CONSIDERING the confidence and zeal with which modern and unscriptural views on the subject of Christian Baptism are put forth at the present time, it will not be unseasonable to present the reader with some testimonies from the writings of Anglican Divines in behalf of the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration. By this doctrine is meant, first, that the Sacrament of Baptism is not a mere sign or promise, but actually a means of grace, an instrument, by which, when rightly received, the soul is admitted to the benefits of CHRIST's Atonement, such as the forgiveness of sin, original and actual, reconciliation to GOD, a new nature, adoption, citizenship in CHRIST's kingdom, and the inheritance of heaven,--in a word, Regeneration. And next, Baptism is considered to be rightly received, when there is no positive obstacle or hindrance to the reception in the recipient, such as impenitence or unbelief would be in the case of an adult; so that infants are necessarily right recipients of it, as not being yet capable of actual sin. So much as these two positions is certainly held by every one of the authors of the following passages, though it is impossible to bring out their full meaning in such brief extracts, however carefully selected.
There is a variety of questions connected with the subject beyond the two positions above set down, on which the writers under review differ more or less from each other, but not so as in the slightest degree to interfere with their clear and deliberate maintenance of these. Such, for instance, as the following:--Whether grace be given in and through the water, or only contemporaneously with it. Again, whether Baptism, strictly speaking, conveys the blessings annexed to it, or simply admits into a state gifted with those blessings, as being the initiatory rite of the covenant of mercy. Or, again, whether or not Baptism, besides washing away past sin, admits into a state in which, for sins henceforth committed, Repentance stands in place of a Sacrament, so as to ensure forgiveness without specific ordinance; or whether the Holy Eucharist is that ordinance; or whether the full and explicit absolution of sin after Baptism is altogether put off till the day of judgment. Or, again, there may be difference of opinion as to the state of infants dying unbaptized. Or, again, whether Regeneration is an instantaneous work completed in Baptism, or admits of degrees and growth. Or, again, whether or not the Holy Spirit can utterly desert a soul once inhabited by Him, except to quit it for ever. Or, whether the change in the soul made by Baptism is indelible, for good or for evil; or may be undone, as if it had never been. Or, how far the enjoyment of the grace attached to it is suspended on the condition of our doing our part in the covenant. All these are questions, far from unimportant, but which do not at present come into consideration; the one point, maintained in the following extracts, being, that infants are by and at baptism unconditionally translated from a state of wrath into a state of grace and acceptance for CHRIST's sake.
40. Van Mildert.
NB. It would be easy to extend this list, were it necessary: vid. Cosin's Devotions, Stanhope's Boyle Lectures, &c.
"They (the sacraments) are not bare signs; it were blasphemy so to say. The grace of GOD doth always work with His sacraments; but we are taught not to seek that grace in the sign, but to assure ourselves by receiving the sign, that it is given us by the thing signified. We are not washed from our sins by the water, we are not fed to eternal life by the bread and wine, but by the precious blood of our Saviour CHRIST, that lieth hid in these sacraments." p. 263.
For this cause are infants baptized, because they are born in sin, and cannot become spiritual but by this new birth of the water and the Spirit. They are the heirs of the promise; the covenant of GOD's favour is made unto them. GOD said to Abraham, "I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee." "Therefore," saith the Apostle, "If the root be holy, so are the branches." And again, "The unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; else were your children unclean; but now are they holy." When the disciples rebuked those that brought little children to CHRIST, that he might touch them, he said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of GOD." And again, "Their angels always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven." p. 265.
"The water wherein we are baptized doth not cleanse the soul;" but, "the blood of JESUS CHRIST his Son doth cleanse us from all sin." Not the water, but the blood of CHRIST reconcileth us unto GOD, strengtheneth our conscience, and worketh our redemption. We must seek salvation in CHRIST alone, and not in any outward thing. Hereof saith Cyprian, "Remissio peccatorum, sive per baptismum, sive per alia sacramenta donetur, proprie spiritus sancti est. Verborum solemnitas," &c. "The remission of sins, whether it be given by baptism, or by any other sacraments, does properly appertain to the Holy Ghost. The solemnity of the words, and the invocation of GOD'S holy Name, and the outward signs appointed to the ministry of the priest by the institution of the Apostles, work the visible outward sacrament. But touching the substance thereof, it is the Holy Ghost that worketh it." St. Ambrose also saith, "Vidisti fontem, vidisti sacerdotem," &c. "Thou hast seen the water, thou hast seen the priest, thou hast seen those things which thou mightest see with the eyes of thy body, and with such sight as man hath: but those things which work and do the deed of salvation, which no eye can see, thou hast not seen."
"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. The water itself is nothing; but by the working of GOD'S Spirit, the death and merits of our Lord and Saviour CHRIST, are thereby assured unto us.
"A figure hereof was given at the Red Sea. The children of Israel passed through in safety; but Pharaoh and his whole army were drowned. Another figure hereof was given in the ark. The whole world was drowned, but Noah and his family were saved alive. Even so in the fountain of baptism, our spiritual Pharaoh, the devil, is choked: his army, that is, our sins are drowned, and we are saved. The wicked of the world are swallowed in concupiscence and vanities, and we abide safe in the ark: GOD hath chosen us to be a peculiar people to Himself; we walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, therefore we are in CHRIST JESUS, and there is now no condemnation unto us.
"Now touching the minister of this sacrament, whether he be a good man or an evil man, GODly or GODless, an heretic or a Catholic, an idolater or a true worshipper of GOD: the effect is all one, the value or worthiness of the sacrament dependeth not of man, but of GOD. Man pronounceth the word, but GOD settleth our hearts with grace; man toucheth or washeth us with water, but GOD maketh us clean by the cross of CHRIST. It is not the minister, but CHRIST Himself which is the Lamb of GOD that taketh away the sins of the world." p. 266.
And forasmuch as these two sacraments, being both of force like, these men [the Romanists] to advance their fantasies in the one, by comparison so much abase the other: and specially for the better opening of Chrysostom's mind, I think it good, briefly and by the way, somewhat to touch what the old Catholic Fathers have written of GOD'S invisible working in the Sacrament of Baptism. Dionysius generally of all mysteries writeth thus: "Angeli Deum," &c. "The angels being creatures spiritual, so far forth as it is lawful for them, behold GOD, and his godly power, But we are led as we may, by sensible outward tokens," (which he calleth images) "unto the contemplation of heavenly things." The Fathers, in the Council of Nice, say thus: "Baptism must be considered, not with our bodily eyes, but with the eyes of our mind. Thou seest the water; think thou of the power of GOD, that in the water is hidden. Think thou that the water is full of heavenly fire, and of the sanctification of the Holy Ghost." Chrysostom, speaking likewise of baptism, saith thus: "Ego non aspectu judico ea, quas videntur, sed mentis oculis," Sec. "The things that I see, I judge not by sight, but by the eyes of my mind. The heathen, when he heareth the water of baptism, taketh it only for plain water: but I see not simply, or barely, that I see; I see the cleansing of the soul by the Spirit of GOD." So likewise saith Nazianzenus: "Mysterium (baptismi) majus est, quam ea quas videntur:" "The mystery of baptism is greater than it appeareth to the eye." So St. Ambrose: "Aliud est, quod visibiliter agitur; aliud quod invisibiliter celebratur:" "In baptism there is one thing done visibly to the eye; another thing is wrought invisibly to the mind."
Again he saith, "Believe not only the bodily eyes (in this sacrament of baptism): the thing that is not seen, is better seen: the thing that thou seest is corruptible; the thing that thou secst not is for ever." To be short, in consideration of these invisible effects, Tertullian saith, "The Holy Ghost cometh down and halloweth the water." St. Basil saith, "The kingdom of heaven is there set open." Chrysostom saith, "GOD himself in baptism, by his invisible power, holdeth thy head." St. Ambrose saith, "The water hath the grace of CHRIST; in it is the presence of the Trinity." St. Bernard saith, "Let us be washed in his blood."
"By the authorities of thus many ancient Fathers, it is plain, that in the sacrament of baptism, by the sensible sign of water, the invisible grace of GOD is given unto us."
Unless as the Spirit is a necessary inward cause, so water were a necessary outward mean, to our regeneration, what construction should we give unto those words wherein we are said to be new born, and that ex udatoV, even of water? Why are we taught, that with water GOD doth purify and cleanse His Church? Wherefore do the Apostles of CHRIST term baptism a bath of regeneration? What purpose had they in giving men advice to receive outward baptism, and in persuading them it did avail to remission of sins? If outward baptism were a cause in itself possessed of that power, either natural or supernatural, without the present operation whereof no such effect could possibly grow, it must then follow, that seeing effects do never prevent the necessary causes out of which they spring, no man could ever receive grace before baptism: which being apparently both known, and also confessed to be otherwise, in many particulars, although in the rest we make not baptism a cause of grace; yet the grace which is given them with their baptism, doth so far forth depend on the very outward sacrament, that GOD will have it embraced, not only as a sign or token what we receive, but also as an instrument or means whereby we receive grace, because baptism is a sacrament which GOD hath instituted in His Church, to the end that they which receive the same might thereby be incorporated into CHRIST; and so through His most precious merit 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 giveth to the powers of the soul their first disposition towards future newness of life. There are that elevate too much the ordinary and immediate means of life, relying wholly upon the bare conceit of that eternal election, which notwithstanding includeth a subordination of means, without which we are not actually brought to enjoy what GOD secretly did intend; and therefore, to build upon GOD'S election, if we keep not ourselves to the ways which He hath appointed for men to walk in, is but a self.deceiving vanity. When the Apostle saw men called to the participation of Jesus CHRIST, after the Gospel of GOD embraced, and the sacrament of life received, he feareth not then to put them in the number of elect saints; he then accounteth them delivered from death, and clean purged from all sin. Till then, notwithstanding their preordination unto life, which none could know of, saving GOD, what were they, in the Apostle's own account, but children of wrath, as well as others, plain aliens, altogether without hope, strangers, utterly without GOD in this present world? So that by sacraments, and other sensible tokens of grace, we may boldly gather, that He whose mercy vouchsafeth now to bestow the means, hath also sithence intended us that whereunto they lead. But let us never think it safe to presume of our own last, and by bare conjectural collections of his first intent and purpose, the means failing that should come between. Predestination bringeth not to life without the grace of eternal vocation, wherein our baptism is implied. For as we are not naturally men without birth, so neither are we Christian men in the eye of the Church of GOD but by new birth; nor according to the manifest ordinary course of divine dispensation new born, but by that baptism which both declareth and maketh us Christians.
In which respect, we justly hold it to be the door of our actual entrance into GOD'S house, the first apparent beginning of life, a seal perhaps to the grace of election before received; but to our sanctification here, a step that hath not any before it.
Were St. Augustine now living, there are which would tell him for his better instruction, that to say of a child, it is elect, and to say, it doth believe, are all one; for which cause, sith no man is able precisely to affirm the one of any infant in particular, it followeth that precisely and absolutely we ought not to say the other. Which precise and absolute terms are needless in this case. We speak of infants as the rule of piety alloweth both to speak and think. They that can take to themselves in ordinary talk, a charitable kind of liberty to name men of their own sort GOD'S dear children, (notwithstanding the large reign of hypocrisy,) should not, methinks, be so strict and rigorous against the Church, for presuming as it doth of a Christian innocent. For when we know how CHRIST in general hath said, of such is the kingdom of heaven, which kingdom is the inheritance of GOD'S elect; and do withal behold how His providence hath called them unto the first beginnings of eternal life, and presented them at the well-spring of new birth, wherein original sin is purged, besides which sin there is no hindrance of their salvation known to us, as themselves will grant; hard it were that having so many fair inducements whereupon to ground, we should not be thought to utter, at the least, a truth as probable and allowable in terming any such particular infant an elect babe, as in presuming the like of others whose safety, nevertheless, we are not absolutely able to warrant.
