« PreviousContinue »
of this difficulty, he started the singular notion, that in baptism, God gave all grace except the grace of perseverance.
Some Christian divines, finding the current of antiquity to be against them in this particular, have set up the distinction, that what may have been proper language in the prior days of the primitive Church, is full of danger in the present; because of the great number of baptized infidels, and of evil livers among professing Christians. But there were no times, in which lamentations were not made over the many, who violated their baptismal covenant. The most remarkable complaints of this sort, relate to the latter half of the third century: and a mournful specimen of them may be seen in the first chapter of the eighth book of the History of Eusebius. But within this term, piety abounded also: and its interests were not held to be injured by a continuance of the language, which had been always applied to baptism.
In the lecture, the Catechism was considered as unequivocally teaching the doctrine here illustrated. But it may be proper, in further evidence of the sense of the Church, to cite other of her institutions.
In the office for the baptism of infants, there is put up a prayer "for the sanctifying of the water to the mystical washing away of sin:" after the affusion, the congregation are addressed in the words
"Seeing now that this child is regenerate and grafted into the body of Christ's Church:" and thanks are offered to Almighty God-" that it hath pleased him to regenerate this infant with his Holy Spirit. "The sentiment is also sustained, in the office for the baptism of adults. And in like manner, the office for confirmation recognizes the subjects of it, as having been regenerated in baptism. And in the visitation of the sick, the address of the minister is predicated on the supposition of a state of grace, unless the person addressed have fallen from it: in which case, there is an exhortation to
repentance and a turning to God; but there is no call to regeneration.
Of the Articles, the Twenty-fifth and the Twentyseventh are to the purpose: the former defining Sacraments to be "not only badges or tokens of Christian men's profession, but certain sure witnesses and effectual signs of grace: and the latter defining baptism, not only a sign of profession and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that are not christened; but also a sign of regeneration or new birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive baptism rightly, are grafted into the Church: the promise of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God, are visibly signed and sealed." That this strong language could not have been exclusively designed of adults, appears in the Article's going on to affirm the baptism of young children to be agreeable to the word of God: thus applying to them all that had gone before.
Of the Homilies, there shall be referred to only that entitled "Of Salvation:" Part the Third. The said Homily, in opening the important doctrine of justifieation, uses the words "justified" and "baptized,"
From the Common Prayers, also, one instance shall suffice. It is in the Collect for Christmas day; in which we pray to God, that "being made his children by adoption and grace, we may daily be renewed by his Holy Spirit." To suppose this a prayer for regeneration, would be contrary not only to grammar, but to common sense. Such a prayer would be unsuitable, to Christian people; all of whom would be thus implied to be in an unregenerate state. Therefore the words must be construed, as having first a retrospect to grace received in baptism; and then, a prospective view to daily renewal: agreeably to what is said" our inward man is renewed day by day."*
2 Cor. iv. 16.
The present subject is the more important, as it enters into the grounds on which infant baptism should be defended. Many who consider the Abrahamick and the Mosaick covenants as involving spiritual promises, and who extol this as an immense benefit to the infant subjects of the ordinance of circumcision, are obliged by their systems to confine the benefit to the putting of them in the way of future conversion or regeneration.
On this ground, it is difficult to perceive wherein the benefit consisted; since uncircumcised infants might have been furnished with religious instruction, and with any other probable mean of becoming in future the objects of divine approbation.
So, in regard to baptized infants; there seems, on these principles, to attach no benefit to the claim made on their behalf, to the rite of baptism. For a religious denier of infant baptism may say, that his children will have the benefit of needful instruction, no less than if he had stipulated to bestow it on them, before the Church; and that if, by his instructions or by any other mean, their minds should become impressed by religious sentiment, the door of conversion is not the less open to them, because of their not having been subjected in infancy to the transaction in question; whether it be an unauthorized ceremony, or a divinely instituted rite. Accordingly, whatever importance may be attached to the controversy concerning infant baptism, because of the authority on which it is affirmed to rest; it makes nothing to the other point, of benefit said to accrue from it to the infant.
But to revert to the subject of the Abrahamick Covenant: it may be well to consider, whether the promise-"I will be a God to thee and to thy seed after thee," can be said to have involved any spiritual benefit; unless this extended to the favour of God-not to be forfeited without a future life of sin. The promise is still more inconsistent with the contrary theory; when it involves a saving grace,
of which all are not the objects: for then, the bring. ing of the innocent offcasts from mercy within the covenant, has the effect not of benefit, but of being the mean of condemnation. It may be supposed, that if the Abrahamick Covenant had fallen short of what is here contended for; we should not read of so many saints under the Old Testament, without any notice of their having become such through the medium of regeneration or conversion. But the former word is not found in the Old Testament; and the latter is never used, except in reference to a recovery from such a state of sin, as many have escaped from the beginning to the end of life.*
Considerable prejudice has been raised against the present doctrine, from its being supposed to contradict a principle involved in the whole economy of revelation-that of the hereditary depravity of human nature: especially as no considerate person supposes, that in infant baptism, any moral change is wrought on the mind of the infant. It is here taken for granted, that all the powers of the human constitution, from the highest of the intellect to the ordinary appetites serving the purpose of
In Dr. Doddridge's fourth sermon on Regeneration, there occurs a remarkable instance of the different use which he and others make of the term "Regeneration," from what it is here conceived to denote in scripture-an incipient interest in the Christian covenant. The instance is produced only for illustration.
It lay in the way of Dr. Doddridge to show, that the prophets under the Old Testament were commissioned in effect to make the declaration, that no unregenerate sinner should enter into the kingdom of God. This point is proved by the recital of texts declaring the judgments of God against impenitent sinners, and the necessity of their conversion. There is not one of the texts which proves, that these sinners may not have been in grace and fallen from it. Therefore the passages do not all affect the question, of the erroneous use here thought to be made of the scriptural term under consideration: but they show in a strong point of view, the different senses in which the same is used; and further, that the members of the Jewish Church were not supposed to need regeneration, as belonging to an incipient state of grace.
our preservation, become either good or evil in their operations, according to the objects on which they are exercised, and to the degree of force with which they act. It is the grace of God alone, which can govern and conduct them to their respective ends; producing a morality of conduct, correspond ing with a right state of the affections; but not communicating any affection or any faculty, which was not an original endowment of our nature. In baptism, the grace here referred to is covenanted to the infant subject of it; to be improved by him, under the influence of a religious education. Thus improving it, he continues what he was made in baptism-"a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven." What would be a falling away in an adult subject of baptism, would be the same in him: and in either case, there is required a renewing unto repentance. We may rémark of this view of the subject, that it agrees with the metaphor of a new birth: for our natural birth, on which the metaphor is built, is not a creation of new properties or powers; but a bringing of those already existing, into a new sphere of action. At all events, the author of these remarks gives a caution against the misunderstanding of them, as though there were denied the hereditary corruption of human nature, or as though there were affirmed any holy affection or desire in man, otherwise than through the operation of the Divine Spirit; effecting what is called "The putting off the old man with his deeds; and the putting on of the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him who created him."*
Dr. Doddridge must have had a clear idea of the distinction taken on this subject, by the established Church of his country; when, to a passage of his second Discourse on Regeneration, he attached the following note-"Some choose to call the change here described renovation, rather than regeneration:" going on to remark, "that the difference is
Col. iii, 10.