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in a certain particular, can be justly considered as conferring a sanction on his error, is not a little mysterious. If this is a fair construction, it must proceed upon the general principle, that communion sanctions all the imperfections, speculative and practical, of the members whom it includes ; and thus our opponents must be understood to approve all the perverse tempers, and erroneous views, of the individuals whom they receive into fellowship. Will they abide by this consequence? But how is it possible to escape it, if to tolerate and to sanction, to forbear and to approve, are the same thing? Will they assert that St. Paul was prepared to exclude the members of the church at Corinth, against whose irregularities he so warmly protested; or affirm that by declining such a step, he sanctioned the schisms and tumults, the backbitings, whisperings, and swellings, which he reproved with so much severity? The idea is too ridiculous to be entertained for a moment, but not more than the present allegation.
Were an impartial spectator to witness the celebration of the sacrament by persons of different denominations, what would he infer? That they considered each other as beings" without fault before God," with nothing in their sentiments liable to correction, or in their characters susceptible of improvement? No; The only conclusion which he could consistently draw would be, that they looked upon each other as pardoned sinners, washed in the same fountain, sanctified, though imperfectly, by the same Spirit, and fellow-travellers to the same celestial city.
We must either seek a church such as is not to be found upon earth, or be content to associate with men compassed with infirmities; prepared to exercise towards others the forbearance and indulgence which we need, and to exhibit on every occasion the humility becoming those who are conscious that in “ many things we all offend."
Besides, as our author acknowledges that baptism not to be "compared in importance with the least of Christ's moral precepts,” against which men of unquestionable piety are perpetually oflending, to a greater or less extent ; where is the consistency of being more solicitous to avoid the appearance of sanctioning ceremonial, than moral disobedience?
The following sentiment, marked in italics, and delivered with the solemnity of an oracle, is characterized by the same spirit of extravagance. “ The supposition itself,” our author says, “ that toleration and forbearance will justify us in allowing an omission of any law of Christ in his church, operates as a repeal of that law, and would generally be deemed unreasonable.” (Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 53.) As all duty bears respect to a law, it is impossible to conceive of its omission, without supposing an equal omission of the law.
He illustrates his assertion by referring to the legal qualification, in landed property, required in a candidate for a seat in parliament; where it is evident that to render the cases parallel, it must be assumed, that baptism is by the appointment of the Head of the Church, the necessary qualification for the rights of fellowship, which is the very point in debate; so that we have here another instance of that habit of begging the question, with which he is so familiar. On what occasion has he found us concede what is taken for granted in this illustration ; or who would be so absurd, after such a concession, as to pursue the argument any further ?
The proposition itself is as untenable, as its illustration is irrelevant. If every rule of action is repealed, the moment its omission, whether partial or total, whether occasional or habitual, whether intentional or unintentional, is the object of forbearance, a repeal is the necessary concomitant of every conceivable instance of toleration. For say, on supposition, the will of Christ were perfectly complied with, in doctrine and in practice, what possible room would there be for mutual forbearance? What, to speak of forbearance, when all is right! Is perfection then the object of toleration? But just in proportion as imperfection exists, some law, some rule of conduct, must be neglected, “ for where there is no law, there is no transgression.” Will it be affirmed, that when St. Paul censured with so much severity, the swellings, the tumults, the whisperings and the backbitings, which prevailed in the church of Corinth, who were ready to devour each other ; when he found it necessary to remind them, that the unjust should not inherit the Kingdom of God, did he after all perceive in them no omission of a law of Christ? This surely none will affirm; and as he still continued to exercise forbearance, without the slightest intimation of an intention to exclude them, he was guilty, on Mr. Kinghorn's principles, of repealing the commands of God. As the evils tolerated were of a moral nature, and he tells us, that he is far from “ equalizing baptism with the least of Christ's moral precepts ;” if in spite of his own concession, he now assigns it a superiority, what is this but a palpable contradiction? But to say that a mistake respecting the nature of a Christian ordinance, is not to be borne with in religious society, while evils of a moral kind are, and must be tolerated, is to mark its pre-eminence, in a manner the most unequivocal.
The mistakes into which he has fallen in this short passage, are so gross and so many, that they deserve a distinct enumeration. First ; By affirming that to endure, under any circumstances, the omission of a rule of action, is to repeal it, he has reduced the very conception of toleration to an impossibility. Secondly; As there can be no moral imperfection, but what involves, at least,
an occasional omission of a moral precept, the least of which he affirms, is of greater moment than baptism, he must either contend for the propriety of setting aside forbearance altogether, or must be understood to select for its object the greater, in preference to the least of two evils. Thirdly'; In assuming it for granted, that there is a law in existence, which universally prohibits the unbaptized from communion, he assumes the whole question in debate ; and if no such rule is admitted, how is it possible we should be guilty of repealing it. Fourthly, In stigmatizing the practice of not invariably insisting on a compliance with primitive baptism, in order to fellowship, as a virtual repeal of the precept which enjoins it, while we inculcate it as a divine command, and testify our disapprobation of its neglect, is a strange abuse of terms, founded on the following principle; that whatever is not absolutely and invariably required as a term of communion, is virtually repealed; whence it necessarily follows, that the whole of that duty in which the church of Corinth was defective, that whole portion of the mind of Christ, which they failed to exemplify, was considered by St. Paul as no longer binding, since however it might excite his concern, and draw forth his rebuke, the want of it, it is evident, did not prevent his forbearance. Will he abide by this inference? If he declines it, let him shew, if he is able, why it is less applicable, to the conduct of St. Paul than to ours?
