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“St. Augustine, who spent the greater part of his life in controversy, and whose works form eleven folio volumes, has left many passages to show that this rite was a common and established usage of the Church. His words are: “The custom of our motherchurch, in baptizing little children, is by no means to be disregarded, nor accounted as in any measure superfluous. Neither, indeed, is it to be regarded as any other than an apostolical tradition.'. Of this, he also writes, . Quod universa tenet ecclesia nec conciliis institutum, sed semper retentum.'
“ This ancient father was born in 354. So much, and more, may be cited in reply to the Baptist accusation of the lack of antiquity of our peculiar rite.”
“Here,” observed Israel, “the homely saying is verified : One story is good till another is told.'”
“There is nothing in regard to these things like reading for yourself, and not trusting to the statements of any man,” said the clergyman.
At this juncture a low knock upon the door arrested the conversation. The servant showed in a gentleman whom Mr. Ingersoll introduced to Israel as the Rev. Mr. O'Hara, pastor of the third Orthodox Congregational Church of that city.
The Reverend O'Hara was a man of the left wing of Congregationalism, as at present represented in America, and especially in its flourishing parishes. He was considered a great orator, a good fellow in the common acceptation of that term, and a decidedly rising man, not only in his profession, but in the
general ways and means of getting ahead in this world.
His record as to antecedents of piety and education was rather mystical. People of limited culture thought he used“ splendid language," and was “a most interesting preacher.” Conversions, according to the standard of the strictest of his sect, were very rare under his ministrations, though he was not without a record of revivals.
As he drew crowded houses, like any “star," he was not meddled with by the more conservative. But they thought he was rather coarse, and that it was strange he came to be a Congregationalist. Some of these privately sniffed “a man of straw” under his coat; but all great geniuses have their enemies. By degrees, the topic of that morning came to Mr. O'Hara's knowledge, and the conversation resumed.
“ The Baptists,” said he, “are a sect who are very peculiar. They have no liberal ideas. In fact, they remind one of the ram of Daniel's vision. That ram, you know, had two horns, and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last. These two horns of the Baptist ram are immersion and close communion.”
“Which is the higher horn?" asked Mr. Ingersoll.
“O, close communion, among our American Baptists,” he answered, laughing heartily, while he used his knife industriously upon his finger nails.
“ Their arguments upon this point of their belief are quite formidable,” remarked Israel.
6. Formidable as the ram's horn. With this, and
dipping all over, they push in all directions, and think themselves very great."
“Let me see,” said Mr. Ingersoll, “I don't exactly remember the history of that beast of the prophet's vision.” He opened the Bible on the table before him.
“I can tell you," continued O'Hara, tipping back his chair and elevating his hands; "there came along a goat from the West, — the West has always been a great place for conquerors, you see, — and he saw the ram with the two horns standing before the river,there you have the water Baptists again, - and he pitched into him, in the fury of his power, with his one horn (which is infant sprinkling), and busted the ram all up into nobody, breaking his two horns, cracking his skull, and casting him down to the ground.”
Israel laughed, though not heartily. Mr. Ingersoll hardly smiled, while he continued examining the Bible. At length he said quietly, “You dispose of your Baptist brethren rather summarily."
“Not a whit more than they dispose of us. To hear them preach about the errors of people who do not dip, and of their own righteousness in keeping the commandments in their big basins of baptisteries while they sanctimoniously exclude all others from their sacrament-table, you would think that'filthy rags ought to rise ten per cent, so as to bring down the price of all kinds of paper used for certificates of church membership.”
“I must say, that I have thought the Baptists far more careful about their terms of communion on the ground of immersion than they are of morality," said Mr. Ingersoll. ·
“ They know full well that the moment they let down their bars of communion, they make void their law in regard to dipping, and their existence in this country is at an end. Besides, it is in conformity to their likes and dislikes, to draw such small cords around their little, narrow, contracted folds. If their people were more enlightened, they could not keep them penned up in that shape, like simple sheep,” Mr. O'Hara continued, while he took several new positions for his feet and hands.
“ There is no Scripture authority for their doctrine of close communion," said Mr. Ingersoll, addressing himself now to Israel ; "on the contrary, many words of our Saviour go to inculcate the unity and fellowship of all his disciples of all his folds."
“ That is too evident to need any proof," said O'Hara; “nobody but descendants of the Anabaptists, who used to run about the streets of Munster naked, would think of setting up any such ridiculous doctrine as close communion of those who have been all over in the water, in one particular little sect, - as though they were the infallible Church of God.”
“But they have many names of which to boast among their sect," said Israel, “notwithstanding their cousinship to the Anabaptists."
6 yes, what sect has not? There was old Roger Williams, a turn-coat from the Church of England and also from Congregationalism. He it was [this he said very emphatically] who refused to hold communion with the Church of Boston because they would not make a confession of guilt for having communed with the Episcopal Church while they were in England. A beautiful man was he to start close communion in America ! Very consistent were his professions of toleration to all religions !”
“But he is quoted by the Baptists and also by others, as the pioneer of the system of pure religious toleration,” said Israel.
“ Persons with such a limited knowledge of history as those
themselves to be, who make such grave falsities respecting the origin of infant baptism, may be pardoned for a parallel inaccuracy respecting the originator of religious toleration," said O'Hara. “ Mackintosh says," he went on,
66. The government of Cromwell made as near approach to general toleration as public prejudice would endure; and Sir Henry Vane, an Independent, was probably the first who laid down with perfect precision the inviolable rights of conscience, and the exemption of religion from all civil authority. But Roger Williams has an undisputed claim as the originator of a free form of baptism ; in that he got Ezekiel Holyman, a man who had not been baptized, to dip him all over, that he might start the Baptists in Rhode Island. The man's name answered his conscience as a qualified administrator of the ordinance, I conclude. Roger Williams probably supplied Tom Jefferson with his notions of a republican government about as much as did another Baptist minister, who sent him, when President, an enormous cheese made by his parishioners in Cheshire, supply him with opinions in astronomy."
Israel no longer wondered that this man was heard by the crowds.