Andrew Fuller Friday: On the Terms of Communion (Part 1)

That the plea for infant communion is equally valid with that of infant baptism you will not expect me to dispute. If I could be convinced of the one, I see no reason why I should scruple the other. If one of your Pædobaptist correspondents should think proper to answer in behalf of his brethren, it will belong to him to point out the grounds for admitting the former while he rejects the latter. My share of the answer is merely to notice the arguments for infant communion taken from the Scriptures, or from other acknowledged duties.

We are accused at the outset of having, “without a Divine precept, separated the children of believers from the church of God.” To this I answer—1. Allowing them to have been in the church under the Old Testament, it does not follow that they should be members of churches under the New Testament. “A Congregationalist” must admit of a very material difference in the constitution of the church under these different dispensations; so material as that the laws of admission to the one are no rule by which to judge of the other. If he will not, however, he must consider as members of the church, not only his own children, but all that are born in his house, or bought with his money. Or if he refuse this consequence, he brings upon himself his own charge, of separating the poor servants from the church of God, without a Divine precept. Should he in this case allege that there is no precept or example in the New Testament for admitting them, he would furnish an answer which is no less applicable to the other.—2. But before the charge of separating the children of believers from the church of God had been preferred, it should have been proved that they, as such, were, ever in it. Unless the whole Israelitish nation were believers, it could not be as the children of believers that their descendants were admitted to Divine ordinances. If “the habits and practices of the Jews” prove any thing, they will prove too much, at least for a “Congregationalist.” They will not only require the admission of servants born in the house, or bought with money, but the very constitution of the church must be national. Their children and servants must not only be admitted in infancy, but continue in full communion when adults, though there should be no proof of their being any other than graceless characters.

But we agree, it is said, “to take our children to family and public worship; to teach them to read the Bible with seriousness and attention, instruct them in catechisms and in private prayer; for all which they have no more understanding than for the Lord’s supper.” It is not however for want of understanding that we object to it, but the want of Scripture precept or example. If God had required it, or the first churches practised it, we should think ourselves as much obliged to bring our children to the Lord’s supper as the Israelites were to bring theirs to the passover. It appears to me that great mistakes have arisen from confounding moral obligations with positive institutes. The former are binding on all mankind, and therefore require to be inculcated on every one within the reach of our influence; the latter are limited to a part of mankind, usually described in the institutions themselves. The one being founded in our relation to God and one another, and approving themselves to the conscience, require neither precept nor precedent, but merely a general principle which shall comprehend them; the other, having their origin merely in the sovereign will of God, require a punctilious adherence to what is revealed concerning them. While we engage in what is purely moral, and what is therefore right for every one to engage in, we incur no relative guilt, whatever be the motives or even the manifest characters of those who unite with us, any more than in contributing with an irreligious man to the relief of the poor; but in what is positive, if the parties with whom we unite be virtually excluded by the institution, we are accessory to their doing what, in the present state of mind, they have no right to do. For want of attending to this plain distinction, some have gone so far as to refuse to engage in public prayer in a promiscuous assembly, and even to join in family worship, if any were present whom they accounted unbelievers. Proceeding on the same principle, the “Congregationalist” appears to me to err in the opposite extreme; arguing from our joining in what is right for all men that we ought to join in what the Scriptures limit to certain characters.

 

 

Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Expositions—Miscellaneous. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 3, pp. 499–500). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.

By |February 14th, 2020|Categories: Andrew Fuller Friday|

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