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Category: Personal Recollections of Pardee Butler
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Professor William H. Whitsitt, of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, at Louisville, Ky., has written a book that has for its leading feature to make it appear that the Disciples are an "offshoot from the Sandemanians."

 

The Sandemanians, like the Baptists, had both faults and virtues. They were one of the earliest sects of the Scotch Presbyterians to protest against a union of Church and State; they practiced a weekly breaking of the loaf; held to a plurality of elders in every church, and were exceptionally helpful to the poor; and surely, even Dr. Whitsitt will not call these damnable heresies. But they were also rigid separatists. They were Calvinists of the straitest sect, and made all their opinions a bond of union. In this they were like the Baptists, but essentially dissimilar to the Disciples. They exalted feet washing and the holy kiss into church ordinances, and excluded all who did not agree with them in these opinions, just as the Baptists exclude from the Lord's table all who are not of "our faith and order," though they admit that those persons thus excluded are regenerated, accepted of the Lord, and enjoy the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Differing from the Sandemanians in the most essential element of our plea, we hold a very remote relationship to them--that of fortieth cousin, perhaps. The Disciples are just as evidently an offshoot from the Baptists, as children are an offshoot from the parental stock.

Twenty years after the writer had begun his work in Kansas, he was able to count among fifty churches which had been organized within his knowledge, twenty-five that were dead; and there were six meeting-houses that were left unoccupied or sold for debt. And the church members would say to me: "We can neither preach, nor pray, nor read the Scriptures, nor break the loaf to edification, and we are too poor to hire a preacher. What shall we do?" They had no training, save that training they had obtained in the old Baptist churches, or one similar in our own, and now that they were scattered over the great West, and were poor in this world's goods, they were indeed in a pitiably helpless condition.

I sometimes said, "Get up a Sunday-school." But the old heads would get together and begin to debate where Cain got his wife, or who was the father of Melchisedec, or what was the thorn in the flesh that afflicted Paul; or they would dispute over the mode of baptism, or the operation of the Holy Spirit, and the boys, verifying the old adage that the devil always finds work for idle hands to do, and not appreciating this sort of thing, would shoot paper balls at each other and at the old folks, and the girls would do naughty things and grieve their mothers, and the whole thing would go up in smoke.

Nothing seemed to be left to these brethren, only the protracted meeting and monthly preaching. To many of them "pastorating" was one of the sorceries which, with the mother of Babylon, had bewitched the world. These brethren seemed to have forgotten that Paul gives highest praise to that elder that not only rules well, but so addicts himself to the ministry of the Word and teaching as to require that he shall be sustained by the freewill offerings of the brethren. And when we sought an arrangement by which all should give--each man, according to his ability--we were alarmed with fearful prognostications of evil: "Beware! beware!" These brethren said, "You are making a veritable Popish bull, and he will gore you to death. Beware of missionary societies!" And when we turned to these men and besought them, "Tell us, dear brethren, how we shall obtain, without offense, the means to send help to those perishing churches?" they were silent. This was not their function. Their vocation was to warn the people against Popish bulls and human missionary societies, for which there can not be found a thus saith the Lord, in express terms or by an approved precedent.

Meantime the churches in the older States had contributed one hundred thousand Disciples--this has sometimes been the estimated number--as emigrants to the great West, and these were scattered over its wide extended Territories, and it was to be shown how far this contribution, more precious than gold or silver or costliest gems, should be as water spilled on the ground, or as treasure cast into the bottom of the sea, or how far it should be as precious seed bearing fruit, some thirty fold, some sixty, and some one hundred fold.

When our first churches were organized in Kansas, Alexander Campbell had become old and well-stricken in years. I have already written of the missionary society that was created in 1864, and of the great convention held in Leavenworth City in 1865, in which we sought to perfect the workings of that society. Within the following year Mr. Campbell died, and the always welcome _Millennial Harbinger_ ceased its monthly visits. The voice of Mr. C. had been a bugle blast calling men to heroic deeds, and his overshadowing influence had restrained from that tendency to division, for opinion's sake, which is our inheritance from our common Protestantism. But now a great emigration had come into Kansas from every part of the United States, and among these were many who looked with no favor on any innovation on the traditions of the fathers.

