Lord; persecuted, despised, illiterate, embracing the poorest and most ignoble of the earth; her branches are few and far between; her ministers, from necessity, driving the plough, smiting the anvil, making tents, or in some similar employment, to minister to the necessities of themselves, and such as were with them; not because the churches were unwilling to relieve them from the distracting cares of this life, but because they were generally unable. The high arch of the heavens was, in many instances, the roof of their meeting-houses, the rugged ledges of Piedmont and elsewhere, were the cushions of their pews, the priestly robes of their ministers were composed of the cheapest materials, their mode of conveyance was on foot, their incentives to speed were persecution behind, and the hope of enjoying the sweet privilege of feeding and comforting the dear people of God before them; their salaries were often paid off at the whipping-post, but sometimes at the stake. They were not then thought suitable society for the affluent, the polite, the learned, or the noble. There was then very little among them to invite hypocrites to a connection with them. If we confine our observations within the boundaries of our own country, and only to the last century, while other denominations of professed christians were supported by legal patronage, the poor Baptists were compelled to pay tribute to them. Read the history of a Roger Williams, a Moss, a Warren, and a thousand more, of whom the world was not worthy, who have scaled the loftiest mountains, penetrated the wildest forests, stemmed the most appalling discouragements, have traveled thousands and thousands of miles bare-footed, and destitute of comfortable apparel or food to satisfy the cravings of nature, and have baptized among the poor of such as God by his grace had brought to a knowledge of the truth, the constituent members of all our early churches. In those times, the Baptists had no organs in their meeting-houses, no fiddles to worship with, no velvet cushions in their pulpits or pews.
None will presume to say the Baptists are now what once they were. In point of respectability, how have they improved! In the exulting language of Andrew Fuller, may it not be said, that prior to the introduction of his new system, the Baptists were “a mere dung-hill in society!” But as fine feathers make fine birds, the Baptists have changed their plumage, and now appear among the peacocks of the age. Now the Baptists have their Doctors of Divinity, their Colleges, their National and State Conventions; their churches occupy stately mansions with sounding bells and towering domes. Their energy (a name unknown among the saints of God before) equipped in all the trappings of fashion and extravagance, dash on in their carriages, and make a show not to be eclipsed by the gay sons of Lucifer. No longer are they willing to wait for the Lord to build them up, to convert sinners, or to give them ministers to go in and out among them. They have acquired the art of getting up revivals, of preparing men for the ministry, of making converts to their faith and accessions to their number. The Baptists - a name despised among men, because it once designated a - sect which were every where spoken against, are now courted by those very daughters of old Rome which used to whip, imprison, and sometimes even put to death the Baptists of former ages.
But we set out to consider the weight of argument brought forward by the New School Baptists. It has been more than once asserted through their prints, that the Old School or Anti-mission Baptists are losing ground, dwindling away, and will in another generation become extinct, or, as Waller says, “be annihilated;” while the Missionary Baptists are gaining, that the increase of some one or two of their associations in one year, will out number all that are baptized by all the Old School in the same time. And why do they make this boast? Surely, to prove that God has manifested his approbation of their new inventions, and his displeasure in the Old Anti-missionary Baptists.
But let us soberly consider, in the light of divine revelation and in the fear of God, to what extent this argument may avail them. If it holds good in reference to New School Baptists, will it not prove quite as much for the Methodists, who have only now reached the first hundred years of their existence; if they in one brief century have accumulated almost as great a number of members as the Baptists have in almost eighteen, would not the argument prove more for them than for the New School Baptists? What is to hinder the Mormons from urging the same testimony? their rapid increase in number during the few years of their existence, has perhaps outstripped all other orders, Read the following scrap, from the New School Baptist organ at Philadelphia:
“THE MORMONS. - This fanatic sect have established regular meetings in our city. We have heard of late, of several unstable professors from our churches, who are being deluded by their ruinous errors, which in this enlightened age must astonish every reflecting mind. It is scarcely to be believed that they have crowded audiences every time they hold forth; many, we dare to say, go for the love of novelty; but the greater number are led there through ignorance, and become their followers. This singular people profess to have the power of working miracles - and declare that they have received a new revelation from God. Joe Smith, a raving, ignorant fanatic, is their leader; and he it is who pretends to have received the message from on high. It would be well if our churches would look up the straying sheep of their folds, lest they wander into forbidden paths.” - Philadelphia Baptist Register.
