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William Baxter
Life of Elder Walter Scott (1874)


C H A P T E R   V I I.

Great Excitement--Mr. Amend's letter--Assailed by preachers--Wesley's experience--Testimony
      of the church standards.

T HE baptism of Mr. Amend occasioned no small stir in the community. No one had ever seen any thing in all respects like it, and yet it seemed to correspond so perfectly with the teachings and practice of the apostles that few could fail to see the resemblance. Mr. Scott continued his labors during the following week, and many others who had been unable to accept the popular teaching of the day had their attention arrested by a gospel which they could understand, and with the conditions of which they could comply, and the result was, that by the next Lord's day fifteen others followed the example of Mr. Amend by publicly confessing their faith in Jesus as the Son of God and being immersed.

      Of course, much opposition was aroused. One man went so far as to threaten to shoot Mr. Scott if he should baptize his mother, who had sought baptism at his hands; but threats and scoffs only served to increase the zeal of the preacher; and it was found, moreover, that all the converts were able to give such reasons for the course they had taken, that no one that admitted the Bible to be true could gainsay. Another very happy result was, that nearly the whole community began to search the Scriptures, many in [109] the spirit of the Bereans, to see whether these things were so; others with no higher object than to find objections to the new doctrine, and many of these were forced to the conclusion that if it were false the Bible could not be true, as the chief feature of the new doctrine was that the preacher could tell every honest inquirer his duty in the very language of Holy Writ.

      It was a most fortunate circumstance, too, that the first one to come out in favor of the new teaching was a man of undoubted integrity, and of more than ordinary intelligence and remarkable for his scriptural knowledge, which was far beyond that of most men in his condition of life. He had not hastily adopted the views of the preacher as soon as presented, but, on the contrary, he had reached the same conclusions before hearing him, from a careful study of the Word of God; and he knew not until he heard Mr. Scott that there was another man on earth who held views similar to his own. Indeed, he could not strictly be called a convert to the views of Mr. Scott; he had long held them, and was prepared for immediate obedience to the law of Christ as soon as the opportunity was given. With this humble, God-fearing man there is now connected an interest that is historic; he was the first to afford an example of strict conformity to the design of an ordinance of the church of Jesus, which had so long been lost sight of as to become almost meaningless. In him we see that ordinance restored to the place designed for it by its divine Author--restored, we can not doubt, beyond the possibility of ever being perverted or forgotten again. [110]

      Some years after this event, Mr. Scott was called upon to give the circumstances which attended this restoration of the ordinance of baptism to its primitive place; with rare wisdom he called upon Mr. Amend to relate the circumstances which led to his baptism. He introduces Mr. Amend's letter with the following remarks:

      "DEAR SIR: The republication of the gospel in the style and terms of the apostles was attended with so extraordinary an excitement as to cause us to forget and sometimes overlook matters and things, which, on common occasions, would have been accounted very singular.

      "It was thought, sir, it might minister to your pleasure to read a letter from a person who first obeyed the faith as now preached in the Reformation. It is inserted here accordingly. After vexations not to be mentioned, it was resolved to make a draft upon the audience, that it might be known why the preacher spoke and wherefore they came to hear. Accordingly, bursting away from prejudices and feelings almost as strong as death, and thinking of nothing but the restoration of the gospel, it was proposed to ascertain immediately who would obey God and who would not. The confusion of all, the preacher not excepted, was indescribable. A person whom I had seen come into the meeting-house about fifteen minutes before the end of the discourse came forward. This, as often as I thought of it, had always appeared to me wholly unaccountable, for it was most certain the man could not have been converted to Christianity by any thing which he heard during the few minutes he was present. His letter explains the matter, and will enable you, sir, to judge whether this whole business, as well on the side of the hearer as on the side of the preacher, is not resolvable into the good providence [111] of our Heavenly Father, to whom be the glory through Jesus Christ:

      "BELOVED BRO. SCOTT: I received your letter of the 21st, and was happy to hear you were well; myself and family are in good health at present, our youngest child excepted. I should be very happy to see you. You request me to write the time of my baptism, my feelings, and the causes why I accepted the invitation. In order to show these things aright, I must go back a piece. I was at that time a member of that strait sect called Presbyterians; taught many curious things, as election, fore-ordination, etc.; that belief in these matters was necessary; that this faith resulted from some secret impulse; and worse, that I could not believe; and finally, that I must hope and pray that God would have mercy upon me! In this wilderness I became wearied, turned about and came home to the Book of God; took it up as if it had dropped down from heaven, and read it for myself just one year.

