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ed, upon a full conviction of the understanding, and making a public profession of the truth, however despised and loaded with reproach and ignominy. Such an ingenuous and open conduct has something so great, so praileworthy and generous in it, that almost all will find themselves constrained by nature, and the universal ingrafted sentiment of what is right and excellent, to approve, what but few have the piety and resolution to imitate.
The ordinance of baptism is a duty entirely christian, and a matter of mere instituted service, ordained indeed not wantonly, for the display of power, and the prerogatives of sovereign rule, but wisely calculated to subserve the great purposes of virtue, and the ultimate end of all true religion. And as the obligation of it results wholly from the will of God the supreme lawgiver, the original plan of institution ought, in every circumstance, to be strictly observed, and inflexibly adhered to. To annul, is to degrade and oppose the authority of God: to alter, is, so far as the alteration extends, the same as to annul. Circumstances may possibly happen here, as in the case of all other positive services, that will excuse, for a time at least, from the actual performance of this duty ; but no fituation, no plea of inconvenience, can justify our intro. ducing and substituting a human ordinance in the place of a divine. But whenever such changes are attempted and complied with, the act immediately loses the nature of piety, and is converted into gross superstition. The piety is evacuated by departing from the command of God, which alone can constitute a religious obligation; and the superstition plainly appears, in that it is a service contrived and dictated by the blind conceit, folly, and arrogance of man, which is the general essential nature, and the proper character of all superstition. Let Christians therefore proceed calmly, discarding and utterly renouncing all prejudices, whether of education, custom, or interest ; let them with candour and simplicity of mind, consider the account, which the new Testament gives of the ordinance of baptism, in which alone the primitive law, prescribing the practice of it, is authoritatively recorded ; and upon which our judgment concerning it, if we are reasonable Christians or consistent Protestants, must be absolutely and wholly formed.
Had these sentiments always possessed the minds of Christians, those divisions and contentions, which have so long disturbed, distracted and rent the church B 22
of Christ, had been prevented. And it is by such a conduct, and by that alone, that an happy end must be put to them ; for hereby we should soon become one flock, and one fold, under Chrift Jefus the great shepherd and bishop of our fouls, i Pet. ii. 25. This indeed is what the ignorant zealot, the mad and wild enthusiast have had in view: for the accomplishing of this, the most wicked and injurious proceedings have beenbegun and carried on by them, with the utmost rage and fury, against the most fincere, pious and conscientious Christians; for no other reason in the world, but because they differed from them in the practice of some religious duties, or could not affent to such perplexed propositions, as they were pleased to impose as the orthodox faith. Fire and faggot, with all manner of cruelty and bloodshed, have been the hellish means made use of by some to convince men of what those tysants and murderers were pleased to call the true christian faith ; whilft fines and imprisonment, and all kinds of oppression, have been the tender mercies of others, and the method they persued for informing the understanding, and establishing uniformity in faith and worship. !". Many " and just [says the Cambridge Gentleman, tho' he pleads 66 for the magistrate's power in favour of truth) have been " the complaints against this method and manner of pro« ceeding. Meek, mild and merciful, was the behavirs our of the great author of our religion ; and of the 66 fame nature, all his precepts and directions. But severe 16 and inhuman have many laws been, and they have been " executed with unrelenting rigour, as necessary supports " to Christianity. Such have been the measures not only rs against it's professed enemies, but against Chriftians of “6 different distinctions and denominations. Barbarities, 16 equally horrible with those which have raged among co the most barbarous nations, have by this means beer " committed in the christian world.” But how far short all such measures are ever likely to be of producing this desirable end, the event hath sufficiently and fully prov. ed. For which reason some ministers in our time, who are for promoting the same thing, tho' in a very different way, think that there may be, and accordingly recommend, such a general union, that all Christians, under every denomination, may communicate together at the Lord's table, notwithstanding their various conceptions concerning the doctrines of Christianity, and the different
manner i Cambridge Letter, p. 25, 26.
manner in which some pretend to administer baptism, as the ordinance of Christ. Indeed, if our differences sublista ed only in the mind, then every one might possess his fpeculative truthentire, notwithstanding his brother's mistakes. For it is very common now in most assemblies, for Chrif. tians, who strictly believe in the divine unity, to commu. nicate with those, who profess the Athanafian doctrine, with the same fincere piety in each, as if they were all of one mind in that controversy. And even at the Lord's table, I might receive the divine memorials of my Saviour's passion, with all the devotion and reverence, and with that just and rational idea of mind, which the scripture gives of it; whilft my brother and fellow Christian, who sat next me, might also receive it in remembrance of Chrift; and yet, from a notion form'd in his mind, upon the letter of the word, and the wild dictates of others, be led to adore it as his God, and verily believe in his heart, that the elements of bread and wine, after consecration, were really transubstantiated into the body and blood of our Redeemer; and this without disturbing, or in the least discomposing each other in our devotions. Nor are there any points of doctrine, or articles of the christian faith, in which the conceptions and opinions of Christians can possibly differ more widely from each other, than they do in these, and therefore the like forbearance or allowance ought to be made for the weakness of my erring brother, with respect to them also : whereby the rights of private judgment will be inviolably maintained, agreeable to what the apostle faith; Haft thou faith? Have it to thyself before God, Rom. xiv. 22. And, Him that is weak in the faith receive you, but not to doubtful disputations, ver. 1.
