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ON THE EXERCISE OF INVESTIGATION.
are to be derived, that from a steady
distinguished for their understanding probation of such, by "contending earand piety; may it always merit the apnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints." If you think the following remarks-on the duty of thinking and judging for ourselves in matters of religion, but more especially in reference detract from its character, then consign to baptism-calculated in the least to them to oblivion; if otherwise, your inserting them will oblige,
definite and impressive conceptions of the glory of that Being whom we profess to adore. But, from what sources are such illustrations to be derived? Is it from abstract reasonings and metaphysical distinctions and definitions, or from a survey of those objects and movements which lie open to the inspection of every observer? There can be no difficulty in coming to a decision on this point. We might affirm, with the The New Evangelical Magazine schoolmen, that "God is a Being whose has, from its commencement, maincentre is every where, and his circum-tained a high character for talent and ference no where;" that "he compre-independence among many who are hends infinite duration in every moment;" and that "infinite space may be considered as the sensorium of the Godhead;" but such fanciful illustrations, when strictly analyzed, will be found to consist merely of words without ideas. We might also affirm, with truth, that God is a Being of infinite perfection, glory, and blessedness; that he is without all bounds or limits, either actual or possible; that he is possessed of power sufficient to perform all things which do not imply a contradiction; that he is independent and self-sufficient; that his wisdom is unerring, and that he infinitely exceeds all other beings. But these, and all other expressions of a similar kind, are mere technical terms, which convey no adequate, nor even tolerable notion of what they import. Beings, constituted like man, whose rational spirits are connected with an organical structure, and who derive all their knowledge through the medium of corporeal organs, can derive their clearest and most affecting notions of the Divinity, chiefly through the same medium, namely, by contemplating the effects of his perfections, as displayed through the ample range of the visible creation. And, to this source of illustration, the inspired writers uniformly direct our views-"Lift up your eyes on high, and behold! who hath created these orbs? who bringeth forth their host by number, and calleth them all by their names? The everlasting God, the Lord, by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power."-"He hath made the earth by his power; he hath established the world by his wisdom; he hath stretched out the heavens by his understanding."-These writers do not perplex our minds by a multitude of technical terms and subtle reasonings; but lead us directly to the source whence our most ample conceptions of Deity
Providence has of late cast my lot among some worthy people of the Independent denomination, with whom I have frequent and friendly intercourse, and as we differ only on one point, viz. baptism, on that our conversation often turns; and the reflections I am about to offer you, may be considered as arising out of these discussions. That we should be so prone to touch on points of difference rather than agreement, is perhaps not exactly as it should be; but as we have generally concluded our ratiocinations by agreeing to differ, it has rather than otherwise superinduced a spirit of candour and forbearance. It is, however, in some measure owing to the frequency with which this long controverted subject is now brought before us; for seldom does a month pass away without our attention being directed to it in some way or other. Nor do I for one regret this, knowing full well that truth cannot lose any thing by investigation, and that it is only when divested of those meretricious ornaments, which prejudice and superstition have thrown around her, that she appears in her native beauty-" clear as the sun, fair as the moon, and terrible as an army with banners.' However much, therefore, the discussion of controverted subjects is to be deprecated, when accompanied with
"evil speaking," yet when conducted in | We must first of all examine ourselves
that spirit which is "lovely and of good
There are, nevertheless, those of a contrary opinion, whose minds are so exquisitely formed, that the very sound of that word controversy appals them; who think it better to continue in the religion in which they were brought up, as it is termed, than to comply with the apostolic injunction-"Prove all things, and hold fast that which is good;" who, rather than incur the charge of instability, consequent on a change of sentiment, are content to remain in a state, if not of error, at least of uncertainty, forgetting that "whatsoever is not of faith is sin."
Now this mistaken notion appears to me to proceed upon the supposition, that error is as pleasing to the Almighty as truth, and had these persons been born in Hindostan they would have been Hindoos, &c. and such they must have continued if this principle were universally acted upon.
