The Doctrine of the Sacraments
In Relation to the Doctrines of Grace
As Contained in the Scriptures, Taught in
Our Formularies, and Upheld by Our Reformers
By Nathaniel Dimock
New Edition, Longmans, Green, 1908
[Spelling selectively modernized. Bible citations converted to all Arabic numerals. Footnotes moved into or near their places of citation.]
The original edition of this little book was published in 1871, under the name of “An English Presbyter”. The present edition (somewhat abridged in the Latin notes) is issued, with the Author’s permission, by some who have been led to feel its value and importance at the present time.
December 21st, 1909.
This Memorial Edition is inscribed to the memory of the Reverend Nathaniel Dimock, M.A., by friends and disciples to whom his name is at once dear and venerable. In him the grace of God combined in perfect harmony a noble force and range of mental power, an unshaken fidelity to conscience and Revelation, and a spirit beautiful with humility, peace, and love.
“Remember your guides, who spoke unto you the Word of God, whose faith follow, considering the end of their walk of life.”
I – Our Reformers:
II. Our Formularies
III. The Scriptures
The following Paper has a very unpretending aim. Originally written with a view to being read at a meeting of Brother Presbyters, it grew in the writer’s hands till it exceeded reasonable limits. Then, yielding to the wishes of those who desired its publication, the writer was unwilling to send it forth without some additional notes, to support the positions which seemed most likely to be called in question.
Nor does he regret that thus he has been led to swell the bulk of the Paper by numerous quotations from the writings of the Reformers, and of Divines who followed in the steps of the Reformers.
Rather, he will rejoice if thus he may have contributed anything towards setting in a clearer light the real debt we owe to our Divines of the Sixteenth Century.
He believes that the true Theology of the English Reformation has been in our days not sufficiently understood, and he feels sure that it is still very generally not duly appreciated.
Moreover, the writer cannot but regard the subject treated of as having a very important bearing on the present difficulties of the Church of England. And he is not without hope that the view which he has endeavoured to give of the relation of Sacramental signs to Sacramental grace, and of both to the message of Christ’s Gospel, may not only be found helpful to some minds in relieving them of painful perplexities, but may also commend itself, on examination, as the true teaching of Holy Scripture, and as showing the true aim of Christ’s holy ordinances.
Almost all the controversies which have recently agitated the Church of England are more or less intimately connected with the question – Is the doctrine and faith of the Gospel subservient to the doctrine and grace of the Sacraments, or is the true doctrine of the Sacraments subservient to the faith of the Gospel?
This Paper undoubtedly takes its place clearly on the side of those who hold that the doctrine of the Sacraments is entirely subservient to that doctrine of Free Justification which is the power of God unto salvation.
Yet its chief endeavour is to show that on this side there has been, especially in modern times, an apparent disposition to degrade the Sacraments from their true place in the scheme of Christian Doctrine, under the impression that no true efficacy can be attributed to the Sacraments without injury being done to the honour of Evangelical Truth.
It aims, accordingly, at showing that there is a teaching of Sacramental Grace, which may be regarded as the true complement of the doctrine of Justification by Faith, insomuch that there is danger, at least, of that doctrine being made to be, in a sense, maimed and incomplete without it.
If there be an error of defect in this matter, it is of the utmost importance to correct it, lest it be found to be the fruitful source of more dangerous errors of excess.
And it seemed specially desirable that at this time some effort should be made to check the efforts made on the side of defect, to represent the witness and teaching of our Prayer Book as inconsistent with the testimony of Scripture and the true faith of the Gospel of Christ.
This Paper, therefore, is now issued with the hope of showing that there is a higher view of the relation of the Sacraments to the doctrines of Grace, which may be supported from the writings of the Reformers, which removes all difficulties in the interpretation of our Formularies, and which was not only the doctrine of the Primitive Church, but which also has the highest claim to be accounted Scriptural Truth.
Such as it is, with all its imperfections, the Paper is now sent forth, with the prayer that the God of Peace and the Spirit of Truth may vouchsafe to prevent and follow it, for His sake, who to the Gospel added His own ordinances for the gathering together and building up of His Church, to set forth the Eternal praise of His Holy Name.
The writer desires to add that if – as may very possibly be the case – he has in any particular, through imperfect information, conveyed anything like a misapprehension; or if, through prejudice or any other cause, he has ever misstated or overstated his case, he will be thankful to have any errors corrected, and to be able in another edition to acknowledge his mistakes, and to remove whatever may have tended to mislead.
The Doctrine of the Sacraments.
The method which, for convenience sake, I propose to follow in this paper, will lead me first to draw attention to the teaching of our Reformers on the subject in hand; secondly, to compare with this the language of our Formularies; thirdly, to show how this language and teaching have their sure warrant in the Word of God.
The conclusion to be arrived at is one which will probably, in some degree, do violence to the preconceived views of many. And inasmuch as the whole subject is connected with controversies which have recently been agitating men’s minds to the utmost, I must be permitted to bespeak some indulgence, and to ask very earnestly for a calm consideration of the matter I have to adduce.
Let it be understood that I write in the interest of what I am persuaded to be the truth; but I write also in the interest of peace. And while I am fully assured that it is nothing but a delusion to imagine that the controversies which now rend the Church of England are not real, and doctrinal, and vital, I am also strongly inclined to hope – and confidently to hope – that among those who abide faithful to the true principles of our Reformed Church, very many of the differences which are thought serious, will be found capable of real reconciliation, by no other process than that of brotherly conference, with a real desire for unity, and after united prayer for the Spirit of power, and of love and of a sound mind.
Strong in this persuasion, I enter hopefully on the task set before me.
1. Our Reformers.
Beginning then with the writings of our Reformers, I observe (and I am sure it cannot be denied), that persons who have lived only in the language of modern theology, and breathed only the atmosphere of our own controversies, must find themselves at least somewhat startled at the language concerning the Sacraments which may be found – not here and there by a diligent searcher – but passim throughout the writings of almost all our Reformers.
Such persons can hardly help being brought to say to themselves: “This is language which nowadays, by those who are regarded as the followers of our Reformers, would be looked upon as very questionable, by some very objectionable, by some as scarcely endurable.” And some probably will be led to ask: “Is it then so, that our martyred Reformers were after all only in the twilight of the truth, and unable to clear away the traditional superstition concerning the Sacraments which they had received from the teaching of Rome?”
Perhaps the passages which will create most surprise are such as refer to the Sacrament of Baptism. It may be well to give a few of these, taken as samples from some of the best-known of our Reformers.
Cranmer speaks of Christ as being by His omnipotent power effectually present in baptism by spiritual renewing and regenerating. (“The Lord’s Supper,” p. 228, P.S. Edit.)
He says also that “he that is baptized” ought “to believe that in baptism he doth presently in deed and in truth put Christ upon him, and apparel him with Christ.” (Ibid. p. 342.) Again, he says that Christ is present in baptism, “to clothe and apparel us with His own self.” (Ibid. p. 356.)
And yet again he declares: “In baptism we must think, that as the priest putteth his hand to the child outwardly, and washeth him with water, so must we think that God putteth to His hand inwardly, and washeth the infant with His holy spirit; and, moreover, that Christ himself cometh down upon the child, and apparelleth him with His own self.” (Ibid. p. 366.) [Date of first edition, 1550.]
Once more Cranmer says: “Our Saviour Christ ordained the water of baptism to signify unto us, that as that water washeth our bodies outwardly, so be we spiritually within washed by Christ from all our sins. And as the water is called water of regeneration, or new birth, so it declareth unto us, that through Christ we be born anew, and begin anew life towards God.” (“Remains,” p. 176.) [From “Answer to the Rebels,” date 1549.]
So Ridley speaks of the “water in baptism” as sacramentally changed into the “fountain of regeneration”. [From “Brief Declaration of the Lord’s Supper,” written shortly before his martyrdom.] (“Works,” p. 12, P.S. Edit.) And again he speaks of what “man doth profess in his regeneration, when he is received into the holy Catholic Church of Christ.” [From his “Piteous Lamentation”.] (Ibid. p. 57.) And he says that “baptism is ordained in water to our spiritual regeneration.” [From his “Disputation at Oxford,” April, 1555.] (Ibid. p. 238.) And again he says: “The water in baptism hath grace promised, and by that grace the Holy Spirit is given: not that grace is included in water, but that grace cometh by water.” [From the same.] (Ibid. p. 240.) And again: “In baptism the body is washed with the visible water, and the soul is cleansed from all filth by the invisible Holy Ghost.” [From his last Examination, September, 1555.] (Ibid. p. 275.)
I make one extract from Latimer: – “The converting of the whole world is by rags, by things which are most vile in this world. For to go to the matter: What is so common as water? Every foul ditch is full of it: yet we wash our remission of our sins by baptism: for like as He was found in rags, so we must find Him by baptism. There we begin: we are washed with water; and then the words are added: for we are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost, whereby the baptism receiveth his strength. Now this sacrament of baptism is a thing of great weight: for it ascertaineth and assureth us, that like as the water washeth the body and cleanseth it, so the blood of Christ our Saviour cleanseth and washeth it from all filth and uncleanness of sins.” [From a sermon, preached 1552.] (“Remains,” p. 127, P.S. Edit.)
Specially observable are some of the sayings of Bradford:–
1. “The name of God,” he says, “was called upon you in baptism, which is a sacrament of regeneration and adoption into the children of God.” [From a letter written sometime after March, 1554. See note in p. 91, P.S. Edit.] (“Works,” vol. ii. p. 92, P.S. Edit.)
2. Again: “In baptism is given unto us the Holy Ghost and pardon of our sins.” And he follows this by saying, “I could add some reasons for the excellency of baptism. I trove it be more to be begotten than to be nourished.” [Date probably 1554. See note in p. 82, P.S. Edit.] (Ibid. vol. i. p. 89.)
3. Again: “In the other signs, which some call exhibitive, is there not only a signification of a thing, but also a declaration of a gift, yea, in a certain manner a giving also: as baptism signifieth not only the cleansing of the conscience from sin by the merits of Christ’s blood, but is also a very cleansing from sin; and therefore it was said to Paul, that he should ‘arise and wash away his sins,’ and not that he should arise and take only a sign of washing away his sins.” [Same date.] (Ibid. vol. i. p. 94.)
4. Yet again: “A man regenerate (which we ought to believe of ourselves, I mean that we are so by our baptism, the sacrament thereof requiring no less faith) – a man, I say, regenerate, that is, ‘born of God,’ hath the spirit of God.” (Ibid. vol. i. p. 218.)
5. Again in his “Meditation of the Lord’s Supper,” he says: “In baptism, Thou, O God, dust regenerate us, and as it were engraft us into the fellowship of Thy Church, and by adoption make us Thy children.” (Ibid. vol. i. p. 260.)
6. And yet once more, in his own relation of the talk between himself and Archdeacon Harpsfield, [Date, February 15, 1555.] the Papist, he writes, “‘True,’ quoth I, ‘baptism is the sacrament, by the which outwardly we are insert and engraft into Christ.’”
Again, Harpsfield says: “Well, we agree that by baptism then we are brought, and, as one would say, begotten of Christ, for Christ is our Father, and the Church, his spouse, is our Mother. As all men naturally have Adam for their father and Eve for their mother, so all spiritual men have Christ for their Father and the Church for their Mother; which Church, as Eve was taken out of Adam’s side, so was she out of Christ’s side, whereout flowed blood for satisfaction and purging of our sins.” To this Bradford replies, “All this is true and godly spoken.” [See Appendix, Note A.] (Ibid. vol. i. p. 503.)
I proceed to make one extract from the writings of Hooper: –
“I believe,” he says, “that baptism is the entry of the Church, a washing into a new birth, and a renewing of the holy Ghost. ... Being thus newborn, we should walk in newness of life. ... By this baptism we are changed and altered from children of wrath, of sin, of the devil, and of destruction, into the children of God, of grace, and salvation.” (“Works,” vol. ii. pp. 46, 47, P.S. Edit.)
One extract also from Hutchinson: –
“In that bath of holy baptism we are regenerate, washed, purified, and made the children of God, by the workmanship of the Three Persons, which formed also heaven and earth.” (“Works,” p. 11, P.S. Edit.)
Of divines who upheld the Reformation in the days of Elizabeth, I will but refer to Grindal, Becon, and Jewel; and will take but one or two extracts from their writings.
Grindal says: “In baptism men regard not greatly the water, but account themselves washed with the blood of Christ. ... Wherefore to the faithful receivers you may say, that the water of baptism is the blood of Christ.” (“Remains,” p. 62, P.S. Edit.)
Becon says: “By baptism is He your Lord God. ... By baptism is He your Father, and you are born of Him, and so become His son. ... By baptism are you made the brother of Christ, heir of God, and fellow heir with Christ of everlasting glory. ... By baptism is the Holy Ghost given you. ... Baptism is a continual sign of the favour of God towards us, of the free remission of sins, of our reconciliation unto God for Christ’s sake, and that we be by adoption the sons of God, and heirs of everlasting glory.” (“Prayers,” etc., p. 173, P.S. Edit.)
Jewel writes: “I will speak briefly of the sacraments in several, and leave all idle and vain questions, and only lay open so much as is needful and profitable for you to know. Baptism, therefore, is our regeneration or new birth, whereby we are born anew in Christ, and are made the sons of God, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven: it is the sacrament of the remission of skis, and of that washing which we have in the blood of Christ. We are all born the children of wrath. ... Hereof speaketh Our Saviour, ‘That which it born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit.’ And for this cause, saith He, ‘Except a man be born of the water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’” (“Works,” Harding, Thess. etc., p. 1104, P.S. Edit.) “Such a change is made in the Sacrament of Baptism. Through the power of God’s working the water is turned into blood. They that be washed in it receive the remission of sins, their robes are made clean in the blood of the Lamb.” (p. 1106.)
These extracts will suffice, I think, as a sample of such passages from our Reformers as seem – to say the least – scarcely in harmony with the language of those who, in our day, are regarded as preeminently the disciples of the Reformation.
And the startling effect which the reading of such passages may have upon some men’s minds will certainly not be diminished by the observation, that, in the controversial writings of our Reformers (ranging, as they do, over a wide field of discussion, and dealing, as they do, no light blows at every doctrine which they regarded as Popish), there will very rarely, indeed, be found any matter of controversy noted as pertaining to the Sacrament of Baptism. It is very remarkable how seldom any divergence on this point is made to appear. [This is intended to apply to our earlier Reformers. In the systematic treatises of later Reforming divines, the lines of divergence are clearly drawn out. And towards the seventeenth century very strong language will sometimes be found used concerning the Romish doctrine of Baptism. See, e.g., Bishop Bridges as quoted in “Goode on Infant Baptism,” p. 320.] But it is still far more noteworthy, that when any difference on this point does come to the surface, in not a very few cases, at least, it is the Romish disputant who is found extenuating Baptismal grace; it is the Reformed opponent who is seen magnifying and extolling the Sacrament of Regeneration.
Thus – to confine ourselves only to the case of Cranmer – it will be found that, in his controversy with Gardiner, not less than three times does the Reforming archbishop accuse his Romish adversary of ascribing to Baptism less than its due. “Your saying,” he declares, “is no small derogation to baptism” (p. 25, P. S. Edit.). Again he asserts: “You diminish the effect of baptism” (p. 34). And, in the third place, he charges Gardiner with “blasphemous words” against the Sacrament of Baptism, where Christ hath promised to be assistant, both in body and spirit, to be “our spiritual regeneration and apparel” (p. 45). “And yet,” adds Cranmer, “you call your book an explication and assertion of the true Catholic faith.”
And is there nothing, then, to be said that may tend to diminish the feeling of surprise which such teaching may produce?
There is very much to be said, and very much which needs to be very carefully weighed, before we allow the effect of such extracts and observations to produce in our minds a conclusion as to the relationship of the Reformed doctrines in the sixteenth century to the doctrines of theological schools in the nineteenth century.
It would be utterly to mistake the meaning of our Reformers to suppose that from hence there can fairly be deduced any support whatever for those sacramental doctrines, or that sacramental system which a new school of theology is now seeking to build up among us.
That our Reformers held and taught, in some sense, the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration, cannot, with any degree of fairness, be disputed. It admits of no sort of question whatever. But this is a very different thing, indeed, from saying – strange as it may, perhaps, appear – that they are on the side of those who, in what we have known as the Baptismal controversy, would take their language to themselves as their exclusive possession.
Our Reformers never questioned, never disputed, that Baptism is the Sacrament of Regeneration or new birth. This they always held, always taught, always maintained. On this point they had no controversy with Rome. On this point they never attacked the position of their Romish antagonists. But from this it does not follow at all that our Reformers’ view of regeneration was the same as that of Rome; nor that their view of Baptism, in relation to other doctrines, did not differ materially from that of their opponents.
Ask, “What is Baptism?” and the Reformed divine and the Romish controversialist agreed so far in the answer, “It is the bath or the washing of regeneration.” But ask further, “What makes Baptism to be this? – what gives to Baptism this honour and this efficacy?” and the agreement ceases at once.
The points of difference will be found invariably to come out, and to come out clearly and strongly, in the teaching of the Reformers concerning the Sacraments in general. And it may be asserted with some confidence – though the assertion may need some slight qualification – that the controversy now waged under the name of “Baptismal Regeneration” was waged by our Reformers, not under that title, but under the head of the ex opere operato efficacy of the Sacraments.
Did our Reformers maintain that Baptism conferred regeneration ex opere operato [See Appendix, Note B.] in the Sacrament? This is the question which brings out the true issue of the controversy.
I would ask those among us who maintain that it does to show (if they can) that any one of the English Reformers ever held or taught such a doctrine.
But of this, more presently.
It is further to be observed that the controversy of all controversies between Rome and the Reformation was that pertaining to the Eucharist: and that in handling this controversy, it was obviously with the Romanists a necessity to draw a very wide distinction indeed between the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. For in the case of Baptism – often anciently administered in flowing rivers – it was clearly impossible to maintain a conversion of the element into that which it signified. Romish controversialists did not dare to teach that the water of the river was transubstantiated, or that there was effected a Real Presence which should be permanent in the stream. It was of necessity that they should acknowledge that in the case of the Sacrament of Regeneration, the sacramental presence and the sacramental efficacy were only in the use and ministration. It concerned them, therefore, to exalt very far above this Sacrament that other mystery, in which, according to their teaching, there was a Real Presence under the form of the elements, permanent – and not confined to the ministration – of the very flesh and blood, soul and divinity, of the Son of God Hence their distinction that in Baptism was ministered indeed the Spirit of Christ, but in the Eucharist was given whole Christ really present to be worshipped and sacrificed on the altar. Hence also the arguments of our Reformers to show the parity of the two Sacraments in the teaching of Scripture, and their oft-repeated appeals to the language of the ancient Fathers of the Church, as teaching that not in the Eucharist alone, but in Baptism, alike is given, not only the Spirit of Christ, but Christ Himself – nay, that a present Saviour feeds the soul with His very flesh and blood, as well in Baptism as in the Eucharist.
It is not difficult then to see how it comes to pass that our Reformers are found accusing their opponents of derogating from the efficacy of Baptism, and themselves seeming in comparison to teach what may be called a high doctrine of that Sacrament.
But what is most important to be observed is this:
The Reformers well understand the language which, when speaking of the Sacraments, speaks, as they would have said, sacramentally. And the sacramental language which was thus familiar to them, consisted in using interchangeably the names of the sacramental sign and of the thing signified. [See Appendix, Note C.] This use of language they held to be as old as Christianity itself. They believed it to rest on a Scriptural foundation. [“Tenenda eat haec firma scripturae de sacramentali locutione, et praedicatione Regula: Quod Propter Spiritualem Analogiam, Et Promissionem Rerum, Et Donorum Coelestium In Symbolis, Seu Signis, Mystica Appellatione Signis Seu Symbolis Rerum Nomina Divinitus Imponunter.” (“Consensus Orthodoxus,” p. 318: Zurich, 1605.)] They maintained, and truly maintained, that it was perfectly familiar to the ancient Fathers of the Church – that it was the key to the right understanding of those sayings of theirs which by some had been misunderstood as supporting the doctrines of Rome. Our Reformers, therefore, did not condemn, they approved the language – indeed, some of them would gladly [See, e.g., Bradford: “I would wish that this sacrament should be esteemed and called of Christian men, after Christ’s words, namely, ‘Christ’s body,’ and the wine ‘Christ’s blood,’ rather than otherwise.” (“Sermons, Meditations,” etc., P.S. Edit., p. 95.)] have popularized its use – which calls the Eucharistic Bread the Body of Christ, and speaks of the Cup of Blessing as the Blood of Christ. And they did not hesitate, accordingly, to speak of all who received the Eucharistic elements as being thereby partakers of the Body and Blood of Christ. They did not hesitate to affirm this of all without exception – of all evil as well as good, faithless as well as faithful – sacramentally or mystically.
They would have said that, of necessity, all who received the Sacrament of the Body of Christ, received the Body of Christ sacramentally. [See quotations in “Papers on the Eucharistic Presence,” pp. 98–100, 658–659, 677–678. See also “Real Objective Presence,” pp. 8, 28–29, 48, 46.] But then, in saying that they received the Body of Christ sacramentally, they would say that they meant no more, and that the Fathers meant no more, than that they received the Sacrament of the Body of Christ.
They were unanimous in denying that the wicked received the Body of Christ really. So that it not unfrequently conies to pass that the word sacramentally with them means not really; and sacramental reception means no real reception of the res sacramenti.
So, in like manner, our Reformers, after the example of the ancient Doctors, felt no sort of difficulty in speaking of all baptized people – all who had received the Sacrament of Regeneration – as having, of necessity, received regeneration sacramentally, or as being sacramentally regenerate. But in thus speaking, the last thing they meant was that all such persons were really regenerate (in the full sense of the term), or, had really accepted the inward and spiritual grace of the Sacrament of Regeneration.
Therefore, also, they had no difficulty in speaking of regeneration as (in some sense) needed yet by many within the Church, and of the regenerate as a class distinct from the baptized.
And the idea of there being any real contradiction between these two ways of speaking, and these two classes of sayings, does not appear to have ever occasioned them any sort of trouble or difficulty at all.
It would not be difficult to adduce multitudes of quotations from the Reformers which would lead many readers at once to pronounce – “These men unquestionably did teach the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration.”
It would be quite as easy to lay by their side another set of extracts, which would just as certainly lead to the conclusion – “These men were strong in their denial of the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration.”
If it is asked, how it was that there was not clearly seen a contradiction here, the answer is that, at that date, this sacramental use of language was thoroughly well understood.
Thus when, in the reign of Elizabeth, the Puritans were beginning to seek for blots in our Baptismal Service, and Cartwright, though not objecting at all to the declaration that “this child is regenerate,” thought to accuse us of attributing too much to the sign, “as though virtue were in water to wash away sin” – it is observable how completely the answer of Whitgift assumes a common recognition of this use of sacramental language: –
“You know” (he says) “very well that we teach far otherwise, and that it is a certain and true doctrine of all such as profess the Gospel, that the outward signs of the sacrament do not contain in them grace, neither yet that the grace of God is of necessity tied unto them, but only that they be seals of God’s promises, notes of Christianity, testimonies and effectual signs of the grace of God, and of our redemption in Christ Jesus. ... You have learned that there is such a similitude between the signs and the thing signified that they are, ... usually called by the names of those things whereof they be sacraments (as bread the Body of Christ, and water Regeneration). ... These things considered, it is no ‘superstitious toy,’ but a godly and a true saying, that Christ hath sanctified all waters (used in baptizing) to the mystical washing away of sin; not ascribing or attributing washing away of sin to the external element, any otherwise than instrumentally, or in any other respect than for the similitude that sacraments have with the things whereof they be sacraments; for we know that wicked men may receive these external signs, and yet remain the members of Satan.” (Whitgift’s “Works,” P.S. Edit., vol. iii. pp. 382, 383.)
It will doubtless be observed, that the words of Whitgift (though he is dealing, indeed, with, objections quite different from modern objections), in defending the teaching of our Sacramental Services, so far as they may be said to afford anything like a key of interpretation – point, not to what is called the theory of charitable hypothesis, but to the well-understood use of sacramental language. Nor am I aware, though I must not be understood positively to affirm the contrary, that any example is to be found in the writings of our Reforming divines before this date, of any interpretation of the teaching of our Baptismal Service which rests on the theory of charitable hypothesis.
We cannot, however, speak very certainly of what the grounds of defense would have been before the signs of attack appeared.
Subsequently, no doubt, the language of our Baptismal Service was interpreted by some esteemed divines, as declaring the presumption of charity – of charity, however, whose presumption rests (in their view) on the doctrine that Baptism is the washing of Regeneration.
And such interpretation, no doubt, resulted not unnaturally from the crystallization and hardening of those refinements of Calvinism, which marked the dominant theology of the day.
With such divines, however, it will be found, I believe, that the doctrine of Sacramental regeneration in Baptism, of all without exception, still holds its place, though not in the foreground.
I need hardly, I think, adduce here other examples of sacramental language. Whitgift’s testimony will suffice as to the sense in which our Reforming divines spoke of sacraments, and of their reception sacramentally.
It is undeniable that in calling the Eucharistic bread the Body of Christ, and the water of Baptism the washing of Regeneration, and in speaking of all communicants as eating and drinking Christ’s Body and Blood sacramentally, and of all baptized people as being sacramentally regenerate, they meant to declare dogmatically nothing as to what is really and truly received in either sacrament, beyond those outward and visible signs which represent, and representing, bear the names of the inward and spiritual grace.
But the concession of all this may be taken hastily, and perhaps has been sometimes too hastily taken, as the concession of far more than our Reformers would have been at all willing to allow.
If the sacramental sign be held, and practically viewed, as nothing more than a resemblance – nothing more than an outward and visible sign of inward and spiritual grace – then, even though it be acknowledged to be such by Divine appointment, an ordained sign to represent; yet would this sign have no effectual relation to the grace of the Gospel, or to the Gospel of Grace, and the reception of the outward sign would have no special connection with the faith of the Christian Church. But it is impossible to read with care what our Reformers have said an these subjects, without seeing clearly that, in their view, these sacramental signs and their reception do stand in the closest connection with the grace and the faith of the Gospel.
