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baptism. It will be our aim to show that such misapprehensions, while subsisting with soundness of doctrinal belief and manifestations of the Christian life, are not justifiable reasons for withholding sacramental communion. What Dr. Hovey says touching faith as a prerequisite has no relevancy to the question in debate.
This point covers all we design to substantiate. It is not our object to disprove the distinctive sentiments of the Baptists, nor to vindicate our own; nor is it to persuade either party to surrender their peculiar ecclesiastical organizations; but, while defending each his own doctrinal views and ritual observances, to extend to the other sacramental fellowship. We do not propose to advocate so much mixed communion as free comrnunion.
From the above discussion it is manifest that our principle has, logically, no disorganizing tendencies in respect to the formation, the discipline, or government of the churches. It most decidedly maintains the importance of visibly covenanting with God and with bis people, and of making some public profession of faith, satisfying the Christian judgment of the brotherhood. It only denies, with the exceptions on grounds alluded to above, that the precise form of making the profession, provided it be done in a prayerful and conscientious manner, is a justifiable occasion for refusing church fellowship.
This ground-principle of church fellowship is no innovation. It has been generally admitted by Protestants, especially by the Puritans, in all ages since their organization as sects. We will record the testimony of a few leading minds.
The language of the Bohemic Confession is this : “As to the differences which may obtain among the churches in external rites or ceremonies, we think it of no importance, for these greatly vary among Christians, according to variety of place and nation. Ceremonies change; but faith, Christ, the word, change not.” The Belgic Confession confession approved by the continental divines at the Synod
of Dort, waving all minor differences, contends for the church's unity, on the ground of the common faith of Christians, and insists that it is the duty of every one who loves the Lord Jesus to hold communion with her,“ through the medium of any one of her branches to which he may have access in any part of the world.” The Helvetic Confession : " It is to be observed that we diligently teach in what the truth and unity of the church principally consist, that we may not rashly excite and cherish schisms in the church. It consists not in ceremonies and external rites, but rather in the truth and unity of the catholic faith.” Melanchthon writes : “ Since we agree in the principal articles of Christian doctrine, let us embrace each other with mutual love. Nor ought dissimilitude and variety of rites and ceremonies to sever our affections.” Even John Calvin, that stern man, whose life was thought, and who gazed on the immutable principles which proceed from the heart of Jehovah and support bis moral dominions with a steady and unblinking eye; and who is generally regarded as the inflexible advocate of doctrinal consistency and of rigid discipline, with scarcely a vein of Christian kindliness in his nature, maintained substantially the same free sentiments respecting communion. “Our assertion that the pure ministry of the word and the pure celebration of the sacraments [immersion, we know, did not enter into his idea of the pure celebration of baptism) is a sufficient pledge and earnest of our safety in embracing, as a church, the society in which they shall both be found, goes so far as this, that she is never to be renounced so long as she shall persevere in them, although in other respects she may abound in faults. Even in the administration of doctrine or sacraments some defect may possibly creep in, which yet ought not to alienate us from her communion.” " Since no man is perfectly free from the clouds of ignorance, we either shall leave no church at all, or we must forgive mistakes in those things where ignorance may prevail without violating the substance of religion, or hazarding the loss of salvation." The Westminster Confession: “All saints that
are united to Jesus Christ their head, by his Spirit and by faith, have fellowship with him in his graces, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory. Saints by profession are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, which communion, as God offereth opportunity, is to be extended unto all those who, in every place, call upon the name of the Lord Jesus.” The Cambridge Platform : “ The weakest measure of faith is to be accepted in those that desire to be admitted into the church, because weak Christians, if sincere, have the substance of that faith, repentance, and holiness which is required in church members. Such charity and tenderness is to be used, as the weakest Christian, if sincere, may not be excluded nor discouraged.” Cotton Mather : “ The churches of New Eng. land make only vital piety the terms of communion among them.” John Howe : " I will adventure to offer these things to serious consideration. 1. Whether for any party of Christians to make unto itself other limits of communion than Christ hath made, and hedge up itself within those limits, excluding those whom Christ would admit, and admitting those whom he would exclude, be not in itself a real sin?I would ask: Whose is this table? Is it the table of this or that man, or party of men, or is it the Lord's table? Then, certainly, it ought to be free to his guests, and appropriate to them. And who would dare to invite others, or forbid these? 2. If it be a sin, is it not a heinous one? This will best be understood by considering what his limits are. Nothing seems plainer than that it was his mind Christianity itself should measure the communion of Christians as such."
