WHEN we look through the account given in the Bible, and to the reports from other sources, of the wonderful rise and triumphant march of the religion of Christ, first in Judea, then in Samaria, thence to Cesarea, and, still later, along the coasts and the entire length of the Mediterranean Sea, and throughout the Roman Empire, in some sixty-five years from the time it was fully unfurled and proclaimed to the world, one is impressed with the idea that it would soon extend over all the earth, and that the knowledge of God would soon fill the earth, as the waters do the mighty seas. But, alas! the mystery of iniquity already worked, even in the time of Paul. "The man of sin," in embryo, already existed. The time was coming when the people would not hear sound teaching, but would turn away their cars from the truth, and be turned to fables; when they would heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears. It was clearly foretold that the time would come when men should be lovers of themselves, proud, boasters, and despise those that are good.
This time came, and vain men rose and began to worm themselves into power, and lead away disciples after them. They attempted to adorn the pure and holy religion of our Lord with Pagan philosophy, and seek the support of moneyed influence, the State, and all kinds of worldly power. They attempted utilizing worldly influences, amalgamating the world and religion more and more, till they had, as they phrased it, "a Christian Emperor." Worldly men thought they were succeeding finely; all was going well, and suspected nothing till the man of sin had completely gained the ascendency. Knowledge became the property of the few; ignorance became the heritage of the masses. The overseers grow into priests; the aggregated churches in a given district into bodies, and he who presided in the meetings of these bodies was not an ordinary overseer, but an overseer of overseers. They extended the aggregation to a State, or a Province, and he who presided in the State Meeting or Provincial Meeting, was an archbishop, or an arch-overseer. They then extended the aggregation, or confederation, to a nation, and he who presided in the National Meeting was a cardinal. They then extended the aggregation to all the churches throughout the world, and he who presided at one of these General Councils was a pope. He was "the visible head of the Church on earth"--and in the year 666 a full-grown pope was inaugurated, and recognized as the "Universal Head," "His Holiness," "Lord God, the Pope."
This was the work of organization going on to perfection, and culminating in the great apostasy. While this work of confederation was going on, making great organizations, after the form of civil and military bodies, and great offices and great men, they were in the same ratio making ignorant masses of the people. This work of iniquity prevailed till the Bible, and the knowledge of it, were taken from the people, and not only darkness, but gross darkness covered the public mind. This brought the millennium of the Papacy. The prospect was that the light from God was crushed out; that darkness had triumphed; that hell had prevailed! The question now was, "Can these dry bones live?" Can the truth of God rise out of all this, lift up poor humanity once more, and give it one more opportunity? The clouds are dark, and the prospect appears gloomy.
Still, the seed of the kingdom is not dead, and may yet be sown in the hearts of the people, and bring forth much fruit to the honor and glory of God. Seeds have been known to have been buried in ancient ruins for three thousand years, and when brought forth to the sun, the moisture and surface of the soil, to grow fresh and vigorous as last year's seed. So this seed--the word of God--though long buried, and kept from the hearts of the people, when dug up and sent forth into good and honest hearts, will spring up and grow up into everlasting life.
We desire to consider some of the movements in Divine Providence, in lifting up humanity out of this great darkness, and opening up the gospel to the world once more. It cost immense labor, sacrifice, and no little of the best life and blood of the human race, to accomplish the work. Some fifty millions of martyrs have evinced their honesty in their struggle with the Papacy, in the various movements in different parts of the world against the power of darkness. We can only grasp, in a rapid sketch, such as is possible in one short discourse, a few of the chief items and actors, and make passing allusions to them, in the progressive steps in rising up out of the valley of dry bones to which we have referred. We do not propose giving definite dates, or accurate and definite particulars, but general outlines, with sufficient accuracy for all practical purposes; nor can we more than allude to some of the principal events and men.
