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ble. Can any one, then, tell, or even surmise, when, at what time it was, that he passed out of a state of grace into a state of wrath and condemnation? Was it in the first fit of passion, or the first departure from the truth? Was the change instantaneous, or gradual? Was the infant fit for heaven in the morning, and fit for condemnation at noon-day; or was there a period of transition? Can such questions as these be even suggested, without forcing us to see, that of the real condition and standing of infants we know next to nothing; and that it therefore implies a serious degree of temerity to insist on settling and defining the effect of baptism on an unconscious and perhaps finally unintelligent child?
Yet men insist on contesting this point, although they must be aware that a satisfactory decision is quite unattainable; while, on that baptism which is chiefly adverted to in Scripture and by the Church, and on which there would probably be little danger of any serious controversy, they are almost silent.
Yet, probably, not even Dr. Pusey himself would choose to contest the truth of the doctrine so distinctly asserted in the Articles and Catechism of the Church;-that there is "required" to a 'right reception" of baptism by adult persons, "Repentance, whereby they forsake sin; and Faith, whereby they stedfastly believe the promises of God made to them in that sacrament: and that only in such as thus rightly or " worthily receive the same," has it any "wholesome effect or operation." There has not yet been, as far as we are aware, any modern magnifier of this sacrament, who has ventured so far as to assert, that a man destitute of both repentance and faith might yet be regenerated by merely submitting to the external form of baptism.
We thus, then, though only by a single point, may narrow the ground of contest. Probably, if we pass over to the other extremity of the field of enquiry, we may still further reduce its limits. In the case of infants, presented at the font by believing parents, in the full exercise of faith and hope, even many of the opposers of "high-church doctrines" will admit that a grace must be held to accompany the sacrament; and they will be at a loss to give that grace any better name than "regeneration."
There is a danger lest, in the too eager denunciation of the Popish figment of the opus operatum, we so entirely explode "baptismal regeneration" as to render the exercise of faith and hope, in many minds, impossible. "According to your faith, be it unto you," may still hold good; and if so, in destroying that expectation upon which faith proceeds, we take away the efficacy of the sacrament itself. We cannot allude to the point without recalling
to mind the case already recorded by the excellent author of "The Week." 1
At the two opposite ends of the scale, then, we have, we would fain hope, suggested a practical diminution of the area of difference. The highest assertors of baptismal grace will not allege that it sanctifies the adult hypocrite: while their greatest opponents will admit the probability of a blessing being experienced by the infant whose parents can really present their child in the confidence of faith. The ground which remains to be contended for, then, is that occupied by, unhappily, the great majority of cases; in which the child is brought to the font, often by careless and unbelieving sponsors, without the least regard to, or thought of, that repentance and faith, which the Church declares to be "required," and which she calls upon the sponsors to promise.
And here the two parties divide:-The Tractarians, and with them a large body of "high-churchmen" who are not wholly Tractarians, assert that in all these cases, "the infant presenting no obstacle," regeneration does assuredly take place. Their opponents, on the other hand, utterly reject this view; having it chiefly in view when they so constantly condemn what they term "baptismal regeneration."
But it is a lamentable mistake, and a most unjustifiable misrepresentation, to bestow the term of "baptismal regeneration on this view of the ordinance. We have already seen that the language of Scripture, of the Prayer Book, of the Fathers, and of the Reformers, all concur in something very like a regeneration in baptism. It is quite a misfortune, therefore, that a doctrine so supported, should have been confounded with a theory so dangerous and unscriptural as the Tractarian tenet of baptismal regeneration.
The question has again and again been put to Dr. Pusey in this way-A clergyman of bad moral character (there are unfortunately some such, whether few or many matters not to the argument,) is called on to "christen" for mere registration purposes, the infant of two known sinners of his parish. The ceremony is gone through, no one of the parties concerned in it having even the slightest pretence to those requisites which the Church declares to be essential to the right use of the ordinance. In this abuse, in this mockery, in this desecration of a sacrament, is there grace imparted? Does the unconscious infant experience a mighty spiritual change, without a single prayer being offered (for the mere repetition of certain words is not prayer) or even a single desire being felt, for any such mercy?
See "Memory's Records;" by the Author of The Week, pp. 212-241.
To this question, thus distinctly put, Dr. Pusey gives only a general and evasive reply, expressive of a notion, that "in virtue of the faith of the church" such infants are regenerated.
But this is, in fact, the genuine opus operatum principle. A certain form gone through, in a certain place, by a person wearing a certain dress, confers spiritual blessings, even without a desire being felt for them. "The Church" has these blessings to bestow, in her corporate capacity, and not only is the intention and even the personal piety of the priest declared to be immaterial to the question, but all parties are alike held to be exonerated in this matter; and the "faith of the Church" answers for everything. This, which is essential Popery, or rather, priestcraft;-for the same notion of benefits to be conferred by the Church, irrespective of faith and repentance, is common to all corrupt churches and all false religions;-this positively unholy and heretical system must be unhesitatingly opposed and condemned. He who clings to it, even with some slight modifications, is just in a fit state of mind for the adoption of Romanism or any other apostasy. The Protestant, or rather the Scriptural principle, is, that "God is a Spirit, and those that worship him, must worship him in spirit and in truth." And further, that those who do not thus worship him, dangerously delude themselves if they expect, either for themselves or their offspring, any spiritual blessing.
