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reason : we are bound to receive none to our charity and fellowship, but such as appear to be Christians: and the opinions and conduct of some may be so perfectly at variance with the truths and precepts of the gospel, as to forbid the idea of their being Christians. In that case they are not entitled to communion.
Those differences among Christians which are to be borne with, respect merely such things as are not essential-i. e. such as may be differently viewed without destroying the Christian character, and excluding the hope of salvation.
And here, I say, the right of private judgement is secured, and is very
sacred. And the responsibility rests on each one personally. So that even if others should prove to bave been in an errour, our receiving them to Christian fellowship, upon the principle stated, will not implicate us. They, alone, are answerable.
Should it be further said in support of the practice of close communion, that we are commanded to “ withdraw from every brother that walketh disorderly," I would reply, that “withdrawing,” in this passage, manifestly means the same as excommunication--the same kind of treatment which is denoted by the following expressions : “Let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican;" “note that man and have no company with him that he may be ashamed ;” and “ with such an one, no, not to eat." And, therefore, the disorderly walking intended cannot be the minor errors and faults of Christian professors; but those which are gross, and which, if persisted in, destroy the Christian character. If we were to withdraw from others for every thing defective in their principles, or practice, there would be an end to Christian communion in this world: 6 for there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not.” Why should the Baptists withdraw from the Pedobaptists, because they have not, in their opinion, been regularly baptized, when, allowing that they are right in this opinion, they have other defects themselves, as great as this? Let it not be said that the passage alluded to relates particularly to church order, and not to sins and errours in general. For it cannot be reasonably supposed that a breach of church order is a worse evil than any other, and, consequently, to be treated with marked disapprobation. It is, manifestly, as disorderly, in the sense of this passage, to break the Sabbath; to be world. lyminded, un charitable and selfish, and to exclude those whom Christ receives, as it is to fail of practising the right mode of baptism, or to administer this ordinance to improper subjects. Why, then, should the command to withdraw be restricted to
a breach of church order. There is, obviously, po reason for this restriction. The rule will apply equally to all kinds of unchristian conduct; but will not oblige the churches to excommunicate their brethren for slight errours and misdemeanors ; but for those, only, which are gross, and which strike at the very foundation of the Christian character; although they should edmonish one another daily for their lesser fáilings.
Containing the argument for Open Communion, based upon the
consideration that although baptism was manifestly intended to precede, in the order of nature, the commemoration of Christ's death in the ordinance of the supper; it does not appear that we have a warrant to insist upon it as an indispensable prerequisite in all cases.
SHOULD the two last mentioned grounds of open communion fail in the opinion of any, this, for aught appears, might be taken as the last resort. None, however, will understand me as giving up either of those grounds, or as considering them, in any wise, suspicious; for they appear to be sound and good : but all may not regard them in that light. If, therefore, there be any remaining ground for open communion which those may take who cannot adopt either of the others, it is important that it should be fairly exhibited. For the sake, therefore, of relieving this class, it is stated, that it does not appear that we are warranted to insist on baptism, in all cases, as an indispensable prerequisite to communion. It is, indeed, plainly commanded. It is, moreover, a badge of discipleship, and a regular door of entrance into the visible church; and, consequently, it is, in the order of nature, prior to communion. Nevertheless, it does not appear that it is, in all cases, of such absolute and indispensable necessity, that none may be admitted to communion except such as are considered regularly baptized.
The ground now stated, is the one which some who conceive immersion to be the only valid baptism, do actually take : and although open communion may be maintained upon other and better grounds, as I have already shown, this is inexpressibly better than close communion. The principle of open communion with all evangelical Christians is so evidently agreeable to the general structure, spirit and design of the gospel, that it must have some valid reason, or reasons, to support it, whether we are able to discover them or not. And, if we should fail to assign the true and proper reason, or reasons, it surely cannot be wrong to receive those whom Christ receives himself; for the apostolick rule, before mentioned, binds us to receive one another, as Christ also received us, to the glory of God. This, at once, settles the priociple of open communion, as above ex. plained.
