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A review of the baptismal controversy online

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conferring a blessing as such, than to the reception of an
inward substantial change. It is evident, indeed, that
our Lord's baptism was an act of simple obedience to a
positive ordinance without an inward effect : the promi-
nent use of this case then, as the one on which to rest the
obligation of the believing aduh to submit himself to this
ordinance, suggests the motive of obedience as the princi-
pal one enjoined in this and other passages of Augustine.

The famous maxim of Augustine, ** Legis opera sequtm-
tur justificaium, non prcecedunt jvstificandum" may be
added to the concessions of antiquity upon this subject.
This maxim, which mainly affects the question of the part
which works have in justification, also incidentally, but
still substantially, affects the question of the part which
baptism has in justification, in a particular case, viz. in
the case of the adult who has before baptism practised



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Chap. IX.] in Baptism. 135

good works^ or exhibited a good and holy character.
The result of the maxim is in his case to make justification
precede baptism ; for, where good works precede baptism,
a maxim, which antedates justification to good works, still
more antedates justification to baptism. This celebrated
maxim of Augustine has indeed been explained as assuming
that justification is in baptism, and only meaning to assert
that works after baptism have the exclusive title to the
name of " Christian works or righteousness properly so
called.^' But Augustine admits to the fullest extent the
possibility of good works and of Christian works before
baptism ; and therefore this is an artificial explanation of
this maxim, which must rather be taken as one of those
Augustinian dicta which qualify the sacramental system,
and reveal an opening into another and counterbalancing
one.

The incidental and desultory concession, however^ of the
Fathers was more methodicaUy adopted by the Schools.
The Schoolmen were, indeed, so strongly committed to
the position that the baptismal gift or regeneration was
an actual habit of goodness, that this concession in the
case of adults was forced upon them. For what were
they to say? That an adult had a moral habit im-
parted to him in and by an outward rite? That was
plainly unreasonable. And, moreover, the faithful adult
came with a good disposition already formed to baptism.
The language of theology accordingly, contrary to the
genial tendency of sacramental statements, which was
to greater rigidity, became more systematically free on
this subject. Peter Lombard, who built his structure of
divinity entirely upon a Patristic basis, hardly professing
it indeed to be more than a digest of the Fathers, pro-
nounces distinctly, or rather, what is still more signifi-
cant, treats it as a point universally admitted, that
adults who come to baptism in faith and love are, upon



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136 Regeneration of Adults [Paet I.

the strength of this inward disposition^ justified or re-
generate already.

'* It is wont to be asked," he says, '^ concerning those
who come with faith and love to baptism, being already
sanctified by the Spirit, what it is which baptism bestows
upon them. For it appears to bestow nothing, inasmuch
as they are already justified by faith and repentance, and
have received forgiveness of sin. To which it may be
replied, that those persons fcawe heen indeed, through their
fcdth and repentance, justified, i. e. cleansed from the stain
of sin, and absolved from the debt of eternal punishment :
yet that they are bound to temporal satisfaction such as
that to which penitents in the Church are liable. Bat
when they receive baptism, they are both cleansed from
tfieir sins committed, if so be, in the interval after con-
version, and are absolved from exterior satisfaction ; and
assisting grace and every virtue is increased in the bap-
tized person, so that he may be called really a new man.
The fomes peccati also is still more weakened in him.
Wherefore Jerome saith that the faith which makes men
believers, is either given or nourished in baptism, because
to him that hath not it is therein given, and to him that
hath it is given that he have more. Whoso approaches
baptism then clean, is therein made cleaner, and to every
one that hath there is given then more. . . . Wherefore
baptism confers much even upon one already justified by
faith; because coming to baptism he is borne, like the
branch by the dove, within the ark, having been before
within in the judgment of God, but being now within in
the judgment of the Church." ®

^ '' Solet etiam qnsBri de his qui jam sanctificati spiritu cnm fide
et charitate ad baptismum accedimt, qaid eis conferat baptismus.
Nihil enim eis videtar praastare, cum per fidem et contritionem jam
remiesie peccatis jiMtificati stmt. Ad qnod sane dici potest, eos
qnidem per fidem et contiitioiiem jastificatos, i. e. a macula peccati



