Andrew Fuller Friday: On Baptism and the Lord’s Table

The “Pædobaptist” addresses his pamphlet to a Baptist. The first letter gives the author’s reasons for his own practice. The two others are in favour of a mixed communion between Baptists and Pædobaptists at the Lord’s table. We pass over that part of his piece which relates merely to baptism, with only observing that the author in pleading for sprinkling is not so convinced of it as to think his own side “exclusively right.” In the second and third letters, where he pleads for mixed communion, it is observable too that he admits the principle of the strict Baptists; namely, that baptism is an indispensable prerequisite to fellowship at the Lord’s table. But he thinks that each may acknowledge the validity of the other’s baptism, and endeavours to persuade his correspondent that he ought not, unless he can establish his claim to infallibility, to consider himself as exclusively right; that is, he would have him allow that those who have been sprinkled in infancy are baptized, though it may be in his judgment not in so scriptural a manner as himself. He censures Mr. Booth with some severity for assuming in his “Apology” that Pædobaptists are unbaptized, and that their thinking themselves otherwise is a false persuasion. Finally, he disclaims any dominion over the faith of the Baptists, and thinks the Baptists ought to claim none over his.

To the above reasoning we suppose a strict Baptist, it may be his correspondent, would answer nearly as follows: I feel obliged to you, dear sir, for your kindly inviting me and my brethren to unite with you in commemorating the death of our common Lord. I give you full credit for the brotherly affection by which you are influenced, and should be happy if this wall of separation could be removed, without our dispensing with an ordinance of Christ. As the ground of our union, you propose to me a principle which, if it could be admitted, would, I acknowledge, accomplish the end. But do you not perceive that, in admitting it, I must relinquish not merely my practice of strict communion, but my principles as a Baptist, or, if you please, as an Antipædobaptis, and either refuse to baptize any in future who have been sprinkled in their infancy, which the far greater part have been, or, when I do so, be guilty of rebaptizing them, and thus become in reality, what I have hitherto disowned with abhorrence, an Anabaptist?

In your last letter you say, “It is certainly just and right that each should act on his own principles.” And no doubt if a union were accomplished, it must proceed on this ground. But your second and third letters require us to relinquish what is essential to our being Antipædobaptists, and insist, as I just now said, on our either giving up the practice of baptizing those who have been sprinkled in their infancy, or becoming avowed Anabaptists. If indeed our principles as Antipædobaptists be unscriptural, they ought to be relinquished; but I do not perceive, from any thing you have advanced, that they are so; and, in pleading for mixed communion, it is not your professed object to prove them so.

I make no pretence to being infallibly right, neither do you, I dare say, in any of your religious sentiments; yet there are many things in which you certainly consider yourself, and those of your mind, as exclusively so. In the same light I consider my views of baptism. You express astonishment and offence at Mr. Booth’s saying that in our judgment you are unbaptized. But I am no less astonished that you, who have known so much of us, should yet have to learn that it is not possible for a Baptist to consider you in any other light. The moment he does so he ceases to be a Baptist. Yes, sir, in our judgment you are unbaptized; and our judgment must decide our practice. You have doubtless a right to judge for yourselves, and far be it from us to wish to deprive you of any part of that inalienable privilege; but in a question of communion, in every thing necessary to it, which you allow baptism to be, our judgment and yours must coincide.

If Mr. Booth had been reasoning with you, he would not have taken it for granted that you were baptized. But when reasoning with the Baptists, he had a right to do so; nor is there any cause for you to be offended at it. There would be an end to argumentation, if what is allowed on both sides of a controversy to be false may not be called so.

Admitting the validity of our baptism, you are willing to receive us to communion; while we cannot admit the validity of yours, and so cannot consent to commune with you. This you seem to think hard, and consider our conduct as claiming dominion over your faith. But on what ground is it that you admit the validity of our baptism? Is it merely because we think ourselves baptized? No; we are baptized in your judgment, as well as in our own. In receiving us, therefore, you are not obliged to act contrary to your principles. But the case is otherwise with us. We verily believe you to be unbaptized, not merely as being only sprinkled, but as receiving it at a time when you could not actively “put on Christ,” which “as many as were baptized” in primitive ages did, Gal. 3:27. In receiving you, therefore, we must of necessity act contrary to our principles, by uniting with those at the Lord’s table whom we believe to be unbaptized. The result is—the dispute between us on mixed communion is at an end. If we err, it is as Baptists, by considering infant baptism as invalid.

You have no hope it seems of our ever coming together, unless we could allow your baptism to be valid; that is, unless we could retract the principles of antipædobaptism. There is one other way left, however, and that is, by your retracting those of pædobaptism; and why should we not hope for the one as well as you for the other?

The controversy on strict and mixed communion, in respect of baptism, is reducible to three questions.—(1.) Is baptism necessary to communion at the Lord’s table? (2.) Is a being immersed on a profession of faith necessary to baptism? (3.) On whom does the duty of judging what is baptism devolve—on the party baptized, or on the church, or on both?

The first was denied by John Bunyan; but, being generally admitted by Pædobaptists, they are not entitled to his arguments. Those who follow Bunyan are chiefly Baptists who admit of mixed communion; and Bunyan himself was of this denomination. Against these Mr. Booth’s Apology is chiefly directed.

The denial of the second is ground proper for Pædobaptists. But if they make it good against the Baptists, they convict them of error as Baptists rather than as strict Baptists.

Of the third much has been said by the friends of mixed communion, both among Baptists and Pædobaptists. None, we apprehend, will plead for a church being the judge of what is baptism, to the exclusion of the candidate. The question is therefore reduced to this: Is it for the candidate exclusively to judge what is baptism: or is it necessary that his judgment and that of the church should coincide upon the subject?

If baptism be not necessary to communion; or, though it be, yet if immersion on a profession of faith be not necessary to baptism; or, though it be, yet if the candidate for communion be the only party with whom it rests to judge what is baptism; then the strict communion of the Baptists seems to be wrong.

But if baptism be necessary to church communion, and immersion on a profession of faith be necessary to baptism, and it be the duty of a church to judge of this as well as of every other prerequisite in its candidates, then the strict communion of the Baptists seems to be right.

Excerpt from: “Thoughts and Baptism and Mixed Communion.”

Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Expositions—Miscellaneous. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 3, pp. 501–503). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.

By |August 21st, 2020|Categories: Andrew Fuller Friday, Blog|

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