[Table of Contents]
[Previous] [Next]
Alexander Campbell
The Christian Baptist (1889)


NO. 2.] SEPTEMBER 5, 1825.  

A Narrative of the Origin and Formation of
the Westminster or Presbyterian Confession of
Faith.--No. IV.

      THE parliament ordained, April 26, 1615, that "no person shall be permitted to preach who is not ordained a minister in this or some other reformed church, except such as intend the ministry, who shall be allowed for the trial of their gifts, by those that shall be appointed thereto by both houses of parliament; and it is earnestly desired that Sir Thomas Fairfax (a military chieftain) take care that this ordinance be put into execution in the army. It is further ordered to be sent to the lord mayor and committee of the militia in London, to the governors and commanders of all forts, garrisons, forces, cities and towns, with the like injunctions; and the mayor, sheriffs and justices of the peace, are to commit all offenders to safe custody, and give notice to the parliament, who will take a speedy course for their punishment."1 This is the way to make [178] and establish orthodoxy, and to show the divine institution of the clergy and presbytery, without the trouble of interrogating the twelve apostles. Thus the clergy had their lips opened, and the laity had theirs shut by the laws of the land; and the military and other rulers were to guard the consciences of the people with a drawn sword.

      "At the same time the lords sent to the assembly of divines to prepare a new directory for the ordination of ministers of the church in England, without the presence of a diocesan bishop. This took up a great deal of time by reason of the opposition it met with from the Erastians and Independents; but was at last accomplished, and passed into an ordinance November 8, 1645, and was to continue in force by way of trial for twelve months. On the 28th of August following it was prolonged for three years, at the expiration of which time it was made perpetual."2

      The two fundamental rules of this new directory, which is now thought by many to be as old as Paul's time, ran thus: First. "The person to be ordained must apply to the presbytery, with a testimonial of his taking the covenant, of his proficiency in his studies," &c., whether he can conjugate tupto, and decline hic, hæc, hoc, &c. &c. Second. "He is then to pass under an examination as to his religion and learning and call to the ministry." If he be called by God as Aaron was, to be a high priest, and can tell how religious he is, he is then to be anointed by the presbytery; if not he must return to the plough or loom, and forever after hold his peace. Lastly. "It is resolved, That all persons ordained according to this directory, shall be forever reputed and taken, to all intents and purposes, for lawfully and sufficiently authorized ministers of the church of England, and as capable of any ministerial employment in the church, as any other presbyter already ordained or hereafter to be ordained?' So this point is made orthodox and of divine authority.

      The Independents maintained the right of every particular congregation to ordain its own officers. This was debated ten days. The arguments on both sides were afterwards published in a book titled "The Grand Debate between Presbytery and Independency." At length the question was put, "that it is requisite no single congregation that can conveniently associate with others, should assume to itself the sole right of ordination." It was voted in the affirmative. The following distinguished ministers entered their dissent:--Thomas Goodwine, Philip Nye, Jeremiah Burrows, S. Simpson, W. Bridge, W. Greenhill and W. Carter. The majority, however, ruled, and in such cases always regulates the conscience and decides what is divine. For the voice of the majority is the voice of God.

      "It was next debated whether ordination might precede election to a particular cure or charge." That is, whether a man might be married without a wife, and afterwards take whom he could get by virtue of his marriage, or whether a man might be appointed to a charge without having any. This could not be fairly carried, and was compromised with the Independents, who agreed to the imposition of hands in the ceremony of ordination, "provided that it was attended with an open declaration that it was not intended as a conveyance of office power."

      A debate of thirty days was held in the assembly on this proposition, "that the scripture holds forth that many particular congregations may, and BY DIVINE AUTHORITY ought to be under one presbyterial government."

      The Erastians would not except against the presbyterial government as a political institution, but opposed the claim of divine right. But the Independents opposed the whole proposition and advanced b counter divine right of independency. Fifteen days they took the part of opponents, and fifteen days they were upon the defensive.

      The chief inquiries were concerning the constitution and form of the first church of Jerusalem, the subordination of synods and of lay elders. The Independents maintained that the church of Jerusalem was one congregation; the Presbyterians affirmed that there were many congregations in this city under one presbytery. The ablest critics in the assembly, such as Dr. Temple, Selden, Lightfoot, Coleman, Vines, &c.! were divided upon this head, but it was carried for the Presbyterians. The Jewish Sanhedrim was proposed in the assembly as a model for their Christian presbytery, and great skill in the Jewish antiquities was exhibited in this part of the debate in settling what were the respective powers of the ecclesiastical and civil courts under the law.

