We commence with the Tract Societies. These claim to be extensively useful. Tracts claim their thousands converted. They claim the prerogative of carrying the news of salvation into holes and corners, where the gospel would otherwise never come; of going as on the wings of the wind, carrying salvation in their train; and they claim each to contain gospel enough, should it go where the Bible has never come, to lead a soul to the knowledge of Christ. The nature and extent of these and the like claims, made in favor of tracts by their advocates, constitute a good reason why we should reject them. These claims represent tracts as possessing in these respects a superiority over the Bible, and over the institution of the gospel ministry, which is charging the great I Am with a deficiency of wisdom. Yea, they charge God with folly; for why has he given us the extensive revelation contained in the Bible, and given the Holy Spirit to take the things of Christ and show them to us, if a little tract of four pages can lead a soul to the knowledge of Christ? But let us consider the more rational claims presented by others in favor of tracts, as that they constitute a convenient way of disseminating religious instruction among the more indigent and thoughtless classes of society. Admitting the propriety of this claim, could it be kept separated from other pretensions, still can we submit to the distribution of tracts becoming an order of our churches or our associations, without countenancing the prevalent idea that tracts have become an instituted means approved of God for the conversion of sinners, and hence that the distribution of them is a religious act, and on a footing with supporting the gospel ministry?
If we were to admit that tracts have occasionally been made instrumental by the Holy Ghost for imparting instruction or comfort to inquiring minds, it would by no means imply that tracts are an instituted means of salvation, to speak after the manner of the popular religionists, nor that they should be placed on a footing with the Bible and the preached gospel, in respect to imparting the knowledge of salvation.
Again, we readily admit the propriety of an individual's publishing and distributing, or of several individuals uniting to publish and distribute what they wish circulated, whether in the form of tracts, or otherwise; but still we cannot admit the propriety of uniting with or upon the plans of existing Tract Societies, even laying aside the idea of their being attempted to be palmed upon us as religious institutions. Because that upon the plan of these societies, those who unite with them pay their money for publishing and distributing they know not what, under the name of religious truth; and what is worse, they submit to have sent into their families weekly or monthly, and to circulate among their neighbors, anything and everything for religious reading, which the agent or publishing committee may see fit to publish. They thus become accustomed to receive everything as good which comes under the name of religion, whether it be according to the word of God or not; and are trained to the habit of letting others judge for them in matters of religion, and are therefore fast preparing to become the dupes of priestcraft. Can any conscientious follower of the Lamb submit to such plans? If others can, we cannot.