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unions of a moral nature are in reality lax, feeble, and evanescent, compared with that which joins the members of Christ to each other and to their head. But will it be asserted that the practice of strict communion corresponds with these ideas ? or that the treatment of the persons whom it excludes is a practical exemplification of the conduct which the Christians at Corinth were commanded reciprocally to maintain ? It will not be pretended : and since these passages, which imperatively enjoin such a behaviour on the members of Christ, and expressly and repeatedly assure us that his body is the church, are still in force, the above concession must either be retracted, or a practice so directly subversive of it be relinquished. If a society, of whatever description it may be, has by mutual consent selected a ceremony as a symbol of their union, those individuals who, for the express purpose of marking their separation, refuse to perform the ceremony, have most unequivocally renounced that society; and by parity of reason, since the joint celebration of the Lord's Supper is established in the church as the discriminating token by which its members are to recognise each other, to refuse to join in it is equivalent to an express declaration that the persons from whom we withdraw, as personally disqualified, are not considered as parts of the church. It is acknowledged, however, in the foregoing passage, that all good men belong to it. But if so, they are also members of the body of Christ, and consequently entitled to exactly the same treatment as was enjoined on the Corinthians towards each other. But supposing, in consequence of minor differences of opinion, the latter had proceeded to an open rupture of communion, and refused to unite in the celebration of the Eucharist, will it be asserted that the pathetic and solemn injunctions of their inspired teacher would not have been violated by such a measure? The answer to this question is obvious, and its application to the point under discussion irresistible. The advocates of the exclusive system, on whatever side they turn, are surrounded and pressed with difficulties from which it is utterly impossible for them to escape. To affirm that Pedobaptism is of so malignant a tendency as to sever its patrons from the mystical body of Christ is at once to impugn their hopes of salvation; since the supposition of a vital efficacy imparted from Christ as the head, which fails to constitute the subject of it a member, is equally unintelligible and unscriptural. The language adopted on this subject is confessedly figurative, but not on that account obscure. Its foundation is evidently laid in that derivation of spiritual life to the souls of the faithful for which they are indebted to their union with the Saviour ; for which reason it would be the height of absurdity to refuse the application of the figure on an occasion which comprehends its whole import and meaning. We may therefore with confidence affirm that all genuine believers are alike members of Christ's body. But if this be admitted, they are as much entitled to the benefit, not merely of admission into the church, but of all those benevolent sympathies and attentions prescribed in the preceding passages as though they had been mentioned by name; since the only ground on which they are enforced is the relation the objects of them are supposed to sustain to that body.
Thus we perceive in the principles and practice of our opponents another glaring instance of gross violation as well of the dictates of inspiration as of the maxims of Christian antiquity ; both which concur in inculcating the doctrine of the absolute unity of the church, of its constituting Christ's mystical body, and of the horrible incongruity, I might almost say impiety, of attempting to establish a system which represents a great majority of its members as personally disqualified for communion.
Once more ; what foundation will they find in ancient precedents for the peculiar distinction allotted to one particular ceremony above every other, in consequence of which they allow the cultivation of the most intimate religious intercourse, of the most perfect intercommunity in every branch of worship with members of other denominations, providing they do not so far forget themselves as to lose sight of their disputes at the Lord's table? The Holy Ghost informs us, that the end of Christ's death was to gather into one the children of God who were scattered abroad.” It seems strange, that one of the principal purposes of its celebration should be to scatter abroad those children of God who are gathered together everywhere else. Be this as it may, we challenge these zealous champions of precedent to produce the faintest vestige of such a practice in the ages of antiquity; or to direct us to a single nation, or sect, or individual, for an example of that capricious and arbitrary distinction attached to the Eucharist by which it is refused to an immense multitude, who are considered as entitled to every other mark of Christian fraternity.
These observations, we trust, will be amply sufficient to justify the assertion, that our opponents have violated, with respect to ecclesiastical economy, more maxims of antiquity than any other sect upon record ; nor will the intelligent reader be at a loss to perceive, that the weight of this censure is little, if at all, impaired by their conformity in one particular, by their insisting upon baptism as a term of communion ; when it is recollected that the principles on which they found it have no relation whatever to those on which it was maintained by the ancient fathers. For the length to which this part of the discussion is extended a natural and laudable anxiety to repel the charge of misrepresentation will probably be deemed a sufficient apology.
