THERE is probably no subject of more vital importance to the children of the kingdom of Christ, than that to which we wish in these lines to call their attention. Much has been said upon the subject, by various characters, with as great a variety of designs. Knowing how much the saints desire a perfect union and fellowship among themselves, the enemy has sometimes effected to be very zealous for the promotion of the same object; and to deplore what he or they have denominated a schismatic spirit. Under this imposing pretext, the New School Baptists have generally denounced those who have, in obedience to the command of Zion’s glorious King, conscientiously withdrawn their christian fellowship from disorderly walkers. Some honest hearted christians have become bewildered by the hypocritical whinings of ungodly persons, from failing to discern the true design of those who have exhorted them to a general union. There is at this present time, an uncommon zeal manifested by some in whom we have had, and some in whom we still have confidence as Old School Baptists, for union. Several articles have recently appeared in the Primitive Baptist, the Correspondent, and the Advocate, as also a letter recently prepared as a circular, for the W—Association, (which was not adopted) upon this subject; and among them, some very well written essays. But we have been led to examine this subject, with reference to the general want of sufficient discrimination manifested by some, and the evident bearing of other some to work a dissention and schism in the ranks of the Old School Baptists, under the imposing plea of union. We will not charge any with such intention; but when we see a series of numbers on the subject of union, prefaced by what we consider an unprovoked attach on this paper; and when we had sought for an explanation, and received none, we have found it rather difficult to suppress our misgivings as to the sort of union contended for. It is true, the attack appears to carry on its face, that which might make any farther explanation unnecessary. Inasmuch as the fact that we had dissented from some views of an esteemed writer in the Primitive, wherein we felt confident the brother had erred; and had opened our columns to the injured brethren of the Old School, in the Mississippi, Valley, to defend themselves against the slanderous charge of being Sabellians, heretics, apostates, &c.; that we had thus offended, was used as a signal for rallying the forces of Israel against us; and while the denouncing of more than one half of all the Old School Baptists in the United States, as base heretics, was winked at, our course is, with the same pen, and by the same conciliatory spirit, swelled into schism, sedition, &c.
Having just glanced at the views of some modern writers, on the subject of union, we will briefly state our opinion on the subject also.
They that gladly received the word, at the day of pentecost, and were baptized upon the reception thereof, continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayer, &c. Here lies the foundation of all christian union. Where the word of the Lord is rejected, or is not gladly received, there is no scriptural ground for christian fellowship;* but where the word of life has been gladly received, as on that memorable day, and sinners, quickened by its almighty power, have bowed their necks to wear the yoke of Jesus, and in the holy ordinance of baptism have put it on, and do, like those primitive Baptists, continue in the apostles’ doctrine, true gospel fellowship must, and will invariably follow. They not only continued steadfastly in the apostles’ dsctrine, but equally steadfast in the apostles’ fellowship; and consequently in sweet union and fellowship among themselves. And while abiding in the doctrine and fellowship of the apostles of the Lamb, the saints are prepared to travel harmoniously in the breaking of bread, and in social worship. But under no circumstance are the saints at liberty to extend their fellowship where there is not a hearty reception of the word, in faith and practice, and a steadfast continuance in the apostles’ doctrine. The moment our fellowship exceeds these New Testament limits, it ceases to be christian union, or gospel fellowship, and becomes a wicked perversion of the word—a mere giving of flattering titles one to another.* Called with a heavenly vocation, by one spirit, and in one hope of their calling, having one Lord, one faith, and one baptism, one God and Father of all, &c., the saints are not only prepared to adhere strictly to the doctrine and practice of the gospel, as ordained by Christ and taught by his inspired apostles, but also to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace; to bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.. Under such circumstances, it is not only lawful, but expedient, that christians should exhort one another to cherish an unfeigned love and christian regard for the happiness and spiritual growth of the King’s royal family. As we said in the commencement of this article, no subject is of more vital importance to the church of God; so we see the necessity of guarding against the influence of any thing in doctrine or practice, that is calculated to sever these blessed bonds; but we should never be unmindful that it is Satan’s masterpiece to lead us, if possible, to incorporate within the embrace of our fellowship and union, something that is not found within the limits of the apostles’ doctrine; and thereby to pervert our union, and subvert our hearts. Beware of him!
Let us now enquire, whether controversy, discussion, and explain dealings among professors of the gospel faith, is in reality prejudicial to a true christian union, or not. A late writer defines controversy, as meaning dispute, debate, quarrel, &c. The correctness of his definition we shall not dispute; but we know God had a controversy with Israel; although we do not understand that he quarreled with them, in conducting it. That he disputed the premises they assumed, and that his manner of displaying his disapprobation was by himself denominated a controversy, is certain. The apostles were so far from considering a controversy detrimental to christian union, that they exhorted the saints to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints; and this was found indispensable to the maintenance of a scriptural fellowship. Thus our Lord disputed with the doctors in the temple; and Paul disputed daily in the school of one Tyrannus; and yet the purity of the christian faith, and the spirit of the gospel, suffered nothing by this controversy.
But it may be objected, that the controversy for which we find precept and example in the scriptures, was a contention for the faith, against those who were enemies to the truth. All this we admit; but among those, opposers were found some at least in a nominal connection with the church of Christ. Christians, while continuing steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, will find nothing to controvert in the faith or practice of each other; but ‘when any one or more of the disciples depart from the RULE of faith and order, then such as are spiritual, are commanded to restore such a one, in the spirit of meekness. The idea that we, as Old School Baptists, are to contend against the errors of the New School, and at the same time wink at the errors of all who may please to call themselves Old School, will not answer. One wolf in the fold, will do more mischief to the flock, than a thousand in the forest.
We perfectly accord with brethren Bennett, Jewitt, Burritt, Battle, and many others, that a gentle, meek, patient, forbearing, humble demeanor, forms the christian character; and that without such a spirit as will lead us to love the truth, the order, the ordinances, and laws of Christ’s kingdom, as well as all such as give evidence that they are born of God, by walking conformably to his precepts, all our pretensions are vain.
None can more sincerely deplore an alienation or coldness among the children of God, than we do; but we would not supply the want of christian union, by crying, Peace, where God has not spoken peace; nor by healing the hurt of the daughter of the Lord’s people slightly. We cannot compromise the truth.
Editorials of Gilbert Beebe Volume 1 - pgs 631-635
* - (Emphasis added - ta)