« AnteriorContinuar »
Christians were all Calvinists, or all Arminians; were the Calvinist to assert that he dares not sanction so serious a departure from truth as the denial of election, and that to receive such as were erroneous in this point would be to admit a class of persons who had no existence in the primitive church, he would argue precisely in the same manner as Mr. Kinghorn. How would our author repel this reasoning, or justify a more liberal conduct? He certainly would not allege the original obscurity of the apostolic injunctions, and the possibility of primitive converts mistaking their meaning: he would unquestionably insist on the different degrees of importance attached to revealed truths, and the palpable difference between mistaking the meaning and avowedly opposing the inspired writers. But this is precisely our mode of defence.
When a dispute arose on the obligation of extending the rite of cir. cumcision to the gentiles, a council, consisting of the apostles and elders, was assembled to determine the question. Their decision was, that the gentiles should no longer be troubled on that head, but that they should be strictly enjoined, among other things, carefully to abstain from things strangled, and from blood. It is universally acknowledged that it was the design of this injunction to prohibit the use of blood in food. This precept was enjoined expressly on the gentiles, without the slightest intimation of its being of temporary duration ; nor did it commence with the Jewish dispensation, but was in force from the period of the deluge. I have not the smallest doubt that it is of perpetual force, however little it may be regarded in modern practice; and were the observation of it proposed as a term of communion, I am not aware of a single argument adduced by our opponents for their narrow exclusive system which might not with superior advantage be alleged in favour of such a regulation. If it be urged that there never was a period when it was not the duty of believers in Christ to be baptized, it may be asserted with equal confidence that the precept of abstaining from blood was invariably observed by the faithful from the time of Noah. If it be urged that the primitive church consisted exclusively of such as were baptized, it is equally certain that it consisted only of such as abstained from blood. That it was once a term of communion” none will deny : "how then comes it to cease to be such ?” In this case there is no room to allege a misapprehension of the meaning of the precept; it is susceptible but of one interpretation; and if the terms of communion are not “annulled by being misunderstood,"* much less when there is no such pretence. The only perceptible difference in the two cases is, that the precept respecting blood was not promulgated by the Saviour himself: but it resulted from the solemn and unanimous decision of his apostles, and is of more ancient origin than any other Christian institute. If our opponents attempt to depreciate its importance by asserting that it is merely ritual and ceremonial, so is baptism; and as they were both enjoined by the same authority, both universally maintained in the primitive church, if the absence of one of these observances constitutes a church of different materials, so must the neglect of the other.
Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 20
Such as violate the abstinence in question will not pretend that they observe the prohibition: they satisfy themselves with asserting their conviction (a conviction not sustained by a syllable of Scripture) that it is only of temporary obligation; and as Pedobaptists profess their conscientious adherence to the baptismal precept, which they merely demand the right of interpreting for themselves, upon what principle is it that a mistake in the meaning of a positive injunction is deemed more criminal than its avowed neglect; or why should an error of judgment, which equally affects the practice in both cases, be tolerated in one, and made the ground of exclusion in the other? This reasoning, it is acknowledged, bears with the greatest weight on such as conceive the prohibition of blood to be still in force; who, if they adopt the principle of Mr. Kinghorn, ought, to be consistent, immediately to separate themselves from such as are of a contrary judgment. The same argument equally applies to laying on of hands after ordination and baptism. It is acknowledged that this rite was universally practised in the primitive times, that it claims the sanction of apostolic example, and it is enumerated by St. Paul among the first principles of Christian doctrine. Wherever that practice is laid aside, it may with equal truth be affirmed that the church consists of different materials from those admitted by the apostles; and it may be asked with an air of triumph, in the words of this writer, by what authority we presume “to make a Scriptural rite of less consequence in the church of Christ than it was once ?"*
Thus much may suffice for the vindication of our pretended departure from ancient usage and apostolic precedent. But as this topic is supposed to include the very pith and marrow of my opponent's cause, the reader must excuse my replying to some other parts of his reasoning. Confident of the soundness of our principles, it is my anxious wish that nothing may pass unnoticed that wears the shadow of argument; and that no suspicion be afforded of a desire to shrink from any part of the contest.
