Mary Egerton Scott and Rev. Thomas Scott, London, to Maria Grace Andrews, Salisbury, [Monday], 25 March 1793.
March 25. 1793
In hopes of soon receiving another Letter, in reply to my last, I should not have written at present, had it not been for the extraordinary doubt my dear Sister has expressed – “that you will write to both Mr S. & myself very soon if we will permit you”! Can you at all suppose my dr Friend that either of us are so extremely narrow & bigoted, as to feel less regard for you because you have followed the dictates of your conscience in a matter which we by no means deem an essential article of religion? If I loved you sincerely at a time when I thought you destitute of any experimental knowledge of the Gospel, shall I love you less now that I hope that the Lord has given you repentance & faith, merely because you differ from me in externals? No – I trust, I sincerely esteem all those who are true followers & Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ of whatever Sect or Party they maybe – & I should be much grieved indeed, did I think, that what has lately taken place should ever be the means of causing the least diminution of that tender friendship which has so long subsisted between us – or occasion the least alteration & dispute –
I shall not attempt to say any thing more, on the Subject in question, for Mr S. has written on the other side & of course anticipated all I had to observe – I only pray therefore, that the Lord may abundantly strengthen you & fill you with fervent zeal for his Glory; & far from suffering you to rest satisfied in any present attainment stir you up continually to emulate the example of our blessed Lord & to recommend & adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things for whatever principles we profess, there can indeed be but a very small portion (if any) of true grace where this desire does not habitually prevail –
You have not gratified my curiosity concerning your aged Friends, in whose eternal welfare I feel much interested – especially as I was much pleased with the acct you last gave me of Mr H– Do not fail my dr friend to use your every effort (consistent with propriety & duty) both by exemplary conduct & strenuous endeavours, to save poor Souls from eternal ruin – at the same time, permit me to add one caution, and that is, not to be very hasty and earnest in persuading others to make the same profession which you have done without very good evidence of their conversion – This is a mistake which from your naturally ardent & sanguine Disposition I shd think you very likely to fall into – and it appears to me that many Persons are eternally deceived who having got tolerably correct notions of doctrinal truths are admitted to a public profession (whether it be by Baptism or the Lord’s Supper) without a real change & resting in that state remain in a dead faith & fruitless profession all their Days.
I am glad to hear poor Anne is to have a little Liberty – the Lord grant she may get good among you, for I have lately been much concerned for her – Adieu my beloved friend – pray write to us & believe me to be yrs affectionately
My dear Grace,
I am sorry that my multiplied engagements caused me to delay so long, before I gave you my Sentiments on the Subject you proposed; and that I gave you them at all when it was too late. I think you have been too hasty, and perhaps have made a Cross for yourself, which might well have been avoided, but I have always observed, that little attention has been paid to the Apostle’s Rule “Him that is weak in the faith, receive you, but not to doubtful disputation.” However, as I doubt not but you have acted conscientiously, I would by no means wish to say any thing to discompose your mind: you will go on, in the Way to heaven, the same, as if you had judged otherwise in that point (provided you do not over-rate an external Ordinance as too many do). And I am sure it will make no difference in my cordiality for you; if you are but as willing that I should hold my Opinion unmolested as I am that you should. I am a veteran in such Controversies, and no man in the Kingdom, or perhaps on Earth, can say anything on the Subject, which I have not considered, & reconsidered: and having made up my mind long since, I desire to direct my attention & earnestness to the good fight of faith against Sin, the World, & Satan (with which my Contest is so sharp, as to leave me little heart for other disputes) to follow after Righteousness, &c & peace with all that love Christ; to promote the peace & purity of the Church; & to bring Sinners to Repentance, faith in a divine Saviour & newness of life; and if successful in this, I shall not be much concerned, be always glad to hear from you; (but would rather your letters shd treat on other subjects) & to see you, that we may talk together of the love of Christ, till our hearts burn within us, with Joy & Gratitude; whereas Experience shews me that controversy is apt to kindle a fire of a contrary nature, and it is impossible that you should convince me, after all I have heard, read, & studied. I do not want to convince you; & your honest obedience to Christ, in what you deemed his Will needs no Apology. I would, however, just observe in your last, that Christ’s Example proves indeed that we ought to attend on all God’s Ordinances; but not that adult Baptism by immersion is God’s Ordinance, to those especially who have been baptized in Infancy: that must be proved by other Arguments; or we might eat the passover because Christ eat it. I trust the joy you express, & in respect of which I would congratulate you, arises from the consciousness of having believed on Christ in the heart, & professed that faith before men; that is, that it is joy in Christ, and not in Baptism. Many do not make this distinction for among all Sects, the outward Sign is often put for the inward & spiritual Grace. The Eunuch when baptized rejoiced in Christ: but [when] Simon Magus rejoiced, it was in Baptism. We are the true Circumcision, who rejoice in Christ Jesus & put no confidence in the flesh. If you truly believed, you were clothed with Christ’s Robe of Righteousness, before Baptism; otherwise [you could not] have put it on. May the Lord give you wisdom & Grace to walk suitable to your profession, patience to bear trials, candour to those who differ from you, & zeal for the substantial fruits of faith, love, & a holy life. I remain yr affec. friend
Text: Reeves Collection, Box 14.8.(j.), Bodleian Library, Oxford. Address: Miss Andrews | Mr Hardings | Exeter Street | Sarum. Postmark: 26 March 1793; for a fully annotated text of this letter, see Timothy Whelan, gen. ed., Nonconformist Women Writers, 1720-1840 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2011), vol. 6, pp. 49-51. Attached is a letter from the Revd Thomas Scott to Maria Grace Andrews, undated but most likely written on the same day, for the postmark is 26 March. This letter has suffered severe water damage. The letter concerns the decision by young Maria Grace to leave the Anglican church and join the Baptist congregation in Brown Street, led by the Revd John Saffery, her future husband. As the next sentence suggests, Andrew's conversion to evangelical Christianity has been a fairly recent event, most likely post-1790. The Scotts demonstrate in these letters an adherence to evangelical Christianity that stood above all denominational distinctions, including the ordinance of baptism, exhibiting a form of Christian ecumenism that will mark the Evangelical movement and give rise to the Religious Tract Society (1799), British and Foreign Bible Society (1804), Abolition Society (1823), and the various missionary societies formed in the 1790s.