Now CHRIST is baptized. And no sooner is He so, but He falls to His prayers, Indigentia mater orationis, (we say) want begets prayer: therefore, yet there wants somewhat--a part, and that a chief part of baptism is still behind.
There goes more to baptism, if it be as it should be, than baptismus fluminis, yea, (I may boldly say,) there goes more to it, if it be as it should, than baptismus sanguinis. CHRIST "came in water and blood, not in water only, but in water and blood:" that is not enough, except the "Spirit also bear witness." So baptismus flaminis is to come too. There is to be a Trinity beneath,--1. water, 2. blood, and 3. the Spirit, to answer to that above: but (the Spirit's baptism coming too) in the mouth of all three, all is made sure, all established thoroughly. This is it, He prays for, as man.
For the baptism of blood that was due to every one of us, (and each of us to have been baptized in his own blood, to have had three such immersions,) that hath CHRIST quit us of. When he was asked by the prophet, "How his robes came so red?" He says, "He had been in the wine press;" but there He had been, and that "He had trod alone, and not one of the people with Him;" none but He there; in that, spare us in that. But the other two parts He sets down precisely to Nicodemus (and in him, to us all,)--1. water, 2. and the Holy Ghost.... St. Paul tells us (Col. ii.) that besides the circumcision, that was the manufacture, there was another made without hands. There is so in baptism, besides the hand seen, that casts on the water, the virtue of the Holy Ghost is there, working, without hands, what here was wrought.
And for this CHRIST prays; that then it might, might then, and might ever, be joined to that of the water. Not in his baptism only, but in the people's; and (as he afterwards enlarges His prayer) in all others that "should ever after believe in His name:" that what in His (here) was, in all theirs might be; what in this first, in all following; what in CHRIST'S, in all Christians; heaven might open, the Holy Ghost come down, the Father be pleased to say over the same words, toties quoties, so oft as any Christian man's child is brought to his baptism. CHRIST hath prayed, now,
See the force of His prayer. Before it heaven was mured up, no dove to be seen, no voice to be heard, Altum silentium. But straight upon it (as if they had but waited the last word of His prayer) all of them follow immediately.
Heaven opens, first. For, if when the lower heaven was shut three years, Elias was able with his prayer to open it, (it is our Saviour in the next chapter following,) and bring down rain; the prayer of CHRIST (who is more of might than many such as Elias) shall it not be much more of force, to enter the Heaven of heavens, the highest of them all, and to bring down thence the waters "above the heavens," even the heavenly graces of the Holy Spirit?
For so, when our Saviour cried, (John vii.) "If any thirst," &c. "This (saith St. John) He spake of the Spirit." For the Spirit and His graces are the very supercelestial water; one drop whereof, infused into the waters of Jordan, will give them an admirable power to pierce even into the innermost parts of the soul: and to baptize it, (that is) not only to take out the stains of it, and make it clean; but further, give it a tincture, lustre, or gloss; for so is baptism properly of baptw, taken from the dyer's fat, and is a dying or giving a fresh colour, and not a bare washing only.
Always, the opening of heaven, opens unto us, that no baptism without heaven open: and so, that baptism is de caelo non ab hominibus, from heaven, not of men. So was it here; so is it to be holden for ever. 2. And from heaven; not clanculum (as Prometheus is said to get his fire), but anewcqhnai, orderly, by a fair door set open, in the view of much people; for all that were present saw the impression in the sky. Which door was not mured up again; for we find it still open, (Apoc. iiii.) and we find that keys were made, and given of it, after this. 3. And all this, that there might not only be a passage for these down, but for us up. For heaven gate, ab hoc exemplo, doth ever open at baptism; in sign, he that new cometh from the fount hath then right of entrance in thither. Then (I say) when by baptism he is cleansed; for before, Nihil inquinatum, nothing defiled can enter there.
The water of Baptism, is the water that runs through all the Fathers; all the Fathers that had occasion to dive or dip in these waters (to say anything of them) make these first waters, in the creation, the figure of baptism. Therefore Tertullian makes the water, Primam sedem Spiritus Sancti, the progress, and the settled house, the voyage, and the harbour, the circumference, and the centre of the Holy Ghost. And therefore St. Hierome calls these waters, Matrem mundi, the Mother of the world; and this in the figure of baptism. The waters brought forth the whole world, were delivered of the whole world, as a mother is delivered of a child; and this, in figura baptismi, to foreshew that the waters also should bring forth the Church; that the Church of GOD should be born of the Sacrament of Baptism. So says Damascen, and he establishes it with better authority than his own. The divine Basil said, (saith he) "The Spirit of GOD wrought upon the waters in the creation, because he meant to do so after, in the regeneration of man. And therefore, Pristinam sedem recognoscens conquiescit, till the Holy Ghost have moved upon our children in baptism, let us not think all done that belongs to those children; and when the Holy Ghost hath moved upon those waters, so in baptism, let us not doubt of His power and effect upon all those children that die so. We know no means how those waters could have produced a minnow, a shrimp, without the Spirit of GOD had moved upon them; and by this motion of the Spirit of GOD, we know they produce whales, and leviathans. We know no ordinary means of any saving grace for a child but baptism; neither are we to doubt of the fulness of salvation, in them that have received it. And for ourselves, mergimur et emergimus, in baptism we are sunk under water, and then raised above the water again; which was the manner of baptizing in the Christian Church, by immersion, and not by aspersion, till of late times: Affectus et amores, (says he,) our corrupt affections, and our inordinate love of this world is that, that is to be drowned in us; Amor securitatis, a love of peace, and holy assurance, and acquiescence in GOD's ordinance, is that that lifts us above water.
Therefore that Father puts all upon the due consideration of our baptism: and as St. Jerome says, Certainly he that thinks upon the last Judgment advisedly, cannot sin thus; so he that says with St. Augustine, Let me make every day to GOD, this confession: Domine, &c. O Lord my GOD, O holy, holy, holy Lord my GOD; I consider that I was baptized in thy name, and what thou promised me, and what I promised thee then, and can I sin this sin? can this sin stand with those conditions, those stipulations which passed between us then? The Spirit of GOD is motion, the Spirit of GOD is rest too; and in due consideration of baptism, a true Christian is moved, and settled too; moved to a sense of the breach of his conditions, settled in the sense of the mercy of his GOD, in the merits of his CHRIST, upon his GODly sorrow. So these waters are the waters of baptism.
This was the fault of sundry in the Primitive Church; and which was yet more to be condemned, many did therefore defer and put off their baptism, that so whatsoever evil things they did in the mean time, might in that laver of new birth be washed away, thereby taking greater liberty to offend, for that they had so present means of full remission, and perfect reconciliation; so making that which was ordained against sin, and for the weakening and overthrow of it, to be an encouragement thereunto, and to give life and strength unto it.
JACKSON, PRESBYTER AND DOCTOR.--On CHRIST's exercise of his everlasting Priesthood, ch. i. (vol. iii. p. 271.)
It is no part of our Church's doctrine or meaning, that the washing, or sprinkling infants' bodies with consecrated water, should take away sins by its own immediate virtue. To affirm thus much implies, as I conceive, a contradiction to that apostolical doctrine. "The like figure whereunto even Baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward GOD) by the resurrection of Jesus CHRIST, who is gone into heaven," &c. 1 Pet. iii. 21. The meaning of our Church intends no further than thus: That if this sacrament of Baptism be duly administered, the blood, or bloody sacrifice of CHRIST, or (which is all one) the influence of His Spirit doth always accompany, or is concurrent to this solemn act. But whether this influence of His Spirit or virtual presence of His body and blood be either immediately or only terminated to the soul and spirit of the party baptized, or have some virtual influence upon the water of Baptism as a mean to convey the Grace of Regeneration unto the soul of the party baptized, whilst the water is poured upon him, is too nice and curious a question, in this age, for sober Christians to debate or contend about. It may suffice to believe that this sacramental pledge hath a virtual presence of CHRIST's Blood, or some real influence from his Body, concomitant, though not consubstantiated to it, which is prefigured or signified by the washing or sprinkling the body with water.
But it will be, or rather is objected, but only by private or some saucy spirits, That if the doctrine of our Church were true and sound, then all that be rightly baptized should be undoubtedly saved, being once washed or cleansed from their sins. The objection were of some force, if the Church of England did hold or maintain such doctrine or tenets as they do which make or favour it; to wit, That the sins of the elect only are remitted by Baptism, or by Sacrament of CHRIST's Body and Blood; or, that sins once remitted cannot be remitted afresh; or, that the party which is once pardoned for his sins, before committed, cannot afterwards be condemned. The orthodoxal truth is, That albeit the original sin of children truly baptized in the name of CHRIST, or the actual sins of young or elder men so baptized, and the sins of their forefathers (so far as it concerns men of riper years to repent them of both) be so truly remitted in Baptism, that neither young men nor old may be baptized again; yet the stipulation of a good conscience, wherein the internal Baptism (as St. Peter tells) doth consist, may and ought, by the law of GOD and of CHRIST's Church, to be reiterated.
And this stipulation of every Christian, male or female, though baptized after they have passed their nonage for civil contracts, ought to be resumed or reacknowledged as often as they intend to receive the sacramental pledges of CHRIST's Body and Blood, either privately or in the public congregation. But for all such as have been baptized in their infancy, the personal resumption or ratification of that vow, which their fathers and mothers in GOD did make for them at the sacred laver, is to be exacted of them, ore tenus, in some public congregation, before they can be lawfully admitted to be public communicants of CHRIST's Body and Blood.
If either the actual sins of all men, or the sins of the elect in special, had been so remitted by CHRIST's death, as some conceive they were, that is, absolutely pardoned before they were committed, there had been no end or use of CHRIST's Resurrection in respect of us; no need of Baptism: yet was Baptism, from the hour of His resurrection, necessary unto all that did believe in His death and resurrection. The urgent and indispensable necessity of Baptism, especially in respect of actual believers, is not anywhere more emphatically intimated than in St. Peter's answer to the Jews, whose hearts were pierced with sorrow that they had been the causes of CHRIST's death. They in this stound or sting of conscience demand, "Men and brethren, what shall we do? And Peter answered them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus CHRIST for the remission of sins. And they that gladly received the word were baptized the same day." Acts ii. 37, 38. 41. These men had been deeply tainted with sin, not original only, but with sins actual of the worst kind; guilty they were, in a high degrees of the death of the Son of GOD, yet had they as well their actual as their original sins remitted by baptism. It is then unsound and imperfect doctrine, that sin original only is taken away or remitted by Baptism; for whatsoever sins are remitted or taken away by CHRIST's death, the same sins are in the same manner remitted and taken away by Baptism into His death; actual sins are remitted, in such as are guilty of actual sins when they are baptized, though only sin original be actually remitted in those which are not guilty of actual sins, as in infants. Now man's sins are actually remitted before he be actually guilty of them.
