CHESIRE, MASS. JUNE 25, 1830.
DEAR SIR: – You have the goodness to send me several of your Baptist Chronicles, which have safely arrived. IN a blank page of one of them, you inform me of the family that you have descended from.
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Of the fourteen hundred and seven-one that I have baptized, but very few of them were ever brought unto the covenanted mercies of God, by the seal of the covenant – (baptism.) It has been my lot to baptize those who came in at the door of repentance toward God, and faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ, and not those who climbed up some other way. I have baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and if the apostles did not find Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in the name of Jesus Christ the Lord, they either did not understand their commission, or I do not understand what is said about it. The doctrine that there are three that bear record in Heaven, which three are one; and the doctrine that Jesus Christ was God over all and yet the seed of Abraham, are both of them inconceivable, and (to our limited reason) impossible: not more so, however, than creation or the resurrection. Enthusiasm consists in believing without, or against evidence. I believe that my eye can see, and ten thousand things beside; but the why, the how, and wherefore, I cannot conceive of.
In the year 1781, and afterwards, a great number of my friends moved to Kentucky. I have heard of the death of many of them, but as many of them were younger than myself, it is probably that they are living. While I am writing, their persons present themselves to my imagination, and bring fresh to mind the meetings we had in Virginia. Yes, how did my soul travail and pray for their salvation! and how was I delighted when I saw the grace of God among them! Tell them, dear sir, tell them from me to stand fast in the doctrine of the grace of God, and not be spoiled through philosophy or vain deceit, but to be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. They will never find a place of pleasure or safety equal to the humble spot at the feet of Jesus. I hope they will not get into vain jangling and strife about words, for if any oppose the simplicity of the gospel, by what they call science and deep research, they give to science a false name, they are puffed up with a false mind.
I am afraid that I am too dictatorial in these remarks; for I claim no apostolical authority, no diocesan or clerical power; my highest claim is that of a repenting sinner, and a very imperfect preacher.
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Some societies have a written creed to begin upon; others form creeds by votes after they have united; while a third have their verbal agreements of procedure; and a fourth have a permanent creed that they will have no creed. In all these cases there is an understanding. In this light the Indian tribes have their constitutions of government, as well as the United States. The subject reminds me of a law once made in Rhode Island “that the preachers should be rewarded by free contributions, and no other way.” I have known many men, who have been such enemies to all bigotry in religion, that they were the greatest bigots that I ever saw, in condemning every one who was not as liberal as themselves. But let a man’s creed be what it will, if it denies that the Jesus of the New Testament is the Jehovah of the Old Testament; or asserts that any can be saved, without receiving the unction and being led by the spirit of God, the creed is not the voice of my beloved. Whether I am sheep or goat, I know not the voice, and cannot follow the shepherd. For I had as well be Pagan, Jew or Turk(as it respects the salvation of my soul) as to be a Christian, void of the spirit of Christ. Nominal Christianity will not deliver from death. Out of that kingdom Christ will gather all that offend. The lamp without oil will go out in obscure darkness. Orthodoxy, heterodoxy, or any other doxy, without the love of a holy God in the heart, is a miserable doxy for me. If the greatest reasoner is the greatest saint, philosophers excel Christians, and the Devil goes beyond them all.
Yet see how I shift subjects: I mean to do so: I do as I would be done by. When I hear a long harangue of metaphysical reasoning on abstruse questions, I feel more like calling for my night-cap than anything else. So with myself, when I speak or write; it may be light but shall not be long.
Innocence is better than repentance; but when a man commences a transgressor, repentance is the best characteristic that he can possess. A humble spirit and a contrite heart are always essential to our acceptance with God, and have been so from Abel unto the present moment. But this temper of mind is overlooked (for men are too big for the lowly Jesus) and some creed, some society, or some forms of godliness, relied upon. Arminianism or some other ism – Predestination, with all the other tions, in the vocabulary – societies as good as eleven of Christ’s disciples – forms in will-worship, showing much wisdom and neglecting the body – can any of them or all of them in concert, given one groan of the Holy Ghost, or bring one sealing promise to the sinner’s heart? Farewell.
Written to Mr. Uriel B. Chambers.
The Writings of the Late Elder John Leland
Pages 570 – 571