Wickliffe made his appearance in the fourteenth century. He was a man of untiring industry, of great decision and determination. Aside from all his preaching, reading, writing and conversing, he conceived the idea of giving the people the New Testament, in "the vulgar tongue," as the priesthood styled it--the English language. To this work he applied himself, and completed a translation in English. We have never seen a copy, or anything more than some quotations from it, and do not know that a complete copy can be found. For this labor he was summoned before the authorities, tried and imprisoned. After some months' confinement he was brought before the King of England. Accusations were made against him, and speech after speech of the severest kind; and the Vulgate, a translation of the New Testament in the Latin language, was extolled in the strongest terms. One of his accusers said the Latin Vulgate was better than the original. To this the King responded, "My heart almost melts within me on account of the words just uttered;" and he called on Wickliffe to say whether the copy, probably in manuscript, which they put into his hands, was his work. He rose up, and the blood started fresh from the wounds caused by the irons on his ankles, and ran down under his feet, to which be gave no attention, and answered that the translation was his work, and that he was prepared to defend it with his ashes at the stake, which he fully expected to do, and added, addressing himself to the King, "I will make a plowboy know the Scriptures better than you do."
There is, however, something in human nature that will respect such fearless and dauntless decision and determination. He did not meet the fate he expected, but was remanded back into prison, where he contracted cold, pined away and died. This was a dark and discouraging prospect for giving the people the word of God in their own language, and a long period elapsed before anything more of consequence was done in this great work. When the Israelites rejected Moses, when he first made his appearance as their deliverer, he withdrew from them, and left them to groan under their bonds for the space of forty years, or till one generation had passed away. So the Lord withdrew from the people after they rejected Wickliffe, and left them in their ignorance till generations passed away.
In the sixteenth century Wm. Tyndale produced a translation into the English language. It was printed and published. We have seen some three copies of it; but the English language has so changed that the common reader can not read it with satisfaction, or even so as to understand it, except familiar portions, almost memorized. Some words have so changed, as to have not only a different meaning from what they had then, but even an opposite meaning. Admitting his translation to have been good when first made, it is not good now, on account of the change in the English language. The reward he obtained from those he designed to benefit, was to be arrested as a criminal, tried, condemned, and burned at the stake. John Frith, said to have been one of the most elegant and learned young men in England, at that time, who assisted Tyndale, after the martyrdom of his friend, appears rather to have courted martyrdom, was burned at the same stake. He was only about thirty years of age.
This wonderful work awakened and roused the people at large, and led them to profound study and most solemn inquiry. The impression made was of the most deep and astonishing character. No edicts from civil courts could stop the spirit of inquiry that had gone forth, nor stay the demand for the word of God in their mother tongue. The desire spread to read of the wonderful works of God in their own tongue, wherein they were born. The efforts of John Huss, Cranmer, and others, were put forth, and their authors met similar fates. But the fiat, as of old, appeared to have gone forth: "Let there be light, and there was light." There appeared to have been no earthly power that could stay it. The martyrs died, but their work did not die. Though dead, like the old prophets, they still spoke; the people still heard them. The demand for the Scriptures in the mother tongue did not die, but became more and more wide-spread. It became the popular sentiment. This opened the way for the bishops. When popular sentiment was revolutionized, and demanded a translation, they went to work and made a translation, and, to give character, they did not call it The Bishops' Translation, but "The Bishops' Bible." Public sentiment soon became so revolutionized that the King of England took the matter in hand, appointed his translators, set them to work, and brought forth what is now familiarly styled the "King James," or "Common Version." It was a long road to reach this, and required a hard struggle, and the blood of many martyrs, and great suffering. Martin Luther made a translation of the Bible into the German language. John Wesley made a translation into English, now on sale in the Methodist Book Concern, and styled "Wesley's Notes." Numerous others made translations. Early in the movements of Alexander Campbell, he published a new translation, compiled from James Macknight, George Campbell, and Philip Doddridge, styled the "Living Oracles."