Baptism may be spoken of by them as the admission into the visible Church alone, and the visible Church may be set in strong contrast with the true and invisible Church; but then the visible Church stands (it would seem), in their view, in such a relationship to the Church invisible, that there can be no admission into the one without (in some sense) a responsible, though it may be a dead and unreal, membership of the other; without the formal and sacramental grant of the privilege which makes children of wrath to be children of grace; without such an enrolment among the number (the outer circle) of God’s people, as contains [See, e.g., Nowell’s “Cat.,” pp. 57, 175; 2. Bradford, pp. 289–290; 2. Bec., pp. 207–208; 1. Brad., pp. 67, 219–220. (P.S. Edit.)] a call to the soul to believe, and believing, to regard and account itself among the elect of God, holy and beloved. [See Appendix, Note. D.]
One short saying, already quoted, from Bradford will serve to bring this out clearly. He teaches that we ought to believe ourselves regenerate; “I mean,” he adds, “that we are so by our Baptism, the sacrament thereof requiring no less faith.”
Can anything be clearer or more emphatic than this statement? Could words express more distinctly the consecrated relationship in which Baptism was held by our Reformers to stand to the Christian faith? [See Appendix, Note E.]
Many passages might be quoted to show how, in like manner, the reception of the outward and visible signs in the Lord’s Supper was regarded by them as requiring the belief that thereby was given to the receiver the Body and Blood of Christ.
Does there seem to be any inconsistency in such teaching, with what we have already observed of their use, in an unreal sense, of sacramental language?
There is no such inconsistency, if we mark their meaning aright.
When – in the case of unworthy reception – our Reformers spoke of sacramental, as distinguished from real reception of the res sacramenti, maintaining that the sign might be received without the thing signified, they never meant to deny that relationship of the outward to the inward part of the Sacrament, which causes that the one is (in some sense) exhibitive of the other; as Bradford again speaks of the Sacraments as exhibitive signs, “in which,” he says, “is there not only a signification of a thing, but also a declaration of a gift, – yea, in a certain manner, a giving also.”
Many of the sayings of the Reformers, which have too often been regarded as evidences of discrepancies and contradictions and oppositions – sometimes as manifesting an irreconcilable clashing even between different teachings of the same individual – will be found, if I mistake not, to be easily harmonized by taking into view, as the Reformers seem to me to have consistently borne in view, the consecrated relationship of which I am speaking.
It may be regarded as a relationship, first, to the doctrines of the Gospel; secondly, to the grace of the Gospel.
(1.) As to the relationship to the doctrines of the Gospel. It may strike some people as singular and strange, that our Reformers so often are found not only insisting on the relationship of the Sacraments to the Word of God, but sometimes objecting even to the administration of the Lord’s Supper without a sermon.
Bishop Hooper says, that before the use of the sacrament “the minister’s office is to make a solemn sermon.” (“Early Writings,” p. 177, P.S. Edit.; see p. 178; see also “Zurich Letters,” vol. ii. p. 232.) Becon says: “Whensoever they, with the congregation, come together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, there should be some sermon or exhortation made unto the people, that they might the better examine themselves, and more deeply consider the thing that they go about.” And again he says: “None of the Lord’s Sacraments ought publicly to be ministered without preaching of the Word.” (“Prayers,” etc., pp. 254–255.)
It was a part of their great care that sacramental efficacy should be referred to the power of the Word, and to the Sacraments only, because of their relationship to that. Sacraments, in their view, are annexes to doctrine. The doctrine would be maimed and incomplete without them. [See Appendix, Note F.] But without the doctrine their efficacy would be gone. The Gospel, in their view, is blessed, not because it tells of a power in the Sacraments, but because it is itself the power of God unto salvation. The Sacraments, in their view, are means of grace, because of their relationship to the Gospel, and its mighty power.
(2.) This will appear clearly to anyone who studies the teaching of our Reformers as to the relationship of the Sacraments to the grace of the Gospel.
They repudiated, as with one voice, the notion of the Sacraments containing grace, or conferring grace ex opere operato.
But the Gospel itself is the telling of a gift. It is the revelation of the righteousness of God, whereby the sinner is justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Therein is abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness. And it has been the merciful appointment of Him who knew, and still knows, what is in man, that this gift should be made over to man not only by the general declarations of His Word, [See Appendix, Note G.] but by visible signs and seals of conveyance – seals which thus become effectual signs of the donation of the gift – sure witnesses and effectual signs of grace and God’s goodness towards us. This view of the Sacraments is prominent in the teaching of our Reformers. The doctrine of the Gospel is as the written parchment of conveyance. The Sacraments are the signatures and seals, worthless as ink and wax in themselves, but the means of actual donation in their connection with the Word of the truth of the Gospel.
And this being so, it is, in the view of our Reformers, the work of superstition to seek a magical efficacy in the seal itself; it is the work of profane unbelief to receive the seal and reject the gift. It is the work of faith to take the seal and receive the inward gift; to receive and embrace that inward gift by that personal appropriation which is warranted by the seal – even that personal appropriation of the gift of Christ and His Redemption, whereby first, the soul, being washed, passes, as by a new birth, into a new life, and ever after has that life nourished and sustained by the spiritual satisfying of its spiritual hunger and thirst.
But it is specially to be observed that this relationship of the sign to the thing signified – in the teaching of our Reformers – is not affected by the faith or want of faith of the receiver. The reception of the thing signified depends on the faith of the receiver, for without faith it cannot be received. But the sacrament is the seal of donation nevertheless. [See Appendix, Note H.] And the receiver who knows this cannot escape the responsibility of this. Man’s faith does not make the grace of God. Man’s faith does not make the Sacrament to be the seal of God’s grace. It is the office of faith, in the right use of the Sacraments, not to make, but to receive, and to receive by believing – by believing the gift conveyed by the Seal, by believing that which is in itself truly objective and independent of faith. Many extracts from the Reformers might be adduced to show that this was their view; and to support the teaching of Bradford, that all baptized people ought to believe themselves regenerate; and that in Baptism, because our Baptism requireth of us this faith just as also the reception of the Eucharistic signs requires the belief of our truly receiving the Body and Blood of Christ.
Hence those acquainted only with modern theology will in few things, perhaps, be more surprised than in observing how our Reformers teach Faith to exercise itself on the remembrance of Baptism, to rest and assure itself on this sign of regeneration, or new birth. “Let us ever consider,” writes Bishop Latimer, “in what trouble or calamity whatsoever we be, let us remember that we be baptized.” (“Remains,” P.S. Edit., p. 134.)
And it is to be observed that this is by no means a peculiarity of Anglican Reformers. It is common to them, and to those who have been accounted teachers of the lowest views of sacramental efficacy.
Thus, to take an example from the writings of Bullinger: –
“Baptism,” he says, “is sufficient and effectual for the whole life of man – yea, and reacheth and is referred to all the sins of all them that are baptized. For the promise of God is true. The seal of the promise is true, not deceivable. The power of Christ is ever effectual throughly to cleanse and wash away all the sins of them that be His. How often, therefore, soever we have sinned in our lifetime, let us call into our remembrance the mystery of holy Baptism, wherewith for the whole course of our life we are washed, that we might know, and not doubt, that our sins are forgiven us of the same God and our Lord – yea, and by the blood of Christ, into whom by Baptism once we are graffed, that He might always work salvation in us, even till we be received out of misery into glory.” “The promise, yea, the truth of sanctification and free remission of sins, is written and engraven in our bodies when we are baptized. For God, by His Spirit through the blood of His Son, bath. newly regenerated and purged again our souls, and even now doth regenerate and purge them.” [See Appendix, Note I.] (Bullinger, “Decades V.,” p. 398, P.S. Edit.)
And so it was declared in the Reformed Confession of the French Church, that Baptism “is given to us to testify our adoption; because that therein we are ingrafted into Christ’s Body, that, being washed in His Blood, we may also be renewed to holiness of life by His Spirit.” And it was added: “This also we say, that, although we are baptized but once, yet the fruit of baptism doth pertain to the whole course of our life; that this promise, to wit, that Christ will be always unto us sanctification, and justification, may be sealed up in us with a sure and firm seal.” (Hall’s “Harmony,” p. 306.)
So also the Confession of Belgic teaches: “Neither doth this Baptism profit us only at that moment when the water resteth upon us, and when we are sprinkled with it, but it is available throughout the whole time of our life.” (Hall’s “Harmony,” p. 308.)
And Calvin says: “We ought to consider that at what time we are baptized we are washed and purified once for the whole of life.” “There can be no doubt,” he adds, “that all the godly may, during the whole course of their lives, whenever they are vexed by a consciousness of their sins, recall the remembrance of their Baptism, that they may thereby assure themselves of that sole and perpetual ablution which we have in the Blood of Christ.” (See Sadler, “Sacrament of Responsibility,” p. 111.) [See also Appendix, Note J.]
I will not quote further here, but I must express my conviction, that a careful examination of the writings of the Reformers will only tend to make it more abundantly clear that with all their care to reject all such connection of the sacramentum with the res sacramenti, as makes it impossible to receive the one without the other, they did at the same time uphold the teaching of that relationship of the sacramentum to the doctrines of Grace and to the grace of the Gospel, which makes the Sacraments to be in such sort seals of God’s promises and gifts in the New Testament; that none can knowingly be partaker of the outward sign without the necessity of either receiving by faith, or rejecting in unbelief, the inward and spiritual grace signified and sealed; that none can receive, or can have received, the Sacrament of Baptism without the responsibility of either receiving or rejecting that washing in the Blood of Christ, which is to the soul the spiritual new birth; that none can receive the Eucharistic Bread and Wine without the responsibility of either being partaker of, or else guilty of, the Body and Blood of Christ.
And this teaching of our Reformers concerning the Sacraments will be found, if I mistake not, when rightly understood, to be not only no derogation from, but as a very hinge to the doctrines of Grace; if it be a part of those doctrines of Grace to teach faith to believe not in its own power to merit or create,* but in the gift of God, which it has to receive and embrace; to look not at itself but at the Son of God and His atoning Blood; and so to look as to say, with a sealed assurance of possession, “He loved me and gave himself for me.”
*[The following is from Nowell’s “Catechism”:–
“M. Non ergo inter hujus justitiae causas fidem principem locum tenere dicis, ut ejus merito nos ex nobis justi coram Deo habeamar?
“A. Nequaquam: id enim esset fidem in Christi locum substituere. Verum hujus justitiae fons est Dei misericordia, quae in nos per Christum derivatur; per Evangelium vero nobis offertur, et a nobes fide, quasi manu, prehenditur.” (P. 114, Edit. Jacobson.)
So Gerhard Vossius declares, “Ut manus et thesaurus, ita differiunt fides et gratia Dei in Christo.” (Vossii, “Theses Theol.,” p. 325: Oxford, 1628.)
So Bishop Davenant: “Fides recipit, non efficit gratiam.” (“Determ. Quaest.,” p. 108: Cantab., 1634.)]
2. Our Formularies.
Passing next to the consideration of our Formularies, my aim will be, to show that what I have endeavoured to state as the teaching of our Reformers, is just the doctrine taught – neither more nor less, neither higher nor lower – in the Formularies of the English Church: in her Articles not less than in her Services, and in her Services not less than in her Articles.
A very few words will suffice for our Articles.
An attempt has sometimes been made to make it appear that the Articles teach a higher doctrine than this, from their declaring the Sacraments to be not merely signs, but “effectual signs,” of Grace.
But it is quite sufficient answer to say, that the fullest meaning of the word “effectual” will be found to be satisfied by the teaching of the Reformers concerning the sacramental relation, and that no higher sense can be fastened upon it without exalting also the teaching of the Reformed Confession of Helvetia. [See “Papers on the Eucharistic Presence,” pp. 689–698.]
The obsignatory character of the Sacrament is most clearly expressed in the 27th Article, “Of Baptism”.
Faith, as the only means of receiving the inward and spiritual grace, is distinctly stated in the 28th Article. The reception of the sacramentum or symbolum only, without either the benefits or the res sacramenti, in the case of the faithless receiver, is taught as plainly as words can teach it in the 29th Article.
On the other hand, that “Baptism is a sign of regeneration or new birth,” is contained in the 27th Article.
And while the word “regenerated” is used in its fullest sense (as I understand it) in the 9th Article, declaring that the infection of original sin “doth remain, yea, in them that are regenerated;”* yet the relation of the outward sign to the faith of the regenerated soul, is not only intimated in the latter part of the same Article, where it is said, “there is no condemnation to them that believe and are baptized”;** but is also distinctly pointed to in the 15th Article, which says that all we, “although baptized, and born again in Christ, yet offend in many things.”
*[In the earlier English versions of the Articles, the Latin “renatis” was here rendered “baptized”; from which, indeed, a very fair argument (as it seems to me) may be drawn of the convertible use, at that date, of the terms “baptized” and “regenerated”. But this also certainly leads to the conclusion that in the authorized English version of 1571, the rejection of the previous word “baptized,” and the substitution of “regenerated,” was with design, lest a misunderstanding should arise concerning a proposition which was intended to refer only to those who had received the inward and spiritual grace of Baptism. (See Goode, pp. 399–400.)]
**[Dr. Stephens says: “And here it is most important to be remarked, that the word ‘baptized’ is in the Latin Article ‘renatis,’ the order of the words being, indeed, inverted – ‘renatis et credentibus’; but this inversion detracts not from the inference to be drawn from ‘renatis’ of the Latin Article being ‘baptized’ in the English. And if any plea could thence be raised, yet it would be completely removed by the conclusive fact, that in the earlier part of the same Article the English word, which in the ‘Book of Articles’ of 1571 is, as has been said, ‘regenerated,’ is in the English of 1553 ‘baptized,’ though in the Latin, both of 1571 and 1562, the word is ‘renatis’.” (“On Common Prayer,” E.H.S. Edit., p. 1332.)]
In the Baptismal Service we may trace the same care of our Reformers to mark the connection of the Sacraments with the Word and the truth of the Gospel, which made some require a sermon always to precede the Communion, in the words of admonition [Compare Maskell’s “Monumenta Ritualia,” vol. i. p. 14; and “Cologne Service” in Goode, p. 550.]: – “Ye shall call upon this child to hear sermons, and chiefly ye shall provide that he shall learn the Creed,” etc.
None will question that the whole Service is intended to bring out clearly that relationship of the Sacrament to the gift of God’s grace in the Gospel, which makes it impossible for the receiver to escape the responsibility of having to do in some way with the gift. Could any Service teach more clearly the teaching of Bradford, that we all ought to account ourselves regenerate, because our Baptism requireth of us no less faith? [See Appendix, Note K.]
At the same time, the expression sometimes objected to, “didst sanctify water to the mystical washing away of sin,” [See Appendix, Note L.] is, in its true interpretation (I believe), quite destructive of the idea of all efficacy ex opere operato. For “mystical” and “mystically,” in the language of the Reformation,* will be found, I believe, to be commonly used as nearly equivalent to sacramental and sacramentally. And the mystical or sacramental washing-away of sin tells of a washing which may be not real – that is, not really received by the soul, though the outward sign and seal received cannot be sundered from its relationship to the washing of Christ’s Blood. If the inward washing may be not really received, then, of necessity, the spiritual new life which comes out of the washing, which depends on obedience to the words “wash and be clean,” may not be really received also; though the sign and seal received must, because of its consecrated relationship to the gift, carry with it the name and the responsibility of the inward and spiritual grace.
*[So Ridley: “He (Chrysostom) speaketh after the manner of other doctors, which of mystical matters speak mystically, and of sacraments sacramentally.” (“Works,” P.S. Edit., p. 224. Cf. pp. 223, 228, 238, 12; and Bradford, “Sermons,” etc., p. 95.)
See also “Papers on the Eucharistic Presence,” pp. 250–251.
Compare Hooker: – “Baptism is an action ... mystical, if we respect what God doth thereby intend to work. ... All that belongeth to the mystical perfection of Baptism outwardly, is the element, the word, and the serious application of both unto him which receiveth both. ... Infants, therefore, which have received Baptism complete, as touching the mystical perfection thereof, are by virtue of His own covenant and promise cleansed from all sin.” (“Eccl. Pol.,” Bk. V. ch. lxii. § 15; vol. ii. pp. 294–296: Edit. Keble. Compare ch. lviii. §§ 2, 3, and ch. lvii. 4.)
So Jewel: “In Baptism, as the one fact of the holy mystery is Christ’s blood, so is the other part the material water. Neither are these parts joined together in place, but in mystery; and therefore they be oftentimes severed, and the one is received without the other.” (Quoted in “Goode on Inf. Baptism,” p. 251.)
See also “Sermon and Harding,” P.S. Edit., pp. 504–505.
So Rivet: “Asserimus, sum voluisse, quod panis sit Corpus suum, modo mysterii, sacramentaliter.” (“Opera Theol.,” tom. iii. p. 342 a.)
The sense of the prayer may then be very aptly illustrated by the words of Rivet: “In quo [baptismo] quamvis omnium consensu maneat aquae substantia absque mutatione; nihilominus tamen diei potest, ejus naturam fuisse mutatam; quia non adhibetur ad lotionem corporis, cui sua natura destinatur, sed animae: quatenus est sacramentum.” (“Opera Theol.,” tom. iii. p. 343, b: Rit. 1670.)
As compared with sacramental, the word mystical points more to the res sacramenti, and so, sometimes, approaches to the sense of spiritual. (See Hooker’s “Ecc. Pol.,” Bk. III. ch. i. § 2; Bk. V. ch. lxii. § 15; ch. lxvii. § 11, etc.)]
Take the teaching of the Service as a whole, and does it not come to this: – Regeneration* is by receiving the washing away of sins, and the washing away of sins (and therefore also the regeneration which comes of it) is mystically or sacramentally [See Appendix, Note M.] given, and according to Christ’s effectual ordinance sacramentally sealed in the one baptism for the remission of sins? And is not this just the teaching of our Reformers?
*[“Hac fide petente et accipiente remissionem peccatorum. accipitur Spiritus Sanctus et fit regeneratio, et corda in pavoribus erecta incipiunt se subjicere Deo, invocare et diligere sum.” (Melancthon, quoted in Mozley, p. 307, Edn. 1895.)
“Baptismum non tantum renovationis, verum etiam in primis remissionis peccatorum pignus esse, sedulo in ipsa administrationis baptismi formula exprimere in nostris ecclesiis solemus.” (The authors of the “Harmonia Confessionum”: Obs. sect. 13, ad Saxonicam, 1.)
It may doubtless be objected that our Baptismal Service, instead of teaching that regeneration is by receiving and embracing remission of sins, teaches us to ask that remission of sins may be obtained “by spiritual regeneration”.
The objection was, in fact, made in the “Survey of the Book of Common Prayer” (1606), which asks, “Whether it may not as well be said, that we be justified by works, as that sins are forgiven by spiritual regeneration?” (Qu. 80.)
Calderwood also objects: “Remissionem peccatorum seu non imputationem non consequimur per spiritualem regenerationem.” (“Altare Damascenum,” p. 606, Edit. 1708.)
This form of expression, however, is one which follows neither the Sarum use, nor the Cologne Service, both of which have a similar prayer. (See Goode, p. 552.)
We owe it to our Reformers themselves, whose views as to the relation of regeneration (in its highest sense) to remission of sins is not doubtful.
If I mistake not, the change from the Sarum use (“qui baptismi tui donum petens, aeternam consequi gratiam spirituali regeneratione desiderat”) is indicative of that very tendency of Reforming Theology, to follow the guidance of Scripture in setting before faith “remission of sins” as the primary donation of Baptism, which is expressed in the quotation just given from the “Harmonia Confessionum”.
Moreover, the expression is not objected to by Bucer, though he suggests that the words of the same prayer, immediately preceding, should express the child’s being brought to holy Baptism, rather than coming. (See “Script. Anglicana,” p. 479.)
And, indeed, the answer to the objection may be gathered from the “Survey” itself, which asks, “Whether baptism itself, or regeneration by the Spirit of God, be meant by these words, spiritual regeneration?” (Qu. 80.)
No doubt, “Baptism itself” (with its grace) is meant. Nor is there in this any teaching (as the “Survey” suggests) of giving grace ex opere operato, any more than in Acts 2:38 or Titus 3:5.
Compare the following: “Objicitur; auferri perfecte omnia peccata per gratiam regenerationis in baptismo; adeo ut non maneat peccatum in baptizato. Respondeo, non manet in eo peccatum irremissum neque ullius habet peccati reatum.” (J. Forbes of Corse, “Opera,” tom. 1, p. 320 b.)
So “through the washing of holy baptism,” is the English of “per sacri baptismatis regenerationem,” in “Queen Elizabeth’s Private Prayers,” P.S. Edit., p. 546.
And this is the sense in which the words of the prayer were defended even by the bishops at the Savoy Conference. For when the Presbyterians excepted, “the expression seeming inconvenient we desire it may be changed into this, ‘May be regenerated and receive the remission of sins’”; they answered, “‘receive remission of sins by spiritual regeneration.’ Most proper, for baptism is our spiritual regeneration. (St. John 3.), ‘Unless a man be born again of water and the spirit,’ etc. And by this is received remission of sins (Acts 2:3), ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you, for the remission of sins.’ So the Creed, ‘One baptism for the remission of sins.’” (See Cardwell’s “Conferences,” pp. 324, 356.)
Nor does the addition of the word “spiritual” at all stand in the way of this interpretation. (See below, p. 83.)]
Let me add further that the later addition to our Catechism has really served to remove a possible ambiguity in its earlier teaching. It might possibly have been maintained, with some degree of plausibility, that the declaration, “I was made a member of Christ,” etc., points to an opus operatum in the sacrament? But that the word “made” points to a privilege promised and sealed for faith’s acceptance – not to a work effected ex opere operato in the sacrament – is now shown by the answer. “Faith, whereby they steadfastly believe the promises of God made to them in that sacrament.” It is a “making,” not ex opere operato, but as by the ratification of a federal grant, the promises of the forgiveness of sins, and of our adoption to be the sons of God, being visibly signed and sealed. So children of wrath are “made” children of grace.
I may add, that the teaching of the Reformers, as to the true use of the remembrance of Baptism, and its gift once for all, sealed and made over for faith’s future use and continual apprehension, is not only contained in the teaching of the Catechism, that the children, when they come to age, are bound to perform the promise of “faith, whereby they steadfastly believe the promises of God made to them” in the Sacrament of Baptism; but is also forcibly expressed in the Order of Confirmation, when the candidates are reminded, by the prayer of the bishop, that God hath vouchsafed to regenerate them by water and the Holy Ghost, and hath given them forgiveness of all their sins.
In the use of such language in our Prayer Book, there is (as I am persuaded) much more than an empty ecclesiastical sense; there is a real teaching of a relation between an ecclesiastical and a higher sense, between sacramental and spiritual reception, such as pervades the teaching of our Reformers. [See Appendix, Note N.]
But, at the same time, there is here nothing to warrant the charge of assimilation to Popery, nothing whatever of departure from the principles of the Reformation, nothing inconsistent with the true Gospel of Christ. There is nothing beyond the view of the Reformers as to the true connection of the sacramental seal with the doctrines of Grace, and the grace of the Gospel. To maintain the contrary, is to maintain that which may not unfairly be called a monstrous historical paradox. [On the teaching of our Formularies concerning the Lord’s Supper, I must refer my readers to Nos. 6, 7, and 8 of “Papers on the Eucharistic Presence.”]
For that sacramental teaching of our Prayer Book, which is in these days the subject of assault, may be shown to have received the full approval (1) of our own English Reformers, (2) of foreign Reformed divines, and (3) of our early English Puritans.
(1) It had the full approval of our English Reformers and their successors. On what possible ground is it to be supposed that the compilers and correctors of our Prayer Book did not approve of its teaching in this respect?
Is it on the ground that their own writings contain a very different doctrine? I think I have shown that they teach the same doctrine.
Is it on the ground that influences were at work which restrained them in this matter from teaching what they would have taught? Evidence to justify such a position is nowhere, I believe, to be found.
But evidence to the contrary – evidence of full approval – is to be found. [Those who regard our Services as imperfectly reformed, and think that the sacramental teaching of our Prayer Book could hardly have been heartily approved by our own or foreign Reformers, may be asked to mark the following words of Archbishop Cranmer, written in Queen Mary’s reign: – “Though that many do maliciously report of Mr. Peter Martyr, that he is a man of no learning, and therefore not to be credited; yet, if the Queen’s Highness will grant it, I with the said Mr. Peter, and other four or five which I will choose, will by God’s grace take upon us to defend, that not only the Common Prayers of the Church, the ministration of the Sacraments, and other rites and ceremonies, but also all the doctrine and religion set forth by our Sovereign Lord King Edward the Sixth, is more pure, and according to God’s Word, than any other that hath been used in England these thousand years; so that God’s Word may be the judge, and that the reasons and proofs upon both parties may be set out in writing.” (“Works,” P.S. Edit., vol. i. p. 429.)]
Witness the last farewell of Ridley: –
“This Church of England had of late, of the infinite goodness and abundant grace of Almighty God ... great plenty of God’s true and sincere Word, the true and wholesome administration of Christ’s holy Sacraments, the whole profession of Christ’s religion truly and plainly set forth in Baptism, the plain declaration and understanding of the same, taught in the Holy Catechism. This Church had also a true and sincere form and manner of the Lord’s Supper. ... This Church had of late the whole Divine Service, all common and public prayers ordained to be said and heard in the public congregation, ... framed and fashioned to the true vein of Holy Scripture.” (Ridley’s Works, P.S. Edit., pp. 399–400.)
And is there any evidence on the other side? Can there be shown, from any one of the writings of any one of the Reformers, one word of disapprobation as to the teaching of our Prayer Book in her Baptismal or Eucharistic Services, as they stood in the Second Book of Edward?
Hooper is esteemed the most ultra of reforming Reformers: can Hooper be shown to have desired the change of any doctrinal teaching in our Prayer Book?
But, it will be said, there were warm disputes among the exiles at Frankfort, and their disputes were about the use of the Prayer Book, because some felt so strong an aversion to it, or so strong a preference for another form.
It is true – true there was strong opposition to the Prayer Book – opposition stirred by unquiet spirits – opposition which, in its bitterness, spared no ground of attack which it saw open. And would not, I ask, this opposition have charged Popery on our Baptismal Service, and Popery on our Eucharistic Service, if it had seen the ground open for such a charge?