The Scriptures are addressed to man as a rational and accountable agent, and are profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteous ness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good word and work." Every part of these, therefore, must be important, and it is at our peril either to slight or reject it. We are endowed with the faculty of reason, to the end that we may distinguish between things that differ, "comparing spiritual things with spiritual," like those "who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
by the standard of unerring truth, to see if we are in the faith or not, and then bring our principles to this infallible test to see if they correspond therewith; and if after this we err, our error will remain with ourselves.
I have found that great stress is laid on the supposed fact, that the number of Baptists has always been inconsiderable, and "is it supposable," say they, "that such a number of pious and learned men, that have espoused and defended infant baptism, could have erred?" Thus from this gratuitous assumption, a specious argument (if indeed it deserve that name) is fetched; and there is reason to believe that it sways the minds of many in their decision. Now with respect to numbers, and in reference to the mode the former even surpass their brethren; and with regard to piety and learning, they have ever been equally respectable, though less numerous. But considerations like these are not entitled to a moment's regard, in matters involving the glory of God, and the purity, peace and prosperity of his church.-"To the Law and to the Testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.' They are so much akin to the pusillanimous enquiry"Have any of the rulers believed on him," that one cannot but wonder that they should be adduced by any who credit the truth, "that every one of us must give an account of himself to God." If man were infallible, and others were to answer for us at the last, the case would be altered; as it is, will it not be safer to comply with our Saviour's exhortation (the very palladium of Protestantism)" Yea, and why even of yourselves, judge ye not what is right."
Constituted and circumstanced as we are, it is perhaps impossible to bring our minds to the examination of any dis- It is a fact no less humiliating than puted subject in a state of perfect equi- true, that there should be found men, librium-we have our prejudices and who on other subjects think independentpredilections, and often are they many ly, reason profoundly, and judge carand potent; but if we are in earnest-if rectly, who on the subject of baptism lose truth be our object we shall be enabled all these estimable qualities, resign their to sacrifice all these, and with the meek-minds up to credulity itself, and then ness and docility of children, say unto God, "What I know not that do thou teach me," deliyer me from all error, and lead me into all truth-" Search me O Lord, and know my heart, try me and know my ways, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting;' ""Then shall we know if we follow on to know the Lord."
sink down into total imbecility. They catch with avidity at every thing that can be brought to support a system, which after all, can stand only on the "traditions of the fathers," by which the "Law of God is made void," and it is a question worthy the consideration of all those to whom it may apply, whether the novel and far fetched inter
LETTER FROM MR. M'LEAN TO MR. RICHARDS.
pretations of Scripture that have lately
"Should all the forins that men devise,
And bind the Gospel to my heart."
the Scriptures," in order to our being fully persuaded in our own minds; and I cannot help thinking that if people would but simply take the New Testament for their guide in this ordinance, as they do in the Lord's Supper, and not refer us to inferences and analogies drawn from an obsolete economy, the contest would soon terminate. Hasten it, O Lord, in thine own time, also when Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim. Amen.
THE Rev. John Evans, LL.D. has very obligingly handed us several letters (Autographs), written by the late Mr. M'Lean, of Edinburgh, to Mr. Richards, of Lynn, in Norfolk, with permission to make whatever use of them we thought proper. Not doubting but that they will be a source of gratification to those of our readers, in particular, who are partial to his writings, we intend to print them in our Magazine, and shall take them in the order of their dates. EDITOR.
It is but lately I received your letter of Nov. 12, with three pamphlets, for which I am obliged to you. The parcel you sent a year and half ago never came to hand.
The Baptists are charged with attaching too much importance to this rite; but a cursory review of the case will be sufficient to convince every impartial enquirer, that the contrary is nearer the truth; for their works are fewer, and generally on the defensive. With the Papist, baptism is all in allwith a majority of Episcopalians it is supposed to possess wonderful efficacyand it is apparent that the Independents connect with its performance an undefinable something, calculated to "corrupt from the simplicity that is in Christ Jesus." Infant baptism has been productive of incalculable mischief to the church of God-it has nearly obliterated the line of demarcation between it and the world-it has introduced a kind of Mr. Carter's Remarks on your Obhereditary religion into the world, teach-servations on Infant Sprinkling, in my ing men to say, "We have Abraham opinion, require no reply. There is very to our father," thus undermining that little argument in any thing he advances, fundamental doctrine of our holy reli- and nothing but what has been suffigion-"Ye must be born again." Is it ciently refuted innumerable times. Howto be wondered at, then, that those who ever, as the agitation of the controversy, see, or think they see, à tendency in when properly managed, may be of use Pædobaptism opposed to the precept and to awaken people's attention to the example of "Him, who is head over all Scriptures, it may in this view be proper things to his church," and whose king- to say a little more on the subject. But dom is not of this world, should feel I could wish that every thing personal anxious that all should understand the or foreign to the point were dropt on true nature and design of this rite, and both sides. This would reduce the assign to it that place in the order of argument to a very narrow compass. the house of God that it held in the primitive church.
