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After announcing an intention of replying to Mr. Kinghorn, the Public seem entitled to some account of the causes which have delayed its execution so long. Various conjectures have probably arisen on the subject. By many, no doubt, it has been suspected that the delay was occasioned by a perception of the difficulty of constructing an answer which would be deemed satisfactory,
and that the engagement to reply was made, without anticipating so formidable an opposition. That the Author was, to a certain extent, deterred by a feeling of difficulty, it is impossible to deny ; but the reader is probably not aware in what the difficulty lay. It had no relation to the argumentative force of Mr. Kinghorn's production, in whatever degree it may be supposed to possess that attribute ; but solely to the manner in which he has chosen to conduct the debate. The perpetual recurrence of the same matter, the paucity of distinct and intelligible topics of argument, together with an obvious want of coherence, and of dependence of one part on another, give to the whole the air of a series of skirmishing and desultory attacks, rather than of regular combat, rendering it difficult to impart that order and continuity to a reply, in the absence of which, argumentative discussions are insufferably tedious. With the eagerness of a professed pleader, he has availed himself of every topic which could afford the slightest color of support to his cause, with little scrupulosity apparently, respecting the soundness of the principles from which he argues. In a word, he has conducted his share of the warfare in a manner, which renders him more formidable from the irregularity and quickness of his movements, than from the steady pressure of his columns.
Though he has advanced some new, and as they appear to me, paradoxical positions, the space which they occupy is so small, compared to that which he has allotted to arguments and objections distinctly noticed and replied to in my former treatise, that it seemed almost impracticable to answer the greater part of the work, without a frequent recurrence to what had been already advanced. But a writer is never more certain of disgusting, than when he is the echo of himself.
On these accounts, had my private conviction dictated the course which it seemed proper to pursue, the following work, instead of swelling to its present bulk, would have been limited to some short strictures on those parts of his reply in which my respectable opponent has quitted the track of his predecessors. But to this there were serious objections. In the estimation of multitudes, little qualified to appreciate the weight of an argument, to be brief and to be superficial are one and the same thing; no publication is admitted to be solidly answered, except the reply bears a certain proportion to it in size and extent; and whatever is not distinctly noticed and discussed, however irrelevant, or however trivial, is instantly proclaimed unanswerable. These considerations determined me rather to hazard the imputation of tediousness, than to attempt a very concise reply, which however cogent, would be construed by many into a tacit acknowl edgement of my incapacity to combat the reasoning of my opponent. Having, therefore, only a choice of evils, and necessitated either to make a large demand on the patience of the reader, or to incur the suspicion of evading what could not be successfully encountered, I preferred the former ; endeavoring at the same time to shun, as much as possible, a tiresome repetition of the same topics ; with what success, the Public will determine.
The preceding remarks will explain one cause of delay; to which may be added, a strong disinclination to controversy; the want of a habit of composition ; repeated attacks of illness at one period, and various avocations and engagements at another, too unimportant to be obtruded on the attention of the reader.
It may also be remarked, in extenuation of the charge of procrastination, that the subject is just as interesting and important as when the controversy commenced. The evil in which it originates is not local, nor of an ephemeral or transitory nature; it will continue to subsist, there is reason to fear, after the present generation is consigned to the dust; and even the delay may not be altogether without its advantages. Both parties will have had leisure to reflect, the reasoning on each side of the question time to settle, and to find its level in the public mind, undisturbed by that disposition extravagantly to depreciate and to extol respectively, the performances it has given rise to, which almost invariably distinguishes the outset of a controversy. Whatever appears in the present stage, it is but justice to consider as the result of more matured observation and inquiry, compensating in pertinence and solidity, what it may want in vivacity and ardor.
It is remarkable that without any previous knowledge or concert, a discussion on the subject of communion commenced nearly at the same time on both sides the Atlantic; and the celebrated Dr. Mason, of New York, justly regarded as one of the brightest ornaments of the Western hemisphere, was exerting the energies of his most powerful mind, in establishing the fundamental position of the treatise On Terms of Communion, almost at the very moment that treatise appeared. A coincidence so rare, a movement so simultaneous, yet so unpremeditated, we cannot but look upon as a token for good, as an indication of the approach of that period, so ardently desired by every enlightened Christian, when genuine believers will again be of
one heart and of one mind.” Let us hope that America, the land of freedom, where our pious ancestors found an asylum from the oppression of intolerance, will exert, under the auspices of such men as Dr. Mason, a powerful reaction on the parent state, and aid her emancipation from the relics of that pestilential evil, still cherished and retained in too many British churches.
