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annihilate the principle on which the injunction is founded.
Having paved the way to the conclusion to which we would conduct the reader, we have only to remark, that in order to determine how far these apostolic injunctions oblige us to tolerate the supposed error of our pædobaptist brethren, we have merely to consider whether it necessarily excludes them from being of the number of those whom Christ has received, to the glory of the Father, whether it be possible to hold it with christian sincerity, and finally, whether its abettors will stand or fall in the eternal judgement.
If these questions are answered in the christian candour irresistibly suggests, and which the judgement of our opponents approves, they conclude in favour of the admission of pædobaptists to communion, not less forcibly than if they had been mentioned by name; and all attempts to evade them, must prove futile and abortive. If it be asserted on the contrary, that a mistake on the subject of baptism is not comprehended in the above description, the passages adduced must be acknowledged irrelevant, and the whole controversy assumes a new aspect.
In the same spirit the apostle earnestly presses on the Philippians the obligation of maintaining an uninterrupted harmony, and of cultivating a fraternal affection to each other, even while he is contemplating the possibility of their entertaining different apprehensions respecting truth and duty. After proposing himself as an example of the renunciation of legal hopes, and the serious study of perfection, he adds,
“ Let us, therefore, as many as are perfect, as many as have obtained correct and enlarged views of the gospel, be thus minded; and if in any thing we are otherwise minded, or rather differently minded, possessing different views and apprehensions on certain subjects, God will reveal this even unto you.* Nevertheless, wherein we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.” Here the case of a diversity of sentiment arising among christians is distinctly assumed, and the proper remedy suggested, which is not the exercise of a compulsory power, much less a separation of communion, but the ardent pursuit of christian piety, accompanied with a humble dependence on divine teaching, which it may reasonably be expected will in due time correct the errors and imperfections of sincere believers. The conduct to be maintained in the mean while, was a cordial cooperation in every branch of worship and of practice, with respect to which they were agreed, without attempting to effect a unanimity by force; and this is precisely the conduct which we contend should be maintained towards our pædobaptist brethren. If they can be repelled from the Lord's table, without violating both the letter and the spirit of the
* See an admirable criticism on this passage in Bishop Horsley's Sermons, where the word étepws, which is the key to the whole passage, is most happily elucidated.--Vol. ii. p. 358.
preceding and of similar admonitions, we are prepared, however reluctantly, to acquiesce in their exclusion; but if they cannot, it deserves the serious consideration of the advocates of that measure, how they can reconcile the palpable infringement of such precepts with the scrupulous adherence to the dictates of scripture, to which they make such loud pretensions.
It will surely not be denied that the precepts of the gospel are entitled to at least as much reverence as apostolical precedents, when it is remembered that the language of the former, as is befitting laws, is clear and determinate, while inferences deduced from the latter are frequently subject to debate; not to remark, that if we consider the spirit of scripture precedent, it will be found entirely in our favour.
When the abettors of exclusive communion are pressed with the conclusions resulting from the passages we have quoted, and others of a similar tendency, their usual answer is that the inspired writers make no mention of baptism on these occasions, and that no allusion is had to a diversity of opinion on the positive institutions of the gospel; which is perfectly true, and perfectly foreign to the purpose for which it is alleged; for the question at issue is not, What were the individual errors we are commanded to tolerate; but, What is the ground on which that measure is enforced, and whether it be sufficiently comprehensive to include the pædobaptists? That it is so, that they are actually included, can only be denied by affirming that they are precluded from divine acceptance, since it is precisely on that ground that St. Paul rests the plea of toleration. To object to the application of a general principle to a particular case, that it is not the identical one which first occasioned its enunciation, is egregious trifling, and would go to the subversion of all general principles whatever, and consequently put an end to all reasoning. When a doubtful point in morality is to be decided by an appeal to a general principle, it is an essential property of such a principle to extend to more particulars than one; since, if it did not, it would cease to be a principle, and the point in question would be left to be decided by itself; and if not self-evident, could admit of no decision whatever. When Nadab and Abihu, intoxicated with wine, offered strange fire upon the altar, and were struck with instant death for their presumption, Moses by divine command prescribed the following general rule for the worship of God: “I will be sanctified of all them that draw nigh unto me, and before all the people will I be glorified.” Who can be at a loss to perceive the absurdity of limiting that precept to the prohibition of intoxication, the crime which occasioned its first promulgation, instead of extending it to every instance of levity and impiety, in an approach to the divine Majesty ? My consciousness of the extreme weight of prejudice which the truth has to encounter, together with the inaptitude of many
who are most interested in this controversy to ascend to first principles, is my only apology for insisting upon a point so obvious; choosing rather to hazard the contempt of the wise, than not to impress conviction on the vulgar.
With such as admit the possibility of pædobaptists being saved, there remains, in my apprehension, no alternative, but either to receive them into their communion without scruple, as comprehended within the apostolic canon, or to affirm that decision to be founded on erroneous grounds; which at once removes the controversy to a superior tribunal, where they and the apostle must implead each other. Let us, however, briefly examine certain distinctions they have recourse to, in order to elude the force of these passages. In the first place, it has been alleged, that though we are commanded to receive our mistaken brethren, we are not instructed to receive them at the Lord's table, or into the external communion of the church; and that such injunctions are consequently irrelevant to the inquiry respecting the right of persons of a similar character to those external privileges of which they make no mention. “ Is there no way,” say our opponents, “ of receiving him that is weak in faith, but by admitting him to the Lord's table? Must the exhortation to receive a christian brother be confined to that single instance of true benevolence ?"* To this we reply, that we know of
* Booth's Apology, p. 101.