Sermon 376. Public Meeting Of Our London Baptist Brethren
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, TUESDAY, APRIL 2, 1861.
SIR MORTON PETO IN THE CHAIR.
A noble assembly having filled the house, after singing, the Rev. C. H. SPURGEON offered prayer. REV. C. H. SPURGEON-In invitingour Baptist Brethren to meet together this evening, it was in the hope that something might be suggested which might promoteour success as a united body, and thatwords of encouragement from comrades in the same regiment might gladden all hearts; we offer the heartiest welcome to ourbeloved friends-this chapel belongs not to me nor to my Church specially, but to all the Baptist denomination! I feel tonightas if I were rendering up thetrust deeds to the proper proprietors-acknowledging that this house belongs not to any man, but, first, to the God of thewhole world, and, next, to those who hold the pure primitive ancient Apostolic faith. We believe that the Baptists are theoriginal Christians. We did notcommence our existence at the Reformation, we were Reformers before Luther or Calvin were born; we never came from the Churchof Rome, for we were never in it. We have an unbroken line up to the Apostles themselves! We have always existed from thevery days of Christ, and ourprinciples, sometimes veiled and forgotten like a river which may travel underground for a little season, have always hadhonest and holy adherents. Persecuted alike by Romanists and Protestants of almost every sect, yet there has never existeda Government holding Baptistprinciples which persecuted others; nor, I believe, any body of Baptists ever held it to be right to put the consciencesof others under the control of man. We have ever been ready to suffer as our martyrologies will prove, but we are not readyto accept any help from the State toprostitute the purity of the Bride of Christ to any alliance with Government! And we will never make the Church, althoughthe Queen, the despot over the consciences of men. I will now resign the meeting to my esteemed friend, Sir Morton Peto, whohas many a stone in this building,and who, I trust, will honor us with his presence on many future occasions.
The CHAIRMAN-My dear Christian Friends-when invited to lay the first stone of this building, I deemed it a high honor andprivilege. To be asked to preside tonight at the meeting of the Baptist Brethren of the metropolis, I deem also to be an honorand a privilege. Let me say at once how much Isympathize with all of you in meeting in this magnificent building tonight, under circumstances of the most gratifying character,without anything to allay or diminish our joy and thankfulness to God. I recollect having said when the first stone was laid,that I saw no reason whythis building should not be opened free from debt, and what has just fallen from your esteemed pastor has shown how thatanticipation has been abundantly realized! In meeting my Baptist Brethren for the first time in this building, my thoughtsnaturally recur for a moment to thepast. Mr. Spurgeon has spoken of our history, of our martyrologies, and the sufferings of our forefathers. They have labored;we have entered into their labors. The result of that is shown in the ability of God's people connected with our denominationto raise a temple like this toHis praise; and we have to acknowledge how much we owe to our forefathers in the opportunity we have of giving as a privilege,not as an exaction, and in seeing such a result of giving as this edifice displays. There are many grounds on which we rejoicewith our friend-the firstand greatest of all is that which was referred to in the text on the evening of the opening day-"Christ is preached andtherein do I rejoice; yes, and I will rejoice." In the sermon of the afternoon, to which that of the evening seemed a gracefuland fitting pendant, your pastorsaid that with all the misconceptions entertained with regard to his ministry, there was one point about which there couldbe no misconception-he thanked God he could say from his heart he had simply preached Christ. Now I believe the evidence wehave in this building is no meanone that he has preached Christ-because if ministers have recourse to what they deem intellectual or philosophical preaching,or any other than that of preaching Christ, we soon find in our denomination empty pews show the result! There is an underlyingstratum in the deepfeelings and hearts of our countrymen of reverence and love for the old Gospel which nothing else can supplant. The greatstrength of this country is that, whatever may be written or said, the people at once refer to the Law and to the Testimony,and that which is not found writtenthere has no place in their reverence or their esteem!
