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Peter understood his commission; he began with preaching or teaching, waiting for the success of his labour. Nor did I find a word of baptism till they were pricked in their hearts; then, indeed, and not before, he says, 'Repent, and be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus;' which I understand after this manner-If you are, indeed, grieved and ashamed of your conduct towards this Jesus, whom you have crucified; if you are convinced by the Spirit of God he is the Messiah, the great Redeemer and King of his Church, and have a confidential dependence on him for salvation; then you are to be baptized in his name, and may hope for a comfortable evidence in your baptism of the remission of your sins, and that you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." And, for their encouragement, he adds, "For the promise is to you and your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord your God shall call."
This at least furnishes us with a good argumentum ad hominem. You that teach baptism for the remission of sins, do you charge us with the same doctrine, and complain of us for teaching it! I hope you will give this a place in the Harbinger,' and ask the supporters of the Baptist General Tract Society what they mean by it. Are not Messrs. Brantly, Clopton, cum multis aliis, who oppose this doctrine under the title of the "Brooke Doctrine," the patrons and advocates of this Tract Society? Surely this ought to suggest to them the propriety of revising their tracts, and expunging everything like "Campbellism;" or else they should cease to call this the "Brooke Doctrine." They should recollect, if they will not admit that this doctrine is as old as the apostolic days, it is at least eighty-two years old-Samuel Wilson, the author of the tract, having died in 1750. It was moreover adopted as a tract as early as the year 1827, about the time that you commenced your publications on this subject.
I have not yet had the pleasure of seeing your father, but I am informed the Baptists generally yield their assent to the principles which he lays as the foundation of the contemplated reformation. Bishop A. Broaddus, after expressing his approbation of them, has published an admonition to the churches of Virginia, guarding them against
your father. I have not seen his publication; but, from a conversation which I had with him, I think he apprehends your father has some ulterior design. Now, I do suppose he has a farther design; and that is, to urge them to carry out their principles in practice. With the extract before us, which I have made from their 44th tract, may we not say to them, If this is your doctrine, surely you act inconsistently in not practising upon it, or rather in not insisting upon it in your addresses to sinners? for as long as they continue to refuse "the blood of the new covenant which is shed for the remission of sins" to unimmersed persons, we are authorised to say they do practise upon this doctrine. The fact is, this is with them a "tangled broach," and until they can get it out of the tangle, it is well for them to back out of the controversy on baptism, as it seems Messrs. Ball and Sands wish to do.
But, as I said at first, I do think we have (at least in this part of the country) paid an undue portion of attention to the subject of baptism. I think it has engrossed attention to the exclusion of other important matters upon which reformation is much needed. It is reformation in the churches, in the now existing disciples, that is the grand desideratum. Until this is effected, we are not properly prepared to make converts to Christianity. The churches, with the Scriptures, should, I apprehend, occupy the place of the Apostles. The Apostles were commissioned to go forth and make converts, baptizing them, and teaching them to observe all things that were commanded. the churches practise the things commanded to be observed by the Apostles, the converts made by them are not made to Christianity as taught by the Apostles. The individual who enters our churches at present, does it without having in prospect to be called on to exercise any great degree of self-denial. The test to which his love to Christ and his people is put is a very easy one-one through whose ordeal almost any man, whose character is tolerably moral, might pass. I fear there is not a majority of our professors who could bear to be called upon to meet with their brethren in the Lord, if, to effect this, they should have to deny themselves the privilege of going where they would meet with a large crowd, convened to attend upon the ministrations of
a popular orator. This part of the reformation, I think, has been neglected among us. Some of our leading reformers have been engaged in going from place to place, making converts, and leaving them to go on upon the old system— that is, the monthly meeting system, and travelling from place to place after the preachers. This is a point upon which reformation is much needed. While weekly meetings of disciples are calculated to fan and keep lively the love of Christians for their Master and one another, it would operate as the best safeguard against the introduction of false disciples-a much better one, I apprehend, than that of requiring an experience as the condition of admission. I should hail it as an auspicious day to Christianity, could I see the disciples with delight, each Lord's day, hasten to meet with each other. Then might they say, "We know we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." But how can that man avail himself of this testimony who has not love enough for his poor brethren to be willing to meet with them, unless when the people in the neighbourhood generally convene? who, possessed of the means of travelling to a meeting at a distance, will rather travel from place to place after the preachers?—thus treating himself to the pleasure which variety of scene and society affords, than submit to the irksomeness of seeing the same faces every Sunday. "If a man love not his brother, whom he has seen, how can he love the Lord, whom he has not seen?" The fact is, there are many members of churches in this part of the country, who, if acquainted at all, have but a passing acquaintance. My dear Brother, I think this subject, together with the weekly breaking of bread, ought to be more insisted upon by the reformers; and I should be pleased to see it urged upon the churches more in the 'Harbinger,' than it has been of late. It is in vain for us to assume the imposing name of reformers, unless we indeed reform.
