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one time, as Backus states, it seemed that all these churches would become Baptists. The church, in her eagerness to bind men to her traditions, had compelled them to adopt the Bible as their only rule of faith and practice, and in so doing cut the cords of ignorance and superstition, by which she might otherwise doubtless have held them longer in her allegiance. But so had God ordained. The time had come when a purer spirit was to go forth upon the earth in the name of christianity; when the inward life of the church was to be rekindled, and her ordinances in their primitive purity restored. For when we once admit that God has spoken to us in his word, and that from its decisions there can be no appeal, conscience will bind the christian to all its requirements, whether they regard the internal or external life, the inner sanctuary of the church, or its outward visible forms and ordinances. A pure christianity within, always secures a pure christianity without, so far as the understanding is enlightened as to its requirements.
Hence it is an interesting historical fact, that the more general rise of Baptist sentiments in Connecticut, was simultaneous with
that glorious revival, with which many sections of the state were visited in the years 1741, 2, and 3. It is of this revival that Backus says: 'The great change that was then wrought in many minds, was the evident cause of the rapid spread of Baptist principles in our land.' The subjects of that work,' he continues,' embraced two ideas which produced this effect. The first was, that saving faith is necessary to give any soul a true right to communion in the church of God; the second was, that there is no warrant for a halfway covenant therein; and as infants are generally in a state of nature when they are said to be brought into covenant, infant baptism expires before these principles.' So true is it, as a general thing, that the internal and external purity of the church, rise and fall together. Thus the moment men began to apprehend the great truth, that living faith in Christ was indispensable to admission into his church, immediately, by a necessary inference they advanced another step, namely, that living faith in Christ was an equally indispensable prerequisite to baptism; and having gone thus far, the more discerning and conscien
tious were constrained to go still farther, and renounce infant baptism. For if faith in Christ be the first step towards membership in the visible church, and baptism the second, then, evidently, infants are disqualified for the second, because incapable of the first. It is not surprising, that, when men began to reason thus, infant baptism began to decline.' So true is it, that reason, under the control of a sanctified heart, always extricates us from the labyrinths of error, and guides us along the plain path of scriptural truth.
It was amid circumstances and influences like these, that this church seems to have had its origin. It was called into life, not by party spirit, not by sectarian zeal, but under the genial influence of a glorious revival of religion; and the great principles of truth, which it then embraced, and which from that time it has steadfastly maintained, were elicited under the same benign influence.
During this year, 1743, Baptist sentiments spread with a hitherto unparalleled rapidity. Several new churches were constituted in New England. In New Jersey, Mr. Dickenson, then president of Princeton college, wrote
a pamphlet, to arrest, if possible, the progress of a sentiment which was fast undermining the long established and venerated usages of the prevailing church. But it did not answer the design of its doubtless well meaning author. The pamphlet was reviewed by Dr. Gill, an English Baptist, in 1749; and this examination of the subject, caused the light to be more widely diffused.'
Many converts, about this time, were made to Baptist sentiments, who were not gathered into Baptist churches; but, obtaining baptism at the hand of Baptist mimisters, remained in the communion of the churches with which they were already connected. This state of things, though at first tolerated, continued, as might have been anticipated, but for a short season. For soon it was discovered, that the new sentiment had made such progress, that it threatened to prevail over the old; and that baptism, unless checked, would soon displace sprinkling, or affusion, and obtain the exclusive practice of these churches. 'Hence a fierce opposition was raised against what was called rebaptizing, which was declared to be a very wicked act.'
The Separate churches had become a mixed multitude, and, as a consequence, disorder, confusion, and strife, succeeded. Councils were called to settle these increasing difficulties; the first of which was held in Exeter, May, 1753, and a larger one, the year following, in Stonington. In these councils, it seems that the Baptists and Separatists mutually participated; little progress, however, was made in attempting to harmonize elements and principles so discordant. The most consummate wisdom of the ministry and church united, could not strike out a path in which principles and practices so diametrically opposite, could meet and harmonize. Nor is this astonishing. For divine wisdom had furnished none; and if they had succeeded in finding one, it must have been one of those by-paths of human invention, which always deviate more or less widely from the plain, straight path of gospel order and practice. The point at issue between the two parties seems to have been this. Those who did not feel themselves bound to receive immersion, demanded of their baptized brethren, and of the Baptist churches generally, that they should