But did this opposition ever make any objection to the doctrine of the Sacraments, as taught in our Liturgy?
If not, then the very fierceness of the opposition raised to the Prayer Book is, itself, strong evidence of the general approval of its teaching concerning the Sacraments, and its freedom from any just accusation of Popery.
(2) But this teaching received also the approval of foreign Reformers.
It is not a little observable that our Baptismal Services are mostly borrowed, not from ancient or mediaeval sources, but from the Form drawn up, under the authority of Hermann the Archbishop, for the Church of Cologne, which Form was drawn up by Bucer. [It must not be supposed that Bucer would subsequently have approved all things contained in it. (See “Script. Angl,” pp. 479–480.)]
One who compares our present Baptismal Service with that of the Sarum use, as given in Mr. Maskell’s “Monumenta Ritualia,” will probably be surprised, under these circumstances, to find so many points of similarity as there are. It must be remembered, however, that the Baptismal Service drawn up by Bucer (with Melancthon) for the Archbishopric of Cologne, in 1543, was largely borrowed from the Nuremburg Form of 1533, which copies that of Luther of 1524; and that Luther, by his own account, “did not wish to alter many things.” (See his words, quoted in “Goode on Infant Baptism,” p. 434. See also pp. 436, 438.)
Let it be observed, by the way, that just the declaration, “Seeing now, dearly beloved brethren, that this child is regenerate,” and the thanksgiving, “that it hath pleased Thee to regenerate,” etc., which are now the special objects of attack, are found neither in Bucer’s Form, nor Luther’s, nor in the Mediaeval Office. [Nor in Miss. Bob. (See Blunt’s “P. Book,” p. 228.) More like is the Greek thanksgiving. (See Daniel, “Codex Liturgicus,” tom. iv. p. 506.)] They were added in the revision of 1552, which gave our Prayer Book its thoroughly Reformed character, and appear to have been entirely the work of our English Reformers. At least, I am not aware that any other source has been shown, or can be shown, from which they were borrowed. But if this be so, then must it be acknowledged that those doctrinal statements which are now marked as remnants of Popery, are emphatically and preeminently the growth of the Reformation, peculiarly the work of our own English Reformers; and not only so, but that they singularly tell of the last touches they gave to their Reforming work – that work to which, so soon after, they sealed their testimony in blood. They are very parts of the finishing strokes by which, in their view, our Reformers made perfect that liturgical revision which, while it now satisfied all the requirements of Peter Martyr, gave to the Church of England a legacy of sound words and faithful teaching, such as certainly our Reformers and their successors were not ashamed of.
Bucer, indeed, was very earnest in endeavouring to effect a reconciliation, in the Eucharistic controversy, between Luther and the Reformed, but no one of the Reformers was more truly opposed than Bucer to the opus operatum doctrine of the Sacraments; and to Bucer and Peter Martyr we know that our Prayer Book, before the second revision in King Edward’s reign, was submitted, for the benefit of their advice and suggestions.
Bucer’s “Censura” we have; it is published in his “Scripta Anglicana” (Basle, 1577). It contains objections to some ceremonies which were retained in the First Book of Edward, but which are now rejected. It expresses a wish for the omission of the words which, as they then stood, spoke of the flood of Jordan and other waters being sanctified by the Baptism of Christ, lest they should subserve some superstitious opinion of magical mutations (p. 479). But to the teaching and the language now most strongly opposed, it contains no objection whatever. [Although some of these expressions were not in the First Book of Edward at all, but were added, when, to use the language of Peter Martyr, all things that could nourish superstition were removed; yet there was, in the Book, as examined by Bucer, the declaration concerning the child privately baptized: “Ego vos certos reddo, quod recte feceritis baptizando hunc puerum, qui cum natus fuerit in peccato originis, nunc per lavacrum regenerationis effectus est filius Dei, et hoeres vitae aeternae.” (“Scripta Anglicana,” p. 438.) And Bucer’s high approval of this office may be seen in “Scripta Anglicana,” p. 481.]
Moreover, it alleges, as reason for the rejection of superstitious rites, that they should have no place in such holy mysteries of our Redemption and Regeneration unto eternal life (p. 478).
It urges also that Baptism should be administered always in full congregation, and it says that this will be approved by all who recognize the force of Regeneration, and the fullness of the Divine blessing which is conferred in Baptism (p. 477).
And we know of Peter Martyr, not only that he approved of the “Censura” of Bucer [There remains a letter from Peter Martyr to Bucer, in which, expressing concurrence in all his emendations, he says: “Tantum sum miratus, quomodo praeterieris de Communione aegrotorum id reprehendere, quod statutum est, si eo die fiat, quo in Dominico habetur Coena Domini, tum minister partem ciborum secum deferat, atque ita Communionem in domo AEgrotantis administrat.” (See Strype’s “Cranmer”; Appendix, p. 154: London, 1694.)]; but that, after the review of the Prayer Book which followed, he wrote a letter, in which he used these words: – “The order of ecclesiastical rites and the administration of the sacraments have been reformed, for all things have been removed from it which could nourish superstition.” [See his letter in “The Writings of Bradford,” vol. ii, p. 403, P. S. Edit.]
And if Bucer and Peter Martyr approved, which of the foreign Reformers disapproved of the sacramental teaching of our Prayer Book?
Evidence is forthcoming of one indeed, who spoke of our Prayer Book as containing many “tolerabiles ineptiae.”
There is scarcely a publication of the Puritans against the Book of Common Prayer in which these words of Calvin are not quoted. But the Puritans did not quote them as a condemnation of any doctrine in our Services. They did allege them, indeed, against the use of the cross, and kneeling at the reception of the Eucharist. And thus the allegation is answered by Dr. John Burgess:–
“Touching the former testimony of Calvin (Epistle 200), I answer that it doth not appear that he spake it of these ceremonies in question, there being some other things, as then, in King Edward’s Book of Common Prayer, to which it might refer. For thus he writeth to the English exiles at Frankfort: ‘In the English Liturgy, as you describe it, I find that there were many tolerable unfitnesses. By these two words I mean, that there was not that pureness that was to be wished, which faults yet could not by-and-by all in a day be reformed, and were for a time to be tolerated having no manifest impiety in them.’ Where if we shall render tolerabiles ineptiae, tolerable fooleries and fopperies and not unfitnesses, we shall find Calvin to allow some fooleries and fopperies in a Reformed Church, at least for a time, which in our language sounds harshly.
“In the second place (Epistle 206), where (say you) he speaketh his judgement more freely to the same men, he saith, that Lights and Crosses (which, as then, were used at the administration of the Supper, not now) and other like trifles, came out of superstition. But he nameth not these ceremonies in question, neither doth he mean them; or, not all. For as he alloweth kneeling in the act of the Supper, so as the worship bee directed, not to the sacrament, but unto Christ as sitting in Heaven (Inatit. 4, 17, 37); so he blameth Bishop Hooper for standing so stiffly against the cap and surplice. Nor doth he anywhere (for aught I know) condemn the use of the cross in Baptism, as it is with us. His words, concerning such things as he there spoke of, are these: ‘Hence, I resolve, that those who hold these things indifferent doe too willingly draw out of the dregs. Nor do I see to what end the Church should be burdened with vain and unprofitable ceremonies, not to call them by their proper name, noxious, where liberty of a pure and simple manner is left unto our choice.’ Thus he. Now, when he would not have these things (suppose these ceremonies in question) reckoned indifferent, which he denied in other epistle to bee impious, and calleth them not only unprofitable, but noxious or nocent, who seeth not that he so speaketh of them respectively to the English Church at Frankfort, which was at liberty to choose for itself; and where these things doing no good were in the event noxious and hurtful? But the defendant considereth them partly in their own nature, partly in respect of the intendment of the Church of England in their use, and so calleth them innocent. And in this there is no contradiction betwixt Calvin and him; for the respects are different to the eye.” (“Answer Rejoined,” to Pref., pp. 64–65: London, 1631.)
It will hardly then, I imagine, be contended that the doctrinal matter of our Baptismal Service was any part of that which came under Calvin’s censure.
But not to press the doubt whether or not, when Calvin wrote those words, he was under a misconception as to what was contained in our Prayer Book, [See “Papers on the Eucharistic Presence,” p. 516.] I am bold to maintain that they could not have been intended to condemn the teaching of the Sacraments; for they are words which naturally point, not to false and dangerous doctrine, but to those lesser matters of ceremonial – such as the signing with the cross and the wearing of the surplice – which, while Calvin stigmatized them as “bearable toys,” some of his admirers were always regarding as almost unbearable burdens.
But, besides this, the expression of Calvin cannot have been intended to condemn the doctrine of our Prayer Book, for this reason, that there is no teaching or statement concerning Baptism and the Lord’s Supper in our Prayer Book which may not, I believe, be matched in emphatic statements and repeated assertions to be found in the writings of Calvin himself. [See Appendix, Note O.]
(3) I come now to deal with the case of the English Puritans. And my position is this: that, as regards the sacramental doctrine now objected to in our Services, it was fully approved by the early Puritans; that the objections to it were an afterthought, when embittered feelings had led men to find blots anywhere; and that even when, as an afterthought, the objection came to light, it was by the better sort regarded as an objection to be ashamed of rather than to be seriously pressed.
I proceed to adduce evidence of this. It may seem to some persons scarcely credible that from the beginning of the attack made upon our Liturgy at Frankfort to the end of the reign of Elizabeth, no charge – or none of any account – was made against our Prayer Book as meaning to teach any doctrine concerning the Sacraments different from that of other Reformed Churches, or of the Puritans themselves.
Frivolous charges, and charges for frivolous matters, were made in abundance. A spirit of opposition was gendered, which was certainly not very scrupulous in the language it used, or the accusations which it made. Yet, in the midst of all, it seems to have been pretty generally understood that, in the matter of doctrine, there was no serious difference between the opponents and the respondents.
And in the matter of the doctrinal language of our Services, while some minor points – now commonly disregarded – were overhauled somewhat roughly, those prominent statements and assertions – now so frequently charged with the plain teaching of flat Popery – were allowed to pass unchallenged, as free from all imputation of being even capable of misleading.
The attacks made by the dissident party at Frankfort, as well as the letter sent to Frankfort by Calvin, point to the externals of worship. Against the teaching of Regeneration in our Prayer Book there is alleged nothing at all. [“Those two notorious Puritans and ‘severe Calvinists’ (as Anthony Wood calls them), Sampson and Lawrence Humphrey, exhibit in a joint letter to Bullinger a list of ‘blemishes,’ still attaching to the Services of the Church. At Number 3 come the blemishes in the Baptismal Service; and the sponsors, the sign of the cross, etc., are objected to, but not this statement, which is passed over altogether.” (Mozley’s “Review of Baptismal Controversy,” Edn. 1895, p. 344, note.)]
And when Cartwright, as the Coryphaeus of the Puritan party, published his celebrated work, full of bitter complaints of the yoke which was imposed in the use of such a prescribed form of prayer and ceremonies, the only doctrinal matter excepted against in our Baptismal Office is in the prayer which then spoke of sanctifying the flood of Jordan, etc. And here, by the way, I may observe that this prayer – altered at the last review – became a sort of standing mark for the arrows of those who were enemies of our Liturgy. But exception is not always taken to the expression “mystical washing away of sin”. This seems to have been well understood to point to the “sacramental use” [See Cardwell’s “Conferences,” p. 324.] of water, and the sacramental washing away of sins in the water of Baptism the Puritans did not question. Thus, for example, Calderwood, in his “Altar of Damascus,” first published in 1621 (which, full of bitter complaint, yet complains not of the statements concerning Baptismal Regeneration in our Service), alluding to this prayer, makes his objection that it is not the Baptism of Christ, but the institution of Christ, that sanctifies waters to this use. He does not question at all the use – the mystical washing away of sin. He only denies that it was Christ’s Baptism which sanctified waters for this use. And then he quotes from Bucer’s “Censura,” to the effect that the Lord obtained for us that Baptism should be the sacrament of washing away sins, not by His Baptism, but by His Cross.
It will be observed, too, that Hooker, in dealing with the Puritan objections to the Prayer Book, seems ignorant of any such charges against the doctrine of Regeneration taught in our Service as are now so commonly made.
We may pass on into the beginning of James’s reign, and observe that at the Hampton Court Conference, the Puritans, begging release from the sign of the cross in Baptism, lest it should minister to superstition (concerning which, accordingly, Canon XXX, was added shortly after), ask no release from using any of the prayers, or making any of the declarations, contained in the Baptismal Service. These gave them no cause of offence – no ground of objection.
Thus, for about fifty years, the Puritans had before them our Baptismal Office, constantly heard it used, used it frequently themselves, and were never struck with any impropriety in thanking God for “regenerating this infant” – never found any difficulty in declaring in the face of the Church that these children be “regenerate and grafted into the body of Christ’s congregation.”
Shortly after this, indeed, was published the “Survey of the Book of Common Prayer,” in which Puritan discontent is seen going to seed. It enters upon new ground; it opens out fresh matters of complaint. And here it must be acknowledged we have something more like our modern causes of accusation. I appeal to the fifty previous years of uncomplaining use to justify this complaint’s being regarded as an afterthought. And even here, it must be observed that Baptism is acknowledged as the “Sacrament of Regeneration,” assuring “the faithful as a seal of strength against all temptations,” [See Quaere 123.] and its “quaeres” of condemnation point rather to a tendency to, or implication of, the Popish error of sacraments giving grace ex opere operato – a view which the compilers of the Service had in abomination.
I do not stop to notice the flood of publications following, which issued from the Puritan press. [See “Papers on the Eucharistic Presence,” pp. 376–80.] In the midst of all their invectives, anything at all like the modern charges against our Services as teaching the Romish doctrine of the Sacraments – in particular against our Communion Service as teaching any objective presence of Christ’s Body and Blood in the elements, or against our Baptismal Service as teaching a false or dangerous doctrine of Regeneration – will be found, I believe, comparatively very rare indeed.
I only further observe that, at the Savoy Conference, the Puritans do not except against the statements of the baptized child being regenerate. To the words addressed to the congregation, “Seeing now, dearly beloved brethren, that this child is regenerate,” they have not a word of objection to make. And in the prayer which says, “that it hath pleased Thee to regenerate this infant with Thy Holy Spirit,” the objection is not to the assertion of regeneration simply, but to the words “regenerated by God’s Holy Spirit,” – the objectors regarding it as “a disputable point whether this can in faith be said of every child that is baptized.” And to the same effect is their objection to the somewhat similar language in the Confirmation Service. (See Cardwell’s “Conf.,” pp. 325, 328.)
Indeed, the Presbyterian objectors could hardly have objected to the declarations concerning the efficacy of Baptism; for similar language (or language not far dissimilar) is used in the Liturgy drawn up for them by Baxter himself, who also, elsewhere, not only spoke as our Prayer Book speaks, but acknowledged that our Liturgy – for the doctrinal part of it – contained nothing to which he could not assent. [See below.]
The sacramental teaching of our Prayer Book, then, which in itself bears witness to its Reformed character, having received thus the seal of approbation from our own Reformers, from foreign Reforming divines, and from our own early Puritans, is it possible for us to think that it is fairly and justly open to the charge of having on it the impress of Rome?
We may not only acknowledge, but contend, that a doctrine it does teach of effectual sealing – a doctrine of consecrated relationship of the Sacraments to the doctrines of Grace, and to the very grace of the Gospel; and that relationship – not that of such annexes as may be ornamental or illustrative only, but of necessary seals – necessary for the perfect and formal donation of that gift which it is the office of Christian faith not only to behold, but to apprehend and appropriate, and therefore generally necessary for the complete formation and full assurance of saving faith. [See Appendix, Note P.]
3. The Scriptures.
It remains for us to ask of this doctrine, “What saith the Scriptures?”
I shall hope, at least, to satisfy some that no doctrine which falls short of what I have desired to show as the doctrine of our Liturgy and of our Reformers will meet the requirements of the Word of God.
By way of introduction to the doctrine taught in the New Testament concerning the Christian Sacraments, it will be well to make one or two observations concerning the Jewish Church and its initiatory Sacrament of Circumcision.
Israel – the circumcised people, the visible Church of God – is set before us as separate from other people. But within them, a smaller number, known only to God, are set before us as the invisible Church – distinct, in God’s sight, from the visible fold, insomuch that for these alone is set down the true possession of the privileges of the Covenant; and so strongly is this expressed, that all others – though the natural children of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, though Hebrews of the Hebrews, though having all the outward tokens and sacraments of the Covenant – are spoken of, beside these, as “not Jews, not Israel, not God’s people, not circumcised.” [See Rom. 2:28–29, 9:6, 25.]
But it is certain that such language, in the light of common sense, cannot be, in its literal meaning, true of a people who were circumcised Jews. And equally certain it is, by the teaching of God’s Word, that it does not mean that the visible Church outside the invisible – the uncircumcised circumcision – those not Israel, yet of Israel – the seed who are not children – had nothing to do with the privileges and promises of God’s people.
It is obvious to remark how, in the Old Testament, God’s pleadings, God’s rebukes, and God’s denunciations by His prophets, bear witness to the reality of that covenant nearness and dearness of the whole people, the visible Church, as one body – towards whom, notwithstanding their disobedience and gainsaying, He stretched forth the hand of His mercy all the day long. They were the Lord’s Sodom and Gomorrah. But because they were the Lord’s, the voice of the Lord said, “How shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboim?”
Not less clear to the point is the teaching of St. Paul. Let it be observed especially how, in the same chapter in which he so strongly marks the distinction between the literal and the spiritual Israel, he speaks of the unbelieving Jews, his kinsmen according to the flesh, as being Israelites, “to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the Covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises.” It must not escape attention that not the promises only, but the adoption (the υιοθεσία, the adoption of sons), is spoken of as pertaining to them – as being, in some sort, their possession.
There is here unquestionably – in the view of the visible Church of the Jews as apart from the invisible – all the responsibility of covenant relationship, all the responsibility of the promises, all the privilege and responsibility of Sonship. [Bishop Hopkins writes: “So, again, Rom. 9:4, the Apostle tells us, that to the Israelites, as they were a Church, pertained the adoption. Now adoption is making men sons of God: yet, certainly, they did not all of them enjoy the heavenly and effectual adoption, which would bring them all to the heavenly and glorious inheritance; but only they were the children of God, being separated from the world, and brought under an ecclesiastical economy and dispensation of ordinances. Again, to be members of the Church visible is sufficient to style men members of Christ. So Our Saviour himself speaks of some branches in Him that bear no fruit (John 15:2, and so Romans 11:17). The branches of the true olive are said to have been broken off, and others engrafted in their stead. Certainly this vine and this olive is Christ’s, and these barren and therefore broken branches are members of His body; not, indeed, living members united unto Him by the band of a saving faith, whereby they might draw sap and nourishment from him, for such shall never be broken off, nor burnt; but yet they are in Christ, and belong unto Christ, as His members by an ecclesiastical or political incision, as they are parts and members of the visible Church. And thus, I suppose, I have made it sufficiently clear unto you, that all, who are taken out of the world into the visible Church of Christ, may, according to the phrase and expression of Scripture, be called saints, the children and people of God, and members of Christ.” (“Works,” vol. ii. p. 422.)]
How clearly the same truth comes out in the whole life and ministry and teaching of Our Saviour! Let it suffice here to mark how, in the Sermon on the Mount, all are admonished not to be as the Gentiles, because “your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye need all these things”; and yet all, again, are directed how they may be the children of their Father in heaven. (Matt. 5:45.)
It scarcely needs to point out also how St. John speaks of Christ as coming to “His own,” though “His own received Him not.” Even those who rejected Him were, in privilege and responsibility, His own. But, in another sense, the Sonship was for those who received Him only. “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name.” (John 1:12.)
But there is one passage in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans which must not be overlooked. St. Paul had been showing that Jews and Gentiles were both alike in sin, both alike in moral responsibility. But he goes on to declare that there was a vast difference between them as matter of advantage. And this difference is not between the Gentiles and the spiritual Israel, but between the Gentiles and the Jews.* And at the head of this vast advantage is set the custody of the oracles of God – a custody regarded clearly as a call to faith – and a call for all. “For what,” asks the Apostle, “if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God of none effect?” (Rom. 3:3.)
*[Bellarmine (arguing against the sealing efficacy of circumcision to the Jews) says: “Certe, cap. 3, ad Rom. cum Paulus quaereret: Quae utilitas Circumcisions? et responderet; Multum per omnem modum, debuisset secundum adversarios primo loco ponere hanc primariam utilitatem, quod sit sigillum divinae promissionis: at hujus ne meminit quidem.” (“De Sacram.,” lib. i. cap. xvii.; tom. iii. p. 61; Ingold., 1601.)
But it must be observed that the oracles they were entrusted with contained the very charter of their covenanted mercies as the people of God. And the comparison of verse 3 will make it clear that it is this view of them which is prominent in the Apostle’s mind. There was in those oracles that which called for their faith in God, and involved God’s faithfulness to them – even to all those of the circumcision, who did not by unbelief reject God’s promises, and despise the mercies of His covenant. (See also Turretin, “Inst. Theol. Elenc.,” par. iii. pp. 388, 392; Geneva, 1686.)]
What can we gather from the question of the Apostle but this, that the great advantage of the Jew, the great profit of circumcision, that which brought to the visible Church so great responsibility of privilege, was this – that they had given them the records in which they might read the promises of God to His people, and, seeing themselves concluded under sin, might rest on the covenanted mercies of faith; so that, if any of them were, in a higher sense, not God’s people, not accepted, not justified, it was because they did not believe the seal of the promise and the promise of the seal – did not, in faith, believe themselves God’s people, accepted and justified by His free grace?
Abraham received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had, being yet uncircumcised. And circumcision without faith was as a seal cut off from a deed of gift. But it was unbelief which cut it off. The privilege and responsibility of circumcision was this, that it was a call to, and required, faith in the promises it sealed.
When those promises were believed, circumcision became circumcision of the heart, and the Jew became a Jew inwardly, the Israelite became an Israelite indeed, and the adoption of children became a Sonship indeed.
But without this faith, the seal nevertheless had been a call to the Israelites to believe and accept the gift. And though – the gift rejected, the promise not believed – the Jew was now not a Jew, the Israelite not an Israelite indeed, the circumcised not circumcised in heart; the child of God – indeed a child of wrath; yet, for the matter of privilege and responsibility, the Jews could never be as the Gentiles, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise.
The outward circumcision had its relation to the inward, and that by God’s ordinance; the visible Church had its consecrated relationship to the invisible.
The outward and visible, indeed, might be separated from the inward and spiritual, but only by man’s unbelief – by his not believing that which faith had not to make, but only to receive – to receive as the privilege of even the visible Church – to accept through the promise sealed, even by the outward sign – to accept as a gift, the donation of which was formally or sacramentally made over in the ordinance of God’s appointment.
When a Jew, then, was spoken of as a child of God, in distinction from the Gentiles, who were strangers to the Covenants, it was a saying which was true, not merely in some cold, hollow ecclesiastical sense, as being a member of the visible Church. It could be justified not merely as the language of charitable hypothesis. It was the language of piety, as declaring not merely what charity hoped might be true, but what piety, knew he ought in faith to believe of himself, and which if he refused to believe, though indeed, in its beneficial sense, it would not be true then, yet it would only not be true because of his rejecting by unbelief the grace which would have made him such.
And before we pass to that teaching of the New Testament, with which we are more directly concerned, it should be carefully borne in mind, that the Jews, before the coming of Christ, were not unfamiliar with the case of persons coming out from Gentile nations to join in the worship of the God of Israel, and to ask admission into His visible Church.
And such persons, in the language which was familiar to the Jews, were spoken of as “regenerated”. Their being taken out from the nations which were far off and out of the covenant, and being grafted into the nation which was brought nigh, to which pertained the adoption of sons and the Covenant of God – this transition was known as regeneration.
Not only so, but this admission was always accompanied by a Baptism. For the Jews, the covenant people, not only regarded themselves as a circumcised and sacrificing people – they looked on themselves as a washed and purified, i.e. a baptized, people also.
Therefore they required their proselytes to be circumcised, to be baptized, and to sacrifice.
And it was the usual phrase of the Jews to call the proselyte’s Baptism his new birth, regeneration, or being born again. “If anyone become a proselyte,” says the Gemara, “he is like a child newborn.” And Maimonides likewise says: “The Gentile that is made a proselyte, and the slave that is made free, behold, he is like a child newborn.”
It is at least a fact worth noting in itself, and not without its value as bearing on the interpretation of some Scriptural expressions, that probably before and at the time of the New Testament being written, the Jews seem to have held and taught a doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration.
This baptismal regeneration brought the Gentile convert into a relationship to God, in which the proselyte might doubtless, like the Israelite, be (through unbelief) not an Israelite indeed; but it was a relationship, in virtue of which, because of God’s covenant with the visible Church to which he was admitted, he not only ought in charity to be accounted, but in faith he was called to account himself, a child of God.
With this fact before us, we shall be confirmed, I think, in the persuasion, that in Our Lord’s conversation with Nicodemus, though the requirement of an ordinance be not indeed the point which Our Lord is insisting on, yet the general necessity of external Baptism is contained in His words, and its relation to the inward and spiritual grace of true regeneration at least pointed at. [See Appendix, Note Q.]
But to content myself with one or two observations concerning the teaching of the New Testament on the doctrine of the Sacraments, it is clearly important first to inquire – whether, under the Christian dispensation, we are to see the same distinction between the visible and the invisible Church, and the same relation one to another, which we have marked in the case of the Jewish dispensation.
At the date of the writing of the New Testament, no doubt the motives for untrue profession were comparatively few, and we may suppose that the members of the Christian Church had, in the great majority of cases, been brought in by the power of the Spirit of God. But that, even then, the distinction stood between the visible and the invisible Church, will hardly, I think, be questioned, and will appear from such statements as these: – “They went out from us, because they were not of us.” “Some have not the knowledge of God, I speak this to your shame.” “If any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of His.”
That, this being so, there should be between the visible Church and the invisible the same relationship of what we may call Faith’s responsibility, is what the analogy of the previous dispensation would naturally lead us to expect, unless there were found some very clear Scriptural declarations to the contrary.
Not only are there no such declarations to the contrary, but there are, I think, clear indications that the idea of such relationship came into the most elementary teaching of Christianity, as taught by the Apostles themselves.