In the fellowship of our common Lord, yours,
[From the Millennial Harbinger, Vol. II.]
Few, if any, of the great transitions in human life or character are instantaneous. In the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms the changes are gradual and progressive. Few of them are perceptible to the most discriminating eye, except at considerable intervals. Aided by the microscope, we admire, because we can trace with more accuracy, the gradual, though sometimes rapid, movements of inanimate as well as animated matter, in passing from one state into another. But in universal nature all things are progressive. From the first opening of the eyelids of the morning; from the first dawning of the day to the blushing beauties of the rising sun; from the awakening of the balmy zephyrs of the Spring to the solstitial warmth of a Midsummer noon; from the first buddings to the mellow fruits of Autumn, how imperceptible, but how progressive is the change as it advances, and how manifest at the expiration of these intervals!
In the animal kingdom the same progress appears in everything, and in nothing more than in the human family. The infant in passing on to manhood exhibits in every month some new development, which the ever watchful attention of a mother's eye can discern only at considerable intervals. But this is the order of the universe. It was so in creation; it is so in providence; it was, and is, and will be so, in redemption.
This progress appears not only onward and upward towards perfection, but onward and downward towards destruction in all the kingdoms of nature. The grass withers, the blossom fades, the fruit decays, the ripe vegetable and animal gradually vanish away. The full blown rose drops its leaves one by one till all are gone. The full grown tree drops its leaves, then its branches, finally its trunk. The progress out of life is as gradual as the progress into life and through life.
In religion the same progress is apparent. Repentance itself is a ceasing to do evil and a learning to do well. Men grow in virtue and in vice. Faith, hope, and love
are progressive. Habit is the offspring of repeated and progressive acts. No man becomes a profligate in a day, nor is the Christian character attained by a few efforts. Hence the means of moral life, health, and perfection, are as abundant and as necessary as the means of animal and vegetable life and growth.
Christians may grow in favour, in moral courage, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and universal good will, as they grow in stature. But this growth is not attained by wishing, but by abounding in the work of faith, the labour of love, and in the patience of hope.
Conversion to God is also gradual. From the first ray of holy light which strikes the mental eye, to that full illumination which issues in immersion into the Lord Jesus, there is a series of impulses from the truth, or a progress in the knowledge of the person, character, and mission of the Son of God. This, however, may be perfected in hearing a single discourse, in reading the New Testament, or in a longer or shorter period of time. Still, however, it is progressive. And this contradicts not the position which makes immersion the turning or conversion of a sinner to God: for it is but the consummation of the previous knowledge and faith in the divine testimony.
Apostacy is not the work of a moment-it is not an instantaneous change. As, in ascending a lofty eminence, so in descending, we make but one step at a time. He that is condemned to death for taking away the life of his fellowman, in retracing his steps can often discover the first covetous thought or revengeful feeling in the long progress of crime which terminated in the most enormous of all acts of wickedness against his brother man. Thoughts precede words, and both generally precede actions. Murder, adultery, theft, and every immoral or unrighteous act, first exist in thought: "Lust when it has conceived brings forth sin, and sin when it is perfected brings forth death." He that hates his brother is a murderer, because murder is found in the fruits which grow from hatred.
The numerous cautions found in the New Testament intimate the danger of apostacy. Where there is no danger no caution is necessary; but cautions always denote danger. "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you