Ans. We plead not for indulging, 'But are there not with you, even with you, sins against the Lord your God?' (2 Chron 28:10). But why can you indulge the baptists in many acts of disobedience? For to come unprepared into the church, is an act of disobedience: To come unprepared to the supper is an act of disobedience; and to come so also to other solemn appointments, are acts of disobedience.
'But for these things,' you say, 'you do not cast, nor keep any out of the church.'
Ans. But what acts of disobedience do we indulge them in?
'In the sin of infant baptism.'
Ans. We indulge them not; but being commanded to bear with the infirmities of each other, suffer it; it being indeed in our eyes such; but in theirs they say a duty, till God shall otherwise persuade them. If you be without infirmity, do you first throw a stone at them: They keep their faith in that to themselves, and trouble not their brethren therewith: we believe that God hath received them; they do not want to us a proof of their sonship with God; neither hath he made water a wall of division between us, and therefore we do receive them.
Object. 'I take it to be the highest act of friendship to be faithful to these professors, and to tell them they want this one thing in gospel order, which ought not to be left undone.'
Ans. If it be the highest piece of friendship, to preach water baptism to unbaptized believers, the lowest act thereof must needs be very low. But contrariwise, I count it so far off from being any act of friendship, to press baptism in our notion on those that cannot bear it; that it is a great abuse of the peace of my brother, the law of love, the law of Christ, or the society of the faithful. Love suffereth long, and is kind, is not easily provoked: let us therefore follow after the things that make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another: let every one of us please his neighbour, for his good to edification: Bear you one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ (1 Cor 13; Rom 14:19, 15:2; Gal 6:2).
But say you, 'I doubt when this comes to be weighed in God's balance, it will be found no less than flattery, for which you will be reproved.'
Ans. It seems you do but doubt it, wherefore the principles from which you doubt it, of that methinks you should not be certain; but this is of little weight to me; for he that will presume to appropriate the epistles to himself and fellows, for the sake of baptism, and that will condemn all the churches of Christ in the land for want of baptism, and that will account his brother as profane Esau and rejected, as idolatrous Ephraim because he wanteth his way of water baptism; he acts out of his wonted way, of rigidness, when he doth but doubt, and not affirm his brother to be a flatterer. I leave therefore this your doubt to be resolved at the day of judgment, and in the mean time trample upon your harsh and unchristian surmises. As to our love to Christians in other cases, I hope we shall also endeavour to follow the law of the Lord; but because it respects not the matter in hand, it concerns us not now to treat thereof.
My argument treateth of church communion; in the prosecution of which I prove. 1. That love is grounded upon the new creature (Col 3:10-15). 2. Upon our fellowship with the Father and Son (1 John 1:2,3). 3. That with respect to this, it is the fulfilling of the royal law (James 4:11; Rom 14:21). 4. That it shews itself in acts of forbearing, rather than in publishing some truths: communicating only what is profitable, forbearing to publish what cannot be born (1 Cor 3:1,2; Acts 20:18-20; John 3:16,17). 5. I shew further, That to have fellowship for, to make that the ground of, or to receive one another chiefly upon the account of an outward circumstance; to make baptism the including and excluding charter: the bounds, bar, and rule of communion, when by the word of the everlasting testament, there is no word for it, to speak charitably, if it be not for want of love, it is for want of light in the mysteries of the kingdom of Christ. Strange! Take two Christians equal in all points but this; nay, let one go beyond the other in grace and goodness, as far as a man is beyond a babe, yet water shall turn the scale, shall open the door of communion to the less; and command the other to stand back: yet is no proof to the church of this babe's faith and hope, hath nothing to do with his entering into fellowship, is no part of the worship of the church. These things should have been answered, seeing you will take upon you so roundly to condemn our practice.
You come now to my eighth argument; which you do not only render falsely, but by so doing abuse your reader. I said not that the church at Corinth did shut each other out of communion; but, for God's people to divide into parties, or to shut each other from church communion, though for greater points, and upon higher pretences, than that of water baptism, hath heretofore been counted carnal, and the actors therein babyish Christians: and then bring in the factions, that was in the church at Corinth. But what! May not the evil of denying church communion now, if proved naught by a less crime in the church at Corinth, be counted carnal and babyish; but the breach of communion must be charged upon them at Corinth also?
