We perceive the charge made in various religious papers of our own and of other denominations, that Baptists and Reformers are on very intimate and fraternal terms in some sections of our country, and that difficulties are arising, or likely to arise in our churches on that account. This is no more than we have, for some time, anticipated; and we fear our denomination is on the eve of troublesome times on that account. The reason of this fraternization is the similar views entertained by a portion of our denomination and the Reformers respecting the revision of the English Scriptures and their hearty co-operation in that work, esteemed by them the great work of the age. We have nothing to say against this enterprise. If it be of God it will succeed. We have neither advocated it nor opposed it, but have remained neutral. The reason why we have not co-operated in this enterprise, relates mainly to the manner in which it originated, both in the formation of the Bible Union at New York, and the Revision Association in Kentucky, and the position the former assumed in relation to an existing Bible Society of our denomination. The whole movement was contrary to our notions of what was becoming the Gospel of Christ. We have wished, in our heart, that we could co-operate in so noble an enterprise as that of thoroughly revising the English Scriptures. It is a work which is eminently demanded, and in which our denomination should be foremost in undertaking. But we lack confidence in the present movement, and have been compelled to withhold our humble countenance and aid. If our prejudices are wrongfully engendered, we hope God will forgive us.
We do not object to the disciples of Christ co-operating in every good word and work, but we do regret to see intelligent Baptists losing sight of the distinctive features of our denomination, yea, of the cardinal doctrines of the Gospel, and fraternizing, in public worship, with a sect which has endeavored to build itself upon the ruins of our organization, whose ministers have traduced and ridiculed what to us was sacred and dear, - have rent our churches, and preached for Gospel, what we have regarded as heresy, pregnant with evil to the souls of men. The sect called Reformers holds in its communion many, very many good Christian men and women: persons with whom we are on terms of most delightful and endearing social intercourse, in whose piety and sincerity we have great confidence. It is not them, as lovers of Jesus, we cannot fellowship - but it is the doctrine proclaimed from their pulpits, published in their periodicals and contended for in debate, that we repudiate as unevangelical. For twenty years, we have had personal knowledge of the views advocated by that sect, and we have been solemnly impressed, that she errs upon the cardinal doctrine of justification, by faith. without the deeds of the law. Justification includes the pardon of sin: and to maintain, that a person's sins are not pardoned, until he is baptized, is making addition to the words of the prophecy of God's Book which, to our mmd. is full of fearful foreboding.
Again, the view of that sect upon that very important element of the Christian character, viz: faith, we have regarded as equally erroneous. limiting it in their definition, to the exercise of the understanding giving credence to testimony. This, we freely admit, is its meaning in a worldly sense, but it does not define evangelical faith. The Bible associates the heart with the understanding: the moral with the intellectual man in giving birth to faith in Christ. "Belief in the heart” is Bible phraseology, indicating that the Christian's faith involves the disposition of the heart, - his affections changed by the Spirit of God, as well as by the exercises of the understanding apprehending and acknowledging the relation Christ sustains to us as our Saviour. These two are, what we conceive to be, the great errors of what is styled “the reformation.” It does not become Baptists, especially the ministers of the Baptist Church, to wink at these errors, so pernicious and dangerous, in their tendency, or to lend aid and comfort to those who have labored to subvert the faith of our Church, by inviting ministers of this sect into our pulpits to preach the Gospel, or to express our approbation in their pulpits of the views they entertain and proclaim, or associate at the communion-table. It is said that similarity of views lays the foundation of friendship. It is undoubtedly on this account that those of our denomination, who have warmly embraced the revision enterprise, have ceased, almost entirely, to combat the errors of the "reformation," - have frequented their places of worship, and taken part in their exercises, and some, even distinguished ministers, sat down at their communion-table, and in their visitation in different parts of our country, have seemed ever to prefer their society to that of their Baptist brethren. Certain it is, the tone and bearing of nearly all revisionists is different towards Reformers since their union in this enterprise than before. We do not object to the most intimate friendship and cordial co-operation in this united enterprise, but we do object to compromising principle, countenancing error, holding in light esteem the doctrines and order of God's house, when seeking to promote a desirable enterprise, and giving occasion to suspicion, grief and trouble in Zion.
We have felt it to be our duty to express our views thus briefly and candidly upon the subject, owing to a suggestion, in some of our exchanges, that the editors of the [Western] Recorder were either on such terms of union with the Reformers, or so under the control, or in fear of others engaged in the revision movement that they dare not speak out their own sentiments. The committee who superintend the publication of the [Western] Recorder, has seen fit to place my name in the list of editors; and candor requires that I should thus frankly make known my views. I do sincerely hope, if any portion of our denomination, be they lay-members or ministers, approve of the doctrines held and advocated by the current reformation, and can fellowship and fraternize with that sect as orthodox, that these persons will quietly withdraw from our Church and go to the Reformers at once. We desire that our Church may be saved from those heart-rending scenes which occurred a few years ago, and the memory of which is still fresh in the minds of our fathers and mothers in Zion, in the strenuous effort to engraft the doctrines and sentiments of the “Reformer of Bethany” upon the majestic tree of the Baptist Church. The attempt was strenuously and indignantly repulsed. She would not give her nourishment to the parasite that would ultimately destroy her. The withered branches were broken off. And still this tree flourishes under the dawn, the rains, the sunshine of heavenly grace; it stands fast by the waters of life, it sends out its roots into the river, its leaf is still green, and it bears its fruit in its season - and its shadows are like the goodly cedar. We have sat under the shadow with great delight. Brother, spare that tree
W.M.P. [Wm. M. Pratt]
[From The Tennessee Baptist, September 22, 1855, p. 1. Transcribed and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
More on William Pratt
Baptist History Homepage