Kettering, 25 February, 1804.
My Dear Brethren, - I had heard with concern of the dismission of Brother Begg, and of another separation of members with him; but knew not the cause. I do not know how it is, but there is something about the Baptists in your country that seems to tend to divide and scatter on almost every difference that occurs. Thereby their enemies are furnished with reproach; and even good people of other denominations are prejudiced against their baptism. It is remarkable that in all the primitive churches, though we read of many disorders, and some great errors, yet there is no account that I recollect of a single separation, unless it were of individuals for some pernicious doctrine, or wicked practice. I mean no reflection on any of you who are left, nor, indeed, on any in particular; but on the general practice (for such it is become) of dividing on almost every difference. In order to enjoy and walk in Christian fellowship, it is not enough to be united as Baptists, nor yet in the mere theory of Christian doctrines: you must love each other for Christ's sake; and bear and forbear in innumerable instances, without thinking of parting any more than man and wife. I have been now nearly twenty-two years pastor of the church at Kettering, and though we have excluded many for misconduct, there has not been a single separation on account of such things as divide you. No member with us thinks of separating. If one or more think different in a case of discipline, or the like, from the majority of the church, they are heard
patiently and candidly, and frequently by conversing we come to be of one mind; but if not, the lesser number submits to the greater, and they agree to forbear with each other. Thus we think we fulfil the divine direction of "submitting one to another in the fear of God." If every one will have his own will and way, there is an end to Christian fellowship. Bear with me, my dear brethren, while I thus write: all is from love to you. With respect to your question about administering the Lord's Supper as disciples of Jesus, I should not be able, I own, to prove it sinful. But as the administration of it by an elder is the general practice, and cannot be wrong, that is to be preferred. To do otherwise would not only draw upon you many reflections from other Christians; but might tend to divide you among yourselves. If, therefore, there be a person whom the church thinks suitable, though, perhaps, not "eminently" so, I should say, let him be your elder. And with respect to his ordination: if there were any minister connected with you within reach, it would be lovely and proper to invite him on the occasion; but if not I do not think a church should omit it on that account. Every church, I conceive, is competent to appoint and ordain its own officers. Have a meeting of fasting and prayer. And if you had presbyters or elders, he should be ordained by the laying on of their hands; but as you have not.let the members of the church lay hands on him, while one of their most aged brethren prays over and lays his hands upon him. In some such manner I suppose a Mr. Barclay, of Kilwinning (the person, perhaps, to whom you allude), has lately been ordained over twelve members. I would add, however, that if I were the elder so ordained amongst you, conscious to myself that I was not "eminently" suited to the office, and fearing lest I should be at any future time a hindrance to the Gospel, I would say to the church to this effect: "I am not insensible, my brethren, of the good opinion which your choice of me implies; and I am willing, so long as no one more suitable can be found, to do you all the good I can; but as I do not consider myself as eminently qualified for preaching the Gospel, should you hereafter be able to find another to whom God has given greater gifts, only treat me in a respectful and brotherly manner on the occasion, and I trust I shall cheerfully give place to him, for the sake of promoting the cause of Christ and your good."
In such a case, an elder, who should have conducted himself worthily, need not be deposed from his office, but a colleague admitted. Such an elder, if the Lord bless him, may grow in gifts, and there may be no occasion for what I have mentioned; but yet, were I in his place, I would make such a proposal. His humility, if it be genuine, will not sink, but raise him in the esteem of his brethren. I shall think of Mr. McVicars, and if I can do him any good, I will. My health is comfortably restored. I lately saw a member of the church at Liverpool, where Mr. Lister preaches, and inquired into the measures which they took to obtain him. He said that their late minister, who died with them, and who was acquainted with Mr. Lister (his name, I think, was Aikman) strongly recommended Mr. L____ to be his successor; that they wrote Mr. L____ , I think he said, before he was chosen your pastor; that he then declined; that they never applied to him after, nor he to them, till your connection was dissolved, when he informed them he should comply with their former request, so far as to pay them a visit. This, so near as I can remember, was his statement. He assured me that they had acted in that business with the strictest honour.
With a tender concern for your best interests, I am, my dear brethren,
Affectionately yours, A. Fuller ________
Mr. James Deakin, Glasgow. P.S. - I would not have a public ordination, but merely a meeting of the church; though if a few individuals who love you were admitted as spectators, it would do no harm.
[From W. G. Lewis, editor, The Baptist Magazine, July, 1867, pp. 451-452. Document from Google Books. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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