Imatges de pÓgina

There is (as I observed a little before) a great difference between saying ' There is a tradition or order of the Apostles for infants to receive the Eucharist, as a thing without which they cannot be saved;" and saying

There is a tradition for all to receive it, as a thing without which they cannot be saved.” For a rule given in general words may be understood with an exception of infants, or without such exception, according as the nature of the thing or other sayings of the Lawgiver do direct; - all the Israelites that do not keep the passover shall be cut off; – there very young infants must be excepted; they must all be circumcised : that includes infants as well as others. Now, in the case of baptism, St. Austin and those others whom we have quoted, do say, There is a tradition from the Apostles for baptizing infants ; - but all that St. Austin says here in the case of the Eucharist is in general, that there is an apostolical tradition that none that do not receive it can have salvation; and that this rule should include infants, is not said as from the Aposiles, but is only his own consequence drawn from the general rule ; neither do his words import any niore, in which consequence there may easily be a mistake.

After these tiines of St. Austin and Innocent, there is ever now and then some inention found in the Latin Church of infants receiving, Mercator sub Not. 8, in the year 435 [335], Gregory the First, Sacramentar. anno 590 [490], and so forward till about the year 1000 (900). But toward the latter end of this term, as we learn by the relation of Hugo de Sancto Victore*, who lived anno 1100 [1000], they gave to infants only the wine, and that only by the priest's dipping his finger in the chalice, and then putting it into the child's mouth for him to suck'; and after some time, this also was left off, and instead of it, they gave the new baptized infant some drops of wine not consecrated; which Hugo dislikes.

This custom of giving common wine to infants seems

* Lib. 3, ad Sacram, cap. 28.

by some words of St. Hierom * to be older in the Church of Rome than the custom of giving any consecrated wine ; for instead of milk and honey, he speaks there (if there be no mistake in the print) of (wine and milk given to the new baptized." [290] " In the churches of the west (says he) the custom and type still continues, of giving to those that are regenerated in Christ, wine and milk."

It is to be observed, that about the year 1000, (900) the doctrine of Transubstantiation sprung up in the Latin Church, which created an excessive and superstitious regard to the outward elements of the Eucharist, and had among others this effect: That'as the wine was kept from laymen for fear of slabbering, so the whole sacrament was from infants ; and at last the Council of Trent f determined, that " it is not at all necessary for them, since, being regenerated (1460 by the laver of baptism, and incorporated into Christ, they cannot in that age lose the grace of being children of God, which they have now obtained. And yet (say they) antiquity is not to be condemned, if it did sometimes, and in some places, observe that custom; for as those holy fathers had a probable reason for so doing, on account of that time [here they should have added, Which did not believe Transubstantiation so it is for certain, and without controversy, to be believed, that they did it not on any opinion of its necessity to their salvatiou ; and then they pass this ariathema, $" Ifany one shall say, that partaking of the Eucharist is necessary for infants before they come to years of discretion, let him be anathema.”

It is a brave thing to be infallible : such men may say what they will, and it shall be true. What is a contradiciion in other mens' mouths, is none in theirs. Pope Innocent, [317] in a synodical letter sent to the Council of Milevis, says, “ If infants do not eat of the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood [meaning in the

* Comment. in Esaiam, lib. 15. Vide Magdeburgenses cent: 4, c. 6.

+ Sess, 21, cap. 4. # Canon 4.

sacrament] they have no life in him." Pope Pius [163] in confirming the Council of Trent, says, " If any man say so, let him be anathema.”

To deny that those ancient “fathers did it with any opinion of its necessity to the infant's salvation,” makes the contradiction yet more palpable, because that is the very thing which they say. The truth, I believe, is, that the Trent fathers knew that some ancient doctors had commended infants receiving; but not that one of their own infallible bishops had so absolutely deterinined it to be necessary for their salvațion.

How soon or how late the custom of infants receiving came in, in the Greek Church, I know not. I do not remember any one ancient writer of that part of the world that speaks of it, I mean of any genuine book, for I know that a mention of it is got into Clem. Constitutions. But it is a known thing that they use it now, and have done for several centuries, at least most of the branches of that church.

