« السابقةمتابعة »
ages, from that of dissenting societies, as a striking instance of human weakness, stop short in the career of reprobation just at the point he is pleased to prescribe. Such a procedure would be (as Cicero observes on another occasion) not to argue, but to divine; and it would be just as reasonable, after making a collection of all the peculiar opinions and practices of christian antiquity, to determine by lot which of them should be received.
Far from indulging the apprehension of a retrograde motion from enlarged and liberal, to narrow and contracted principles, we have every reason to conclude, that the polar ice once broken, they will circulate to a much wider extent; and the revolution which has already commenced amongst those who are destined to guide the public mind, shortly produce a powerful effect on the people, who never fail, sooner or later, to follow the impulse of their public teachers. As it is this which gave rise to the present practice, so it is still by a sort of incantation, by mustering the shades of the mighty dead, of a Booth and a Fuller especially, who are supposed to cast a dark and frowning aspect on the petulance of modern innovation, that it is chiefly supported; and with all due respect to the talents of Mr. Kinghorn, it may be confidently affirmed, that, but for the authority of these worthies, his weapons would produce as little execution as the dart of Priam.
Deference to great names is a sentiment which it would be base to attempt to eradicate, and impossible, were it attempted. But, like other offsprings of the mind, it is at first rude and illshapen. It makes no selection, no discriminationit retains the impress of its original, entire, just as it was made: it is a vague undistinguishing admiration, which consecrates in a mass all the errors and deformities, along with the real excellencies of its object. Time only, the justest of all critics, gives it correctness and proportion, and converts what is at first merely the action of a great upon an inferior mind, into an enlightened and impartial estimate of distinguished worth. The effect produced by coming into an intimate contact with a commanding intellect, is of a mixed nature; it subdues and enslaves the very persons whom it enlightens, and almost invariably leaves a portion of its sediment, where it deposits its wealth. It must be placed at a certain distance before we derive from it all the pure defecated good it is capable of imparting; and with all my admiration of the inestimable men already mentioned, and my conviction of the value of their services, I am persuaded many years must elapse before we entirely surmount the effects of a longcontinued dictatorship.
When the views of baptism, by which we are distinguished as a denomination, are once exonerated from the odium arising from the practice we have been opposing, and the prejudices which it has necessarily occasioned have subsided, we may justly presume that the former will be examined with more impartiality; nor is it possible to assign a reason for their having made so limited a progress, besides the extreme disgust inspired by this most unchristian and unnatural alliance. It is too much to expect an enlightened public will be eager to enroll themselves amongst the members of a sect, which displays much of the intolerance of popery, without any portion of its splendour; and prescribes, as the pledge of conversion, the renunciation of the whole christian world. While the vestibule is planted with the most repulsive forms, while sedent in limine Diræ, few will be intrepid enough to enter.
On Mr. Kinghorn's system, which reprobates the attendance of the members of baptists and pædobaptists on the ministry of each other, as a dereliction of principle, to calculate the ages which must, in all probability, elapse, ere our principles obtain a general prevalence, would form an amusing problem. The Hindoo chronology, which assigns to its fabulous dynasties millions and millions of years, might furnish a specimen of the scale on which such a calculation should proceed; and unless some such passion is expected to seize the members of other communities, as impelled the queen of Sheba to come from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, the projected revolution must be pronounced, in the absence of miracles, impossible. What can be the motive of the advocates of strict communion for studiously presenting every possible obstacle to the exclusive diffusion of our principles ?
We might be almost tempted to conjecture that they were afraid of losing their title to the appellation of a “ little flock,” or that they consider the baptist denomination as an order of nobility or of knighthood, whose dignity is impaired in proportion as it is diffused. Be this as it may, the spirit of the age, distinguished by the superior expansion of its views, and the extensive cooperation of all sects and parties in the promotion of objects of public utility,—the little success which has accompanied the narrow and restrictive system,—the dictates of scripture, and the movements of that divine charity which those dictates have impressed, —all invite us to “ consider our ways,” to retrace our steps, and endeavour to draw our fellowchristians “ by the cords of love, and the bands of a man.” When we have learned to “ make no difference," where the Searcher of hearts makes none; when we shew an alacrity in embracing all who love Jesus Christ, as members of the same mystical body,—when, in conformity to the genius of christianity, there is with us neither Jew nor Greek, neither baptist nor pædobaptist, but Christ is all in all,—the reasons on which our peculiar practice is founded, will, in all probability, meet with a very different reception from what has hitherto attended them, accompanied, as they have been, with a system of impotent oppression, and unmerited contumely. But whether these expectations, to their full extent, are realised or not, we shall, at least, improve ourselves, wipe off the reproach of bigotry and intolerance, and rise in the esteem of a religious and enlightened public, by convincing them that our zeal for a ceremonial institution has not betrayed us into a forgetfulness that “ love is the fulfilling of the law.”
Thus have I endeavoured to reply to the reasoning of my opponent on this subject: whether my answer will be deemed by a discerning public conclusive or otherwise, I trust they will be convinced that no attempt has been made to evade the force of his arguments, nor any thing passed over in silence, to which he can be supposed to attach the least degree of importance. My anxiety to leave nothing untouched which bears any relation to the merits of the controversy, has extended this reply beyond my wishes and my expectation ; conceiving it better to incur the charge of tediousness, than that of discussing a polemical point of high importance, in a slight and superficial manner. The mode of establishing a doctrine in opposition to prevailing opinions and prejudices, is necessarily much more circuitous than the strict laws of reasoning require, in exhibiting its evidence to the understanding at a subsequent period. In the militant state of a doctrine, it is generally found