Thus, not to mention the numerous passages in which the members of various branches of the visible Church, and sometimes of branches not a little corrupt, are addressed all collectively by such titles as “beloved of God, called to be saints,” “partakers of the heavenly calling,” let us mark how St. Paul deals with those members of the visible Church who were not walking worthy of their vocation. Occasion requires him to deal with the sin of fornication in the way of most solemn warning and rebuke. But how? Does he declare that the fornicator, being a member of the visible Church, cannot have anything to do with the Body of Christ or the Spirit of God? Just the contrary. He warns the Church, indeed, that fornicators shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But he asks, “Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them the members of an harlot? ... What! know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” Surely these are not the words of one who would carefully shut off the visible from the invisible Church, or would have felt it a soul-destroying error for a man – if he were not sure of being a member of the Church invisible – to suppose that he had anything to do with the Body of Christ, or the Spirit of God!
Again, St. Paul has to address himself to some whom he cannot regard as spiritual, but carnal* – even babes in Christ, yet carnal. And how does the Apostle seek to correct the deficiency he complains of in them? Does he bid them beware how they think that they and such as they can have anything to do with that Church which is God’s spiritual temple? Nay, but he appeals to their rudimentary knowledge of Christianity for the assurance that they have something to do with it. And this is to be the very remedy for their want of spirituality: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” Surely such words must be held to point to an inseparable relation of calling and responsibility, between the members of the visible Church and the spiritual privileges and the spiritual endowments which are the true possession of the invisible! If members of the visible Church are carnal and not spiritual, it is for want of believing what they ought to know of themselves and of their own gifts; and the remedy is to be sought, not in telling them they have nothing to do with those gifts, but in setting afresh those gifts before them, as a rudimentary teaching for their faith to apprehend.
*[“Who is this spiritual man? The Jesuit wishes it to be understood only of a few perfect persons, who can even predict future events. But the falsity of this appears from the very words themselves: for πνευματικος, or the spiritual man, is there opposed to τω ψυχικω, or the carnal man, and therefore denotes all the faithful who are regenerate and have received the Holy Ghost; as by the carnal, on the contrary, all those are meant who have not yet obtained the spirit of regeneration.” (Whitaker’s “Disputation on Scripture,” P. S. Edit., p. 452: on 1 Cor. 2:15.) Doubtless in 1 Cor. 3:3 σαρκικοί bears some abatement of sense. See verse 1.]
Nor is it possible to deny that the date to which the Apostle would bid the Corinthians, even those who needed solemn warning and rebuke, look back as the date of their investment in these gifts and privileges, is the date of their Baptism. Looking at the words in the original language, no trustworthy expositor, I imagine, will question, that it is to their Baptism that the Apostle points in the words: “But ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
But if so, it cannot be denied that we have from the Apostle – teaching concerning the visible Church, and its initiatory sacrament, such as abundantly justifies and supports a high view of their relation to the privileges and promises and spiritual gifts which pertain – as regards actual fruition – to the invisible Church of God’s inner election.
Yet withal, from the teaching of the same Epistle, it seems to me to be very clear that the efficacy of Baptism is entirely subservient to that of the Gospel which it seals. It is not as if the Gospel consists in telling us of blessed things wrought in us ex opere operato by the Sacrament of Baptism. The whole previous argument excludes such a view. It is by the foolishness of preaching, i.e., of the truth proclaimed, that it pleaseth God to save them that believe. And that truth proclaimed, the true matter of the preaching is Christ crucified; Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God; Christ made to be to us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. And it is Baptism, viewed in some subservient relation to this faith, to which efficacy is ascribed. By the Spirit we are taught to know the things freely given to us of God. In knowing them, and knowing them as ours, is the power.
And to what view, then, of Baptism are we led but this – that Baptism is God’s seal of donation, [See Appendix, Note R.] the effectual sign of the free gift in Christ Jesus, which all the baptized members of His Church are called to accept?
And are we not naturally led to the same conclusion in the Epistle to the Romans?
Those justified by faith are “not under the law, but under grace.” And they are addressed as men, being reminded of an elementary truth in the words, “Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into His death?” Yet, throughout, the power is ascribed to the Gospel itself – the Gospel which is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; and the Gospel is unfolded as consisting in the revelation of God’s righteousness for the free justification of the sinner. And the doctrine is illustrated by the justification of Abraham, who, being justified by faith, afterwards was taught to look for no opus operatum in a sacrament, but to receive from God the seal of the righteousness, which he had, being yet uncircumcised.
To the same result we are naturally led, as it seems to me, by the language of St. Peter. [1 Peter 3:21. See Appendix, Note S.] For if Baptism “saves,” it certainly is not an ineffectual sign. If it saves as “the answer of a good conscience towards God,” it saves not ex opere operato, but by its effectual relation to something which can take the burden of sin from an evil conscience, and give it peace with God. If it saves “by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” how but as sealing to the soul the benefits of Christ’s death and resurrection, the gifts of His redemption? This makes all easy. Let the awakened sinner’s soul see in Baptism just this, the sealing of the gift which it needs. Then it understands the word, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Then the soul draws near in full assurance of faith (to use the language of St. Paul, in a passage parallel to the verse from St. Peter), having the heart sprinkled from an evil conscience, even as the body “washed with pure water.” (Heb. 10:22.)
So also; when St. Peter [2 Peter 1:9.] speaks of the backslider as having “forgotten that he was purged from his old sins” – he is setting forth an effect of Baptism which ought to have been believed and remembered, and the unbelief and forgetfulness of which led to the downfall. It is the same teaching, as it seems to me, as that of our Liturgy and the Reformers – a teaching which requires us to remember our Baptism, and to remember its purging; to rest, in faith, on the gift of its sealing. [See Appendix, Note T.]
These and suchlike passages have their requirements met by the teaching of an obsignatory character in Baptism. But nothing less than this – nothing less than an effectual sealing of the promises of the Gospel, and of the gifts of its grace – such an effectual sealing as calls for the exercise of faith and belief to accept the gift, and lays upon the soul the responsibility of the gift and the calling – nothing less than this will meet their requirements.
But let me, before passing on, direct attention to a connected view of three texts which speak on the subject of regeneration. The first is from St. Peter, where he says that God hath “begotten [αναγεννήσας, 1 Peter 1:3.] us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” The second, also from St. Peter, speaks of our “being born [1 Peter 1:23, 25.] again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God. ... And this is the word which by the Gospel is preached unto you.” The third speaks of God’s saving us “by the washing of regeneration.”*
*[Titus 3:5. – Gataker, indeed, has gone so far as to question whether this expression may not rather refer to the internal ablution, than to the Sacrament of Baptism. But, even so, by his own teaching, the true sign and seal of that grace of inward ablution, is the outward and visible sign of Baptism. (See “Opuscula Philol.,” pp. 102 a, b, 117 a.)
He supports his doubt by quotations from Piscator and Sclater and Calvin; but the language of Calvin clearly acknowledges that the allusion is undoubtedly to Baptism, and that Baptism is the washing of Regeneration. (See p. 117 a.)
The consent, indeed, of Reformation divines in interpreting the Apostle’s words of Baptism is remarkable; as will be acknowledged by all who will take the pains to verify the following references: – Luther, “Opera,” tom. iv. p., 114 (Jena); Melancthon “Opera,” tom. i. fo. 25 a (Witt.); Bucer, “Scripta Anglicana,” pp. 655–656; Musculus on Matt. 9, p. 537 (Edit. 1578); Calvin on Titus 3:5, vol. vii. p. 506. (Amst.); “Catechism of Cologne Liturgy,” quoted in “Goode on Inf. Baptism,” p. 470; “Heidelberg Catechism” (Sylloge Confessionum, p. 377); Former Confession of Helvetia, in Hall’s “Harmony,” p. 290; Confession of Saxony, in Hall’s “Harmony,” p. 310; Confession of Sueveland, in Hall’s “Harmony,” p. 315; “Consensus Tigurinus,” c. 19; Ridley’s Works, P. S. Edit., p. 12; Bradford’s “Letters, Treatises,” etc., P. S. Edit., p. 271; Hooper’s “Later Writings,” P. S. Edit., p. 46; Peter Martyr, “Loc. Com.,” p. 580; Hooker, vol. ii. p. 265, Edit. Keble; Beza, as quoted in Gataker, “Opuscula Philol.,” p. 105 b; “Consensus Orthodoxus,” pp. 258, 325 (Zurich, 1605); Becon, “Prayers,” etc., p. 612, P. S. Edit.; Malcolm, quoted in Gataker, “Opuscula Philol.,” p. 103 a; Danaeus, quoted in Gataker, “Opuscula Philol.,” p. 103 a; Rogers on XXXIX Articles, p. 276, P.S. Edit; Sadeel, “Opera,” p. 285 b, Off. Sanctand.; Bullinger, “Decades,” vol. v. p. 398, P. S. Edit.; Some, “Treatise on Sacraments” (quoted in “Goode on Infant Baptism,” p. 361); Whitaker, “Praelectiones de Sacram.,” p. 10; Willett, “Synopsis Papismi,” vol. v. p. 57 (London, 1852); Mayer, “Comment. on Cat.,” p. 7; Davenant on Coloss. cap. iii. verse 1; Ames, “Medulla Theologica,” p. 185 (Amst., 1652); Chamier, “Panstrat. Cath.,” tom. iv. p. 121; Ursinus, “Opera,” tom. i. p. 782; Bp. Lake, Exposition of 51st Psalm in “Sermons,” 1629, p. 116; Turretin, “Inst. Theol. Elenct.,” par. ii. p. 757, vol. iii. p. 422; Hier. Zanchius, “Confess.,” p. 124 (1599); Dr. Ward in Gataker, “Opuscula Philol.,” p. 101.]
If Regeneration is ascribed in the first of these texts to the resurrection of Christ, as procuring the grace, and in the second to the Gospel, the Word of God, as the doctrine of Grace, offering the gift – how should it be ascribed in the third to Baptism (the washing of regeneration), except it be as having a relation to the same gift, the Grace of the Gospel? And what relation should this be so naturally as that of the effectual seal, by which is made over the formal donation of that gift of free remission?
And is not this same relation of the washing to the Word, of the seal to the Doctrine, of the sign to the Grace, indicated in those other words of St. Paul, in which he speaks of Christ’s sanctifying and cleansing His Church “with the washing of water by the Word”? (Ephes. 5:26.)
“Accedit verbum,” says St. Augustine, “et fit sacramentum.” It is the relation to the Word that makes the washing of water effectual to the cleansing of the Church. “Now are ye clean,” says the Church’s Lord, “through the word which I have spoken unto you” – even as He prayed, “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth.”
Hitherto, it will be observed, I have in this Scriptural argument confined myself entirely to the subject of Baptism.
In the case of the other sacrament, it is obvious to observe, not only how the words of Our Lord, in the institution, constitute the outward element as a sign of the res sacramenti, but also how clearly they identify the donation [I use language which, in its full sense, of course, presupposes faithful reception.] of the one with the tradition of the other. Can there less than this be fairly said of the words, “Take, eat; this is My Body”?
That this sacrament has the same relation to doctrine, to the doctrine of Christ crucified, is clear not only from St. Paul’s declaration concerning its showing forth Christ’s death, but also from the teaching of Our Lord himself, in the 6th chapter of St. John. What the soul of man has to feed upon is the Bread of Life, the Flesh which was given for the life of the world. That the real receiving and eating of the Flesh is only by faith, and always to life, is equally clear from the same Divine discourse. [See “Papers on the Eucharistic Presence,” pp. 609–610.]
But that the outward sacrament stands in such a relationship to the Gospel of Grace and to the grace of the Gospel – in such a relationship to Christ’s very crucified Body and Blood, that it is in such sort a partaking* of the Body and Blood of Christ – that even the faithless and unworthy receiver, if rejecting the gift offered to his faith, must needs be guilty of the Body and Blood of Christ: this – and this was the constant teaching of our Reformers, as it is of our Prayer Book – this is too plain to be questioned by any unprejudiced mind.
*[“Qui [Patres] non certe ut signs ullo modo tribuerent, quod est unius Spiritus Sancti opus; sed ut Sacramentorum usum et efficaciam commendarent, saepe sic de signis sunt locuti, ut quod unius est divines virtutis, videantur illis, quasi subordinates, ut isti volunt, instrumentis, attribuere. Sic panem, quem frangimus, vocat Paulus, Corporis Christi, et calicem, quem bibimus, Sanguinis Christi, κοινωνίαν. Sic baptismum aquae vocat lavacrum regenerationis. Et quidni sic loquerentur ipsi, et Patres etiam eos secuti, cum Christus ipse, ut Sacramentalem significationem minime vanam esse ostenderet, illi ipsi pani, et illi vino, ipsius sui corporis et sangainis appellationes tribuerit?” (Beza, as quoted in Gataker, “Opuscula Philol.,” p. 105 b.)
“Certum est, ... eum [Christum] in institutione hujus Sacramenti Sacramentali usum esse phrasi, et nomen rei significatae signo tribuisse, ut sacramentalem inter signum et rem significatam designaret unionem: haec enim perpetua est Spiritus Sancti loquendi ratio, quoties de Sacramentis loquitur.” (Turretin, “De necessaria Secessione,” p. 68: Geneva, 1688.)
“Manducatio veri Corporis Christi non negatur, etiamsi non sit in pane: veluti nec in Baptismo aspersio veri sanguinis negatur, etiamsi aqua non sit receptaculum sed signum sanguinis Christi, nec sanguis Christi realiter sit in aqua nec nos corporaliter, sed spiritualiter ea adspergamur et abluamur.]
Thus, in the case of the Eucharist, the very outward sign is, by the Lord Himself, called by the name of that which it signifies; and it stands in such a relation to it, that, in receiving the one, there is no possibility of escaping the responsibility of having to do with what may be called the formal or sacramental donation of the other.
The faithless member of the visible Church will receive nothing but the outward sign; he cannot take and eat that which is only the food of faith; but the receiving of that very outward and visible sign, which is called by the name of the Body and Blood of Christ, if in unbelief he considers not the Lord’s Body, causes him to be guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord.
When it is said, “Out of every hundred to whom they [ministers] administer the Sacraments, there may be very few to whom they minister more than an outward rite or ceremony” (“Goode on Infant Baptism,” p. 18), there is doubtless an important truth conveyed as to the utter absence of beneficial effects to the unfaithful.
But can it be right so to teach of the relation of Christ’s Sacraments to His Gospel, that any to whom that relation is known may think it possible so to receive the Sacraments that they may have to do only with an outward ceremony?
The views of our Reformers led them rather to insist that to receive the Sacraments must be to receive life or death. (See Ridley’s “Works,” P. S. Edit., p. 161; Cranmer, P. S. Edit., vol. i. p. 373; Jewel in Goode, p. 250. See also below.)
And I cannot question that these views of our Reformers are seen strongly impressed on our Sacramental Services.
And when, speaking of professing Christians, or communicants generally, we speak of them as receiving in the Holy Communion the spiritual food of the Body which was given, and the Blood which was shed for them,
“Non periculosum sed utile ac necessarium est hoc pacto sequi, et phrases sacramentales scripturae sic interpretari; primum quia ipsa Scriptura ac deinceps tota Ecclesia orthodoxa eas sic intellexit et explicavit: ut, cum Deus ipso, Gen. 17:10: Circumcisionem vocat foedus aeternum inter sese et Abrahamum: et pascha transitum, Exod. 12:11; et Gen. 17:11 signum foederis et Exod. 12:13; signum transitus; cum item Christus panem vocat corpus suum pro nobis fractum et statim subnectens jubet hunc panem comedere in sui recordationem. Deinde, quia haec explicatio nulli errori patrocinatur: siquidem Deus nobis non inania nec mendacia, sed vera ac certa symbola promissionis suae proponit.” (Ursinus, “Opera Theol.,” tom. ii. pp. 1465–1466.)
we are certainly not using the language of mere charitable hypothesis. It is language which, in the case of some, may be not true; but it is the language of piety declaring a truth, which is only not true to some, because they themselves do not believe it (when they ought to believe it), and through unbelief have been rejecting that which by faith they ought to have most thankfully received.
And if, then, it be so – as our Reformers contended, and as the Scriptures seem to warrant our believing – that the two Sacraments stand in a parity of relationship to the Gospel of Grace, we may argue from what is clear in the one to that which some may count doubtful in the other. If Baptism be the sacrament of the new birth of a new life, and the Eucharist, in like sort, a sacrament of perpetual food for that life – neither of them effectual, save through the operation of faith, believing in the Gospel of Christ, and resorting to the Sacraments as effectual seals of the grace of the Gospel: then, as the one, the Sacrament of the Eucharist, cannot be received (even by an unbeliever) without the responsibility of receiving or rejecting the spiritual food – cannot be received without a partaking, or being guilty, of Christ’s Body and Blood (on account of the donation of which the outward sign bears the very name, by Christ’s own appointment, of His Body and Blood): so, in the case of the other, we cannot but argue – and it will add strength to our former argument – that its reception must carry with it a like responsibility with reference to the inward and spiritual grace which it seals, on account of which it may be called, and ought to be called (even as St. Paul calls it), “the washing of regeneration”; and on account of which all who receive it, even though members only of the visible Church, ought – not merely in the language of charity, hoping the best, but of piety, which would set before them what they are called to believe of themselves, and of; the gift whose seal has been given them, in the language of piety, I say, – ought to be spoken of as being regenerate.
Such language indeed, dealing only with the objective, needs continually to be corrected by the subjective. How could it be otherwise in a system in which life is by faith? It is readily granted that it is truth set forth only for faith’s believing, and that, when not believed, it can have only a sacramental sense, and that sacramental sense an unreal sense. It is then only sacramentally true. It may really be said to be untrue, but untrue only because unbelief has the power to make it, in its blessing, untrue to the soul, and even so, has no power to make it untrue in its responsibility.
If it be alleged that, as regards the Sacrament of Baptism, there are many passages of Scripture that fix the sense of Regeneration in a way which clearly limits it to such a secret and inward operation of God’s Spirit, as pertains only to the invisible Church of God’s inner election; it may be not only most willingly conceded that terms – correlatives of Regeneration – are abundantly used in such a higher and limited sense in Holy Scripture (as they are by our Reformers, also); but more even than this may be not only conceded, but strongly insisted on.
It may be, it ought to be, very strongly insisted on, that the tendency of the Gospel is to raise the view of Regeneration [“Παλιγγενεσία,” says Archbishop Trench, “is one among the many words which the Gospel found and, so to speak, glorified; enlarged the borders of its meaning; lifted it up into a higher sphere; made it the expression of far deeper thoughts, of far mightier truths, than any of which it had been the vehicle before.” (“Synonyms of the New Testament,” p. 57, 7th Edit.)] into that higher region where it is seen exalted far above calling, and privilege, and responsibility; where it includes the effectual reception of that Spirit, whereby we know the things that are freely given us of God; where the soul is seen passing from death unto life, born of God, overcoming the world, walking not after the flesh but after the Spirit, keeping itself so that that wicked one touch it not.
But, with all this, it must also be maintained, that it would be a grievous error of interpretation to make the higher sense [See Appendix, Note U.] of this and other words govern and overrule the exposition of all texts which seem to point to a lower and federal sense. It cannot be done; without doing violence to just rules of criticism. It can hardly, I think, be done without doing violence to plain common sense.
Not only is the teaching which belongs to this lower sense not utterly cast aside in the New Testament, but the relation of the very outward sacrament and its washing mercies to the very new life of the soul are, as it seems, clearly recognized.
If it be said, “But we must make the higher sense override the interpretation of all other passages, otherwise we shall be allowing inconsistencies in Scripture,” the answer is easy. If, for a word to have two senses – one higher, one lower – one pointing to the objective, the other to the subjective – related one to another as the donation of a gift to its reception; – if, I say, this must be called an inconsistency, then certainly such inconsistencies must be said to be most Scriptural. If, in a dispensation where that which was outward is prominent, the very outward was sometimes denied because the inward also was not present, shall it be impossible in a dispensation, where that which is inward and spiritual is prominent, to affirm the inward when the outward is present?
In other words, if a circumcised people might be called uncircumcised because of the absence, through unbelief, of inward circumcision, may not a people, many of whom are inwardly unregenerate by reason of unbelief, be called regenerate because of the reception of the sacramental sign and federal seal of Regeneration?
Is there any greater inconsistency in calling a Christian-baptized people regenerate, seeing their Baptism requires this faith of them, than in declaring a nation of circumcised Jews to be not Jews, and not circumcised?
And it is not to be forgotten, that not only is this language in accordance with a usage apparently prevalent before; but that it has also been, beyond question, the language of the Christian Church wherever Christ’s name has been carried, and that in every age alike, from the earliest even until now.
Having thus endeavoured to show the substantial agreement between the Sacramental Doctrines of Scripture, the teaching of our Formularies, and our Reformers’ own views, let me return for a while to the subject of our Liturgy.
It is to be lamented that, owing (in part, at least) to the persevering efforts of some members of other Communions too little acquainted with the views of our Reformers, the popular mind has been so much occupied with misconceptions, that it can hardly be persuaded of the true sense and character of some of our Church’s utterances. Our Services are regarded as inconsistent with our Articles, and our Articles and Services both as needing to be brought into closer agreement with God’s Word.
Our Articles, we are told, are Evangelical; our Baptismal and Communion Services speak the language of Rome. But how is it that this supposed inconsistency, if it be indeed so palpable and glaring as we are taught to regard it, was not seen by such theologians as our own and foreign Reformers? How is it that it was unknown to our early English Puritans? They saw it not, because, as I believe, they were wiser men and better divines than many now, account them.
Apparent inconsistencies are often the result of surface views of things. Our Articles and our Services were (in the main) both compiled by our Reformers. [As to subsequent changes, see “Papers on the Eucharistic Presence,” pp. 295 sqq., p. 490, and pp. 555–559, 578–586.] And I believe that those who find inconsistencies between them, might find equal and similar inconsistencies in the same Bible; yea, in the writings of the same Apostle; yea, in the pages of the same Epistle.
The objectors might, if I mistake not, with much the same amount of truth, declare the 6th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans to have a Romanizing tendency, and the 8th chapter to be soundly Evangelical.
And when the matter is pressed upon us of so altering our Services as to remove some expressions objected to, the question must be asked, – Is it intended so to modify the language of our Services as to leave doctrine untouched? If so, will the modification satisfy the objectors? But if it be said, “We do desire to remove some objectionable doctrines,” then it must be answered: “It cannot be done without a doctrinal loss; not without the loss of that which was held by our Reformers, and by them set in our Liturgy, because they were persuaded – and, we believe, rightly persuaded – that it is contained in the Scriptures” [It will be observed that the objection stated in the text is objection only to doctrinal loss. It would be directly contrary to the Prayer Book itself to object to all change in it, merely because it is change. In an uninspired composition, no wrong can be done in making such changes as circumstances and experience may show to be really needed, or unquestionably desirable. And if, at some future time, the door should be set open for a wise and judicious revision; and if then, without loss of doctrine and witness, any word of explanation or caution could be added to our Baptismal Service (in the last address, e.g., to the godparents), such as might satisfy the scruples of any minds, without doing violence to the scruples of any others, it could hardly be the part of good churchmanship to object.]
The true remedy against misunderstanding is not to be sought in deducting anything from the true and Scriptural doctrine of the Sacraments, but in showing their relationship to the Gospel of Christ, in enforcing their subservience in doctrine and efficacy to the doctrines of Grace, and the grace of the doctrines.
Let sin be shown in its sinfulness, and the redemption of Christ in its perfectness; let the truth of the Gospel – the truth of a free justification – be proclaimed in its fullness; let it be proclaimed as the power of God unto salvation; and where the Gospel is received in its power, the Sacraments will be seen in their right place.
And when looked at from a calmer point of view, the importance of maintaining their true relationship by Divine institution to the message of God’s truth will be seen to be great. Then there will be a wholesome dread of Socinianizing the doctrine of the Sacraments, lest by a small beginning it should lead to the Socinianizing of the truth of the Gospel, and of the very faith of the person of the Saviour.
Then charges of inconsistency would be seen to be idle; and we should no more think, than our Reforming forefathers, of putting it down as an irreconcilable opposition of doctrine, if we were to see a faithful minister of Christ in the same service baptizing the infants – yea, and adults too – and declaring them to be regenerate and grafted into God’s Church; and then ascending the pulpit, and taking for his text the words “Ye must be born again,” addressing his whole congregation as needing, for the most part, to be born of God.
Surely the faithful minister will many times speak to the multitude of baptized as yet unwashed, and showing them the fountain open for sin and uncleanness, will bid them “wash and be clean!” But in speaking thus he need not; he should not, speak to them as unbaptized heathen. Rather he should bid them for their washing apply to a Saviour who is theirs – calling them as His to Himself; and send them down to the fountain as already theirs – theirs through the sealing of their washing mercies, in the mystical washing-away of sins at their Baptism; so that their coming may be a coming to appropriate that which was in some sense all their own before; and their beginning now to believe may be a beginning to believe the promises of God made to them in the Sacrament of Baptism: that thus, realizing the privilege of their high calling, they may look back to their Baptism as the pledge and assurance that by the grace of God in the Gospel, they are washed, and sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
And going back in Faith thus to wash and be clean in the Saviour’s atoning Blood – the fountain of washing will be to them, indeed, the washing of Regeneration; the fountain of a new birth; the birth of a new life, which they are to live by the faith of a crucified Saviour.
This will be a new creation indeed, and the renewing and transforming power of the Spirit will work in the soul that wondrous and mighty work, of which we have before us the outward and visible representation, when we see the foul leper washing in Jordan, and read of him, that being washed, “his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”
Thus the new creation in the soul rises out of the realizing by faith of the very force and truth of Baptism [“Ut fides et poenitentia baptismum praecedant, tantum in adultis, qui per aetatem sunt utriusque capaces, exigitur: infantibus vero promissio Ecclesiae facta per Christum, in cujus fide baptizantur, in praesens satis erit, deinde postquam adoleverint, baptismi sui veritatem ipsos agnoscere, ejusque vim in animis eorum vigere, atque ipsorum vita et moribus repraesentari omnino oportet.” (Nowell’s “Catechism,” p. 162 Oxen.)] in its subservient relation to the truth of the Gospel, of which the former life may be said to have been unbelief’s denial.
