BROTHER Drake’s communication, commenced on the 36th page, contains some inquiries and remarks which a due respect for him as a brother, a correspondent, and a patron of labor, requires that we should reply to. He has reduced the general exception which he took in number ten, of volume thirteen, to our editorial course, to our allowing the discussion of the School Question a place in our columns, for this reason, he “cannot see where any good can arise to the church of Christ by the discussion of any system of state policy in a paper devoted to the interests of Zion.”
Does brother Drake therefore arrive at the conclusion that the Zion of God has no interests in the policy which may be adopted by the legislature of the state? Is it a matter of small moment with the sons of Zion, whether we be allowed the free enjoyment of our religious rights, or be proscribed? Whether the responsibility which our Creator has imposed on parents to educate their own offspring, be left where God has placed it, or we quietly submit to the usurpation of it by legal enactments? If so, we shall certainly differ widely upon the subject. If we have no interest in the policy of state government, it then is no matter of joy and gratitude to God, that we are allowed to worship God according to our own sense of propriety, or that we are not now wandering about in sheep skins, and in goat skins, in dens and caverns of the earth, to evade the merciless persecution of the enemies of God and truth.
Brother Drake dissents from our understanding of Paul’s exhortation, that prayer and intercession &c., be made for those in authority, for “if it was right in the days of the apostles, it is right in this day.” It is rather remarkable that our brother should contend that an exhortation to pray for kings and monarchal rulers is as obligatory on christians of America as it was on the saints who lived under such constituted authorities. By reference to our remarks in the 10th No. of Vol. XIII., the reader will find our position to be thus stated:
“The condition of the primitive disciples under monarchal governments was by no means similar to ours; the responsibility of a monarchal government naturally rests upon the monarch; and hence Paul exhorted that prayer &c. be made by the saints for them, that their laws should not oppress the saints; this was the only alternative for the saints so situated. But with us we have not to pray God to so control the reign of some proud and haughty earthly potentate as to permit us to lead peaceable lives in honesty and godliness. But in our country, every individual Old School Baptist, who enjoys the right of citizenship, is responsible for those rights and privileges which a bountiful God has favored us with; for us, therefore, passively to suffer the blighting mildew of an anti-christian clergy or laity to entwine its serpentine folds around our government, without an effort to expose their guilty fraud and hypocrisy, is, in our judgment, to treat with criminal disregard the apostolic in junction, ‘But if thou mayest be free use it rather.’ – l Cor. vii. 21. It is for the people of this country to decide whether they will be free in the sense of this text, and so far as religious liberty is concerned, none have more at stake than the Old School Baptists; and it is only where our religious liberty is, or is likely to be encroached upon, that we have sounded, or intend to sound, an alarm through the columns of the SIGNS.”
This is the position which we took, and from which our esteemed brother dissents, and as a reason why he dissents, he mentions the case of Hazael and of Cæsar, and speaks of the common depravity and tendency of human nature to corruption, &e. It hardly seems to require serious argument to show that a republican form of government is very different from a regal form, as to the responsibility they impose on christians living under them. The primitive christians had nothing to do in the election or appointment of kings to rule over them; but they were released from bearing the responsibility of misrule, and their only appeal was to he made to heaven, to pray for them, that they may be so directed in divine providence as not to infringe the peaceable enjoyment of the religious rights of the saints. But in a republican government the sovereign power is with the people, and the people are responsible for the use or abuse of that power, christians and citizens equally with others, and are as responsible for every corruption of government as any other class.