      "This inquiry led me to see that God so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son, that whosoever believed on him might not perish but have eternal life. I then inquired how I must believe. Paul said faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God; also that faith was the substance of things hoped for--the evidence of things not seen. Peter spoke of election, saying, Save yourselves. Paul said I must be dead to sin and buried, and raised with Christ Jesus to newness of life. The Savior said I must be born again if I would enter the kingdom of God.

      "Now, here it was I discovered myself to stand in the garden of nature and not in the kingdom of heaven, but I learned that of this kingdom Peter received the keys, and I was anxious to see what he would do with them. Jesus said proclaim the gospel to all the nations; he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, etc. I then moved a little forward till I found these words: 'Now when they heard this they were pricked to the heart, and said to [112] Peter and to the other apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Peter said, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins,' etc. To this scripture I often resorted; I saw how Peter had opened the kingdom, and the door into it, but, to my great disappointment, I saw no man to introduce me, though I prayed much and often for it.

      "Now, my brother, I will answer your questions. I was baptized on the 18th of Nov., 1827, and I will relate to you a circumstance which occurred a few days before that date. I had read the 2d of the Acts when I expressed myself to my wife as follows: 'Oh, this is the gospel--this is the thing we wish--the remission of our sins! Oh, that I could hear the gospel in these same words--as Peter preached it! I hope I shall some day hear it; and the first man I meet who will preach the gospel thus, with him will I go.' So, my brother, on the day you saw me come into the meeting-house, my heart was open to receive the Word of God, and when you cried, 'The Scriptures no longer shall be a sealed book. God means what he says. Is there any man present who will take God at his word, and be baptized for remission of sins?'--at that moment my feelings were such that I could have cried out, 'Glory to God! I have found the man whom I have long sought for.' So I entered the kingdom where I readily laid hold of the hope set before me.

      "Let us, then, dear brother, strive so to live as to obtain an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming--there to join with the heavenly throng in a song of praise to God and to the Lamb forever and ever. Amen.

      "I remain yours, etc.

      It may interest the reader to know that Mr. Amend is still living at Hiawatha, Kansas, at the age of nearly fourscore; his mind is still clear and vigorous, and he [113] can read ordinary print without the aid of glasses. He has never for a moment swerved from the faith he professed some forty-five years ago, and in patience and hope he is waiting the Master's call.

      Mr. Scott, after the events narrated above, paid a visit to several points on the Western Reserve, and in three weeks again returned to New Lisbon. He found the interest awakened by his first visit undiminished, and seven more were added to the number already baptized. His labors were now in great demand, calls from various quarters poured in upon him, and night and day found him engaged, wherever opportunity afforded, in the Master's work. He soon visited New Lisbon again, and over thirty more joyful and willing converts were made. The members of the Baptist Church received the Word gladly, and almost to a man accepted the truth which he presented with such force and clearness, and resolved that thenceforth the Word of God should be their only rule and guide. In this visit Elder Scott was accompanied by Joseph Gaston, a minister of the Christian connection, who had heartily embraced the truth, and who by his tender and pathetic exhortations greatly aided in promoting the success of the gospel.

      The excitement consequent upon the great religious changes in New Lisbon soon spread through the county, and Scott and Gaston were urged to visit East Fairfield, a village some eight miles distant. The community was composed mainly of Quakers and Bible Christians, many of whom accepted the gospel as presented by the new preachers, and the result was, that after a meeting of three or four days a large congregation, including several of the most [114] influential people in that locality, was established upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.

      Returning to New Lisbon, Elder Scott found the truth to be advancing, but as of old, also, some contradicting and almost blaspheming; the ordinance of baptism was ridiculed; opprobious names were given to those who accepted the new doctrine, which was stigmatized as heresy, a Water Salvation, as worse than Romanism--the opposers, in their zeal, forgetting that faith, repentance, and a new life were as much insisted on by the Reformers as those who differed from them in other respects. Chief in the opposition were the Methodist and Presbyterian ministers who, during his absence at Fairfield, assailed both Scott and his teaching from their respective pulpits. Of this he was informed, and on the first evening after his return a large audience gathered to hear him. Just as he was beginning his discourse the two ministers came in, and as soon as they were seated Scott said: "There are two gentlemen in the house who, in my absence, made a man of straw and called it Scott; this they bitterly assailed; now if they have any thing to say the veritable Scott is here, and the opportunity is now theirs to make good what they have said elsewhere. Let us lay our views before the people and they shall decide who is right; for my part, I am willing at any time to exchange two errors for one truth. Come out, gentlemen, like men, and let us discuss the matters at issue." His reverend assailants showing no signs of accepting his invitation, he called them by name, and, addressing some young persons on the front seat, said: "Boys, make room there. Now, gentlemen, come forward." The [115] ministers, however, felt that the man and his teachings could be more safely assailed in his absence than in his presence; they therefore rose, and arm in arm left the house, leaving behind them the impression that they felt unable to make good their charges of heresy and false doctrine.

