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In view of these thoughts, it will not be difficult to point out the mission of the Baptist churches. What was the great design in their organization ? And have they thus far fulfilled their destiny? These questions merit an extended examination. If this sect has accomplished any thing, it has been by establishing and defending the fullest liberty of conscience, the truth that the Bible and the Bible only is the rule of faith and practice, and strict individualism. As Christians, in common with others, we labor to establish true religion in all the world; but as Baptists, we labor to make each man think and investigate for himself, to call no man master, and to maintain an uncompromising war against all ecclesiastical tyranny. This is our mission as Baptists. Wherever Baptist sentiments have prevailed, these have been the fruits. In every age of the church, the Baptists have contended for these principles, in a firm and unshaken faith. Every distinguishing doctrine and usage of the denomination can be traced to these characteristic principles.
Are these principles soon to be practically acknowledged by the world? We discover no evidence of the speedy conversion of the world to these views; but the great battle has not yet been fought. In what age of the church has tradition had more authority, than at this day? When have the masses been more disposed to receive their views of doctrine from their leaders, without gainsaying? When has individualism in religious faith been more strenuously opposed ? Truly, the Baptist denomination has much to do, before its mission shall be closed. It will not be closed but with time.
consequence of the firmness with which we have ever contended for our conscientious views, the calumny has been bruited abroad that, as a sect, we are very narrow in our principles, and that our foundation lacks the “comprehension" that is demanded by the times. But do we not hold to all the fundamental principles of the gospel, in common with other evangelical sects? Are we not inflamed by the same love to Christ? Is there any thing in our love of individualism and liberty of conscience, in our hatred of ecclesiastical tyranny and tradition, or in our unflinching adherence to the law and the testimony,” to contract the heart or to hinder the full expres
sion of liberal and generous souls? Is not the very reverse true? Are we not laboring to separate man from the mass, to beget within him self-confidence and selfreliance, thus increasing his strength and fitting him to act better his part in life? Is there any thing that looks like narrow views, and want of comprehension, in giving men the largest possible freedom? Can any system be more liberal or built on a broader basis, than that which recognizes as a fundamental principle the ability of each man to govern himself,—the system in which man, after his heart is changed, is left free from all party and ecclesiastical restraini, free to go and come as God wills, free to obey the dictates of his own conscience? If there is danger any where, it is in being too liberal,-danger of extravagance and of excessive latitude. This has ever been urged by the church of Rome against Protestantism at large. That church has ever contended that the only way to maintain the unity of the faith is to compel the people to receive her doctrines without questioning. Now we have advanced farther than any other denomination of Protestants in opposition to this peculiar feature of Romanism. We have gloried, if at all, in being on the other extreme. Where, then, is the bigotry and narrowness of views, or want of comprehension ? Are not our views as liberal as the truth, and as comprehensive as the Bible? We have hinted that there may be danger from extreme liberality; but our strict adherence to the Bible, regardless of consequences, is our protection. Within this enclosure, we are securely walled. Who can ask for a larger liberiy than the privilege of being men, Christian men, and of thinking and acting independently, as the Master teaches ? What system can be more comprehensive than that which makes provision for the free and full action of men in the highest state of civilization—a system in which man is recognized as man?
Another question, intimately connected with this subject, must not be overlooked. It has been contended, that since infants are attached to their parents by a connection not unfitly represented by the union of the slender stem to the vine, they are to be regarded and treated as possessing the faith, views and doctrines of their parents; and hence the children of Christian parents should be baptized. But while infants are in this connection with
their parents, for all practical purposes, they are quasi unborn. Now, has God recognized, in any way, either directly or indirectly, unborn children as members of his visible kingdom ? Are these the “lively stones," of which his spiritual house is built? Provision is made in the family government, an institution organized under God's direction, for all their spiritual, intellectual and social wants. There let them live, ouder the sweet and gentle influence of the mother; there let truth and true religion be instilled into their tender hearts, so that when they become separate and distinct individuals, they will choose Christ for their portion. Then, and not till then, let them be introduced into the church, in the appointed manner. It is strange that any man, who knows that the claims, threatenings, commands and promises of the Bible have meaning and force, only when addressed to individuals, should contend that infants are quasi not individuals, and yet insist that they are to be recognized and treated as Christians. The Bible gives no direction regarding the religious standing and church relation of infants. It is profoundly silent respecting them; and it would indicate far greater wisdom in men, had they done the same. Suppose the parent has much to do in forming the character of the child ;-suppose we admit that when the child grows up, the parent lives in him in all his hopes, feelings, and faith ; yet that child is a distinct being, a strict individual, so far as he possesses the least moral responsibility: Before this connection between the parent and the child takes place, the child can, with no more propriety, be treated as a Christian, either presumptively or otherwise, than if it were unborn.