      As the reader, not acquainted with the origin of the present religious institutions, will be curious to know how the lay elders or ruling elders, got into existence, we shall, while noticing these proceedings of the assembly, just remark, that while they were inquiring into the constitution of the Jewish Sanhedrim and defining its ecclesiastical and civil powers, it was remarked that "Moses appointed that he that should not hearken to the priest or the judge should die." Deut. xvii. 12. It was inferred in favor of church power that the priest held one court and the civil magistrate another. But Mr. Selden observed that the Vulgate Latin, until within these 40 years, read thus, Qui non obediverit sacerdoti ex decreto judicis morietur. "He that will not obey the priest shall die by the sentence of the judge." Mr. Lightfoot added, that when the judges of inferior courts went up to Jerusalem by way of appeal, it was only for advice. and consultation. But when the question was put for a subordination of synods and lay elders, as so many courts of judicature, with power to dispense church censures, it was carried in the affirmative, and asserted in their humble advice to parliament, with this addition, "So Christ has furnished some in his churches besides ministers of the word, with gifts for government, and with commission to execute the same when called thereto, who are to join with the minister in the government of the church, which officers the reformed churches generally call elders." Hence their name, authority, and office.

      When this point was carried by a large majority, the Independents entered their dissent in writing, and complained to the world of "the unkind usage they met with in the assembly; that the papers they offered were not read, and that they were not allowed to state their own questions, being told they set themselves industriously to puzzle the cause and render the clearest propositions obscure, rather than argue the truth or falseness of them; that it was not worth the assembly's while to spend so much time in debating with so inconsiderable a number of men." They also declared that "the assembly refused to debate their main proposition, viz. Whether a divine right of church government did not remain with every particular congregation." To all which, says Mr. Neal, it was replied that the assembly were not conscious they had done them any injustice; and as for the rest, they were the [179] proper judges of their own methods of proceeding. So these matters were carried in the Westminster Assembly. But the Erastians reserved themselves for the House of Commons, where they were sure to be joined in opposing these decisions of the assembly by all the patrons of the Independents. For it mattered not what was decided by the assembly--it was neither divine nor orthodox until sanctioned by the parliament. The English and Scots commissioners were very solicitous about the fate of this dogma of the divines in the House of Commons, and were determined to carry the point by stratagem. The scheme was, to carry the question before the house should be full. "They gave their friends notice to be early in their places; but Mr. Glyn, perceiving their intentions, spoke an hour to the point of jus divinum; and after him Mr. Whitelocke stood up and enlarged upon the same argument till the house was full; when the question being put, it was carried in the negative, and that the proposition of the assembly should stand thus, that it is lawful and agreeable to the word of God, that the church be governed by congregational, classical, and synodical assemblies."3

      Because the House of Commons would not go the whole length with the Assembly in establishing the jus divinum of presbytery, the Scots commissioners and the high Presbyterians in England alarmed the citizens with the danger of the church, and prevailed with the common council to petition the parliament (November 15) "that the Presbyterian discipline shall be established as the discipline of Jesus Christ." But the commons answered with a frown. Not yet discouraged, they prevailed with the city ministers to petition, who, when they came to the house, were told by the Speaker they "need not wait for an answer, but go home and look to the charge of their congregation."

      "The Presbyterian ministers, despairing of success with the Commons, instead of yielding to the times, resolved to apply to the House of Lords, who received them civilly and promised to take their request into consideration; but no advances were made for two months, and they became impatient, and determined to renew their application; and to give it the greater weight prevailed with the lord mayor and court of aldermen to join them in presenting an address, which they did June 16--"for a speedy settlement of church government according to the covenant, and that no toleration might be given to popery, prelacy, superstition, heresy, profaneness, or any thing contrary to sound doctrine, and that all private assemblies might be restrained." But it was all in vain. The House of Lords and the House of Commons would not be moved by their disagreeable importunity. "However, adds Mr. Neal, this laid the foundation of those jealousies and misunderstandings between the city and parliament, which in the end proved the ruin of the Presbyterian cause."

      The next and fiercest controversy between the parliament and the assembly was upon the power of the keys. But upon this we cannot now speak particularly.

      From the preceding details of facts we may easily discover the spirit of the founders of Presbyterianism, and what sort of times we would have had could they have obtained their wishes. But there was more moderation and benevolence in the army and the parliament than in all the high-toned clergy of that day. And yet the parliament was priest-ridden down to no ordinary degree of servility to the superstition of those times.


A Restoration of the Ancient order of Things.
No. VII.

On the Breaking of Bread--No. II.

