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it may be observed that one and the same individual may be both a particular and a strict Baptist. The former has to do with Christian DOCTRINE; the latter with Christian PRACTICE ; such, for example, was ABRAHAM BOOTH,—he was a particular Baptist, and maintained those views of the doctrines of grace so at variance with Arminianism, or doctrines on Redemption and Free-will, as held by the general Baptists. He was a strict Baptist, because he would not admit any to the Lord's table whom he considered had not obeyed Christ's command by being, according to his belief, baptized according to the New Testament requirements.
In the course of the last fifty years, the questions of strict communion and open communion have been subjects of controversy ;excellent and able men have appeared as advocates for the two opposing views.
In 1778 the venerable ABRAHAM Booth published what has been termed "an unanswerable work,” in vindication of strict communion. The following is the title of the treatise, “ An Apology for the Baptists, in which they are vindicated from the imputation of laying an unwarrantable stress on the ordinance of Baptism, and against the charge of bigotry in refusing communion at the Lord's table to pædobaptists."
In the space which can only be given in this volume to the various bearings of the subject, scarcely more than the heads of the propositions can be touched upon.
Mr. Booth in his treatise observes, “That it was a desire to vindicate the honour of Christ as lawgiver in his own kingdom; to assert the scriptural importance of a positive institution in the house of God, and to exculpate himself, together with a great majority of his brethren of the Baptist persuasion, from charges of an odious kind, that excited the author to compose and publish the following pages.” And afterwards, “It is entirely on the defensive that the author takes up his pen ; for had not the principles and practice of those professors who are invidiously called Strict Baptists, been severely censured by many that maintain, and by some who deny, the divine authority of Infant Baptism, these pages would never have seen the light.”
To shew that strict communion is not "a new opinion or a novel practice,” but that “such has been the sentiment and such the conduct of the Christian church in every age,” Mr. Booth quotes passages from Justin Martyr, Jerome, Augustine, Bede, Theophylact, Bonaventure, Spanheim, Lord, King, Dr. Wall, Dr. Doddridge, &c., &c. Perfectly conformable to these testimonies, he says,
are the catechisms and confessions of faith that have been published at any time, or by any denomination of Christians," &c.
*It appears then to be a fact, a stubborn, incontrovertible fact, that our judginent and conduct, relating to the necessity of baptism in order to communion, perfectly coincide with the sentiments and practice of our NATIONAL CHURCH and with all PÆDOBAPTIST CHURCHES in these kingdoms. . ... The point controverted between us and our Pædobaptist brethren is not, whether unbaptized believers may, according to the laws of Christ, be admitted to communion, for here we have no dispute, but what is baptism, and who are the proper subjects of it.” The following are among Mr. Booth's positions, “In the worship of God there cannot be either obedience or faith, unless we regard the divine appointments. Not obedience; for that supposes a precept, or what is equivalent to it. Not faith ; for that requires a promise or some divine declaration.” (p. 27.)
“That there is a connection between the two positive institutions of the New Testament is manifest from the word of God, and that one of them must be prior to the other, in order of administration, is evident from the nature of things ; for a person cannot be baptized and receive the sacred supper at the same instant.” (p. 31.) “Considering the novelty of their sentiment and conduct_i.e., of those free communion baptists”—and what a contradiction they are to the faith and order of the whole Christian Church ; considering that it never was disputed, so far as I can learn, prior to the 16th century, by orthodox or heterodox—by Papists or Protestants, whether unbaptized believers should be admitted to the Lord's Table : they so agreeing in the contrary practice, however much they differed in matter of equal importance, it may be reasonably expected, and is by us justly demanded, that the truth of their sentiments and the rectitude of their conduct should be proved, really proved, from the records of inspiration.” (p. 36.) It was in the latter part of the 16th century that Socinus introduced free communion into the Baptist churches in Poland. “But is it not strange, strange to astonishment," says Mr. B., “if the Scriptures contain their sentiment and vindicate their conduct, that it never was discovered by any who acknowledged the proper Deity, the eternal dominion and the complete satisfaction of Jesus Christ, till the latter end of the 17th century?” Speaking of that century, he says, “The repealing of Christ's positive laws, by Fox and Barclay, and the practical claim of a dispensing power, by Jessey and Bunyan, made way for the inglorious liberty of treating positive institutions in the house of God just as professors please.” (p. 37.) Mr. Booth then appeals to the evidence of scripture. He argues that “Baptism had the priority in point of institution,” which, he says, “is a presumptive evidence that it has, and ever will have, a prior claim on our obedience.” He argues that “ the order of words in that commission, which was given to the ambassadors of Christ," (p. 42,) that "the order of administration in the primitive and apostolic practice," (p. 43,) and that “the different signification of the two institutions, (p. 47,) are proofs that Baptism onght to precede the Lord's Supper.” “Have not the Pædobaptists,” he asks,“ as good a warrant for their practice as you have for inverting the plain, the established, the divinely-appointed order in which the two positive institutions ought to be administered ?” (p. 150.)
In the remaining part of the treatise, Mr. Booth refers to passages adduced in favour of free communion, and to topics connected with the chief question. “It is not every one,” he says, “who is received by Jesus Christ, who is entitled to commane at his table; but such, and such only, as revere his authority, submit to his ordinances, and obey the laws of his house." (p. 107.) “Whatever foundation there may be in humam systems of religion," as that made “ between fundamentals, or things necessary to be believed and practised, and circumstantials, or things which are indifferent." “ It certainly looks very unbecoming in the churches of Christ to question how far He is to be believed and obeyed.” (p. 137.) That “Christ has received all who truly believe," Mr. B. says, “I have a pleasing persuasion ;" but “that it is the immediate duty of any unbaptized believer to approach the Lord's Table may admit of a query,—nay, the general practice of the Christian Church has been quite in the negative." (p. 143.) “Were those believers to whom he first gave the command to remember him unbaptized ? ” (p. 143.)
