Whoever writes our history, will have work enough to prevent his being idle, if he searches for documents, and records, as authority for his narrative - or ample field for his imagination, if like some popular historians of modern times, he prefers making out of his own brains, almost the whole story, characters, incidents, speeches, and all.
It is time there were some efforts made to gather and preserve our denominational history in the United States. Its early struggles, no less than its late and rapid progress, demand a permanent, accessible, and authentic record.
A number of pamphlets and even of volumes have been written - but most of these were local in design, hasty and unpolished in composition, diffuse in style, limited in circulation, and now extremely rare. Their value, however, for the future historian makes it important that
thatthey should be gathered and preserved.
The only work proposing to take a general survey of American Baptist history is Benedict's - a volume of great value, but that is so full of inaccuracies it may be almost questioned whether the original information, which its laborious and excellent author has gathered, compensates for the incorrect information with which we are often furnished. Still, we cannot do without it.
The periodical literature of our people affords much that is important in the actual record of both, as well as in illustrating the character of each successive generation. The Baptist Missionary Magazine is in this view invaluable, - the Christian Review, beyond price. The old Columbian Star twinkles cheerily through the darkness. The Analytical Repository, the Latter Day Luminary, the Evangelical Enquirer, afford many a choice morsel to the lover of antiquities. The fourteen volumes already issued of the American Baptist Memorial contain many interesting relics; whether the forthcoming volumes will be equally valuable, remains to be decided. The Baptist Preacher, the Mothers' Magazine, the Christian Repository, and the Nashville Southern Baptist Review will not only afford to their readers present profit, but will preserve, for the Baptists of the future, specimens of the sermons, essays, and fugitive writings of many of our leading authors.
The newspapers of the different States would give, after all, the most interesting and important information, if filed and preserved. But the few careful people that keep the papers are fast passing away; and the "old rubbish," as it is esteemed, is tossed into the fire by their successors, or made into kites by the juveniles, or else reverently and carefully thrown into some damp corner or rat infested garret, where the precious records perish under the tooth of time, or the less romantic gnawings of those literary quadrupeds, the Rodentia.
Thus cotemporaneous records, of the utmost value, are every day perishing, and will continue to do so, till the loss is irrecoverable - unless there is some permanent
and easily accessible place of deposit; or rather, unless there are a number of such; and, also, unless inducements are used to obtain, and measures taken to preserve, documents of this sort.
We have seen, therefore, with no small gratification, the steps which have been taken on this subject in both sections of our Confederacy.
The North has been foremost, and most active. The Backus Historical Society has entered upon the work, but we are not able to give any statement of its recent doings. The American Baptist Publication Society, at Philadelphia, has organized a Historical Department, and seems to have taken hold, in good earnest, of the business of giving us a good history of the Baptists. Some time ago it was resolved to raise a fund of $5,000 for this purpose. This has now been secured, and Rev. J. Newton Brown, the Editorial Secretary, is to be relieved from other duties, that he may enter exclusively upon this. We shall look, with high expectations, for the result of his labors. His previous researches and publications have not only contributed to qualify him for the work, but have given good tokens that it will be well performed.
The first movement at the South, of a general character, on this subject, occurred at the last meeting of the Southern Baptist Publication Society. Resolutions were adopted for establishing a Library at Charleston, S. C. in connection with that Society, for the purpose of gathering and preserving all sorts of books and documents which illustrate the history of our denomination. The resolutions were sustained in an address, by Rev. H. H. Tucker, which we esteem so worthy of preservation and perusal, that we adopt it, as presenting the views we would desire further to urge on the subject:
"The movement now set on foot," said Mr. Tucker, "has received, in advance, tha sanction of a general public opinion. The want of such measures as are now proposed, has long been felt, by all the intelligent members of our denomination. That desire, long felt but not expressed, silently yet potently worked upon the feelings of those who entertained it. When recently it was, for the first time at the South, publicly expressed by our brother, Joseph S. Baker, of Georgia, his call was instantly caught up, and echoed and re-echoed until the land was filled with its reverberations. It is in answer to this many-tongued call that I stand before you."
