From the 1888 Sword and Trowel Annual Volume
Whether we smite with the Sword, or build with the Trowel,
LET THE LORD'S NAME BE MAGNIFIED.
Our service may often change, but our spirit should remain full of adoration and praise. The century grows old, but the glory of Jehovah is ever new. The twilight of another age is upon us; but come what will, the Lord is to be extolled from generation to generation, even till eternity has swallowed up the last of years.
During another year the Lord has been exceedingly gracious to the various institutions of which this magazine is the representative and right hand. Our practical protest against error has lost us many a friend; or, rather, has winnowed away much of the chaff from the heap of our acquaintances. Naturally, it might have been expected that this would tell upon the funds of the Orphanage, College, Colportage, Evangelists' Society, or some other of our agencies; but our resources are beyond the reach of human power, seeing we have all along drawn our supplies direct from the Fountain-head. We have received, not less, but more of pecuniary supplies, since certain great ones threatened to dry up the springs. They cannot stay so much as a drop of heaven's rain from the plant of the Lord's right hand planting. For this, with a deep, adoring reverence, we say emphatically, "The Lord be magnified."
But what of it all? Will any result follow from taking up a position of stern protest? We think so. We believe that already a drag has been put upon the "Down-Grade" wheel, and that inquiry has been aroused which will more effectually hinder the deplorable advance to ruin. But if not, what of that? Suppose a man should speak the truth in the name of the Lord, and no one should believe him; suppose that good as well as bad should judge him to be perverse and pragmatical; suppose he should be forsaken by those who were once his adherents and friends; and suppose that he should even die with the ill repute of being one who needlessly and in vain troubled Israelwhat then? If in that which he had spoken he was true to his conscience, and to his God, what would he have lost by receiving no recognition from men? Lost! He would have been immeasurably the gainer, inasmuch as he would not have received his reward, but his crown would be laid up in heaven "against that day." At any rate, he would have glorified his Lord by having been enabled to say, "Although ministers should not proclaim the gospel, nor professors confess the faith; the constancy of the faithful shall fail, and even the most godly abide in cowardly silence; courage shall fail from the brave, and decision from the instructed; yet will I rejoice in the Lord and his eternal truth, yea, I will joy in the God of my salvation."
For practical purposes, in this cloudy and dark day, we call upon our brethren to be much in prayer for the revival and enlightenment of the church of God, and for the creation of religious interest among the great multitude. Everywhere there is apathy. Nobody cares whether that which is preached is true or false. A sermon is a sermon whatever the subject; only, the shorter it is the better. A free delivery, with a little pretentiousness, will make a great deal go down as gospel which the slightest gracious discrimination would utterly reject. Let us pray that religious life may be deepened and increased, so that men may instinctively discern between the precious and the vile.
Now also is the season for a clearer and more distinct enunciation of the foundation truths of the gospel. Preachers and teachers should go over again with distinctness and emphasis those glorious doctrines which are assuredly received among us. The preaching of the true is the best refutation of the false. The more the mind of God is made known among the people the less will they be swayed by the inventions of the mind of man. A diligent rehearsal of the main points of our heavenly charter will be wise and timely at this present.
For this magazine we ask the favorable remembrance of our readers, How could the protesting voice have been heard if it had not been for these pages? As a rule, the religions papers have united in a conspiracy of silence; or else they have culled from their correspondence letters unfavorable to the truth, and have printed them, while those which were on the right side have been excluded. It is of vital importance that every mouth which bears testimony for truth should be preserved. This much-sneered-at Sword and Trowel will carry on its twofold mission so long as its Editor has breath remaining; but it could do far more if its circulation were increased. The next year will be its twenty-fifth, and it ought to have a kind of Jubilee. To increase the circulation may seem a small matter to speak of, and yet it is not so. What is the use of a man speaking or writing if he has no audience? If an audience is desirable, is it not desirable that it should be increased? If his listeners and readers can be multiplied, is not the man thus enabled to do good on a wider scale? What is worth doing for a few is still more worth doing for many. We therefore invite our readers' help to enlarge our constituency. We will do our best to produce the magazine, and to speak boldly for the cause and kingdom of our Lord Jesus; and we ask on the part of our subscribers that they will provide for us open doors by introducing our monthly magazine to their friends and neighbors.
