W. W Moore.

A sermon on non-essensialism [!] and the war online

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Tiie Non-E3.entiaUsm of the American Cliurch the Cause of our present National







West. Res. Htofc. Boo.

-^ 554 ii: T^ jm: o IV


"Behold how great a matter a littj.e fire kindleth."

James iii : 5.

High perched in the scale of thought is this apothegm : Mighty
remits follow from small beginnings. The principle, when apj^lied
to matter, takes on its sublimity knd grandeur : the grains of sand
and drops of water suddenly mature before the eye into revolving
planets and rolling oceans. When applied to vice, it takes on the
dark drapery of woe : tippling and petty theft, with the lapse of
time, culminate in all the horrors of the drunkard's death and the
felon's cell. When applied to religious ti-uth, it takes on the un-
stained garb of loyjilty : strict obedience in small things, with the
lapse of time, ends in a perfect embodiment of truth and an eternal
weight of glory. When applied to error, it takes on the satanic
garb of treason: the slight departure from the edicts of a king, with
the lapse of time, culminates in all the horrors of war and anl'rchy.
"Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth."

Subject of discussion.— The Non-essentialism of the American
Church a prolific source of our present national calamity.

In elucidating this we will define Non-essentialism, show its nature
and expose its practical workings.

I. We are to define Non-essentidlism. This we may not be able
to do, to meet satisfactorily the views of all ; for, evidently, some
mean indefinitely more or less in the use of the term than others.
But, as we are not in search of the degree to which either a good or
a bad thing may be carried, this places no obstacle in our way. It
is the real princi2')le involved in the %cord itself for which we search,
and that belongs in this part of our discussion. This principle we
shall define to be, the assumed liberty of departing from the written

Word of God. Or, in other words, that God has given to men
discretionary/ power, or right to change His edicts, and substitute
for them what thei/ may judge or conjecture to be their spirit. Or,
still further, by the sa,me principle, that men have a right to modify
and change the written edicts of the King in Zion to so comport
with the convenience and wishes of men as to prevent all discord
and secure harmony upon their own plan ; that is, a harmony in
which every one does as he pleases, and in which no two really be-
lieve and practice alike.

Xow, radicalism is directly the opposite of all this. It is adhere-
ing strictly to the decree of the King as delivered. Radicalism,
then, means right, truth, fidelity and loyalty. Non-essentialism is
compromise, expediency, selfishness and treason. Radicalism and
conservatism are the same in politics as radicalism and non-essen-
tialism are in religion. Says an able political writer, "Radicalism
in American politics means truth, courage, right, freedom, progress
and reform ; while conservatism means cowardice, compromise, ex-
pediency, deception and retrogression."

Lest we be thought too mild in our definition of the word, allow
us to say, that in respect to its nature the same state of heart that
would add to, or take from, or modify, the Word of God, would
only need an increase in degree to take God from His throne. For
it is an undeniable truth, that wrong doing in what is called small
things, is prospectively wrong doing in large things. Indeed all
rebellion is but to level our artillery at the throne and the power that
reigns. A single torch applied to our prairie grass is, prospectively,
one mighty flame, sweeping the whole section and lighting up the
whole heavens. Yea, a single spark thrown into a magazine is,
prospectively, the destruction of a whole fort and the death of
thousands. So a penny theft fostered in childhood may ripen into
highway robbery and wholesale pluiuler.

II. The nature of non-essentialism.
• This will appear in its true character and m.ake its due impression
if we observe,

1. That it reflects uj)on t\\Q wisdom of God. When men assume,
for sectarian purposes, or any other cause, that any part of the laws,
and rules, and regulations of the church, or, indeed, any pari of the
entire Bil)le, spoken by the King in Zion is non-csseutial, he prac-
tically reflects upon the wisdom of God. In fact, he charges God
with making unwise anO utxnecessary demands upon His subjects ;

and, that He did not see as far into the necessities of the mysterious
future as some of His knowing subjects.