"The resolution affirms that the claims of the past demand such measures as are now proposed. Countless deeds of moral heroism have been achieved by Baptists, - glorious deeds which are now within the reach of history, but which in another generation, if they are not rescued from oblivion now, will be beyond the memory and beyond the reach of man. It is due to those who have gone before us, that we should preserve the memory of their illustrious deeds. Their noblest monument is in their history. If we honor the ashes of our ancestors by rearing stones over the spot where they lie, shall we not honor the nobler part of their nature, by a monument correspondingly noble - the printed page - more durable and more worthy than marble or brass. O sir! he must be a cold hearted man who would rise in this assembly and say that it is out of place to talk about the dead, and a consumption of time that ought to be devoted to other purposes. Sir, I will talk about the dead, - about the noble army of martyrs, - about the heroic men who enriched the soil of England with their blood, who in New England fled even to the protection of savages from before the scorpion whips of their persecutors, who in our own Southern land saw their property confiscated, and who lingered in dungeons, - for no other crime than that of being what we are - BAPTISTS.
"A very small part, comparatively, of
our history is within reach, but what we can rescue from oblivion, it is our duly to rescue. The Baptists have a history. Some one, not of us, has been kind enough to say "the Baptists have a future." Aye, and we feelingly know that the Baptists have a past. For ages back we have a glorious history, but alas! for the most part it is unwritten. Unwritten did I say? Nay it is written in blood. Not a spot in all Europe that is not stained with the crimson record. Unwritten! Nay! it is written in heaven. The blood of thousands and myriads of slaughtered Baptists has cried from the ground; the cry has found its way to the ear of the Lord God of Sabbaoth; the polyglott cry from many nations has been reduced to one language, the language of Heaven, and recorded on its archives. But those heavenly archives are inaccessible to us now, and those blood-stained records are long since washed away. The negligence or inadvertence, or it may be in some cases the emergency of those who have gone before, has precluded us from the incalculable benefit, which would accrue, from the possession of the records of the past. Oh! what would we give for the history of the "woman" all the time she was "in the wilderness!" Of what priceless value to us, would be the history of our spiritual ancestors for eighteen hundred years! Suppose that by a pecuniary contribution, we could secure the ecclesiastical history entire, of the last 600 years, or what would be more valuable, the history of the first 500 years of the Christian Era. What a stupendous contribution could be raised in a fortnight! How gladly would I give my last dollar - though my earthly all is but a mite, - how joyfully would I strip myself of the last iota of my worldly possessions, if by so doing I could secure to the Baptists and to the world, the history of 500 years.
"I said the past demands from us a record of its deeds. It does. This demand is not on our posterity, but on us. The past, where is it? We are nearer to it, than any who come after us can be. Consequently there is much that we can reach, that they cannot. So now is the time, and we are the people to whom the voice of the past, like the rushing of many waters, calls out as the angel did to John on Patmos, "Write!"
"It is not merely for the sake of honoring the illustrious dead, that the records of the past should be collected and preserved, - much less for the sake of gratifying a mere curiosity at present. No! we propose nobler ends than these. It is not that we would honor men, but that we would promote the cause of truth. Our object is practical, utilitarian, and demanded by the wants of the age. Facts are the weapons with which Baptists fight. We would establish an armory for the collection and preservation of these potent weapons. Facts, facts, facts! let us have a great arsenal where we can repair in time of need, to borrow their tremendous thunders and their death-dealing lightnings. Oh, if we only had all the facts of the last 500 years, of what use they would be to us in our denominational conflicts. How many an argument this kind of artillery would silence. How many a gun, now doing fearful execution against us, the Genius of history would spike!
"Mr. President, I sometimes wish that I had the power of the painter. I covet the gifts of the artist. If I had them I would delineate on the canvas the representation of a man, chained - to a stake, and of another man piling faggots around him, and kindling the fire! The man at the stake is charged with no crime but that of being a Baptist; and the man kindling the fire is one of those who cry out "bigotry! bigotry!" whenever the name of Baptist is mentioned - that honored name, first applied to the forerunner of the Son of God. Under this picture, I would write the words, "Who is the bigot?" I would then paint another picture, of a man looking through
the grated window of his dungeon cell", and another on the outside, locking him in. Sir, the man on the inside is what you and I are; and the turnkey; - oh he is one of those who piously exclaim against 'bigotry." To complete my picture, I think I would make the features of him within the window somewhat familiar. I would copy from the frontispiece of an old book familiar to us all. I would give a lofty and capacious brow, an expression majestic yet benignant, a bearing noble yet meek, the commingled qualities of the eagle and the dove; I would paint a likeness that any one would recognize, of the author of Pilgrim's Progress; And the turnkey? I would make him a sleek looking gentleman, well fed and rotund, yet the embodiment of sanctimonious dignity, - duly wigged - and arrayed in surplice and gown, - a ring on his finger, - and in his hand, a book half hid in snowy cambric, containing what is kept[?], ore rotundo, "OUR INCOMPARABLE LITURGY."
