A Sweet Savor Contact Miscellaneous Audio Messages Penmen



MY GOOD FRIEND: – In your last letter, you ask, what part and success I have had in the late religious excitement in several towns in Berkshire, and borders of New York? The friendship that exists between us, makes it a pleasant task to answer the question. But, first of all, it is necessary for you to know the sentiments and habits of the people among whom I have lived and labored. They are a people not “within the covenanted mercies of God;” as they have never had the seal of the covenant put upon their foreheads by the moistened hand of the priest. And, when they are reproved for their neglect, they fly to the Bible, and affirm that repentance for sin and faith in Christ, are prerequisites of baptism. That there is no account in the bible that children were ever baptised upon the faith of the parents. That baptism is the answer of a good conscience, and that new born infants cannot have any conscience about it. That believers should be buried with Christ in baptism. That when the priest dips his hand in water and holds it over, or lays it on the face, to be consistent, he should say, “I baptize my hand,” etc., for nothing else is baptized.

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A very flagrant stain of character among them, is, that they do not admire the missionary scheme, which prevails like a mighty flood. This they compare to the beast that all the world wondered after. When they are reproved for their covetuousness and coldness about the salvation of the heathen, they reply: “That a missionary spirit and missionary practice is apostolical; but missionary societies and missionary funds are of later date. That missions established on divine impression, are no ways related to those formed by human calculation. That when the the apostles traveled from Judea, to Gentile regions, they collected from the Gentiles, and brought the alms to the poor saints in Judea; but now the poor saints in Judea are taxed to aid the missionaries where they go.”

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Sabbath schools are very fashionable, and are considered, by many, as the great lock-link which unites nature and grace together; but, those among whom I live and labor are without them; and, whenever the subject is mentioned, they reply, that if the Sabbath is holy time, it ought not to be profaned by acquiring literature.

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But, to do the people justice, notwithstanding their tenets, they are very forward in public worship, and attend with the utmost civility, without giving law-maker or conscience-dictator, any praise for telling them who, when, where, or how they must worship or adore.

Whey they are pressed to advance their hard earnings to educate the pious young men for the ministry, they answer, if any grades of collegiate education are essential prerequisites to the ministry, why does not God call those who are already in possession of these prerequisites? Is it reasonable to believe that a wise God would call a man to preach, when he knows that he cannot do the work until he has studied how to decline nouns and conjugate verbs three or four years? They frequently say, if a man cannot rise to usefulness, by internal energy, academical polish cannot make him shine. That it is a vain thing to hold up a man to whom God has given no legs. They moreover, observe, that it is going again over the ground, which as been very pestiferous. Christianity, in its first introduction, was not only unaided by law, sword, and the college, but was opposed by all of them; but, after the Christians had gained some standing and lost some of their first love, they erected a College at Alexandria, to recommend Christianity to the carnal world. This project affected the intended object, and soon the law of Christian establishment followed, and the sword was appealed to, to enforce the law. Here poison was spread into the churches; for, from that day to this, in the greatest part of Christendom, Christianity has been used as a test to civil office – a step to honor – a cloak for insincerity – and a stimulus to persecution. The people, furthermore, pay no attention to the Westminister catechism, or Saybrook platform; but, have the courage of taking the Bible first-handed, for their directory, etc.

The loose habits, and strange opinions of the people, are not the greatest obstructions which I have had to encounter. My worst enemies have been in my house. Brilliancy of talent I never possessed when I was in my prime; now advanced in life, I must appear to greater disadvantage; but, languor of soul is what most besets me. A consciousness that I do not realize the weight of those eternal truths which I am preaching to others, sinks me in the dust. The various cunning arts – the sleight of hand – the deceitful working – the promise of liberty – the good words and fair speeches, and perverse things that are said to deceive the hearts of the simple, and draw disciples after them, have been too evident among many teachers; yea, they would exclude from their fellowship all that oppose them, that the rest might effect them. Seeing all this, and much more, and finding the same wicked seeds in myself, I am constrained to say, that “Christianity is the religion for sinners.” Yes, the author of it came to seek and save that which was lost – he came to call sinners to repentance – he receiveth sinners – speaks to them of the kingdom of God, and heals all that have need of healing.

Among the people of my ministration, God has evidently poured out his spirit from on high, and turned a goodly number from darkness to light. My poor heart has been greatly revived in hearing the young disciples relate how God quickened their souls by his grace – gave them to see the purity and extent of the holy law – the imperfections of their nature and the insufficiency of their prayers and exertions to relieve – that they were greatly bowed down with a hard heart and a load of guilt – that Jesus at length appeared for their help, and said, come unto me and I will give you rest – that they resigned all to his sovereign will, and heard his words, thy sins are forgiven thee – that they have enjoyed great comfort in believing, and feel resolved to serve God while they have any being, etc. Of this class of people, I have baptized one hundred and five since the 25th of March last; which, added to those whom I had baptized before, make one thousand four hundred and fifty-seven. Give God the glory; as for this man (myself) we know that he is a sinner.

January 1st, 1828.

The Writings of the Late Elder John Leland
Pages 530 – 532