WISHING a Happy New Year to all our readers, we present them with the first number of our fifteenth volume, and with it we tender our grateful thanks to those kind patrons whose subscriptions and communications have enabled us thus far to sustain the publication. With deep humility we would acknowledge our obligations to God for his supporting mercy and grace, not only in enabling us to survive the toils, oppositions and difficulties which we have been called to encounter, but for giving us favor in the hearts of a goodly number of our brethren scattered throughout the states and territories of this vast republic. “Whatever we may suffer from the enemies of our common Lord, it is truly consoling to enjoy the fellowship and kind approval of those who are, above all others, dear to us. It is true, we have during the past year experienced some stormy winds and tempestuous seas, which have occasioned to us, and to many of our readers, much grief and sorrow. Inured as the old School Baptists are to the hardships of war, they would not complain of war vigorously prosecuted against the open enemies of the kingdom; but when there is strife and contention within the borders of Zion, they are dismayed. If we bite and devour one another, we are admonished to beware lest we be consumed one of another. It is true there may be occasion for a justifiable war, even within the bounds of the brotherhood of Old School Baptists. Error is not to be winked at because held by brethren. One error in the church is more to be dreaded by christians, than all that are held by anti-christ. But we conclude that the mode of warfare is more productive of disorder in our ranks than war abstractly considered. If our brethren could direct their warfare against error without as sailing each other,and avoid all personal reflections, our warfare could not fail to be profitable to all the readers of the SIGNS. But it has been too frequently the case when a brother has discovered what he has considered error in the communications of another, that in pointing it out he has betrayed an unkind feeling, or impugned the motive of the brother supposed to hold the error. This course, so far from convincing or reclaiming the erring delinquent, has generally aroused, a corresponding feeling on the part of the implicated brother, and with but little aid from the old adversary, every man’s sword is employed against his fellow. Another difficulty grows out of an unwarrantable sensitiveness on the part of those whose positions are questioned. They cannot feel satisfied to have their positions critically reviewed; or they at least do not feel prepared to take it kindly in any one to point out what is thought to be incorrect.
For all these evils we believe there is a remedy. Avoid fulsome flattery on the one hand, and unfeeling animadversion on the other; write as kindly, feelingly and affectionately in exposing error, as when approving the sentiments of brethren. Kind expressions will find a ready response, but hard, censorious, unfriendly expressions are calculated to greatly injure the usefulness of the SIGNS. Our object in alluding to the past is not to attach blame to any, but rather to admonish all who may favor us with communications for the future.
We have not the vanity to suppose that there has been nothing reprehensible in our own course, in conducting the past volumes of the SIGNS, but we must plead that we have discharged our duty, according to our limited ability, with an ardent desire to make the paper useful and edifying to its readers.
New Vernon, N.Y.,
January 1, 1847
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 2
Pages 727 – 728