"On his face should smirk an expression of self righteous complacency sublimely mingled with the devout and demure. And oh! that nobler face within the window, seen only between its iron bars, - with another touch of my pencil I would fling on it an expression like that which we may suppose our Saviour wore when he said "Father forgive them!" Under this picture, too, I would write, "Who is the bigot?"
"I would add to my collection, a third picture, representing a street in the city of Boston, and in its midst a stake and a man with shoulders bare, chained to it, while another stands by with brawny arm, and applies the lash! The tortured victim is Obadiah Holmes - a Baptist; and he whose piety exhibits itself in the use of the scourge, perhaps some of his friends are present, - I will spare them the mention of his ecclesiastical relations. Under this picture I would write, "Who is the bigot?"
"Sir, history presents us with thousands of such pictures as these. I claim no credit for originality of the conception; it is furnished to my hand by the facts of the past. Let us keep these pictures before the people, and they will do much to silence those slanders, which ignorance and prejudice have circulated against us. They may lead some to see, that charges of illiberality against us, come with an ill grace from some, at least, of those who make them. Now that we are strong and powerful, they say to us so lovingly, "oh! brother, why will you not commune with us!" Let them but be introduced to the picture gallery, and they will be reminded, that only a few years ago, their language to us was, "Walk into the fire, sir." And it might be added that almost wherever they have the power, they exhibit more or less of the same spirit to the present day. The condition of many of our Baptist brethren in Europe at this very hour, is not a mere matter of paint and canvas. Would to God it were!
"Perhaps such representations as I have referred to, might lead some to enquire what are the crimes for which we have been so constantly punished. On enquiry it will be found that they are these: 1st. The belief that baptism is the first duty of a believer on Jesus; 2nd. That the Lord's Supper should be received only by those who have thus been baptized; 3rd. that the Greek word BAPTIZO means only to immerse; and 4th, That all men have right to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences unmolested. Our constant adherence to these things constitutes the only charge, so far as I know, or ever have heard, or read, for which we are justly held responsible. Oh! let the facts of the past be known, and our last battle will soon be fought, and that peace for which we sigh, will be soon attained.
"I have said that the past and the present, demand of us the establishment of some great garner house, where the treasures of history may be gathered together and preserved. But the loudest call is from the future. There will never be
a moment, from now till the end of time, when the facts of history will not be needed; and never a time as already said, when they will be more easily obtained than now. Truth is always useful. Aside from that which is revealed there is no truth more valuable than historical truth. Indeed the Scriptures themselves consist, to a very great extent, of this very kind of truth. What is the Pentateuch but a history? What are the books of Joshua, Judges and Ruth, Samuel, Kings and Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther? All history! And what are the books of Matthew and Mark and Luke and John, and above all the book of Acts? History. Our own reason and experience teach us the value of history; but even if they did not, God teaches us its value, in the fact that He has made the greater part of his Book to consist of it.
"As already said, there are certain facts in the past, which we can reach and which posterity cannot. Our very position then, is evidence that we are called in the Providence of God, to reach back after those facts, and hand them down to the generation following. If we fail to do it, we are defrauding posterity, - cheating our unborn sons of a just inheritance. Not only so, but we are depriving the cause of truth and righteousness, of all the aid which it might receive from such a source.
"Besides this, facts are transpiring around us every day, which we think are of little moment, and which are so accessible to us, that we suppose them equally so to others. We forget that these things are ephemeral, and that without effort to preserve them, all trace of them will in a few years be swept away. These things may be of little use to us, but who can tell of what use they may be to those who will occupy our places, a dozen, or twenty, or fifty, or a hundred generations hence. In the physical world, the apparent size of an object, diminishes in proportion to its remoteness from the eye of the beholder.
