« AnteriorContinuar »
The Nonconformist, No. XXVII
345 spect of essential service, and created those of liberty; and he possessed a a new æra in the history of religious benevolence and single-heartedness *liberty.
that unfitted hiin to play the tyrant, or The abettors of the state religion in even to controul the factious disposithis reign, who appear to have taken tion of his subjects. Had his means for their exemplars those worthy mo- been equal to his inclination, he would dels of a zeal for rigorous Conformity, have put an end to all political disPhilip. II. and Lewis XIV., ardently tinctions upon account of religion, expected that their inquisitorial pro- being well satisfied both of their imceedings would deter the people from policy and injustice. But the power following their pastors; and that by of the crown, when it might have been cutting off the means of education, beneficial to the people, was greatly they should effectually prevent a suc- diminished; and the personal infuence cession of able ministers from rising of King William was scarcely sufficient up to vindicate their cause. In both to protect the Nonconformists from these respects they were disappointed. persecution. In the following reign, Persecution made confirmed enemies the monster stalked abroad with a of some that might have been friends, firmer step, and had nearly succeeded and gained others from a principle of in bringing back the nation to the compassion to the distressed ; exem- same state of priestcraft and slavery, .plifying a common observation, that from which it had been redeemed by a religion flourishes inost when stimu- the kindly genius of King. William. lated by opposition. Like the ancient But the death of Queen Anne saved apologists for Christianity, when smart- the nation from this catastrophe, and ing under the rod of the Heathen the Dissenters from their fearful siemperors, many of thein employed tuation. their privacy in writing vindications of In the interval between the Revoluthe cause for which they suffered; and tion and the accession of the House the zeal and ability which they brought of Hanover, the Nonconformists conto the work, had'a considerable effect tinued to maintain that respectability both in clearing their own conduct of character which challenged and and in confirming the people in the procured the respect of their adversaprinciples for which they contended. ries. A few of the Bartholomean conAs many of the Nonconforming clergy fessors still continued upon the stage, were men of learning and talents, and to give couutenance to their younger had acted as tutors in the universities, brethren; and the rising generation of they were well qualified for superin- ministers, who had received a liberal tendents of academies, which they education, continued with nearly the now instituted, partly for their sup- same success the designs of their preport and partly for the purpose of decessors. Many of them were their training up ministers who should af- sons in blood as well as in the faith : terwards take their places, and be the possessed of solid learning, they were means of perpetuating a cause which able advocates of the cause they had they considered to be that of truth espoused, as well as of the common and piety. Perhaps nothing tended Christianity. By their judicious laso inuch to annoy their adversaries as bours in the pulpit, their pious intheir employment in this way, as it structions in private, their attention defeated their expectation that the to catechetical exercises, and their cause of Nonconformity would die valuable productions from the press, with the ejected ministers.
as also by their schemes for perpetu. From the stormy period of civil ating a learned ministry, they kept commotion and arbitrary government, alive the interest of Nonconformity, we now turn to the Revolution in and it continued to flourish in their 1688, when the political condition of hands. As the State had laid aside the Nonconforınists became fixed by the engine of persecution, they now law, and freedom of worship was gua- began to erect ineeting-houses in more ranteed to them by the Act of Tolc- public situations, some of them sparation. In enlightened views, the new cious and substantial; and they were king was a century before his subjects. well filled. His own priuciples were decidedly The people, trained under these
excellent men, proved themselves there were many who distinguished every way worthy of such instructors. themselves by their learning and taTheir congregations were numerous lents, by their personal piety, and by and respectable. In some towns the their valuable writings. As they grew corporation was of this profession; in years, however, their congregations and it was no uncommon thing for declined ; and the younger ministers the principal families in the neigh- who took their places, being deficient bourhood to pass by the parish church in popularity, were unable to support on their way to the meeting-house, a drooping cause. There was also a Several of the nobility and gentry had considerable alteration in the style and been educated under Nonconforming matter of their preaching, which was tutors, and still continued the prac- but ill adapted to the capacities of tice of retaining them as chaplains and their people, and often involved topics tutors. Uncorrupted by the profili- in which they felt but little interest. gacy of the times, by the temptations It is no breach of charity to observe, of the court, or the servile compli- that the race of ministers which sprang ances of those around them, they up about the middle of this period, held fast the profession of their faith was by no means equal to those which without wavering, and sanctioned the preceded it, either in ministerial quareligion of their forefathers by an at- lifications, or in attachment to the tendance upon the same forms of wor- cause. On account of the expense ship.