The next cause we have for rejoicing is the feeling that the privilege we have of worshipping God according to our consciencesin this and every other edifice connected with His praise is to be traced to the result of the sufferings of our forefathers.But that privilege has entailed on us anadequate responsibility. In reading the writings of the Puritan Fathers, I am struck to see how deeply they were impressedwith the principles on which they acted. They were not Nonconformists because their fathers were; they would themselves havegone to the stake to assert theprinciples connected with the Headship and the position of the Great Head of the Church in the sole right of sovereigntywithin that Church. In the present day there is entailed on us a great responsibility in guarding tenderly and carefully theseprivileges. There is not only adesire on the part of the State to keep the Church so-called allied to the State, but to put in the thin end of the wedgeand intermeddle with other denominations. If we find the Church as we understand it, in the slightest degree interfered with,we must as one man arise and say wewill never allow the privilege of the Headship of the Great Head of the Church to be interfered with by any State in existence-allhonor to the Queen! No one can say more fervently than the Baptists, "God save the Queen," but while we render to Caesar thethings that are Caesar's,we must have respect to the commandment which enforces that nothing of Caesar's shall touch that which is God's. We-themembers of other Baptist churches, congratulate with all our hearts the pastor, deacons, and members of this Church on theaccomplishment of this great work,without any feeling excepting that of devout thankfulness to God for what He has enabled them to achieve! And we desirethat abundant success may attend the proclamation of the Gospel in this building. Long may the pastor be spared to ministerto a devoted, loving, and affectionatepeople! Long may he be surrounded by deacons who are able and willing to take the stroke oar in all the labors that appertainto them in connection with the secular affairs of the church; long may he see this place too narrow for even the communicantswho assemble as his churchmembers, and long may he have the power of the Holy Spirit attending an effective ministry and witnessing every month inthat baptistery to the result of his labors! That which does not bring souls to Christ is worth nothing!
Among Evangelical bodies, especially our own denomination, there may be slight differences, and will be among men who thinkfor themselves-yet in the great fundamental and vital Truths of godliness, there exists no difference among us, and we onlyrejoice in so far as our ministry is madeeffectual in the way I have mentioned. Look at the influences which will go forth from this Church-look at the schools broughttogether here, and the children instructed in the knowledge of God and Christ! Look at the evangelical labors of the Brethrenwho constitute the Church inthe surrounding districts, teaching and preaching Christ! Mr. Spurgeon will not conceive that his members, when they havesimply attended here on the Sabbath and partaken of the Lord's Supper, have done their duty, but will feel that they mustbecome living Epistles of Christ, knownand read of all men! And then, while we shall no doubt consistently maintain that great Truth which we feel has been committedto us, we shall live in harmony with all those who hold the great, vital truths of godliness. One cannot but feel a most anxiousdesire and hope that longafter our Brother is called to the upper sanctuary, his place may be filled in generations to come by those who, like he,will lead their hearers constantly to Christ, and that this will not only be a monument to the praise of God in our own generation,but in many generationsfollowing!
What a splendid monument is this building to the voluntary principle! When I am in the House of Commons, I am continuallytold on the Church-rate question. "Oh, but the rural districts." Well, if my friend Mr. Spurgeon can raise during 18 monthsthroughout the country a sum of money to erect thisedifice, do you think that the State Church need be so anxious about the rural districts? One could not desire a betterthing than that those members of Parliament who are so afflicted for fear the country churches should fall down, should comeand see what has been raised here!This edifice tells-and may it long tell-the world at large that when people are imbued with all their heart and soul withthe love of Christ, and feel that their great end is to live to Him, there is no fear of their allowing the House of God tofall about their ears! And whenanything ceases to be a church which so holds the sympathies and hearts of the people, if the church falls down, I pitythe church, I pity the people, I pity the denomination! Three years ago I called the attention of the House of Commons tothe fact that the natives of Calcutta hadspent more money in one year in the erection and sustaining of their heathen temples, than the whole amount of the church-ratesof this country collected during the previous year! I then asked this question, "Is your religion not of a character to takea more vital hold on yourhearts than the religion of Hinduism? Shall it be said that the Son of God became Incarnate and died in this world, andleft as His legacy to His loving disciples the propagation of His Truth, and they can only support the edifices in which thatglorious name is praised by exactingfrom their fellow men that which shall sustain them?" Our friends have done nobly in asserting what can be done on the voluntaryprinciple, and if anyone points me in future to the rural districts with regard to the church-rates or anything of this kind,I shall, among other things,point to this place, and say, "See what the Baptist denomination in the person of our friend and his Church have done, anddo not insult me by imagining that I think Christian principles require such support as you would give it."