2. It also reflects upon the goodness of God. Man, regarding
the edict of heaven non-essential in its mode, or form, or order of
observance, changes it for his greater convenience and comfort.
Now, assuming that this changed mode, form, or order is right, and
will answer all the ends of Christianity, just as well as the more
cross-bearing, uncomfortable and stringent one, proclaimed by the
Head of the Church, it is clear that God was wanting, either in
xcisdom, to know what would be for the greatest benefit to His church,
or deficient in goodness, to do it.

3. It, moreover, reflects upon the authority of God. All liber-
ties taken with the edicts of a King undeniably question his right
to reign. And whether we literally set aside a positive decree, or
modify and change it, the nature of the action is the same.
Though a smaller tire in the beginning, it is of no less result in its
tendency and endings. And as non-essentialism questions God's
authority to reign as He decrees, so it need not be changed in nature,
but progress in degree, to question His authority to reign at all. A
very small fire "in the rear"' in God's empire, if suflered to effect
its natural result, will produce universal anarchy and burn down
His throne.

This principle cannot be overlooked. Go to the head of
the mighty Mississippi. Is not that little rill, rising from
an obscure spring, of the same genus as that vast river which pours
its massive and resistless current into the ocean ? Is not the m^n
who steals a penny on the same stream, though not far advance<J
as the pirate or the highway robber ? And is not the man whoi
changes or modifies a single portion of God's truth, on the same
stream, though not so far advanced, as the skeptic or the atheist?

Neither would it lessen, but heighten, the wrong, even if the
modification related to what was not essential to salvation ; for this
would make the act of a deeper dye in unmitigated selfishness.
What could develop a deeper seated depravity than for your
son to reply to your command, "If my disobedience will not
disinherit me, I answer. No ! I will disobey when I can with ira -
punity, and only obey in self-defense." Now, will any man fail to
see that I cannot be trulg loyal to any government while I possess
this spirit, and while I claim the right and necessity of changing its
laws, and rules and regulations, to better suit my fancy, or s^ltishr

ness ? In fact, do I not virtually set aside the powers that be, and
assume the reins myself? And do I not expose my treason still
more, when I say, by way of argument. It is the LorcVs table' it is
the govermnenC s constitution; it is my neighhor''s property; there-
fore let all do as they please.''''

III. And here toe ic ill consider the practical xoorkings of the non-
essential theory.

1. It destroys the real idea of loyalty. No man claiming the
right to change the edicts of a King can be really loyal ; for his
acts evince distrust in his ability and superiority to dictate.

But there is another element at work on this continent, and
probably always will be. It commenced in the early colonies upon
the eastern seaboard, and though in the minority, it has worked not
altogether in vain. Not all of the American Church has been
taught in the school of non-essentialism, or graduated at
the college of conservatism. There have been some radicals
all along the line of our history, who have believed and
taught that the King in Zion should be actually obeyed ; and that
when he said, " Be buried with Christ in baptism," he did not mean
" Be sprinkled ;"" and when he said, " Repent and be baptized," he
did not mean sprinkle unconscious infants, and thus compromise the
edicts of Jehovah, and open the flood-gates of error to deluge the
Avorld, This element has done much to retard the American
Churcli in her undue liberty with the word of God, and lo prevent
our national evil ; but the preponderan<;e has been too great, and

]) calamity is upon us.

For long and tedious years a portion of the church of Ood, not
daring to compromise the edicts of Jehovah, has by lier example
held as with a martyr's grasp the more numerous part of our Amer-
ican Zion from taking still greater liberties with radical truth. This
-conscientious and salutary wt)rk to jirevent the coming evil slie has
■done under the ungrateful and reproachful epithets of " Ironsides,"
*' Bigots," " Ilui-dshells," and "Close Communionists" — circum-
«tances tlio most hum Hating and trying to patience.

