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our opponents ; for in that case we should both act on the same principle. But in refusing to join in a communion, accompanied by appendages which we conscientiously disapprove, we proceed on a totally different ground. We recede just as far as a moral necessity dictates, and no farther. Nor is it true, as this writer asserts, that this mode of proceeding implies as severe a censure on the societies from which we dissent, as the practice which we are opposing inflicts on pædobaptists. He who conceives that the posture of kneeling is an unauthorised innovation on the primitive mode of celebrating the eucharist, must necessarily dissent from the church which prescribes it: but will it be affirmed that his doing so implies a conviction that the adherents to that rite are universally disqualified for fellowship, that they are not entitled to be acknowledged christians, or that they are so deficient in the righteousness in which the kingdom of God consists, as to invalidate their profession, and exclude them from the christian dispensation ? But these are the charges urged against the pædobaptists. Let the smallest error imaginable be so incorporated with the terms of communion, that an explicit assent to it is implied in that act; and he who discerns it to be an error, must, if he is conscientious, dissent, and establish a separate communion : but are there any prepared to assert, that this is precisely the same thing as to repel the person who embraces it, from the Lord's table? I am weary and ashamed of being under the necessity of occupying the reader's attention with the exposure of such obvious fallacies. Suffice it to remark, once for all, that our dissent from the establishment is founded on the necessity of departing from a communion, to which certain corruptions, in our apprehension, inseparably adhere; while we welcome the pious part of that community to that celebration of the eucharist which we deem unexceptionable. We recede from their communion from necessity, but we feel no scruple in admitting them to ours ; while our strict brethren reject them, as well as every other description of pædobaptists, altogether. On him who has not discernment to perceive, or candour to acknowledge, the difference betwixt these methods of proceeding, all further reasoning would be wasted.
One more evasion must be noticed before we conclude this part of the subject. baptists are represented as chargeable with nothing more than a misconception of the nature of a positive institute. But this, it is observed, is not the question before us : the present controversy relates to the institute itself. It is not whether the members of a church have fully and properly conceived the nature of the institute to which they have submitted. If this were the case, we might be represented as expelling the ignorant and the weak, instead of instructing and encouraging
“ The pædo
them. But it is, whether an institute delivered by Christ, is to be maintained, or to be given up.
To this I reply: The advocates of infant baptism are either sincerely of opinion that the rite in question ought to be extended to infants, or they are guilty of prevarication. If there be any of the last description to be found, they are entirely out of the question ; for, supposing their character ascertained, they have never been contemplated as proper objects of toleration. With respect to the former, who sincerely believe it was the intention of our Lord to extend the right of baptism to the infant seed of believers, is it possible for them to act otherwise than they do? With what then are they chargeable, except with a misconception of a positive institute? And if we are not to repel the ignorant and the weak, we must either affirm that they are not ignorant in this particular, and thus accuse them, contrary to the supposition of wilful prevarication, or we must tolerate them. Though we are far from insinuating that our pædobaptist brethren are, in general, either ignorant or weak, yet as ignorance and weakness are undoubtedly adequate to the production of any misconception, on the subject of religion not fundamental, they will consequently account for the error which has given birth to infant baptism;
* Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 65.
and just as far as it is capable of being ascribed to this source, its abettors are, by our author's concession, objects of forbearance. And since there is no medium, but all pædobaptists, however discerning in other respects, must either be supposed ignorant in this particular, or to prevaricate ; forbearance must be extended to as many of them as are deemed sincere; beyond which we are as unwilling to extend it as he is. While they entertain their present views on the subject of baptism, they must either administer it to infants, or violate the dictates of conscience; and therefore, if they are chargeable with any thing more than a misconception, the matter of that charge must be deduced from their acting like upright men; an accusation, which we hope, for the honour of human nature, will proceed from none but strict baptists.
The sum of what has been advanced on this head is, that the privation of communion is an evil exactly proportioned to the value of that benefit; that as far as the tendency of the exclusive system is concerned, and to the utmost power of its abettors, 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 name 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.