This subject has a practical bearing. What incentive can I have for improvement, when my individuality is de. stroyed? In this case, I have not the feelings and impulses of a man; but, like the brute, only feel compelled to seek a supply for my immediate wants. We not only need to feel that we can do something, but to be conscious of the responsibility to do something, before we shall engage in any great and noble labor. Man needs also to be alone, to feel that he is alone, and to enter into his own heart and the world around him alone, before he can know himself and learn what the world is. It is not by living on the surface, by mingling with society, merely,
that we can learn what we are. True wisdom lies beneath the surface, in the deep caverns of the inner being. Until we feel that we are men, and that the claims of heaven and of the world are on us until we are inspired with this belief, we shall remain as inactive as an infant.
The same is true respecting our becoming Christians. Until we feel that God speaks to us, that we are alone responsible for our conduct, that we are to rise or fall for ourselves, we shall disregard the claims of heaven, and follow the bent of our own depraved hearts.
C. B. S.
The Character of Flavia in Law's Serious Call, Chapter
VII, and of Matilda, in Chapter XX.
Sentimentalism is the affectation of sensibility. It is characterized by a disposition to look at every thing in a light which will tend to awaken mild and tender emotion. The sentimentalist does not love strong excitement. There is too much earnestness for him in that. Indeed his nerves are, in his opinion, so delicate that exposure to such excitement might be dangerous. At any rate, it is something for which he has no taste. Placid and gentle emotions are the only emotions that he loves; and, if they are slightly tinged with melancholy, so as to wear an aspect of gentle pensiveness, they accord so much the better with his taste. He would invest every thing with life. Inanimate matter and simple fact are too rough and too cold for him. They must have the spirit of sentiment breathed into them. They must be able, or imagined to be able to sympathize with him in his feelings, and to share his musings, or they cannot interest a heart like his. And thus he goes through the world, not looking at it as it really is, but continually striving to throw around its VOL. XIII. -NO. LII.
scenes an air of gentle loveliness and romantic pensiveness, which will stir the founts of feeling in the soul.
When this state of feeling is carried into religion, it may properly be termed religious sentimentalism. Unhappily, at the present day, this quality is by no means rare. The religions sentimentalist is, in many of our churches, a very fashionable character. Not a few appear to have discovered that there is a very genteel way of being religious, without having much to do with the old-fashioned exercises of repentance, faith, humility and resignation. They do not, indeed, disclaim all pretensions to these graces. But they keep them in the back-ground, as of little consequence in comparison with their favorite class of emotions. Persons of ihis class find much in the religion of Christ that is gentle and tender; and they experience no difficulty in having the same class of emotions awakened by it, which they feel in witnessing an interesting exhibition at the theatre, or in reading an atlecting scene in a novel. They even love to read the Bible, -sometimes,-and certain parts of it. They are delighted with the picture of Christ weeping at the tomb of Lazarus; but they have no sympathy with Christ reproving the scribes and Pharisees. They read with emotion some of the descriptions given by John, the beloved disciple; but they have no taste for the fervid appeals of John the Baptist. They are in raptures with Paul preaching to the Athenians on Mars' Hill; but they take no interest in the powerful reasoning of Paul in the epistle to the Romans. In short, every thing in the Bible which wears the aspect of sentimentalism, they love; but the rest is dull and dry to them. Truth, in itself, has no charms for them. If some spirit of gentleness and loveliness, some " white-robed messenger from the skies,” could proclaimi it in “sweet tones of star-born melody," they would listen to it with pleasure. And among the sons of earth, they find here and there one whom their imaginations can invest with attributes deemed so angelic that they can regard his instructions with favor. But if truth be presented to them in its logical connections, they shrink from its coldness; and, if enforced by the authority of God, they are appalled at its severity. In the exercises of the sanctuary, if the preacher chooses some pathetic theme, and discourses upon it in such a way as to appeal strongly to