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the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive,' Mal. iii. 10. Let us remember that he is God, and changeth not. J. A. H.”
TO MR. WM. JONES, OF LONDON.
Halifax, Nova Scotia, August 6, 1835. DEAR SIR,
Perceiving from the · Millennial Harbinger,' edited by Mr. Alexander Campbell, that you are interested in whatever is connected with the apostolic Gospel and order of things, and also having imbibed a Christian respect and kindness towards yourself from the knowledge I have of your character and principles, gathered from your own writings, with which I have been familiar, I am now induced to avail myself of the opportunity of Lieut. M.Kenzie, a baptist brother of the 96th Regt., who is returning to Europe, to write you a few lines, the object of which is to give you a brief sketch of a church of Christ in this place, which has been led, in the dealings of Providence, practically to adopt the apostolic order of things. I shall for that purpose subjoin a few extracts from a sketch of the proceedings of the church I allude to. It was drawn up by a brother in the church, now removed to New York
“ The church of Christ, usually denominated the Second Baptist church in Halifax, has passed through a variety of trying circumstances, which they can now look back upon, and perceive that they were all under the direction of God, leading them to greater simplicity of views in religious matters, and a more scriptural observance of the ordinances of the Gospel. They have been led, gradually, to renounce human systems in religion, speculations of men, whether in relation to doctrine or practice, and to adopt, as their only directory in both, the New Testament requiring for every thing to be believed, as the truth of God, a plain unequivocal statement of that truth by our Lord, or his Apostles, and believing that they cannot, without disobedience to the divine lawgiver, neglect any religious observance for which they have either precept or example in the New Testament. A practical adoption of such principles has caused them to be much misrepresented, and to become very unpopular, and even shunned by the religious world, especially of their own denomination. A statement of the circumstances and manner in which, step by step, they were led to their present views, and practice, would be interesting and might be profitable; but at present little more than the result can barely be referred to.
“ They had originally been constituted on the usual and popular plan of the English and American Baptists ; when a difficulty, connected with the choice of a pastor, arose, which, after a variety of trials, &c., resulted in the separation of the ministry, and the wealthiest and most influential part to be formed into a separate church, leaving the Second Baptist Church with their pastor to proceed by themselves. Pecuniary and other difficulties next produced the necessity of their pastor quitting them. As the time of his departure approached, and when it had arrived, they were led scripturally to consider what was their duty and line of conduct to be pursued, when thus providentially left to themselves. They soon found that a specially-called and ordained minister, was not essential to the being of a church, its worship, or the observance of the ordinances of Christ's house ; and, if they were authorised to observe any of the ordinances, without the limitation alluded to, it required some special limitation to prove that they were not equally bound to observe every social ordinance on the Lord's Day, in their associated capacity, when assembled together. They considered Acts ii, 42, with other passages of Scripture to learn what were the observances of the churches of our Lord, and as affording all churches, in after ages, a divine model to imitate and follow after. In consequence of these investigations, prayerfully and scripturally pursued, (and which are now merely hinted at,) certain brethren among themselves were appointed to lead or conduct, in turn, the public worship, read the Scriptures in their assemblies, explain and enforce their teaching according as God gave them ability so to do, and to preside at the observance of the Lord's Supper, till God in his providence should point out to them or provide for them pastors permanently to take the oversight of them. After some time, the Scriptures became more and more interesting; their power to teach and their authority came to be more perceived, and better appreciated, and the reading of them in course to be a duty and a privilege. The order of worship, in the morning, began with singing, then prayer, and singing again ; a prayer more especially for the hearing ear, and a blessing on the reading of the word which followed, say, for instance, as was begun, the 1st chapter of Genesis, the 1st of Isaiah, and the 1st of Matthew, continuing in course this plan of reading, with little, or occasional, omission of some few parts for private reading. After the reading of the word, another prayer was offered, singing and pronouncing the benediction concluded the morning service, say from eleven to better than half-past twelve o'clock. In the afternoon at three o'clock the service began similarly to the morning, the portion read, say, the 1st Psalm and the Ist chapter of Romans, then the supper, contribution for the poor, &c. The presiding brother who reads also explains, remarks upon, and supplies the portion read in course; and almost always various other parts of the Scriptures are referred to, and read, and considered; other brethren follow with exhortation or remarks; these exercises are generally well-calculated to explain and illustrate the Scriptures, to enforce obedience to their precepts, and to proclaim to all the Gospel of the grace of God, and, by a display of the faithfulness, the love, the mercy, and the terrors of the Lord, to awaken the attention of all that may be present with them, to their eternal interests, and lead to the knowledge and belief of the truth, and to the obedience of faith. Thus various gifts possessed by the church have been brought into service for the benefit of all.”
