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therefore was minutely and most explicitly prescribed, even to the putting of the blood upon the tip of the ear, and to the least pin and fringe of the tabernacle. Moses was commanded to “ make all things according to the pattern” shown him in the mount. (Heb. 8. 5, with Exod. 25. 9, 40.). The new dispensation is distinguished with greater light. If, therefore, the validity of any of its ordinances depended on their precise form, that forın would have been as clearly defined at least as the forms of that darker dispensation. But,
4. There seems not to be a single form under the new dispensation so precisely defined, but that different denominations may and do practise differently without transgression. There is a great variety in the manner of their keeping the supper, administering baptism, performing prayer, and conducting all the forms of public worship. Unless therefore we condemn the whole, or nearly the whole church, we must admit that the validity of no ordinance under the gospel depends on its precise form. And this might be expected from a dispensation known to be spiritual, and not a dispensation of ceremonies ; that is to say, a dispensation under which spiritual things are exposed in their own naked nature, not set forth chiefly by pictures, on the exactness of which the whole exhibition depends.
In regard to baptism, none will pretend that the form is expressly prescribed, like the forms under the old dispensation. The disputants about the mode rely, on both sides, on the history and incidental remarks found in the New Testament. But laying aside the baptism of John, which, we hold, did not belong to the New Testament dispensation, (for a testament is not of force till after the death of the testator ; Heb. 9. 15, 16.) and the baptism of Christ, which was received from John, and which, we hold, was only his ordination to the priestly office; laying these aside, and confining the attention to that baptism which was instituted after the death and resurrection of the “ Testator," and was administered in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and the mode is left so uncertain that the most honest minds may be supposed to differ about it. If two perfectly holy men had been brought up in the centre of the earth, and on arriving at the surface should have a Bible put into their hands, and be requested to tell how the apostles baptized; and one should happen to fall upon the case of the Eunuch, and the other upon the scene at Pentecost, (where 3,000 seem to have been baptized by eleven men in a single afternoon, on the top of a high hill, in the centre of a populous city, and far from any river or brook deep enough for immersion ;) there would be an equal chance that they would bring in different reports. Could things be left so uncertain if the validity of the ordinance, and the very existence of a visible church, depended on the precise form of baptism?
(5.) If nothing but immersion is baptism, there is no visible church except among the Baptists. Bui certainly God has owned other associations of Christians as churches. He has poured his Spirit upon them in their assemblies, and what is more decisive,
at the table of the Lord; and has communed with them and built them up by imeans of that ordinance which, were they not churches, it would be profanity to approach.
What is a church? It is a company of believers, in covenant with God, essentially organized according to the gospel, holding the essential doctrines, and practising the essential duties. If you demand more, you may not find a church on earth.
Now here are associations of true believers, (our Baptist brethren will allow this,) who have entered into covenant with God, and sincerely observe all his ordinances as they understand them, and differ in nothing from the Baptist construction but in a mere form, and maintain all the essential doctrines, and spread around them the savour of the Redeemer's name by their holy examples and evangelical efforts, and are owned of God by the effusions of his Spirit, and are among the chosen instruments—are a great majority of the chosen instruments,-to carry the gospel to the heathen. And after all, are they to be disowned as churches of Christ?
(6.) If our Christian associations are not churches, our preachers are not church members,—are not baptized, -and therefore have no right to preach, and certainly are not ministers of Christ; (for how can one be an officer of the church who is not a member ?) and therefore have no right to administer the Lord's supper, (to say nothing of baptism,) and are guilty of awful profanity in doing this. And yet these profane intruders into holy things, instead of being driven from the earth like Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, are owned of God, are made the chosen instruments of promoting revivals of religion, of saving the souls of men, of spreading the gospel at home, of sending it to the heathen, and of doing more than half that is done to extend the kingdom of Christ on earth.
And they are owned as lawful preachers even by the Baptists themselves, who come to hear them, and whose ministers exchange pulpits with them.
