I BY no means wish to obtrude myself on you or your readers; but the letter, by "A Paedobaptist," which you inserted in your paper of the 10th instant, calls upon me for an answer.
It is true that the Baptist missionaries at Serampore do practise strict communion. It is also true that they did so from the beginning, till within the last three or four years, when they agreed to admit of open communion. After this the question was resumed and discussed. The result was that they determined to return to their original practice. As to any injunction, I know of none. Most of our churches in England practise strict communion. but do not "enjoin" it upon other churches; and I suppose it is the same with the churches at Serampore and Calcutta. They may recommend whatever they think right, without enjoining it.
I can easily conceive that these changes would cause some feelings among Baptists differently minded on the subject, but cannot conceive why our Paedobaptist brethren should take offence at it. Those Baptists who practise open communion do not mean to acknowledge the validity of paedobaptism. Had they rather then be admissible into our churches as unbaptized in the account of their brethren, than not at all? If so, to be sure we ought to feel obliged by their good opinion of us; as, after all that they have said and written and done against us, they cannot really think ill of us.
But is it true that our Paedobaptist brethren seriously wish us to practise open communion? I give them the fullest credit for desiring as Christians to be in fellowship with us, and with all other Christians; and this also is our desire as much as it is theirs. But, as Paedobaptists, do they wish us to admit them to communion, without acknowledging the validity of their baptism? This is the question; and from all that I have read of their writings on the subject, however they may complain of strict communion, they cannot answer in the affirmative.
Dr. Worcester, in his friendly letter to Dr. Baldwin, though he pleads for a free communion between Baptists and Paedobaptists, and avows it to be the object of his pamphlet, yet allows that "if professed believers are the only proper subjects for baptism, and if immersion be not a mere circumstance or mode of baptism, but essential to the ordinance, so that he who is not immersed is not baptized, the sentiment of strict communion would be sufficiently established." Now Dr. Worcester's premises are our most decided principles, and this whether we practise strict or open communion. He therefore admits our practice to be sufficiently established, and has only to complain of us for not allowing the validity of their baptism; that is, for being Baptists.
The same is manifest from a review of Mr. Booth's Apology in the Evangelical Magazine. The reviewer makes nothing of free communion, unless it were on the principle of admitting the validity of paedobaptism. Those Baptists who practise it, he leaves to defend themselves as they can. The result is, that the real objection against us respects us not as strict nor as open communionists, but as Baptists. In other words, that the only open communion that would give satisfaction must include an acknowledgment of the validity of paedobaptism, which, for any Baptist to make, would be ceasing to be a Baptist.
[From Joseph Belcher, The Complete Works of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, Volume III, 1845; rpt. 1988. Document provided by David Oldfield, Post Falls, ID. - jrd]
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