Lover of Liberty:
Delivered in the city of New-York,
Rev. J. M. Horner,
Author of ‘Immersion the only scriptural mode of Baptizing;’ of ‘Modern Persecution A Poem;’ and of ‘Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Collected, arranged, and composed for the use of the Union Baptists.’
O let me take my eagle flight,
Where Liberty is known and felt;
Where no despotic power can reign,
Over the souls or minds of men.
May I but scale the mountain top,
Or dwell within some humble cot,
Where I may freely write or speak,
Those thoughts which reason generate.
My Christian Friends, — When I was invited to address you in the character of a Minister of Jesus Christ, I thought it would not be amiss to submit to your notice my reasons for leaving the land of my nativity, my beloved relations, and my pastoral charge. If I do this, I must not only advert to the state of religion in England, but to the laws and politics of that country. I know that many professors, and some of the best Christians, are opposed to the idea of ministers introducing politics in their discourses.
I am one of those who think that Ministers should not give themselves to politics, so as to unfit them for the discharge of their more important duties. But that they should watch the proceedings of the government under which they live, make themselves acquainted with the politics of their own country, and recommend to the people of their charge good and wholesome laws, must be evident to every impartial mind.
If a Minister should see the people of his charge laden with an unjust taxation, imposed upon by a heavy tithe system and laboring under disabilities because of their religious and Christian creed, without speaking, writing or exercising his influence for their emancipation, in my opinion he would be cruel to an extreme enthusiastic beyond measure, or destitute of the common feelings of humanity. To say that the professors of religion should not concern themselves about the laws of their country, and the politics which surround them, is to say that the Dissenters of England should endure their religious disabilities, their cruel tithe system their oppressive government without speaking about them or writing on the subject or even petitioning their Legislature for their liberty and support. Were I called upon for a further justification for glancing at temporal governments in my discourses, I would do it by observing, that the prophets in their predictions, and the apostles in preaching, often noticed the governments under which they lived, and the politics which surrounded them.
“Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ unto them.” -Acts, 8,5.
SAMARIA in the original, שמרוך. The root of which is שמר and signifies to keep, watch, guard. Observe in שמרוך or Samaria, the Lord’s people were kept.
1. From the oppression of their enemies, and many of the troubles which the wars among them occasioned.
2. In that city the Lord’s chosen people had to “watch and “guard” against the encroachments of idolatry, and the influence of error.
This city stood about twenty miles north of Jerusalem, being twelve miles south of Dothan. This was a city of the Ephramites, the capital of the ten tribes of Israel : it was once wholly given up to idolatry. At that time, the Jews being afflicted with wars, fled to Samaria for shelter, and introduced their holy religion among its inhabitants.
When Philip went to preach the gospel of Christ to the Samaritans, he found them in possession of copies of the laws of Moses, which were corrupted with sundry mistakes. Not merely those which arose from the transcribers making on Hebrew letter for another, but because they were mixed with tenets in favor of idolatry.
Those two circumstances, namely, that of the Jews fleeing to Samaria from the storm of persecution, and that of Philip to preach the gospel to the Samaritans, reminds me of our venerable English forefathers, who, when the rod of oppression was shook over the English nation, and its Monarch descended from the throne of justice to exercise an undue authority, by inflicting pains and penalties, and confiscating the goods of those who dared to think for themselves in matters relative to their souls and their God, fled from the land which gave their birth, and to which they were attached by many reciprocal ties. But where did they flee? Not to any of the European nations. For by so doing they would not have bettered their condition; — not to any of the nations professedly Christian, for even there I blush to add, an intolerant spirit reigned. They fled to this country, now called the United States of America, and where they, like the Jews, or like Philip introduced their holy religion wherever they went.
