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er as the signal for displaying the banners of party; and by reviving the remembrance of differences, elsewhere consigned to oblivion, give the utmost publicity to dissensions, which are the reproach of the church, and the triumph of the world.
The only color invented to disguise this glaring inconsistency, is so pure a logomachy, that it is difficult to speak of it with becoming gravity. They remind us, forsooth, that the expressions of Christian affection in praying and preaching for each other are not church acts, as though there were some magic in the word church that could change the nature of truth, or the obligations of duty. If it is our duty to recognize those as fellow Christians who are really such, what is there in the idea of a church that should render it improper there? If the church is "the pillar and ground of truth," it is the proper place for the fullest disclosure of its secrets; and if Christians are under an obligation to love each other with a pure heart, fervently, its organization can never have been designed to contract the heart, by confining the movements and expressions of charity within narrower limits. The duty of churches originates in that of the individuals of which they consist, so that when we have ascertained the sentiments and principles which ought to actuate the Christian in his private capacity, we possess the standard to which the practice of churches should be uniformly adjusted.
Nor is it in this particular only, that the persons whose opinions we are controverting are betrayed into lamentable inconsistency. Their concessions on another branch of the subject, lay them open to the same imputation. They acknowledge that many Pædobaptists stand high in the favor of God; enjoy intimate communion with the Redeemer; and would, on their removal hence, be instantaneously admitted to glory. Now, it seems the suggestion of common sense, that the greater includes the less, that they who have a title to the most sublime privileges of Christianity, the favor of God, the fellowship of Christ, and the hope of glory, must be unquestionably entitled to that ordinance whose sole design is to prepare us for the perfect fruition of these blessings. To suppose it possible to have an interest in the great redemption, without being allowed to commemorate it, that he may possess the substance who is denied the shadow, and though qualified for the worship of heaven, be justly debarred from earthly ordinances, is such an anomaly as cannot fail to draw reprobation on the system of which it is the necessary consequence. Men will, ere long, tremble at the thought of being more strict than Christ, more fastidious in the selection of the members of the church militant, than he is in choosing the members of the church triumphant.
Hitherto our attention has been occupied in stating the argu
ments in favor of mixed communion, and replying to the objections to that practice. It is but justice to the subject and to the reader, before we close the discussion, to touch on another topic.
In every inquiry relating to Christian duty, our first concern should undoubtedly be to ascertain the will of the Supreme Legislator; but when this has been done to our satisfaction, we may be allowed to examine the practical tendency of different systems, the effect of which will be to confirm our preference of that course of action which we have found most consonant with the oracles of truth. We are far from resting the merits of our cause on the basis of expedience; we are aware that whoever attempts to set the useful in opposition to the true, is misled by false appearances, and that it behoves us, on all occasions, fearless of consequences, to yield to the force of evidence. But having, in the preceding pages, proved, (we would hope to the satisfaction of the reader) that the practice of strict communion has no support from Scripture or reason, it cannot be deemed improper briefly to inquire into its tendency.
The first effect necessarily resulting from it, is a powerful prejudice against the party which adopts it. When all other denominations find themselves lying under an interdict, and treated as though they were heathens or publicans, they must be more than men not to resent it, or if they regard it with a considerable degree of apathy, it can only be ascribed to that contempt which impotent violence is so apt to inspire. We are incompetent judges of the light in which our conduct appears, to those against whom it is directed, but the more frequently we place ourselves in their situation, the less will be our surprise at the indications of alienation and disgust which they may evince. The very appellation of Baptist, together with the tenets by which it is designated, become associated with the idea of bigotry; nor will it permit the mind which entertains that prejudice, to give an impartial attention to the evidence by which our sentiments are supported. With mingled surprise and indignation they behold us making pretensions which no other denomination of Protestants assumes, placing ourselves in an attitude of hostility towards the whole Christian world, and virtually claiming to be the only church of Christ upon earth. Fortified, as it is, by its claims to antiquity and universality, and combining in its exterior whatever is adapted to dazzle the imagination, and captivate the senses, there is yet nothing in the church of Rome that has excited more indignation and disgust than this very pretension. What then must be the sensation produced, when, in the absence of all these advantages, a sect, comparatively small and insignificant, erects itself on a solitary eminence from whence it repels the approach of all other Christians. The power of prejudice to arrest the progress
of inquiry is indeed to be lamented; nothing could be more desirable, than that every opinion should, in the first instance, be judged of by its intrinsic evidence, without regard to the conduct of the persons who embrace it; but the strength and independence of mind requisite to such an effort, is rather to be admired than expected. There are few who enter on the investigation of theological questions in that elevated state; secret antipathies or predilections will be sure to instil their venom, and obscure the perception of truth, and the suggestions of reason.
By the stern rejection of the members of all other denominations, until they have embraced our distinguishing tenets, what do we propose to effect-to intimidate, or to convince? We can do neither. To intimidate is impossible, while there are others, far more numerous than ourselves, ready to receive them with open arms. The hope of producing conviction by such an expedient is equally groundless and chimerical, since conviction is the result of evidence, and no light whatever can be pretended to be conveyed by interdicting their communion, unless it be that it manifests our intolerance. We propose to extirpate an error, and we plant a prejudice; and instead of attempting to soften and conciliate the minds of our opponents, we inflict a stigma. Professing serious concern that the ordinance of baptism, as it was practised in the first ages, is fallen into neglect, we attempt to revive an unpopular rite by a mode of procedure, which, without the remotest tendency towards the removal of error, or the elucidation of truth, answers no other purpose than to make ourselves unpopular.
