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Mr Beckwith's Dissuasive.
peared, been promptly met, we should have been saved the pain of now recurring to the subject.
Next comes an announcement in this same "notice," of the design of the author. He “at length consented—not indeed to dispute, but barely to dissuade his own people, whatever others might do, from agitating such a subject of controversy." It is his wish, therefore, that his present labor should be regarded simply as a dissuasive from controversy. Now admitting this to be his real purpose, we cannot help inquiring why he and his brethren, who are so strenuous advocates for controversy on every other topic of faith or religious practice, and who do not hesitate to avow and de. fend their opinions of its importance and necessity-why, on this subject alone, they manifest such a dread? Our justification for speaking of the sentiments and feelings of Pedobaptists generally, as identified with Mr Beckwith, is found in the fact that their principal periodicals have bestowed on this sermon their high and unqualified commendation. A second edition, we are told, has been called for, and it is circulated with great zeal and perseverance, not only by the author, but by his fathers in the ministry. Even more than this: Some of the less discreet friends of sprinkling have represented this sermon as an unanswerable argument against immersion, forgetting in the servor of the moment, the palpable absurdity of finding unanswerable arguments in a dissuasive appeal against all arguments.* But letting this pass for the present, we renew the inquiry, with some interest and earnestness, Why exclude one of the two ordinances which Christ has enjoined upon his disciples from the field of legitimate investigation? Is it becoming in us to say that this is an external thing—a mere outward ordinance-or, as Mr Beckwith tells us a score of times over, the mere form of a ceremony, and therefore we may alter it to suit our convenience, or dispense with whatever our refinement objects to ? Are we, then, so much wiser and better than the Lawgiver and Head of the church? Is it a small thing to break one of the least of his commandments, and teach men the perversion ? Does it reflect honor on Him who came to teach the way of God in truth, and to make our duty plain, and whose manner of teaching was such that the common people heard him gladly? Is it at all indicative of any known characteristic of his instructions that, either by design, inadvertency, or incapacity, he should leave us in doubt and indecision what to do, when his word enjoins on us, Be baptized every one of you? It will be borne in mind by every candid inquirer after truth, that baptism is an external, visible act; capable, of course, of simple and intelligible definition ; less liable, by far, to misconception, than those terms which describe the different states of mind, or the affections of the heart. We solemnly beseech those whose business it is to explain and enforce
* Since the above was written, we have seen the second edition. The explanatory notice is somewhat abridged, without any retraction, or the losing of its characteristic features. One of the titles mentioned at the head of this article is discreetly omitted ; and the other, namely, a Dissuasive from Controversy respecting the Mode of Baptisın, is retained.
the commands of God to remember, that, when they enjoin on their hearers the duties which Peter, on the memorable day of Pentecost, pressed on those who were pricked in heart, namely, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you,” and then go on to tell their listening audience that it is doubtful, and quite unnecessary to know precisely what is specified in the last of these duties we beseech thein to remember that those who hear them will, with confidence and with more abundant reason, extend the same latitude and doubtfulness of explanation to the first and to every other requirement of the Bible. The word describing this ordinance through the whole New Testament, by all the different apostles and evangelists, is one and the same; and we are not aware that all the efforts made, and all the violence done to this unoffending term, have ever shown that its ritual use * differs from the primary, the leading idea conveyed by it in the best writers, sacred and profane, or that it necessarily has, when applied to this ordinance, a meaning or an example that is not definite and uniform. But the present usages are widely variant,-so inconsistent with one another, that quite sure are we, if there were no motive for concluding differently, these varieties would be thought quite inconsistent with the meaning of one definite term. And the question we are now canvassing is, whether we shall endeavor, by fair and temperate discussion, to settle and render uniform, what this part of Christian obedience requires. May we be permitted to urge our objections to some practices which, our opponents themselves being judges, have no certain precept or plain example in God's word to sustain them? May we bring to their notice the discordant confessions and practices of their own brethren and themselves? And more than all, may we hold up to them again and again, the motto of the reformation—the Bible, the Bible is the only law of Protestants. If it is lawful for us to do this at any time, most certainly there can be no good reason for its neglect at the very time when decision and action are rendered necessary; when those who have gladly received the word, and who desire to be added to the church, inquire how they shall put on the Lord Jesus Christ. An investigation made at such a time, when the heart is warmed with love to Jesus, and the sacred records of the founding of his church stand out with a prominency that no sophistical reasoning can hide, is likely to terminate in a desire to be immersed. And it is the probability of such a result that has produced among our Pedobaptist brethren a dislike to the introducing of any considerations involving this ordinance, in the time of a revival. Whoever heard that Baptists were averse to the candid consideration of this question, in a time of revival, or that they urged forward those who were doubting and uninformed on this subject, with the convenient argument, It is perfectly indifferent, a mere nonessential; or, finally, who ever heard of the introduction and the discussion of this subject at such a time, without its producing conviction in some, and generally in many minds that
* See Dr Woods.
