« AnteriorContinuar »
They not only depart from the precedent of the apostles in the judgment they form of the unbaptized, but in every other branch of their conduct, with the exception of the act of communion. On all other occasions they treat as brethren, and frequently, and that much to their honour, cultivate an intimate friendship with persons whom they deem to be destitute of that rite, the omission of which, in the apostolic age, would have incurred the sentence of wilful impiety and disobedience. What, we ask, is more opposite to primitive precedent than the practice of including the same persons within the obligations of Christian love and friendship whom they prohibit from communion? of inviting them into the pulpit, and repelling them from the table; uniting with them in the most retired and elevated exercises of devotion, and excluding them from the church? It is scarcely in the power of imagination to feign a species of conduct more diametrically opposite to all the examples of Scripture; and when they have reconciled these and many similar usages with the practice of the primitive age, they will have supplied us with a sufficient apology for our pretended deviation from the same standard.
It will probably be thought enough has been already said to demonstrate the futility of the argument founded on original precedent: but as this is considered by our opponents in general, as well as by Mr. Kinghorn in particular, as the main prop of their cause, we must be permitted to detain the reader a little longer, while we enter on a closer examination of his reasoning.
In order to show that baptism is a necessary term of communion, he labours hard to prove that it is a term of profession. "It is obvious," he says, "that their baptism (that of believers) was the term of professing their faith by the special appointment of the Lord himself." To the same purpose he afterward adds, "the fact still exists that it pleased the Lord to make a visible and ritual observance the appointed evidence of our believing on him. If obedience to a rite be not a term of salvation (which no one supposes), yet it was ordered by the highest authority, as an evidence of our subjection to the Author of salvation : and a Christian profession is not made in Christ's own way without it.” Recurring to the same topic,* he observes, "Whatever may be the conditions of salvation, a plain question here occurs, which is, Ought the terms of Christian communion to be different from those of Christian profession? The only answer which one would think could be given to this question would be, No: Christian communion must require whatever the Lord required as a mark of Christian profession."
It is hoped the reader will excuse my accumulating quotations to the same purport, which would have been avoided were it not evident that the writer considered this as his stronghold, to which he repairs with a confidence which bespeaks his conviction of its being impregnable. We will venture, however, to come close to these frowning battlements: we will make trial of their strength, that it may be seen whether their power of resistance is equal to their formidable aspect. We freely acknowledge that if the principle can be established that baptism is invariably essen
* Page 20.
tial to a Christian profession, the cause we are pleading must be abandoned, being confident that a true profession of the Christian religion is inseparable from church communion.
Previous to entering on this discussion, it will be necessary to premise, that the words profession and confession, together with their correlates, are usually denoted by one and the same word in the original, and that they are evidently used by the authors of the received translation as synonymous. Hence, whatever is affirmed in the New Testament respecting the confession of Christ, or of his sayings, may without hesitation be considered as predicated of a profession; since whatever difference may subsist in the popular meaning of the words, whenever they occur in Scripture, they are merely different renderings of the same term.t
Now, that the profession of Christ is an indispensable term of salvation is so undeniably evident from the New Testament, that to attempt to prove it seems like an insult on the understanding of the reader. I must crave his indulgence, however, for recalling to his recollection a few passages, which will set the matter beyond dispute. "Whoever," said our Lord," shall confess (or profess) my name before men, him will I confess before my Father which is in heaven: and whoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven." Matt. x. 32. The same language occurs, with little variation, in the gospel of St. Luke, xii. 8. In these words we find an awful denunciation of the rejection of every one, without exception, who shall be found to have denied Christ; and as this denial is immediately opposed to confessing him, it must necessarily attach to all such as have not made a confession. If a medium could be supposed between the denial and the open assertion of the doctrine of Christ, it is precluded by the following sentence: "Whoever shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and of the Father, and of the holy angels."-Luke ix. 26. Thence we may with certainty conclude, that from whatever motives a profession of Christianity is omitted or declined, eternal perdition is the consequence. Nor is this the doctrine of the evangelists only: it is repeatedly asserted, and uniformly implied, in the writings of the apostles. "If thou shalt confess (or profess) with thy mouth," saith St. Paul, "the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession (or profession) is made unto salvation."-Rom. x. 9. We find the same writer on another occasion exhorting Christians to hold fast the profession of their faith without wavering, when the previous possession of that is necessarily supposed, a firm adherence to which is inculcated as essential to salvation. "Let * The word in the original is buodoyla, derived from duoλoytw, a verb of the same import. See Matt. x. 32. Luke xii. 8. Matt. vii. 23. John ix. 22. ' John xii. 42. Acts xxiii. 8; xxiv. 14. Rom. x. 9, 10. 1 John iv. 15. 2 John vii. Rev. iii. 5. 1 Tim. vi. 13. rv kaλn buoλoylav, a good profession, English Translation.-Heb. iii. 1. rès buoλoyias huiv, of our profession, E. T.-Heb. iv. 14. τῆς ὁμολογίας ἡμῶν, our profession, E. T. Heb. x. 23. τὴν ὁμολογίαν τῆς ἐλπίδος ἀκλινῆ, the profession of our faith without wavering.-Matt. vii. 23. TOTE Oporoy how abois, then will I profess unto them. In each of the preceding passages the same word, under different inflections, is employed, and they contain all the passages which relate to the absolute necessity of a religious profession.
