« السابقةمتابعة »
compelling them to abandon the other; and because they are uneasy at perceiving them perform but one half of their duty, oblige them, as far as lies in their power, to omit the whole. I must confess I feel no partiality for those violent remedies, which, under the pretence of reforming, destroy; or for that passion for order which would rather witness the entire desolation of the sanctuary, than a defalcation of its rites; and in spite of all the efforts of sophistry, I must be permitted to believe that our Lord's express injunction on his followers,
“ do this in remembrance of me,” is a better reason for the celebration of the communion than can be adduced for its neglect.
The Argument from Apostolical Precedent, and from
the different Significations of the two Institutions, considered.
In vindication of their practice, our opponents are wont to urge the order of administration in the primitive and apostolic practice. They remind us that the members of the primitive church were universally baptized; that if we acknowledge its constitution in that respect to be expressive of the mind of Christ, we are bound to follow that precedent, and that to deviate from it, in this particular, is
virtually to impeach either the wisdom of our Lord, or the fidelity of his apostles. *
With respect to the universality of the practice of christian baptism, having already stated our views, it is not necessary to repeat what has already been advanced, or to recapitulate the reasons on which we found our opinion, that it was not extended to such as were converted previous to our Lord's resurrection. Subsequently to that period, we admit, without hesitation, that the converts to the christian faith submitted to that ordinance, prior to their reception into the christian church. As little are we disposed to deny that it is at present the duty of the sincere believer to follow their example, and that, supposing him to be clearly convinced of the nature and import of baptism, he would be guilty of a criminal irregularity who neglected to attend to it, previous to his entering into christian fellowship. On the obligation of both the positive rites enjoined in
* “ The order of administration,” says Mr. Booth, “in the primitive and apostolic practice, now demands our notice. That the apostles, when endued with power from on high, understood our Lord in the sense for which we plead, and practised accordingly, is quite evident. Then they that gladly received his word were, what ? admitted to the Lord's table ? No, but baptized And the same day there were added to them about three thousand souls ; and they continued stedfast in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayer. brethren do not look upon the apostolic precedent as expressive of the mind of Christ, and as a pattern for future imitation, to the end of the world, they must consider the apostles as either ignorant of our Lord's will, or as unfaithful in the performance of it.”Booth's Apology, pp. 47, 48.
the New Testament, and the prior claim of baptism to the attention of such as are properly enlightened on the subject, we have no dispute. All we contend for is, that they do not so depend one upon the other that the conscientious omission of the first, forfeits the privilege, or cancels the duty, of observing the second ; nor are we able to perceive that what, in the present instance, is styled apostolic precedent, at all decides the question. To attempt to determine under what circumstances the highest precedent possesses the form of law, involves a difficult and delicate inquiry; for while it is acknowledged that much deference is due to primitive example, there were certain usages in apostolical times, which few would attempt to revive. There is one general rule, however, applicable to the subject, which is, that no matter of fact is entitled to be considered as an authoritative precedent, which necessarily arose out of existing circumstances, so that in the then present state of things, it could not fail to have occurred. The foundation of this rule is obvious. Nothing is of the nature of law but what emanates from the will of the legislator; but when a particular fact, recorded in an historical narration, is so situated, that the contrary would have appeared incongruous or absurd; in other words, when it could not fail to be the result of previous occurrences, such a fact is destitute of the essential characteristic of a law; it has no apparent dependence upon a superior will.
Hence many practices occur in the history of the apostolic transactions, which it is universally admitted we are not obliged to imitate. It is an unquestionable fact, that the eucharist was first celebrated with unleavened bread, on the evening, in an upper room, and to Jews only; but as we distinctly perceive that these particulars originated in the peculiar circumstances of the time, we are far from considering them as binding. On the same principle, we account for the members of the primitive church consisting only of such as were baptized, without erecting that circumstance into an invariable rule of action. When we recollect that no error or mistake subsisted, or could subsist, among christians at that period, we are compelled to regard it as the necessary consequence of the state of opinions then prevalent. While all the faithful concurred in their interpretation of the law which enjoins it, how is it possible to suppose it neglected ? or whence could rebaptized communicants have been drawn? Is this circumstance, to which so much importance is attached, of such a nature that no account can be given of it, but upon the principle of our opponents ? or is it the necessary consequence of the then actual situation of the church? If the latter be admitted, it ceases, for the reason already alleged, to be a precedent, or a rule for the direction of future times.
We are willing to go a step further, and to acknowledge that he who, convinced of the divine
origin of christianity by the ministry of the apostles, had refused to be baptized, would at that period have been justly debarred from receiving the sacramental elements. While the apostles were yet living, and daily exemplifying the import of their commission before the eyes of the people, it would have been impossible to pretend ignorance; nor could that sincerity fail to be suspected, which was not accompanied with an implicit submission to their authority.
“ He that receiveth you,” saith our Lord, ceiveth me; he that rejecteth you, rejecteth me.” Agreeably to which we find that the disciple whom Jesus loved did not scruple to use the following language:-“ By this
ye know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error; he that is of God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us.” Such a conduct was perfectly proper. As there can be but two guides in religion, reason and authority, and every man must form his belief, either by following the light of his own mind, or the information and instruction he derives from others; so it is equally evident it is only by the last of these methods that the benefit of a new revelation can be diffused. Either we must suppose an infinite multitude of miracles performed on the minds of individuals to convey the knowledge of supernatural truths, or that one or more are thus preternaturally enlightened, and invested with a commission to speak in the name of God to others; endowed, at the same time, with such peculiar