During this long and unecpial contest between radical trutli and
noU'Cssentialism the world, unconscious of the great fire a little
matter kindleth, has clamorously called for a free religion and a
free and libei-al churcli, and has turned with scorn from the strug-
gling few who were conscientiously toiling to maintain the oidv
jirinciplc that could save the church and tlu' country from ruin, and

with a profuse liberality poured out its wealth to extend, and
strengthen, and aggrandize the destructive policy of religious con-

But the time has now come in which the world, astonished and
awakened by the clash of arms, the roar of cannon, and the surging
of mighty armies, as the legitimate result of unlawful departures
froin radical truth, can see with a brighter and stronger vision.
Thousands of our American people who but recently were blind in
tbis grave particular, can now see, that the conservative principle
in the American church and in American politics, is to this nation just
the outer circle of the mighty maelstrom is to the proud and noble ves-
sel floating upon the coast of Norway : the farther she goes the loAver
she sinks in the circling waters, first slowly and imperceptibly, but
anon more and more rapidly until, Avith a few mighty struggles, she
disappears. But as liglit is shed abroad, and actual truth and radi-
cal principles are practically demonstrated by fiery ordeals, there is
a bare hope that this American people may yet awake to the right
and escape final ruin. We can but believe that God intends to
honor His heaven-born principle of radical truth, and place the broad
seal of His approbation upon its long.despised adherents.

If the sword, with all the horrors of war, will force us back, as a
nation, to genuine loyalty, it may show the American Church the
folly and madness of her departure from the constitution of
Heaven and, in due time, make her the light of the world. And
wlien she becomes truly loyal to the God of Heaven and teaches
the woild that implicit obedience is the only test of loyalty, she will
emphatically commence her high mission to this apostate world.
She will become a beacon light, high on the point of danger, to
safely guide our noble ship of State with her priceless cargo.

2. Non-essentialisra has eftectually educated the nation for the
state in which we now are. And the quickness with which the
virus of treason has diftused itself throughout the body politic shows
the enormity of the evil itself Even the third generation of this
continent, taught in the family at chihlhood, in the Sabbath School
at a riper age, and in the church at manhood non-escentialism', — that
a drop is as good as a fountain : — that God did not mean just what
he said, or if He did, we have a right to change or modify His com-
mands to suit our convenience and comfort, all which has now
ripened into revolution.

Where but in the Ameiican Church does the errorist find his

greatest authority for wresting, and turning, and explaining away
tlie force of God's truth? He reasons with irresistible logic when
he says, if the word "baptize" means to sprinkle, surely the word
"everlasting" can only mean a Umiled period; if '■'■believe and be
baptized," means, also, be baptized and then believe, surely the
gospel that does not save all men, as we move to the grave, will
commence its work again in hell, and work hack this way until it is
done; if the order of repentance, baptism and communion, as laid
down in the 2nd of Acts, by the King in Zion, can be broken uj),
why not break up the order of the last judgment, and the eternal
destruction of the wicked. At this point says the Deist, who is 3
little farther advanced, if the American Church is right in her non-
esse?itialism, then, of course, my Annihilationist and Universalist
friends are right in following her example, to support their theoiies;
and if all are right, there can be no truth at all in the Bible, and I
abjure the whole. One more stej) not only denounces all Chrisiian-
ity, but, as in France, declares there is no God, and that death is aw
eternal sleep. And, as in France, let this become general, and we
are in the horrors of revolution, to deluge the world with blood. In
France alone, as the bloody harvest of church departures from radi-
cal truth, the entire nation lost all confidence in revealed religion,
and became infidel; and the same conservative element, controlling
and ruling the people, destroyed the balance of civil power, and
three millions perished in the memorable struggle of revolution.
Oh, my God ! is the non-essentialism of the Auunican Church to
thus baptize this land in blood !