Independent of other considerations, that invaluable person possesses one obvious advantage over the Author of the following per-, formance. Disengaged from the spurious refinements and perplexing subtleties which arise from the subject of baptism, by which our opponents attempt to evade the application of his general principle, his movements are in consequence more free and unfettered, and his force operates in a more simple direction than is compatible with the state of the question as it respects the views of the Baptist denomina
He fearlessly spreads his sails to the winds, and triumphs on the elements which is congenial to the amplitude and grandeur of his mind. Mine is a coasting voyage, in which the Author feels himself necessitated to creep along the shore, and to comply with all its irregularities, in the midst of flats and shoals, and exposed to perpetual annoyance from the innumerable small craft which infest these shallow waters. The effect of the different situations in which we are placed, is to give a luminous simplicity to his mode of conducting the argument, which forms a striking contrast not only to.
the tedious logomachies which I have been compelled to encounter, but the manner in which I have attempted to confute them. It belongs to a Pascal, and perhaps to a few others of the same order of genius, to invest the severest logic with the charms of the most beautiful composition, and to render the most profound argumentation as entertaining as a romance. The Author makes no such pretension; having confined his endeavors to an attempt to establish his assertions by sufficient proof, and to expose the sophistry of his opponent, he must be allowed to remind his readers that no quality will be found more necessary than patience. Truth, as far as he knows himself, is his sole object; and if they are actuated by the same disposition, though they will find little to amuse, it is possible they may meet with something to instruct them.
It is surprising how little attention an inquiry into the principles which ought to regulate our intercouse with other denominations, (a question of considerable moment in whatever light it be viewed) has excited. Though it has given birth to a few publications at very distant intervals, none, as far as my information extends, have produced any deep impression, or any extensive and permanent effects. On this subject a spirit of slumber seems to have oppressed our faculties, from which we have hardly ever completely awoke. From the appearance of Mr. Bunyan's treatise, entitled Water Baptism no Bar to Communion, to the publication of the celebrated Mr. Robinson, a whole century elapsed, with few or no efforts to check the progress of the prevailing system, which had gained so firm a footing previous to Mr. Booth's writing, that he felt no scruple in entitling his defence of that practice, An Apology for the Baptists. The majority appear to have carried it with so high a hand, that the few churches who ventured to depart from the established usage were very equivocally acknowledged to belong to the general body, and seem to have been content to purchase peace, at the price of silence and submission. The most virulent reproaches were cast upon the admirable Bunyan, during his own time, for presuming to break the yoke ; and whoever impartially examines the spirit of Mr. Booth's Apology, will perceive that its venerable Author regards him, together with his coadjutors and sucessors much in the light of rebels and insurgents, or to use the mildest terms, as contumacious despisers of legitimate authority. Mr. Kinghorn in the same spirit, evinces an eagerness, at every turn, to dispute our title to be considered as complete Baptists. In short, whether it is to be ascribed to intimidation, or to some other cause, the fact is notorious, that the zeal evinced on the side of free communion, has hitherto borne no proportion to that which impels the advocates of the opposite system, whose treatment of their opponents, in most instances, bears no very remote resemblance to that which moderate Churchmen are accustomed to receive at the hands of their High Church brethren.
* Though Dr. Mason was not led by the course of his argument to treat of the question of mired communion in the usual import of that phrase, his general principle not only necessarily infers it, but I have the satisfaction of learning from his own lips his entire approbation of the doctrine advanced in Terms of Communion.
Another cause has probably co-operated towards the production of the same result. Some whose character commands the deepest respect, are known to deprecate the agitation of the present controversy from an apprehension of the injury the denomination may sustain, by the exposure of its intestine dissensions. For my own part, I am at a loss to conceive the grounds on which such a policy can be justified. Could the fact that we are at variance among ourselves on the subject under discussion, be concealed, something might be urged in favor of the prudence of such a measure, nothing certainly for its magnanimity. But since that is impossible, and whoever is acquainted with the state of the denomination, is aware of the diversity which subsists in the constitution of our churches in this particular, the true state of the question is, whether that article of the Apostle's Creed which asserts the communion of saints, is to be merged in an exclusive zeal for baptism, and its systematic violation, in our judgement at least, to remain unnoticed and unchecked, in deference to party feelings and interests. We are at a loss to conceive how the association of truth with error, is capable of benefiting the former; or how it can be eventually injured by an attempt (conducted in a Christian spirit) to dissolve an alliance, which resembles the junction of the living with the dead. While the preservation of peace is dear to us, the interests of truth are still more so; and we would fix our eyes on the order in which the attributes of that celestial wisdom are enumerated, which is " first pure, then peaceable.
Before closing this preface, I must be allowed to advert to a circumstance intimately connected with the eventual success of the cause in which I am embarked. It is the general practice of our churches, whatever may be the sentiments of the majority, to continue the practice of strict communion, in almost every instance,