« AnteriorContinuar »
religious pretensions are doubtful. Whoever considers the import of the following passage, will be surprised Mr. Kinghorn should feel any hesitation in adopting the same system.
" It is granted,” says our author, “that baptism is not expressly inculcated as a preparative to the Lord's supper; neither is it inculcated as a preparative to any thing else. But the first act of christian obedience is, of course, succeeded by the rest ; and the required acknowledgement of our faith in Christ, in the nature of things, ought to precede the enjoyment of the privileges which arise from faith."*
By the first act of christian obedience, he unquestionably intends the reception of baptism ; and the meaning of the sentence turns entirely on the word first. He designs to assert, that such is the prescribed order of religious actions—that unless that ordinance is first attended to, every other performance is invalid ; that whatever it may be in itself, not occupying its proper place, it cannot lay claim to the character of a duty. We should be extremely concerned at imposing a false construction on his words; but if this is not his meaning, we despair of discovering it. But if our interpretation is just, unless we can conceive of a religion availing for eternal life, in the total absence of duties, it is equivalent to asserting,
Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 30.
that none besides our denomination possess true religion. He expressly tells us every other duty must succeed, that is, must come after baptism, which, with respect to pædobaptists, is impossible on our principles ; whence it necessarily follows, that while they retain their sentiments, they are disqualified for the performance of duty. The only conceivable method of evading this conclusion, is to make a distinction, and to affirm, that though baptism ought, agreeably to the institution of Christ, to precede the other branches of religion, yet that when it is omitted from a misconception or mistake, the omission is not of such magnitude as to prevent their being accepted. But should our author explain himself in this manner, he will not only coincide with us, but his argument for strict communion is relinquished. Having acknowledged that “the connexion between baptism and the Lord's supper is not more directly marked in scripture, than between that ordinance and any other duty,* were he now to make a distinction in favour of the sacrament, and confine their disqualification to that particular, he would be guilty of an express contradiction, Nor are his words susceptible of such an interpretation. The assertion he makes is in the form of a general proposition ; which is, that all the duties of christianity must succeed baptism, in
contradiction to going before it; and the disqualification for the Lord's supper, which he represents the pædobaptists as lying under, is inferred solely from the consideration of its constituting a part of those duties.
Thus much for the duties ; let us next hear what he says of the privileges of christianity. Baptism, which he styles “the required acknowledgement of our faith in Christ,” he tells us,
ought to precede the enjoyment of the privileges which arise from faith.” They ought to precede, but do they in fact ? Is it his opinion that all other sects, as a punishment for their disobedience in one particular, are left destitute of the spiritual immunities which flow from faith? If it is not, it behoves him to reflect on the presumption of such a mode of speaking, which is little less than arraigning the wisdom of the great Head of the church, who dispenses his favours in a manner so different from that which he ventures to prescribe. Should he reply, that Jesus Christ, as a Sovereign, is at liberty to act as he pleases, but that we are under an obligation of adhering to the settled order of his house, it is easy to perceive that this evasion is neither consistent with truth, nor sufficient to establish his consistency with himself. Are not his partizans in the daily habit of exhibiting towards the members of other societies, tokens of their fraternal regard, of inviting them to every branch of christian fellowship,
short of admission to the sacrament ? Will they deny that the communion of saints, even in the absence of that institution, is an important privilege?
In the next place, to represent the bestowment of spiritual blessings on the great body of the faithful, through the lapse of fifteen centuries, whose salvability, it is confessed, is capable of demonstration from scripture; to speak of this, as an extraordinary and extrajudicial procedure, is to confound the most obvious distinctions.
The terms of salvation, which are, radically, faith and repentance, are clearly propounded in the word of God; and surely it will not be doubted that multitudes out of the pale of our sect, have exhibited such proofs of their possessing these qualifications, that their enjoyment of the divine favour is not to be ascribed to a secret economy, similar to what has been conjectured by some to extend to virtuous pagans. Where revelation is silent, it becomes us to copy its reserve; but in the present instance, so far is this from being the case, that few propositions are more susceptible of proof from that quarter, than that an error, with respect to a positive rite, is not fatal; whence the necessary inference is, that the bestowment of his favours on such as labour under that imperfection, is a known part of his conduct : that it is not only his intention so to act, but that he has taken effectual care to inform us of it; not,
we presume, for the purpose of enabling us to contradict it, but as a pattern for our humble imitation.
When the Holy Ghost fell upon the Gentiles, assembled in the house of Cornelius, though Peter had, a short time before, doubted the lawfulness even of eating with them, he considered it as such a seal of the divine approbation, that he felt no hesitation in immediately admitting them to all the privileges of the church. He did not presume (with reverence be it spoken) to be stricter or more orderly than God. “ Forasmuch,” said he, “as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us who believed, who was I that I should withstand God ?” a question which we presume to recommend to the serious consideration of Mr. Kinghorn and his associates. The principle on which he justified his conduct is plainly this, that when it is once ascertained that an individual is the object of divine acceptance, it would be impious to withhold from him any religious privilege. Until it be shewn that this was not the principle on which he rested his defence, or that the practice of strict communion is consistent with it, we shall feel ourselves compelled to discard, with just detestation, a system of action which St. Peter contemplated with horror, as withstanding God: and, when I consider it in this just and awful light, I feel no hesitation in avowing my conviction that it is replete with worse consequences, and is far