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But the advocates of mixed communion suffer to remain in the church persons who practise a certain ceremony of human invention;
Therefore their conduct is sinful.
Who does not perceive that the second proposition has no necessary connexion with the first, and that the argument is consequently invalid? In order to establish his conclusion, it behooved the author to prove that we praetise and approve infant baptism, which he knows to be impos. sible. If Pedobaptists required our concurrence in what we esteem an erroneous practice,-nay, if they refused us the liberty of protesting against it, there would be an analogy between the two cases; as it is, there is none.
We are bound by an express law to tolerate in the church those whom Christ has received ; and he has, by the acknowledgment even of our opponents, received the Pedobaptists. The first of these positions we feel ourselves justified in affirming till it be disproved; which this writer is so far from having done, that no attempt, we shall plainly make appear, was ever more unsuccessful. But whether it be true or not that we are commanded to act thus, such is our opinion; and with this persuasion, we are not at liberty to act in a different manner. will such as prescribe human rites and ceremonies pretend to act under a similar conviction,-a conviction that they are bound by the law of Christ to use the cross in baptism, to bow to the east, to kneel at the sacrament, and to exact as a term of communion a compliance with these and other ceremonies, judged by themselves indifferent, and by us sinful? The most zealous champions of the hierarchy make no such pretension, and we may therefore very consistently censure them for enforcing, under such a penalty, the observation of rites for which no divine precept is urged, while we tolerate Pedobaptists in obedience to a divine injunction ; unless it be the same thing to practise in the worship of God what it is allowed he has not commanded, and to comply with an express prescription. If the members of the establishment inquire, On what ground do you receive a Pedobaptist? we reply, Because we are expressly commanded to receive him. But if we inquire in our turn, Why do you kneel at the sacrament, and exact that posture
your communicants ?--is it affirmed that they will reply in the same manner ? It is not true, then, that mixed communion stands upon the same ground with the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England; consequently, whatever be its merits or demerits in other respects, it may be maintained in perfect consistence with the principle of dissent.
To the objection that it was as much unknown in the apostolic age as the ceremonies in question, we have already replied, that at that period it was impossible there should be any controversy on the subject of baptism, which was so recently instituted and so fully exemplified in the conduct of the apostles; but that now, when a question has arisen, what is baptism, a new case occurs, in the determination of which we must be guided by the precepts respecting mutual forbearance. To this the author replies, in behalf of the churchman, “ Very
well; and when the emperors and kings of former days were converted to the Christian faith, and were desirous of sanctioning the gospel by their character, their property, and their influence, another new case occurred, of which apostolic times knew nothing. When nations became generally Christian, other new cases arose out of the new events of the time."*" To this I answer, It is very possible, undoubtedly, for a churchman to utter the same words, and say a new case has arisen; but unless he can say it with the same truth, it will be nothing to the purpose. There is no reason why we should not assert what is true, merely because a false assertion respecting another subject may be couched in the same words. Is it true, or is it not, that a refusal to comply with a precept, knowing it to be a command of Christ, is a very different thing from a mere misconception of the nature and import of that command ? if it be, will it be asserted that such as had refused to make a profession of his religion, in the way which they were conscious he had appointed, would have been just as excusable as the most candid and impartial of modern Pedobaptists? Unless he will assert this, the author must acknowledge that here is a new case, and that the question how we should treat the wilful contemner of legitimate authority and the erroneous interpreter of Scripture involves separate inquiries. From a multitude of passages, it is manifest that he himself forms a very different opinion of the present Pedobaptists from what he would entertain of such as knowingly and deliberately resisted a positive command. He professes to give them entire credit for their sincerity, and to entertain a firm persuasion of their ready admission into the kingdom of Heaven; which would be absurd on the latter supposition. In maintaining a different conduct towards two descriptions of persons, between which there is acknowledged to be a total diversity of character, we are perfectly consistent; unless it be asserted that judgment ought to have no influence on conduct, nor action be controlled by principle.
