The section of the Baptist denomination known as the Scotch Baptists, "took its rise in 1765," and mainly owes its existence and increase to the zeal and ability of one devoted man -- Mr. Archibald McLean. He had been an earnest and conscientious member of the Presbyterian Church in Glasgow, of which Rev. John Maclaurin was the minister; but having read Rev. John Glas's Testimony to the King of Martyrs, his faith was shaken in the propriety of national establishments of religion. This change led to his withdrawment from the Presbyterian Church in 1762, and to his uniting with a small society of Glasites, or, as they are better known in Scotland, the Sandemanians. A difference between himself and this church in a case of discipline ended in a speedy separation from them; and in 1765 he became a Baptist. The last change in his opinions originated in this way: -- Mr. Robert Carmichael, his friend (an Independent minister who had just removed from Glasgow to Edinburgh), and himself had talked together on the subject of infant baptism. Both felt at a loss to find Scriptural warrant for it, but not wishing to relinquish their belief hastily, it was agreed that each of them should carefully consult the New Testament on the subject, and communicate their thoughts upon it to each other. Mr. McLean was the first to arrive at the conclusion that the baptism of infants had no foundation in the Word of God. He hastened to state his reasons for this to Mr. Carmichael, and after some few months, Mr. Carmiehael adopted Baptist opinions. In May 1765, Mr. Carmichael and some of his friends who sympathised with his views, withdrew from the Independent Church, and in October of the same year Mr. Carmichael came to London, and was baptized in Barbican by Dr. Gill. Before the close of the year the seceders and Mr. McLean were baptized by Mr. Carmichael. In 1766 Mr. McLean published some letters in Mr. Glas's Dissertation on Infant Baptism, which awakened great attention in Scotland. The following year he removed to Edinburgh, where he became the overseer of the extensive printing establishment of Messrs. Donaldson and Company, and in June he was unanimously elected by the small Baptist Church in that city, as Mr. Carmichael's colleague.
The church in Edinburgh now rapidly increased. Churches were also formed in Glasgow, Montrose, Dundee, and other towns in Scotland. Mr. Carmichael removed to Dundee, and Mr. William Braidwood, a convert from the Independents, became joint elder with Mr. McLean of the Church in Edinburgh. Mr. McLean continued to superintend the extensive concern of Donaldson's printing of6ce for eighteen years, and during the same period was a zealous and faithful elder of the original Scotch Baptist Church. The further spread of the distinctive principles of the Scotch Baptists, not only in Scotland but in England; the pressure of work which was thus thrown on Mr. McLean, not only in answering numerous letters of enquiry, in settling points of difference that arose in some of the new churches, but also "in setting societies in order, and in ordaining elders over them; "the difficulty of attending conscientiously to his duties as overseer of a large printing office and of meeting these various religious claims upon his leisure time; together with the fact that his health was beginning visibly to suffer, led the Church at Edinburgh to urge upon him the relinquishment of his secular work, and the acceptance of such a salary from them as they were able to offer. He agreed to their request in 1785, and now devoted himself with renewed energy to the duties of his sacred office. Year after year, in addition to the oversight of all the Churches of the Scotch Baptist persuasion, pamphlet after pamphlet appeared from his unwearied and prolific pen. Some of his publications were greatly admired for their simplicity, their earnestness, and their eminently Scriptural character by many devout men of other Christian denominations. Mr. McLean took a lively interest in furthering the regard of his own people to the Baptist Missionary Society, and both by lip and by pen helped greatly to extend in Scotland a desire to co-operate in this great work.
About the middle of Nov. 1812, he was seized with dimness in one of his eyes, and sought relief in the application of electricity, with but little result. He still continued his labours in the Church, and. preached as usual on Lord's-day, Dec. 6th. On the 21st of the same month he fell asleep, in the eightieth year of his age.
The opinions of the Scotch Baptists will be best given in McLean's own words: "As to their principles," says Mr. McLean, "they refer to no human system as the unexceptionable standard of their faith. They think our Lord and His Apostles used great plainness of speech in telling us what we should believe and practise; and thence they are led to understand a great many things more literally and strictly than those who seek to make the religion of Jesus correspond with the fashion of the time, or the decent course of the world . . . . Though they hold the doctrine of particular election, of God's unchanging and everlasting love, and of the perseverance of the saints: yet they think it dangerous to comfort people by these considerations when they are in a backsliding state. In this case they think the Scripture motives to fear are most useful, and ought to have their full force, even the fear of falling away, and coming short of heavenly rest. They think it also unsafe, in such a case, to draw comfort from the reflection of our having once believed, it being their opinion, that we must be reduced to the mere mercy of God through the atonement which gave us relief at the first.
"Their Church order is strictly congregational, and so far as they can discern, upon the Apostolic plan, which is the only rule they profess to follow. A plurality of elders or pastors in every church, is a distinguishing feature in their order; at the same time when, from a deficiency of gifts, this cannot at first be attained, they first proceed with the setting a church in order by the ordination of one, although they consider a church incomplete without a plurality. The nature of their union requires that they should be strict and impartial in discipline, both to preserve purity, and keep clear the channels of brotherly love, that it may circulate freely through the body.
"They continue steadfast every first day of the week, in the Apostle's doctrine, that is, (1) in hearing the Scriptures read and preached; (2) in fellowship or contribution; (3) in breaking of bread or the Lord's Supper; (4) and in prayers, and singing of Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. The prayers and exhortations of the brethren are also admitted in their public meetings. (5) They observe the love-feast, and upon certain occasions (6) the kiss of charity; and also (7) the washing of one another's feet, when it is really serviceable as an act of hospitality. They (8) abstain from eating blood and things strangled; that is, flesh with the blood thereof, because these were not only forbidden to Noah and his posterity when the grant of animal food was first made unto man, but also under the Gospel they are most solemnly prohibited to the believing Gentiles, along with fornication and things offered to idols.
"They think that a gaudy external appearance in either sex, be their station what it may, is a sure indication of the pride and vanity of heart. That women professing godliness are not to adorn themselves with plaited or broidered hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; but with modest outward apparel, as well as with the inward ornaments of the mind; also, that it is a shame for a man to have long hair, however sanctioned by the fashion.
"As to marriage, though they do not think either of the parties being an unbeliever, dissolves that relation, when once entered into; yet they hold it to be the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord.
"They also consider gaming, attending plays, routs, balls, and some other fashionable diversions, as unbecoming the gravity and sobriety of the Christian profession.
"As to their political sentiments they consider themselves bound to be subject to the powers that be in all lawful matters, to honour them, pray for them, and pay them tribute, and rather to suffer patiently for a good conscience than in any case to resist them by force. At the same time they are friendly to the rational and just liberties of mankind, and think themselves warranted to plead, in a respectful manner, for any just and legal rights and privileges which they are entitled to, whether of a civil or religious nature." ========
[From J. J. Goadby, Bye-Paths in Baptist History, 1871; rpt.1987, pp. 42-46. — Formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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