us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering."-Heb. x. 23. It is to the faithful, considered as such, without distinction of sects and parties, that St. Paul addresses the following exhortation: "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High-priest of our profession, Christ Jesus."-Heb. iii. 1. În the Epistle to the Hebrews alone, the phrase our profession occurs three times, and in each instance in such a connexion as demonstrates it to be an attribute common to all Christians.*
It would be trifling with the reader's patience to multiply proofs of a position so evident from Scripture as the inseparable connexion between a genuine profession of Christ and future salvation. But if this be admitted, what becomes of the principal argument urged by Mr. Kinghorn for strict communion, which turns on the principle that "baptism is the term of Christian profession?" Who can fail to perceive that if this proposition is true, the Pedobaptists are, on our principles, cut off from the hope of eternal life, and salvation is confined to ourselves? The language of our Saviour and his apostles is decisive respecting the necessity of a profession in order to eternal life: this writer affirms that baptism, as we practise it, is an essential term of profession. By comparing these propositions together, a child will perceive that the necessary inference is the restriction of the hope of future happiness to members of our own denomination. This in truth is the conclusion to which all his reasoning tends; it meets the intelligent reader at every turn; but when he expects the writer to advance forward and press the fearful consequence, he turns aside, and is afraid to push his argument to its proper issue. He travails in birth, but dares not bring forth; he shrinks from the sight of his own progeny. Sometimes he seems at the very point of disclosing the full tendency of his speculations, and more than once suggests hints in the form of questions which possess no meaning, but on the supposition of that dismal conclusion to which his hypothesis conducts him. Let the reader pause, and meditate on the following extraordinary passage: :-"If baptism," he says, was once necessary to communion, either it was then essential to salvation, or that which was not essential to salvation was necessary to communion. If it was then essential to salvation, how can it be proved not to be essential now ?"† Again he asks, "What is the meaning of the term condition? In whatever sense the term can apply to the commission of our Lord, or to the declarations of the apostles respecting repentance, faith, and baptism,-is not baptism a condition either of communion or of salvation, or of both? Do the conditions either of salvation or of communion change by time? Are they annulled by being misunderstood?"+
Whatever of argument these passages may be supposed to contain, will be examined hereafter; the design of producing them at present is to show the tendency of the principle; and the reader is requested to consider whether they are susceptible of any other sense than that the terms of salvation and of communion are commensurate with each other; that whatever was once essential to salvation is so still; and that bap*Heb. iii. 1; iv. 14; x. 13. Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 19. + Ibid. p. 20.
tism is as much a condition of salvation as faith and repentance. But if these are his real sentiments, why not speak plainly, instead of “uttering parables?" and why mingle in the same publication representations totally repugnant, in which he speaks of such as dissent from him on the subject of baptism as persons of the most distinguished character -persons whom God will undoubtedly bring to his kingdom and glory?* The only solution this problem admits is to suppose (what my knowledge of his character confirms) that to the first part of these statements he was impelled by the current of his arguments, to the latter by the dictates of his heart. But however that heart may rebel, he must learn either to subdue its contumacy, or consent to relinquish the principal points of his defence. He has stated that the limits of communion must be the same with those of profession; that the Pedobaptists have none, or, at least, none that is valid; and that, on this account and for this reason, they are precluded from a title to Christian fellowship. But the word of God, as we have seen, repeatedly insists on men's professing Christ as an indispensable requisite to salvation. How is it possible, then, if Mr. Kinghorn's position is just, to evade the consequence, that those whom he would exclude from communion are excluded from salvation?
