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The Question in the New School Presbyterian General Assembly, 1854--Reports of Speeches, etc--The Tri-lemma.

IN the year 1854, this question came up for discussion in the New School General Assembly, and was discussed for two days or more. It was a practical question, since the sessions of one or more of their societies had received members upon their Romish baptisms, and one Mr. Riley, who had been so received, had been, for some time, a minister among them, and had baptized not a few infants and adults.

We have used great industry to obtain as full a report of the discussion and speeches as possible, from the most authentic sources, religious and secular.

The following Reports, which appeared at the time in the columns of the New York Observer, the organ of the N. S. Presbyterians, can be relied upon, so far as they go. There were certain sentiments advanced by distinguished doctors of divinity that the editors of the Observer did not wish for their lay readers to see, lest their fears should be alarmed.

For instance, we may suppose that Mr. Riley, in substance, said, when he moved that it was inexpedient for the Assembly to express an opinion on the subject:


Such, we suppose, was substantially the speech of Mr. Riley, from the meager outlines we have been able to gather.

We submit the Reports as published in the New York Observer.


The following corroborating, and in some cases, fuller reports, are from the columns of the New York Daily Times: PRESBYTERIAN GENERAL ASSEMBLY--NEW SCHOOL.


Thus closed the discussion of this vexed question, to be brought up henceforth, not once in a decade of years, but yearly, if the query will be entertained from their societies.

The reader will see that it is one question that Protestants can not answer, and save their ecclesiastical existences. The General Assembly confessed itself in a dilemma, but we should say it was in a tri-lemma. Its dilemma was this:

If it decided that baptisms, at the hands of the priests of Rome, are invalid, then they would destroy their own baptisms, and those of all Protestant sects, because the fathers and founders, and all the first Pedobaptist ministers received their baptisms in the corrupt Church of Rome, and at the hands of her priests.

If they should decide that the baptisms of Romish priests are valid, they would also destroy the validity of their own, as well as these of all Protestants, because the General Assembly would thereby declare the Church of Rome to be a true Church of Christ visible; which if she is. Pedobaptist societies are schismatics, and excommunicated parties, and no Churches, and consequently their ministers are unordained, and unbaptized, and without authority either to preach or to baptize as Gospel ministers. So it is fatal to them, decide it either way.

The Tri-lemma is the middle horn: the confession of the General Assembly of its inability to decide whether its own ministers are baptized, or have authority to baptize, and, consequently, whether their societies are visible Churches of Christ!

We should think, for the General Assembly to rest impaled upon this middle horn, would be as fatal as either of the others.

What! can not Presbyterian ministers, with all their boasted learning, decide among themselves whether they have received Christian baptism? Can they not tell the world, when convened in their great Assembly, whether they be duly ordained and baptized ministers of Christ or not? Can they not tell the world whether their societies are visible Churches of Christ? Did Presbyterian ministers return from their General Assembly, and confess to their people that they were lost in thick darkness, not being able to decide whether they or their members were properly baptized, or members, in reality, of visible Churches? This was their real situation; but we have not heard of one minister making such a confession to his people. Our impression is that all have agreed to keep their people in the dark about the whole matter. We have heard of their denying, stoutly, that such a question was ever mooted, and that the Assembly was unable to answer. We do not believe that one Presbyterian lay member, in one hundred, if one in one thousand, ever heard of it. They are in the profoundest ignorance of the fatal tri-lemma in which they are placed.

Would it not have been the part of conscientious Christian men, when they saw their situation as Protestants, as they did see it in the light of the powerful discussions of that General Assembly, when they returned to their flocks, to have called them together, and frankly confessed the case to them, and told them: "You must excuse us from preaching longer to you as ministers, or baptizing any more, or administering the Supper to you, for we can not see that we have authority to do so, having received only Romish baptisms, and you are not qualified to receive it, not being baptized by other than Romish priests, yourselves, indirectly. You must excuse us from all official duties until this vital question is settled?"