Hence, those brethren who regard immersion as the only valid baptism, may receive to their communion, uuder certain circumstances, such as they consider unbaptized Christians.
There is manifestly a wide difference between the cases of those who believe immersion to be the only valid baptism, and yet apply for communion without it, and of those who do not believe this mode essential, but have submitted to the ordinance in another form, and verily believe themselves duly baptized. To admit the former to communion without baptism, would be tolerating them in the neglect of a known and acknowledged duty, which would be inconsistent; but in the latter case, the neglect is not wilful, allowiug these persons to be in an errour : for they do rerily believe that they have complied with the order of Christ. Therefore, such may be received to the Lord's table by those who cannot regard them as regularly baptized. They ought not to insist that they should be immersed, or otherwise be debarred from Christiau communion. If they are judged to be fit subjects in every other respect than their not having been immersed, and they are willing and desirous to obey the Lord in the ordinance of the supper, although they feel not their obligation to be plunged in water, they ought to be received. The right of admission is one which they enjoy as the children of God and heirs of the kingdom.
Let it not be said, here, that no uncircumcised person was permitted to eat of the passover; and therefore no- unbaptized person should be permitted, under any circumstances, to eat of the Lord's supper, for the institutions are different; therefore the rule in the former case, will not apply in the latter. And this argument ought never to be plead, especially by those who regard the Lord's supper as, in no measure, a substitute for the passover. The institutions are not only different, but both positive; and, hence, each rests on its own basis. We cannot rightly argue from the one to the other, any more than in the case of circumcision and baptism.
And when we come to consider the institution of baptism, by itself, where do we find it asserted that no unbaptized person, under any circumstances, shall eat of the Lord's Supper? I have not found any such prohibition.
I have, indeed, found that the kingdom of Christ consists of a select company of disciples, and that these were directed to be initiated by baptism; but I have not found that no one may be permitted to obey Christ's order to attend upon the supper in remembrance of him, who is considered as not having submitted regularly to baptism. Although he be viewed as not
having come into the visible church by the appointed door, but as having, through misconception, entered some other way, shall he, for this, be refused the children's bread, when all perceive him to be one of their number, and that Christ has received him? In a judgement of charity, he has entered the invisible church, through the appointed door, which is not baptism, but Christ himself. He has believed on him for justification, and been born of the Spirit, which is inconceivably more important than to be born of water. Shall he, therefore, be refused the bread of his God and Saviour, and turned out of doors, because he is considered as not having entered the visible church by the appointed medium, or by submitting to be immersed? This would seem to be making a greater account of the outward baptism than of regeneration itself.
And the rejection of the brother from communion in this case is the more inconsistent, because he verily believes himself to be baptized, and to have come into the church in the way appointed.
We can hardly suppose a case in which a person would deem it his duty, if properly instructed, to come to the Lord's table, without submitting to baptism in some form. There are indeed a few cases, it is said, in the Methodist denomination, of persons being admitted to the communion without any baptism whatever. But this, one would think, must be owing to the want of a due consideration of the subject.
It is possible, however, for a person to conceive it his duty to celebrate the Lord's supper, and yet, after being instructed, have no conviction of the duty of baptism. Should such a case happen, it would be more consistent with the general principles of the gospel to receive him, than to reject him. But what might be admissible in such an extreme case, could not be reasonably plead as a rule in common cases.
The cases which ordinarily occur are those of persons who have received what they call Christian baptism; but it not be.. ing by immersion, the brethren now alluded to cannot consider it valid. Nevertheless I say, they may and ought to receive them to communion. Both baptism and the Lord's supper are commands binding on all the children of God. It is, therefore, unreasonable to debar a particular class of them from the latter, because they appear to have misapprehended their duty respecting the former.
It is, indeed, said, John, iii. 5, that “except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God," in which passage, reference appears to be had both to baptism and regeneration. But it cannot be the meaning that no