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Deference to great names is a sentiment which it would be base to attempt to eradicate, and impossible were it attempted. But like other offsprings of the mind, it is at first rude and ill shapen. It makes no selection, no discrimination-it retains the impress of its original entire, just as it was made; it is a vague, undistinguishing admiration, which consecrates in a mass all the errors and deformities, along with the real excellencies of its object. Time only, the justest of all critics, gives it correctness and proportion, and converts what is at first merely the impression of a great upon an inferior mind, into an enlightened and impartial estimate of distinguished worth. The effect produced by coming into close contact with a commanding intellect, is of a mixed nature; it subdues and enslaves the very persons whom it enlightens, and almost invariably leaves a portion of its sediment, where it deposits its wealth. It must be placed at a certain distance before we derive from it all the pure, defecated good it is capable of imparting ; and with all my admiration of the inestimable men already mentioned, and my conviction of the value of their services, I am persuaded that many years must elapse, before we entirely surmount the effects of a long continued dictatorship.
When the views of baptism, by which we are distinguished as a denomination, are once exonerated from the odium arising from the practice we have been opposing, and the prejudices which it has necessarily occasioned, have subsided, we may justly presume that the former will be examined with more impartiality ; nor is it possible to assign a reason for their having made so limited a progress, besides the extreme disgust inspired by this most unchristian and unnatural alliance. It is too much to expect an enlightened Public will be eager to enroll themselves amongst the members of a sect, which displays much of the intolerance of Popery, without any portion of its splendor, and prescribes as the pledge of conversion, the renunciation of the whole Christian world. While the vestibule is planted with the most repulsive forms, while, seden in limine Diræ, few will be intrepid enough to enter.
On Mr. Kinghorn's system which reprobates, as a dereliction of principle, the attendance of the members of Baptists and Pædobaptists on the ministry of each other, to calculate the ages which must in all probability elapse, ere our principles obtain a general prevalence, would form an amusing problem. The Hindoo chronology, which assigns to its fabulous dynasties millions and millions of years, might furnish a specimen of the scale on which such a calculation should proceed; and unless some such passion is expected to seize the members of other communities, as impelled the Queen of Sheba to come from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, the projected revolution must be pronounced, in the absence of miracles, impossible. What can be the motive of the advocates of strict communion for studiously presenting every possible obstacle to the extensive diffusion of our principles? We might be almost tempted to conjecture that they were afraid of losing their title to the appellation of a little lock; or that they consider the Baptist denomination, as an order of nobility or of knighthood, whose dignity is impaired, in proportion as it is diffused. Be this as it may, the spirit of the age, distinguished by the superior expansion of its views, and the extensive co-operation of all sects and parties in the promotion of objects of public utility, the little success which has accompanied the narrow and restrictive system, the dictates of Scripture, and the movements of that divine charity which those dictates have impressed, all invite us to “ consider our ways,” to retrace our steps, and endeavor to draw our fellow Christians “by the cords of love, and the bands of a man.” When we have learned to “make no difference,” where the searcher of hearts makes none, when we shew an alacrity in embracing all who love Jesus Christ, as members of the same mystical body, when in conformity to the genius of Christianity, there is with us neither Jew nor Greek, neither Baptist nor Pædobaptist, but Christ is all in all, the reasons on which our peculiar practice is founded, will in all probability meet with a very different reception from what has hitherto attended them, accompanied as they have been with a system of impotent oppression, and unmerited contumely. But whether these expectations to their full extent are realized or not, we shall at least improve ourselves, wipe off the reproach of bigotry and intolerance, and rise in the esteem of a religious and enlightened public, by convincing them that our zeal for a ceremonial institution has not betrayed us into a forgetfulness that “ love is the fulfilling of the law."
Thus have I endeavored to reply to the reasoning of my opponent on this subject; whether my answer will be deemed by a discerning public, conclusive, or otherwise, I trust they will be convinced that no attempt has been made to evade the force of his arguments, nor any thing passed over in silence to which he can be supposed to attach the least degree of importance. My anxiety to leave nothing untouched which bears any relation to the merits of the controversy, has extended this reply beyond my wishes and my expectation ; conceiving it better to incur the charge of tediousness, than that of discussing a polemical point of high importance, in a slight and superficial manner. The mode of establishing a doctrine, in opposition to prevailing opinions and prejudicies, is necessarily much more circuitous than the strict laws of reasoning require, in exhibiting its evidence to the understanding at a subsequent period. In the militant state of a doctrine, it is generally found necessary to incur frequent repetitions, to represent the same idea in a variety of lights, and to encounter a multitude of petty cavils and verbal sophisms, which, in its farther progress, sink into oblivion. When, in consequence of a series of discussions, a doctrine is firmly rooted in the public mind, the proof by which it is sustained may without impairing its force, be presented in a more compact and elegant form; and the time, I am persuaded, it is not very remote, when it will be matter of surprise that it should have been thought necessary to employ so many words in evincing a truth, so nearly self-evident as that which it is the object of the writer of these pages to establish. The flimsy sophistry by which it is attempted to be obscured, and the tedious process of reasoning opposed to these attempts, will be alike forgotten, and the very existence of the controversy remembered only among other melancholy monuments of human imperfection.
Some acceleration of that period, the author certainly anticipates from his present and his former productions; though he is fully aware that the chief obstacles which impede its approach are such as it is not in the power of argument alone to subdue. Reasoning supplies an effectual antidote to mere speculative error ; but opposes a feeble barrier to inveterate prejudice, and to that contraction of feeling, which is the fruitful parent of innumerable mistakes and misconceptions in religion. There is no room, however for despondency. For as the dictates of Christian charity will always be found to coincide with the justest principles of reason, the first effect of inquiry will be to enlighten the mind, the second to expand and enlarge the heart; and when the Spirit is poured down from on high, he will effectually teach us that God is Love, and that we never please him more than when we embrace with open arms, without distinction of sect or party, all who bear his image.