Let the impartial reader judge for himself whether it is possible, by any fair mode of argument, to infer' from these preinises the lawfulness of making the conversion of kings to Christianity a pretext for placing them at the head of the church, or of acknowledging their right to model the worship of God at their pleasure. Yet this is asserted, and these portentous consequences are said necessarily to flow from our principles. It is a matter of some curiosity what kind of syllogism will fairly connect the two following propositions. It is lawful to admit a pious Pedobaptist to communion, because we are commanded to receive such as Christ has received. Therefore, it is lawful to acknowledge a pious prince as head of the church, and to allow him to model its worship as he pleases. We quoted a scriptural precept for the former: will Mr. Kinghorn favour us with something equivalent for the latter; or will he remind us of the passages which assert Christ to be the “Head over all things to the church,” or those which command us to “call no man master upon earth ?” His reasoning in this, as in the former instance,
Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 124.
is clogged with a twofold absurdity: first, he confounds toleration wiih concurrence; for they who contend for the right of a king to be head, I presume, acknowledge him as such: secondly, because we may innocently do what is commanded, or rather are not permitted to do the contrary, he with great simplicity infers we may lawfully venture on what is forbidden.
The same reasoning applies to the introduction of ceremonies, and completely invalidates his conclusion, that because we tolerate infant baptism, which we consider as a human invention, we cannot consistently depart from the established church on account of the introduction of rites which we deem superstitious. He represents a churchman as addressing us in the following manner : · Is not forbearance to be granted to us also in what we deem right and expedient ? Suppose that we are weak brethren, as weak as you choose to represent us,why should you not, even in pity to our weakness, tolerate us in adding a few things to the original institutions of the Lord, rather than leave us, and by schism rend the seamless garment of Christ?"* In reply to this, let me ask, Is the toleration of objectionable ceremonies sufficient to constitute a churchman? or are we invited to be mere spectators of these observances, without joining in them? But do the Pedobaptists, when they propose to commune with us, expect us to join with them in their practice of infant baptism?' How sutile then is it to conclude, that because we are not to do evil that good may come, we must on no occasion bear with the imperfections we cannot remedy.
He largely insists on the superiority of his system to ours, on account of its being at a greater remove from the principles of the established church. “The strict Baptist,” he observes, “ can set the churchman at defiance, while he tells him respectfully but plainly that his church is wrong in its very constitution; that it is formed of materials different from those used by the Saviour, and that these materials are united together in a way totally diverse from that of his institution.”+
Had he succeeded in showing that his practice is alone consistent with the principles of dissent, his argument would have been to the purpose. But to found a claim to preference merely on a wider devia. tion from the established church is to take for granted what is palpably false, that the established church, like the kingdom of darkness, is a mere mass of corruption and error, from which the farther we recede we necessarily approach nearer to rectitude. That it comprehends many abuses we sufficiently attest our conviction by our dissent; but as it contains a mixture of good and evil, if we suffer ourselves to look with a more favourable eye upon a doctrine merely because its admission will remove us farther from the establishment, we may fall, ere we are aware, into the gulf of perdition. Upon this principle, we may embrace socinianism; for socinians are, unquestionably, farther removed from the church than orthodox dissenters. We may embrace popery, since all good Catholics consider the Church of England as being in a damnable state. We always supposed it was the agreement
* Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 125.
f Ibid. p. 127.
of a doctrine with the Scriptures, not its disagreement with any
human system, which formed its true recommendation; and that to consult our antipathies in the choice of a religion was equally unchristian and unsafe.
Besides, the objection which he makes to the constitution of the established church is as consistent with our principles as with his. Where a society embraces a whole nation, and recognises as her members all who are born within certain geographical limits, many who are openly wicked must necessarily be included; and the materials of which it is composed essentially different from those which formed the primitive church, which consisted of such as were " called, and chosen, and faithful.” Of such an assemblage it is not too much to say, in the words of this writer, “ that the whule body, taken in the aggregate, are of a different character from that which is in the New Testament called a church of Christ :'
:** and as this reason for dissent, deduced from the indiscriminate mixture of good and bad, is not weakened or impaired by the practice of open communion, we are as much entitled as he is to all the advantage it affords.
