Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Lord Jesus Christ.* Their practice, it is needless to add, corresponded with their theory, and they anxiously guarded against the inculcation of any spiritual duties whatever on the unconverted. . My respectable opponent is, I am aware, at a great remove from these sentiments; and that the reason he would assign for rejecting them is that our Saviour commenced his ministry by calling men to repent, and that "he commanded his apostles to testify everywhere repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ." But if these be his reasons he must acknowledge that the eminent persons before mentioned, in declining to perform what our Lord commanded his apostles, neglected or broke a divine precept. But is he prepared to affirm that they were not members of the church? Will this sturdy champion of the strict Baptists be ungracious enough to pass a sentence of excommunication on the great majority of his precursors in this controversy? Unless he is prepared for this, he must acknowledge that the right of toleration extends to such as neglect or violate a revealed precept. It is unnecessary to remind the reader of the magnitude of the error in question, which would at once have annihilated the apostolic commission, by rendering it impossible to preach the gospel to any creature, since there were in the gentile world none to whom it could on this principle be addressed. The whole ceremony of baptism sinks into insignificance in the comparison.

In answer to his challenge we have produced two cases, in which toleration has been extended to such as neglect or violate a divine precept; the first taken from the holy apostles, the second from our fathers and predecessors in our own denomination.

The reader is requested to advert to the interminable discord and dissension with which this principle is replete. The principle is, that whenever one Christian deems another to live in the neglect and violation of a positive command, however conscientious and sincere, he must renounce the communion of the party which he supposes erroneous. Who does not perceive that the application of such a principle will furnish a pretext for endless dispute and contention; that not only a different interpretation of the law of baptism will be a sufficient occasion of division, but that whoever supposes that any branch of the primitive discipline has fallen into disuse, will feel himself justified, nay, compelled to kindle the torch of discord, and to separate chief friends ? If no latitude is to be allowed in interpreting the will of Christ, no indulgence shown to such of the faithful who, from a deficiency of light, neglect and overlook some part of his precepts, how is it possible the practice of reciprocal exclusion should stop within the limits which this author has assigned it? Are there two thinking men to be found who are fully agreed respecting all the minuter details of Christian discipline and worship? Are they fully agreed on the question of what was the primitive discipline, much less how far a conformity to it is either proper or practicable? Who that is competent to speak on such subjects is

* It is but justice to the memory of tho great and excellent Fuller to observe, that it is to his writings chiefly our denomination is indebied for itsemancipation from these miserable shackles and restraints. The author might have added here the name of his excellent and venerable father. ---Ep.

[graphic]

not aware, that there are no questions involved in greater obscurity than these, none on which the evidence is less satisfactory, and which more elude the researches of the learned, or administer more aliment of dispute to the contentious ? One class of Christians believes that a plurality of elders is essential to the organization of a church, because the Scripture always speaks of them in the plural number; and confident that such is the will of Christ, he dares not recognise as a church one in which that circumstance is wanting. Another attaches importance to weekly communion, which he justly contends was the uniform practice of the apostles and of the primitive age: a conformity to which, in this particular, is with him an indispensable condition to communion. A third turns his eyes towards lay exhortations, the disuse of which he considers as practically superseding some of the plainest passages of Scripture, quenching the Spirit, and abridging the means of religious improvement; he consequently scruples the communion of those by whom this ordinance is neglected. A fourth adverts to the solemnity with which our Lord exemplified and enjoined the washing of feet, and the frequency with which the apostles inculcated the kiss of charity; and having no doubt that these injunctions are of perpetual obligation, feels himself necessitated to withdraw from such as by neglecting them "walk disorderly.” A fifth contends for the total independence of churches, conceiving that the cognizance of ecclesiastical causes is, by divine right, vested in the people, who are to determine every thing by a majority of votes, in opposition to those who contend for a church representative; and believing such an arrangement to be an important branch of the will of Christ, he conscientiously refuses the communion of those societies which decline to adopt it.

