Brother Beebe; – having briefly considered the evils at present. I proceed to notice the second article in my catalogue of “Baptist errors,” which is Creeds, Articles and confessions of Faith, surmounted by a “Covenant,” used as a test of fellowship in the admission of members into the Church; the ostensible objects in the use of them, is “unity of faith,” but experience has fully proved that they have utterly failed in accomplishing so desirable an object, for the present state of things in our Churches, shews that in the face of most excellent creeds, divers and strange doctrines abound, divisions and contentions exist, and every evil work is no way hindered by very sound articles, and a well worded Covenant. But as the best way of exposing error is to exhibit truth, we will go to the Old Standard, the “Law and testimony.” And first, what is the foundation of Gospel fellowship or union? We answer the new, or heavenly birth, by which we are made partakers of the Spirit of Christ, or divine nature, and become susceptible of divine teaching. We are then one in spirit with Christ, acknowledging him as the one Lord, and one head in all Spiritual things, by this birth we become children in fact, as before we were in seed, and covenant in Christ; being therefore, actually born of one Spirit, by one power, in one manner, the effects of one purpose, of one Father, by one operation. The foundation is most surely laid for the perfect eventual union of the whole body in, and to its one head; the foundation thus laid for perfect union, the means by which this glorious end is to be accomplished, are as single as the end.
There is but one King, – one Law-giver, – one High Priest, – but one Statute Book and one teacher. The Kingdom not being of this world, of course none but those who are born not of blood, nor of the will of man, nor of the will of the flesh, “but of God.” Have power to become subjects of it, or are capable of understanding, or submitting to its laws? But those who are born of God, are proper, and the only proper subjects of his Gospel Kingdom, the foundation for unity, being therefore laid in the one birth, the Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus having made them free from the law of sin and death, and the power of his resurrection being manifest in them, by raising them to newness of life, the eyes of the understanding, being opened, the mind renewed in its spirit, they are prepared as new born babes to, not only desire, but to receive the sincere milk of “the word that they may grow thereby,” these are the babes that are proper subjects of, and have received the true circumcision “made without hands,” they have eyes to see the Glorious Character and standing, of the King the Lord of Hosts, and their own native corruption, the excellency of his institutions, and the folly of all human inventions, they have ears to hear the testimony of Moses, and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Jesus Christ, and also the witness of those his Apostles, who testified what they saw and heard. They have a heart to understand the things of the Spirit, and a mind submissive to the will of God, now as there is but one testimony which is divine, there can be but one faith arising from that testimony, and as there is but one teacher who can, does, or ever did, or will, lead into truth those who follow and hear him, will learn the same things, and have the same views, some will or may learn more than others, but none can learn contrary to the rest, unless they learn from some other source and through some other medium, as all the gifts are by the one spirit, and are for the edifying of the one body, and as there is but one code of Laws and one expositor, and but one mind by which they can be understood or received, there can be but one confession of faith, and one covenant. The confession is that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God, which is testified in all the Scriptures of truth, from beginning to the end, in the Old Testament and New, just as briefly, and just as darkly, and just as brightly, just as figuratively and just as literally as God has pleased, and just as far as the Spirit of God leads into the testimony of God, his children are of one mind, and of the same judgment, having one Lord, one faith, and one Baptism, and the moment any abridgmement is made in form of articles or covenant, there is an abridgement of faith, and if this creed is made a test, it at once either concludes that all the new-born babes in Christ know as much of Gospel as those who framed the formula, or else they must lie, in order to get into the Church, by confessing they believe what they do not understand. Many instances have come to our knowledge of persons, owning their belief of articles, for the purpose of being Baptized, because the Church would in no wise receive them without, and be Baptized they must; for that duty pressed hard on them. They did not know whether they believed the articles or not, for they were children, we are by no means to reject those weak in the faith; but to receive them, to be afterwards taught when they have grown strong, by the “sure provisions,” but the present mode, makes them profess to believe what, at most, they in truth, could only say they could not contradict, therefore the effect must be evil. First, for it leads to hypocrisy. Second, it hinders the weak and those of tender conscience, who hesitate to approve or profess, because they are ignorant; it is like keeping an infant from the breast, because it could not define the word milk, or tell its component parts. Third, it says, virtually that the King’s laws are not plain enough, are too prolix, or that the test of fellowship is too indefinite. Fourth, it causes churches to depend on something besides their testimony in preaching exhortation, &c. and their separate walk in the things of the Kingdom of God to exhibit the soundness of their doctrine. Fifth, it opens a door for unsound preachers to get among, or into the flock, by acknowledging the articles for the sake of a living, and so getting in and dividing the flock, oftentimes leading them from truth to error, and causing them to practice deception to preserve their reputation, and standing among the Churches, with which they are associated. To illustrate this subject we intend in a future number to note a case which occured in the Church at Southold, Long Island, which will show this mode of proceeding exactly as it is, and how futile articles are to preserve the unity of the Church. Sixth, it impeaches either the wisdom, or goodness of God. His wisdom in not choosing the best test, for the guarding of his own faith, or his goodness in not naming it to his Church, and giving it the sanction of his authority, its tendency is also to set aside the fellowship of the Spirit, – that holy, – that blessed oneness of heart and soul which kindred souls enjoy, in Jesus Christ; such as the Disciples felt when on the road to Emmaus, he whom they thought lost to them forever, joined them on the way, and opened to them the Scriptures, and shewed them how Jesus “ought to have thus suffered, and to thus have entered his Glory.” “Did not our hearts burn within us?” Was their language, and so says every one, who possesses the same spirit? When he comes into the congregation, where Jesus is in Spirit, declaring his name unto his Brethren, and his Father’s name also, by the lips of the Church in her teaching her exhortations, and all her worship, there is a joy in which no stranger intermeddles, enkindling through all the soul, a union and love to the Brethren, on account of their Faith, Hope and Charity, which many waters cannot quench, nor floods drown. The Hypocrite and Formalist know not, neither can they learn it. Says the inquirer, “this is my home, this doctrine is my only confidence, these are my Brethren.” This is a new covenant union, the articles are written in fleshly tables of the heart, by the finger of Jehovah, and as each one reads the name of Jesus in his Brother, he feels his confidence abound, that he who hath begun a good work will carry it on. Thus their union is in Christ; the evidence of it, in each one of his Disciples, obeying from the heart that form of doctrine delivered to them by the Apostles, then they find each other when looking for Christ, and assemble together at his feet for “he has made the place of his feet glorious.” When they put off the body of this death, their union will be fully apparent, and the perfection of the purpose of the Father, the work of the Son, and the testimony of the Spirit will be glorified in those that believe, in all the beauty of holiness.
Then shall we see, and hear and know,
All we desir’d, or wish’d below,
And every power find sweet employ;
In that eternal world of joy.
Signs of the Times
Volume 1, No. 6
February 15, 1833