The question is, how either sin original is remitted, or how any work of Satan is dissolved by Baptism; and this question, in the general, is rightly resolved, by saying, "They are remitted by faith." But this general resolution sufficeth not, unless we know the object of our faith in this particular. Now the particular object of our faith, of that faith by which sins (whether by Baptism or otherwise) are remitted, is not our general belief in CHRIST; even our belief in CHRIST dying for us in particular, will not suffice, unless it include our belief of the everlasting virtue of His bloody sacrifice, and of His everlasting priesthood for purifying and cleansing our souls. No sins be truly remitted unless they be remitted by the office or exercise of His priesthood; and whilst so remitted they are not remitted by any other sacrifice than by the sole virtue of His body and blood, which He "once offered for all," for the sins of all. It is not the virtue or efficacy of the consecrated water in which we were washed, but the virtue of His blood which was once shed for us, and which, by Baptism, is sprinkled upon us, or communicated unto us, which immediately cleanseth us from all our sins. From this everlasting virtue of this His bloody sacrifice, faith, by the ministry of Baptism, is immediately gotten in such as had it not before. And in such as have faith before they be baptized, the guilt of actual sins is remitted by the exercise or act of faith, as it apprehends the everlasting efficacy of this sacrifice, and by the prayer of faith, and supplication unto our High Priest. Faith, then, is as the mouth or appetite by which we receive this food of life, and is a good sign of health; but it is the food itself received, which must continue health and strengthen spiritual life in us; and the food of life is no other than CHRIST's body and blood; and it is our High Priest himself which must give us this food.
Baptism, saith St. Peter (1 Pet. iii. 20.), doth save us. What Baptism doth save us? not the putting away the filth of the flesh, (yet this is the immediate effect of the water in Baptism,) but the answer (or stipulation) of a good conscience towards GOD! But how doth this kind of Baptism, or this concomitant of Baptism save us? The Apostle, in the same place, tells us, "by the resurrection of Jesus CHRIST." "The answer or stipulation of a good conscience," includes an illumination of our spirits by the Spirit of GOD; a qualification by which we are made sons of light, being before the sons of darkness. But, that by this qualification we become the sons of light; that this qualification is, by Baptism, wrought in us; that by this qualification, however wrought in us, we are saved from our sins; all this is immediately from the "virtue of CHRIST's Resurrection." That is, as you have heard before, he was consecrated by the sufferings of death to be an everlasting Priest, and by his resurrection from death, his body and blood became an everlasting propitiation for sins, an inexhaustible fountain of grace by which we are purified from the dead works of sin.
[St. Paul] saith, "that all that are baptized are dead to sin;" that is, first, they are "dead unto it by solemn vow or profession." Secondly, they are said to be "dead unto sin, or sin to be dead in them," inasmuch as they in Baptism receive an antidote from GOD by which the rage and poison of it might easily be assuaged or expelled, so they would not either receive that grace or means which GOD in Baptism exhibits unto them in vain, or use it amiss. So we may say that any popular disease is quelled or taken away, after a sovereign remedy be found against it, which never fails; so men will seek for it, reasonably apply for it, and observe that diet which the physician, upon the taking of it, prescribes unto them. Some in our times there be (and more, I think, than have been in all the former) which deny all baptismal grace. Others there be which grant some grace to be conferred by Baptism, even unto infants; but yet these restrain it only to infants elect. And this they take to be the meaning of our Church's Catechism, wherein children arc taught to believe [That as CHRIST, the second person in the Trinity, did redeem them and all mankind; so the Holy Ghost (the third person) doth sanctify them and all the elect people of GOD.]
But can any man be persuaded that it was any part of our Church's meaning, to teach children when they first make profession of their faith, to believe, that they are of the number of the elect; that is, of "such as cannot finally perish?" This were to teach them their faith backwards, and to seek the kingdom of heaven not ascendendo, by ascending, but descendendo, by descending from it. For higher than thus St. Paul himself, in his greatest perfection, could not possibly reach; no, nor the blessed angels, which have kept their first station almost these 6000 years. Yet certain it is, that our Church would have every one, at the very first profession of his faith, to believe that he is one of the elect people of GOD.
First, that Baptism is necessary to the salvation of infants (in the ordinary way of the Church, without binding GOD to the use and means of that sacrament, to which he hath bound us) is expressed in St. John iii. "Except a man be born of water," &c. So, no baptism, no entrance. Nor can infants creep in any other ordinary way. And this is the received opinion of all the ancient Church of CHRIST.
And, secondly, That infants ought to be baptized, is first plain by evident and direct consequence out of Scripture. For if there be no salvation for infants in the ordinary way of the Church but by Baptism, and this appear in Scripture, as it doth, then out of all doubt, the consequence is most evident out of that Scripture, that infants are to be baptized, that their salvation may be certain. For they which cannot help themselves, must not be left only to extraordinary helps, of which we have no assurance, and for which we have no warrant at all in Scripture, while we, in the mean time, neglect the ordinary way and means commanded by CHRIST. Secondly, it is very near an expression in Scripture itself. For when St. Peter had ended that great Sermon of his, Acts ii., he applies two comforts unto them, verse 38, "Amend your life," &c. And then, v. 39, he infers, "For the promise is made," &c. The promise; what promise? What? why the promise of sanctification by the Holy Ghost. By what means; Why, by Baptism. For it is expressly, "Be baptized, and ye shall receive." And as expressly, "This promise is made to you and to your children."
BRAMHALL, ARCHBISHOP AND CONFESSOR.--Of persons dying without Baptism, p. 979.
The discourse which happened the other day, about your little daughter, I had quite forgotten till you were pleased to mention it again last night. If any thing did fall from me, which gave offence to any there present, I am right sorrowful, but I hope there did not; as, on the other side, if any occasion of offence had been given to me, I should readily have sacrificed it to that reverend respect, which is due to the place your table, anciently accounted a sacred thing, and to the lord of it, yourself. This morning, lying musing in my bed, it produced some trouble to me, to consider how passionately we are all wedded to our own parties, and how apt we are all to censure the opinions of others before we understand them, while our want of charity is a greater error in ourselves, and more displeasing to Almighty GOD, than any of those supposed assertions which we condemn in others; especially when they come to be rightly understood. And to show this particular breach is not so wide, nor the more moderate of either party so disagreeing, as is imagined, I digested these sudden meditations, drawn wholly, in a manner, from the grounds of the Roman schools; and so soon as I was risen, I committed them to writing.
First, there is a great difference to be made between the sole want of Baptism upon invincible necessity, and the contempt or wilful neglect of Baptism when it may be had. The latter we acknowledge to be a damnable sin, and, without repentance and GOD'S extraordinary mercy, to exclude a man from all hope of salvation. But yet if such a person, before his death, shall repent and deplore his neglect of the means of grace, from his heart, and desire, with all his soul, to be baptized, but is debarred from it invincibly, we do not, we dare not pass sentence of condemnation upon him; nor yet the Roman Catholics themselves. The question then is, whether the want of Baptism, upon invincible necessity, do evermore infallibly exclude from heaven?
Secondly, we distinguish between the visible sign, and the invisible grace; between the exterior sacramental ablution, and the grace of the sacrament, that is, interior regeneration. We believe that whosoever hath the former, hath the latter also, so that he do not put a bar against the efficacy of the sacrament by his infidelity or hypocrisy, of which a child is not capable. And therefore our very Liturgy doth teach, that a child baptized, dying before the commission of actual, sin, is undoubtedly saved.
Thirdly, we believe that without baptismal grace, that is, regeneration, no man can enter into the kingdom of GOD. But whether GOD hath so tied and bound himself to His ordinances and sacraments that He doth not or cannot confer the grace of the sacraments, extraordinarily, where it seemeth good to His eyes, without the outward element; this is the question between us.
HAMMOND, PRESBYTER, CONFESSOR, AND DOCTOR.--Sermon XV.--A New Creature.
It is observable, that our state of nature and sin is, in Scripture, expressed ordinarily by old age, the natural sinful man; that is, all our natural affections that are born and grow up with us, are called the old man; as if, since Adam's fall, we were decrepit and feeble, and aged as soon as born, as a child begotten by a man in a consumption never comes to the strength of a man, is always weak, and crazy, and puling, hath all the imperfections and corporal infirmities of age before he is out of his infancy. And, according to this ground, the whole analogy of Scripture runs; all that is opposite to the old decrepit state, to the dotage of nature, is new. The new covenant, Mark i. 27. The language of believers, new tongues, Mark xvi. 17. A new commandment, John xiii. 34. A new man, Eph. ii. 15. In sum, the state of grace is expressed by panta kaina, all is become new, 2 Cor. v. 17. So that old and new, as it divides the Bible, the whole state of things, the world; so it doth that to which all these serve, man; every natural man which hath nothing but nature in him, is an o]d man, be he never so young, is full of years, even before he is able to tell them. Adam was a perfect man when he was but a minute old, and all his children are old even in the cradle, nay, even dead with old age, Eph. ii. 5. And, then, consequently, every spiritual man, which hath somewhat else in him than he receiveth from Adam, he that is born from above, John iii. 3, gennhqh anwqen, (for it may be so rendered from the original, as well as born again, as our English read it), he that is by GOD'S Spirit quickened from the old death, Eph. ii. 5., he is, contrary to the former, a new man, a new creature; the old eagle hath cast his beak and is grown young; the man, when old, hath entered the second time into his mother's womb, and is born again; all the grey hairs and wrinkles fall off from him, as the scales from blind Tobit's eyes, and he comes forth a refined, glorious, beauteous new creature: you would wonder to see the change. So that you find, in general, that the Scripture presumes it, that there is a renovation, a casting away the old coat, a youth and spring again in many men, from the old age and weak bedrid state of nature. Now that you may conceive wherein it consists, how this new man is brought forth in us, by whom it is conceived, and in what womb it is carried, I will require no more of you, than to observe and understand with me, what is meant by the ordinary phrase in our divines, a new principle, or inward principle of life, and that you shall do briefly thus. A man's body is naturally a sluggish, inactive, motionless, heavy thing, not able to stir or move the least animal motion, without a soul to enliven it; without that, it is but a carcase, as you see at death, when the soul is separated from it, it returns to be but a stock or lump of flesh; the soul bestows all life and motion on it, and enables it to perform any work of nature. Again, the body and soul together, considered in relation to somewhat above their power and activity, are as impotent and as motionless as before the body without the soul. Set a man to remove a mountain, and he will heave, perhaps, to obey your command, but in event will do no more towards the displacing of it, than a stone in the street could do: but now, let an omnipotent power be annexed to this man, let a supernatural spirit be joined to this soul, and then will it be able to overcome the proudest, stoutest difficulty in nature. You have heard, in the Primitive Church, of a grain of faith removing mountains; and believe me, all miracles are not yet outdated. The work of regeneration, the bestowing of a spiritual life on one dead in trespasses and sins, the making of a carcase walk, the natural old man to spring again, and move spiritually, is as great a miracle as that......
