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objections. In the estimation of multitudes, little qualified to appreciate the weight of an argument, to be brief and to be superficial are one and the same thing ; no publication is admitted to be solidly answered, except the reply bears a certain proportion to it in size and extent; and whatever is not distinctly noticed and discussed, however irrelevant, or however trivial, is instantly proclaimed unanswerable. These considerations determined me rather to hazard the imputation of tediousness, than to attempt a very concise reply, which, however cogent, would be construed by many into a tacit acknowledgment of my incapacity to combat the reasoning of my opponent. Having, therefore, only a choice of evils, and necessitated either to make a large demand on the patience of the reader, or to incur the suspicion of evading what could not be successfully encountered, I preferred the former; endeavouring at the same time to shun, as much as possible, a tiresome repetition of the same topics ; with what success the public will determine.
The preceding remarks will explain one cause of delay; to which may be added, a strong disinclination to controversy, the want of a habit of composition, repeated attacks of illness at one period, and various avocations and engagements at another, too unimportant to be obtruded on the attention of the reader.
It may also be remarked, in extenuation of the charge of procrastination, that the subject is just as interesting and important as when the controversy commenced. The evil in which it originates is not local, nor of an ephemeral or transitory nature: it will continue to subsist, there is reason to fear, after the present generation is consigned to the dust ; and even the delay may not be altogether without its advantages. Both parties will have had leisure to reflect, the reasoning on each side of the question time to settle, and to find its level in the public mind, undisturbed by that disposition extravagantly to depreciate and to extol respectively the performances it has given rise to, which almost invariably distinguishes the outset of a controversy. Whatever appears in the present stage, it is but justice to consider as the result of more matured observation and inquiry, compensating in pertinence and solidity what it may want in vivacity and ardour.
It is remarkable, that without any previous knowledge or concert, a discussion on the subject of communion commenced nearly at the same time on both sides the Atlantic; and the celebrated Dr. Mason of NewYork, justly regarded as one of the brightest ornaments of the western hemisphere, was exerting the energies of his most powerful mind in establishing the fundamental position of the treatise On Terms of Communion, almost at the very moment that treatise appeared. A coincidence so rare, a movement so simultaneous, yet so unpremeditated, we cannot but look upon as a token for good, as an indication of the approach of that period, so ardently desired by every enlightened Christian, when genuine believers will again be of “one heart and of one mind.” Let us hope that America, the land of freedom, where our pious ancestors found an asylum from the oppression of intolerance, will exert, under the auspices of such men as Dr. Mason, a powerful reaction on the parent state, and aid her emancipation from the relics of
that pestilential evil still cherished and retained in too many British churches.
Independent of other considerations, that invaluable person possesses one obvious advantage over the author of the following performance. Disengaged from the spurious refinements and perplexing subtleties which arise from the subject of baptism, by which our opponents attempt to evade the application of his general principle, his movements are in consequence more free and unfettered, and his force operates in a more simple direction than is compatible with the state of the question as it respects the views of the Baptist denomination. He fearlessly spreads his sails to the winds, and triumphs on the element which is congenial to the amplitude and grandeur of his mind. Mine is a coasting voyage, in which the author feels himself necessitated to creep along the shore, and to comply with all its irregularities, in the midst of flats and shoals, and exposed to perpetual annoyance from the innumerable small craft which infest these shallow waters. The effect of the different situations in which we are placed is to give a luminous simplicity to his mode of conducting the argument, which forms a striking contrast, not only to the tedious logomachies which I have been compelled to encounter,* but the manner in which I have attempted to confute them. It belongs to a Pascal, and perhaps to a few others of the same order of genius, to invest the severest logic with the charms of the most beautiful composition, and to render the most profound argumentation as entertaining as a romance. The author makes no such pretension : having contined his endeavours to an attempt to establish his assertions by suflicient proof, and to expose the sophistry of his opponent, he must be allowed to remind his readers that no quality will be found more necessary than patience. Truth, as far as he knows himself, is his sole object; and if they are actuated by the same disposition, though they will find little to amuse, it is possible they may meet with something to instruct them.
