Page images

the means of restoring the energy of the Church, or of rousing men from their lethargy; but as men awaking from a slumber in alarm, look not around with full self-possession, they let slip other truths. Without deciding as to the whole extent of their allegations, the eighteenth century was comparatively a stagnant period of the Church,-in England, owing to the violent revolution, whereby so many of her best members, the Non-juring Clergy, were ejected, and that, at one time, the State set itself to corrupt and degrade her, and her writers looked for strength in foreign alliances ;-abroad, through the development of the principles of the ultra-reformation, and the influence of degraded England and corrupted France. But this very fact, while it accounts for the weight attaching to any energetic, though partial, statement of truth, affords a presumption, that persons vehemently roused at that period, and connecting themselves with a defective reformation, would not see the whole; their influence was blessed as far as they were faithful, fell short, where their system was defective.

A happier time, we trust, is dawning, when with the energy for conversion which now exists, shall be combined care for the young, such as the belief in God's gift through Baptism brings with it, and the holy calmness of a complete faith.

It has seemed necessary to premise thus much, both because the habits of mind referred to, have an evil tendency, far beyond even this one important subject, and also because the difficulties raised against Baptismal Regeneration seem to lie entirely in these collateral questions, not in the defect of Scripture evidence for its truth. They are made, however, more in the hope of removing difficulties from the minds of such as have not yet taken any decided line against the doctrines of the Church, than of

preached. A mode of preaching" wherein Christ was scarcely ever spoken of, “or spoken of in such a way as stripped Him of all the importance of His cha“racter and offices," has obviously nothing to do with any thing existing at the present day, nor with belief that Christ imparts His gift of the new birth through Baptism. Bp. Sumner, in quoting this passage, (Apost. Preaching, c. v. end,) keeps the same contrast between Christianity and Heathenism, or Christianity as a republication of the religion of nature. This is seldom observed by those who quote them.



convincing such as have: and to the former only will the evidence proposed be addressed. But let not others think, that because the evidence does not persuade them, this is owing to its want of validity : for Scripture evidence is throughout proposed to those who believe, not to those who believe not ; it will be enough for those who “ continue in the things which they have learned, and have been assured of, knowing of whom they have learned them” (2 Tim. iii. 14); but there is no promise that any, be they nations, sects, or individuals, who have failed to hold fast to them, should be enabled to see their truth. God has provided an institution, the Church, to “hold fast” and to convey “ the faithful word as they had been taught.” (Tit. ii. 2.) He ordered that the immediate successors of the Apostles should " commit the things which they had heard of them to faithful men, who should be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim. ii. 2.) Whoever, then, neglects this ordinance of God, and so seeks truth in any other way than God has directed it to be sought, has no ground to look to obtain it; nay, it appears to be a penalty annexed to departure from this channel of truth, both in individuals and bodies, that they not only lose all insight into the Scripture evidence for that truth, but gradually decline further from it, and but seldom, and not without extraordinary effort, recover. The first misgivings, and restrictions, and limitations, are forgotten : what was originally an exception is made a rule and a principle ; and departures, which were at first timidly ventured upon, and excused upon the necessity of the case, (as that of Calvin from episcopal ordination, or the licence with regard to the authority and extent of the Canon of Scripture among several denominations of Christians,) are by their followers looked upon as matters of glory and of boast, and as distinctive marks of Protestantism. For, on the one hand, the dissatisfaction generated by a state of doubt leads us to prefer even wrong decision to suspense or misgiving; we " force ourselves to do this" unbidden" sacrifice :" on the other, our natural listlessness and dislike of exertion tempts us to make an arbitrary selection of such portions of the vast compass of Divine Truth as is most congenial to ourselves, (since to enter equally into all its parts

VOL. II. P. II.- NO. 67.


costs much effort,) and this done, we acquire a positive distaste for such truth as we have not adopted into what is practically our religious creed : we dislike having our religious notions disturbed ; and since no truth can be without its influence upon the rest, the adoption of any forsaken truth involves not only the admission of a foreign and unaccustomed ingredient, but threatens to compel us to modify much at least of our actual system.

