Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

maintained the innocence of man, and denied or weakened the necessity of divine grace, first advanced those opinions, relative to predestination and election, which, in modern times, have assumed the name of Calvinistic; yet his ideas of baptism were totally repugnant to those of the Calvinists, who deny that baptism is regeneration. He styles baptism "spiritual regeneration," and "the sacrament of regeneration."*

The ancient writers of the church uniformly apply the term regeneration to baptism, denoting the change, from a state of nature to a state of grace, which takes place in that sacrament. The compilers of the liturgy, following in this, as in other respects, the authority of the primitive church, employed the term regeneration in the same sense; neither they nor the primitive fathers ever apply it to signify a change of heart, or a return from sin to holiness; this change of heart and life, and this return to holiness from a state of sin, they denote by the terms renovation and repentance. Within these two centuries alone there has been a confusion of the terms regeneration and renovation, being both employed to denote a change of heart and a conversion to holiness from a state of sin. This arose from the introduction of the novel opinion, that grace, once received, can never be forfeited; of course, the advocates of this opinion were led to deny that grace was given in baptism, and refused to apply to it the term regeneration.

The divines of the Church of England, however, even many who were not wholly free from the infection of Calvinism, continued to maintain the

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

66

primitive notion of baptism as admitting the recipients of it into a state of grace. Among those, stands most prominent the venerable HOOKER, the author of the "Ecclesiastical Polity," a work written in defence of the Church of England, and which will remain, to the latest ages, a monument of the profound genius and erudition, and of the Christian temper of its author. By baptism," saith he, we receive Christ Jesus, and from him that saving grace which is proper unto baptism, the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.'"* Where the apostle speaks of the "washing of regeneration," he puts the questions-" Why do the apostles 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?" And he proceeds to observe-"The grace which is given them with their baptism, doth so far 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 mean 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."

The same views of the efficacy of baptism were

66

[blocks in formation]

"

entertained by a prelate of the English Church, Bishop Beveridge, who is considered by the Calvinists as friendly to their peculiar tenets, and whose fervent piety is generally acknowledged and celebrated. "As baptism," says he, "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.'* But they who are in Christ, members of his body, must needs partake of the Spirit which 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.'f So that, in the very act of baptizing, 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 both 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."t

It is much to be lamented that many divines of the Church of England have fallen into the modern error, which originated in the Calvinistic school, of applying the word regeneration to denote the work of grace on the heart, the operations of the

1 Cor. xii. 13.

* Rom. vi. 3; Gal. iii. 27.

Bev. Ser. vol. i. p. 305, fol. ed.

Divine Spirit in forming holy affections in the soul, and in leading us to newness of life. This most important and essential change, which in scriptural and primitive language is termed the renewing of the Holy Ghost-renovation-many excellent and orthodox divines of our church, following unfortunately the fashion of the times, style regeneration. This want of precision has led to a misapprehension of their sentiments, and has placed them in apparent contrariety to the offices of their church, where the terms regeneration and regenerate are certainly applied exclusively to baptism and to baptized Christians.

Among the writers who have fallen into this inaccuracy of language, are the two celebrated and eloquent preachers, Dr. Barrow and Archbishop Tillotson; and yet that these divines entertained the same opinions concerning the efficacy and privileges of baptism with the church of which they were ministers, is evident, from the following quotations from their writings.

Dr. Barrow, in his treatise on baptism, enumerates its benefits as follows:

"1. The purgation or absolution of us from the guilt of past offences, by a free and full remission of them, (the which, washing by water, cleansing from all stains, doth most appositely represent,) and consequently God's being reconciled unto us, his receiving us into a state of grace and favour, his freely justifying us that these privileges are conferred in baptism, many places of Scripture plainly show, and the primitive church, with most firm and unanimous consent, did believe.

"2. In baptism, the gift of God's Holy Spirit is conferred, qualifying us for the state into which we

then come, and enabling us to perform the duties which we then undertake.

"3. With those gifts is connected the benefit of regeneration, implying our entrance into a new state and course of life.

"4. With these benefits is conjoined that of being inserted into God's church, his family, the number of his chosen people, the mystical body of Christ, whereby we become entitled to the privileges and immunities of that heavenly corporation.

"5. In consequence of these things, there is with baptism conferred a capacity of a title unto, an assurance (under condition of persevering in faith and obedience to our Lord) of eternal life and salvation."

Archbishop Tillotson, in like manner-though, in compliance with the prevalent language of the times, he uses regeneration in a popular sense, to denote that spiritual change of heart and life which is properly signified by the terms renovation and sanctification-yet, when he writes with more precision, applies regeneration to baptism, and forcibly and conclusively vindicates this use of the term.

After proving that the Holy Ghost is conferred in baptism, he observes, in his sermon on the ordinary influences of the Holy Spirit-" All which considered, I cannot imagine why so great a scruple should be made of those expressions which our church useth in the office of baptism of childrenbeing regenerated and born again by baptism, and being thereby made the children of God and heirs of eternal life; that is, by entering into this covenant, they are put into a state and capacity of all the blessings of the Gospel, if they do not neglect the condition which that covenant requireth on

« AnteriorContinua »