We do rejoice with you most heartily, genuinely, and lovingly tonight. I have told you the grounds on which we rejoice. Itis not a mere sentiment, a mere effervescent feeling, but that true bond of brotherhood kindled in the heart by love to thesame Savior, by adopting as we do from sincereconviction those Truths which we hold to be vital and necessary. It is to the assertion of those Truths that we desire tosee not only this, but every edifice in connection with our denomination, so that in regard to all our churches and theirpastors, there may be no doubt thatthey act from one princi-ple-a love to Christ and a desire to follow Him-for it is in following Him, alone, that they honorHim!
Rev. J. H. HINTON-I am happy in being permitted to take a part in the services connected with the opening of the MetropolitanTabernacle, and in having the opportunity of saying, in the terms of the invitation of my Brother Spurgeon, "a few kind words."Kind words are, indeed, easy of utterancewhen the heart is kind, and my heart is kind towards my Brother and has been so from my earliest acquaintance with him!Let Mr. Spurgeon, then, and his friends accept my warmest congratulations and best wishes! Long may the life be spared whichis so devotedly and laboriously spent;the intellectual powers which acquire and supply so large an amount of Evangelical Truth; and the magnificent voice which,with so much facility, pours it into the ears of listening thousands! As no resolution or topic has been put into my hands,I will take one as presenting to usa collateral aspect of the great Doctrine of the Influence of the Holy Spirit-an influence blessed and Divine, wherein liesthe entire success of the Evangelical ministry. It is said of our Lord that, "God gave not the Spirit by measure unto Him."Undoubtedly, the absolutefullness of the Holy Spirit rested on Jesus; He was capable of receiving it all, and His great work required it all. Butwe get here the idea of the Spirit being communicated "by measure"-to some persons, and on some occasions, more-to others,less. It is natural that thisshould be so, the bestowment of that Divine Influence being an act of Sovereign Grace; the history of the progress of Christianitypresents many illustrations of the fact. The Holy Spirit was poured out in a comparatively small measure during the life andministry of our Lord. Ofall preachers of the Gospel, He may be said to have been the least successful in the conversion of men-not absolutely unsuccessful,but successful in the smallest degree as to the number of conversions. There were, doubtless, fit reasons for this-the timewas not then, nor thecircumstances in which a very copious effusion of the Holy Spirit's influence could fitly have been given. You know howcopiously the Spirit was poured out after the Ascension of Christ.
In subsequent ages the changes have been manifest. If the Spirit had continued to be poured out as it were on the day of Pentecost,I imagine that long before this time the whole world would have been converted to God. We know what took place in the MiddleAges; that, when the Man of Sin was to berevealed and Popery established, the influences of the Spirit were restrained-not absolutely, but communicated in smallmeasure. At the time of the Reformation a large outpouring of the Spirit was given; at successive periods and in various partsof the world, as in America,Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Jamaica, Sweden and elsewhere, at periods of no certain recurrence, and for durations of timenot definite, but yet in extraordinary degree as compared with other times and places, the Spirit has been poured out. Thepresent seems to me to be a dispensationin which the Spirit is communicated "by measure," and in a measure determined by Divine Sovereignty and Wisdom; a measureincorporated with and subordinated to the development of God's own plan, and the opportunities to be supplied for the manifestationof man's and the devil'scorruption. Since we live under this dispensation, a question of practical interest to ourselves is this-what is the kindof measure, the amount according to which the influence of the Spirit is poured out now? Thank God, it is not absolutely withheld,otherwise there would be noconversions at all under the ministry of the Gospel, and even a proclaimed Savior would be a Savior universally trampledon and despised! That it is not the outpouring of the Spirit in its fullness is palpable from the fact that, amid such multipliedprivileges, such vast andmultiform activities for the dissemination of the Truth, so few comparatively are converted to God. The majority, even ofGospel hearers, is probably unconverted-the entire population scarcely touched-and when we consider not only how many peopleare now alive, but how fastpeople are born and die, the small number of conversions takes a character still more striking! At this rate it appearsto me quite certain that the conversion of the world would never come. To accomplish it there must be a much larger outpouringof the Spirit than there now is.Then, in connection with this, a much larger supply of the influences of the Holy Spirit may be had; the abundant supplylies in the hands of Christ! It is not that all is done that can be done; a very great deal more can be done; a power remainsby which the whole world may berapidly subdued to God! This may be done any time, anywhere-this moment, next year-whenever and wherever God pleases. Itwaits for the arrival of the appointed time given for the development of human corruption, and the time when the Man of Sinis to die. Whether the Church isawake or asleep-whether there is prayer or no prayer-whether there is activity or no activity-it matters not. It must come,and perhaps it will come like a heavy, copious shower to wake us all up from sleep, and to set us on an activity such as wehave never entered on before!At the same time it may have, and probably will have its antecedent and concomitant signs. Very likely it may be a timewhen there is much prayer and activity-when there is much depression and agony of heart-when the Church humbles itself inunknown throes of sorrow for adeclining work of Grace. Nobody knows when, nor how. We have to pray for it, to wait for it, to hope for it, to look forit, as some people say they look for Christ's Second Coming. We do not know when it comes; I only say, Sir, God grant it maybe here, and grant it may be now!