      THE apostles were commissioned by the Lord to teach the disciples to observe all things he had commanded them. Now we believe them to have been faithful to their master, and consequently he gave them to know his will. Whatever the disciples practised in their meetings with the approbation of the apostles, is equivalent to an apostolic command to us to do the same. To suppose the contrary, is to make the half of the New Testament of non-effect. For it does not altogether consist of commands, but of approved precedents. Apostolic example is justly esteemed of equal authority with an apostolic precept. Hence, say the Baptists, shew us where Paul or any apostle sprinkled an infant, and we will not ask you for a command to go and do likewise. It is no derogation from the authority for observing the first day of the week, to admit that christians are no where in this volume commanded to observe it. But the thought is inadmissible, consequently the order of worship they gave the churches was given them by their Lord, and their example is of the same force with a broad precept.

      But we come directly to the ordinance of breaking bread, and to open the New Testament on this subject, we see (Matt. xxvi. 26.) that the Lord instituted bread and wine on a certain occasion, as emblematic of his body and of his blood, and as such, commanded his disciples to eat and drink them. This was done without any injunction as to the time when, or the place where, this was to be afterwards observed. Thus the four gospels, or the writings of Matthew, Mark, and John leave it. At this time the apostles were not fully instructed in the laws of his kingdom; and so they continued till he ascended up to his Father and sent them the Holy Spirit. After Pentecost, and the accession gained that day, the apostles proceeded to organize a congregation of disciples, and to set them in the order which the Lord had commanded and taught them by his Spirit. The historian tells us minutely that after they had baptized and received into their society three thousand souls, they continued steadfastly to a certain order of worship and edification. Now this congregation was intended to be a model, and did actually become such to Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth. The question then is, What order of worship and of edification did the apostle give to the first congregation they organized? This must be learned from the narrative of the historian who records what they did. We shall now hear his testimony, (Acts ii. 41.) "Then they who had gladly received his word were baptized, and about three thousand were that day added to them: and they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine, and in the fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." Other things are recorded of this congregation distinct from those cited, such as their having a [180] of goods, and for this purpose selling their possessions of houses and lands. But these are as peculiar to them and as distinct from the instituted order of worship, as was the case of Ananias and his wife Sapphira. Their being constantly in the Temple is also added as a peculiarity in their history. But it may be correctly inquired, How are we to distinguish between those things which are as peculiar to them as their vicinity to the Temple, and those things which were common to them with other Christian congregations? This must be determined by a comparison of the practice of other congregations as recorded by the same historian, or as found in the letters to the churches written by the apostles. From these we see that no other Christian congregation held a community of goods; no other sold their possessions as a necessary part of Christian religion; no others met constantly in the Temple. Indeed, Luke, from his manner of relating the order of worship and means of edification practised by this congregation, evidently distinguishes what was essential from what was circumstantial. For after informing us, verses 41 and 42, of the distinct parts or acts of their social worship, he adds in a separate and detached paragraph the history of their peculiarities. "Now," adds he, "all they who believed were together and had all things in common, and they sold their possessions and goods," &c. This, too, is separated from the account of their social acts of worship by a statement of other circumstances, such as the fear that fell upon every soul, and the many wonders and signs which were done by the apostles. From a minute attention to the method of the historian, and from an examination of the historical notices of other congregations, it is easy to distinguish between what was their order of worship and manner of edification from what was circumstantial. And, indeed, their whole example is binding on all Christians placed in circumstances similar to those in which they lived at that time. For though the selling of their possessions is mentioned as a part of the benevolent influences of the Christian religion clearly understood and cordially embraced, as a voluntary act suggested by the circumstances of the tithes and of their brethren; yet were a society of Christians absolutely so poor that they could live in no other way than by the selling of the possessions of some of the brethren, it would be an indispensable duty to do so, in imitation of him who, though he was rich, made himself poor, that the poor, through his impoverishing himself, might be made rich. But still it must be remarked that even in Jerusalem at this time the selling of houses and lands was a voluntary act of such disciples as were possessors of them, without any command from the apostles to do so. This is most apparent from the speech of Peter addressed to Ananias and his wife; who seem to have been actuated by a false ambition, or love of praise, in pretending to as high an exhibition of self denial and brotherly love as some others. Their sin was not in not selling their property, nor was it in only contributing a part; but it was in lying, and pretending to give the whole, when only a part was communicated. That they were under no obligation from any law or command to sell their property, Peter avows in addressing them, and for the purpose too of inculpating them more and more: "While it remained," says he, "was it not yours? It was still at your own disposal." You might give or withhold without sin. But the lie proved their ruin. Thus it is easy to discover what was essential to their worship and edification from what was circumstantial. Their being baptized when they gladly received the word, was not a circumstance, neither was their continuing steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine, in fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in prayers. This the order of all the congregations gathered and organized by the apostles, shows. With regard to our present purpose, enough is said on this testimony, when it is distinctly remarked and remembered that the first congregation organized after Pentecost by the apostles, now gifted with the Holy Spirit, CONTINUED AS STEADFASTLY IN BREAKING OF BREAD as in the apostles' doctrine, fellowship, or prayers. This is indisputably plain from the narrative, and it is all we want to adduce from it at present. It is bad logic to draw more from the premises than what is contained in them; and we can most scripturally and logically conclude from these premises, that the congregation of disciples in Jerusalem did as steadfastly, and as uniformly in their meetings, attend on the breaking of bread, as upon any other mean of edification or act of worship. It cannot, however, be shown from this passage how often that was, nor is it necessary for us to do so in this place. We shall find other evidences that will be express to this point. We dismiss this passage in the mean time, by repeating that the first congregation organized by the apostles after the ascension of the King, did as steadfastly attend on the breaking of bread in their religious meetings, as upon any act of worship or means of edification.