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Chap. IX.] in Baptism. 137

In this statement it is first assumed that adults who
have faith and love are regenerate before baptism. They
come to baptism already justified^ ^am juLstificati ; and
justification^ as the res sacrameiiti of baptism/ is identical
with regeneration. This assumed^ however^ the statement
proceeds to combine with this truth, the reservation of
something still for baptism to confer; which further
advantage is pronounced to consist first in visible Church
membership, and next in an addition made to the inward
state. Was he clean before ? he is now cleaner. Had he
faith ? he has now more faith. Had he virtues ? they are
now increased. But while additions are left to be con-
ferred in baptism, the truth is still assumed, as one of
general consent, that the res sacramenti of baptism is
possessed by believing adults before baptism. Nor can
the position laid down in this statement be distinguished in
any substantial respect from that which the divines of the
Reformation maintained on the same subject. The divines
of the Reformation maintained that the &ithful adult was
regenerate before baptism ; ' while at the same time they

pergatos et a debito aBtemsB poenaa abeolutos; et tamen adhnc
teneri satisf actione temporalis qna pcBnitentes ligantnr in Ecclesia.
Cum autem baptismnm percipiunt, et a peccatis qusa interim post
conversionem contraxemnt, mnndantur, et ab exteriori satisfactione
absolvnntur ; et adjntrix gratia omnisqne virtus in eo augetur, ut
vere novus homo tunc dici posset. Fomes quoque peccati in eo
amplius debilitatur. Ideo Hier. dicit quod fides quae fideles facit,
in aquis baptismi datar vel nutritur : quia non habenti aliquando
illi datur, et jam habenti ut plenius habeat datur. Sic et de aliis
intelligendam est Qui ergo mundas accedit ibi fit mundior, et
omni habenti ibi amplius datur . . . Multum ergo confert baptismus
etiAmjam per jidem jtiatificato ; quia accedens ad baptismum quasi
ramus a columba portatnr in arcam ; qui ante erat judicio Dei, sed
nunc etiam judicio ecdesise intus est." Lib. iv. distinct. 4, s. 6.

• See p. 115.

^ ** Divines of the AngHcan school have also not sciTipled to use
the same language. ' Ablution is not the cause, but only the sign



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138 Regeneration of Adults [Part I.

were perfectly willing to admit the increase^ aMiciiOy of the
Divine gift^ in the sacrament'

Lombard then comes to the qaestion^ '' Cajns rei
baptismus^ qvi datur jam justo, sit sacramentam '/* and
he settles it in the same way^ viz. that, though there is an
increase of grace given at the time and baptism is a sign
of this increase, the grace of justification, that grace which
is the res sacramenti of baptism, is possessed before, and
baptism is the sign and seal of this preceding grace, —
'^ Sacramentum rei qnus prsscessit, i. e. remissionis ante
perjidem cUdceJ^ " Nee mireris,^' he adds, "rem aliquando
fTcecedere sacramentum, cum aliquando etiam longe post
sequatur/' '

The doctrinal assumption of Lombard, that the justifica-
tion of the faithful adult precedes baptism, was accepted
by a whole line of commentators on the Sentences, and
by the most distinguished divines of the mediseval Church.
Aquinas acquiesces in it as being a decision " de baptismo
eorum qui prius rem sacramenti acceperant,'* and asserts
that the believing adult is before baptism a member of
Christ spiritually— men^aZt^er; to be made one corporally
and sacramentally in baptism/ " One who is justified,'*
says Durandus, '^ by the baptism of the Spirit is still bound
to receive the baptism of water, not for the sake of remedy,
which he does not need, but on account of the Divine
precept, and to supply that which is sacramental and
outward. . . . For baptism was instituted not only for a

of the spiritual grace which is conferred at baptism; and the
spiritual grace is a consequence of that faith and repentance which
must precede the ablution.'" Bp. Marsh's Second Letter to
Simeon, p. 9.

•-« Note 22. » Lombard, lib. iv. distinct. 4, s. 7.

* ** Adulti prius oredentes in Christum ei incorporantur menta-
liter ; sed postmodum cum baptizantur ei quodammodo corporaliter,
scilicet per visibile sacramentum." Sum. TheoL P. 8, Q. 69, A. 5.
^iso In Lomb. iv. 4.



