committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

BAPTIST PRINCIPLES RESET

PART 2

CHAPTER 7.

Baptism the Door to the Lord?s Supper.

BY FRANKLIN JOHNSON, D. D., LL.D.

 

The Argument From The General Understanding Of Christians.

With but very few exceptions, all Christians have understood the New Testament to teach that baptism should precede the Lord?s supper. In the "Teaching of the Twelve Apostles," possibly the earliest Christian writing after the apostolic age, we read this direction: "Let no one eat of your Eucharist except those baptized into the name of the Lord." Similar to this is the testimony of Justin Martyr, who died about 160: "This food is called by us the Eucharist, of which it is not lawful for any one to partake but such as believe the things taught by us, and have been baptized." From those earliest times to the present the limitation has been maintained by almost all denominations. If it is relaxed today by a few in the Baptist and the evangelical Pedobaptist denominations, it is still maintained with practical unanimity by the Christian world. This is admitted by all, and by none more clearly than by Dr. Norman Fox, who says: "Pedobaptists will not invite to the table one who has been neither immersed, sprinkled, nor poured upon; they declare that only baptized persons should be admitted. When, therefore, they claim that a Baptist church should admit them, they demand that Baptists shall recognize them as baptized persons." Again: "The Pedobaptists stoutly maintain that baptism is an essential prerequisite to the breaking of bread. In a review of ?Christ in the Daily Meal,? the Evangelist, of New York, which is by no means the most unprogressive of Presbyterian papers, criticized the, book for Its doctrine that the unbaptized should be invited to the church supper. While among Pedobaptists there could doubtless be found individual ministers who would consent to admit the unbaptized to the table, it would certainly be impossible to carry through the Presbyterian General Assembly or the Congregational National Council or the Methodist General Conference a declaration that it is proper to invite to the church supper all true believers, irrespective of baptism."

I might establish this well-known fact by a thousand? testimonies from the highest Pedobaptist sources, were further evidence necessary.

Dr. Fox supposes that this unanimity of the Christian world grows out of the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, from the effects of which, according to him, even the Baptists have not freed themselves. He urges, therefore, that the Baptists cast off this last vestige of a great error, and invite all Christians, whether baptized or no. He is somewhat severe towards those Baptists who would Invite Pedobaptists and yet believe that baptism should precede the communion, and towards those Pedobaptists who wish the Baptists to admit that they are baptized by inviting them; and he would solve the entire difficulty by denying that baptism has any logical relation to the Lord?s supper, and by inviting all the unbaptized as unbaptized.

I quite agree with him that the only tenable ground of unrestricted communion, other than the validity of sprinkling and pouring, is the denial that baptism has any logical relation to the Lord?s supper. But we have seen that the denial itself has no ground upon which to stand.

Moreover, I do not suppose that we should advance in the good opinion of our Pedobaptist brethren, if we should make them clearly understand that we invited them as unbaptized. Nor should we ourselves be able to rest in the opinion, should we adopt it, for the evidences against it are too cogent.

Some of these we have already examined. But another, which well deserves to be weighed, is precisely this general understanding of the Christian world which Dr. Fox sets forth so clearly. It is possible for the Christian world to go astray and to persist in error for centuries. But this was easier when no dissent was permitted. The present division of the Christian world into many denominations, each interested more or less in the discovery of truth and the abandonment of mere tradition, renders unanimity in a gross error exceedingly improbable. Moreover, all denominations deny that they acre influenced by tradition in making baptism a prerequisite to the Lord?s supper, and affirm that they are influenced solely by the teaching of the New Testament. I present this unanimous judgment of the Christian world ass an argument worthy of respect.

The Argument From Profit and Loss.

The opponent of these views often tells us that they hinder the growth of. our. denomination. It is true that they have cost us the adherence of some noble ministers, whom we should have been glad and proud to retain. It is true, also, that they have kept many from coming to us. We regret all this, and shall ever continue to love those who thus refuse to walk with us.

But let us suppose that the loss were even far more serious than it is. Would that prove our position wrong, or justify us in abandoning it? On the contrary, it is our duty to accept and teach the truth in love, without too much selfish care for our own growth. Are we doing good by our teaching? Are we saving other denominations from superstition, from sacramentarianism, from the greater abuses of infant baptism, and hence from spiritual weakness? These are some of the questions that should give us concern. If we can answer them in the affirmative, we should rejoice and press on our way, even if we were reduced to numerical significance by our fidelity to the truth.

Now, no one can become acquainted with the history of the Baptists in England and America without recognizing the mighty influence they have wielded against infant baptism and in favor of the spirituality of the church, of the separation of Church and State, and of religious liberty. No one can examine the work they are doing today on the continent of Europe without perceiving that it is a most beneficent leaven there, as it is in England and this country. The larger part of the Christian world, though profoundly affected by its views, is still reluctant to admit their justice, and its mission is not yet at an end. What if it were a small and despised denomination, with such a record of usefulness, and such a field of action?

