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no mention. “Is there no way," say our opponents, “ of receiving him that is weak in faith, but by admitting him to the Lord's table ? Must the exhortation to receive a Christian brother be confined to that single instance of true benevolence ?"* To this we reply, that we know of none who assert that the term receive must necessarily be limited to the single act of a reception at the Lord's table; but we affirm, without hesitation, that he is not received in the sense of the apostle who is denied that privilege. Had the parties whom he addressed proceeded to an open rupture in point of communion, would they, in the judgment of our opponents, have complied with the purport and spirit of his injunctiou? And if, after adopting such a measure, they had appealed to the apostle, whether there were no other way of receiving their brethren but by admitting them to the Lord's table," would he, or would he not, have considered himself as mocked and insulted ? Mr. Booth enumerates many instances in St. Paul's epistles, in which he enjoins Christians to receive certain persons, such as Phæbe, Onesimus, Epaphroditus, and himself, where an admission to the Lord's table was not intended, but something which he informs us would manifest their love in a much higher degree.t What a convincing demonstration of the propriety of withholding from persons of a similar character that lower, that inferior token of esteem which is included in Christian fellowship! And because the bare admission of all the persons mentioned to the external communion of the church did not satisfy the ardent benevolence of the apostle, without more decided and discriminate marks of attachment, nor answer, in the opinion of our opponents, to the full import of the word receive, the true method of realizing his intentions is to reject the modern Phæbe and Onesimus altogether.
“Supposing, however,” says Mr. Booth, “ that there were no way of receiving one that is weak in faith but by adinitting him to the Lord's table, this text would be far from proving that which our opponents desire; unless they could make it appear, that the persons of whom the apostle immediately speaks were not members of the Church of Rome when he gave the advice.” I If there be any weight in this argument, it must proceed on the supposition that if the persons whom the apostle enjoins the Romans to receive had not been already members, there is no sufficient ground for believing, notwithstanding the strain of his admonitions, that they would have been admitted.
But is it possible to suppose that he would have recommended a class of persons so earnestly to the affectionate regards of a Christian society whom he would not have previously deemed eligible to their communion ; or that the primitive discipline was so soon relaxed as to occasion the continuance in the church of such as would have been originally deemed unworthy candidates? Most assuredly they who, upon valid grounds, would have been rejected if they had not already been members, were never permitted to boast the protection and patronage of an inspired apostle after they became such. In every wellordered society, the privileges attached to it are forfeited by that conduct
• Booth's Apology, p. 101.
Ibid. p 102.
Ibid. p. 82.
in its members, whatever it be, which would have been an effectual obstacle to their admission; and to suppose this maxim reversed in a Christian church, and that an apostle would caress, protect, and commend persons who might justly have been debarred from entering, is an absurdity which few minds can digest. The necessity of recurring to such suppositions is itself a sufficient confutation of the system they are brought to defend.
Our opponents still insist upon it, that no conclusion can be drawn from the command to receive the weak in faith, unless it could be shown that they were unbaptized. But this mode of reasoning, pursued to its consequences, would annihilate all the general axions of Scripture, and, considering the infinite diversity of human circumstances, render them a most incompetent guide. If the Holy Spirit has been pleased to command us, without exception, to receive the weak in faith, and instrueted us in the grounds on which his decision proceeded, which is plainly the acceptance of such with God,—if the apostles acting under his direction governed the church on the same principles, and suffered no breach of communion to be effected, but on account of a vicious life, or fundamental error, the criminality attached to an opposite course of procedure will be very little extenuated by a circumstantial difference in its objects. Had those whom the apostles commanded their converts 10 tolerate been unbaptized, the inference in favour of Pedobaptists would unquestionably have been more obvious, but not more certain, because nothing can be more evident than that they urged the duty of toleration on a principle which, even in the judgment of our opponents, equally applies to the Pedobaptists, which is, that the error in each case is compatible with a state of salvation, and may be held with an uprighi conscience.
However systems and opinions may fluctuate, truth is eternal; and if these were solid grounds of mutual forbearance and indulgence heretofore, they must still continue such; but if they were not, St. Paul must be acknowledged to have reasoned inconclusively, and all idea of plenary inspiration must be abandoned. As the case stands, the advocates of exclusive communion must either assert, in direct contradiction to his statement, that the compatibility of an error with the state of salvation, and with what comes nearly to the same point the perfect sincerity of its abetter, is not a sufficient reason for its being tolerated in the church, or consign the Pedobaptists who die in their sentiments, to eternal destruction. In this dilemma, they are at liberty to adopt which position they please, but from both it is impossible to escape.