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Chap. IX.] in Baptism. 1 39

remedy against sin, but also for public utility/' * Brad-
wardine asserts ^^the justification of adults before the
baptism of water, by the baptism of repentance, and the
baptism of the Spirit through &ith/' * Bellarmine
maintains as an established truth, that *' adults are by faith
and contrition justified before they come actually to the
sacrament,'^ and explains their case as analogous to that
of the fathers of the old law, who received their justifica-
tion by the instrumentality of faith. ^

These admissions in the case of believing adults, were
elicited by the plain force of moral principle. No good-
ness of fallen man can indeed be pleasing and acceptable
to Grod without a Mediator, nor indeed without a Mediator
can this goodness be attained and exist ; but a Mediator
supposed, and man supposed to have attained to goodness
and holiness, the moral nature of the Deity requires that
when this character is presented to Him, He must regard
it with an absolute favour, which arises immediately upon

* " Jostificatxis baptismo Flaminis adhuc tenetur baptizari bap-
tismo flaminis, non propter remediam quo non indiget, sed propter
praBceptnm divinnm et nt snppleatar in eo qnod sacramentale est
et exterins in ritn baptismi, et interins in collatione oharacteris.
Baptismns enim institntas est non solnm in remedinm personss
contra cnlpam, sed etiam propter utilitatem pubHcam et oonformi-
tatis membroram eoclesisa." Darandus in Lomb. p. 303.

• "Qnis non profitetar Concilium Nicenum, 'Oonfiteor nnnm
baptisma in remissionem peccatornm P ' Mnlti tamen adnlti ante
baptismnm aqosd sen flaminis, in baptismo Flaminis credendo in
Christnm, et in baptismo poenitentisd a peccatis omnibus sunt
mundati." De Causa Dei, p. 414.

7 « Hoc est discrimen inter sacramenta legis veteris et novsa, quod
nostra conferant gratiam, ilia solum eam significabant. Non autem
est consequens Yeteres Patres non habuisse gratiam, aut habuisse
sine organo applicante Christi merita. Nam etiamsi non habuerunt
eam per sacramenta, tamen habuerunt per fidem. Sicut nunc adulti
per fidem et contritionem veram justificantur antequam reipsa ad
sacramentum accedant" De Effectu Sacramentorum, 1. 2, c. 13.



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140 Regeneration of Adults [Part I.

the existence of the character^ and therefore cannot wait
for the accident of an external rite. It is true the renewed
man is still under an obligation to obey positive ordinances
of Divine appointment^ the voluntary neglect of which is
therefore contrary to the original supposition of his
goodness ; but such ordinances cannot make any sub-
stantial change in his condition^ as in Ood's sight. No
new type or mould of the inner man is bestowed upon
such a person in baptism^ because he is already formed
upon that new pattern.

Should such an admission as this be regarded by some
as too great a modification of the doctrine of baptismal
grace, it should be borne in mind what extreme importance
attaches to moral considerations, lying as these do at the
bottom of the whole evidence of religion. We should be
careful not to let our estimate of sacraments betray us
into any collision with these. Religious truth is too
complex indeed to admit of such a supremacy being given
to the doctrine of sacramental efficacy, as that all other
considerations must give way to bringing out this one
truth; which we must rather be content to hold as a
limited and modified principle, adjusting it to sound and
reasonable claims from other quarters.

It only remains now that this language of the Schools
with reference to the regeneration of adults in baptism,
should be considered in connexion with a certain pro-
minent part of the baptismal language of the Reforma-
tion divines.

There were two positions which were maintained by the
divines of the Reformation in relation to the regeneration
of infants in baptism, which though one of them had led
practically to the other, were still two distinct positions.
One was that faith must be implanted by prevenient grace,
in the infant as well as in the adult, before baptism, as the
condition of his regeneration. The other was that the



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C HAP. IX. ] in Baptism. 1 4 1

existence of this seminal faith in the infant actually con-
stituted his regeneration ; and that he had really the new
natare before baptism in that very gift of faith, which
made him the worthy recipient of baptism ; which when
received was only the seal of a sonship justification and
adoption already possessed. In the firsts then^ of these
two positions^ the Reformation divines received no support
from the Schools. The Schools only regarded regenera-
tion in baptism as conditional^ and requiring antecedent
&ith^ in the case of adults. But the first position of the
Bef ormation divines with respect to the condition of faith
in the infant assumed^ these divines then received a strong
support from the Schools for their second position^ viz.
that the infant was regenerate and justified before baptism
by virtue of this faith. The Schools asserted this of the
believing adult : on the assumption, then, of the infant's
belief^ the Reformation divines had the same right to
antedate the infant's regeneration before baptism^ that
the Schoolmen had to antedate the adult's. An antecedent
inward holiness supposed in both^ both stood upon the
same ground with respect to an antecedent regeneration
by virtue of it.