And in the case of the other Sacrament ordained for the continual nourishment of the soul thus once for all newborn by the Sacrament of Faith [See Appendix, Note V.] – can we think it well to withdraw anything of our witness to its being indeed the Communion, or partaking (the κοινωνία), of the Body and Blood of Christ; of that Flesh which is meat indeed, and that Blood which is drink indeed, to the soul which hungers and thirsts after Christ’s full salvation? Shall we think it right to regard it as really giving only the communion of brethren with brethren,* or beyond this as being significant only of our communion with Christ Himself? Surely not, if we regard this ordinance in its Scriptural relation to the gifts of the Gospel and the doctrines of Grace! Surely not, if we view together the Divine teaching of Our Lord himself, with the very words of Our Lord’s institution!
*[“If by the word κοινωνία the Apostle had meant, as the learned writer supposeth he did mean, a joint partaking, or a partaking in common with our fellow Christians, of the bread and wine, he would have expressed his meaning. In the text, there is not a tittle of fellow Christians or others of the same society. It is κοινωνία του αίματος – κοινωνία του σώματος – the communion of the blood – the communion of the body. Had he meant what the learned writer makes him to mean, he would doubtless have said, κοινωνία υμων εις το σωμα – Your communion in the body, i.e., your eating of it jointly. St. Paul knew how to express himself properly. And if this had been his meaning, he would have expressed himself in some such manner; as appears from a passage in his Epistle to the Philippians, where he is professedly speaking of this joint participation of a blessing, κοινωνία υμων εις το ευαγγέλιον – Your communion in the Gospel, i.e., your joint belief and profession of it.” (Warburton’s “Works,” vol. x. p. 323, Edit. 1841. See also the pages following.)]
Surely we do damage indeed to the Theology of the Reformation, if we concede that there is, and can be, no such real communication as will meet the requirements of Scripture, without the materialistic doctrine of the so-called Real Objective Presence!
Not thus has our Liturgy taught us, not thus have our Reformers taught us, to regard the connection between this Sacrament and the Gospel of Christ.
In the interest, not of Romanizing superstition, but of Evangelical truth, let our brethren be earnestly entreated to weigh this matter well in the balances of the Sanctuary.
If the argument of this Paper be not altogether mistaken, it is a higher, a truer, a more Scriptural Theology which teaches the believing soul to say: “What these elements are in themselves it skilleth not; it is enough that to me which take them they are the Body and Blood of Christ. His promise in witness hereof sufficeth, His word He knoweth which way to accomplish; why should any cogitation possess the mind of a faithful communicant but this – O my God, Thou art true; O my Soul, thou art happy?” [Hooker’s “Eccles. Pol.,” Bk. V. ch. lxvii. § 12.]
On account of the importance attached to the testimony of Bradford (see below), the following additional extracts are here given: –
“Although I might confirm my faith by the innumerable mercies hitherto poured upon me most abundantly (as Thy children of Israel might have done, and did confirm their faith by the manifold benefits poured upon them in the desert); yet especially the seal of Thy covenant (I mean Thy Holy Sacrament of Baptism, wherein Thy Holy Name was not in vain called upon me, O dear Father, sweet Son and Saviour Jesus Christ, and most gracious good Holy Ghost!) should most assuredly confirm, and even on all sides seal up my faith of this Thy covenant, that Thou art my Lord and my God; even as Abraham and Thy people of Israel did by the Sacrament of Circumcision; which, as the Apostle calleth the ‘seal,’ or signacle ‘of righteousness,’ so dost Thou call it; being but the sign of Thy covenant indeed, yet Thy very covenant; because, as Thy Word is most true and cannot lie, as Thy covenant is a covenant of peace infallible and everlasting, even so the sacrament and seal of the same is a most true testimonial and witness thereof.” (“Sermons, Meditations,” etc., P. S. Edit., p. 149.)
“I would the poor Christian conscience, which by Baptism is brought into God’s Church, and made a member of the same ‘through faith’ should not for his sin’s sake, or for the want of anything he hath not, despair; but rather should know that he is a member of Christ’s Church and mystical Body, and therefore cannot but have communion and fellowship of both; that is of Christ himself, being ‘the Lord’, ‘Husband’, and ‘Head’ thereof, and of all that ever hath been, be, or shall be members of it in all good things that ever they have had, have, or shall have.” (Ibid. p. 347.)
“Oh! that we considered often, and indeed what we have professed in Baptism! Then the Cross and we should be well acquainted together, for we are ‘baptized into Christ’s death’; that is, as to be partakers of the benefit of His death, which is remission of sins, so as to be like thereunto continually, by dying to sin. Oh! that we considered what we be, where we be, whither we are going, who calleth us, how he calleth us, to what felicity he calleth us, whereby he calleth us.” (Ibid. p. 384.)
“I trust you see, that though the commodities of this life were such as could cause us to love it, yet the brevity, vanity, and misery of it is such, as should make us little to regard it, which believe and know death to be the end of all miseries to them that are in ‘Christ,’ as we all ought to take ourselves to be, being baptized in His name (for our Baptism requireth this faith under our pain of damnation), although we have not preserved our profession as we should have done, if so be we now repent, and come to amendment.” (“Against the Fear of Death,” in “Sermons, Meditations,” etc., P. S. Edit., p. 337.)
“A man that is regenerate and ‘born of God’ (the which thing that every one of us be, our Baptism, the sacrament of ‘regeneration,’ doth require, under pain of damnation; and therefore, let every one of us with the Virgin Mary, say: ‘Be it unto me, O Lord, according to Thy word,’ according to the Sacrament of Baptism, wherein Thou hast declared our adoption; and let us lament the doubting hereof in us, striving against it as we shall be made able of the Lord, a man, I say, that is regenerate, consisteth of two men (as a man may say), namely, of the old man and the new man.” (“Sermons, Meditations,” etc., p. 297, P. S. Edit.)
“God’s children ‘be under grace, and not under the law.’ … It is not possible for them to perish, in respect of their Pastor, who ‘is faithful’ over God’s people. ... This assurance God’s first commandment requireth, under pain of damnation. The Gospel of God and all His promises, the sacraments, and the substance of them, which is Christ Jesus our Saviour, doth above all things require it of every one that is baptized and brought into God’s Church. Nothing else doth God so require of us, as thus to be persuaded of him, for out of it floweth all godliness to God and man.” (“Letters, Treatises,” etc., pp. 166–167, P. S. Edit.)
“In this, using it as we should, we receive of God’s obsignation and full certificate of Christ’s Body broken for our sins, and His Blood shed for our iniquities; as in baptism we are confirmed, and settle ourselves in possession of the promise of salvation to appertain unto us, God to be our God, Christ to be our Christ, and we to be God’s people. The promise and Word of God giveth and offereth, faith in us applieth and receiveth the same, and the sacraments do confirm and (as it were) seal up: Baptism, that we are regenerated with the Spirit of God, made His children, brethren to Christ, and engrafted into Him; the Supper, that we are fed with Christ spiritually, with His Body and Blood, yea, that we be incorporated into Christ, to be ‘flesh of His flesh and bone of His bones,’ as He, by being born of the Virgin Mary, was flesh of our flesh and bone of our bones.” (Ibid. p. 289.)
“Thou wouldest I should be born of Christian parents, brought into Thy Church by baptism, which is the sacrament of adoption, and requireth faith, as well of remission of my sins as of sanctification and holiness to be wrought of thee in me by Thy grace and Holy Spirit.” (“Sermons, Meditations,” etc., p. 121, P. S. Edit.)
I use the words “ex opere operato” to indicate the doctrine which under that name was so constantly repudiated by Reforming Divines. (See, e.g., quotations in “Goode on Infant Baptism,” pp. 152, 160, 218, 242, 280, 286, 295, 298, 302, 313, 320, 321, 325, 338, 340, 473.)
The difference which undoubtedly does exist between the Romish and the Reformation views of sacramental efficacy in general has been and still may well be marked by this phrase. It should not, however, be forgotten that it is a phrase not free from ambiguities; that it has, no doubt, been sometimes used by those who taught a doctrine scarcely differing from the Reformed, and that it has accordingly been very wisely omitted from our Art. XXVI. (See “Papers on the Eucharistic Presence,” p. 692.)
The following Extracts may be taken as illustrating the Sacramental use of language referred to:–
“They are sacramental and figurative speeches, when we read and hear that the bread is the Body of Christ, and the wine the Blood of Christ; and that they do eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ, which eat and drink the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of the Lord; also that they are purged from their sins and regenerated into a new life, which are baptized in the name of Christ; and that Baptism is the washing away of our sins. And after this manner speaketh the Scripture, and this form of speech kept the old Doctors of the Church; whom, for so doing, none that is wise doth dispraise: neither can one discommend any man which speaketh after this manner, so that he also abide in the same sincerity wherein it is manifest that those holy men of God did walk. ... They used words significatively, sacramentally, mystically, and figuratively.” (Bollinger, “Decades,” P. S. Edit., vol. v. p. 290.)
“We believe that His words in the same Supper accordingly are to be understood, that is, sacramentally, as He meant them, and not simply, contrary to His meaning, as the Papists wrest them. And this is taught us, not only by innumerable such like places, as where Baptism is called “regeneration,” because it is a sacrament of it. Circumcision is called ‘God’s covenant’ because it is a sacrament of it.” (Bradford, “Letters, Treatises,” etc., P. S. Edit., p. 271.)
“For the change of the use, office, and dignity of the bread, the bread indeed, sacramentally, is changed into the Body of Christ, as the water in Baptism is sacramentally changed into the fountain of regeneration, and yet the material substance thereof remaineth all one as was before.” (Ridley’s “Works,” P. S. Edit., p. 12.)
“Neque offendentur, si quae Scripturae videantur Baptismo justificationem tribuere; animadvertent enim Scripturam signis istis sacramentalibus adscribere quod signati est. Sunt enim signa exhibitiva, cumque de signis in veritate perceptis loquatur, quo pacto simul adest quod significant, solet interna simul cum externis, hoc est, signum et signatum conjungere atque ita junctim ea praedicare.” (Bucer, quoted in “Goode on Infant Baptism,” p. 169, note.)
“Aqua in baptismo est sacramentum regenerationis et renovationis nostrae, et sic aqua renascimur, sed sacramentaliter tantum, quia aqua significat et obsignat novam nostram nativitatem.” (Whitaker, “De Sacram,” q. 4, quoted in Gataker, “Opuscula,” p.103 a.)
“As touching the Sacraments, we teach that they be external, earthly (as they which consist of elements), and visible signs, consecrated by the word of God, and by His own mouth appointed hereunto, to signify and witness to us that selfsame spiritual and invisible grace and truth, whereof they have the name, and which they are also sacramentally.” (“Confession of Bohemia,” in Hall’s “Harmony,” p. 291. See also Calvin, “Opera,” tom. viii. p. 97: Amst.)
This relation of the visible to the invisible Church, and the consequent responsibility laid on all its members of accepting or rejecting the offers of the gifts of Gospel grace, supposing them of course to be sufficiently instructed thereon, is not, indeed, prominent in the writings of the Reformers. The reason of this is obvious. The point they had commonly to insist upon in the great controversy before them, was the real distinction between the visible and the invisible Church. Yet this view of the calling and responsibility of the visible Church appears here and there incidentally. And indeed it may be said to be contained in their teaching concerning both the Sacraments – as well Baptism as the Lord’s Supper – that they cannot be received at all without thereby receiving either salvation or damnation. (See above and below.)
It is further seen in their teaching the faith of the invisible Church to rest its assurance on the promises as sealed in the Sacrament of their initiation into the Church visible.
The doctrine of Election is, in their view, not to interfere with, or to stand in front of, the general privileges of the Church as a whole, to which faith’s view is to be primarily directed.
Observe the conclusion of the 17th Article: “Furthermore, we must receive God’s promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture.”
On which Rogers, in his “Exposition,” observes: “The doctrine of the Gospel for the free remission of sins is to be preached, not unto a few, but universally and generally unto all men.” “The seals of the covenant he appointed to be given to all men, and members of the visible Church,* or which are desirous to be incorporated thereinto.” “It is part therefore of all and every man, not to refuse the mercies of God both generally and graciously offered unto all men by His word and Sacraments.” (P. S. Edit., pp. 156, 157.)
*[The too common abuse of the expressions visible and invisible Church has made the names (not without cause) sound harshly in some ears. But the distinction is Scriptural and primitive, and the terms can hardly be regarded as unsuitable. Moreover, they have the sanction not only of the whole current of Reformation theology, but of later divines to which they might have been thought less likely to commend themselves.
Hooker says; “For lack of diligent observing the difference, first between the Church of God mystical and visible, then between the visible sound and corrupted, sometimes more, sometimes less, the oversights are neither few nor light that have been committed.” (“Eccles. Pol.” Book iii. ch. 1, § 9, vol. 1. p. 343, Edit. Keble.) See also Field, “Of the Church,” Book i. chaps. vii., viii., and especially ch. x.
Bp. Sanderson says; “Of these is made up the Church of God’s elect, otherwise called the invisible Church of Christ, and not unfitly, because the persons appertaining to that Church, as members thereof, are not distinguishable from others by any outward infallible character visible to us, but by such secret and inward impresses as come not within the cognizance of any creature, nor can be known by any creature otherwise than conjecturally only, without special revelation from God. The foundation of God standeth firm, having this seal, Dominus novit, The Lord knoweth who are His.” (Bp. Sanderson’s Works, vol. i. p. 382: Oxford, 1854.)
“This exception of Bellarmine’s, that the Protestants, whom out of his liberality he calls ‘heretics,’ speak of the invisible Church, is merely frivolous. For the Church of the elect is in the Church of them that are called, and the invisible Church is in the visible. Therefore, if the whole Church of the elect cannot err in fundamentals, the whole visible Church in which the same elect are cannot err. Now that the invisible Church of the elect is in the visible, is manifest out of St. Augustine: ‘Ipsa est ecclesia, quae intra sagenam dominicam cum malis piscibus natat.’ (St. August. Epist. 48.) “Grana sunt inter illam paleam, quando area cum videretur tota palea putabatur.’ (St. August. on Psa. cxxi.) And this is proved at large by Hooker, ‘Eccles. Pol.’, Book iii. § 1.” (Laud’s “Conference with Fisher,” § 21, p. 114, note: Oxford, 1839.)
“Vel distingue nam sunt quidam in ecclesia, nomine et re, ut boni Catholici, quidam nomine nec re, ut praecisi, quidam nomine tantum – quidam re tantum Decret. 2 Pars. Causa xxxiii., Quaest. 3 de Penit. dist. i. cap. 70.” (Quoted in Ridley’s “Works,” P.S. Edit., p. 127.)]
“Verum quia nunc de visibili Ecclesia disserere propositum est, discamus vel matris elogio quam utilis sit nobis ejus cognitio, imo necessaria: quando non alius est in vitam ingressus nisi nos ipsa concipiat in utero, nisi pariat, nisi nos alat suis uberibus, denique sub custodia et gubernatione sua nos tueatur, donec exuti carne mortali, similes erimus angelis. Neque enim patitur nostra infirmitas a schola nos dimitti donec toto vitae cursu discipuli fuerimus. Adde, quod extra ejus gremium nulla est speranda peccatorum remissio, nec ulla salus teste Jesaia and Joele.” (Calvin, “Opera,” tom. ix. p. 271 a: Amst.)
The following Quotations are given to show how Baptism, by reason of its relation to the Doctrines of the Gospel, was held to lodge with the recipient an inevitable responsibility:–
“As the circumcision in the flesh, their hearts still uncircumcised, hating the law of God, and believing in their own imaginations, were circumcised to their damnation; and as the baptized in the flesh only, the heart still unclean, neither believing in Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, neither loving their neighbour for Christ’s sake, are baptized also to their greater damnation ... even so, all that come to the Sacrament for any other purpose than it was ordained or instituted for ... come thereto to their greater damnation.” (Tyndale, “Doctrinal Treatises,” P. S. Edit., p. 358.)
Jewel quotes with approval the saying of St. Augustine: “Qui indigne accipit baptisma, judicium accipit, non salutem.” (“Sermon and Harding,” P. S. Edit., p. 517.)
Cranmer says: “Whosoever cometh to that water, being of the age of discretion, must examine himself duly, lest, if he come unworthily, none otherwise than he could come unto other common waters, he be not renewed in Christ, but instead of salvation receive his damnation.” (“Works,” P. S. Edit., vol. i. p. 373.)
Calvin says: “Ex hoc Sacramento, quemadmodum ex aliis omnibus, nihil assequimur nisi quantum fide accipimus. Si fides desit, erit in testimonium ingratitudinis nostrae, quo rei coram Deo peragamur, quia promissioni illic datae increduli fuerimus.” (“Inst.,” Lib. iv. cap. xv. § 15; vol. ix. p. 352 b: Amst.)
Jewel says: “Our doctrine is that the Sacraments of Christ, unto the godly are instruments of the Holy Ghost, and unto the wicked an increase of further judgment.” (In Goode, p. 250.)
“Tam enim reos se faciunt corporis et mortis Christi, qui huic Sacramento Baptismi indigne adstant, et infantibus suis non uera fide in Christum illud expetunt, quam qui corpus et sanguinem Domini sumunt indigne, id est, non iuxta institutionem Christi absque uera scilicet poenitentia et fide in Christum.” (Cologne Service in Goode, p. 544.)
“If so be that a man ... should lead a life unworthy of his place and calling, and of God and his , neighbour, and should not in Baptism conceive a lively hope of life everlasting: such a one should assuredly give testimony of himself, that he had in vain received grace in Holy Baptism, wherein the name of the Holy Trinity was invoked over him: the which thing God the Lord, as His word declareth, suffereth by no means to escape unrevenged or unpunished: Exod. xx. 7.” (Conf. of Bohemia in “Hall’s Harmony,” p. 306. See above, p. 61. See also Bucer’s “Scripta Anglic.,” p. 477: Basle, 1577.)
The prominence of this view of the relation of the Sacraments to the Word was intended by the Reformers to correct the view of the Sacraments as containing grace in themselves, apart from their efficacy as seals of the Gospel of Christ.
Thus Calvin writes: “Verbum vitae et Baptismum aquae simul connectit Paulus: acsi diceret, per Evangelium nobis nostrae ablutionis et sanctificationis nuncium afferi, per Baptismum hujusmodi nuncium obsignari.” (“Instit.,” Lib. iv. cap. xv. § 2, vol. ix. p. 350: Amst., 1667. – See Dr. R. Some, as quoted in “Goode on Inf. Baptism,” p. 361.)
Jewel writes: “Augustine saith: ‘Quare non ait, Mundi estis propter Baptismum quo loti estis … nisi quia etiam in aqua verbum mundat, Detrahe verbum, et quid est aqua nisi aqua?’ … It is the covenant, and promise, and mercy of God which clotheth us with immortality, assureth our resurrection, by which we receive regeneration, forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. His word declareth His love towards us; and that word is sealed and made good by Baptism. Our faith, which are baptized, and our continuance in the profession which we have made, establish in us this grace which we receive.” (“Harding, Thess. etc.,” p. 1105, P. S. Edit.)
It was a part of the same teaching to show the doctrine of the Sacraments as subservient to the faith of the Gospel.
“Tertullian granteth, that before the Passion of Christ, ‘Per fidem nudam salus fuerit,’ salvation was had by bare faith without the Sacrament; but after His Passion, ‘Obstrinxit fidem ad necessitatem baptismi,’ He tied faith to the necessity of Baptism: “Itaque omnes exinde credentes tingebantur.’ Lib. de Baptism.” (Willett’s “Synopsis Papismi,” vol. v. p. 65.)
Romanists desired to make it appear that the difference between themselves and us, in respect of the relation of the Word to sacramental efficacy, might be stated thus – that in their view all depended on the verbum consecratorium, while in ours all depended on the verbum concionatorium. (See, e.g., Bellarmine, “De Sacram.,” Lib. i. cap. xix.) But the true view of the Reformation was that all depended on the relation to the word of faith, the word of promise and grace, and that the Sacrament was brought into this relation by the word of institution or consecration with prayer.
The Reformers, in their desire to separate their Sacramental Doctrine as distinctly as possible from the opus operatum dogma, and the teaching that Sacraments contain grace in themselves, were sometimes led to express themselves in language which may be thought to need some caution against misinterpretation.
(1.) Thus, for example, it is not very unusual with them to say that the Sacraments operate in no other way than the Word does. (See, e.g., Gataker, “Opuscula Philologica,” p. 91 b, 92 a, b.)
And the saying is not only supported by the dictum of St. Augustine, calling the Sacraments verba visibilia, to which they often appeal (see, e.g., Jewel in Goode, p. 249); but is, no doubt, intended to embody the truth, that the Gospel – as such, not as bearing witness to the Sacraments – is the power of God unto salvation. The Gospel preaches to the ear, the Sacraments preach to the eye. (See, e.g., Bp. R. Abbot, in “Goode on Infant Baptism,” p. 281.)
The Gospel offers a free justification and salvation; so do the Sacraments also. (See Gataker, “Opuscula Philologica,” pp. 91–92.)
But it must not be supposed that this teaching makes void the necessary connection of the Word and the Sacraments and their mutual relation. As the Sacraments convey no grace apart from the promises of the Word, to which they are seals; so neither does the Word ordinarily offer grace to any who contemn the Sacraments, or, in other words, who would take the Word and cut off its seals. (See below, pp. 128–130.)
“It greatly offendeth, that some, when they labour to show the use of the Holy Sacraments, assign unto them no end but only to teach the mind, by other senses, that which the Word doth teach by hearing.” (Hooker, “Eccl. Pol.,” Book V., chap. lvii. § 1, vol. ii. p. 255.)
(2.) So, again, it is not impossible to find, in the writings of some of the Reformers, declarations to the effect, that no one coming to the Sacraments! receives any more than he brings. (See, e.g., Hooper’s “Early Writings,” P. S. Edit. pp. 523–524. See also Gataker, “Opuscula Philologica,” p. 95; and Perkins, “Works,” vol. i. p. 72.)
By which, no doubt, they meant forcibly to express the truth, that it is only by grace that sacramental grace can be received – only by faith in Christ that there can be any faithful apprehension of Christ and His gifts in the ministration of the Sacraments. (See above, pp. 85–86; and below.)
Certainly our Reformers must not be understood in such sayings to be denying the truth, that in coming to the Holy Sacraments with the true faith of the Sacraments, men should come with the grace of contrition to apprehend the grace of remission (see above, below) – should come with hungering grace to feed on satisfying grace. (See below.)
Nothing that I have said will, I trust, convey the impression that my meaning is to oppose the teaching that the Sacraments can seal nothing to unbelievers (see quotations in Gataker, “Opuscula Philologica,” p. 154), or to deny the truth that God’s everlasting promises belong to the mystical (as distinguished from the visible) Church. (See Hooker, “Eccles. Pol.,” Book III., ch. i. § 3, vol. i. p. 339, Edit. Keble.)
But while one form of error may demand the clear and prominent setting forth of such statements as these, a tendency in a different direction may require an equally prominent assertion of the truth that the very possession of the outward seal – when its relation to the truth of the Gospel is perceived – is itself a call to believe, and that the very membership of the visible Church cannot but bring with it the responsibility of a call to lay hold by faith on the everlasting promises.
That all the promises and all their sealing are only for faith’s apprehension ought to be no question at all. The question is whether faith, for its warrant of assurance, is to be looking primarily to itself and to the secret things of God, or to the seal of God’s promises and the gift of God’s grace, given as a free gift to all the members of His Church who do not by unbelief despise and reject it.
Junius writes: “Quemadmodum illi [i.e. homines] promissionem gratiae Sacramentis semper annexam dare nequeunt, ita neque ipsis signa et sigilla divinarum illarum promissionum ullo modo comminisci licet atque praescribere.” (“Opera,” tom. i. p. 1725, Edit. 1608, Off. Sanctan.)
And Calvin says, “Si fides desit, erit [Baptismus] in testimonium ingratitudinus nostrae quo rei coram Deo peragamur, quia promissioni illic datae increduli fuerimus.” (Calvin, “Instit.,” Lib. iv., cap. xv. § 15, vol. ix. p. 352 b; Amst., 1667. See below, pp. 101, 106, 107; and above, Note F.)
So Luther: “Semper repetendus baptismus.” (Quoted in Mozley’s “Review,” p. 313.)
So also Calvin: “Sic cogitandum est, quocunque baptizemur tempore, nos semel in omnem vitam ablui et purgari. Itaque quoties lapsi fuerimus, repetenda erit Baptismi memoria, et hac armandus animus, ut de peccatorum remissione semper certus securusque sit.” (“Instit.,” Lib. iv. cap. xv. § 3, vol. ix. p. 350 a: Amst., 1667. See also vol. viii. p. 258.)
And in the ‘Westminster Directory’ the minister is to instruct “that the inward grace and virtue of Baptism is not tied to that very moment of time wherein it is administered, and that the fruit and power thereof reacheth to the whole course of our life.” And “He is also to admonish all that are present: to look back to their baptism; to repent of their sins against their covenant with God; to stir up their faith; to improve and make the right use of their Baptism, and of the covenant sealed thereby betwixt God and their souls.” (See Neal’s “History of the Puritans,” vol. iii. pp. 534–535. See also “Larger Catechism,” p. 130, Edit. 1658.)
And in the Service arranged by Bucer for the Archbishopric of Cologne, we are taught: “Cum rebus adversis agitamur, et exercemur variis aerumnis, cogitandum erit baptizatos nos esse.” (In “Goode on Infant Baptism,” p. 549.)
So Perkins: “If thou be in any misery or distress, have recourse to thy Baptism.” (“Works,” vol. ii. p. 259 b. See also p. 79 b; pp. 264 b, 265 a; and vol. i. p. 75 a.)
So Sadeel; “Baptismus ut certissimum est pignus istius foederis: atque ita saepe in memoriam nobis revocandus est, ad peccatorum nostrorum remissionis fiduciam majis majisque mentibus nostris confirmandam.” (“Opera Theol.,” p. 448 a: 1593.)
