Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

The doctrine under consideration is recognized as a fundamental principle in the gospel. Unless this principle is admitted, very few duties could ever be enforced, and but few truths inculcated. The principles that cover every case of human conduct are given in the Bible, with facts sufficient to illustrate their nature, while we, by study and prayerful consideration, are to learn their applicability to the various states and conditious of life.

Taking up the Bible, we find various doctrines taught that would not only be destitute of all meaning, but absolutely false, if our notions of individualism are not true. For instance, regeneration is requisite in every man, without which he cannot be saved. Now regeneration, resulting in repentance, faith and holy living, involves a change of heart. To effect this change, the individual himself is appealed to by various motives, entreaties, expostulations and commands. When the change is effected, the new heart is the individual's. The new principle of life implanted there is that by which he is governed. It is the individual that repents, and the individual who exercises faith in Christ. In the performance of every duty required of us in the Scriptures, we are absolutely and positively alone. What is required of us as individuals cannot be done by another. We cannot worship God by proxy. Our sins, also, are our own acts, for which we are individually responsible. If any connection exists between individuals in any relation in life, which necessarily destroys the individuality of either party, the party so affected is no more recognized in the Bible than the inhabitants of the moon. As to any other conversion than this, in which the individual is regarded and treated as a morally respousible being, blameworthy or praiseworthy, according to his own individual moral character, the Scriptures are silent. Baptismal regeneration, or presumptive faith, if they have any existence, must be found as fioating particles in the regions of conjecture. The claims, threatenings and promises of the Bible are also made to men as individuals. There is no exception to the law of the Scriptures. No one is recognized as the representative of the race, or of a single class, or of a family, in any way to destroy their individuality ; but each individual is singled out from the mass and adVOL. XIII. —NO. LII.

45*

dressed personally, as literally and truly as though there were not another being in existence.

Individualism is an essential element of true republicanism. Whatever definition may be given of republicanism, it implies self-government; and by self-government is implied the existence of virtue and inteiligence. But of whom, or of what can we predicate virtue, except of a moral being? And when we speak of intelligence, do we not imply the existence of individual men ? Monarchical governments are composed of masses of human beings, living without thought or separate, independent action, moved about by the physical power of the tyrant, just as slaves are governed. The reverse is true of a republic. Here the government is made up of as many parts as there are individual citizens, each one maintaining his separate existence, but, for the purpose of securing his civil interests, he unites with others in a civil compact, whose principles are clearly defined and felt to be in harmony with his individuality, and this he feels bound to maintain at whatever cost. In a monarchy, every subject is supposed to be a slave, and all property 10 belong to the king; while in a republic, every man is a sovereign, with the acknowledged right io hold property,—to buy, sell and get gain without reference to his rulers. In a republic, each individual, in all his social, intellectual, and moral relations, is supposed to be alone, being responsible to the government, of which he is a constituent part, only for the abuse of his privileges; while in a monarchy, the power to regulate all his interests is with the king. He regulates the press, directing what shall and what shall not be read ; controls the church, declaring what doctrines shall, and what shall not be taught and believed, -he is the very head and soul of every department of life. While, therefore, it is evident that the strength of a monarchy depends entirely on the success that attends the efforts of the tyrant in welding his subjects together so as to destroy their personal identity in every relation in life, that of a republic consists in the extent to which each citizen has become a separate individual. Like an immense cable, the strength of a republic is in proportion 10 the strength of the material of which each strand is composed. Hence, we may expect to find, not only the best and most rational government, but the strongest, where

each citizen feels himself a man, having the ability and the right to think and investigate for himself, to call that which he has earned his own, and to mingle in social intercourse with those he loves. There is a moral power in such governments that is irresistible. Every man dreams, speaks and prays of right, and when he is called to defend his institutions, he is sustained by the consciousness of contending for what is just and true. Standing on such a foundation, he must be immovable. It must fire his heart with an unconquerable zeal, and give strength to his arm that cannot be withstood. Who will not be brave in fighting for a good and great object, when he is confident of victory! In all those governments where we find no evidence of the existence of men, their strength is all of a physical character. Neither the king nor his subjects stop to reason in any controversy; but, like the tiger, immediately plunge into war. But the more completely isolated men become in all that makes up the reality of life, the stronger and safer are republican institutions.

