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gross and so many, that they deserve a distinct enumeration. First, By affirming that to endure, under any circumstances, the omission of a rule of action is to repeal it, he has reduced the very conception of toleration to an impossibility. Secondly, As there can be no moral imperfection but what involves at least an occasional omission of a moral precept, the least of which he affirms is of greater moment than baptism; he must either contend for the propriety of setting aside forbearance altogether, or must be understood to select for its object the greater, in preference to the least, of two evils. Thirdly, In assuming it for granted that there is a law in existence which universally prohibits the unbaptized from communion, he assumes the whole question in debate; and if no such rule is admitted, how is it possible we should be guilty of repealing it. Fourthly, In stigmatizing the practice of not invariably insisting on a compliance with primitive baptism, in order to fellowship, as a virtual repeal of the precept which enjoins it, while we inculcate it as a divine command, and testify our disapprobation of its neglect, is a strange abuse of terms, founded on the following principle; that whatever is not absolutely and invariably required as a ierm of communion, is virtually repealed ; whence it necessarily follows, that the whole of that duty in which the church of Corinth was defective, that whole portion of the mind of Christ which they failed to exemplify, was considered by St. Paul as no longer binding, since, however it might excite his concern, and draw forth his rebuke, the want of it, it is evident, did not prevent his forbearance. Will he abide by this inference? If he declines it, let him show, if he is able, why it is less applicable to the conduct of St. Paul than to ours?
That we do not repeal the ordinance by which our denomination is distinguished, considered as a duty, is a fact, of which we give ocular demonstration as often as it is celebrated. True, say our opponents, but you repeal it as a necessary preliminary to the Lord's Supper. To which the answer is obvious: First prove that it is so, and then, should we continue obstinate, load us as much as you please with the opprobrium of abrogating a divine command. But cease to run round this miserable circle, of first assuming the existence of a law confining communion within certain limits, then accusing us of repealing it, and lastly of finding us guilty of transgressing the prescribed bounds, on the ground of that repeal. He who repeals a rule of action reduces the system of duty to exactly the same state as though it had never existed. Whenever we are convicted of doing this, whenever we teach the nullity of baptism, or inculcate a habit of indifference respecting either the mode or the subject of that ordinance, we will bow to the justice of the charge ; but till then, we feel justified in treating it with the neglect due to an attempt to convince without logic, and to criminate without guilt.
The wpūrov Yeodos, the radical fallacy of the whole proceeding, consists in confounding an interpretation of the law, however just, with the law itself; in affirming of the first whatever is true of the last ; and of subverting, under that pretext, the right of private judgment.
The interpretation of a rule is, to him who adopts it, equally binding
with the rule itself, because every one must act on his own responsibility ; but he has no authority whatever to bind it on the conscience of his brother, and to treat him who receives it not as though he were at direct issue with the legislator. It is this presumptuous claim of infallibility, this assumption of the prerogative of Christ, this disposition to identify ourselves with him, and to place our conclusions on a footing with his mandates, that is the secret spring of all that intolerance which has so long bewitched the world with her sorceries, from the elevation of papal Rome, where she thunders and lightens from the Vatican, down to Baptist societies, where she whispers feebly from the dust."
This writer has, with the best intentions I doubt not, dragged from its obscurity a principle whose thorough application and development would doom, not our societies alone, but every church in the universe, to a confusion of minds and of tongues, a state of discord and anarchy, the healing of which would soon find him other employ than that of attempting to defend the petty and repulsive peculiarity to which he has devoted his labours.
Before I close this chapter, it is proper to observe, in order to obviate misconception, that nothing is more remote from my intention than to plead for a wilful omission of any part of the will of Christ. His honour, I trust, is as dear, his prerogative as sacred, in the eyes of the advocates of Christian, as it is in those of sectarian communion. Let each, in the regulation of his own conduct, pay the most scrupulous attention to his orders; and wherever he distinctly perceives that a professor of religion indulges himself in a known and habitual violation of them, let him, after seasonable and repeated admonition, “ withdraw from the brother that walketh disorderly." But let him not presume to control the sentiments and conduct of others by his standard, and treat as an enemy or an alien that humble follower of Christ who is as sincerely devoted to His will as himself; and who, however he may mistake it in some particulars, would shudder at the thought of setting voluntary bounds to obedience. If to tolerate such must subject us to the reproach of repealing the law of Christ, let us remember we are not the first who have been condemned for undervaluing the ritual part of religion, and for preferring mercy to sacrifice. As “we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ,” we await with much composure and confidence his decision; without indulging the smallest apprehension that we shall meet with less compassion for having shown it, or that we shall incur his displeasure for refusing to " beat our fellow-servants."
An Inquiry how far the Practice of mixed Communion affects the
Grounds of Dissent from the Church of England, and from the
MR. KINGHORN expresses his surprise that the champions of the hierarchy have neglected in their controversy with dissenters to avail themselves of the practice of strict communion. For my part, I am only surprised at his surprise. For supposing (what is most contrary to fact) that it had furnished them with some advantage against a part of the Baptists, what mighty triumph would it be to have proved, that a branch only of a denomination, by no means considerable in their eyes, had been betrayed into an inconsistency? The abetters of a splendid hierarchy were little likely to descend to a petty altercation with the members of one division of dissent, respecting a point which could merely supply an argumentum ad hominem, and about which their opponents are far from being agreed.
To us, however, it is of importance to consider whether the doctrine we have attempted to establish is justly chargeable with infringing on the legitimate principles of dissent. With this view, we shall briefly examine the substan of our author's arguments on this subject.
