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the sacrament, it seems, on account of any breach of duty of which they are guilty; for to assert this, would be to contradict himself, by resting their exclusion on their moral delinquency. They incur the forfeiture of all the privileges of the church, for no fault whatever; and whether they be perfectly free from blame or not, in the adoption of an unauthorized rite, is a consideration totally foreign to the question, and it is not to be taken into the account, in assigning the reasons for their non-admission. Let the reader seriously ponder this extraordinary concession; let him ask himself, whether he is prepared to believe that, in consistence with the genius of the gospel, the most extensive forfeiture of religious immunities can be incurred without guilt, and the heaviest ecclesiastical censure inflicted on the innocent. He will doubtless reject such a supposition with unmingled disgust; he will feel no hesitation in deciding that the error which prohibits a church from recognizing the person to whom it is ascribed, as a Christian, which Mr. Kinghorn expressly applies to infant baptism, must incur a high degree of culpability in the eyes of him who judgeth righteous judgement.
The glaring inconsistency of this whole statement, with the preceding assertions of the same writer, is palpable and obvious. He entirely concurs with Mr. Booth, in characterizing Pædobaptists as persons, "who do not revere Christ's authority, submit to his ordinances, nor obey the laws of his house." But how will he attempt to distinguish his charge from that of moral delinquency? Again, quoting the declaration of St. Paul, that "the kingdom of God consists in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost;" he adds, "now as far as the kingdom of God consists in righteousness, it must include obedience to practical precepts, both moral, and positive. (Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 46.) We have an eminent instance, of submission to John's baptism being called righteousness by our Lord." But if the Pædobaptists are justly chargeable with want of righteousness, and on that account, are not entitled to Christian fellowship, they must certainly be excluded on the ground of moral delinquency. If on the other hand, the deficiency of righteousness involved in the practice of infant baptism, is not sufficient to justify such a treatment, the reasoning in the above passage is utterly futile. By denying that they are excluded on the ground of moral delinquency, at the same time that he imputes to them, conduct highly criminal, he has involved himself in inextricable difficulties; since supposing it could be proved to a demonstration, that they did "not revere the authority of Christ," &c. he has deprived himself of the power of urging it in vindication of his system, by protesting against the supposition of his resting its operation on moral considerations. But if no
guilt is implied in these charges, why are they adduced; and if there be, how is that to be distinguished from moral delinquency? He tells us they are not unworthy, but only disqualified; whence it follows, that in his opinion, he may be worthy of communion, who "does not revere the authority of Christ;" nor would it be possible to dispute his title, were he but qualified.
In adopting this system, he professes to obey the directions, and to imitate the conduct of the Supreme Legislator, whom he affirms not to have received the unbaptized, into the gospel dispensation. If this profession is sincere, he surely will not deny that it is his intention to proceed on the same grounds, and act from the same motive, with the great Head of the Church.
But when by refusing to admit them into the Christian dispensation, he virtually declares them disqualified, which is the doctrine of this writer, is it under the character of innocent persons, or of delinquents? Will he affirm that the benefits of that economy are withheld from any who have, by no act, deserved that privation? Is the sentence by which their disqualification is incurred, capricious and arbitrary, or is it merited? To say it is not, would be impious; and to affirm that it is, is to contradict himself by founding it after all on moral considerations, or which is perfectly equivalent, on "moral delinquency."
The distinction then which he has attempted to establish betwixt being unworthy, and being disqualified, is perfectly nugatory; and the persons to whom it is applied, though they may not be unworthy in other respects, must be acknowledged to be such, on account of that particular instance of disobedience, for which they are disqualified. Their disobedience places them on a footing with other classes of delinquents, by shutting them out from the communion of saints. They incur the same forfeiture, and for the same general reason, want of practical compliance with the will of Christ. They are defective, to use this author's own language, in the righteousness of the kingdom; and though they possess faith, they fail in exhibiting obedience.
The objections formerly urged against this system, consequently return in their full force. Since the exclusion of Pædobaptists must, after every possible evasion, be founded on their supposed demerits, if these are necessarily and intrinsically equal to the moral imperfections which are tolerated in Baptist societies, it is just. If among the millions who have practised infant baptism, the most eminent saint whom past ages have produced, is to be considered as more criminal on that account, than the crowd of imperfect Christians whom we admit without scruple into our churches, the charge of injustice must be relinquished. Unless this can be sustained, it remains undiminished and unimpaired.
