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Missionary Priestcraft.

Brother Beebe: - As the Old School Baptists are so frequently charged with denying to others, the right of doing what they please with their money, a few remarks on this subject may not be unreasonable. It is said that we would deprive brethren the privilege of giving a ninepence, or a six cent piece to the missionaries, &c. But let us examine the subject; and would to God that those who thus charge us, and those who received these charges, were disposed to judge candidly.

In the first place, - Have the Old School Baptists, by their declarations of separation from the mission schemes, or by any of their resolutions attempted to dictate to others the course they are to take? We have not. I challenge those who complain of our stand to show an instance wherein we have. In our stand, we maintain that what is not of God, has no just claim to be put on the same footing with that religion, and its ordinances, which God has revealed in His word. And is there the missionary who has the audacity to say in direct terms, that the authority of man is equivalent to the authority of God?

We say that the whole mission system, or plans of benevolent operations, to use the Ashdod phrase, is devoid of the sanction of divine revelation, and of course of divine authority. In confirmation of this position, we say and show, that God, in His word, has prescribed an order for the spread of His gospel and the gathering of His elect, entirely different from the mission plan; and has given no direction for any part of that plan. And further we have, by every different motive we could present, called upon the mission advocates, if we have erred in this position, to show us from the scriptures our error, and without effect. They, it is true, say that the success which attends their plans, is an evidence that they are of God. But we cannot admit this as proof; because from the whole history of our religion, as given in the scriptures, as well as in posterior writings, we learn, that in every age, the multitude have been disposed to depart from the true God and His institutions, and to follow their own imaginations; and that in every age, has there been, comparatively, but a little flock, which adhered to the instructions of divine revelation, or have been owned of God as His true worshippers. Also, to receive such testimony would be to admit that the opinion and practice of the multitude is higher authority than the written revelation which God has given us of His will. And, thirdly, to decide on the truth of a religious system according to the multitude of its advocates, would be to brand those who were slain, in ages past for their religion, and the Witnesses who are yet to be killed, with being martyrs to error. For the persecuting class of professors in times past have always been more numerous than the persecuted; and the great majority of professors must be on the side of Anti-christ, to enable him to establish his decree, that no man may buy or sell save he that hath the mark or the name of the beast, &c., and to kill the two Witnesses. Again, we not only believe and say that the mission system is not of God, from the fact that He has not stamped it with the broad seal of Christ's kingdom; namely, divine revelation, but we also say, that not being appointed of God, it must have originated with the man of sin. It not only bespeaks this origin, from its being palmed upon us as religious, by human authority, but in every branch of it, we see the image of the beast reflected, or a copying after the church of Rome, as a prototype. Where do we first find the mission plan brought forward, and acted on? In the church of Rome. These enquires might be pursued if we had room, until every feature, of the pretended benevolent operations, would be shown to be but copies of what is found in that corrupt church.

Hence, we must necessarily, according to our belief, consider the whole mission system, as being at so great a remove from the religion taught in the scriptures, that whilst we truly reverence the latter as having God for its author we must separate ourselves, both in practice and in fellowship, from the other. And I cannot comprehend how any person who has known experimentally the spirituality of the religion of Christ, and the divine communication of it to the soul, can, after a moments reflection, harbor the idea of placing the devices of men in conjunction with that religion which is from heaven and bears the stamp of divine perfection.

The above principles have been fully published in the several declarations made by Old School Baptists, as the reasons why we cannot fellowship as disciples of Christ, those who continue, after the subject has been thus brought to their consideration, to give countenance to the mission plan, in any of its parts. At the same time, we have, hitherto, and still would leave others to choose for themselves, whether they will seek our fellowship by giving evidence of a heart subjection to Christ the King of Zion, or will seek union with the missionists by countenancing their devices. And resting on the merits of the case, we have never to make converts, resorted to flattery or any of those arts, which missionists employ to draw persons under their yoke. We wish persons to be fully persuaded in their own minds upon this important subject, and to pursue with decision that course which they believe right. To fellowship the Old School Baptists in truth, and at the same time to approve of the mission plans, is impossible! Can two walk together except they be agreed? Or can any person be agreed with us in conscientiously opposing the devices of men in religion, and at the same time support the moneyed religious schemes of the missionaries?

But in the second place, I cannot admit the principle involved in the charge against us, which is now under consideration; that is, that members of a church may indifferently employ their money either in the support of vice, or of religion. I readily admit that the New Testament recognizes a personal property in the possessions providentially given to anyone. But at the same time, when a person as a professed disciple of Jesus, gives himself up in fellowship with a church, there is more implied, than simply that he will occasionally, or constantly, unite with them in their worship; however loose many churches may hold their members. So long as this person continues to fellowship this church as a church of Christ, he is bound duly to regard the fellowship of the brethren in all his transactions. And in professing to be a disciple of Christ he professes no longer to be his own, but to be bought with a price, &c. Hence, his independent right to employ any gifts which may be bestowed upon him, or anything he may possess to his own exclusive advantage, or to his own pleasure, is absorbed in his greater obligation to his Lord, and is under the guardianship of the church. Under such tenure, I think we should feel ourselves and all that we possess, as held, if we felt fully under the influence of the spirit of the gospel. Hence the New Testament recognizes in the church the right to call upon each member to lay by in store, according as God has prospered him, for the necessities of the poor; and to administer of his carnal things, to those who administer in spiritual things. I Cor.9,11 & 16:2. Hence from this guardianship of the church, a member who shows covetousness, as illustrated in the parable of the rich man - Luke 12:16-21 - and as condemned by the Apostle in Col.3:5, or the member who expends his income in supporting his family in extravagance and folly, whilst he can spare little or nothing for the support of the gospel ministry, or for the wants of the poor, are each of them undoubtedly proper subjects of church discipline.