There was so little light on the subject when this version was issued, that many people in this country did not know that the Lord himself did not make the Common Version; and others thought King James was inspired. The Baptist people were specially prejudiced against it. Edmund Waller, father of John L. Waller, was greatly exercised over it, read it, and in prayer inquired of the Lord what be should do with it. The Lord answered him, he said, and told him to burn it. He obeyed the order. His son, John L. Waller, altogether the ablest Baptist preacher and editor the Baptists have ever had in the Mississippi Valley, was the President of the Revision Association, connected with the American Bible Union. The American Bible Union was projected and brought into existence among the Baptists, and has been continued mainly under their control some twenty-five years; and is not only revising the Common Version, but translating the Bible into other languages. The Queen of England has her revisers at work revising the Common Version, modernizing it, correcting the grammar, orthography, punctuation and capitalization, thus making it, as far as possible, a perfect modern English Version. Very likely this will be about all the present generation will need in the way of translation. This was one great part of the work, in Divine Providence, in religious reformation.
This opens the way for other great branches of the work to come up and pass before us. In the sixteenth century Luther rose in Germany, and gave the Papacy a deadly wound in that country, from which it has never recovered. Whether he was the best man among reformers, or not; the most learned, or not, he was as determined and invincible as any other man. There never was a more unconquerable and fearless human being. He knew nothing of policy, crouching before public opinion, or fawning before rich men. When the pope issued his bull of excommunication, cursing him from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot, and summoned all the hierarchs of the heavens to unite in cursing and damning him forever, and sequestering him from the kingdom of God, he deliberately took the document, struck out his name wherever it occurred in it, and inserted the pope's name in the place of it; struck out the pope's name from the bottom of it, and signed his name in the place of it, saying that he had as much authority to excommunicate the pope as the pope had to excommunicate him.
As another instance, illustrating the material he was made of, it may be related that when he was on his way to the Diet of Worms, he was informed by his friends that they believed it would cost him his life to go there. He answered them, that if there were as many devils there as there were tiles on the houses, he would go. When in the Diet, he was called on to state whether a volume he had recently produced was his work. He deliberately took the volume into his hands, looked through it, and closed it, saying, "Yes; I, Martin Luther, am the author of this book, and I will defend it--so help me God." There is something in man that will respect such a man as that. He was spared, went ahead and literally shook Germany from the center to the circumference.
His main issue was with the unwritten traditions of the Papacy, or, as Papists phrase it, "the unwritten word." They style what we have in the Bible, "the written word," and what is not written in the Bible, "the unwritten word." Luther declared their "unwritten word" no word of God at all; but a bundle of human traditions and superstitions, and of no authority at all. Among Papists this unwritten word is the law, and the law of God, in the Bible, is set aside and rendered nugatory. Luther declared for the Bible--that it contains the law of God; the absolute authority. His "faith alone" was virtually the Bible alone, or without the unwritten traditions, or what they called the "unwritten word." This was the grand battle-ground, and Luther broke the force of their "unwritten word," and from his day to the present time it has never had the force in Germany it had before. Still, he aimed at nothing more than to reform the Papists, and never thought of returning in all things to apostolic ground. His, however, was an important item in the great work of rising out from the darkness of the Papacy. Without his work we should never have stood where we stand.
John Calvin performed an important part in the great movements in coming up out of the darkness of Rome, both in Switzerland and France. His main issue with the Papacy was not precisely the same as that of Luther. His main attack was on the works of supererogation claimed by Papists. They claim that man can do more good works than the Lord requires, and they call such good works, "works of supererogation." They further claim that these good works, over what the Lord requires, may be transferred to another part of a man's life, where there was a deficit, and supply it; or transferred to another person, to make up a deficit in his life. They do not precisely agree with our ideas of "good works." We generally think of such works as supplying the wants of the needy, widows, orphans; educating the poor, spreading the gospel, and building up the kingdom of God. They mean paying money to the priests for praying souls out of purgatory. Calvin denied that a man could do more good works than God requires, and was driven to the opposite extreme; failed to recognize the scriptural place for good works. He also denied that they could transfer good works, either to a part of the life where there was a deficit, or to another person. He denied, also, that they could, by any intercessions, take souls out of purgatory; that those who die in their sins are beyond redemption. He showed that the entire scheme of works of supererogation was a swindle, and a cheat to rob the people. His work in this department was very effective, and while preaching, as he did in many instances, apparently against good works, he did a good work in opening up the nefarious scheme of the papistical priesthood to swindle the people out of their money; and deceive the people with the delusion that if they died in their sins, and went to purgatory, their friends could have them taken out. The Papacy in France never recovered from the wound inflicted on it by the master hand of John Calvin.