But on the other hand, where our differences consist not merely in speculation, or the bare aslent of our minds to any scripture truth; but also in matters of practice, or the manner, in which religious duties are to be perform, ed, as the ordinances of God, and as the appointments of Christ himself, there our different and contrary proceedings must necessarily create confusion and disorder, Besides, it would be most unreasonable to expect, that any man should openly countenance, and give public sanction to the performance of any act in the name of the Lord; which his conscience assures him is no other than a mere human appointment, or superstitious inftitution, whereby that of Christ is entirely subverted, and made
of no effect. In this case therefore every conscientious Christian must be so far from openly countenancing, or giving public sanction to such actions, or proceedings, that, on the contrary, his duty to God, and his allegiance to Christ, oblige him to bear a faithful testimony against all such corruptions, in order to maintain and uphold the authority of Christ, the honour and dignity of his laws, the restoration and establishment of the purity and truth of his institutions; and, as far as in him lies, the reformation of his brother from the error of his ways, And we are the more obliged to this, with respect to baptism, in that our Pædobaptist brethren cannot but justify us in our administration of that sacred ordinance, by acknowledging it was the primitive practice, the way by which believers were initiated in the apostles days ; and as they cannot produce any divine authority for the alterations by them introduced, their own practice is at best no other than a church, I had like to have said Popish, tradition. And therefore, as I have shewn at large in my supplement, it is not we, but they themselves, who make the separaration. They force us from them, and it is at their door only, that the fin of schism must lie ; because two things Chritt himself has made eflential to the constitution of, and gathering of members into his, church. One is a firm belief of this great foundation article of the christian faith, that he is Chrif the Son of the living God; for upon this rock, says he, I will build my church: and the gates of hell jhall not prevail against it, Matt. xvi. 16. On which see my supplement, p. 12. The other is, that !uch believers be born of water and of the spirit, without which, he allures us, no man can see, or enter into, the kingdom of God; on which see my first letter, and also Dr. Whitby and Mr. Benson, as quoted in my preface.
These therefore ought to be strictly observed, and punctually complied with by every Christian ; and must also be inflexibly adhered to, and inviolably maintained by the christian church: which therefore the ought not to difpense with, so far as to admit persons to the rights and privileges thereof, who do not profess to believe the one, and have not manifested that faith in Christ, with their resolution of obedience to him, by submitting to the other ; because all such persons are hereby strictly excepted or prohibited by Christ himself. For a fociety of Christians therefore to receive unbaptized persons into their communion, would be to countenance their unbelief and disobe
dience, and with respect to themselves, may be esteemed a despising the authority of Christ, a betraying, or giving up his inftitution, and a casting off their allegiance to him. And in the event, it would be so far from preventing refections, and hindering deists from attacking christianity, thai by our thus fapping one or two of the foundation prircipies of the doctrine of Christ, Heb. vi. 1, 2. and of our own felves taking away the fences, and destroying the very boundary which Christ himself has made, which I apprehend would be the consequence of such an unnatural or unjustifiable union, we should thereby give infidels a much greater advantage against us, and our holy religion, than they can possibly have from the continuance of our distinct and separate communions.
For when deifts observe, that Christians themselves make so very little account of Christ's most solemn institutions, or of the right administration of them, they may thence infer, and be led to think themselves fully justified in rejecting, or fhewing as light an esteem for his doctrines; fince if he was divinely inspired, and really came from God, all that he delivered, must be equally observed by his professed disciples and followers, who, as such, can never be absolved from a most strict and careful regard, and obedience to the whole of his institutions. Nor is it their duty to have this regard to Christ's institutions themselves only, but also to promote the same in others so far as they are able ; which those Christians are very far from doing, who pretend that profesors of all denominations, nay, that persons unbaptized, may all communicate, or eat bread, and drink wine together at the Lord's table in remembrance of Chrift: which opinion, big with many evils, is neither founded on the word of God, nor the practice of the church in any age ; nor yet upon the reason and nature of things, but only upon mere complaisance, under the false notion of manifesting their charity to other Christians. But surely our love and regard are due to Christ, to his inftitutions and laws, more than to any man, or body of men whatsoever; and therefore it must be very unjustifiable in us, to give up the former, for the sake of the latter, because, he that loveth father, or mother, wife, or children, brethren, or fifters, or any thing, even his own life, more than Christ and his ways, is not worthy of him. Math. x. 32–39. Luke xiv, 25—31. For as Mr. BenJon observes,