Robert Richardson Letters to Bishop J. (1829)



MONDAY, NOV. 2, 1829.

        "Style no man on earth your Father; for he alone is your  
  "father who is in heaven; and all ye brethren. Assume not  
  "the title of Rabbi; for ye have only one teacher. Neither assume  
  "the title of Leader; for ye have only one Leader--the MESSIAH."  
  Matt. xxiii. 8-10.      
  "Prove all things: hold fast that which is good."  
  Paul, the Apostle.      

      THE following documents are worthy of an attentive perusal. A very amiable young physician, of good education, and of a clear, discriminating mind, who lately embraced the ancient gospel, is addressed in the following letter from an Episcopalian minister, from whose cathedral he had strayed into the fold of Christ. The parties are both known to myself, and the circumstances relative to his immersion. This letter was written to him by the reverend Episcopal teacher on hearing of his having rode off some hundred miles to be immersed for the remission of his sins. His reply to his former pastor, contains so much good sense and christian independence, that I could wish it to be read by every Episcopalian in the United States. This young disciple was formerly very taciturn when addressed by his pastor on religious topics, which will explain one allusion in his reply.

ED. C. B.      

July 9th, 1829.      


      YOU will not, I trust, take it amiss if I express to you the surprize and regret with which I heard from your father, of the change in your religious sentiments. But my design in troubling you with this, is not a controversial one. I merely wish to set before your excellent judgment a few reasons for questioning the propriety of your course, even supposing that your conclusion were a right one.

      You are the eldest of a numerous family; I believe I may add, the best endowed both by nature and by education, and engaged in a highly respectable profession. That you should be looked up to in a great degree by your brothers and sisters, and peculiarly cherished by your parents, is, under these circumstances, a very rational consequence. That you are so, is a fact with which you must be perfectly acquainted. I do not myself know any young man, therefore, to whose opinions a more ready and favorable attention might have been expected to be paid by his immediate connexions, and certainly none who could have calculated more fully on being allowed, after due consultations, to have his own way.

      In the honor due to our father and mother, I am sure you will agree that a sacred regard to their feelings and their principles must, of necessity, be included; and that a son, who is at once warmly beloved and greatly respected by them, is the last who could, with any piety or justice, act without regard to either, or show, by any decision of his, the slightest contempt of their opinions. But in abandoning the church of your father, in which you had taken your place as a member in full communion, at your parents' request, and in doing this without one word of [87] previous communication with them--without one attempt to debate the propriety of the measure with those towards whom the word of God directs every reasonable manifestation of gratitude and kind consideration--without a single exhibition of any anxiety to prepare them for the change, or of solicitude to enlighten the blow about to be inflicted on their comfort and joy in their eldest and favorite child. Have you done as you would, one day, wish your son to do by you? Have you acted according to the spirit of the gospel? Have you not been led by your zeal to do a positive evil, at least in the mode pursued to secure your object? And are you sure that your course has produced to others the hundredth part of the pleasure, that it has inflicted pain, on those whose love for you is probably greater than that of the whole united world besides?

      I trust you will pardon the frankness of this expostulation. I am a father, and therefore may presume that I can estimate the misery of a parent who sees and mourns over the estrangement of a darling son, much more correctly than you can yet do. God grant that you may never experience the terrible reality of such a visitation. But beholding, as I did, the grief of your father, hearing him say that he had passed a sleepless and a wretched night in consequence of your conduct in this matter, and observing the tears of strong emotion which his manhood could not strain while he spoke, I could easily conjecture the state of your mother's mind, and thought it a duty to intrude myself no longer as a pastor, but as a christian friend, to ask you whether you are not bound in conscience and in principle, to acknowledge your error in taking such a step without consulting them? Whether you are not bound by the precepts of Christ Jesus to reconcile yourself to your parents by every acknowledgment consistent with truth?

      I do not mean at all to impeach the soundness of your religious views. My sincere desire to have you unmolested and entirely free, even from any unwelcome solicitation on that subject.--But I do beseech you not to suffer this breach between you and your parents to remain unclosed for want of a speedy and thorough effort to heal it. In the mode of your procedure, you have been exceedingly to blame, because this mode was a plain declaration of want of confidence, want of kindness, want of reverence, want of filial submission. I confine myself to this single point, believing it a plain one, and in the hope that, however your light may exceed mine in the other doctrines of christianity, we shall agree in the practical application of the moral law: "Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee."