But when we are accused of using different materials in the erection from those which were originally admitted into the fabric, because we admit some who, in our judgment, are not baptized, we deny the charge, and acknowledge ourselves at a loss to conceive how living stones, built on the only true foundation, can essentially differ from each other on account of a transient ceremony ; unless it is affirmed, that sanctifying grace is a less powerful principle of attraction and assimilation than an external circumstance, and that Simon Magus bore more resemblance to the primitive Christians than Richard Baxter. We are at an equal loss to discover how a ceremony can impress a character. That immersion leaves no permanent corporeal mark our senses assure us: is this character then impressed on the understanding, on the heart, or the imagination? For the idea of a character which modifies and changes nothing is as unintelligible to me as the doctrine of transubstantiation.
What the writer means by appropriating to himself and his brethren the exclusive right of setting a churchman at defiance is equally mysterious, especially as clogged with this condition, “ as long as he can establish his propositions by sufficient proof.” A wonderful prerogative indeed! By setting him at defiance, he intends that he is secure of confuting his arguments, which it seems he is able to effect so long as he can establish the opposite propositions by sufficient proof. What is this more than affirming that he is certain of being able to prove what he can prove? and as the churchman can certainly do the same, they may each enjoy, upon this principle, the pleasure of mutual defiance and mutual triumph.
He either insults the understanding of his readers by the enunciation of a truism, or he means to assert that the practice he has undertaken to defend is so identified with the principles of dissent, that it is incapable of being maintained without it. The falsehood of this assump
* Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 127.
tion has been sufficiently evinced already; in addition to which, the reader is requested to reflect on the extreme imprudence of attempting to rest a controversy of such magnitude on so precarious a basis, and to divide and distract a common cause by encumbering it with the debate on baptism and the verbal subtleties of strict communion. To such a mode of defence, the churchman might justly reply, Physician, heal thyself: convince your own denomination of the correctness of your reasoning, before you presume to trouble us with the mysteries of
Mr. Kinghorn, in his zeal for baptism, intimates his conviction that the admission of infants to that ordinance will at once legitimate the constitution of the established church, and render a secession from it indispensable. He quotes, with apparent approbation, a long passage from Bishop Hall, intended to show, that if the baptism of the church is valid, its constitution must be so also, which he prefaces by applauding that prelate’s discernment, in seeing clearly their intimate connexion. "All your rabbins,” says the bishop, “ cannot answer the charge of your rebaptized brother. If we be a true church, you must return ; if we be not (as a false church is no church of God), you must rebaptize; if our baptism be good, then is our constitution good."* Nothing can be more futile than this mode of arguing, which merely proves that the good bishop, with all his brilliance of genius, was but an indifferent reasoner. He thought himself justified in dissenting from the Church of Rome, notwithstanding her baptism was ever esteemed valid. By the ancient church, through all successive ages from the council of Nice, the rebaptization even of heretics was condemned ; though heretics were certainly not esteemed a part of the church. The very society of which the bishop was a member has always professed to consider baptism, administered by every class of dissenters, in the name of the Trinity, as valid; so that, if the reasoning extolled by Mr. Kinghorn is just, he was guilty of schism in refusing to unite at one and the same time with heretics, Roman Catholics, and dissenters.
Not satisfied with asserting that our principles militate against the lawfulness of dissent, he maintains that they are inconsistent with Protestantism, and that, by necessary consequence, they convict Luther and his associates of schism and rebellion. In the treatise on Terms of Communion it had been urged, that if we believe our Pedobaptist brethren to be in a state of salvation, we must acknowledge them as a part of the true church, and that to refuse them communion is to create a schism in the body. 'Applying this reasoning to the case of the Roman Catholics, he attempts to repel it, by remarking that if " we have no right to refuse their communion with us, till they conform to what we are convinced is the will of Christ, we had no right to leave them because they deviated from his will. The ground is in both cases the
Once take away the obligation of conforming to the will of Christ, and the Reformation is declared a mischievous insurrection, in
* Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 122.