      We shall again hear Luke narrating the practice of the disciples at Troas, (Acts xx. 7.) "And on the first day of the week, when the disciples assembled to break bread, Paul, being about to depart on the morrow, discoursed with them, and lengthened out his discourse till midnight" From the manner in which this meeting of the disciples at Troas is mentioned by the historian, two things are very obvious: 1st. That it was an established custom or rule for the disciples to meet on the first day of the week. 2d. That the primary object of their meeting was to break bread. They who object to breaking bread on every first day of the week when the disciples are assemble usually preface their objections by telling us that Luke does not say they broke bread every first day; and yet they contend against the Sabbatarians that they ought to observe every first day to the Lord in commemoration of his resurrection. The Sabbatarians raise the same objection to this passage when adduced by all professors of Christianity to authorize the weekly observance of the first day. They say that Luke does not tell us that they met for any religious purpose on every first day. How inconsistent, then, are they who make this sentence an express precedent for observing every first day, when arguing against the Sabbatarians, and then turn round and tell us that it will not prove that they broke bread every first day. If it does not prove the one, it is most obvious it will not prove the other; for the weekly observance of this day, as a day of the meeting of the disciples, and the weekly breaking of bread in those meetings, stand or fall together. Hear it again: "And on the first day of the week, when the disciples assembled to break bread." Now all must confess, who regard the meaning of words, that the meeting of the disciples and the breaking of bread, as far as these words are concerned, are expressed in the same terms as respects the frequency. If the one were fifty-two times in a year, or only once, so was the other. If they met every first day, they brake bread every first day; and if they did not break bread every first day, they did not meet every first [181] day. But we argue from the style of Luke, or from his manner of narrating the fact, that they did both. If he had said that on a first day the disciples assembled to break bread, then I would admit that both the Sabbatarians and the semiannual or septennial communicants might find some way of explaining this evidence away.

      The definite article is, in the Greek and in the English tongue, prefixed to stated and fixed times, and its appearance here is not merely definitive of one day, but expressive of a stated or fixed day. This is so in all languages which have a definite article. Let us illustrate this by a very parallel and plain case. Suppose some five hundred or a thousand years hence, the annual observance of the 4th of July should have ceased for several centuries, and that some person or persons devoted to the primitive institutions of this mighty republic, were desirous of seeing every fourth of July observed as did the fathers and founders of the republic, during the hale and undegenerate days of primitive republican simplicity. Suppose that none of the records of the first century of this republic had expressly stated that it was a regular and fixed custom for a certain class of citizens to pay a particular regard to every fourth day of July--but that a few incidental expressions in the biography of the leading men in the republic spake of it as Luke has done of the meeting at Troas. How would it be managed? For instance, in the life of John Q. Adams, it is written, A. D. 1823, "And on the fourth day of July, when the republicans at the city of Washington met to dine, John Q. Adams delivered an oration to them." Would not an American a thousand years hence, in circumstances such as have been stated, find in these words one evidence that it was an established usage during the first century of this republic to regard the fourth day of July as aforesaid. He would tell his opponents to mark that it was not said that on a fourth of July, as if it were a particular occurrence, but it was in the fixed meaning of the English language expressive of a fixed and stated day of peculiar observance. At all events he could not fail in convincing the most stupid that the primary intention of that meeting was to dine. Whatever might be the frequency or the intention of that dinner, it must be confessed, from the words above cited, that they met to dine.

      Another circumstance that must somewhat confound the Sabbatarians and the lawless observers of breaking of bread, may be easily gathered from Luke's narrative. Paul and his company arrived at Troas either on the evening of the first day, or on Monday morning at an early hour; for he departed on Monday morning, as we term it, at an early hour; and we are positively told that he tarried just seven days at Troas. Now had the disciples been Sabbatarians or observed the seventh day as a Sabbath, and broke bread on it as the Sabbatarians do, they would not have deferred their meeting, till the first day, and kept Paul and his company waiting, as he was evidently in a great haste at this time. But his tarrying seven days, and his early departure on Monday morning, corroborates the evidence adduced in proof that the first day of the week was the fixed and stated day for the disciples to meet for this purpose.