The method by which Mr. Kinghorn attempts to parry this reasoning, is a recurrence to his old sophism, which consists of confounding together things totally distinct, namely, a refusal to partake in objectionable rites, with the exclusion from our communion of such as embrace them. Here he takes occasion to affirm that the same objection may be made to our secession from the Romish, as from the Established Church.*
Did we repel men of unquestionable piety on account of their avowed attachment to the peculiarities of a sect or party, there would be a propriety in identifying our practice with that of our opponents; for in that case we should both act on the same principle. But in refusing to join in a communion, accompanied by appendages which we conscientiously disapprove, we proceed on a totally different ground. We recede just as far as a moral necessity dictates, and no farther. Nor is it true, as this writer asserts, that this mode of proceeding implies as severe a censure on the societies from which we dissent, as the practice which we are opposing, inflicts on Pædobaptists. He who conceives that the posture of kneeling is an unauthorized innovation on the primitive mode of celebrating the Eucharist, must necessarily dissent from the church which prescribes it: but will it be affirmed that his doing so, implies a conviction that the adherents to that rite are universally disqualified for fellowship, that they are not entitled to be acknowledged Christians, or that they are so deficient in the righteousness in which the kingdom of God consists, as to invalidate their profession, and exclude them from the Christian dispensation? But these are the charges urged against the Pædobaptists. Let the smallest error imaginable be so incorporated with the terms of communion, that an explicit assent to it is implied in that act; and he who discerns it to be an error, must, if he is conscientious, dissent, and establish a separate communion; but are there any prepared to assert, that this is precisely the same thing as to repel the person who embraces it, from the Lord's table? I
"The imposition of rites," says Mr. Kinghorn, "which Christ has not commanded, and the combination of those sentiments with the structure of the church, which we think injurious to its nature, and contrary to the will of the Lord, have rendered it necessary for us to establish a separate communion. Here the fact is, that we feel ourselves called upon to say, that we can have no fellowship with them in communion at the Lord's table. On this ground, it would be a very easy thing to represent the conduct of Protestants, and of Protestant Dissenters, in the same dark coloring, as Mr. Hall has applied to the strict Baptists. Let a man of talent exclaim against them for departing from the true church; and represent their conduct in establishing a communion of their own, as declaring in the strongest form, that they deem others unworthy of their society, and that, in so doing, they pronounce the sentence of expulsion, &c., and he will do no more than Mr. Hall has done in the whole of this part of his reasoning.”—Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 63.
am weary and ashamed of being under the necessity of occupying the reader's attention with the exposure of such obvious fallacies. Suffice it to remark, once for all, that our dissent from the Establishment is founded on the necessity of departing from a communion, to which certain corruptions, in our apprehension, inseparably adhere; while we welcome the pious part of that community to that celebration of the Eucharist which we deem unexceptionable. We recede from their communion from necessity, but we feel no scruple in admitting them to ours; while our strict brethren reject them, as well as every other description of Pædobaptists altogether. On him who has no discernment to perceive, or candor to acknowledge, the difference betwixt these methods of proceeding, all further reasoning would be wasted.
One more evasion must be noticed before we conclude this part of the subject. "The Pædobaptists are represented as chargeable with nothing more than a misconception of the nature of a positive institute. But this, it is observed, is not the question before us; the present controversy relates to the institute itself. It is not whether the members of a church have fully and properly conceived the nature of the institute, to which they have submitted. If this were the case, we might be represented as expelling the ignorant and the weak, instead of instructing and encouraging them. But it is whether an institute delivered by Christ is to be maintained, or to be given up." (Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 65.)
To this I reply-The advocates of infant baptism are either sincerely of opinion that the rite in question ought to be extended to infants, or they are guilty of prevarication. If there be any of the last description to be found, they are entirely out of the question, for, supposing their character ascertained, they have never been contemplated as proper objects of toleration. With respect to the former, who sincerely believe it was the intention of our Lord to extend the rite of baptism to the infant seed of believers, is it possible for them to act otherwise than they do? With what then are they chargeable, except with a misconception of a positive institute; and if we are not to repel the ignorant and the weak, we must either affirm that they are not ignorant in this particular, and thus accuse them, contrary to the supposition, of wilful prevarication, or we must tolerate them. Though we are far from insinuating that our Pædobaptist brethren are in general either ignorant or weak, yet as ignorance and weakness are undoubtedly adequate to the production of any misconception, on the subject of religion not fundamental, they will consequently account for the error which has given birth to infant baptism; and just as far as it is capable of being ascribed to this source, its abettors are, by our au
thor's concession, objects of forbearance. And since there is no medium, but all Pædobaptists, however discerning in other respects, must either be supposed ignorant in this particular, or to prevaricate; forbearance must be extended to as many of them as are deemed sincere; beyond which, we are as unwilling to extend it as he is. While they entertain their present views on the subject of baptism, they must either administer it to infants, or violate the dictates of conscience; and therefore, if they are chargeable with any thing more than a misconception, the matter of that charge must be deduced from their acting like upright men; an accusation, which we hope for the honor of human nature, will proceed from none but strict Baptists.
The sum of what has been advanced on this head is, that the privation of communion is an evil, exactly proportioned to the value of that benefit; that as far as the tendency of the exclusive system is concerned, and to the utmost power of its abettors, the evil is extended to every denomination except one; that it is either inflicted on account of moral delinquency, or is utterly unmerited; since if that ground be relinquished, their exclusion must be asserted to be just, even supposing them perfectly innocent; that whatever blame may be imputed, bears no proportion to that which incurs the forfeiture of the same privilege, in other instances; nor to the faults and imperfections which are daily tolerated without scruple; and finally, since the practice which is treated with so much severity, is the necessary result of a misconception of the nature of a positive institute, which is only another name for ignorance or weakness in that particular, to make it the pretext of expulsion or excommunication, is repugnant to the maxims even of our opponents.
On the contrariety of the maxims and sentiments of the advocates of strict communion to those which prevailed in the early ages; in which the innovation imputed to them by the author is vindicated from the charge of misrepresentation.
In order to comprehend the true state of the question, as it respects the practice of Christian antiquity, it may be convenient to distribute it into three periods; the first, including the time during which correct sentiments on the subject of baptism universally prevailed; the second, that in which a gradual transition was made