(7.) The spirit of love and union which Christ inculcated upon his disciples. and by which the world was to know that God had sent him, binds evangelical churches with each other. This spirit has made a wonderful advance within the last thirty years, and is one of the leading characteristics of the present day, and has come in with those other glorious changes which all Christians ascribe to God, and which are manifestly putting things forward towards the millennial state. And this spirit, according to all prophecy, must go on in increasing, and banish the hideous spectre of bigotry from the world, before the happiest period of the church can be ushered in.
A noble advance has been made by our Baptist brethren in England. Many advocates for open communion have there risen up, among whom stands conspicuous the celebrated Robert Hall. In America, at the head of the liberal class stood the late excellent Dr Stillman of Boston, who was beloved by all the churches in that city, and respected by Christians throughout the United States.
(8.) Bigotry, which is a prejudiced zeal for party distinctions, is a party spirit in religion; and a party spirit, whether in religion or politics, is a selfish spirit. It is a setting up of mine against thine. Selfishness will certainly array itself against my argument. It is always giving undue importance to those points in which our denomination differs from others, not only because it is ours, but in order to shut our adherents in by a sort of impassable gulph. All the depravity of religious men, unless much enlightened, tends this way. Good men ought therefore to be always on their guard against this gravitation of their corrupt nature, and always struggling after that generous spirit of disinterested love which will embrace all that belong to Christ.
You are at liberty, according to your request, to publish this for the use of your friends.
With sincere wishes for your happiness and for the prosperity of your churches,
I am, dear Sir, your friend and brother.
EDWARD D. GRIFFIN.
We are glad that Dr Griffin does not lend the weight of his authority to those who maintain the untenable position that baptism is a matter of little importance. His well known decision, and independence, and confidence in vindicating what he deems to be the truth, would prepare us to expect from him something definite and tangible.
This letter traces the controversy respecting the Lord's supper to the right source; namely, error respecting baptism. Baptism it expressly maintains to be “the initiating ordinance which introduces us into the visible church;” it also asserts “ that we ought not to commune with those who are not baptized, even if we regard them as Christians.”
From this “relationship established between the two ordinances,” it might be anticipated that the principal effort of Dr Griffin, in order to maintain the propriety of open communion, would be to show that immersion is not essential to the performance of baptism ; in other words, that something else besides immersion is valid baptism. Here the author of the letter and the Baptists are at issue. As this is the hinge on which the controversy túrns, we trust an examination of this point will not be deemed out of place.
In our subsequent remarks, we shall proceed upon the principles avowed by Dr Griffin respecting the importance of baptism, and its connexion with the due observance of the Lord's supper. Yet we shall not consider ourselves responsible for the sweeping conclusion, that “where there is no baptism there are no visible churches." As, however, Dr Griffin has given his explicit sanction to the propriety of this conclusion, we hope that hereafter, though it has sometimes been exhibited as an appalling result of the Baptists' peculiar sentiments, it will not be selected as an instance of unquestionable bigotry. For ourselves, we have never thought it necessary to draw such a conclusion. It has always
appeared to us sufficient to say, that those communities of Christians who have abandoned the primitive practice in respect to baptism, are churches not in a state of order, so far as the positive or. dinances of the gospel are concerned.
Before examining the opinion respecting baptism, on which the chief remarks in this letter are founded, we wish to correct an important error in one of its statements. This we do the more readily, because it is an error very extensively indulge 1, and yet one would think it a very obvious error. It is contained in these words: “ The separating point is not about the subjects of baptism, but merely the mode. If we could be considered as fairly baptized, our Baptist brethren certainly would not exclude us merely because we apply the seal to infants.” Now we ask, how is it possible that at this late day any one should need to be informed, that the separating point regards the subjects of baotism as well as the manner in which the ordinance is to be performed ? It is frequently said, nothing separates Baptists from Pedobaptists but a little water.