It is contended, and justly, we think, that in the highest state of civilization, the civil government will be purely democratic, in the true and best use of that term. It is also admitted that the race is making progress in civilization. Hence it is evident that the time must come when republican institutions will be established among every people. Now, as we have seen, in the progress of civilization, there is a natural and irresistible tendency towards a separation of the race into individual men.

If there is any law immutable and important in reference to man, that has been developed in the progress of civilization, this is the most prominent. If, then, republicanism and individualism are, alike, the natural result of the progress of civilization, some very intimate connection must subsist between them. This connection we have already shown. Is it not also evident, from the nature of republicanismn, that not only does this intimate connection subsist between them, but that individualism is absolutely essential to the existence of republican institutions—the very key-stone to the arch? For instance, suppose we take away the sense of individual responsibility and the moral power of this government that arises from the consciousness of citizens being men, how long before we should be acting over the scenes in which France has

[ocr errors]

rendered herself so notorious during the last few months ? What France needs, is, the separation of the mass, that is now under the control of a few leaders, into its constituent parts; and this can only be effected by the introduction of a pure Christianity. France, and every other government that would successfully maintain democratic institutions, needs men,-men who are not only able to think and investigate for themselves on all literary and scientific subjects, but more especially on all questions of morals. Men of this character are able to stand alone and erect in every storm. The mass may be swept away by some terrible excitement, but these men are unmoved ; ready, as soon as their voice can be heard, to remind the people of the dictates of sober reason and common sense.

The doctrine of individualisin is peculiar to the Baptists as a religious sect. It is not true that a firm belief that immersion is essential to baptism, and that believers only are to be baptized and come to the Lord's table, is the all of a Baptist. Embracing these peculiar views is the result of an antecedent cause. It is admitted by all, that Baptists have ever been peculiarly strenuous in maintaining the right of private judgment on all questions. They have ever scorned to call any man master. Opinions and doctrines have never been deemed by them peculiarly sacred because of their antiquity. Whatever they believe and receive as true has ever been previously subjected to the most thorough examination. They have ever scouted the traditions of men, while they have adhered to the simple truths of the Bible. They have always maintained that every individual should read and understand the Scriptures for himself. Their uncompromising maintenance of liberty of conscience has ever been a peculiar characteristic. Others have contended for this principle to a certain extent; but none, save the Baptists, through their entire history. What other sect is not accustomed to appeal to the teachings of the fathers, to the usages of the past, to tradition, and ecclesiastical law, in maintaining the doctrines of the Bible and the discipline of the church? In all matters of faith, a Baptist would feel that he had proved recreant to his God, should he rely on any thing but the simple Scriptures. He regards himself able to think and investigate for himself, and feels that he is responsible to God for what he believes. Hence, he

separates himself from the mass, and seeks to decide all questions alone. He may employ helps; but the investigation and the decision to which he comes are his own. These characteristics are clearly exhibited in the history of those wh have been called to contend for their faith. Roger Williams has been held up to ridicule for what has been termed his seditious spirit; but a careful study of his life will show that his conduct can be accounted for only on the supposition of his holding and maintaining those peculiar views respecting liberty of conscience and the word of God, that are every where, in theory at least, at the present day, so much applauded. All who have been called to stand in defence of their peculiar views, have rested every thing on the siniple declaration of Jehovah. To the law and to the testimony" has been their first and only resort in settling every point of doctrine.

As a denomination, we are not now required to contend for the truth, as did our fathers. There is, therefore, not the same manifestation of these essential elements as formerly; but should the times change, we should soon have evidence of their existence. The lion's strength is not destroyed when he sleeps. Still we may see the exhibition of the same thing, to some extent, in the jealous care with which our church independency is defended, and in the immediate and severe rebuke occasioned by the slightest indication of ecclesiastical tyranny.

A Baptist, then, is one who thinks and investigates for himself, calls no man master, rigidly contends for the fullest liberty of conscience, and stands alone, responsible only to his God, in all that makes the man and the Christian; while his union with his brethren is merely that of love to Christ, which is experienced and cherished in common. There may be those in other communions in whom these elements are found, and many among Bartists in whom they are not ; but we have reference to that which distinguishes us as a denomination. It will require no very deep penetration to discern that in giving this brief outline, we have drawn out the prominent characteristics of individualism. Embody individualism, or make it incarnate, and it is evident from its nature that it would think and act for itself, maintain the right of private judgment, and submit to the rule of no being but God himself.

« EdellinenJatka »