By this preposterous conduct, we do all in our power to place our Pædobaptist brethren beyond the reach of conviction. Since it is unreasonable to expect, however attractive the ministry, that a pious Pædobaptist will statedly attend where he must despair of ever becoming a member, and of enjoying the privileges to which every serious person is supposed to aspire; he attaches himself, as a necessary consequence, to a connexion in which there is no such impediment, but where he is certain of hearing nothing but what will foster his prejudices and confirm his error. Thus he is excluded from the only connexion where the arguments for adult baptism are stated, and is exposed to the constant operation of an opposite species of instruction. The practice which we are reprobating is nearly equivalent to an inscription over the door, none but Baptists enter within these walls'-an admirable expedient, truly, for diffusing the Baptist sentiments, about as rational as to send a man from London to Constantinople to study the evidences of Christianity.
Mr. Kinghorn is delighted with this separation of the Baptists from other denominations in the offices of devotion, avowing it as
his opinion, that no Pædobaptist can, without great impropriety, statedly attend the ministry of one of our denomination. If we may judge from what he has written on this subject, he appears less anxious to promote and extend the peculiar tenets of the Baptists, than to preserve inviolate their sacred seclusion and solitude. His sentiments on this subject will probably remind the poetical reader of Gray's beautiful description of the bird of night, which does to the moon complain
Of such as, wandering near her secret bowers,
Whatever his intention may be, it must be obvious, that by the policy he recommends, of keeping the Baptists and Pædobaptists entirely separated from each other, even as hearers of the word, he is strengthening the barriers of party, building up a middle wall of partition, and by cutting off the channels of communication, and the means of conviction, resigning both to the entire and unmitigated operation of their respective systems. Is it possible to imagine any thing more calculated to stifle inquiry, to render the public mind stationary, and to perpetuate our divisions to the end of the world? From him who was really solicitous to extend the triumphs of truth, we should expect nothing would be more abhorrent than such a system; he surely would leave nothing unattempted to break down the rampart of prejudice, and by making the nearest approaches to his opponents, consistent with truth, avail himself of all the advantages which a generous confidence seldom fails to bestow, for insinuating his sentiments and promoting his views.
Of the tendency of mixed communion to promote a more candid inquiry into our principles, it is scarcely possible to doubt; whether it would have the effect of rapidly extending the Baptist denomination as such, is less certain. For were that practice universally to prevail, the mixture of Baptists and Pædobaptists in Christian societies would probably, ere long, be such, that the appellation of Baptist might be found, not so properly applicable to churches as to individuals, while some more comprehensive term might possibly be employed to discriminate the views of collective bodies. But what then? Are we contending for names, or for things? If the effect of a more liberal system shall be found to increase the number of those who return to the primitive practice of baptism, and thus follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth, he must be possessed of a deplorable imbecility and narrowness of mind, who will lament the disappearance of a name, especially when it is remembered that whenever just views on this subject. shall become universal, the name by which we are at present distinguished will necessarily cease. An honest solicitude for the
restoration of a divine ordinance to its primitive simplicity and purity, is not merely innocent, but meritorious; but if the ultimate consequence of such an improvement should be, to merge the appellation of a party in that which is derived from the divine Founder of our religion, it is an event which none but a bigot will regret.
It were well, however, if the evil resulting from the practice of strict communion were confined to its effect on other denominations. If I am not much mistaken, it exerts a pernicious influence on our own. Were it consistent with propriety, it would be easy to adduce exceptions: individuals have come within the narrow range of my own observation, whose temperament has been so happy, that they have completely surmounted the natural tendency of their principles, combining the greatest candor towards Pædobaptists, with a conscientious refusal of their communion. Such instances, however, must, in the nature of things, be rare. Generally speaking, the adoption of a narrow and contracted theory will issue in a narrow and contracted mind. It is too much to expect that a habit of treating all other Christians as aliens from the fold of Christ, and unworthy of a participation of the privileges of his church, can be generally unaccompanied with an asperity of temper, a proneness to doubt the sincerity, to censure the motives, and depreciate the virtues of those whom they are accustomed to treat with so much rigor. Conceiving themselves to be a highly privileged class, as the only legitimate members of his church, they are almost inevitably exposed to think more highly of themselves than they ought to think; and founding their separation, not on that which distinguishes the followers of Christ from the world, but on a point in which Christians dissent from each other, they are naturally tempted to attach superlative importance to the grounds of difference.
The history of the present controversy affords a melancholy confirmation of these remarks; for the few who have ventured to appear on the liberal side of the question have, for the most part, been assailed by ungenerous insinuations, and odious personalities. Their claim to be considered as Baptists is very reluctantly conceded, and the part they have taken has been imputed to the love of popularity, or to some still more unworthy motive. Some churches, in their zeal for strict communion, have even lost sight of their own principles, and substituted the doctrine opposed in these pages as a term of admission, instead of the ordinance of baptism. Others have refused the privilege of occasional communion to such as have been known to sit down with Padobaptists at the Lord's table.
Leaving, however, to those to whom it may be more grateful,