      A report was also set on foot derogatory to the moral standing of Mr. Scott. This attack on his character called forth much sympathy in his behalf. A number of the citizens undertook the investigation of the matter, which resulted in covering his revilers with shame, and adding to his already great influence in the community. A handsome purse was also made up and presented to him by those who were indignant at the base and unfounded charges which had been made against him.

      Not long after, another Methodist minister announced that he would review and expose the new doctrine. A large audience assembled to hear him, and among them Scott himself. The preacher addressed himself to his task in an unlovely spirit; introducing the services by reading the hymn:

"Jesus, great Shepherd of the Sheep,
      To thee for help we fly;
  Thy little flock in safety keep,
      For oh! the Wolf is nigh;"

emphasizing the last line in such a way as to leave no doubt as to who was the Wolf that he had in his eye. He assailed Mr. Scott and his teachings in terms neither chaste nor select, grossly misrepresenting both the man and his doctrine. When he closed, Mr. Scott begged the liberty of correcting some of the statements which had been made, and did so in a [116] manner so kind and gentlemanly that the audience were as deeply impressed with the Christian spirit he exhibited as they had been disgusted with the coarseness and rudeness of his assailant, to whom they thought the epithet wolf belonged more properly, than to him it was intended to apply.

      Such were some of the circumstances which attended the restoration of the ordinance of baptism to its proper place in the gospel scheme; and it is somewhat difficult in this day to realize how it could have caused such excitement and aroused such bitter opposition. The ordinance, beyond all doubt, had a design, and the setting forth that design in the language of Scripture, and making practical that which was misunderstood and useless before, constituted the great peculiarity of Mr. Scott's teaching upon this subject. In connecting it with the remission of sins, no thought of its possessing any merit or cleansing power entered into his mind. Christ was the Savior, and in him all saving power was centered, and baptism was but one of the conditions necessary to the enjoyment of the salvation which his death had made possible. On the part of the sinner believing on the Lord Jesus with all his heart, feeling his sinfulness and need of pardon, baptism was the open and public avowal of his state of mind and heart, and an acceptance of the offer made in the gospel to those who truly believe and heartily repent; and on the part of Christ it was a solemn assurance that his submission was accepted; that his past sins were forgiven; that he was received into the divine favor and adopted into the family of God.

      Mr. Scott's opposers regarded him as substituting [117] baptism for faith in the Lord Jesus, and a change of heart; while he ever taught that faith in Christ and a changed heart brought the believing penitent to baptism as a solemn act of obedience, which proved the sincerity of his faith, and the reality of the change in his heart and affections. He regarded it as the instrument by which Christ gave assurance of pardon to those who by obedience entered into covenant with him; the act by which the transition was made from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God's dear Son; the marriage ceremony, by which the believer was united to Christ; the law of naturalization, by which those who had been aliens and foreigners were made citizens of the kingdom of God. With him it was the point at which forgiveness was realized by actual submission to the law of Christ; for as forgiveness must be realized before peace and joy could take possession of the heart, and as forgiveness could take place only before obedience, or after obedience, or in obedience, it seemed more reasonable, as well as scriptural, that it should be found in obedience, rather than before it, or be delayed after obedience was rendered.

      This view alone rendered the Scriptures intelligible. In the commission, as given by Mark, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved," in some way connected being "saved" with the conditions of belief and baptism. Christ had said before that, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he can not enter into the kingdom of God." The language of Peter, Acts ii: 38, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins," indicated [118] some connection between baptism and pardon. The language of Ananias to Saul, "Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins," seemed to point to the same thing. "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ," seemed to mark the entering into a new relation to Christ by baptism; and the language of 1 Peter iii: 21, "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), by the resurrection of Jesus Christ," was in some way associated with being "saved" in some sense, and also with the obtaining a "good conscience."

