By Asa Drury, 1860
Dry Creek Baptist Church
Kenton County, KY
To the Churches composing the North-Bend Association:
Brethren: - We have selected, as the theme of our annual epistle, Christian Union. We shall discuss this subject under the two following divisions, viz: The importance of Christian Union, and the True Basis of this Union.
I. The Importance of Christian Union. By Christian Union we mean a union in Christ as the head, his law as the sole and sovereign authority, and his example as our only pattern. The importance of union is prefigured in the unity of the God-head. The Lord, our God, is one Lord; when God made man he fashioned him in his own image and likeness. Here we see a perfect union between the Creator and the creature - man. But, though the union between God and man was destroyed, Christ said, I and my Father are one. The union of the holy remained, but the union of the holy with the sinful was impossible. The mission of Christ was to restore the union between man and his Maker, by removing from believers their sins; he should save his people from their sins. An argument to show how the mission of Christ prepared the way for this union, would be out of place in this letter. It is sufficient on the present occasion to say, that Christ having fulfilled his mission, he prayed that there might exist a perfect union among those who should accept his salvation. We wish to call your attention to this prayer. The occasion on which it was offered - the last prayer which be offered for his people, and the spirit which breathes through it, make it one of
surpassing interest and tenderness. Listen. John 17, 9, 10, 15, 17 - I pray for them. I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they art thine.
And all mine are thine and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil. Sanctifiy them through thy truth; thy word is truth. 20, 21 and 23 - Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also, which shall believe in me through their word. That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I am thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one. I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as thou hast last loved me. No language could more fully express the importance of Christian Union. After the descent of the Holy Spirit, there was a perfect union among the disciples. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul. Apostles having received the baptism of the spirit earnestly inculcate Christian Union; endeavoring, says Paul, to keep the unity of the Spirit.
The reason assigned for this endeavor, is the necessary unities which God established. There should be but one heart, because there is but one body; one spirit to animate the body; one hope, one Lord, even Christ, one Faith, one Babtism [sic], one God, even the Father. The same duty is inculcated throughout the epistles. The importance of Christian Union appears also from the work assigned them, viz: the Evangelization of the world. This work must be done, instrumentally, by Christians, or it will never be done. God promised Cannan to Abraham and his seed for a possession, but Israel must conquer the land. God has promised the world to his Son. Ask of me and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession. Psalm 2, 8. But the spiritual Israel must conquer it.
Christ's command to the disciples is, Go, teach all nations, baptising them, &c. Matthew 28, 19. The earth is estimated to contain twelve hundred millions of inhabitants. To suppose that one hundred millions are united to God in heart, is a liberal estimate. Looking at the forces simply; the odds against the Christian is fearful. The enemies of Christ are perfectly joined together in one band, under one leader, moving in one unbroken column. Christians have a Captain, whose last prayer was that they might be one in him and the Father. Why, we ask, did Christ deem union so important? We answer, for its moral effect. That the world may believe that thou hast sent me. That the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them as thou hast loved me. The union of Christians is, to the world, the strongest proof of the divine origin of Christianity. How sad to see enemies of Christ one, in their leader, while his friends are rent asunder. How sad to see the former attentive to all the commands of their leader, while the latter make the word of Christ of no effect by their traditions. But the prayer of Christ must yet be answered. When standing at the grave of Lazarus, Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I know that tbou hearest me always. John, 11, 41, &c. But
important as Christain union is, it can exist only upon the true and pure word.
II. We inquire - What is the true basis of the Christian Union? We answer, Truth for the truth's sake. What do we mean by truth? The same that Christ meant, when he prayed to his Father, sanctify them through thy truth. Thy word is truth. We mean God's holy word. Other bases have been tried and failed. Look at the American Bible Society, whose professed object was to give God's pure word to the world, without note or comment. In the development of this plan, it was necessary to translate the word of God into heathen language. But as soon as the faithful translation was made, it was rejected by that society. And why? It was unconstitutional. What was unconstitutional? To translate the word of God faithfully. Then it was ascertained that the constitution of the American Bible Society embosomed a virtual falsehood. It was not the word as spoken by the Holy Spirit, but the word as spoken by King James. Multitudes shrunk from a bond of union so dishonoring to God and treacherous to man. Its basis was not truth. The American Tract Society was instituted as a sovereign remedy for all the evils of disunion. Was it the leading article of union, that no book, tract, or document, should be published which contradicted in the least, either directly or by implication, God's pure and holy truth? Not a word of it. God's word seems to have been ignored. No book, tract, or document was to bear the impress of that society which impugned in the least, the creeds of the so styled evangelical denominations, seven-eights which least exhale the perfume of the mother of hearts [harlots? - jrd]. Truth was not its basis, and its dismembered fragments are smothered. The American Sunday School Union is running a similar race and nearing the same end. Young Men's Christian Unions and union meetings of every description must meet a like fate. They have respect to the opinions of men, not the word of God. They are not based upon truth for the sake of the truth. The first step in Christian union, is a union of heart to Christ, as supreme. "They first gave themselves to the Lord." Without this surrender of heart to God, there can be no Christian Union. The next step is to give themselves to one another according to the will of God - his revealed will. In other words, to receive God's word as the sole guide in faith and practice. Such a course embraces both requirements of the law of love; love to God and love to man, and prepares the way for union in truth for the sake of the truth. Any person not willingly ignorant, can see, that Christian Union is an impossibility between those who entertain opposing views of the fundamental truths of the Gospel, or the divinely established ordinances of the church. As well may truth form a union with falsehood, or light with darkness. We may have a seeming union and let every man hold what sentiments he pleases, provided he entertains them as private opinions and does not propagate them. What kind of a union would that be? A union based upon ignorance - the grandest scheme of hypocrisy ever palmed upon a hoodwinked world. Can I hold a truth, which I deem vital to the salvation of my brother, as a private opinion? Impossible. Can I feel any union of spirit with one who spurns a truth, dearer to me than life? Impossible. I repeat it, Christian Union must be based upon truth for the truth's sake, and that truth is God's word. Professed Christians are not united. Is there any inherent difficulty in God's word, why souls - born of the spirit, should not be united in all its fundamental truths, as the heart of one union? If there is, man cannot understand
it, and is not guilty. If evils arise the blame reverts to the author of the word. But to assume that man cannot understand the necessary truths of God's word, is to say: "God has indeed given us what he calls a revelation, but it is so obscure we know not what he means." Such a sentiment is profane. It charges God with insincerity. But if man can understand the necessary truths of God's word, then he is responsible for all the evils of disunion. If men can see eye to eye, why is there so much disunion? For this evil there are various causes. The most potent is, I apprehend, the inbred power of corruption, which prevails more or less, in the heart of every good man. "There is not a just man upon earth that liveth and sinneth not." There is an aversion in man to see himself just as he is, in all his relations to God and the requirements of a holy law. Hence them is a tendency to abate somewhat from the whole truth in relation to man's native depravity. A slight deviation from the truth in this point, gives a coloring to all connected truths, and produces various shades of belief in fundamental truths, and thus completely destroys Christian Union.
