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existence of a law establishes the obligation of a correspondent duty, and nothing more. The utmost efforts of ingenuity can extort no other inference from it, than that a portion of blame attaches to such as have neglected to comply with it, variable in its degree by an infinity of circumstances too subtle to be ascertained, and too numerous to be recited. We feel no hesitation in avowing our belief that Pedobaptists of all denominations have failed in a certain part of their duty; for this is a legitimate inference from the perpetuity of the baptismal ordinance, joined with our persuasion that we have interpreted it correctly. But if we are immediately to conclude from thence that they are disqualified for Christian communion, we must seek a church which consists of members who have failed in no branch of obedience; and must consequently despair of finding fit communicants apart from the spirits of just men made perfect. Examine the idea of law with the utmost rigour, turn it on all sides, and it will present nothing beyond the obligation to a certain species of conduct, so that if Pedobaptists are really disqualified for the Lord's Supper, it must be for some other reason than their non-compliance with a law, or otherwise we must insist upon the refusal of every individual who has not discharged all his obligations. To expatiate on the distinctness and solemnity with which the baptismal ceremony was enjoined is little less than trifling, in a debate with persons who fully accede to every part of the statement, and who wish to be informed, not whether our Pedobaptist brethren are in an error, but whether its moral amount, its specific nature, is such as to annul their claims to Christian communion. On this point the passages adduced maintain a profound silence.
If the practice of strict communion derives no support from the law of baptism, it is impossible it should derive it from apostolical precedent; since the apostles, as this author observes, adhered constantly to the rule. They did neither more nor less than its letter enjoined: consequently, we must be mistaken if we imagine we can infer any thing from their practice beyond what a just and fair interpretation of its terms would suggest. If the Acts of the Apostles are, as Mr. Kinghorn asserts, a commentary on the law, showing us how it was practically explained," it is impossible it should contain a tittle more than is found in the text. Let us see how the apostles acted. "When they taught and men believed," says our author, "the apostles baptized them." Whom did they baptize? Undoubtedly such, and such only, as were convinced, not merely of the truth of Christianity, but of the obligation. of the particular rite to which they attended. This is precisely what we do. When we have reason to believe that any part of our hearers have received the truth in the love of it, we proceed to explain the nature and to enforce the duty of baptism; and upon their expressing their conviction of its divine authority, we baptize them. Such a previous conviction is necessary to render it a reasonable service. We administer that rite to every description of persons whom our opponents themselves deem qualified, and withhold it under no circumstances in which the apostles would have practised it. Wherein then, as far as that institution is concerned, does our practice differ from that of the
apostles? Our opponents will reply, that though in the administration of that rite our conduct corresponds with the primitive pattern, yet it differs in this, that we receive the unbaptized to our communion, which was not done in the apostolic age. To this we reply, that at that period no good men entertained a doubt respecting its nature-that it was impossible they should, while it was exemplified before their eyes in the practice of the apostles and the evangelists-that he who refused to abide by the decision of inspired men would necessarily have forfeited his claim to be considered as a Christian-that a new state of things has arisen, in which, from a variety of causes, the doctrine of baptism has been involved in obscurity-that some of the best of men put a different interpretation on the language of Scripture on this subject from ourselves-and that it is great presumption to claim the same deference with the apostles, and to treat those who differ from us on the sense of Scripture as though they avowedly opposed themselves to apostolic authority. To misinterpret is surely not the same thing as wilfully to contradict; and however confident we may be of the correctness of our own interpretation, to place such as are incapable of receiving it on the same level with those who withstood the apostles differs little, if at all, from the claim of infallibility.