      These he felt it neither safe to ignore nor possible to explain away; to teach them was the only course that remained. This he did, but not to the neglect of any thing else enjoined in the word of God; and yet this was the head and front of his heresy. In teaching this he restored one of the long-neglected conditions of pardon to its proper place, and thus brought order out of confusion, and substituted light for the darkness upon this subject, which long had reigned.

      Before the restoration of this neglected element of gospel obedience--this missing link--assurance of pardon was, by the great majority, made to depend upon the simple exercise of faith; that is, the proof or evidence that an individual was pardoned depended on his faith that such really was the case. But here was the difficulty; if an individual, who was conscious of being in an unpardoned state, was required to believe that he was pardoned in order that he might be, he was likely to reason as follows: "If [119] I believe I am pardoned now, am I not believing that which is not true? the pardon must be granted before I can believe it." It seems like teaching that all men are in a pardoned state, but all do not enjoy it because they do not believe it; it is like telling the sick man you are well if you only believe it, while he would feel like replying, "I can not believe I am well until such is really the case." Very many made their feelings the test of their standing in the sight of God, and, in striving after what they deemed the proper state of feeling for pardoned persons, fell into many extravagancies. Dreams and visions and any unusual occurrences were regarded as tokens of God's favor; not a few could be found ready to testify that they had heard from above the words, "Thy sins be forgiven thee;" others, after having their minds filled with terror, and being brought very near to the pit of despair, would regard the calm which followed as the smiling of God's face; and still others would for years realize all the alternations of hope and despair, at times feeling assured of God's favor, at other times writhing under his frown.

      No fixed and definite way of coming to God and receiving an assurance of his favor seemed to be known; each effort to that end was an experiment, and none knew whether it would result in joy or despair. Penitents earnest and sincere, for long periods sought pardon, but their prayers and tears seemed of no avail; in sorrow and anguish of spirit they were compelled to give up the search without finding heaven disposed to be gracious to their souls. We know not how to better illustrate this state of things [120] than by giving the experience of John Wesley upon this very point of assurance of acceptance with God. One of his biographers thus writes:

      "John Wesley is now thirty-five years of age. Thirteen years have passed since he began to seek the salvation of his soul by trying to keep the law of God. These years have been spent in such earnest work as few men ever perform. His eye has been steadfastly fixed on the grand object of his pursuit. He has, with rare force of will, made every thing in and about him subserve his high purpose. Though uncertain of divine favor, he has heroically persisted in doing the divine will, so far as he has understood it. He meets with a good Moravian brother, named Peter Bohler. They talk of religion with burning hearts. Peter soon discovers that his learned friend is prevented from enjoying peace of mind, because of certain errors of opinion; and looking very tenderly into his serious face, he says, feelingly: "My brother! my brother! that philosophy of yours must be purged away.'

      "They part. Wesley thinks deeply on the questions raised by Peter, until going to Oxford some days later to see his brother Charles, who was supposed to be dying, he meets Peter Bohler again. Their conversation is renewed, until Wesley, with genuine humility, confesses: 'I am clearly convinced of unbelief, of the want of that faith whereby alone we are saved.' Then his highly-sensitive conscience smites him, and presses this question upon him: 'You must leave off preaching. How can you preach to others, who, like you, have not faith?' This inquiry troubled him, and, with his wonted openness, he stated it to Peter, and asks: 'Should I leave off preaching or not?' With sound good sense, Peter rejoins: 'By no means.' 'But what can I preach?' urges the distressed Wesley. 'Preach faith till you have it, and then because you have it, you will preach faith.' [121]

      "They separate. But meeting Bohler again, he is told that 'Dominion over sin, and constant peace from a sense of forgiveness, attend the exercise of saving faith.' He is amazed at this statement. He has never supposed that a sense of forgiveness was his privilege. But he promises to search for the doctrine in his Greek Testament. He does this with much prayer. Light breaks in upon his mind, and when he meets Peter, a month later, he confesses to have found the blessed doctrine in the sacred Word, very much to his friend's satisfaction, and to the increase of his own hopes. And now Peter renews his astonishment, by declaring that the blessing of pardon and of a new heart is graciously given to a penitent the moment he trusts in Christ! 'Impossible!' cries the still incredulous Wesley. 'Search the Scriptures and see,' replies Bohler. Again is our scholar confounded by the simple word of God. He finds scarcely any other than instantaneous conversions recorded in the sacred page.

      It is now the 24th of May, 1738. At five in the morning he opens his Greek Testament, and these words meet his eye: 'There are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, even that ye should be partakers of the divine nature.'