“Sequitur nunc alterum membrum, quod est de effectu Baptismi in futurum. Catholicorum enim sententia est Baptismi vim et efficaciam non tantum complecti peccata praeterita; sed ad omnia futuera pertingere, quae itidem, remittenda sint propter Baptismum; id est propter promissionem diuinam remissionis additam Baptismi Sacramento. ... Eadem efficacia est Baptismi, quae gratia diuinae. Atqui gratia diuina efficax est ad delenda et remittenda etiam futura post Baptismum peccata: Ergo etiam Baptismus. Major patet, quoniam Baptismus est eius gratiae Sacramentum, id est signum efficax: nec per se agit quicquam in peccata sed per gratiam. ... Eadem efficacia est Baptismi quae mortis Christi. Nam ille hanc et significat et applicat: ita vim suam habet ab ea, ipsis concedentibus Papistis. At mors Christi delet etiam quae post Baptismum committuntur peccata: Ergo et Baptismus. ... Salus tribuitur baptismo. Ad Titum iii., ‘Saluos nos facit per lauacrum regenerationis,’ Marci vlt. ‘Qui crediderit, et baptizatus fuerit, salvus erit,’ Prioris Petri. iii., ‘Saluos nos facit Baptisma.’ Nero saluatur, cui non remittuntur peccata, et praesentia, et futura post Baptismum. At per Baptismum fideles saluantur: Ergo per Baptismum remittunter peccata praesentia et futura. Major patet: quia peccata quae fiunt post Baptismum aeque damnarent si non remitterentur.” (Chamier, “ Panstr. Cathol.,” tom. iv. pp. 120 b, 121 a: 1627.)
“Think of thy Baptism when thou goest to God, especially when He seems angry. It is the seal of the covenant. Bring the promise: Lord, it is the seal of Thy covenant: Thou hast prevented me by Thy grace; Thou broughtest me into the covenant before I knew my right hand from my left. So when we go to church to offer our service to God, think, by Baptism we were consecrated and dedicated to God. We not only receive grace from God, but we give ourselves to God. Therefore, it is sacrilege for persons baptized to yield to temptations to sin. We are dedicated to God in Baptism. When we are tempted to despair, let us think of our Baptism. We are in the covenant of grace, and have received the seal of the covenant – Baptism. The devil is an uncircumcised, damned, cursed spirit; he is out of the covenant. But I am in the covenant: Christ is mine; the Holy Ghost is mine; and God is mine. Therefore, let us stand against all the temptations of that uncircumcised, unbaptized, damned spirit. The thinking of our Baptism thus will help us ‘to resist the devil’ (James 4:7). He is a coward; if he be resisted he will flee; and what will better resist him than the covenant of grace and the seal of it? When we are tempted to sin, let us think, ‘What have I to do with sin? By Baptism I have union with the death of Christ; He died to take away sin, and my end must be His. I must abolish sin in my nature. Shall I yield to that that in Baptism I have sworn against?’ And then, if we be tempted to despair for sin, let us call to mind the promises of grace and forgiveness of sins, and the seal of the forgiveness of sins, which is Baptism. For as water in Baptism washeth the body, so the Blood of Christ washeth the soul. Let us make that use of our Baptism in temptations, not to despair for sin. And in conversing among men, let us labour to maintain that unity of the Spirit ‘in the bond of peace’ (Eph. 4:3), to live peaceably. Christians must not fall to jar. Why? ‘There is one faith and one baptism.’ Have we ‘not all one Father’ (verse 6), one inheritance, one baptism, one religion? And shall we break one with another for trifles? They forget their Baptism who are so in quarrels. Thus we would think of it – it is a book as would be ready at hand for all services.” (Sibbes’s “Works,” vol. vi. pp. 530–531: Nichol’s Edit.)
“The law that the subsequent grace of Baptism does not depend on the qualification of the baptized person at the time, is thus part and parcel of the doctrine of Baptism itself; it dates from the very institution of the Sacrament, and carries with it the unanimous assent of the Church in every age.” (Professor Mozley’s “Review of Baptismal Controversy,” p. 47.) “The grace even if forfeited by unworthiness at the time, still remains conditionally attached to the state of the baptized man, and is received upon his becoming worthy.” (Ibid. p. 40.) Professor Mozley calls this “The Baptismal Character,” a title which generally was rejected by our Reformers and their successors, as indicating a Romish doctrine, though they held the teaching for which Professor Mozley contends.
“By the consent of all the Churches there is but one Baptism, wherewith it is sufficient once to be christened, seeing that Baptism once received doth endure forever, as a perpetual sign of our adoption.” (Whitgift’s “Works,” vol. iii. p. 141, P. S. Edit.)
Hooker writes: “We serve that Lord which is but one, because no other can be joined with Him. We embrace that faith which is but one, because it admitteth no innovation. That Baptism we receive which is but one, because it cannot be received often. For how should we practice iteration of Baptism, and yet teach that we are by Baptism born anew; that by Baptism we are admitted into the heavenly society of saints; that those things be really and effectually done by Baptism, which are no more possible to be often done than a man can naturally be often born, or civilly be often adopted into any one’s stock and family? ... As Christ hath therefore died and risen from the dead but once, so the Sacrament, which both extinguisheth in Him our former sin, and beginneth in us a new condition of life, is by one only actual administration for ever available, according to that in the Nicene Creed, ‘I believe One Baptism for remission of sins.’” (“Eccl. Pol.,” Lib. v. cap. lxii. § 4, vol. ii. p. 284.)
The following is from Calvin: “Jam vero quod nos interrogant, quae tamen fides nostra Baptismum aliquot annis sequuta sit, ut inde evincant irritum esse Baptismum, qui nobis non sanctificatur nisi verbo promissionis fide accepto; ad id postulatum respondemus, nos quidem caecos et incredulos, longo tempore promissionem quae in Baptismo nobis data erat, non tenuisse: promissionem tamen ipsam, quando a Deo erat, statam semper et firmam veracemque mansisse. Etiamsi omnes homines mendaces et perfidi, Deus tamen verax esse non desinit: etiamsi omnes perditi, Christus tamen salus manet. Fatemur ergo Baptismum pro eo tempore non profuisse nobis hilum, quando in eo nobis oblata promissio, sine qua Baptismus nihil est, neglecta jacebat. Nunc ubi Dei gratia resipiscere coepimus, caecitatem nostram et duritiem cordis accusamus, qui tantae ejus bonitati tam diu ingrati fuerimus. Caeterum promissionem ipsam non evanuisse credimus; quin potius sic reputamus, Deus per Baptismum peccatorum remissionem pollicetur, et promissam indubie omnibus credentibus praestabit. Ea promissio nobis in Baptismo fuit oblata: fide igitur amplectamur. Diu quidem nobis propter infidelitatem sepulta fuit: nunc igitur eam per fidem recipiamus. Quamobrem ubi ad resipiscentiam Judaicum populum Dominus invitat, de altera circumcisione nil iis praecipit, qui impia (ut diximus) et sacrilega manu circumcisi, eadem aliquandiu impietate impliciti vixerant, sed solam cordis conversionem urget.” (“Instit.,” Lib. iv. cap. xv. § 17, vol. ix. p. 353: Amst., 1667. See also vol. viii. p. 96.)
“Nor is he hereupon to be rebaptized, because the external part was done before, and is not to be done twice; but the internal part which was omitted is now to be done, not as a part of Baptism (old or new), but as a part of penitence for his omission.” (Baxter’s “Works,” vol. v. p. 359.)
“Now, although we come but once to the Sacrament of Baptism, yet we hold, that the matter of this Sacrament and the virtue thereof is perpetual; which virtue is nothing else but the very planting into Christ, and so the participation of His benefits, the washing away of sins, and regeneration, which daily more and more is made perfect by the Holy Ghost. For the Apostle saith, that ‘He cleanseth the Church by washing of water through the Word, that he might make it unto himself a glorious Church, without spot or wrinkle.’ And ‘His blood cleanseth daily from all sin.’ And therefore we think and believe that the faithful, being content with once receiving of the Sacrament, ought daily to be occupied in remembrance of it. … We were once washed with outward water; but the blood of Christ is a continual stream, washing and cleansing us daily from our sins.” (Zanchius, “Confession of Christian Religion, Englished in Sense Agreeable,” pp. 119–120: Legat, Cambridge, 1599.)
“Scrupulum etiam injicere de istis conantur, qui fidem simulantes Baptismum perceperint. Nam quia baptismus talibus non fuit foederis sigillum, eo existimare aliquis possit, baptizari iterum tales debere, ubi, hypocrisi exuta, fideles esse coeperint. Sed hic etiam in considerationem venerit, quod defectus fuerit ex parte hominis, non Dei, qui nulli baptizato non ponenti objicem per peccatum gratiam negat salutarem. Quare de his ita statuimus, ubi posita hypocrisi credere incipiunt, priorem Baptismum, qui antea inanis erat ceremonia, atque adeo profanatio sacramenti, fieri sigillum ejus foederis, quod Deus init cum credentibus.” (G. Vossii, “Theses Theol.,” p. 419: Oxford, 1628.)
“Vox Characteris potest accipi pro qualibet nota vel sign, rem unam ab alia distinguente. Hoc sensu non negamus Baptismum esse fidelibus signum, notam, ac Characterem professions suae, qui eos a non baptizatis distinguat. Circumcisio vocatur σφραγις sigillum justitiae fidei: eodem sensu veteres appellarunt Baptismum Characterem. Quo sensu character erit signum et res relativa, non vero qualitas absoluta, ut adversarii fingunt. At negamus praeter externam aquae ablutionem, et internam Spiritus sancti gratiam, Dei filiis per Baptismum collatam, imprimi animae characterem, qui sit qualitas absoluta non relativa. ... Talem characterem in Scripturis reperiri, vel antiquis Patribus agnosci, negamus. Quod adeo verum est, ut quidam Scolasticorum id fateri sint coacti. Durandus de S. Portiano existimat, quod sit tantum relatio, qua hero censetur Christianus, non qualitas absoluta animae inhaerens. Scotus putat, non posse talem characterem ex Scripturis vel Patribus probari, qualem Scolastici depingunt.” (Riveti, “Opera Theol.,” tom. iii. p. 308 a, b: Rott., 1670. See also J. Forbes of Corse, “Opera,” tom. ii. pp. 414, 451; Perkins, “Works,” vol. ii. p. 258 b; Gataker, “Opusc. Phil.,” pp. 94 b, 155 a; Sadeel, “Opera,” p. 448 b; Turretin, “Inst. Theol. Elenct.,” pars. iii. pp. 421, 452, 459, 460; G. Vossii, “Theses. Theol.,” pp. 418–419; Patrick’s “Works,” vol. i. p. 24: Oxford, 1858.)
It is surely scarcely to be wondered at that, to many minds of a high order, there should be presented a difficulty – so nearly insuperable – in the interpretation of the language of our Baptismal Offices, according to the theory (so-called) of charitable hypothesis, as that theory seems to be popularly understood. Our Canon LVII affirms that the doctrine both of Baptism and of the Lord’s Supper is sufficiently set down in the Services. But where, upon this theory, is there any real teaching at all of what faith is to believe as the doctrine of Baptism?
This objection, however, should be understood as applying only to the theory of charitable hypothesis conceived of as declaring (and thanking God for it) that the baptized person is regenerate, with a mental reservation such as this: “if, and in the same sense in which, he was regenerated before.”
Surely the doctrine of the Service concerning Baptism, and the relation of Baptism to the faith of the Gospel, is brought to naught, if the baptized are to see here no certain teaching as to what Baptism is to them; if on all the baptized is not laid the responsibility, not only of believing in the Trinity and the Atonement, but of accepting by faith the grace offered with the seal, and so believing themselves regenerate and grafted into the body of Christ’s Church.
No doubt, however, there is a theory which may be called a theory of charitable hypothesis, and which underlies the true rationale of public worship.
Public worship must surely always fall short of what Christian service should be, if it be not the lifting-up of our hearts as of God’s chosen and regenerated people – to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.
And the realization of our high calling, in this our service of prayer and praise, ought not to be allowed to suffer disturbance or injury from the intrusion of any mere matter of fact recognition of the presence among us of those who have not the Spirit of Christ – still less of any nice inquiries as to the actual spiritual state in God’s sight of those whose outward life does not belie their Christian profession.
Such intrusive attempts to mar the true heart-music of worship should be ejected at once, by saying: “As for such as turn back unto their own wickedness, the Lord shall lead them forth with the evildoers, but peace shall be upon Israel.”
We may surely be thankful that all our Services are attuned to this theory. What a lowering of the level of our worship it would be, if it were otherwise!
This theory rests on the consecrated relationship of the visible to the invisible Church.
And it is no doubt in perfect harmony with this theory, that the Baptismal donation (with all its responsibilities) for faith’s future acceptance (in the case of infants), is asserted and declared by the use of a term, which most properly, though not perhaps most exactly (see below, p. 98 sqq.), implies and connotes not merely the sealing of the donation, but the actual acceptance and fruition of the gift of justification unto life.
It is, if I mistake not, as accommodating itself to this theory – or in some sense very near to this – that the language of our Prayer Book is, by many old English divines, spoken of as the language of charity, or piety, or charitable presumption.
And it is clearly a very essential part of this theory, that in the Services of the Sanctuary the objective should, at least, stand prominently in front of the subjective.
Is not this just what we find in our Baptismal Services, and just what we should desire to find?
At the same time, all this clearly supposes, that the objective truth, thus prominently set before faith’s view and for faith’s apprehension, is certainly subject to well-understood qualifications – qualifications necessarily resulting from the very first principles of Christian teaching – qualifications, therefore, which find their natural expression in the demand of the solemn vow, promise, and profession required of those admitted into the Church’s fellowship.
It is surely to be presumed that a congregation of the Reformed Church of England has been taught to know that all beneficial reception of the privileges and gifts – of the doctrine and the grace of the Gospel – can only be by faith.
It will be found, if I mistake not, that our older divines, in speaking of the charitable presumption of the Church in this matter, were so far from meaning to take away anything from the true doctrine of Baptism, so far from intending that the language of our Services was to be understood as the language of anything like groundless hypothesis, that they really regard the presumption of charity in this matter as resting for its very foundation on the truth, that Baptism is the Sacrament of remission of sins, that it is the washing of Regeneration, that it is the seal of Election, that it is the admission into that visible society to which the υιοθέσια belongs – all the members of which are called to believe themselves members of Christ and children of God, and therefore are not only to be accounted such in charity, unless they show themselves to be not such, but really are such unless their privilege has been rejected through unbelief – i.e., unless they lack the faith whereby they should steadfastly believe the promises of God made to them in that Sacrament of Baptism.
It is not to be doubted that the charitable hypothesis of some of our more modern divines, also, may be really intended to involve the same – or something like the same – doctrine of Baptism. If it be so indeed, and if it be clearly made so to appear, I can hardly think that any just exception could be taken to it.
Moreover, it is not to be denied, that no inconsiderable amount of authority may be produced for regarding the declarations concerning Regeneration in our Services as conveying the highest sense of the word, and, therefore, as necessarily pertaining, in their fullness, only to the “election.”
To the objection of the Presbyterians at the Savoy Conference, that it was “doubtful whether either the flood of Jordan, or any other waters, were sanctified to a sacramental use by Christ’s being baptized,” it was excellently answered by the bishops: “If Jordan and all other waters be not so far sanctified by Christ, as to be the matter of Baptism, what authority have we to baptize? And sure His Baptism was ‘dedicatio baptismi.’” (See Cardwell’s “Conferences,” pp. 324, 355.)
“The Baptism of Christ” (says Featley) “cleansed the holy font, and sanctified the River Jordan, and other waters, to the spiritual ablution of the soul, and fetching-out of stains and spots out of the conscience, not by the infusion of any supernatural quality into the water, but by annexing a gracious promise to the religious use of the element, according to His ordinance. For to this end especially (as Saint Austine observeth) Our Saviour would be baptized, ‘to sanctify the font in Himself, not to cleanse Himself in the font.’” (“Clavis Mystica,” 1636, p. 207; see also p. 210.)
So Willett: “Christ was not baptized for any cause in Himself, but to give an example to us. ... So did He celebrate His last Supper with His Apostles, not for His own use, but for our example; in His own person, for our benefit, to consecrate these holy institutions.” (“Synopsis Papismi,” vol. v. p. 150: Edit. 1852.)
So Bishop Hall: “His Baptism gives virtue to ours. … This washeth that very water by which we are washed: from these is that made clean and holy, and can both cleanse and hallow us.” (“Works,” vol. ii. p. 230: Edit. Pratt.)
So Peter Du Moulin: “Baptism is ... a Sacrament which Jesus Christ hath sanctified in His own Person.” (“Buckler of the Faith,” p. 447: London, 1623. See Bishop Lake, “Sermons Preached at Court,” p. 167; and Beveridge’s “Works, A. C. L.,” vol. ix. p. 293. See also Dean Comber s “Companion to the Temple,” vol.. iii. p. 377: Oxford, 1841; and Falkner’s “Libertas Ecclesiastica,” pp. 280–281: London, 1683.)
At the last review, “water” was substituted for “the flood Jordan and all other waters.” And this was, no doubt, intended as a concession to Puritan caution – to make it clear that there was intended no magical efficacy inherent in any “waters”.
In the subsequent prayer, where we have now, “Sanctify this water þ the mystical washing away of sin, and grant that this child, now to be baptized therein,” etc., there were before the last review only these words: “Grant that all Thy servants which shall be baptized in this water.” And Dean Goode attributes the change to the underhand influence of Laudian theology. (“On Infant Baptism,” p. 420.) But I think it is a mistake to suppose that the change indicates the doctrine of any particular school. The need of a change had been before marked by Cosin. (See “Bulley’s Variations,” p. 239.) And the need was obvious. The words, as they stood before, had been retained from the form of consecrating the water (see Cardwell’s “Liturgies,” p. 343) once a month, [“It is worthy of notice, that the English Ritual, in directing that the water should be sanctified for every occasion on which Baptism is to be administered, is supported by the ancient and immemorial practice of the Churches of Constantinople, Antioch, and the other Eastern Churches. The Roman Church only appoints the water to be changed, and new water to be consecrated, when that which has been in the font becomes unfit for use.” (Palmer’s “Origines Liturgicae,” vol. ii. p. 188: 1848.)] as it stood in the first Liturgy of Edward; and were clearly unsuitable to each occasion of baptizing, when there might be one infant only to be baptized. And the addition of the words, “Sanctify this water,” was nothing more than had been enjoined in the ‘Westminster Directory,’ which says: “Prayer is also to be joined with the word of instruction for sanctifying the water to this spiritual use.” (See Neale’s “History of the Puritans,” vol. iii. p. 535.)
No objection can possibly be made to this language, which would not apply a fortiori to the language of the Apostle, who speaks of common meats for the belly as sanctified by the Word of God and prayer. (See also Bingham, “Antiquities,” Book xi. ch. x. § i., vol. iii. pp. 582–585: London, 1843; L’Estrange, “Alliance of Divine Offices,” pp. 359–360, A. C. L.; Waterland’s “Works,” vol. iv. pp. 676, 677, 679, 681, 683, 686: Oxford, 1843; Blunt, “On the Early Fathers,” p. 436, 2nd Edit.)
The following is from the “Commentary” of W. Musculus on Matt. 9: “Audiat pater hanc vocem, qua puero dicitur. N. Ego to baptizo in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Quod quid est aliud, quam: N. ego te de vinculis aeternae mortis ad vitam perpetuam regenero, et excito? Sed dicis, Atqui ad vocem Christi surgebat coram parentibus puella, et evidentia facti praedicabat potentiam Christi: hic vero nihil tale fieri videmus. Respondeo: Nos jam non de corporea excitatione mortui cujusdam loquimur, quae visibilis sit: sed de ea Christi virtute quam operatur in illis, quos Spiritu suo regenerat, cujus Sacramentum baptismus est, opus omnino non nostrum, sed Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti, de quo nobis ut Chnistianis non licet aliter judicare, aliter loqui quam de eo judicavit et loquutus et Spiritus Sanctus ipse in Paulo. Proinde oculis fidei comprehendenda est ista virtutis Christi efficacia, non oculis corporis. Credat pater instituto Christi, et non dubitet, se ex eo tempore domi habere puerum regeneratum, et in numerum electorum gratia Spiritus Sancti, et institutionis Christi virtute assumptum. Haec putavi exempli gratia hoc loco notanda.” (Edit. Basil, 1551, p. 251 b.)
It would not be easy, I think, to find, in so brief a space, a better commentary on the language and teaching of our Baptismal Formularies.
But I desire especially to call attention to the fact, that in the posthumous edition of 1578 – which contains the alterations made by Musculus himself, and made evidently with the same view as his “explanation” – the above extract remains entire, with this addition: “Quae si sacramentaliter accipiuntur, ut sunt dicta, nihil habent controversiae, quia si [sic?] accepta non alligant Gratiam Dei Sacramento, sed de mysterio illius fide agnoscendo monent.” (P. 264.)
Have we not here the true explanation of the fact, that for fifty years, the statements of our Baptismal Service gendered no controversy, either among our own Reforming divines, or between English and foreign Reformers, or between Conformists and Nonconformists?
I regret much that I cannot appeal to Dean Goode as showing any special favour towards that interpretation of the Baptismal Service which I have advocated.
He appears to regard the view taken of Baptism (or, at least, Bradford’s way of expressing it) as “singular,” and the language which forcibly declares it, as of difficult or doubtful interpretation. (“On Infant Baptism,” p. 238.)
All the more valuable and important, therefore, are the incidental testimonies borne to the fact that this view was not regarded as singular by our Reformers.
The reader, I think, will agree with me that most material support is rendered to my position by the following extracts from Dean Goode’s very able and learned work on “The Doctrine of the Church of England as to the Effects of Baptism in the Case of Infants”: –
“Our Reformers, from first to last, agreed with the majority of the most distinguished Continental Reformers, in maintaining that Baptism (when spoken of in the abstract, with reference to its nature, intent, and purpose) is a rite Divinely appointed as the instrument, in the use of which a certain spiritual blessing is conveyed by God to the recipient.” (P. 190.)
“The expressions [‘Wherein I was made a member of Christ,’ etc.] are identical with those of the paraphrase of the Creed in the ‘Institution’ [‘I believe and trust, assuredly, that I am one of the members of this Catholic Church’] ... The child, evidently, was instructed to use them in order to teach him the language, then held to be the befitting language of every true Christian, who was exhorted to feel assured of, and put his trust in, God’s purposes of special and gratuitous mercy towards him.” (P. 201.)
“The writings of Bradford supply us, I conceive, with as complete a view of the doctrine of our Church in his day on the subject of this work as can anywhere be obtained.” (P. 231). “He [Bradford] strongly insists upon a view very generally entertained among our earlier divines – and which is essentially necessary to keep in mind as their doctrine, if we would understand aright the language which they often use on the subject of Baptism – namely, that we who belong to the visible Church, and profess faith in Christ, ought to believe that we are of the number of God’s elect children.” (Pp. 233–234). “He considers that our Baptism pledges us to the exercise of such an appropriating faith in God, as having a purpose of mercy towards us, as enables us to look upon ourselves as interested in all the blessings of his promised work of redemption in His people.” (P. 236.)
“There is another passage in the same treatise [of Jewel, ‘Of the Sacraments’] ... the meaning of which is, to one who is acquainted with the theology of the period, perfectly clear. ... ‘It is water consecrated, and made holy by the Blood of Christ. They which are washed therein are not washed with water, but in the blood of the unspotted Lamb.’” (Pp. 251–252.)
“There is, no doubt, a sense in which all that are baptized may be called regenerated, i.e., on account of their having received the Sacrament of Regeneration ... and this is a sense common enough in the writings of our divines.” (Pp. 400–401.)
“In the Catechism, the child, not yet arrived at the years of responsibility [?], is taught to use respecting itself the language appropriate to one who has been so accepted. No one really conversant with the views and phraseology of our early divines would expect any other language to be put into the mouth of the child.” (Pp. 457–458.) “The child who was taught to consider himself one of ‘the elect people of God,’ was also taught that, being such, he had (according to the theology of that period) received in baptism the full baptismal blessing.” (P. 461.)
“The view taken clearly was, that as it was the duty of every man to be a true believer, so (true faith being an appropriating faith, involving, it was supposed, a belief of personal acceptance and final salvation) it was right he should consider himself one of those ‘chosen, called, and ordained to reign with Christ in everlasting life.’” (P. 464.)
Not only is there evidence that an identity of doctrine with that of foreign Reformed Churches was professed in England – there is evidence that it was recognized also abroad. Beza, in 1566, writes to Archbishop Grindal: “Quis porro fuerit quorundam nuper adversus omnes harum partium, no proinde etiam adversus Gallicas et vestras quoque Ecclesias, quas omnes nobiscum in omnibus doctriniae Capitibus consentire arbitramur, conatus et συγκρητισμος, jampridem ad vos usque perlatum esse opinor.” (“Tract. Theol.,” vol. iii. p. 209: Geneva, 1582.)
It is to be particularly observed that this occurs in a letter by no means very complimentary to the Church of England. It is a letter in thorough accord with the spirit of Puritan complaints which had reached him, and which he thus reports; – “Eorum autem mandatorum summam hanc esse aiunt, ut non tantum vestes illas, Baalis sacerdotium insignia in Papatu, sed etiam ritus quosdam, qui jam olim in turpissimas superstitiones degenerarunt, veluti crucis consignationem, genuflexionem in Coenae communicatione, et siqua sunt hujus farinae, rursus admittant. Addebant etiam aliud multo gravius, nempe quod malieribus Baptismus permitteretur, quod aliorum superinducendorum rituum potestas Regiae majestati fieret, quod denique solis Episcopis de constituendis rebus Ecclesiasticis potestas omnis tribuatur, nulla ne conquerendi quidem Singularum Ecclesiarum Pastoribus facultate relicta.” (P. 210.) Observe also the language concerning godparents in p, 211.
Again, in a letter dated July, 1572, containing allusions to what he disapproved in the Church of England, lest matters for reformation should be thought light of because not doctrinal, he says: “Illud prefecto negari non potest, Sathanam in corrumpenda Ecclesiastica disciplina quam vocant, non minus quam in doctrina pervertenda laborasse.” (P. 283). And he declares, with all possible distinctness: “Quod ad fidem ipsam sive doctrinam istic publico consensu receptam Regiaque auctoritate Confirmatam attinet, nullum esse arbitror eorum qui satis recte de his rebus sentiunt, qui non eam ut veram ac certam amplectatur.” (P. 283.)