      From the 2d of the Acts, then, we learn that the breaking of bread was a stated part of the worship of the disciples in their meetings; and from the 20th we learn that the first day of the week was the stated time for those meetings; and, above all, we ought to notice that the most prominent object of their meeting was to break bread. But this, we hope, will be made still more evident in our next.


Public Notice.

      I, EZRA STILES ELI, stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, do hereby certify to all whom it may concern, that said Assembly having resolved to establish a Western Theological Seminary, did on the 30th day of may last, appoint

      Major Gen. ANDREW JACKSON, of Tennessee;
      Hon. BENJAMIN MILLS, of Paris, Kentucky.
      Hon. JOHN THOMPSON, of Chilicothe, Ohio;
      Rev. OBADIAH JENNINGS, Of Washington, Pa.
      Rev. ANDREW WYLIE, of Washington College, in Pa.

to be commissioners of the assembly to examine carefully the several sites which may be proposed for the contemplated seminary, as to the healthiness of the place and regions where these sites may be found, as to the amount of pecuniary aid and other property which may be obtained from the inhabitants of these sites and their vicinity severally, in establishing the contemplated seminary, and as to all other circumstances and considerations which ought to have influence in deciding on the location of the seminary. These commissioners are to report to the board of directors of the Western Theological Seminary, the proposals that have been made to them, and their opinion of the whole subject of the seminary, that the said board after considering the report of the commissioners, may recommend to the next general assembly the most suitable place, in their judgment, for the establishment of the Western Theological Seminary.

      Of these commissioners Gen. Andrew Jackson is chairman; and they, as well as the directors, are appointed first to meet at Chilicothe, Ohio, on the third Friday of July, at 2 o'clock P. M. and subsequently on their own adjournments.

      The agents appointed by the assembly to solicit and receive donations for the Western Theological Seminary, are the Rev. James Hogue, Rev. David Monfort, of Millville, Hamilton county, Ohio; Rev. James Culbertson, Rev. Thomas Barr, of Wooster, Ohio; Rev. William Wylie, Rev. Elisha P. Swift, and Rev. Obadiah Jennings.

      This publication is made that due notice of their appointment may reach the commissioners, directors, and agents, even should they fail of receiving the written circular of the subscriber; and that literary corporations and enterprizing individuals in the flourishing western towns, may have an early opportunity of making proposals to some one of the commissioners above named concerning the location of the seminary.

      Those printers in the South and West who will give this notice a gratuitous insertion in their papers, will confer a favor on the Presbyterian church.

      By order of the General Assembly.

EZRA S. EELI.      

      WHEN the following Public Notice is read, it will appear that the General Assembly of 1825 yet possesses in an eminent degree the primitive evangelical, and apostolic spirit of the first laborers in planting Christianity in the Roman empire. How this precious relique escaped the ravages of Vandalism and the reign of Night, in the ages of undisturbed superstition, is left to the conjectures of the reader.


      I, SIMON PETER, an apostle and stated clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian church of the Western Roman Empire, do hereby certify [182] to all whom it may concern, That said assembly having resolved to establish a Western Theological Seminary, did, on the ides of May last, appoint

      Major General CLAUDIUS CAESAR, commander in chief of the army of invasion into Britain;
      Hon. JULIUS AGRICOLA, of South Britain;
      Hon. QUINTUS CURTIUS, of Rome;
      Rev. SENECA, of Spain, the true moralist;
      Rev. MAECENAS, son of the patron of Horace--

to be commissioners of the assembly to examine carefully the several sites which may be proposed for the contemplated seminary, as to the healthiness of those sites, as to the amount of the mammon of unrighteousness and other means which may be obtained from the inhabitants of those sites, in establishing said fountain of grace in their vicinity. These commissioners are to report to the Rev. Matthew Levi, Joannes Markus, Saulus Paulus, D. D. and the other directors of the Western Theological Seminary, the proposals that shall have been made to them, and their opinions on the same.

      Of these commissioners, Gen. Claudius Cesar, because he has been a celebrated duellist and warrior, and has no children, is chairman, and particularly qualified to take the command in a cabinet of clergy, as to a council of war; and they, as well as the directors, are to meet at Damascus on the first of the ides of July, at the 8th hour of the day, and subsequently on their own adjournments.

      The agents to solicit and receive donations for the Western Roman Theological Gentile Seminary, are, the Rev. Mr. Simon Magus, Rev. Mr. Tertullus, Rev. J. Sergius, Rev. T. Timothy, Rev. T. Titus, Rev. O. Agabus.