These different systems are no doubt distinguished by different degrees of approximation to truth ; but what is of importance to remark, however they may differ in other respects, they agree in this, that upon the principle we are attempting to expose, they furnish to such as adopt them just as reasonable a pretext for separate communion as the disagreement respecting baptism; nor is it possible, if that principle be admitted, to reconcile the independent exercise of intellect with Christian unity. The instances already adduced are a mere scantling of the innumerable questions which would give occasion to a diversity of judgment respecting the mind of Christ, and consequently necessitate the withdrawment of Christians from each other. The few societies who have attempted to carry this theory into practice have already exhibited such a series of feuds and quarrels as are amply sufficient to ensure its reprobation ; and merely because they have acted more consistently, they have acted much worse than the greater part of the churches who practise strict communion. Let this principle be once established and fairly acted upon, and there is no question but that divisions will succeed to divisions, and separations to separations, until two persons possessed of freedom of thought will scarcely be found capable of walking together in fellowship; and an image of the infinite divisibility of matter will be exhibited in the breaking down of churches into smaller and smaller portions. An admirable expedient truly for

[merged small][ocr errors]

keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace! That there is no hyperbole in this representation will be obvious, if we do but consider the difficulty of procuring an entire unanimity in the interpretation of those parts of Scripture which are supposed to relate to the will of Christ in the organization and constitution of his church.

6. There is one important consideration to which the reader is requested to attend before we dismiss this branch of the subject. My opponent affirms, that none besides our own denomination are comprehended within the clause in which the apostle affirms the reception of erring Christians. He acknowledges, that if it can be proved that they are included under that description, the precept of toleration extends to their case, and that the only question at issue is, whether they are so or not, which he, in opposition to Mr. Booth, denies.* The reader is entreated seriously to consider the necessary result of this position, whether it does not amount to a repeal of the Scriptures, considered as the rule of faith and manners. It will not be denied that the promises and precepts of the New Testament are uniformly addressed to the same description of persons with those particular injunctions under present discussion, and that under the terms strong and weak, by which are designated the two respective classes who are commanded mutually to bear with each other. Nor can we hesitate whether the disputed phrase God hath received him ought to be interpreted in the same extent. As the inscriptions prefixed to the inspired epistles determine to whom they were addressed, so that which was written to the Romans is inscribed to "all that be at Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints;" and not a syllable is found in the precepts respecting mutual forbearance, comprised in the 14th and 15th chapters, which limits them to any particular part of that church in distinction from the whole. They were intended for the universal regulation of the conduct of the members of that community towards each other.

The epistles of the rest of the apostles also, though directed to the inhabitants of different places from that to the Romans, are uniformly ascribed to the same description of persons, as will be manifest on their inspection; or, in other words, the supposed genuine followers of Christ in that age are the persons to whom the epistolary parts of the New Testament are directed; and consequently universal precepts enjoined on any one society must have been considered as equally binding on all the faithful. On any other supposition, each church would have possessed a distinct code, instead of the inspired writings at large being regarded as the universal rule of faith and practice. Hence it follows that the seven churches of Asia, as well as those who were scattered throughoul Pontus, Galatia, and Cappadocia, supposing them acquainted with the Epistle to the Romans, would have been under the same obligation of observing its injunctions with the Christians at Rome. But

* The author of Terms of Communion observes, “ that the question at issue is not, What were the individual errors we are commanded to tolerate-but, What is the ground on which that measure is enforced, and whether it la sufficiently comprehensive to include the Pedobaplists !" In reply to which Mr. Kinghorn sets out with remarking, “I admit that is the question, and the decision of this question will determine whether the precepts of the gospel will sanction us in departing from apor tolical precedent," &c.

among the various precepts intended to regulate the conduct of Christians comprised in the code of inspiration, such as enjoin mutual forbearance with each other's imperfections and infirmities hold a conspicuous place, and the rule propounded on that occasion we perceive to have been universally obligatory on believers of that generation.

When we propose to extend the same method of proceeding to our Pedobaptist brethren, in the present day, we are repelled; and my opponent reminds us, that we are not authorized to assign, in the present case, the reason for forbearance which was urged by St. Paul, because they are not received in the sense which we intended. The reason itself, he acknowledges, would be a sufficient justification, could the fact on which it proceeds be established; but he denies the fact.