Sir, in history the reverse is the case. - How many events transpired immediately after the Apostolic age, which to those who witnessed them, appeared unimportant and minute, but as those events receded into the past, their importance and magnitude increased, until now at the distance of seventeen centuries they have become the great objects, on which our learning and researches are expended. Uncounted gold would now be given, for what might have been transmitted to us by the moving of a finger. Sir, we are not competent to say that similar events are not transpiring now. A thousand years hence, the transactions of this generation and of this day and hour, will be dug up by posterity - exhumed from the mouldy remains of the past, and made use of. I would build a catacomb, a pyramid where they may be preserved, and where posterity may find ready access to them. I would embalm them. Thousands of years hence, (for we have never yet been told by competent authority that the world is not in its infancy,) they may come forth, not like useless mummies, but like living warriors, to do battle for the Lord. I see in the distance, the conflicts which our posterity will have. It is in my heart to rush to the rescue, and I thank God that it is in our power to do it. I rejoice that we can not only wage war against error now, but that by means of history we can in one way or other fight the same battles after our bones have gone to dust, even to the end of time. History is an elixir which makes God's soldiers immortal.
"Mr. President, imagine yourself the historian of future times, who after a lapse of a score of centuries, shall attempt to write the history of the present age. Imagine him to be present with you, and to stand before you as I do. Oh! how eloquently he would plead for your aid. What tremendous efforts he would make, to wring from you the needed assistance. Weeping tears of
blood, how would he point to the thousands of new and varied forms of error, which in the progress of the race will be developed, and which will have no antidote, but in the facts of the past. I am the representative of, and I plead for that future historian. I plead for coming generations. I plead for the cause of truth. I plead for millions of unborn Baptists. I plead for the future of the world.
"This world naturally produces lies. They spring up by myriads, like mushrooms, in a night, but alas! they are not like mushrooms, easy to crush. Nothing will destroy them but truth, and truth is not always easily found. A thousand years hence the whole surface of this world will be covered as it is now with lies. Let us do a better part for posterity, than our ancestors have done for us. Let us adopt some judicious plan, for the collection and preservation of the records of past and transpiring events, and they will accumulate and accumulate, until they form a vast avalanche of facts, which in due time will roll on till the judgment day, overwhelming and crushing all the lies that may spring up in its pathway. Sir, if what I have done shall prove to be like the falling of the first flake to form this avalanche, or like the last to set it in motion, or like any one of the flakes that form its mass, I shall feel that I have not lived in vain."
Progress of the Baptists
The spread and present prevalence of Baptist sentiments in the United States is sufficiently obvious and striking. If it was said, that it is owing to the intrinsic truthfulness of our views, no Baptist, of course, would deny the proposition; but it must be still admitted, that this alone is not a satisfactory solution, because in former times, and in other countries now, and in some parts of our own country, similar results have not followed the declaration of the same identical principles, nor has their success been at all regularly proportional to the degree of purity with which these views have been proclaimed, as would be the case were their mere truthfulness the principal and efficient cause of their spread. For a doctrine to be true, and to deserve acceptance, is not always enough to gain success in this world.
If it were added that our success has been owing to the blessing of God upon the agencies employed, and to His power giving efficiency to His own truth, this also is what we all acknowledge with grateful humility to God. But this itself presupposes that there were agencies employed which God blessed; that in accordance with the established principles of His government. He has, in this case as well as in others, worked, not without means, but with, by, and upon means, employing them, and us in the use of them, to accomplish His grand designs.
We are to expect God's blessing, not when neglecting to use any means, nor when employing the least onerous that chance to occur to us, nor when, with rush though mistaken zeal, neglecting to inquire for the most suitable and probable means of attaining the object; but when using energetically, in humble reliance on Him, those agencies which seem best calculated to accomplish the result. And the duty to use means at all is no less apparent, or binding, or important, than the obligation to search for, and employ the most efficient within our reach.
It is likely that those means which have been, will continue still to be efficacious - since human nature changes not, and the Divine blessing may be still expected.
