« PreviousContinue »
Spirit of truth. What remains for the sincere inquirer, but to exercise his own reason and judgment of the Standard of Truth, the word of God! He cannot fall much short of the meaning of SCRIPTURE.
Few have fortitude enough to avow a change of sentiments, as the censorious are ever ready to attribute such a change to improper motives, or to an effect of an erroneous opinion, or heresy. But in the estimation of candid judges, it sullies no man's honour or integrity to abandon a mistake, and adopt a right principle, grounded on the word of God-in words that the Holy Ghost teacheth: neither is any man's understanding degraded by acknowledging that he has thought erroneously, that after mature enquiry he has changed his opinion, that he has made that his choice, which once was but his fate. This is acting like Apollos. To very little purpose do any answer the end of increasing age, who do not become more knowing and wiser, as they grow older! The Spanish proverb says, “ A wise man alters his opinion, but a fool never does.” The late Lord Chief Justice Mansfield used to say, “ That to acknowledge that you were yesterday wrong, is but to let the world know that you are wiser to day than you were yesterday.” In RELIGIOUS TRUTHS this is to grow in grace and knowledge :-It is to add to virtue—KNOWLEDGE. '
No conscientious and thinking Christian will ever make an improper use of such positions as these, to the satisfying of the flesh, or to the gratifying of any
carnal, selfish passion. There is nothing in singularity, to make one in love with it, for the sake of being singular. Such as act on the principle of self-government, and conscientiously follow the Lamb, wherever evidence carries him—AE follows the truth, not caring for the fluctuating judgment of men. While he values his freedom, he adorns his profession with humility, and the meekness of wisdom; striving to have his fruit unto holiness, that the end may be everlasting life!
I am, &c.
MR. RICHARDS, acting from conviction in the diffusion of his liberal views of divine Truth, rejoiced in the success with which his efforts had been attended.
In a letter dated Lynn, November 3, 1801, and addressed to a respectable particular Baptist Minister in the metropolis, Dr. John Rippon, MR. RichARDS writes thus on the subjectm
« The blame and odium I have incurred by the part I lately acted in Wales cannot but be unpleasant; and the more so from the unwearied activity of a certain party to abuse and revile me on the occasion far and near, even as far as America they have conveyed their unkind and uncandid misrepresentations, charging me, forsooth, with very culpable misconduct and most dangerous heterodoxies! This I cannot but look upon as very hard and ungene
rous; especially from a people who claim and plead for liberty of conscience, as the unalienable privilege, and obvious birthright of every man. I have acted conscientiously in all I had to do with the above business, and am not sensible to this moment of having done there, any thing an honest man need to blush for."
And his much esteemed friend, the Rev. M. J. Rhees, a popular Minister who had emigrated from Wales to America, thus expresses himself, with his characteristic animation, in a letter to Mr. RichARDS, dated Somerset, Pennsylvania, December 13, 1802.
“The revolution in Wales that has taken place, as to religious sentiments, or rather religious intolerance; (for liberal sentiments had been widely diffused and generally imbibed long before the division took place) I had partly anticipated before I left the country. Indeed, I expected it would have become so general, as to awe the opposition, at least to a more tolerant temper. It was my wish on that account to conciliate parties as much as possible, that in case a division was forced on the liberal class, it might take place at a more propitious period, than the æra of war and political animosity. But the Lord's thoughts are not always our thoughts; and what has taken place cannot be postponed. My prayer and my hope is, that the spirit of party, particularly that which is connected with personal resentment, may and will subside; that the two sects, should they not agree to fight under the same flag, will reflect and
consider, that they are, professedly fighting under the banners of the same Lord and Master. It has astonished me beyond utterance, that rational beings, who have been, or profess to have been, in the school of CHRIST, for any length of time, should expect rom any of his followers, on mysterious subjects, a co-incidence of sentiment. Ah, my Brother ! how many more centuries will it take to convince a deluded world, that uniformity of faith is impracticable—that the only cement of society, is, love and mutual forbearance. How many thousands and tens of thousands are there in our day, who believe the most preposterous absurdities to be TRUTH; and who will in proportion to the absurdities they believe, possess more or less of the persecuting spirit! Well did our brother ROBERT ROBINSON say, “ Bigotry is the great Devil !" It is in vain you reason with, or even quote Scripture to Bigots. They will never believe, but the anger of man will at least assist, if not work out the righteousness of God!" These Intolerants, and to the Christian Church intolerables, are, in some respects, the greatest Arminians I know. It is true, by works of charity and deeds of mercy, they are determined not to merit heaven--but for their persecuting zeal, in favour of incomprehensibilities, they are as determined to merit something from their makers. “Verily they shall have their reward," but I am afraid it will be the reward promised to the Scribes and Pharisees-against whom so many woes are denounced in the New Testament."
Mr. Rhees then mentions Mr. William Williams,
in terms of admiration and in about a dozen extemporaneous Welsh Stanzas, pays a warm tribute of respect to his memory. From several letters written by Mr. Williams to Mr. Richards, it appears that the peace of this good man's mind was disturbed in no small degree by the calumnies of intolerance and bigotry.
Writing to a minister of the New Connexion of General Baptists, MR. RICHARDS remarks, in a letter, dated June 26, 1801 :"The Welsh General Baptists more resemble those of your Connexion, I think, than any others in England. They are not in general Trinitarians; three Persons being in their estimation the same with three distinct Beings, and three "Persons in the GODHEAD the same with three Gods! With respect to the Person of Christ, their ideas much accord with the Indwelling scheme. The death of Christ they consider as a propitiation, or ATONEMENT, not indeed to reconcile God to man, but man to God. They hold regeneration, or NEW BIRTH, as the work of the Spirit of God by means of the word or gospel, or through belief of the truth—but not so as to furnish an excuse for unbelief, or lay the blame of the impenitency of the unconverted on God!"
Whilst MR. RICHARDS has here delineated the sentiments of his brethren in Wales, he has also given a faithful transcript of his own views of religious truth. The account accords with the manner after which he usually expressed himself in conversation with his friends on these subjects. It is evident