It is surprising how little attention an inquiry into the principles which ought to regulate our intercourse with other denominations (a question of considerable moment, in whatever light it be viewed) has excited. Though it has given birth to a few publications, at very distant intervals, none, as far as my information extends, have produced any deep impression, or any extensive and permanent effects. On this subject, a spirit of slumber seems to have oppressed our faculties, from which we have hardly ever completely awoke. From the appearance of Mr. Bunyan's treatise, entitled Water Baptism no Bar to Communion, to the publication of the celebrated Mr. Robinson, a whole century elapsed, with few or no efforts to check the progress of the prevailing system, which had gained so firm a footing previous to Mr. Booth's writing, that he felt no scruple in entitling his desence of that practice An Apology for the Baptists. The majority appear to have carried it with so high a hand, that the few churches who ventured to
• Though Dr. Mason was not led by the course of his argument to treat of the question of mixed communim, in the usual import of that phrase, his general principle not only necessarily infors it, but I have the satisfaction of learning from his own lips his enure approbation of the doctrine advanced in Terms of Communion.
depart from the established usage were very equivocally acknowledged to belong to the general body, and seem to have been content to purchase
peace at the price of silence and submission. The most virulent reproaches were cast upon the admirable Bunyan, during his own time, for presuming to break the yoke; and whoever impartially examines the spirit of Mr. Booth's Apology will perceive that its venerable author regards him, together with his coadjutors and successors, much in the light of rebels and insurgents; or, to use the mildest terms, as contumacious despisers of legitimate authority. Mr. Kinghorn, in the same spirit, evinces an eagerness, at every turn, to dispute our title to be considered as complete Baptists. In short, whether it is to be ascribed to intimidation, or to some other cause, the fact is notorious that the zeal evinced on the side of free communion has hitherto borne no proportion to that which impels the advocates of the opposite system, whose treatment of their opponents, in most instances, bears no very remote resemblance to that which moderate churchmen are accustomed to receive at the hands of their high church brethren.
Another cause has probably co-operated towards the production of the same result. Some whose character commands the deepest respect are known to deprecate the agitation of the present controversy, from an apprehension of the injury the denomination may sustain by the exposure of its intestine dissensions. For my own part, I am at a loss to conceive the grounds on which such a policy can be justified. Could the fact that we are at variance among ourselves on the subject under discussion be concealed, something might be urged in favour of the prudence of such a measure, nothing certainly for its magnanimity. But since that is impossible, and whoever is acquainted with the state of the denomination is aware of the diversity which subsists in the constitution of our churches in this particular, the true state of the question is, whether that article of the Apostles' Creed which asserts the communion of saints is to be merged in an exclusive zeal for baptism, and its systematic violation, in our judgment at least, to remain unnoticed and unchecked, in deference to party feelings and interests. We are at a loss to conceive how the association of truth with error is capable of benefiting the former; or how it can be eventually injured by an attempt (conducted in a Christian spirit) to dissolve an alliance which resembles the junction of the living with the dead. While the preservation of peace is dear to us, the interests of truth are still more so; and we would fix our eyes on the order in which the attributes of that celestial wisdom are enumerated, which is a first pure, then peaceable."
Before closing this preface, I must be allowed to advert to a circumstance intimately connected with the eventual success of the cause in which I am embarked. It is the general practice of our churches, whatever may be the sentiments of the majority, to continue the practice of strict communion, in almost every instance where the opposite system is incapable of being introduced with a perfect unanimity; in consequence of which it frequently happens that the constitution of the church continues to sanction strict communion, while the sentiments of a vast
majority of its members are decidedly in favour of a contrary system; and in opposition to the usage which obtains on other occasions, the private sentiments of the few are made to regulate and control the conduct of the many. Where, it may be asked, is the propriety, where the justice of such a mode of proceeding? Whatever respect may be due to the conscientious, though erroneous scruples of an upright mind, it is not easy to perceive why these should be permitted to prescribe to the better judgment of those whom we must necessarily consider as more enlightened.
As the majority, convinced, as they are supposed to be, of the right of all genuine Christians to communion, must necessarily regard the dissentients as being in error, it deserves to be considered in what manner error ought to be treated. Ought it to be the object of toleration, or should it be invested with dominion? Surely all it can reasonably claim is the former ; but when, in deference to it, the far greater part of a society refrain from acting agreeably to their avowed principles, and consent to withhold from another class of their fellow-christians what they consider as their undoubted right, they cannot be said merely to tolerate the error in question ; no, they in reality place it on the throne—they prostrate themselves before it. Yet, strange as it may appear, such is at present the conduct of Baptist societies. While there remains the smallest scantling of members averse to open communion, the doors, in compliance with their scruples, continue shut, and Pedobaptist candidates, however excellent, or however numerous, are excluded.
