John Henry Newman.

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ing, must themselves retire, or but crowd his path. Nor these alone,
but all mere ceremonies were then for ever unseasonable, as mere obsta-
cles intercepting the Divine light. Yet, while Christ abolished them,
considered as means of expiation, or mere badges of profession, or as
prophetical types of what was no longer future. He introduced another
class of ordinances in their stead ; Mysteries, as they are sometimes
called, among which are the Sacraments, viz. rites as valueless and
powerless in themselves as the Jewish, but being, what the Jewish were
not, instruments of the application of His merits to individual beUevers.
Though He now sits on the right hand of God, He has in one sense,
never left the world since He first entered it ; for, by the ministration
of the Holy Ghost, He is really present with us in an unknown way, and
ever imparts Himself to those who seek Him. Even when visibly on
earth, He, the Son of Man, was still " in heaven ;" and now, though He
is ascended on high. He is still on earth. And as He is still with us,
for all that He is in heaven, so, again, is the hour of His cross and
passion ever mystically present, though it bo past these eighteen hundred
years. Time and space have no portion in the spiritual Kingdom which
He has founded ; and the rites of His Church are as mysterious spells
by which he annuls them. They are not like the Jewish ordinances,
long and laborious, expensive or irksome, with aught of value or merit
in themselves ; thev are so simple, so brief, with so little of outward

Vol. I.— 39


substance, that the mind is not detained for a moment from Him who
works by means of them, but takes them for what they really are, only
so far outward as to serve for a medium of the heavenly gift. Thus
Christ shines through them, as through transparent bodies, without im-
pediment. He is the Light and Life of the Church, acting through it,
dispensing of His fulness, knitting and compacting together every part of
it ; and these its Mysteries are not mere outward signs, but, (as it were)
effluences of His grace developing themselves in external forms, as
Angels might do when they appeared to men. He has touched them,
and breathed upon them, when He ordained them ; and thenceforth they
have a virtue in them, which issues forth and encircles them round, till
the eye of faith sees in them no element of matter at all. Once for all
He hung upon the cross, and blood and water issued from His pierced
side, but by the Spirit's ministration, the blood and water are ever flow-
ing, as though His cross were really set up among us, and the baptismal
water were but the outward image upon our senses. Thus in a true
sense that water is not what it was before, but is gifted with new and
spiritual qualities. Not as if its material substance were changed, which
our eyes see, or as if any new nature were imparted to it, but that the
life-giving Spirit, who could make bread of stones, and sustain animal
life on dust and ashes, applies the blood of Christ through it ; or accord-
ing to the doctrine of the text, that He, and not man, is the baptizer.

St. Paul sets this great truth before us, among other places, in the
second chapter of his Epistle to the Colossians. First he says, " In
Christ dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and ye have ful-
ness in Ilim, who is the head of all principality and power." Here the
most solemn and transporting doctrine of the Incarnation is disclosed
to us, as the corner stone of the whole Church system ; " the Word made
flesh," being the divinely appointed Way whereby we are regenerated
and saved. The Apostle then proceeds to describe the manner in which
this divine fulness is imparted to us, and in so doing contrasts the Jewish
ceremony of Circumcision with the spiritual Ordinance which has su-
perseded it. " In whom also," in Christ, " ye are circumcised with a
circumcision made without hands," heavenly, supernatural, invisible ;
when ye strip yourselves of the body of the sins of the flesh, and re-
ceive" the true circumcision, "the circumcision of Christ, namely,
buried with Him in Baptism." Thus Baptism is a spiritual Circum-
cision. He continues still more plainly. " Let no man therefore judge
you in meat or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new
moon, or of the Sabbath days ; which are a shadow of things to come,
but the body is of Christ." Now, if Baptism were but an outward
rite, like Circumcision, how strange a proof v.-ould it be of the Gospel's


superseding all outward rites, to say that it enforced Baptism ! He
says, " Ye have Baptism, therefore do not think of shadows,'' as if Bap-
tism took the place of shadows, as if it were certainly not a shadow
but a substance. Again he says, "but the body is of Christ;" Cir-
cumcision is a shadow, but Baptism and the other Mysteries of the
Church are " the JoJy," and that because they are " of Christ." And
lastly he speaks of the duty of " holding to the Head," that is, to Christ,
from whom the whole body, being nourished and knit together by joints
and bands, increaseth with a godly increase. What are the joints and
bands but the Christian Ordinances and Ministrations, as well as those
who perform them "? but, observe, they are of such a nature as to sub-
serve the " increase" of the Church.

