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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 unbe mitigated 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.
practe ve and
emotes on of
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 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 Pædobaptists at the Lord's table.
Leaving, however, to those to whom it may be more grateful,
the unwelcome office of exposing the infirmities of their brethren, let me close this subject by one more remark. In addition to all the other reasons for retracing our steps, we may, with great propriety, allege the spirit of the times, the genius of the age, distinguished, as it is, beyond all former example, by the union of Christians in the promotion of a common cause, and their merging their minor differences in the cultivation of great principles, and the pursuit of great objects. Instead of confining themselves, each to the defence of his own citadel, they are sallying forth in all directions, in order to make a powerful and combined attack on the kingdom of darkness. The church of Christ, no longer the scene of intestine warfare among the several denominations into which it is cantoned and divided, presents the image of a great empire, composed of distant, but not hostile provinces, prepared to send forth its combatants, at the command of its invisible Sovereign, to invade the dominions of Satan, and subdue the nations of the earth. The weapons of its warfare have already made themselves felt in the East and in the West, and wherever its banner is unfurled, it gathers around it, without distinction of name or sect," the called, the chosen, the faithful," who, at the heart-thrilling voice of Him whose vesture is dipped in blood, and who goes forth conquering and to conquer, rush to the field, unmindful of every distinction but that of his friends and foes, and too eager for the combat to ask any other question, than, Who is on the Lord's side? Who? And is it possible, after mingling thus their counsels, their efforts, their prayers, and standing side by side, in the thickest of the conflict, in coming up to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord, against the mighty, for them to turn their backs on each other, and refuse to unite at that table which is covered with the memorial of his love, and the fruits of his victory? No. As we hope, when the warfare of time is accomplished, and these mortal tabernacles, in which it is performed, shall be dissolved, to celebrate a never-ending feast, with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the whole army of the faithful, of every age, from every clime, and from every tongue, let us begin by feasting together here, to present a specimen of that harmony and love, which are at once the element and the earnest of eternal felicity.