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The controversy on strict and mixed communion, in respect of baptism, is reducible to three questions.- -(1) Is baptism necessary to communion at the Lord's table?-(2) Is a being immersed on a profession of faith necessary to baptism?—(3) On whom does the duty of judging what is baptism, devolve? On the party baptised, or on the church, or on both?
The first was denied by John Bunyan; but being generally admitted by pædobaptists, they are not entitled to his arguments. Those who follow Bunyan are chiefly baptists, who admit of mixed communion; and Bunyan himself was of this denomination. Against these, Mr. Booth's Apology is chiefly directed.
The denial of the second, is ground proper for pædobaptists. But if they make it good against the baptists, they convict them of error as baptists, rather than as strict baptists.
Of the third, much has been said by the friends of mixed communion, both among baptists and pædobaptists. None, we apprehend, will plead for a church being the judge of what is baptism, to the exclusion of the candidate. The question is therefore reduced to this: Is it for the candidate exclusively to judge what is baptism; or is it necessary that his judgment and that of the church should coincide upon the subject?
If baptism be not necessary to communion; or though it be, yet if immersion on a profession of faith be not necessary to baptism; or though it be, yet if the candidate for communion be the only party with whom it rests to judge what is baptism; then the strict communion of the baptists seems to be wrong.
But if baptism be necessary to church communion, and immersion on a profession of faith be necessary to baptism; and it be the duty of a church to judge of this, as well as of every other prerequisite in its candidates; then the strict communion of the baptists seems to be right.
STRICT COMMUNION IN THE MISSION CHURCH AT SERAMPORE,
Letter to the Editor of the Instructor, Jan. 28th 1814.
I BY no means wish to obtrude myself on you or your readers; but the letter which you inserted in your paper of the 19th instant, of "A Pædobaptist," calls upon me for an answer.
It is true, that the Baptist Missionaries at Serampore do practise Strict Communion. It is also true, that they did so from the beginning, till within the last three or four years, when they agreed to admit of Open Communion. After this the question was resumed and discussed. The result was, that they determined to return to their original practice. As to any injunction, I know of none. Most of our churches in England practise strict communion, but do not " enjoin" it upon other churches; and I suppose it is the same with the church at Serampore and Calcutta. They may recommend whatever they think right, without enjoining it.
I can easily conceive that these changes would cause some feelings among Baptists differently minded on the subject, but cannot conceive why our Pædobaptist brethren should take offence at it. Those baptists who practise open communion, do not mean to acknowledge the validity of pædobaptism. Had they rather then be admissible into our churches, as unbaptised in the account of their brethren, than not at all? If so, to be sure we ought to feel obliged by their good opinion of us; as after all that they have said and written and done against us, they cannot really think ill of us.
But is it true, that our pædobaptist brethren seriously wish us to practise open communion? I give them the fullest credit for desiring as christians to be in fellowship
with us, and with all other christians; and this also is our desire, as much as it is theirs. But as pædobaptists, do they wish us to admit them to communion, without acknowledging the validity of their baptism? This is the question; and from all that I have read of their writings on the subject, however they may complain of strict communion, they cannot answer in the affirmative.
Dr. Worcester, in his friendly letter to Dr. Baldwin, though he pleads for a free communion between baptists and pædobaptists, and avows it to be the object of his pamphlet, yet allows that, "if professed believers are the only proper subjects for baptism, and if immersion be not a mere circumstance or mode of baptism, but essential to the ordinance, so that he who is not immersed is not baptised, the sentiment of strict communion would be sufficiently established." Now Dr. Worcester's premises are our most decided principles, and this whether we practise strict or open communion. He therefore admits our practice to be sufficiently established, and has only to complain of us for not allowing the validity of their baptism; that is, for being baptists.
The same is manifest from a review of Mr. Booth's Apology, in the Evangelical Magazine. The reviewer makes nothing of free communion, unless it were on the principle of admitting the validity of pædobaptism. Those baptists who practise it, he leaves to defend themselves as they can. The result is, that the real objection against us respects us not as strict nor as open communionists, but as baptists. In other words, that the only open communion that would give satisfaction must include an acknowledgment of the validity of pædobaptism, which for any baptist to make, would be ceasing to be a baptist.
REMARKS ON INFANT BAPTISM AND INFANT COMMUNION.
In Reply to some papers, written by the Rev. S. NEWTON of Norwich.
THE piece by "An Old Congregationalist," seems to invite an answer from both baptists and pædobaptists. If the following remarks be acceptable on behalf of the former, they are at your service.
Whether I can convince your respectable correspondent, (with whom, if I am not mistaken, I have some acquaintance) or not, I hope he will allow what I advance to be "friendly," and as free from "the air of angry controversy" as he can desire.
That the plea for infant communion is equally valid with that of infant baptism, you will not expect me to dispute. If I could be convinced of the one, I see no reason why I should scruple the other. If one of your pædobaptist correspondents should think proper to answer in behalf of his brethren, it will belong to him to point out the grounds for admitting the former, while he rejects the latter. My share of the answer is merely to notice the arguments for infant communion taken from the scriptures, or from other acknowledged duties.
We are accused at the outset, of having, "without a divine precept, separated the children of believers from the church of God." To this I answer-(1) Allowing them to have been in the church under the old testament, it does not follow that they should be members of churches under the new testament. "A Congregationalist" must admit of a very material difference in the constitution of the church under these different dispensations; so material as that the laws of admission to the one are no rule by which to judge of the other. If he will not however, he must consider as members of the church, not only his
own children, but all that are 'born in his house, or bought with his money.' Or if he refuse this consequence, he brings upon himself his own charge, of separating the poor servants from the church of God, without a divine precept. Should he in this case allege, that there is no precept or example in the new testament for admitting them, he would furnish an answer which is no less applicable to the other.-(2) But before the charge of separating the children of believers from the church of God had been preferred, it should have been proved that they, as such, were ever in it. Unless the whole Israelitish nation were believers, it could not be as the children of believers that their descendants were admitted to divine ordinances. If "the habits and practices of the jews" prove any thing, they will prove too much, at least for "A Congregationalist." They will not only require the admission of servants born in the house, or bought with money, but the very constitution of the church must be national. Their children and servants must not only be admitted in infancy, but continue in full communion when adults, though there should be no proof of their being any other than graceless characters.
But we agree, it is said, "to take our children to family and public worship; to teach them to read the bible with seriousness and attention, instruct them in catechisms and in private prayer; for all which they have no more understanding than for the Lord's supper." It is not however for want of understanding that we object to it, but the want of scripture precept or example. If God had required it, or the first churches practised it, we should think ourselves as much obliged to bring our children to the Lord's supper, as the Israelites were to bring theirs to the passover. It appears to me that great mistakes have arisen, from confounding moral obligations with positive institutes. The former are binding on all mankind, and therefore require to be inculcated on every one within the reach of our influence: the latter are limited to a part of mankind, usually described in the institutions