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secession from it indispensable. He quotes with apparent approbation a long passage from Bishop Hall, intended to shew that if the baptism of the church is valid, its constitution must be so also, which he prefaces by applauding that Prelate's discernment, in seeing clearly their intimate connexion. “All your Rabbins, says the Bishop,“ cannot answer the charge of your rebaptized brother. If we be a true church you must return; if we be not (as a false church is no church of God,) you must rebaptize; if our baptism be good, then is our constitution good.” (Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 122.) Nothing can be more futile than this mode of arguing, which merely proves that the good Bishop, with all his brilliance of genius, was but an indifferent reasoner. He thought himself justified in dissenting from the church of Rome, notwithstanding her baptism was ever esteemed valid. By the ancient church, through all successive ages from the Council of Nice, the rebaptization even of Heretics was condemned ; though Heretics were certainly not esteemed a part of the church. The very society of which the Bishop was a member, has always professed to consider baptism, administered by every class of dissenters, in the name of the Trinity, as valid; so that if the reasoning extolled by Mr. Kinghorn is just, he was guilty of schism, in refusing to unite it at one and the same time with Heretics, Roman Catholics, and Dissenters.
Not satisfied with asserting that our principles militate against the lawfulness of dissent, he maintains that they are inconsistent with Protestantism, and that by necessary consequence they convict Luther and his associates of schism and rebellion. In the treatise on Terms of Communion, it had been urged, that if we believe our Pædobaptist brethren to be in a state of salvation, we must acknowledge them as a part of the true church, and that to refuse them communion, is to create a schism in the body. Applying this reasoning to the case of the Roman Catholics, he attempts to repel it, by remarking that if “ we have no right to refuse their communion with us, till they conform to what we are convinced is the will of Christ, we had no right to leave them because they deviated from his will. The ground is in both cases the same.
Once take away the obligation of conforming to the will of Christ, and the reformation is declared a mischievous insurrection in which all Protestants are involved as aiding and abetting a needless, and schismatical project.” (Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 55.)
To this I reply, that to suppose us to take away the obligation of conforming in our own persons to the will of Christ, is to suppose us no longer Christians. For to deny the obligation of obedience, is at once to deny his authority, which is equivalent to a
formal renunciation of Christianity. But if he means that we are obliged to demand in others a perfect compliance with his will, as a term of communion, he takes away the possibility of toleration ; for we can be said to tolerate nothing but what we disapprove, and we can assign no other reason for our disapprobation, besides its apparent repugnance to the mind of Christ. His argument, therefore, is entirely nugatory. It is acknowledged that the lawfulness of admitting a Roman Catholic to our communion, supposing him to be a real Christian, is a necessary inference from our principles; but to conclude from thence that we are obliged to adhere to his, is demonstrably false and sophistical; nor is there the least pretence for asserting that the “ground in both cases is the same.” Of two actions which involve consequences infinitely different, it is impossible the ground should be the same. To receive a pious Roman Catholic to our communion, implies nothing more than an acknowledgement of his being a member of Christ, which is true by the supposition ; to commune with him in the rites peculiar to the Romish Church, is to be guilty of gross idolatry and superstition, which however pardonable it may be in him, whose conscience is uninformed, in me who have no such plea, would be damnable. Luther was necessitated to depart from the external communion of the Church of Rome, if he would not partake in her corruptions, because her communion formed a principal part of those corruptions. Besides, since that church maintains the infallibility of all her decisions, and whoever ventures to promulgate a doubt respecting a tittle of her doctrine, is ipso facto, excommunicated till he recants, when the light of truth revealed to Luther her enormities, it was not left to his option to continue in her society, or not, unless he would involve himself in the guilt of most horrid prevarication. He never pretended to depart from the Romish Church absolutely, and in every thing, but in those particulars only, in which she had corrupted the doctrine of the gospel, and adulterated the worship of God; and however highly he might estimate the advantages of unity, he could not purchase them at the expense of a good conscience, nor dare by assenting to error, or concurring in superstition and idolatry, “ to do evil that good might come." But if a Catholic, of whose piety he entertained no doubt, had offered himself for communion with him, without recanting Popery on the one hand, or proposing to innovate in the worship of God, on the other, on such a supposition, if Luther had refused to receive him, his conduct might have been justly censured. Now, I would put it to the conscience of any impartial person, to determine whether Luther would have had precisely the same reasons for declining this act of toleration, as for refusing his approbation of indulgences, or his adoration of the mass. In exercising the forbearance in question, he would have merely attested the piety of the communicant; in the other case, he would have directly countenanced and supported what he esteemed impiety and idolatry. With him who is prepared to assert, that each of these methods of proceeding are equally criminal, it is in vain to dispute ; but if they are not, the assertion that the ground in both cases is the same, is undeniably false.
Having detected the palpable sophistry, by which my opponent would evince the inconsistency of our principles with the cause of protestantism and of dissent, it remains only for me to remind him of the facility with which the argument may be retorted, and of the striking resemblance between the system of strict communion, and that which is maintained by the Churches of England, and of Rome.