In the history of the Baptist churches in the United States, we observe a very rapid increase of their numbers. Without going into any minute detail, for which we have not now time, it is sufficient to remark that, since 1818, the increase has been more than five fold. And their elevation in position, general influence, and capacity for future expansion,
have fully kept pace with the advance in numbers.
To what instrumentalties have these changes been owing?
Not in any large degree to Immigration. The increase of the population of the U[nited]. States, from this source, has gone mainly to other bodies of professing Christians. The great mass of immigrants have belonged to the Roman Catholics, a portion to the Episcopalians, a portion to the Lutheran and German Reformed Churches, and a portion, viz. the Scotch and French Protestants, to the Presbyterians. The Baptists, who have immigrated to this country, while including some of our most efficient and valued brethren, have been comparatively few in number. No State was settled by them, nor any considerable section of a State. It must be borne in mind, in this connection, that, while the greatest increase of the population of the States by immigration has been at the North, the largest accessions to the number of the Baptists have been at the South,
It is not attributable mainly to denominational tracts and books, though these have been of no small value. The Baptist General Tract Society, the predecessor of the American Baptist Publication Society, did a noble work, and merits honorable remembrance. And several individual booksellers and publishing firms deserve high credit - especially the old firm of Lincoln & Edmonds, with their successors, Gould and Lincoln. But Baptist books seem to have been the consequence rather than the cause of the spread of Baptist sentiments. The people became Baptists from reading and hearing the word of God, and then books were written and read by them suited to maintain the views thus arrived at. Denominational newspapers come under the same general head: yet, while these, when well conducted, add almost immeasurably to the influence, and elevate the standing of any body of people, they evidently do not go before Baptist population and create it, but follow after it, and are both originated and nurtured by it.
Neither have single learned and eminent men been the principal agents in our increase - either as preachers, writers, or men of political or moneyed influence. While we have not been without our share of these, and while the sanctified use of these various talents has been often and very abundantly biased, it would be preposterous to ascribe our growth to that source. Other denominations have had eminent men - some of them in much greater proportion to their size than we - some of them even in a greater absolute number - how is it that they have not advanced with similar, or even greater rapidity.
Neither do organized Home Missions, sustained by any Central Board, deserve the credit of these vast results. Their means have ever been far too limited to enable them to effect such a mighty revolution. The seed they have sown have indeed sprung up in good ground, and yielded some thirty, some sixty, and some a thousand fold; but they have not been the principal agents. The increase has been more in some of those States where these Central Boards have scarcely operated, than in those to which their efforts have been principally directed.
We are reduced then, at last, to the conclusion, that the real ultimate power, the lever by which God moved these masses, is to be discovered in the silent, unperceived, and unrecorded action of thousands of unimportant individuals; in the sacrifices and zeal of a large number of comparatively unknown ministers and private members; in the faithful preaching of Christ by the one, and the faithful practice of Christianity by the other.
The modern Apostles who, under the blessing of God, have been instrumental in gathering this great army of soldiers for Christ, have been, for the most part, like their prototypes, poor men; generally slenderly educated, meagerly furnished with funds of their own, and very
scantily supplied by the liberality of others. The old-field, backwoods, country preachers, however some may be disposed to sneer at them, and turn away with exclusive admiration to the refinements of other times and circumstances, these were the fathers of our churches, these have done more to advance the cause of truth, and the cause of holiness and uprightness in the land, to rear up a generation of honest, industrious, godly men and women, than numbers of men with more shining qualities, and sustained by the most generous expenditure.
Not the rich, so much as the poor, not the eminent, but the unknown, not the talented few, but the simple, earnest, working many, have done the deed; and God hath chosen the foolish things, and the weak things of the world; yea, and things which are so insignificant in our eyes, that they seem as though they were not, hath God chosen, so that they have been powerful in pulling down the strongholds of Satan, and exalting the blood-stained banner of the cross, and giving us the heritage we enjoy of a land filled with Bibles, smiling with Sabbaths of rest, and crowned with harvests of plenty.
