For the Signs of the Times
Strykersville, Pa. Feb. 10th, 1837.
DEAR BROTHER; I have just finished reading the 3d number of the Signs, and have been much pleased with its contents. I should suppose your definition of Old School, sufficient to satisfy any honest enquirer, that it is not to create an order of Baptist, distinct from the old particulars; but merely an expleative rendered necessary by the present state of things among the Baptists; for it is a fact, that under the name of Baptist may be found, almost, if not altogether, every error that has tormented the church in all ages of her existence. I could wish that the New School would act with equal candor, and adopt some appelation distinctive of their true character, and not steal our name as they often do, when it will answer their purpose of deception; but this need give us no surprise, when we see them perverting the word of God to further their schemes of priest craft. I have been thinking of the suggestion of brother Trott, i.e., to propose a discussion with the new school or middle ground. I should be pleased to see it conducted under the restrictions proposed; but I despair of ever being gratified. They never will meet us on that ground, and that for the best of reasons, they know that they cannot. The modern march of intellect has such an expanding influence on their minds as to render Bible limits entirely too contracted for them, and you might as well try to wash the Ethiopian white as to confine them to the scripture. On this I have some unpleasant experience. I once had a wish to meet with some of my old friends who had fallen into new measures, and at length was gratified so far, at least, as to have several meetings with them; but on every occasion the meeting ended with pain to my heart to find men in whom I once had confidence as sound brethren, abandoning the good old Bible ground, (occupied by our fore fathers,) in defending a system for which, they had to admit, there was no Bible authority. I do not wish to be understood as throwing an obstacle in the way of such a proposal: I as one of your readers should wish it made and excepted the discussion conducted through the Signs, provided it can be confined to the restriction proposed, and conducted in a dispassionate manner: Such a discussion might benefit christians existing under certain circumstances, such for instance, as have been led by others, without examining for themselves; these brethren are circumstanced as are many pedo baptists, who in adhering to infant sprinkling, act under the impression that it is fully sustained by scripture authority; and this persuasion arises from the unbounded confidence they place in the honesty of their leaders, never for a moment suspecting them of being influenced by any other than honest and pure motives. These brethren, in addition to their adherences to the plans of the day, have contracted strong prejudices against us; and those prejudices have been produced and nourished, by the false representations made of us; for, while they view their leaders incapable of acting from any other than pure motives, they view them incapable of violating the ninth commandment,‘Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.’ The strength of their prejudice is fully illustrated in that fixed aversion to the Signs, whilst they are taught to regard it as worse than Tom Pain’s Age of Reason, and therefore never read it; but should one of their readers undertake the discussion thro’ the Signs, it might induce them to read it, and to benefit thereby. There are others that take no part in the modern schemes. They feel that there is an error in them, but do not clearly discover where the errors lie; such brethren might be much benefited by a discussion of the kind, as it would afford them an opportunity of seeing the different views brought into close contact. – There are brethren, who on hearing a certain sort of preaching, reject it, and yet can give no other reason for so doing, than the African who on being asked why he objected to a certain preacher, observed, that he no take hold on me, thos was a good and sufficient reason; yet could brethren be enabled, in addition to this, to point out the ground of their objection, it would enable them the better to meet their opponents. But after all that can be said or done, nothing but the gracious influence of the spirit, can make those that are wrong, right, or keep those right that are so. I am sure my dear brother, if I have discernment enough to see the errors of the day, and courage to oppose them, it is all of grace; and were it not for faith in a covenant-keeping God, I should utterly despair of ever seeing the truth rise from its present fallen state: whenever my eyes are taken off of him like poor Peter, I begin to sink, and that alas, is too often the case with me. I pass through many changes of feeling in relation to these things – at one time I feel such strength of faith in a covenant-keeping God, and such an ardent love to the faith as it is in Jesus, that in its defence I could face death in all its most aggravated forms; as other times the shaking of a leaf fills me with tremor, I do not mean that my confidence in the correctness of the stand we have taken is fluctuating, no, in my darkest hours I feel satisfied on that head, and I cannot feel otherwise until I lose my confidence in the truth of the Bible.
Much as the present state of things is to be depreciated abstractly considered, yet I believe that good has come out of them. I believe it has had the tendency of giving a circumstantial excellency to the Bible, I say circumstantial, as to its intrinsic excellency that is always the same, we may have friends that are friendly at all times, but under certain circumstances their friendship is more particularly appreciated. The bible and its author are always precious, but under certain circumstances both become more particularly so to God’s children, as at the present when our enemies are strong and numerous, the bible becomes a safe rallying point to which we may repair with safety, and bid defiance to the armies of the aliens; not only does it afford a present rallying point, but it points us to‘victory and the victor’s crown,’ where we shall rest from all our toils, in the immediate presence of him be the glory, honor, power and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
Yours, as ever in a precious Redeemer,
Signs of the Times.
Volume 5, No. 4.
February 10, 1837