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the state, had anything to do with the origin of the church in Groton, we have not been able to determine.
Still it is worthy of notice, as illustrating the providence of God, that, at the very time the ministry were seeking to bring to their aid the arm of civil power, in the government of the church, God, upon the very soil where this unholy alliance was being consummated, was raising up for himself a people, before whose influence this Babel of iniquity should fall to rise no more.
It is, however, to be inferred, that the increase of this church at first was but slow and gradual. During the space of twenty years it appears to have called into existence no kindred organization; this is indeed somewhat surprising; but the cause we think is to be found chiefly in the peculiar character of the times. The year 1705 places us near to the early settlement of the country; consequently, it may be supposed that the adjoining towns and neighborhoods were but thinly inhabited, and hence the facilities for a wide and rapid diffusion of truth, were but comparatively few. In addition to this, the educational prejudices
of the people were everywhere hostile to the distinguishing sentiments of the Baptists.
The ministry of the prevailing order had succeeded in blending the ecclesiastical and civil administrations; the church had sought and formed an alliance with the state, and this unnatural, unholy connection, as it always has, produced the most unnatural and unholy effects. Intoleration, persecution, fines, imprisonments, whippings, banishments, and death; these are among the dark crimes, which grow immediately out of this illegitimate connection.
Whether the church in Groton felt severely the grasp of this power in the way of direct persecution, we are not able to say. But it is evident, that a body so feeble as this church must have been at that time, could not fail to have been retarded in its progress, by an opposition so powerful as that of the church and state united.
An age that could be induced to sacrifice the great principles of religious freedom, to yield the high prerogative of ecclesiastical administration to a power, from whose tyranny and cruelty it had but just escaped, of all others
would be most unfavorable to those principles of church policy which have ever distinguished the Baptist denomination. Men who can be led away by an ambitious, designing priesthood; men who will not take the trouble, nor feel the responsibility of thinking for themselves, are the very last men to renounce popular error, or to embrace unpopular truth; in other words, the very last men to become Baptists. And that this was the character of the age which we are contemplating, the history of both church and state, at that period, plainly indicates.
In not a few instances, however, the measure was received with marked disapprobation; and in some cases, met with open and decided resistance. Hence originated a species of dissent, or separatism, from the established order. Separate churches sprung up in various parts of the country, retaining all the characteristics of the old organization, yet resisting the encroachments of the ministry, repudiating the union of the church and state, and refusing the aid of the civil power in the administration of discipline. As a consequence, there arose a kind of sympathy between the
Baptists and these Separatists, which in some cases resulted in a species of union, or mixed communion; a state of things most unfavorable to our ecclesiastical purity, and hostile to the advancement of truth. And it is not surprising, that the influence of Baptist churches, consenting to this injudicious connection, was not more widely felt, and their distinguishing sentiments no more generally embraced.
In addition to this, the general tone of religious feeling in the prevailing church was exceedingly low; a loose and dark theology everywhere prevailed; the vital doctrines of the gospel were unbelieved, unpreached, and to a great extent unknown. Christianity existed but in name and form; and the church, so far from being the congregation of the righteous, came emphatically to be the congregation of the unrighteous, the repository of error, and the highway to death.
An impure morality was substituted for experimental piety; obedience to the ministry and the magistracy, took the place, at least in matters of religious discipline, of obedience to God. Hence a factious, disputatious spirit prevailed. Men were occupied, not in search.
ing for truth, but in settling questions of civil and ecclesiastical policy; in enforcing and resisting an authority, which, on the one hand, was regarded as the safeguard of the church, but, on the other, as illegitimate, profane, and anti-christian. The public mind was hence kept in a state of continued excitability, and the warlike passions of the heart were frequently called out in fierce, unholy collision. Still this state of things, unhappy as it was, was not altogether unserviceable in the cause of truth. Amid these commotions, men began to be enlightened respecting the true character of Christ's kingdom. In resisting what they were forced to regard as a usurpation of authority by the ministry, they fled to the scriptures, and studied the constitution of the church as therein revealed, and were thence, by a process not very difficult to understand, frequently led the entire length of truth, touching the great question, not only of gospel order, but also of gospel ordinances. Hence, in immediate connection with this state of things, Baptist sentiments were found rapidly spreading, especially in those sections. where separatism prevailed; so much so, that, at