Again, the staking a ninepence on a hand of cards or a billiard table, is as decidedly gambling as the staking of a five or ten dollar bill. Would an orderly church excuse from its discipline a member who should thus gamble, merely from his plea that his money was his own? And why not? Not on account of the money lost in itself considered, but because of the principle and practice he thus countenanced.

But to come to the case in hand, the ardently plead for privilege, of giving a ninepence to the missionaries. What is your motive for wishing to give it? Is it on the principle of almsgiving, as you would give to a common beggar? They do not demand it on this principle; and a little reflection will, I think, convince you that such is a very foolish application of your charities. Remember that he who giveth to the rich is under the same condemnation with him who oppresseth the poor . Prov.22:16. The agents of the several societies, their managers and their missionaries, considering their high salaries, the style in which they travel and live may be considered rich. Whilst these various agents are making it a profitable business to travel and filch their salaries from the unsuspecting; there are many of the poor to whom your ninepence would be a real cordial. Yea, are there not those who have given themselves to the ministry of the word, who are poor in this world, and who from a sense of duty, are often constrained to leave their families, not very comfortably provided for, to preach the gospel to these poor and destitute brethren, to whose care-burdened minds your spare ninepences would often be a real relief? But those who are fond of giving to the missionaries, are not much disposed to give to those who preach the gospel, independent of fleshly considerations. The reason is manifest; because in giving to the one, they receive the applause of men, in the other case, they have to be content with the approbation of their own consciences. Or, secondly. Do you wish to give your ninepence, merely from fear of being thought singular, and of being reproached for not giving? And can you claim to yourself the character of the one who is not ashamed of Christ, whilst your money is given so freely to purchase an exemption from that reproach to which a conscientious and steadfast adherence to His word would expose you? And is ninepence the price at which you value the fellowship of those who from principle will not sanction a departure from the word of God as the rule of faith and practice, that you can so lightly hurt their feelings by giving your money to support an interest, so opposite to that of the pure and heavenly religion of Christ?

Or, thirdly. Do you truly believe that the mission plans are of God, and believe the truth of the principle on which they are built; namely, that the giving of money to support those plans is essential to the salvation of the heathen? And can you satisfy your conscience, whilst you thus believe, with giving now and then a ninepence, or a dollar? In what other light can we view you as that of unfeeling monsters, if you believe that God has suspended the salvation of the heathen on your giving money to provide them with preaching, and can content yourself with giving so sparingly? And in what light are we to view the mission agents who believe the above position relative to the situation of the heathen, (if we can credit their own repeated assertions,) and yet who can appropriate so large a proportion of the money so sparingly given to rescue those people from dropping into the quenchless flames of hell, in paying themselves those high salaries every year, and to decking themselves with their gold watches, guards, spectacles, &c.? Again, can you believe this mission system to be the religion of Christ, and yet wish to have any religious connection with us Old School Baptists, who are entire unbelievers in your whole system? We do not believe that the giving of money ever did, ever will or can procure the salvation of one soul that would otherwise have perished. We do not believe that ever a College or a Theological School made one gospel preacher, or gave to one person the necessary qualification for preaching the gospel of Christ. We do not believe that Bible Societies are at all necessary to enable those whom God has converted to know that He has converted them; or to those who have a desire for the scriptures to obtain them. Neither do we believe that Tract Societies, Sunday Schools, or Bible classes are of use in converting souls to God, or in any sense the so-called means of grace. Nor do we believe that God employs the modern, or the more ancient Romish missionaries for preaching His gospel, or making known His salvation. But we believe that all these are important links in that chain, which is forging to bind down the minds of our countrymen under the dominion of priestcraft; and that they are parts of the Image of the Beast, the dedication of which by public decree, will consummate the power of Anti-christ. Hence those missionists who denounce us as infidels are much more consistent with their own creed, than those who pretendedly wish to enjoy our fellowship or to live in church relation with us. But before they decry us as infidels, they ought to give more decisive proof of their own genuine belief in their creed, by a more faithful appropriation of the money they collect, to the specific object for which it was given.

In a word, where there is a moral honesty and a faithful examination of the subject, there can be no neutrality, no indifference relating to the mission system. It either is of God, or is not of God. If we believe it is not of God, and truly love Christ and His cause, we cannot consistently countenance it by the giving of even a nine-piece for its support, any more than had we lived in the days of the primitive christians, we could have thrown incense on the heathen altars, to countenance those sacrifices, which Paul says they sacrificed to devils. If we believe this system to be of God and have any love and reverence for God, we certainly should feel constrained to enter fully into the whole system, and be actively engaged by every exertion and every sacrifice in our power to promote all its branches and to prove the superior efficacy, over the death and life of Christ, of human contrivance aided by money, to save souls and evangelize the world. Paul said: "For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more being reconciled we shall be saved by His life ."(Rom.5:10). But Paul was an Old School Baptist. The gospel which he preached, he received not from men, neither was he taught it but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. (Gal.1:11,12). Therefore Jesus Christ and Him crucified - not money - was the sum of his preaching.

To conclude, my Friend, if you believe the mission system to be of God, be consistent, give your money freely, but neither fellowship us in our opposition to it, nor ask us to fellowship you. Let each be governed by his own religion, as distinct, the one from the other, as is the production of the Eternal Mind, from the imaginations of the human brain.

If you do not believe the mission system to be the appointment of God, take heed how you countenance it as religious lest you give the world reason to conclude that you consider all religion to be the device of men, and lest you be found enlisted among the enemies of truth. Farewell,

Centreville, Fairfax County, Virginia,
S. Trott.
From: SIGNS of the TIMES: Vol.5 (1837)

Select Works of Elder Samuel Trott
pgs. 96 - 102