incurred at an university, some of With the reign of Queen Anne ended them had received but a slender eduthe hopes of the high-church party, cation; whilst, in some instances, they and the persecution of Dissenters by were taken into the pulpit without the civil power. George I. being of a any previous preparation. The injury different religious profession from the that must accrue to any cause froin sect established, felt no sympathy with its falling into the hands of ignorant its prejudices, and would have ex- or half learned-men, was soon exemtended the boundaries of toleration plified in the case of the Dissenters. had the scheme been practicable. He Their adversaries began to treat them clipped the wings of the clergy by with contempt, from which their preoverturning their
convocation; and his tensions to piety could not redeem successors in royalty have discovered them; and they sometimes courted it the same tolerant disposition towards by their folly and indiscretion. Desthe Dissenters. But this sunshine of titute of the spirit of their profession, prosperity, however desirable, has been some of their aninisters quitted it for far from favourable to the Dissenting trade, whilst others combined them interest. To whatever cause it may together, and thus rendered thembe owing, it is certain that from the selves unfit for either. The little enperiod of the accession of the House couragement that was given to Disof Hanover, it has been visibly upon sent, deterred persons of any property the wane. This declension was more from bringing up their sons to the particularly apparent in the reign of Dissenting ministry. The consequence George II., and in the earlier years of was, that their preachers were usually his successor, when many meeting- taken from the inferior ranks of life, houses in various parts of the kingdom and being wholly dependent upon their were shut up for want of support. people for support, their incomes were This circumstance sufficiently marked generally small and precarious. Thus a numerical declension; but there were circumstanced, and destitute of that other particulars in which the signs polish and refinement which are the of decay became manifest.
effect of education, it is no wonder At this time the snares of the world that they sunk from that station in and the deceitfulness of riches had society which was occupied by the drawn aside from their ranks most of earlier Nonconformists. the leading persons in their commu- Another very material circumstance nion. Many of the clergy, also, ran that affected the prosperity of the the same race of Conformity as the Dissenters during this period was, the laity. Of the elder ministers, who divisions that took place amongst them continued stedfast to their principles, upon questions of dogmatic theology.
Letter from Cumberland, Rhode Island.
347 The strife first began with the Neono
Homerton, mian controversy, which had scarcely
June 18, 1823. subsided,' when they found thein- RÉCEIVED a few days since a
the Trinity. The Synod at Salters you deem it worthy of being recorded Hall, in 1719, still 'farther widened in the Monthly Repository, is at your the breach, creating unjust suspicions service. The contents afforded me and angry feelings between brethren much greater satisfaction than I could who should have united in support of have anticipated. For, although the the common cause. Those who are General Baptists may indisputably be not acquainted with the history of that said to have had the honour and hapevent, can have no conception of the piness of contributing their full share animosity which it occasioned, nor of to the recent spread of Unitarianism, the unfavourable aspect which it had as they have supplied nearly the whole upon the cause of Dissenters. Several of the Missionaries employed by the of their ministers immediately quitted Unitarian Fund Society; yet I did not their stations and their profession ; expect to find that, in the new world, the laity went off in numbers to the 80 large a body of their brethren church and to the world; whilst too were avowedly Anti-Trinitarians. To many of those who continued stedfast me it has long appeared, that the leadin their principles, converted the pul- ing principle of the Baptists, viz. that pit into a forum for inflaming the bad religion is altogether a personal conpassions of their auditors. After this, cern-parents not being able to do other questions arose both in divinity any thing for their children, as such, and in philosophy, and occasioned dis- which can place them in a more salvputes among the learned; some of which able state than they are by nature, or interfering with the generally-received which can entitle them to the appellaopinions, added to the unpopularity tion of Christians, till they become so of the propagators, and caused the from conviction-has a tendency to meeting-houses to be deserted. But the ultimate adoption of rational views next to the disputes concerning the of Christian truth and honourable Trinity, perhaps the most fruitful conceptions of the character and attri-. source of contention has been the con- butes of the Father Almighty. In aptroversy relating to grace and salva- parent proof of this tendency, I might tion. The speculations of many upon refer to numerous instances
