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as follows:-On the subject of baptism, and particularly whether it is applicable to infants, opinions are divided, and the majority have come, as we conceive, to an erroneous conclusion. How do they propose to remedy this evil? By throwing all manner of obstacles in the way of an approach to the Lord's table, and, as far as their power extends, rendering it impracticable, by clogging it with a condition at which conscience revolts. They propose to punish men for the involuntary neglect of one ordinance, by compelling them to abandon the other; and because they are uneasy at perceiving them perform but one half of their duty, oblige them, as far as lies in their power, to omit the whole. I must confess I feel no partiality for those violent remedies, which, under the pretence of reforming, destroy; or for that passion for order which would rather witness the entire desolation of the sanctuary, than a defalcation of its rites; and in spite of all the efforts of sophistry, I must be permitted to believe that our Lord's express injunction on his followers, "Do this in remembrance of me," is a better reason for the celebration of the communion than can be adduced for its neglect.
The Argument from Apostolical Precedent, and from the different Significations of the two Institutions, considered.
In vindication of their practice, our opponents are wont to urge the order of administration in the primitive and apostolic practice. They remind us that the members of the primitive church were universally baptized; that if we acknowledge its constitution in that respect to be expressive of the mind of Christ, we are bound to follow that precedent, and that to deviate from it, in this particular, is virtually to impeach either the wisdom of our Lord or the fidelity of his apostles.*
With respect to the universality of the practice of Christian baptism, having already stated our views, it is not necessary to repeat what has already been advanced, or to recapitulate the reasons on which we found our opinion, that it was not extended to such as were converted previous to our Lord's resurrection. Subsequently to that period, we admit, without hesitation, that the converts to the Christian faith submitted to that ordinance, prior to their reception into the Christian church. As little are we disposed to deny that it is at present the duty of the sincere believer to follow their example, and that, supposing him to be clearly convinced of the nature and import of baptism, he would be guilty of a criminal irregularity who neglected to attend to it, pre
"The order of administration," says Mr. Booth, "in the primitive and apostolic practice, now demands our notice. That the apostles, when endued with power from on high, understood our Lord in the sense for which we plead, and practised accordingly, is quite evident. Then they that gladly received his word were, what admitted to the Lord's table? No, but baptized-And the same day there were added to them about three thousand souls; and they continued steadfast in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayer. If our brethren do not look upon the apostolic precedent as expressive of the mind of Christ, and as a pattern for future imitation to the end of the world, they must consider the apostles as either ignorant of our Lord's will or as unfaithful in the performance of it.”—Booth's Apology, p. 47, 48.
vious to his entering into Christian fellowship. On the obligation of both the positive rites enjoined in the New Testament, and the prior claim of baptism to the attention of such as are properly enlightened on the subject, we have no dispute. All we contend for is, that they do not so depend one upon the other that the conscientious omission of the first forfeits the privilege, or cancels the duty, of observing the second; nor are we able to perceive that what, in the present instance, is styled apostolic precedent, at all decides the question. To attempt to determine under what circumstances the highest precedent possesses the form of law, involves a difficult and delicate inquiry; for while it is acknowledged that much deference is due to primitive example, there were certain usages in apostolical times which few would attempt to revive. There is one general rule, however, applicable to the subject, which is, that no matter of fact is entitled to be considered as an authoritative precedent which necessarily arose out of existing circumstances, so that in the then present state of things it could not fail to have occurred. The foundation of this rule is obvious: Nothing is of the nature of law but what emanates from the will of the legislator; but when a particular fact, recorded in an historical narration, is so situated that the contrary would have appeared incongruous or absurd,— in other words, when it could not fail to be the result of previous occurrences, such a fact is destitute of the essential characteristic of a law; it has no apparent dependence upon a superior will.
Hence many practices occur in the history of the apostolic transactions which it is universally admitted we are not obliged to imitate. It is an unquestionable fact, that the Eucharist was first celebrated with unleavened bread, on the evening, in an upper room, and to Jews only; but as we distinctly perceive that these particulars originated in the peculiar circumstances of the time, we are far from considering them as binding. On the same principle we account for the members of the primitive church consisting only of such as were baptized, without erecting that circumstance into an invariable rule of action. When we recollect that no error or mistake subsisted, or could subsist, among Christians at that period, we are compelled to regard it as the necessary consequence of the state of opinions then prevalent. While all the faithful concurred in their interpretation of the law which enjoins it, how is it possible to suppose it neglected? or whence could rebaptized communicants have been drawn? Is this circumstance, to which so much importance is attached, of such a nature that no account can be given of it, but upon the principle of our opponents? or is it the necessary consequence of the then actual situation of the church? If the latter be admitted, it ceases, for the reason already alleged, to be a precedent, or a rule for the direction of future times.
