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study under men eminent for learning, and by a knowledge of the particular theological systems which their fathers or their teachers had espoused. But the study of the Holy Scriptures, with a view to teach the faith, and promote the obedience enjoined upon the disciples of Christ by the Apostles, as the same are to be manifested in a church of the living God, never yet formed a part of this preparatory education. It is, on the contrary, by laws of human institution, by doctrines and systems devised by eminent teachers, and by traditions tending to confirm their own authority, that these men maintain a complete ascendancy in the various sects wherein they have place.
"But the rise and progress of the churches described in the following letters, have been marked by circumstances wholly different. Without any thing in the state of civil society to operate upon the hopes or the fears of Christ's disciples-without any renowned leader or leaders to bring them together, or to frame religious systems of belief and practice for their guidance without any representative body to organise them into a distinct sect, or to establish an uniformity of belief and worship among them-without any general concert among themselves and without any patronage from the learned or the great, these churches arose in various places at nearly about the same period of time. And what is still more remarkable, they all partake of the same general character, and have a striking similarity of belief and obedience.
"This singular revolution, thus silently, and, in some degree, simultaneously effected in various places, without concert or previous arrangement, must undoubtedly be ascribed to some one powerful cause; and it is believed that this cause may be found in the general diffusion of the Holy Scriptures, and in the forcible teaching of the Apostles of Christ in those Scriptures. Accordingly, it is to be observed, that the education of the poor, Sunday schools, the circulation of the Word of God by Bible Societies, and these churches, all originated about the same period.
"When we see societies of men formed by the force of that same teaching by which the churches in the beginning were called, and labouring to regulate themselves in all things by that teaching, we are irresistibly led to the conclusion, that such societies are in character the same as those which of old were called churches of the living God. On these accounts, all such churches, however few in number, low in worldly circumstances, or destitute of talent or of learned men, are essentially distinguished from all other churches, and occupy an
elevated and peculiar place in the profession of the name of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
"Whether the churches in question may be presumed worthy of this important distinction, the following letters will serve to show. It will be seen, that the principles upon which they are established, the bond of their union, their practices and their views, are as remarkable and as peculiar as was the manner of their original institution. They profess no theological system, nor allow of any creed composed by man as a standard of faith and worship. The Holy Scriptures alone, in their true sense and bearing, constitute the only creed to which they appeal, or upon which they set any value. The belief of what is taught in those Scriptures, they esteem as the only faith by which men can be saved. Their profession is to believe as they are told, and to do as they are bid, in these Scriptures. They acknowledge no human authority in the kingdom of God. Whatever intimations of the Divine will they perceive in the sacred writings, they view themselves under obligation to obey; endeavouring by these intimations to regulate themselves in the worship of God their Saviour, as well as in all other things. They profess to acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ as over all, God blessed for ever; to rejoice in the forgiveness of sins through his blood; to look for a resurrection of the dead and everlasting glory, according to his gracious promises to his disciples. They meet together every first day of the week, in memory of his resurrection, and to break bread and drink wine, in memory of his death. On these occasions they also worship their God and Saviour by the singing of praises, and by prayers and thanksgivings. On these occasions, also, they teach, exhort, and admonish each other by the holy writings; bringing to view the treasures of wisdom and knowledge contained there; expatiating on the abundant mercy and grace revealed by the Lord and Saviour; urging one another to mutual love and attachment; to kindness and mercy towards all, even to the unthankful and unholy; to purity of behaviour; to sobriety and humility; to the most scrupulous honesty and integrity in all their dealings; and to a conduct irreproachable and free from blame. They also make a collection for the support of such of the disciples as are in want. Many of these churches have bishops and deacons; the former as overseers, for the preservation of order and the promotion of faith and love; and the latter for attending upon the distribution of benefits among the poor and the afflicted. Those churches that have not yet these offices filled, are looking among themselves for men of
the description pointed out in the Holy Scriptures. But they are all of one judgment in this, namely, that they do not admit, or allow of any order of persons among them resembling the clergy. They consider the existence of such an order among disciples, as utterly incompatible with the Holy Scriptures, and with the character and interests of the churches of God.
"These churches take no part in politics. Under whatever government their lot is cast, they are instructed by the Holy Scriptures to be submissive to the laws; to speak no evil of those in power; but to honour them, to pray for them, and to do nothing that may render them liable to just punishment. They are taught to live quiet and peaceable lives, under the very worst of rulers, in all godliness and honesty.
