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“ It would not be consistent with wisdom in the individuals of this body to give any pledge as to the part which they may feel it their duty to act," struck me like a thunderbolt. To me it seemed, if they said any thing upon this point, a point never before introduced, that they might, at least, have pledged themselves not to attempt to injure my character.
Being then by those with whom I was most intimate, and at whose feet, I had been accustomed to sit for counsel, refused counsel, if I should give up infant sprinkling, I was compelled to consult myself. I did so, I verily believe in the fear of God. And certainly I did so with due attachment to my ministerial brethren. It was not until about this time that the thought seriously rested in my mind, that my change of views on baptism, might finally separate me from my former ecclesiastical connexions. But I determined to avoid this separation, if possible. I returned home, feeling that I could not much longer, neither in faithfulness to God, nor to the church, conceal my change of sentiment. Accordingly, in about three weeks, I gave notice from the desk, at the close of the evening service on the Sabbath, 'that I do, after a painful examination, give up infant baptism, and baptism by sprinkling.'
At the same time, I appointed places in different parts of the town, in which I would meet members of the church on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings, for a free conference upon the subject. I met members of the church according to appointment. But, alas ! such meetings I had never been in. The excitement was most distressing to me. I entreated them to make the subject a matter of forbearance, stating that I had freed my conscience in disclosing my sentiments, and that if they would suffer me to continue their pastor, I should leave the subject to the private consideration of the people, and should keep it out of the pulpit, that I merely asked the liberty of being excused from baptizing infants, and to be permitted to baptize those by immersion who might desire it. Meetings, duly warned, were held on the following Friday, both of the church and of the society. To them I conceded, in a written communication, the right of demanding my dismission at any moment they chose. At the same time I expressed my strong desire to remain their pastor, and used my utmost efforts to persuade them to bear with me. In this I made very liberal concessions, on my part, concessions which, I now believe, were much too liberal, for the sake of peace, and for the purpose of retaining Congregational connexion. In such an effort I had hoped to be successful. For it was as well known as possible, that neighboring ministers and churches had been accustomed loudly to complain of the Baptists for placing too much stress on baptism. And as for myself, I certainly should, in any former period of my ministry, have made a similar case, a matter of forbearance. But I soon found reason to apprehend that I should not succeed. Remarks, which I heard from a variety of sources, awakened this apprehension. To one neighboring minister, after taking tea with me, I proposed an exchange of ministerial labors. But he promptly and positively refused, adding, that his people did not love Baptists. An
other minister, in conversation, observed in nearly the following words, 'I know that all the lay brethren in the Consociation are prepared to erclude you from the Consociation, but, as to the opinion of clerical brethren, I will say nothing: clearly conveying to me the sentiment that he had taken pains to get the opinion of all the members of the Consociation, an hat they were prepared for excluding me from their connexion. Moreover, the brethren in the church, who had been particular in consulting neighboring ministers, assured me many times over, that in their opinions I could not retain my standing in Consociation, and that this was the leading ground of their dissatisfaction with me, and of their wishing my dismission.
From hearing such remarks, and witnessing the increasing excitement, I soon seriously wished to be dismissed. But from the beginning I had taken the ground that I would not leave the Congregational connexion unless fairly driven from it. If a separation took place, it should not be my act in breaking away from my former connexions, but their act in driving me from them. On this ground I refused to unite in a council. For a mutual counsel, I clearly saw, would evade the interesting question, and would dismiss me on the ground, that strong excitement had been raised against me.
But lhe Consociation, if called in without my consent, must act upon the charge of heresy. And upon such a charge, on feelings local, I greatly desired to know their decision. A council however was actually called by the church ; but for the above reason I declined acknowledging it a mutual one. Had that council seen fit to advise the church to make my change of sentiment on baptism, a subject of forbearance, there is reason to believe that excitement would have been allayed immediately. This I stated to the council. But no such advice was given by them to the church. The consequence was, excitement rose in the church higher than before. This as much distressed as astonished me. I found I had not learned from a twenty four years' connexion with Congregational ministers, the extent in which they would press infant baptism and sprinkling. I then queried with myself, why should I any longer continue my effort to retain former connexions. As I have conceded to the church and society the right to demand my dismission at any moment they choose, why may I not leare this subject of dismission with them, and take the straight forward course of duty and submit to baptism myself. And I did not long remain in suspense. Duty appeared plain. I was baptized, and I joined the Baptists, and I rejoice in it. In view of the whole transaction, I do hope that my Congregational brethren, will be less free in their severe remarks, against the Baptists for practising close communion. For be it known to the world, as it is known in heaven, that they drove me from them, not because I joined the Baptists, but simply because I gave up infant baptism, and baptism by sprinkling.
Mr A. at the close of his communication, adds, " If there is this appendix to the books of close communion, let it be published.”
Would to God that I had no appropriate answers to this; but I have one, a little book, one which has, in an unpleasant respect,
been instructive to me, and which I here publish, trusting, while
postponed their decision for consideration and advice, viewing the case a peculiarly important one, especially as a considerable number of other perfectly similar cases, it was expected, would follow that of the applicant. The church referred the case to a conference of the churches, and after that to the Ministers' Meeting.'
This it would seem was taking due time, and asking a sufficient number of able counsellors, to obtain a correct and conciliatory result; a result which might, with peculiar propriety, be published for the instruction of the world. Now mark the result.