Although the spirit of intolerance is in a measure subsided, and freedom of thought and the exercise of private judgment allowed yet a spirit of emigration prevails in every part of England, for her inhabitants are flocking to this country by hundreds and by thousands. It is true that these modern emigrants may not have the same reasons for leaving their native land as their forefathers, nevertheless they may have had powerful motives for taking up their abode in this country. Whether this be true or not with regard to many, it is true with regard to myself; for I can assure you that I have not given up my cottage of superfluity, my home of comforts, my house of temporal and spiritual mercies, my dearest relations, who were tied to me by the remembrance of their fostering care, my pastoral charge, who lived in my heart and partook of my homely, but I hope the spiritual productions of my study; — my native country, the inhabitants of which are as brave and famous as any in the world, who are repository of arts and sciences, and a library of intellectual wealth; — I say I have not given up all these without power inducement and reasons for taking such an important step . If I were called upon to give those reasons, I would cheerfully do so, among which the following would have a place:
1. Because of the influence of a bad Government.
You know that the inhabitants of any country are in a great measure influenced by the Government which exists among them.
You may know from history, and I know by experience, that an aristocratical government is generally, if not always, tyrannical in its enactments, oppressive in its measures and covetous in its demands. This I know to be the case with the English Government, for while it is desirous of exceeding every other country in its national splendor and ornamental palaces, it robs, plunders, and deprives the Lancashire weavers, the farmers’ laborers, and the parish paupers of the common necessities of life, by its enormous salaries and oppressive taxation., For there are taxes on the man of God, who bestows his gratuitous and theological lectures on the villagers; taxes on the widow, who consecrates her mud-walled cot to the worship of Jehovah; taxes on the house of God, which has been raised by the voluntary subscription of the poor. And what is worse than all is, that if the aged and infirm invite their minister to preach in their parlor, and if the conscience of the man of God dictates to him his exclusive allegiance to his Supreme in matters of religion, and he banishes from his creed the idea of asking man whether or not he may do his duty to his God; and should he comply with the request of those who entertain the same views and thus deliver his gospel sermon to twenty-two or more aged infirm, and worn-out pilgrims, the one must be liable to the penalty of ten pounds and the other to the penalty of forty pounds. (George III. cap. 155.)
Besides these fines and penalties on things pertaining to God, there are taxes on every article which enters the mouth or covers the back, or is placed under the foot. Taxes upon everything which is pleasant to see, hear, feel, smell, and taste; taxes upon warmth, light, and locomotion; taxes on every thing on earth, and the waters under the earth; on every thing from abroad, or that Is grown at home; taxes on the raw material; taxes on every value that is added to it by the industry of man; taxes on the sauce which pampers man’s appetite, and the drug which restores him to health; taxes on the ermine which decorates the judge, the rope which hangs the criminal, and the brass nails of the coffin; taxes on the ribands of the bride; at bed or at board, couchant or levant, they must pay. The schoolboy whips his taxed top, the beardless youth manages his taxed horse with a taxed bridle, on a taxed road; and the dying Englishman pouring his medicine, which has paid 7 per cent. into a spoon which has paid 15 per cent., throws himself back upon his chintz bed which has paid 22 per cent., makes his will on an eight-pound stamp, and expires in the arms of an apothecary, 1 who has paid one hundred pounds for the privilege of putting him to death. His whole property is then taxed from two to ten per cent. Besides the probate, large fees are demanded for burying him in the chancel; his virtues are handed down to posterity on taxed marble, and he is then gathered to his fathers to be taxed no more.
Now when we are thus oppressed with something like Egyptian bondage, and surrounded with fallen cheeks, the impoverished circumstances, and the cries of the poor, it cannot but affect the feelings of humanity. And like a swallow, which from the laws of nature predicts the near approach of an inclement season, takes her anticipating flight to some distant region, where she may enjoy her liberty, and a full supply of the calls of nature, so humanity, affected by the heart-rending scenes of poverty, and exorbitant demands of usurpers, cannot but desire to take her flight to some distant shore, where she may not be so much annoyed. The means, too, by which that Government is formed, the materials of which it is composed, are also appalling to the reflecting mind. Here I do not allude to the majority of the House of Parliament, nor to those illustrious characters — characters to whom minds reason has dictated sound and political ideas — who are the ornaments of their country, the political lights of the world, and the Washington’s of their day, — but to those characters and that hereditary system, which makes the throne of England groan with the weight of novices, and crowds the Upper House with characters, whom nature never formed for an important office, and for whom reason never demanded enormous salaries. I cannot stay to be more explicit on these particulars; suffice it to say, that I believe the English Government to be a mixture of Heathenism, Popery, and Protestantism. Such is its nature, that I believe the present day would blush to give it birth, and that none but the dark ages of Popery could have sent it into existence.
