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tendance to teachers, who will esteem it their duty to confirm them in their respective persuasions, the transition to an opposite system may be deemed almost a miracle. It were more natural to suppose, that in this instance, as well as others of greater moment, faith cometh by hearing, than that a crop should spring up, where no seed, or none but what is of an opposite kind, has been sown. ! It is not a little curious to find it objected to the principles we are attempting to defend, that they are adapted to an imperfect, rather than a perfect state of things; when the utility of the entire system of Christianity results entirely from such an adaptation, and is nothing more than a sublime and mysterious condescension to human weakness and imperfection. What is the gospel, but a proposed alliance, in which infinite purity comes into contact with pollution, infinite justice with human demerits, and ineffable riches with hopeless penury? “ Mixed communion,” Mr. Kinghorn observes, "displays another genuine feature of error. It is only to be found (even on the concession of its warmest supporters) in that mingled state of things, which takes place between the first purity of the church and the ultimate display of gospel light. In the times of the Apostles it had no place; nor do we expect it will be found, when the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of God.'” (Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 77.) Specious as this proposition may appear, it is in reality nothing but a truism. We both suppose infant baptism to be an innovation unknown in primitive times. But mixed communion means nothing else than the union of Baptists and Pædobaptists in the same religious soci
say therefore that no such practice was known in the times of the Apostles, is to say that the two denominations were not united, while there was only one ; a profound discovery, the merit of which we will not dispute with this author. But when he proceeds to remark, that it will be equally unknown in the period usually styled the latter day glory, we must be permitted to remind him of a state incomparably superior, and to ask him whether he supposes his exclusive system will extend there ; whether the Pædobaptist, dying in the possession of his supposed error, is disqualified to join the spirits of just men made perfect; to mingle with the general assembly of the church of the first
If this is not affirmed, let him reflect on the enormous absurdity of demanding a greater uniformity among the candidates for admission into the church militant, than is requisite for a union with the church triumphant, of claiming from the faithful, while encompassed with darkness and imperfection, more harmony and correctness of sentiment, than are necessary to qualify them to sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of
God-of pretending to render a Christian society an enclosure more sacred, and more difficult of access, than the abode of the divine Majesty—and of investing every little Baptist teacher with the prerogative of repelling from his communion, a Howe, a Leighton, or a Brainerd, whom the Lord of glory will welcome to his presence. Transubstantiation presents nothing more revolting to the dictates of common sense.
The blessedness of a future world is ever represented in Scripture as the final end and scope of the Christian profession; the doctrines which it embraces, the duties which it enjoins, are represented as terminating in that, as its ultimate object. Religion itself, in its most general nature, is necessary only in consequence of the relation which the subjects of it bear to a future state; “ patient continuance in well doing” is requisite, because it is the only safe and legitimate way of aspiring “ to glory, honor, and immortality;" and the utmost that can be said to enforce any particular branch of practice, is, that it tends to prepare us for the eternal felicity. The church of Christ is unquestionably ordained merely as one of the instruments of qualifying its members for the possession of eternal life; but for this, it would have had no existence; and beyond this, we can conceive no end or purpose it was intended to accomplish. In a system of means, many things may be useful on account of their tendency to facilitate the accomplishment of their object
, which are not absolutely necessary. They may accelerate its attainment, or attain it with greater certainty than it could be effected in their absence. But since the necessity of means arises solely from their relation to the end, that, whatever it be, without which the end may certainly be secured, can never be affirmed to be necessary, without an absolute contradiction. Is the organization of the church then a means of obtaining eternal life? Is it ordained solely with the view of preparing man for a future state of felicity, or in order to secure some temporary and secular object? If it be allowed that it is the former alone which it is designed to obtain, to assert that baptism is necessary to qualify for communion, when communion itself is only necessary as a means of preparing us for heaven, which it is allowed may with certainty be obtained without baptism, is a flat contradiction. It is to affirm that what is not essential to the attainment of a certain end, is yet a necessary part of the order of means, which is palpably absurd.
Let it be remembered that we are far from intending to insinuate that baptism is of little moment; or that a wanton inattention to this part of the will of Christ is consistent with a well founded assurance of salvation ; our sole intention is to expose the inconsistency of supposing an involuntary mistake on this subject a sufficient bar to communion, while it is acknowledged to be none to the participation of future blessedness.
Our opponents will probably remind us of the perfect unanimity which will prevail on this subject (in our apprehension) in the heavenly world. But when will this unanimity take place; will it be previous to an admission to the society of the blessed, or subsequent to that event ? If it be subsequent, in receiving believers on the ground of their vital union with Christ, we follow the order of Heaven, which our opponents invert; while we indulge the hope, that, in consequence of coming into a closer contact with persons whose views on the subject of baptism are correct, they will be gradually induced to embrace them; firmly persuaded, that, whether this be the result or not, we incur no danger in following a celestial precedent. We are not surprised at our opponents making such high pretensions to purity in the discipline and economy of their churches; we only admire their modesty in not insisting on their loftiest and sublimest distinction, which consists in their societies being more select than heaven, and in its being more difficult to become a member of a Baptist church than to be saved.