Let me not in conclusion be misunderstood. I am not a friend to controversy as such, but as differences of opinions do exist, and as there is no way of c fcoming at the truth but by examining, I contend that we are bound to "search
His reflections against me are of no consequence at all, because he has sufficiently justified me and refuted himself by quoting Messrs. Glas and Huddleston's own words at large. I shall, however, (if the Lord will) send you very soon a few remarks upon this, and perhaps some other parts of his pamph
let, which, if you think proper, you may publish as you propose.*
The Baptist profession in this country began at Edinburgh in the year 1766. A few of us, who were Independents, having agreed upon the point of Baptism, thought proper to send Mr. Carmichael (our Elder) to London to be baptized by Dr. Gill. Upon his return he baptized the rest of us, amounting to about eight, who were immediately formed into church order. Next year I published my Answer to Mr. Glas's Dissertation on Infant Baptism, and sometime after was chosen co-elder, | with Mr. Carmichael, of the small society at Edinburgh. A considerable number were soon added to us. Several were baptized at Glasgow, Dundee, and Montrose, and small societies were formed in each of these places. Mr. Carmichael removed to Dundee to take charge of the society there, where he continued some years, till he fell into trouble, returned to Edinburgh and died. Meantime Dr. Walker was chosen my fellow-elder; but has since separated from the church, with some others, upon a point of discipline. Some at Glasgow fell into Socinian views of the person of Christ, with whom we broke up all connection; and some at Edinburgh who had separated from us before Dr. Walker, are now professed Arians. These things have occasioned much grief unto us. In the year 1777, I published my Defence of Believer's Baptism. Soon after a number of Independents at Glasgow, Edinburgh, and other places, were baptized and added to the churches. Mr. Moncrieff, an Independènt (not a Glassite) Elder at Glasgow, and about ten of his people embraced baptism. He was chosen an Elder by our people at that place; since that time the church at Glasgow has increased considerably. At Edinburgh there were a good many added, among whom I have found a most agreeable colleague, Mr. William Braidwood, who was formerly Elder of a congregational society in this place. At Dundee and Montrose the Baptist interest is at present rather on the decline. We have several brethren at Wooler, Whitehaven and London. Three clergymen have joined us, viz. Mr. Charles Stuart, who, for the sake of a good conscience gave up with a large
benefice at Cramond near Edinburgh, where he was minister; he is now an eminent_physician at this place.-Mr. George Grieve, who was minister of the Presbyterian congregation at Wooler; he also is following the profession of physic.-Mr. A. Swanston, a Burgher Seceder, a most amiable young man, who was greatly esteemed among the Seceders, and had a very good worldly prospect in that way.
With respect to our principles, I can refer you to no human system as the unexceptionable confession of our faith. We think our Lord and his Apostles used great plainness of speech in telling us what we should believe and practise; and hence we are led to understand a great many things more literally and strictly, than those do who seek to make the religion of Jesus correspond with the fashion of the times, or the decent course of the world. We believe that the salvation of guilty helpless sinners is first and last entirely of sovereign free grace, and not of him that willeth or runneth. That Jesus is the Saviour of his people from their sins-the Christ, or anointed prophet, priest, and king of his church-the Son of God, or the Word made flesh, God manifested in the flesh, the first-begotten from the dead, and constituted heir of all things. That by his life, death, resurrection, and ascension into the heavenly holy place with his own blood, he hath obtained eternal redemption for his people from the guilt, power, and all the consequences of sin, and procured for them everlasting life with himself from the dead. That men are justified freely by God's grace, without works of any kind, but solely through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ, whenever they really believe or credit the testimony of God concerning his Son; which belief is not of themselves, but the gift of God. That all who believe and are justified have immediate peace with God in proportion to the degree of their faith; and joy in God through Jesus Christ, by whom they have now received the reconciliation. That this belief of the truth will work by love to God, who hath first loved us, and to those who are of the truth for the truth's sake which dwelleth in them; it will overcome the world with all the allurements and tribulations thereof,
* The remarks here referred to, were printed by Mr. Richards, in his History of Antichrist, and will be found in the new edition of Mr. M'Lean's Works, lately published in London, Vol. III. p. 315-324-EDITOR.
