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Observer, Jan. 1, "75.
“ SEVEN LETTERS ON PRIMITIVE CHRISTIANITY.” *
THE “ Believer in Primitive Christianity," who now republishes these seven letters, deems it well not only to conceal his own name, but that also of the author. The letters clearly set forth the doctrine and discipline of the “ Separatists," without, however, naming that sect. Its founder, John Walker, was an ex-minister of the Established Church, and, also, an ex-fellow of Trinity College, Dublin. Early in the present century he planted churches in Ireland, and also travelled in England, making some converts. The Separatists are now almost, if not entirely, extinct; nor will the republication of these letters promote their revival.
There was a powerful presentation of New Testament truth in the preaching and writing of John Walker, but to no church planted by him or his followers could the term “ Christian” be applied; that is, as meaning a church according to the churches planted by the Apostles and covered by the term “ Primitive Christianity.” They did embrace much of apostolic truth, neglected or despised by the churches of that time, but they also introduced elements not of apostolic origin, and that too, in proportion ample enough to secure failure. Still the labours of Walker and others have not been lost, and fruit may be largely found, where, perhaps, the “Believer in Primitive Christianity," who republishes these letters, may not have looked for it. When Walker laboured at Rich Hill (Ireland), there he was visited by Thomas Campbell and his young son Alexander, and both of them were considerably influenced by the intercourse. Indeed, in reading these seven letters we at times feel as though we were merely running over the familiar pages left us by Alexander Campbell. We have no doubt but that Walker was highly useful in sending him to the New Testament, and also by fixing his attention upon popular errors. But A. Campbell was not inclined to piece up a system, but to test all things by the true standard. He held to the elements of Christianity which were in Walker's system, and discarded those which he had superadded. There are, then, hundreds of thousands who have been influenced through A. Campbell who may be deemed indirectly aided by John Walker. As instances of teaching accepted by those of our readers who are well versed in the doctrine common to the New Testament and to our own pages, we quote the following :
1. Now observe in how few and simple words the Apostle Paul in that passage sums up his gospel.
“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture ; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures."
What think you, Sir, of this Gospel ? This--if we will hear the declaration of an Apostle himself-this constitutes the apostolio gospel ; that gospel, which whosoever believeth shall be saved, and whosoever believeth not shall be
condemned. saying in your heart, with many a religious professor, " to be sure this statement of the gospel is very true ; but what? “Is this all ?" Yes, it is all, and it is enough ; and those who do not see it divinely full and glorious, who think anything
• The full title of this book is 'Seven Letters to a Friend on Primitive Christianity, in which are set forth the faith and practice of the Apostolic Churches. First published in 1819, by an ex-clergyman of the Established Church, and an ex-fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, who gave up his living for conscionce sake. Republished in 1874, by a Believer in Primitive Christianity."
Observer, Jan. 1, '75.
lacking in this gospel to display the glory of God, and to bring peace to the guiltiest of men,—they have their eyes yet holden, so that they do not discern, and have not believed this divine report.
2. They often speak so plausibly of many scriptural truths, that it is hard to distinguish the profession which they make from the good confession of the truth as it is in Jesus,” except from observing that the bare written testimony of God in His setting forth Christ Jesus as the propitiation for sin (Rom. iii. 25.) -has by itself little glory in their view; and that the bare credence of that, that divine testimony, in its unadulterated truth, is reckoned by them a trifling thing in comparison of what they themselves call the venturesome act of faith, by which in some mystic way they conceive themselves to have appropriated Christ.
3. And here in the first place, are we not assured that all who believed what the Apostles preached concerning Jesus of Nazareth, were together? (Acts ii. 44.) There was then no such thing thought of as a disciple standing apart from the church, or body of disciples. Nor was there any more such a thing as several Christian churches in the same place, differing from each other in faith or practice. But let us look a little closer at the simple but glorious account given of the first Christian church at Jerusalem, in that day of the Lord's power—" Then they that gladly received the word were baptized : and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls; and they continued stedfastly in the apostle's doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
4.--The words rendered, " they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship”-should certainly be translated—" they continued stedfastly in the doctrine (or teaching) of the apostles, and in the fellowship.” or contribution.” On a "reference to the original you will see at once the justice of this alteration. The word rendered fellowship is one from which an adjective is immediately formed, that occurs in i Tim. vi. 18, in Paul's exhortation to the rich believer; and that is there more aptly rendered-willing to communicate. It plainly denotes that communication of their worldly goods to the necessities of their poor brethrer, which manifested their love, "not in word nor in tongue only, but in deed and in truth ;" and which is afterwards expressed by their having "all things common.