By such means, has grown to its present size and importance a body of churches, destitute of almost every element of success which seemed promising to human eyes: without Bishops to plan its campaign and direct its operations; without an itinerant clergy to concentrate its powers and bring into harmony of thought and effort its various parts; without even a representative head or central authority to control it, or a general assembly, which should bring its scattered members into acquaintance with each other, and systematic co-operation; without the aid of the wealth which the world calls mighty, or the social influence which the world considers potent, or the superior learning which the world reckons influential; a church with no head but Christ, no creed or liturgy but the Bible, no principle of union but love to Christ and to the truth, depending on no human assistance, and receiving no support but the voluntary efforts and contributions of its thousands of hearts.
With the conclusions, reached by observation of our past history, concur the teachings of the word of God.
That word points us to the preaching of Christ crucified, as the first and grand instrumentality. "It pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe." "How shall they call upon him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?" When the Jews required a sign, the apostle wrought no miracle, though he had the power to do so. When the Greeks sought after wisdom, he did not display, to meet their wishes, the varied learning with which his mind was stored. But he preached; not wrote, but preached. The proclamation of the facts of the gospel, by the living voice, is God's appointed and peculiar ordinance, by which he designs to save men. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word (or appointment) of God."
But the proclamation of the truth is not all. There must be proof. The message proclaimed must be confirmed and attested. This is done in various ways; but perhaps none is more important than that attestation furnished by the experience, and in the lives of those who preach, and of those who have received the word.
The disciples were appealed to as witnesses for the truth of the gospel in the early ages. They are summoned as witnesses now. By communicating what they have personally known and felt of the word of life, by attesting its excellent influence on themselves in the only indubitable and effective way, i.e. by holy lives, they are to confirm the faith of men in this doctrine as being the power of God.
Christ prays that all believers may be
one with the Father, and with himself, that his subsequent disciples might participate in the experience of the early Christians, and be assimilated to his own image; and the result of this blessed oneness with himself would be "that the world may believe that thou hast sent me."
Another important consideration, obvious yet overlooked, is, that as to the persons to be addressed, the Scriptural commission, and the Bible example leave us no right to select classes whom we may approach, with the gospel, and to neglect others as either too high to need, or too low to be reached by the gospel. It is meant for all, or if for any class particularly, for the poor. "To the poor the gospel, is preached."
By means of the masses God operates, he influences them, moulds, animates and then uses them. Let us learn to work the work of Him that sent us, in His way. Let us study this divinely taught principle of efficiency. - Let us seek to reach and rouse the masses, and employ those measures which operate upon, and which may be operated by them.
The difference between the methods we now refer to, such as God uses and sanctions by his blessing, and those which men devise and put into execution, may be compared to the difference between a genial and plentiful shower from the skies, and the watering pots with which human industry strives to supply the deficiency. The one exerts, with the greatest ease and quietness, an immense influence widely diffused; the other, by great labor, accomplishes the result not so well, and in a very limited and scanty degree.
A similar difference is found universally between God's ways and men's ways of accomplishing results.
Some years ago the planters of the South thought that the cotton crop was too large; they argued that the supply more than equalled the demand, and that, in order to obtain a remunerating price, less cotton must be raised. A convention was held. Resolutions were passed, urging those who were not present and pledging those who were, to plant only a given number of acres to the land. They went about, and made speeches, and wrote articles, and published them; and succeeded admirably in convincing everybody that it would be a fine thing for his neighbor to plant less cotton, while he, planting a little more even than before, should reap the benefit of the advanced price which was anticipated. The result was, that, the resolutions to the contrary notwithstanding, the crop was larger than ever.
In due time however, the object was accomplished, - but in quite another way. God sent a little fly, with bright yellow wings, that bustled and flitted about among the plants, and seemed very cheerful, and pretty, and insignificant; and, in due time, the eggs it had laid became worms, and they rose in an exceeding great army, and began to devour the green off-shoots, and tender bolls, leaving only the naked stem to wither and die. In three days after their entrance, a field of five hundred acres would sometimes be stripped perfectly bare; and even those plantations, which escaped most favorably, produced but the third or fourth part of an ordinary crop. The planters resisted as well as they could. They first mocked, and affected to despise their contemptible assailants; then they grew angry, and burnt them with fire, and drowned them with water, and beat them with sticks, and dug ditches, and threw up embankments to keep them out. And when all was done - and all to no purpose - they stood in dismay to see their crops shortened indeed, against their will and efforts, by a despicable worm, the child of a petty butterfly.
