[Table of Contents]
The Christian Baptist (1889)
|NO. 4.]||NOVEMBER 7, 1825.|
A Narrative of the Origin and Formation of the
Westminster or Presbyterian Confession of Faith.
THE Parliament, desiring to comprehend the Independents within the new establishment recommended by the Assembly at Westminster, or to give them a full toleration, did, on the 13th of September, 1644, order a grand committee of accommodation to consider the points of difference. The Independents would have stated the points of difference and would have endeavored a compromise while the discipline of the church was pending in the Assembly; but, at that time, the Presbyterians insisted that the new form of government should first pass into a law as a standard, before the exceptions of the Independents should be considered. Upon which they were adjourned by the House of Commons till the affair should be determined in the Assembly; who agreed, April 4, 1645, "that the brethren who had entered their dissent against the Presbyterian government should be a committee to bring in the whole frame of their government in a body, with their grounds and reasons." The Independents desired liberty to bring in their objections by parts as the Presbyterians had done their advices; but this not being admitted, they desired time to perfect their plan before any other scheme passed into a law, but the Presbyterians, without any regard to the compromise, by the assistance of their Scotch friends, pushed the affair to a conclusion in Parliament; upon which the Independents laid aside their own model, and published a remonstrance complaining of the artful conduct of the Assembly; and that the discipline of the church being fixed, it was too late to think of a comprehension.1 Thus the Presbyterians jockeyed the Independents, and intrigued their jus divinum.
The Parliament saw the mistake, and by their own hands resumed the affair, and revived the committee of accommodation, Nov. 6, 1645.
A committee of the most distinguished Independents, and also of the leading Presbyterians,  met several times on the subject of accommodation and toleration. At their last meeting, March 9, the Presbyterian paper in answer to the overtures of the Independents, concluded with these remarkable words--"That whereas their (Independent) brethren say that uniformity ought to be urged no farther than is agreeable to all men's consciences, and to their edification, it seems to them as if their brethren (the Independents) not only desired liberty of conscience for themselves, but for all men, and would have us think that we are bound by our covenant to bring the churches in the three kingdoms to no nearer a conjunction and uniformity than is consistent with the liberty of all men's consciences; which, whether it be the sense of the covenant, we leave with the honorable committee." Hereupon "Jeremiah Burroughs, a divine of great candor and moderation, declared in the name of the Independents, that if their congregations might not be exempted from that coercive power of the classes--if they might not have liberty to govern themselves in their own way, as long as they behave peaceably to the civil magistrate, they were resolved to suffer or go to some other place of the world where they might enjoy their liberty. But while men think there is no way of peace but by forcing all to be of the same mind--while they think the civil sword is an ordinance of God to determine all controversies of divinity, and that it must needs be attended with fines and imprisonments to the disobedient; while they apprehend there is no medium between a strict uniformity and a general confusion of all things; while these sentiments prevail, there must be a base subjection of men's consciences to slavery, a suppression of much truth, and great disturbances in the christian world."
Thus ended the last committee of Lords and Commons and Assembly of Divines for accommodation. Nothing was more detested and abhorred by the majority of the Presbyterians than toleration. The London divines, who often at this time held their meetings at Zion College, and had a synod every Monday to consult in order to aid the Westminster Assembly in carrying their points favorable to their own establishment, and to opposition to any toleration of other sectaries--besought, in a letter of January 15, 1645, the Assembly "to oppose with all their might the great Diana (toleration) of the Independents." In this letter these words are to be found--"Not, say they, that we can harbor the least jealousy of your zeal, fidelity, or industry in the opposing and extirpating of such a root of gall and bitterness as toleration is, and will be both to the present and future ages." The city ministers, in a provincial assembly, Nov. 2, 1749, in a vindication of their beloved presbytery, "represent universal toleration as contrary to godliness, opening a door to libertinism and profaneness, and a tenet to be rejected as soul poison."2
Such was the spirit of the Presbyterians both in and out of the creed-making assembly; and, as Mr. Neal justly observes, this no toleration was turned upon themselves by the prelatists in twenty years; so that they who would, and who did shut the gates of toleration and of mercy upon others, had those very gates shut in their own face. Mr. Baxter, tyrannical as he was, lived to deplore the blindness and obstinacy of this assembly upon this subject. His words are, "The Presbyterian ministers were so little sensible of their own infirmities, that they would not agree to tolerate those who were not only tolerable, but worthy instruments and members in the churches, prudent men, who were for union in things necessary, for liberty in things unnecessary, and for charity in all; but they could not be heard."