For the third question, when this new principle enters: first you are to know, that it comes into the heart in a threefold condition; first, as an harbinger; secondly, as a private secret guest; thirdly, as an inhabitant or housekeeper. As it is an harbinger, so it comes to fit and prepare us for itself; trims up, and sweeps, and sweetens the soul, that it may be readier to entertain him when he comes to reside; and that he doth (as the ancient gladiators had their arma praelusoria) by skirmishing with our corruptions, before he comes to give them a pitched battle; he brandishes a flaming sword about our ears, and as by a flash of lightning, gives us a sense of a dismal, hideous state; and so somewhat restrains us from excess and fury; first, by a momentary remorse, then by a more lasting, yet not purifying flame, the spirit of bondage. In sum, every check of conscience, every sigh for sin, every fear of judgment, every desire of grace, every motion or inclination toward spiritual good, be it ever so short-winded, is praeludium spiritus, a kind of John Baptist to CHRIST, something that GOD sent before "to prepare the ways of the Lord." And thus the Spirit comes very often; in every affliction, every disease, (which is part of GOD'S discipline, to keep us in order,) in brief, at every sermon that works upon us at the hearing: then, I say, the lightning flashes in our eyes; we have a glimpse of his Spirit, but cannot come to a full sight of it: and thus he appears to many, whom he will never dwell with. Unhappy men, that cannot lay hold on him, when he comes so near them! and yet somewhat more happy than they that never came within ken of him; stopt their ears when he spake to them even at this distance. Every man in the Christian Church hath frequently, in his life, a power to partake of GOD'S ordinary preparing graces: and it is some degree of obedience, though no work of regeneration, to make good use of them; and if he without the inhabitance of the Spirit, cannot make such use as he should, yet to make the best he can: and thus, I say, [i. e. in a parallel way] the Spirit appears to the unregenerate, almost every day of our lives. 2ndly, when this Spirit comes a guest to lodge with us, then he is said to enter; but till by actions and frequent obliging works, he makes himself known to his neighbours, as long as he keeps his chamber, till he declare himself to be there, so long he remains a private secret guest, and that is called the introduction of the form, that makes a man to be truly regenerate; when the seed is sown in his heart, when the habit is infused, and that is done sometimes discernibly, sometimes not discernibly, but seldom, as when Saul was called in the midst of his madness, Acts ix., he was certainly able to tell a man the very minute of his change, of his being made a new creature. Thus they which have long lived in an enormous AntiChristian course, do many times find themselves strucken on a sudden, and are able to date their regeneration, and tell you punctually how old they are in the Spirit. Yet because there be many preparations to this Spirit, which are not this Spirit, many presumptions in our hearts false grounded, many tremblings and jealousies in those that have it, great affinity between faith natural and spiritual: seeing it is a Spirit that thus enters, and not as it did light on the Disciples, in a bodily shape, it is not an easy matter for any one to define the time of his conversion. Some may guess somewhat nearer than others, as remembering a sensible change in themselves; but, in a word, the surest discerning of it is in its working, not at its entering. I may know that now I have the Spirit, better than at what time I came to it. Undiscernibly GOD'S supernatural agency interposes sometimes in the mother's womb, as in John Baptist springing in Elizabeth at Mary's salutation, (Luke i. 41.) and perhaps in Jeremy, (Jer. i. 5.) "Before thou earnest out of the womb, I sanctified thee," and (in Isa. xlix. 5.) "The LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant." But this divine address attends most ordinarily till the time of our Baptism, when the Spirit, accompanying the outward sign, infuses itself into their hearts, and there seats and plants itself, and grows up with the reasonable soul, keeping even their most luxuriant years within bounds; and as they come to an use of their reason, to a more and more multiplying this habit of grace into holy spiritual acts of faith and obedience; from which it is ordinarily said, that infants baptized have habitual faith, as they may be also said to have habitual repentance, and habits of all other graces, because they have the root and seed of those beauteous, healthful flowers, which will actually flourish there when they come to years. And this, I say, is so frequent to be performed at Baptism, that ordinarily it is not wrought without that means, and in those means we may expect it, as our Church doth in our Liturgy, where she presumes, at every Baptism, that it hath pleased GOD to regenerate the infant by his Holy Spirit. And this may prove a solemn piece of comfort to some, who suspect their state more than they need, and think it impossible that they should be in a regenerate condition, because they have not as yet found any such notable change in themselves, as they see and observe in others. These men may as well be jealous they are not men, because they cannot remember when their soul came to them: if they can find the effects of spiritual life in themselves, let them call it what they will, a religious education, or a custom of well-doing, or an unacquaintedness with sin; let them comfort themselves in their estate, and be thankful to GOD who visited them thus betimes; let it never trouble them that they were not once as bad as other men, but rather acknowledge GOD'S mercy, who hath prevented such a change, and by uniting them to Him in the cradle, hath educated and nursed them up in familiarity with the Spirit.
TAYLOR, BISHOP, CONFESSOR, AND DOCTOR.--Life of CHRIST, sect. 9.--On Baptism, part ii. 16.
Thirdly, in baptism we are born again; and this infants need in the present circumstances, and for the same great reason that men of age and reason do. For our natural birth is either of itself insufficient, or is made so by the fall of Adam, and the consequent evils, that nature alone, or our first birth, cannot bring us to heaven, which is a supernatural end, that is, an end above all the power of our nature as now it is. So that if nature cannot bring us to heaven, grace must, or we can never get thither; if the first birth cannot, a second must: but the second birth spoken of in Scripture is baptism; "a man must be born of water and the Spirit." And therefore baptism is loutron paliggenesiaV, "the laver of a new birth." Either then infants cannot go to heaven any way that we know of, or they must be baptized. To say they are left to GOD, is an excuse, and no answer; for when GOD hath opened the door, and calls that the "entrance into heaven," we do not leave them to GOD, when we will not carry them to Him in the way which He hath described, and at the door which Himself hath opened: we leave them indeed, but it is but helpless and destitute: and though GOD is better than man, yet that is no warrant to us; what it will be to the children, that we cannot warrant or conjecture. And if it he objected, that to the new birth are required dispositions of our own, which are to he wrought by and in them that have the use of reason; besides that, this is wholly against the analogy of a new birth, in which the person to be born is wholly a passive, and hath put into him the principle that in time will produce its proper actions; it is certain that they that can receive the new birth, are capable of it. The effect of it is a possibility of being saved, and arriving to a supernatural felicity. If infants can receive this effect, then also the new birth, without which they cannot receive the effect. And if they can receive salvation, the effect of the new birth, what hinders them but they may receive that, that is in order to that effect, and ordained only for it, and which is nothing of itself, but in its institution and relation, and which may be received by the same capacity, in which one may be created, that is, a passivity, or a capacity obediential?
Fourthly; concerning pardon of sins, which is one great effect of baptism, it is certain that infants have not that benefit, which men of sin and age may receive. He that hath a sickly stomach, drinks wine, and it not only refreshes his spirits, but cures his stomach: he that drinks wine, and hath not that disease, receives good by his wine, though it does not minister to so many needs; it refreshes, though it does not cure him: and when oil is poured upon a man's head, it does not always heal a wound, but sometimes makes him a cheerful countenance, sometimes it consigns him to be a king, or a priest. So it is in baptism: it does not heal the wounds of actual sins, because they have not committed them; but it takes off the evil of original sin: whatsoever is imputed to us by Adam's prevarication, is washed off by the death of the second Adam, into which we are baptized.
HEYLIN, PRESBYTER AND CONFESSOR.--On the Apostles' Creed. Art. x. Chap. vi.
In which, [Article the 27th] lest any should object, as Dr. Harding did against Bishop Jewell, that we make baptism to be nothing but a sign of regeneration, and that we dare not say, as the Catholic Church teacheth, according to the Holy Scriptures, "That in and by baptism, sins are fully and truly remitted, and put away," we will reply with the said most reverent and learned prelate, (a man who well understood the Church's meaning,) That we confess, and have ever taught, that in the Sacrament of Baptism, by the death and blood of CHRIST, is given remission of all manner of sins; and that not in half, or in part, or by way of imagination and fancy, but full, whole, and perfect of all together; and that if any man affirm, that "Baptism giveth not full remission of sins," it is no part nor portion of our doctrine. To the same effect also saith judicious Hooker, "Baptism is a Sacrament," &c. [quoted above]......But because these were private men, neither of which, for aught appears, had any hand in the first setting out of the Book of Articles, (which was in the reign of King Edward the Sixth,) though Bishop Jewell had in the second edition, when they were reviewed and published in Queen Elizabeth's time; let us consult the Book of Homilies, made and set out by those who composed the Articles; and there we find, that by GOD's mercy and the virtue of that sacrifice which our High Priest and Saviour CHRIST JESUS, the Son of GOD, once offered for us upon the cross, we do obtain GOD'S grace, and remission, as well of our original sin in baptism, as of all actual sin committed by us after baptism, if we truly repent and turn unfeignedly unto Him again. Which doctrine of the Church of England, as it is consonant to the Word of GOD in Holy Scripture, so is it also most agreeable to the common and received judgment of pure antiquity. For in the Scripture it is said expressly by St. Peter, &c. &c. This also was the judgment of the ancient writers, and that too long before the starting of the Pelagian heresies, to which much is ascribed by some as to the advancing of the efficacy and fruit of baptism, by succeeding Fathers. For thus Tertullian; "Now (saith he) do the waters daily preserve the people of GOD, death being destroyed and overthrown by the washing away of sins; for where the guilt is taken away, there is the punishment remitted also." St. Cyprian thus; "That the remission of sins, whether given in baptism, or by any other of the sacraments, is properly to be ascribed to the Holy Ghost." The African Fathers in full Council do affirm the same, and so doth Origen also for the Alexandrian, of both which we shall speak anon in the point of Paedobaptism. Thus Nyssen for the Eastern churches: "Baptism (saith he) is the expiation of our sins, the remission of our offences, the cause of our new birth and regeneration." Thus do the Fathers in the Constantinopolitan Council profess their faith in one baptism (or being only once baptized) "for the remission of sins." And finally, that this was the doctrine of the Church in general, before Augustine's time, who is conceived to be the first that did advance the power and efficacy of baptism to so great a height, in opposition to the Pelagian heresies, appears by a byword grown before his time into frequent use; the people being used to say, when they observed a man to be too much addicted to his lusts and pleasures, Let him alone to take his pleasure, "for as yet the man is not baptized." More of this we shall see anon in that which follows. Nor is this only Primitive, but good Protestant doctrine, as is most clear and evident by that of Zanchius, whom only I shall instance in, of the later writers. "When the minister baptizeth, I believe that CHRIST with his own hand, reacheth as it were from heaven, besprinkleth the infant with his blood to the remission of sins, by the hand of that man whom I see besprinkling him with the waters of baptism." So that I cannot choose but marvel how it comes to pass, that it must now be reckoned for a point of Popery, that the "Sacraments are instrumental causes of our justification," or of the "remission of our sins," or that it is a point of learning, of which neither the Scriptures, nor the reformed religion, have taught us anything. So easy a thing it is to blast that with Popery, which any way doth contradict our own private fancies.
In our Israel by our covenant there is as much of this required, for we were all initiated into our profession by washing, "regenerated in a laver," and "born again of water," becoming so Tertullian's sanctitatis designati, set aside for holiness, consecrated to cleanness, and made the votaries of purity: how clean a thing then must a Christian be who must be washed into the name? nor is he thus washed only in the font, there was a more inestimable "fountain opened for sin and uncleanness." (Apoc. xi. 5.) "Jesus CHRIST hath washed us in his own blood;" and Heb. ix. 14. "The blood of CHRIST did purge our consciences from dead works to serve the living GOD." How great is our necessity of being clean, when to provide a means to make us so, GOD opens his Son's side, and our laver is drawn out of the heart of CHRIST. Yet we have more effusions to contribute to it. (1 Cor. vi. 11.) "But ye are washed," &c. and we must "be baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire." A laver of flame also to wash away our scurfe as well as sallages, and beyond all these, some of us have been purged too with the fiery trial, and molten in the furnace of affliction, to separate our dross and purify us from alloy, that we may be clean and refined too, may become Christians of the highest carrect.
BARROW, PRESBYTER AND DOCTOR.--Of the Holy Ghost. Serm. xlv. vol. iii. p. 370.