      May the good spirit of the Most High direct and bless you.

  Your affectionate friend. &c.
J.* [88]      

      * I am not authorized to publish the names.


[The Christian Baptist 7 (November 2, 1829): 87-88.]


July 15th, 1829.      


      AS it would be highly inconsistent with my profession to take amiss any friendly attempt to convince me of a supposed error, I am very far from doing so in regard to that which you have made. On the contrary, I have to thank you for endeavoring to convince me that I was at fault in not consulting my parents upon my choice of religion, although my own heart as yet acquits me. As I cannot, however, exonerate myself from the charge before others, without declaring the motives which prompted me to that choice, it becomes necessary for me to offer to you an apology for preferring Christianity to Episcopalianism. An apology for becoming a Christian!--and to a professed minister of the gospel!--This is strange--but circumstances require it!

      As old Mr. Wrenshall set forth in a petition which he wrote for a tailor, that "he had been born and bred a tailor, and, notwithstanding all the vicissitudes of human life, was a tailor still;" so, I suppose, it happened with me, that I was born and bred an Episcopalian; but, more mutable than the tailor, I am not an Episcopalian still. At least as soon as I knew my right hand from my left, I found myself an Episcopalian--I don't know how--perhaps by hereditary descent; and full, too, of sectarian prejudice, derived probably from the same source from which the children of Papists derive their Babylonish propensities. I was bred an Episcopalian, as far as compulsory attendance on Episcopalian ceremonies could constitute me one, and lived, until my sixteenth year, without religion and without God in the world.

      About this time a beloved Christian brother (not an Episcopalian) directed my thoughts and affections, in some degree, towards the Lord Jesus, as the Rose of Sharon that had no thorn; and the occasional reading of the scriptures, and a more particular attention to prayer and to sermons was the consequence. After some time, being taught to consider the Episcopal church as my spiritual mother, and supposing (like any other silly child) that she was the handsomest and best in the world, I introduced myself, at my father's request and yours, to what I then considered her privileges. And although I believed in the doctrine of the scriptures, and wished to obey it, yet having no certain testimony in my heart or life that my sins were forgiven--that I was born of water and Spirit, and united to Christ, (and I could not have this testimony because Episcopacy had already carefully deprived me of the only one the scriptures have appointed, and that, too, at a time when, on account of infancy, I was unable to agree to, or resist, the measure,) the Lord's supper was to me rather a punishment, than a comfort, because I did not realize my title to it; and yet I was unwilling to disobey what I knew was a command of God, and my conscience was sometimes quieted with the Episcopalian or Pharasaical reflection, that I also had [89] gone through all the preliminary ceremonies of the church, and therefore as good a right to her ordinances as any other Episcopalian. Still no motive had so strong an influence over my conduct in this matter, as the fear of disobeying my earthly parent.

      The fear of the Lord, however, soon began to sink deeper into my soul, and I made stronger efforts to get rid of the burden of sin--but in vain; and my life afterwards was compounded of long seasons of torpid religious despondency, "that frost of the soul, that binds up all its powers, and congeals life in perpetual sterility;" a species of hopeless carelessness, if I may so speak, alternated with transient glimpses of the happiness which religion would have afforded me if I had possessed it in its purity.

      "When I was a child I thought as a child, I acted as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things"--that is to say, when I began to look about me, I became weaned from my spiritual mother, because I perceived that she was neither so well favored nor so good as I was taught to believe. And it seemed to me that a simple rule of judgment would apply. As it would be unwise to consider a lady identical with the house she lived in, the garments she wore, the professions she made, or to judge of her by these, it would be equally so to esteem a church to consist in a meetinghouse, a liturgy, or a profession, or by these to estimate her real character. A church is composed of members, and by their conduct the purity of the church (i. e. their purity) must be decided.

