John Quincy Adams work has been of great encouragement to me over the past couple of years. In the Lecture One of the Centennial Edition (1876), Rev. Adam's writes very clearly on the aim, reproach, and triumph of the reformer. I have taken the freedom to excerpt a significant paragraph from each point below:
I. THE AIM OF THE RELIGIOUS REFORMER.
A Reformer is one who seeks to remove abuses which have crept into an organization or community, or one who boldly enters a field where error has held undisputed sway, and fearlessly wields amid giant powers of opposition, the weapons of truth. He aims to entirely revolutionize the minds of the community in which he labors, on that particular subject where he believes reform to he needed. A compromise between truth and error is not what he seeks, and will not satisfy him. "The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth," is his motto. Old systems of error, however sacred on account of their antiquity, he boldly attacks. Though massive darkness has long brooded over the people, he aims to dissipate the gloom, and shed upon them brilliant rays of light. His work is a mighty one; the end for which he labors is noble and sublime. He holds a position in advance of the community in which he resides, and the age in which he lives – hence he possesses traits of character that are peculiar, which fit him to toil and suffer for the accomplishment of his designs.
II. THE REPROACH OF THE REFORMER.
All Reforms are attended with agitation and conflict, but none more so than reforms in religion. At first, the reformer may attract but little attention. His attacks on error may appear so feeble, and his efforts to advance the truth may seem so faint, that the opponents of truth may esteem only the smile of ridicule and scorn necessary to throw his work into insignificance, or a slight exertion of authority sufficient to extinguish it. But let him continue with boldness, energy and eloquence, to plead for truth and begin to make an impression upon the public mind, and gather adherents around him; then will his adversaries become agitated and alarmed. Like the fierce storm, lashing into foam the waters of the mighty deep, they stir up the popular mind, until the entire community moves in angry surges, and persecution and violence ensue. The more bold the onset, the more forcible the elucidation of truth, the more numerous the adherents to the reform, the more fiercely will the advocates of error oppose the effort, and the more desperately will they seek to crush by force, or circumvent by cunning, what they cannot master by argument, or defeat by sound logic.
III. THE TRIUMPH OF THE REFORMER.
The true religious reformer must ultimately triumph. However opposed, reproached, and persecuted, he triumphs. Even when he appears to be discomfited he triumphs. While he struggles on in adversity, and while sad reverses meet him in his work, still he triumphs. The power of the truth is manifest in the support it yields him amid these disheartening circumstances. The consciousness that he has discharged his duty with fidelity, fills his mind with peace. He feels that the smile of God is upon him; hence the frowns of the opposers of truth, and their anathemas, are lighter than vanity to him. He esteems "the reproaches of Christ greater riches than all the treasures" of earth. The shame of the cross he counts greater honor than all the applause of the world, and the martyr's death is to him sweeter than all earthly pleasures. He exhibits a dignity of character that far outshines all others, and totally eclipses, on the historic page, all his slanderous persecutors. He is as far superior to the time-serving demagogue, as are the burning beams of the meridian sun to the last sickly rays of the feeble taper, flickering in its socket, and just ready to expire. He knows no fear of consequences. Duty, it is his to perform – results, are God's to control. He stands firmly, as the rock in the ocean, unmoved amid the howlings of the tempest and the fury of the waves. For him there is a, glorious future, however dark the hour of trial may be; and though for a time he endures reproach, he will have a name when his persecutors have perished and are forgotten.
I thank the Lord that Baptists are thorough reformers. May we stand on the truth and sufficiency of Scripture alone, and may our theological and religious shibboleths that have no biblical support fall at the hands of reform.
In His Grace,