We shall notice but one other act of this assembly, and dismiss them from our view for a while. The Parliament requested them to recommend some other version of the Psalms of David than Sternhold's and Hopkins'. They read over Rouse's version, and, after several amendments, sent it up to the House, Nov. 14, 1645, with the following recommendation: "Whereas the honorable House of Commons, by an order bearing date Nov. 20, 1643, have recommended the Psalms published by Mr. Rouse to the consideration of the Assembly of Divines, the Assembly has caused them to be carefully perused; and as they are now altered and amended, do approve them; and humbly conceive they may be useful and profitable to the church if they be permitted to be publicly sung. Accordingly they were authorized by the two Houses."
Thus we have seen how the Presbyterian Confession of Faith, Solemn League and Covenant, Directory for Public Worship, Form of Discipline, Presbyterian Church Government, and Rouse's version of the Psalms of David, got to be canonical and of divine authority. And with deep sorrow, too, we have seen that no toleration was the first sprout from this sweet or bitter root. The following items give the whole in miniature:--
1. When king Charles I. sought the assistance of his Catholic subjects in carrying on a war for his own prerogative, the Parliament which opposed him sought the assistance of the Scots nation in resisting his claims.
2. The Scots, prejudiced in favor of Calvinism, through the preaching of Knox and others of the Geneva school, agreed to assist their English neighbors upon condition that they would assist them or unite with them in establishing one creed, one discipline, one ecclesiastical government in both nations.
3. In order to this, it was stipulated that an assembly of divines be called as an ecclesiastical council, to aid the Parliament in settling a religious establishment that would meet the views of the Scots.
4. That the assembly at Westminster was summoned, convened, sworn, instructed, paid, and controlled by this parliament.
5. That the solemn league and covenant was introduced, fashioned, matured, and established by the same divines and parliament.
6. That Rouse's psalms were canonized and legitimized by the same authority.
7. And that the whole ended in religious despotism, tyranny, and no toleration. That swords and constables, exiles, confiscation, and death, were the attendants and sanctions of this system.
It is to be hoped that many of the modern Presbyterians have seen the folly of their creed makers, and do lament that such should have been the circumstances which gave birth to their system.
IN presenting our readers with the following extract, we are afraid of being charged with the crime of plagiarism; because it will be remembered that, if we have not used the very words and phrases in some of our public addresses, we have certainly on various occasions, viva voce,  and, perhaps, with the pen, too, expressed every idea to the extract, and yet never acknowledged Mr. Locke as our tutor in any instance. Yet, strange as it may appear, we are perfectly innocent of the crime. For, until a few days ago, we had never seen or read one sentence in this work. In preparing for the edition of the New Testament, among other words lately received, this of the justly celebrated Locke came into our hands. It is the 3d edition, published in London, 1733, nearly a century ago. This great layman, commentator, and philosopher, to whom all the British empire and all America are indebted for his essays on Toleration, on the Human Understanding, and on other accounts, did, in our judgment, and in that of the great Dr. Pierce, and many others, make the best effort towards understanding the apostolic epistles ever made since the great apostacy took place. But he was a layman, else he should have been better known and more universally read as a commentator. His praise as a philosopher is commensurate with the English tongue--and, indeed, with modern Europe; but his character as a biblical critic is not so well known, because he had never been consecrated. We publish this extract on account of its intrinsic importance, and to show that some of those views which are said to be peculiarly our own, were entertained a hundred years ago, and concur in showing the necessity of the translation of the New Testament which we are about to publish.
ED. C. B.
Extract from the Preface to Locke's Paraphrase
and Notes on Four of Paul's Epistles.
