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ANECDOTES, INCIDENTS, AND FACTS,
No. V. AFTER a ride of eight days through Ohio, accompanied by Sid. ney Rigdon of Pittsburgh, I safely arrived at Washington, Mason county, Kentucky, early in October, 1823, in pursuance of a chal. lenge from the Rev. William L. M.Calla, to discuss with him the subject and action of Christian baptism.
The preliminaries being settled, the Rev. J. K. Burch, Presbyterian, being chosen by Mr. M.Calla, and Elder Jeremiah Vardeman, Baptist, by myself; and these having chosen Judge Roper to preside with them, I opened the discussion, October 15, 1823, in the presence of a very large assembly of citizens and the clergy of all denominations in the country. I appeared as the defendant of the Baptist community against their assailant Mr. M'Calla, who had been, for some time, smoke in their eyes and thorns in their side. The counties of Northern Kentucky echoed with his praises as a learned, shrewd, and able debater; one who had long practised various ways of assailing the distinctive tenets of the Baptist community, much to the mortification of that denomination and much to the glorification of his own society and the Methodists. This gave to the occasion a livelier interest, and greatly excited public attention.
I was to the whole community a stranger; a few only of the teachers and public men had read my discussion with Rev. John Walker, of the Secession church, in Ohio, and I had purposely withholden the “Christian Baptist” from the whole State of Kentucky, lest the first numbers of it should elicit any particular prejudice against my views. Indeed, I did not allow a single prospectus of it to reach the State of Kentucky, although urged to do so. I judged it most expedient to appear as a stranger, rather than as an acquaintance, that I might have, as much as possible, an impartial hearing. Indeed, in this case, it was pretty much as at the public debate in Ohio. I sought or acceded to the interview rather to introduce my views of Christianity in the general, than to defend a position which at that day was their whole denominational claims upon the people, and on which they heard so much and talked so much, that the whole “mode of baptism,” to use their own words, and the “proper subject of baptism,” with every main position, was among them “familiar as household words.” The only point on that occasion to them a novelty, and to me an interest, was SERIES III—Vol. V.
the design of baptism; and a more rational method of reading, interpreting, and using the Bible. True, indeed, other matters of church polity, an evangelical ministry, and a more consistent mode of "preaching and teaching Christ," greatly pressed upon my attention, and was much more near to my heart than the difference between an infant and an adult, sprinkling or dipping a person.Still, I seemed to enter into the denominational spirit and feeling with all the zeal of a real Baptist, the more so because once a Pedobaptist, and well acquainted, for the day, with the grounds and reasons of Presbyterial pedo-rantism and church polity.
The congregation and the interest so much and so rapidly increas. ed, that I became still more engaged in the discussion, possessing one decided advantage over my opponent, that, while he had his side of the question all in a brief before him, “cut and dry,” I had nothing but my general knowledge of the subject and the inspira. tion of the occasion, excepting what pertained to proofs and authorities.
On the evening of the fourth day, having secured the special favor and attention of the Baptist ministry, and of the uncommitted public, while I had in one room, at the residence of my kind host, Major Davis, of Washington, all the principal Baptist preachers in the State, I thought it expedient to introduce myself more fully to their acquaintance. This I did in the following manner:
On hearing them speak in such favorable terms of my defence of their tenets during these four days, I observed in nearly the following words: Brethren, I fear that if you knew me tetter, you would esteem and love me less. For, let me tell you, in all candor, that I have almost as much against you Baptists as I have against the Presbyterians. They err in one thing, and you in another; and probably you are each nearly equidistant from original apostolic Christianity.. I paused; and such a silence as ensued, accompanied with a piercing look from all sides of the room, I seldom before witnessed. Elder Vardeman at length broke silence, saying, “Well, sir, we want to know our errors or your heterodoxy. Do let us hear it. Keep nothing back." I replied, I know not where to begin; nor am I in health and vigor, after the toils of the day, to undertake so heavy a task. But, said I, I am commencing a publication called the Christian Baptist, to be devoted to all such matters, a few copies of which are in my portmanteau, and, with your permission, I will read you a few specimens of my heterodoxy. They all said, “Let us hear--let us hear the worst error you have against us." I went up stairs and unwrapped the three 'first numbers
(July, Augnist, and September numbers) of the Christian Baptist, that ever saw the light in Kentucky. I had just ten copies of the three first numbers. I carried them into the parlor, and, sitting down, I read, as a sample, the first essay on the Clergy-so much of it as respected the “CALL TO THE MINISTRY,” as then taught "in the kingdom of the Clergy,” and especially amongst the Baptists. See first edition of the Christian Baptist for October, 1823, p. 49-54. This was the first essay ever read from that work in Kentucky. After a sigh and a long silence, Elder Vardeman said, “Is that your worst error-your chief heterodoxy? I dont care so much about that, as you admit that we may have a providential call, without a voice from heaven, or a special visit from some angel or spirit. If you have any thing worse, for my part I wish to hear it.” The cry was, “Let us hear something more.” On turning to and fro, I next read an article on Modern Missionaries. This, with the “Capital Mistake of Modern Missionaries,” finished my readings for the evening.