We come, then, to three conclusions:
1. That adults, receiving baptism without faith and repentance, merely profane the ordinance, and derive from it no spiritual grace or blessing whatever.
2. That the infants of believing parents, presented in faith and prayer, may justly expect spiritual mercies to be dispensed in the sacrament, in answer to prayer.
3. That the mere formal use of the sacrament by an unconverted minister and unconverted parents,-no single breath of prayer ascending in the whole service, cannot be expected to confer grace and blessing on the infant brought to receive it.
Thus narrowed, there remains for consideration only a residue, of certain doubtful cases,-doubtful as to whether by some one or more of the parties concerned, faith might not be in exercise; and doubtful as to what blessing might by possibility then follow. But all such cases our wisdom is, to refer, with the other obscure points to which we have already alluded, to the judgment of HIM who alone can decide them; and to the decision of THAT DAY which will reveal the secrets of all hearts.
The general conclusion, then, to which we arrive, is, that much of the recent controversy on this subject is wide of the mark; that
much argumentation is used, as to whether baptism be regeneration or not; when it would be far more important to urge the truer distinction,-that baptism in its reality, may be regeneration, but that the mere mechanical form of baptism is neither baptism nor regeneration, nor anything else than a mockery. Just as the xxixth Article assures us, that " though such as be void of a lively faith do carnally and visibly press with their teeth the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ,"--just as in the xxvth, xxvith, xxviith, and xxviiith Articles, the receiving the sacraments "rightly," and "with faith," is made the one essential matter;-so in the Catechism, it is distinctly stated that the requisites to baptism are repentance and faith; from which it follows, that without these requisites, present or solemnly and sincerely vowed and pledged, there is, in fact, only the form of baptism, but not the thing. Why should not the fact, of an outward and visible sign of baptism having been received, be made even a more prominent topic in the pulpit than it now is? Only, instead of being used as a reason for dangerous security,-instead of being alleged as a proof that the hearers have been regenerated, it should be put forward as a means of conviction, a pledge, extensively forfeited, to be brought before the hearers minds, shewing them that they are not only under the bonds of natural religion,-not only under obligations to their Creator and perpetual Benefactor, but have been devoted in infancy to their Saviour and Redeemer,-an engagement which, in far too many instances, has been unscrupulously and without hesitation utterly forgotten. Not that they were regenerate in baptism, but that they were pledged to God in that rite, should be the theme;-a theme to be urgently pressed upon the conscience, and made matter of continual and searching enquiry and self-examination.
THE PERILS OF THE NATION: An Appeal to the Legislature, the Clergy, and the Higher and Middle Classes. London: Seeleys and Burnside. 1843.
Is the nation, then, in any peril? Are not all things proceeding much as usual; with a little grumbling here and there, and a little agitation about the Corn Laws, or the Factory Bill?
Doubtless, such questions will be asked, and in great simplicity and sincerity, by divers gentlemen and ladies possessed of a comfortable settlement in the Three per Cent Consols; and who scarcely know any other test of the condition of the country, than that the said Three per Cent. Consols are at present very nearly at par. Nevertheless, their estimate of the real predicament of the nation is no more accurate, than was that of the Babylonian monarch, who made a great feast for a thousand of his lords, while the Mede was at his gates.
It is a strange and wonderful thing, but not more strange than true, that while England is apparently exerting almost illimitable power at the very ends of the earth, she is herself within reach, as it were, of utter destruction. To master an empire of 300 millions, at a distance of half the globe, or to seize upon the whole dominions of a warlike nation, on the Indus, seems a matter in which volition and accomplishment are almost simultaneous; and yet, at the very same instant, there are elements of ruin smouldering and increasing among the lower ranks of her own population, which might, any day, and almost without an hour's notice, bring the monarchy to the very verge of dissolution.
This, indeed, the demoralized and discontented state of the working-classes, from Cornwall to Inverness, is the one chief Peril: but there are others, of a more obvious kind, and which we will just enumerate before we speak of the main and central evil. We allude especially to the ecclesiastical troubles of the three kingdoms.
In England, a Romish party has arisen within the Church, and has for some time past, and is now, gaining over the larger portion of the younger clergy, and of those who are daily joining the clerical order. This party calculates upon being, in a few years, the stronger section of the Church; and should it ever become so, an attempt will assuredly be made to reunite England to the spiritual empire of the papacy. This attempt has twice before been made; and each time it cost the sovereign his throne, and the nation a civil war. We may vainly imagine the repetition of