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correct conceptions on subordinate subjects are scarcely aimed at, but the particular views which the party has adopted are either objects of indolent acquiescence or zealous attachment. In such a state, opinions are no otherwise regarded than as they affect the interest of a party; whatever conduces to augment its numbers or its credit must be supported at all events; whatever is of a contrary tendency, discountenanced and suppressed. How often do we find much zeal expended in the defence of sentiments, recommended neither by their evidence nor their importance, which, could their incorporation with an established creed be forgotten, would be quietly consigned to oblivion. Thus the waters of life, instead of that unobstructed circulation which would diffuse health, fertility, and beauty, are diverted from their channels and drawn into pools and reservoirs, where, from their stagnant state, they acquire feculence and pollution.
The inference we would deduce from these facts is, that if we wish to revive an exploded truth, or to re ore an obsolete practice, it is of the greatest moment to present it to the public in a manner least likely to produce the collision of party. But this is equivalent to saying, in other words, that it ought not to be made the basis of a sect; for the prejudices of party are always reciprocal, and in no instance is that great law of motion more applicable, that "reaction is always equal to action, and contrary thereto." While it is maintained as a private opinion, by which I mean one not characteristic of a sect, it stands upon its proper merits, mingles with facility in different societies, and in proportion to its evidence, and the attention it excites, insinuates itself like leaven, till the whole is leavened.
Such, it should seem, was the conduct of the Baptists before the time of Luther. It appears from the testimony of ecclesiastical historians, that their sentiments prevailed to a considerable extent among the Waldenses and Albigenses, the precursors of the Reformation, to whom the crime of anabaptism is frequently ascribed among other heresies: it is probable, however, that it did not prevail universally; nor is there the smallest trace to be discovered of its being made a term of communion. When the same opinions on this subject were publicly revived in the sixteenth century, under the most unfavourable auspices, and allied with turbulence, anarchy, and blood, no wonder they met with an unwelcome reception, and that, contemplated through such a medium, they incurred the reprobation of the wise and good. Whether the English Baptists held at first any part of the wild and seditious sentiments of the German fanatics, it is difficult to say: supposing they did (of which I am not aware there is the smallest evidence), it is certain they soon abandoned them, and adopted the same system of religion with other nonconformists, except on the article of baptism. But it is much to be lamented that they continued to insist on that article as a term of communion, by which they excited the resentment of other denominations, and facilitated the means of confounding them with the German Anabaptists, with whom they possessed nothing in common besides an opinion on one particular rite. One feature of resemblance, however, joined to an identity of name, was sufficient to surmount in the public feeling the im
pression of all the points of discrepancy or of contrast, and to subject them to a portion of the infamy attached to the ferocious insurgents of Munster. From that period, the success of the Baptist sentiments became identified with the growth of a sect which, rising under the most unfavourable auspices, was entirely destitute of the resources of wordly influence and the means of popular attraction; and an opinion which, by its native simplicity and evidence, is entitled to command the suffrages of the world, was pent up and confined within the narrow precincts of a party, where it laboured under an insupportable weight of prejudice. It was seldom examined by an impartial appeal to the sacred oracles, or regarded in any other light than as the whimsical appendage of a sect, who disgraced themselves at the outset by the most criminal excesses, and were at no subsequent period sufficiently distinguished by talents or numbers to command general attention.
Nothing is more common than for zeal to overshoot its mark. If a determined enemy of the Baptists had been consulted on the most effectual method of rendering their principles unpopular, there is little doubt but that he would have recommended the very measures we have pursued the first and most obvious effect of which has been to regenerate an inconceivable mass of prejudice in other denominations. To proclaim to the world our determination to treat as "heathen men and publicans" all who are not immediately prepared to concur with our views of baptism, what is it less than the language of hostility and defiance; admirably adapted to discredit the party which exhibits, and the principles which have occasioned, such a conduct? By thus investing these principles with an importance which does not belong to them, by making them coextensive with the existence of a church, they have indisposed men to listen to the evidence by which they are supported; and attempting to establish by authority the unanimity which should be the fruit of conviction, have deprived themselves of the most effectual means of producing it. To say that such a mode of proceeding is not adapted to convince, that refusing Pedobaptists the right of communion has no tendency to produce a change of views, is to employ most inadequate language: it has a powerful tendency to the contrary; it can scarcely fail to produce impressions most unfavourable to the system with which it is connected, impressions which the gentlest minds find it difficult to distinguish from the effects of insult and degradation.