Such is St. Paul's doctrine after Christ had died ; St. John the Bap-
tist teaches the same beforehand. " I indeed baptize you with water
unto repentance, but He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and
with fire." Doubtless there is an allusion here to the special descent of
the Spirit at Pentecost ; but, even taking it as such, the fulfilment of
^he Baptist's words then, becomes a pledge to us of the fulfilment of
our Saviour's words to Nicodemus to the end of time. He who came
by fire at Pentecost, will, as He has said, come by water now. But we
may reasonably consider these very words of the Baptist as referring to
ordinary Christian Baptism, as well as to the miraculous Baptism of the
Apostles. As if he said, " Christ's shall not be mere water, as
mine is. What you see of it indeed is water, but that is but the subordinate
element of it ; for it is water endued with high and supernatural quali-
ties. Would it not surprise you if water burned like fire ? Such, and
more than such, is the mystery of that water which He shall pour out
on you, having a searching and efficacious influence upon the soul itself.''

Now, if any one says that such passages as this need not mean all I
have supposed, I answer that the question is not what they must mean,
but what they do mean. I am not now engaged in proving, but in ex-
plaining the doctrine of Baptism, and in illustrating it from Scripture.

To return : — hence too the Baptismal Font is called " the washing of
regeneration,'' not of mere water, " and renewing of the Holy Ghost v/hich
He hath poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour ;"
and Christ is said to have " loved the Church and given Himself for it,
that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the
Word, that he might present it to Himself a glorious Church."

Further, let us consider the instances of the administration of Baptism
in the Acts of the Apostles. If it be as serious a rite as I have repre-
sented, surely it must be there set forth as a great thing, and received


with awe and thankfulness. Now we shall find these expectations alto,
gether fulfilled. For instance, on the day of Pentecost, St. Peter said
to the multitude, who asked what they nnust do, " Repent, and be bap-
tized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of
sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Accordingly,
** they that gladly received His word were baptized," to obtain these
privileges ; and, forthwith, we hear of their continuing " in gladness and
singleness of heart, praising God." Again, when the Ethiopian Eunuch
had been baptized by Philip, he " went on his way rejoicing." After
St. Paul had been struck down by the Saviour whom he was persecu-
ting, and sent to Damascus, he began to pray ; but though in one sense
a changed man already, he had not yet received the gift of regeneration,
nor did he receive it except by the ministry of Ananias, who was sent
to him from Christ, expressly that he " might be filled with the Holy
Ghost." Accordingly Ananias said to him, "And now why tarriest
thou ? arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the
name of the Lord." So again Cornelius, religious man as he was, and
that doubtless by God's secret aid, yet was not received into Christ's
family except by Baptism. Even the descent of the Holy Ghost upon
him and his friends miraculously, while St. Peter was preaching to
them, did not supersede the necessity of the Sacrament. And lastly
when the jailor of Philippi had been baptized, he " rejoiced, believing in
God with all his house."*

These and similar passages seem to prove clearly the superiority of
Baptism to Circumcision, as being a Sacrament ; but if they did not,
what conclusion should we have arrived at ? no other than this, that
Baptism is, like Circumcision, but a carnal ordinance (if the words may
be spoken,) not a spiritual possession. See what follows. Do you not
recollect how much St. Paul says in depreciation of the rites of the Jew-
ish Law, on the ground of their being rudiments of this world, cardinal
ordinances ? Now if Baptism be altogether like Circumcision, can it,
any more than they, have a place in the New Covenant ? This was
the very defect of the Mosaic Law, that it was but a form ; this was one
part of the bondage of the Jews, that they were put under forms, which
contained in them no direct or intrinsic virtue, but had their spiritual
use only as obeying for conscience' sake, and as means of prophetic in-
struction. Surely this cannot be our state under the Gospel: "We,"
says St. Paul, " when we were children," that is, Jews, " were in bond-
age under the elements of the world ; but when the fulness of the time

