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majority of its members are decidedly in favour of a contrary system; and in opposition to the usage which obtains on other occasions, the private sentiments of the few are made to regulate and control the conduct of the many. Where, it may be asked, is the propriety, where the justice of such a mode of proceeding? Whatever respect may be due to the conscientious, though erroneous scruples of an upright mind, it is not easy to perceive why these should be permitted to prescribe to the better judgment of those whom we must necessarily consider as more enlightened.
As the majority, convinced, as they are supposed to be, of the right of all genuine Christians to communion, must necessarily regard the dissentients as being in error, it deserves to be considered in what manner error ought to be treated. Ought it to be the object of toleration, or should it be invested with dominion? Surely all it can reasonably claim is the former; but when, in deference to it, the far greater part of a society refrain from acting agreeably to their avowed principles, and consent to withhold from another class of their fellow-christians what they consider as their undoubted right, they cannot be said merely to tolerate the error in question; no, they in reality place it on the throne-they prostrate themselves before it. Yet, strange as it may appear, such is at present the conduct of Baptist societies. While there remains the smallest scantling of members averse to open communion, the doors, in compliance with their scruples, continue shut, and Pedobaptist candidates, however excellent, or however numerous, are excluded.
Thus the intolerance of one class of Christians is not only indulged, but pampered and caressed, while the religious profession of another is treated as a nullity. The incongruity of this mode of proceeding is also extremely obvious in another view. The admission of members in our societies, it is well known, is determined by a majority of suffrages, where the minority is expected, and that most reasonably, quietly to acquiesce in the decision of the majority. But in the case under present consideration, where strict communion is practised in a church the majority of whose members are of a contrary persuasion, the eligibility, not of an individual, but of a whole class of individuals, to an indefinite extent, is virtually determined by the judgment of the smaller, in opposition to the larger party.
The injustice of such an arrangement will perhaps be admitted; but how, it will be asked, can it be remedied? Would it be proper to exclude such as feel it impossible, with a good conscience, to commune with Pedobaptists, in order to make room for the latter? Nothing is more remote from our intention. Without inflicting the slightest wound on those amiable and exemplary persons who scruple the lawfulness of that measure, the remedy appears equally simple and obvious.
Whenever there is a decided majority in a church whose views are in unison with those which we are attempting to recommend, let them throw down the barriers, and admit pious Pedobaptists without hesitation; and let those whose principles deter them from joining in such a communion receive the Lord's Supper apart, retaining, at the same time, all their rights and privileges unimpaired. By this simple expedient,
the views of all the parties will be met; the majority will exert their prerogative, and act consistently with their avowed principles; the Pedobaptists will obtain their rights; and the abetters of strict communion will enjoy that state of separation and seclusion which they covet. By this means a silent revolution may be effected in our churches, unstained by a particle of violence or of injustice. But while the present plan is pursued, while we are waiting for the last sands of intolerance to run out, the domination of error and injustice may be prolonged to an interminable period, since, of all creatures, bigotry is the most tenacious of life.
Sudden and violent reformations are not only seldom lasting, but the mischief which results and the disgust they excite often produce a reaction, which confirms and perpetuates the evil they attempt to eradicate. For this reason, great prudence and moderation are requisite in every effort to meliorate the state of public bodies. He who aspires to remove their prejudices must treat them with tenderness and respect, urging them to no step for which they are not fully prepared by a mature and widely-extended conviction of its propriety; for no innovations, however desirable in themselves, will be permanently beneficial, the stability and perpetuity of which are not guarantied by the previous illumination of those by whom they are adopted.
Having devoted more time and attention to the present controversy already than many are disposed to think it entitled to, it is by no means my intention to renew it, conceiving it a contemptible ambition to determine to have the last word, which is nothing less than to aspire at a pre-eminence in pertinacity. Resting with perfect confidence on the truth and, consequently, on the ultimate triumphs of the principles which I have attempted to defend, the detection of incidental mistakes and the exposure of minor errors will not disturb my repose, however justly they may awaken a feeling of regret that the powers of the advocate were not more commensurate with the merits of the cause.