"TO THESE we may subjoin two external causes that have made no small increase of the native and original difficulties that keep us from an easy and assured discovery of St. Paul's sense, in many parts of his epistles, and those are--
"First. The dividing of them into chapters and verses, as we have done; whereby they are so chopped and minced, and, as they are printed, stand so broken and divided, that not only the common people take the verses usually for distinct aphorisms, but even men of more advanced knowledge, in reading them, lose very much of the strength and force of the coherence, and the light that depends on it. Our minds are so weak and narrow, that they have need of all the helps and assistances that can be procured, to lay before them undisturbedly the thread and coherence of any discourse; by which alone they are truly improved, and led into the genuine sense of the author. When the eye is constantly disturbed with loose sentences, that, by their standing and separation, appear as so many distinct fragments, the mind will have much ado to take in, and carry on in its memory, a uniform discourse of dependent reasonings; especially having from the cradle been used to wrong impressions concerning them, and constantly accustomed to hear them quoted as distinct sentences, without any limitation or explication of their precise meaning from the place they stand in, and the relation they bear to what goes before or follows. These divisions also have given occasion to the reading these epistles by parcels and in scraps, which has farther confirmed the evil arising from such partitions. And I doubt not but every one will confess it to be a very unlikely way to come to the understanding of any other letters, to read them piecemeal, a bit to-day, and another scrap to-morrow, and so on by broken intervals; especially if the pause and cessation should be made as the chapters the apostle's epistles are divided into, to end sometimes in the middle of a sentence. It cannot therefore be wondered at, that that should be permitted to be done to Holy Writ, which would visibly disturb the sense and hinder the understanding of any other book whatever. If Tully's epistles were so printed, and so used, I ask whether they would not be much harder to be understood, less easy and less pleasant to be read by much than now they are?
"How plain soever this abuse is, and what prejudice soever it does to the understanding of the sacred scripture, yet if a bible was printed as it should be, and as the several parts of it were writ, in continued discourses where the argument is continued, I doubt not but the several parties would complaint of it as an innovation and a dangerous change in the publishing those holy books. And, indeed, those who are for maintaining their opinions, and the systems of parties by sound of words, with a neglect of the true sense of scripture, would have reason to make and foment the outcry. They would most of them be immediately disarmed of their great magazine of artillery wherewith they defend themselves, and fall upon others. If the Holy Scripture were but laid before the eyes of Christians to its due connexion and consistency, it would not then be so easy to snatch out a few words, as if they were separate from the rest, to serve a purpose to which they do not at all belong, and with which they have nothing to do. But as the matter now stands, he that has a mind to it may, at a cheap rate, be a notable champion for the truth; that is, for the doctrines of the sect that chance or interest has cast him into. He need but be furnished with verses of sacred scripture, containing words and expressions that are but flexible (as all general, obscure, and doubtful ones are) and his system that has appropriated them to the orthodoxy of his church, makes them immediately strong and irrefragable arguments for his opinion. This is the benefit of loose sentences and scripture crumbled into verses, which quickly turn into independent aphorisms. But if the quotation in the verse produced were considered as a part of a continued, coherent discourse, and so its sense were limited by the tenor of the context, most of these forward and warm disputants would be quite stripped of those which they doubt not now to call spiritual weapons; and they would have often nothing to say that would not shew their weakness and manifestly fly in their faces. I crave leave to set down a saying of the learned and judicious Mr. Selden:--'In interpreting the scripture,' says he, 'many do as if a man should see one have ten pounds, which he reckoned by 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, meaning 4 was but four units, and 5 five units, &c. and that he had in all but ten pounds. The other that sees him, takes not the figures together, as he does, but picks here and there; and thereupon reports that he had five pounds in one bag, and six pounds in another bag, and nine pounds in another bag, &c. when as, in truth, he has but ten pounds in all. So we pick out a text here and there to make it serve our turn; whereas, if we take it all together, and consider what went before and what followed, we find it meant no such thing.'"
A Restoration of the Ancient Order of Things.
On the Breaking of Bread.--No. IV.