That we do not repeal the ordinance, by which our denomination is distinguished, considered as a duty, is a fact, of which we give ocular demonstration, as often as it is celebrated. True, say our opponents, but you repeal it, as a necessary preliminary to the Lord's supper. To which the answer is obvious; first prove that it is so, and then should we continue obstinate, load us as much as you please, with the opprobium of abrogating a divine command. But cease to run round this miserable circle, of first assuming the existence of a law, confining communion within certain limits, then accusing us of repealing it, and lastly finding us guilty of transgressing the prescribed bounds, on the ground of that repeal. He who repeals a rule of action, reduces the system of duty to exactly the same state, as though it had never existed. Whenever we are convicted of doing this, whenever we teach the nullity of baptism, or inculcate a habit of indifference, respecting either the mode, or the subject of that ordinance, we will bow to the justice of the charge ; but till then, we feel justified in treating it with the neglect due to an attempt to convince without logic, and to criminate without guilt.
The Towrov yevdos, the radical fallacy of the whole proceeding, consists in confounding an interpretation of the law, however just, with the law itself; in affirming of the first, whatever is true of the
last; and of subverting, under that pretext, the right of private judgement. The interpretation of a rule is, to him who adopts it, equally binding with the rule itself, because every one must act on his own responsibility ; but he has no authority whatever to bind it on the conscience of his brother, and to treat him who receives it not, as though he were at direct issue with the legislator. It is this presumptuous claim of infallibility, this assumption of the prerogative of Christ, this disposition to identify ourselves with Him, and to place our conclusions on a footing with His mandates, that is the secret spring of all that intolerance which has so long bewitched the world with her sorceries, from the elevation of papal Rome, where she thunders and lightens from the Vatican, down to Baptist societies, where “she whispers feebly from the dust."
This writer has, with the best intentions I doubt not, dragged from its obscurity a principle whose thorough application and developement would doom not our societies alone, but every church in the universe, to a confusion of minds and of tongues, a state of discord and anarchy, the healing of which would soon find him other employ than that of attempting to defend the petty and repulsive peculiarity to which he has devoted his labors.
Before I close this chapter, it is proper to observe, in order to obviate misconception, that nothing is more remote from my intention than to plead for a wilful omission of any part of the will of Christ. His honor, I trust, is as dear, His prerogative as sacred, in the eyes of the advocates of Christian, as it is in those of sectarian communion. Let each in the regulation of his own conduct, pay the most scrupulous attention to His orders; and wherever he distinctly perceives that a professor of religion indulges himself in a known and habitual violation of them, let him after seasonable and repeated admonition," withdraw from the brother that walketh disorderly.” But let him not presume to control the sentiments and conduct of others by his standard, and treat as an enemy or an alien, that humble follower of Christ, who is as sincerely devoted to His will as himself; and who, however he may mistake it in some particulars, would shudder at the thought of setting voluntary bounds to obedience. If to tolerate such, must subject us to the reproach of repealing the law of Christ, let us remember we are not the first who were condemned for undervaluing the ritual part of religion, and for preferring mercy to sacrifice. As we must all appear before the judgement-seat of Christ, we await with much composure and confidence, His decision; without indulging the smallest apprehension that we shall meet with less compassion for having shewn it ; or that we shall incur His displeasure for refusing to “beat our fellow servants."
Au inquiry how far the practice of mixed communion affects the grounds of
dissent from the church of England, and from the church of Rome. Mr. Kinghorn expresses his surprise that the champions of the Hierarchy have neglected in their controversy with Dissenters, to avail themselves of the practice of strict communion. For my part, I am only surprised at his surprise. For supposing (what is most contrary to fact) that it had furnished them with some advantage against a part of the Baptists, what mighty triumph would it be to have proved, that a branch only of a denomination, by no means considerable in their eyes, had been betrayed into an inconsistency. The abettors of a splendid Hierarchy, were little likely to descend to a petty altercation with the members of one division of dissent, respecting a point which could merely supply an argumentum ad hominem, and about which their opponents are far from being agreed.
To us however it is of importance to consider whether the doctrine we have attempted to establish, is justly chargeable with infringing on the legitimate principles of dissent. With this view, we shall briefly examine the substance of our author's arguments on this subject.
We are accused of inconsistency in arraigning the Church of England “ for introducing rites and ceremonies which have indeed no scriptural authority, but which are pleaded for, merely as decent and venerable customs; while we ourselves tolerate in the church, the neglect of an institution which we are convinced was universally obeyed in the apostolic times, and which was appointed by the highest authority.” (Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 123.) To this we reply, that the cases are not parallel ; that they differ in the most essential particulars.
It is one thing to tolerate, and another to practise. The law of God invariably and absolutely forbids the latter; that is, it uniformly prohibits the performance of a single action which we esteem contrary to his will, but to say it in all cases forbids the former, is, to insist on an absolute agreement respecting every branch of practice. The objection is brought against us who neither practise nor sanction infant baptisin, that we are chargeable with the same criminality which is supposed to attach to the introducers of human rites and ceremonies in religion, ceremonies which they