But, after all, our maintenance of restricted communion seems to have ministered to our numerical strength, rather than to have diminished it. It appears to have brought to us a multitude of adherents for every one whom it has repelled. About 1820, Robert Hall, the famous English Baptist preacher and writer, attacked restricted communion, and attributed the slow growth of the English Baptists to it. His influence, combined with other causes, led the majority of them to abandon it. The result has not been favorable. They have pursued a wavering course, and their increase has been meager. Their practice of unrestricted communion has led them necessarily to low views of baptism. Dr. A. N. Arnold thus sketches the effects of the movement from which Robert Hall anticipated so much: "The administration of believer?s baptism on a week-day evening, to avoid giving offence to the Pedobaptist members of the church; the reception, without baptism, of persons who have renounced their belief that the ceremony performed upon them in infancy was valid; the manifest disposition to give unbaptism as non-essential, where the cause of peace and union is supposed to demand this sacrifice; the banishment of scriptural teaching on this subject from the pulpit; and even from the private conversation of the minister with his people, as a stipulated condition of the continuance of the pastoral relation; the discipline and exclusion of members for the offence of propagating Baptist sentiments; the relaxation of all scriptural church discipline; and, after all, unpleasant collisions with Pedobaptist churches?these legitimate logical consequences and certified actual results of mixed communion are more than enough to stamp it as a practice at war with truth, purity, liberty, and union." With such a lack of denominational spirit, there could not to a rapid denominational growth. The influence of the denomination upon other denominations has been relatively feeble, and the denomination has shown a constant tendency to melt away and dissolve.

We have only to look at the Baptists of this country, to perceive the beneficial effects of restricted communion in creating denominational self-respect and vigor, in making us courteously aggressive, in building up our numbers, and in attracting to all our views the keen attention of the Christians about us. The Baptist who studies this contrast attentively will not ask that his denomination adopt the practice of unrestricted communion as a means of growth in numbers.

A similar conclusion will be reached by those who study the Free Baptists, who practice unrestricted communion, and yet achieve but little increase.

The Argument From Christian Love.

There are Pedobaptists who say to the Baptists: "I grant that we. like you, require baptism as a prerequisite to the Lord?s supper. But we have a practical advantage over you. As our definition of baptism is broader than yours, we are able to invite to the supper all who will probably care for our invitation, and thus to satisfy the cravings of Christian love. You cannot do this. Your logic is without fault, but it brings you into an embarrassment which ire escape. Moreover, the majority of men and women deem us more charitable than you, for they care little for the argument on either side, and judge mainly by the practice. Perhaps they would not understand your argument, if it were presented to them; but they understand your practice." In a measure this is true.

There are Baptists who may be tempted to judge the question at issue in the same manner. They may say: "We grant that your logic is sound. But we do not care much for the logic of the head. The heart has a logic of its own. Christian love, as well as abstract reason, has its rights. Your argument seems to us cold, remote from the heart, a sort of mathematical demonstration. But Christianity is not one of the exact sciences; it is love. We refuse to be moved by your reasons, and we do not care even to try to answer them."

Perhaps there are few Baptist ministers to whom this antagonism of reason and love has not suggested itself at one time or another. It is true that our practice is in some sense a cross, and I do not envy the man who can carry it jauntily and boastfully. But are Christian reason and Christian love ever really opposed to each other? Over against this attitude of mind, which in fact is chiefly one of Christian sentimentality, rather than Christian sentiment, I place my appeal to a reasonable Christian love.

1. The Baptist ought to love his brethren of other denominations very warmly. He ought to esteem them very highly for their works? sake. He ought to manifest his affection for them, and to seek their friendship, that they may learn to love him in return. Fortunately, there are a thousand ways in which he can do this, not only without coming into conflict with reason, but according to the most earnest urgings of reason. He need not leave his heart hungry for Christian fellowship with any part of the Christian world.

2. Love to Christ, as well as to his people, should be consulted in this matter. Christ has made known his will concerning the holy ordinance of baptism. The Baptist has been led to know and to respect that will. Others have not yet made the discovery of it. The Baptist does not judge them; he loves them and judges himself. His love for Christ should lead him to a high regard for the will of Christ, which he has learned, and should debar him from doing anything which might tend to make that will ineffectual. Over against a sentimental love for the Christian I place a profound and obedient love for the Lord of the Christian.

