Substance of a lecture before the First Baptist church in Little Rock, Ark.,
By T. B. Espy, Sunday evening, June 19, 1870
The Baptist newspaper, 1870
It is with no feeling of personal gratification that I enter upon the work before me to-night. The arena of controversy has but few charms to me. How much most pleasant to sail upon the unruffled bosora of the deep! What a pity it is that Christians are divided!
But in answering the question with which I set out, I must be permitted, for the present, to take for granted the Baptist interpretation of the Holy Scriptures to be correct. And this I may very freely and safely do in reasoning with our own brethren. If I had intended to answer objections to our practice coming from Pedobaptist sources, I will attempt to show that Baptists cannot consistently, with their principles, go to the tables of Pedobaptists.
1. Because there seems to have been no such practice among the apostolic churches, though agreed in fundamentals. As great a privilege as this intercommunion between different churches appears to be in the eyes of many good men, it is one of which the early Christians seem to have had no appreciation, and, concerning which the New Testament is silent. If this thing is to be the panacea for all the ills of Christendom, how strange that the discovery has not been made until within the last fifty or hundred years. In the time before alluded to it was, doubtless, the custom with God's people to meet every Lord's day for worship; and if so, and if every man went to his own church, where he should have gone, there could have been no occasion for such a practice. And a return to primitive principles and practices, would be followed by like results now even among Baptist churches. And this leads me to say that the members of one Baptist church can have no rights in any other church. If they receive an invitation to go to another table, it is a matter of courtesy, and not of right. Here, for instance is another Baptist church on the hill - the Union Baptist church. If I were present with them on the occasion of their celebration of the Lord's Supper, and were not invited to participate, I would have not the least reason to be offended, for I could but approve the consistency of their practice. Then, this is my argument: if there is no evidence that the apostolic churches held this sort of communion together, and if a return to the primitive custom would put a stop to it among Baptist churches, who is able to show why Baptists should go to the tables of Pedobaptists, and that, too, when they are the poles apart on questions of the deepest moment?
2. Because Pedobaptists look upon the Supper as furnishing a test of Christian fellowship. This Baptists regard as a perversion of Christ's holy ordinance, and, of course, they cannot be a party to such abuses, let those who are guilty of it be never so pious. This is proven, by the fact that our failure to invite them to our tables is construed by them into a want of Christian fellowship on our part. Consequently, on their own principles, they must regard it as furnishing such is test. But let me submit the plain utterance of F. E. Pitts, a distinguished Pedobaptist minister of Tennessee, on this question: "The Baptist brethren would not exclude a solitary saint, however weak, if they believed him child of God, from the Lord's table, but they do exclude all Christians from their communion who have not been immersed, they do thereby most absolutely disown them as children of the same father and heirs of the same inheritance."
Without stopping to speak of the manifest presumption of the man who can deliberately publish a statement so utterly at variance with all the facts in the case, it is sufficient to show that, in the view the of this writer, for the Baptists to decline inviting Pedobaptists to their table is to "disown them as children of the same father and heirs of the same inheritance." But if all this be true, Baptists must regard them as heathens and republicans, and leave them to the "uncovenanted mercies" of God.
But where are we informed in the Scriptures that the Supper is such a test? We read that the Savior said, "This do in remembrance of me," and as oft as ye do this ye do show forth the Lord's death until he come." And it has always occurred to me that if we are the "watery bigots" that some regard us about this and kindred questions, that the same charge may be brought against the Savior and his disciples at the first celebration of the Supper; for it does not appear that a single one of the holy women, or any other of the disciples about Jerusalem, were invited, or partook of the Supper, save the eleven whom he tookvwith him into the little "upper room." If what we are so industriously told be true, why this "exclusivism" at its very institution?
3. Because they do not regard the Supper strictly as a church ordinance. But Baptists do and always have, and for them to go to their tables would be to approve this unauthorized innovation of men. There is no evidence that it was ever regarded as a social institution, or in any other light than that of an ordinance of a local church in the Word of God. Now, while Pedobaptists generally may hold this view of the matter, it is also true that their practice is sometimes in conflict with it. This is particularly so of the Methodists, and, in some sense, of most Pedobaptists, for it is not the easiest thing imaginable to find out what the church is with them. Their trumpet has given forth such uncertain sounds that we are at a loss in settling this question. If the General Conference be the church, then the local societies cannot be, and vice versa. It has been decided by the highest judicial authority in the land that the General Conference is the church; but generally they observe the ordinance in the local societies.
But passing from this let me state what occurred in the great city of New York not long since. There was a great meeting of the various "evangelical" sects and parties to promote the interests of Christian union. This was unquestionably a good object. The spirit of harmony seems to have prevailed for a time. But some one who had more zeal than knowledge proposed that a grand union communion be had. It was accordingly done. The Baptists, of course, felt that they were no longer needed, and retired. The various Pedobaptist sects, it is said, participated, which goes to show that they do not necessarily regard the Supper as a church ordinance. Surely it was not observed in this instance in the capacity of a church. It is a part of the mission of Baptists to maintain the ordinances as they were "delivered," and against all such irregularities they must, to be consistent with their principles and professions, bear the most decided testimony.
4. Because the very invitation itself, coming from those sources, must be regarded as offensive by all who have imbibed the Baptist faith. Pedobaptists know, or ought to know, that there is no particular attraction about the Supper to Baptists, as spread by them. We say this in sorrow and not in anger. This is our own deliberate conviction, and we can't allow ourselves to doubt that it is shared in by every consistent Baptist. Baptists believe, if they believe anything, that immersion precedes the scriptural observance of the Supper - scriptural immersion. Then, why should they have the least desire to participate when the majority of those partaking were only sprinkled in infancy, some not sprinkled at all, and others in adult age? When the laws that Christ appointed for the government of his table are thus disregarded, Baptists, if they are present, may mourn that the right ways of the Lord are thus perverted, but they will surely have no wish to engage in such work. Then, is it anything but an affront to be invited to do that which cannot be conscientiously done? If a man tells me that he cannot approve of infant baptism, how much regard for his feelings do I show by insisting on his bringing his child to the font? To be asked to do that which I cannot do is an open insult; and yet we are sometimes led to suppose from what we see and hear that some very excellent men think themselves entitled to a great deal of credit for their enlarged views of Christian liberality. What does a Pedobaptist do in inviting me to come to his table? Well, he asks me to renounce my immersion. This is a rather weighty demand, particularly when we consider that he recognizes it himself and sometimes actually performs it for his incorrigible subjects. He asks me to approve the sprinkling ceremony so popular among them - a thing that I cannot do at present. He asks me to sanction infant baptism. Who is able to do all this?
[From The Baptist newspaper, July 16, 1870. CD from M/F edition. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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