      "This encourages him. On going out he opens his Testament again, and is comforted by the words, 'Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.' In the afternoon he attends divine service at St. Paul's, where the anthem encourages his hopes. In the evening he goes to a little society meeting, in Aldersgate Street. Behold him seated, with sad expression, among a few poor, earnest seekers of his Lord, listening to a man reading Luther's preface to the Epistle to the Romans! About a quarter before nine, the speaker describes the change which God works in the heart through faith. In a moment his heart is 'strangely warmed,' and sends up a spontaneous prayer for his [122] enemies--the first gush of the love begotten in him by the Holy Spirit.

      "Very soon the speaker stops. Wesley rises, his face radiant with heavenly light, and says: 'I now, for the first time, feel in my heart that I trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation. I have an assurance that he has taken away my sins; even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death!'"

      This is, doubtless, a true but a sad picture of an earnest soul seeking after God--willing to be saved, yet seeking God's favor in vain for thirteen long years. Was Wesley insincere or God unwilling to save? Neither; Wesley was seeking without any clear apprehension of the plan of salvation, at one time seeking the advice of a friend who was a blind leader of the blind, learning after years of mental suffering that a "sense of forgiveness was his privilege."

      Opening his Testament at random; looking for what he needs now in an anthem; again at a little society meeting; and when the assurance does come, it is a marvelous if not miraculous affair, and totally unlike any of the cases reported in the Word of God. Has God taught then to seek thus without telling them where they may find? did the gospel offer point out no path by which peace and pardon might be found?

      Every case of conversion after the gospel was first proclaimed on Pentecost shows that obedience was always followed by the joy of pardon. One of the great elements restored by Scott was, that all who felt as did the multitude who on Pentecost cried out, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" by [123] obedience to the instructions there given in the words "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit," might, like them, "gladly receive the Word," and feel an assurance that the promise was fulfilled to the joy of their hearts.

      It is true that Wesley's case was before the times of which we write, but myriads of cases, more or less like his, were to be found at that time, and to them it was the greatest jay their hearts had ever known to be pointed to Pentecost as the model for all time.

      It is worthy of note that Wesley himself afterwards, whether he perceived the precise relation of baptism to the forgiveness of sins or not, expressed himself as if he both understood and believed it. His language is: "Baptism, administered to real penitents, is both a means and a seal of pardon. Nor did God ordinarily in the primitive church bestow this (pardon) on any unless through this means." Indeed, it is a somewhat remarkable fact, that nearly all the creeds of the various religious parties at that time associated the remission of sins with baptism, and yet they all united in casting Scott's name out as evil because he taught and practiced in accordance with their own creeds, which in this instance were not at variance with the Word of God.

      As proof of this, we give quotations from the creeds of some of the largest and most popular denominations. The Episcopal Prayer-book uses the words "washing away of sins," and teaches that "God will grant them remission of their sins" who come to the ordinance of baptism in faith, truly [124] repenting. The Methodist Discipline uses similar language. The Presbyterian Confession says: "Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church, but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life; which sacrament is, by Christ's own appointment, to be continued in his church until the end of the world." The Baptist creed says: "Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized a sign of his fellowship with him in his death and resurrection, of his being ingrafted into him, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life." The Roman Catholic and Greek Church say: "We believe in one baptism for the remission of sins." Calvin, the great Reformer, says "Baptism resembles a legal instrument, properly attested, by which he assures us that all our sins are canceled, effaced, and obliterated, so that they will never appear in his sight or come into his remembrance, or be imputed to us. For he commands all who believe to be baptized for the remission of sins."

      "Therefore, those who have imagined that baptism is nothing more than a mark or sign by which we profess our religion before men, as soldiers wear the insignia of their sovereign as a mark of their profession, have not considered that which was the principal thing in baptism, which is that we [125] ought to receive it with this promise:" "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;" and, indeed, there is no single item of religious faith and practice in regard to which the various church standards give such a united and uniform testimony as baptism for the remission of sins, yet with almost equal unanimity the various parties deny and discard what those standards so unequivocally affirm. Scott's plea, then, was a strong one, and one, moreover, that could not be treated as a new and unheard of view of the case, and one which he could present in the very words of Holy Scripture. [126]

      a "On the Restoration of the Ancient Gospel: Letter No. 6." The Evangelist 2 (July 1833): 160-162. [E.S.]


[LEWS 109-126]

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William Baxter
Life of Elder Walter Scott (1874)