BEFORE I put a final period to my part in this controversy, the attention of the reader is requested to a few miscellaneous remarks, which naturally arise out of the contemplation of the whole subject.
It is just matter of surprise, that the topic in debate should be regarded by any serious and intelligent Christian as of small importance. Such a conclusion can only be ascribed to extreme inattention, or to the force of an inveterate, though perhaps latent, prejudice, pro
ducing an unmerited predilection in favour of certain systems of ecclesiastical polity, which are incapable of sustaining the ordeal of inquiry. That those should shrink from the investigation of such topics who, by receiving their religion from the hands of their superiors in a mass, have already relinquished the liberty of thinking for themselves, is no more than might well be expected. But to minds free and unfettered, accustomed to spurn at the shackles of authority, and above all, to Protestant dissenters, whose peculiar boast is the privilege of following, in the organization of their churches, no other guide but the Scriptures, that such subjects should appear of little moment is truly astonishing. The inquiry first in importance undoubtedly is, What is Christianity ? What, supposing the truth of Scripture, is to be believed, and to be done, with a view to eternal life? Happily for the Christian world, there probably never was a time when, in the solution of this question, so much unanimity was witnessed among the professors of serious piety as at the present. Systems of religion fundamentally erroneous are falling fast into decay; while the subordinate points of difference, which do not affect the primary verities of Christianity, nor the ground of hope, are either consigned to oblivion, or are the subjects of temperate and amicable controversy; and in consequence of their subsiding to their proper level, the former appear in their just and natural magnitude.
Hence in the present state of the church, externally considered, the evil most to be deplored is, the unnatural distance at which Christians stand from each other; the spirit of sects, the disposition to found their union on the “wood, hay, and stubble” of human inventions, or of disputable tenets, instead of building on the eternal rock, the “ faith once delivered to the saints.” They all profess to look forward to a period when these divisions will cease, and there will be one fold under one Shepherd. But, while every denomination flatters itself with the persuasion of that fold being its own, the principal use to which the annunciations of prophecy are directed is to supply a motive for redoubled exertions in the defence and extension of their respective peculiarities; and instead of hailing the dawn of a brighter day, as an event in which all are equally interested, it is too often considered, there is reason to fear, as destined to complete the triumph of a party.
If we consult the Scriptures, we shall be at no loss to perceive that the unity of the church is not merely a doctrine most clearly revealed, but that its practical exemplification is one of the principal designs of the Christian dispensation. We are expressly told that our Saviour purposed by his death to “ gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad;" and for the accomplishment of this design, he interceded, during his last moments, in language which instructs us to consider it as the grand means of the conversion of the world. His prophetic anticipations were not disappointed; for while a visible unanimity prevailed among his followers, his cause everywhere triumphed: the concentrated zeal, the ardent co-operation of a comparative few, impelled by one spirit, and directed to one object, were more than a match for hostile myriads. No sooner was the bond of unity broken,
by the prevalence of intestine quarrels and dissensions, than the interests of truth languished; until Mahometanism in the east, and popery in the west, completed the work of deterioration, which the loss of primitive simplicity and love, combined with the spirit of intolerance, first commenced.
If the religion of Christ ever resumes her ancient lustre, and we are assured by the highest authority she will, it must be by retracing our steps, by reverting to the original principles on which, considered as a social institution, it was founded. We must go back to the simplicity of the first ages—we must learn to quit a subtle and disputatious theology, for a religion of love, emanating from a few divinely energetic principles, which pervade almost every page of inspiration, and demand nothing for their cordial reception and belief besides an humble and contrite heart. Reserving to ourselves the utmost freedom of thought in the interpretation of the sacred oracles, and pushing our inquiries, as far as our opportunities admit, into every department of revealed truth, we shall not dream of obtruding precarious conclusions on others, as articles of faith ; but shall receive with open arms all who appear to “love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity," and find a sufficient bond of union-a sufficient scope for all our sympathies—in the doctrine of the Cross. If the Saviour appears to be loved, obeyed, and adored if his blood is sprinkled on the conscience, and his spirit resides in the heart, why should we be dissatisfied ? we who profess to be actuated by no other motive, to live to no other purpose, than the promotion of his interest.