Still, Calvin had no well-defined and definite aim. He appeared, at least in his early life, only to aim at reform in the Church of Rome, and never thought of such a thing as a return to the original ground, to stand where the apostles and first Christians did. We regret while we think of this truly great man, that we can not but think of that terrible deed, the instigating of the burning of Servetus. His historian, Dyer, excuses it on the ground of the times in which he lived, the spirit of the age, and his early training. Still, we can but regret that he did it at all, or that he wrote an apology for it. But we are indebted much to the life of Calvin for the results that have followed, and for the position we are now enabled to occupy.
We are not, in a sketch like this, to overlook the part John Wesley performed in the great drama. He made his appearance in England not quite a century and a half since. His part of the work was of a different kind from that of either of the men we have mentioned. His attention was arrested by the general, if not almost universal, want of piety in the Church of England. He became alarmed at the immoralities, the want of what he called "personal holiness," "personal piety," and an "experimental knowledge of forgiveness of sins." He maintained that persons could know that their sins were forgiven. This was regarded by his opposers as a most preposterous idea. Under the influence of his impulses in viewing the state of things, he called together little companies, in some convenient place, not at the time of the stated meetings of the Church of England, to which he belonged, for prayers. These companies were not aimed to be churches, and were only styled "societies," and many of those in them, like Wesley himself, were members of the Church of England. In these societies they prayed for "a deeper work of grace," "personal holiness," "an actual knowledge of remission of sins," etc.
These are the "societies" mentioned in the forepart of the Methodist Discipline. They made no claim to being churches, and those who met in them met also in the Church of England, if members of that body, at all the stated meetings, the same as before, and had no idea of forming another church. They only aimed at becoming better. Wesley announced no new doctrine, nor did he claim any dissent from the Church of England in doctrine, But his praying societies were considered disorderly, and his professions of a desire for more piety, holy living, and a closer walk with God, as mere pretenses, and he was soon despised and persecuted. He was stoned at his prayer-meetings, and narrowly escaped with his life. He resorted to most strict and rigid method in his study, his manner of life, in everything, and his enemies styled him a Methodist, after a class of physicians that had lived long before, who were methodical in their studies, diet, and entire practice. He and his friends saw no evil in the name they had given them, and gloried in their persecutions, and adopted the name Methodist. But it was not the name of a church, for there was no church yet; but those who attended these prayer-meetings and adhered to Wesley's teaching were styled Methodists.
There were no churches formed, probably, till Coke and Asbury came over to this country, and they made themselves bishops, and formed churches distinct and independent of the Church of England. When Wesley came over, at a subsequent period, he disclaimed their right to be bishops, and said he only claimed to be an elder. Their disagreement was very sharp, and he returned to the mother country and remained in the Church of England the balance of his life.
Wesley's simplicity of manner of living, his plain diet, dress, and perfect repudiation of all pride, extravagance, worldliness, and folly, are worthy of imitation, and very far from what we now see among the people called Methodists.
David Simpson, in his "Plea for Religion," shows up with a master hand the impiety of the clergy, and the necessity of some move to save the people. The part these great men performed was of immense value to the world, and did no little toward lifting up humanity out of the darkness and impiety into which a carnal priesthood had sunk it. We never could have stood where we stand, if Wesley had not performed the part he did. Yet he never conceived the idea of returning to apostolic ground in all things. A reformation of the Church of England was about the extent of his aim. He made a decided impression on the Church of England, and rose far above those of his time.