Now, when all these facts shall have been made known to Presbyterians, and to all Pedobaptist sects, what should an intelligent and conscientious membership do, but to wait upon their ministers en masse, and say to them, "Gentlemen, we have learned, through other sources than yourselves, that you have acknowledged yourselves unable to decide whether you are duly baptized and ordained ministers of the Church of Christ, visible; unable to decide that we, your members, are baptized, or members, in fact, of a visible Church. That we have been deceived by you, intentionally, hitherto, we do not charge; but you certainly do not wish to deceive henceforward, our children, and the world, intentionally, for you now see the position you occupy. Suspend your ministerial functions, preach no more as ministers, baptize no more, and introduce no more into our societies as valid Churches, until this question is satisfactorily settled: Whether the baptisms of Romish priests are valid, or whether Pedobaptist ministers can administer more valid baptism than Roman Catholic priests?"

Ought not all the Presbyterian membership in this land to unite in one huge petition--instar montis--of mountainous proportions, and roll it into the presence of the next General Assembly, calling upon it to answer, if they and their children have been baptized, and are really members of Christ's visible Church.

What position should the public take--men of the world who are appealed to to support and attend upon the ministrations of Presbyterian and Pedobaptist ministers and "Churches?" Should they not say: "You must excuse us, if we withhold our usual support and countenance, until this, to us, very important question is, to our minds, satisfactorily answered. If you be only Romish priests in fact, having no better ordinances than they to give to our wives and our children, then we do not wish them to receive ordinances at your hands. When you introduce them into your societies, they honestly suppose they are members of the Church of Christ, which your own General Assembly declares your societies are not, if the Romish Church is not a visible Church of Christ; and, in fact, are much less Churches, if the Romish Church is now, or was, in the days of Luther, a Church of Christ visible! We have no use for the baptisms of Catholic priests, nor for the Roman Catholic Church as a religious body, and wish purer ordinances for our families, whose guardians we are, and must therefore decline yours."

BAPTISTS need not be reminded of their duty in this case. Shall we be so kind as to step in and decide this matter for Presbyterians and Pedobaptists? Shall we, by our acts, say to them, and to the world that is watching us, we regard those men baptized and duly-ordained ministers in true Churches of Christ? Do we believe they have received valid baptism? Do we believe that their societies, originated and set up, not by the God of heaven, built, not by Christ, but by Luther, and Calvin, and Wesley, are Scriptural Churches, or Christian Churches in any sense? Do we believe it, or believe that their ministers possess the proper qualifications to carry out the commission of the Son of God--i. e., preach, baptize, administer the Supper, etc.? Baptists do not. No intelligent and true Baptist can; and therefore they can not say so by their acts--associating with them as with properly-qualified ministers of Christ. If they preached the faith, in all respects, that was once delivered to the saints, we could not treat them as men qualified to preach as Christ's ministers; and how much less when we believe that they preach contrary to, and in subversion of the doctrines and ordinances of Christ , and would, if left alone, in one generation, obliterate from the world the last trace of the Church he established. Their organizations are rivals against the Church Christ set up, and their teaching is another gospel; and from all such, though they be angels from heaven, we are to withdraw--are to have no company with them, that they may be reproved and ashamed, and the world be warned.

How Presbyterian ministers, or members who have a knowledge of these facts can presume in the face of these things to demand of Baptists to recognize and treat them as ministers by inviting them into our pulpits to preach, as we only do qualified ministers, and to commune with them as baptized persons, and to acknowledge and treat them as evangelical Churches, is passing strange to us!

They all say their creeds and confessions teach that none are entitled to the Lord's Supper, or ought to be invited to partake of it, unless duly baptized; if there is any doubt about the matter, the Supper should not be offered until the doubt was removed; and yet, they, through their General Assembly, confess to us, that they can not tell whether they, themselves, any one of them, have been duly baptized; ay, more, confess that they are not baptized, having received their baptisms from the man of Sin and the Mother of Harlots.

We think that the action of the General Assembly forever settles the vexed question of open communion.

Anabaptists never did commune with Rome, or those who received her baptisms. The Baptists of to-day are the descendants of the Anabaptists who have, for so many centuries, witnessed for Christ against the corruptions of Antichrist.

We leave the question with the Protestants of this age to answer if they can, and preserve their ecclesiastical existences:


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