      After musing on these things and reading in the Book of God, as I reclined on the verdant carpet of nature, beneath the luxuriant foliage of a spreading tree, I insensibly fell into a reverie. I beheld at a distance an elegant mansion, whose gothic minarets and battlements broke against the light, and whose lofty towers raised themselves towards the clouds. Presently a lady, with her train-bearer, descended from the building and entered into a magnificent carriage, in waiting at the door, and attended by a retinue of servants, which then rapidly approached me, and halted near the place where I was. The lady immediately alighted and came towards me. Her person seemed to be adorned with the gorgeous trappings of fashion; her step was slow and measured; and the striking affectation of her manners could only have been acquired in what I was accustomed to hear called the highest and politest circles. She thus addressed me:--"My son, why hast thou forsaken my house? Why hast thou not appeared with me on the appointed days, to render praises to my spouse and seek his face? Is not Christ my spouse? Do I not enjoy his smiles? Behold I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing. My servants are many: they are clothed in silk and fine linen; I reward them liberally, and they praise me, for I am pure and holy." So thou didst teach me, I replied, that thou wert the spouse of Christ; and in him who is altogether lovely, my soul delighted; therefore did I seek [90] his face with thee; but I perceived that he hid his face from thee, and that I could not gain his smiles. Thou gavest me a little book that I might praise him and call to him by reading therein; but he told me that out of the abundance of my heart my mouth must speak, and not out of the abundance of thy little book. Nay, thine own speech betrayed thee. Sayest thou, "I am pure and holy?" and doth not thy little book testify of thee that thou art a "miserable sinner?" that thou hast "no health in thee?" and that the "burden of thy sins is intolerable?" And truly thou seemest to mourn grievously for thine iniquities. Would not sackcloth and ashes become thy situation better than this gorgeous apparel? And I beheld also that hatred and enmity, revilings, drunkenness, profanity, and every evil prevailed in the conduct of most of thy children. O! thou daughter of Babylon! if he whom thou callest thy spouse, had sanctified thee, would not thy children be holy? Thou didst profess to appear before God one day in the week, while not only then, but during the whole week, thy actions showed that thy heart was far from him. Therefore, did I refuse to take any longer thy counsel, but resolved to follow the directions of him who could not deceive me. My Lord smiled upon me, and in his presence my soul takes delight: therefore do I rejoice in the God of my salvation, who "never leaves me nor forsakes me." Perceiving that pride curled her lip into an insulting smile of incredulity, I added, "Thou knowest not that thou art wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." Repent of thy wickedness, therefore, and obey Christ. I now observed anger sparkling in her eyes; and her servants, emulous of each other, began to raise their voices in her eulogy, and withal occasioned such a din that it awoke me.

      I could not deny that the Episcopalians, and the Presbyterians, and other sects had faith; but I perceived that it was Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and sectarian faith, producing nothing but Episcopalian, Presbyterian, and sectarian works; that each would boast in his own scheme and hate his neighbor. I therefore concluded it was high time for me to apply to a teacher sent from God, and to take the holy scriptures as my guide. Believing that my Heavenly Father meant what he said, and that in every thing essential to salvation his words were plain, I threw behind me all sectarianism, and took up the Bible. And I took it up with the resolution that what I discovered to be my Father's will, I would endeavor to perform: and if the idea of consulting any human being about the propriety of doing what I believed to be the command of God, had ever entered my thoughts, it would have done so only to be discarded as a suggestion of Satan.

      Considering the Christian church as it was first formed by the Apostles, and the ancient gospel as preached by Peter on the day of Pentecost, I perceived that faith in Jesus, as the Son of God and Saviour of sinners, was the first duty; the second, repentance; and the third, baptism for the remission of sins and the gift of the [91] Holy Spirit; and the fourth, that we should walk in newness of life.

      Having been all my life dwelling upon the two first principles of the doctrine of Christ, i. e. repentance from dead works and faith towards God, (and, as far as my observation extends, this little primer constitutes the entire library of most sectarians, and the consequence is that very few of them ever learn to read it,) it became necessary for me now to think of baptism. I need not detail the progress of that examination which forced me to conclude that infant sprinkling was not baptism. Suffice it to say, that both in the Septuagint and New Testament, I found that the words baptw and baptizw signify to immerse, or dip; and that to translate them thus would make complete sense and harmony of the passage in which they occur; whereas, to introduce the idea of sprinkling, would frequently make absolute nonsense of scripture, (ex. gra. Rom. vi. 3, 4, 5. Coloss. ii 12, &c.) I also found that faith and repentance were absolute prerequisites for christian baptism; if we wished it to be of any benefit to us, and that the word of God commanded me to be baptized for the remission of my sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Coming to this conclusion, therefore, I could not conceive that I was bound, by any principle, to consult my parents, or any body else, about the propriety of fulfilling this duty, any more than Abraham was to consult his wife Sarah about the propriety of sacrificing Isaac in obedience to the command of God.