That my argument is good you grant, saying, 'The divisions of the church at Corinth were about the highest fundamental principles, for which they are often called carnal'; yet you cavil at it. But if they were to be blamed for dividing, though for the highest points; are not you much more for condemning your brethren to perpetual banishment from church communion, though sound in all the great points of the gospel, and right in all church ordinances also, because for want of light they fail only in the point of baptism?
As to your quibble about Paul and Apollos, whether they, or others, were the persons, though I am satisfied you are out, yet it weakeneth not my argument; for if they were blame worthy for dividing, though about the highest fundamental principles, as you say, how ought you to blush for carrying it as you do to persons, perhaps, more godly than ourselves, because they jump not with you in a circumstance? That the divisions at Corinth were helped on by the abuse of baptism, to me is evident, from Paul's so oft suggesting it: 'Were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, - lest any should say, I had baptized in mine own name' (1:13-15).
I do not say, that they who baptized them designed this, or that baptism in itself effected it; nor yet, though our author feigns it, 'that they were most of them baptized by their factious leaders.' But that they had their factious leaders, is evident; and that these leaders made use of the names of Paul, Apollos, and Christ, is as evident; for by these names they were beguiled by the help of ABUSED baptism.
But say you, 'Wherein lies the force of this man's argument against baptism as to its place, worth, and continuance?'
I answer: I have no argument against its place, worth or continuance, although thus you seek to scandalize me. But this kind of sincerity of yours, will never make me one of your disciples. Have not I told you even in this argument, 'That I speak not as I do, to persuade or teach men to break the least of God's commandments; but that my brethren of the baptized way may not hold too much thereupon, may not make it an essential of the gospel, nor yet of the communion of saints.' Yet he feigns that I urge two arguments against it. But reader, thou mayest know I have no such reason in my book. Besides, I should be a fool indeed, were I against it, should I make use of such weak arguments. My words then are these: 'I thank God,' said Paul, 'that I baptized none of you but Crispus,' &c. 'Not but that then it was an ordinance, but they abused it in making parties thereby, as they abused also Paul, and Cephas. Besides, said he, I know not whether I baptized any other. By this negligent relating who were baptized by him, he sheweth that he made no such matter thereof, as some in these days do. Nay, that he made no matter at all thereof with respect to a church communion. For if he did not heed who himself had baptized, much less did he heed who were baptized by others? But if baptism had been the initiating ordinance, and I now add, essential to church communion; then no doubt he had made more conscience of it, than thus lightly to pass it by.'
I add further, where he saith, He 'was not sent to baptize'; that he spake with an holy indignation against those that had abused that ordinance. 'Baptism is an holy ordinance, but when Satan abuseth it, and wrencheth it out of its place, making that which is ordained of God, for the edification of believers, the only weapon to break in pieces the love, unity, and concord of the saints; than as Paul said of himself and fellows (1 Cor 3:5-7). What is baptism? Neither is baptism any thing? This is no new doctrine, for God by the mouth of the prophet of old, cried out against his own appointments, when abused by his own people (Isa 1:11-15); because they used them "for strife, and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness"' (58:4). But to forbear, to take notice thus of these things, my argument stands firm against you: 'For if they at Corinth were blame worthy for dividing, though their divisions were, if you say true, about the highest fundamentals, you ought to be ashamed, thus to banish your brethren from the privileges of church communion for ever, for the want of so low a thing as water baptism.' I call it not low, with respect to God's appointment, though so, it is far from the highest place, but in comparison of those fundamentals, about which you say, 'the Corinthians made their divisions.'
You come next to my ninth argument, and serve it as Hanun served David's servants (2 Sam 10:4), you have cut off one half of its beard, and its garments to its buttocks, thinking to send it home with shame. You state it thus: 'That by denying communion with unbaptized believers, you take from them their privileges to which they are born.'
Ans. Have I such an argument, in all my little book? Are not my words verbatim these? 'If we shall reject visible saints by calling, saints that have communion with God; that have received the law at the hand of Christ; that are of an holy conversation among men, they desiring to have communion with us; as much as in us lieth, we take from them their very privileges, and the blessings to which they were born of God.' This is mine argument: now confute it.