      It is hoped that the friends of religion in the flourishing towns of the Western Roman Empire will contribute spiritedly on this occasion to a western source of life, as they have done in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, to the Eastern.

      Those scribes and heralds in the South and West, who will publish this notice without any mammon in return for it, as we are very scarce of the images of Augustus, will confer a favor on the Presbyterian church, for which its head will reward them in Paradise.

      By order of the General Assembly,

SIMON PETER, Stated Clerk.      

"The Presbytery of Onondaga.

      "DEEPLY affected with the deplorable situation to which the children of the professed people of God have been reduced by a neglect of religious instruction, and the ignorance in which they have been kept of the privileges of their birthright, secured to them by divine constitution--do most earnestly and solemnly recommend to the churches a careful and prayerful observance of the following RULES:--

      1. That every professing parent, guardian, or master of a family, observe the duty of instructing his household in the great doctrines of our holy religion, of inculcating on their minds the obligations they are under to God, and the covenant relation they stand in to him: taking for a general text-book of instruction, the Catechism of the Westminster Assembly of Divines.

      2. That such parents, guardians, or masters, commit their household to the instructions of the church, and bring them, or cause them to be brought, to such place or places of instruction as the regular authority of the church may from time to time appoint.

      3. That each church within the bounds of this presbytery appoint certain judicious and pious male members of the church as catechisms, to go from house to house, and confer with professing Christians and their households on the importance of instructing children in the principles of religion, and to appoint certain places where the children of a particular neighborhood or section of the congregation, may, at stated times, meet for the purpose of receiving instruction from such Catechisms.

      4. That the ministers and elders, or other authority of the churches, call a general meeting of all the children of the church, quarter-yearly, for the purpose of furnishing them such religious and moral instruction, as their several circumstances, on an examination of their views and feelings, shall appear to require.

      5. That every church hold all the children of the church, under twelve years old, responsible to the church for their future conduct; that the church never afterwards relinquish their inspection and discipline; that such children hereafter stand on the same ground, submit to the same salutary correction for their reformation and repentance, or the same sentence of exclusion to which the other members are subject, and that the names of all such children be added to the catalogue of members now enrolled as constituting the church. It being understood, at the same time, that they shall profess their faith, in order to a participation of the Lord's Supper.

      6. That each church collect all other baptized persons, who have hitherto been non-communicants, and who will assemble at the call of the church, and ascertain who among them are now willing to be responsible to the church, to stand in their lot in the kingdom of Christ, and publicly profess their attachment to him and the doctrines contained in the Assembly's catechism; and, in fine, to view themselves, and be treated by the church, as ever afterwards members. And that all such persons be also added to the catalogue of members composing the church.

      7. That all minors who shall hereafter be baptized, be immediately enrolled with the church, considered as members, and treated accordingly.

      8. That when parents from abroad come and are received into our churches, their children, under twelve years of age, be received and enrolled as members with them.

      Done in Presbytery, at Homer, Dec. 31, 1812.

  DIRCK C.LANSING, Moderator.
      JABEZ CHADWICK, Clerk."

      AN excellent plan, truly, to make and confirm Presbyterians, but not Christians. These rules expressly avow principles of these sectaries which but few of their leaders at this time are willing openly and explicitly to declare--such as,

      1st. Not the Holy Scriptures, but the Westminster catechism, is the "text-book" for the religious instruction of the offspring and households of Presbyterians. Thus the understanding, and consequently the conscience of those youths are biassed and moulded into the Presbyterian form.

      2d. That all the children, under 12 years old, born of the flesh, are to be enrolled as members of the church, and to be held responsible to the church, faith or no faith.

      3d. That those children of the flesh are to be accounted as the seed, and to be the subjects of church discipline, of correction and exclusion, as other members; yet precluded from the privileges of the senior members.

      4th. But it is avowed that of these under twelve-year-old members, only a part shall be communicants; and the other part, though equally members, are not to be communicants. [183]

      5th. That all other baptized persons, whether under or over twelve years old, who are non-communicants, be collected and interrogated whether they will stand in their lot in the kingdom of Christ, avows that those non-communicants have a place or lot in this kingdom, whether christian or infidel. A worldly and carnal kingdom, truly!

      6th. That all baptized minors are considered as members, and forthwith to be treated as such.


      1. Why not enrol them as members at the age of ten days or ten years?

      2. What course of discipline is to be practised on three-month or on three-year-old members; for these are members under twelve, and to be disciplined by these canons?

      3. Whether is it their birth or baptism that makes these babes and minors members of the Presbyterian church?

      4. If their birth make them members, why baptize them, seeing members of the church are not to be baptized? Or if baptism make them members, why compare it to circumcision, for circumcision did not make members of Abraham's family?

