« PoprzedniaDalej »
tists. The occasion of the controversy was the publication of Dr. Whitsitt, in Johnson's Encyclopædia, of an article on “Baptists,” in which he expressed the opinion that immersion was not introduced among English Baptists prior to A. D. 1641, and the view, almost equally offensive, that the baptism of Roger Williams was not by immersion. In this article Dr. Whitsitt was far from denying, or even hinting, that apostolic baptism was immersion. But his article was supposed to give some comfort to pedobaptists who were accustomed to charge that immersion was a vulgar invention. The article looked like an acknowledgment, and that by the president of their theological seminary, that there was a real historic break in the apostolic succession of immersion. Hence the feeling in Baptist circles; and polemic zeal, being once aroused, knew no bounds. Several denominational papers have sought to stir the masses in the Baptist Church to such a pitch of resentment as would force the offending professor from his chair. To the outsider, the furor is a vivid illustration of the uureasoning prejudice of immersionists. If Dr. Whitsitt denied, either consciously or logically, the apostolicity of immersion, we should say that the Baptists ought not to endure his presence at the head of their seminary twenty-four hours. He does neither; and this painful opposition to him verges upon persecution.
The work under our pen is Dr. Whitsitt's exposition and defence of the view for which he is called into contempt by some of his brethren. It is an admirable and conclusive presentation of the facts which support his so-called historical heresy. It must convince every intelligent reader whose mind is not hermetically sealed by prejudice and alarm for immersion. The author is entitled to great praise for his faithful, patient, diligent, scholarly, expensive, and original research. He has hunted out primary sources ; he has examined them with scholarly care ; he has let these documents teach him fairly; he has set the truth above opposition and narrow abuse.
Dr. Whitsitt, in company with several persons, “undertook original investigation at the British Museum to decide where the truth may lie in reference to this question." The question was as to the date of the introduction of immersion into the practice of English Baptists. The researches were made in 1880, and resulted in a body of manuscript, out of which this little volume has been made. Dr. Wbitsitt refers to his present “painful and unfortunate" circumstances as his justification of his offending his own modesty in citing, in the pages of his own book, the high opinion of his labors held by the eminent Dutch professor, De Hoop Scheffer. In that work this Dutch historian says, and truly, that Dr. Whitsitt is "a man whose breadth of view, acute understanding and exceptional skill in historic studies lead me to hope that, vigorously supported by his brethren in the faith, he shall one day execute a task which, up to this time, has never been satisfactorily performed, and which apparently could be entrusted to no better person, the writing of a history of the Baptists.” Presbyterian though we be, we, too, hope that our distinguished and capable and honest neighbor will heed this call of his brother beyond the seas.
Dr. Whitsitt is not weak and doubtful in giving in his adherence to immersion. He opens his book with this positive and even extreme language: "Immersion as a religious rite was practiced by John the Baptist about the year 3 of our era, and was solemnly enjoined by our Saviour upon all his ministers to the end of time. No other observance was in use for baptism in New Testament times. As I under
stand the Scriptures, immersion is essential to Christian baptism. The question as to the origin and essential character of immersion is, therefore, not in issue. That is a closed question; it does not admit of being opened among Baptist people.” Such extravagant declarations of faith in immersion ought to quiet the mind of his Baptist brethren, and insure with them Dr. Whitsitt's orthodoxy concerning this ruling tenet of their creed.
The only question raised and discussed by Dr. Whitsitt is, “Whether the immersion of adult believers was practiced in England by the Anabaptists before the year 1641 ?” Upon this narrow question of history, he takes the negative, and supports his position by the following historical considerations:
1. Anabaptists, or the Rebaptizers, first appeared in England in the earlier portion of the sixteenth century. They came from Holland. English Anabaptism was propagated from Holland. “But none of the Anabaptists of Holland or of the adjacent sections of Germany were immersionists. So far as any account of them has come to light, they were uniformly in the practice of pouring or sprinkling for baptism, excepting the Collegiants, who, at Rhynesburg, began to immerse in 1620. In fact, few Anabaptists anywhere were immersionists." This conclusion is carefully supported by an array of facts. It fixes the date of immersion in Holland in 1620. English immersion was propagated from that source, being established in Great Britain in 1641.
