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• Pref . p. 30. * Pref . p. 39.

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122 Calvinistic Sense of Regeneration. [Part I.

gaarantee seems to him requisite that the pei;pon who is
good now^ should also be good in eternity. Sonship is
necessarily an immortal state in his idea^ becaose it is
being the son of the " Eternal and Immortal,'* a partici-
pation of a nature which is imperishable and cannot £euL
To talk of a man then being a son of Gx)d now, and not
being a son of Gk>d at a certain date from hence, is con-
demned as simple trifling, and the idea of a temporary
sonship is altogether rejected as an incongruity and a
solecism in reason. The condition is required, therefore,
by the Calvinist, in assigning the title of son of Gk)d, that
once possessed it should never be parted with ; nor is such
a condition to be set aside as wholly unreasonable or un-
scriptural, appealing as it does to a natural maxim which
we cannot altogether discard, that the end is the test
even of the reality of the present, and favoured as it is by
certain striking portions of Scripture language.

The too rigid adherence, however, to the condition of
permanence and indefectibility as essential to regenera-
tion, involved the Calvinist in difficulties as great as the
concession of a temporary regeneration would have entailed.
It may seem unnatural and incongruous to say that a man
is a son of God now, who will be a child of the devil at a
certain date from hence, but still the fact must be admitted
that men do fally and from a good life change to a bad one.
How, then, are we to describe the previous state of good-
ness? Was it altogether a deception without inward
reality ? We might say so, perhaps, if it vanished for
ever and never appeared again. But what if it revives,
and revives to continue to the end ? It must be admitted
then to have been a real goodness, and therefore true
sonship; and yet to have been apparently only temporary,
stopping at a particular time. The Calvinist then ex-
plained this difficulty by supposing in such a case a root
of goodness, which remained in the human soul even

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Chap. VIII.] Calvtnzstic Sense of Regeneration. 123

when the visible fruit, in the shape of an apparent actual
life of goodness^ was gone^ and the man was sunk in vice ;
— from which it followed that the sonship had never really
ceased^ but only suffered an eclipse.^ But that a man
should be in root and essence a son of God, at the very
time that he is wallowing in the pollution of sin, is not a
Scriptural idea. It is true that by a figure, of speech
Scripture represents what is certain to he, as already pre-
sent, and in this sense a profligate man may be a saint
now to the Divine prescience, but he is not a saint in him-
self. The Oalvinist thus bridged over the interval of the
elect's lapse at the cost of his definition of regeneration,
and obtained his continuous line of sonship by an un-
authorized reduction of the meaning of that term.

Regeneration was thus ultimately defined not as a habit,
but as Q, process; by virtue of which goodness did not
necessarily then exist, but was in sure progress to forma-
tion. It was a process which when once begun in man by
the Holy Ghost, was never wholly abandoned, but though
sometimes thrown back upon its original starting-ground,
with all the fabric hitherto erected demolished, had
still an ultimate footing reserved to it in the soul,
upon which the Spirit commenced in due time His work
afresh, till the spiritual man was built up. The Calvinistic
and Scholastic definitions thus agreeing at the outset,
parted company at a certain stage of the argument ; and
regeneration from an actual ^^ habit '^ of goodness, which

* " Ego tamen non dubito qnin semen illnd quo electos snos re-
generat Dens, ut est incormptibile, ita perpetuam vim habeat.
Fieri quidem posse concedo nt interdnm snffocetur, quemadmodam
in Davide : sed tamen quo tempore videbattir eztincta esse omnis
in eo pietas, carbo vivns sub cineribus latebat. Conatur quidem
Satan avellere qnicquid Dei est in electis ; sed nbi plurimnm illi
permittitar, manet semper occulta radix, qu89 deinde pullulat."
Calvin on 1 John iii. 9.

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124 Calvinistic Sense of Regeneration. [Paet I.

naturally shows itself in the practice of goodness, became
the process of the formation of goodness, all the first intro-
ductory part of which could be secret, and simultaneous
with a life of the grossest sin.

This modification of the definition of regeneration, helped
a section of the Calvinistic School outof another difficulty.