2. Because of the state of the Church in that country.
I admit that in every corner of that country, the gospel is preached, and the number of gospel ministers is abundant, many of whom evince extra ordinary talents; but, alas! the church is afflicted with skepticism, with imbecility of faith, with a deadness of soul in spiritual matters, with divisions and subdivisions, contentions and strife. There are but a few ministers who are satisfied with them. Should a minister step out of the common formal path he is looked upon as a speckled bird, and set up as a mark to be shot at. Such a state of Christianity is sufficient to induce us to say, from such “Good Lord deliver us.” Here I would observe, that I have desired to enjoy a more pure religious atmosphere, and the friendly company of those who are more zealous in matters pertaining to God, and the salvation of men; and since American Christians have been represented to me to be such like characters, I have ventured to come home and witness their zeal for the Lord of Hosts.
3. Because of Acquaintances and Christian Friends.
Many of these have emigrated to this country, whose talents will command respect, whose pious demeanor will make them ornaments to America and whose heavenly graces will enable them to adorn their Christian profession. Do not say that this is a small inducement; for the desire to enjoy the company of pious intimate and long-tried friends, induced a Hobab and a Jacob to leave the land of their nativity. I pity the soul that is destitute of natural affection, for it betrays a littleness of mind; but I more especially pity the soul that is destitute of love, for it displays a want of that grace which is the most essential virtue to the Christian.
4. Because of the reputed and reviving state of Christianity in this country.
The revivals of religion in America, form a very general topic of conversation in England; and many a time when I have read of them, my heart has burned with sacred desire to be among them. The revival of Christianity, the political views of the people, and the constitution of the united states, have been topics of close study and deep interest to me for seven years past; and such were my views, that I consider I should have been remiss in my duty, and I pierced my heart through with many sorrows, had I not visited America.
I have now submitted to your consideration, my reasons for the important step I have taken and therefore I shall proceed to notice —
I. The time to which the text refers us.
That was a time of violent persecution to the church – a time when the political atmosphere in which they breathed, the Mosaical partialities, and the deep-rooted prejudices of the Jews, appeared to form a dark cloud, which threatened the annihilation of the church; — a time when the Sun of righteousness appeared to be sunk in his orbit, and the light of the gospel to withdraw its shining; — a time, when the powers of darkness appeared to be let loose, and to seize with a salacious and insatiable desire upon the innocent lambs of the fold of Christ; — a time, when the hope of preserving Christianity to evangelize the earth must have been faint, and when the combined circumstances, the united powers and wickedness of men, appeared to predict the downfall of the Christian empire, and the giving up of the world to heathenish superstition., But, O my friends, “be not faithless, but believing; rejoice, and be exceedingly glad;” for although this was a time of thundering Jehovah was behind the cloud, and laughed at impossibilities; and as he has loved his church with an “everlasting love,” and has promised the “gates of hell shall never prevail against it,” so will he subvert the powers of darkness, frustrate the wicked designs of the ungodly, and cause the wrath of man to praise him. Yea, God did over-rule that persecution and caused it to disperse the Apostles to disseminate the gospel, and build up his church. Through that persecution, the gospel was sent to Samaria, to the Gentiles, to Rome, to Spain, to France, and to England; and when the violent hand of persecution was raised in England against the Non-Conformists, they fled to this country, and brought with them the mild truths, the enlightening truths, the all-glorious and soul-reviving truths of the Gospel of Christ.