      Besides this, my father's "feelings and principles" in religion, which you say, are worthy of "sacred regard," I knew to be strictly and exclusively Episcopalian; and, as such, I considered them unworthy of that regard. For I do not accustom myself to pay "sacred regard" to any thing which I do not believe sacred and holy; and I cannot admit without reservation, a principle that sanctifies the "feelings and principles" of all parents from those who cause their children to pass through the fire to Moloch, or set them beneath the wheels of the image of Juggernaut, to those who bring them up in papal superstition, or impiously presume to "sprinkle them into Christ's death," (as their traditions would make the scriptures say,) while the parents themselves, at the very time, though they may go to church, and the children, as soon as they are able, show by their works of unrighteousness whose children the word of God declares them to be.

      I might, indeed, have gone as Lot went to his sons-in-law, and said, "Up, get ye out of this place!" but I would have "seemed as one that mocked unto them;" and I feared to rouse in my father those violent passions which it seems Episcopalianism has no power to subdue, and by announcing my intention to enlist them in the use of every means against its fulfilment; thus giving occasion to sin, and finally obliging me to commit a positive act of disobedience.

      And taking another view of the matter: religion never was [92] the subject of conversation between me and my father, and I never perceived him to be interested in it. As long as I remained quiet in that net which human ingenuity and the prejudice of education had thrown around him and his forefathers, and in which I was retained from my infancy; as long as I "went to church," as the phrase is, all was well. My being a Christian seemed to be a secondary consideration, or rather no consideration at all. I know not how he could expect me to consult him in a matter in which I never saw him interested, and about which he never conversed with me.

      Obeying the command, therefore, without consulting man, I received, to use the words of the Presbyterian Confession of Faith, and the declaration of the 27th Article in Episcopacy, "the sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of regeneration, of the remission of sins, and of giving up to God through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life." And, oh! that all poor sinners might experience with me that the promises of God are "yea and amen;" that he will bless them who trust in him; that he is able to forgive sin; that the yoke of Christ is easy and his burden light; and that the Holy Spirit is indeed "a Comforter." "Why should the children of a King go mourning all their days?" Why not lay their sins at the feet of Jesus, and flounder no more in the slough of Despond, but wash in the laver that standeth between the tabernacle and the altar, that, as kings and priests, they may serve the Lord in the beauty of holiness. "Praise the Lord, O my soul! and all that is within me praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul! and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thy sin, and healeth all thine infirmities. Who saveth thy life from destruction, and crowneth thee with mercy and loving kindness."

      To conclude the matter, I have thus escaped quietly from these Episcopalian and Presbyterian nets; and my father is displeased. How much greater you may judge would his displeasure have been, if my deliverance had been accomplished in defiance of his efforts to prevent it. I rejoice in the liberty and light of the gospel, and in communion with the church of Christ, where we are all brethren, and where we enjoy all that blessedness that is promised to those whom men revile, and slander, and persecute. Unfortunate sectarians! the world does not hate or persecute you; for the world loves its own. I am happy; but my father is angry. And this is strange--that he should mourn for me--that my joy has become his sorrow, and my happiness his displeasure. Do his Episcopalian "feelings and principles" teach him to show his affection for his children by rejoicing when they are in darkness and distress, and have the "spirit of bondage continually to fear," and can enjoy no comfort in religion, no confidence towards God, no certainty of remission of sins, no power to walk in newness of life: and to mourn when they are joyful in the God of their salvation; when they have received the spirit of adoption, and rejoice in the glorious liberty of the children of God? [93]

      The free and plain manner in which I have declared my motives, may, perhaps, give occasion to offence and misconstruction. My wish has not been to offend, but to speak the truth; and that I may not be misconstrued, I will observe that my observations have not been directed against any individual, but against that principle of parental dictation in religious matters which my father claims as his right. This may do among Episcopalians, who, from the bishop to the sexton, seem to me to delight in doing all things "by authority" of men. But I am not amenable to their rules. I call no man master, for I think I have but one master, even Christ; and that to his own master every one must stand or fall. My affection for my parents is unabated. To my Heavenly Father my first obedience and love is due, and in heavenly things he alone should be consulted. To my earthly parents my obedience in things not interfering with rights of conscience, and abundant gratitude is due; since they labored for my comfort in temporal things, and incurred expense, and bestowed opportunities of education on me, more than I deserved or duty required of them. In making changes in my situation as it regards earthly things, therefore, their "feelings and principles" I would consult, and consider that I can only show my gratitude for their kindness by rendering to them that assistance in all things which the Lord will enable me to afford, and paying to them that respect which, as my earthly parents, they are entitled to receive. You seem to think my mother regrets my happiness more than my father. You are in error. She rejoices in it. One presents the picture of "Affection conquered by Pride;" the other, "Pride conquered by Affection." I think I have acted in this matter exactly as I would be done by, and that I could not set a better example to my brothers and sisters, than that of consulting and obeying God rather than man.

