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remote from the language of scripture, and from all sober theology. But if they intend something essentially distinct from this, for what purpose it is introduced, except with a view to shelter themselves under the cover of an ambiguous term, I am at a loss to conjecture. In the mean time, it is obvious that the design of these contortions is to get rid, if possible, of a principle which originated not with us, but with St. Paul, that we ought to accept those whom we acknowledge Christ to have accepted. This is still more evident, when we find them adducing the excommunication of unworthy members, such as the incestuous man at Corinth, who it is asserted was all along an object of divine favour, as a proof that the rule which that inspired writer has laid down, may be safely neglected. In reply to which, it is sufficient to ask-In what light was the incestuous person regarded,* when he declared his determination to deliver him to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. Was it under the character of a member of Christ, or an enemy to the gospel? If we believe his own representation, he deemed it necessary for him to be expelled as an infectious leaven, the continuance of which would corrupt the whole mass; so that whatever proofs of repentance he might afterwards exhibit, these could have no influence on the principle on which he was excluded. When the professors of christianity are guilty of deliberate violation of the laws of Christ, they are to be treated agreeably to the conduct they exhibit, as bad men, with a hope that the severity of discipline may reclaim and restore them to the paths of rectitude.
* “ Besides, gospel churches,” says Mr. Booth, times obliged to exclude from their communion those whom he has received, as appears from the case of the incestuous person in the church of Corinth. And have those churches which practise free communion never excluded any for scandalous backslidings, whom, notwithstanding, they could not but consider as received of Christ ?”—Booth's Apology, p. 106.
To justify the practice of exclusive communion, by placing pædobaptists, who form the great body of the faithful, on the same level with men of impure and vicious lives, is equally repugnant to reason, and offensive to charity; at the same time that it is manifest from this mode of reasoning, that the measure contended for is considered in the light of punishment. Whether our pædobaptist brethren are the proper objects of it, or whether it is adopted to promote the only legitimate ends of punishment, must be left to future inquiry.
Pædobaptists a Part of the true Church, and their
Exclusion on that account Unlawful.
Before we proceed to urge the argument announced in this section, it will be necessary to ascertain the precise import of the word church, as it is employed in the Holy Scriptures. If we examine the New Testament, we shall find that the term church, as a religious appellation, occurs in two senses only; it either denotes the whole body of the faithful, or someone assembly of christians associated for the worship of God. In the former sense, it is styled in the Apostles' Creed, catholic, or universal; a belief in the existence of which, forms one of its principal articles. In this sense, Jesus Christ is affirmed to be “ Head over all things to the church, which is his body.” It is in this collective view of it, that we affirm its perpetuity. When the term is employed to denote a particular assembly of christians, it is invariably accompanied with a specification of the place where it was accustomed to convene, as for example, the church at Corinth, at Ephesus, or at Rome. Now it is manifest from scripture, that these two significations of the word differ from each other only as a part differs from a whole, so that when the whole body of believers is intended, it is used in its absolute form; when a particular society is meant, it is joined with a local specification. It is never used in the New Testament, as in modern times, to denote the aggregate of christian assemblies throughout a province, or a kingdom; nor do we ever read of the church of Achaia, Galatia, &c. but of the churches in the plural number; the word being constantly applied either to the whole number of the faithful, scattered throughout the world, or to some single congregation or society. It is equally obvious that whenever the word church occurs in its absolute
form, it comprehends all genuine christians without exception, and as that church is affirmed to be his body, it could not enter into the conception of the inspired writers that there were a class of persons strictly united to Christ, who yet were none of its component parts.
By orthodox christians it is uniformly maintained that union to Christ is formed by faith, and as the baptists are distinguished by demanding a profession of it at baptism, they at least are precluded from asserting that rite to have any concern in effecting the spiritual alliance in question. In their judgement at least, since faith precedes the application of water, the only means of union are possessed by the abettors of infant sprinkling equally with themselves; who are therefore equally of the “ body of Christ, and members in particular.” But since the Holy Ghost identifies that body with the church, explaining the one by the other, (“for his body's sake, which is the church,”) it seems impossible to deny that they are fully entitled to be considered in the catholic sense of the term, as members of the christian church. And as the universal church is nothing more than the collective body of the faithful, and differs only from a particular assembly of christians, as the whole from a part, it is equally impossible to deny that a pædobaptist society is, in the more limited import of the word, a true church.
If we consider the matter in a light somewhat different, we shall be conducted to the same
conclusion, and be compelled to confess that pædobaptist societies are, or at least may be, notwithstanding the practice of infant-sprinkling, true churches. The idea of plurality, it will be admitted, adds nothing to the nature of the object to which it is attached. The idea of a number of men differs nothing in kind, from that of a single man, except that it involves a repetition, or multiplication of the same idea. But the term church is merely a numerical term, denoting a multitude, or an assembly of men; and for the same reason that a number of men meeting together constitutes an assembly, or church,* in the most comprehensive import of the word, so a number of christians convened for the worship of God, constitutes a christian assembly, or a church. Such an assembly will necessarily be modified by the character of the members which compose it; if their sentiments are erroneous, the church will proportionably imbibe a tincture of error; but to affirm that though it consists of real christians, a society of such assembled for christian worship is not a true church, is to attribute to the idea of plurality or of number the power of changing the nature or essence of the object with which it is united, which involves a contradiction to our clearest perceptions. If we adhere to the dictates of reason or of scripture, when we give the appellation of a church to a particular society of christians, we shall mingle
* Acts xix. 32.—“ For the assembly was confused.” The original is in exkAnoia, the term usually rendered church.