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were jealously withheld from the converts, until they had actually entered into the Church by baptism, so that nothing more than an implicit belief in Christianity was previously exacted from them. I do not mean to say, that this is my opinion; but I will show you, by and bye, that it is the opinion of learned Protestant divines.
Let us now consider what were the motives which led to this discipline. It is supposed to have been grounded on several
passages of Scripture, such as where our Saviour warns his Apostles “not to throw pearls before swine,” not to communicate the precious mysteries of religion to those who were unworthy of them. Several hints, too, of such a system are thrown out in the Epistles of St. Paul, where he speaks of some doctrines as being food for the strong, while others are compared to milk, which may be communicated to infants in faith; and the unbaptized were, in the early language of the Church, called children or infants, in comparison to the adult or perfect faithful. It was deemed therefore expedient, and almost necessary, to conceal the real doctrines of Christianity from heathenish persecutors—not indeed from a dread of being treated with greater severity, but rather through fear of the mysteries being profaned and subjected to indecent ridicule or wanton curiosity.
Now this being the object to be attained, upon what principle can the system have been carried into effect ? Suppose for a moment that the principle of faith among these early Christians was the examination of the doctrines proposed by their teachers in the written word of God, and that the examination was to be carried on by each individual, who was to be responsible for himself, that he believed nothing but what he could satisfy himself, was proved in the word of God. Suppose this to have been the principle of faith, how could this be reconciled with the ends of that system? The object of this was to prevent exposure of the sacred mysteries, by betrayal from those whom they instructed. But if we suppose the principle just mentioned to have been followed by the
Church, she exposed herself uselessly to a dreadful risk. Instead of at once proposing her doctrines to the examination of the candidate for baptism, and, if he were not satisfied, allowing him to withdraw, we are to suppose that she preferred receiving such actually into her communion, and of course leaving them the option of retiring from it; not only the option, but the necessity of doing so, if they could not afterwards satisfy themselves of every doctrine proposed to them. This would have been precisely defeating the very object in view; because, unless they had a sure pledge that after baptism there could be no danger, or chance, or possibility, humanly speaking, of their being dissatisfied with any of the doctrines to be communicated, and consequently of their feeling called to draw back from Christianity again,- unless such a pledge as this, could be, and was exacted, the discipline would have precisely defeated its own object. Not only so, but it would have been an act of the greatest injustice; it would have been inveigling men into an unknown system, and, at the very first step, exacting from them what every moralist must consider, under ordinary circumstances, essentially wrong -adhesion to doctrines or practices not explained to them, and of the correctness whereof they were not allowed to judge. Unless therefore there was some principle embraced by the Catechumens, as they were called, before they were baptized, which gave a guarantee to those who admitted them, that it would be impossible for them to go back, no matter what doctrine, what discipline, or what practices, should be subsequently required of them however sublime or incomprehensible the dogmas, or however severe the sacrifice of their feelings and opinions which they should have to make, unless there was a security, or guarantee, to this extent before baptism, it would have been unjust in the highest degree-it would have been immoral to admit them to it. Nay more, it would have been sacrilegious; it would have been a conniving at the possibility of the sacrament being bestowed upon per: søns who had not even virtually the entire measure of faith,
but had yet, on the contrary, the momentous duty to discharge, of studying their belief, and making up their minds whether or no they would accept those doctrines as scriptural, which the baptizing Church held, and would propose to them.
There is only one principle which could justify and explain this discipline and practice the conviction of these persons that they would be guided by such authority as could not lead them astray, that in giving their future belief into the hands of those that taught them, they were giving it into the hands of God; so as to be previously satisfied of a supreme and divine sanction to all the mysteries of religion, that might afterwards be taught them. On this principle alone could security have been given, that, after being baptized, the new Christians would not turn back from the faith ; and consequently, only by the admission of this principle as the groundwork of Christian truth, can we suppose the ancient discipline to have been preserved in the Church, or the practice of admitting persons so uninstructed to baptism, warranted or justified.