      As to your insinuation, that a desire to please others influenced me, I can only deny it. The person you allude to never advised me to receive baptism, or to leave the Episcopal church, though he had ample opportunity to do so. It gives him pleasure, indeed, to behold--nay, "there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth." Why do you and my father mourn upon such an occasion? This denial, however, I suppose will not avail with my father; and I can only say, that against blindness of prejudice, violence of passion, and obstinacy of unbelief, I will not condescend to defend either him or myself in any other way than by simply declaring that such stories are slanderous and false.

      Finally, lest any thing I have said should cause the church of Christ to be misrepresented, I will observe, that for many years, in different parts of Europe, a few of the sheep of Christ, in various sects, have recognized their Master's voice, and refused to listen to the voice of a stranger: from some congregations, two or three--from others, eight or ten, separated themselves, and resolved to take the scriptures as their guide. All these appear [94] to have fallen on the same plan, without any knowledge of each other, i. e. the plan formed by the Apostles. And this "Wild fire," as you like to call it, (in contradistinction, I suppose, to the glimmering taper of Episcopacy,) is now making its way in America. In many districts Babylon's bells are tolling, and many of the clergy have been released from the bondage of sectarianism, and are now preaching the ancient gospel; while others are terrified because "the hope of their gains is in danger of being lost." We have the same God, the same Saviour, the same Spirit, the same Bible, the same faith, that the people of God, scattered among the sects, have. All are admitted among us who profess faith in Christ as the Son of God and Saviour of sinners, and have the seal of remission of sins through his precious blood; and every one is immediately expelled and delivered over to Satan, whose behaviour does not correspond to this profession. Nor can a disorderly person be long undiscovered; for, as under the reign of Jesus the blind see, and the deaf hear; so also do the dumb speak, (of which miracle you yourself will acknowledge me to be a living example;) and being thus possessed of all our faculties, we keep a watchful eye over our own conduct and that of our brethren. We have also the same liturgy and confession of faith which the church had in the days of the Apostles; and we can only say to the sects, "Show us your faith by your liturgy and your confessions of faith, and we will show you our faith by our works."

      I might speak more fully upon many points, but as the interruptions of business have already detained me, and the letter has extended beyond ordinary limits, I will close by observing that your knowledge of "this way" is very limited. You merely seem to know that "it is every where spoken against." And now do not reason, religion, and prudence concur in saying to you, Do not speak or act ignorantly; "for if it be of God you cannot overthrow it, lest haply you be found to fight against God?"

      That the purity and simplicity of the ancient gospel may cease to be foolishness to men, and that the elected of God may be enabled to walk worthy of their high vocation, is my prayer to him who is able and willing to save all who come to him through Christ our Lord.



[The Christian Baptist 7 (November 2, 1829): 88-95.]



MONDAY, DEC. 5, 1829.

        "Style no man on earth your Father; for he alone is your  
  "father who is in heaven; and all ye brethren. Assume not  
  "the title of Rabbi; for ye have only one teacher. Neither assume  
  "the title of Leader; for ye have only one Leader--the MESSIAH."  
  Matt. xxiii. 8-10.      
  "Prove all things: hold fast that which is good."  
  Paul, the Apostle.      

For the Christian Baptist.      



      IT is some time since I received a letter from you respecting the change in my religious sentiments, in which you charged me with having committed a fault because I did not follow my feelings, or the feelings of others, in preference to my faith. In my reply, I showed that such a course of conduct, even if it were [111] not contrary to the precepts of christianity, would, in the circumstances in which I was placed, have been neither necessary nor expedient. The free exposition of my motives which I thought proper to give you, might, I feared, give occasion to offence; but I am very happy to find it otherwise, and that, in this matter, you yourself have acted upon your faith rather than your feelings.