We are willing to go a step further, and to acknowledge that he who, convinced of the divine origin of Christianity by the ministry of the apostles, had refused to be baptized, would at that period have been justly debarred from receiving the sacramental elements. While the apostles were yet living, and daily exemplifying the import of their commission before the eyes of the people, it would have been impos
sible to pretend ignorance; nor could that sincerity fail to be suspected, which was not accompanied with an implicit submission to their authority.
"He that receiveth you," saith our Lord, "receiveth me; he that rejecteth you, rejecteth me." Agreeably to which we find that the disciple whom Jesus loved did not scruple to use the following language:-" By this ye know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error; he that is of God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us.” Such a conduct was perfectly proper. As there can be but two guides in religion, reason and authority, and every man must form his belief, either by following the light of his own mind or the information and instruction he derives from others; so it is equally evident it is only by the last of these methods that the benefit of a new revelation can be diffused. Either we must suppose an infinite multitude of miracles performed on the minds of individuals to convey the knowledge of supernatural truths, or that one or more are thus preternaturally enlightened, and invested with a commission to speak in the name of God to others; endowed, at the same time, with such peculiar powers, such a control over nature, or such a foresight of future contingencies, as shall be sufficient to accredit and establish his mission.
He who refuses to submit to the guidance of persons thus attested and accredited must be considered as virtually renouncing the revelation imparted, and, as the necessary consequence, forfeiting his interest in its blessings. On these grounds it is not difficult to perceive that a primitive convert, or rather pretended convert, who, without doubting that baptism, in the way in which we practise it, formed a part of the apostolic commission, had refused compliance, would have been deemed unworthy Christian communion, not on account of any specific connexion between the two ordinances, but on account of his evincing a spirit totally repugnant to the mind of Christ. By rejecting the only authority established upon earth for the direction of conscience, and the termination of doubts and controversies, he would, undoubtedly have been repelled as a contumacious schismatic. But what imaginable resemblance is there between such a mode of procedure and the conduct of our Pedobaptist brethren, who oppose no legitimate authority, impeach no part of the apostolic testimony, but mistaking (in our judgment at least) its import in one particular, decline a practice which many of them would be the first to comply with, were they once convinced it was the dictate of duty and the will of Heaven? In the one case we perceive open rebellion, in the other involuntary error; in the one the pride which opposes itself to the dictates of inspired wisdom, in the other a specimen (an humbling one it is true) of that infirmity, in consequence of which we all see but in part, and know but in part. Since, whatever degree of prejudice or inattention we may be disposed to impute to the abetters of infant sprinkling, the principles on which they proceed are essentially different from those which could alone have occasioned the introduction of that practice in apostolic times, we are at a loss to conceive the propriety of classing them together, or of animadverting upon them with equal severity. The apostles would have
repelled from their communion men who, while they professed to be followers of Christ, refused submission to his inspired messengers; in other words, they would have rejected some of the worst of mea: therefore, say our opponents, we feel ourselves justified in excluding multitudes whom we acknowledge to be the best. I am at a loss whether most to admire the logic, the equity, or the modesty of such a conclusion.
Besides, this reasoning from precedent is of so flexible a nature that it may with equal ease be employed in a contrary direction, and be turned to the annoyance of our opponents. As it is an acknowledged fact, that in primitive times all the faithful were admitted to an equality of participation in every Christian privilege; to repel the great majority of them on account of an error, acknowledged not to be fundamental, is at once a wide departure from the apostolic example, and a palpable contradiction to the very words employed in its first institution-" Drink ye all of it; do this in remembrance of me:" words addressed, as has already been proved, to persons who had not received Christian baptism. If it be replied, that though all Christians originally communicated, yet from the period of the Pentecost, at least, they were all previously initiated by immersion, the inquiry returns, were they baptized on account of the necessary connexion of that appointment with the Eucharist, or purely in deference to the apostolic injunction? To assert the former would be palpably begging the question; and if the latter is affirmed, we reply, that as they practised as they did in deference to the will of God, so our Pedobaptist brethren, in declining the practice which we adopt, regulate their conduct by the same principle.