The Calvinistic School could not consistently with its
principles hold the regeneration of all in&nts in baptism.
Indeed they were in a difficulty here antecedently to the
objection arising from their own peculiar tenet. For the
only definition of infant baptismal regeneration, which^
by the admission of Bishop Betheli, was presented to the
Calvinists upon their first birth as a school, was the
established Scholastic definition, that all infants had the
habits of faith, hope, and charity infused into them at
baptism. But they could not accept this position, but
were obliged to reject it, not only because it was opposed
to Calvinism, but because it was contrary to fact.

But though the Calvinistic School could not consist-
ently hold the regeneration of all infants in baptism, and
though its popular tendency has been to defer that change
to the age of consciousness, it has still as a school never
given up the connexion of regeneration with baptism, but
adhered to the teaching of its early authorities, who main-
tained the regeneration of infants — those who were elect
— and baptism as the instrument or the seal of this re-
generation.' But how was the regeneration of the elect
in infancy consistent with the obvious fact that many of
the elect lived years in sin before their actual conversion ?
In what mode and sense were they regenerate throughout
this previous life ? By " initial regeneration,*' ^ it was
answered. But what was this ? If it was an implanted
habit it would come out with the growth of reason,

• See Chapter vii Part 11. 7 Note 20.

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Chap. Vni.] Calvinistic Sense of Regeneration. 125

whereas the elect person might live up to a point of
middle or perhaps even declining life in sin. This initial
regeneration then was not an implanted hahiti but only
the commencement of an infallible process, which had to
work its way through a long conflict of opposing forces,
and gradually shape the rough material of the human
soul into the spiritual form. Such an incipient stage of
a process is not the regeneration of the New Testament ;
for though the decree of predestination can attach to a
person in and throughout the longest period of sin, he is
not during this period in the Scriptural sense of the word
regenerate. This modification, however, of the definition
of regeneration got the sacramental Calvinist out of a
difficulty, out of which the Schoolman never extricated
himself. For the Scholastic implanted habit provoked the
challenge to come out and show itself with the growth of
reason; whereas the Calvinistic process invited no such
challenge, only being obliged to show itself when it was
completed, which it might not be till even the end of life.
An examination into the Anglican sense of regenera-
tion would now follow in natural order. I use the term
" Anglican *' because this is the ordinary designation of
a particular school which succeeded the Calvinistic in our
Church, and which contains most of our well-known
divines. The Anglican School, though a divided witness,
still gives the main strength of its testimony to that
sense of regeneration which has been maintained in this
treatise as the true and Scriptural one; but an exa-
mination of the method of treatment which the divines
of this school applied to this question is reserved for
another place in this treatise."

" Chapter xi.

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Thb case of adult regeneration in baptism is easily stated
with respect to the conditions of it. That no adult is
regenerate in baptism without faith and repentance is the
unquestionable doctrine of Scripture and the universal

An opposite language^ viz. that even wicked adults are
regenerate in baptism^ though not beneficially^ is held
by some, but such a notion is entirely without warrant
Those who maintain such -a position seem to do so upon
the idea that regeneration is only the imparting of a
power OT faculty ; in which case they see no inconsistency
in the notion of a man being regenerated while wicked,
because it is a law of the Divine dispensations that great
faculties are conferred upon good and bad alike. But
regeneration is a complex thing, including in the essential
idea of it, besides this power for the future, remission of
past sin, to which forgiveness the wicked cannot possibly
be admitted while they are wicked. They receive the
baptismal character indeed, which is perhaps what these ^
persons mean ; but this character is not regeneration.

But when we go from the conditions of the gift, to
what the gift is in the case of adults, the case becomes
more difficult. The main distinction which a preceding
chapter' has established is, that the regenerate state is

* See p. 50, and Notes 6 and 8. ' Chapter v.

