The Word in the World: Evangelical Writing, Publishing, and Reading in America, 1789-1880

By Candy Gunther Brown | Go to book overview

6
Priesthood of
All Believers

P. West of Dansville, New York, wrote a letter to the editor of Georgia's Old School Southern Baptist Messenger in April 1861. Voicing conventional diffidence, West insisted that he felt his “incompetency to write anything worthy of public notice.” West nevertheless wrote because he had “derived so much pleasure and satisfaction from reading the soul-cheering communications from the dear saints hitherto published in the Messenger, and which has given much assurance that they were led through the same experiences of hopes and fears, temptations and triumphs that I have been through, I have many times felt as though I would like to contribute to their joy, if I could do so by any manifestation of sympathy.” The correspondence columns of the Messenger represented for West a medium through which Christians encouraged one another by communicating shared experiences.1

As an Old School Baptist, West felt personally responsible to support the Messenger's editor, William Beebe, as well as other subscribers to the paper. West “recognized the importance of holding up your hands in the work of publishing pure Bible doctrine among those who truly love our Lord Jesus Christ, and for sustaining this medium of correspondence between the members of Christ's body.” West urged other readers to write more frequently so that Beebe would have material to publish and bade them to canvass for more subscribers so that the journal would be assured of making ends meet financially. In envisioning himself as holding up Beebe's hands, West alluded to the language of Exodus 17:11. In the biblical account, Moses enabled the Israelites to win a lengthy battle by holding the rod of God above the Israelite army. When Moses' arms drooped from exhaus-

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