« ForrigeFortsett »
eration, Christian Perfection, the direct Witness of the Spirit, the Sabbath Question, Non-resistance, Peace, War, and Human Governments, Law-Suits, the Credit System, Toleration and Human Creeds, the Church, the Hired Ministry, Public Prayer, Public Worship generally, Preaching, Sunday Schools, Freedom of Thought, Freedom of Conscience, Class-Meetings, and the Duty of the Church to its Poor Members.
The chapel was kept open every day, and every day, when not called out of town, I delivered one or two lectures on one of those subjects, stating my own views on the point, and my reasons for holding them, and then calling on any one that might differ from me, to state his views in reply. The chapel was generally crowded, and the discussions were often very animated. Persons of various denominations took part in them, and people came from almost every part of the country to witness the proceedings. My principal opponent, for a portion of the time, was George Bird, the rector of Cumberworth, who had inoculated me with his views on public worship. He was very orthodox on many points, while I, on some points, was leaning towards Latitudinarianism. We had, at times, very exciting contests. Mr. Bird was exceedingly anxious to gain a victory, both for himself and for his views. And he was not particular as to the means he employed to accomplish his object. He was very unfair. He could not, or he would not, refrain from personal abuse, nor from misrepresentations of my views and statements. I was severe enough in my criticisms, but I never was knowingly, and I do not think I was often even unintentionally, unjust to an opponent. I never charged people with saying what they did not say, and I never forced a meaning on their words which they were not intended to express. And if at any time an opponent charged me with misquoting his words, or with misrepresenting his meaning, I always accepted his corrections or explanations. Nor did I indulge in personal abuse. Nor did I lose my temper. I did my utmost to be just to all, and when I could not exhibit much esteem or love for an opponent, I tried to be respectful.
The records of those long-continued and strange debates are, I am sorry to say, lost. But while they were proceed
ing I drifted farther away, on some points, from the views maintained by orthodox communities. I am not aware however that I went much further than Wesley went during the latter years of his life. I found, not only in Scripture, but in the sermons of Wesley, and in the writings of Baxter, who was a favorite with Wesley, what seemed to me fully to justify all that I had taught on the great doctrines of Christianity up to this period.
I gave up the Christian Investigator at the end of two years, and as two of my friends were anxious to publish a periodical, I refrained for a time from commencing another, to give them a better chance of success. I also helped them by writing for them, at their request, a number of articles for the earlier numbers of their work. Their attempt however proved a failure. The work contained a heap of Antinomian and Millenarian nonsense, and my readers had no taste for such stuff; and the work was given up, and the Editors shortly after left me and my friends, and joined the Plymouth Brethren, repaying me for my kindness by treachery and abuse. One of them published a tract when he took himself away, exhorting my friends to be on their guard lest they should be led by me into anti-christian error. Their conduct towards me altogether, as I thought, was unjust and dishonorable, and though they are now both dead, I can think of no good excuse for the way in which they acted. But God is judge.
I now laid aside the name of Methodist and adopted that of Christian, and I commenced a new periodical, bearing the same title. I made it, as I had made my other periodicals, the organ of my own mind, the vehicle of my own thoughts on every subject of importance that engaged my attention. My writing was simply free and friendly talk with my readers on matters in which we were all greatly interested. And the work contains the history of the changes which took place in my views during the period of its publication.
While publishing The Christian, I published a multitude of pamphlets. In answer to a pamphlet by the Rev. W. Cooke, in which I was roughly and unjustly handled, I published seven letters entitled Truth and Reform against the World, signing myself A Christian. In these letters I
TRUTH AND REFORM AGAINST THE WORLD. 185
spoke with the greatest freedom both of myself and of my opponents, as well as on a great variety of other subjects. I exposed a number of what seemed extravagant or unguarded statements made by my assailant with regard to the Scriptures. I also published a work on The Hired Ministry. My tracts on Saving Faith and The Atonement came out about the same time. My aim in these latter publications was to free the subject of Saving Faith and the doctrine of the Atonement from needless mystery, by separating from the teachings of Christ and the Apostles on those points, the bewildering and mischievous additions of ignorant theologians. I did not deny the doctrine of salvation by faith in Christ, but only showed that the faith in Christ spoken of in the New Testament was simply a belief in Him as the Messiah, leading us to receive and obey His teachings, and to trust in Him for salvation. Nor did I deny the doctrine of redemption or atonement; but simply endeavored to put what the New Testament said on these subjects in its true light. In most of those works, if not in all of them, there are evidences of undue excitement, and in many of them there are passages which, in one's calmer and more candid mood, one is obliged to condemn.
