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LETTER TO A MAGAZINE
ON THE SUBJECT OF
DR. PUSEY'S TRACT ON BAPTISM.
In answer to a correspondent who had asked, “on what authority,” certain “statements” in Dr. Pusey's Tract on Baptism, pp. 133—135, rested, the Editor of the Magazine in question had made the following remarks :
We are not sure that we perfectly understand all H. C.'s remarks; and we differ from his opinion that Bishop Burnet “ought to be allowed to have great weight in controversies respecting the doctrines of our Church.” But, in reply to the question which he puts to us, as to “what authority” the doctrine which he quotes from the Oxford Tracts rests upon, we can only say, Upon the authority of the darkest ages of Popery, when men had debased Christianity from a spiritual system, a “reasonable service,” to a system of forms, and ceremonial rites, and opera operata influences; in which, what Bishop Horsley emphatically calls “the mysterious intercourse of the soul with its Creator," was nearly superseded by an intervention of “the Church”-not as a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure word of God is preached, and the sacraments are “duly administered according to Christ's ordinance,” as the Church of England defines it—but as a sort of “mediator between God and man," through whom all things relating to spiritual life were to be conveyed. Those who could not understand that “God is a Spirit, and they that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth,” VOL. IV.-82.
and those who had neither the reality nor “the appearance of spiritual life,” readily allied themselves to a religion of ceremonials, in which the Church stood in the place of God. And as the Popish priesthood found their gain in encouraging these ritual and non-spiritual views of Christianity, they eventually prevailed throughout Christendom, till the Reformation restored the pure light of Scripture, and taught men to look less to the priest and more to God; less to “outward and visible signs,” and more to “inward and spiritual graces ;” and not to infer that, because their names stood upon the register of baptism, it was therefore enrolled in the Lamb's book of life, when there was no “appearance” of spiritual vitality in their heart or conduct.
This fatal reliance upon signs, to the forgetfulness of the things signified, was rendered more proclivious, from the circumstance that in the early Church persecution so purified its ranks, that there was little temptation for men to call themselves Christians who were not such in heart; and as adult converts were the first candidates for baptism, the outward and visible sign of regeneration was not resorted to till the inward and spiritual grace was already actually possessed; for there had been spiritually “ a death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness," before the party applied to make a public confession of his faith in Christ, at the risk of subjecting himself to all the secular perils which it involved.
We have devoted so many scores, nay, hundreds, of pages to the questions propounded in the extract from the Oxford Tracts (especially at the time of the Baptismal Controversy, upon occasion of Bishop Mant's tract, when not a few of our readers were thoroughly wearied with the discussion), that we are not anxious to obtrude a new litigation; but we have readily inserted the extract furnished by our correspondent, because, nothing that we could say would so clearly show the unscriptural character of the whole system of the Oxford Tracts, as to let them speak for themselves. When the Christian reader learns that Noah, and Abraham, and Moses, and Job, and David, and Isaiah, and Daniel, were not regenerate persons, were not sons of God, were not born again, but that Voltaire was all this, because he had been baptized by a Popish priest, we may surely leave such an hypothesis to be crushed by its own weight. It is the very bathos of theology, an absurdity not worthy to be gravely replied to, that men were “sanctified," “greatly sanctified;" were the friends of God, that “the Spirit of God dwelt in their hearts, and wrought therein incorruption, self-denial, patience, and unhesitating, unwearied faith ;" who yet, having been "by nature born in sin, and the children of wrath,” and never having been baptized, so as to be made the children of grace,” were still “ unregenerate,” and therefore, in Scripture language, “children of the devil.” Sanctified, unregenerate friends of God! The Spirit of God dwelling in men, who, not being “ born again,” were of necessity, being still in their natural condition, “children of the devil !" What next?
We defy a score of Dr. Hampdens, even were they to give lectures in favour of pure Socinianism, to do so much mischief to the cause of religion, in a high academical station, as is done by setting forth such doctrine as that contained in the following passage from one of the Oxford Tracts;-for Socinianism makes no pretensions to be the doctrine of the Church of England, nor do any members of that Church profess to find it in Scripture; whereas the absurdity, the irrational fanaticism, the intellectual drivelling under the abused name of faith, which dictates such sentiments as the following, must disgust every intelligent man, and make him an infidel, if he is really led to believe that Christianity is a system so utterly opposed to common sense. The writer complains, that “We have almost embraced the doctrine, that God conveys grace only through the instrumentality of the mental energies, that is, through faith, prayer, active spiritual contemplations, or (what is called) communion with God, in contradiction to the primitive view, according to which the Church and her Sacraments are the ordained and direct visible means of conveying to the soul what is in itself supernatural and unseen. For example, would not most men maintain, on the first view of the subject, that to administer the Lord's Supper to infants, or to the dying and insensible, however consistently pious and believing in their past lives, was a superstition? and yet both practices have the sanction of primitive usage. And does not this account for the prevailing indisposition, to admit that Baptism conveys regeneration ? Indeed, this may even be set down as the essence of Sectarian doctrine (however its mischief may be restrained or compensated, in the case of individuals), to consider faith, and not the Sacraments, as the instrument of justification and other Gospel gifts.”
Did ever any man, but the most ignorant Popish fanatic, till these our modern days, write thus ? Administering the Lord's Supper (by which we feed upon Christ “by faith with thanksgiving”—that is, in a purely spiritual banquet) to infants, or to the dying or insensible, is not superstition, if it can be proved that there were in some former age some persons weak and ignorant enough to act or advocate such folly and impiety! Why not equally vindicate the Pope's sprinkling holy water upon the horses, or St. Anthony's preaching to the fishes? We will only say, Let those who adopt a portion of this scheme, and not the whole, mark well whither they are tending. Upon the showing of the Oxford Tracts themselves, the whole system hangs together. You are to adopt some irrational mystical system, by which grace is conveyed-not through “faith, prayer, active spiritual contemplations, or (what is called) communion with God," but—in the same manner that the Lord's Supper conveys grace when administered to an infant, or an insensible person. We have never been extreme in our views respecting the language used in our Liturgy concerning Baptism. We have thought that the words might be consistently used, either in reference to the undoubted privileges of Christian baptism; or in faith and charity, upon the principle stated in the Catechism, where it is said, “ Why then are infants baptized, when, by reason of their tender age, they cannot perform them? (faith and repentance.) Because they promise them both by their sureties; which promise, when they come to age, themselves are bound to perform.” Upon either of these principles we can cheerfully use our Baptismal Service. But if the use of it is to sanction the doctrine stated in this tract; if we are to believe that baptism “conveys to the soul what is in itself supernatural and unseen,” in the selfsame way that the Popish wafer is alleged to convey grace to infants and insensible persons(why not to idiots?)—and if our Church Service is to be tortured to bear this meaning; then we confess, that the sooner such a stumbling-block is removed the better. The Oxford Tract writers will not allow us to connect the outward