We are accused of inconsistency in arraigning the Church of England “for introducing rites and ceremonies which have indeed no scriptural authority, but which are pleaded for, merely as decent and venerable customs : while we ourselves tolerate in the church the neglect of an institution which we are convinced was universally obeyed in the apostolic times, and which was appointed by the highest authority."* To this we reply that the cases are not parallel ; that they differ in the most essential particulars.
It is one thing to tolerate, and another to practise. The law of God invariably and absolutely forbids the latter ; that is, it uniformly prohibits the performance of a single action which we esteem contrary to his will, but io say it in all cases forbids the former is to insist on an absolute agreement respecting every branch of practice. The objection is brought against us, who neither practise nor sanction infant baptism, that we are chargeable with the same criminality which is supposed to attach to the introducers of human rites and ceremonies in religion,ceremonies which they unquestionably both practise and approve. The argument of the writer, reduced to the form of a syllogism, is as follows:
To practise human rites and ceremonies in the worship of God is sinful;
* Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 123.
But the advocates of mixed communion suffer to remain in the church persons who practise a certain ceremony of human invention ;
Therefore their conduct is sinful.
Who does not perceive that the second proposition has no necessary connexion with the first, and that the argument is consequently invalid? In order to establish his conclusion, it behooved the author to prove that we practise and approve infant baptism, which he knows to be impossible. If Pedobaptists required our concurrence in what we esteem an erroneous practice,--nay, if they refused us the liberty of protesting against it, there would be an analogy between the two cases; as it is, there is none.
We are bound by an express law to tolerate in the church those whom Christ has received ; and he has, by the acknowledgment even of our opponents, received the Pedobaptists. The first of these positions we feel ourselves justified in affirming till it be disproved; which this writer is so far from having done, that no attempt, we shall plainly make appear, was ever more unsuccessful. But whether it be true or not that we are commanded to act thus, such is our opinion ; and with this persuasion, we are not at liberty to act in a different manner. But will such as prescribe human rites and ceremonies pretend to act under a similar conviction,-a conviction that they are bound by the law of Christ to use the cross in baptism, to bow to the east, to kneel at the sacrament, and to exact as a term of communion a compliance with these and other ceremonies, judged by themselves indifferent, and by us sinful? The most zealous champions of the hierarchy make no such pretension, and we may therefore very consistently censure them for enforcing, under such a penalty, the observation of rites for which no divine precept is urged, while we tolerate Pedobaptists in obedience to a divine injunction; unless it be the same thing to practise in the worship of God what it is allowed he has not comm
manded, and to comply with an express prescription. If the members of the establishment inquire, On what ground do you receive a Pedobaptist? we reply, Because we are expressly commanded to receive him. But if we inquire in our turn, Why do you kneel at the sacrament, and exact that posture of all your communicants ?—is it affirmed that they will reply in the same manner ? It is not true, then, that mixed communion stands upon the same ground with the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England; consequently, whatever be its merits or demerits in other respects, it may be maintained in perfect consistence with the principle of dissent.
To the objection that it was as much unknown in the apostolic age as the ceremonies in question, we have already replied, that at that period it was impossible there should be any controversy on the subject of baptism, which was so recently instituted and so fully exemplified in the conduct of the apostles; but that now, when a question has arisen, what is baptism, a new case occurs, in the determination of which we must be guided by the precepts respecting mutual forbearance. To this the author replies, in behalf of the churchman, “ Very
well; and when the emperors and kings of former days were converted to the Christian faith, and were desirous of sanctioning the gospel by their character, their property, and their influence, another new case occurred, of which apostolic times knew nothing. When nations became generally Christian, other new cases arose out of the new events of the time." To this I answer, It is very possible, undoubtedly, for a churchman to utter the same words, and say a new case has arisen; but unless he can say it with the same truth, it will be nothing to the purpose. There is no reason why we should not assert what is true, merely because a false assertion respecting another subject may be couched in the same words. Is it true, or is it not, that a refusal to comply with a precept, knowing it to be a command of Christ, is a very different thing from a mere misconception of the nature and import of that command ? if it be, will it be asserted that such as had refused to make a profession of his religion, in the way which they were conscious he had appointed, would have been just as excusable as the most candid and impartial of modern Pedobaptists? Unless he will assert this, the author must acknowledge that here is a new case, and that the question how we should treat the wilful contemner of legitimate authority and the erroneous interpreter of Scripture involves separate inquiries. From a multitude of passages, it is manifest that he himself forms a very different opinion of the present Pedobaptists from what he would entertain of such as knowingly and deliberately resisted a positive con. mand. He professes to give them entire credit for their sincerity, and to entertain a firm persuasion of their ready admission into the kingdom of Heaven; which would be absurd on the latter supposition. In maintaining a different conduct towards two descriptions of persons, between which there is acknowledged to be a total diversity of character, we are perfectly consistent; unless it be asserted that judgment ought to have no influence on conduct, nor action be controlled by principle.
Let the impartial reader judge for himself whether it is possible, by any fair mode of argument, to infer from these premises the lawfulness of making the conversion of kings to Christianity a pretext for placing them at the head of the church, or of acknowledging their right to model the worship of God at their pleasure. Yet this is asserted, and these portentous consequences are said necessarily to flow from our principles. It is a matter of some curiosity what kind of syllogism will fairly connect the two following propositions. It is lawful to admit a pious Pedobaptist to communion, because we are commanded to receive such as Christ has received. Therefore, it is lawful to acknowledge a pious prince as head of the church, and to allow him to model its worship as he pleases. We quoted a scriptural precept for the former: will Mr. Kinghorn favour us with something equivalent for the latter; or will he remind us of the passages which assert Christ to be the “Head over all things to the church,” or those which command us to “call no man master upon earth ?” His reasoning in this, as in the former instance,
Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 124.