It is not sufficient that we endure persecution which we cannot avert, but it is imperiously our duty as christians to cast our suffrage against every system of proscription and persecution. And the minister of the gospel, or the private christian, who shrinks back from his duty, and because he cannot shield the church of God, refuses to take any part in the affairs of state, when corruptions are evidently gathering thick, and systems of persecution are maturing, becomes himself a persecutor of the saints. To illustrate: Suppose a project is on foot by certain clerical interests of our country to bring about a union of church and state, their movements are at first slow and insiduous, but gathering strength and confidence, they press on with bolder and more rapid strides; we as christians see the sword coming, but fold our hands, and say we have nothing to do with the policy of the state, and by reason of this pretended neutrality, persecution actually breaks out, and the blood of the saints is made to flow; those christians who refused to use their suffrage to prevent it are as guilty of the persecution as those who projected the design. In the providence of God, we are now allowed to vote for magistrates and legislators, and when our public representatives do not legislate righteously we have the constitutional right to address them with our remonstrances and petitions, and if we find no redress we may appeal to the ballot-box; and if after having done our duty in what God has placed in our power, we fail to defend and secure our rights, we are released from the responsibility, but not other wise. Should brother Drake see his neighbor’s house on fire, having power to put out the fire, and refuse to do so, he is as guilty as though he had himself applied the match. Should he see his child which God had committed to his parental charge, exposed to the fangs of a deadly viper, and through his neglect to secure the child it is bitten, poisoned and dies, who will fail to call him the murderer? If persecution arises in our country, to whom shall it be charged? Brother Drake may say, to the legislature who pass the oppressive laws. Who are responsible for the character of our legislators? In all republican governments the people are responsible, and christians are a part of the people. Let brother Drake, and let those western ministers who stand neutral in regard to the policy of state, beware that they do not incur the guilt of persecution. We assure them it will be poor comfort to the saints when thrust into prison, or led out to the stake, to be informed that their brethren, when having the power and right, refused to lift a finger to prevent their persecution. We will suppose three or more individuals enter into partnership in mercantile business; we will call the firm “Shem, Ham & Japheth.” Shem is a christian, his partners make no profession. Ham and Japheth form a scheme to defraud the public, and communicate their plan to Shem for his concurrence, but Shem replies, “Gentlemen, do as you please in this matter. I will not oppose you, for as a christian I do not feel at liberty to arrest the tide of iniquity which prevails. If you succeed, I will share with you the plunder; I will remain in the firm, and I will consent to whatever you do, for I am a christian, and I trust in God alone,” &c. Will brother Drake step forth and justify the conduct of Shem? We think not. As a community or commonwealth, we form but one general firm, and although as christians we may be in the minority, like Shem in the supposed firm, yet if we act as we have supposed him to have acted, shall we be less guilty? We leave brother Drake to determine.
Brother Drake inquires, “Does brother Beebe suppose that he can shield the church from trials, tribulation, and persecution, by showing how political demagogues usurped the reigns of government in former times, and then persecuted the church?” By no means. But does it therefore follow that we may lay aside our armor, and forbear to expose the hidden things of dishonesty? We think not. We are commanded in the word to resist evil, but we are no where in the scriptures encouraged to believe that we can exterminate it from the world, or from our own nature. If brother Drake has discovered in us that amount of vain confidence in our ability to shield the church of God, he has seen what we have never felt. So far from it, we have felt conscious of our inability to shield ourself, and that if left unshielded by him who is known in Zion as a strong tower, we must be for ever lost. Yet in this very thing brother Drake thought he saw analogy between us and Peter, when he said that his Lord and Master should not be crucified. “And brother Beebe seemed to be anxious to interpose his shield between the church and persecution.” We were unconscious of having any other shield than the “shield of faith,” with which the apostle says we shall be able to quench the fiery darts of Satan, and so far as we know our own heart, our faith in Christ has never led us to contemplate a release of the church of God from persecution. That God has chosen his people in a furnace of affliction we firmly believe, and he has also said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation,” therefore we look for the tribulation, and that as many as will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. So firmly do we believe this, that we deem it inexpedient to court persecution, or to become, directly or indirectly the persecutors of one another. Brother Drake says to brother West, that he charges no wrong on us for opposing the Prussian School System of this state, but he does object to a discussion of that system in the SIGNS.
Where shall the line be drawn for us to be regulated by in our editorial course? One brother objects to our publishing articles in which the evidence of an approaching connection of the civil and ecclesiastical powers of our country seems inevitable, because we cannot prevent it with our shield; another wishes to exclude everything from our columns in which all do not perfectly agree in judgment. Some wish for short articles and some for long ones. Some are partial to doctrinal subjects, others would prefer less matter of a doctrinal character. It is, on the whole, not exactly the pleasantest thing in the world to be an editor. If we be required to sheath our sword, muffle our drum, ground our arms, and cease to expose anti-christ, because we have not power to sink her like the millstone to rise no more, to gratify such of our friends, we should violate the pledge we gave in our prospectus, and render our periodical an unwelcome visitor to more than nine-tenths of our subscribers.
It is painful to be compelled to differ from our brethren, but, it is not to be expected that in every thing we shall be perfectly agreed in our judgment. The School System of our state has become abominably corrupt, and is seized on by anti-christ as a convenient engine for the execution of their wicked designs against the church of God, and the equal rights of mankind, and we feel as imperiously called on to hunt out and expose the man of sin, when taking shelter here, as when in the prosecution of any other of the works of darkness.
Brother Drake we trust will take what we have written in kindness, as we have no other design than to bring the subject fairly and in its true light before our brethren. We are by no means hurt with what he has written, and we as confident1y rely alone on God to give victory to the people of the saints, and as fully discard all confidence in the flesh as he appears to. In regard to the general strife of party politics, we say as we said before to brother Drake, we will have nothing to do with the discussion of them in our paper; but the subjects which we give place to the discussion of in our columns are those in. which our Old School brethren of all political party distinctions are agreed, and in which they have but one interest.
New Vernon, N.Y.,
March 1, 1846
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 2
Pages 622 – 628