»Actsii. 38— 17; vlii. 39 ; ix. 17; xxii. 16; x. 44— 43 ; xvi. 31.


was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman that

we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God
hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying Abba,
Father." Is it possible then, now that the Spirit is come, we can be
under dead rights and ordinances ? It is plainly impossible. If Baptism
then has no spiritual virtue in it, can it be intended for us Christians ?
If it has no regenerating power, surely they only are consistent who re-
ject it altogether. I will boldly say it, we have nothing dead and
earthly under the Gospel, and we act like the Judaizing Christians of
old time if we submit to any thing such ; therefore they only are con-
sistent, who, denying the virtue of Baptism, also deny its authority as
a permanent ordinance of the Gospel. Surely it was but intended for
the infancy of the Church, ere men were weaned from their attachment
to a ritual ! Surely it was but an oriental custom, edifying to those
who loved a symbolical worship, but needless, nay harmful to us ; harm-
ful as impeding the prerogative of Christian liberty, obscuring our view
of the one Christian Atonement, corrupting the simplicity of our faith
and trust, and profaning the dispensation of the Spirit ! I repeat it,
either Baptism is an instrument of the Holy Ghost, or it has no place in
Christianity. We indeed, who, in accordance with the teaching of the
Church Universal, believe that it is an act of the Spirit, are under no
difficulty in this matter. But let those who deny it look to themselves.
They are on their own principles committing the sin of the Galatians,
and severing themselves from Christ. Surely if their doctrine be right,
they may consider themselves addressed by St. Paul in his language to
those early Judaizers, " O senseless Galatians," he would have said to
them, " who hath bewitched you ? Are ye so foolish, having begun in
the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh 1 Why burden your-
selves with mere ceremonies external washings, the rudiments of the
world, shadows of good things, weak, beggarly and unprofitable ele-
ments, whereunto ye desire to be in bondage ? Stand fast in the liberty
wherewith Christ has made us free, and be not entangled with the yoke
of bondage. Spiritual men are delivered from formal observances. If
ye be baptized, Christ shall profit you nothing ; for neither Baptism
availeth any thing nor want of Baptism, but faith which worketh by
love. Neither Baptism availeth any thing nor want of Baptism, but
a new creature ; and as many as walk according to this rule, peace be
on them and mercy, and upon the Israel of our God."

Such, doubtless, is the only consistent mode of regarding and treat-
ing this sacred ordinance, if it has no power or grace in it above a
Jewish rite. We should discard it. And in whatever degree we think
it thus unprofitable, so far we should discard it. If we think it but a


figure in the case of children, though a Sacrament to grown men, we
should keep from wasting upon children what would benefit them as
men. And this holds good of all the ordinances of the Church ; so far
as they are but outward forms, let them be abolished as parts of dead
Judaism. But, praised be God ! they are none of them such. They
all have life. Christ has lodged virtue in His Church, and she dis-
penses it forth from her in all her words and works. Why will you not
believe this ? What do you gain by so jealous and niggardly a spirit,
such " slowness of heart," but the loss of thoughts full of comfort and
of majesty ? To view Christ as all but visibly revealed, — to look upon
His ordinances, not in themselves but as signs of His presence and
power, as the accents of His love, the very form and countenance -of
Him who ever beholds us, ever cherishes us, — to see Him thus revealed
in glory day by day, — is not this to those who believe it an unspeakable
privilege ? Is it not so great that a man might well wish it true from
the excellence of it, and count them happy who are able to receive it ?
And when this is all plainly revealed in Scripture, when we are ex-
pressly told that Christ washes us by Water to change us into a glo-
rious Church, that the consecrated bread is His flesh, that He is present
with His ministers and is in the midst of His Church why should we
draw back, like Thomas doubting of our Lord's resurrection ? " Bless-
ed are they that have not seen and have yet believed !" Surely so it
is ; and however the world may scorn our faith, however those despise
us from whom we might expect better things, we will cheerfully bear
what is a slight drawback indeed on our extreme blessedness. While
they accuse us of trusting in ourselves, trusting in our forms, and of
ignorance of the Gospel, we will meekly say in our hearts, '"Thou,
God, seest me :' Thou knowest that we desire to love nothing but
Thee, and to trust in nothing but the cross of Christ ; and that we
relinquish all self-reliance, and know ourselves in ourselves to have
nothing but sin and misery, and esteem these ordinances of Thine not
for their own sake, hut as memorials of Thee and of Thy Son, — me-
morials which He has appointed, which He has blessed, and in which,
by faith, we see Him manifested day by day, and through which we
hope to receive the imputation of those merits, once for all wrought
out on the Cross, and our only effectual help in the day of account."



