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communion; and that in forming a christian church, the question ought not to be, are these christians who wish to unite in church-fellowship baptized, whatever that term is considered as meaning—but are they, as far as we can judge, real christians ?”*
Of this diversity in the mode of defending our practice, the writer of these pages confesses himself totally ignorant: and whatever prejudices our cause may sustain, it has not yet been injured by that which results from intestine dissention. Different modes of expression may have been adopted by different writers, but a perfect accordance of principle, a coincidence in the reasons alleged for our practice, has pervaded our apologies. We have not, like our opponents, professed to take new ground:p we have not constructed defences so totally dissimilar as the publications of a Booth and a Kinghorn, where the argument which is placed in the very front by the former, is by the latter abandoned as untenable. It is easy to perceive that the alleged disagreement in our principles is a mere phantom. While we universally maintain the nullity of infant baptism, the persuasion which our pædobaptist brethren entertain of their being baptized, can never be mistaken for baptism, and they, consequently, cannot be
Baptism a Term of Communion, pp. 11, 12. † “The reader, who is acquainted with the Apology for the Baptists, written by the late venerable Abraham Booth, will find that in the following pages I have taken ground somewhat different from his. I have adopted rather a different mode of defence."-Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 8.
received in the character of baptized persons. Our constant practice of administering immersion to such, on a change of sentiment, would on that supposition convict us at once of being anabaptists. It is not then under any idea that they have really partaken of that ordinance, more than the people called quakers, that we admit them to our communion; but in the character of sincere though mistaken christians, who have evinced, even with respect to the particular in which we deem them erroneous, no disposition to treat a christian rite with levity or neglect; and if there are those who would refuse to commune with such as reject the ordinance altogether, it is because they suspect them of such a disposition. As there can be no degrees in nothing, they are not so weak as to suppose that one class is in reality more baptized than the other; but one is supposed to mistake the nature of an institute, which the other avowedly neglects. In this case he who is prepared to believe that the omission of christian baptism from a notion of its not being designed for perpetuity, may consist with that deference to divine authority which is essential to a christian, will receive both without hesitation : he who is incapable of extending his candour so far, will make a distinction: he will admit the pædobaptist, while he rejects the person who purposely omits the ceremony altogether. Whichever measure we adopt, we act on the same principle, and merely apply it with more or less extent according to the comprehension of
our charity. If we supposed there were a necessary unalterable connexion between the two positive christian institutes, so that none were qualified for communion who had not been previously baptized, we could not hesitate for a moment respecting the refusal of pædobaptists, without renouncing the principles of our denomination. On the other hand, if among such as are supposed to be equally unbaptized, we admit some and reject others, this difference must be derived, not from the consideration of baptism, but of personal character; in other words, from our supposing ourselves to possess that evidence of the piety of the party accepted, which is deficient in the other. Hence it is manifest that nothing can be more simple and intelligible than the principles on which we proceed, which are of such a nature as to preclude every other diversity of opinion, except what regards their application in particular instances.
He who mistakes the nature of a positive institute, is in a different predicament of error from him who avowedly rejects it altogether; the imperfection which claims toleration in our pædobaptist brethren, is different in its nature from that which attaches to such as are disposed to set the ordinance aside. It is very possible therefore that some may be willing to extend their indulgence to what appears to them the least of two errors, while they refuse toleration to the greater, and, on this ground, admit a pædobaptist, while they
scruple to receive him who does not even profess to be baptized. But in making such a distinction, no intelligent baptist would be moved by the consideration of one of these parties being baptized, and the other not, (for this would be admitting the validity of infant baptism,) but solely by the different estimate he made of the magnitude of the respective errors. Some would probably consider each of them consistent with a credible profession of christianity; others might form a less favourable judgement. In this case the parties would act differently, while they maintained the same principle, and adjusted their practice by the It is somewhat extraordinary that after stating the principle on which my Treatise on Communion was founded, Mr. Kinghorn makes his first appeal to the pædobaptists, and asks whether they are prepared to acknowledge that baptism and the Lord's supper have no connexion. To what purpose is a question referred to a class of persons, who, as far as concerns the interior regulation of their churches, have no interest in the inquiry; on whose practice it can have no influence, and who are supposed by both the parties concerned, to be in an error respecting the institution itself, which has given occasion to the discussion? The confidence with which he anticipates their favourable suffrage, appears however to be ill founded; and if the Evangelical Magazine for 1803 is supposed to have insinuated sentiments congenial with his own, the author of the review of the present controversy, in the same publication, distinctly and explicitly expressed his approbation of the treatise On Terms of Communion. I have no doubt the result of an accurate and extensive inquiry into
same rule. *
* The above remarks may enable the reader to judge of the justice with which Mr. Kinghorn asserts, or insinuates, our total disagreement respecting the fundamental principle on which we justify our practice. “ Among the baptists,” he says, plead for mixed communion, I apprehend few will be found who would fairly take Mr. Hall's principle in all its consequences. In general they palliate, and plead that many good men think themselves baptized, and they are willing to accept them on that footing, leaving it to their own consciences to decide whether they had received such baptism as the word of God required ; and they will hardly admit the possibility of any case occurring which should require their acting on a wider principle. And here also, as far as my knowledge and observation have extended, I believe the cases are very few in which the position would be fairly and boldly adopted, that christian communion ought to be held with those who deny altogether the obligation to attend to christian baptism.”—p. 15. My opportunities of knowing the sentiments of the liberal part of the baptists must be supposed to be at least equal to Mr. Kinghorn's ; yet I have not heard a single objection from them against the general principle. Exceptions have been made (as might be expected) to particular parts, but none
whatever to the fundamental position of the treatise. The reason he assigns for supposing that many would not adopt the general principle in its full extent, is inconclusive. To refuse the communion of such as denied the obligation of baptism altogether, providing that error was deemed of such magnitude as to induce a suspicion of the piety of the party, would not be to contradict the principle in the smallest degree; and I am persuaded that amongst the advocates of mixed communion the refusal would proceed on no other ground. It is one thing to reject a general principle, and another to differ about the application of it to par