I must for the present conclude this part of my letter. During the state of the church above described, I providentially met with the writings of that eminent master in Israel, Alexander Campbell, of Bethany, which tended greatly to establish me on the Bible as of su. preme authority, and to enable me to distinguish between its facts (or truths) and men's inferential deductions, speculations, or opinions, about these truths. I could say much on this important subject and distinction, but time forbids. I found, wherever these writings had claimed a hearing, that prejudice and misrepresentation accompanied the claim, sometimes silencing, sometimes neutralizing their teaching. I under. took, at some loss, from a sense of the importance and value of much that he wrote, to compile a volume mostly with extracts from Mr. Campbell's writings, entitled “The Christian Gleaner,'a copy of which I herewith send you. I was rejoiced to see that you intended, or had commenced, a British • Millennial Harbinger.' Will you forward me a copy of such of the numbers as have come out, and as they proceed from the press ? Should no fit opportunity occur of sending the parcel, addressed to me, thus, “ Dr. Lewis Johnston, Halifax, Nova Scotia," in an envelope addressed to “ J. W. Johnston Esq., Solicitor General, Halifax, Nova Scotia,” send the parcel, with the latter address outside, to“ Mr. William Walker, Bookseller, Strand,” with a request that he would forward it to Mr. Johnston as early as possible. I may perhaps get some other subscribers for the work here, after it has been seen and read. If your time, inclination, and all other circumstances suit, I should be glad to hear from you in return. Hoping you will excuse this intrusion by a stranger, I must now conclude, with Christian respect and regard, and with best wishes, Your friend, in the best of bonds,
LEWIS JOHNSTONE. POSTSCRIPT BY THE EDITOR. The preceding letter contains some things which do not meet the approbation of the Editor of the · Harbinger,' and particularly that part of it which describes the disciples at Halifax as proceeding to the Lord's Supper before the church was organized with elders and deacons, without which they cannot possibly exhibit “the body of Christ,” according to 1 Cor. xii. 12, 14, 27-besides that, it is a practice wholly without precept or precedent from the New Testament, and totally unknown to the Churches of Christ anterior to the time of the Lutheran Reformation.* Besides, to place the Lord's supper on the same footing with the social duties of prayer and praise, and giving instruction, is to overlook a most important distinction which exists between them. The latter are moral duties, and would have been incumbent upon us, as God's rational, intelligent, and accountable creatures, had there been no express
* I here speak of churches which “kept the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”_ED.