The next man that comes up in our brief sketch is Roger Williams. In point of time he dated considerably before Wesley; but he was in another country, and performed a very different part of the work from Wesley. He was in one of the colonies of America--the one now called the State of Rhode Island. He, with eleven other persons, from the reading of a version like the common one, with the word baptize transferred, or Anglicized, and not translated, found that John "baptized in Jordan;" that he "baptized in the river of Jordan;" that he "baptized in Enon, near Salem, because there was much water there;" that when Jesus was baptized, "he went up straightway out of the water;" that Philip and the officer of Candace "came unto a certain water;" that "they went down both into the water;" that "they came up out of the water;" that the disciples were said to be "buried by baptism," "buried in baptism," "planted together in the likeness of his death;" that they were "born of water and of the Spirit;" that their "bodies were washed with pure water;" and they came deliberately to the conclusion that they had never been baptized at all. The twelve went "to a certain water," and one of their number immersed Roger Williams. He then turned round and immersed the others.
So far as history informs us, these were the first persons immersed in the colonies of America. From this immersion commenced in this country, and has increased till about one-fifth of the whole population are now immersionists. This will serve the purpose of a basis on which to make an estimate of the time it will require for the whole population to become immersionists. This is what is now coming, and unless some plan can be invented to stop the wheel from turning, the time will come, and that, tool at no distant day, when the whole population will be immersionists.
Williams, and those associated with him, at once commenced defending what they had done, and laboring to convince others. Immersion commenced spreading, and their number commenced increasing rapidly. This roused opposition and persecution. Their opponents, and we may say their enemies, said everything against them that could be thought of. They called them "duckers," "dippers," "divers;" compared them to the water-fowls, animals, and everything that they thought could degrade them; asserted that they dipped people in mud-holes, drowned them, etc., etc. But there was no stopping it. The plain reading of Scripture, the clear expressions in a translation made by sprinklers, carried conviction to the hearts of the people.
When their numbers had become formidable, the Puritans, who had sought an asylum in America to escape persecution, turned round and became persecutors, and persecuted the immersionists, in some instances to the death. This led the reformers, or the immersionists, to plead for toleration--religious liberty. The Quakers also suffered persecution, and plead for toleration--for religious toleration. These were the dawnings of the toleration; the religious liberty; the freedom of speech and of the press we now enjoy. Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, and others, had all this before them, and incorporated these ideas in American institutions, and they are now operating largely on the civilized world.
We are, then, indebted to Roger Williams and the early immersionists in this country, for restoring to us the original rite, immersion, and for religious liberty. We are largely indebted to the same source for the idea of the independence of the individual congregations of the saints; from all clerical oppression and tyranny. Our Baptist brethren would do well when they got to talking about their "regularly ordained administrator of baptism," to tell us all about the "regular ordination" of the man who immersed Roger Williams before he had been immersed himself! If the immersion of Williams was not valid, because the man who immersed him had never been immersed, or because he had never been ordained, then all below that are not valid for the same reason. But the immersion of Williams was valid, and all this talk about all "immersed administrator," or "a regularly ordained administrator," amounts to nothing. We never could have stood where we stand if Roger Williams had not performed his part in the great drama.
Some one is ready to say, "I do not see that we have any use for you professed reformers of the nineteenth century. The great work was about completed before you came along." Let us take a brief survey of the field, and see what work had been completed. There was a general and pretty united protest against the Papacy; but in the place of those who followed Luther, going on and rising up to the original ground, they have subsided into the sect now styled Lutheran, and retrograded till they are far below the man whose name they bear. Instead of those who followed Calvin going on, and rising up to the original ground, they have subsided into the sect now styled Presbyterian, and retrograded till they are far below their great leader, John Calvin. In like manner, instead of those who followed Wesley going on, and rising up to the original ground, they have now subsided into the sect called Methodist, and retrograded till they are far below the example set for them by Wesley. In the same manner, also, instead of those who followed Williams going on, and rising up to the original ground, they have now subsided into the sect called Baptist, and retrograded till they are far below Roger Williams, and those who stood with him. Thus these great moves, though important, have subsided into four sects, and can never rise any higher. There is no hope in any one of them for any possible return to the original ground.
When Alexander Campbell commenced, he found, instead of the "unwritten traditions" of the Papacy, the written traditions of Protestants, in the form of human creeds, confessions of faith, disciplines, etc., supplanting the law of God, and setting it aside, almost as effectually as the unwritten traditions of the Papacy. He did not stop to examine these creeds, confessions, etc., to see how much truth there was in each of them, or any one of them, but repudiated the whole of them, as subversive of the law of God, and to be rejected because they are human creeds, without any regard to the amount of truth in them. He maintained that these must be swept away before the law of God could be restored and enforced on the people, or the world converted. This made one grand issue in the coming conflict.
