Page images

preachers who appear as scribes, well instructed, who have acquited themselves with credit as writers, and the sentiment is fast gaining ground among them, that literature and science are very useful auxiliaries, in the illustration and enforcement of divine truth. (See Appendix, Note D.)

The Editor has been kindly favored with the above account from the Rev. JOSHUA V. HIMES of Boston, a highly respected clergyman of the Christian Connexion.


THERE are three modes of Church Government, viz: The Episcopalian, from the Latin word Episcopus, signifies Bishop; the Presbyterian, from the Greek word Presbuterors, signifying Senior, Elder or Presbyter, and the Congregational or Independent mode. Under one of these forms, or by a mixture of their several peculiarities, every church in the Christian world is governed. The Episcopal form is the most extensive, as it embraces the Catholic, Greek, English, Methodist and Moravian Churches.

Episcopalians have three orders in the ministry, viz. bishops, priests, and deacons; they all have Liturgies longer or shorter, which they either statedly or occasionally use. All Episcopalians believe in the existence, and the necessity of an apostolic succession of bishops, by whom alone regular and valid ordinations can be performed.

The Presbyterians believe, that the authority of their ministers, to preach the gospel and to administer the sacraments, is derived from the Holy Ghost, by the imposition of the hands of the Presbytery. They affirm, however, that there is no order in the church, as established by Christ and his apostles, superior to that of presbyters; that all ministers, being ambassadors of Christ, are equal by their commission; that presbyter and bishop, though different words, are of the same import; and that prelacy was gradually established upon the primitive practice of making the moderator or speaker of the presbytery, a permanent officer.

The Congregationalists, or Independents, are so called from their maintaining, that each congregation of Christians which meet in one house for public worship, is a complete church; has sufficient power to act and perform every thing relating to religious government within itself; and is in no respect subject or accountable to other churches.

Independents, or Congregationalists, generally ordain their ministers by a council of ministers called for the purpose; but still they hold, that the essence of ordination lies in the voluntary choice and call of the people, and that public ordination is no other than a declaration of that call,


(See Church Government.)


THE Deists believe in a God, but reject a written revelation from him. They are extravagant in their encomiums on natural religion, though they differ much respecting its nature, extent, obligation and importance. Dr. Clarke, in his treatise on Deism, divides them into four classes, according to the number of articles comprised in their creed.

The first are such as pretend to believe the existence of an eternal, infinite, independent, intelligent Being; and who, to avoid the name of Epicurean Atheists, teach also that this Supreme Being made the world; though at the same time they agree with the Epicureans in this, that they fancy God does not at all concern himself in the government of the world, nor has any regard to, or care of, what is done therein.

The second sort of Deists are those who believe not only the being, but also the providence of God, with respect to the natural world, but who, not allowing any difference between moral good and evil, deny that God takes any notice of the morally good or evil actions of men, these things depending, as they imagine, on the arbitrary constitution of human laws.

A third sort of Deists there are, who, having right apprehensions concerning the natural attributes of God and his all-governing providence, and some notion of his moral perfections also, yet being prejudiced against the notion of the immortality of the soul, believe that men perish entirely at death, and that one generation shall perpetually succeed another without any further restoration or renovation of things.

A fourth, and last sort of Deist, are such as believe the existence of a Supreme Being, together with his providence in the government of the world; also all the obligations of natural religion, but so far only as these things are discoverable by the light of nature alone, without believing any divine revelation.

These, the learned author observes, are the only true Deists; but as their principles would naturally lead them to embrace the Christian revelation, he concludes there is now no consistent scheme of Deism in the world. Dr. Clarke then adds, "The Heathen philosophers, those few of them who taught and lived up to the obligations of natural religion, had indeed a consistent scheme of Deism, as far as it went. But the case is not so now; the same scheme is not any longer consistent with its own principles, it does not now lead men to embrace revelation, as it then taught them to hope for it. Deists in our days, who reject revelation when offered to them, are not such men as Socrates and Cicero were; but under pretence of Deism, it is plain they are generally ridiculers of all that is truly excellent in natural religion itself. Their trivial and vain cavils; their mocking and ridiculing without and before examination; their directing the whole stress of objections against particular customs, or particular and perhaps uncertain opinions or explications of opinions, without at all considering the main body of religion; their loose, vain, and frothy discourses; and, above all, their vicious and

immoral lives show, plainly and undeniably, that they are not real Deists but mere Atheists, and consequently not capable to judge of the truth of Christianity."

Dr. Paley observes, “Of what a revelation discloses to mankind, one and only one question can be properly asked,-Was it of importance to mankind to know or to be better assured of? In this question, when we turn our thoughts to the great Christian doctrine of a resurrection from the dead and a future judgment, no doubt can be possibly entertained. He who gives me riches or honors does nothing; he who even gives me health does little in comparison with that which lays before me just grounds for expecting a restoration to life, and a day of account and retribution, which thing Christianity hath done for millions."



THE rise of this Society, if we only look back to the drawing of the lines of demarcation between it and other professors, is of recent origen. About the commencement of the present century, the Bible alone, without any human addition in the form of creeds or confessions of faith, began to be plead and preached by many distinguished ministers of different denominations, both in Europe and America.

With various success, and with many of the opinions of the various sects imperceptibly carried with them from the denominations to which they once belonged, did the advocates of the Bible cause plead for the union of Christians of every name on the broad basis of the apostles' teaching. But it was not until the year 1823, that a restoration of the original gospel and order of things began to be plead in a periodical, edited by Alexander Campbell, of Bethany, Virginia, entitled "The Christian Baptist."