On closing this essay, “Well,” said Elder Vardeman, “I am not so great a missionary man as to fall out with you on that subject. I must hear more before I condemn or approve." I then distributed my ten copies ainongst the ten most distinguished and advanced Elders in the room--requesting them to read those numbers during the recess of the debate, and to communicate freely to me their objections. We separated. So the matter ended at that tim .
The debate progressed and terminated with so much of the approbation of the whole denomination, that, at its close, I was requested to furnish the Elders present with a liberal supply of the Proposals for publication of the Christian Baptist, and with the most pressing invitation to make an immediate tour through the State. Domestic duties and engagements would not permit me to yield to their importunities; and I compounded with them then to visit Lexington, and to speak at May's Lick, Bryant's Station, the vicinity of Elder Vardeman's residence, and Lexington; and, if possible, the next autumn to visit a considerable portion of the State. I redeemed these pledges; and, so few and futile were the objections to the Christian Baptist, that Kentucky alone furnished, in less than a year, one thousand subscribers, and at least five times that many readers.
The debate also with M-Calla, soon as it appeared from the press, notwithstanding its unqualified development of Christian baptism, was immediately scattered over the State in thousands; and so Kentucky was, in a few months, every where sown with the seeds of a great evangelical and moral reformation.
Another circumstance or event favorable to the cause, was the peculiar facilities of access to the ears of the whole community, which we enjoyed in 1824 on our second visit. All the Baptist pulpits in the State and all the prominent leaders of the people gave us a frank and full hearing. The whole Baptist ministry in the State, (and it was, for number, worldly respectability, and influence, the most powerful and popular in the State. I was in those days frequently informed that Jeremiah Vardeman and Jacob Creath, sr., could elect the Governor of the State at any time they would deem it an object worthy of their attention:) Dr. Fishback, Dr. Noel, the Warders, the Wallers, the Creaths, Elders Vaughn, Payne, and Bullock, for more than twelve years Moderators of the Elkhorn Association, and I know not how many others, of great popularity, even up to the author of the history of Ten Churches, for a time gave us a full hearing, and secured the attention of the communities in which they moved.
Some of the least of these, however, demurred occasionally at my strictures upon the Clergy, and the Kingdom of the Clergy, and the support of the Clergy; and a still small voice occasionally muttered in our ears that the Baptists, never too liberal to their preachers, were becoming still more conscientious in dispensing of their abundance to the ministry. Without any demur of conscience, they could vest in houses, lands, and tenements, even in Negroes, horses, asses, and mules, by hundreds and by thousands, while, with great scrupulosity of conscience, they feared to vest in the ministry of heaven by units and by tens. This, on my third visit to Kentucky, was, in several regions, alleged as an omen of some heterodoxy in our views.
REFORMATION-No. X. As sectarism is one of the most striking proofs of a departare from the gospel, so Christian union is one of the strongest evidences of a return to it. So manifestly inconsistent, indeed, is a state of division, alienation and strife, with Christian precept and Christian feeling, that all the ingenious sophistry employed to justify separatism, has failed to conceal from the truly pious its utter incompati. bility with the religiou of Christ. Apart even from the plain and repeated injunctions to maintain unity and peace, which the scrip
tures impose, there are sentiments, sympathies, or, we may say, instincts, in the bosom of the true believer, which afford better lessons, and give him a deeper insight into the real tendencies and purposes of Christianity, than all the metaphysical subtleties of elenchtic theology, or the unholy ardors of an intolerant zeal for the distinguishing tenets of a party. In morals, the instinctive principles of human nature, and the irrepressible suggestions of the heart, are, as it has been well remarked, often surer guides than reasoning, and serve to keep men right, where the latter would lead them astray. And it is no less true, that, in religion, the unreasoning propensities and affections of the renewed soul, will sometimes point towards the path of duty, when reason, perverted and preju. diced by a sectarian education, would mislead. Christian love is one of these instinctive principles which prompts spontaneously to Christian union and Christian intercourse with those who are united to Christ. And hence it is, as we formerly observed, that, in all periods of the church, and in the midst of the most unpropi. tious circumstances, there have been appeals on behalf of Chris. tian union, and the present age of the world is particularly remarked for the strenuous efforts which have been made to accomplish it.
But the misfortune is, that the propositions which have been made by the friends of union have been too general and vague, and that they have failed to present that true scriptural basis upon which alone a real union can be effected. While they earnestly deplore the evils, and freely confess the sins of partyism; while they eloquently depict the advantage, and convincingly show the duty of union, they omit to lay down any fixed and definite principles upon which this union can be based. They urge the importance of mutual forbearance; but leave its limits undetermined. They show clearly that there must be some things in Christianity more important than others, and that a union should be formed upon these; but they unhappily omit to determine what these matters of supreme importance are. They insist, with great propriety, that whatever be the principles of union adopted, they shall be perfectly compatible with the fundamental principle of Protestan tism-the right of private judgment, and that every one shall be free to entertain and profess his own opinions; but they make no attempt to distinguish between these common principles of union, and these individual or private opinions. They even go so far as to take the very position which we have ourselves assumed, that whatever renders a man accepted of God, should render him accepted of his brother; or, in other words, that whatever saves men, should unite them; but they SERIES III.- VOL. V.,