5. From the mouth of the apostles, in whose doctrine or teaching they "continued stedfastly,” they received all the rule of their fellowship, and both the glad tidings of salvation in which they rejoiced, and the gracious precepts which they were called to follow, came to them sanctioned by one and the same divine authority. Both are alike included in the scriptural import of that phrase-"the doctrine of the Apostles.” Compare, for instance, Rom. xvi. 17; 1 Tim. xv. 9, viii, 20. But, according to the perversion of scriptural phraseology, current in these days, the doctrine of the apostles is considered one thirg, and their precepts another, while the former is set in contrast and opposition with the latter, as what is merely speculative is opposed to what is practical. And, truly, in the minds of those who deal in this ungodly perversion of scripture, the very truth of the glorious gospel is but an empty speculation.
6. And it is only from the want of that godly fear, which the belief of the truth produces, that so many now intimate, that the few and simple ordinances and institutions delivered to the churches of the saints by the apostles, may be comparatively disregarded, altered and modified, at the caprice and fancy of men, because they are so few and simple in comparison with the multitude of ordinances in the tabernacle service. Are they the less divinely established and sanctioned.
7. Thus we find in the New Testament Scriptures, that the disciples were taught to come together in one place," on the first day of the week, to break bread, “shewing forth the Lord's death ;" (1 Cor. xi. 20-26; Acts xx. 7,) to “teach and admonish one anothers” to “edify one another," " speaking the truth in love," " speaking as the oracles of God ;” (Col. iii. 16; Rom. xv. 14; Eph. iv. 15; 1 Pet. iv. 11; 1 Cor. xiv. 3, 24, 31 ; 1 Thes, v. 11,) to express their mutual love and brotherhood.
These seven brief quotations from the seven letters are merely a sample of the good things contained, and are all taken from the first twenty pages. They have the sound of the true metal. Interwoven
Osberver, Jan, 1, 75.
with these and kindred matters there is much that we could not commend. The chief blot of the book is its complete rejection of baptism, so far as relates to what are called Christian Nations. Its theory is, that the early converts were baptized merely to denote their passage from one religion to another; and that, therefore, to persons brought up in countries where the facts of Christianity are generally believed, and taught to the young almost from infancy, and there is no false religion to renounce, baptism is inapplicable. Its present use, consequently, would be limited to converts made by our Missionaries among the Heathen; to Jews, Mussulmen, and the like, who turn to Christ. This extraordinary mistake arises from the author having never had an idea of the place and design of the baptisin instituted by the apostles. Then, too, it is not a little remarkable, that while he thus disregards, or rather moves out of the way, a standing ordinance of Christianity, he perpetuates a mere social custom, and denounces every assembly, as disentitled to rank among the churches of Christ, which does not, under a conviction that God demands it, require all its members to salute with the “Holy Kiss,” every time the church assembles to attend to the ordained worship of God.
We do not know whether the “Believer in Primitive Christianity," who republishes the letters, believes in the so-called Christianity therein set forth. If so he believes much that is true, with not a small portion of error ; his faith falling short in particulars needful to the existence of the Church of Christ, as set up by His Apostles and authorized by Himself. We shall be glad to hear from our friend, and to that end shall forward him this notice.
THE GOSPEL BY JOHN.*
The Fourth Gospel-the whole of it-in blank verse! No small and easy task, however carelessly it might have been done. Here, however, a rendering merely metrical was not sought, and would not have satisfied the writer. He desired to perform his task so as in no way to sacrifice the measure of faithfulness appertaining to the authorized version, and also where change was needful to select terms which should more closely represent the original. Without having, as yet, gone through the book, we note several instances in which this is most pleasingly and successfully done. In the preface we learn, that the author declines to claim that advanced acquaintance with the original that would justify him in offering, on his own authority, a new translation; yet he owns to so much as enables him pretty clearly to distinguish between a more and a less correct rendering as given by others.