In order, as it should seem, to perplex the mind of the reader on this part of the subject, our opponents endeavour to confound that interposition of mercy by which impenitent sinners are introduced into a state of salvation with the gracious acceptance of believers.
* “But admitting that to be a fact," says Mr. Booth, "of which there is not the least evidence, the conclusion drawn from the passage would not be just, except it were also proved that the weak in faith were unbaptized, or at least so considered by their stronger brethren, for that is the point in dispute between us."-Booth's Apology. p. 104.
" Yet permit me to ask," says Mr. booth, " is the Divine conduct, is the favour or God, or the kindness of Christ in receiving sinners the rule of our proceeding in the administration of positive
With this view we are reminded that God receives such as are dead in sins. Whether it be safe to assert that God accepts the impenitent at all while their impenitence continues, I shall not stay to inquire : it is certain they are not received in the same sense as genuine Christians, nor in the sense the apostle intended when he enjoined forbearance towards the weak in faith. That Christ receives men in their sins, so as to adopt them into his family, and make them heirs of eternal life, is a doctrine offensive to pious ears, most remote from the language of Scripture, and from all sober theology. But if they intend something essentially distinct from this, for what purpose it is introduced, except with a view to shelter themselves under the cover of an ambiguous term, I am at a loss to conjecture. In the mean time, it is obvious that the design of these contortions is to get rid, if possible, of a principle which originated not with us, but with St. Paul, that we ought to accept those whom we acknowledge Christ to have accepted. This is still more evident when we find them adducing the excommunication of unworihy members, such as the incestuous man at Corinth, who, it is asserted, was all along an object of Divine favour, as a proof that the rule which that inspired writer has laid down may be safely neglected. In reply to which, it is sufficient to ask-In what light was the incestuous person regarded, * when he declared his determination to deliver him to Satan for the destruction of the flesh? Was it under the character of a member of Christ, or an enemy to the gospel? If we believe his own representation, he deemed it necessary for him to be expelled as an infectious leaven, the continuance of which would corrupt the whole mass; so that whatever proofs of repentance he might afterward exhibit, these could have no influence on the principle on which he was excluded. When the professors of Christianity are guilty of deliberate violation of the laws of Christ, they are to be treated agreeably to the conduct they exhibit, as bad men, with a hope that the severity of discipline may reclaim and restore them to the paths of rectitude.
To justify the practice of exclusive communion, by placing Pedobaptists, who form the great body of the faithful, on the same level with men of impure and vicious lives, is equally repugnant to reason and offensive to charity; at the same time that it is manifest from this mode of reasoning, that the measure contended for is considered in the light of punishment. Whether our Pedobaptist brethren are the proper objects of it, or whether it is adopted to promote the only legitimate ends of punishment, must be left to future inquiry.
institutions? Whom does God, whom does Christ receive ? None but those who believe and profese faith in the Lord Messiah ? Our brethren will not affirm it. For if Divine compassion did not extend to the dead in sin; if the kindness of Christ did not relieve the enemies of God, none of our fellow-race would ever be saved. But does it hence follow that we must admit the unbelieving, or the unconverted, either to baptism or the Holy Supper! Our gracious Lord frecly accepts all ihat desire it, and all that come, but are we bound to receive every one that solicité communion with us?" -Booth's Apology, p. 106.
* " Besides, gospel churches," says Mr. Booth, "are sometimes obliged to exclude from their communion those whom he has received, as appears irom the case of the incestuous person in the church of Corinth And have those churches which practise free communion never excluded any for scandalous backslidings whom, notwithstanding, they could not bui consider as receivod or Christ hann Booth's Apology, p. 106.
