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judge her, he solemnly charged her to sin no more: the advocates for strict communion, when they dismiss pædobaptists, give them no such charge; their language seems to be," Go, sin by yourselves, and we are satisfied.”
The inference I would deduce from these remarkable facts is, that they possess an internal conviction that the class of christians whom they proscribe, would be guilty of a great impropriety in declining to communicate in the sacramental elements; and that the union of baptists with them in that solemnity, so far from being liable to the imputation of “partaking in other men's sins,” is not only lawful, but commendable.
On the Impossibility of reducing the Practice of
Strict Communion to any general Principle.
When a particular branch of conduct is so circumstanced as to be incapable of being deduced from some general rule, or of being resolved into some comprehensive principle, founded on reason or revelation, we may be perfectly assured it is not obligatory. Whatever is matter of duty, is a part of some whole, the relation of which is susceptible of proof, either by the express decision of scripture, or by general reasoning; and a point of practice perfectly insulated, and disjointed from
the general system of duties, whatever support it may derive from prejudice, custom, or caprice, can never be satisfactorily vindicated. From want of attention to this axiom, both the world and the church have, in different periods, been overrun with innumerable forms of superstition and folly ; to which the only effectual antidote is, an appeal to principles. Unless I am much mistaken, the question under discussion will afford a striking exemplification of the justness of this remark. If it be found impossible to fix a medium betwixt the toleration of all opinions in religion, and the restriction of it to errors not fundamental, the practice of exclusive communion must be abandoned, because it is neither more nor less than an attempt to establish such a medium. By errors not fundamental, I mean such as are admitted to consist with a state of grace and salvation; such as are not supposed to prevent their abettors from being accepted of God. With such as contend for the indiscriminate admission of all doctrines on the one hand, or with the abettors of rigid uniformity, who allow no latitude of sentiment on the other, we have no concern; since we concur with our opponents in deprecating both these extremes; and while we are tenacious of the “ truth as it is in Jesus," we both admit that some indulgence to the mistakes and imperfections of the truly pious is due, from a regard to the dictates of inspiration, and the nature of man.
The only subject of controversy is, how far that forbearance
is to be extended: we assert, to every diversity of judgement, not incompatible with salvation ; they contend that a difference of opinion on baptism is an excepted case. If the word of God had clearly and unequivocally made this exception, we should feel ourselves bound to admit it, upon the same principle on which we maintain the infallible certainty of rejelation; but when we press for this decision, and request to be directed to the part of scripture which: for ever prohibits unbaptized persons from approaching the sacrament, in the same manner as the Jews were prohibited from celebrating the passover, who had not submitted to circumcision, we meet with no reply but precarious inferences and general reasoning.
However plausible their mode of arguing may appear, the impartial reader will easily perceive it fails in the main point, which is, to establish that specific difference betwixt the case they except out of their list of tolerated errors, and those which they admit, which shall justify this opposite treatment. Thus, when they ask whether God has not “commanded baptism; whether it is not the believer's duty to be found in it;"* it is manifest that the same reasons might be urged against bearing with any imperfection in our fellow-christian whatever; for which of these, we ask, is not inconsistent with some command, and a violation, in a greater or less degree, of some duty ? with this difference, indeed, that many of the imperfections
Booth's Apology, p. 128,
which christian churches are necessitated to bear with, are seated in the will, while the case before us involves merely an unintentional mistake. “ It is not every one,” says Mr. Booth,
says Mr. Booth, “ that is received of Jesus Christ, who is entitled to communion at his table; but such, and only such, as revere his authority, submit to his ordinances, and obey the laws of his house.” This is the most formal attempt which that writer has made to specify the difference betwixt the case of the abettors of infant baptism, and others; for which reason the reader will excuse my directing his attention to it for a few moments. We are indebted to him, in the first place, for a new discovery in theology. We should not have suspected, but for his assertion, that there could be a description of persons whom Christ has received, who neither revere his authority, submit to his ordinances, nor obey his laws. How Mr. Booth acquired this information we know not; but certainly in our Saviour's time it was otherwise.
« Then are ye my disciples,” said he, “ if ye do whatsoever I have commanded you.” I congratulate the public on the prudence evinced by the venerable author, in not publishing the names of these highly privileged individuals, who have proved their title to heaven, to his satisfaction, without reverence, submission, or obedience; wishing his example had been imitated, in this particular, by the authors of the wonderful conversions of malefactors, many of whom, I fear, belong to this new sect.
This singular description, however, I scarcely need remind the reader, is designed to characterize baptists in opposition to pædobaptists; and were it not the production of a man whom I highly revere, I should comment upon it with the severity it deserves. Suffice it to remark, that to mistake the meaning of a statute is one thing, not to reverence the legislator, another; that he cannot submit with a good conscience to an ordinance, who is not apprised of its existence ; and that a blind obedience, even to divine laws, would be far from constituting a reasonable service. Every conscientious adherent to infant baptism reveres the authority of Christ not less than a baptist, and is distinguished by a spirit of submission and obedience to every known part of his will ; and as this is all to which a baptist can pretend, and far more than many who, without scruple, are tolerated in our churches, can boast, we are as far as ever from ascertaining the specific difference betwixt the case of the pædobaptist, and other instances of error supposed to be entitled to indulgence. In spite of Mr. Booth's marvellous definition, reverence, submission, and obedience, are such essential features in the character of a christian, that he who was judged to be destitute of them in their substance and reality would instantly forfeit that character ; while to possess them in perfection is among the brightest acquisitions of eternity. It should be remembered, too, that the general principles of morality are not less