II. We have here a particular account of what Philip did; and, therefore, let us notice —
1. The place he chose.
It was Samaria, which, in the New Testament, signifies the territory between Judea and Galilee, and where the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Issachar, had dwelt. We might have supposed that Samaria was the last place that Philip would have visited, and that there was the least probability of introducing the gospel there, because of the deep-rooted prejudices of its inhabitants against the Jews, so much so, that they even refused civil dealings with them. (John, iv. 9) And we all know that prejudice, which is invariably connected with ignorance, forms a mighty barrier to the introduction of any doctrine, however scriptural that doctrine may be, therefore we see, that if we are desirous of being informed how necessary it is that our minds possess “Charity, — Charity, which doth not behave herself unseemly;” which deliberately meditates on every new idea which strikes the mind; — Charity, which will not allow herself to be influenced by sectarianism, nor confined within the precincts of a party spirits; Charity which always listens to the voice of Reason, and with calmness and deliberation attends to logical productions.
2. The means Philip used to gain success.
Those were not the artificial show of heathenism, nor the theatrical or priestly splendor of the Papists, which merely work upon the senses without carrying conviction to the heart; neither did he act like Mahomet, who enforced his doctrines, and imposed his dogmas by sword and bloodshed, by fines and penalties; but he gave plain statements of divine truths, accompanied with the working of miracles, which spoke volumes to every reflecting mind, and carried with them a conviction of the holy truths he preached.
See what the Gospel Word can do,
When Plainly stated, and set forth;
What mighty changes it achieves,
When’er it is received by Faith.
3. The success which attended Philip’s labors.
We may here observe that his success was very great, for the Holy Ghost has stated, “That when the people saw the miracles which Philip wrought, and heard him preach the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ they were baptized, both men and women,” which circumstance occasioned great and general joy in that city we may also consider that this great work of conversion was not confined to the metropolis of that country, but that it spread into all the suburbs and villages of the Samaritans. Thus we see that the word ran among them like fire among dry stubble, which I consider amply shows that the work was of God; so that we perceive when the gospel is preached in its purity, it is powerful and highly calculated to bring men to themselves to religion, and to God.
The Gospel is a mighty sword,
Which slays the selfishness of men;
It brings their souls to know the Lord,
And shows them how a heaven to gain.
III. There are two or three considerations, which, if noticed, will tend to show that Philips success was extraordinary; and those were
1. We may consider that many centuries prior to that time, and even down to the moment that Philip began preaching among them, they had been given up to idolatry, and that the idolaters were always prejudiced against Christianity.
2. That the minds of the Samaritans were embittered against Jerusalem in particular, and the Jews in general.
3. That at that time Simon the Sorcerer gave out that he was a great character, who mightily deluded the people by his wickedness and magic art; for him they had regard, yea he had long ascended the throne of their minds, and ruled with a mighty influence over their sentiments and conduct. Now, when we consider that those great obstacles which stood in the way to an introduction of the gospel among the Samaritans were overcome by the preaching of Philip, it will be evident that his success was extraordinary.
IV. The work in which Philip employed himself when at the city of Samaria. “He preached Christ into them;” that is, he preached the Savior unto them as an all-sufficient sacrifice to be offered to justice for the sins of his people; and, in order to do this, he must have preached —
1. Their incapacity to atone for themselves;
For they would not accept of a sacrifice on their behalf, except they were first convinced of their need of one. They would not receive such a conviction, without being shown their fallen state as sinners, their weakness and infirmity.
2. Philip must have preached Christ’s mysterious union with Deity.
If he showed them their utter incapability to atone for themselves, he must likewise have presented to their consideration a superior character, who possessed a capability to obey the Mosaical law, and who by his death could satisfy the demands of Divine Justice : therefore he preached Christ unto them as a mighty god come in the flesh to destroy the works of the Devil; as a Savior most eminently fitted; who could restore their lapsed powers, and implant in them heavenly tempers; – whose mysterious incarnation could endear them to God; – whose natural birth could procure their spiritual regeneration; — and whose unspotted life could restore them to a blissful immortality. Methinks that he would preach him as the joy of mourners, the glory of the infamous, and the salvation of the lost.