I extended my investigations to all religious subjects, endeavoring to bring my views and proceedings on every point into perfect harmony with the teachings of Christ and His Apostles. I also did my best, in connection with my friends, to carry into practice in our church at Newcastle what we regarded as the New Testament principles of discipline and church government. The following were among our regulations:-We would have no fixed payments. All must be given freely. There must be no charge for admission to the church feasts. We would support our poor members. We would deal with offenders according to the instructions of Christ: first, tell them of their faults between them and us alone, &c., &c.
We encountered many difficulties in our attempts to carry out some of our principles. Some, that were able to contribute, were too selfish to do so, and left the expenses of the church to be met by the generous few. They would eat like gluttons at the church feasts, but give nothing towards
paying for the provisions. Some seemed to enter the church to get supported in idleness out of its funds. This seemed to be the case especially with a blind beggar. He spared no pains in making known his connection with the church, and its generosity in supporting him, to the public. This brought in a number of others who were wishful to be supported. But many of these people, after joining the church, refused to work. It was plain that we must either give up the attempt to carry out our generous principles, or else adopt some method of testing people before admitting them as members, and some wise system of discipline and government with regard to those already admitted. But we had said so much about unlimited liberty, that we could do neither the one nor the other without breaking up the church and building it up anew; and it seemed too late to do that. So we dragged along as well as we could. Some lost patience, and went to other churches. Some came to the conclusion that Christianity as laid down in the New Testament was impracticable, and so became skeptical. Some kept aloof from all the churches, but still retained their faith in Christianity, and their attachment to the principles to which we had given prominence.
At one period I lectured frequently on Peace. The Quakers aided me in obtaining rooms for my lectures, and supplied me with money to pay my travelling expenses; and the Backhouses and Peases of Darlington, and the Richardsons and others of Newcastle, contributed to the support of my family. I met with some of the best and most agreeable people I ever knew, among the Quakers. Many of them were remarkably liberal and enlightened in their views, not only on religion, but on many other subjects. I was astonished at the extent of their reading, and at the amount of knowledge they possessed. And they had a wonderful amount of charity towards other religious denominations. They believed the churches were doing much good, and rejoiced in their usefulness, though they could not always join them in their labors. I also found that in their dealings with each other, they were exceedingly conscientious. One Friend had recommended another, a lady, to invest her money in some mining speculation, which he believed was likely to prove profitable. She did so, and
lost her money, or received no interest from it. The Friend who had counselled the investment, took the shares, and returned the lady, her money. This, I believe, was not a thing by itself, but a sample of Quaker dealings with each other. I learned some useful lessons from the Quakers, and I received from them many favors. I retain many pleasant recollections of my intercourse with them, and expect to think of them with pleasure to my dying day.
After I ceased to receive a salary for preaching, I and my family were often in straits, and at times we seemed on the very verge of starvation. My printing business did not pay its own expenses at first, and for several years after it began to yield a profit, the profit was required for new presses, new type, or had to lie dead in the shape of increased stock of publications. And I had no income from property. Yet in every case when we seemed to be reduced to extremities, supplies came from some quarter or other. Sometimes I knew the hand by which assistance. was sent, but at other times my benefactors remained unknown. There was one good Christian, John Donaldson, who was always ready with his help. He not only aided me by many gifts, but busied himself to induce his friends to send me aid. He gave the first subscription towards a steam press; and when the press was bought, he sent a sum to purchase the first load of coals to get up the steam, to put the press in motion.
On one occasion, while I was lecturing in the South, nearly two hundred miles away from home, I failed to receive the supplies I expected from the agents for my publications, and my family seemed likely to be out of provisions before I could send them help. My wife and children had begun to feel uneasy and afraid. That day a man came up to the door with a cart-load of provisions. "Does Mr. Barker live here?" said the man to my eldest son, who had answered the knock at the door. "Yes," answered my son. "I have brought you some things," said the man, "some flour, and potatoes, and things. They are not for us," said the poor little fellow, "my father is away.' "But this is Mr. Barker's, is it not?" said the man. "Yes," said my son. "Then it is all right," said the man, "I was told to leave them here," and he began to unload. Both