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Regeneration of Adults in Baptism. 127

in the Scriptural sense a yioihii of goodness and not a
faculty only. It was shown to be actnal goodness^ and by
goodness we mean a habit of goodness. Bnt here a
qaestion arises. For regeneration is confessed on all
sides to be an absolute gift of Qod^ bat can hahiU be
absolutely given, and created by Divine power? Our
faculties are universally acknowledged to be simply given
us, but according to the Aristotelian doctrine, habits are
acquired by our own use of the faculties, or by succes-
sive acts. The answer to this question is that habits,
even as distinguished from faculties, can be implanted in
the soul by Divine power. Instances of this appear in-
deed in the course of God's natural providence. Sudden
impressions from outward events, or sudden impulses
from within, have been known to give an immediate turn
to character and to produce a settled moral bias and
mould of mind which has influenced the conduct of the
individual from that time forward. And we recognize

the fact of what we call '' natural character," which is a
• ...

moral hahii of mind imparted to the individual at birth,

causing him to act in a certain way as he g^ows up. Nor
is such a doctrine of the implantation of habits by Divine
power Calvinism ; because it does not follow, if a man is
endowed with a good habit, that therefore the contingent
acts of free will are dispensed with in sustaining it. He
is undoubtedly placed at an advantage in regard to
moral action ; still acts do not in our present state neces-
sarily flow from habits without any efibrt of the will, and
therefore such imparted habits are attended by risk, and
require the exertion of the will to maintain them. Pri-
mitive theology represented Adam as created not only
with the faculty, but with the habit of goodness, but that
habit did not prevent a fall afterwards by voluntary
neglect and sin.

But though there appears to be no objection to assert-

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128 Regeneration of Adults [Part L

ing that a moral habit can be implanted by Divine power,
a further question is raised when we come to the sacra-
ment of baptism as the means by which such a habit is
implanted. For is it reasonable to suppose that a moral
habit can be imparted to a human being by a particular
outward rite ? Such a result is less startling in the case
of infants, because the germ and commencement of Ufe
is itself a kind of mystery, and so harmonizes more
with such a mysterious creation. But let us place before
our minds an adult in the full possession of his reason
and faculties, and we must feel great difficulty in the
idea of a moral habit being formed by an external rite,
in the grown and mature man. Such an effect of the
sacrament comes into direct collision with reasonable
modes of thinking of whic]; we find ourselves possessed.
There is this important consideration too in the case of
the adult, that a good disposition is the previous con-
dition upon which he receives the grace, and therefore
cannot be the effect of it. And though a good disposition
may exist without a formed habit, the adult may often
have the latter as well, and come to baptism already a
mature Christian in character.

The case of adult regeneration in baptism has thus
difficulties peculiar to itself. Were regeneration only
defined as an admission to an outward covenant and
spiritual privileges, the way would be clear; but re-
generation being an inward moral and spiritual habit,
the question arises whether such a habit is imparted to
an adult in and by baptism ; and the effect of baptism
upon adults becomes a separate subject for consideration,
involving peculiar difficulties, apart from those attaching
in common to the whole baptismal question.

Theology has accordingly, in its treatment of the
baptismal question, always trod with peculiar caution
upon this particular portion of the ground; and the

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Chap. IX.] in Baptism. 129

questions which arose out of adult baptism ultimately
produced an opening through which a good deal of
relaxation and modification of doctrinal language crept
in. .The case of adults from time to time necessitated
important concessions^ and moral considerations were
allowed to outweigh those of ritual^ till at length the
ohsignaiory theory triumphed in this particular case^ and
it was decided that the faithful adult was regenerate
before baptism^ though this did not release him, from the
obligation to receive the outward seal of the sacrament.
The difficulty of a moral and spiritual habit, such as
regeneration is, being imparted to an adult in baptism,
was thus got rid of by antedating in his case regene-
ration to baptism, and regarding him as possessing
the res sacra/menti by virtue of his faith and holiness
before the outward rite. But this explanation was not
immediately arrived at, but was led up to by a series of

The first of these was the case of unbaptized martyrs.
Adults possess moral character. They possess evidently
—some of them — when they have had the advantage of
Christian instruction, even Christian character, ante-
cedently to baptism; and this was a fact which the
greater prevalence of adult baptism, involving as it did a
constant number of grown-up persons who had though
unbaptized the Christian faith and temper, brought
forcibly home to the mind even of the early Church, amid
all its high regard to sacraments. Could it be said that
a catechumen who suffered martyrdom for the faith was
not a member of Christ, because he was not baptized ?
Moral feeling rejected such an idea, and it was decided
that martyrdom of itself conferred upon him regeneration,
for which it gained the name of the baptism of blood.
But the course of concession could not stop here, because
a catechumen who was not martyred might have the