When the divines of the Reformation, then^ came to
construct their obsignatory theory of baptism, they found
the basis of it ready to hand in the Scholastic doctrine
of adult baptism. Theirs was indeed a larger and com-
pleter scheme^ but the foundation was laid for it. They
took up the theory which the Schools had confined to
adults^ and applied it to infants. The Schools drew a
sharp line of demarcation between infants and adults as
recipients of baptism ; the Reformation divines over-
threw this distinction^ and reduced both cases to one
principle; but it was a difference about infants as a
class of recipients that constituted the difference between
the Scholastic and Reformed doctrines of baptism^ and



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142 Regeneration of Adults [Part I.

not a difference about the obsignatory theory itself, which
in substance preceded the Reformation. The two Schools
differed in their application of the doctrine of preveilient
grace^ one limiting the need of this grace for implanting
faith to adults, the other extending it to infants ; but
both treated the grace which preceded regeneration as
regeneration itself. Nor was the difference between the
two on the head of regeneration before baptism, but
only as to the cases which came under this head.

One result of the present and previous inquiries will be
noticed in conclusion, viz. the important latitude and
modification which is gained for the traditionary doctrine
that regeneration is " in baptism.'^

The formula or phrase that regeneration is '* in bap-
tism " appears at first sight to imply that regeneration
must always take place at the moment of baptism,
and that if it does not take place then, it does not
take place at all. This is the meaning which the
naked phrase conveys, apart from all comment and in-
terpretation : but when we come to the comment and
interpretation by which this phrase has been in fact
attended, we find that, in its actual use and ac-
ceptation, it by no means contains so rigid a position
as the one just mentioned, but allows of very large ex-
ceptions to regeneration " in baptism ;'^ exceptions, in-
deed, so large and formal as to amount to counter rules. We
observed before, in the case of the Fictus, the admission
that the rite of baptism precedes the grace by an indefi-
nite interval in all unbelieving adults ; we have now the
admission that the grace precedes the rite by an inde-
finite interval in all believing adults. The result of both
admissions taken together was, that no adult whatever
was regenerate " in '^ baptism, but always either before
or after : if believing, before ; if unbelieving, after. The
formula then that regeneration is ^' in baptism,^' allowed
in actual use and acceptation for the exception of the

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Chap. IX.] in Baptism. 143

whole class of adult recipients. It might have been
thought indeed beforehand that, though the suhBequeace
of the grace to the rite in one whole class of cases was
allowed, the theologians of the ante-Reformation period
would still have opposed its precedence, as apparently
contradictory to the relation of cause and effect between
the rite and the grace. But in matter of fact the latter
concession appears to have been made as easily as the
former; Lombard only saying, "Nee mireris rem ali-
quando (i. e. in the whole class of believing adults) pr»-
cedere sacramentum, cum aliquando etiam longe post
sequatur, ut in illis qui ficte accedunt.'' '

When divines of the Reformation then applied the
same language to infants, whom they sometimes spoke of
as regenerate before baptism by virtue of an antecedent
implanted faith, and sometimes as regenerate after bap-
tism by virtue of a subsequently obtained faith,' they did
not say anything more counter to the formula " in bap-
tism '* than the Schoolmen had done before them. They
only interpreted the formula as open to the same excep-
tion, in the case of infants, to which the Schoolmen had
treated it as open in the case of adults.^

Indeed, on so mysterious a subject as the connexion of
a spiritual grace with an outward sign, especially with
other causes of complication, and different cases arising
calling for modifications of doctrine to suit them, we can-
not be surprised if the precise coincidence of the sign
and the thing signified in point of time has given way ;
and if this formula has from allowing various exceptions,

8 L. iv. distinct. 4, s. 7. • See Note 22.

^ Even Mr. G^rham^s extreme statement, which he elsewhere
qualified, that "the filial state is given to the worthy recipient
before baptism, not in baptism " (Examination, p. 113), does not
appear to be more than Lombard's statement, that the adnlt is
justified by faith before baptism— ^*am per fidem juBtificatm, applied
to the infant.