“If an obedience to a rite,” says our author, “ be not a term of salvation (which no one supposes), yet it was ordered by the highest authority, as an evidence of subjection to the Author of salvation."| He repeatedly asserts that it was prescribed as an evidence of faith in him. In another place he styles it the appointed evidence of our putting on Jesus Christ,” and affirms that “the church of Christ acting upon the rule he has laid down, cannot recognise any person as his disciple who is not baptized in his name."!
Let us first ascertain the precise meaning of these remarkable passages. He cannot be supposed to assert that baptism is of itself a sufficient evidence of saving faith : Simon Magus was baptized, who had
no part or lot in the matter.” His meaning must be, that the ordinance in question forms a necessary part of the evidence of faith, insomuch that in the absence of it our Lord intended no other should be deemed valid. That this was the case in the primitive age we feel no hesitation in affirming; we have also shown at large the reason on
* Baptism a Term or Communion, p. 92.
| Ibid. p. 18.
Ibid. p 140
which that conclusion is founded. But in no part of Scripture is there the slightest intimation that it was more specifically intended as the test of faith, than compliance with any other part of the mind of Christ; or that it was in any other sense an evidence of the existence of that attainment, than as it was necessary to evince the possession of Christian sincerity. Thus much we are most willing to concede, but are at a loss to know what is gained by it, unless our opponent could demonstrate that it occupies the same place at present, and that it is still necessary to constitute a valid evidence of faith in the Redeemer. If this is what he means to assert (and nothing besides has the least relation to his argument), how will he reconcile it with the confidence he so often expresses of the piety of the Pedobaptists ? His objection to their communion, he elsewhere informs us, “ does not arise from suspicions attaching to their Christian character,"* to which he trusts he is always willing to render ample justice. He has no suspicion of the piety of those who are destitute of that which Jesus Christ prescribed as the evidence of faith, and whom he affirms “it is impossible for the church, acting on the rule which he has laid down, to recognise as his disciples.” I am at a loss to conceive of a more palpable contradiction.
If there be any meaning in terms, the word evidence means that by which the truth of a fact or a proposition is made manifest, and the absence of which induces either hesitation or denial. Its place in the intellectual world corresponds to light in the natural; and it is just as conceivable how an object can be beheld without light, as how a fact can be ascertained without evidence. Mr. Kinghorn, it seems, however, has contrived to solve the problem; for while he affirms that the patrons of infant baptism are destitute of that which Infinite Wisdom has prescribed as the evidence of faith, and by which we are to recognise his disciples, he expresses as firm a conviction of their piety as though they possessed it in the utmost perfection. Let me ask on what is his conviction founded—will he say upon evidence? But he assigns as a reason for refusing their fellowship, that they are destitute of that which Christ prescribed for that purpose. Will he distinguish between that private evidence which satisfies his own mind, and the sort of evidence which Christ has demanded and enjoined ! But what unheard, of presumption to oppose his private judgment to the dictates of Heaven; and, while the Head of the church has appointed the performance of a certain ceremony to be the invariable criterion of discipleship, to pretend, in its absence, to ascertain it by another medium! To attempt to prove that every thing really is what God has appointed it, and that Infinite Wisdom, where figurative language is excluded, calls things by their proper names, would be to insult the understanding of the reader. If compliance with adult baptism is, in every age, the appointed evidence of faith in Christ, it undoubtedly is what it pretends to be; and to ascribe faith to such as are destitute of it is a sort of impiety.