      5. Can one code of laws suit a church of three sorts of members--speechless babes, unregenerated minors, and regenerated adults?

      In what a miserable condition is that church which is under such lawgivers as the Onondaga Presbytery!!

      6. Who placed them on thrones to give laws to any society calling itself the kingdom of Christ?

      7. Does not the passing of such laws declare that the New Testament is silent on such things?

      8. Ought they not to read Revelation xxii. 18. and tremble?

ED. C. B.      

To the Editor of the Christian Baptist.

      DEAR BROTHER,--WHILST your worthy friend and correspondent, "P. H." is puzzling his brain with some of those many difficulties originating in scholastic theology and science, falsely so called; I am equally concerned in trying to ascertain what method to pursue in order to introduce "the ancient order of things" amongst churches called churches of Christ. And as you are undoubtedly an advocate for this reform, and possessing more information than myself, I take the liberty of asking for some instructions. But before I proceed to any specifications, I wish to make known to you that my case is somewhat singular; and, as such, shall give you a short sketch, which, perhaps, may answer some good purpose, especially should this ever meet the public eye.

      I have been for a considerable number of years what we call a preacher of the Gospel, and have been solemnly ordained to that office by men of the highest respectability in my order. I have itinerated much through the country, and have honestly endeavored to recommend the religion of Jesus Christ to my ignorant and perishing countrymen, and in doing of which (if I am a proper judge) I have gained considerable applause, and have been looked upon as a promising young man. During this state of things my vanity has often been flattered; and had it not been for one serious difficulty with which 1 had to grapple, it is uncertain to what a degree of self-importance I might have arrived--and that was, whether I was really called by God to the work of the ministry; for my teachers had caused me to believe that there was a special tail for the ministry, differing from that call which was necessary in order to make men christians. After laboring under this difficulty for many years, and still unable to ascertain whether I was really called or not, I made an exertion of mind and discovered that it could not be wrong in any man to recommend that religion which was ordered to be published, call or no call; and so I acted, and felt considerably relieved from my most serious difficulty. This was my situation when I first saw your views on that subject in the Christian Baptist; and no sooner had I read them and compared them with the word of God, than I abandoned entirely, what I had before partially, and am made now to wonder why the christian world could have been kept in ignorance so long, an ignorance too which is fraught with so much distress to an honest-minded christian. Having given up my former views relative to the call, I now only esteem myself a christian, as one who has obtained like precious faith with all saints; and in consequence of this hope of eternal life, I now, from a principle of gratitude to God for his goodness to me, wish still to recommend that religion to all men, which is the source of all my substantial joys--

"Nor can I willing be his bounty to conceal
"From others, who, like me, their wants and hunger feel.
      "I'll tell them of his bounteous store,
      "And try to send a thousand more."

      Although I am satisfied on the subject above touched, still I have cause of great and increasing distress in consequence of viewing the state of the churches, as being yet in the wilderness, and bearing so little likeness to their ancient simplicity and glory. For this restoration I ardently pray; but I am greatly at a loss to know how to make a move, seeing the prejudices with which we will have to contend. It is an easy matter for you, my brother, to theorize on this subject, but how to reduce it to practice, I have not yet found; and this is the subject on which I ask advice. For sure if we do not go to work right, we shall not prosper--we shall only be making bad worse. My inquiry more particularly respects the churches that are already in existence, and whether they can be reformed without creating additional difficulties and distresses. Your answer to the above inquiry (should you give one) will be read with avidity.

      Hoping you may prosper in your inquiry after truth, I subscribe myself
  Your brother in Christ,

Reply to Faithful.

      Dear Brother, THE difficulties which you mention to your epistle of July last are apparently great, and in some respects, no doubt, really so. The things that happened to the Jews, once the people of God, happened to them for types or examples, and they are written for our admonition, to whom the grace of God has appeared, and upon whom the ends of the world have come. They apostatized from the divine institution given by Moses; they lost the primitive simplicity and excellency of the Jews' religion, and departed far from both the letter and spirit of the covenant under which God placed them. They were carried captive into Babylon for their iniquities, and while in Babylon they lost the primitive meaning of the sacred language, the medium of the revelation made them; and thus both the law and the worship under it were not exhibited among them. While in Babylon their condition became worse and worse. It pleased the God of Abraham to turn the captivity of Jacob. But [184] the dangers and difficulties that attended their return were great and appalling. To restore the ancient order of things then was a work of no small difficulty. They had lost a living model of the Lords house; they were ignorant of the manner in which the religious festivals and institutions were to be observed; they had formed many alliances that were difficult to be broken; and, worse than all, they had lost the true meaning of their apostles and prophets. Now, so similar has been the apostacy from the new covenant, that almost all the same misfortunes attend it, and the same names are, in the new covenant prophecies, attached to it. To complete the analogy, and to make it a type of that which it doubtless circumstantially represented, we may expect to find the same difficulties attendant on a return to Jerusalem, and a restoration of the divinely authorized institutions of the new covenant. Some of the professing people of God will now, as formerly, oppose a return; many will despair of its practicability; a living model of the house of God is wanting; and the sacred dialect has been so much perverted, and is so generally misunderstood, that but few of even those who feel the thraldom of the captivity of Babylon the Great, know whence they are fallen, and of what things they should repent.