Another cause is the force of education. A fond parent, father or mother, now in the grave, taught me this or that doctrine, a truth essential to salvation. They believed it, loved it, lived and died by it. It cannot be wrong. How often do we hear such reasoning? Here is no reference to God's word. Another cause is the influence of creeds. Not that we object to creeds. No man is without a creed. The athiest has his creed, embraced in two short words, "No God." To say a man has no creed is a polite way to call him a fool. The evil arises from putting the creed, whatever name called, in the place of God's word, instead of seeking by earnest prayer and diligent study to conform the creed to God's word. The previous sentiment, that if a man is sincere, it matters little what his views of truth are, is another cause. Other reasons might be assigned, but these must suffice. It is plain that there can exist no Christian union except in name till Christians can meet eye to eye upon the great and virtual truths of God's holy word. So also in relation to the ordinances of the church, there can be no Christian Union nor the name, without an agreement in view, upon the basis of truth. All concede that Christ established two ordinances in his visible kingdom; baptism and the supper; the first of these is initiatory, as all agree, giving a right to a participation in the second. Without the first, as all agree, no one is entitled to the second. So far there is union. Union is the key note. But there is a wide diversity, as to what is essential to the action of the initiatory ordinance. Till this diversity of views is removed, it is idle to ask for Christian Union. The action of baptism we shall not discuss. It is enough that there is a disagreement. All the Protestant sects contend that either sprinkling or pouring, is valid action in baptism. These rites they practice in good conscience.
Of this we do not complain. They are not accountable to us, but to the head of the church. We believe that the immersion of the whole body in water, is essential to valid baptism. For this belief we adduce the example of Christ - the word used by him to express the action of baptism - the uniform practice of the church for 1300 years - the unanimious consent of all competent judges; and the present practice of all the churches, except the Catholic church, and the Protestant sects, which sprung out of her bosom. We feel bound to heed such authority for two reasons: 1st. reverence for Christ, as the source of authority; 2nd. love for Christ, as the Savior. So dear to Baptists has been the example and command of
Christ, that they have consented, for centuries, to bear reproach and persecution, and often have parted with life, rather than deny him. The love of Christ has and does constrain them, and Christian Union with those who deny this truth, is a moral impossibility. How are these conscientious views of Baptists met? Never by an appeal to the law of the ordinance. But some times by persecution, as of late in Germany - some times by supported assertion - some times by ridicule - some times by objections, for instance, "The action is indifferent." But we have not learned from the word of God, that Christ appointed any ordinance that was indifferent. "It is only an external rite." Why not take a little different position, and say it is only a command of Christ? It would not be a whit more impious. "You cause division in the household of faith, by this firm adherence to what you conscientiously believe to be a command of Christ, the supreme head and law-giver." "Now we ask you to yield this point, for the sake of Christian Union."
The request is a modest one; but the price is rather too high. If this is the force of Christian Union, then farewell, an eternal farewell, to Christian Union. Judas sold Christ for 30 pieces of silver, substantial coin; but we are asked to sell both Christ and conscience for a shadow. Why say, it is a shadow? Those who have, identically, the same articles of faith, both as to doctrines and ordinance, and who, twenty-five years since, sat and acted in perfect harmony, can now say of their former brethren, "God forbid that I shall stain my conscience by communion with them." We do not mention these things as matters of triumph, but when we hear such things, can we believe there is any sincerity in the cry for union, which is now rallying over the land? What Calvin, Luther, Wesley, Clark, McKnight, Morshiom, Neander, Coleman, Chalmers, &c., &c., freely confessed, men who have not had the study of one short year, now stoutly deny. Such things are indicative of any thing but Christian Union. This is not the age of union. Very much work remains to be accomplished. The prayer of Christ will be answered. Union, we believe, will be accomplished; but not till all sects shall cast their traditions to the moles and bats, and seat themselves at the feet of Jesus, as their sole king. Not till all Christians shall know and feel, that truth, pure truth, God's truth, for the sake of the truth is the only basis of real, heart-felt, whole-souled Christian Union.
[Northbend Baptist Association Minutes, 1860, pp. 8-12. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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