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BROTHER BEEBE: - There is so much uproar made about introducing discussions, and disputable points into the SIGNS, that I feel a hesitancy at introducing almost any subject, as discussion might grow out of it, unless I am requested to give my views. I had intended writing a remonstrance against the ground taken by several brethren, but your veto put a stop to the discussion then going on. I should have taken this text, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” Phil.2:4. This is applicable both to things spiritual and things temporal. What if we do not want for ourselves either to receive, or give, any of these enlarged views on doctrine and order, or are so well instructed in the things of the kingdom, that we received no edification from the writings of our brethren on these subjects; or have got our opinions fixed and do not wish to be jostled from them, lest we should be charged with changing our views, and consequently of being wiser today than we were yesterday; ought we to wish to bind all the readers and writers of the SIGNS, down to those common place letters that would suit us. There are brethren among us who are solicitous of knowing the truth on every point of doctrine and of apostolic order; and they are glad to obtain light from any of their brethren on these subjects, and therefore wish to see such as have much disputed, discussed. Shall we look so much on our own things as to monopolize the whole of the SIGNS from them. Again, there are brethren, who become convinced that some opinions or some practice or order which has prevailed among us, is not according to the Scriptures, and so feel the importance of the error, and of a more strict conformity to what God has declared or enjoined that they are not satisfied without calling the attention of their brethren generally to the subject. Shall we because our minds have not been exercised on these points or because their views if sustained would impeach the correctness of the views handed down to us from those going before, on these points, shut them out from a place in the SIGNS; as though that paper was wholly for our gratification, and that it must be put down if anything is admitted that we do not wish agitated, lest our minds might be disturbed. Surely this is not christian liberty. I trust that no one will argue from these premises that the SIGNS should be opened to subjects which manifestly set aside the scriptures as our perfect standard, or do away with the plain testimony thereof; such subjects as have nothing but human reason; or a visionary construction of scriptures to support them. Some of us are apt to look a great deal more at having our minds disturbed by the agitation of points of order or of doctrine on which we have settled down without having examined carefully to know that we have scriptural authority to support them, than we do at the earnest desire of others to be informed for themselves on these points, or to eradicate errors from ourselves as well as to oppose them in the New School. Such will probably say in reference to the points on which brethren Burritt and Janeway have requested my views, away with these points of order from the SIGNS; let us have practical religion. But indeed, I do not know what deserves the name of practicing religion, more than a due observance of those institutions and that order which our Lord has appointed. If we respect not his authority, we give but poor evidence of supreme love to him. For myself, as these brethren have requested my views on these subjects of order, I feel it right I should give them, not knowing how much satisfaction I may be instrumental in imparting to them and others. Those brethren who do not wish their minds disturbed on the points, can, if they please, pass over what I write, there is surely matter enough in the SIGNS besides to pay them for their dollar, and postage. In reference to brother Woodward’s request in the SIGNS, for April 1, 1848, concerning Rev.13:11-18, and which brother Beebe handed over to me, I have to say, that as I have had my views twice published on that subject; once in pamphlet, by brother Beebe, and again with some variation in the SIGNS, volume 7, pages 66 & 73, and having no additional light on that subject, I do not think it advisable to occupy the SIGNS with it. I hope brother Woodward will consider this a sufficient excuse for not further complying with his request.