That which I conceive most probable on the whole matter (referring myself to such as have minded this piece of history more) is,

1. That in Cyprian's time, [150] the people of the Church of Carthage did oftentimes bring their children younger than ordinary to the communion.

2. That in St. Austin and Innocent's time, [300] it was in the west parts given to mere infants; and that this continued froin that time for about 600 years. [900]

3. That some time during this space of 600 (500] years, the Greek Church, which was then low in the world, took this custom from the Latin Church, which was more flourishing.

4. That the Roman Church, about the year 1000, entertaining the doctrine of Transubstantiation, let fall the custom of giving the holy elements to infants; and the other western churches, mostly following their example, did the like upon the said account; but that the Greeks, not having the said doctrine, continued, and do still continue the custom of communicating infants. They think that coinmand of St. Paul, Leta

man eramine himself, and so let him eat, &c. so to be understood, as not to exclude such as are, by their age, incapable of examining themselves from partaking, but only to oblige all that are capable ; as that like command of his, If any one will not work, let him have nothing given him to eat, must be so limited to such aś are able to work; as that infants, and such as are not capable to work, must have victuals given them, though they do not work.

The most usual way of giving it to infants in the churches where it is now used, is to mix the bread with the wine, and to put to the child's lips a drop or two of that mixture quickly after his baptism, after which he receives no more tilt the age of discretion.

i From this custom of the ancients giving the Eucharist to infants, the Antipædobaptists do draw an argument (and it is the most considerable that they have for that purpose) that there is no great stress to be laid on the practice of antiquity in baptizing infants ; for they say, Since the antients gave them the Eucharist as well as baptism, and yet all Christians are now satisfied that the first was an error in them, what reason have we to regard their opinion or practice in the other?

But, 1. That is not true, that all Christians are satisfied that the antients did ill in giving infantsthe Eucharist; for very nearly half the Christians in the world do still continue that practice. The Greek Ctrurch, the Armenians, the Maronites, the Cophti, the Abassens, and the Muscovites; as is related by the late authors, Jeremias, Brerewood, Alvarez, Ricaut, Heylin, &c.; and so, for aught I know, do all the rest of the Eastern Christians. And it is probable that the Western had done the same, had it not been for the doctrine of Transubstantiation coming up in the Church of Rome.

· 2. It is not true that this custom of giving infants the Eucharist, was, in the ancient church, received either - so early or generally as baptism of them was. I have,-through all the First Part, shewn the evidences

[ocr errors]

of their baptism; but for their receiving the Eucharist, I know of no other evidences within our period of an. tiquity, than what I have just now recited; of which $t. Cyprian does not speak of mere infants; and the other two are dated after the year of Christ 412, and that only in the Latin Church. It is a strong presumption that there was no use of it, not even in the Church of Carthage in Tertullian's time, [100] because he who lived there, and pleaded to have the custom of baptiz: ing infants to be set aside (except in danger of death) could not have failed to have given his opinion mucha rather against the admitting them to that other sacrament if it had then been used.

3. The grounds of these two practices are nothing of equal force. The words of our Saviour to the Jews (John vi. 53) by which Innocent proves the one, do no way appear to belong to the sacramental eating, which was not then'instituted; but his words (John iii. 5) do plainly belong to the other. The Passover, which answers to the Eucharist, though enjoined in general words to all, yet was not understood to belong to the youngest infants. Circumcision and Jewish baptism, which answer to Christian baptism, were given to infants as well as adults. Baptism has in Scripture the nution and character of an initiating or entering sacrament; the Eucharist not so. Now infants are by the express words of Scripture to be initiated, or entered into covenant, Deut. xxix. 10, 11, 12.

24. However it be, the Antipædobaptists cannot make, any use of this argument, till they have granted that the ancient Christians did baptize infants. So long as many of them endeavour to keep their people in an opinion that infants' baptism is a new thing, so long they will forbear to tell them that infants did, in ancient time, receive the Eucharist'; since among all the absurdities that ever were held, none ever maintained that any person should partake of the communion before he was baptized. And if the people among; them shall ever be encouraged to search into the his: tory of the church to find some proofs of the one, they


« AnteriorContinua »