Or take another example. Look at Liberia, and then at California. Man desires to colonize a far off country. And he forms societies, and by addresses and tracts, by appeals and subscriptions, he raises men and money, and sends out a
few individuals, who toil with faint and weary hearts; and the enterprise, even with manifest and numerous advantages, lingers, and struggles, and barely lives for many years. But God designs to colonize rapidly a distant shore. A few Indians, and a Mormon or two, with some occasional adventurers, are sent roaming along the interior. They dig in the ground, they curiously examine the river sands, and there in the very soil where years ago men dwelt all athirst for this same discovery, who strangely failed to make it, they find particles of a yellow, heavy subtance. It is gold. And, to their astonished eyes are revealed wonders like those of a fairy tale. The rivers sparkle with golden sands, the mountains seem vast treasuries, scarcely locked, of the precious metal. The wonder spreads. The world is moved. In less than two years a population of a hundred thousand swarm thither, despite all the disadvantages, the distance, sickness, and other difficulties, sailing half around the globe, or traversing on foot trackless deserts and waterless wastes to reach El Dorado.
We shall scarcely be suspected of a desire to undervalue the efforts of Missionary Boards, the circulation of books and publications, the improvement of the ministry, or the education of the young in sound learning and piety. The argument for these is a simple and conclusive one, and it might be shown, were it necessary, that it is greatly strengthened rather than weakened by a proper view of the considerations which have been suggested.
If God has no need of human learning, he has still less need of human ignorance. If he has blessed such partial and inadequate culture of the ground, let us thence derive encouragement, not to indolence, but to redoubled diligence. If he has wrought by agencies so scattered, unorganized and disunited, how much more may we expect an abundant blessing, when we obey his express injunction to union, and become not merely helpers to the truth, but fellow-helpers, - when we strive together for the faith of the gospel, - when that visible union in prayer and effort is realized, which is foretold by the prophet, (Zechariah 8:20-22,) when the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying - "Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of Hosts. I will go also."
We love these societies, then, we love them all; but let it never be forgotten that their chief, their only value is, in being subsidiary to the proclamation of Christ crucified, and the promotion of ardent individual piety. Let it never be forgotten that it is the simple preaching of the gospel, and the honest practice of the gospel, by which God has ordained to spread his truth and his glory throughout the world.
We value Home Missions, because they send the ambassadors of Christ to the destitute in our own land; the Foreign Missions, because they fend them to perishing millions abroad. We love Sunday schools and Bible societies, because they bring the word of God to the eyes and hearts of young and old, and lead them to search the Scriptures daily to see whether the things they hear preached are so. We love the Publication Societies, because they give to the departed preacher a living voice, and to the fleeting words of wisdom a permanent form, and an extent of audience, which they could not otherwise enjoy. We love all the reforms and improvements in virtue and in education, because they help to prepare the way of the Lord, and open a door for the preaching of the word, and bring within the reach of the gospel those who must else have remained ignorant of it, and unblessed by it. Ws love education societies, because their object is to aid in giving those, whom God has called to preach the intellectual furniture and training, which, by his blessing, may augment their usefulness.
We love them all. We will not stifle our benevolent impulses by pleading it
as an excuse, that there are "so many calls;" but rather thank God that there are so many channels, opened by his providence, in which the energies of his church may run. We will help those we can, as much as we can, and pray for them all, and rejoice in the progress of them all.
But let it be repeated - the one grand thing after all is the preaching of Christ by life and lip - so that everything shall be made subordinate to him, and only regarded as important as it stands related to him.
The only emulation we should indulge in with regard to other denominations, is to strive if we can to love Christ better, to preach Christ more, to live holier lives than they, to show more of the graces of the Christian temper, and to be more deeply in earnest for the salvation of perishing souls.
When baptism becomes the shibboleth of party, the mere watchword of strife and bone of contention, when we cease to regard it in the light that streams upon it from the cross and the grave of our risen Lord, then a sad desolation, a spiritual dearth will come upon us; and, however correct may be our theories, and our forms of doctrine, however exact and punctilious our adherence to the ordinances we shall endure the severe but just judgment which belongs to those who "hold the truth in unrighteousness."
B. M., Jr.
[From American Baptist Memorial, April, 1856, pp. 97-107. Document from Google Books On-line. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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