We reason, as we conceive conclusively, in favour of adult, in opposition to infant baptism: our Pedobaptist brethren avow their inability to discern the justice of our conclusion: and are they on that account to be viewed in the same light as though they intentionally rejected the decision of inspired men? What is this but to set up a claim to inspiration, or, at least, to such an infallible guidance in the explanation of Scripture as is equally exempt from the danger of error or mistake? If we examine it accurately, it amounts to more than a claim to infallibility it implies in the Pedobaptists a knowledge of this extraordinary fact. The apostles were not only inspired, and consequently infallible teachers, but were known and acknowledged to be such by the primitive Christians and before we presume to demand an implicit acquiescence in our conclusions, and to consider ourselves entitled to treat dissentients as we suppose the opponents of the apostles would have been treated, it behooves us to evince our possession of infallibility by similar evidence. As I have not heard of our opponents making such an attempt, I cannot sufficiently express my surprise at the loftiness of their pretensions, and the arrogance of their language. In their dialect, all Christians besides themselves are " opposed to a divine command," "refuse subjection to Christ, and violate the laws of his house."t
The justice of their proceeding, founded on the pretension of apostolical precedent, is perfectly congenial with its modesty. Upon the supposition that a professor of Christianity, in the times of the apostles, had scrupled the admission of adult baptism, could he, we would ask, in the circumstances then existing, have been considered as a good man, or a genuine convert? The reply will unquestionably be, No. "He," said St. John, "who is of God heareth us: he who heareth not us is
not of God: hereby ye know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error."
In this case, then, it is admitted that the simple fact of rejecting adult baptism would have been sufficient to set aside a pretension to the Christian character. Is it sufficient now? Are the Pedobaptists to be universally considered as bad men, or, at least, as persons whose Christianity is doubtful? Nothing is more distant from the avowed sentiments of our opponents. Where, then, is the justice of classing together men of the most opposite descriptions; or of inferring, that because the apostles would have refused communion to an unbaptized person, at a time when it is acknowledged that none but false professors could remain in that state, it is our duty to refuse it to some of the most excellent of the earth, merely on account of the absence of that ceremony? As it is admitted, on all hands, that baptism was then so circumstanced that the omission of it was inconsistent with a credible profession of piety, nothing more is necessary to account for the precedent which includes it; it was the necessary result of the then state of things, and the apostles, it is acknowledged, could not have extended their communion beyond the limits of that rite, without incorporating insincere professors. But if this reason is sufficient to account for it, it is unphilosophical and unreasonable to seek for another. The supposed inherent and inseparable connexion between the two positive institutes is another and a totally different one, which is sufficiently excluded by the preceding reasoning.
We presume it will not be doubted that Scripture precedent is founded on wisdom, that it is not arbitrary and capricious. It would betray great irreverence to suppose that men acting under divine inspiration were not, in every branch of their official conduct, especially in whatever related to the regulation and government of the church, moved by the strongest reasons. Hence the inquiry why they acted as they did is essential to a rational investigation into the force and authority of Scripture precedent. Their proceedings were regulated by their judg ment, or rather, by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, which enlightened their minds and directed their movements. If the reason for rejecting unbaptized persons in the primitive age applies to the case of Pedobaptists, the argument for strict communion, derived from the practice of the apostles, is unanswerable. But if the cases are totally dissimilarif our opponents can assign no such reason for excluding their Christian brethren, as might justly have been urged against the admission of the unbaptized in the times of the apostles, the argument is totally inconclusive.
It is decided, by the express declaration of our Lord, that he who refuses obedience to any part of his will is not a Christian. "Then," saith he, "are ye my disciples if ye do whatsoever I have commanded you." But while there was no diversity of opinion on the subject, the voluntary omission of the baptismal ceremony could arise from nothing but a contumacious contempt of a divine precept, of which no sincere Christian could be guilty. Here, then, we discover a sufficient reason for the matter of fact urged by our opponents, without supposing
an intrinsic or invariable connexion between the two ordinances. The principle of open communion would have compelled us to act precisely in the same manner as the apostles did, had we been placed in their circumstances. How vain, then, the attempt to overthrow that principle by appealing to a precedent which is its legitimate and necessary consequence; and how unreasonable the demand which urges us to treat two cases as exactly similar of which our opponents equally with ourselves are compelled to form the most opposite judgment. Let the advocates of restricted communion express the same opinion of the state and character of those whom they now regard as unbaptized, which we are certain they would feel no scruple in avowing with respect to such as had refused submission to that ordinance in primitive times, and we shall deplore their blindness and bigotry, but shall acknowledge they reason consistently from their own premises. But we will never submit to identify two cases which agree in nothing but the omission of an external rite, while that omission arises from causes the most dissimilar, and is combined with characters the most contrary. We will not conclude, that because the apostles could not bear with those that were evil, they would have refused to tolerate the good; or that they would have comprehended under the same censure the contumacious opposer of their doctrines, and the myriads of holy men whose only crime consists in mistaking their meaning in one particular.