The show of conformity to apostolic precedent is with the advocates of strict communion, and nothing more; the substance and reality are with us. Their conformity is to the letter, ours to the spirit; theirs circumstantial and incidental, ours radical and essential. In withholding the signs from those who are in possession of the thing signified, in refusing to communicate the symbols of the great sacrifice to those who are equally with themselves sprinkled by its blood and sharers of its efficacy, in dividing the regenerate into two classes, believers and communicants, and confining the church to the narrow limits of a sect, they have violated more maxims of antiquity, and receded further from the example of the apostles, than any class of Christians on record.
We live in a mutable world, and the diversity of sentiment which has arisen in the Christian church on the subject of baptism has placed things in a new situation, and has given birth to a case which can be determined only by an appeal to the general principles of the gospel, and to those injunctions in particular which are designed to regulate the conduct of Christians, whose judgment in points of secondary moment differs. These we shall have occasion to discuss in another part of this treatise, where it will, we trust, be satisfactorily shown that we are furnished with a clew fully sufficient for our guidance: and when we consider the impossibility of comprehending, in any code whatever, every possible combination of future occurrences and events, we shall perceive the necessity of having recourse to those large and
comprehensive maxims which the prospective wisdom of the Father of lights and the Author of revelation has abundantly supplied.
Were it not that more are capable of numbering arguments than of weighing them, the mention of the following might be omitted. The significations of the two positive ordinances of the gospel are urged in proof of the necessity of baptism preceding the Lord's Supper. The first, we are reminded by our opponents, is styled by theologians the sacrament of regeneration, or of initiation; the second, the sacrament of nutrition. To argue from metaphors is rarely a conclusive mode of reasoning; but if it were, the regenerate state of our Pedobaptist brethren would surely afford a much better reason for admitting them to the sacrament of nutrition, than their misconception of a particular command for prohibiting them, unless we choose to affirm that the shadow is of more importance than the substance, or that the sacrament of nutrition is not intended to nourish.
Their actual possession of spiritual life in consequence of their union to the Head of the church, necessarily implies a title to every Christian privilege by which such a life is cherished and maintained, unless there were an express prohibition to the contrary; nor is it to be doubted that the acknowledgment of Pedobaptists as Christians, implies a competence to enter into the full import of the rites commemorative of our Lord's death and passion. To consider the Lord's Supper, however, as a mere commemoration of that event is to entertain a very inadequate view of it. If we credit St. Paul, it is also a federal rite in which, in token of our reconciliation with God, we eat and drink in his presence: it is a feast upon a sacrifice, by which we become partakers at the altar, not less really, though in a manner more elevated and spiritual, than those who under the ancient economy presented their offerings in the temple. In this ordinance, the cup is a spiritual participation of the blood, the bread of the body of the crucified Saviour:† and as our Pedobaptist brethren are allowed to be in covenant with God, their title to every federal rite follows of course, unless it is barred by some clear unequivocal declaration of Scripture; instead of which, we meet with nothing on the opposite side but precarious conjectures and remote analogies.
Our opponents are extremely fond of representing baptism under the New Testament as essential as circumcision under the Old, inferring from thence that no unbaptized person is admissible to the Eucharist, for the same reason that no one who was not circumcised was permitted to partake of the paschal feast. But besides that this is to reason from analogy, a practice against which, when applied to the discussion of positive institutes, they on other occasions earnestly protest, the analogy fails in the most essential points. Circumcision is expressly stated as a necessary condition of admission to the passover: a similar statement
"In submitting to baptism," says Mr. Booth, "we have an emblem of our union and communion with Jesus Christ, as our great Representative, in his death, burial, and resurrection. And as in baptism we profess to have renewed spiritual life, so in communicating at the Lord's table we have the emblems of that heavenly food by which we live, by which we grow, and by virtue of which we hope to live for ever. Hence theological writers have often called baptism the sacrament of regeneration, or of initiation, and the Lord's Supper the sacrament of nutrition."-Booth's Apology. ↑ 1 Cor. xi. 26.