ANDREW FULLER was also a strenuous advocate on the same side of the question ; and in 1815 Dr. Newman published the views of his deceased friend, shortly after his death, on the appearance of ROBERT HALL's work—“On Terms of Communion.” The following brief statement of Mr. Hall's leading views will show the reader somewhat of the nature of his treating the subject. The particular grounds of which Free Communion are justified, are stated
1. The obligation of brotherly love.
2. The express injunctions of Scripture, respecting the conduct to be maintained by sincere Christians, who differ in their religious sentiments ; that we are to receive the weak in faith, (Rom. xi. vi.) to bear the infirmities of the weak. (Rom. xv. 1, 6, 7.) By the weak, in Mr. Hall's view, being intended those “whose errors do not prevent them from being accepted with God,” (p. 100;) that such of the Philippians as were “differently minded” had promise of God's further teaching; and that all were to maintain cordial co-operation in every branch of worship and practice, witb respect to which they were agreed, “without attempting to effect a unanimity by force." (p. 103.)
3. The Pædobaptists are a part of the true church; or “whole body of believers,” (pp. 116, 117,) to which faith constitutes “the only means of union,” (p. 1183) go that Pædobaptist societies, if consisting of believers, are true churches, (pp. 118, 119,) and that to repel the members of such a society from communion is the very essence of schism — of causeless, unnecessary separation. (p. 120.) That in this case, “the necessity of preserving the unity of worship, or of avoiding an active co-operation in what we deem sinful or erroneous, (the only justifiable ground of separation,) has no place." (p. 121.) Separation is not, as in the case of those who have left the churches of Rome and England, “ rendered unavoidable by the highest necessity--that of declining to concur in practices at which conscience revolts.” (p. 122.) The strict Baptists not being engaged in preserving their own liberty, but in an attack upon the liberty of others, (p. 122) Mr. H. asks for “a passage from the code of instruction, where unbaptized Christians are forbidden to participate." (p. 127.)
4. That exclusion from the Lord's Table of a professor of Christian. ity can be justified only on the ground of his supposed criminality, of his embracing heretical sentiments, or living a vicious life, (p. 131;) of his errors being fatal. (p. 140.)
5. That the practice of strict communion cannot be reduced to any general principle, that strict Baptists “ 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,” (p. 150 ;) but instead of extending it “to every variety of judgment, not incompatible with salvation,” they do not extend it to error on Baptism. For this course they have but "precarious inferences and general reasoning.” (pp. 150, 151.) Mr. Booth's statement, that those only are entitled to communion at Christ's Table "who obey the laws of his house," does not apply to a conscientious Pædobaptist, because he is not less than a Baptist, distinguished by a spirit of submission and obedience, to every known part of Christ's will,” (p. 154;) " that every true Christian has obedience ;' that the basis of forbearance towards good men is that they are such as “ do not contradict the Gospel testimony." (p. 159.)
6. “That strict communion is impolitic.” (p. 168)
Mr. Hall's advocacy of Free Communion was replied to by Mr. JOSEPH KINGHORNE, of Norwich, and was entitled “ BAPTISM, A TERM OF COMMUNION AT THE LORD'S TABLE." Mr. Kinghorne observes, “The principles of his (Mr. Hall's) reasoning : I have endeavoured to mark their tendency, and have given such replies as appear to be deserving of attention.” (p. 23.) He adds, that he has " adopted rather a different mode of defence to Mr. Booth.” (p. 68.)
The following are the several propositions on which Mr. Kinghorne founds his arguments in reply to Mr. Hall:The point in debate is stated to be—whether persons who are ac
knowledged to be unbaptized ought to come to the Lord's Table ? What are the terms of Christian profession and of communion
pointed out in the New Testament? Pleas from difference of opinion, brotherly love, and Christian for
bearance examined. PÆDOBAPTISTS are said to be part of the true church, and their
exclusion a punishment; but strict Baptists do not allow that the plan of gathering a church composed of persons unbaptized is the
scriptural plan. The plea that Pædobaptists think themselves baptized. The responsibility attaching to the admission of unbaptized persons
to church communion. On the expediency and policy of mixed communion. MIXED communion as it affects the ground of dissent from the
establishment. The arguments from John's Baptism considered. MIXED communion not known in apostolical times, nor sanctioned by
modern Pædobaptist writers. OBJECTIONS answered, and miscellaneous observations.
To give the reader a better understanding of Mr. Kinghorne's views upon some of the more important points maintained by him, a more lengthened notice is given of the three following propositions :
I. THE RESPONSIBILITY ATTACHING TO THE ADMISSION OF UNBAPTIZED PERSONS TO CHRISTIAN COMMUNION.
FIRST: Have we any right to dispense with a clear command of Christ? (p. 90) have we a right to infringe a part of the statute, as Charles I. and James I. claimed to have ? If“ one of the few general laws which Christ appointed may be past by, because, in the varieties of opinion, some men reason wrongly concerning it, and plead for setting it aside, what an imputation is cast on his authority, wisdom, and knowledge of the future.” (p. 91.)
SECONDLY: Is it as safe to deviate from, as to adhere to, the “ universal practice of the apostolic church? (p. 92) for it is granted by our opponents that there was no mixed communion in it.” (p. 92.)