The REV. ALFRED C. THOMAS said he could scarcely feel himself worthy of the name of a Christian, certainly not of a Baptist,if he could not rejoice in their Metropolitan Tabernacle, and express his hearty thanks to God for the accomplishment of itserection. He had been asked to say something uponthe fact that the Baptists as a denomination were distinguished for maintaining the nullity of ordinances without faith-apoint that might be well sustained by reference to the history of their denomination. They had never regarded anything externalor ceremonial as worth a rush,except as inspired by faith in Christ, who alone could sanction with His Presence and fill with His blessing, the ordinancesthat set Him forth, and told to the world the great Truths of His Gospel. In order to sustain that, he purposed to read tothem extracts from theirconfessions of faith set forth in the 17th Century. Those confessions were not made with a view to bring the minds of menunder a servile sway, but to convey to others what in their estimation the mind and will of Christ was as revealed in HisScriptures. They had never sought, asit had been affirmed, to force them upon any set of men; they had never gone to any temporal power to ask the shield ofits authority for the maintenance or the right of proclaiming them. Nevertheless, there had been times in their history whenthey had felt it necessary to putforward explanations of their faith in Christ. In the confession of faith put forth by the General Baptists in 1611, theTenth article was as follows-"That the Church of Christ is a company of faithful people, separated from the world by the Wordand the Spirit of God, being knitunto the Lord and unto one another by Baptism upon their own confession of faith and sin." In the 39th article of a confessionput forth in 1646, by "seven congregations in London, commonly but unjustly called Anabaptists," they said, "Baptism is anordinance of the New Testamentgiven by Christ to be dispensed upon persons professing faith, or that are made disciples, who upon profession of faithought to be baptized, and after to partake of the Lord's Supper." That would suit their strict Baptist brethren to the letter.In 1656, another confessionmaintained the same forms of faith.
He would read one given in 1660, which was rather more strong than some of the rest. It was, "That the right and only wayof gathering churches according to Christ's appointment, is first to preach the Gospel to the sons and daughters of men, andthen to baptize in the name of the Father, of theSon, and of the Holy Ghost, such only of them as profess repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.And as for all such who preach not this Doctrine, but instead thereof the Scriptureless thing of sprinkling of infants, (falselycalled baptism), whereby thepure Word of God is made of no effect, and the New Testament way of bringing members into the church by regeneration, iscast out, when, as the bond-woman and her son-that is to say, the Old Testament way of bringing in children into the churchby regeneration, is cast out, assays the Scripture, all such, we utterly deny, forasmuch as we are commanded to have no fellowship with the unfruitful worksof darkness, but rather to reprove them." That, he thought, was strong enough for any Baptist! Another confession put forthby the Elders and deacons of manycongregations in London and the adjacent counties, 1688, stated in the 29th article, "Baptism is an ordinance of the NewTestament, ordained by Jesus Christ to be unto the party baptized a sign of his fellowship with Christ in His death and resurrection;of his being engrafted intoHim, of remission of sin, and of his giving up himself unto God through Jesus Christ, to live and to walk with Him in newnessof life. Those who do actually profess repentance towards God, and faith in and obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ, are theonly proper subject of thisordinance. The outward element to be used in this ordinance is water, wherein the party is to be baptized in the name ofthe Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Immersion, or the dipping of the person in water, is necessary to the dueadministration of this ordinance."