He maintained that nothing short of a complete return to the original ground, occupied by the apostles and first followers of the Lord, in both faith and practice, in all things, would meet the divine approbation. This had never been attempted before. Above this aim no human beings could rise. For this he contended with most wonderful ability. This made another grand issue, and before him nothing could stand, for, as a man, he had great strength, but the native strength of the position could not be successfully assailed.
He took "the Bible, and the Bible alone," not simply in word, but in deed, with a determination to carry it out practically; to accept it as the creed, the supreme and the absolute authority. Where it speaks, we may speak; where it is silent, we must be silent. "To the law and to the testimony," was the word. "If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them;" "If any speak, let him speak as the oracles of God;" "What saith the Scriptures?" "Thus saith the Lord, etc., etc., was the style. Clerical pomp and show; clerical titles and pretensions, all went for nothing before the men of the Bible. One of them "could chase a thousand, and two could put ten thousand to flight."
Alexander Campbell and Walter Scott developed the great central idea of the kingdom of God, and for the unity of the faith in the bond of peace, as it had not been done before since the time of the apostles. They showed with wonderful clearness and force that the kingdom of God does not rest on a string of human opinions, written out by uninspired men, styled "articles of faith," or "articles of religion," but on the living, divine and glorious person of the Lord Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God. The Almighty lifted him up to draw all men to him. "He is the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father but by him." "He is Head over all things to the Church." "In him all fullness dwells." He is the soul of the Bible. All the prophets pointed to him till he came into the world; all the records made since point back to him; all rests on him he is the foundation of the faith; the foundation of the building of God; the temple of God.
He knew all things, and in quoting Moses and the prophets, as the word of God, he indorsed the Old Book. In calling, sending the apostles, and confirming their mission by signs and wonders, he indorsed them, and thus confirmed the whole Bible. Its entire authority rests on him. The man who believes on him is bound to believe the whole Bible, for he sanctioned it all. The man who receives him receives the whole volume in him. Our heavenly Father has thus wisely embodied the entire faith in a single proposition, so that a man receives or rejects it all at once. It is all in the one proposition that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God." When the treasurer of Queen Candace said, "I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God," he embraced the entire revelation from God to man. This belief is, on the one hand, the most comprehensive, and, on the other, the most exclusive ever uttered. It includes the entire will of God, as set forth in the Bible, and excludes all that is not in the will of God, as set forth in the Bible. It includes all that is divine, and excludes all that is not divine.
Here is the ground for union, not on opinions in which men are agreed, but on the one belief required of all men alike, and without which, they can not be saved at all: "That Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God." He who believes this, and renders the obedience which it requires, will be saved; but he who believes not this will be condemned. This one article has the entire faith in it--comprehends all. All turns on Christ, on believing on him, receiving, following and obeying him. This fills the entire space, occupies the whole ground--leaves no room for any other foundation. "Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus the Christ."
The development of this great proposition concerning Christ, the embodiment and concentration of the faith--that which a man must believe to be saved-and the confession of him in whom all this centers, opened the way for clearly and intelligently turning to the Lord, being "immersed into Christ," and becoming members of his body, as it had not been done for ages past. This was a great item in the movement for reformation, and thousands of precious souls were rejoiced to see their way clear to turn away from the world and become the people of God. Thousands who had been seekers, mourners, inquirers, saw their way clear and entered the covenant, and laid hold of the exceeding great and precious promises, and rejoiced in hope of the glory of God. Instead of singing, "When I can read my title clear to mansions in the skies," etc., they sang, "Since I can read my title clear," etc. They did not now say, "I hope my sins are pardoned," but "I believe my sins are pardoned; for the Lord says, 'He who believes, and is immersed, shall be saved.' I believe his promise." They did not believe their sins were pardoned because they felt that they were pardoned; but they felt their sins were pardoned because they believed it. The feeling came from the belief, and not the belief from the feeling.