Pedobaptists a Part of the true Church, and their Exclusion on that
account unlawful. Before we proceed to urge the argument announced in this section, it will be necessary to ascertain the precise import of the word church as it is employed in the Holy Scriptures. If we examine the New Testament, we shall find that the term church as a religious appellation occurs in two senses only; it either denotes the whole body of the faithful, or some one assembly of Christians associated for the worship of God. In the former sense, it is styled in the Apostles' Creed, catholic, or universal ; a belief in the existence of which forms one of its principal articles. In this sense, Jesus Christ is affirmed to be “ Head over all things to the church, which is his body.” It is in this collective view of it that we affirm its perpetuity. When the term is employed to denote a particular assembly of Christians, it is invariably accompanied with a specification of the place where it was accustomed to convene, as, for example, the church at Corinth, at Ephesus, or at Rome. Now it is manifest from Scripture, that these two significations of the word differ from each other only as a part differs from a whole, so that when the whole body of believers is intended, it is used in its absolute form ; when a particular society is meant, it is joined with a local specification. It is never used in the New Testament, as in modern times, to denote the aggregate of Christian assemblies throughout a province, or a kingdom; nor do we ever read of the church of Achaia, Galatia, &c., but of the churches, in the plural number ; the word being constantly applied either to the whole number of the faithful scattered throughout the world, or to some single congregation or society. It is equally obvious that whenever the word church occurs in its absolute form, it comprehends all genuine Christians without exception, and as that church is affirmed to be his body, it could not enter into the conception of the inspired writers that there were a class of persons strictly united to Christ, who yet were none of its component parts.
By orthodox Christians it is uniformly maintained that union to Christ is formed by faith, and as the Baptists are distinguished by demanding a profession of it at baptism, they at least are precluded from asserting that rite to have any concern in effecting the spiritual alliance in question. In their judgment at least, since faith precedes the application of water, the only means of union are possessed by the abetters of infant-sprinkling equally with themselves; who are therefore equally of the “ body of Christ, and members in particular.” But since the Holy Ghost identifies that body with the church, explaining the one by the other (“ for his body's sake, which is the church"), it seems impossible to deny that they are fully entitled to be considered, in the catholic sense of the term, as members of the Christian church.
And, as the universal church is nothing more than the collective body of the faithful, and differs only from a particular assembly of Christians, as the whole from a part, it is equally impossible to deny that a Pedobaptist society is, in the more limited import of the word, a true church.
If we consider the matter in a light somewhat different, we shall be conducted to the same conclusion, and be compelled to confess that Pedobaptist societies are, or at least may be, notwithstanding the practice of infant-sprinkling, true churches. The idea of plurality, it will be admitted, adds nothing to the nature of the object 10 which it is attached. The idea of a number of men dissers nothing in kind from that of a single man, except that it involves a repetition or multiplication of the same idea. But the term church is merely a numerical term, denoting a multitude, or an assembly of men; and for the same reason that a number of men meeting together constitutes an assembly, or church,* in the most comprehensive import of the word, so a number of Christians convened for the worship of God constitutes a Christian assembly, or a church. Such an assembly will necessarily be modified by the character of the members which compose it; if their sentiments are erroneous, the church will proportionably imbibe a tincture of error; but to affirm, that though it consists of real Christians, a society of such assembled for Christian worship is not a true church, is to attribute to the idea of plurality or of number the power of changing the nature or essence of the object with which it is united, which involves a contradiction to our clearest perceptions. If we adhere to the dictates of reason or of Scripture when we give the appellation of a church to a particular society of Christians, we shall mingle nothing in our conceptions beyond what enters into our ideas of an individual Christian, with the exception of this circumstance only, that it denotes a number of such individuals actually assembled, or wont to assemble, for the celebration of Divine worship. Though the definition of a church has often been the occasion of much confused disquisition, especially when the term had been applied exclusively to the clergy, the Baptists, I believe, are the only persons who have scrupled to assign that appellation to societies acknowledged to consist of sincere and spiritual worshippers : a notion which, however repugnant to the dictates of candour, or of common sense, is the necessary appendage of the practice, equally absurd, of confining their communion to their own denomination.
Having shown, we trust to the satisfaction of the reader, that Pedobaptism is not an error of such magnitude as to prevent the society which maintains it from being deemed a true church, I proceed to observe, that to repel the members of such a society from communion is the very essence of schism. Schism is a causeless and unnecessary separation from the church of Christ, or from any part of it; and that secession cannot urge the plea of necessity where no concurrence in what is deemed evil, no approbation of error or superstition, is involved in communion. In the case before us, by admitting a Pedobaptist to the Lord's Supper, no sanction whatever is given to infant-sprinkling, no
* Acts xix. 32.—" For the assembly was confused." The original is h laa noia, the term usually rendered church.