It is not, however, merely by this sort of reaction that prejudice is excited unfavourable to the extension of our principles; but by the instinctive feelings of self-defence. Upon the system of strict communion, the moment a member of a Pedobaptist church becomes convinced of the invalidity of his infant baptism, he must deem it obligatory upon him to relinquish his station, and dissolve his connexion with the church; and as superiority of ministerial talents and character is a mere matter of preference, but duty a matter of necessity, he must at all events connect himself with a Baptist congregation whatever sacrifice it may cost him, and whatever loss he may incur. Though his pastor should possess the profundity and unction of an Edwards, or
the eloquence of a Spencer, he must quit him for the most superficial declaimer, rather than be guilty of spiritual fornication. How is it possible for principles fraught with such a corollary not to be contemplated with anxiety by our Pedobaptist brethren, who, however they might be disposed to exercise candour towards our sentiments, considered in themselves, cannot fail to perceive the most disorganizing tendency in this their usual appendage. Viewed in such a connexion, their prevalence is a blow at the very root of Pedobaptist societies, since the moment we succeed in making a convert, we disqualify him for continuing a member. We deposite a seed of alienation and discord, which threatens their dissolution, so that we need not be surprised if other denominations should be tempted to compare us to the Euphratean horsemen in the Apocalypse, who are described as "having tails like scorpions, and with them they did hurt."
To these causes we must undoubtedly impute the superior degree of prejudice displayed by that class of Christians to whom we make the nearest approach, compared to such as are separated from us by a wider interval. A disposition to fair and liberal concession on the points at issue is almost confined to the members of established churches; and while the most celebrated Episcopal divines, both Popish and Protestant, as well as those of the Scotch church, feel no hesitation in acknowledging the import of the word baptize is to immerse, that such was the primitive mode of baptism, and that the right of infants to that ordinance is rather to be sustained on the ground of ancient usage than the authority of Scripture, our dissenting brethren are displeased with these concessions, deny there is any proof that immersion was ever used in primitive times, and speak of the extension of baptism to infants with as much confidence as though it were among the plainest and most undeniable dictates of revelation.*
To such a height has this animosity been carried, that there are not wanting persons who seem anxious to revive the recollection of Munster, and by republishing the narrative of the enormities perpetrated there, under the title of the History of the Baptists, to implicate us in the infamy and guilt of those transactions. While we must reprobate such a spirit, we
Campbell, speaking of the authors of the vulgar version, observes,-"Some words they have ansferred from the original into their language; others they have translated. But it would not
be always easy to find their reason for making this difference. Thus, the word proμ they have translated circumcisio, which exactly corresponds in etymology: but the word Barrigua they have retained, changing only the letters from Greek to Roman. Yet the latter was just as susceptible of a literal version into Latin as the former. Immersio, tinctio, answers as exactly in one case, as circumcisio in the other." A little after he observes, "I should think the word immersion (which, though of Latin origin, is an English noun, regularly formed from the word to immerse) a better English name than baptism, were we now at liberty to make a choice: but we are not."--Preliminary Dissertations to the Translation of the Gospels, p. 354, 355. 4to ed. He elsewhere mentions it as one of the strongest instances of prejudice, that he has known some persons of piety who have denied that the word baptize signifies to immerse.
With respect to the subject, it is worthy of observation that the authors of the celebrated scheme of popish doctrine and discipline called the Interim enumerate the baptism of infants among tradi tions, and that in the most emphatic manner. For, having stated that the church has two rules of faith, Scripture and tradition, they observe, after treating of the first, "ecclesia habet quoque traditiones, inter alia baptismus parvulorum," &c. They mention, however, no other; from whence it is natural to infer that they considered this as the strongest instance of that species of rules. The total silence of Scripture has induced not a few of the most illustrious scholars to consider infant baptism not of Divine right; among whom, were we disposed to boast of great names, we might mention Salmasius, Suicer, and, above all, Sir Isaac Newton, who, if we may believe the honest Whiston, frequently declared to him his conviction that the Baptists were the only Christians who had not symbolized with the Church of Rome.-See Whiston's Memoirs of his own Life.
are compelled to acknowledge that the practice of exclusive communion is admirably adapted to excite it in minds of a certain order.
That practice is not less objectionable on another ground. By discouraging Pedobaptists from frequenting our assemblies, it militates against the most effectual means of diffusing the sentiments which we consider most consonant to the sacred oracles. It cannot be expected that pious worshippers will attend, except from absolute necessity, where they are detained, if we may so speak, in the courts of the gentiles, and denied access to the interior privileges of the sanctuary.
