« السابقةمتابعة »
approbation, a long passage from Bishop Hall, intended to shew that if the baptism of the church is valid, its constitution must be so also, which he prefaces by applauding that prelate's discernment, in seeing clearly their intimate connexion. “All your Rabbins,” says the bishop, “ cannot answer the charge of your rebaptized brother. If we be a true church you must return; if we be not, (as a false church is no church of God,) you must rebaptize; if our baptism be good, then is our constitution good."* Nothing can be more futile than this mode of arguing, which merely proves that the good bishop, with all his brilliance of genius, was but an indifferent reasoner. He thought himself justified in dissenting from the church of Rome, notwithstanding her baptism was ever esteemed valid. By the ancient church, through all successive ages from the council of Nice, the rebaptization even of heretics was condemned; though heretics were certainly not esteemed a part of the church. The very society of which the bishop was a member, has always professed to consider baptism, administered by every class of dissenters, in the name of the Trinity, as valid ; so that, if the reasoning extolled by Mr. Kinghorn is just, he was guilty of schism in refusing to unite at one and the same time, with heretics, Roman catholics, and dissenters.
* Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 122.
Not satisfied with asserting that our principles militate against the lawfulness of dissent, he maintains that they are inconsistent with protestantism, and that, by necessary consequence, they convict Luther and his associates of schism and rebellion. In the treatise on Terms of Communion, it had been urged, that if we believe our pædobaptist brethren to be in a state of salvation, we must acknowledge them as a part of the true church, and that to refuse them communion, is to create a schism in the body. Applying this reasoning to the case of the Roman catholics, he attempts to repel it, by remarking that if “ we have no right to refuse their communion with us, till they conform to what we are convinced is the will of Christ, we had no right to leave them because they deviated from his will. The ground is in both cases the same. Once take away the obligation of conforming to the will of Christ, and the reformation is declared a mischievous insurrection, in which all protestants are involved as aiding and abetting a needless, and schismatical project.”*
To this I reply, that to suppose us to take away the obligation of conforming in our own persons to the will of Christ, is to suppose us no longer christians. For to deny the obligation of obedience, is at once to deny his authority, which is equivalent to a formal renunciation of christianity.
* Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 55.
But if he means that we are obliged to demand in others a perfect compliance with his will, as a term of communion, he takes away the possibility of toleration; for we can be said to tolerate nothing but what we disapprove, and we can assign no other reason for our disapprobation, besides its apparent repugnance to the mind of Christ. His argument, therefore, is entirely nugatory. It is acknowledged that the lawfulness of admitting a Roman catholic to our communion, supposing him to be a real christian, is a necessary inference from our principles; but to conclude from thence that we are obliged to adhere to his, is demonstrably false and sophistical; nor is there the least pretence for asserting that the “ground in both cases is the same.” Of two actions which involve consequences infinitely different, it is impossible the ground should be the same. To receive a pious Roman catholic to our communion, implies nothing more than an acknowledgement of his being a member of Christ, which is true by the supposition: to commune with him in the rites peculiar to the Romish church, is to be guilty of gross idolatry and superstition, which, however pardonable it may be in him, whose conscience is uninformed, in me who have no such plea, would be damnable. Luther was necessitated to depart from the external communion of the church of Rome, if he would not partake in her corruptions, because her communion formed a principal part of those corruptions. Besides, since that church maintains the infallibility of all her decisions, and whoever ventures to promulgate a doubt respecting a tittle of her doctrine, is ipso facto excommunicated till he recants, when the light of truth revealed to Luther her enormities, it was not left to his option to continue in her society, or not, unless he would involve himself in the guilt of most horrid prevarication. He never pretended to depart from the Romish church absolutely, and in every thing, but in those particulars only, in which she had corrupted the doctrine of the gospel, and adulterated the worship of God; and, however highly he might estimate the advantages of unity, he could not purchase them at the expense
of a good conscience, nor dare, by assenting to error, or concurring in superstition and idolatry, “to do evil that good might come.” But if a catholic, of whose piety he entertained no doubt, had offered himself for communion with him, without recanting popery on the one hand, or proposing to innovate in the worship of God on the other, on such a supposition, if Luther had refused to receive him, his conduct might have been justly censured. Now, I would put it to the conscience of any impartial person, to determine whether Luther would have had precisely the same reasons for declining this act of toleration, as for refusing his approbation of indulgences, or his adoration of the mass. In exercising the
forbearance in question, he would have merely attested the piety of the communicant; in the other case, he would have directly countenanced and supported what he esteemed impiety and idolatry. With him who is prepared to assert, that each of these methods of proceeding are equally criminal, it is in vain to dispute ; but if they are not, the assertion that the ground in both cases is the same, is undeniably false.
Having detected the palpable sophistry, by which my opponent would evince the inconsistency of our principles with the cause of protestantism and of dissent, it remains only for me to remind him of the facility with which the argument may be retorted, and of the striking resemblance between the system of strict communion, and that which is maintained by the churches of England, and of Rome.
1. The Romish church, it is well known, pretends to an absolute infallibility; not, however, in such a sense as implies an authority to introduce new doctrine, but merely in the proposal of apostolic traditions, and in the interpretation of scripture. While she admits the scripture to be the original rule of faith, she requires, under pain of excommunication, that the sense she puts on its words, should be received with the same submission with the inspired volume. In what respects, let me ask, is the conduct of the strict baptists different ? A controversy arises on the