The remarks we have already made will be deemed, we trust, a sufficient answer to the triumphant question of Mr. Kinghorn. "How is it," he asks, "that with the same rule for the guidance of the church, the ancient Christians could not receive a person to communion without baptism, if the modern both can and ought to receive him?" The answer is obvious. If the ancient Christians had received a person without baptism, they would have received a false professor; but when we at present receive one whom we judge to be in a similar predicament, we receive a sincere though mistaken brother; we receive him who is of that description of Christians whom we are commanded to receive.
If it still be contended that the two cases are so parallel that the proceeding of the apostles, in this particular, is binding as a law, we would once more ask such as adopt this plea, whether they themselves form the same judgment of the present Pedobaptists as the apostles would have entertained of such as continued unbaptized in their day. If they reply in the affirmative, they must consider them as insincere, hypocritical professors. If they answer in the negative, since, by their own confession, they look upon the persons whom they exclude in a different light from that in which the party excluded by the apostles was considered, what becomes of the identity of the two cases? and what greater right have they to think differently of the state of the unbaptized from what the apostles thought, than we have for treating them differently? They are clamorous in their charge against us of wilful deviation from apostolic precedents. But there are precedents of *Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 29.
thinking as well as of acting, and it is as much our duty to conform to the sentiments of inspired men as to their actions. The chief use, indeed, which inspired precedents are of is to assist us to ascertain the dictates of inspiration. The conduct of enlightened, much more of inspired, men is founded on sound speculative principles. If the advocates of strict communion urge us with the inquiry, By what authority do you presume to receive a class of persons whom you acknowledge the apostles would not have received? we reply, By what authority do you presume to deviate from the opinion of the apostles respecting that same class? Many whom you exclude from your communion as unbaptized you acknowledge as Christians, and without hesitation express your confidence of meeting them in glory. Did the apostles entertain the same judgment respecting such in their day? Were they prepared to recognise them as brethren, and to congratulate them on their eternal prospects, while they repelled them from communion? Would they not, without hesitation, have applied to them the language which our Saviour uses, respecting such as refused to be baptized by John, whom he affirms to have "rejected the counsel of God against themselves?"
These questions admit but of one answer. Here then is a palpable disagreement between the sentiments of our opponents and those of the apostles, on the subject of the unbaptized; the apostles would have both rejected and condemned them: they reject them as members, and embrace them as brethren. Were they called upon to defend themselves from the charge of contradicting the apostles, they would begin to distinguish between the two cases, and urge the different circumstances which accompany the omission of the same ceremony now, from what must be supposed to have accompanied it in the times of the apostles; in other words, they would attempt to show that a new case has arisen, which necessitates them to form a correspondent judgment. They assume the same liberty with ourselves of thinking differently of the state of the many who continue unbaptized in the present day, from what they are persuaded the apostles would have thought of such as had remained in that situation in theirs; and yet, with strange inconsistency, accuse us of a deviation from a divine precedent in not treating them both in the same manner; forgetting that if the cases are parallel, they themselves are guilty of an avowed and palpable contradiction to the sentiments of the apostles.
When men differ in their views of one and the same object, it will not be denied that they contradict each other. We offer them the alternative, either to deny or to affirm that to be unbaptized at present is in a moral view a very distinct thing, and involves very different consequences from being in that predicament in the times of the apostles. If they deny it, they stand self-convicted of contradicting the sentiments of inspiration, by speaking of that class of persons as genuine Christians whom they cannot but acknowledge the apostles would have condemned. If they adopt the affirmative, our practice by their own confession is not opposed to apostolic precedent, because that precedent respects a different thing.