      To make a move in the business of restoration, and in returning to the covenant, is, I confess, quite a different thing from speculating or talking about it; and yet it only requires an intelligent mind and a willing heart. These will direct and embolden every effort. The people must abandon the language, customs, and manners of Ashdod. For this purpose they will meet, and read, and examine the New Covenant writings. They will also look to Heaven for wisdom and courage, and as soon as any item of the will of Heaven is distinctly apprehended, it will be brought into their practice. But, my dear sir, personal reformation, or individual conformity to the spirit, and temper, and morals of Christians, must be the basis of every attempt at a social or united representation and enjoyment of the Christian religion. This personal reformation will, however, grow with, and be accelerated by, a social and united effort to understand and practise the apostolic instructions. These cannot be separated. It is admitted the form of godliness in individuals and in societies may exist without the power; and a congregation may, like a well-disciplined army, be clothed with all the regimentals, and perform all the involutions and evolutions to an iota, and yet not a soldier among them--not a Christian in spirit and temper--in life and deportment.

      But this is more likely to be the case any where than amongst those who are daily and ardently cultivating a knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, and aiming at standing perfect and complete in the will of God. This course is a sovereign antidote against that state.

      But to come to the pinching question in your communication, it must be observed that, amongst the congregations with which you are connected, there is found this happy circumstance--they have taken the scriptures of the New Testament for their constitution. Perhaps some of them have made their obeisance to something called the Constitution of the Elkhorn or Licking Association, or to something surnamed after the fish ponds or mill seats of your country; but these are such modern playthings they can very easily be drowned in the waters that christened them. But in all those congregations which have recognized that Christ's kingdom is not of this world, and not composed of all born into the world by natural generation, methinks it were easy, if the hearts of the people are regenerate, to have the ancient order of things restored.

      As I have no dictatorial authority in these matters, and would by no means covet such; and, indeed, as nothing can be done but by the people themselves, examining, judging, and acting for themselves, I can only say, that all those desirous of knowing, enjoying, and exhibiting the Christian religion in its original purity and excellency, must individually, and in their public meetings, search and examine the apostles' doctrine, and pay no manner of respect to any opinions or practices which they have formerly regarded, except so far as they see, and learn, and know them to be the teachings of the Holy Spirit. If they cannot get into this way of reading and examining the Holy Scriptures to their profit, let them begin and inquire into the reasons of their present conduct. It is easy to put them on the search, by proposing them a few questions to solve--such as, By what authority and for what reason do we meet once in a month or once in two weeks to hear a sermon? By what authority and for what reason do we agree with a man, called "a preacher," for the one fourth, or the one half, or the one third of his time to preach to us? By what authority and for what reason do we all forsake the assembling of ourselves together except when our preacher draws us out? By what authority and for what reason do we at one time attend on certain acts of worship in our assemblies, and not at another? or why have we ordinary and extraordinary acts of worship? Why should we not devote a part of the time employed in our meetings in inquiring into the grounds and reasons of our own acts and deeds, and in comparing our views, enjoyments, and practices, as Christians, with those of them who first trusted in Christ? And why should we not, as soon as we discover any incongruity, deficiency, or aberration in our views or practices, immediately abandon them, and become followers of them who among the Jews and Gentiles, first turned to the Lord?

      My dear sir, I think by the time these matters are ascertained, the views and dispositions of all who fear God will be considerably improved; and, as the best solution of these difficulties, we intend to give the history of the progress and proficiency of some congregations who have taken this course, and are now enjoying a participation of the fulness of the blessings of the gospel of Christ. It will not be surprising to find some members of your best regulated churches who will rather walk as other professors walk, than in the paths consecrated by the authority of the Lord and the examples of his first followers. Thus the chaff will be purged from among the wheat; and the disciple in deed will be distinguished from him who has merely the name.

      With prayers for your success in the noblest of all attempts, I am your brother in the hope of immortality.


      1 Neal's History, vol. 3, p. 281. [178]
      2 Neal's History vol. 3, p. 181. [179]
      3 Neal's History, vol. 3. p. 290. [180]


[TCB 178-185]

[Table of Contents]
[Previous] [Next]
Alexander Campbell
The Christian Baptist (1889)