The impression produced by this remark on a hearer who has not paid special attention to the matter, is very unfavorable : and it cannot be wondered at, that the frequency of such remarks should have spread far and wide an opinion that members of Baptist churches are most unreasonable in their practice. Be it known, then, that we have as much solicitude respecting the question, To whom may baptism be administered ? as respecting the question, What is baptism? Should we make a distinction in regard to importance between the two questions, we should not hesitate to say that the former question far exceeds in importance the latter. Much as we are pained, that the outward performance of a Christian ordinance should be perverted and displaced, we are far more seriously concerned, that unconscious babes should be considered suitable candidates for an ordinance in a dispensation in which each one is required to act for himself, and in which intelligence and moral goodness are requisite in order to perform its duties and to enjoy its privileges. We know it has been said, that baptism is not the act of the child, but of the parent in reference to the child. But where in the New Testament is the passage in which baptism is represented otherwise than as an act in which the individual baptized did for himself engage? Baptism is viewed by us as a most solemn act of worship; worship, not only in respect to the administrator, but especially and peculiarly in respect to the baptized person himself; a service, not of the parent or guardian of the baptized person, but of the baptized person himself. Indeed we cannot regard that as valid baptism, which is administered without a profession of faith in Christ, made by the candidate himself. To us it would be just as great a perversion for infants and professed unbelievers to partake of the Lord's Supper, as it is for them to be (as it is said) baptized.
Those, then, are in a great mistake, who represent their Baptist brethren as refusing to join with them in the Lord's Supper on no other ground than simply because they have not been immersed. To substitute something else in the room of baptism, is a great and
lamentable error; to admit individuals to a Christian ordinance who know not and who profess not to know what they do, is (to say the least) an equally great and lamentable error. Something more, then, than a little water divides these two denominations. We separate from Pedobaptist Christians because by their using a little water instead of “ mucl water," they have divested baptism of a great part of its meaning; because by applying what they call a Christian ordinance to unbelieving and unknowing persons, they have still further departed from the meaning of baptism, and have lamentably obscured the spirituality of the gospel, and have created an inaginary relation between certain unsanctified persons and God; and because these errors produce sad misconceptions respecting the nature of the church. That must, then, be a very superficial view, which sees only a little water between these two portions of Christians. Let it not be said, baptism is merely an outward ceremony, and our opinions respecting it cannot be so very important. True, the performance of baptism is outward; but in order that baptism be properly and acceptably performed, there must be previously in him who receives it, a great moral change, which will ultimately pervade the whole character, and prepare the person for dwelling in the blessed regions of holiness. Uuimportant as baptism may appear to some, we cannot resist the conviction that the Head of the church wisely appointed it, as also the other ordinance, to be a mark of distinction between the church and the world; and that, outward though the ordinance be, yet correct opinions respecting it are of most salutary tendency in regard to the purity of Christian faith and practice; and that, if the ordinance of baptism had not been perverted from apostolic simplicity, a very large portion of the errors which have most permanently afflicted the church would have been avoided.
We must also correct another erroneous statement, intimately connected with that on which we have just been remarking. Dr Griffin says, “ The only question is, whether baptism by sprinkling is valid baptism.” Here is an entire overlooking of qualifications for receiving baptism, the profession of which in the person baptized is essential to the due administration of the ordinance.
We wonder not that the practice of sprinkling infants, and by this way either introducing ihem into covenant with God, or reminding the parent of his obligations to train up his child for God, or reminding him of the depraved nature of his child, and of its need of regeneration, should have removed from the minds of Pedobaptists a regard for qualifications connected with the reception of baptism. But when they are arguing upon a question which must be settled by a reference to baptism, they ought not to leave out of view what Baptists conceive to be of essential importance in baptism; namely, the profession of personal faith in the Saviour. There are two questions, then, which should be asked :whether sprinkling without a professsion of faith in the Saviour, made by the person sprinkled, is valid baptism; and, whether sprinkling, though accompanied with such a profession, is valid baptism. When a believer receives sprinkling, on the ground of