I DO not aim at prolixity, but at brevity, in discussing the various topics which are necessary to be introduced into this work. We are not desirous to shew how much may be said on this or  any other subject, but to shew how little is necessary to establish the truth, and to say much in a few words. We shall not, then, dwell any longer on the Scriptural authority for the weekly breaking of bread; but for the sake of those who are, startled at what they call innovation, we shall adduce a few historical facts and incidents. We lay no stress upon what is no better than the traditions of the church, or upon the testimony of those called the primitive fathers, in settling any part of christian worship or christian obedience. Yet, when the scriptures are explicit upon any topic which is lost sight of in modern times, it is both gratifying and useful to know how the practice has been laid aside and other customs been substituted in its room. Here is, too, a corroborating influence in authentic history, which, while it does not authorize any thing as of divine authority, it confirms the conviction of our duty in things divinely established, by observing how they were observed and how they were laid aside.
All antiquity concurs in evincing that for the three first centuries all the churches broke bread once a weak. Pliny, in his Epistles, book 10th; Justin Martyr, in his Second Apology for the Christians; and Tertullian, De Ora. p. 135, testify that it was the universal practice to all the weekly assemblies of the brethren, after they had prayed and sang praises--"then bread and wine being brought to the chief brother, he takes it and offers praise and thanksgiving to the Father, in the name of the Son and the Holy Spirit. After prayer and thanksgiving the whole assembly says, Amen. When thanksgiving is ended by the chief guide, and the consent of the whole people, the deacons (as we call them) give to every one present part of the bread and wine, over which thanks are given."
The weekly communion was preserved in the Greek church till the seventh century; and, by one of their canons, "such as neglected three weeks together were excommunicated."--Erskine's Dissertations, p. 271.
In the fourth century, when all things began to be changed by baptized Pagans, the practice began to decline. Some of the councils in the western part of the Roman empire, by their canons, strove to keep it up. The council held at Illiberis in Spain, A. D. 324, decreed that "no offerings should be received from such as did not receive the Lord's Supper."--Council Illi. canon 28.
The council at Antioch, A. D. 341, decreed that "all who came to church, and heard the scriptures read, but afterwards joined not in prayer, and receiving the sacrament, should be cast out of the church till such time as they gave public proof of their repentance."--Council Ant. canon 2.
All these canons were unable to keep a carnal crowd of professors in a practice for which they had no spiritual taste; and, indeed, it was likely to get out of use altogether. To prevent this, the council of Agatha, in Languedoc, A. D. 506, decreed "that none should be esteemed good christians who did not communicate at least three times a year--at Christmas, Easter, and Whitsunday." Coun. Agatha, canon 18. This soon became the standard of a good christian, and it was judged presumptuous to commune oftener.
Things went on in this way for more than six hundred years, until they got tired of even three communications in one year; and the infamous council of Lateran, which decreed auricular confession and transubstantiation, decreed that "an annual communion at Easter was sufficient." This association of the "sacrament" with Easter, and the mechanical devotion of the ignorant at this season, greatly contributed to the worship of the Host. Bingham's Ori. B. 15. c. 9. Thus the breaking of bread in simplicity and godly sincerity once a week, degenerated into a pompous sacrament once a year at Easter.
At the Reformation this subject was but slightly investigated by the reformers. Some of them, however, paid some attention to it. Even Calvin, in his Ins. lib. 4. chap. 17. 46. says:--"And truly this custom, which enjoins communicating once a year, is a most evident contrivance of the Devil, by whose instrumentality soever it may have been determined."
And again, (Ins. lib. 6. chap. xviii. sec 46.) he says:--"It ought to have been far otherwise. Every week, at least, the table of the Lord should have been spread for christian assemblies, and the promises declared, by which, in partaking of it, we might be spiritually fed."
Martin Chemnitz, Witsius, Calderwood, and others of the reformers and controversialists, concur with Calvin; and, indeed, almost every commentator on the New Testament, concurs with the Presbyterian Henry in these remarks on Acts xx. 7. "In the primitive times it was the custom of many churches to receive the Lord's Supper every Lord's day."
The Belgic reformed church, in 1581, appointed the supper to be received every other month. The reformed churches of France, after saying that they had been too remiss in observing the supper but four times a year, advise a greater frequency. The church of Scotland began with four sacraments in a year; but some of her ministers got up to twelve times. Thus things stood till the close of the last century.