      To that communication I did not expect, nor have I received, an answer. And now you may think it strange that I should reply to your silence. But even although you should consider it an intrusion, I cannot forbear addressing you for two reasons--that I may express to you, as I now do, my approbation of the manner in which I understand you have acted since you received my letter, together with my sincere acknowledgments for the kindness and prudence which marked your conduct; and that I may set before you a general view of the foundation on which we build, the materials used, and a sketch of the manner in which we think the house of God should be constructed.

      Unwilling to put a piece of new cloth upon an old garment, or new wine into old bottles, we do not seek to reform sectarianism, but to restore christianity. Turning away from Babylon, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth, we also pass by "her popes, monks, and friars, with all their trumpery," the piles of hay, straw, and stubble, that have been so industriously built up by the various sects which have sprung from her, of whom the Church of England is the eldest born, and to whose polluted fountain she is indebted for the purity of her hierarchy, and come at once to the true foundation, the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. Considering the scriptures as the only rule of faith and practice, and believing that they mean what they say, just as we do; taking literal expressions literally, and figurative ones figuratively, we reject every human system; treating with contempt the verbose attempts at explanation, and the unlawful inferences of those theologians "who darken counsel by words without knowledge." Indeed, we are very good Episcopalians in this respect, if we may believe the witness which one of your own prelates has borne in our behalf. This I will now take the liberty to lay before you, as it may not probably be so unacceptable as the observations of one so unaccustomed to write as I am:--

      [For the testimony here alluded to, see Christian Baptist, vol. vii. page 25.]

      Such are our views; and thus must the Saviour and the apostles live and reign when that happy period arrives in which the nations shall cease to be deceived. But now, while sectarians have been indulging in all the intolerance of party zeal, and amusing themselves with the boasted purity of certain articles of religion, they have often trusted their salvation to a mere assent to the correctness of particular forms and doctrines. While seeking to defend their standards, they have forgotten to [112] defend themselves; and clothed with their own garments of----, immorality and irreligion have mingled with their ranks, piercing them through their armor (for it is not divine) and binding them in chains of slavery, until the whole land is polluted, and it is hard to distinguish friend from foe.

      We, however, who, by the blessing of God, live in peace under the reign of heaven, do not erect any standard but the BIBLE, nor do we receive those who merely assent to its truth, but those only who are willing to do what it commands. If any wish to enter the kingdom of God upon earth, we tell them to apply to "Peter, who will tell them words whereby they may effect their object." For to Peter the keys were given, and on the day of Pentecost the door was opened by him. "What shall we do?" said the people who believed his words and were pricked in their hearts. "Repent and be immersed every one of you for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit," was the reply of Peter. The Apostles arrange the gospel thus:--1st. Faith; 2d. Repentance. 3d. Immersion. 4th. Remission of sins. 5th. The Holy Spirit. And 6th. Eternal life. But sectarians have broken up the regular arrangement; and some put the Holy Spirit first; others, immersion; many change this into sprinkling, and others throw it away altogether. And in this very way you will find most of the sects have started up, and hewn out to themselves "broken cisterns that can hold no water."

      Those who enter the kingdom of heaven are born of water and spirit. After faith and repentance, they are immersed into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and receive through the blood of Christ (of which the water is the symbol) remission of past sins, and also a spirit of holiness, which teaches them to love God, his word, and his people; and having their hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and their bodies washed with pure water, they trust in God that sin shall no "longer have dominion over them, and rejoice in the liberty of his children. Taught of God to love one another, they know that they have passed from death unto life, and the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keeps their hearts and minds through Jesus Christ. Being perfect in the Captain of their Salvation, and having the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation, they are devoted to the service of him who hath loved them, and given himself for them. Knowing their own weakness and the temptations of the enemy, they watch, and endeavor to avoid sin; and if, trusting to their own strength, they are overtaken in a fault, upon confessing they are assured of forgiveness, knowing that they have an advocate with the Father--"Jesus Christ the Just One."

      It is of lively stones we think the church of God should be composed, and not of dull and lifeless ones, which cannot be animated by sprinkling, consecration, or confirmation, any more than they can be sanctified by the crafty hands of a Master in Free Masonry. Nor do we believe they are to be called the laity, [113] a name with which they have been insulted by those who wish to raise themselves by lowering their fellows. God does not call his people the laity, but saints, children of God, kings and priests, a holy nation, redeemed and precious.

