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greatest privilege was to desist from the use of Bread and Wine as frequent as I could, without giving an offence to my brethren.
I began now to notice the disputes among professors of christianity, with more attention than usual. I was led to notice, that the contentions which were among the different denominations, were inore about the ordinances, church order, &c. than about any essential doctrine of Christ. These contentions were the means of destroying almost every mark of that Spirit, which is the only work and life of christianity. It had become so in my own neighborhood, where there had just been a remarkable stir about religion, that the people had not half the union, one with the other, that they had before they made any profession at all.
Such was the consequence of the reformation that ihe religious parties would not meet at one place, but held separate meetings in the neighborhood, and soinetimes within a few rods of each other. If a member happened to attach himself to this or the other denomination, the reply of the other was, “We do not care for that, we never had but little charity for him or her, we are glad that they have joined where they have. That denomination gets all the bad, or disaffected members, and we get all the good.” Such was the disposition of the different denominations, that they almost imagined that they were always disaffected towards a member, whereas their disaffection
was only because they had not joined their society. About this time I began to feel the smart, for having attached myself to the Church ; for as I was determined to maintain my Christian liberty and fellowship with all denominations, and labour amongst all denominations without regard to sect or individuals, I incurred the displeasure of some of my Free-will-Baptist brethren, who were bent upon monopolizing my public labours to theinselves. I soon could witness to that saying of my divine Lord, which was, “that a man's enemies should be them of his own household." They demanded of me that if I would preach to the Methodists, or that if I would preach to the close-communion-Baptists to join them, otherwise to preach where I belonged; but otherwise, if I was determined to be every thing; to be every thing. I replied, if to preach the gospel to all the world, constituted a man every thing, I should choose to be every thing: I soon learned what the different sectarians with whom I was acquainted meant by christian freedom, and that it was no more than to “ go to meeting, where we go, do as we do, and believe as we believe," and if there was not a compliance to this freedom, all love was lost, or became very cool and indifferent. I had not as yet thought to dispute the propriety of the ordinances, but thought what every body did must be right. I knew that I had no call to preach ordinances, though
others said they had, and preached the form of religion more than any thing else. As for myself
, I never pretended that I had any spiritual instruction in any kind of outward ordinances, but such as did pretend to be led by the Spirit disagreed much in their form. One pretended that the Spirit led him to be baptized by sprinkling: a second, said the Spirit led him to receive baptism by 'pouring : a third contended that he was led by the Spirit to be immersed or plunged; all this looked inconsistent to me. I could not believe that the Spirit of God would be so inconsistent with itself.
While I was observing others, I was also led to notice the preachers. Many of them did not pretend to be led by the Spirit at all, and thought that it was delusion in others if they pretended so to be led, so it was not strange with me, to see them disagree, both in preaching and administering the ordinance. But such as did pretend to administer by the Spirit I saw that they contradicted their profession, in that, when they assembled together they would be frequently urging each other to preach, and it was not uncommon that one half hour was spent in questioning one, and the other whether it was not their privilege or duty to improve ; if they were led by the Spirit there would be no such questioning to do. If there was no one who could be warranted by the Spirit, this was no hindrance, some one was sure to engage in the work.
Another inconsistency I discovered was, that they had a particular rule of worship, which was to commence with singing. When the preacher opened his meeting, he would say, (turning to a Psalm or Hymn) “ let us commence the solemn worship of God, by singing to his praise," &c. As Psalms and Hymns were generally expressive of praise, prayer, or thanksgiving, I could not see that a whole congregation both saint and sinner could possibly feel the spirit of a Psalm, a Hymn or a Doxology, all at one time. It was not uncommon that the wickedest man in the neighborhood, was called upon to pitch the tune, and to take the lead in singing. If the whole congregation could sing with the Spirit and with the understanding also, then this was right; but if not, then it remained that the preacher in commencing the proposed worship, firstly put out a dozen or more lies for the people to tell. After singing was ended, then a prayer followed, and then singing again, by this time a text was named. The text perhaps was the part of a verse or sentence divided so as to suit the spirit of the times best, or combat the supposed false dogmas of the day. It was not uncommon that the meaning of the text was missed altogether. A certain preacher took for his text, Hab. ii, 11, “For the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it." His first motive was to prove the Trinity ; that is, three persons and
one God. That was done by contending, that it must take three stones to make a wall. When the wall was finished, the man had in the next place, recourse to the wilderness, (meaning the world) where he cuts timber for beams to build the church. The cry out of the wall, and the answer of the beam was represented to be the spiritual understanding between God and his people. With many such notions did the man please the ears of the congregation, whilst they were completely robbed of the truth of the text. But who would not blush for the man, when both the verse before and after the text is permitted to explain it. It appeared that the text had no such meaning as the man labored to show; but simply goes to make out a denunciation against the Chaldeans, for insatiableness, for covetousness, for cruelty, drunkenness and idolatry. The text shows that the city or house, which was established by blood and by deceit, should cry against the wicked builders.
Again, one took for his text, Isa. xiii, 12, “ I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man-than the golden wedge of Ophir." This text was represented to mean Christ's person and graces; but this text was used by the prophet in a denunciation against Babylon; showing the desolation that should be made by the Medes. Showing: their cruelty to be such, that they would choose the blood of the people and their des