To most of our readers we are bound for ever by ties of gratitude for kindness rendered in many ways. Perhaps no man ever had such a host of constant and earnest friends as the Editor of this paper. To them all we send hearty greetings. God bless them all! May the eternal God be their refuge and their reward! In a short time we shall meet where Sword and Trowel shall be exchanged for harp and palm. So speedily will that day arrive that we joyously anticipate it, and would begin at once the heavenly fellowship which will express itself in the perfect harmony of the celestial song. As we said in the beginning, so say we at, the close of this preface to the volume for 1888
THE LORD BE MAGNIFIED.
The Lord liveth and reigneth: there is no defeat with him. No rage of the enemy can dim the luster of his truth, or hinder the going forth of his power.
The censure passed upon me by the Council of the Baptist Union will be weighed by the faithful, and estimated at its true value. "Afterwards they have no more that they can do." I brought no charges before the members of the Council, because they could only judge by their constitution, and that document lays down no doctrinal basis except the belief that "the immersion of believers is the only Christian baptism." Even the mention of evangelical sentiments has been cut out from their printed program. No one can be heterodox under this constitution, unless he should forswear his baptism. I offered to pay the fee for Counsel's opinion upon this matter, but my offer was not accepted by the deputation. There was, therefore, nothing for me to work upon, whatever evidence I might bring. What would be the use of exposing myself to threatened law-suits to gain nothing at all? Whatever may be said to the contrary, if we go to its authorized declaration of principles, it is clear that the Union is incompetent for any doctrinal judgment, except it should be needful to ascertain a person's views on baptism. I decline to submit to it any case which would be quite beyond its powers. Would any rational man act otherwise? I have rather too much proof than too little; but I am not going to involve others in litigation when nothing is to be gained.
I do not complain of the censure of the Council, or feel the least care about it. But was this the intent of its loving resolution? Is this the claw which was concealed by the velvet pad of its vote to send four doctors of divinity to me "to deliberate how the unity of the denomination can be maintained in truth, and love, and good works"? Did those who passed that resolution meanwe send these four men to put him to the question? Why, then, did they not say so? Did the world ever hear of such a result of a "deliberation"? The person with whom they deliberate upon union "in truth, and love, and good works" is questioned and condemned! Let plain-sailing Christian men judge between me and this Council.
The question now to be answered is"Does this decision represent the opinion of the Baptist Union?" It may be so. It may be that the Council is elected in such a manner that it is fairly representative. It may be that the churches will admire the conduct of their prominent men. I do not believe it. It is not for me, as an outsider, to raise the question; but surely there are members of the Union who will consider it, and act accordingly.
I have, in simple brotherly kindness, given the advice which was asked of me; but had I known the secret object of the deputation from the Council, I would not have given it any advice of any sort. These gentlemen came, avowedly, to me to deliberate upon "unity in truth, and love, and good works"; but their real errand was not what was openly avowed. What they were driving at is made clear by the facts. Before considering as a Council the advice which, in any fair English construction of the words, was the object aimed at, they censure the man with whom they professed to deliberate. How is this consistent with itself? It is quite as well that their resolutions should be as incomprehensible as their doctrinal position is indefinable. But this goes far to render my recommendations useless. Is it not a waste of breath to deliberate under such circumstances? When language is used rather to conceal a purpose than to express it, it becomes fearfully doubtful whether any form of doctrine can be so worded as to be of the slightest use. Nevertheless, I would like all Christendom to know that all I asked of the Union is that it be formed on a Scriptural basis; and that I never sought to intrude upon it any Calvinistic or other personal creed, but only that form of belief which has been accepted for many years by the Evangelical Alliance, which includes members of well-nigh all Christian communities.
