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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 i fxiingia, the term usually rendered church.
nothing in our conceptions, beyond what enters into our ideas of an individual christian,, with the exception of this circumstance only, that it denotes a number of such individuals actually assembled, or wont to assemble for the celebration of divine worship. Though the definition of a church has often been the occasion of much confused disquisition, especially when the term has been applied exclusively to the clergy, the baptists, I believe, are the only persons who have scrupled to assign that appellation to societies acknowledged to consist of sincere and spiritual worshippers : a notion which, however repugnant to the dictates of candour, or of common sense, is the necessary appendage of the practice, equally absurd, of confining their communion to their own denomination.
Having shewn, we trust to the satisfaction of the reader, that pædobaptism is not an error of such magnitude, as to prevent the society, which maintains it from being deemed a true church, I proceed to observe that to repel the members of such, a society from communion, is the very essence of schism. Schism is a causeless and unnecessary separation from the church of Christ, or from any part of it; and that secession cannot urge the plea of necessity, where no concurrence in what is deemed evil, no approbation of error or superstition, is involved in communion. In the case before us, by admitting a pædobaptist to the Lord's supper, no sanction whatever is given to infantsprinkling, no act of concurrence is involved or implied; nothing is done, or left undone, which would have not been equally so, if his attendance were withdrawn. Under such circumstances, the necessity of preserving the purity of worship, or of avoiding an active cooperation in what we deem sinful or erroneous, (the only justifiable ground of separation,) has no place. The objection to his admission is founded solely on a disapprobation of a particular practice, considered, not as it affects us, since no part of our religious practice is influenced by it, but in relation to its intrinsic demerits.
Division amongst christians, especially when it proceeds to a breach of communion, is so fraught with scandal, and so utterly repugnant to the genius of the gospel, that the suffrages of the whole christian world have concurred in regarding it as an evil, on no occasion to be incurred, but for the avoidance of a greater—the violation of conscience. Whenever it becomes impossible to continue in a religious community, without concurring in practices, and sanctioning abuses, which the word of God condemns, a secession is justified by the apocalyptic voice, “ Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”* On this principle, the conduct of the reformers in separating from the Roman hierarchy, admits of an ample vindication : in consequence of the introduction of superstitious rites and ceremonies, it became impracticable to continue in her com
* Rev. xviii. 4.
munion, without partaking of her sins; and for a similar reason the nonconformists seceded from the church of England, where ceremonies were enforced, and an ecclesiastical polity established, incompatible, as they conceived, with the purity and simplicity of the christian institute. In each of these cases, the blame of schism did not attach to the separatists, but to that spirit of imposition which rendered separation requisite. In each instance, it was an act of self-preservation, rendered unavoidable by the highest necessity, that of declining to concur in practices at which their conscience revolted. But what similarity to this is discernible in the conduct of the advocates of strict communion ? They are not engaged in preserving their own liberty, but in an attack on the liberty of others : their object is not to preserve the worship in which they join, pure from contamination ; but to sit in judgement on the consciences of their brethren, and to deny them the privileges of the visible church on account of a difference of opinion, which is neither imposed on themselves, nor deemed fundamental. They propose to build a church, upon the principle of an absolute exclusion of a multitude of societies, which they must either acknowledge to be true churches, or be convicted, as we have seen, of the greatest absurdity ; while, for a conduct so monstrous and unnatural, they are precluded from the plea of necessity, because no attempt is made by pædobaptists to modify their
worship, or to control the most enlarged exercise of private judgement. Upon the principle for which I am contending, they are not called to renounce their peculiar tenets on the subject of baptism, nor to express their approbation of a contrary practice; but simply not to sever themselves from the body of Christ, nor refuse to unite with his church.
However familiar the spectacle of christian societies who have no fellowship or intercourse with each other has become, he who consults the New Testament will instantly perceive, that nothing more repugnant to the dictates of inspiration, or to the practice of the first and purest ages, can be conceived. When we turn our eyes to the primitive times, we behold one church of Christ, and one only, in which when new assemblies of christians arose, they were considered not as multiplying, but diffusing it; not as destroying its unity, or impairing its harmony, but being fitly compacted together on the same foundation, as a mere accession to the beauty and grandeur of the whole. The spouse of Christ, like a prolific mother, exulted in her numerous offspring, who were all equally cherished in her bosom, and grew up at her side. As the necessity of departing from these maxims, or of appearing to depart from them at least, by forming separate societies, arose entirely from that spirit of ecclesiastical tyranny and superstition which was gradually developed, so a similar measure is justifiable as far