The More Things Change…
I was trying to dig up a reference and came across this intro to a book from 1807:
SEVERAL works have been published within a few. years, both in Europe, and in this Country, concerning tie Church of God; particularly, the qualifications which are requisite for membership in it, its institutions, the persons to to whom they ought to be extended, and the discipline which its officers, and ordinary members are to maintain in it- The Baptist controversy, in which all these subjects are more or less involved, has been lately revived- Books are multiplied, without bringing this controversy to a close. Difficulties still remain, to perplex the humble enquirer, and keep up the vehemence of debate. Much truth is exhibited. But a clear, consistent scheme, disembarrassed of real difficulties, seems to be wanting. Such a scheme the Bible undoubtedly contains. To elicit this scheme is the only way, to bring honest minds to an agreement. Whoever will candidly review the most ingenious Treatises which have been published in the Baptist controversy, will perceive that the Pcedobaptists have a great pre ponderance of evidence on their side of the question. It will, at the same time, be perceived, that they are not as united as could be wished in the principles of their theory. Some rest the evidence that the infant seed oj believers are proper subjects of baptism, almost wholly upon the covenant which God established with Abraham. Others have not so much re spect to this kind of argument ; but prefer to rest the defence of their opinion, and practice, upon what they apprehend to be the clearer intimations of the Gospel, and upon the re cords oj history. Different views are entertained of the nature of the Abrahamic covenant: It is debated whether this covenant was strictly, and properly the covenant of Grace ; what was the real import, and who were the objects of its promises. Different opinions are entertained, and contrary hypotheses advocated also, respecting the Sinai covenant, the dispensation by Moses generally, and the constitution and character of the community of Israel. Some very respected and learned divines among the Pcedobaptists have adopt ed the idea, that this community was of a mixed character, and have called it a Theocracy. Among the many advocates of this opinion are Lozvman, Doddridge, Warburton, Guise, and the late John Erfkine. These Divines supposed, that the legation of Moses could be best defended against the ca vils of unbelievers, by placing God at the head of the community of Israel, as a civil governor , surrounding himself with the regalia, and managing his subjects with the penalties and largesses, of a temporal sovereign.
The antipaedobaptists have found this hypothesis so convenient a refuge from the attacks of their opposers, as to incorporate it, with great affection, and as a radical principle, in to their system oj reasoning. They have gone farther, and entirely accommodated the hypothesis to their peculiar notions. They insist, that this corqmunitv was not, either in fact, or in the original plan of the institution, spiritual, and religious ; but civil and carnal; and that, of course, the christian church is specifically different, and an entirely nezo society. It is the opinion of the Author oj the following Treatise, that this hypothesis has been adopted unwarily ; and not on ly without,- but against evidence. In view of this diversity of sentiment, and the obscurity which seems yet to lie over these subjects, it was his opinion, that a distinct and accurate view, if one could be given, of the Hebrew economy, as established by J-ehovah,jr§m its rise in the call of Abraham, and the covenant entered into with him, to its consummation in the Christian Church ; deduced, not from the fallible theories of men, but jrorn the Bible it self, was a great desideratum in the science of theology. Such a view he has attempted to furnish. Of his success the public must judge. Though he cannot but entertain the hope that he has succeeded, as to the main principles, could be adventurous indeed to avow a confidence, that his work is without error. Circumstantial errors however, whether they re- sped the matter or the manner, the reader is requested to re member, will not invalidate the truth of the leading princi ples. If these principles can be shewn to be wrong, the writer will be constrained to confess he has altogether failed of his object*
A view of the economy of the church of God: as it existed primitively, under the Abrahamic dispensation and the Sinai law; and as it is perpetuated under the more luminous dispensation of the gospel; particularly in regard to the covenants
Samuel Austin – January 1, 1807