"Does it not then appear, that these churches are distinguished from the sects of the present day by the clearest and strongest dissimilarity of institution and of character, and by such a conformity to the Holy Scriptures, as entitles them to be esteemed as churches of God? And does it not also appear, that the things whereby this distinction is made, are not trifling things, but things connected with the happiness of men both here and hereafter, as well as with the honour and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ? If that does appear, as we think it does, then it follows, that all who believe the Gospel, and fear the Lord of life and glory, should be in the fellowship of such churches. In such fellowship, Christians are where the will of the Lord requires them to be; where they can be of real advantage to each other; where it is appointed they should be edified; where their love to each other can be manifested; where they can be really useful to the world; and where they can glorify the Lord and Saviour, by an obedience to his commandments."
Without stopping to remark on a few things contained in the above quotations, which are of a questionable character, or at any rate liable to be misunderstood, I proceed to notice that these letters are followed by a "Reply" from the church in New York to some inquiries from churches in this country, respecting their own state, and particularly whether there were in the United States any other societies maintaining the same or similar views with those of the church in New York, on which we have the following information :—
"In compliance with an intimation in our letter, that some account would be given of the churches on this continent, who hold the faith of the gospel, and discover a purpose of
heart to do the will of the Lord, we rejoice to have it in our power to mention six churches of this description. These are the churches of Charlestown, state of Massachusetts; Danbury, state of Connecticut; Amenia, state of New-York; Baltimore, state of Maryland; York and Glengary, Upper Canada. We have reason, however, to think, that besides one in Savanah, there are others in other parts of the country, concerning whom our knowledge is very limited. All these churches are small, and most of them scarcely noticed by the world; but they will be appreciated by our brethren, on the sole ground of their belonging to Jesus Christ our Lord.
"Of the six churches above named, accounts of three are given in the letters; and of the other three, we are enabled to speak from particular information.
"That at Danbury took rise in 1817. They were formerly ten, but now six in number. They are yet without any bishops or deacons. Their views and proceedings differ little from ours; and being at a distance of but seventy miles from us, we have been enabled to acquire such a knowledge of their brotherly love and excellence of character, as has exalted them in our esteem and affections.
"That at Amenia commenced in 1818. They are five in number, and have none set apart to any office. Being about one hundred miles distant from us, some of our brethren have visited them, and speak highly of their love to the Lord Jesus and to the saints.
"The brethren at Glengary are understood to have emigrated from Scotland. Of their particular circumstances we have little knowledge, further than that they are well reported of among the brethren.
"Here it may be proper to observe, that however the title "Baptist churches," (though unscriptual,) may, from a concurrence of circumstances, serve to designate the churches in Great Britain, among which are those we now address, the same title belongs in America to a sect of people of a different description. The Baptists of America differ little from the Presbyterians of America, except in the matter of baptism. Our brethren will therefore understand, that the churches above mentioned are not distinguished here under this title, nor indeed under any other, except so far as they are understood to claim that of Christians.""
This extract will convey to the reader the sum total of all the information which the editor of this journal was in possession of, respecting the number of these reformed churches in that quarter, until the year 1833; for he believes the
second part of this correspondence (implied in the title-page), has never made its appearance. It was, however, in the summer of that year, that it pleased God, in the leadings of his providence, to open an unexpected channel of information, through which a flood of light was poured in upon him, not less to his pleasure than surprise, but the manner in which it was brought about he is desirous of placing upon record in these pages.
During the summer months of 1833, on the afternoon of the Lord's-day, while the public worship of God was going forward, at the chapel in Windmill-street, Finsbury-square, a young man was perceived to enter, and take his seat near the pulpit. He heard the prayers of the brethren, and their songs of praise; the reading of the Holy Scriptures and the preaching of the gospel, by one of the elders. He was a spectator of the church's observance of the ordinance of the fellowship, or weekly collection for the relief of the poor, and keeping up the public worship of God in the place. And finally, "the breaking of bread," or stated ordinance of the Lord's Supper. When the worship was over, he requested a little conversation with one of the elders, when he communicated the following particulars :-He was, he said, an American by birth; his family resided at Claysville, Washington county, in the state of Pennsylvania. He was professionally an artist (portrait-painter), and was come to Europe for the purpose of acquiring further instructions in his line of study. It had pleased God, two years before he left America, to bring him to the knowledge of the truth, on a public profession of which he had been baptised, and united to a Christian church. Having sailed, in the first instance, from New York to one of the French ports, and taken up his residence at Paris, he had brought no letters of introduction to any persons in England, not knowing that he should visit the country. He had now been several weeks, if not months, in London, during which time he had been wandering about on the Lord's days throughout the metropolis, in quest of some church in which he could hear the same doctrine, and find the same order of public worship observed to which he had been accustomed in his native land; but wherever he went, he found himself sorely disappointed. It had pleased God, on that day, to conduct