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144 Regeneration of Adults [Part I.

at last^ as we may say, included snch exceptions^ and be-
come a large and general headings comprehending dif-
ferent relations of precedence and consequence.

This part of the sabject has an important bearing again
npon the interpretation of baptismal services. The an-
cient baptismal offices imply in their form that the person^
whether adult or infant, is unregenerate up to the moment
of baptism, and regenerate immediately upon baptism.
But the history of the doctrine of baptism shows that
this form of the Baptismal Office does not represent an
actual doctrine to this effect. First we have it ruled
from the very commencement, in the case of the Fictus
or unbelieving adult, that baptism may precede regenera-
tion by an indefinitely long interval. But the Service in
every case asserts that the baptized person is regenerate
then and there. The character of the Service, then, as
speaking doctrinally upon the point of time, altogether
breaks down under the pressure of actual received inter-
pretation ; the Service saying one thing, and the doc-
trine of baptism, as ruled in the case of the Fictus,
saying another. And it must be observed that the lati-
tude of construction now mentioned as attaching to the
time of regeneration asserted in the Service, is distinct
from and additional to the hypothetical construction of
the fact of regeneration asserted in the Service, which is
in the case of the adult the universally admitted con-
struction.' Again, and on the other hand, we have it
laid down in the received Scholastic doctrine of adult

^ The case of the Fictns involved a doable latitude in the con-
straction of the Church's Baptismal Office. First the assertion in
the office that he was regenerate had to be construed h jpotheticallj,
as made upon the assumption of his faith and repentance ; and,
secondly, the assertion that he was regenerate then had to be in-
terpreted as consistent with a regeneration coming subsequently
upon the fulfilment of conditions.



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Chap. IX.] in Baptism. 145

baptism^ that regeneration, or justification, which was
the term then more in use in theology, may precede hap-
Usm by an indefinitely long interval ; whereas the form
of the Baptismal Service assumes that every person is
tiwregenerate up to the moment of baptism. The charac-
ter of the Service, then, as speaking doctrinally upon the
point of time, again breaks down under the pressure of
actual authorized interpretation ; and we find now that
the form of service is consistent with the person being
regenerate before baptism, as we found above that it was
consistent with his being regenerate not till after bap-
tism. Upon the point of time, then, the Service is not
doctrinal, and the deela/ration of the fact of regeneration
upon baptism allows for its existence either before bap-
tism, or not till after baptism. The history of the
doctrine of baptism is a comment upon the Churches
ritual language, and a comment which fixes this latitude
of construction upon it.

Nor was it more than the application of the same
liberty to another case, when divines of the Eeformation
treated the language of the Baptismal Office as open to
the same interpretation in the case of infants. The posi-
tion of these divines was that the new nature was not
conferred upon the infant in the actual instant of baptism,
but antecedently in that gift of implanted faith which
he had before baptism, and of which the sacrament was
the seal ; and they interpreted the Baptismal Service with
a latitude in harmony with this position, regarding the
declaration of the fact of regeneration upon baptism, as
consistent with its existence before baptism. But this in-
terpretation in the case of infants no more violated the
natural meaning of the Service, than the same interpre-
tation did in the case of adults ; for the apparent assump-
tion that the person is unregenerate up to the moment of
baptism, is, and always has been, exactly the same, in

L

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146 Regeneration of Adults in Baptism.

Baptismal Offioes^ in the case of infants and of adolts.
The Baptismal Service^ then^ had already contracted a
latitude of constmction on this point, before it came under
Reformation comment and treatment ; and the divines of
that epoch only copied and extended a precedent which
had been handed down to them from the Schools.



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CHAPTER X

BIOBNSRATION OF INFANTS IN BAPTISM

Thb Scriptural sense of the term '^ regenerate '' having
been decided in a previous chapter^ the question arises
whether^ in this sense^ viz. that of actual goodness^ the
term can legitimately be applied to all baptized infants.

The notion then may^ I think^ at once be set aside as
altogether untenable^ that infants just bom can be pious
and virtuous agents ; but though tiiis is impossible from
the immaturity of nature^ it may still be asked whether
they are not capable of possessing actual ^ goodness and



Online LibraryJames Bowling MozleyA review of the baptismal controversy → online text (page 12 of 38)