The memorial therefore of that most gracious and glorious dispensation, [of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, &c.] the Christian Church wisely and piously hath continually preserved, obliging us at this time peculiarly to bless GOD for that incomparable and inestimable gift conferred then most visibly upon the Church, and still really bestowed upon every particular member duly incorporated thereinto.
I say bestowed upon every particular member of the Church, for the evangelical covenant doth extend to every Christian; and a principal ingredient thereof is the collation of this Spirit, which is the finger of GOD, whereby (according to the Prophet Jeremy's description of that covenant) "GOD'S law is put into their inward parts, and written in their hearts!" inscribed (as St. Paul allusively speaketh) not with ink, but by the Spirit, &c.; not only as the Jewish law, represented from without to the senses, but impressed within upon the mind and affections; "whence GOD'S Spirit is called the Spirit of promise, the donation thereof being the peculiar promise of the Gospel; and the end of our Saviour's undertaking is by St. Paul declared, "that we might receive the promise of the Spirit by faith;" that is, by embracing Christianity might partake thereof, according to GOD'S promise; and the apostolical ministry or exhibition of the Gospel is styled "the ministration of the Spirit," and tasting "of the heavenly gift, and participation of the Holy Ghost," is part of a Christian's character; and the inception of Christianity is described by St. Paul, "But we are bound to give thanks," &c. (2 Thess. ii. 13.) and our Saviour instructed Nicodemus, that no man can enter into the kingdom of GOD (that is, become a Christian, or subject of GOD'S spiritual kingdom,) without being regenerated by water and by the spirit, that is, without baptism, and the spiritual grace attending it, according as St. Peter doth in the words adjoining to our text imply, that the reception of the Holy Spirit is annexed to holy baptism; "Repent (saith he) and be baptized every one," &c.... "for the promise (that great promise of the Holy Ghost) is unto you," &c.....that is, the Holy Spirit is promised to all, how far soever distant in place and time, whoever shall be invited unto, and shall embrace the Christian profession. St. John also maketh it to be a distinctive mark of those, in whom CHRIST abideth, and who dwell in CHRIST, that is, of all true Christians, to have this Spirit; "Hereby [saith he] we know that he abideth in us by the Spirit," &c..... and St. Paul denieth him to be a good Christian who is destitute thereof. "Now (saith he) if any man have not the Spirit," &c.... "and know ye not, (saith he to the Corinthians) that ye are the temple," &c........that is, Do ye not understand this to be a common privilege of all Christians, such as ye profess yourselves to be? And the conversion of men to Christianity he thus expresseth, "After the kindness and love of GOD our Saviour," &c. (Tit. iii. 4.). And all pious dispositions qualifying us for entrance into heaven and happiness (faith, charity, devotion, every grace, every virtue) are represented to be the fruits of the Holy Spirit. And the union of all Christians into one body; the Catholic society of all truly faithful people, doth, according to St. Paul, result from this one Spirit, as a common soul animating and actuating them: "For (saith he) by one Spirit are they all baptized," &c.....
In fine, whatever some few persons, or some petty sects (as the Pelagians of old, the Socinians now) may have deemed, it hath been the doctrine constantly, and with very general consent, delivered in the Catholic Church, that to all persons by the holy mystery of baptism duly initiated to Christianity, or admitted into the communion of CHRIST'S body, the grace of GOD'S Holy Spirit certainly is bestowed, enabling them to perform the conditions of piety and virtue then undertaken by them; enlightening their minds, rectifying their wills, purifying their affections, directing and assisting them in their practice; the which holy gift (if not abused, ill treated, driven away, or quenched by their ill behaviour) will perpetually be continued, improved, and increased to them; it is therefore by Tertullian (in his prescriptions against heretics,) reckoned as part of that fundamental rule which was grounded upon the general tradition and consent of the Christian Church, that "CHRIST had sent the virtue of the Holy Ghost, in his room, which doth act believers;" to which that article doth answer of the Apostolical creed, in which we profess to believe the Holy Ghost, meaning, I suppose, thereby, not only the bare existence of the Holy Ghost, but also its gracious communication and energy.
It is demanded in the second place, what is that regeneration by that Holy Ghost, and wherein it consists, whereof infants that are baptized can be thought capable. For the wild conceits of those that imagine them to have faith in CHRIST (which without actual motion of the mind, is not), require miracles to be wrought of course, by baptizing, that the effect thereof may come to pass. And if the state of grace (which the habitual grace of GOD'S Spirit either supposeth or inferreth) is not to be attained but by the resolution of embracing the covenant of grace, (as, by all the premises, it is not otherwise attended), it will be every whit as hard to say what is that habitual grace, that is said to be poured into the souls of infants that are baptized, being nothing else but a facility in doing what the covenant of Grace requireth. But, if we conceive the regeneration of infants that are baptized to consist in the habitual assistance of GOD'S Spirit, the effects whereof are to appear, in making them able to perform that which their Christianity requires at their hands, so soon as they shall understand themselves to be obliged by it; we give reason enough of the effect of their baptism, whether they die or live, and yet become not liable to any inconvenience. For supposing the assistance of GOD'S Spirit, assigned them by the promise of baptism, to take effect when their bodily instruments enable the soul to act as Christianity requireth; if the soul, by death, come to be discharged of them, can any thing be said why original concupiscence, which is the law of the members, should remain any more, to impeach the subjection of all faculties to the law of GOD'S Spirit? Or will it be any thing strange, that when they come to be taught Christianity, the same Spirit of GOD should be thought to sway them, to embrace it of their own choice, and not only in compliance with the will of their parents? Yet is this no more, than the regeneration of infants by water and the Holy Ghost importeth; that the Spirit of GOD should be habitually present, to make those reasons which GOD hath given to convince the world, that they ought to be Christians, both discernible to the understanding, and weighing down the choice; whereas, those that are converted from being enemies to GOD, (that is to say, at those years, when no man can be converted to GOD, that is not His enemy before), though the Spirit of GOD knock at their hearts without, striving to cast out the strong man that is within doors, and to make a dwelling for itself in the heart, are possessed by a contrary principle, till they yield GOD'S Spirit that entertainment which GOD requireth.
Being therefore we are that the preaching remission of sins belongeth not only certainly, but in some sense peculiarly, to the Church of CHRIST, it will be next considerable how this remission is conferred upon any person in the Church.
It is certain that forgiveness of sins was promised to all who were baptized in the name of CHRIST; and it cannot be doubted but all persons who did perform all things necessary to the receiving the ordinance of baptism, did also receive the benefit of that ordinance, which is remission of sins. "John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins." (Mark i. 4.) And St. Peter made this exhortation of his first sermon, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of JESUS CHRIST, for the remission of sins." (Acts ii. 38.) In vain doth doubting and fluctuating Socinus endeavour to evacuate the evidence of this Scripture; attributing the remission either to repentance without consideration of baptism, or else to the public profession of faith made in baptism; or if any thing must be attributed to baptism itself, it must be nothing but a declaration of such remission. For how will these shifts agree with that which Ananias said unto Paul, without any mention either of repentance or confession, "Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins:" (Acts xxii. 16.) and that which St. Paul, who was so baptized, hath taught us concerning the Church, that CHRIST doth "sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water." (Eph. v. 26.) It is therefore sufficiently certain that baptism, as it was instituted by CHRIST after the pre-administration of St. John, wheresoever it was received with all qualifications necessary in the person accepting, and conferred with all things necessary to be performed by the person administering, was most infallibly efficacious, as to this particular, that is, to the remission of all sins committed before the administration of this sacrament.
"And besides this," &c. (2 Pet. i. 5.) As if he had said, You have now, GOD be thanked, escaped the pollutions of the world, and are truly, I hope, converted to Christianity, and in baptism have been regenerated by the Holy Ghost (that he means by their being made partakers of the divine nature). This indeed is a very great achievement, and an invaluable mercy of GOD, vouchsafed to you; yet I beseech you, rest not here: but besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith, virtue, &c.
We must not presently turn our backs upon GOD so soon as the holy rite [baptism] is finished, but complete the solemnity by thanksgiving and prayer; and that we may do both, not only with the spirit, but with understanding, the minister doth here teach us what must be the subjects of our praises and petitions. I. Our praises must look back upon the grace already showed, and the benefits which are already given to this infant, which are principally two: 1. Internally it is regenerated; 2. Externally it is grafted into CHRIST'S Church, for which we must give hearty thanks to Almighty GOD. To which we must add, II. Our prayers, which must look forward upon the grace which will be needful to enable it to live answerable to this estate into which it is admitted; and this we must beg of Almighty GOD also, or else the former blessings will be altogether in vain. Now all this is plain, that no more would need to be added, but only that some with Nicodemus are apt to say, "How can these things be?" (John iii. 9.) Judging it impossible that so great a matter as regeneration can be effected so soon, and by so mean an instrument as they account it; whereas the effect is to be ascribed to the divine power of the Author, not to the intrinsic efficacy of the outward means: yet in regard we can never bless GOD heartily for a mercy unless we believe He hath bestowed it, we must labour to remove these scruples by a fuller account of this baptismal regeneration, that we may not withhold the divine praises, by our doubting and unbelief. The word regeneration is but twice (that I know of) used in Scripture; first, Matt. xix. 28, "Ye that have followed me in the regeneration;" where though (by altering the point--"followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man," &c.) it may signify the resurrection; yet as we read, it signifies the renewing of men by the Gospel and baptism. Secondly, (Tit. iii. 5.) "He saved us by the laver of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost," which is a paraphrase upon that of our Saviour, (John iii.) "Except a man be born of water," &c. And, because persons, come to age before their conversion, are first taught and persuaded by the Word of GOD, the language of Holy Writ enlarges the metaphor, and saith, Such as are begotten by the Word of GOD, (1 Cor. iv. 15.) and then born again or regenerated in baptism. In like manner speak the Fathers, who do constantly and unanimously affirm, that we are regenerated in, or by baptism. So that we must next enquire wherein this regeneration doth consist. And first, whereas both children and those of riper years are by nature dead in sin, so that they lie under the guilt and power thereof: our gracious Father doth here in baptism seal a covenant with us, wherein He promiseth to pardon us; and when this deadly load is removed, the soul receives as it were a new life, and takes new hopes and courage, being restored to the divine favour, and being set free from the sad expectations of unavoidable condemnation for former sin, original in infants, and both it and actual in those of riper years. Before this covenant we were dead in law, and by the pardon of our sins we are begotten again to a lively hope; and herein stands the first particular of our regeneration, viz. in the remission of sins, wherefore both Scripture and antiquity teach us, that baptism is the means for remission of sin, and hence they join pardon and regeneration commonly together, because this forgiveness puts us into a new estate, and an excellent condition in comparison of that which our natural birth had left us in.
Secondly; But further, by baptism we gain new relations, and old things being done away all things become new, &c......
