Imágenes de páginas

cerned, and to the utmost power of its abetters, the evil is extended to every denomination except one; that it is either inflicted on account of moral delinquency or is utterly unmerited ; since, if that ground be relinquished, their exclusion must be asserted to be just, even supposing them perfectly innocent; that whatever blame may be imputed bears no proportion to that which incurs the forfeiture of the same privilege in other instances ; nor to the faults and imperfections which are daily tolerated without scruple; and, finally, since the practice which is treated with so much severity is the necessary result of a misconception of the nature of a positive institute, which is only another naine for ignorance or weakness in that particular, to make it the pretext of expulsion or excommunication is repugnant to the maxims even of our opponents.


On the Contrariety of the Maxims and Sentiments of the Advocates of

Strict Communion to those which prevailed in the early Ages; in which the Innovation imputed to them by the Author is vindicated from the Charge of Misrepresentation.

In order to comprehend the true state of the question, as it respects the practice of Christian antiquity, it may be convenient to distribute it into three periods; the first including the time during which correct sentiments on the subject of baptism universally prevailed; the second that in which a gradual transition was made from the practice of adult to that of infant baptism; the third the period in which the latter obtained a general and almost undisputed ascendency.

On the first of these periods little need be said. Where there are no dissimilar elements, there can be no mixture ; and therefore to affirm that the practice we are contending for was unknown in the earliest ages of the Christian church is little more than an identical proposition. While no demur or dispute subsisted respecting either the form or the application of the baptismal rite, a punctual compliance with it was expected and enforced by the presidents of Christian societies, for precisely the same reason which suggested a similar mode of proceeding to the apostles. It was a part of the will of Christ, in the interpretation of which no division of opinions subsisted among the faithful. The next period is that during which an innovation was gradually introduced by extending the ceremony in question to infants—a period which, from the commencement of the third unto the close of the fourth, probably comprehended the space of two centuries. Supposing the modern practice to have been first introduced towards the end of the second or the beginning of the third century, which corresponds to the time at which it is distinctly noticed by Tertullian, the first writer who explicitly mentions it, we cannot suppose a shorter space was requisite to procure it that complete establishment and ascendency which it possessed in the time of St. Austin. During that long interval, there must

Vol. I.-H.

have been some who still adhered to the primitive practice, and others who favoured and adopted the more recent innovations; there must, in other words, have been Baptists and Pedobaptists contemporary with each other. What became of that portion of the ancient church which refused to adopt the baptism of infants? Did they separate from their brethren in order to form distinct and exclusive societies? Of this not the faintest trace or vestige is to be found in ecclesiastical history; and the supposition is completely confuted by the concurrent testimony of ancient writers to the universal incorporation of orthodox Christians into one grand community. We challenge our opponents to produce the shadow of evidence in favour of the existence during that long tract of time of a single society of which adult baptism was the distinguishing characteristic. Tertullian, it is acknowledged, is the first who distinctly and unequivocally adverts to the contrary practice: and as he expresses disapprobation of it at the same time, without the remotest intimation of the propriety of making it the ground of separation, he must be allowed to form one instance of the practice of mixed communion; and unless we are disposed to assert that the modern innova. tion in the rite of baptism supplanted the original ordinance at once, multitudes must have been in precisely the same situation. We well know, that in the latter period of his life he did secede from the orthodox Catholic church, but we are equally certain that he was moved to this measure, not by his disapprobation of infant baptism, but solely by his attachment to the Montanists.

We, therefore, offer our opponents the alternative either of affirming that the transition from the primitive to the modern usage was sudden and instantaneous, in opposition to all that observation suggests respecting the operations of mind, or of acknowledging that for two centuries the predecessors of the present Baptists unanimously approved and practised a mixed communion—a communion in which Baptists and Pedobaptists united in the same societies.

Thus it appears that the system we are advocating, instead of being, as Booth and Kinghorn assert, a “modern invention," was introduced as early as it was possible—as early as the dissimilar materials existed of which the combination under discussion is formed. It is evident that no sooner did a difference of opinion on the subject of baptism arise than the system of forbearance recommended itself at once to all who adhered to the sentiments of the modern Baptists throughout every part of the world; and that it is the opposite primeiple which has to contend with all the odium and suspicion attached to recent innovations.