I will read to you one authority in support of all that I have said. It shall be a very modern one, and one which, in the Church of England, should be considered essentially orthodox. It is from a work published by Mr. Newman, of Oxford, only two years ago, entitled, “ The Arians of the Fourth Century;" a work which I understand to have come out under the sanc. tion of the late Regius Professor of Oxford, and which has been, to my knowledge, highly commended and admired by many, who are considered very accurate in their acquaintance with the doctrines of that Church. The passage is more important, because it would bear me out farther than I have gone, and confirms what I stated at the beginning of my remarks on this discipline, that the great and essential doctrines of Christianity were not at first revealed to the catechumen. In page 49, he says, 'speaking of them, “ Even to the last, they were granted nothing beyond a formal and general account of the articles of the Christian faith; the exact and fully developed
doctrines of the Trinity, and the Incarnation, and, still more, the doctrine of the Atonement, as once made upon the Cross, and commemorated and appropriated in the Eucharist, being the exclusive possession of the serious and practised Christian, On the other hand, the chief subjects of catechisings, as we learn from Cyril, were the doctrines of repentance and pardon, of the necessity of good works, of the nature and use of baptism, and the immortality of the soul, as the Apostles had determined them.” So that the only doctrines, according to this authority, taught before baptism, were the immortality of the soul, the necessity of good works, the use of baptism, and of repentance and pardon. No more than a general idea of Christianity was given; whereas the important doctrines, and, in some sense, I might say, the most important doctrines,--for, by Christians of any denomination, these must be so considered, -of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and above all, that dogma which now-a-days particularly is considered the most vital of all, the Atonement on the Cross, were not even slightly hinted at, much less communicated, to the new Christian before he was baptised. But here comes an objection to this statement, and you shall hear its answer. “ Now, first it may be asked, how was any secrecy practicable, seeing that the Scriptures were open to every one who chose to consult them ?” That is, if the Bible or Scripture was in the hands of the Faithful, and they were supposed or recommended to read it, thence to satisfy their convictions; how was it possible to preserve these doctrines from observation ? Hear now the answer. “It may startle those who are but acquainted with the popular writings of this day; yet, I believe the most accurate consideration of the subject will lead us to acquiesce in the statement, as a general truth, that the doctrines in question have never been learned merely from Scripture. Surely the Sacred Volume was never intended and was not adopted to teach us our creed; however certain it is that we can prove our creed from it, when it has once been taught us, and in spite of individual produceable exceptions to the general rule. From the very first, the rule has
been, as a matter of fact, for the Church to teach the truth, and then appeal to the Scripture in vindication of its own teaching. And, from the first, it has been the error of heretics to neglect the information provided for them, and to attempt of themselves a work to which they are unequal, the eliciting a systematic doctrine from the scattered notices of the truth which Scripture contains. Such men act, in the solemn concerns of religion, the part of the self-sufficient natural philosopher, who should obstinately reject Newton's theory of gravitation, and endeavour, with talents inadequate to the task, to strike out some theory of motion by himself. The insufficiency of the mere private study of Holy Scripture for arriving at the entire truth which it really contains, is shewn by the fact, that creeds and teachers have ever been divinely provided, and by the discordance of opinions which exist whenever those aids are thrown aside; as well as by the very structure of the Bible itself. And if this be so, it follows, that when inquirers and neophytes used the inspired writings for the purposes of morals, and for instruction in the rudiments of the faith, they still might need the teaching of the Church, as a key to the collection of passages which related to the mysteries of the gospel---passages which are obscure, from the necessity of combining and receiving them all.”
Here, then, my brethren, we have an acknowledgement made, within these last two years, by a learned divine of the Established Church, that the Christians in early times were not instructed in the important dogmas of religion, until baptised; and he removes the difficulty arising from the assertion, that the Scriptures were the rule on which they were taught to ground their faith, by asserting that the Scriptures were applied to by the Church to confirm the faith which it taught them, but was never considered as the only ground upon which their faith was to be built. This is more than sufficient for my purpose ;--it not only admits the premises which I have laid dowr, but goes as far as I can wish in the consequences it draws. 11 Januaris. Yare vadjeni sev
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