Paul saith, not only to the gathered church at Corinth, but to all scattered saints, that in every place call upon the name of the Lord (1 Cor 1:2). That if Jesus Christ is theirs; that Paul and Apollos, and Cephas, and the world, and all things else was theirs (3:22).
But you answer, 'We take from them nothing, but we keep them from a disorderly practice of gospel ordinances, we offer them their privileges, in the way of gospel order.'
Ans. Where have you one word of God, that forbiddeth a person, so qualified, as is signified in mine argument, the best communion of saints for want of water? There is not a syllable for this in all the book of God. So then, you in this your plausible defence, do make your scriptureless light, which in very deed is darkness (Isa 8:20), the rule of your brother's faith; and how well you will come off for this in the day of God, you might, were you not wedded to your wordless opinion, soon begin to conceive.
I know your reply, 'New Testament saints are all baptized first.'
Ans. Suppose it granted: Were they baptized, that thereby they might be qualified for their right to communion of saints, so that, without their submitting to water, they were to be denied the other? Further, suppose I should grant this groundless notion, Were not the Jews in Old Testament times to enter the church by circumcision? (Gen 17; Exo 12). For that, though water is not, was the very entering ordinance. Besides, as I said before, there was a full forbidding of all that were not circumcised from entering into fellowship, with a threatening to cut them off from the church if they entered in without it: yet more than six hundred thousand entered that church without it. But how now, if such an one as you had then stood up and objected, Sir Moses, What is the reason that you transgress the order of God, to receive members without circumcision? Is not that the very entering ordinance? Are not you commanded to keep out of the church all that are not circumcised? Yea, and for all those that you thus received, are you not commanded to cast them out again, to cut them off from among this people (Gen 17:13,14; Exo 12:44-46). I say, Would not this man have had a far better argument to have resisted Moses, than you, in your wordless notion, have to shut out men from the church, more holy than many of ourselves? But do you think that Moses and Joshua, and all the elders of Israel, would have thanked this fellow, or have concluded that he spake on God's behalf? Or, that they should then, for the sake of a better than what you call order, have set to the work that you would be doing, even to break the church in pieces for this?
But say you, 'If any will find or force another way into the sheep fold than by the footsteps of the flock, we have no such custom nor the churches of God.'
Ans. What was done of old I have shewed you, that Christ, not baptism, is the way to the sheep fold, is apparent: and that the person [who thus enters], in mine argument, is entitled to all these, to wit, Christ, grace, and all the things of the kingdom of Christ in the church, is, upon the scriptures urged, as evident.
But you add, 'That according to mine old confidence, I affirm, That drink ye all of this is entailed to faith, not baptism: a thing,' say you, 'soon said, but yet never proved.'
Ans. 1. That it is entailed to faith, must be confessed of all hands. 2. That it is the privilege of him that discerneth the Lord's body, and that no man is to deny him it, is also by the text as evident, 'and so let him eat,' because he is worthy. Wherefore he, and he only, that discerneth the Lord's body, he is the worthy receiver, the worthy receiver in God's estimation; but that none discern the Lord's body but the baptized [in water], is both fond and ridiculous once to surmise.
Wherefore to exclude Christians, and to debar them their heaven-born privileges, for want of that which yet God never made the wall of division betwixt us: This looks too like a spirit of persecution (Job 19:28), and carrieth in it those eighteen absurdities which you have so hotly cried out against. And I do still add, 'Is it not that which greatly prevailed with God to bring down those judgments which at present we [the people of God] groan under, I will dare to say it was, A cause thereof.' Yea, I will yet proceed; I fear, I strongly fear, that the rod of God is not yet to be taken from us; for what [is a] more provoking sin among Christians than to deny one another their rights and privileges, to which they are born of God? And then to father these their doings upon God, when yet he hath not commanded it, neither in the New Testament nor the Old.
But I may not lightly pass this by, for because I have gathered eighteen absurdities from this abuse of God's ordinances, or from the sin of binding the brethren to observe order, not founded on the command of God; and I am sure you have none to shut out men as good, as holy, and as sound in faith as ourselves, from communion. Therefore you call my conclusion devilish, top-full of ignorance and prejudice, and me, one of Machiavel's scholars, also proud, presumptuous, impeaching the judgment of God.