Brother Burritt requests my views on the subject of pronouncing at the close of a meeting, what the Paedobaptists call the benediction, but which I, and I supposed, most of our O.S. Baptists consider merely as a dismissal, or salutation. If brother Burritt has been difficulted only on that point in the order generally observed in our worship, he has escaped much better than I have. Soon after my first entering upon the ministry, my mind was considerably difficulted as to that order which was general among the baptists, in conducting their meetings for worship and preaching; not being able to find apostolic example for it. For some few years, the Scotch, or Waldanian Baptists, as they are called, had attracted some notice, by setting aside the prevailing forms, and professedly observing a strict regard to apostolic example in all the parts of their worship. In most of our cities, little companies had separated from the Regular Baptists, and met together on every first day to break bread, and preach, &c., according to what they considered strict New Testament order. I read some of their writings on the subject and endeavored to test the same by the New Testament. The result was, that I became satisfied, that the order which had obtained among us in the arrangement of singing, praying, and preaching, &c., was a mere assumed form; and among the Waldanians there were some points of order, not regarded by us, which evidently was according to established apostolic order, and there were other points on which they laid much stress, which were mentioned in the New Testament as mere incidental circumstances, and others again, in reference to the ministry of the word, which were important errors. The enquiry which next occupied my mind, was, whether I should continue to observe the formal course among us, or to endeavor to introduce where I worshipped a stricter regard to what appeared as New Testament order. Whilst unsatisfied on this point, and still hesitating, I was convinced from the ill success which attended the Waldanian attempt to reform, that the Lord did not favor it, and come to the conclusion that so far as real corruption was not involved it was better to bear with some departures from apostolic order, than to split off from those whom we believe to be saints of God and grounded in the truth, and to wait till God shall please to cleanse his church from all its impurities in doctrine and order; which, I am impressed with the idea, will not be whilst the church remains in its present wilderness state; that as he suffered Israel in the wilderness to neglect circumcision and some other of his appointments, so of his church, during the reign of antichrist. I did hope when the church, the O.S. Baptists, separated themselves from the human inventions of the Image of the Beast, as seen in the New School, to the standard of the Scriptures, that they would go on purging themselves at least from all those human devises, which had manifestly been productive of evil. But it seems it is not to be so, as a general thing, among the churches. Those therefore who see the evil must content themselves with purifying themselves from such evils so far as they can, without separating from the fellowship of their brethren, and to exhorting their brethren as occasion may offer to test their systems and practice by the Scriptures of truth. As to the arrangement of the parts to be attended to in the meetings of the church for worship, I am satisfied that this arrangement is left unestablished as a thing indifferent, provided all things be done decently and in order. This opinion I have derived from that particular direction which Paul gave to the church at Corinth touching the exercise both of the ordinary and extraordinary gifts. I Cor.14. There is no direction given when or how often they should sing and pray, though both are referred to; nor in reference to preaching or prophesying, excepting that two or three might speak, if so many were present having any message given them; and that one was not to continue speaking so long as to exclude the others from an equal opportunity, as is sometimes the case among us. So in reference to the Lord’s supper, the Apostle, in I Cor.11:23-26, has given clearly what is essential in that ordinance. For he delivered to them, that which he had received of the Lord concerning it, and surely he must have received of the Lord all that is essential in that ordinance. But there is nothing in what he delivered them, specifying at what hour, nor how often they should observe this ordinance, as oft as ye do it, is the specification on this point; nor in what place, only that it was when the church were come together in one place. See verses 18 & 20. So that the circumstances of being in an upper room and at night on which some lay so much stress, are things indifferent. But here I do not mean by it that because such and such things are not forbidden, they are indifferent. For instance, infant sprinkling is not in direct terms forbidden, yet the appointing of believer’s baptism to be observed, is itself a prohibition of the substitution of anything else in the place of it, and therefore not a thing indifferent. So the appointing of churches as the order by which the disciples are to be associated together in one visible body, and the committing of the administration of all the Lord’s appointed order, to the churches severally, is a forbidding of the constitution of other religious bodies, and of such bodies assuming the management of any part of the affairs of the gospel. But in the arrangement of the parts of worship, the Apostle has enjoined that all things be done decently and in order; it is self evident that some arrangement is necessary to different things being done in order, otherwise, singing, praying, speaking, &c., might be going on at the same time; the very confusion which Paul objects to in that church. This arrangement is not specified in the New Testament, and is therefore left as a thing indifferent providing decency and order is observed. Hence I know not that the arrangement which generally prevails among us is not as good as any other would be; excepting that I have sometimes thought that the having always one uniform arrangement, is more likely to sink into a kind of formal thing, than would be the varying of that arrangement according to circumstances. What I have said above has only reference to the order of worship where the church be come together in one place. In reference to preaching to other congregations than when the church is met, there is on such occasions not only no authority for these forms in singing, praying, &c., but apostolic example is uniformly against their use. The order we observe in such appointments for preaching has grown out of infant baptism, whereby the posterity of professors are placed in circumstances to be considered acceptable worshippers. By conforming to this custom we so far sanction this principle. The same in full may be said of the practice of putting forward persons making no pretensions to religion, or for whose pretensions we have no fellowship, to lead in singing. Yet to both of these customs I have conformed rather than to single out from my brethren.

To come to the particular point of order to which brother Burritt refers, the form of dismissing the meeting; if this was considered as an attempt to impart a blessing to the people by any virtue there is in the lifting up of the hands, as our Lord blessed little children brought to him, I should shrink from the attempt too. But I do not, neither do I think our brethren generally, view it in that light. At most it is but a short prayer to God for a parting blessing upon the people. This appears to me a proper subject of prayer, and being offered at the close of the religious exercises in which we have been engaged. I should not consider it an infringement of that decency and order, which the Apostle enjoins. But I have rather looked at it as a parting salutation, and have considered the examples of the apostles Paul and Peter in closing their epistles, to be good authority. Paul does not call that close, a blessing, but a salutation. See II Thes.3:17, and other places. As I have thus viewed the subject for many years, I have felt no difficulty in conforming to that order, generally, though I have considered there was rather an impropriety in giving this salutation, when we were only adjourning for half an hour or so, expecting the same people again to come together and resume the exercises of the day. Paul speaks of blessing with the spirit, from his immediately calling it a giving of thanks, I conclude he refers to blessing God, rather than blessing the people. I Cor.14:15 & 16. So the blessing of the bread; {Matt.26:26,} and the cup of blessing, {I Cor.10:16,} as these cases are spoken of as giving thanks in Luke 22:19 & I Cor.11:24, I think refer to blessing or thanking God for them. I have thus given brother Burritt my experience and conclusion on this subject, if the relation shall afford him any satisfaction on the point about which he is difficulted, or any comfort from the consideration that others are constrained to conform to points, about the correctness of which they are not satisfied, I shall not have labored in vain. May I conclude with the salutation?

May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with each of you, and all his saints. Amen.

Centreville, Fairfax County, Va., July 22, 1846.