      The proper order of God's house we believe to be plainly showed in the New Testament. Considering that there is no distinction among us, except that which diversity of gifts occasions, we think that he that is the greatest among us should be our servant, and that we are "all brethren." We meet every first day of the week to break bread, as was the practice of the first churches for three hundred years. Not being gagged by human law, we know that we are permitted and commanded to speak one by one in the congregation, to exhort, comfort, and edify one another. We meet without pastors, as did the church of Corinth and those of Crete before Titus was sent thither to ordain such; and whenever persons are found among us having the specified qualifications, we appoint them to the offices of bishops and deacons. We know that the churches in the time of the apostles were independent of each other. So are they now. Each had its own bishop, who had no authority in any other than his own congregation. So it is with us; and in all things we endeavor to follow the pattern showed us in the New Testament, having the apostles restored to us as universal bishops; for though dead, they yet speak.

      This imperfect outline I have given, that one whose talents and acquirements I have always regarded with surprize and admiration, may be undeceived with regard to us; and not without the faint hope that the simplicity of the gospel, as it is in Jesus, may even make an impression upon one whose gifts and energies, if properly directed, might break down the strongest holds of Satan, and be instrumental in bringing peace and righteousness to a deluded and blinded people. Be not deceived: think not that a more frequent administration if the Lord's supper will plant spiritual life in those who have not their sins forgiven.* Think not that preaching will save those who will not believe and obey the gospel. Not one of your hearers would say before God that his sins were forgiven, or that he had received the spirit of adoption into his family. Death has not lost its sting to them, nor the grave its victory over them. Those that have been for a number of years in the church, do not know the names even of the books of the New Testament, much less what is inculcated in them. And can you continue to waste your life, your time, and your gifts upon those who are unmoved by entreaty, not governed by the scriptures, uninfluenced by eloquence, without humility, without love for each other, lovers of the world? It is better to serve in the kingdom of heaven than to reign over such a [114] people. But I forbear. May God grant that the simplicity of the gospel may not be foolishness to you, and that you may at least give these things an unprejudiced consideration.

      Of one thing we are assured, that we have a lamp to our path which gives both heat and light. You may call it wild fire; but--not like the ignis fatuus which flits through the swamp of sectarianism and leads men into pools and ditches--it will consume the rank weeds and shapeless and unseemly reptiles: it will lick up the stagnant pools, and the beams of the Sun of Righteousness will enter, that the purified soil may bring forth fruit to the comfort of man and the glory of God.

  Yours, &c.

      * We have been informed that the Rev. Bishop has recently attended to the ordinance of the Lord's supper more frequently than formerly, and that he enjoins it upon his flock as a duty to break bread every first day of the week.
Publisher. [114]      


[The Christian Baptist 7 (December 5, 1829): 111-115.]


      Robert Richardson's "Letters to Bishop J." were was first published as "Reply to the Above" (letter of July 9, 1829 from John Henry Hopkins, rector of the Epispocal Church of Pittsburgh) and "Letter II. to Bishop J." in The Christian Baptist, Vol. 7, No. 4, November 3, 1829, and No. 5, December 5, 1829, respectively. The electronic version of the letters has been produced from the Gospel Advocate reprint (1956) of The Christian Baptist, Vol. 7, ed. Alexander Campbell (Bethany, VA: A. Campbell, 1829), pp. 87-95, 111-115. The text has been scanned by Colvil Smith and formatted by Ernie Stefanik.

      Pagination in the electronic version has been represented by placing the page number in brackets following the last complete word on the printed page. Inconsistencies in spelling, capitalization, punctuation, and typography have been retained; however, corrections have been offered for misspellings and other accidental corruptions. Emendations are as follows:

            Printed Text [ Electronic Text
 p. 87:     opinions, But [ opinions. But
 p. 89:     occasion reading [ occasional reading
            request and your's, [ request and yours,
 p. 115:    yours, &c. [ Yours, &c.


      Addenda and corrigenda are earnestly solicited.

Colvil L. Smith
6 Bakers Road
Kingswood, 5062
Ernie Stefanik
373 Wilson Street
Derry, PA 15627-9770

Created 29 July 2000.

Robert Richardson Letters to Bishop J. (1829)

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