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130 Regeneration of Adults [Part I.

spirit of a martyr^ might have been as willing as the
other to snffer death for the faith, had he had the call
Was snch an one then not a member of Christ beoaose
by accident he had died without baptism T Moral feeling
again rejected snch an idea, and it was decided that faith
of itself supplied the place of baptism in the believing
catechnmen. The exception allowed to martyrdom thus
established, as the next step, a mach wider and nK>re
general i^odification of the doctrine of baptism ; the mling
principle in such concessions being the plain ground of
morals which must ultimately outweigh any other that
comes into competition with it, yiz. that the acceptable
thing in the sight of God is actual holiness and goodness,
and that where this is had no defect of ritual can possibly
interfere with the individual's favour in His sight St.
Ambrose, therefore, claimed this concession without

But the course of concession could not stop even here,
for if the act of baptism made a real inward change in
the pious and believing adult, as compared with his state
before ; if he entered into a new spiritual condition in
and by that act ; to suppose that God supplied the want
of this to the believing adult who died without baptism,
by an extraordinary arrangement, was an cusumption.
But it was not satisfactory that so important a claim
should rest upon so irregular a footing as a m«re pious
assumption ; and therefore, as a security to the faithful
unbaptized, the next step was to modify the effect of
baptism upon the faithful baptized ; and it was decided
ultimately that the latter possessed the substance of
regeneration before baptism, and had thus nothing wanting
in the substance of his spiritual condition for baptism
afterwards to supply. The regeneration of the faithful

* "Qui habnit spiritum tnnm, quomodo non aocepit gratiam
tuam.'* De obitu Yalentiniani consolatio, a. 52.

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Chap. IX.] in Baptism. 131

onbaptized thus no longer stood as a divergence from the
regolar doctrine of baptism, bat was incorporated in that
doctrine ; and the success of an exceptional claim resulted
at last in a modification of doctrinal basis.

This modification^ however, was some time obtaining
a recognized place in theology. The ordinary language
of the Fathers does not, perhaps, present any noticeable
difference in describing the effect of baptism upon
believing adults, and upon infants, — though, when
Cyprian in middle life attributes his own regeneration,
which he pointedly describes as a conversion, to the
simple rite of baptism, it is difficult to suppose that he
means such language to be understood quite literally.
The sudden moral and intellectual change which he relates
would, as produced by the simple administration of an
outward rite, have been a miracle, and he does not
profess to be relating a miracle.

But, though the ordinary language of the Fathers does
not present much that is distinctive on the subject of
adult baptism, occasional modifications appear, especially
when they have the case of pious believing and instructed
adults expressly before them. Justin Martyr and Clement
of Alexandria both appear to sanction the antedating of
illumination, — which was another term for regeneration,
— as the growth of discipline and instruction,* to the
actual administration of baptism. Tertullian meets the

^ KoXfftrm dc tovto t6 Xovrphv <^<or((r/i^f, m <l>c»Ti(ofjt€vmv lijv didvotav
r&p ravra fiav3av6vTc»v, Justin, Apol. 1. 1, B. 61. Illamination,
which is always spoken of by the Fathers as the gift of baptism,
is here made to precede baptism, as the resnlt of preceding instmc-
tion. Clement declines tying illumination to the actual rite. "On
d€ ff yywrii crvMiyarAXcc t^ (Ptario'fjum, iftptaarpanrovou rov vovv, koX
€v$€m£ oKOVOfitP fiaBrfToi ol afjLoBuv' ir^rtpov ir6rt, rrjs fjta^trtms iKtivrfs
frpoiry€vofianjs ; ov yhp iiv tfxois €l'rr€iv r6v xP^^ov. Potter's Ed.
V. i. p. 116.