Thirdly; Our corrupt nature is changed in baptism, and there is a renovation effected thereby, both as to the mortification of the old affections, and the quickening of the new, by the Holy Spirit, which is hereby given to all that put no bar or impediment unto it. This was the Ancients' doctrine, who affirmed a real change to be wrought, and believed the Spirit to be therein bestowed as GOD had promised, (Ezek. xxxvi. 25, 26.) "That he would sprinkle clean water," &c........ And it is manifest that in the first ages of the Church there were abundant of gifts and graces miraculously bestowed upon Christians in their baptism, and no doubt if the catechumens of our days who are at age, would prepare themselves as strictly by repentance, fasting, and prayer, as they of old did, they should find incomparable effects of this sacred laver, if not in as miraculous measures, yet to as real purposes; that is, they should be truly regenerated, and their hearts changed by the influence of the Divine Spirit. But some may doubt whether infants be regenerate in this sense, because they are not capable of giving any evidences of their receiving the Spirit, nor doth there any immediate effects of their regeneration appear; hence the Pelagians denied it, but they are therefore condemned by the Milevitan Council, Can. ii. and confuted by St. Aug. ad Bon. lib. iii. It is confessed they can shew no visible signs of spiritual life in the operations thereof, no more can they of their having a rational soul, for some time, and yet we know they have the power of reason within them; and since all infants are alike, either all do here receive a principle of new life, or none receive it; wherefore I see no reason why we may not believe as the ancients did, that GOD'S grace (which is dispensed according to the capacity of the suscipient) is here given to infants to heal their nature, and that He bestowed on them such measures of His Spirit as they can receive; for the malignant effects of the first Adam's sin are not larger than the free gift obtained by the second Adam's righteousness. (Rom. v. 15, 18.) And if it be asked how it comes to pass then, that so many children do afterwards fall off to all impurity? I answer, so do too many grown persons also, and neither infants nor men are so regenerated in this life, as absolutely to extinguish the concupiscence; for the flesh still will lust against the Spirit: but thus GOD gives the Spirit also to lust against the flesh. (Gal. v.)
Glory be to thee, O most indulgent Love, who in our baptism dost give us the Holy Spirit of Love, to be the principle of new life, and of love in us, to infuse into our souls a supernatural, habitual grace, and ability to obey and love thee, for which all love, all glory be to thee.
Glory be to thee, O compassionate Love, who, when we were conceived and "born in sin," of sinful parents, when we sprang from a root wholly corrupt, and were all "children of wrath," hast in our baptism "made us children" of thy own heavenly Father by adoption and grace; when we were heirs of hell, hast made us heirs of heaven, even joint heirs with thy own self, of thy own glory; for which, with all the powers of my soul, I adore and love thee.
The sum of all is, that hereby we are regenerated and born again. It is the sacrament of the new birth, by which we are put into a new state, and change all our relations: so that whereas before we were only the children of Adam, we are now taken to be the children of GOD; such of whom He will have a fatherly care, and be indulgent and merciful unto. We have now a relation likewise to CHRIST as our Head, and to the Holy Ghost as the Giver of life and grace. Yea, herein He grants remission of sin, and we are sanctified, and set apart to His uses. We being hereby given to Him, and He accepting of us, do become His possession and proper goods, and cannot without being guilty of the foulest robbery, sin against GOD. We are made hereby the temples of the Holy Ghost, the place where He, and nothing else is to inhabit; and being by this consecrated to Him, He likewise then enters upon His possession, and we are said thereby to receive the Holy Ghost; so that if we run into sin, we defile His house, and commit the greatest profaneness and impiety, and may be said very truly to do despite to the Spirit of GOD whereby we were sanctified.
BEVERIDGE, BISHOP AND DOCTOR.--On admission into the Church by Baptism. Vol. i. Serm. xxxv. p. 304.
But what he means by being "born of water and the Spirit," is now made a question: I say now, for it was never made so till of late years. For many ages together none doubted of it, but the whole Christian world took it for granted, that our Saviour, by these words, meant only that except a man be baptized according to His institution, he cannot enter into the kingdom of GOD; this being the most plain and obvious sense of the words, forasmuch as there is no other way of being born again of water, as well as of the Spirit, but only in the Sacrament of Baptism.
To understand what He means by being born again, we must call to mind what He saith in another place, "My kingdom is not of this world;" (John xviii. 36.) though it is in this world, it is not of it; it is not a secular or earthly kingdom, but a kingdom purely spiritual and heavenly: "It is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost;" (Rom. xiv. 17). And therefore when a man is born into this world, he is not thereby qualified for the kingdom of GOD, nor hath any right or title to it, no more than as if he had not been born at all; but before he enter into that, he must be born again, he must undergo another kind of birth than he had before: he was before born of the flesh, he must now be born of the Spirit; otherwise he cannot be capable of entering into such a kingdom as is altogether spiritual. Thus our Lord himself explains his own meaning in my text, by adding immediately in the next words, "That which is born of the flesh, is flesh," &c.... As if He had said, He that is born, as all men are at first, only of the flesh, such a one is altogether carnal and sensual; and so can be affected with nothing but the sensible objects of this world. But he that is born of the Spirit of GOD, thereby becomes a spiritual creature, and so is capable of those spiritual things of which the kingdom of GOD consisteth, "even of righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." And he whose mind is changed, and turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto GOD, is truly said to be born again; because he is quickened with another kind of life than he had before; and to be born of the Spirit of GOD, because it is by it that this new and spiritual life is wrought in him. So that he is now born into another world, even into the kingdom of GOD, where he hath GOD himself, of whom he is born, for his Father, and the kingdom of GOD for his portion and inheritance. And therefore it is, that except a man be thus born of the Spirit, it is impossible he should enter into the kingdom of GOD, seeing he can enter into it no other way, than by being born of the Spirit.
But that we may thus be born of the Spirit, we must be born also of water, which our Saviour here puts in the first place. Not as if there was any such virtue in water, whereby it could regenerate us, but because this is the rite or ordinance appointed by CHRIST, wherein to regenerate us by his Holy Spirit; our regeneration is wholly the act of the Spirit of CHRIST. But there must be something done on our parts in order to it, and something that is instituted and ordained by CHRIST himself, which in the Old Testament was circumcision; in the New, baptism, or washing with water; the easiest that could be invented, and the most proper to signify His cleansing and regenerating us by his Holy Spirit. And seeing this is instituted by CHRIST himself, as we cannot be born of water without the Spirit, neither can we, in an ordinary way, be born of the Spirit without water, used or applied in obedience and conformity to His institution. CHRIST hath joined them together, and it is not in our power to part them: he that would be born of the Spirit, must be born of water too......
As baptizing necessarily implies the use of water, so our being made thereby disciples of CHRIST, as necessarily implies our partaking of His Spirit: For all that are baptized, and so made the disciples of CHRIST, are thereby made the members of His body; and are therefore said to be baptized into CHRIST, (Rom. vi. 5. Gal. iii. 27.) But they who are in CHRIST, members of His body, must needs partake of the Spirit that is in Him their Head. Neither doth the Spirit of CHRIST only follow upon, but certainly accompanies the Sacrament of Baptism, when duly administered according to His institution. For as St. Paul saith, "By one Spirit we are all baptized into one body." (1 Cor. xii. 13.) So that in the very act of baptism, the Spirit unites us unto CHRIST, and makes us members of His body; and if of His body, then of His Church and kingdom, that being all His body. And therefore all who are rightly baptized with water, being at the same time baptized also with the Holy Ghost, and so born of water and the Spirit, they are, ipso facto, admitted into the kingdom of GOD, established upon earth, and if it be not their own fault, will as certainly attain to that which is in heaven.
Ibid. p. 306.--This I would desire all here present to take special notice of, that you may not be deceived by a sort of people risen up among us, who being led, as they pretend, by the light within them, are fallen into such horrid darkness, and damnable heresies, that they have quite laid aside the Sacrament of Baptism, and affirm, in flat contradiction to our Saviour's words, that they may be saved without it. I pray GOD to open their eyes, that they may not go blindfold into eternal damnation. And I advise you all, as you desire not to apostatize from the Christian religion, and as you tender your eternal salvation, take heed that you be never seduced by them, under any pretence whatsoever; but rather, if you be acquainted with any of them, do what you can to turn them from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto GOD again; that they may obtain forgiveness of their sins, and inheritance among them who are sanctified by faith in Him, who saith, "Except a man be born of water," &c.
Not only a man, in contradiction to a child, or a woman, but as it is in the original, ean mh tiV, except any one, any human creature whatsoever, man, woman, or child, "except he be born of water," &c.... So that our Lord is so far from excluding children from baptism, that He plainly includes them, speaking in such general terms, on purpose that we may know that no sort of people, old or young, can ever be saved without it. And so He doth too, where He commands, as was observed before, that "All nations should be made disciples by being baptized in the name of," &c.... For, under all nations, children must needs be comprehended, which make a great, if not the greatest part of all nations. And although these general expressions be sufficient to demonstrate the necessity of Infant Baptism, yet foreseeing that ignorant and unlearned people would be apt to wrest the Scriptures to their own destruction, He elsewhere commands children particularly to be brought unto Him, saying, "Suffer the little children," &c. (Mark x. 14.) But if the kingdom of GOD consist of children, as well as other people, they must of necessity be baptized, or born of water and the Spirit; for otherwise, He Himself saith, "They cannot enter into the kingdom."
Hence it is, that we find the Apostles baptizing whole families, children, if any, as well as others: and the whole Catholic Church, in all places and ages ever since, hath, constantly admitted the children of believing parents into the Church, by baptizing them according to the institution and command of our Saviour; none ever making any question of it, but all Christians, all the world over, taking it for granted that it ought to be done, till of late years.
There is the same relation between CHRIST and Christians, that there is between the vine and the branches; the same necessity of communication of vital influences from the root to the branch in the one as in the other: which communication of influences is made by the Holy Spirit of GOD, derived from CHRIST, and diffusing Himself into every particular member of the whole body of Christians. Hence it is Christians are so frequently called the Temples of the Holy Ghost. "Know ye not," saith St. Paul, "that ye are," &c.; and, again, "Know ye not, that your bodies are the members," &c. which he explains presently after thus: "Know ye not that your bodies are the Temples," &c. And the same St. Paul, in the eighth to the Romans, lays the foundation of our relation to CHRIST, and our hopes of eternal life, in the very thing, viz. the Spirit of GOD his dwelling in us; as may be there seen more at large.
This, then, being the privilege of all Christians, that by their being consecrated to CHRIST, they have a right to the continual presence of the Holy Ghost in their souls; or, if you will, GOD hath so great a right and property in them, that He sends down his Holy Spirit to take possession of them, in order to the securing and sealing them for His own in the other world; we may easily, from hence, gather what it is to grieve the Holy Spirit, (which is the thing we are now enquiring into,) viz. We then grieve Him, when being already Christians in profession, we either will not vouchsafe Him a lodging in our hearts, which He doth desire; and, in order to the obtaining it, makes frequent applications to our souls by His holy motions; or, when we have already given Him entertainment, we carry ourselves so unbecomingly towards Him, as to tempt Him to forsake us. We then grieve the Holy Spirit, when, having taken upon ourselves the covenant of Baptism, and thereby consecrated and consigned ourselves to GOD, we either refuse to admit the Spirit to take possession of us, or having admitted Him, do not show that respect, nor observe that decency, nor express that kindness, that is due to so worthy a guest; but by our rude, and unmannerly, and ill-natured behaviour towards Him, put such affronts upon Him as highly provoke Him to quit His habitation.