When we descend to the third period we are presented with a new scene. After the commencement of the fourth century down to the era of the Reformation, the baptism of infants was firmly established, and prevailed to such an extent that few traces of the ordinance in its primitive state are to be discerned. Many of the Waldenses, however, are judged with great appearance of evidence to have held opinions on that subject coincident with those by which we, as a denomination, are distinguished. By their persecutors of the Romish community they are usually stigmatized and reproached for holding the Anabaptist heresy;

while it appears, on the contrary, that there were not wanting some among them who practised the baptism of infants.* These opposite statements, exhibited with equal confidence on this obscure branch of ecclesiastical history, are best reconciled and accounted for by supposing them divided in their sentiments on that particular. No indication, however, is discoverable of a rupture in external communion having occurred on that account; and from the acknowledged difficulty of ascertaining the separate existence of Baptist societies during the middle ages, and until the period of the Reformation, the necessary inference is, either that there were none during that interval who adhered to the primitive institute, or, as is far more probable, that they were mingled and incorporated with persons of another persuasion.

Hence it is manifest that the concurrent testimonies of the fathers of the first three or four centuries, in proof of the necessity of baptism to church-fellowship, are urged to no purpose whatever, unless it could be shown that there was no mixed communion, no association of the advocates of adult with the patrons of pedobaptism known in those ages; a supposition which is at direct variance with facts. Nor is it at all difficult to assign a satisfactory reason for that combination of testimonies which the writings of the fathers supply in favour of the essential connexion of the two ordinances. The scanty writings which remain of the authors of the second century afford no decisive indication of the existence of infant baptism in the period in which they flourished: and during the third the few authors whose works have descended to us appear, with the exception of Tertullian, to have imbibed the Pedobaptist persuasion. It was natural for the first class of these fathers, who lived at a time when no doubt or dispute had arisen on the subject, to insist on a compliance with that ordinance; nor was it possible for the second, who extended baptism to infants, and considered it as the indispensable means of regeneration, to pursue another course.

That there was a mixture of persons of different persuasions in Christian societies during the period to which we have adverted appears to be an unquestionable fact; but in what manner those who adhered to the primitive institution reasoned on the subject, as they have left no writings behind them, or none which touch on this subject, must be left to conjecture. Whether they defended their conduct on precisely the same principles with ourselves, or whether they considered pedobaptism as not so properly nullifying as corrupting or enfeebling a Christian ordinance, it is to little purpose to inquire. It is sufficient for us to know that the practice which is stigmatized as modern existed as early as a difference of opinion on the subject arose.

In my former treatise I had remarked, “that the decision of Christian writers that baptism, in some form or other, must necessarily precede the celebration of the Eucharist, supposing it ever so unanimous, affords but a feeble proof, since it assumes for its basis the impossibility of the

See The History of the Baptists, by Mr. Ivimoy, in which this subject is discussed with much care and impartiality. To those who wish for information respecting many curious and important circumstances, connected with the progress of the Baptist opinions, I would earnestly recommend the perusal of that valuable work; for u tich the public at large, and our own denoinination in particular, are much indebted to the pious and laborious author.

universal prevalence of error.” The truth of this assertion is almost self-evident; for if it be possible for error to preyail universally, what should prevent the possibility of its doing so in this particular instance ? “No," says our author, “ it assumes a very different principle; that the human mind in all its wanderings never took this direction before.''* But what is the difference between affirming that the opinion which separates the title to communion from baptism was unknown until it was adopted by the advocates of mixed communion, and asserting “that the human mind never took this direction before ?" Are they any thing more than two different modes of expressing the same proposition ? To say then that the argument in question assumes for its basis “ that the human mind never took this direction before,” is to say that it assumes to itself a method of reasoning most repugnant to the rules of logic, however familiar with this writer.