in which these subjects, led them to entertain ministers and others of the Particular notions of the Divine government that Baptist denomination, have abanwere apparently inconsistent with mo. doned the doctrine of unconditional rals. Antinomianism in its various election, and have found satisfaction grades took root in many congrega- alone in the persuasion that the MAtions, corrupted the members, and KER of all is the equal and impartial carried desolation in its train. The Father of the whole human race, the blighting effects of this noxious weed only proper object of their devout adohave been manifested in the endless ration and supreme affection. To omit, divisions and sub-divisions which it for the present, other names, permit lias occasioned, owing to disputes be- to instance those of Messrs. Wright, tween the minister and his people, Vidler, Marsom and Lyons. And your and the people with each other, upon readers will find from the following subtle distinctions, the meaning of letter, that among the Particular Bapwhich must be unintelligible to the tists in America, some of their most many, and when comprehended, of popular preachers, with their respecdoubtful utility: Such proceedings tive churches, have been excommunihave contributed greatly to bring the cated expressly on the ground of their cause of Dissent into disrepute, and attempts to subvert the doctrine of have occasioned many persons to
the Trinity. Of the ministers of the 'doubt the eligibility of a scheme of Sabbatarian Baptists also, some are, church-government with which so it appears, “strenuous Unitarians." much discord is compatible.
It may, perhaps, strike your readers [To be concluded in the next Number.]
as being remarkable, that it is in connexion with these last-mentioned ministers alone, the terin Unitarian
occurs in the whole letter, but this is ing the very imperfect history of the probably to be accounted for on the American Baptists, it will be imposconscientious objection of the writer sible for me or any other person, at and his brethren to any other religious this period, to solve your numerous designation than that of“ Christians.” inquiries ; and should I even succeerd I am not aware that any account has in augmenting your funds of informahitherto been published in England, of tion in a very limited degree, I shall; so large a body as that of the Ameri- feel that my feeble endeavours are can "Christians” being “ Anti-Calvi-' crowned with a success very desirnistic” and “ Anti-Trinitarian;" but able. this is another encouraging proof that, “Omitting farther preamble, I will however zealous our brethren may be, proceed to state that there are in the who assume the exclusive title of United States, nominally, five denoorthodox, those views which Unitari- ninations of Baptists, viz. Calvinistic, ans regard as more honourable to God Seventh-day, Six-principle, and Freeand his Christ, are rapidly gaining will Baptists, and Christians. These advocates in denominations in which are also properly classed under the our most sanguine hopes would not two following heads, as expressive of have leil us to hope they could be their peculiar tenets, viz. the Calvinisfound. It is probable that " The Chris- tic and Arininian Baptists. The Caltians” may not approve of all the vinistic answer to your • Particular, opinions avowed by the majority of and the Arminian to your 'General English Unitarians; but it is a subject Baptists.' The former denomination for devout gratitude, that they are is considered Calvinistic ; the four latfellow-labourers with those who, in ter, Arminian : and in order to give Great Britain, believe, that the Savi. you some idea of them, we will speak our did not mean to mislead his fol- of them under their respective heads. : lowers, and could not be mistaken
1. CALVINISTIC OR PARTICULAR when, addressing the Father, he said, “ This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only TRUE God, and “ As you evince no wish to be inJesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” formed concerning this denomination,
I have, Sir, only to add, that I have but little will be said. In most of every reason to suppose the utmost the States they have become popular, reliance may be placed on the state- and embrace many large and flourishments of Mr. Poiter, as he consulted ing churches. Their preachers are the printed records of the different better educated than those of any classes whom he describes, and as I other Baptist denomination. Certain have this day seen another communi- feuds, which have recently crept into cation from America, in which the some of their associations, have de
“Mr. Benedict told me he prived them of some of their most had given Mr. S.'s letter to a Christian popular preachers, with their respecemphatically so called, to answer it.” tive churches, and threaten material