2. The followers of JJohn Smyth and Thomas Helwys were the progenitors of English, or General, Baptists. Smyth was a preacher in the Established Church at Lincoln. In 1603 he laid down his office in the state Church, and became the pastor of a Brownist, or Independent, Church. In 1606 he got away from Eng. land with a company of his brethren to Amsterdam. He left a part of his people behind him in the care of John Robinson, from whose ecclesiastical loins came the Pilgrim Fathers of New England. At Amsterdam, John Smyth sought admission into the fold of the Mennonites, a body of Christians who did not practice immersion. - Thomas Helwys, one of Smyth's flock, protested against this movement towards the Mennonites. The struggle between these two led to the drawing up of; four confessions of faith-two by the party of Smyth and two by the party of Helwys. We get at the mode of baptism by examining the historical setting of these four confessions. (a), The Mennonites, into whose fold admission was sought, were not immersionists, but sprinkled or poured the water in baptism. (6), The Mennonite ministers examined the English applicants, and there on the spot said with respect to the foundation and form of their baptism, 5. We
e have not found that there was any difference at all." (C), There was no immersion practiced anywhere in Holland prior to 1620, and these negotiations were going on in 1606. (d), Finally, the four confessions themselves settle the matter by the very terms in which they teach their doctrine of baptism, denying infant baptism, but not the lawfulness of sprinkling or pouring.
Here, then, is the very first congregation of Anabaptists composed of English people exclusively, and this congregation is not on English soil, but is at Amsterdam, and did not practice immersion as a mode of baptism, and did not insist upon immersion as a condition of fellowship with the Mennonites.
This unimmersed and unimmersing congregation of English people at Amsterdam was the mother of the Post-Reformation Baptist Church in Great Britain.
That congregation practiced sprinkling or pouring. The modern Baptist certainly has an unimmersed, or, in their language, an unbaptized, mother.
To avoid this conclusion, three things are commonly referred to: (1), A certain record, 1606, mentioning the immersion of John Smyth in the river Don by John Murton; (2), A certain statement, 1646, in the work of Leonard Busher; (3), Certain statements in the work of Dr. Featley, 1644. Dr. Whitsitt, with confessions of denominational mortification, proves the first of these to have been a pure fabrication; the second he shows too meagre and too vague to justify the inferences drawn from it; the third, he says, is one of the books of the period which proves that “immersion was a splinter new practice in England in 1644, when it first came from the press.”
3. Dr. Whitsitt's third appeal is to the “Jessey Church Records." This manuscript is known in Baptist history as the “Kiffin Manuscript,” but our author has found an earlier copy of this instrument, which stands high in the opinion of this denomination. One item in this document concerning immersion, and made under date of 1640, reads, “None having then so practiced in England to professed believers.” Our author lays stress upon this point. He says: “In the earlier account we have the unqualified assertion of the most important document in the history of Particular Baptists, that prior to the year 1640 nobody at all had practiced in England the immersion of professed believers. The Anabaptists had not practiced it, who came over from Holland in the sixteenth century. The followers of Helwys and Murton had not practiced it. Spilsbury and his people, who seceded in 1633, had not practiced it. Nobody else had practiced it.” These Jessey Records show that “Mr. Blunt was sent to Holland in 1640 to obtain immersion; that he went to John Batten, well known as a teacher among the Collegiants, and, receiving the rite from his hands, returned to England.” “In the year 1641 immersion was fetched out of Holland and a new epoch was introduced. There is no chance anywhere to evade that plain conclusion."
4. Dr. Whitsitt, in his seventh chapter, sets up "eight monuments of the introduction of immersion into England in the year 1641.” (1), The first confes. sion to prescribe immersion was made in 1644; (2), The name "Baptist” first came into use in 1641, and did not become a denominational designation until 1644; (3), The present controversy over the mode of baptism began in 1641; (4), Until that year, or later, no congregations were divided on the immersion issue; (5), Separation between the Anabaptists and the Dippers was not completed until 1660; (6), After this year the long-pending negotiations for union between the followers of Helwys and the Mennonites were finally broken off; (7), About this time public alarm for the health of candidates for immersion first became publicly excited; (8), At that time the word “rhantize" first came into use as a designation of that mode of baptizing which was antithetical to immersion.
5. In the remaining chapters Dr. Whitsitt paroles other witnesses. He quotes Praisegod Barebones, who, some say, was a Baptist preacher, while this fact is denied by others, who wrote in 1642. Then he enumerates seven Baptist witnesses, as nearly contemporaneous with the period as possible. He then cites from the works of writers outside the Baptist circle. Finally, for good measure, he culls from the history of Dr. H. M. Dexter, of Boston, “one of the foremost authorities for original research in the department of church history."
Dr. Whitsitt may serenely leave his cause in the hands of the candid reader. He has proved his point. He has won the debate.
Dr. Whitsitt makes an appendix of twenty pages on the baptism of Roger Williams, in which he expresses the firm opinion, and presents very cogent arguments in support of it, that Roger Williams was not immersed in 1639. Our limits will not permit us to outline the argument. Immersion, according to our author, was brought to America in 1648 by Mr. Lucar, who was immersed in England by Blunt, after he returned from Holland in 1641.
Dr. Whitsitt proves three things; to do it is acutely painful to him.
1. That Baptists have not always denied, nor declined to practice, infant baptism.
2. That Baptists have not always held and practiced immersion as essential to church membership and to the validity of this ordinance.