K 2

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1 3 2 Regeneration of Adults [Paet I.

qaestion^ why a person who has ah*ead7 trae Christian
faith is baptized^ seeing that Abraham was jastified by
the sacrament of faith only^ and he answers it by saying,
that before onr Lord's Passion and Resurrection faith.
^^ naked '^ was enoogh ; but that, after faith had enlarged
its subject-matter by the addition of the articles of the
Nativity, Passion, and Resurrection, ''an augmentation
was added to the sacrament of faith^ viz. the seal of
baptism ; a clothing, as it were^ of the faith which hitherto
was naked.'' * The addition which the sacrament makes
to faith is explained here as one more of an outer than
an inner kind ; for the body is more the substance of the
man than'the clothing, and faith stands for the body, the
sacrament for the clothing. Again, in combating the
idea which persons had that they might live in sin up to
the time of baptism, relying upon everything being
wiped oflE by that act, he says,— "Baptism is the seal of
faith, which faith starts with and is proved by repentance.
We are not therefore washed that we may cease to sin,
inasmuch as we are already washed in heart/'* Two
points may be noted in this language. First, baptism is
the seal of faith. The explanation of baptism as the seal
of faith, like the former explanation of it as the clothing
of faith, does not describe the sacrament as producing
any change in the substance of the spiritual condition of
the individual who has already true faith. The substance
of a document is its language, in which the person engages

* " Faerit sains retro per fidem nudam ante Domini passionem
et resnrreotionem. At nbi fides aucta est credendi in nativitatem,
passionem, resnrrectionemque ejus, addita est ampliatio Sacra-
mento, ohsignatio BaptUmi vestimentam qaodammodo fidei qnas
retro erat nuda." De Bapt. c. 13.

^ " Lavacram illnd obsignatio est fidei ; qnsB fides a poenitentise
fide incipitur et commendatnr. Non ideo abluimur ut delinquere
desinamns, quoniam jam corde loti sumus." De Poen. c. 6.

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QpAP. IX.] in Baptism. 133

to do such and sach things ; the seal is a formal rather than
a substantial addition. The language even without the
seal has of itself a binding power^ because a man cannot
declare in words that he will do a thing, and afterwards
not do it, without being convicted by those very words.
And therefore, though the law may choose to require the
addition of the seal, such an addition does not appertain
to the substance of the document, which lies in the natural
force of the language composing it. As the seal of faith,
therefore, baptism does not add anything intrinsic and
essential to faith. The other point is the assertion, that
those who come to baptism in a right state of mind are
already baptized in heart — corde loti. Inward baptism
is regeneration.

St. Augustine evidently feels a difficulty when he finds
himself confronting the case of an adult possessing the
true Christian faith and temper before baptism, and
required to state what it is which is effected in such an
one by baptism. In such a case, he says, '' What the
hodUy scmctification of the sacrament avails, and what it
does in the man, it is difficult to say;'' but unless it
availed much, our Lord would not have received the
baptism of a servant. So little ought any one, however
spiritually advanced before baptism, to despise that sacra-
ment which is applied corporally by the minister, and by
which God works the spiritual consecration of the man.
Nor for any other purpose was the office of baptizing
given to John, than that our Lord who gave it to him
might, in not disdaining to accept the baptism of a
servant, commend the path of humility and declare how
much His own baptism was to be valued. For He foresaw
that there would not be wanting that pride in some, who
having attained proficiency of understanding and morals,

7 " Quid autem valeat et quid agat in homine corporaliter adhibita
sanotifioatio . . . difficile est dioere," &c. See Note 21.

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134 Regeneration of Adults [Pabt J.

might rank themflelves above many of the baptized in life
and doctrine ; which would induce them to think baptism
in their own case superfluous^ inasmuch as they would feel
themselves to have attained already that habit of mind
to which many baptized persons were still striving to

The first remark to make upon this explanation is^ that
the difficulty is felt more clearly than it is answered. The
writer, however^ while he uses many high expressions to
show the value of baptism in such a case as he describes,
evidently avoids asserting any substantial inward change
as the effect of the sacrament. The effect he ascribes to
it is ''a spiritually wrought consecration ;'' — an indefinite
expression^ indeed, but one which does not contain the
idea of a substantial inward change or actual regeneration.
The appeal also to our Lord's " fulfilment of righteous-
ness/' in submitting Himself to John's baptism, and to
the duty of humility and not despising ordinances of
Divine appointment, points rather to an act of obedience,

Online LibraryJames Bowling MozleyA review of the baptismal controversy → online text (page 11 of 38)