Mr. C. had said in his notable debate with the Rev. N. L. Rice, at Lexington, Ky.: "Men formerly of all persuasions, and of all denominations and prejudices, have been baptized on this good confession, and have united in one community. Among them are found those who had been Romanists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Restorationists, Quakers, Arians, Unitarians, etc., etc. We have one Lord, one faith, one baptism, but various opinions. All these persons, of so many and contradictory opinions, weekly meet around our Lord's table in hundreds of churches all over the land. Our bond of union is faith in the slain Messiah, in his death for our sins and his resurrection for our justification."

It is perfectly apparent that to harmonize these elements--often opposite and conflicting--thus brought together in one body was no easy task, but we had more than this to do; we were also to harmonize the fierce antagonisms growing out of our early contests, and then to make those brethren who had been heretofore averse to any combination whatever for religious work other than that of the single congregation--to make them feel the absolute necessity of united action and cooperation. This was indeed a task most difficult. And if the final good results have only slowly become apparent we are entitled to the judgment of charity.

It is admitted that every liberty that God has given to men may be abused, and has been abused. Marriage, religion, civil government, the rights of property, eating and drinking--in short, all liberty, of whatever kind, may be and has been abused. Still we must use our liberty, our very existence depends upon it. I have said it already, and I say again, if sixty millions of the American people can unite together to promote the public tranquillity, and all citizens enjoy more of personal liberty than they could enjoy if every county were an independent principality, then our whole brotherhood, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, may be trusted to meet together, by their messengers or in person, to promote necessary Christian work without endangering our Christian liberties. If all the churches of Macedonia could unite together to send relief to the poor saints at Jerusalem, then, surely, the brethren everywhere may combine together to send relief to people perishing for want of the word of life.

And so with much weariness and painfulness, and often with gratuitous and unrequited labor, with long rides by day and by night, and much exposure to heat and cold, to floods and storms, and to rough treatment by wicked men--in short, with that relentless and persistent toil which makes a man old before his time, and in which one man has carried on the work of two men year after year, I have labored on, never doubting, but always hoping for that good time coming, when churches will be just, and give honest pay to honest men who do honest work. My hope has been that if I can not live to profit by that better order of things, it will at least be better for the men that come after me.

The wife of a traveling evangelist will always be the proper object of pity and sympathy, if pity and sympathy are to be given. She is not cheered by the smiles of admiring crowds, nor does she feel the intoxication of flattering tongues. She dwells at home in the desolation and loneliness of a practical widowhood, and often ekes out a meager support from a stingy and starveling salary.

But somebody has to do this frontier and pioneer work; and might it not as well be me and my wife as any other man and his wife?

I have given a wide range to these "Recollections." In doing so, I have not followed the example of a cowardly, corrupted and compromising Christianity, but rather have imitated the robust and manly courage of the writers of the Old and New Testament, who tell of the deeds of good men and bad men, and who also use the same freedom in speaking of the evil deeds of wicked rulers that they use in speaking of the things that more immediately concern the spiritual and eternal interests of men.

I have made the briefest possible mention of the hapless condition our churches were in twenty years ago. The picture is neither flattering nor cheering; but right royally are the churches now redeeming themselves from the reproach they were under then. A pastor is now being settled in each church as fast as the pecuniary circumstances of the congregation will permit, and a grand enthusiasm in Sunday-school work, simplifying and illustrating all its details, has made it possible for the weakest and poorest church to keep itself alive. Wherever there are children with their young enthusiasm--and the children, like the poor, are always with us--and wherever there are parents ready to lead their children in the way in which they should go, there the permanency of a church is assured.

And now, with many misgivings as touching our immediate future, but with an abiding hope of triumph in the end, I bid the reader farewell.

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