Since the commencement of the present century, many congregations in England, Scotland, Ireland, and some in the United States and Canada, both Independents and Baptists, have attended upon the supper every Lord's day, and the practice is every day gaining ground. These historical notices may be of some use to those who are ever and anon crying out Innovation! Innovation! But we advocate the principle and the practice on apostolic grounds alone. Blessed is that servant who, knowing his master's will, does it with expedition and delight. Those who would wish to see an able refutation of the Presbyterian mode of observing the sacrament, and a defence of weekly communion, would do well to read Dr. John Mason's Letters on frequent Communion, who is himself a high-toned Presbyterian, and, consequently, his remarks will be more regarded by his brethren than mine.
Paraphrase on Rom. VIII. 7-25.--By Request.
The proposition which the apostle has in design to enforce, is that contained in the last clause of verse 17. viz. "If we believing Jews and Gentiles suffer, without apostacy, the bodily afflictions incident to our obeying the Lord, as he suffered the afflictions attendant on his humiliation, we shall be glorified with him at the resurrection of the just, at which time we shall be fully revealed as the adopted sons of God."
For my part, says Paul, I do not esteem the afflictions of our bodies in the present life as worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be exhibited in us at the resurrection of our bodies from the grave. For such is the transcendant glory to be revealed in us, that the earnest  desire of the believing Jew and Gentile looks in hope for the manifestations of the sons of God in their glorified bodies, in which they will appear in character as the adopted sons of God. For the believing Jew and Gentile, as respects the body, were, in consequence of one man's sin, subjected to corruption in the grave; not, indeed, with their own consent; but they now cheerfully submit their bodies to the dust of death because God has subjected them to it, in hope that these mortal bodies shall be liberated from the bondage of corruption in the grave, and introduced into the freedom of the glorious immortality of the children of God. Besides, we know that bodily suffering is not exclusively the lot of christians, for the whole human race groan together and travail in pain even yet with all their efforts to escape these evils. And not only the unbelieving Jew and Gentile, but ourselves, who, by faith in Jesus, are become the sons of God, who have the chief and most exalted gifts of the Holy Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, anxiously waiting for the full adoption of the sons of God; namely, the redemption of our bodies from the grave at the resurrection of the just. For we are sustained in these bodily sufferings in hope of this glorious resurrection. Now you know, O Romans! that hope which has obtained its object is not hope; for what a man sees, how can he hope for it? But if we hope for that which we do not see, then we patiently wait for it, as is the case with respect to the resurrection and glorification of our bodies.
To the Editor of the Christian Baptist.
MR. CAMPBELL--AS different persons understand the same expressions very differently, so it happens in my neighborhood with the readers of the Christian Baptist, until it is at length agreed to refer to you for your real meaning on one point, with regard to which many are very tenacious.
The fact is just this, that while I cannot, for certainty, see any thing to fault in what you have advanced (so far as I have happened to see and read) but much to admire and approve, being long since convinced that all those hireling preachers and high-flying professors with them, who are so hand-and-glove with the world that they bear none of that persecution, hatred, and odium, which Christ promised as the sure and inevitable lot and portion of all his true followers--I say, while I am fully convinced that these are not the true and real followers of Christ, in that strait and narrow way pointed out by him, many think otherwise for want of knowing and duly considering those well pointed truths in proof of it, which you are gradually furnishing, and which, I trust in God, will in the end be attended with great moral good.
A religious Archimedes has long been wanted to raise the moral world from its chaotic darkness as to true and abstract religion.
But, sir, many think that you go too far, and condemn all, because (like or as a man of true and accurate science and extensive erudition) you do not, as such ones cannot, agree fully and exactly with any one of the sects--because, say they, you seem to condemn all the sects, except perhaps the society of the Friends, called Quakers; and that you seem rather to bear on them, by suggesting that revelation is full (by which I understand you to confine your ideas essentially to scripture revelation, or the like,) whereas they avow a belief that they are, by times, under the monitions of the Spirit, which I am inclined to believe of some of them, except when they, like others, run into the heathenish and unscriptural practice of making long public prayers, which my bible wholly condemns--neither can I believe that the Spirit of God ever taught any thing so totally unreasonable and absurd. However, to do them justice, I think that they do not make so long prayers, full of "vain repetitions," and pompous dictatorial matter.