The congregations, accordingly, where this practice prevails, are almost entirely composed of persons of our own persuasion, who are so far from requiring an additional stimulus, that it is much oftener necessary to restrain than to excite their ardour, while the only description of persons who could be possibly benefited by instruction are out of its reach; compelled by this intolerant practice to join societies where they will hear nothing but what is adapted to confirm them in their ancient prejudices. Thus, an impassable barrier is erected between the Baptists and other denominations, in consequence of which few opportunities are afforded of trying the effect of calm and serious argumentation in situations where alone it could prove effectual. In those Baptist churches in which an opposite plan has been adopted, the attendance of such as are not of our sentiments, meeting with no discouragement, is often extensive; Baptists and Pedobaptists, by participating in the same privileges, become closely united in the ties of friendship; of which the effect is uniformly found to be a perpetual increase in the number of the former, compared to the latter, till in some societies the opposite sentiments have nearly subsided and disappeared.
Nor is this more than might be expected from the nature of things, supposing us to have truth on our side. For, admitting this to be the case, what can give permanence to the sentiments to which we are opposed, except a recumbent indolence or an active prejudice? And is it not evident that the practice of exclusive communion has the strongest tendency to foster both those evils, the former by withdrawing, I might say repelling, the erroneous from the best means of instruction,-the latter by the apparent harshness and severity of such a proceeding? It is not by keeping at a distance from mankind that we must expect to acquire an ascendency over them, but by approaching, by conciliating them, and securing a passage to their understanding through the medium of their hearts. Truth will glide into the mind through the channel of the affections, which, were it to approach in the naked majesty of evidence, would meet with a certain repulse.
Betraying a total ignorance or forgetfulness of these indubitable facts, what is the conduct of our opponents? They assume a menacing aspect, proclaim themselves the only true church, and assert that they alone are entitled to the Christian sacraments. None are alarmed at this language, none are induced to submit; but turning with a smile or a frown to gentler leaders, they leave us to triumph without a combat, and to dispute without an opponent.
If we consider the way in which men are led to form just conclu
sions on the principal subjects of controversy, we shall not often find that it is the fruit of an independent effort of mind, determined to search for truth in her most hidden recesses, and discover her under every disguise. The number of such elevated spirits is small; and though evidence is the only source of rational conviction, a variety of favourable circumstances usually contributes to bring it into contact with the mind, such as frequent intercourse, a favourable disposition towards the party which maintains it, habits of deference and respect, and gratitude for benefits received. The practice of confining the communion to our own denomination seems studiously contrived to preclude us from these advantages, and to transfer them to the opposite side.
The policy of intolerance is exactly proportioned to the capacity of inspiring fear. The Church of Rome for many ages practised it with infinite advantage, because she possessed ample means of intimidation. Her pride grew with her success, her intolerance with her pride; and she did not aspire to the lofty pretension of being the only true church till she saw monarchs at her feet and held kingdoms in chains; till she was flushed with victory, giddy with her elevation, and drunk with the blood of saints. But what was policy in her would be the height of infatuation in us, who are neither entitled by our situation nor by our crimes to aspire to this guilty pre-eminence. I am fully persuaded that few of our brethren have duly reflected on the strong resemblance which subsists between the pretensions of the Church of Rome and the principles implied in strict communion; both equally intolerant; the one armed with pains and penalties, the other, I trust, disdaining such aid; the one the intolerance of power, the other of weakness.
From a full conviction that our views as a denomination correspond with the dictates of Scripture, it is impossible for me to entertain a doubt of their ultimate prevalence; but unless we retrace our steps, and cultivate a cordial union with our fellow-christians, I greatly question whether their success will in any degree be ascribable to our efforts. It is much more probable that the light will arise in another quarter, from persons by whom we are unknown, but who, in consequence of an unction from the Holy One, are led to examine the Scripture with perfect impartiality, and in the ardour of their pursuit after truth, alike to overlook the misconduct of those who have opposed and of those who have maintained it.
Happily, the final triumph of truth is not dependent on human modes of exhibition. Man is the recipient, not the author, of it; it partakes of the nature of the Deity; it is his offspring, its indissoluble relation to whom is a surer pledge of its perpetuity and support than finite power or policy. While we are at a certainty respecting the final issue, "the times and the seasons God hath put in his own power;" nor are we ever more liable to err than when, in surveying the purposes of God, we descend from the elevation of general views to a minute specification of times and instruments. How long the ordinance of baptism in its purity and simplicity may be doomed to neglect it is not for us to conjecture; but of this we are fully persuaded, it will never be generally restored to the church through the medium of a party. This