Those were confessions of faith in which they as heartily agreed that day, as their fathers had in every age of the Church.That amounted to an historical and unquestionable fact; but how were the Baptists entitled to say that they were the onlydenomination who had always maintained the nullity ofreligious ordinances without faith, and especially on the vexed subject of baptism? Two religious sections-the Papists andEpiscopalians-maintained the requisiteness of sponsors, and baptized children upon the faith of the sponsors. Their Presbyterianand many of theirCongregational or Independent Brethren baptized infants upon the supposition of there being some covenant between God andthe believing parent together with his children. It was assumed that there was a faith in the parents, but it was a proxyfaith. Others, like Dr. Halley, threwthis altogether overboard, and did not charge baptism with the requisition of faith at all, either in the infant, the parents,or relatives. The Baptists believed that that which was without faith was sin. That of course was a Truth of God in religion,but it was equally a Truth ofGod in many other things! A worship which did not recognize God, lacked that element of faith. The service they gave totheir Master-given without faith in His right to receive it, in His authority to command it, in His gracious acceptance ofit-was not an act of religiousnessto Jesus! Christ came to build up a Kingdom among men. Was it a national kingdom? Did He not come to overthrow it in theform of its nationality? Did He come to set up and maintain a kingdom of combined spiritual and unspiritual elements-to putthe gold and the miry clay together?Or did He come to say that they should be henceforth separated-that He would cause them to be refined, and accept that whichrendered to Him spiritual services alone? In that kingdom Christ was the only Redeemer, the only Lawgiver; there were noneunited to Him who were not unitedto Him by faith. They, only, who saw Him as the Crucified, and pursued Him with the same simple faith to His Throne, werethe subjects of His Kingdom, whatever their name among men! In that Kingdom there were ordinances; Christ only had a rightto appoint them, and without faith inHim as their King, how could they accept them? In that Kingdom all the subjects were distinguished from the rest of theworld as Believers; that was their great distinction as separated from the world whose chief characteristic was unbelief.
But then, were those ordinances of Christ's appointment purely tests of their fidelity to Him, or were they expressions ofHis loving will for His children-were they exhibitions of His love, or mere mandates of His authority? "If you love Me, keepMy commandments, and you who do not love Me havenot even to do with My commandments. You not only have no part in My righteousness; you have not to touch My commandments."He could not be served as a King who had not been trusted as the Great High Priest and Apostle of their profession! He wouldnot allow them to lift up Hisordinances, maintain His precepts, and advance His Kingdom, unless they had enshrined Him as the one Offering for sinnersin their heart's affection and trust! The ordinances were given as symbols of Himself, and when the minister went down withhis candidates to the baptismal font,they would see there as eloquent an exposition of Christ's Gospel as they would ever hear from the platform on which hestood! He (Mr. Thomas) never administered the ordinance without wishing he could preach as effectively and eloquently whatChrist was, and what He had done formen, as that ordinance set the Gospel forth. Did not Christ say to them, "I ordain these ordinances as proofs to you ofMy love; I give you once in your life at least the opportunity of saying to all who are witnesses, 'I deserve to die eternally;I build my hopes for escaping thateternal death on Jesus and Jesus only'"? Once in their life at least, though they had a stammering tongue, they could tellto thousands that witnessed their baptism, that this was the basis of their faith. "Union to Christ" would be the echo ofthat font whenever its waters weredisturbed! "Nothing but His death avails me as a sinner; my hopes were brightened when He rose from the dead and, as Helives and reigns, nothing can cloud them." And when they passed on from that ordinance to the Table of the Lord, did theysay anything very different? They said intheir baptism that they had come into possession of life by faith in the Savior who died-and when they participated in thememorials of His death, what did they say but that whereas they had life only by union with Him, they could live only by ceaselessunion with Him? Hence thenext and permanent ordinance was a meal, to show that as they sustained bodily nature by food and drink, so they had nolife in them except they ate His flesh and drank His blood! With such convictions they would set forth, each one for himself,as a unit of a denomination, thatthey had no faith in ordinances that did not require faith in their subjects-faith in Him who ordained them!