3. Is there, then, a conflict between love for Christ and a proper love for his people? There should be none. Nor should there ever be a conflict between Christian love and Christian duty. But there is a short-sighted love, which may be brought into conflict with the best and holiest sentiments of the soul and the best and holiest determinations of the will. Short-sighted love in a mother may bring her into violent conflict with the dictates of a wise love, of good sense, of duty, and may lead to the injury of the child. Short-sighted love always works mischief. No love which acts at variance with reason is far-sighted or is worthy the name by which it calls itself. Now, a prudent love for the Christian world will lead the Baptist to see what a calamity infant christening is, and how great a blessing the restoration of baptism would be. In proportion to his wise love for his fellow Christians will be his longing to give them this added power; and he will recoil from any course which could hinder him from bestowing it upon them. How great the blessing would be. the Baptist will see, if he will pause a moment to consider the evils of infant christening. These have been well presented by Dr. Alvah Hovey, under the following heads: 1. Infant christening takes away from the Christian ordinance the larger part of its meaning by making it no longer a confession of faith, but, on one hand, a regenerating rite, or, on the other, a mere vague ceremony; and, still further, by altering its form from immersion to sprinkling or pouring, thus divesting it of its power to preach Christ crucified and risen. 2. Infant christening ascribes to the ordinance an imaginary virtue, keeps alive in the greatest denominations the fatal delusion of baptismal regeneration, and in some others a vague conviction that God will be more favorable to infants which have been baptized, should they die. 3. Infant christening mars the constitution of the church by introducing unconverted persons into it. 4. Infant christening facilitates the union of Church and State, with all its terrible results. 5. Infant christening divides the followers of Christ. The mission to which the Baptist denomination is called is high and holy. The happiness and the success of the Christian world are bound up with it. A. prudent love, a far-sighted love, should lead the Baptist to firm fidelity to the truth committed to him.

4. Yet further. His love for other denominations should not make the Baptist inattentive to the claims of love for his own. Was he brought up under Baptist influences? Then he owes his spiritual life to the Baptist denomination, and he should not be ungrateful. Was he brought up under Pedobaptist influences? Then he was guided and enlightened by the Baptist denomination, or he would not have entered it, and he should not be ungrateful. Is he one of its ministers? Then he was educated largely by the Baptist denomination, and was entrusted by it with its dearest interests and called to its highest honors, and he should not be ungrateful. But it is committed to the practice of restricted communion, and the agitator, who admits the conclusive cogency of its argument and yet rends it asunder on the plea of Christian love, has but little of the love which he pleads.

The Obligation Imposed on the Baptists by this Restriction.

The sole purpose of Christ in establishing his religion among men was to implant and to nourish Christian character. Every constituent element of Christianity is of use in the production of Christian character, and the loss of any constituent element is a loss to the forces which produce Christian character. Our restriction of the Lord?s Supper to baptized believers is based on the truth that baptism was instituted to render service in the production of Christian character, and that, in fact, it does render this service, where it is preserved in its integrity. But does it render this service to us who have received it? That is what the Christian world asks of the Baptist, when he teaches the doctrine of Christian baptism. The Baptist must answer by pointing to its observed effects. "By their fruits ye shall know them." These effects should be exhibited in his own character and in his own denomination. The Baptist should be able to point to his denomination as an object lesson, and to prove three things by it: 1. That baptism, where it is observed faithfully, tends to produce the most complete Christian character known-stronger to resist temptation, more thoughtful for others, more brave, more courteous, more sympathetic, more wisely helpful. 2. That it tends to produce a wide variety of admirable Christian characters of the types most esteemed and most efficient, and is not operative within a single narrow range of qualities. It must produce a better type of wifehood, of motherhood, of fatherhood, of childhood, of magistrates, of soldiers, of merchants, of teachers, of lawyers, of physicians, of employers, and of the employed. It must adapt itself to various natural dispositions, and produce a meditative piety in some, an active piety in others, an emotional piety in some, and a merely military and obedient piety in others. 3. That, since it tends to produce such effete as these, it also tends to produce men and women more successful than others in winning the world to Christ and in building up the kingdom of God in tae world. Such is the obligation. It will not do for the Baptist to pride himself on the mere observance of a prescribed rite, without regard to its meaning and power; that is what the Pharisees did. The Baptist must be able to show that his obedience has done something for his character.

And since the Baptists are compelled by their consciences to preserve Christian baptism to the Christian world at the cost of a restriction not in itself agreeable, they should give much of their energies to the Christian culture of those who come to them for guidance. They have not been insensible to this obligation. They have paid great attention to evangelization, on the one hand, and to education, on the other. They are now organizing their young people for the express purpose of cultivating them in knowledge and in varied usefulness. But "there remaineth very much land to be possessed." Do we give a disproportionate emphasis to conversion, and too little emphasis to growth? Do we employ a great variety of means to nurture the souls committed to us, so that all kinds of disposition and temperament find help from us? Or do we have a single mould in which we place all alike, misshaping many and repelling many? Do we ask reverent souls to come to us, and then shock them by irreverence? Do we ask shrinking souls to come to us, and then force them into a publicity from which their finest instincts recoil? Do we ask the imaginative, the esthetic, the poetic, to come to us, and then wound them by inexcusable crudenesses? We have broad fields of toil out in the glare of the sun; have we any shade for the weary, the wounded, the sick, the despondent, the fearful? Or are we courting the rich, the educated, the refined, and forgetting the poor, the ignorant, and the crude, among whom the Redeemer, passed his earthly life, and for whom our fathers labored most earnestly? If in any of these respects we are lacking, the remedy is not to be found in the abandonment of baptism as the door of the Lord?s house, but in such a care of the house as shall render it befitting the majestic entrance which the Lord has provided and committed to the care of his people.

 
 
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