The reader is requested to remember the extraordinary positions which Mr. Kinghorn has been compelled to advance, in defence of his restrictive system. He will recollect, we hope, that he has found it necessary to affirm that the most eminent saints, not excepting the illustrious army of martyrs, made no true profession of that religion for which they labored, and for which, with a divine prodigality they shed their blood ; that though worthy of “ walking with Christ in white,” and of joining in the cry, “ How long, O Lord, wilt thou avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth," they gave no scriptural evidence of their faith, and were consequently not entitled to its privileges, and that their claim to Christian communion was defeated, not in consequence of any specific or peculiar connexion betwixt the two ordinances in
question, but solely on account of its being one of those privileges. He has found it necessary to assert that the terms of communion and of salvation are both immutable; that if baptism was ever necessary to salvation, it is so still ; and, consequently that an involuntary mistake respecting a branch of Revelation, is equally criminal and dangerous with its wilful rejection. He has found it necessary to affirm that Pædobaptists are not received into the Christian dispensation, although he expresses his confident expectation of their being interested in its blessings, and justified by faith in its promises. These are but a scanty specimen of the wild and eccentric paradoxes into which this writer has been betrayed, while in quest of new discoveries, and resolved to project an original
defence of strict communion, he has quitted the sober path of his predecessors.
In some of the leading points of the argument, he has totally abandoned what Mr. Booth considered as forming his strong hold. Thus though he evinces an extreme reluctance to appear to coincide with the writer of these sheets in any thing, he in fact concedes all that he contended for, respecting the essential difference betwixt the baptism of John and that of Christ, and entertains no doubt that the twelve disciples at Ephesus were re-baptized. Thus the palmarium argumentum of his venerable predecessor is relinquished. Mr. Booth contended that though the Pædobaptists are received in the sense the Apostle intended in that expression, their right to the Lord's supper cannot be inferred ; Mr. Kinghorn denies that they are; and thus the two champions are at variance toto cælo, on the interpretation of the passages chiefly concerned in this controversy. As these passages (Rom. 14: 1. 15: 7,) form a principal part of the gist of the debate, the intelligent reader is requested carefully to examine Mr. Kinghorn's mode of interpretation, and should it appear to be loaded with insuperable difficulties, it may with confidence be inferred, that the cause of strict communion, were it liable to no other objection, is untenable. He had too much acumen to reject Mr. Booth's solution of the difficulty, could it have been plausibly supported. Conscious it could not, he has attempted to substitute another, which is accompanied with still greater, though perhaps not quite such obvious inconveniences.
Dextrum Sylla latus, lævum implacata Charybdis
Obsidet........ The writer is far from anticipating a speedy or sudden revolution in the sentiments of his brethren, as the consequence of his efforts in this controversy. He is contented to await the slow operation of time in extinguishing the prejudices which time alone has produced; conscious that bodies of men are peculiarly tenacious of their habits of thinking, and that it is wisely ordained that the conquest achieved by just and enlightened principles, should be firm and durable, in proportion to the tardiness of their progress. Another generation must probably rise up, before the rust of prejudice is sufficiently worn off, to leave room for the operation of reason, and the exercise of free inquiry on this subject. Our opponents, aware that a current has already set in, which threatens, at no very distant period, to sweep away their narrow and contracted system, are exerting every effort to stop it, but in vain,
Labitur et labetur, in omne volubilis ærum.
Mr. Kinghorn, while he acknowledges with extreme regret that the younger part of our ministers are generally unfavorably disposed to the cause he has attempted to defend, expresses his conviction that further reflection and inquiry will correct the aberrations of their youth, and recall them to the ancient path. But when was it ever known that an extension of knowledge produced a contraction of feeling, or that the effect of a more extended survey of the vast sphere of philosophical and religious speculation, was to magnify the importance of sectarian peculiarities. He anticipates this effect chiefly from the perusal of ecclesiastical history; a profound acquaintance with which, is to put them in possession of the marvellous secret, that mixed communion was unknown in the ages which succeeded the universal prevalence of infant baptism. The general agreement to consider that rite as an indispensable prerequisite to communion, during those ages, is to be received, it seems, as an oracle; while the baptism which they practised, is discarded as a nullity, the sole ground on which it was supposed to be necessary, deemed a most dangerous error, and innumerable other opinions and usages of equal notoriety and extent, consigned to the moles and to the bats. He must have a wonderful faculty of sanguine anticipation, who supposes that an unlettered mind will reject the authority of antiquity in every particular, except that which suits his own humor; and after considering whatever distinguishes the ecclesiastical economy of these ages, from that of dissenting societies, as a striking instance of human weakness, stop short in the career of reprobation just at the point he is pleased to prescribe. Such a procedure would be, (as Cicero observes on another occasion, not to argue, but to divine; and it would be just as reasonable, after making a collection of all the peculiar opinions and practices of Christian antiquity, to determine by lot which of them should be received, and which rejected.
Far from indulging the apprehension of a retrograde motion from enlarged and liberal to narrow and contracted principles, we have every reason to conclude, that the polar ice once broken, they will circulate to a much wider extent; and the revolution which has already commenced among those who are destined to guide the public mind, shortly produce a powerful effect on the people, who never fail, sooner or later, to follow the impulse of their public teachers. As it is this which gave rise to the present practice, so it is still, by a sort of incantation, by mustering the shades of the mighty dead, of a Booth and a Fuller especially, who are supposed to cast a dark and frowning aspect on the petulance of modern innovation, that it is chiefly supported; and with all due respect to the talents of Mr. Kinghorn, it may be confidently affirmed, that but for the authority of these worthies, his weapons would produce as little execution as the dart of Priam.