But, sir, if you should utterly deny all the monitions of the Spirit and every kind of revelation in our times, then we should certainly be at issue on that point. For I fully believe that, in this respect, God is the same, to his true and faithful followers, at least, as he was in the days of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Joseph and others, and that he still, by times, reveals certain things to some men and women, and points out to their understandings certain things which are, and things which shall come, to pass--I say, I believe this, because my experience has proved it; because I have, several times in my life, been advised of things to come, in such a way and manner, and upon such a particular crisis, that it seemed impossible for me to mistake what was intended.
And though these monitory impressions of something to come, were several times limited to things most improbable and unlikely to take place, still they never once failed. Also, being generally accompanied with an impression that I must heed, mind, or remember them, as things which would certainly take place in due time, I was therefore generally quite unable to doubt of them for a moment of time.
I have judged these monitions as coming directly from Deity, because I think that no one else knows all things to come, and is also friendly enough to advise us of them beforehand.
To conclude, sir, let me plead for the rights of conscience and opinion, especially for the society of Friends; for, if our Saviour's words are verified at all, by any people, it must be allowed to be by them--I mean to what he said to his followers, when arraigned for their opinions and preaching; and whereon he commanded them not to meditate what they should answer, or what they should say, adding that he would give them words and arguments which none of their adversaries should be able to gainsay or resist. If this promise can be consistently extended to any of his followers of latter times, it would seem to me to be most applicable to them, because their opponents cannot refute their arguments--they cannot hold way with them in dispute upon scripture ground (see their evasive excuses upon Berkely and other of their writers,) and therefore have had recourse to civil power to crush and silence them, just as your opposers would now silence you, if they could, by the same means, and for the very self-same reasons; namely, because they cannot hold out a fair argument with you, either upon scriptural or philosophic ground, right reason or common sense.
It is for this reason, sir, that priestcraft is at its very wits end, and in the very raving paroxysms of desperation, for fear of the loss of its empire over the understandings of the multitude. It fears that people will begin to use their brains properly, and to think and reflect on the nonsense of their arrogant pretensions, as though God had given them a power which mortal never had, namely, to be the real and efficient cause of the salvation of others, which would leave this plain and horrid inference as an inevitable result, namely, that if by their presence and exertions many souls would actually be saved, that it is  hence most clearly and fairly deducible, that, by their absence or remissness, many souls would be lost. This, although not perceived by many truly honest and religious minded persons (who are therefore zealous to send missionaries out to all the world) is a most horrid and abominable doctrine. For as such circumstances depend on the providence of God, which has not left it to any one to choose in what age and place he should be born, so as to have a religious education and an able and faithful teacher, therefore it refers back the whole blame on Deity and his providence for all that are supposed to be lost in that way; and which, therefore, as a Mr. Witherell justly remarks, in a like case, makes God more cruel than the Devil can possibly be, because the Devil has not power thus to plan and execute the loss and destruction of nearly all, thus unconditionally, as to any thing in their power to fix, control, or alter in the least degree.
Christ said, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men;" but he has no where told us, as I understand, that these same men would otherwise be lost; for this would reflect great injustice upon God and his providence, which is said to notice even the little sparrow.
Again we read, that "they who turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for evermore;" by which I understand that they who are the willing and faithful instruments of God's providence, in this way, shall, in due time, reap the just reward of all their labors and exertions.
But I must not enlarge much, because it is quite an incorrigible task to undertake to make the multitude see that every genuine religious tenet must have fair reason as well as scripture for its support.
And again, because I think that right reason and scripture, and the obvious character of Deity, fully warrants the idea that he would be disposed to reveal certain things, in some peculiar cases, directly to mortals like us; and that he accordingly does reveal them, while on my part I may not be able to make people see it to be so, any better than I can make them see and believe that, according to scripture and reason, God is far too just to ever let or suffer one single soul to be ultimately lost, because, in his providence, no Christian professor was ever sent to teach and instruct it. Or, again, any better than I can make them see and understand that, although the things taught by the preacher may be, as the scripture says of good works, "good and profitable to men," yet that they never can be the entire and efficient cause of their salvation.