G. S. prejudice to the denomination at large.
The principal subject of contention is “ Cumberland, Rhode Island, the doctrine of the Trinity, which the
North America, disaffected essay to deny, and thereby April 19, A. D. 1923. invariably subject themselves to ex
communication. “ Respected Sir,
“ This denomination is strictly Cal“ The only apology which I have vinistic, and its communion partakes to offer for troubling you with this of the same restrictive character; being communication, is the possession of a open to none except those of their own letter
subscribed by you, and addressed faith and order.' Elder Benedict to • Elder David Benedict, of Paw. has written their History, which actucket, R. I.,' dated Hackney, near counts for the mistake under which London, Sept. 10, 1818. The cause your friend, Mr. Richards laboured. which brought your letter into my Previous to the appearance of Mr. B.'s possession will appear in the sequel, work, it was expected he would give as will more obviously the reason of a faithful and impartial History of the my presuming to answer. Consider- Baptists in general;—but he said but
II. GENERAL BAPTISTS.
concerning the American Baptists.. little of any Baptists except his own. indispensable pre-requisite to church Aside from that History, Elder B. is membership. For a few years past an excellent man, and were he not they appear to have experienced no fettered by illiberal and circumscribed material increase or diminution. creeds, he would unquestionably be a "3. Free-will Baptists. The first liberal and useful preacher.
church belonging to this denomination was planted in the town of New Dur.
ham, State of New Hampshire, in the “ 1. Seventh-Day. Baptists.—This year 1780; since which their increase denomination being of European ori. has been, and continues to be, rapid gin, perhaps your knowledge of it is and regular, and they are now scatsufficient; however, I will observe, they tered thronghout various parts of all have an association called ' Seventh- the Northern States. On examination Day Baptist General Conference,' of their minutes for December 1822, consisting of (according to their mi. I find reported 213 regular churches nutes for 1821) sixteen churches, and and 10,025 members. In sentiment embracing perhaps between two and they are Arminian and Trinitarian, three thousand members. Owing to but their communion is accessible to the inconvenience of observing the Christians of regular standing, of all Seventh Day in communities where denominations. The ministers of this the First Day is more generally consi- sect, like the Methodist circuit preachdered the Christian Sabbath, this peo- ers, accustom themselves to travel ple had greatly decreased until 1805, and preach, though some of them since which they have realized some attend more particularly to the supervery, salutary_accessions to their intendence of the churches. Their communjon. For a more particular churches are organized into what they account of them, you are referred call Quarterly Meetings, and these to Elder Robert Burnside, pastor of Quarterly Meetings erect, by delegathe Seventh-Day Particular Baptist tion, a Yearly Meeting, in which the Church, near Devonshire Square, lon- more important business of the denodon, between whoin and Elder Bailey, mination is transacted. A few years the Secretary of the General Confe- will find this a more flourishing people rence here, there is a regular corre than the Calvinistic Baptists, if we pondence. Mr. Bailey has represented may be permitted to found our judghis people to be Trinitarian, which is ment on present prospects. not the case as it regards them as a " 4. Christians. --This sect has people, some of their preachers being always been considered a species of strenuous Unitarians. They publish Baptists, as they administer baptism a Quarterly Magazine, which is prin- in 'no other way than by immersing cipally devoted to the dissemination the candidate. They, quote Acts xi. of their own favourite views. There 26, xxvi. 28, ) Peter iv. 16, in defence are also a few other churches scattered of the naine which they have assumed, round in various parts of the United and by which they seek only to know States, which are a species of that and be known as a people ; regarding order, but being believers in an open, all others as the invention of men. The communion, &c., they are not asso. first church of this denomination was ciated with the General Conference. planted in Portsmouth, New Hamp
“ 2. Six-Principle Baptists. This shire, in the year 1803, since which sect of Baptists consists of about fif- they have spread extensively throughteen churches in the United States, out nearly all the Northern and Southand the probable number of communi- ern, Eastern and Western States, and carts is 1500. They pretend to de- are now the most numerous of all rive their name from the preceding the General Baptists. They have now part of the sixth chapter of Hebrews, about two hundred and fifty churches, to which they profess a close adhe- and their communicants are computed rence. In doctrine they are Anti-Cal- at between 15,000 and 20,000. Many vinistic, and are Trinitarian, and in of their churches are large and restheir cominunion they are limited to pectable; and the whole of them their own 'faith and order' exclus' are organized into Conferences, and sively. The imposition of hands “sub- these Conferences have erected ansequent to baptism' is thought another, by delegation, called. The