sprinkling is an unauthorized tradition of men ? Are we, therefore, the enemies of revivals ? Let the scores of thousands the last year added to our churches, as the fruit of revivals, through the infinite and altogether unmerited benignity of Him, whom we call Master and Lord-- while in what we do, we strive not to deny him-let these answer for us, and rebuke the inconsiderate calumnies and innuendoes which have been uttered for our disparagement.
The very last of all, it seems to us, should the orthodox Congregationalists of New England be found to oppose the discussion of this subject. They have shown no unwillingness for religious controversy on other subjects; and are this moment seen mailed in perfect panoply-their swords girded on and their lances poized. They have claimed that the genuine spirit of the pilgrims and early reformers is embodied and identified with them. And when were they ever found to dread or shrink from controversy? Our own defence could not more eloquently be set forth, than it is in the introduction to their first volume of the Spirit of the Pilgrims; nor the course we feel bound to pursue, more pointedly illustrated, than in a review in a late number of the same work.
A more unpleasant duty devolves on us, in pointing out the spirit of this Sermon, and showing the inconsistency of its title, and its professions of peace and neutrality with the real character of the whole production. No Pedobaptist claiming any standing among critics of the present day, and tolerably informed of the present state of this controversy, can be ignorant that the only point in debate is whether immersion, to the entire exclusion of sprinkling, be the scriptural baptism. Mr Beckwith ought therefore to have been perfectly aware that while in his own estimation all modes are proper, (and he therefore in speaking about immersion, calls it only a mode of baptism, and contends against it as a mode only,) with us immersion is not a mode, but the thing. Immersion is the action signified by the word baptism, which is untranslated Greek, transferred into our language, with the omission of one letter at the end. While now he dissuades from controversy only by attempting to invalidate our claims in reference to baptism, and set up something or any thing else in its stead; he is in fact carrying on the controversy in the only possible way that remains for him. He may have, and rather than be forced to a less charitable conclusion, we will trust he has deceived himself, and thought he was dissuading from controversy. But really it is almost unaccountable how he could have thought so, when writing and underscoring, for special emphasis, his five reasons for preferring sprinkling. And when in doing this he has seen fit to charge upon our practice, by indirect insinuation, some of those evils which in a former generation indeed, were often borne as a reproach by our brethren, along with the imprisonments, and the cruel scourgings and banishments which they then suffered ; when he was setting in array these reasons, and not obscurely throwing out these insinuations, we really wonder how he could convince himself,
that he was only aiming to dissuade his people from agitating such a subject of controversy.
So also, when he wrote the note, pp. 14, 15, on close communion; and suggested certain hints for those whose minds are yet unsettled on the subject, it is very strange that he did not perceive himself stirring up controversy. One of these hints, number V. deserves to be remembered. His direction to this unconvinced mind, which is to help to a right conclusion, is, “ Inquire how your best feelings would lead you to act.” And then with an air of triumph, combining his usual arguments, emphasis and interrogation, he asks, “ Does God require any thing contrary to your best feelings?" Really we had supposed that our feelings and our duty were to be tested and governed by the word of God, and not our interpretation of this by our feelings. We can easily imagine, if a poor illiterate Baptist, in the simplicity of his heart, and the warmth and fervor of his affections, had appealed to his best feel. ings as his criterion of duty on any disputed point, what an outcry would have been raised against him, as a wild enthusiast, or a dangerous fanatic. But times and men have changed. We have somewhere read, in an old book, which Mr Beckwith seems very rarely to have consulted in the composition of this sermon, that "he who trusteth in his own heart is a fool.” Certainly God has given us a better standard, to which we shall do well if we take heed.