The Rev. C. H. SPURGEON-I have several things I want to say now that a great many Baptist brethren are gathered here. Thefirst is, let me earnestly entreat all my Brothers and Sisters to back up our Chairman in a bill which he has introduced intothe House with regard to the burial of unbaptizedpersons. I hope that all of you read the Baptist Magazine-you certainly ought to do so. I will not say that there is anyimprovement on the past-I can only say it is the aim of the editors to still make improvements, and to make it more worthyof the denomination of which it isthe representative. In that magazine you may have read Sir Morton's speech, which is there embalmed in amber. There is aclergyman in Newton Flottman (I do not know whether the place is as dark as Timbuktu), who has actually been carrying awaythe mold from his churchyard to put iton his parish land. This mold was composed of bones of the dead, an entire skull having been found in it, and a complaintwas made to the clergyman, who very coolly said, "Well, but that was the corner of the church yard where they buried Baptists,Methodists, and other Dissenters;"and therefore I suppose he thought it was the best thing to do to make some use of them after they were dead! If my bonesshall ever by any ill fortune come into an Episcopalian churchyard, I hope they will be used in the same way, for I shouldlike to be of use as long as everthere is an atom of me in existence! Sir Morton is introducing a bill into Parliament to compel clergymen to allow all,indiscriminately, to be buried in the church yard. It seems to be a very hard thing, indeed, that we are to pay to keep theirchurches up, and yet they will notallow us a tomb! The nation lends to the Episcopalian denomination, the national edifices-surely if they will not be generousenough to pay their own repairs-they might permit us to use the national graveyard in common with themselves! At present,in the dead of night, we areput up in a corner where the nettles grow. I have buried people in country church yards, and if I had time, I would go anddo it in every churchyard, and defy anyone who dared do it, to use the law against me! If laws cannot be altered, they canbe defied. It is abominable that anysect of Christians should have the opportunity of becoming obnoxious to their Brethren by fighting over the coffin of adead child! I am as heartily at one with the Evangelicals of the Church of England as any man that lives; some of my dearestfriends are members of that body, andit is a pity that they should be put in a position where they can insult the feelings of Christians by refusing to buryour dead. Let us put them out of harm's way; let every Baptist congregation send up a petition, a form of which they willfind in the Baptist Magazine; let us showthat Sir Morton does not represent a slender handful of men, who are inactive, but a Christian body who feel if they areto be insulted, it shall not be their fault if they do not remove the stumbling block out of their Brothers' way!
I have a project on hand for which I want to engage your sympathies. The incomes of most Baptist ministers are so miserablysmall that they are not able to buy books. It would do all our country Brothers good to read more Puritan theology, and havethe opportunity of stocking their librariesbetter. I have long had this project on my mind, and some time ago I asked Mr. Nichol, an eminent publisher in Edinburghwho brought out a series of the British Poets at a cheap rate, whether, if I could get some Presbyterians and Independentsto back up the scheme, and spoke myselfto my Baptist Brethren, he could not reprint much of our standard divinity at a cheap rate. There will be six magnificentvolumes each year for a guinea. One hundred thousand copies at the very least must be sold before he will be able to see anyprofit at all; and what I have topropose is that every Baptist Church throughout the country should devote one guinea at least each year to provide a librarywhich shall permanently belong to the Church so that in the course of 100 years, there would be a splendid mass of old divinitystored away which would beread by coming generations. Some time ago I offered my deacons all the books I had, to start a library here for the useof future ministers. They did not wish me to do that, but we shall seek to get such a library that any minister after me mayfind a well-stored granary at hand! Ifall our churches do the same, and spend their money this year in backing up the admirable scheme of Mr. Heaton by purchasingthe four volumes setting forth Baptist views, they will have the first installment, to which they can add, little by little,in successive years, and thusconfer a gift on the denomination second to none! Then again I should like to say a good word for the iron chapel movement.I wish some of them could be bought and moved about from place to place, although for permanent buildings, I have no faithin them. They are dreadfully cold inwinter, and they are frightfully hot in summer, but they may be put up very cheaply, and attempts may in this way be madeto increase the number of our churches in this city.
I have been the means of opening two new churches within the last 18 months and I hope to start some more. I wish we couldas a body commence fresh places, and give our services for six months, taking it in turn until we worked the place up. I donot think there is the slightest reason why weshould not double our number in the next two years; it seems to me that we have got such a real hold upon the public mind,that we only need to bring our principles out. I know they will say that we are getting desperately Baptist-we must be-weshall never tell until we do, wemust hold inviolable the essential union of the Church; we must stand to it that all God's people are one in Him-but whyshould we lower our standard any more than any other denomination? What is there about Baptism that we should be ashamed ofit? What is there about the historyof our Church, the power of our ministers, our poets and divines, that we should be ashamed of? When we know that we haveborne the palm in poetry with Milton, in allegory with John Bunyan, and stand second to none in the ministry with Robert Hall,I think we have no reason whateverto be ashamed! Let us come straight out determined that we will restrain no part of the Truth of God! I am glad that wehave here Brothers representing different views among us. Here am I a strict Baptist, and open communion in principle; someof our Brothers are strict incommunion, and strict in discipline; some are neither strict in discipline nor in communion. I think I am nearest rightof any, but you all think the same of yourselves, and may God defend the right!
