South-hill, Bradford co., Pa., Feb. 20, 1844.
Hezekiah West, to his brethren Hellings and Such, and all that are born of Jerusalem that is above: May grace, mercy, and peace, abounding through Jesus Christ our Lord, from God the Father to your souls, keep you steadfast in the faith – fill you with love – cause you to abound in every good work, and to enjoy the liberty of the sons of God, while it preserves you from every snare of your enemies.
Being requested to give my views, through the Signs and Monitor, on the subject of “Baptist churches renting their pews, – hireing their preachers by the year, for a stipulated sum, – allowing every man and woman,” (and why not all their uncircumcised and unsprinkled infants?) “in the congregation to vote for preachers, for one dollar per year; and churches being so chartered by legeslative authority as to give the members of the congregation the right to set as moderator, to decide who shall preach, and who shall be silenced, while the congregation by their overwhelming vote decide the question?”
According to the letter of the items in the statement, I cannot concede to such things. Even though the whole congregation were the professed members of one church, all in communion circumstances with each other, I could not concede to them all. But in my remarks, I shall not so understand the subject: but that a mixed assembly of professors, or others, or to use the Yankee phrase, church and society are intended. We commence with noticing, that the nation of Israel were as a nation’s “peculiar treasure” unto the Lord, above all other nations. Exodus xix. v, Psalm cxxxv. iv. And that they received of the Lord statutes and ordinances, which were never given to, nor designed for any other nation, as appears from various sources of evidence. For the present we need but a few of them. They were to dwell alone, and not be reckoned among the nations. Num. xxiii. 29. They were the congregation of the Lord. Num. xvi. 3, & xxvii. 17. They were God’s covenant people as a nation. Exodus xxxiv. 27, 28. A typical or figurative people, and were raised up for the purpose of introducing Christ into this world according to divine appointment, that sin-burdened, poor, distressed, broken hearted, helpless sinners, should have no good reason to doubt respecting the person of the true Messiah, in distinction from false christs, and his performing the work which the Father gave him to do – His doctrine, gospel dispensation, &c. A very few of which shadows will serve our present purpose. The lord directed Moses to build the tabernacle of witness – Acts vii. 44, in reference to Exodus xxv. 8, 9, where it is called both a sanctuary and a tabernacle, and directed to be built that the Lord might dwell among them. He also commanded that they should make booths, and all that were Israelites born, should dwell in them 9 days at the feast of tabernacles, in the seventh month. Levit. xxiii. 33-43. Also, in order to enjoy the blessing of the Lord, they were directed to build their altars, and offer their sacrifices in the places where the Lord recorded his name. Exodus xx. 14; Deut. xii. 1-14. We also learn that when the Lord had given David rest from his enemies, as he sat in his house, he proposed to build the Lord a house, (the temple,) but god directed that he should not. His son (Solomon) should build a house for the name of the Lord. 2 Sam. ii. 1-13.
It is as natural to suppose that such as profess to be a continuation of the same church, and (?) by their sentiments and works that they are in union with them that so prosper, should want a national church, as that the children of God and the sons of Beliel should be embodied in the nation of Israel, and have equal external privileges according to their law. It is as natural as life for such as cling to the law, and preach the works of the law, to obtain an inheritance among them that are sanctified, or to get religion, who believe in a general, or rather universal atonement, and conditional salvation, free moral agency, as they call it; who endeavor to mix law and gospel, &c., that they should want all the money and members they can get to help along their cause. That such show beyond all successful controversy that they are following the shadows, to the rejection of Christ the substance, none will deny that stand in the light of the Sun of Righteousness. They are therefore anti-christs, being directly against Christ, his doctrine, his government, and such of his people as are contending for the doctrine, his government, and such of his people as are contending for the doctrine, authority and ordinances of Christ. How many of the heaven born they have taken with their angle, (their principle of accommodating, bated with the appearance of much love and great zeal,) and entangled in the meshes of their net, and are aiding them to burn incense to their drag, we do not say. But if any, the Lord knows who they are – where they are – how they are – what they are doing – what they need, and how to deliver them; and in his care we leave them, while we pursue our subject.