ON THE RESTLESSNESS OF THE HUMAN MIND.
and purify the heart not only from the guilt of sin, but from worldly lusts, such as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, i. e. sensuality, covetousness and ambition, (which, to a certain degree, are considered as virtues in the Christian world, and even by many serious professors). That in proportion as we hold fast the faith, and are influenced by it to love God and keep his commandments, we shall have an increasing experimental evidence of our interest in Christ, additional to what we had on our first believing; and, therefore, we ought to give all diligence to make our calling and election sure-to the full assurance of hope unto the end. Though we hold the doctrines of God's unchangeable and everlasting love, and
perseverance of the saints, yet we think it dangerous to comfort people by these considerations when they are evidently in a backsliding state. In this case we think the Scripture motives to fear are most useful, and ought to have their full force, even the fear of falling away, and of coming short of the heavenly rest. We think it also unsafe in such a case to draw comfort from the reflection of our having once believed. We must be reduced as guilty sinners to the mere mercy of God through the atonement which gave us relief at first. Our church order is strictly congregational, and, in as far as we can discern, upon the apostolic plan, which is the only rule we profess to follow. The nature of our union requires that we should be strict in discipline, both to preserve purity of communion, and to keep clear the channels of brotherly love, that it may circulate freely throughout the body. We continue stedfastly on the first day of the week in the Apostles doctrine, i. e. hearing the Scriptures read and preached—and in the fellowship or contribution-and in breaking of bread, or the Lord's supper-and in prayers, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. The prayers and exhortations of the brethren are also admitted in our public meetings. We likewise hold the love feast, and observe the kiss of charity upon proper occasions. In short, we agree with the Glassites (Sandemanians) in a great many things; in others we differ very much from them. think they are much degenerated-we disapprove of that gaiety and spirit of levity which prevails so much among
them, and of that supercilious contempt and mockery with which they treat all who differ from them, especially those who appear serious. As to doctrine, we think they set at a distance the particular hope of a man's own salvation, which must ever accompany the real belief of the Gospel, &c. &c.
There has been nothing published by any of us, except my two pamphlets on baptism. I have several manuscripts on different subjects, which I intend to prepare for the press, if the Lord shall please to enable me.
Wishing you enriched with the treasures of wisdom and knowledge that are hid in Christ,
I am, dear Sir,
Edinburgh, Feb. 12, 1783.
ON THE RESTLESSNESS OF THE
[From Dr. Chalmers's Sermons, lately published.]}
"There is no resting-place to be found on this side of time. It is the doctrine of the Bible, and all experience loudly proclaims it. I do not ask you to listen to the complaints of the poor, or the murmurs of the disappointed. Take your lesson from the veriest favourite of fortune. See him placed in a prouder eminence than he ever aspired after. See him arrayed in brighter colours than ever dazzled his early imagination. See him surrounded with all the homage that fame and flattery can bestow-and after you have suffered this parading exterior to practise its deceitfulness upon you, enter into its solitude-mark his busy, restless, dissatisfied eye, as it wanders uncertain on every object-enter into his mind, and tell me if repose or enjoyment be there; see him the poor victim of chagrin and disquietudemark his heart as it nauseates the splendour which encompasses him-and tell me, if you have not learned, in the truest and most affecting characters, that even in the full tide of a triumphant ambition, man labours for the meat which perisheth, and for the food which satisfieth not.'
"What meaneth this restlessness of our nature? What meaneth this un
ceasing activity which longs for exercise and employment, even after every object is gained, which first roused it to enter