He and his father, Thomas Campbell, renounced the Presbyterian system, and were immersed in the year 1812. They, and the congregations which they had formed, united with the Redstone Baptist association; protesting against all human creeds as bonds of union, and professing subjection to the Bible alone. This union took place in the year 1813. But in pressing upon the attention of that society and the public the all-sufficiency of the sacred Scriptures for every thing necessary to the perfection of Christian character, whether in the private or social relations of life, in the church or in the world, they began to be opposed by a strong creed-party in that association. After some ten years debating and contending for the Bible alone, and the apostles' doctrine, Alexander Campbell and the church to which he belonged, united with the Mahoning association, in the Western Reserve of Ohio; that association being more favorable to his views of reform.

In his debates on the subject and action of baptism with Mr. Walker, a seceding minister, in the year 1820, and with Mr.

M'Calla, a Presbyterian minister, of Kentucky, in the year 1823, his views of reformation began to be developed, and were very generally received by the Baptist society, as far as these works were read.

But in his "Christian Baptist," which began July 4, 1823, his views of the need of reformation were more fully exposed; and as these gained ground by the pleading of various ministers of the Baptist denomination, a party in opposition began to exert itself, and to oppose the spread of what they were pleased to call heterodoxy. But not till after great numbers began to act upon these principles, was there any attempt towards separation. After the Mahoning association appointed Mr. Walter Scott an Evangelist, in the year 1827, and when great numbers began to be immersed into Christ, under his labors, and new churches began to be erected by him and other laborers in the field, did the Baptist associations begin to declare non-fellowship with the brethren of the reformation. Thus by constraint, not of choice, they were obliged to form societies out of those communities that split upon the ground of adherence to the apostles' doctrine. The distinguishing characteristics of their views and practices are the following:

They regard all the sects and parties of the Christian world as having, in greater or less degrees, departed from the simplicity of faith and manners of the first Christians, and as forming what the apostle Paul calls "the apostasy." This defection they attribute to the great varieties of speculation and metaphysical dogmatism of the countless creeds, formularies, liturgies, and books of discipline adopted and inculcated as bonds of union and platforms of communion in all the parties which have sprung from the Lutheran reformation. The effects of these synodical covenants, conventional articles of belief, and rules of ecclesiastical polity, has been the introduction of a new nomenclature, a human vocabulary of religious words, phrases and technicalities, which has displaced the style of the living oracles, and affixed to the sacred diction ideas wholly unknown to the apostles of Christ.

To remedy and obviate these aberrations, they propose to ascertain from the holy Scriptures, according to the commonly-received and well-established rules of interpretation, the ideas attached to the leading terms and sentences found in the holy Scriptures, and then to use the words of the Holy Spirit in the apostolic acceptation of them.

By thus expressing the ideas communicated by the Holy Spirit, in the terms and phrases learned from the apostles, and by avoiding the artificial and technical language of scholastic theology, they propose to restore a pure speech to the household of faith; and by accustoming the family of God to use the language and dialect of the heavenly Father, they expect to promote the sanctification of one another through the truth, and to terminate those discords and debates which have always originated from the words which man's wisdom teaches, and from a reverential regard and esteem for the style of the great masters of polemic divinity; believing that

speaking the same things in the same style, is the only certain way to thinking the same things.

They make a very marked difference between faith and opinion; between the testimony of God and the reasonings of men; the words of the Spirit and human inferences. Faith in the testimony of God, and obedience to the commandments of Jesus are their bond of union; and not an agreement in any abstract views or opinions upon what is written or spoken by divine authority. Hence all the speculations, questions, debates of words, and abstract reasonings found in human creeds, have no place in their religious fellowship. Regarding Calvinism and Arminianism, Trinitarianism and Unitarianism, and all the opposing theories of religious sectaries, as extremes begotten by each other, they cautiously avoid them, as equi-distant from the simplicity and practical tendency of the promises and precepts, of the doctrine and facts, of the exhortations and precedents of the Christian institution.

They look for unity of spirit and the bonds of peace in the practical acknowledgement of one faith, one Lord, one immersion, one hope, one body, one Spirit, one God and Father of all; not in unity of opinions, nor in unity of forms, ceremonies, or modes of worship.

The holy Scriptures of both Testaments, they regard as containing revelations from God, and as all necessary to make the man of God perfect, and accomplished for every good word and work ; the New Testament, or the living oracles of Jesus Christ, they understand as containing the Christian religion; the testimonies of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, they view as illustrating and proving the great proposition on which our religion rests, viz. that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the only-begotten and well-beloved Son of God, and the only Saviour of the world; the Acts of the Apostles as a divinely authorized narrative of the beginning and progress of the reign or kingdom of Jesus Christ, recording the full development of the gospel by the holy Spirit sent down from heaven, and the procedure of the apostles in setting up the church of Christ on earth; the Epistles as carrying out and applying the doctrine of the apostles to the practice of individuals and congregations, and as developing the tendencies of the gospel in the behaviour of its professors; and all as forming a complete standard of Christian faith and morals, adapted to the interval between the ascension of Christ and his return with the kingdom which he has received from God; the Apocalypse, or Revelation of Jesus Christ to John, in Patmos, as a figurative and prospective view of all the fortunes of Christianity, from its date to the return of the Saviour.

Every one who sincerely believes the testimony which God gave of Jesus of Nazareth, saying, "This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I delight," or, in other words, believes what the evangelists and apostles have testified concerning him, from his conception to his coronation in heaven as Lord of all, and who is willing to obey him in every thing, they regard as a proper subject of immersion, and no one else. They consider immersion into the name of the

« PreviousContinue »