To this it was replied that there is an objection to any creed whatever. This is a principle which one may fairly discuss. Surely, what we believe may be stated, may be written, may be made known; and what is this but to make and promulgate a creed? Baptists from the first have issued their confessions of faith. Even the present Baptist Union itself has a creed about baptism, though about nothing else. The churches of which it is composed have nearly all of them a creed of some sort, and the very men who object to a creed many of them hold offices which require adhesion to certain doctrines, implied, if not actually written down. Trust-deeds of chapels and colleges usually have some doctrinal declaration; and how persons who hold positions connected with churches and institutions having creeds can fairly object to them when they meet in a united character, I am quite unable to see. Certain members of the Council talk about having expelled Unitarians: does not this admit that they have already an unwritten Trinitarian creed? Why not print it? Possibly "modern thought" has methods of getting over this which have never occurred to my unsophisticated mind.
To say that "a creed comes between a man and his God," is to suppose that it is not true; for truth, however definitely stated, does not divide the believer from his Lord. So far as I am concerned, that which I believe I am not ashamed to state in the plainest possible language; and the truth I hold I embrace because I believe it to be the mind of God revealed in his infallible Word. How can it divide me from God who revealed it? It is one means of my communion with my Lord, that I receive his words as well as himself, and submit my understanding to what I see to be taught by him. Say what he may, I accept it because he says it, and therein pay him the humble worship of my inmost soul.
I am unable to sympathize with a man who says he has no creed; because I believe him to be in the wrong by his own showing. He ought to have a creed. What is equally certain, he has a creedhe must have one, even though he repudiates the notion. His very unbelief is, in a sense, a creed.
The objection to a creed is a very pleasant way of concealing objection to discipline, and a desire for latitudinarianism. What is wished for is a Union which will, like Noah's Ark, afford shelter both for the clean and for the unclean, for creeping things and winged fowls.
Every Union, unless it is a mere fiction, must be based upon certain principles. How can we unite except upon some great common truths? And the doctrine of baptism by immersion is not sufficient for a groundwork. Surely, to be a Baptist is not everything. If I disagree with a man on ninety-nine points, but happen to be one with him in baptism, this can never furnish such ground of unity as I have with another with whom I believe in ninety-nine points, and only happen to differ upon one ordinance. To form a union with a single Scriptural ordinance as its sole distinctive reason for existence has been well likened to erecting a pyramid upon its apex: the whole edifice must sooner or later come down. I am not slow to avow my conviction that the immersion of believers is the baptism of Holy Scripture, but there are other truths beside this; and I cannot feel fellowship with a man because of this, if in other matters he is false to the teaching of Holy Scripture.
To alter the foundation of a building is a difficult undertaking. Underpinning is expensive and perilous work. It might be more satisfactory to take the whole house down, and reconstruct it. If I had believed that the Baptist Union could be made a satisfactory structure, I could not then have remained in it; because to do so would have violated my conscience. But my conscience is no guide for others. Those who believe in the structure, and think that they can rectify its foundation, have my hearty sympathy in the attempt. Let them give themselves to it earnestly and with firm resolve: they will have need of all their earnestness and resolution. In the Assembly, in the Associations, and in the churches they can urge their views, and make it plain that they mean to make the Union an avowedly Evangelical body on the old lines of faith. This they must do boldly, and without flinching. I have no very assured hope of their success, for the difficulties are exceedingly great; but let them combine, and work unitedly, and persistently, year after year, and they may do something, if not everything. It is not for me to lead in a work which I have been forced to abandon; but there are other men who are less known, but not less resolute, and these should take their turn. The warfare has been made too personal; and certain incidents in it, upon which I will not dwell, have made it too painful for me to feel any pleasure in the idea of going on with it. It might even appear that I desired to be reinstated in the Union, or wished to head a party in it, and this is very far from my mind. But let no man imagine that I shall cease from my protests against false doctrine, or lay down the sword of which I have thrown away the scabbard. However much invited to do so, I shall not commence personalities, nor disclose the wretched facts in all their details; but with confirmatory evidence perpetually pouring in upon me, and a solemn conviction that the dark conspiracy to overthrow the truth must be dragged to light, I shall not cease to expose doctrinal declension wherever I see it. With the Baptist Union, as such, I have now no hampering connection; but so far as it takes its part in the common departure from the truth, it will have to put up with my strictures, although it has so graciously kicked me under pretext of deliberation.
Will those who are with me in this struggle remember me in their constant prayers to the Lord, whom in this matter I serve in my soul and spirit?
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