From the Michigan Christian Herald
Bay State Correspondence
Michigan, July 13, 1848.
Mr. Editor - I perceive you received my last communication - and in accordance with my promise, you will this time expect from me something good, or rather a few lines about something good. Indeed, I voluntarilv imposed upon myself quite a task to find something good in these parts, and especially in these days. I shall almost be compelled to pursue the way of the stern old Grecian in his pursuit of a man who searched the city with a lighted candle in the day time. But we have a little good here.
A few Sabbaths since I had the pleasure of baptizing a few willing converts, the fruits of a revival last winter in this place; and the season was truly a solemn one, and we seemed near the gate of heaven. We enjoyed last winter, one of the most interesting and profitable revivals, for a limited one, that I ever was in. There were not many conversions, but the work was deep, and its influence is abiding. It seemed a little like "old fashioned revivals," as the good people say ; and all who have united with the church as the subjects of the revival, are converts of the right stamp. And now, alter a number of months have passed, they seem to think the religion of Christ and the service of God are just as good as ever. They really act as though they loved the service of Christ; and to have them do any thing, now the height of excitement is over, we are not compelled to drag them up to duty with a halter about their necks as you would a criminal to the gallows.
There is one way in which I account for this characteristic of these young Christians, besides the fact that they are really converted; and that is, great caution was exercised in receiving them into the church, and then they were given to plainly understand what it is to be a consistent Christian, and what obligations they took upon themselves in making a public profession of religion. We might have had a number more candidates for baptism, if we had not raised our terms of admission so high. This kept some away who would have come with little persuasion, and led us to reject others who willingly offered themselves. But we acted on the conservative principle - that is far better for the spiritual prosperity of the church to keep suspicious persons out of the church when they are out, and thus prevent evil, than to take them in on a slight evidence of regeneration, and then after a few months of trial be compelled to get them out again if we can.
It is my honest conviction that four fifths of the present infidelity, looseness of principles, and conduct, and amazing inefficiency, and in some instances lamentable divisions in our churches, are owing to carelessness in our reception of members. We, in numberless instances, have received as evidences of conversion, what in fact was no evidence at all, and under the presence of excitement have, with the great drag net of the gospel, surrounded as large a shoal as possible, and brought them to the shore, and without making scarcely any selection, have packed them all down in the sacred vessel of the church together, good, bad and indifferent. Hence the mighty evils that have followed. The bad in the mass soon show signs of corruption, and even the good feel their polluting and destructive influence, and before we are aware of it the church seems one mass of corruption. Then the gospel fishermen who discover the state of things in the vessel, and feel an interest in the prosperity of the church, must begin the disgusting work of overhauling the contents. And what a work. Putrid carcasses, some partially infected, and others, which when once selected out of the mass and washed up, appear tolerably sound, are all found mingled together; rendering the body of the church, as is too often the case, a stench in the nostrils of Jehovah, and the object of just reproach to the ungodly world. How much better for the "fishers of men" to have been careful in the first place in making the selection.
But I do not know but that I am rather notional and antiquated in these things. I confess that I cannot keep pace with many of my contemporaries. My idea of filling up the goodly vessel of the church, is quite different from theirs. They want it full at any rate - they want a large increase of numbers - they love to carry coin in their pockets to make a jingling if it is nothing more than copper. But I had rather have the vessel almost empty and clean, unless it can be filled with the right sort. I am not so much for large numbers as for good numbers. I had rather carry one bright, shining, genuine gold piece, though it does not jingle, than a pocket full of coppers.
Perhaps, however, my idea of increasing the church will not strike your fancy. If it should, be so kind as to give it circulation amongst the ministering brethren in Michigan, and it may serve a little to make them cautious in laying the foundation of churches in your increasing and flourishing State.
If they only begin right now, they may lay future generations under lasting obligations t0 them; and in coming years, the Baptists of Michigan may indeed be the "church of the living God; the pillar and ground of the truth." But if they begin wrong, your posterity may forever curse them for their laxity and groan under the destructive influence of a corrupt and corrupting church.
[From the Tennessee Baptist, August, 10, 1848, pp. 2-3, CD edition. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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