3. That Baptists have not always been indifferent to the fellowship of unimmersed believers, but that they once were Anabaptists, and begged for fellowship with the Mennonites, who did not believe and practice immersion, and who never fully accorded to them the fellowship which they sought. Clarksville, Tenn.
R. A. WEBB.
CARUS' RELIGION OF SCIENCE. THE RELIGION OF SCIENCE. By Dr. Paul Carus. Second Edition, Revised and
Enlarged. Chicago: The Open Court Publishing Company. 1896. Pp. vi., 125. Paper, 50 cts.; cloth, $1.25.
This treatise is one of a campaign series now being issued by The Open Court Publishing Company, with headquarters at Chicago. Dr. Carus is the ruling spirit in the movement. Fifteen tractates have been issued, and others are in press. Great progress in the circulation of the peculiar tenets of these propagandists is claimed. Adherents, it is alleged, are multiplying at & gratifying rate.
The object of the movement is the reconciliation of science and religion. Its doctrine is called “Monism, or the New Positivism, or the Philosophy of Science, or the New Realism."
Religion is formally defined as “conviction that regulates man's conduct, affords comfort in affliction, and consecrates all the purposes of life.”
Science is "the methodical search for truth."
Combining the two ideas, the religion of science is "that religion wherein man aspires to find the truth by the most reliable and truly scientific methods." It recognizes no authority, not even supernatural revelation, which it characterizes as only “human,” and receives no truth except that which is proved by " methodical research.” The scheme is one of cheap and egotistical rationalism.
There is no authority for "faith,” but there is an authority for "conduct." The authority for conduct is truth scientifically ascertained. The name adopted for authoritative ethical truth is “the everlasting in existence." Religion calls it “God."
“But science does not speak of God.” Dr. Carus rejects theism, atheism, polytheism, monotheism, anthropotheism, pantheism, and deism. He accepts "entheism, or the view that regards God as inseparable from the world, the eternal in na re.” God, he says, is neither “personal nor impersonal, but superpersonal.” Theism, atheism, pantheism, polytheism, and so forth, he would reconcile with the idea of snperpersonality-they are all so many branches of a tap-root, entheism.
The soul “consists of impulses, dispositions, and ideas." Impulses are "tendencies to act"; dispositions are "inherited habits”; ideas are “representations of things." The soul is not a substance, but a compound of tendencies to act, inherited habits, and representations of things. Ideas develop exclusively "out of feelings,” and so-called reasoning is the “interaction of ideas.” Instead of saying “I have an idea,” we ought to say, “I am an idea.”
This idea (the soul) “neither begins with our birth, nor ends with our death." We have great difficulty, it is confessed, in feeling that our soul is not our self, “but God in us.” Of course a doctrine of immortality is taught. The soul is said to be “the immortalized precipitate of the sentiments of past years.” When we die, the soul is "embodied as a living element into the ever-growing organism of mankind.” The doctrine of the resurrection of the body is but a crude and inappropriate allegory of this scheme of absorptive immortality.
But there is a yet more astounding truth which has been discovered by the pure and unfettered science of Dr. Carus. He draws a distinction between “Jesus and Christ.” Jesus is an alleged historic person; whether mythological in reality, he is not enough interested in so small a question even to make inqniry. But he is enthusiastically certain of the reality of “Christ.” Jesus may be a myth, but "Christ is an invisible and superpersonal influence in human society." Christ, this superpersonal influence, taught that Christians were “a clog on the feet of mankind,” abolished prayer, and taught that every professed virtue of Christians is a vice.
“If ever the name of Christ be dimmed in its glory, it will be done by the vices of his followers in his name, and the freethinker will have to be called upon to restore the lost halo."
A freethinker characterizes the Religion of Science as a “conglomeration of self-contradictory ideas," and Dr. Carus as a "freethinker in disguise." The freethinkers repudiate the book, but claim the author. The author excommunicates both the Christians and the freethinkers, and, clad in his own idealistic vestments, himself an immortalized precipitate of the sentiment of past years, burns the incense of science upon the altar of supersensible, superpersonal, invisible influence, in a temple dedicated to the reconciliation of Christianity and agnosticism, and known as the Church of the Congregation of Entheists. To this congregation, Dr. Carus preaches that God is “not a person,” that the soul of man is "an empty symbol,” that it is the duty of man to become an “incarnation of God,” that death is the "final dissolution of his individuality,” but that “his soul will form part of the souls of the generations to come” and be immortalized as “an ever-living presence in the souls of the living," that Christians are “idolaters” and “pagans," that freethinkers are “barren” and “behind the times," that the religion of science, as expounded in The Open Court, reconciles “the most radical freethought" with “the most rigorous orthodoxy."
R, A, WEBB,