« السابقةمتابعة »
thor requests his attention. If we admit that the Jewish people were baptized in the name of Christ, considering the prodigious multitudes who repaired to John for that purpose, the conduct of a great part of that nation must be viewed in a new light; and instead of being chargeable with a uniform rejection of the Messiah, they must be considered as apostates; upon this supposition they violated the most sacred engagements, and impiously crucified their Prince, after consecrating themselves to his service by the most awful solemnities. The Evangelist informs us that "he came to his own, but his own received him not;" but the most accurate statement would have been, that they first received, and afterwards rejected him; received him on the testimony of the Forerunner, and rejected him after witnessing the immaculate purity of his life, the wisdom of his discourses, and the splendor of his miracles.
There is attached to apostacy a character of perfidy and baseness peculiar to itself, a species of guilt which the inspired writers frequently paint in the darkest colors, yet, strange to tell! though they had no motives to conceal or palliate the conduct of their countrymen in their treatment of the Messiah, but many motives to the contrary, not a syllable escapes them of the charge of apostacy. What terrible energy would that accusation have lent to St. Peter's address; what unspeakable advantage for alarming their consciences would he have derived from reminding them of their baptismal vows, and of their unspeakable impiety in crucifying the divine person to whom they had previously dedicated themselves in solemn rites of religion. When St. Paul, in writing to the Thessalonians, gives loose to one of his finest bursts of indignant feeling and rapid eloquence, in a brief portraiture of the character of his countrymen, the circumstance which would have given incredible force to the picture is suppressed; and not having perused the author of the Plea, he seems to entertain no suspicion of their having been baptized in the name of Jesus. It is not less unaccountable that the ancient Prophets contain no allusion to this event, but describe the future rejection of the Messiah as coeval with his appearance; and that the most singular fact in sacred history, is neither the subject of narration, nor of prophecy, but was reserved for the detection of the nineteenth century.
Having replied to this anonymous writer on every particular connected with the baptism of John, it is unnecessary to trouble the reader, by animadverting on the other parts of his performance; the few observations it contains which are pertinent to the subject, are too loose and superficial to deserve attention, especially since a work is announced by a writer who will probably discuss the remaining topics with superior ability. We shall notice
only two circumstances illustrative of the author's management of the controversy. He devotes his first section to a synopsis of the principles advanced in the treatise On Terms of Communion; which he has extended to the number of fourteen. Several of these, disguised by a little variety of language, are identically the same; some grossly misrepresented; and all of them expressed, not in the terms of the author, but in such as are adapted to give them as much of the air of paradox as possible. It is obvious that he who wishes to judge of them fairly, must view them in their proper place, accompanied with their respective proofs and illustrations; and that to tear them from their connexion, and exhibit them in a naked form, though they had been expressed in the author's own terms, is a direct appeal to prejudice. The obvious design is to deter the reader at the outset, and to dispose him to prejudge the cause before it is heard. To mingle in the course of a controversy insinuations and innuendos which have no other tendency than to impair the impartiality of the reader, is too common an artifice; but such an open, barefaced appeal to popular prejudice is of rare occurrence. It is an expedient to which no man will condescend, who is conscious of possessing superior resources. To this part of his performance no reply will be expected; for though the author feels himself fully equal to the task of answering his opponent, he confesses himself quite at a loss to answer himself. Like a certain animal in the eastern part of the world, who is reported to be extremely fond of climbing a tree for that purpose, he merely pelts the author with his own produce.
Another charge, however, is adduced of more serious import. For presuming to speak of conditions of salvation, he is accused of employing anti-evangelical language, and suspicions of his orthodoxy are pretty broadly insinuated. When the term conditions of salvation, or words of similar import, are employed, he wishes it once for all to be clearly understood that he utterly disclaims the notion of meritorious conditions, and that he intends by that term only what is necessary in the established order of means, a sine qua non, that without which another thing cannot take place. When thus defined, to deny there are conditions of salvation, is not to approach to Antinomianism merely, it is to fall into the gulf. It is nothing less than a repeal of all the sanctions of revelation, of all the principles of moral government. Let the idea of conditional salvation, in the sense already explained, be steadily rejected along with the term, and the patrons of the worst of heresies will have nothing further to demand. That repentance, faith, and their fruits in a holy life, supposing life to be continued, are essential prerequisites to eternal happiness, is a doctrine inscribed as with a sunbeam on every page of revelation; and must
we, in deference to the propagators of an epidemic pestilence, be doomed to express by obscure and feeble circumlocutions a truth which one word will convey, especially when that word, or others of a precisely similar meaning, has been current in the productions of unquestionable orthodoxy and piety, in every age? The author is at a loss to conceive on what principle, or for what reason, dangerous concessions are due to Antinomianism; that thick-skinned monster of the ooze and the mire, which no weapon can pierce, no discipline can tame. If it be replied, why adhere to an offensive term, when its meaning may be expressed in other words, or at least by a more circuitous mode of expression? the obvious answer is, that words and ideas are closely associated, and that though ideas give birth to terms, appropriate terms become in their turn the surest safeguard of ideas, insomuch that a truth which is never announced but in a circuitous and circumlocutory form, will either have no hold, or a very feeble one, on the public mind. The anxiety with which the precise, the appropriate term is avoided, bespeaks a shrinking, a timidity, a distrust with relation to the idea conveyed by it, which will be interpreted as equivalent to its disavowal. While Antinomianism is making such rapid strides through the land, and has already convulsed and disorganized so many of our churches, it is not the season for half measures; danger is to be repelled by intrepid resistance, by stern defiance-not by compliances and concessions; it is to be opposed, if opposed successfully, by a return to the wholesome dialect of purer times. Such is the intimate alliance betwixt words and things, that the solicitude with which the term condition, and others of similar import, have been avoided by some excellent men, has contributed more than a little to the growth of this widespreading pestilence. As almost every age of the church is marked by its appropriate visitation of error, so little penetration is requisite to perceive that Antinomianism is the epidemic malady of the present, and that it is an evil of gigantic size, and deadly malignity. It is qualified for mischief by the very properties which might seem to render it merely an object of contempt-its vulgarity of conception, its paucity of ideas, its determined hostility to taste, science, and letters. It includes within a compass which every head can contain, and every tongue can utter, a system which cancels every moral tie, consigns the whole human race to the extremes of presumption or despair, erects religion on the ruins of morality, and imparts to the dregs of stupidity all the powers of the most active poison. The author will ever feel himself honored by whatever censures he may incur, through his determined opposition to such a system.