Yea, he would preach Christ as being wonderful in his prophetic, priestly, and kingly offices: — as one who had gained a triumphant conquest over death, hell, and all his inveterate enemies : as one whose doctrines would trample upon the arguments of the subtle, the power of princes, the blindness of zeal, the forced of custom, the pleasures of sin, and all the attempts of the wicked. It is easy to imagine that his extensive mind, his ardent soul, his honest heart, were all impressed with the greatness of his work, the importance of his character, and the glory of his Master.
3. Philip must have preached the manner of Christ’s crucifixion and death.
He showed them the analogy of the Predictions of the Prophets, with Christ’s life, miracles, and death; and, being near the very spot which was the stage and not the corner on which these things were transacted, he would be enabled to produce incontestable evidence of the fulfilment of those predictions.
4. Philip must have preached the triumphant resurrection of Christ;
And, to convince them of the truth of that essential doctrine, he would not have to resort to any garbled argument, nor any “cunningly-devised fable;” no, now yet to the pages of ancient or modern history, but to clear and evident facts, which transpired on the public platform of their own neighborhood, and which must have been so clear and evident to them, as to put to silence the skeptical characters, and convince the gainsayers.
5. Philip preached Christ as a King having a kingdom, and mildly swaying his scepter over the same; and, therefore, he preached
1.Christ’s capability and manner, by which he would overcome all his enemies; and here I imagine he would not need to make elaborate discourses, in order to convince them that Christ’s enemies were numerous, formidable in their strength, and terrific in their stately combinations; for they were at that time eye-witnesses of the superstitions of the Heathens, the spite of Pagans, and the malice of the Jews, all of which combined to oppose Christianity. The very first thought that impressed their minds, the first moments of reflection they devoted to the subject they would feel irresistibly convinced that Christ’s opponents were more numerous than any other principality or kingdom had to contend with. Philip, of course would take this opportunity of exhibiting the glory of Christ, by showing them how he would overcome his innumerable, combined and stately enemies; and, in doing this, he did not pretend to show them that Christ would assume any worldly grandeur to work upon the senses of his antagonists, or that he would wield a powerful sword to subdue their inveterate opposition, or command a warlike army of thousands to establish his kingdom in the world; but he would show them how that Christ had commissioned his disciples, men of no name, without any pretensions to worldly pomp and grandeur, without sword in their hand, or armies to command, should go forth and make a simple statement of facts, and preach the gospel of the kingdom of God; and that the gospel which was so generally despised, should subdue kingdoms, set men right, and convert them to its glorious truths.
O let thy kingdom come, great God
Subdue the nations round;
May the whole earth thy Gospel own,
And listen to its sound!
May kingdoms which in darkness lie,
Be brought beneath its light,
Lay down their weapons, and no more
Presume with thee to fight.
May Pagan tribes and Indian castes,
Be broken and subdued;
Give them to feel thy sovereign grace,
Constrain them by the Word.
2. Philip preached Christ unto them as a King, who had enacted laws for the government of his kingdom and also described the nature of them; and while exhibiting the goodness of those laws, he would know that they were decreed by him who had all power and that they were signed and sealed by him who had spoken, and would most assuredly bring it to pass. He would endeavor to convince them, that Christ had enacted laws for the government of nations, cities, families, masters and servants; and, that as far as they were governed by them, so should they have peace in this life, as well as an hope of that which is to come.
3. Philip preached Christ the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, and therefore the best qualified to remunerate his heroes, his warriors, and all who enlisted in the glorious cause of subduing kingdoms. Promoting righteousness and evangelizing the earths. The truth of these sentiments may be shown by consulting those words, Col. 2, 9, where it is said that Christ possesses all fullness; that is, a fullness of repentance for sin, a fullness of justification for the soul, and a fullness of glorification at the right hand of the Majesty on high. When Christ spoke of his people, and the remuneration with which he will bless them, he spoke of them in the following manner: “I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” John, 10, 28.
Now unto Him who is able to enlist you in his cause, to help you to fight manfully the battle of the Lord, and to crown you with laurels that will never fade, and with glory which will never fall from your heads, be ascribed all honor, might, majesty, and dominion, now and forever. Amen.