“ No church,” he assures us, “acting agreeably to the rules of Christ, can recognise them as his disciples.”+ What strange magie
lies concealed in the word church! This writer, in a multitude of places, makes no scruple of avowing his attachments to the members of other denominations; he even anxiously guards against the supposition of his indulging a thought to the prejudice of their piety; and the sentiments which he entertains himself he must be supposed to recommend to the adoption of his brethren. In his individual character, he feels no objection to recognise thein to the full as Christians; nay, he expresses the sentiments of recognition in a studied variety of phrase ; but the moment. he conceives himself in a church, his tone is altered, and he feels himself compelled to treat them as strangers and foreigners. Why this contradiction between the language of the individual and the language of the church? If they are Christians, why should the knowledge of the fact be suppressed there? We are taught by St. Paul to consider the church as the pillar and ground of the truth; where she is supposed to exhibit, as in a focus, the light and love which actuate her respective members ; and instead of dissonance between her public principles and the private sentiments of her members, we naturally look for a perfect harmony, or rather, for a more illustrious exhibition of what every one thinks and feels apart—for a great and combined movement of charity, corresponding to her more silent and secret inspirations. But we are doomed to anticipate it in vain; for while the advocates of strict communion are shocked at the idea of suspecting the piety of their Pedobaptist brethren, they contend it would be criminal to recognise it in the church. What mysterious place is this, in which we are forbidden to acknowledge a truth proclaimed without scruple everywhere else; which possesses the property of darkening every object enclosed within its limits, and of rendering Christians invisible and impalpable to each other! In the broad daylight of the world, notwithstanding their minor differenees, they are recognised with facility ; but the moment we enter the sombrous gloom of a Baptist church, we are lost from each other's view; and like those who visited the cave of Triphonius, return pale, dejected, and bewildered. Of such societies we might be almost tempted to exclaim“My soul, come not thou into their seeret, and to their assembly be not thou united !” Shocked as we are at such illiberality, we suppress the emotions which naturally arise on the occasion, remembering (strange as it may seem) how often it is associated with talents the most respectable, and piety the most fervent.
The supposed necessary Connexion between the two positive Institutes
further discussed, wherein other Arguments are examined.
The reader can scarcely be too often reminded that the present controversy turns entirely on the supposed necessary connexion between the two positive Christian institutes ; the recollection of which will at once convince him of the total irrelevancy of much which it has been customary to urge on the subject. Our opponents frequently reason in such a manner as would lead the reader to suppose we were aiming to set aside adult baptism. Thus they insist on the clearness with which it is enjoined and exemplified in the sacred volume, contend for its perpetuity, and represent us as depreciating its value, and dispensing with its obligation ; topics which might be introduced with propriety in a dispute with the people called Quakers, or with the followers of Mr. Emlyn, but are perfectly irrelevant to the present inquiry. It surely requires but little attention to perceive that it is one thing to tolerate, and another to sanction ; that to affirm that each of the positive rites of religion ought to be attended to, and that they are so related that a mistake respecting one instantly disqualifies for another, are not the same propositions. An attention to that distinction would have in. credibly shortened the present debate, and shown the futility of much unmeaning declamation, and even of much unanswerable argument. We wish, if possible, to put an end to this cutopaxıa, this fighting with shadows and beating the air, and to confine the discussion to the real question, which is, whether the two positive ordinances of the New Testament are so related to each other, either in the nature of things or by express command, that he whom we deem not baptized is, ipso facto, or from that circumstance alone, disqualified for an attendance at the Lord's table. This, and this only, is the question in which we are concerned.
That there is not a necessary connexion, in the nature of things, between the two rites, appears from the slightest attention to their nature. It will not be pretended that the Lord's Supper is founded on baptism, or that it recognises a single circumstance belonging to it; nor will it be asserted to be a less reasonable service, or less capable of answering the design of its appointment, when attended to by a Pedobaptist, than by persons of our own persuasion. The event which it “ shows forth” is one in which all denominations are equally interested; the sacrifice which it exhibits is an oblation of whose benefits they equally partake; and so little affinity does it bear to baptism, considered as a ceremony, that the most profound consideration of it will not suggest the idea of that rite. As far as reason is capable of investigating the matter, they appear separate ceremonies, no otherwise related than as they emanate from the same source, and are prescribed to the same description of persons. In a word, judging from the