The Mormons of Philadelphia, we are told, are making and baptizing nearly as many disciples as are the Baptists; and many of the front bench converts from the Baptists, have recanted and gone over to the Mormons. Mark the lamentations of the former, expressed in the above extract. If indeed this argument weighs any thing, in point of demonstrating the divine approbation, certainly that sect, whether Jews, Pagans, Christians or Mormons, which can produce the greatest number, gains the point. We, the Old School Baptists, cannot, therefore, yield, on this argument, to the New School, who have assumed our name; for, if their argument proves any thing, it proves too much for their purpose.
Again. The New School often bring forward their zeal in the missionary cause, as an evidence of their piety: but will not the same argument hold equally good in reference to the Jews, the Mahometans, the Catholics, and the Mormons? The Jews compassed sea and land to make proselytes; the Mahometans sent their missionaries into far countries, with great success; the Catholics also had their Jesuits in all parts of the world; and now we learn from the New School papers, that the Mormons have their domestic missionaries in all the principal cities of our country; and that they have recently sent twelve of their apostles to England. Should not the New School Baptists give the right hand of fellowship to their Mormon Missionary brethren? If zeal in the mission cause is of God, this witness of divine approbation speaks more for the Mormons than for the Baptists; for the former have greater impediments to encounter, and therefore display a much warmer zeal, and a greater degree of industry, than the former.
The success which has attended the distribution of Tracts, and Sunday Schools, &c., is also a main pillar in sustaining the New School Baptists. In our last number, we copied an article from the S. S. Journal, showing that the indefatigable Owen, and his brotherhood of Fanny Wright men, were zealously engaged in the same business. “In some places,” says the article alluded to, “Sunday and Infant Schools have been established, for the inculcating of infidel principles. A Tract Society has been formed, and six Tracts issued;” and they are very active in the distribution of these, among those whom they deem heretics. “There is a regular organized Central Board,” says the Journal, “with a President, Vice President and Secretary, and a great number of salaried emmisaries, whose whole time is devoted to the advancement of Socialism.” Shocking! What right have Infidels to have Sunday, or Infant Schools, or Presidents, or, above all, to pay salaries? But we suppose they have the presumption to think, “Quod dem onstrat vobis, demonstrat nobis.” And as the New School Baptists have acknowledged that the plan of disseminating doctrine by the use of Tracts, originated with the Infidels in France, and as Mr. Owen’s party make no more pretention to scriptural authority for their Sunday and Infant Schools, and flattering titles for men, than the New School Baptists do, we presume they think they have about as much right to practice these anti-christian inventions, as though they acted under the cover of a christian profession. Another complaint urged against Mr. Owen’s party is, that they are patronized by the nobles of Europe, and by the liberality of the affluent - They are filling England with their magnificent temples, &c. But after all, as we inquired in our last what is there in all their improvements, that would not pass off as pure divinity, if done under the name of religion? Is it said that Owen rejects the bible as a rule? This is granted; and so do the New School Baptists. Do Owen and his patrons promulgate damnable heresies and doctrines of dew us? So do the New School Baptists; and as we have before said, so we again say, and believe we can abundantly prove, that the very elements of which Deism and Socialism are composed, may be found among the New School Baptists.
Another argument sometimes used to prove the modern doctrines and practices of New Schoolism to be correct, is the liberality of those converted to it; witness, for instance, the late eulogiums lavished on the Baltimore and Albany converts, who gave one thousand dollars each, for missionary purposes. This was cried up through the papers, as the genuine fruits of repentance; and the editor of the N. Y. Baptist Register, is of the opinion that the system he advocates, if fully carried out, would produce so many such instances, that they would be passed by as common affairs. Now we cannot discover that it needs supernatural light to see that Owen’s system produces the very same kinds of fruits, and in greater abundance, than that of Mr. Knapp. And finally, we challenge the New School Baptists to produce one solitary argument in support of their new order, that we cannot show, proves as much for Mormons and Infidels, as it can for them.
They are of late greatly occupied in controversy with their dear Pedo-Baptist brethren, on the subject of Baptism; and we have more than once felt disposed to say to them, “Sirs, ye are brethren; why strive ye one with the other?” But the Baptists say their anti-christian brethren have no scripture for sprinkling. True, they have not; nor have they any for christian baptism; that sacred ordinance belongs exclusively to the family of God. But let us ask, Have not the Pedo-Baptists the same authority for rantism, that the Baptists have for New Schoolism? The former plead that they have a right to rantize, and save souls in that way, because it is not forbidden; and the latter admit there is no direct authority for their New School craft; but plead their right to it, upon the same ground as do the others for sprinkling.
ALEXANDRIA, D. C.,
February 15, 1840.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 588 – 595