Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

SERMON XXXIV.

REGENERATION AND RENOVATION.

TITUS iii. 5.

The washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.

THE subject of baptismal regeneration is very generally misunderstood. Our church has been exposed to considerable censure for maintaining this doctrine in her offices and formularies. It is deemed expedient, therefore, briefly to explain and defend this scriptural and primitive article of faith. I trust, my brethren, that you will all accompany me seriously and attentively in this inquiry. I might choose subjects perhaps better calculated to gratify your fancy and to warm your feelings; but I can choose none that should be more interesting to you as Christians and as Churchmen. As Christians, it is of the utmost importance that you should understand the nature and the privileges of that holy sacrament in which the name of Christians was imposed upon you; and, as Churchmen, you ought to be able to vindicate the correctness of the terms which your church applies to this holy ordinance.

In order to obtain a perspicuous and comprehensive view of this subject, the following order shall be observed in the discussion of it :

I. The sense of the Church of England, and of the Protestant Episcopal Church in America, on the subject of baptismal regeneration, shall be exhibited.

II. This sense shall be defended by the authority of Scripture, of the primitive church, of the reformed churches, and of some of the most eminent divines of the English church.

III. The distinction shall be laid down between regeneration and renovation.

IV. The doctrine of regeneration and renovation shall be applied to the case of infants—of adults receiving baptism rightly, on a sincere profession of repentance and faith-of adults receiving baptism unworthily, in impenitence and unbeliefof baptized persons who have violated their baptismal engagements-and of those who are desirous of fulfilling these engagements.

V. The way will then be opened for answering the charges which have been urged against this doctrine, and for an improvement of the whole subject.

This discussion is commenced under the full persuasion that this doctrine is a fundamental and most important part of the Christian scheme, and that a correct understanding of it will remove every objection which prevails against it, and tend to revive this scriptural and primitive article of faith. Your preacher has only to request that no person will admit in his mind a decision against this doctrine, until he has taken a deliberate and dispassionate view of the whole series of these remarks.

I. The sense of the Church of England, and of the Protestant Episcopal Church in America, on the subject of baptismal regeneration, shall be exhibited.

Regeneration, according to the sense of our church, is that change in our spiritual state which takes place in baptism: it is the solemn conveyance to us, by baptism, of the privileges of the Gospel covenant. Baptism, therefore, is regeneration; that is, the instrument of regeneration, the mean to convey to us the privileges of the Gospel covenant, and a pledge to assure them to us; and baptized persons are therefore regenerated. It is of the utmost importance, however, to bear in mind that our church, in her catechism and in her baptismal offices, exacts, as essential qualifications for baptism, repentance and faith. Why then," it may be asked, "are infants baptized, when, by reason of their tender age, they cannot perform these conditions?" To this question our church answers" Because they promise them both by their sureties; which promise, when they come to age, themselves are bound to perform." Infants, then, entitled to baptism, as those concerning whom our Saviour declared, "of such is the kingdom of God," and needing no repentance for actual sins, and promising both repentance and faith by their sureties, become entitled to all the privileges of baptism, to which adults who are baptized are not fully entitled, except on the conditions of actual repentance and faith.

66

The privileges of the Gospel covenant are all suspended on the conditions of repentance and faith. But it hath pleased God, in his sovereign will, to appoint external ordinances as the pledges VOL. II.

58

of these blessings, and to make them, by his almighty power, the means of conveying them to those who repent and believe. Baptism is one of these divine institutions, and the privileges of baptism are all summed up in the term regeneration, which I shall proceed to show is applied by our church to this holy sacrament.

66

away

In the introductory exhortation of these offices of baptism, the church applies to baptism the declaration of our Saviour-" None can enter into the kingdom of God" (Christ's visible church on earth) "except he be regenerate and born anew of water and the Holy Ghost," and combines together 'baptism with water, and the Holy Ghost." In the prayers immediately following, baptism is spoken of as the instituted mean for "the mystical washing of sin," for receiving "remission of sins by spiritual regeneration." In the prayer immediately before immersion or sprinkling, the supplication is offered to Almighty God, that he would "sanctify this water to the mystical washing away of sin." In the prayer immediately following the immersion or sprinkling, in the case of infants, thanks are returned to God, that he hath "regenerated this infant by his Holy Spirit, that he hath received him for his own child by adoption, and incorporated him into his holy church." In the case of adults, this prayer speaks of the baptized persons as

66

being born again, and made heirs of everlasting salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." In the catechism, the catechumens are taught to declare, that in baptism they were made "members of Christ, children of God, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven;" to "thank their heavenly Father, who hath called them to this state of salvation; and to

profess, that, "being by nature born in sin and the children of wrath, they are by baptism made the children of grace."

In the order for confirmation it is said, in reference to baptized persons, that God hath "vouchsafed to regenerate them by water and the Holy Ghost, and to give unto them forgiveness of all their sins."

In the articles of religion, baptism is evidently considered as the mean of our justification, or being received into a state of favour with God, and also as a mean of receiving the Holy Ghost. The sixteenth article states-" Not every deadly sin, committed after baptism, is sin against the Holy Ghost, and unpardonable. Wherefore the grant of repentance is not to be denied to such as fall into sin after baptism. After we have received the Holy Ghost,” (evidently meaning in baptism,) “ we may depart from grace given." The twenty-seventh article, "of baptism," expressly rejects the low and superficial notion of this sacrament as conferring only an external privilege of admission into the church; for the article declares-" Baptism is a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened." The article then states the true notion of baptism, as "also a sign of regeneration, or new birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive baptism rightly are grafted into the church: the promises of the forgiveness of sins, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed: faith is confirmed, and grace increased, by virtue of prayer unto God." It is indeed sometimes said, that as the church, in this article, styles

« AnteriorContinua »