"If obedience to a rite," he observes, "be not a term of salvation (which no one supposes), yet it was ordered by the highest authority, as an evidence of our subjection to the Author of salvation; and a Christian profession is not made in Christ's own way without it." If the open acknowledgment of Christ by the Pedobaptists is not to be esteemed a real and valid profession, the inevitable consequence is, for reasons sufficiently explained, that they cannot be saved; but if it is valid (however imperfect in one particular), it is so far made in Christ's own way. The expression which he employs to depreciate it has either no meaning or none that is relative to the object of the writer. The scope of his argument obliged him to prove that adult baptism is essential to a Christian profession; he now contents himself with saying, that without that ordinance it is not made in the right way, which may, with equal propriety, be affirmed of every deviation from the doctrine and precepts of the gospel. Just as far as we suppose a person to depart from these, we must judge his profession not to be made in Christ's own way; nor will any thing short of a perfect profession, or, in other words, a perfect comprehension and exhibition of the will of Christ, exempt him from such an imputation; so that in this sense, which is the only one applicable to the case before us, to make a profession of the Christian religion in Christ's own way is not the lot of a mortal. But though this is the only interpretation consistent with truth, we cannot for a moment suppose that such was the meaning of the writer. He must have intended to assert that the parties to whom they are applied fail to make what Christ himself would deem a profession. This supposition is forced upon us by the scope of his reasoning, which went to prove that baptism is necessary to communion, because it is necessary to a profession. This supposed necessity must
* Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 21, 36.
† Ibid. p. 18.
consequently relate, not to its completeness, or perfection, but to its essence: he must be understood to affirm, that they have not exhibited what Christ will consider as a profession. But as he has solemnly affirmed his determination to reject such as are destitute of it, we ask again, how Mr. Kinghorn will reconcile this with the salvability of Pedobaptists?
Whatever it seems good to infinite wisdom to prescribe as an indispensable condition of future happiness, we must suppose that it exactly corresponds to its name: it is true and genuine in its kind, and wants nothing which constitutes the essence. If an open acknowledgment of Christ is the prerequisite demanded under the title of a profession, it would seem strange to assert that something less than what is correctly denoted by that expression is, after all, sufficient to satisfy the condition. This, however, is what Mr. Kinghorn must assert, to be consistent with himself; for he will not deny that the advocates of infant-sprinkling have exhibited something like a profession; but as they have not made it in Christ's own way, it is not, strictly speaking, entitled to that appellation, and, consequently, cannot claim the privileges it secures. But if the case is as he states it, he must either confine the hope of salvation to his own party, or admit that, in the solemn denunciations before recited, it is not really a profession of Christ which is required, but merely something which resembles it. Whether the use of language so replete with ambiguity, or collusion, is consistent with the character of the "true and faithful witness," we leave to the decision of the reader. According to Mr. Kinghorn, while there are two modes of avowing our Christianity, one so essentially defective as not to deserve the name of a profession, the other sound and valid; when the Supreme Legislator thought fit to enjoin the profession of his name, under the sanction of eternal death, he intended to insist on the first, in distinction from the last of these methods. Let him who is able digest these absurdities; from which whoever would escape must either abandon the ground which Mr. Kinghorn has taken, or consign the Pedobaptists to destruction.
It is time, however, to recur to the questions with which he has urged his opponents, and which he supposes it impossible to solve on my principles. "If baptism," he observes, "was once necessary to communion, either it was then essential to salvation, or that which was not essential to salvation was necessary to communion. If it was then essential to salvation, how can it be proved not to be essential now? If it be argued that it was not essential to salvation then, it must either be proved that communion was held without it, or Mr. Hall's position inust fall."*
Of the preceding dilemma I embrace without hesitation the affirmative side, and assert that in the apostolic age baptism was necessary to salvation. To the query which follows, "how then can it be proved that it is not essential now," I reply that it is unnecessary to attempt it, because it is admitted by Mr. Kinghorn himself; and it is preposterous to attempt the proof of what is acknowledged by both parties.
Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 19.