Second sort of the Holy Ghost's operations, viz. that which He ordinarily doth, and always hath done, and will always continue to do; for, upon the cessation of these His miraculous operations, the Holy Ghost did not wholly withdraw Himself from mankind, but He still continues mediating with us under CHRIST, in order to the reconciling our wills and affections to GOD, and subduing that inveterate malice and enmity against Him, which our degenerate nature hath contracted. For it is by this blessed Spirit that CHRIST hath promised to be with us to the end of the world. (Matt, xxviii. 20.) And CHRIST himself hath assured us, that upon his ascension into heaven he would "pray his Father, and He should give us another Comforter," meaning this Holy Ghost, "that he might abide with us for ever;" (John xiv. 16.;) and, accordingly, the Holy Ghost is vitally united to the Church of CHRIST, even as souls are united to their bodies. For as there is one Body, the Church, so here is one Spirit, i. e. the Holy Ghost, which animates that Body, (Eph. iv. 4,) and hence the unity of the Church is in the foregoing verse called the unity of the Spirit: because as the soul, by diffusing itself through all the parts of the body, unites them together, and keeps them from flying abroad, and dispersing into atoms; so the Holy Spirit, by diffusing Himself throughout this mystical Body, joins and unites all its parts together, and makes it one separate and individual corporation. So that, when by Baptism we are once incorporated into this body, we are entitled to, and do at least, de jure, participate of the vital influences of the Holy Ghost, who is the soul of it; and, accordingly, as Baptism joins us to that body, of which this Divine Spirit is the soul; so it also conveys that Divine Spirit to us. So that, as in natural bodies, those ligaments which unite and tie the parts to one another, do also convey life and spirit to them all; so also in this mystical body, those federal rites of Baptism and the LORD'S Supper, which are, as it were, its nerves and arteries, that join and confederate its members to one another, are also the conveyances of that spiritual life from the Holy Ghost, which moves and actuates them all. And hence the "washing of regeneration," and "the renewing of the Holy Ghost," the "being born of water and of the Holy Ghost," are put together as concurrent things; and in Acts ii. 38. Baptism is affirmed to be necessary to our receiving the Holy Ghost; and if by Baptism we receive the Holy Ghost, that is a right and title to His Grace and Influence, then must the Holy Ghost be still supposed vitally united to the Church, whereof we arc made members by our Baptism, and, like an omnipresent soul, to be diffused all through it, and to move and actuate every part of it by his heavenly Grace and Influence.
Baptism is very agreeable to the nature of the Christian Religion, being a plain and easy rite, and having a natural significancy of that purity of heart, which it is the design of the Gospel to promote and establish in the world; and it is fitted to represent to us the cleansing of our souls by the Blood of CHRIST, and the grace of purity and holiness, which is conveyed in this sacrament, and the spirit of regeneration which is conferred by it. Tit. iii. 5.
You see the power of Baptism, and the blessings that are annexed to it, to which all are entitled who partake in the Baptism of CHRIST: for Himself He was neither born nor baptized but for our sakes; that the blessings of both might descend on us, who, through faith, are heirs together with Him of the promises of GOD.
By Baptism the gates of heaven are set open to us, and the way paved for our return to our native country. By Baptism we are declared to be such sons of GOD in whom He will delight, and whom He will appoint to be heirs of His kingdom. By Baptism we receive the promise of the Spirit, by which we cry, Abba, Father.
Are not these great privileges? And is not here room for mighty expectations? And yet how unsuitable to these claims do the circumstances of a Christian's life often appear? He is upon the road to heaven, you say, and the gates stand open to receive him; but how does he stumble and fall like other men, and sometimes lose his way, and wander long, bewildered in night and darkness? Or, if he keeps the road, how lazily does he travel, as if he were unwilling to come to his journey's end, and afraid to see the country which he is going to possess? The Christian only, of all men, pretends to supernatural power and strength, and an intimate acquaintance with the Spirit of GOD; and yet how hardly does he escape the pollutions of the world, and how often look back, with languishing eyes, upon the pleasures, riches, and honours of this life? And though he boasts of more than human strength, yet how does he sometimes sink below the character and dignity even of a man? Ye sons of GOD, for such ye are, how do ye die like the children of men, and how like is your end to theirs?
And what must we say of these things? Is the promise of GOD become of none effect? Is Baptism sunk into mere outward ceremony, and can no longer reach to the purifying the heart and mind? The fact must not be disputed; it is too evident, at least in these our days, that the lives of Christians do not answer to the manifold gifts and graces bestowed on them.
I believe Calvin was the first that ever denied this place (John iii. 5.) to mean Baptism. He gives another interpretation, which he confesses to be new. This man did, indeed, write many things in defence of Infant Baptism. But he has done ten times more prejudice to that cause, by withdrawing (as far as in him lay) the strength of this text of Scripture (which the ancient Christians used as a chief ground of it) by that forced interpretation of his, than he has done good to it by all his new hypotheses and arguments. What place of Scripture is more fit to produce, for the satisfaction of some plain and ordinary man, (who, perhaps, is not capable of apprehending the force of the consequences by which it is proved from other places,) that he ought to have his child baptized, than this, (especially if it were translated in English, as it should be,) where our Saviour says, that no person shall come to heaven without it? meaning, at least in GOD'S ordinary way.
Whoever wilfully neglects to be made a member of the Christian Church, does, by necessary consequence, deprive himself of all the privileges which belong to it; just as in any civil corporation they who are not members of it can plead no right to any of its privileges. This has already been shown to be the sense of CHRIST, and the same is constantly affirmed by the Christian writers of all ages. "They who do not come into the Church [saith Irenaeus] do not partake of the Spirit, but deprive themselves of life." For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of GOD. And in St. Cyprian's opinion, he cannot have GOD for his Father who has not the Church for his Mother.
Hence the privileges of the Christian Church, such as Remission of Sins, the Grace of the Holy Spirit, and Eternal Life, are commonly said to be annexed to Baptism, this being the constant rite of initiation into the Church. Thus, in Ananias's exhortation to St. Paul, "Arise, and be baptized," &c...... St. Barnabas expressly affirms, that "Baptism procures remission of sins;" and proves, from the Scriptures, that they who are baptized, are received into GOD'S favour, whereas all the rest of mankind lie under His displeasure. Peter thus exhorts his new converts: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you," &c...... Our blessed SAVIOUR joins Faith and Baptism together, as necessary conditions of salvation: "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit," &c....... And in another place, "He that believes, and is baptized, shall be saved." From these, and like passages of Scripture, the Primitive Church constantly inferred, that where the Gospel had been sufficiently propounded, no man could be saved, without Baptism actually obtained, or earnestly desired. Whence Tertullian calls it the "happy sacrament of water, whereby we are washed from the sins of our former blindness, and delivered into eternal life.'' And Cyprian gives this reason, why the Baptism of infants should not be delayed so long as the eighth day after their birth, that (since it is said in the Gospel, that "the Son of Man came not to destroy men's souls, but to save them") it is our duty, as far as in us lies, to take care that no soul shall be destroyed.
By this means [by Baptism] the children of believers are entered into covenant with GOD under the Gospel, as they were under the Law by circumcision; and that infants are capable of this federal relation, is plainly declared by Moses; (Deut. xxix. 11;) and since they are the offspring of Adam, and consequently obnoxious to death by his fall, how can they be made partakers of that redemption which CHRIST hath purchased for the children of GOD, if they do not enjoy the advantage of that method which is alone appointed by CHRIST for them to become members of GOD'S kingdom? For JESUS himself has assured us, "Except one be born of water," &c...... And therefore it was the constant custom of the Primitive Church to administer Baptism to infants for the remission of sins. And this practice was esteemed, by the best tradition, to be derived from the Apostles themselves.
The second is the case of infants. Their innocence and incapacity are to them instead of repentance, which they do not need, and of actual faith, which they cannot have. They are capable of being savingly born of water and the Spirit, and of being adopted into sonship with what depends thereupon; because, though they bring no virtues with them, no positive righteousness, yet they bring no obstacle, no impediment. They stipulate, they enter into contract, by their sureties, upon a presumptive and interpretative consent,: they become consecrated in solemn form to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; pardon, mercy, and other covenant privileges are made over to them; and the Holy Spirit translates them out of their state of nature (to which a curse belongs) to a state of grace, favour, and blessing; this is their regeneration.
KETTLEWELL, PRESBYTER AND CONFESSOR.--On the Creed--Article, Forgiveness of Sins, p. 685.
Ques.--For whose sake doth ALMIGHTY GOD allow us all this benefit of forgiveness?
Ans.--For JESUS CHRIST, who, as you have seen, died for our sins, and gave His Wood a ransom, to purchase for us this pardon of them. "He is set forth a propitiation," &c. (Rom. iii. 25.) And thus we shall receive all this mercy for His sake, when, with the disposition before expressed, we devoutly pray to GOD for it in His name.
Ques.--By the promises of the Gospel, I see that this forgiveness is assured to all Christians upon the terms which you have described. But is it in any signs and tokens outwardly dispensed to them?
Ans.--Yes; both in the Holy Sacraments and in the sacerdotal Absolution. Which ways of ministering this forgiveness, as well as the forgiveness itself, are noted in some ancient Creeds: this article being thus professed in St. Cyprian's Form at Baptism: "I believe the Remission of Sins by the Church."
Ques.--Is this forgiveness dispensed to us in the Sacrament of Baptism?
Ans.--Yes; and that most amply, the water of Baptism washing off the stain of all former sins." "Be baptized, and wash away thy sins," said Ananias to Saul; "Repent, and be baptized for the Remission of Sins," said St. Peter to the Jews; and "He hath saved us by the Laver of Regeneration;" i. e. the Water of Baptism, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost. (Tit. iii. 5.) So that whatever pollutions men had upon them, if they come to Baptism with true faith and repentance, they are thereby made clean again.
It belonged to the Apostles and Presbyters, by virtue of their sacerdotal office and ministry, to be advocates and intercessors with GOD..... I need not insist upon their power of baptizing for the remission of sins with fasting and prayer, which was a most solemn act of expiation for washing away all the past sins of the baptized.
I think the only immediate effect of the Spirit in Baptism, is the remission of all sin, and removing our natural disability to the worship and service of GOD, and the sentence of condemnation under which we were all born: (Rom. v. 16.) and that other graces are wrought in us by that Holy Spirit, which by Baptism receives us under its protection, gradually, and according to the capacity of the recipient: and this doctrine I learned from those words of St Barnabas, in his Epistle, cap. vi.: "After, therefore, that CHRIST had renewed us by the remission of our sins, he made us [in] another shape, so as to have an infant-like soul, even as he himself reformed us:" where he plainly makes renovation to consist in forgiving sins; and makes the new moulding, or reformation of our minds, to be not performed at the same time with the other, or all at once, but to be consequent upon the former renovation: and CHRIST is always thus reforming us, from our Baptism to our death. And I look on these words of St. Barnabas to be a better explication of the renovation, or regeneration of Christians by Baptism, than whole volumes of modern writers upon the same subject. And I may here very reasonably observe, that as the Holy Spirit is present in our Baptism, to seal the remission of sins, and to infuse the beginnings of Christian Life; for He is present in confirmation, to shed further influences on them that receive it, for the further suscitation of the gift of GOD bestowed in Baptism and in the Eucharist, as will hereafter appear at large for our further progress and increase in grace.
The end of CHRIST'S Baptism was, to instate us into all the unconceivable glories, and high eternal prerogatives which belong to the members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones, (Eph. v. 30.) that we might receive the adoption of sons. (Gal. iv. 5.) Henceforth no more servants, but sons of GOD, and heirs of heaven! These are ends so far transcendent above the ends of all former Baptisms, that, in comparison, other Baptisms are not only less, but none at all; like the glory of the stars in presence of the sun, they not only are a lesser light, but when he appears they become altogether invisible.
And as a pledge or foretaste of these future and boundless joys, the gift of the Holy Ghost is given upon earth, and is promised as an effect of the Baptism of CHRIST: as Peter preached (Acts ii. 38.), "Repent, and be baptized," &c. And (Gal. iii. 27.) "As many of you as have been baptized into CHRIST have put on CHRIST."
This of the gift of the Holy Ghost was not added to any Baptism before CHRIST'S, and does remarkably distinguish it from all others.