We have been able here to notice but a specimen of the proof which is abundantly furnished of the real controversial character of this pamphlet. Several passages which we had marked, and had intended to exhibit in their true belligerent attitude, our limits must exclude.
The sermon is characterized by a certain boldness of assertion and self complacency, that seem to us not a little out of place. Take as a specimen, from the 18th [20th] page, “ Christ bade his ministers, baptize all nations, but did he tell them to sprinkle, affuse, or immerse all nations?" If any question can be settled by the abundant concession of opponents-by the concurrent opinion of the most reputable critics, and by the voice of history—then is the question settled that the ritual use of baptize in the New Testament, is immersion. A similar specimen occurs in a note on page 15,. “Was baptism designed to represent the burial of Christ ? Does the Bible tell you so ?” We would most seriously refer our flippant interrogator to the Bible, and to Him of whom it is said, The meek will He guide in judgment.
That Mr Beckwith's opinions and arguings should be subjected to a careful examination before they are admitted, might be conjectured from the numerous naked assertions and astounding interrogations in which he indulges. This conjecture assumes the form of certainty, after examining the paragraph in which he treats of the meaning of baptize in the original. In that paragraph occurs the following sentence: • Various utensils of the temple were baptized (sprinkled) with the blood of a small bird.' p. 18, 21. In confirmation of this statement he refers to Leviticus xiv. 6, 51. Will our readers believe us when we state, that the blood of the slain bird was not applied to the utensils of the temple ? Let them
examine for themselves, and they will see that the chapter relates to the cleansing of men and of houses that had been infected with leprosy; and that the dipping, or baptizing, in this case, had reference to a bird, and to the hyssop, the scarlet, and the cedar wood. This dipping, too, as appears by the 5th, 50th, and 5lst verses, was not simply into the blood of a small bird, but into a quantity of water which had been tinged with the blood of the slain bird. The bloody fluid, taken up by the hyssop, was to be sprinkled on the leprous man; and the house infected with leprosy was to be sprinkled in like manner.
Our painful task is completed. It surely affords us no pleasure thus to expose misrepresentations of facts. If it be painful to discern new evidences of the frailty, even of good men, and to be suffering in the estimation of those who place confidence in their erroneous declarations, we cannot but reflect how much more painful it must be, in moments when there is some tenderness of conscience, to have originated and to have circulated those misrepresentations. We would rather suffer wrong than do wrong.
With the reasonings exhibited in this sermon, we are not at all solicitous to interfere. Whatever in it has the least appearance of argument has already, on other occasions, been met and answered.
The Imitation of Christ, in three Books; by Thomas à Kempis.
Rendered into English from the original Latin, by John PAYNE. With an Introductory Essay, by Dr CHALMERS. A new Edition, edited by Howard Malcom, Pastor of the Federal Street Baptist Church, Boston. Lincoln & Edmands, pp. 228.
Thomas à Kempis’ Imitation of Christ is a work that needs no commendation from us. Its influence in promoting a Christian temper has been great ; and it will be greater still. It is Christian truth that our perfect pattern and Lord employs in sanctifying the souls of men. And the more free a work is from error, the more efficacious, (other things being equal,) may we hope it will be. The truth—ihe truth as it is in Jesus—whether exhibited by Roman Catholics and other Pedobaptists, or by those who entirely reject water baptism, or by us, with all our imperfections, is precious; and God mercifully blesses it. If he did not, all must perish. But surely in blessing the truth, he does not approve the errors that have often been mingled with it by different denominations of Christians. He is still the same as he was described by the Psalmist : Thou answeredst them, O Lord, our God; thou wast a God that forgaveest them, though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions.t
We rejoice, therefore, in the appearance of the present improved edition. The editor has performed an important service; a brief account of which he thus gives in his preface.
Ps. xcix. 8.