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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 es. caped 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 per. son 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 covenani. 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 terin 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, corresponding 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 remark 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, jii, 10.
in name only." Still, there arise the questionsWhich use of language is the most scriptural, and -Whether the misapplication of language may not countenance some material errour.
There is not seldum taken another prejudiced view of the present doctrine; from its being supposed to countenance the delusion, that if baptized infants are afterwards educated and continue in a decorum of conduct, accommodated to the pur. poses of the present world, it is sufficient for all the ends required by religion; without piety, and with. out the possession of those graces of the mind, which are declared to be the work of the Holy Spirit, and are the only sources of what is truly valua. ble in the life and conversation. On the ground of this sentiment, it is very surprizing, that an opinion so big with mischief, should confessedly have prevailed through the ages of the primitive martyrs. It adds to the incongruity when we find, that the martyrs and other leading characters of the Eng. lish Reformation, lived and died in the same opi. nion. A due investigation of it, in its various rela. tions, may satisfy any inquirer, that it is consistent with the best instructions which can be given for “the worshipping of God in spirit and in truth;” and for “the bringing of every thought of the heart in subjection to Christ.” But it must be confessed, not to harmonize with many means which have been devised, for the resting of the certainty of a state of grace on the recollection of a season of much animal sensibility; which may have altogether subsided, or else have had alternate seasons of remission and of return; without the
pas. sion, or any holy influence over the affections; but be still looked back to, as “a sealing to the day of redemption.”
Together with this opinion, there is another, as was noticed in the lecture, to which the doctrine of baptismal regeneration must be confessed in oppo. sition. It is the supposing of persons baptized in
infancy, that they are not within the terms of the Christian covenant, until a subsequent conversion. To this also, every branch of our ecclesiastical sys. tem is in opposition. If in consequence it be said as is indeed sometimes the case that we therefore deny the corruption of the human heart, or the need of divine grace for its renovation; or that it can be renewed by any other mean; we reject the imputation, and deny it to be a fair inference from our system.
The author ought not to be backward to express his deliberate opinion, that the introduction of the doctrine above referred to the indefeasibility of grace-has been the cause of the rejection of baptismal regeneration from so many systems of theology. In support of this opinion, he takes occasion to state the following facts.
First: The testimony of the primitive Church is unequivocally in favour of it. The endeavours to establish exceptions have been so feeble; and the accounting for it by the hypothesis of there having been rarely instances of apostacy in the primitive times, is so contrary to historick records; that the position has been laid down in terms of universality.
Secondly: Although in the Roman Catholick Church, before the reformation, a proportion of her divines held doctrines, which are here confessed to be hostile in consequence to the present doctrine, yet this was never questioned. Such was the deep impression made by the primitive faith, that it continued to operate in favour of the present subject; and continues to operate in the Latin and in all the Greek Churches, to the present day.'
Thirdly: At the reformation, the Church of Eng. land, and all the Lutheran Churches received this doctrine; and continue to profess it, in the most unqualified language.
Fourthly: The same language was adopted by other Protestant Churches, in their formularies, and in the writings of their most celebrated divines; until there became current among them the opinion of the indefectibility of grace.
Fifthly: After this had found a place in publick formularies; regeneration, as a subject detached from baptism, obtained the same distinction. They are here supposed to be novelties, which had never entered into any publick confession, until some time in the seventeenth century.
Sixth: The opponents of the doctrine maintained, confess that it applies to some subjects of infant baptism*. To this concession, so little harmonizing with the principle of their theory, they are apparently induced by instances occurring of persons of dis. tinguished piety; who have testified, that they were not conscious of its having been begun at any particular time or in any particular manner; or of there having been any period, in which—whatever may have been the infirmities of their nature-they were not sensible of delight in the laws of God, and a sincere desire to serve him. It is difficult to conceive, why the concession to the cases of some baptized in infancy, may not be extended to all; provided the said opinion of indefectability be out of view: unless indeed regeneration be contemplated as a species of mechanical operation, on a being without ideas, and incapable of the exercise of the intellectual faculty. It is to be feared, that this is the notion of some persons, from the loose manner in which they speak or write on the subject. But every such sentiment is brought in, merely to aid a system of opinions, which would not otherwise hang together; and can produce no authority from the Scriptures, in its support.
* Dr. Doddridge in particular, is express to this point, in iris cighth Sermon on Regeneration.