We are also informed that no important alteration has been made without a careful examination of eminent authors; including Olshausen, Hengstenberg, Tholuck, Trench, Alford, Winer, Liddell and Scott, and
A METRICAL RENDERING, by G. Y, TICKLE: London, Bagster and Sons.
others. But a few verses may, perhaps, give a better idea of the work
With his disciples, over Kedron's brook,
2 Judas, too,
Went forth and said, Whom do ye seek ?
Said Jesus, I am he! Standing with them
Was Judas, there and then betraying him
They backward went, and fell upon the ground.
And they replied, Jesus, the Nazarene!
If then ye are in search of me, leave these
9 in order that the word
• Of those whom ou hast given me none is lost.'
Drew it, and smote a slave, Malchus by name,
Shall I not drink it ? We cannot say that we are particularly partial to the versification of Holy Scripture. There is, however, one good use a work of this kind can be put to. There are persons, not a few, who would read and compare it with the common version who otherwise would not open the New Testament at all. Young persons, too, may be induced to learn portions of the present Rendering who would not otherwise be moved to commit Scripture to memory. As a gift-book it would, to young persons, and particularly to Sunday-school scholars, prove very acceptable.
CHURCH LIBERALITY, &c. The Editor of the E. 0. has done good service in bringing the financial and numerical condition of the churches reporting to the Annual Meeting, at Carlisle. His readers find the number of members returned by the whole of the divisions, to be about 4,435; and the amount of money this number contributed last year to the Evangelist Fund was about £800, or about 3s. 7d. per member per year, and
Observer Jan. 1, 75.
considerably less than one penny per week. But I do not think that this is the fairest way to put it, seeing that by far the largest amount of money came from a few individuals. The sum contributed by churches in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, amounted to something over £303, or about—1s. 5d. per member per year; less than one half-penny per week. Now surely this is not what ought to be. People who glory in the Christian name, and take a stand superior to the sects in general, ought, certainly, not to be behind in liberality. We who see greater need for preaching the glorious Gospel of the Blessed God, pure and simple, ought to be alive to the duty of giving to the Lord, that His cause may spread far and wide. Now I wish not to misrepresent or undervalue the liberality of the brotherhood; I do not say that the sums named are all that we raise in the year for the Lord's work. It would be unjust to say so. I know that we raise money for local evangelisation, the amount of which appears not in our published statements. Then we have been busy in chapel building. During the last few years many beautiful and commodious chapels have been erected, the cost of which has all been raised by the brotherhood, without outside help. We supply the wants of our poor and needy members. I rejoice to know that this is made a capital item. Yet giving all these things their due weight, I think that the sum raised for general evangelistic purposes is discreditable to us, and it becomes us to look well to ourselves and ask the question in God's sight, whether we do not fall far short in our duty to Him in this matter. We rejoice, and rightly so, that we live in a clearer atmosphere than did the Jews, that we enjoy the meridian sunlight of God's truth, and that the Christian system as far exceeds the Mosaic economy as the glory of the sun exceeds that of the moon. And yet I am inclined to think that we are a long way behind them in this matter of giving to the Lord (at least in the early period of their history). What a remarkable instance is that recorded in Exodus : the gifts for the tabernacle were so numerous that Moses had to restrain their liberality by proclamation,-"let neither man nor woman make any more work for the offering of the sanctuary." Under the Jewish economy God required the first of everything. “ And ye shall eat neither bread nor parched corn, nor green ears, until the self-same day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations, in all your dwellings." Here is a special injunction to offer the first of the produce of the land to God before any were appropriated for use. The firstborn of man and beast were also devoted to Jehovah. Then, again, God required the best as well as the FIRST of everything; the first fruits were to be given to Him as the freshest and best of the crops, and the same requirement was enforced in relation to every sacrifice. “And ye shall offer that day when yo wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the Lord.” David acted upon this principle when he purchased the threshing floor from Araunah the Jebusite, to offer sacrifice. Araunah wanted him to accept it as a free gift, but David
I will surely buy it; neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing." Again, when he had built himself a splendid mansion to dwell in, he said, "Lo, I