If the kingdom of Christ, like the kingdoms of this world, admitted of local and discordant interests, and the possession of exclusive privileges-if it were a system of compromise between the selfish passions of individuals and the promotion of the general good, the policy of conferring on one class of its subjects certain advantages and immunities withheld from another might be easily comprehended. But in this, as well as many other features, it essentially differs. Founded on the basis of a divine equality, its privileges are as free as air; and there is not a single blessing which it proposes to bestow but is held by the same tenure, and is capable of being possessed to the same extent, by every believer. The freedom which it confers is of so high a character, and the dignity to which it elevates its subjects, as the sons of God, so transcendent, that whether they are “ Barbarians or Scythians, bond or free, male or female, they are from henceforth one in Christ Jesus.” In asserting the equal right which the gentiles possessed, in common with the Jews, to all the privileges attached to the Christian profession, Peter founds his argument on this very principle. “ And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as unto us, and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.” In his apprehension, it was God, the Searcher of hearts, who by the collation of his Spirit, in his marvellous and sanctifying gifts, having made no distinction between the gentiles and themselves, decided the controversy. If that great apostle reasoner! correctly on the subject, we have only to change the term gentiles for
Pedobaptists, or for any other denomination of sincere Christians, and the inference remains in its full force.
Among the other attempts to deter us from pursuing a system established by such high authority, it is extraordinary that we should be reminded of the fearful responsibility we incur. To this topic Mr. Kinghorn has devoted a whole chapter. When it is recollected that we plead for the reception of none whom Christ has not received, for none whose hearts are not purified by faith, and who are not possessed of the same spirit, the communication of which was considered by St. Peter as a decisive proof that no difference was put between them and others by God himself, it is easy to determine where the danger lies. Were we to suffer ourselves to lose sight of these principles, and by discountenancing and repelling those whom he accepts, to dispute the validity of his seal, and subject to our miserable scrutiny pretensions which have passed the ordeal and received the sanction of Him who understandeth the hearts,” we should have just reason to tremble for the consequences; and, with all our esteem for the piety of many of our opponents, we conceive it no injury or insult to put up the prayer of our Lord for them—" Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
He who alters the terms of communion changes the fundamental laws of Christ's kingdom. He assumes a legislative power, and ought, in order to justify that conduct, to exhibit his credentials, with a force and splendour of evidence equal at least to those which attested the divine legation of Moses and the prophets.
It has been frequently observed on this occasion, that every voluntary society possesses the power of determining on the qualifications of its members : and that, for the same reason, every church is authorized to enact such terms of admission as it shall see fit. This conclusion, however, is illogical and unfounded. There is little or no analogy between the two cases. Human societies originate solely in the private views and inclinations of those who compose them ; and as they are not founded on Divine institution, so neither are they restricted with respect to the objects they are destined to pursue. The church is a society instituted by Heaven; it is the visible seat of that “kingdom which God has set up;" the laws by which it is governed are of his prescribing, and the purposes which it is designed to accomplish are limited and ascertained by Infinite Wisdom. When, therefore, from its analogy to other societies, it is inferred that it has an equal right to organize itself at its pleasure, nothing can be more fallacious; unless it be meant merely to assert its exemption from the operation of physical force, which is a view of the subject with which we are not at present concerned. In every step of its proceedings, it is amenable to a higher than human tribunal; and on account of its freedom from external control, its obligation, in foro conscientie, exactly to conform to the mandates of revelation, is the more sacred and the more indispensable ; being loosened from every earthly tie, on purpose that it may be at liberty to “ follow the Lord whithersoever he goeth.”
That these maxims, plain and obvious as they must appear, have been too often totally lost sight of, he who has the slightest acquaint