“In the advice received, the church acquiesced, which was this, Not to act upon the subject ; if members of the church would withdraw, let them do it upon their own responsibility."
Upon this I have only to remark in this place, that if Mr A. finds in the history of the Baptists any act, more remote from christian courtesy, towards those dissenting from them on baptism, he shall have my full approbation to censure it. I will not inquire is Mr A. a member of the Ministers' Meeting referred to, and consequently one of those who gave the above advice.
Suffer me to close by observing, I had fully determined, that I never would take the lead in publishing a single unkind thing which had transpired in Willington. I had indeed seen a number
* The Baptist Church in Hartford have recently received a member commended to them by a letter from the tirst Congregational Church in this city. The person had, before uniting with the Congregational Church, been immersed on a profession of faith in Christ. Feb. 1829.
of such things, which I extremely regretted, but which I earnestly desired might soon be forgotten. And it was to me distressing that Mr A. should lay the matter before the public as he did. As this is the first time I have put pen to paper on these subjects, so I do hope that it may be the last.
May the time soon come when Christians shall as fervently love, and as kindly treat their brethren of other denominations, as they do those of their own denomination; yea, may the happy time soon come, when the watchmen of Zion shall see eye to eye, and when all Christians shall unite, with one voice, in praise to Him that love ed them, and gave himself for them. With due respect, &c.
The Christian Contemplated in a Course of Lectures : By William Jay. 8vo. pp. 382. Boston: Lincoln & Edmands, 1828.
(Continued from page 29.) Tue reader of these Lectures cannot fail to notice an enlargement of view in respect to religious subjects. The author is not one of those who would confine the influence and the consolations of religion to any particular class of men. Religion is here represented as being concerned with our private habitations and our places of business, as well as with houses of public worship. It is not only the solace of adversity; it is also the chosen companion of prosperity. It is not only the friend and guardian of the poor; it is also the associate and protector of the rich. For an illustration of these remarks we would refer to the sixth and seventh Lectures, which, we observe in passing, appear to us peculiarly excellent. The latter of these two is pervaded by a spirit of kindness. We can scarcely refrain from quoting a few lines which are alive with tenderness :
Yea, he is not only with them really, but peculiarly in the day of trouble. “As one whom his mother comforteth,” says he, so will I comfort you: and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” The anxious, tender mother regards all her offspring ; but she is most concerned for the poor, weakly, sickly child. The knee, the bosom is for him : for him is the prepared delicacy, and the noiseless room, and the breathless step, and the frequent watching and leaning over the bed of languishing, and the entreated reception of the offensive draught, accompanied with the sincere assurance, Ah, my darling child, how gladly would I take it for thee.” And thus is it with his afflicted people. They have their special privileges. As their day, so their strength is : and as the sufferings of Christ abound in them, the consolation also aboundeth by Christ: and thousands can testify that they have had clearer discoveries, richer communications, and tenderer supports under their trials than they ever experienced in seasons of ease and prosperity. What want we more? “ God,” says the church, " is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble : therefore
To find ten thousand worlds in thee."
will not we fear though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea'; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.” No creature can be a substitute for him ; but he is more than a substitute for every creature; and his presence peoples and fertilizes and gladdens the gloomiest deserts: "I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness, and there will I speak comfortably unto her. And I will give her her vineyards from thence; and the valley of Achor for a door of hope; and she shall sing there.” The lamp cannot supply the place of the sun; but you have no reason to complain, if you can say, with Mrs Rowe,
u Thou dost but take the lamp away,
To bless me with unclouded day." 'If we faint in the day of adversity, it is by losing sight of him whose grace is always sufficient for us. We resemble Peter. “Come," said our Saviour: “And when he was come down out of the ship, he walked upon the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried, Lord, save me.” Ah, said Jesus, you should have looked not at the waves, but at me. Am not I here? Within sight? Within reach ? “ And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him; and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? How sublime is the exclamation of Doddridge ; but it is founded in reason and truthmake it, Christian, whatever threatens, your own.
“ If thou, my Jesus, still art nigh,
pp. 231-233. In these lectures, though there is no labored argumentation, little of what some might call deep thinking, yet there is experience and reality, there is an acquaintance with the actual state of things, there is a spirit of tenderness, that will render a repeated perusal of the work delightful. If a young man anxious for fine writing and sparkling passages should be disappointed, we are persuaded that age, sobered by the realities of actual life, will take up the book again and again, and will never read without gratification. There are some passages which glow with warmth of conception, and which exhibit strength of language. Let the following testify:
“He is called “the God of all comfort.” And he is so called, not only to forbid our confidence in creatures, but to enlarge our expectations from himself, by bringing an Almighty Creator of succor and refreshment into view, in our difficulties and sorrows. It says, I, even I, am he that comforteth you. Is any thing too hard for the Lord ? However dark the scene, if he says, Let there be light, all shall be irradiated. However rough the winds and waves, if he says, Peace, be still, there shall be a great calm. He can turn the shadow of death into the morning. He can plant the hope of glory in the very bosom of despair. What he does not find, he can produce.
If there be no pre-existent materials, he can create. Nothing hears his voice, and yields a world of life and plenty and bliss. He called those things which be not, as though they were. He is the God of all comfort, who comforteth us in all our tribulations.'
But we rather think, and surely no good judge will consider the opinion as at all detracting from the merit of the work,—we rather
pp. 276, 277.