AN OCCASIONAL READER.
To "An Occasional Reader."
DEAR SIR,--ALL that I know of God, and I believe all that can be known of him, is from the revelation he has given us. If, without a revelation from himself, men could have known his existence or his character, a written record or a verbal representation of himself was superfluous. And if, without the revelation, he can be known, they who have it not are just in as good circumstances as we, if not in better. I cordially embrace and cheerfully subscribe the aphorism of Paul, which affirms that the world by its philosophy knows not God. This is not only an article of my faith, but an item of my experience. Is any child born with innate ideas of God? Do we not see that they must all be taught his being and perfections? Where is the nation which knows him without a written revelation or some remnants of tradition originally derived from the bible? These questions I do not propose to you as if you were of a contrary opinion; but to enforce the truth that all that is known or knowable of God is derived either directly or indirectly from his verbal communications to men--and aided by these, the heavens declare his glory, and the earth proclaims his goodness, and every thing in the universe pays its tribute to the bible. So long, then, as I believe the bible to be from God, so long I must believe it to be a perfect revelation--not perfect in the absolute sense of the word, for this would not suit us any more than Paul's communicating revelations which he had in the third heavens; but it is perfect as adapted to man in his present circumstances. Many things are only hinted, not fully revealed; and while here we must see as through a glass darkly, but in another state we shall have a revelation of his glory which will be perfectly adapted to us in those circumstances; but even then that revelation will not be absolutely perfect, for a revelation absolutely perfect would make God as well known to his creatures as he is to himself, which I would humbly say appears to me impossible.
As to those monitions and impressions of which you speak, I know some things certainly, and I conjecture others. The bible tells me that communications, monitions, and impressions have been made upon the minds of men in dreams, visions, trances, &c. yet the knowledge of salvation was not communicated in this way. It would have been as easy, by a dream or a monition of the Spirit, as you speak, to have made Cornelius and his friends acquainted with the salvation of Jesus Christ, as to have vouchsafed the vision to Cornelius and to Peter. Yet this was not done, because not agreeable to the divine mind, who sees not as man sees. When there appeared to have been a necessity for communications of this kind they were not made. And now that the revelation is completed and given to us with awful sanctions, and the most tremendous threats against innovators, and against those who either add to it or diminish from it; it is as absurd to expect such monitions as it is to trust in dreams and visions. This far may be known with certainty. With regard to impressions and monitions now made on the human mind respecting passing events, either when the body is asleep or awake, we have heard much, experienced something, and know nothing. I once ventured to predict a future event from a dream which I then believed would come to pass, and which did actually come to pass contrary to any expectation derived from things known. But what of this? How many such things would be necessary to form a systematic theory? It might be conjectured that, as angels are ministering spirits, employed by him that rules over all and knows, all things, in performing their respective missions, they do impress the mind of those to whom they minister, and sometimes preadmonish them of future events. But again, others are punished, as was Pilate's wife, by such impressions; and many, if not most of these monitions, are useless, as the persons premonished cannot make any use of them; for this would destroy their character as predictions, which necessarily are unconditional. So that after all, our wisest and happiest course is to attend on the written monitions of the Spirit; for however we may amuse ourselves with speculating upon the subject, we must be ignorant of them until we know what sort of an intercourse exists between embodied and disembodied spirits, which we can never attain to in this state. All the light we have or  can have is as useless as the feeble ray that finds its way through a small aperture into a cell--it neither enlightens, warms, or cheers the solitary prisoner. Let us then attend to the certain prophetic word, as to a light that shines in a dark place, until the full splendor of heavenly light bursts upon our spirits when disencumbered with these clay tenements. Of these remarks it may be said, they are more amusing than instructive.
DURING a late revival at Camillus, New York, a man who had been sprinkled in his infancy wished to be baptized and join the Presbyterian church. The Presbyterian divines would not baptize him, because he had been sprinkled. The Baptists would not immerse him, because he wanted to join the Presbyterians. At length a new sort of christians, called "Smithites," immersed him. He then joined the Presbyterians. The church was satisfied with his sprinkling, and he with his immersion.
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The Christian Baptist (1889)