He feels very indignant at my affirming that the right of excluding persons of unquestionable worth and piety was never claimed by antiquity. In opposition to this he adduces the example of Cyprian, who insisted on the rebaptization of heretics and schismatics previous to their reception into the body of the faithful. If it be considered, however, in what light heretics and schismatics were contemplated by that celebrated father, the objection vanishes ; since no doubt can be entertained that their preceding profession of Christianity was considered by him as a mere nullity, their faith fundamentally erroneous, the privileges they supposed themselves to possess a vain illusion, and the entire system of their religion an abomination in the sight of God. We find him everywhere exerting his utmost powers of language, which were by no means inconsiderable, in stigmatizing their character and degrading their pretensions. Having little taste for quotation, the following passages may suffice to convince the reader under what opprobrious colours he was accustomed to represent that description of professors. It is proper just to premise, that on their manifesting a disposition to return to the Catholic church, while Cyprian contended for the necessity of their being rebaptized before they were admitted, his opponent, Stephen, insisted on the sufficiency of recantation, accompanied with the imposition of hands,t without reiterating a rite which he concluded could not be repeated without profanation. The latter opinion, in spite of the high authority of the African father, being confirmed by the council of Nice, became the received doctrine of the church, and the opposite tenet was finally denounced as heresy. But to return to Cyprian :“We,” said he, “affirm,” reserring to the Novatians, who were esteemed schismatics, “ that those who come to us are not rebaptized, but baptized. For neither do they receive any thing where there is nothing ; but they come to us that they may receive here where all grace and truth is.”I After stigmatizing the baptism of schismatics as "a filthy and profane dipping," he complains that certain of his colleagues "did not consider that it was written, He who is baptized by the dead, what profit does he derive from his washing ? But it is manifest that they who are not in the church are numbered among the dead, and cannot

* Paptism a Term or Cominunion, p. 145.
+ Cypriani Epistole, p. 210. Oxonii, anno 16A2.

Ibid. p. 194.

possibly be quickened by him who is not alive ; since there is one only church, which, having obtained the grace of eternal life, both lives for ever and quickens the people of God."*

Speaking of heretics, he makes a distinction between such as, having been members of the Catholic church, fell into heresy for a time, but were afterward recovered, and such as sprang originally from them. With respect to the latter he says, “If he who comes from the heretics has not been before baptized in the church, but comes entirely alien and profane, he is to be baptized that he may become a sheep, because the only holy water which can make sheep is in the church.” In another epistle we find him reasoning in the following manner :-“ The very interrogation," he says, " which takes place in baptism bears witness to the truth. Dost thou believe in eternal life and the remission of sins by the holy church? We mean by it that the remission of sins is given only in the church; but among heretics, where the church is not, sins cannot be remitted. Let them, therefore, who plead for heretics (that is, for their admission into the church without rebaptizing) either aller the interrogation or vindicate the truth, unless they are disposed to give the appellation of the church to those whom they assert to possess true baptism.”+

His epistles are full of similar sentiments. What resemblance, let me ask, are they perceived to bear to the principles on which strict communion is founded ; or who will be so absurd as to affirm that the example of Cyprian, in rejecting the communion of persons whom he esteemed spiritually dead, and incapacitated for receiving the remission of sins, affords the least countenance for treating in a similar manner such as are acknowledged to possess the most eminent and exalted piety? " True,” Mr. Kinghorn replies," but when they requested admission into the Catholic orthodox church, they had ceased to be heretics or schismatics, since they left the societies where heresy was professed, acknowledged their former error, and requested to be numbered with the orthodox. Notwithstanding this, however, Cyprian insisted on their being rebaptized.”I But why did he insist upon it? He tells us himself, it was because they had received nothing, they were baptized by the dead;" they wanted " that holy water peculiar to the church which alone can vivify:" and their pretended baptism, or, to use his own words, "their profane dipping," was necessarily unaccompanied with the remission of sins. In short, however well they might be disposed and prepared, on the application of due means, for the reception of the highest benefits, they were, as yet, in his estimation, in a state of unregeneracy. Hence the reader may judge of the pertinence and correctness of the subsequent remark :-" Their interest in the blessings of the Christian covenant,” says Mr. Kinghorn, “ was not doubted, yet their right to the Lord's Supper was doubted, because the validity of their baptism was questioned."$ “ Their interest in the blessings of the covenant was not doubted,although Cyprian declares his conviction, that they had received nothing, that their baptism was a nullity, that they wanted the only water which could quicken, and that,

* Cypriani Epistolæ, p. 194.
| Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 152.

Ibid. p. 154.

« AnteriorContinuar »