The Holy Spirit at Baptism takes possession of us, and keeps possession, till men grieve Him; then He forsakes us, and an evil spirit succeeds.
By Baptism we contract and oblige ourselves, all our life long, to complete and perfect the image of JESUS CHRIST in ourselves. The blessings and excellencies of Baptism:--It separates us from Adam, and engrafts us into CHRIST.---It is a resurrection from sin to grace.--It discharges us from the debt owing to the justice of GOD, by our sins, now fully satisfied by faith in the suffering and death of CHRIST.--It cancels the law of death and malediction which was against us.--In Baptism our sins did indeed die, and were buried; but the seed and root remain in us. These we are to mortify all our lives long.
.... What it [indelible character] was taken to signify in Baptism? For an indelible character was always supposed to be imprinted as much in Baptism as in ordination; though I do not remember that any ancient Council expressly used that term about either, but only say something that may be reckoned equivalent to it; and that is this, as it relates to Baptism: that a man, who is once truly baptized, can never do any thing that can so far erase or cancel his Baptism, as that he shall need, upon any occasion, to be re-baptized with a second Baptism. Thus far the ancients believed an indelible character in Baptism. Though a man turns his back on Christianity, and totally apostatize and fall away from the profession of it; though he turn heretic or schismatick; though he excommunicate himself, or be excommunicated by the Church; though he embrace Paganism or Judaism, or any other opposite Religion; though he curse and blaspheme CHRIST in a synagogue or in a temple, as many of the old apostates did; though he become a Julian or an Ecebolius, and "trample under foot the Son of GOD, and count the Blood of the Covenant an unholy thing, and do despite to the Spirit of Grace;" yet, after all, if this man turn again to Christianity, he was not to be received by a second Baptism. His repentance, and the Church's absolution was sufficient in that case to reinstate him in his ancient profession, and he was not to be re-baptized to be made again a Christian. The Church had but one Baptism for the remission of sins, and the virtue of that was so far indelible, that it would always qualify the man that had received it, to be admitted to communion again after the greatest apostacy, only by a true repentance and reconciliatory imposition of hands, without re-baptizing. This was what the ancients understood by what we now call the indelible character of Baptism. But they were far from thinking, that a man who was such an apostate had any right or authority whilst he was an apostate, to challenge any of the common privileges of a Christian. They did not think, whilst he was a Pagan or a Jew, that he was properly a member of the Christian Church still, because of his Baptism; or that he had any right to he called Christian, or to be admitted to the prayers of the Church, and much less to the communion with other faithful laymen: and yet, after all, there was so much of a Christian in him, by virtue of his Baptism, that he needed not to be baptized again as a mere Jew or Pagan. His Baptism was such as nothing could obliterate; it would remain with him when he was an apostate, and either go to hell with him to his condemnation, or bring him back to heaven and the Church by way of repentance, not re-baptization. Now, if any one should ask whether such an apostate, while he continued an apostate, was a Christian? the answer must be in the negative; but yet there is something of a Christian in this apostate, that is, his Baptism; in respect of which he is not so perfectly a no-Christian, as one that never was baptized.
Our blessed Saviour and Mediator, who hath procured the benefit of this covenant for us by the "sacrifice of His Blood," hath appointed the Sacrament of Baptism as the means whereby the contracting parties, GOD and the new Christian, solemnly plight their promises to each other; and hath likewise made the other Sacrament, that of His Last Supper, the seal which renews and confirms the covenant with every penitent transgressor. In both He communicates the assistance of the Holy Spirit, which "helps our infirmities," and enables us, if we are not shamefully wanting to ourselves, to observe and perform the conditions promised on our part.
We have already seen, in general, what we are to expect as the fruits of peace with GOD; namely, eternal life, eternal happiness and glory. Our present assurance of this is represented in various lights by the Scriptures. We are made one with CHRIST, as He is one with the Father. We are united into one Church, or Spiritual Body, whereof "He is the head." All together "we are the body of CHRIST, and members in particular." Thus joined to Him, who is by nature the Son of GOD, we also become, by a "new birth in Baptism," the adopted sons or children of GOD. "We have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, "Abba, Father:" and being taken into the family of GOD, are made His children by "faith in JESUS CHRIST." The provision made for us is suitable to the grandeur of our new relation; no less than an eternal kingdom, "which it is the Father's good pleasure to give us," as His beloved children, and, consequently, "heirs of GOD, and joint heirs with CHRIST: ' insomuch that being one with Him, "where He is there shall we he also," partakers both of His nature, and of His inheritance in happiness and glory. We need not say, since these are the promises of GOD, that they cannot possibly fail of performance, provided we do our utmost to fulfil the promises made on our part.
The first portion of sanctifying grace is given at Baptism, which is the seal of justification, and the beginning of sanctification; inasmuch as the sinner being thus sacramentally buried with CHRIST into His death, arises with Him in the power of His resurrection, justified from the guilt of sin through repentance and faith in His blood, and renewed unto holiness by the operation of His Spirit. This total renewal, at first conferred by the baptismal laver, is styled regeneration, and answers in things natural to the birth of an infant. But then, as an infant, though born complete in all its parts, yet comes to its full stature and strength by slow and imperceptible degrees; by being supplied with proper kinds of food for its nourishment when in health, and proper medicines for its recovery when otherwise; so is it with the regenerate spirit of a Christian: while it is (as St. Peter calls it) a babe in CHRIST, it must be fed with the milk of the word; when it is more grown in grace, with the strong meat of its salutary doctrines; when it is infirm, it must be strengthened by the comforts of its promises; and when sick, or wounded by sin, it must be recovered and restored by GODly counsel and wholesome discipline, by penance and absolution, by the medicines of the word and sacraments as duly and properly administered in the Church, by the lawfully and regularly appointed delegates and representatives of the Physician of souls. This gradual and complex work of our sanctification is carried on, through our lives, by the Spirit of GOD, given, in due degree and proportion, to every individual for that purpose. And it is marvellous to behold, as the excellent Bishop Andrews observes, how, from the laver of regeneration, to the administration of the viaticum, this good Spirit helpeth us, and poureth His benefits upon us, having a grace for every season. When we are troubled with erroneous opinions, he is the Spirit of truth; when assaulted with temptations, he is the Spirit of holiness; when dissipated with worldly vanity, he is the Spirit of compunction; when broken with worldly sorrow, he is the Holy Ghost the Comforter. It is he who, after having regenerated us in our baptism, confirms us by the imposition of hands; renews us to repentance, when we fall away; teaches us, all our life long, what we know not; puts us in mind of what we forget; stirs us up when we are dull; helps us in our prayers; relieves us in our infirmities; consoles us in our heaviness; gives us songs of joy in the darkest night of sorrow; seals us to the day of our redemption; and raises us up again in the last day; when that which was sown in grace shall be reaped in glory, and the work of sanctification, in spirit, soul, and body, shall be completed.
JONES, PRESBYTER.--On the figurative Language of the Holy Scriptures. Lect. vi. p. 156.
As the Ark was prepared by Noah, so hath CHRIST prepared His Church, to conduct us in safety through the waves of trouble and the perils of the world, in which so many are lost. And as the waters of the flood carried Noah and his family into a new world after the old was drowned; so do the waters of baptism carry us into a new state with JESUS CHRIST, who passed over the waves of death, and is risen from the dead. And this practical inference is to be made in favour of the ordinance of the Church, that as the ark could not be saved but by water, so must all the Church of CHRIST be baptized.
Ibid. p. 167.--We know that Satan has not that sovereignty over baptized Christians as he hath over men in the state of nature. After baptism a Christian is no longer the subject of that tyrant, but the child of GOD, who undertakes thenceforth to conduct him through all the trials and dangers of this life to the inheritance promised to the fathers.
It (justification) is the same with that regeneration of which baptism is the outward symbol, and which marks out, wherever it occurs (that it ordinarily occurs in baptism, I am for my own part firmly persuaded,) our admission into the number of the children of GOD, and the heirs of everlasting happiness. It is the commencement of that state of salvation, in which, if a man continues, death has no power over him, in as much as the grave, which our nature so greatly fears, is to him no extinction of life, but a passage to a life more blessed and more glorious.
But how, may it be asked, are the benefits and blessings of spiritual regeneration conferred upon infants in their tender years? To this enquiry we need not be careful to reply: we need only state, that in this, as in various other instances, it hath pleased Almighty GOD to set limits to the presumptuousness of human curiosity; and thus, at once to try our humility and our faith. It is enough for us, rest assured, that GOD is now, and ever, the same all-good and gracious Parent; that, as in times past, it was "out of the mouths of babes and sucklings he perfected praise;" and as "He revealed unto babes those things which were hidden from the wise and prudent," so He is, at all times, abundantly able to pour forth the dew of His blessing upon infants who are faithfully brought to the baptism of his Son. It is enough for us, to believe and cherish the prevalent sentiment of the universal Church, as it has been maintained from the age of the Apostles, that at the time of baptism, a new nature is divinely communicated, and gracious privileges are especially vouchsafed, in such measure and degree that, whosoever are clothed with this white garment, may, through GOD'S help, "keep their baptism pure and undefiled, for the remainder of their lives, never wilfully committing any deadly sin."
Regeneration is represented, by a certain class of interpreters, as an instantaneous, perceptible, and irresistible operation of the Holy Spirit upon the heart and mind; which, whether the person have been baptized or not, affords the only certain evidence of his conversion to a saving and justifying faith. By others, it is regarded as a continued and progressive work of the SPIRIT, or as a state commencing in baptism, but not completed until, by perseverance to the end, the individual has "finished his course, and is about to enter upon his final reward." Others again, separating what the Scriptures state to be joined together in the work of the new birth, maintain a distinction between baptismal and spiritual regeneration; the former taking place in the Sacrament of Baptism; the latter subsequent to it, and, whether progressive or instantaneous in its operation, equally necessary with baptism to a state of salvation.
But here the analogy of faith seems to be violated throughout. For how can any of these views of regeneration consist with the plain and simple notion of it as an entrance upon a new state, or a sacramental initiation into the Christian covenant? Nay, how can they consist with the terms and conditions of the covenant itself? If the Gospel be a covenant, admission into which, on the terms of faith and repentance, gives an immediate title to its present privileges, with an assurance of the spiritual helps necessary for the attainment of salvation; and if baptism be the divinely-appointed means of admission into that covenant, and of a participation in those privileges, is not the person so admitted actually brought into a new state? Has he not obtained that thing which by nature he cannot have? "And being thus regenerated and born anew of water and of the HOLY GHOST," to what subsequent part of his Christian life can a term so peculiarly expressive of his first entrance upon it be with propriety applied?
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the SPIRIT, &c. It should appear, I say, that he was here alluding by anticipation to the Sacrament of Baptism, which he intended to ordain: and to that supernatural grace which was thereby to be conferred through the instrumentality of water, and by the HOLY GHOST; adopting, not only the ceremony itself, which he meant to exalt to more noble and spiritual purposes; but also the very term, by which the Jews had described the change wrought in the baptized, although he undoubtedly employed it, in a similar sense indeed, but in an infinitely more dignified sense. To the proselyte from heathenism to the Jewish faith, baptism had been a death to his natural incapacities, and a new birth to the civil privileges of a Jew: to him, who should be admitted to a profession of the Christian faith, and who should be "born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh," &c. it was to be a death unto sin, and a new birth unto those spiritual privileges, which should accompany his deliverance "from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of GOD." The Jewish proselyte had been baptized with water: the Christian was to be baptized, not with water only, but with the HOLY GHOST.
The Feast of St. Michael and All Angels.