That a society or congregation should be chartered by civil law, in manner and form presented, is as far from being gospel, as bondage is from liberty. It is, to say the least of it, law established in miniature; and as sure as a young serpent has the nature of its progenitor, so sure is it the same principle that has fostered all the spirits of persecution, under which the saints have suffered martyrdom. All the different modifications they can give it, all the pleas they can make for it, all the drapery with which they can cover it, alters not its nature in the least degree. It is anti-republican, it is anti-christian. And allowing all the grown male and female members to vote, &c., is a sprig of the same bush; and they might as well let all their infants eight days old, as any of the rest, in the form that it now stands. It admits the women to usurp authority over the men, which is a plain contradiction to gospel declaration, and it is unavoidable in case the females all agree, and out number the men, in opposition to them. Being allowed to purchase the privilege of voting, is, in effect, professing the faith of our Lord, 7c., with respect of persons; and saying to him that wears the gay clothing, (or pays his money,) Sit thou here in a good place, and to the poor, (though he is a brother,) Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool. James ii. 1-3. It shows partiality and wicked judgment. Verse 4. And renting pews springs from the same root and is in full accordance with it. But hireing ministers to preach for a stipulated sum, tells more truth than they wish to have believed. Let no man say that we accuse them, they are their own accusers. They tell their own story. It is too plain to be mistaken, even by moonshine. They declare their sins as Sodom, they hide it not. Isa. iii. 9. They tell the truth when they do not mean to; they say they are hirelings. The people want to hire, and the preacher wants his price. We cannot be mistaken if there is any meaning in words. The voice, the actions, and often writings signed by the committee as God’s bid to the preacher, proclaims as on the house top they dare not trust the God they serve, but prefer trusting frail worms. See extract from the circular letter of the Central New Jersey Association, Signs of the Times, page 117, vol. xi. Such things are not founded on the gospel of Christ, but in the principles of traffic; and so they make a trade of it. No wonder the hireling fleeth; he careth not for the sheep. John x. 12-13. We have thought, however, that men have sometimes been unreasonable in finding fault with hireling preachers: for instance, A church and society agreed to give a preacher a certain sum, for preaching so long. The church professes the doctrine of predestination, but are rather mixed and indistinct in their view of it. They are say 30 members, the society numbers 70; they are motley, some rank arminians, some think they are somehow between, some universalians, some one thing, and some something else, or nothing. Some rich and some poor, but all pay on an average according to supposed worth of property. The preacher at first seems very clever, does not come out pointed anywhere, preaches smooth things, &c. Now we ask, have not all that pay a right to expect a share of preaching to agree with their views, in proportion to what they pay? Who would hire a man to labor for him, if he knew none of his work would suit him? I verily believe that the man which engages as a hireling, to preach for a mixed society, expecting his pay according to the principle we have stated, is as much under obligation from his contract, according to every principle of honesty or trade, to preach the doctrine every one wishes, from whom he expects his pay, as the shoemaker is to make shoes to suit the feet he measures for his customers. And as they do not all believe the same sentiment, he is under the necessity of preaching the different sentiments they hold. And if he faithfully divides his discourses according to the various views of them that pay him, none ought to complain of him for being two sided, or nine sided, or as a man pleaser, or for preaching that which himself does not believe; the very principle on which he engaged to serve the society embraces it.
But further, to show what was intended to be introduced by our reference to the nation of Israel. They were a chosen people – the gospel church is a chosen generation, &c. They were to dwell alone, and not to be reckoned among the nations. Gospel churches are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, and if gospel churches being chartered by legislative authority, or those that are not church members have the power to say who shall preach and who be silenced is not so, it would be difficult to find what is.
The blessings of the gospel, food, drink, dress, armaments, and all things revealed by the Spirit, with their inheritance, being in Christ, belong as exclusively to the gospel church, or the children of the kingdom, as Canaan, its privileges and ordinances of the law given to the Hebrews, did to them. And in the new covenant they enjoy a stronger, better, and more lasting relation to God, than the nation of Israel as such, ever did. Yea, established upon better promises than theirs were. Heb. viii. 6. They in Christ enjoy in substance what the nation of Israel in their rites and ceremonies only shadowed forth. As there was no external religious duty obligatory on them, only what was found in their law, so there is no duty binding on the gospel church, but such as are found directed by Christ and his Apostles in the gospel. As there was and is no obedience to God in doing that which he has not commanded, as well might Cain bring the fruit of his ground as an offering, or Moses undertake to deliver his brethren from Egyptian bondage, 40 years too soon, or the hungry Hebrews eat the flesh offered to idols, which Balak sent them by the ladies, &c., or David follow the Philistine invention in carrying the ark, on a new cart, or Uzzah undertake to steady it when the oxen stumbled, or the Israelites plant groves, and build high places, or Jeroboam make priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi, or the Jews bring their oxen, sheep, and doves ,with the brokers into or about the temple, to accommodate their brethren from a distance that wanted to purchase, or, to celebrate their feasts in the shade on Mt. Olivet, instead of being thronged in the city, or any thing else that God had not commanded, as for a gospel church to be yoked with a worldly society, by a legislative charter in order to worship God in the spirit of holiness and truth, as it is in Jesus. What child of God, with an implacable hatred of sin planted by Jehovah in his heart, would for a moment think of making peace or forming a combination with his inveterate foes that he knew were so hostile to him, his King, and the principles of his government, as the serpent was to the woman’s promised seed, for the sake of better enjoying converse with Christ, and the immunities of his kingdom, and the more advantageously carrying on the war against the power of his deadly enemies, while he believed that his King was Omnipotent, and would shortly bruise satan under his feet?
I remain, dear brethren,
Your unworthy and feeble fellow soldier,
Signs of the Times.
Volume 12, No. 7.
April 1, 1844