Thus the intolerance of one class of Christians is not only indulged, but pampered and caressed, while the religious profession of another is treated as a nullity. The incongruity of this mode of proceeding is also extremely obvious in another view. The admission of members in our societies, it is well known, is determined by a majority of suffrages, where the minority is expected, and that most reasonably, quietly to acquiesce in the decision of the majority. But in the case under present consideration, where strict communion is practised in a church the majority of whose members are of a contrary persuasion, the eligibility, not of an individual, but of a whole class of individuals, to an indefinite extent, is virtually determined by the judgment of the smaller, in opposition to the larger party.
The injustice of such an arrangement will perhaps be admitted ; but how, it will be asked, can it be remedied? Would it be proper to exclude such as feel it impossible, with a good conscience, to commune with Pedobaptists, in order to make room for the latter? Nothing is more remote from our intention. Without inflicting the slightest wound on those amiable and exemplary persons who scruple the lawfulness of that measure, the remedy appears equally simple and obvious.
Whenever there is a decided majority in a church whose views are in unison with those which we are attempting to recommend, let them throw down the barriers, and admit pious Pedobaptists without hesitation; and let those whose principles deter them from joining in such a communion receive the Lord's Supper apart, retaining, at the same time, all their rights and privileges unimpaired. By this simple expedient, ,
the views of all the parties will be met; the majority will exert their prerogative, and act consistently with their avowed principles; the Pe. dobaptists will obtain their rights; and the abetters of strict communion will enjoy that state of separation and seclusion which they covet. By this means a silent revolution may be effected in our churches, unstained by a particle of violence or of injustice. But while the present plan is pursued, .while we are waiting for the last sands of intolerance to run out, the domination of error and injustice may be prolonged to an interminable period, since, of all creatures, bigotry is the most tenacious of life.
Sudden and violent reformations are not only seldom lasting, but the mischief which results and the disgust they excite often produce a reaction, which confirms and perpetuates the evil they attempt to eradicate. For this reason, great prudence and moderation are requisile in every effort to meliorate the state of public bodies. He who aspires to remove their prejudices must treat them with tenderness and respect, urging them to no step for which they are not fully prepared by a mature and widely-extended conviction of its propriety; for no innovations, however desirable in themselves, will be permanently beneficial, the stability and perpetuity of which are not guarantied by the previous illumination of those by whom they are adopted.
Having devoted more time and attention to the present controversy already than many are disposed to think it entitled to, it is by no means my intention to renew it, conceiving it a cotemptible ambition to determine to have the last word, which is nothing less than to aspire at a pre-eminence in pertinacity. Resting with perfect contidence on the iruth and, consequently, on the ultimate triumphs of the principles which I have attempted to defend, the detection of incidental mistakes and the exposure of minor errors will not disturb my repose, however justly they may awaken a feeling of regret that the powers of the advocate were not more commensurate with the merits of the cause.
If the author has been on any occasion betrayed, in the ardour of debate, into language which the reader may deem disrespectful to his opponent, it will give him real concern. He knows none whose character enti:les him to higher esteem; nor is he insensible to the value of those pressions of personal regard with which Mr. Kinghorn has honoured him, nor of that general mildness and urbanity which is at once the character of his mind and of his performance. Aware of the tendency of controversy to alienate the parties from each other who engage in it, it is matter of regret, on that account, and on that only, that it was my lot to meet with an antagonist in Mr. Kinghorn. In every other respect, it is a fortunate circumstance for the cause of truth ; for while his temper affords a security from that virulence and those personalities which are the opprobrium of theological debate, his talents ensure his doing justice to his cause, perhaps beyond any other person of the same persuasion. A very different performance, in many respects, was anticipated, it is true; nor could the extraordinary assertions, not to say adventurous paradoxes he has hazarded, fail to excite surprise ; although his character exempts him from the suspicion of that arrogance