|Ourselves and the Annexationists|
by C. H. Spurgeon
From the July 1867 Sword and Trowel
HERE IS NO BIGOTRY IN THE WORLD equal to the bigotry of modern liberalism. Sectarianism may be bitter, but latitudinarianism is wormwood and gall. We have been most ferociously denounced for tersely and accurately designating the action of the Congregational Union, in reference to Union Churches, as "a little dodge." Viewing it in connection with the party who agitated the question, a little dodge we believed it to be, and at this moment we can find no better name for it; in fact, the tall talk which our description has evoked, has showed us how exactly we managed to hit the nail on the head. We have at all times endeavored to prove our hearty brotherhood with all the people of God, not by words merely, but by deeds. Our Independent friends know that our heart is always warm towards them, and that when it has been in our power to serve them, we have needed no pressing to make us do so; on the other hand, we have no truer friends than many among the Congregationalists, with whom we enjoy the dearest fellowship, and who have again and again practically helped us in our schemes. We hope that this brotherly love may continue and increase, and we trust there will never be any emulation between the Independent and the Baptist bodies, but that of holy desire to be foremost in promoting the cause of Christ. For either body to endeavor to increase its numbers by offering facilities for transfer to its own ranks, and inaugurating a policy of annexation is unwise and unbrotherly. To attempt to convert men to our views is our duty, but to draft them without conversion into our body is no gain in any sense, either to truth or good fellowship. A certain company of would-be extra super-fine liberals, made up of Independents and Baptists, good enough men in their way, but thoroughly wrongheaded on this and some other points, are resolved to amalgamate the two bodies, and their first action, inoffensive and insignificant in itself, we judge, from what we know of them, to be merely the beginning of the end, a stepping-stone to something more, getting in the thin end of the wedgein plain Saxon, a little dodge. They would form churches and found a denomination in which Christ's ordinance of baptism would be left optional; some of them would even have a font and a baptistry in each place of worship, which to our mind, is to form churches on the principle of despising the command of Christ, and counting it to be an utterly insignificant matter what the ordinance may be, and whether it be obeyed or not. "Whichever you please, dear friends; pay your money and take your choice. Sprinkle the infant or immerse the believer, our church does not care a farthing which;" this is the witness of the model Union Churches, and would be the witness of a United Baptised and Unbaptised Congregationalism. We quite understand the testimony of our friends who hold infant baptism, as they also understand ours; but to form a denomination which regards all baptisms with equal indifference, seems to us to be a scheme traitorous to Christ and his Word. This is what has been for some time, more or less covertly aimed at, and is now the darling object of those who were at the bottom of the Congregational Union resolution, and of others who looked on approvingly, biding their time. There was much more aimed at by some than was meant by all; and we judge not only by what was publicly said, but by what is privately done. We tell these gentlemen who are so set upon fusing the Paedobaptists, and the Baptists, that we hope all who think with them will avail themselves of the plank so conveniently and temptingly offered to them, but we take liberty to say again that there is one Baptist at least who will never be absorbed into the projected unity, and we believe that with the exception of a score or so whom we could well spare, there are none among the Baptists who would consider for a moment the question of breaking up an ancient and useful Christian community, for the mere sake of gratifying a morbid craving for nominal union, or an ambitious desire to form a large and influential congregationalism. We call upon our honest Paedobaptist friends to give an unmistakable utterance as to their views, for we believe that the ambitious designs of those who would swallow us up alive, are foreign to the mass of the Independents. We can go on in holy unity of spirit as two denominations, but the project of annexation is a serious injury to brotherly love, and should be dropped at once or carried on by a public and explicit overture. What should we think of our Wesleyans if they indulged visions of annexing the Independents, and thought those to be uncharitable who opposed such fond desires of aggrandisement? What if the Presbyterians should come to the conclusion that the Baptists should unite with them, and grow enraged because any refused to endorse their magnanimous idea? The cases are as nearly parallel as can be, for our affinities are about the same.
Some of the letters written upon the question show a very proud and overbearing spirit; mention has even been made of the word "schism," as though the Congregational Union is to be considered as the true church, and the Baptists are to be looked upon as a set of schismatics. We take leave to say that men would not use such language if they remembered how often it has been cast at us all in turn, and how easy it is to retort. Such talk naturally emanates from gentlemen who sorely long to add Naboth's vineyard to their possessions, but it will cause a revulsion of feeling among the great majority of our liberty-loving brethren, the Independents, who are entirely guiltless of the present conspiracy, and have always shown the manliness to accord to others the liberty of association which they so worthily exercise on their own account. The Baptist body will never be absorbed into any other; why should it be? What an infinitesimal benefit would such an absorption be, and at what an expense would it be procured? In the interest of brotherly love, we hope we shall either have this matter fairly out, or never hear it mentioned again. The agitation of the scheme will create ill feelings, and its consummation, if it were possible, would create a new denomination, and so multiply sects. There would be the stanch Paedobaptists, who would adhere to their own views, the true Baptists holding to theirs, and the Unionists, with their views or no views, vacillating to their heart's content alone in their glory. We frankly confess and publicly promise, that in every way we will oppose this annexation scheme, in the bud as well as in the flower, in its first as well as its last phase; not because we love union less than other men, but love it more, and believe that the evil leaven which we see at work is as hostile to true union as it is to truth itself. Not a word have we ever said against the fullest and heartiest love to our Paedobaptist brethren, but we differ from them in a point which seems to us to be very important, and we feel that we can get on better in Christian love as we are than as it is proposed that we should be. We have as much right to Baptist Union as they have to a Congregational Union; and as we see good reason for maintaining our separate organization, surely our friends need not be angry with us for doing so; especially as they can at any time put an end to their own separate existence, and unite with us if they think their infant baptism to be so unimportant that they can give it up, and follow our view of the Lord's command. If we should ever leave the Baptists we should quite as soon join the Free Church of Scotland, or the Quakers, as the Congregationalists; but our anchor is down, and not at all likely to be drawn up. When we mean a change, however, we hope we shall be honest enough to avow it. We should feel ashamed to be a member of the Baptist denomination, and harbor the design of carrying it over in whole, or in part, to another body. When ministers get a footing in Baptist churches, and first disown strict discipline as to baptism, and then inoculate their people with hostility to their denomination, and coquette with Paedobaptist bodies, they present to our churches a reason for inquiry into the advisability of the very first step in the descent; and they also raise the question as to the honesty of those who gain an inch with the covert view of getting an ell, when they know very well that no inch would be given if their ultimate design were known.
We have been open and above board in our expressions, upon this business, and we wish others would be. The anonymous letters in which we have been assailed we look upon as the weapons of cowards; we cannot write or speak without being known, and do not wish to do so; we believe the whole system of anonymous writing to be meanness itself when directed against public men who are mentioned by name. Put off your cloak sir, when your adversary wears none, or you will be scouted as one of the assassin's breed. Our friend, Mr. Brock, who has been even more savagely assailed than ourselves, is quite able to take care of himself, and could no doubt answer most crushingly if he cared to do so; but we blush for those who dared most falsely to say that under any circumstances the Baptist denomination could be ashamed of himof him, a man whom to know is to love, whose genial spirit makes him incapable of returning the bitterness which has assailed him, and whose personal weight far exceeds that of all his critics put together. Most heavenly Christian union, we mourn that under shelter of thy hallowed name, there should be carried on a war against truth, which is thy best ally and surest foundation!
That no one may make a mistake as to the writer of this article, 'although the editorial we is a plain enough indication of authorship, we append our name that it may be coupled with all the reproach which any may care to heap upon it for our plain speech in this matter.
C. H. SPURGEON.