Matt, iviii. 5.
Whoso shall receive one such little child in my name, receivetli me.

Perhaps there are no words uttered by our Lord in the Gospels more
gracious and considerate, as well as holy, just, and good (that is, if we
dare measure His words by our own sense of them,) than the encour-
agement given in this text, and others of a similar character ; none
more gracious and considerate, taking into account our nature and the
necessary consequence of believing the doctrines He has brought to
light. He has brought to light life and immortality ; but with immortal
life, He has also brought to light eternal death ; He has revealed the
awful truth, that the soul never dies, never ceases to think and to be
conscious, to be capable of happiness or misery ; that when once a
man is born into the world, neither time nor place, friend nor enemy.
Angels nor devils can touch the Hving principle within him ; not even
himself has any power over himself ; but, as he has begun, so he must
continue to exist on to eternity. He has taught us, that every child,
from the moment of his birth, has this prospect before him, also, that
far from being sure of heaven, he is to be put on a trial, whether he
will serve God or no ; nay, not only on a trial, but on a trial not on
even terms ; not a trial to which he is equal, but with a strong pro-
pensity within him to the worst alternative, a tendency weighing him
down to earth ; so that of himself he cannot serve God acceptably,
or even repent of his unworthy service.

I say, if we knew only this, no thoughtful person could ever, with-
out the greatest humiliation and terror, reflect on his being responsible
for the existence of being exposed to such miserable disadvantages.
Surely, if we only knew the primary doctrines of the Gospel, viz. that
man is a sinner by nature, and, though redeemed by Christ, cannot
turn to Christ of his own strength, I say, the cruelty of giving birth to
poor infants, who should inherit our nature and receive from us the


birth-riglit of corruption, would be so great, that bowing the head to
God's appointment, and beheving it to be good and true, we could but
conclude with the Apostles on one occasion, that " it were good not to
marry." Our knowledge of the real condition of man in God's sight
would surely lead to the breaking up of society, in proportion as it
was sincerely and simply received ; for what good were it to know that
Christ has died for us, if we also knew that no one is by nature able to
repent and believe, and knew nothing more '! It would lead thoughtful
men to think of their own personal salvation only, and thus to defraud
Christ of the succession of believers, and the perpetual family of Saints,
which is to be the salt of the earth to the end of time and the full
fruit of His passion.

It is true, there is another doctrine besides those which I have stated,
viz. that Christ has not only died for sinners, but also vouchsafes from
above the influences of grace, to enable them to love what by nature
they cannot love, and to do what they cannot do, to believe and obey.
But even this would not be enough to remove the alarm and distress of
the Christian parent. For, though God mercifully gives His grace to
enable men to believe in His Son, yet it is as certain as the truth of
Scripture itself, that He does not give His grace to all, but to those to
whom He will. If any word of Scripture be true, it is this, — that there
is an election, that " it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that run-
neth, but of God that ehoweth mercy," that some men are brought
near unto God, and gifted with His regenerating grace, and others
not ; so that, although we knew ever .so much concerning the gift of
the Holy Ghost, as well as concerning the meritorious death of Christ,
yet, that knowledge would not tend a whit more to reconcile religious
men to what they must certainly consider the cruelty, and the personaF
responsibility, of becoming a parent.