In these matters the reformation movement was completely revolutionary. It swept away at once the false theory, that faith is all immediate impartation from God, and showed that it is the belief of the divine testimony recorded in Scripture. "These things are written that you might believe." It swept away, also, the idea that repentance is an immediate gift from God, and showed that it is a commandment--something that man is to do himself. "Repent you, therefore, and turn, that your sins may be blotted out." The sinner is commanded to repent and turn himself, and not to pray for the Lord to impart repentance to and turn him. "Turn you, turn you; why will you die?" says the prophet. It also cleared away the idea that pardon is something done in a man that he can feel, as he does an impression made on his flesh; and showed that it is an act of God in heaven, done for a man, and that he believes it is done from the promise of pardon in the Bible, and not from any new revelation from God made in any way. This was all perfectly new to the people, and entirely revolutionary.
This was regarded as perfectly dangerous, setting aside "experimental religion," "Holy Ghost religion," "heart-felt religion," etc., etc. The idea of giving up their old hope, that they had talked of a hundred times, founded on impulses, emotions, sensations, dreams, sights, sounds and impressions, that came they could not tell how, and accepting a hope based on the promises of God in the Bible; the "mere word," or "the bare word," as they phrased it, could not be endured. Never was anything resisted with more zeal than this. Unreasonable as they were, they held on with a persistence utterly unaccountable. Still, the rising generation came up, and saw that "the exceeding great and precious promises" are founded in God, and if they can not be relied on nothing can be--that they are confirmed by the oath of God. They also saw the uncertainty in the impressions, sensations, emotions, impulses, dreams, sights, sounds, etc., etc., on which their parents had leaned, and determined not to trust in them. They saw that there was no evidence of acceptance with God, or remission of sins, in these impressions, etc., and turned their attention to the unfailing and immutable promises of God in the Bible.
Over this, probably, the contest has been as sharp as over any other point, in the onward march of reformation. But the battle has been fought, the victory gained, and the, "true Israel of God" are now trusting in the divine promises found in Scripture. "He who believes, and is immersed, shall be saved." "Repent, and be immersed every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
The idea of meeting on the first day of the week regularly "to break broad" came to the people like a new revelation. Not a church in this country did this previous to this great reformatory movement; nor were any of the churches prepared for it, but they all resisted it. It would not do to commemorate the death of our Lord every week! This great frequency would destroy the solemnity of it! But it was maintained and put into practice. There are now several thousand churches that meet on the first day of the week to break bread, in memory of the Savior's death, thus obeying the command, "Do this till I come." Nothing is more important than the regular commemoration of the death of Jesus, in keeping the Lord before our mind, and keeping the price of our redemption in view. No man can persuade even himself that he loves the Savior, or impress others with the idea that he loves the Savior, who does not delight to meet to break bread on the first day of the week, as the first followers of Christ did.
The shallow pretense to a miraculous call and qualification to preach, which had possessed the public mind generally, and put forth by nearly all the preachers, was swept away, and the denial was maintained that men were now inspired as the apostles were, or that any new revelations were made. It was maintained that the last will and testament from God is in the Bible; that since John the Apostle. wrote the close of the Apocalypse, not a revelation has been made from heaven; that the Bible contains the complete, the perfect, and final revelation from God to man; the supreme and absolute authority in all matters of religion; and that not a man in the world knows anything about the will of God to man, only as he has learned it directly, or indirectly, from the Bible. The victory on this point has been quite complete. Scarcely a pretense of the kind is now heard anywhere.
Another important point in the work of reformation, and the only one that can now be mentioned, was the proper division of Scripture, a strict regard to dispensations, the right application, enforcement and defense of Scripture. This was of immense importance, and has been a means of recovering the Bible from derision and sneers to a wonderful extent. Without this it never could have been saved from the torrent of skepticism it has been compelled to withstand. All that is needed for the defense and maintenance of the Bible is to clearly understand and set it forth. The wisdom of God will gleam out from every part of it, and the weakness of men will appear in their feeble efforts to overthrow it. To the name of its great and glorious Author, through our Lord Jesus the Christ, be the praises forever and ever.