Mr. DICKERSON said he had been much struck with the surprising contrast of circumstances between the original formation ofthat Church and the present moment, and if he knew how, he would deliver a capital speech upon the words, "Then," and, "Now.""Then," when the Church was originally formed,they were not permitted to have a chapel. "Now," they were not only permitted to have a chapel, but a splendid place whichthey called a, "Tabernacle." When passing the building, he had tried the several points of resemblance in his own mind, toreconcile his thoughts to its beingcalled a Tabernacle, that is-a temporary building, to be removed to different places. He supposed that was not meant, buthe hoped it might always continue to be a Tabernacle, where God should dwell with men-that He who tabernacled among men mightby the embodiment of His Spiritin the ministry, tabernacle with His people, and bless them with an abundant blessing. He looked upon the Church as havingbeen formed in the year 1662. Their second pastor, in 1664, suffered persecution, imprisonment and the pillory. Benjamin Keachin that year wrote a book, called"A Child's Primer," which was deemed schismatic and wicked. He was tried at the Aylesbury Assizes in 1666, before Lord Clarendon,who, in a most wanton manner, browbeat the poor man, told the jury he should send a fellow before them presently, and he hopedthey would do their dutyby him. He told them that the man had written a book for the instruction of their children, and that if they learned fromit, they would become as base heretics as he was himself! And he hoped they would stop his proceedings. The jury retired,but could not come to a decision, andone of them said there was a discrepancy in the indictment relating to a passage that was in the book. "Pray what is that?"said his lordship. The juror replied, "My Lord, the book says, 'that after the one thousand years reign of Christ, the restof the dead shall be raised,' andthe indictment says, 'The rest of the devils shall be raised.' " "Is that all?" said his lordship. "Is that all the difference?It is a mere slip of the pen, correct that, and find your verdict accordingly." The sentence passed on the prisoner was asfol-lows-"The sentence of thiscourt is-and you will consider it a very lenient one-that you stand in the pillory four hours-two hours during the marketat Aylesbury; two hours during the market at Winslow; to have a label placed on your head, 'For writing and publishing a wickedand schismatic book, called'The Child's English Primer.' Afterwards, this book to be burned before your eyes by the common hangman; you are to forfeitalso Â£20 to the king; to find securities for your good behavior till the next assizes (that is, he was not to preach) andthen to come to this court andrenounce all your doctrines." That was then. The now, they saw tonight. The statements they had heard would have subjectedthe speakers to incarceration and the pillory. They blessed God that that monster of civil and religious tyranny, that colossusthat strode over theirliberties, had been slain, and they blessed Him for the liberty they enjoyed, and prayed that they might never become indifferentto its value or to the responsibilities devolving upon them.
Poor Benjamin Keach was given to understand that probably he might have greater liberty in preaching the Gospel if he cameto London. So he turned his few effects into money, and started with his wife and three children. He had to travel 50 milesfrom Winslow to London, a frightful day's work then,and so it turned out. On a heath, a set of highwaymen attacked the coach, compelled all the passengers to alight, robbedthem of everything, and then allowed them to proceed; Keach, his wife and family, were set down at the Blue Boar, HolbornHill, without a shilling or a knownfriend in London. That was then. Nowthe express travels from Winslow to London in 55 minutes. Keach became the pastor ofthis church in 1668, and in 1672, a proclamation was instituted called King Charles' Indulgence-an indulgence to allow thepeople to think and to tell what theythought. Well, it was a privilege, though Keach was one among the rest who saw through the scheme; it was an artful dodge,but still they availed themselves of it, and built their first chapel at Horsley Down to accommodate one thousand people,where Keach preached for the remainderof his life!