The lawyers and Judr/es and rulers of the fii'st generation of this
nation were taught by the church, when children, to deviate fi-oui the
right, — to take liberties with God's Word, — 'and compromise it to
suit themselves and others; and thus, at a tender age, they im-
bibed the spirit of treason, which grew Avith their groAvth, and
strengthened with their strength. They commenced and ended
their public career being thus taught, and they left their mark.
The next generation, taught in the same manner, took their places,
and before they left the field, we had so far advanced in the high-
way of ruin, that not a few saw the gathering storm, and felt the
noble ship of State reel and rock beneath their feet. And the pres-
ent generation, taught in the same manner, took their places, and
wh:il do we behold but blood and carnage I

Nolliing has been more apparent in Americau politics for the last


forty years than the compromise of real truth and justice, for the
growth and strength of error and injustice : departure from the
right, and sympathy Avith the wrong. The weakness and inefiicien(;y
of our courts of civil jurisprudence ; the enormous power, growth
and unexpected extension of slavery; the fearful and wide-
spread spirit of insubordination and disloyalty, and the unparalleled
increase of crime, of slander, of perjury, of murder and disrespect
for law, are all the legitimate oftspring of conservatism, which was
bred and born in the American Church. And to-day, that part of the
American Church which, in the language of Calvin, claims the right
to change God's order somewhat, is held responsible at the High
Tribunal for the fearful calamity that is now upon us ; and how can
we expect peace until she repents and turns to genuine loyalty '?

Surely, no man looking upon American affairs from our present
advantageous stand-point can fail to see where our great Aveakness
lies. Our free government and free institutions, though justly the
pride and honor of our nation, have been most grossly and absurdly
abused. We have, in fact, overlooked, or lost sight of, the real
boundary line of freedom, and to an alarming extent made free with
the prerogatives of both God and man. So thoroughly imbued is
this nation with the spirit of conservatism, legitimately inherited
from the American Church, that we ai'e incapable of any just and
harmonious a2)preciation or application of law. Even the con-
duct of government contractors, and officers, and generals, as black
as ever darkened the catalogue of crime among men, on investiga-
tion, is followed by but little else than temporary suspension, with
the reward of salary continued. And it is with trembling heart,
well-nigh bordering on despair, that we look for any great, noble,
decisive and statesmanlike measures from the present generation,
that will honorably close this vexatious war, crush as with an iron
hand the most wicked and unprovoked rebellion that ever afflicted
the race of man, and lay deep and broad the true foundation for
future peace and national prosperity.

True, there are many noble radicals in this nation, struggling at
the present hour with a god-like energy to save the body politic ;
but when the accursed disease of non-essentialism has poisoned the
whole body, and sent its virus of treason through all the arterial
system, what can the mere palsied limbs accomplish. The great
and alarming war of this country, the final result of which is to
affect for good or evil every nation upon the globe for all coming


time, is not in the clash of arms upon the battle-lieki, but ii mighty
struggle between treacherous conservatism and radical truth.

Conservatism, bred and born in the American Church, and inher-
ited by the great mass of our lawyers, and judges, and officersj, and
rulers, has borne unlimited sway i . American affairs until scarce a
star or stripe of our national glory can be seen. Alarmed at the
fearful rapidity with which our noble ship of State is drifting toward
the breakers, thousands are falling back upon radical truth, and
a radical policy as the only salvation of the country. v\nd as this
contest is decided, so will be the destiny of the nation. If conserv-
atism triumphs, republican government and republican institutions
perish. Conservatism in its beginnings, and for a long time, if its
growth is not too rapid, will adjust and harmonize mattei's of dif-
ference with but little alarming effect upon equal justice; but when
this policy has been carried out, and culminated in its national results,
the continued application of the same principle to remedy existing
and accumulating evils will only increase and aggravate them. Con-
servatism in this nation has had its full play, spent its full force, and
accomplished its full and natural results; and hence the application
of this principle, the very cause of our trouble, to mannge and har-
monize the affairs of this nation at the present hour, is but adding
fuel to the fire.

Practical conservatism, whether in the church or the nation, is
compromise, expediency, deception and fraud. Radicalism is truth,
justice and equal rights. These two theories are n-iw at war upon
this continent, and all the struggle of armies in deadly conflict, and
all the slain upon the battle-field, and all the wasted fortunes and
desolate homes, north and south, are but the distant and distinct
effects of this elementary war between conservatism and radical
truth, liberty and oppression, which lie deep buried in the bosom of
this nation. And be assured, this elementary war will never cease,
nor the roaring cannon and clash of arms be permanently hushed,
until backward on the line of our history Ave search with an iinj)ar-
tial eye for the real cause of our great national evil ; and find and
destroy the hot-bed on which its first seeds were warmed into life.