But for the fact that a higher doctrine of the Sacraments in their relation to the grace of the Gospel was common, not only to all the Reformed Evangelical Churches of Europe, but to the English Puritans also, it would be unaccountable indeed to mark, in the Puritan writings of the period, invectives so strong against comparative trifles, which are now little thought of, and yet generally a tacit acquiescence, at least, in the Sacramental teaching of our Prayer Book.
Mr. Marsden has very truly said: “Of the questions which have arrayed almost every class of Dissenters in hostility against the Church of England, or, still more unhappily, her own members against each other, those which have since assumed the foreground were yet unknown. With regard to the method of salvation, the nature of the Sacraments, the character of the Christian ministry, and the national establishment of religion, there was no dispute. The controversy, when it had raged for forty years, was still confined to the ceremonial of religion, and to the purity, not of its doctrines, but of its external fabric. ... None of them [the Puritans] affected to deny that the doctrines of the Church of England were the pure doctrines of the Gospel; nor did they charge her with being, in this sense, an unfaithful witness to the truth of God. Rude and fierce was the assault upon ‘the Pope at Lambeth,’ yet they did not challenge Whitgift himself with unsound doctrine. In their bitterest moments, when they reviled the Church of England as the Church of Antichrist, they applied their censure no further than to what they thought its antichristian practices; they never charged it with antichristian doctrines. If, as may possibly have been the case, a few expressions, drawn from the writings of the most violent or least scrupulous of the Puritans, should seem to be inconsistent with this assertion, they produced no impression, and were unheeded by the great leaders in the controversy. … The nature of the Sacraments, another fruitful source of controversy in later times, had not yet disturbed the Church of England. With one accord it was held that they were signs and seals of grace, and that the reception of the grace conveyed depended upon their right reception. Between the Puritans and the highest of the Church party there existed upon these points no difference whatever. The tone and services of the Book of Common Prayer were objected to, it is true, but this was not the ground of objection. ... Indeed, the unanimity of the Reformed Churches throughout Europe upon the nature of the Sacraments is not a little remarkable. It was one of the great questions of the Reformation; it was the hinge of the whole controversy with Rome. All the martyrs were examined upon this, many of them on no other, point. … And it is monstrous to suppose that a considerable body of men of sense and learning (assuming on their behalf neither integrity nor holiness) should have squandered their lives in defense of opinions they had not investigated; or that all their powers had not indeed been fixed, with an energy intense and deep in proportion to their own peril, upon the inquiry on the result of which depended, if nothing else, the alternative of a life of honour or a death of agony and shame. Thus, if there be a theological subject which can properly be mid to have been exhausted by the researches of former times – to have been placed by our forefathers in such a flood of light that no additional ray has been seen to gleam upon it – the Sacraments as expounded by the Reformers are in that predicament. The obscurity that remains appears to be inherent; whatever light wisdom and piety and massive learning can shed upon them seems to have been imparted.” (Marsden’s “Early Puritans,” pp. 215–226, 3rd Edit. See also “Later Puritans,” pp. 417, 431, sqq.)
I suppose it will be allowed that there was no more resolute opponent of Popery, no more persistent upholder of Puritan views, than John Knox. Yet Knox’s party in Scotland for a time used the English Book of Common Prayer. The fact has been doubted, but it seems to be established beyond question. (See Froude’s “History of England,” vol. vi. pp. 226, 235; Edit. 1870.) This they might have done, believing it to contain certain “tolerable toys”; but such a course could never have been allowed if it had been regarded as teaching an unsound and Romanizing doctrine of the Sacraments.
Further evidence of a recognized agreement in Sacramental doctrine may be seen in “Goode on the Effects of Baptism,” pp. 93–97; and in “Papers on the Eucharistic Presence,” pp. 37–39, 167, 643–645. See also, especially, Bishop Carlton’s “Examination,” etc., p. 121; and Crakanthorp, “Defensio Eccles. Anglic.,” p. 225, sq., p. 238, A. C. L.
Doubtless, there was in Calvinism somewhat of a tendency to an extreme reaction from a superstitious ecclesiastical system; somewhat, therefore, that encouraged the disposition to regard exclusively the Church invisible, and to make light of the calling and privileges of the members of the visible Church, as such.
And as a consequent upon this came the habit, while maintaining the obsignatory character of the Sacraments, of regarding the obsignation as one of assurance rather than of donation. (See, e.g., quotations in Gataker, “Opuscula Philol.,” pp. 92 b, 102 a, 111 b. See also, especially, p. 130 a.)
It must be acknowledged that among our own Reforming divines some honoured names have used language tending towards this direction.
There were, however, not wanting Reformed divines, abroad as well as in England, who saw the importance of resolutely maintaining and holding fast to the teaching of a true proper donation in the Sacraments for faith’s acceptance. And it must not be supposed that teaching in which certerioration is prominent implies any denial of sacramental donation.
And there are some clear indications, in the writings of Calvin himself, of its being felt, that even for the sake of maintaining the efficacy of the Sacraments as seals of assurance, it must be necessary to uphold, in some sort, their claim to be regarded as properly exhibitive signs. (See, e.g., quotations in Gataker, “Opuscula Philol.,” pp. 96 b, 97 a). Indeed, it seems that it can only be so far forth as they are seen first to be means whereby we receive their inward and spiritual grace, that they can become effectually pledges to assure us thereof. Those who took the higher obsignatory view did not, of course, bind God’s grace to the Sacrament, but bound man’s faith (ordinarily) to seek and to apprehend the grace signified in its use.
Those who took the lower obsignatory view were not always quite consistent with themselves; but they seem sometimes to have somewhat misapprehended what is said of Abraham receiving the seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had, being yet uncircumcised – as if it could be argued from this that the federal donation might now be regarded as perfect and complete without receiving Baptism as the seal of the New Covenant (see e.g., Bullinger, as quoted in “Goode on Baptism,” p. 268; see also Gataker, “Opuscula Philol.,” pp. 95 b, 152 b); whereas, in Abraham’s case, the promise was personal to himself, and complete for faith’s apprehension, before the seal was ordained. There is obviously a wide difference between laying hold on a personal promise made without a seal, and laying hold on the gift of a covenant without and apart from the reception of, or desire for, its proper seal.
The argument, however, may perhaps have been rather intended to show how God can, when He pleases, dispense the gifts of His grace, independently of the means he has ordained for the purpose. The general necessity of Sacraments was not denied – a necessity arising not merely from the command for their use, but from their character as seals. (See, e.g., Perkins, “Works,” vol. i. p. 72.) And this being so, it seems clear that the view of formal donation in some sort was not altogether out of sight, however subservient to the office of assurance.
And, of course, there is a sense in which it cannot be denied that the grace of the Sacrament may most truly be said to have been given to the worthy receiver before the Sacrament. Indeed, this had been plainly taught, not only by the ancient Fathers, but by some of the most eminent among the schoolmen. (See “Goode on Infant Baptism,” p. 30; Mozley’s “Review of Bapt. Cont.,” pp. 126–146.)
It is not desirable to magnify the difference between the two views of obsignation.
It is not easy to draw a sharp line of distinction between them. Possibly, by explanation, the two views might be brought very near to one another.
The extreme statements of the lower view doubtless arose from a desire to keep quite clear of the notion of sacramental efficacy “ex opere operato”.
But it is to be regretted that the lower view led to the use of language, which seems to have been the first unconscious step, which led subsequently towards a view of the Sacraments, in which they appear to be put aside from their true office in relation to the doctrine of God’s grace in the Gospel.
It was the obvious tendency of Puritanism towards the lower view to which we owe Hooker’s most able statement and vindication of the higher view.
But it must not be supposed that at that date the teaching of the Puritans had so far declined as to make any marked difference observable between their sacramental doctrine and that of the Church of England.
The Church of England, it was then well understood, taught no opus operatum efficacy in the Sacraments. And the obsignatory efficacy – the federal sacramental force – none denied. Accordingly, there was no inconsistency felt between the views of any and the doctrinal statements in our Baptismal Service, nor any difficulty (on that account) expressed by the Puritans as to the habitual use of our Sacramental Formularies.
The following extracts are given as evidence of the higher view of sacramental obsignation and exhibition:–
“They pretend that to Sacraments we ascribe no efficacy, but make them bare signs of instruction or admonition, which is utterly false. For Sacraments with us are signs effectual; they are the instruments of God, whereby to bestow grace; howbeit grace not proceeding from the visible sign, but from the invisible power. ‘God by Sacraments giveth grace’ (saith Bernard) ‘even as honours and dignities are given – an abbot made by receiving a staff, a doctor by a book, a bishop by a ring’; because he that giveth these pre-eminences declareth by such signs his meaning, nor doth the receiver take the same, but with effect; for which cause he is said to have the one by the other; albeit that which is bestowed proceed wholly from the will of the giver, and not from the efficacy of the sign.” (Hooker, vol. ii. p. 554: Edit. Keble.)
“M. Quomodo per Baptismum nobis haec bona conferuntur?
P. Quia, nisi promissiones illic nobis oblatas respuendo infructuosas reddimus, vestimur Christo, ejusque Spiritu donamur.” (Calvin’s “Catechism,” in “Opera,” tom. viii. p. 26 a.)
“[Baptismum] ordinarium Dei instrumentum asserimus, ad nos lavandos et renovandos, ad salutem denique nobis communicandam.” (Calvin, “Opera,” vol. viii. p. 258; Amst.)
“Si qui sint qui negent, sacramentis contineri gratiam quam figurant, illos improbamus.” (Ibid. p. 256.)
“Convenit, non inanes esse figuras, sed re praestari quicquid figurant.” (Vol. ix., Epist., p. 82 b.)
“Is not this, think you, a marvelous change, and to man’s estimation a miraculous work, when, by the power of the Holy Ghost and word of God, of common bread and wine, such as we daily feed our bodies with, is made the dreadful and reverend sacraments and mysteries of Jesus Christ, whereby (as I said) He doth, not by a bare sign only, but verily and indeed, endow His faithful people, and make them partakers of His Body and Blood? Yea, and that in such sort, that even as truly as the bread doth nourish our body, and even as truly as the wine doth comfort our spirits, so truly and unfeignedly doth the heavenly food of His Body and Blood, torn and shed for us, by faith, in time of that Holy Supper, nourish, strengthen, and comfort our soul, and by the wonderful working of His Spirit make our bodies also apt to resurrection. Truly, when I earnestly consider the effects of this Sacrament, as it must needs be by the truth of Christ’s promises, I confess I am not able with words to utter so much as in my mind I do conceive, and together withal eschew the absurdity of your Real Presence and Transubstantiation. Wherefore I marvel not, if those Holy Fathers, fearing no such inconveniences, but looking rather pithily to express the thing, did use those earnest words and manners of speaking, and yet meant not as you now of their words do gather. Although no similitude can sufficiently declare the thing, I will, for the simpler sort, so much as I can endeavour by a single comparison to set forth that I do conceive. If a temporal prince, for certain causes moving him, would give you a thousand pound land by the year, and for that purpose had caused the writings to be made; the same writing, until it be confirmed by the prince, is nothing but common parchment, and ink framed into letters by some inferior man’s hand – neither doth it bring any effect; but when the prince hath once added his seal, and confirmed the grant, it is no more called parchment, or common writing, but the king’s letters patent; and now hath that reverence, that all to whom they be showed do vail their bonnets, as bringing with it some part of the king’s majesty. Such a change is now made in those trifling things, that before no man esteemed. You also, to whom this land should be given, would not think this writing common parchment blotted with ink, but the perfect deed of your prince, whereby you were assuredly possessed of the aforesaid lands. Moreover, when the prince, at the delivery of the same, should say, ‘Sir, here is a thousand pound land, that I freely give to you, and to your heirs,’ I think you would not be so fond to think, either that the prince doth mock you, because you see not the lands presently, or else to conceive with yourself that you have the lands really enclosed within the compass of your writing. For the king’s authority in the writing giveth you a full possession of the lands, as though you held them, if it were possible, in your hand; and you in this case might justly say to your friend, showing your letters patents, ‘Lo! here is a thousand pound land that my prince hath given me.’ If then there be so great a change made in framing the covenant of an earthly prince – if his seal do bring such force and effect to his gift and letters patent; how much more marvelous change, alteration, or transmutation, must we think it to be when the base creatures of bread and wine be consecrated into the Sacrament of the everlasting covenant and testament of Jesus Christ, wherein He giveth us, not earthly vanities, but the precious food of His Body and Blood, remission of sins, and the heritage of his heavenly kingdom! How much more of effect must this Sacrament be that is sealed with the promise and words of Our Saviour Christ, who is truth itself, and cannot deceive any that trusteth in Him! Wherefore, to express this change of the external elements into so heavenly mysteries; to show the effect of the Sacrament; to withdraw the ignorant minds of the people from the profane cogitations of a bare sign in this matter, the ancient Fathers had good cause to use such words. And yet therein do they nothing at all defend your miraculous works that you devise to be made in the Lord’s Supper.” (Bp. Cooper’s “Defence of the Truth,” pp. 212–215: Edit. Parker Society.)
“If a prince give out his letters patent of a gift, so long as the seal is not put to, the gift is not fully ratified, and the party to whom it is given thinketh not himself sufficiently assured of it. God’s gift, without sealing, is sure; as He himself is all one, without changing. Yet, to bear with our infirmity, and to make us more secure of His promise, to His writing and word He added these outward signs and seals, to establish our faith, and to certify us that His promise is most certain.” (Abp. Sandys, “Sermons,” P. S. Edit., p. 302–303.)
“Thus is Baptism a sign of representation to the understanding, a seal of confirmation to faith, effectually delivering to the believer, through the Holy Ghost, the grace of God and the remission of all his sins. And why doth it trouble M. Bishop that we make Baptism in this sort only ‘a sign and a seal,’ when, as though signs and seals be not the things themselves, yet by signs and seals men are wont to be entitled and invested to the things signified and sealed? And hath not the Apostle himself taught us thus to speak? Gregory, Bishop of Rome, saith: ‘What the water of Baptism doth with us, the same did the mystery of circumcision with the seed of Abraham.’ (‘Moral,’ lib. iv. c. 3.) But of circumcision the Apostle saith thus: ‘Abraham received the sign of circumcision as the seal of the righteousness of faith.’ (Rom. 4:11.) Baptism, therefore, must be to us the sign and seal of the righteousness of faith.” (Bp. R. Abbot’s “Defence of the Reformed Catholic,” in “Goode on Baptism,” pp. 281– 282.)
“The Sacraments are as the deeds and seals of Almighty God, whereby He doth indeed and verily, not only by signification, but effectually, convey unto us the possession of His spiritual blessings.” (Cooper, in “Goode on Baptism,” p. 315.)
“How are all believers made one with Christ? Answer: By a donation on God’s part, whereby Christ is given unto us, and by a receiving on our part. ... The Word preached and the Sacraments are (as it were) the hand of God, whereby He exhibits and gives Christ unto us with all his benefits. … We must there receive Christ, where God offers and gives Him, that is, in the Word and Sacraments.” (Perkins, “Works,” vol. ii. p. 265, b.)
“Stier says; – ‘All considerate criticism must admit that some acts of washing, corresponding with the later Baptism of proselytes, was already extant when John appeared, or otherwise John’s Baptism would lose its most significant point of connection.’ We have no less reason for believing that at the Baptism of proselytes, this change of religion, or entrance into the Jewish Covenant, was connected with the language of the 87th Psalm, where converts from Babylon, Philistia, and Ethiopia, are prophetically described as being born in Zion.” (“Titcomb on Baptism,” p. 42.)
Mr. Titcomb has observed, that “while they [the Presbyterian Commissioners at the Savoy Conference] objected most strongly to various parts of our Baptismal Ritual, we cannot find that they took exception to the first exhortation, in which our Lord’s conversation with Nicodemus is expressly viewed in relation to the Sacrament. This is very different to the accusations of modern Dissent, which impeach any statement of this kind as unscriptural, dangerous and deadly,” (“On Baptism,” p. 40.)
Hooker says: – “I hold it for an almost infallible rule, in expositions of sacred Scripture, that where a literal construction will stand, the farthest from the letter is commonly the worst. … To hide the general consent of antiquity agreeing in the literal interpretation, they cunningly affirm that ‘certain’ have taken those words as meant of material water, when they know that of all the ancient there is not one to be named that ever did otherwise either expound or allege the place than as implying external baptism.” (“Eccl. Pol.,” Book V. ch. lix. §§ 2, 3; vol. ii. p. 263.)
Evidences of adherence to the obsignatory view of sacramental efficacy will be found abundantly in the writings of our Reformers, and succeeding English divines.
Thus, e.g. (1): “Aequissimum est, ut parvulis nostris, Divinae gratiae, atque salutis fidelium Semini promissae haeredes se esse, Baptismo, impresso quasi sigillo, testatum fiat.” (Nowell’s “Catechism,” p. 163; Edit. Jacobson.) See some other examples in Professor Mozley’s “Review of the Baptismal Controversy,” p. 416.
“When the divines of the Reformation came to construct their obsignatory theory of Baptism, they found the basis of it ready to hand in the Scholastic doctrine of Adult Baptism. ... It was a difference about infants as a class of recipients that constituted the difference between the Scholastic and the Reformed doctrines of Baptism, and not a difference about the obsignatory theory itself.” (Mozley’s “Review of Baptismal Controversy,” p. 141–2.)
The following words of St. Augustine (continually referred to by the Reformers) bear valuable testimony to the obsignatory character of Baptism, and its relation – as the Sacrament of Regeneration – to the righteousness of faith, and the conversion of the heart: – “Sicut ergo in Abraham praecessit fidei justitia, et accessit circumcisio signaculum justitiae fidei; ita in Cornelio praecessit sanctificatio Spiritalis in dono Spiritus Sancti, et aecessit Sacramentum regenerationis in lavacro baptismi. Et sicut in Isaac, qui octavo suae nativitatis die circumcisus est, praecessit signaculum justitiae fidei, et quoniam patris fidem imitatus est, secuta est in crescente ipsa justitia, cujus signaculum in infante praecesserat: ita in baptizatis infantibus praecedit regenerationis sacramentum; et si Christianam tenuerint pietatem, sequetur etiam in corde conversio cujus mysterium praecessit in corpore. Et sicut in illo latrone quod ex baptismi sacramento defuerat complevit Omnipotentis benignitas, quia non superbia vel contemtu sed necessitate defuerat: sic in infantibus qui baptizati moriuntur, eadem gratia Omnipotentis implere credenda est quod non ex impia voluntate, sed ex aetatis indigentia, nec corde credere ad justitiam possunt, nec ore confiteri ad salutem. Ideo cum alii pro eis respondent, ut impleatur erga eos celebratio Sacramenti, valet utique ad eorum consecrationem, quia ipsi respondere non possunt. ... Quibus rebus omnibus ostenditur, aliud esse sacramentum baptismi, aliud conversionem cordis, sed salutem hominis ex utroque compleri.” (Augustine, “De Bapt. Contra Donat.,” Lib. v. cc. 24, 25.)
“Hence it is, that ‘the answer of a good conscience,’ which is made the inward effect of this ordinance of Baptism, 1 Peter 3:21, is there also attributed unto Christ’s resurrection, as the thing signified and represented in Baptism, and as the cause of that answer of a good conscience. ‘Even Baptism,’ saith he, ‘doth now also save us,’ as being the ordinance that seals up salvation: ‘not the putting away the filth of the flesh,’ or the washing of the outward man: ‘but the answer of a good conscience towards God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.’ ... Now in Baptism, forgiveness of sins and justification being sealed up to a believer’s faith and conscience, under that lively representation of his communion with Christ in His resurrection; hence this is made the fruit of Baptism, that the good conscience of a believer, sealed up in Baptism, hath wherewithal from thence to answer all accusations of sin that can, or do at any time, come in upon him; and all this, as it is here added, ‘by virtue of the resurrection of Jesus Christ’ – namely, in this respect, that his communion with Christ in His resurrection hath been represented in his Baptism as a ground of his faith, and of that ‘answer’ unto all accusations.” (T. Goodwin’s “Works,” vol. iv. p. 42; Nichol’s Edit. See also Bishop Jeremy Taylor’s “Works,” vol. v. p. 575: Edit. Eden.)
“Forasmuch as that Baptism, which produceth the cleansing of the flesh, is the Baptism here intended; forasmuch as no other Baptism can do that but the Baptism of water, it remains that the Baptism of water, and no other, is the Baptism that is here intended – the Baptism that saveth, not through the putting away the filth of the flesh, but through the answer of a good conscience towards God.” (Towerson’s “Explication of the Catechism,” p. 8 London, 1678.
Let it be observed, also, how St. Peter (2 Peter 1:3) attributes our being made “partakers of the Divine nature” to the “exceeding great and precious promises.” Now, if it be granted that Baptism, duly received, makes us partakers (in some sense) of the Divine nature, how should this be – according to St. Peter’s teaching – but by a relation of some sort to the “precious promises”? And by what relation to the promises so naturally as by being their appointed seal?
An argument of great weight might, I believe, be added from 1 Cor. 10:1–6. But it can scarcely be needed. The reader, however, may be asked, after reading these verses, to inquire – where is the force of the Apostle’s argument, and how can the facts adduced be for our warning, if there be not, for all the baptized, such a sacramental participation of the privileges of God’s redeemed people as must involve the calling and responsibility which has been contended for?
I venture to add the following to the mass of writing already contributed on the sense of Regeneration.
It may, I think, help to remove some difficulties, if we distinguish between the most proper and the most exact meaning of the term “regeneration”.
And it may be well first to have before our minds the analogy of things natural.
Natural birth, in its most exact meaning, will be allowed (I suppose) to be a mere change of circumstances. And if the birth be the birth of a stillborn infant, the term connotes nothing at all more than a mere change of surroundings, and relations to external things.
Yet, in the language of living human beings, I suppose it will also be allowed, that the same term is (in a sense) most properly used, as connoting not only a previous process of conception, and formation, and preparation for future life, of that which is born, but also, that entire change in the being of that which is born, which immediately results from the change of circumstances. The lungs (before formed) now breathe; the heart (before perfect) now beats; life begins. All this is but the result of that change of circumstances. But most naturally, and most properly, it comes into our usual conception of natural birth, because, as a family of living beings, we speak of birth in its obvious connection with natural animal life.
And is it not then most natural and most proper, that in the language of the New Testament, in the language of the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, in the language of Spiritual Life, the word “regeneration” and its correlatives should have a sense connoting and including the whole mysterious and Divine process – so exclusively dependent on the will of God and the Spirit of God, as the wind blowing where it listeth – the whole process as well of spiritual conception, and faith’s formation, and the preparation of the soul for life in Christ, as also of that true spiritual life following, which is living by the faith of the Son of God, and of the free justification which we have in His Blood?
And is it possible to deny that the prevailing teaching of the New Testament does really clothe the thought of our New Birth with a sense as full and as high as this?
Nay, is it not so, that in the writings also of the ancient Fathers, language is to be found, in which such words as “regeneration” are used in such connection, as will scarcely suffer them, without violence, to be deprived of a sense as high and as full as this?
But from this it does not follow that the most exact sense of regeneration does include more than a change of spiritual circumstances and relations.
Neither does it follow that the New Testament has entirely discarded this more exact and limited sense.
In what other sense are we to understand St. Paul’s saying, that God “saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost”? For no fair criticism will dispute that by the washing (or bath) of regeneration here St. Paul means the Sacrament of Baptism.
How can the washing of Baptism, the ministry whereof is committed to man, be the washing of Regeneration – understood as including the whole Divine process of spiritual conception, and the formation of faith, and the preparatory convictions, and strivings, and drawings of God’s Spirit in the hearts of those who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God?
Either, how can Regeneration be understood in that fullest and highest sense in that sacramental language, which has been the language of the Christian Church in all ages – as all records of Christian antiquity prove – language in which Regeneration is used only as another name for Baptism, and the term “regenerate” is simply equivalent to “baptized”?
Let Baptism be understood to be the washing of Regeneration – in the sense to which previous Jewish ecclesiastical use would have led it; let it be understood as such a change for the soul of outward circumstances and relations as is indicated in the words of the Catechism – “being by nature born in sin, and the children of wrath, we are hereby made the children of grace” – or as in the Collect, which explains “regenerate” as “made God’s children by adoption and grace” – or as in the 27th Article, which declares that “they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of forgiveness of sins, and of our adoption to be the sons of God, by the Holy Ghost are visibly signed and sealed”: in a word, let it be understood as the instrumental conveyance of the washing of Christ’s Blood, the formal donation of the free gift of justification and adoption to the soul, and then all is simple and easy.
And why need it be accounted more strange in spiritual than in natural things, that the word birth should sometimes have a more exact and naked sense, and sometimes should clothe itself with the full apparel of ideas which it connotes?
Nay, is there not in this double sense of the word “regeneration” a real teaching of the relation of the fuller to the limited sense, corresponding to that in the two senses of natural birth?
God’s Spirit, working in due season by the Word, but uncontrolled by human agency – even as the wind blowing where it listeth – pricks the heart by the faith of Christ, carries on His work from spiritual conception, till there is formed in the soul that which struggles for deliverance, and desires that access to God which, as the child of wrath because of sin, it cannot have, which longs for the washing away of sin by the Blood of Christ – then sees the free gift of justification purchased by Christ’s Redemption; sees Christ’s merciful provision of a human ministry, and an outward sacrament, whereby this gift may be made over, as by an instrument signed and sealed, for his full possession, and for the full assurance of an appropriating faith; and then going to receive this seal of donation, going down to receive this washing of atonement, finds it to be the washing of regeneration indeed – the deliverance of his soul not only from the guilt but from the power of sin – a death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness; a change primarily of relation and spiritual circumstances only; a passing from wrath to favour, from outcasting to adoption; but herein, as a necessary consequence of this change of relationship (for “in His favour is life”), a real inward change, too – the Spirit of adoption dwelling in his heart – a change from bondage to liberty, a change from death to life.
Now, what is this but the working of the power of the Gospel, with its revelation of God’s righteousness, the free gift unto “justification of life”; that “as sin reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto Eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord”?
And is there not here legitimate room, and the true place, for the Sacrament of the gift; the formal donation or making over of that gift to faith – even that gift which is the gift of righteousness unto life?
And if it be indeed a gift for the children of death, and a gift unto life, why should not the sacramental seal of its donation be the Sacrament of Regeneration? Why should it not be, therefore, the Sacrament of Regeneration, because it is the seal of justification?