Then in the year 1688 came what was called the glorious revolution out of which arose the Act of Toleration- which ought tobe perpetuated by an annual service! He (Mr. Dickerson) lived in the country till he was nearly 40 years of age, and if ithad not been for a few books, he would never haveknown that such an Act had ever passed! Dissenters never heard anything about it. If Benjamin Keach's book was read moreextensively, it would give a vast amount of information concerning the "Then" as compared with the "Now." In his book called,"Distressed Zion Relieved, or theGarment of Praise for the Spirit of Heaviness," there were some very choice passages. The address to the reader concludedas follows-"Let us strive to be thankful to God, and labor to live in love with one another, and improve the present Providence(referring to the TolerationAct). For since God has graciously been pleased to do wonders for us, let us endeavor to do some great things for Him."So he said then, what would he not, and what ought not Christians to say now! It was an important thing to keep the greatpoint of civil and religious libertypermanently before the people so that the gigantic limbs of tyranny in Church and State might never stride over their libertiesagain; but as their fathers fought, were pilloried, suffered loss of property, and many of them of life, and had bequeathedunto their children thatinestimable blessing, it was the duty of the latter to cherish it and always keep it in view. He concluded by citing twoverses of the 90th Psalm, wishing he could do so as well as the aged Dr. Rippon at the opening of New Park Street Chapel."Let Your work appear unto Yourservants, and Your glory unto their children, and let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish You the workof our hands upon us; yes, the work of our hands establish You it."
Dr. JABEZ BURNS said a great number of things pressed upon his mind with regard to the Tabernacle. It appeared to him remarkablethat such a building should be raised at all as a place of worship and, then, that it should be by any other than the wealthyState Church, or the wealthiestNon-conformist bodies. That it should be reared by the Baptists, who had been considered to occupy a very small place proportionatelyamong the sections of the Christian Church, was a matter of very great surprise-especially when it was remembered that thebuilding was mainlyraised through the labors of a young minister, and during the first seven years of his pastorate! These things were reallyso wonderful, that if anybody had predicted their occurrence eight or nine years ago, no one would have believed it. As thebuilding was peculiar in itself, soit was peculiar in its opening services. The Methodists had generally taken the lead in having protracted services at theopening of their chapels, but he believed the services in which they were assisting would far outdo any Methodist servicesas to any building in any part of theworld, not only in their number, but their importance, in the various plans to be developed, the things to be suggested,and the classes of persons addressing the assemblies convened. As the building was magnificent externally and internally,and capable of holding a vast concourseof people, he would pray that it should always be filled with the Divine Presence and Glory, and that the Church withinit might prosper and increase from year to year. He had been asked, "What is the great secret of Mr. Spurgeon's success?"Did anyone know? If anyone did, he wouldbe much obliged for the information! He was inclined to think that there were a number of things connected with the secretof his success-some human, and others Divine. Some connected with himself as a man-others as a minister whom God had raisedup, and abundantly blessed.Unquestionably, one secret was that he had broken through the old-fashioned conventionalities connected with the pulpitand with preaching. The pulpit had become so stiff, starched, and stereotyped, that something was required to break it down,and to bring it into closer contactwith the masses of the people. Some reference had been made to the voice of the minister, and, certainly, it was not everybodywho could by ordinary speaking fill the building, though it was not as difficult to speak in as might be supposed from itssize.
After speaking of the several divisions in the denomination, Dr. Burns said he had read enough of Mr. Spurgeon's sermons toknow that he preached Christ, and made Him the central theme of his ministry! Among the various peculiarities which distinguishedthe Baptist denomination, the first was theirconviction that religion was a personal thing, that it could not be hereditary, that it could not be transmitted from theends of the fingers of priests, nor be obtained by proxy; but that in all cases religion was a personal thing, connected withspiritual illumination, with heartconviction, the regeneration of the soul, and with personal holiness. As the result of that, they held most tenaciouslythat if religion was necessarily a personal thing between man and God, it was not for any human authority to interfere; andtherefore Baptists in all ages had beenthe persecuted, not the persecutors! It might be said that they had not the chance. That was a mistake, Roger Williams wasbanished from one of the New England States in the very depth of winter, for holding Baptist views; he was directed to theshores of Providence, and there, withhis party, he founded one of the United States of America, where he gave the utmost freedom of conscience, and did not demandfrom any of those who chose to dwell with him the least infringement of their Christian liberties! He was the first, on thatside of the Atlantic, to teachin all their depth, height, and blessed purity, the principles of religious equality! He (Dr. Burns) agreed with the lastspeaker that the word, "Tabernacle," was improperly applied to the building, except in one respect, and that was that, likethe ancient Tabernacle, it was rearedby voluntary contributions, and there was money enough and to spare. He prayed that the Lord would bless the congregation,the minister, the office bearers, Sabbath school teachers, and those who should visit the benighted heathen in that locality-andunto Him, the source of allgood, should the entire glory always be given!
A vote of thanks having been accorded to the Chairman, Mr. Spurgeon pronounced the benediction, and the proceedings terminated.