If the author has been on any occasion betrayed, in the ardour of debate, into language which the reader may deem disrespectful to his opponent, it will give him real concern. He knows none whose character entitles him to higher esteem; nor is he insensible to the value of those expressions of personal regard with which Mr. Kinghorn has honoured him, nor of that general mildness and urbanity which is at once the character of his mind and of his performance. Aware of the tendency of controversy to alienate the parties from each other who engage in it, it is matter of regret, on that account, and on that only, that it was my lot to meet with an antagonist in Mr. Kinghorn. In every other respect, it is a fortunate circumstance for the cause of truth; for while his temper affords a security from that virulence and those personalities which are the opprobrium of theological debate, his talents ensure his doing justice to his cause, perhaps beyond any other person of the same persuasion. A very different performance, in many respects, was anticipated, it is true; nor could the extraordinary assertions, not to say adventurous paradoxes he has hazarded, fail to excite surprise; although his character exempts him from the suspicion of that arrogance
and conceit in which they usually originate. They are rather to be ascribed to a dissatisfaction (which he dares pot pretend to conceal) with former apologists; and a determination, if possible, to compass the same object by a different route. The intelligent reader will probably be of opinion, that he has attempted to give an air of originality to what was not susceptible of it; and that, aiming to enrich and support a most meager and barren thesis by new arguments, he is reduced to the same necessity as the Israelites, of “making bricks without straw."
Having already made the porch too large for the building, one additional remark only is submitted to the attention of the reader, previous to his entrance on the following discussion. The little success which has attended our exhibition of the doctrine of baptism, continued now for many generations, deserves the serious consideration of every intelligent Baptist. With all our efforts, with all the advantage of overwhelming evidence (as appears to me) in favour of our sentiments, the prospect of their reception by dissenting communities (to say nothing of established churches, where there are peculiar impediments to be encountered) is as distant as ever: and it may be doubted whether, since the recent revival of religion, our progress is in a fair proportion to that of other denominations, It may be possible to assign the second causes of this remarkable event; but as second causes are always subservient to the intentions of the first, it deserves our serious consideration whether we are not labouring under the sensible frown of the great Head of the church; and is there not a cause?"
A visible inferiority to other Christians in zeal and piety will scarcely be imputed; nor have we been left destitute of that competent measure of learning and talent requisite to the support of our doctrines. The cause of our failure, then, is not to be looked for in that quarter. But though we have not "drank with the drunken," if we have unwittingly "beaten our fellow-servants," by assuming a dominion over their conscience; if we have severed ourselves from the members of Christ, and under pretence of preserving the purity of Christian ordinances, violated the Christian spirit; if we have betrayed a lamentable want of that "love which is the fulfilling of the law," by denying a place in our churches to those who belong to the "church of the first-born," and straitening their avenue, till it has become narrower than the way to heaven; we may easily account for all that has followed, and have more occasion to be surprised at the compassionate Redeemer's bearing with our infirmities, than at his not bestowing a signal blessing on our labours.
THE FUNDAMENTAL POSITION; OR, THE SUPPOSED NECESSARY CONNEXION BETWEEN THE TWO POSITIVE INSTITUTES OF CHRISTIANITY EXAMINED.
Remarks on Mr. Kinghorn's Statement of the Controversy.
PERFECTLY Concurring in opinion with Mr. Kinghorn, that it is of importance that the point in debate be fairly stated, a few remarks, designed to show in what respects his statement is inaccurate or defective, will not be deemed irrelevant. He justly observes, that the question, and the only question, is, whether those who are acknowledged to be unbaptized ought to come to the Lord's table. After stating the sentiments of the Pedobaptists, he proceeds to observe that the "Baptists act on a different plan; they think that baptism ought to be administered to those only who profess repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ; and that it should be administered to them on such profession by immersion. And then, and not before, they consider such persons properly qualified, according to the New Testament, for the reception of the Lord's Supper." The last position, Mr. Kinghorn is aware, is not maintained by the Baptists as such, but by part of them only: it may be doubted whether it be the sentiment of the majority. Why then identify the advocates of strict communion with the body, as though the abetters of a contrary practice were too inconsiderable to be mentioned, or were not entitled to be considered as Baptists?
It is but just, however, to remark, that this disposition to enlarge the number of his partisans is not peculiar to this writer. Mr. Booth, when engaged in defending a thesis about which the Baptists had long been divided, chose, in the same spirit, to denominate his performance An Apology for the Baptists.*
Our author proceeds to observe, "Here arises a controversy between the two parties, not only respecting baptism, but also respecting their conduct to each other on the subject of communion." Where, let me ask, are the traces to be found of this imaginary controversy between Baptists and Pedobaptists on that subject? That they have been often engaged in acrimonious disputes with each other on the point of baptism is certain; but of the history of this strange debate about terms of communion the public are totally ignorant. What are the names of the
* Who would expect to find that a book entitled An Apology for the Baptists chiefly consists of a severe reprehension of the principles and practices of a respectable part of that body? VOL. I.-C c