Stillingsleet: “ What charter hath Christ given the church to bind men up to, more than himself hath done, or to exclude those frorn her society who may be admitted into heaven ? Will Christ ever thank men, at the great day, for keeping such out from communion with his church whom he will vouchsafe crowns of glory to ?” Jonathan Edwards, that profound theologian and earnest advocate of doctrinal soundness and church discipline, drew up the
following form of a public profession which he stood ready to accept from candidates for church communion : " I hope I truly find in my heart a willingness to comply with all the commandments of God, which require me to give up myself wholly to him, and to serve him with my body and my spirit. And do accordingly now promise to walk in a way of obedience to all the commandments of God, as long as I live.” He also affirms that his opposers at Northampton, and Rev. Mr. Clark of Salem, with whom they corresponded, substantially agreed with himn in maintaining "that it is visible saintship, or, in other words, a credible profession of faith and repentance, a solemn consent to the gospel covenant, joined with a good conversation and competent measure of Christian knowledge, is what gives a gospel right to all sacred ordinances."
Dr. Dwight drew up a form of confession for the church in Yale College, which“ only exacted of its communicants an assent to such articles as lie at the foundation of Christian experience.” Dr. Samuel Worcester drafted a confession of faith and covenant for the church in Fitchburg, in 1793, of which he says: “ It was intended, indeed, that the new form should be used in the future admission of members. Still it was not considered as an absolutely indispensable term of admission that the candidates should consent to every article in the doctrine of faith. For it was never designed to exclude any from our communion who appear to be the real subjects of experimental religion.” On the authority of Dr. Duffield, “ The Presbyterian church, while in the ordination of its ministry it pledges them to its confession of faith," as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy scriptures, " has never prescribed any doctrinal test or form to be applied and used in the admission of members into its communion."
Such is our fundamental principle, demanding alike order and freedom; such are its able and numerous vouchers. We will now proceed to show its application to the controversy
We shall divide our argument into three general divisions: I. The Nature and Genius of Christianity ; II. The Specific Principles and Canons of Scripture prescribing and regulating Church Fellowship; III. The Indispensable Precedence of Baptism to the Lord's Supper incapable of Proof; The Nature of John's Baptism; 'The Argument from History, etc.
Part I. - THE ARGUMENT DRAWN FROM THE NATURE AND
GENIUS of ChristiaNITY. The genius of the gospel is breathed forth in the song of the angels : “ Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good will to men.” It is the utterance of love, mercy, free forgiveness to enemies reconciled through the great Mediator. This furnishes the key with which we penetrate the heart of gospel ordinances, unfold their deepest import, and show their harmony.
I. From the spirituality of the gospel dispensation in distinction from a dispensation of rites and ceremonies as media of religious service and worship. This distinction is well expressed by Dr. Hovey: “ Surely it will be admitted that the Mosaic economy differed greatly from the Christian. The former had a national organization, a national temple, a national atonement; the latter has none of these. The former bad an extensive and burdensome ritual, sacrifices, oblations, purifications, to be made by those who served unto the shadow of heavenly things; the latter has almost no ritual at all. No ordinance of the earlier economy is preserved without change in the later. No rule as to meats and drinks, divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed until the time of reformation, is taken up by the new economy and laid on the necks of believers for all time. The handwriting of ordinances that was against us has been blotted out. Jesus said to the woman of Samaria:The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Fa. iher in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a spirit; and they that worship him, must worship bim in spirit and in truth.?”