1. The Romish Church, it is well known, pretends to an absolute infallibility ; not, however, in such a sense as implies an authority to introduce new doctrine, but merely in the proposal of apostolic traditions, and in the interpretation of Scripture. While she admits the Scripture to be the original rule of faith, she requires, under pain of excommunication, that the sense she puts on its words, should be received with the same submission with the inspired volume. In what respects, let me ask, is the conduct of the strict Baptists different? A controversy arises on the extent of a positive rite, whether it should be confined to adults, or be communicated to infants. Both parties appeal to the Scripture, which the Baptist interprets (in my humble opinion) correctly, in such a manner as to restrict it to believers; the Pædobaptist, with equal sincerity, supposes it to include infants. While the former in his own practice confines it to the description of persons to whom he judges it to belong, he acts with unexceptionable propriety ; but when not satisfied with this, he insists upon forcing his interpretation on the conscience of his brother, and treats him precisely in the same manner, as though he avowedly contradicted Christ and his Apostles, what is this but an assumption of infallibility? All that infallibility which the Church of Rome pretends to, is the right of placing her interpretation of Scripture, on a level with the word of God; she professes to promulgate no new revelation, but solely to render her sense of it imperative and binding; and if we presume to treat our fellow Christians, merely because they differ from us in their construction of a positive precept, as unworthy of being recognized as Christ's disciples, (the very words of this writer) and disqualified for the communion of saints; if we allow them “ faith," while we deny them “obedience,” and affirm them not to "revere Christ's
authority, submit to his ordinances, or obey the laws of his house,” we defy all the powers of discrimination to ascertain the difference of the two cases, or to assign a reason why we must ascribe the claim of infallibility to one, and not to the other.
On another occasion Mr. Kinghorn observes, (Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 67.) that the strict Baptists shew they understand the distinction between judging for others, and acting on their own responsibility. But in imposing their own sense of Scripture on their brethren, and affirming that on account of their differing from them, they do not " revere the authority of Christ," is either judging for others, in every possible sense of the words, or the writer has made an impossible supposition. He adds, they allow that the Pædobaptists, on their own principles, do right in forming themselves into churches, and in commemorating the death of their Lord. And must they not do equally right, on their own principles, in baptizing infants, unless he will assert that the propriety of baptizing infants is not their principle.
If judging for others is supposed to involve a claim of infallibility, and on that account, and that alone, to be shunned, to attempt to vindicate the practice of our opponents from that imputation, will baffle the acutest intellect.
2. We have already observed the coincidence of our opponent's system with the doctrine of the opus operatum, or the intrinsic and mechanical efficacy of religious rites, independent of the intention and disposition of the worshipper. The Roman Catholic attaches such importance to the rite of baptism, as to believe that when duly administered, it is necessarily accompanied with the pardon of sin, and regenerating grace. The strict Baptist maintains that its absence, where all other religious qualifications are possessed in the highest perfection, which human nature admits, deprives the party of the privileges of faith,” (Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 30.) and renders him an alien from the Christian church.
3. Both the Church of Rome, and the Church of England, have devised terms of communion of their own, and rendered it necessary for the members to comply with innumerable things, besides those which Christ has enjoined as requisite to salvation. The lawfulness and propriety of doing so, is the palmarium argumentum, the main pillar and support of strict communion. Let this principle once be abandoned, and the present controversy is at an end, unless our opponents choose to assume new ground, by affirming the necessary connexion between baptism, as they administer it, and the attainment of eternal life ; and that they should not perceive the absolute necessity of proceeding so far, in order to be consistent, seems to approach to a judicial infatuation.
4. The adherents of the Papal power claim to themselves the exclusive appellation of the church; the arrogance of which pretension, is faithfully copied by the advocates of strict communion. The former however, by confining salvation within her own pale, avoid the absurdity into which the latter fall, who while they affirm the great body of the faithful are not entitled to that appellation, are obliged to distinguish between the mystical body of Christ and his church, which the Scriptures expressly affirm to be one and the same.
The propriety of appealing in this controversy to the peculiar principles of the
Pædobaptists, briefly examined and discussed.
It is due, in my apprehension, to the majesty of truth, that she should be defended only by truth, and that we should on all occasions abstain from attempting to increase her partisans, by corrupt suffrages. Such are the suffrages she may accidentally gain, by the influence of error. As she scorns to employ the aid of violence, which is foreign to her nature, so much less will she condescend to owe any portion of her ascendency to falsehood, which it is her eternal prerogative, to confound and to destroy. He who wishes to enlighten the human mind, will disdain to appeal to its prejudices, and will rather hazard the rejection of his opinion, than press them as a necessary corollary from misconceptions and mistakes. If the decision of controverted questions is to be subjected to vote, and a superiority of numbers is to pronounce a verdict, the means by which they are procured is a matter of indifference; he who is most successful in enlisting popular humors and prejudices on his side, will infallibly secure the victory. To all legitimate argument, however, it is essential for the parties concerned to reason on principles admitted by both; to take their stand upon common ground, and to adopt no medium of proof, of the truth of which, he who suggests it is not satisfied.
How far Mr. Kinghorn's management of the controversy corresponds with these just requisitions, the impartial reader will be at no loss to determine. In his zeal to increase the number of his partisans, he makes frequent and urgent appeals to the Pædobaptists, with whom the point at issue can rarely, if ever, become a practical question, and who are therefore little interested in its de