Why should it not, therefore, be the new birth of a new life, because it is the “one Baptism for the remission of sins,” and the remission of sins is what the awakening soul needs, that it may enter into newness of life indeed?
As in natural things life within follows (or should follow) on a change of state without, which change we call strictly “birth”; even so, in spiritual things, a change from death to life follows on the soul’s passing from one state to another – from a state of condemnation to a state of justification (of which change of state and relations Baptism is ordained to be the sacrament), which passing is strictly the soul’s “new birth”.
And here I may be permitted to suggest for consideration, whether much error and misconception in the matter of both doctrines might not have been avoided by viewing in their true connection the teaching of Scripture concerning Baptism and the teaching of Scripture concerning the power of the Keys.
Christ, making His Apostles able ministers of the New Testament, did most distinctly and most solemnly give them power, ministerially, to apply to men His own Redeeming work – saying, “Whosesoever sins ye remit they are remitted, and whosesoever sins ye retain they are retained.” But we do not find that they ever had given them any such power over the inner workings of God’s Spirit on men’s hearts.
For those, who, under the preaching of the Word, were born, not of the will of man, but of God, they had the power given them to act (if we may so speak) as spiritual midwives, to administer the sacrament of remission of sins for their spiritual deliverance, that they might “arise and be baptized and wash away their sins, calling on the name of the Lord,” and so might reckon themselves “dead indeed unto sin, and alive unto God through Jesus Christ.” But they had no power given them to open the heart of any one to attend to the things spoken, and to receive them, not as the word of man, but, as they were in truth, the Word of God.
“The wind bloweth where it listeth ... thou cant not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” And as in natural things it is not in man’s power to command the winds to blow, so neither was it in the power given to the Apostles to direct or command the Spirit’s work in human hearts.
But that power which Christ did bestow on His Apostles and His Church – the power of (in some sort) administering and ministerially applying His own perfect work – was not this just that which was wanted for the laying of the foundations of a Church, a society to which should belong, as by Christ’s own charter, the free grant of remission of sins, that they might be a people separate as the Elect of God, holy and beloved, accepted in the Beloved One? And was not this grant to His Church, this privilege made over to them, just what was wanted – that those drawn by the Spirit of God might, in being brought into the Church, and appropriating by faith the grant of remission, thereby enter as newborn babes, beginning a new life, and desiring the sincere milk of the Word that they might grow thereby? – that so Christ’s Church might be not only an assembly of forgiven souls, but also as a holy temple of living stones, indwelt by the Spirit of God, dividing to every man severally as he will?
And was it not thus that the Apostles, in the carrying out of their commission, used the power of the Keys in the administration of Baptism, for the ingathering of the people, whose hearts were pricked by the preparatory work of the Spirit? Thus the Lord added to the Church such as were being saved. And the Apostolic word of exhortation was never anything like this: “Come unto us, and we can administer to you, in a Sacrament, the Spirit of God, by which you may attain unto forgiveness of sins.” But their word of exhortation is as to those who have, by the inward work of the Spirit, been taught to feel their need of a gift – a distinct gift – the gift resulting directly from the perfect Redemption of Christ – that distinct gift which it was given to them to minister: the word of exhortation is to them to come for that gift distinctly, with an assurance indeed of a further gift of the Spirit to follow; but still to come for that gift of the power of the Keys, as administered in Baptism, and for that gift distinctly: “Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (not for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but), for the remission of sins: and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” They were to come as those who needed the washing away of sins – they were to come for washing; and then that washing would be to them the washing, not of pardoning cleansing only, but the washing of regeneration indeed, upon which would follow the renewing of the Holy Ghost.
Thus in Baptism would they obtain “as well that saving grace of imputation which taketh away all former guiltiness, as also that infused Divine virtue of the Holy Ghost, which gives to the powers of the soul their first disposition (dispositio) towards future newness of life.” (Hooker’s “Eccl. Pol.” Bk. V. ch. lx. § 2.)
That, in the language of that Christian Church from the beginning, the word “Regeneration” has been in use in what I have ventured to call its exact sense of federal donation and change of condition, and of sacramental ingrafting and adoption, will not, I imagine, be called in question. It is acknowledged, by those who have most earnestly contended for the truth, that the term does also bear the higher meaning. In this sense it is allowed that Baptism was regarded as always the washing of regeneration, and that all the baptized were spoken of as regenerate.
Mr. Faber says: “He [St. Augustine] contends, indeed, that all infants are regenerated in Baptism; but then – what is not always noted by those who allege this great Latin Father – the only regeneration which he allows to baptized infants, and of which he even deems them capable, is a federal regeneration, or a federal change of relative condition, by virtue of which they obtain remission of original sin, are brought into covenant with God, and are outwardly moved from the wilderness of the world into the pale of the visible Church. The universality of this federal regeneration in the case of baptized infants we fully hold with Augustine; and thence, with the Catholic Church in all ages, we contend that the rite of Baptism is not to be repeated. But with respect to moral regeneration, or a moral change of disposition, so far from maintaining that all infants receive it at Baptism, Augustine absolutely denies the very possibility of any infants, while infants, receiving it; and the reason which he assigns for his denial is their incapability of believing with the heart unto righteousness, and of confessing with the mouth unto salvation. Hence he argues that, in order to their final acquisition of the kingdom of God, they must at some future time experience that great moral change and conversion of heart which is never communicated to them in Baptism, though Baptism is the mystery, or sacrament, or outward sign, of such moral regeneration.” (Faber’s “Primitive Doctrine of Regeneration,” p. 274.)
That Reforming divines, both English and foreign (not excluding the most rigid Calvinists), held and taught also such a doctrine of federal change of condition, and sacramental ingrafting and adoption, in and by the Sacrament of Regeneration – and that, therefore (in some sense), they regarded all the baptized as sanctified and regenerate, may be thought to require proof. The following extracts are accordingly inserted here as evidence.
It will be observed that in the case of the faithless, this regeneration was regarded as being sacramento tenus only – nothing more than a sacramental regeneration. But though this phrase excluded – in their case – real regeneration, in the sense which belongs most properly to the New Testament, it did not exclude the relationship of Baptism, as the washing of regeneration, to the offers of the grace of the Gospel; neither did it exclude the notion of admission into the privileges of the visible Church, and of the formal insertion into the Body of Christ and the family of God.
To the unbelieving – after Baptism – pertains (notwithstanding their unbelief) the same responsibility of that federal ingrafting for adoption and regeneration, which, in their case, is but as the ingrafting of a lifeless withered branch, because of grace, through unbelief, rejected.
“Non nihil rursum emolumenti pueri e suo Baptismo capiunt, quod in corpus Ecclesiae insiti, aliis membris aunt aliquanto commendatiores. Deinde ubi adoleverint, eo ad serium Dei colendi studium non mediocriter stimulantur, a quo in filios solenni adoptionis symbolo accepti fuerint, antequam per aetatem eum agnoscere Patrem possent.” (Calvin, “Instit.,” Lib. iv. cap. xvi.§ 9; vol. ix. p. 357 a: Amst., 1667.)
“If they [the Sacraments] should be considered according to the exact signification of a Sacrament – namely, for the visible signs expressly commanded in the New Testament, whereunto is annexed the promise of free forgiveness of our sin, and of our holiness and joining in Christ – there be but two, namely, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord.” (“Homilies,” p. 316: Edit. Oxford, 1844.)
“Baptism is a visible sign and testimony of our ingraffing into the body of Christ; and it is rightly called a planting, incorporating, or ingraffing into the body of Christ.” (Bullinger, “Decades,” vol. v. p. 399: P. S. Edit.)
“M. De Baptismo ergo primum dic quid censeas.
A. Quum natura Filii irae, id est, alieni ab Ecclesia, quae Dei familia est, simus, baptismus veluti aditus quidam nobis est, per quem in eam admittimur, unde et testimonium etiam amplissimum accipimus in numero domesticorum, adeoque Filiorum Dei nos jam esse, imo in Christi corpus quasi cooptari, atque inseri, ejusque membra, fieri, et in unum cum ipso corpus coalescere.” (Nowell’s “Cat,” p. 86: P. S. Edit.)
“It [Baptism] hath been usually called the sacrament of repentance for the remission of sins, the sacrament of faith, the seal of the covenant, the water of regeneration, the washing away of sins, the sacrament of new life. But though all these things are said of Baptism, and are truly attributed unto it, as to the Holy Ghost’s instrument to work these things, and that, therefore, all which are baptized are truly said to be made, and to be such sacramentally; yet we believe, that it is not indeed and really performed, but only in the Elect, which are endued with Christ’s spirit: since they only do believe rightly, and do truly belong unto Christ, and to His mystical body.” (Zanchius, “Confession of Christian Religion, Englished in Sense Agreeable,” pp. 116–117; Legat, Cambridge, 1599.)
So Dr. Mayer: “The right understanding, then, of this is, that in our Baptism we are sacramentally, or instrumentally, made the children of God; and really and truly, when we are together baptized with the Holy Ghost.” (“Catechism Explained,” p. 5, Edit. 1623.)
Bishop Bedell writes: “This I do yield to my Lord of Sarum most willingly, that the justification, sanctification, and adoption which children have in Baptism, is not, univoce, the same with that which adulti have. And this I likewise do yield to you, that it is vera solutio reatus, et veraciter, et in rei veritate performed, and all the like emphatical forms, etc. But all these sacramentaliter, and that is obsignative ex formula et conditione foederis.” (In Ussher’s “Works,” vol. xv. p. 508: Dublin.)
“All that come to the Sacrament, elect or non-elect, receive the pardon of sin, original and actual, sacramentally; and whosoever performs the condition of the covenant, hath the fruition of that, whereof before he had the grant under seal. So as the Sacraments are not nudea et inefficacia signa on God’s art, to the one or other.” (Bishop Bedell to Dr. Sam. Ward, in Ussher’s “Works,” vol. xv. p. 513.)
“Those who refuse altogether to bring forth fruit, they do not wither away after their regeneration, but do manifestly bewray themselves never to have been renewed by the Spirit of God, nor engrafted into Christ, but only sacramentally, and therefore not to have been true members of Christ, but in title and show only, even as a graft sometimes, or cyon, which being engrafted, and, as it were, incorporated into the stock, doth notwithstanding receive no juice or sap from the stock, but withereth and is broken off, as having been never truly united to the stock, per unitatem formae, but only in show and appearance.” (Bp. Downtime’s “Covenant of Grace,” 1631.)
“It followeth that the places now alleged must be understood of that general sanctity, by which men may be said to be sanctified, justified, cleansed, washed, and the like; though not truly, not before God, yet in the face of the Church, and before men – as it were sacramentally.” (Dr. S. Benefield, in “Goode on Baptism,” p. 292.)
“Water in Baptism is a sacrament of our renovation and regeneration, and thus we are born again of water, but only sacramentally, because the water signifies and seals our new birth, which the Holy Ghost works in us.” (Whitaker, in “Goode on Baptism,” p. 297.)
“Baptism is a Sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible Church, but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the Covenant of Grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God through Jesus Christ to walk in newness of life – which Sacrament is by Christ’s own appointment to be continued in His Church until the end of the world. (“Westminster Confession,” ch. xxviii. p.1.)
“Q. What is Baptism?
A. Baptism is a Sacrament of the New Testament, wherein Christ hath ordained the washing with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to be a sign and seal of ingrafting into Himself, of remission of sins by His Blood, and regeneration by His Spirit, of adoption and resurrection unto everlasting life, and whereby the parties baptized are solemnly admitted into the visible Church, and enter into an open and professed engagement to be wholly and only the Lord’s.” (“Westminster Catechism,” p. 128: Edit. 1658.)
“Baptism is to the mutual covenant between God and man, what the solemnization of marriage is to them that do before consent; or what the listing a soldier by giving him colours, and writing his name, is to one that consented before to be a soldier. In my ‘Universal Concord,’ pp. 29–30, I have thus described it: ‘Baptism is a holy Sacrament instituted by Christ, in which a person professing the Christian faith (or the infant of such) is baptized in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost, in signification and solemnization of the holy covenant, in which as a penitent believer (or the seed of such) he giveth up himself (or is by his parent given up) to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, forsaking the devil, the world, and the flesh, and is solemnly entered a visible member of Christ and His Church, a pardoned regenerate child of God, and an heir of heaven.
“As the word ‘Baptism’ is taken for mere administration or external ordinance, so the internal covenanting or faith and repentance of the (adult) person to be baptized is no essential part of it, nor requisite to the being of it; but only the profession of such a faith and repentance, and the external entering of the covenant. But as ‘Baptism’ is taken for the ordinance as performed in all its essential parts, according to the true intent of Christ in His institution (that is, in the first and proper meaning of the word), so the internal covenanting of a penitent sincere believer is necessary to the being of it. And, indeed, the word ‘Baptism’ is taken but equivocally or analogically at most, when it is taken for the mere external administration and action; for God doth not institute worship ordinances for bodily motion only. When He speaketh to man, and requireth worship of man, He speaketh to him as a man, and requireth human actions from him, even the work of the soul, and not the words of a parrot, or the motion of a puppet. Therefore the word ‘Baptism,’ in the first and proper signification, doth take in the inward actions of the heart, as well as the outward profession and actions. And in this proper sense, ‘Baptism is the mutual covenant between God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and a penitent believing sinner, solemnized by the washing of water, in which, as a Sacrament of his own appointment, God doth engage Himself to be the God and the reconciled Father, the Saviour and Sanctifier, of the believer, and taketh him for His reconciled child in Christ, and delivereth to him, by solemn investiture, the pardon of all his sins, and title to the mercies of this life and of that which is to come.’ What I say in this description of a penitent believer is also to be understood of the children of such, that are dedicated by them in Baptism to God, who thereupon have their portion in the same covenant of grace.
“The word ‘Baptism’ is taken in the first sense when Simon Magus is said to be baptized, and when we speak of it only in the ecclesiastic sense, as it is true Baptism ‘in foro ecclesiae.’ But it is taken in the latter sense, when it is spoken of as the complete ordinance of God, in the sense of the institution, and as respecting the proper ends of Baptism, as pardon of sin and life eternal and ‘in foro coeli’. In this full and proper sense is it taken by Christ when He saith, ‘He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved’; that is, he that believeth, and is by Baptism entered into the covenant of God. And in this sense the ancients took it, when they affirmed that all that were baptized were regenerate, pardoned, and made the children of God. And in this sense it is most true, that he that is baptized (that is, is a sincere covenanter) shall be saved, if he die in that condition that he is then in. All that the minister warrantably baptizeth are sacramentally regenerate, and are ‘in foro ecclesiae’ members of Christ, and children of God, and heirs of Heaven: but it is only those that are sincerely delivered up in covenant to God in Christ, that are spiritually and really regenerate, and are such as shall be owned for members of Christ and children of God ‘in foro coeli’. Therefore it is not unfit that the minister call the baptized REGENERATE and pardoned MEMBERS OF CHRIST, AND CHILDREN OF GOD, AND HEIRS OF HEAVEN, supposing that ‘in foro ecclesiae’ they were the due subjects of Baptism. But if the persons be such as ought not to be baptized, the sin then is not in calling baptized persons regenerate, but in baptizing those that ought not to have been baptized, and to whom the seal of the covenant was not due.” (Baxter’s “Works,” vol. v. pp. 44, 46: Duncan, 1830.)
But if, now, these things are so – if such terms as “regeneration” were in use among the Jews before the coming of Christ, to signify a change of circumstances and relations – to signify the reception into the privileges of God’s people – the change from being without to being within the covenant of promise; if this sense has been net utterly discarded in the writings of the New Testament; if nothing but a forced and unnatural interpretation can get rid of it from the Scriptures of truth; if this sense is found pervading the writings of Christian antiquity from the beginning; if it has been incorporated in the most ancient Baptismal Offices of the Church; if it has been recognized in every age of Christianity; and further, if this same federal regeneration has been held and taught by the divines of the Reformation at home and abroad – if these things are so, surely there must be some mistake in thinking that we must go to seek some picklock to act perforce as a key to the interpretation of our own Baptismal Formularies. Certainly there must be some great mistake indeed, if we think we must labour to find some apology for the language which our Reformers have placed there.
If, I say, this is so, then I submit, our Baptismal Services should be understood, primarily, to speak of Regeneration in that sacramental, obsignatory, federal sense in which the person baptized (though in a true sense, it may be, “born of God”) was certainly not regenerate before, and in which even such as are yet the children of the Wicked One are certainly (in some sort) regenerate after their Baptism.
The Church’s Baptismal Services, from the earliest times, have always, as far as appears, been constructed on the same theory – have always brought the catechumen to the layer of regeneration as unregenerate – have always sent him forth from the font as regenerate; while, even in the Middle Ages, it was recognized by divines that the person to be baptized should be in possession (after some sort) of justification and spiritual gifts before (see Mozley’s “Review of Bapt. Controversy,” pp. 137, sqq., 143, 144), and might be destitute of real justification and spiritual gifts afterwards. But the faithful catechumen was to be taught to see, in the very Sacraments of Baptism itself, by Christ’s appointment, that which made good to Him the possession of those things which the spiritual mind was to know as the things freely given to us of God.
As in matters between man and man, sealed deeds of donation deal in language which ignores all previous giving and receiving (though, in intention at least, such giving is always presupposed), and points to their own signing and sealing as actually putting in possession those who were not in possession before, because such deeds naturally use the word “giving” in what may be called their own language – the language of effectual sealing – and so in their own sense – a sense which all understand to be taken sigillo tenus; – so, what more natural than that our Baptismal Services – seeing that, in the institution of Sacraments, He who knows what is in man, mercifully deals with men after the manner of men – should ignore all previous giving and receiving (though not therefore supposing that in no sense has there been a giving before), and should point to the actual administration of Baptism according to Christ’s ordinance, as really making the catechumen to be possessed of that of which he was not possessed before, because Sacramental Services should rightly use sacramental language – language which speaks sacramentaliter – language telling of what is given and effected sacramento tenus?
Is it not for donation in an obsignatory sense that one man (knowing of the gift as already in intention given) resorts, according to the instructions received, to the attorney or agent of the donor? And should he not on such an occasion expect to hear of donation in such an obsignatory sense, and to see it effected in such a sense, and to express his thanks accordingly?
And even so (if we may reverently follow out such a comparison), is it not for Regeneration, in such a sacramental sense, that the awakened soul resorts to the minister of Christ, and, in accordance with the instructions he has received, asks for the ordinance of Baptism? Is it not for Regeneration in that very sense in which the Holy Spirit has called Baptism “the washing of Regeneration”? And should he not then naturally expect at such a time to hear of Regeneration granted in such a sense? And should it be strange that on such an occasion thanks should be given for such a Baptismal Regeneration, whereby, as by an instrument, the believer is grafted into the Church, and formally taken out of his natural condition as a child of wrath, and made God’s child by adoption and grace?
And when that which is thus effected sacramento tenus is seen in its relation, according to Christ’s ordinance, to the grace of the Gospel, will not the efficacy be found to be not sacramental merely, but inward and spiritual also; and will not all the emphatic words of the Service become, by the power of the Spirit, as vessels filled to the brim, while the soul of the catechumen apprehends by faith the gift of present perfect remission through the washing of Christ’s Blood, and realizes the truth of present salvation in the very visible sealing by the Holy Ghost of the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and that life is in His Son?
It may be objected, to the view given above, that the language of our Service, so far from encouraging a distinction between sacramental and spiritual regeneration, seems to require the operation of the Spirit for the regeneration of Baptism. But the objection rests on an assumption which cannot be allowed. If, indeed, sacramental regeneration were merely an ecclesiastical registration – if it had no relationship to the grace of the Gospel and the calling of faith – if it were merely an admission into a visible society, which society had nothing to do with the spiritual privileges of the people of God – then, indeed, it would be strange that such a regeneration should be anyways connected with the work of the Spirit of God. But if the promises of the forgiveness of sins and of our adoption to be the sons of God be therein visibly signed and sealed, what hinders that this signing and sealing should be (in some sense) “by the Holy Ghost”? What hinders that there should be a spiritual operation or “assistance” recognized in that very outward calling? The very point to be insisted upon is this, that the relation of Baptism to the doctrines of Grace is such, that sacramental regeneration must in every case be, in some sort, spiritual regeneration, and the baptized person may be said, in every case, to be, in some sort, regenerate by the Spirit, even though that regeneration be altogether void of that spiritual change which may be most truly said to constitute regeneration in that higher sense, which (as I conceive) is the most proper sense of the New Testament.
Bishop Hopkins writes: “To be admitted, therefore, by Baptism into the Church of Christ, is to be admitted into the state of regeneration, or the renewing of all things, called therefore the washing of regeneration: Titus 3:5.
“But how then are infants said, in Baptism, to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit, if He doth not inwardly sanctify them in and by that ordinance?
“I answer: Because the whole economy and dispensation of the kingdom of Christ is managed by the Spirit of Christ, so that those who are internally sanctified are regenerated by His effectual operation, and those who are only externally sanctified are regenerated by His public institution. Infants, therefore, are in Baptism regenerated by the Holy Ghost, because the Holy Spirit of God appoints this ordinance to receive them into the visible Church, which is the regenerate part and state of the world.” (“Works,” vol. ii. pp. 425, 426.)
So Dr. Waterland: “It is certain, in general, that the Holy Spirit, some way or other, has a hand in every true and valid baptism; God never fails as to His part in an awful sacrament, however men may guiltily fail in theirs. The Holy Spirit is, in some sort, offered to all that receive Christian Baptism: for the very nature of a sacrament requires that the sign and the grace should so far go together, and the unworthy could not be guilty of rejecting the grace while they receive the sign, if both were not offered them. As the Holy Spirit consecrates and sanctifies the waters of Baptism, giving them an outward and relative holiness, so He consecrates the persons also in an outward and relative sense, whether good or bad.” (“Works,” vol. iv. p. 443. See also Jackson’s “Works,” vol. ix. pp. 201, 203.)
More serious, perhaps, is the objection (see “Goode on Infant Baptism,” p. 415), that the Service teaches us not to doubt, but earnestly believe, concerning the person baptized, such things as seem only in unison with something higher than such a sacramental sense of Regeneration.
To this, however, it seems sufficient answer to say, that such expressions obviously tell of the fullness of blessing contained in the covenant donation, the seal of which is here ministered; but that it is surely to be understood – and needs not to be expressed – that this donation requires acceptance by faith, and that its actual fruition must needs be dependent on this acceptance. God’s promises, He, for His part, will surely keep and perform; the faith of the baptized has but to rest upon God’s promise. What, then, if some do not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?
“Baptism implieth a covenant or league between God and man, wherein … God doth bestow presently remission of sins and the Holy Ghost, binding also himself to add, in process of time, what grace soever shell be further necessary for the attainment of everlasting life.” (Hooker’s “Eccles. Pol.,” Book V. ch. lxiv. § 4; vol. ii. p. 312. See also pp. 295–296.)
Thus it was said by the Puritan, T. Goodwin: “It follows verse 11, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” You may build upon it as done; and all this is sealed up by Baptism (verses 3–4), which you know is the seal more eminently of regeneration or calling, and accordingly administered but once. And why, but because at our regeneration and calling (whereof Baptism is the seal), the whole that is to come is as certainly sealed up as that now we are called and baptized?” (T. Goodwin’s “Works,” vol. ix. p. 362: Nichol’s Edit.)
Nor, as regards the covenant sealed on God’s part, is any difficulty made by the tender years of the child baptized. The sacrament, on God’s part, is a perfect sacrament.
Bishop Hopkins writes: “Now, as a man may seal a deed of gift to an infant, which shall be valid, though he understand it not; so God may and doth seal the promises of His covenant to infants, and yet their incapacity of knowing it doth not make the truth and promise of God of none effect.” (“Works,” vol. ii. p. 407.)
“Though an infant cannot be either disposed to a holy life or fit for glory immediately, without an inward holiness of his own; yet by what is said it seemeth plain, that merely on account of the condition performed by the parent, and of his union relatively with Christ thereupon, and his title to God’s promise on these grounds, he may be said to be in a state of salvation – that is, to have the pardon of his original sin, deliverance from hell (in right), adoption, and a right to the needful operations of the Holy Ghost, as given to him in Christ, who is the first receiver of the Spirit.” (Baxter’s “Works,” vol. v. pp. 351–352.)
It will be found, I believe, that language such as this had, in the ears of our Reforming forefathers, no suspicious sound. It commended itself not only to such divines as Hooker, but equally to those of Puritan tendencies. By the most Protestant, its teaching was regarded as the doctrine of unimpeachable orthodoxy. (See Hooker, “Eccl. Pol.” Bk. V. ch. lxvii.)
“The cup is called the blood ... because it is the sacrament of that blood, instituted ... for our spiritual nourishment; like as Baptism is ordained in water to our spiritual regeneration.” (Ridley’s “Works,” p. 238: P. S. Edit.)
“For, as Baptism is an instrument to begin this communion, because by it we are born again in Christ; so is the Supper instituted to make perfect the same, because in it we are fed or nourished with the flesh and blood of Christ, that we may grow up in Him.” (Zanchius, “Confession of Christian Religion, Englished in Sense Agreeable,” p. 122: Legat, Cambridge, 1599.)
“Si Baptismus non est iterandus ... cur itidem non sufficit Coenam Domini semel obire ...? R ... Semel renasci satis est, at non semel alli.” (Beza’s “Qu. et Respon.” in “Tract. Theol.,” tom. iii. p. 351: Geneva, 1582.)
So Archbishop Ussher: “The sacrament of admission into the Church is Baptism, which sealeth unto us our spiritual birth: the other sacrament of our continual preservation is the Lord’s Supper, which sealeth unto ns our continual nourishment.” (Quoted in “Goode,” p. 344.)
Isaac Ambrose (who in 1641 joined the Presbyterians, and took the Covenant) thus writes: “Baptism is the sacrament of our incorporation into Christ, of our initiation or investing into the glorious state of Christianity. The Lord’s Supper is the sacrament of our continuance in Christ, of our confirmation in spiritual life, and the power of grace already planted within us. By Baptism we are washed, we are sanctified, we are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. By the Lord’s Supper we grow in spiritual strength; we lay better hold, by the hand of faith, upon the merits and mercies of Christ.” (“Works,” p. 121 b: Edit. 1761.)