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dissatisfied ? we, who profess to be actuated by no other motive, to live to no other purpose, than the promotion of his interest.
If the kingdom of Christ, like the kingdoms of this world, admitted of local and discordant interests, and the possession of exclusive privileges-if it were a system of compromise between the selfish passions of individuals, and the promotion of the general good, the policy of conferring on one class of its subjects certain advantages and immunities withheld from another, might be easily comprehended. But in this, as well as many other features, it essentially differs. Founded on the basis of a divine equality, its privileges are as free as air; and there is not a single blessing which it proposes to bestow, but is held by the same tenure, and is capable of being possessed to the same extent, by every believer. The freedom which it confers is of so high a character, and the dignity to which it elevates its subjects, as the sons of God, so transcendent, that whether they are “ Barbarians or Scythians, bond or free, male or female, they are from henceforth one in Christ Jesus.” In asserting the equal right which the Gentiles possessed, in common with the Jews, to all the privileges attached to the christian profession, Peter founds his argument on this very principle. “And God, which knoweth the heart, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as unto us, and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.” In his apprehension, it was God, the Searcher of hearts, who, by the collation of his Spirit, in his marvellous and sanctifying gifts, having made no distinction betwixt the Gentiles and themselves, decided the controversy. If that great apostle reasoned correctly on the subject, we have only to change the term Gentiles for pædobaptists, or for any other denomination of sincere christians, and the inference remains in its full force.
Among the other attempts to deter us from pursuing a system established by such high authority, it is extraordinary that we should be reminded of the fearful responsibility we incur. To this topic Mr. Kinghorn has devoted a whole chapter. When it is recollected that we plead for the reception of none whom Christ has not received, of none whose hearts are not purified by faith, and who are not possessed of the same spirit, the communication of which was considered by St. Peter as a decisive proof that no difference was put between them and others by God himself, it is easy to determine where the danger lies. Were we to suffer ourselves to lose sight of these principles, and by discountenancing and repelling those whom he accepts, to dispute the validity of his seal, and subject to our miserable scrutiny, pretensions which have passed the ordeal, and received the sanction, of him, “ who understandeth the heart,” we should have just reason to tremble
for the consequences; and, with all our esteem for the piety of many of our opponents, we conceive it no injury or insult, to put up the prayer of our Lord for them—“ Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
He who alters the terms of communion, changes the fundamental laws of Christ's kingdom. He assumes a legislative power, and ought, in order to justify that conduct, to exhibit his credentials, with a force and splendour of evidence, equal at least to those which attested the divine legation of Moses and the prophets.
It has been frequently observed on this occasion, that every voluntary society possesses the power of determining on the qualifications of its members; and that, for the same reason, every church is authorized to enact such terms of admission as it shall see fit. This conclusion, however, is illogical and unfounded. There is little or no analogy betwixt the two cases. Human societies originate solely in the private views and inclinations of those who compose them; and as they are not founded on divine institution, so neither are they restricted with respect to the objects they are destined to pursue. The church is a society instituted by Heaven; it is the visible seat of that “ kingdom which God has set up ;” the laws by which it is governed are of his prescribing, and the purposes which it is designed to accomplish, are limited and ascertained by infinite wisdom. When, therefore, from its analogy to other societies, it is inferred that it has an equal right to organise itself at its pleasure, nothing can be more fallacious; unless it be meant merely to assert its exemption from the operation of physical force, which is a view of the subject with which we are not at present concerned. In every step of its proceedings, it is amenable to a higher than human tribunal; and on account of its freedom from external control, its obligation, in foro conscientiæ, exactly to conform to the mandates of revelation, is the more sacred and the more indispensable ; being loosened from every earthly tie, on purpose that it may be at liberty to “ follow the Lord whithersoever he goeth.”
That these maxims, plain and obvious, as they must appear, have been too often totally lost sight of, he who has the slightest acquaintance with ecclesiastical history must be aware ;s and to their complete abandonment we are indebted for the introduction of strict communion. ...
“ The baptists,” Mr. Kinghorn informs us, “ consider themselves as holding to notice one neglected truth.”* Whether they have adopted the mode of proceeding most likely to accomplish their object, may be justly doubted. Independently, however, of any such consideration, it is the principle, thus distinctly avowed, to which we object
* Baptism a Term of Communion, p. 69.
the principle of organizing a church with a specific view to the propagation of some particular truth; which is a perversion of the original end and design of christian societies. Nothing, it is certain, was more remote from the views of their first founders, who aimed at nothing less than to render them the general depositaries of the “ faith once delivered to the saints;" and for this purpose carefully inculcated the whole « truth as it is in Jesus,” along with the duty of preserving it incorrupt and entire; without the most distant intimation that it was their province to watch over one department with more vigilance than another : least of all was it their design to recommend, as the object of preference, an external ceremony, the nature of which was destined to become a subject of debate among christians.
Let each denomination pursue this plan-let each fix upon the promotion of some one truth, as the specific object of its exertions, and the effect will soon appear, not only in extending the spirit of disunion, but in the injury which the interests of truth itself will sustain. Every denomination will exhibit some portion of it, in a distorted and mutilated form; none will be in possession of the whole, and the result will be something like the confusion of Babel, where every man spoke in a separate dialect. As the beauty of truth consists chiefly in the harmony and proportion of its several parts, it is as impossible