Ans. But what is there in my proposition, that men, considerate, can be offended at? These are my words: 'But to exclude Christians from church communion, and to debar them their heaven-born privileges, for the want of that which yet God never made a wall of division between us: this looks too like a spirit of persecution: this respecteth more the form than the spirit and power of godliness, &c. Shall I add, Is it not that which greatly prevailed to bring down those judgments which at present we feel and groan under? I will dare to say, it was a cause thereof.' A was in my copy, instead whereof the printer put in the; for this, although I speak only the truth, I will not beg of you belief; besides, the bookseller desired me, because of the printer's haste, to leave the last sheet to be overlooked by him, which was the cause it was not among the erratas. But I say, wherein is the proposition offensive? Is it not a wicked thing to make bars to communion, where God hath made none? Is it not a wickedness to make that a wall of division betwixt us which God never commanded to be so? If it be not, justify your practice; if it be, take shame. Besides, the proposition is universal, why then should you be the chief intended? But you have in this done like to the lawyers of old, who, when Christ reproved the pharisees of wickedness before them, said, 'Master, thus saying thou reproachest us also' (Luke 11:45).
But you feign, and would also that the world should believe, that the eighteen absurdities which naturally flow from the proposition I make, to be the effects of baptism, saying to me, 'None but yourself could find an innocent truth big with so many monstrous absurdities.'
I answer: This is but speaking wickedly for God, or rather to justify your wordless practice. I say not that baptism hath any absurdity in it, though your abusing it, hath them all, and many more, while you make it, without warrant from the word, as the flaming sword, to keep the brotherhood out of communion, because they, after your manner, cannot consent thereto. And let no man be offended, for that I suggest that baptism may be abused to the breeding such monstrous absurdities, for greater truths than that have been as much abused. What say you to, 'This is my body?' To instance no more, although I could instance many, are not they the words of our Lord? Are not they part of the scriptures of truth? and yet behold, even with those words, the devil, by abusing them, made an engine to let out the heart-blood of thousands. Baptism also may be abused, and is, when more is laid upon it by us than is commanded by God. And that you do so, is manifest by what I have said already, and shall yet say to your fourteen arguments.
My last argument, you say, is this: 'The world may wonder at your carriage to these unbaptized persons, in keeping them out of communion?'
Ans. You will set up your own words, and then fight against them; but my words are these: 'What greater contempt can be thrown upon the saints, than for their brethren to cut them off from, or to debar them church communion.' And now I add, Is not this to deliver them to the devil (1 Cor 5), or to put them to shame before all that see your acts? There is but one thing can hinder this, and that is, by-standers see that these, your brethren, that you thus abuse, are as holy men as ourselves. Do you more to the openly prophane, yea, to all wizards and witches in the land? For all you can do to them, I speak now as to church acts, is no other than to debar them the communion of saints.
And now I say again, the world may well wonder, when they see you deny holy men of God that liberty of the communion of saints which you monopolise to yourselves: and though they do not understand the grounds of profession, or communion, yet they can both see and say, these holy men of God, in all visible acts of holiness, are not one inch behind you. Yea, I will put it to yourselves, If those many, yea, very many, who thus severely, but with how little ground, is seen by men of God, you deny communion with; are not of as good, as holy, as unblameable in life, and as sound, if not sounder in the faith than many among ourselves: Here only they make the stop, they cannot, without light, be driven into water baptism, I mean after our notion of it: but what if they were, it would be little sign to me, that they were sincere with God.
To conclude this; when you have proved that water baptism, which you yourself have said is not a church ordinance, is essential to church communion, and that the church may, by the word of God, bolt, bar, and for ever shut out those, far better than ourselves, that have not, according to our notion, been baptized with water; then it will be time enough to talk of ground for so doing. In the mean time I must take leave to tell you, 'There is not in all the Bible one syllable for such a practice, wherefore your great cry about your order is wordless, and therefore faithless, and is a mere human invention.'
I COME NOW TO YOUR FOURTEEN ARGUMENTS, AND SHALL IMPARTIALLY CONSIDER THEM.