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those CHURCH MEMBERS, or yet the spectators in general ; for the whole assembly, or congregation, seemed to give very serious heed to what was said and done, and did afterwards freely and warmly express their concurrence and approbation.
They were that day earnestly exhorted to consider and keep in mind, that a CHRISTIAN Church is a company of professed believers, voluntarily associating and giving themselves to the Lord, after the example of the Primitive Christians at Corinth, of whom it is said, that they first gave their own selves to the Lord, and into us (says the Apostle) by the will of God! (2 Cor. viii. 5.) This implies that they had, from the beginning, manifested an entire submission to the authority of Christ, and a ready compliance with the directions of the Apostles. To this they had been led, not by the influence of worldly policy, or any mercenary motive, but by the will of God, which must be to THE REAL CHRISTIAN the main spring of action, and sole and ruling principle of obedience. This example of the primitive Christians at Corinth was then earnestly recommended to the constituents of the new CHURCH at Lynn, in following which they would ensure their own prosperity, as well as deserve the approbation of all good men, and of the truth itself.
It is always pleasant to see light issuing out of darkness, and order out of confusion; and so it was to see the change which now took place. The people had been long in a disunited and disorderly state, unused and strangers to those social ties which
produced such a happy and admirable harmony in the primitive churches, and conduced so powerfully to the advancement of their members in divine knowledge, virtue, and piety! Hence each of those churches, united to Christ as its head, and deriving its model and order, and laws, from him, is represented as (Ephes. ii. 21, 22) A BUILDING fitly framed together, and growing unto a holy temple in the Lord-an habitation of God through the Spirit..
The people at Lynn thus forming themselves into a Church, were divided about the admission of Free COMMUNION. Mr. Richards wrote to his tutors, requesting their advice in a matter which seemed to him and his flock to involve so much difficulty. His letters, of course, are not to be procured, as he seldom, except in certain particular cases, kept copies of them. The replies of his tutors, Messrs. Hugh and Caleb Evans, have been found carefully sewed together, a proof of his estimation of them. They are decidedly in favour of FREE COMMUNION. As the topic is now agitating in the Particular Baptist Connexion, between the Rev. Robert Hall, of Leicester, and the Rev. Joseph Kinghorn, of Norwich--these Catholic epistles shall be inserted. Creditable to the talents and temper of the writers, they will subserve the cause of truth and charity. For the sake of the youthful reader it may be remarked, that Baptists in general admit no person to the Lord's Table without being baptized on the profession of his faith by immersion. Some churches, however, among the Baptists
are of a different opinion, admitting to the Lord's table those who have been sprinkled in their infancy. These are said to practice Free or Open COMMUNION. It is a curious circumstance, that this prevails more amongst the Calvinists, who are accused of narrowness, than amongst the General Buptists, who profess greater liberality! The writer of this Memoir first introduced it into his own congregation at Worship Street, and is happy in adding, that it is becoming more prevalent in the connexion.
Free Communion was advocated amongst the General Baptists upwards of fifty years ago by the celebrated Dr. James Foster, and my worthy fatherin-law, the Rev. John Wiche, of Maidstone-but these good men were opposed with virulence and bigotry. It is to be hoped that Strict Communion does not necessarily involve the annihilation of Christian charity.
The letter of the Rev. Hugh Evans to Mr. Richards runs thus :
Bristol, Feb. 13, 1777. I rejoice in your better health amidst so many labours, and the good account you give of the people. .
As to their forming themselves into A CHURCH, I know not what to say as to what plan is best. Suppose those who are convinced of Believers Baptism, and are willing to submit, were to be baptized by you, and that the majority of those who are judged proper materials for a Christian Church should de. termine on what plan to form, and the minority,
should be admitted to communion at the LORD's TABLE, though not strictly a part of the Church. There must be some concession on both sides, or there can be no harmony in such a case. For my own part, though I as firmly believe Adult Baptism as any man can, yet I much question whether it ever was made a term of communion, and whether the first Christian Church at Jerusalem were all baptized ? Sure I am, there is no account of the baptizing of all the Apostles—to suppose that John baptized them is no proof of it, any more than to suppose the contrary, prove that they were not. Wei read, it is true, that thousands were baptized and added to them, which is a supplement, not in the original; and afterwards it is said, all that believed, not all that were baptized, were together, &c.; and at the 47th verse it is said, the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved, but it is not said, and were baptized. And in all the epistles to the churches, the inscription is to the saints and faithful and called ; and, I suppose, it would be difficult to prove that all the saints, or saints in communion, were baptized then, or are so now: and if saints, they are admitted to communion with God, and if with him, without an express prohibition, it seems strange they should be refused coinmunion with fellow saints! ***
If Baptism was an evidence of regeneration, I think it would alter the case considerably. And after all, I imagine we must bear and forbear with one another in what is more important than a diversity of opinion about baptism. The Welsh
Churches, at least many of them, think imposition of hands necessary to church fellowship, and will not admit persons to it without. But I do not wish to proselyte you to my opinion, nor dictate a plan for them. I see it is difficult, if not impossible, to fix upon a plan that will please all. They must determine upon what they judge best for themselves. As to your stay, you must do as you think best, for you are a better judge than I in this matter.
My kind respects to you, and best wishes for you ; pray for me, who am Your affectionate friend, brother, and servant,
Hugh EvANS. The letter of Dr. Caleb Evans on the subject is worthy of special attention.'
· DEAR SIR,
Bristol, Feb. 14, 1777. : I received yours with pleasure, and am glad to hear you have your health, and are likely to be comfortable at Lynn. My best wishes will always follow you. With this you will receive a letter from my Father, so that mine may be the shorter. The principal point that requires discussion is, “MIXT COMMUNION;" concerning which, as well as every thing else of a religious nature, my grand principle is, Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. My Father's reasoning upon the point in his letter to you, I must freely own I do not approve of. If it proves any thing, it proves that it is at least a dubious matter whether it be the duty of professed believers to be baptized at all--for if it