Now, the cliurch, though not a civil or worldly organization, is
nevertheless God's representative of justice, equality and loyalty.
Then let her embrace as liiiidaiiieiital, imstained loyalty to the King
Eternal and yield uncomi)i(iniising and unconditional obedience to
His commands ; discard, as with a martyr's spirit, any compromise of


God's truth ; and incorporate these very elements, by precept and
example, in the rising generation, and our noble ship of State will
have a mighty sheet-anchor equal to any storm. The majesty of
law will peer upward in its own native glory, perched high on its
own eternal throne, awe the rebellious, and perpetuate peace, har-
mony and equal rights. The youth, impressed at the family altar,
in the Sabbath School, and in the church, with the mighty thought
that God reigns supreme in the universe, and must be obeyed, as
the only condition of order and safety, will, when ripened into age,
have convictions and capabilities equal to any occasion. It wUl be
a part of his very being, to know that any departure from radical
truth tends so far toward confusion and anarchy ; and every prin-
ciple of his matured nature will instinctively recoil from the
slightest liberties taken with the powers that be. He will know that
when the subjects oi a kingdom claim discretionary power to change
or modify the edicts of the King, the spirit of treason works in the
same ratio, and that the key-stone of the governmental arch is
already started from its place. Yea, the gathering cloud, though
not larger than a man's hand, seen far off in the national heavens,
rapidly swells and thickens until not a star is seen. Lightnings
sweep athwart the heavens, and muttering thunders shake the mass-
ive structure — the foundation trembles — the walls reel to and fro,
and become a pile of ruins.

" Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth." When Eve
plucked the forbidden fruit, little did she know the accumulating
result. She saw not the sweeping deluge — the burning Sodom — the
sinking Nineveh — the scattered Jews — and this beautiful world
once allied to heaven, converted by her single act, into one vast
charnel house, and the theatre of war, of carnage, of lamentation
and woe. She saw not that by a single act she tapped the river of
death, that has, with the lapse of six thousand years, grown wider
and deeper as it has poured its millions into the gulf of hell.

When Luther broke away from the Romish Church and estab-
lised one upon the ground of faith in Christ, he felt he had built
upon a rock. But little did he think, at that time, that the single
seed of infant baptism, — this slight departure from God's law,
Avould in a short time undermine all vital piety, unite church and
State, and sink all Germany into a condition more hopeless than the
Hindoos ; that those very infants, so called dedicated to God in
baptism, and taught the right of discretionary power in the govern-


ment of God from their childhood, would eventually become their
milers and senators in Harabui'g, and convert the church, otherwise
pure, into a worldly institution. Indeed, little did he think that from
this slight deviation from God's rule, all Germany would become
missionary ground, and so opposed to a genuine gospel as to contiscate
the property and imprison the missionaries of the Cross.

O, how long before the American Church will learn that as drops
of water make a mighty ocean, so small sins culminate in the most
fearful consequences. A mind Avrongly taught in childhood acts
wrongly in manhood and dangerously rules in authority. " When
the wicked bear rule the people mourn."

Thus coming up step by step from the past, we are all able to trace
an unbroken chain of causes and eifects which have culminated in
our present evils. And viewing the state of the American Church
in her relation to the body politic from our present stand-point, we
may confidently affirm that all coming history of this nation will
exclaim, "How gi*eat a matter a little fire kindleth." And how
great the folly of making that which is avowed to be 07ily non-
essential the cause of such wide-spread desolation and woe. It not
only breaks up the communion of saints at the Lord's table, dis-
tracts and paralyzes the energies of the church in her commission
to win souls to Christ, — spends unnecessarily millions of dollars to
erect houses of Avorship, and employs the time and talents of the


Online LibraryW. W MooreA sermon on non-essensialism [!] and the war → online text (page 1 of 2)