Their error, it is asserted, is of such a nature, that it places them totally out of the question, and whatever is said on the subject of mutual forbearance in the New Testament is, in the present state of things, to be considered as applicable merely to the conduct of Baptists towards each other; from which it necessarily follows, that no part of the precepts or promises of Scripture can be proved to apply to the great body of believers, at present, not even to such as appear preeminent in piety; for all these precepts and promises were originally addressed precisely to the same description of persons with the injunctions in question ; and as it is contended that these belong at present only to Baptists, by parity of reason the former must be restricted to the same limits. On this principle there is not a syllable in the New Testament from which a Pedobaptist can derive either consolation or direction as a Christian ; not a single promise which he can claim, nor a single duty resulting from the Christian calling with which he is concerned: for the class of persons to whom these were originally addressed was one and the same with those on whom the duty of mutual forbearance was inculcated.

The inscription of the Epistle to the Romans is of the same extent with the injunctions contained in the 14th and 15th chapters, and no greater ; the same description of persons are evidently addressed throughout. It was the saints, the beloved of God, mentioned in the beginning of the letter, who, on account of their common relation to the Lord, were commanded to bear with each other's infirmities. Now if it be asserted that infant baptism is an error so different from those which were contemplated by the author, in that injunction, that its abetters stand excluded from its benefit, how will it be possible to prove that they are saints, that they are beloved of God, or that any of the attributes ascribed to Christians in that epistle, belong to them? Mr. Kinghorn may affirm, if he pleases, that the characteristic descriptions are applicable, while the injunctions under discussion are not. He may affirm, but how will he prove it? since both are addressed to the same persons, and the injunction of forbearance enjoined alike on them all.

From a letter, consisting partly of affectionate congratulations, and partly of serious advice, both intended for the comfort and direction of the same persons, to infer that the congratulations apply to Christians

[ocr errors]

of all denominations, and the advice to one only, is capricious and unreasonable. The same conclusion holds good respecting the whole of the New Testament. Whatever is affirmed in any part of it respecting the privilege of primitive believers was asserted primarily of such only as were baptized, because there were no others originally in the church: all the reciprocal duties of Christians were, in the first instance, enjoined on these ; among which we find precepts enforcing, without a shadow of limitation, the duty of cultivating Christian fellowship. But the last, our opponents contend, are to be restricted to Baptists ; whence it necessarily follows, unless we had some independent evidence on the subject, that the former must be restricted in the same manner; and that, consequently, all other denominations, however excellent in other respects, are left without any scriptural proof of their interest in the Divine favour, or any directions for that part of their conduct which concerns their Christian obligations. Were there, indeed, any other medium of proof besides the writings of the apostles, of equal authority, by which it were possible to supply their deficiency, the case would be different. From this independent source we might possibly learn the fact, that other denominations also were included within the promise of eternal life ; but while our knowledge on the subject is derived from one book, whose precepts for the regulation of the conduct of believers towards each other universally are affirmed not to extend to our intercourse with Pedobaptists, it is impossible to establish that conclusion; for to attempt to limit the application of Scripture in one part, and to make it universal in another, where both were originally intended to be taken in the same extent, is plainly unreasonable.

CHAPTER VIII.

On the Argument for Mixed Communion, founded on the Pedobaptists

being a Part of the true Church.

The author of Terms of Communion founded an argument for the admission of sincere Christians of every denomination to the Lord's table on their being a part of the true church. He remarked, that whenever that term occurs in Scripture, in relation to spiritual matters, it constantly denotes either members of a particular community, accustomed to meet in one place; or the whole body of real believers, dispersed throughout the world, but considered as united to one head; that this body is expressly affirmed to be the body of Christ, of which every genuine believer is a member; that we are seriously warned against whatever tends to promote a schism in it; and that these admonitions are directly repugnant to the practice, under any pretext whatever, of repelling a sincere Christian from communion. If we allow the identity of the church of Christ with his body, which St. Paul expressly affirms, and which he assumes as the basis of his whole

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »