« AnteriorContinuar »
COMING UNTO HIM BY
privileges of the Gospel, those in whom no sincerity of mind to wards Christian faith and amendment is to be found. This part of our position is demonstrated by the fact that certain special interrogatories, to be put to the person who is to be baptised, make a part of the service. For that an actual and a real faith and
repents ance are pledged by the answers given to those interrogatories, must be obvious to any one who considers, that a faith and repentance not real are nothing at all. And the nullity of the faith and repentance, when they are professed, but exist not, having only the superadded virtue of an hypocritical profession to improve them, are not likely to be raised thereby to the standard of qualification required by a church whieh has as honest and strong a meaning in asking who and what manner of person he is, who comes to be baptised, as in pronouncing him, after baptism, regenerate, a member of Christ, a child of God. The previous existence of his qualification, as connected with the efficacy of Baptism, is, more. over, expressed in these decisive words : Doubt ye not, there, fore, but earnestly believe, that He will favourably receive the present persons, TRULY REPENTING AND FAITH.' The same exhortation in which these words are contained had previously quoted the words of Christ. . He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved:' and also the words of St. Peter, ' Repent and be baptised every one of you for the remission of sins, and
ус shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.' The language of the Catechism is equally explicit : "What is required of persons to be baptised? RePENTANCE, whereby they forsake sin, and Faith, whereby they steadfastly believe the promises of God made to them in that sacrament.' So explicitly does the church connect the demand of qualification with the rite.—Nor less explicitly does she connect with the rite, so duly received, the gift of regeneration.
For on the other hand, baptism is not, in the sense of our church, a mere ineffectual, or ecclesiastical rite. It is not a rite of bare public admission unto communion; nor is it a simple declaration on the part of the church, setting forth the hopes and duties of the new disciple. These uses of ecclesiastical incorporation, though included in the service, are subordinate to the other higher purpose
of the sacrament, viz. the assurance of federal communion in the blessings of the Gospel, with the gift of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, communicated in the sacrament, and sealed by it, through the instrumentality of the church, acting in the name of God, and under the warrant of Scripture.
This part of our interpretation is equally apparent from the very words of the service: Seeing that these persons are regenerate.'
It is also apparent from the assertion of the Catechism, that in a sacrament there are two parts, the sign and the inward grace. If then the grace be a part of the sacrament, it must be communicate in the sacramental rite. The grace peculiar to baptism is also asserted to be a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness." Anew birth unto righteousness, or regeneration, then, is by baptism.
We are not aware of any objection possible to be made to the construction which we have assigned to this office of our Liturgy, which relates to the baptism of those who are of riper years ; either as not being the direct and obvious construction in each of its parts, or even as not being exclusively the single and necessary construction of the meaning of the office : so that no other can either be true or have the semblance of truth. • We are not aware indeed that, in any protestant country where the doctrine of the opus operatum is estimated as it deserves, there is any doubt among thinking, men of the necessity of some qualification in the person receiving baptism in order to his spiritual benefit by it. Least of all do we suppose that any members of our church are inclined to such an error. If words have escaped any one, importing a doubt of that kind, we take them as a mere oversight of style, and nothing more serious. It has been therefore only with a view of making our statement complete in each branch of it, that we have gone through this part of the interpretation which we proposed.
Upon the whole, we affirm that the form of baptismal service, comprehending the ritual of the words of institution, as appointed by our Saviour, and the use of the symbol of water also appointed by Him, combined together, though it possesses not by nature any regenerating power, nor has received that power by an unconditional or irrespective promise, does yet, in the doctrine of our church, constitute the appointed medium, through which the grace of regeneration is conveyed ; that grace coming from the fountain of all purity and holiness, from the Eternal Spirit
, whose emá. nations, assured to us by special promise, are to be thought of, as attendant upon that promise, and as verifying it. The church therefore, as the minister of God, proclaims the value of baptism, to all who are fit for it, and pronounces the efficacy of her ministration, for the beginning of their new and spiritual state. Did the church profess the doctrine of universal regeneration in those of riper age, without respect to their faith and repentance, those things would not be stated in the Catechism as required, nor would the strict demand of them be made in the service itself. Were the church able to discern the secrets of men's hearts, she would actually, and in form, limit the assurance of regeneration in the same
extent, as under the absence of such knowledge, she virtually and simplicitly does now limit it. But that her ministration may neither be void, nor presumptuous, may neither bless those whom God hath not blessed, nor reject those whom He will not have rejected, combining the defect of her knowledge with the certainty of the Evangelical promise, she speaks to the supposed faithful and pe. nitent, a language, to them who are such, universally true; which to the impenitent and unfaithful, must be, according to her doctrine, as universally not true.
We proceed to the second part of our position : viz. that infant baptism is regarded by our church as conferring spiritual regeneration, simply, and without reserve. Here, as before, our first reference must be made to the office itself. The introductory part of the office for infant baptism deserves attention. It adverts to the discourse held by our Saviour with Nicodemus. The topic of that discourse is the necessity of a man's being born again of water and of the Holy Ghost, in order to his entering into the kingdom of God. Spiritual regeneration then is the first thing which is presented to our thoughts in the preliminary part of this office. And as it begins, so it continues. The same is the subject of the beginning of the office, and of the middle, and of the end of it. The same subject of spiritual regeneration is exhibited in prayer, interceding for it; in references to portions of Scripture, which relate to it; in positive affirmation of doctrine; in thanksgiving to God for the gift as actually given. The sacrament from first to last holds the doctrine of regeneration by the Holy Spirit enclosed and embodied in it. Its phrase is formed upon that doctrine: its purport and efficacy are explained by it.
Normay we believe that the church intends to represent this sacrą. mentas a type and symbolof spiritual regeneration, without possessinginfused into it the very grace itself. Because the words employed on the occasion are not merely such as imply that the sacrament and the grace are combined together, but they are such as have been studiously selected to express that idea, and such as do most emphatically expressit. They even showananxiety that nothing less may be supposed. • Doubt ye not therefore, but earnestly believe that He will likewise favourably receive this present infant; that He will embrace him with the arms of his mercy; that He will give unto him the blessing of eternal life, and make him partaker of His everlasting kingdom.' Again, “Seeing now, dearly beloved brethren, that this child.is regenerate, and grafted into the body of Christ's church, let us give thanks unto Almighty God for these benefits.' Again,
We yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to regeszerate this infant with thy Holy Spirit, to re
ceive him for thine own child by adoption,' &c. The words of the first passage are certainly remarkable as showing an anxiety that we may receive the full doctrine on this head. The words of the passage corresponding with it in the office for those of riper years are as follow. Doubt ye not, therefore, but earnestly believe, that He will favourably receive these present persons, truly repent: ing and coming unto flim by faith. The same pointed and earnest wish is shown in both. And this clause in the latter office, truly repenting and coming unto him by faith,' which is wanting in the former office, is equally significant in the place where it is inserted to show what is required in the one instance, as in the other place where it is omitted, to show that in the other instance the absence of actual moral qualification does not vacate the benefit of the sacrament.---The insertion and the omission are alike from design, and that design is in both places obvious to be understood.
The office for the order of Confirmation comes next to be consi: dered; and we shall see that it supports and illustrates the exposia țion which we have given. As the rite of confirmation is connected in design with the sacrament of infant baptism, and-is a supplement to it, we might expect to find that which actually we do find, a connexion of doctrine in the two offices. The spiritual regeneration, as already communicated, and communicated in baptism, is thus recognised in the prayer which precedes the solemn act of confirmation. Almighty and everliving God, who hast vouchsafed to regenerate these thy servants by water and the Holy Ghost, and hast given unto them forgiveness of all their sins : strengthen them, we beseech thee, O Lord, with the Holy Ghost the Comforter, and daily increase in them thy manifold gifts of grace. The most specific use of the Catechism is to qualify those who have been baptised in infancy to receive this rite of Confirmation, by instructz ing them in their Christian calling. It is their manual of instruction, and their knowledge of it is the testimonial whereupon they are admitted to be confirmed. The Catechism, then, informs them, that the inward and spiritual grace is a part in each sacrament, and that the grace of baptism is a death unto sin, and a new birth unto.. righteousness ; for being by nature born in sin, and the children of wrath, we are hereby made the children of grace. (The word hereby, we suppose, must refer, grammatically to the sacrameni. If it be referred to the more remote antecedent, a new birth unto, righteousness,' logically the difference is nothing: for that new birth has previously been declared to be a part of the sacrament.) More: : over the answer dictated to the second question of the Catechism seems in itself equivalent to a volume. Who gave you this name? My godfathers and godmothers in my baptism, wherein I was made
a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven. Such is the continued train of instruction provided in the three connected offices, of Baptism, the Catechism, and Confirmation, holding one uniform and consistent language.
We have said that Confirmation is a supplement to Baptism. We mean that it is a supplement to it inasmuch as it adds to baptism the actual attestation of the child, who had been baptised, to the covenant of the Gospel, with the seal of his own moral powers. But the church does not regard it to be such a supplement as may draw down from God the grace of regeneration : that grace is presupposed to exist, and is declared to have been bestowed, by water and the Holy Ghost,' that is, in Baptism. Therefore Confirmation is not an adult baptism, but on the part of the child an adult recognition of the vicarious baptismal vow. It is a rational service, and its very name bears a meaning which implies a confirmation of that Christian state in which the child is found; a confirmation of good to him, as well as a confirmation made by him of his vows.
The plain and positive sense of these several offices ought not to give way to the refinement which a curious piety may contrive for them. Are they not offices for general use, addressed to the understanding of common men, who must understand by the ear, and be taught with simplicity ? Are they not offices for young persons, (we speak of the Catechism and the oflice for Confirmation,) for young persons whose reason is just on the dawn, who know little and believe infinitely, and whose error must be charged to the account of those who,under plain and direct terms, have a reserve of hypothesis behind; that error which the young mind cannot avoid, of believing that a distinct affirmation contains a definite meaning, that strong words means something positive, and that the assertion of a past event does not express a change future and contingent? These considerations are to us of great force, and literally conclusive.
But as the hypothetical meaning is urged by some whose since rity in the search of truth we do not suspect, and whose error, as sve suppose it to be, gives us no small pain, combined as it is with zeal, and ability, and learning; we shall not decline following this point a little farther, and separating the cases, in which, as it appears to us, an hypothetical sense may be admitted, from those in which it cannot be admitted.
Anhypothetical sense then seems admissible only when the Liturgy is speaking first of individuals, as indeed is the case here, and when also, secondly, their individual state is impossible to be known in those respects whereinit bears upon the tenor of the special service relating to them; and when also there can be no ambiguity whether