institution of them by apostolic authority ; but who will affirm that such is the case with the ordinance of “the breaking of bread ?” This is, like the ordinance of Baptism, a positive institution, depending wholly on the will of the Christian legislator both as to its observance, and the circumstances attending it; and, independent of his revealed will, it would not be a duty at all. For persons, therefore, to go about the observance of it, according to their own fancies, and without having regard to the example of the apostolic churches, is to be guilty of manifest indiscretion; it is to contemn the beautiful order of Christ's house, and must assuredly incur his displeasure. It is truly lamentable to think upon the silly things that have recently been written, and, by sensible men, too, in relation to it.* Take the ordinance
* To prevent misapprehension, it may be proper to state in this place, that I have in view, more particularly, a printed circular letter from the pen of an Elder of a Scotch Baptist church under the signa. ture of H. D., 24th August, 1835, than which anything more superficial and flimsy has not often seen the light. The piece, to which it professes to be an answer, has never come under my observation; it may be as childish and irrelevant as H. D. represents it; but, if so, it is only upon a par with his own performance, in which everything that required to be proved is taken for granted! That any man should undertake to discuss a controverted point, and, to avoid confutation, should call upon his opponent to prove a negative, evinces a lamentable deficiency in the study of logic.
I shall illustrate the argument of Mr. H. D. by a case in point. In arguing as a Baptist would do with a Pædobaptist, the former would say_" There is neither precept nor example in all the New Testament for administering the ordinance to infants, and, therefore, in doing it, you act without scriptural warrant.” To which the Pædobaptist replies -“ We have an express command for administering the ordinance of Baptism ; that you will not deny. And as to the subjects, what harm can there be in applying it to infants ? Show me one single text in which either Christ or his Apostles have forbidden it.” Such, precisely, is the argument of H. D. Some may think it very wise and pertinent -for my own part I see nothing in it but egregious folly!
Wherein, let me ask, consisted the sin of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, which brought upon them the judgment of Heaven, Numb. xvi. ? or that of Saul, which incurred the displeasure of God, and cost his family the loss of the throne of Israel, 1 Sam. xiii.? These and other similar questions, all bearing on the point at issue, have often been asked, but I have never yet met with a satisfactory answer to them ; and am fully persuaded that no answer can be given, which does not go to condemn the practice in question; I mean that of taking the Lord's Supper in the absence of an official administrator. God is a sovereign, and will be served in his own way. I hear a voice sounding in my ears, “ Behold! to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken, of the Lord's Sopper out of an organized body, and it becomes a nose of wax which may be moulded or accommodated to any thing; to two persons, male or female, worshipping at their own fire-side; nor does it stop there ; for it descends to one individual in his retirement, and to both of these cases we have known it reduced, and practised, and contended for, by our modern innovators! Societies, that have not among them persons scripturally qualified for the elder's office, ought to wait upon the Lord, with whom is the residue of the Spirit, and, by fervent and importunate prayer, plead his own gracious promise, Jer. iii. 15, and Eph, iv. 11, 12, that he will fit and qualify persons for the office, that so “ the things that are wanting among them may be set in order," Titus, i. 5, in a conformity to his own gracious will. The plea urged for a contrary conduct, founded on an inference deduced from the case of the disciples at Troas, Acts xx. 7., is a mere begging of the question ; it is taking for granted the very thing which they are bound to prove, viz., that that church, which had existed at least seven years, and which, from all that is recorded of it, was manifestly numerous, in a day, too, when gifts were particularly abundant, had no elders :-a mere gratuitous assumption ! and it shows how hard-driven the advocates of this new practice are for plausible pretexts.
The letter, however, possesses sufficient interest to render it acceptable to many readers. The friends of truth must always be gratified at seeing others get emancipated from human traditions, and having recourse to the Holy Scriptures as their rule and directory in all that concerns the kingdom of Christ in the world.
than the fat of rams.” I hope that voice will reach the ear of H. D. and prompt him to furnish a satisfactory reply to the objections that are now briefly suggested, respecting the line of conduct, which he ad. vocates, but, until that defence appears, I must continue to regard him as acting very presumptuously, in what he has written and recommended to others; and, with every friendly disposition, I ADVISE HIM TO LOOK TO THE CONSEQUENCES !
As to the distinction between moral and positive institutions, one would be apt to think H.D. had never either heard or thought upon the subject, nor yet of the divine authority—the necessity-and the exclusive and appropriate duties of the Elder's office !-W. J.