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Doctrine Without Order: The Contest

“Ye humble saints, proclaim abroad
The honors of a faithful God;
How just and true are all His ways!
How much above our highest praise.”

It seems to be but a few short moments of time since we took up our pen to write an introductory to the preceding Volume of the Sectarian, and yet in this short time how many and varied scenes have passed, how many sad and distressing events have occurred to fill the hearts and homes of many of our patrons with gloom and despair; how many and important events have been fulfilled, measuring up the purposes of Him who directs, controls, yes, determines all things for His chosen people, and for His own great glory.

What save the abiding knowledge of His sovereign, predestinating, controlling power behind all these conflicting scenes, these changing events, these sad, distressing afflictions, could sustain His poor and afflicted people amid their earthly pilgrimage, beset with so many dark and inscrutable (to earthly minds) dispensations of the Providence of God. The New Year dawns upon us o’er-shadowed from every earthly standpoint with gloom. No bright prospect illuminates the earthly horizon in our own, or yet in any other land. The tendency so marked in our own country of late years to corruption, political dissipation, and degeneracy, appears to be manifest to a large or less extent throughout the world; a sure forerunner, a marked evidence of the end of all earthly things.

But assuredly can we safely leave all earthly governments, all mortal nations, and worlds unknown, in the hands of Him who does most surely govern them all.

“Here He exalts neglected worms,
To sceptres and a crown;
And there the following page He turns,
And treads the monarch down.”

An exceeding easy matter for Him to govern conditions that His own wisdom has formed, to direct the movement of nations that His own arm hath created; “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance.” Again, “All nations before Him are as nothing; and they are counted to Him less than nothing, and vanity.” – Isaiah xl.

Safely then can we leave them in His hands, assuredly will He govern them all; their marshalling fleets, their marching armies, their van pomp, their arrogant shout; He moves them all as puppets upon the checker-board of time and earth, and they are as “small dust” in the balance, that is absolutely nothing, yea, He says, “less than nothing” in His hands.

But while clouds of thickening gloom o’erspreads the New Year’s dawn upon all earthly empires, it is quite different “to the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” – 1 Timothy iii, 15. Through an exhibition of the mercy and goodness of God, peace prevails here, love and fellowship abounds, devotion to doctrine and good order is made manifest; and increasing light shines upon the path of the just. To the great goodness and mercy of God be all the praise ascribed for such blessed manifestations of His eternal love.

We pause a moment in the New Year’s dawn to take a retrospect of the past, a view of the future, and to solemnly pledge as our God may give us strength, our renewed, and unalterable devotion to the priceless principles of eternal Truth.

May He give us strength, as He alone can do, to follow where He leads; may He sustain, and keep us in the same narrow path, marked by the blood of the Lamb, consecrated by the sufferings and death of the dear Redeemer, and over which the saints of all ages have passed to the fadeless glory of their immortal home.

The rapid passing years manifest more clearly the mortal nature of all earthly things, that “this world is poor from shore to shore,” so far as concerns the comfort and encouragement of the children of life and immortality.

“Where Jesus dwells each one would be,
And faints his much loved Lord to see.”

In the conflicts before us in the future as in the past, as the God of heaven may give us ability, we shall continue to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” – Jude 3. Religiously speaking we ask no favors at the hands of the enemies of Gospel Truth, and they need expect none from us. To compromise the truth, is to yield it, and either is destructive of our hope for a continuation of the Divine blessing. The path of duty is the path of safety; and the path of truth and order the only safe path for the children of light.

The apostle says; “Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, and in chambering and wanton-ness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” – Romans xiii, 14.

It seems almost incredible that sixteen volumes reaching over the space of near sixteen years have passed since we issued the first number of The Sectarian. Yet such is the case. We look back over the past, and still more incredible seem some of the occurrences that have marked the travel of the Church during these years. We issued the first number of the Sectarian in obedience to the continued, and urgent requests of our brethren, as well as our own impressions upon the subject. Our people had passed through scenes entirely unequally by any thing through which the Baptists had passed since the establishing of Baptists churches in America. Vile misrepresentation, slander, and calumny were the weapons used by false and treacherous men, the most of whom were professed “Old School” Baptist preachers, to divert the minds of their dupes from the real issues of the Contest (Down-grade), which they themselves had forced upon our unwitting brethren, by their endeavors to liberalize the Old School Baptists of that day.

Men claiming to stand high in the walks of life, and more still, to minister in the ways of Truth, many of whom are yet living, had stooped to utter the most malignant lies, to revel in the lowest vilest slander, which should be beneath the notice of gentlemen, much less men laying claim to holy things.

We had successfully faced these treacherous foes, whose vulgar, low-bred, and contemptible conduct so completely placed them beneath our notice, that we desired no further gentlemanly intimacy or friendship with them, much less fellowship, when after a little breathing spell, there arose a few among us, who claimed that a man could be a member of a Secret Order, and at the same time an Old School Baptist. This was more distressing as coming from men whom we had learned to love for Truth in other things, and from whom we had expected better things. The Psalmist says, “It was not an enemy that reproached me; then could I have borne it. . . . But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in company.” – Psalm lv, 12-14. But our course in the matter was plain.

We could not yield a point so vital. We had not endured such fiery trials as those through which we had so recently passed for the Truth of our God, to so lightly forsake it, at the appear of this new, seductive spirit among us. It seemed as we have said, incredible that men standing high in the councils of their brethren, should esteem so lightly a vital point of Gospel order. What is the use of doctrine without the apostolic order? What is the order but the outward exhibition of the power of the inward doctrinal life? But sat last The Contest with all of its heart-pangs of sadness, sorrow, and deep distress was over, and again by the unfrustrable grace of God our churches rested in peace; blessed, heavenly peace.

“O Peace of heaven! Delightful guest,
And hast thou made thy downy nest,
Once more within our midst?”

And now again we turn our face to the future in the dawn of this New Year, 1906: “Watchman, what of the night?” – Isaiah xxi, 2. Yea;

“Watchman tell us of the night
What its signs of promise are.”

Are we to rest for a while again in continued peace? Is some new trial to call us to arms? Is our faith to be tried anew in fiery scenes of sore temptation? We confidently leave it all in the hands of Him who is too wise to err.

“We would not long to see
Our lot with curious eyes.”

But “reaching forth unto those things which are before,” may we “press toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians iii, 13,14.

Beloved Brethren and companions “in tribulation, and in the Kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ;” may the Lord continue His presence.” May we be enabled to strive “together for the faith of the Gospel;” may we be enabled to “followed after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another;” and “laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.”

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” – Philippians iv, 8.

Elder William M. Smoot,
January, 1906.