I would say, then, that if this were all we knew on the subject, na
one of any seriousness could bear the thought of adding to this world's
" children of wrath," except an express divine command obliged him to
do so. If even a single deliberate act of .sin be (as it is) » great and
fearful matter, mortal and damnable, yet what is any sin, say blasphe-
my, murder, idolatry, even the greatest, what would it be to the giving
being to a soul intelligent, individual, accountable, fraught with all the
sensibilities and affections which belong to human nature, capable of
pain, immortal, and in due season manifesting a will incurably corrupt,
and a heart at enmity with God, even though there were the chance
that po.ssibly it might be one of those who were elected for eternal
hfe ? There can be no doubt, that if we know no more of the Gospel
than I have hitherto mentioned, if we content ourselves with that half


Gospel which is sometimes taken for the whole, none would be so self-
ish and so unfeeling as we, who could be content, for the sake of world-
ly comforts, a cheerful home, and the like, to surround ourselves with
those, about whom, dearly as we loved them, and fervently as we might
pray for them, we only knew thus much, that there was a chance, —
a chance of some sort that, perhaps they might be in the number of
the few whom Christ rescues from the curse of original sin.

Let us now see how His gracious words, contained in the text, re-
move the difficulty.

In truth, our Merciful Saviour has done much more for us than re-
veal the wonderful doctrines of the Gospel ; He has enabled us to ap»
ply them. He has given us directions as well as doctrines, and \Wiile
giving them has imparted to us especial encouragement and comfort.
What an inactive, useless world this would be, if the sun's light did not
diffuse itself through the air and fall on all objects around us, enabling
us to see earth and sky as well as the sun itself! Cannot we conceive
nature so constituted that the sun appeared as a bright spot in the hea-
vens, while the heavens themselves were black as in the starlight, and
the earth dark as night ? Such would have been our religious state,
had not our Lord applied, and diversified, and poured to and fro, in
heat and light, those heavenly glories which are concentrated in Him.
He would shine upon us from above in all His high attributes and offi-
ces, as the Prophet, Priest, and King of His elect ; but how should we
bring home His grace to ourselves ? How indeed should we gain, and
know we gain, an answer to our prayers, — how secure the comfortable
assurance that He loves us personally, and will change our hearts,
which we feel to be so earthly, and wash away our sins, which we con-
fess to be so manifold, unless He had given us Sacraments, — means
and pledges of grace, — keys which open the treasure-house of mercy,
— ordinances in which we not only ask, but receive, and know we re-
ceive, all we can receive as accountable beings, (not, indeed, the cer-
tainty of heaven, for we are still in the flesh,) but the certainty of God's
present favour, the certainty that He is reconciled to us, will work in
us and with us all righteousness, will so supply our need, that hence-
forth we shall lack nothing for the completion and overflowing sancti-
fication of our defective and sinful nature, but have all, and more than
all that Adam ever had in his first purity, all that the highest Archangel
or Seraph ever had when on his trial, whether he would stand or fall ?

For instance, in the particular case I have been considering, our
gracious Lord has done much more than tell us some souls are elected
to the mercies of redemption and others not. He has not left Chris-
tians thus uncertain about their children. He has expressly assured us


that children are in the number of His chosen ; and, if you ask wheth-
er all children, I reply, all children that you can bring to Baptism, all
children who are within reach of it. So literally has He fulfilled His
promise : *' Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and
he that hath no money, come ye buy and eat ; yea, come buy wine
and milk without money and without price !" and again, " All that the
Father giveth Me, shall come to Me, and him that cometh to Me, I
will in no wise cast out." He has disclosed His secret election in a
visible Sacrament, and thus enables Christians to bear to be, what oth-
erwise they would necessarily shrink from being parents. He relieves,
my brethren, your anxious minds, anxious (as they must ever be) for
your children's welfare, even after all the good promises of the gospel,
but unspeakably anxious before you understand how you are to be rid of
the extreme responsibility of bestowing an eternal being upon sinful
creatures whom you cannot change. With the tenderest feeling He

Online LibraryJohn Henry NewmanParochial sermons (Volume 1) → online text (page 68 of 76)