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suggested by St. Paul -“Is Christ divided ?" is utterly futile : what he considered as a solecism is reduced to practice, and established by law. How is it possible to attain or preserve unanimity in the absence of an intelligible standard ? and when we feel ourselves at liberty to depart from a divine precedent, and to affect a greater nicety and scrupulosity in the separation of the precious and the vile, than the Searcher of hearts; when we follow the guidance of private partialities and predilections, without pretending to regulate our conduct by the pattern of our great Master; who is at a loss to perceive the absolute impossibility of preserving “ the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace ?” Of what is essential to salvation, it is not difficult to judge: the quiet of the conscience requires that the information on this subject should be clear and precise; whatever is beyond, is involved in comparative obscurity, and subject to doubtful disputation.
There are certain propositions which produce on a mind free from prejudice such instantaneous conviction, as scarcely to admit of formal proof. Of this nature is the following position, that it is presumptuous to aspire to a greater purity and strictness in selecting the materials of a church, than are observed by its Divine Founder ; and those whom he forms and actuates by his Spirit, and admits to communion with himself, are sufficiently qualified for the communion of mortals. What can be alleged in contradiction to a truth
só indubitable and so obvious ? Nothing but a futile distinction (futile in relation to the present subject) betwixt the moral, and the positive parts, of christianity. We are told, again and again, that the Lord's supper is a positive and arbitrary institution, in consequence of which, the right to it is not to be judged of by moral considerations and general reasonings, but by express prescription and command.
Willing to meet objectors on their own ground, we request them to point us to the passage in the code of inspiration, where unbaptized christians are forbidden to participate ; and all the answer we receive, consists merely of those inferences and arguments from analogy, against which they protest; so that our opponents, unsupported by the letter of scripture, are obliged to have recourse to general reasoning, not less than ourselves, however lame and defective that reasoning may be.
When we urge them with the fact that all genuine christians are received by Christ, and that his conduct in this instance is proposed as a pattern for our imitation, they are compelled to shift their ground; and although it is evident, to every one who reflects, that we mean to assert the obligation of adhering to that example, only as far as it is known, they adduce the instance of immoral professors, who, though received, as they contend, by Christ, are justly rejected by the church. But how, we ask, are we to ascertain the fact that such persons are accepted of Christ, till they give
proof of their repentance ? Is it precisely the same thing to neglect a known rule of action, as to cease to follow it, when it is involved in hopeless obscurity ? Admitting, for argument's sake, that disorderly livers have uninterrupted union with the Saviour, it is impossible that we should know it, while they continue impenitent, and therefore, on such occasions, it ceases to be a rule. But in rejecting pædobaptists in the mass, they reject a numerous class of christians whom they know and acknowledge to be the temples of the Holy Ghost. If the two cases are parallel, we acknowledge the justice of the conclusion ; if not, what more futile and absurd ? Let it be remembered, however, that all this quibbling and tergiversation are employed to get rid of an apostolic canon, and that they bear upon our principles in no other sense than as they tend to nullify or impair the force of an inspired maxim. If we are in error, we deem it no small felicity to err in such company.
Before I close this section, I must be permitted to remark an inconsistency in the conduct of our opponents, connected with this part of the subject, which has often excited my surprise. Disclaiming, as they do, all communion with pædobaptists, and refusing to acknowledge them as a legitimate part of the christian church, we should naturally expect they would shun every approach to such a recognition of them with peculiar care in devotional exercises, in solemn addresses to the Deity. Nothing, on the contrary, is more common than the
interchange of religious services betwixt baptists and independents, in which the pædobaptist minister is solemnly recommended to the Supreme Being as the pastor of the church, and his blessing earnestly implored on the relation they stand in to each other; nor is it unusual for a baptist to officiate at the ordination of an independent minister, by delivering a charge, or inculcating the duties of the people, in a discourse appropriated to the occasion. They feel no objection to have communion with pædobaptists in prayer and praise, the most solemn of all acts of worship, even on an occasion immediately connected with the recognition of a religious society; but no sooner does the idea of the eucharist occur, than it operates like a spell, and all this language is changed, and these sentiments vanish. It is surely amusing to behold a person solemnly inculcating the reciprocal duties of a relation, which, on his principles, has no existence; and interceding expressly in behalf of a pastor and a church, when, if we credit his
representations at other times, that church is illegitimate, and the title of pastor consequently a mere usurpation. Although it must be acknowledged that the approach of pædobaptists to the sacred table is, on their principles, a presumptuous intrusion, it is seldom that the advocates of strict communion feel any scruple in attempting, by devotional exercises, to prepare the mind for the right performance of what they are accustomed to stigmatise as radically wrong. For my part,
I am utterly at a loss to reconcile these discrepancies. Is it that they consider less attention to truth, a less exact correspondence betwixt the language and the sentiments, requisite in addressing the Deity than in discoursing with their fellow mortals ? Or is it not more candid to suppose that devotion elevates them to a higher region, where they breathe a freer air, and look down upon the petty subtleties of a thorny, disputatious theology, with a just and sovereign contempt?
The Exclusion of Pædobaptists from the Lord's
Table considered as a Punishment.
The refusal of the eucharist to a professor of christianity can be justified only on the ground of his supposed criminality ; of his embracing heretical sentiments, or living a vicious life. As the sentence of exclusion is the severest the church can inflict, and no punishment just, but in proportion to the degree of preceding delinquency, it follows of course that he who incurs the total privation of church-privileges, must be considered eminently in the light of an offender. When the incestuous person was separated from the church at Corinth, it was regarded by St. Paul as a punishment, and that of no ordinary magnitude :“Sufficient,” said he, “is this punishment, which