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gether with the inaptitude of many who are most interested in this controversy to ascend to first principles, is my only apology for insisting upon a point so obvious; choosing rather to hazard the contempt of the wise, than not to impress conviction on the vulgar.
With such as admit the possibility of pædobaptists being saved, there remains, in my apprehension, no alternative, but either to receive them into their communion without scruple, as comprehended within the apostolic canon, or to affirm that decision to be founded on erroneous grounds; which at once removes the controversy to a superior tribunal, where they and the apostle must implead each other. Let us, however, briefly examine certain distinctions they have recourse to, in order to elude the force of these passages. In the first place it has been alleged, that though we are commanded to receive our mistaken brethren, we are not instructed to receive them at the Lord's table, or into the external communion of the church ; and that such injunctions are consequently irrelevant to the inquiry respecting the right of persons of a similar character to those external privileges of which they make no mention. “Is there no way,” say our opponents, “ of receiving him that is weak in faith, but by admitting him to the Lord's table ? Must the exhortation to receive a christian brother be confined to that single instance of true benevolence ?”* To this we reply, that we know of
* Booth's Apology, p. 101.
none who assert that the term receive must necessarily be limited to the single act of a reception at the Lord's table; but we affirm, without hesitation, that he is not received in the sense of the apostle, who is denied that privilege. Had the parties whom he addressed proceeded to an open rupture in point of communion, would they, in the judgement of our opponents, have complied with the purport and spirit of his injunction ? And if, after adopting such a measure, they had appealed to the apostle, whether there “ were no other way of receiving their brethren but by admitting them to the Lord's table,” would he, or would he not, have considered himself as mocked and insulted ? Mr. Booth enumerates many instances in St. Paul's epistles, in which he enjoins christians to receive certain persons, such as Phæbe, Onesimus, Epaphroditus, and himself, where an admission to the Lord's table was not intended, but something which he informs us would manifest their love in a much higher degree.* What a convincing demonstration of the propriety of withholding from persons of a similar character, that lower, that inferior token of esteem which is included in christian fellowship! And because the bare admission of all the persons mentioned to the external communion of the church, did not satisfy the ardent benevolence of the apostle, without more decided and discriminate marks of attachment, nor answer, in the opinion of our opponents, to the full import of the word receive, the true method of realizing his intentions, is to reject the modern Phæbe and Onesimus altogether.
* Booth's Apology, p. 102.
“Supposing, however,” says Mr. Booth, “ that there were no way of receiving one that is weak in faith, but by admitting him to the Lord's table, this text would be far from proving that which our opponents desire ; unless they could make it appear, that the persons of whom the apostle immediately speaks, were not members of the church of Rome, when he gave the advice.”* If there be any weight in this argument, it must proceed from the supposition, that if the persons whom the apostle enjoins the Romans to receive, had not been already members, there is no sufficient ground for believing, notwithstanding the strain of his admonitions, that they would have been admitted. But is it possible to suppose that he would have recommended a class of persons so earnestly to the affectionate regards of a christian society whom he would not have previously deemed eligible to their communion; or that the primitive discipline was so soon relaxed as to occasion the continuance in the church of such as would have been originally deemed unworthy candidates? Most assuredly they who, upon valid grounds, would have been rejected if they had not already been members, were never permitted to boast the protection and patronage of an inspired apostle after they became
* Booth's Apology, p. 82.
such. In every well-ordered society, the privileges attached to it are forfeited by that conduct in its members, whatever it be, which would have been an effectual obstacle to their admission; and to suppose this maxim reversed in a christian church, and that an apostle would caress, protect, and commend persons who might justly have been debarred from entering, is an absurdity which few minds can digest. The necessity of recurring to such suppositions, is itself a sufficient confutation of the system they are brought to defend.
Our opponents still insist upon it, that no conclusion can be drawn from the command to receive the weak in faith, unless it could be shewn that they were unbaptized. But this mode of reasoning, pursued to its consequences, would annihilate all the general axioms of scripture, * and considering the infinite diversity of human circumstances, render them a most incompetent guide. If the Holy Spirit has been pleased to command us, without exception, to receive the weak in faith, and instructed us in the grounds on which his decision proceeded, which is plainly the acceptance of such with God; if the apostles, acting under his direction, governed the church on the same principles, and suffered no breach of communion
• « But admitting that to be a fact,” says Mr. Booth, " of which there is not the least evidence, the conclusion drawn from the passage would not be just, except it were also proved, that the weak in faith were unbaptized, or at least so considered by their stronger brethren, for that is the point in dispute between us." — Booth's Apology, p. 104.
to be effected, but on account of a vicious life, or fundamental error, the criminality attached to an opposite course of procedure will be very little extenuated by a circumstantial difference in its objects. Had those whom the apostles commanded their converts to tolerate, been unbaptized, the inference in favour of pædobaptists would unquestionably have been more obvious, but not more certain, because nothing can be more evident than that they urged the duty of toleration on a principle which, even in the judgement of our opponents, equally applies to the pædobaptists, which is, that the error in each case is compatible with a state of salvation, and may be held with an upright conscience.
However systems and opinions may fluctuate, truth is eternal ; and if these were solid grounds of mutual forbearance and indulgence heretofore, they must still continue such ; but if they were not, St. Paul must be acknowledged to have reasoned inconclusively, and all idea of plenary inspiration must be abandoned. As the case stands, the advocates of exclusive communion must either assert, in direct contradiction to his statement, that the compatibility of an error with a state of salvation, and with what comes nearly to the same point, the perfect sincerity of its abettor, is not a sufficient reason for its being tolerated in the church, or consign the pædobaptists, who die in their sentiments, to eternal destruction. In this dilemma, they are at liberty to adopt which