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1620 TO 1804.
A VIEW OF THE PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICE, DECLENSIONS
CHURCHES, AND A CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE.
BY ISAAC BACKUS, A. M.
WITH A MEMOIR OF TIIE AUTHOR.
PUBLISHED BY THE
No. 21 SOUTH FOURTH STREET.
The annexed Memoir has been carefully compiled for this volume, from the American Baptist Magazine-the second volume of Benedict's Historythe writings of Backus, and such verbal recollections of him, as the writer has been able to secure. It is hoped that it may give increased interest to the perusal of his history; while it will by no means supersede the necessity and the desire for a more complete and elaborate “Life of Backus,'' which one of his distinguished friends, who can have ready access to his extensive diary, and the scenes of his protracted labours, has promised to prepare, for our “ Biographical Series."
King and Baird, Printers,
Isaac BACKUS was born in Norwich, Connecticut, January 9th, 1724. His parents were pious and respectable members of the Pedobaptist church in that town. His father was a descendant of one of the first families in the settlement of Norwich ; and his mother's pedigree is traced back to the family of Winslows, who came to Plymouth with the first European emigrants to this country, in 1620. At the time when the celebrated Whitefield preached with such signal success in that vicinity, some of Mr. Backus's connexions united with the Separates,a name given to several independent churches formed about this period, of a more zealous and spiritual character than the Associate Pedobaptist churches, which then and long after claimed to be the standing order, or churches established by law. For uniting with these, they were harrassed and persecuted by the ruling party. The mother of young Backus, when a widow, with some other of his relations were cast into prison, by these persecuting zealots, solely for exercising their conscientious convictions, in uniting with those churches which were not established by law. It was in the midst of this excitement, that the subject of this memoir was brought to the knowledge of the truth, in the 18th year of his age. He furnishes the following simple and striking account of his conversion.
"My being born of religious parents, and having a religious (though not what is called a liberal) education, I have ever esteemed an unspeakable favour. Yet I neglected the great salvation for more than seventeen years, because of the secret imagination that it would abridge my present liberty and comfort; and also, that when I should in good earnest set about the work, God would be moved to help, pardon, and save me. But in
May, 1741, my eyes were opened to see that time was not at my command, and that eternity was directly before me, into which I might justly be called the next moment. Then I knew what it was to work for my life for three months : until on August 24, as I was alone in the field, it was demonstrated to my mind and conscience, that I had done my utmost to make myself better, without obtaining any such thing; and that I was a guilty sinner in the hands of a holy God, who had a right to do with me as seemed good in his sight; which I then yielded to, and all my objections were silenced. And soon upon this, a way of relief was opened to my soul, which I had never any true idea of before, wherein truth and justice shine with lustre in the bestowment of free mercy and salvation upon objects who have nothing in themselves but badness. And while this divine glory engaged all my attention, my burden of guilt, and evil dispositions was gone, and such ideas and inclinations were implanted in my heart, as were never there before, but which have never been rooted out since, though often overclouded."
Soon after this change, he united with the Pedobaptist church in his native town, where he had been accustomed to attend worship; but after about two years, some troubles in that church led to his withdrawal from it. It was not until September, 1746, that he entered upon the duties of the Christian ministry ; and the principles which governed him in this important step are described in his discourse, published eight years after, entitled “The Nature and Necessity of an Internal Call to preach the Gospel.”
Near the close of the following year, he was guided by the disposal of Providence, to a parish or precinct called Titicut, upon the river between Bridgwater and Middleborough, in the county of Plymouth, Massachusetts, where a Pedobaptist church, of the Separate order, was formed in February following, to which he ministered with evident success.
In August, 1746, disputes about baptism were first brought into this church; and while the pastor, Mr. Backus, was prayerfully considering the subject, ten persons were baptized by Elder Moulton. The descrip
MEMOIR OF THE AUTHOR.
tion of his subsequent exercises, and the result to which he was brought, is thus given in his own words.
“ About three months after, when the heat of controversy was abated, the question was put to my conscience in my retired hours, Where is it, and in what relation to the church, do those stand, who are baptized, but not con verted? I could see that all the circumcised were obliged to keep the passover; and I had seen that there was no halfway in the Christian church, nor any warrant to admit any to communion therein, without a credible profession of saving faith. No tongue can tell the distress I now felt.
Could I have discovered any foundation in Scripture for my former practice, I should most certainly have continued therein : But all my efforts failing, I was at last brought to the old standard, so as to leave good men and bad men out of the question, and simply inquire, What saith the Scripture?" By this means his mind was at length settled, in the full conviction of the baptism of believers only, and he submitted himself to this ordirance, August 22, 1751.
For more than four years afterwards, he continued ministering to the same church, on the principles of open communion; many of its members being decided Baptists, and others still cleaving to the principles and practice of Pedobaptism. This difference created no little embarrassment, and furnished frequent occasions of quietude to both parties, which led to a fresh search into the cause of these difficulties. The following account of the result, is from the pen of Mr. Backus.
“ The arguments of the beloved Bunyan for a free communion with all saints, had before appeared conclusive to me and to others; but a review of them discovered his mistake. One argument is, that plain laws of old, were sometimes dispensed with ; as circumcision was omitted in the wilderness ; David ate of the shew-bread that was not lawful for him: and the people in Hezekiah's time ate of the passover, otherwise than it was written. But it was found upon search, that each of these were extraordinary cases, which were not repeated; and therefore could afford no plea for dispensing with