My object, then, in the following pages, is partly to help, by God's blessing, to relieve the minds of such persons as being in the sacred ministry of the Church, or Candidates for the same, have difficulty in reconciling with their ideas of Scripture truth, what appears even to them to be the obvious meaning of our Baptismal and other 'Formularies, as to the privileges of Baptism; partly (and that more especially) to afford persons a test of their own views of their Saviour's ordinance, by comparing them with the language and feelings of Scripture. And this, because a due sense of the blessings which He has bestowed upon us, must tend to increase our love for Him ; as also, because I know not what ground of hope the Church has to look for a full blessing upon its ministry from its Head, so long as a main channel of His grace be, in comparison, lightly esteemed.

Persons often forget that Baptismal Regeneration is taught in the Catechism as well, as undoubtingly, and as warmly, as in the services of Baptism and Confirmation; for when the child is taught to say that it was " in its “ Baptism made a member of Christ and a child of God," that " being by “ nature born in sin, and the children of wrath, we are hereby (by the spiritual “grace of Baptism) made the children of grace ;" what is this but to say that they were born of God, i.e. re-generate ? and every child is taught to “thank “its Heavenly Father for having called it into this state of salvation through “ Jesus Christ our Saviour," and humbly to pray—not that it be brought into any other state, but," that it might continue in the same to its life's " end."




The passages of Holy Scripture, which refer to Baptism, may naturally be divided under two heads; those which directly connect regeneration with it (John iii. 5. Titus iii. 5,) and those which speak of its privileges, in high, indeed, and glorious terms, but without the same precision and definiteness. Each class, in a different way, strengthens our faith; the one telling us what our privilege is, the other raising or illustrating our notions of that privilege, by speaking of its accompaniments or results.

Before entering upon the consideration of these passages, however, some may wish to know the meaning here attached to the Scripture words " regeneration," or "new birth,” and “ birth “from above.” This were easy for practical purposes, by way of description, so as to set before ourselves the greatness of the gift by Baptism bestowed on us; but it is not so easy by way of a technical definition. This arises from the very nature of the subject ; for we can only accurately define that which we understand, not in its effects only, but its cause. Things divine, even by describing, we are apt to circumscribe ; much more, if we attempt strictly to define them : the depth of things divine cannot be contained within the shallowness of human words. The more carefully we express ourselves in the one way, the more escapes us in another. Thus, in the doctrine of justification by faith, a mind which should mainly fix itself on our being "ac“ counted righteous," would by degrees lose sight of that other portion of it, the “ having righteousness actually imparted, the “ being made righteous ;" as on the other hand one' who recently attempted to recover this last portion of the truth, became so intent thereon, as to do away the vividness of that former truth, that we are “judicially pronounced righteous or absolved for “ Christ's sake :” what Christ worketh in us cast a shade over what He did and suffered for us. So again, in many good persons, the desire to uphold (as they think) the doctrine of justification by faith, practically obliterates the truth, that our justification is imputed to us, not through the feelings, but through Baptism; as on the other hand, there may be also a cold and exclusive recognition of the gift of God in Baptism, without any vivid perception that by abiding faith only can that gift be retained. In all these cases, a portion of the truth has been taken for the whole, and has narrowed the whole. Neither again sufficeth it often, that the whole truth should be really involved in the definition given. Thus in the words “justification by faith," all the Christian privileges and gifts are indeed included, since they are all part of the faith, bestowed on one who embraces the mercies of God in Christ, and is through the Sacraments made a member of Him. It is justification by God's free grace in the Gospel, as opposed to every thing out of the Gospel ; yet when a person comes to look upon this as a definition, not as exhibiting the truth vividly upon one side only, he annexes restraining senses to the words, and goes on to substitute or oppose one portion of the truth—that most familiar to his own mind- to other portions, likewise contained in it. Thus “justification by faith” came to be opposed' in men's minds to Baptism, the means ordained by Christ Himself for the remission of sin or for justification.

1 Knox's Remains.

The like has happened with regard to Baptism. Hence also it may be in part that the early Church has not fixed the language on this subject beyond the statement of the Nicene Creed, (that there is “one Baptism for the remission of sins,") and her teachers have, as occasion suggested, dwelt at different times upon the one or other portion of its blessings, but left no fixed form of speaking thereon. They have described not defined the gifts of God in Baptism. Thus Baptism may obviously be looked upon

i Papers from the “ Record,” p. 31, 33, &c.

« PreviousContinue »