James Bowling Mozley.

A review of the baptismal controversy online

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holiness in some sense and manner. It is true, it may be
said, adults alone come under consideration in Scripture^
and therefore the regenerate state in Scripture is de-
scribed as the goodness of the adult^ the goodness of
actual life and conduct But are we debarred on that
account from giving the term an application to infants^ in
some way and manner, corresponding to the difference in
the stage of life, and in proportion with an incipient and
embryo reason ?

I answer that if this claim is conceded, we m,ust still
take care that in transferring the term from the adult to the
infant, we do not reduce its sense below the Scriptural one,
and altogether alter the meaning of the word. We must
only make such difference in its application to the infant,

^ I use the word actuaX thronghoat this treatise only to express
goodness itself, as distinguished from the capacity for it : not, of
course, as implying action.

L 2

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148 Regenerution of Infants [Paet I.

as is required by the difference of his condition; and not
under colour of consulting the capacity of the recipient,
totally change the nature of the gift.

1. An in&tnt is not regenerate in the sense of being
actually good, if he has only a new capacity for goodness
implanted in him at baptism. A faculty or capacity for
attaining goodness is a totally different thing from good-
ness, the power altogether a distinct thing from the &ct.
It matters not by what name we csJl such a new spiritual
faculty. A " new nature ** in the sense only of new im-
planted faculties and capacities, does not constitute a being
actually good. The inhabitation of the Holy Spirit, as a
prompting and assisting Divine influence within the soul,
does not make that soul actually good. The inward im-
pulse to good which exists in man by nature, does not
make him morally good ; no more does the peculiar and
higher impulse under the Gospel make him spiritually
good. By no exaltation, then, of the rank or magnitude of
a new spiritual faculty, as a faculty, can we make that
faculty to be actual goodness ; otherwise the most abomi-
nably vicious man may be simultaneously a virtuous
man ; for the most depraved person may possess in the
lowest depth of his guilt and pollution, the capacity for
the very highest form of goodness.

2. An infant is not made actually good in baptism, if
he is only freed from the guilt of original sin ; because
the cessation of the imputation of sin does not constitute
goodness, which is a positive quality, and consists in a
good moral character or habit ; not possessing which he
would be, notwithstanding such remission of original sin,
in a morally neutral and indeterminate state.'

3. An infant is not made good in baptism by being
admitted into a new federal state or covenant with God ;

' See Chapter iv.

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Chap. X.] in Baptism. 149

because this federal state^ so far as divines explain it^ is
only a combination of the two states just mentioned^ viz.
forgiveness of sin^ and the opportunity^ by means of the
enabling grace of God, of attaining salvation.

It may be suggested^ however, that there still remains
a mode in which the infant may be made actually good in
baptism, viz. by what is called implanted character^ Im-
planted character is represented as more than 9b faculty
for attaining a particular character, and yet jiiot that
character in fidl existence and literal operation, i. e. as a
seminal or rudimeutal character — like implanted reason
which is in the infant, but only in a latent, unconscious,
and incipient stage.^ It may be said that in ordinary life
we recognize what we call " natural character," i. e. a
certain original moral conformation belonging to the in-
dividual from his birth, and coming out with the advance
of his reason; that in the same way the Christian or
spiritual character may be implanted in an infant at
baptism, and that the infant endowed with this character
is regenerate in the Scriptural sense of the word.

If infants then can be regenerate at all in baptism in
the Scriptural sense, impljring actual goodness, they only
can be in this sense just mentioned, this qualified and
accommodated sense of actual goodness — accommodated
to their special case ; i. e. by having actual goodness in a
rudimental and seminal form, or a seminal character or
habit implanted in them in baptism. And therefore the
alternative lying between this kind of regeneration, or
none at all for them in the Scriptural sense, the question

' I use ehao'acteT in the common English sense.

4 " The reasonable soal is infnsed so soon as the body of an
infant is organized and made capable of such an inhabitant : yet it
doth not presently act, or enable the infant to act rationally so
soon as it is infused .... So is it in the spiritual being.'' Burgess
on Bapt. Beg. of Infants, p. 265.

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150 Regeneration of Infants [Pabt I.

is whether cXl infants are regenerated in this way in

On this question^ then^ I need hardly call attention^ in
the first place^ to this inevitable result^ that if this im-
planted character does universally accompany infant bap-
tism^ it must show itself in those infants as they grow up,
and show itself in all of them, coming oat with the
advance of their reason and faculties. Only waiting the
growth of nature, it must manifest itself as nature opens
out, and manifest itself in the ordinary way in which
character is wont to do. It may not be necessary, indeed
— though we may easily make too free with such a sup-
position, when as a matter of fact '^ implanted character ^'
is so rarely lost — it may not be necessary that such im-
planted goodness should, having come out, always con-
tinue : because goodness, even if implanted, may require
the concurrence of free will to sustain it, and therdEoro
may in course of time, for want of this attention, be
lost. But even granting this, before it is lost, it must
have appeared, and appeared as the character of the

Let us take the case, already referred to, of what we
call a '^ natural '* character. It is commonly considered
that certain moral tempers are natural in some persons,
or belong to them from their birth, that one man is
naturally meek and gentle, another zealous, another
brave, and so on. But what is the test of the fact of
such tempers having been implanted ? Evidently their
actual appearance in the individusJ. Nobody would
think of talking of a natural temper in a man, which
temper however had never come out and never been
seen. The exhibition of it by the individual is essential
to the fact of its original implanting. In the same way
it would be absurd to speak of spiritual goodness, or the
Christian character having been implanted in those in

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Chap. X.] in Baptism. \ 5 1

whom, as they grew up, this character never came out
and became apparent.

What impediment is there which can be supposed in
the case, such as can be accepted as a valid reason for the
non-appearance of this character in those in whom it has
been by the hypothesis implanted, as those persons grow
up and show character of some sort or other ? Have Uiey
lost it by unseen internal wrong acts hefiyre they have had
the opportunity of showing it outwardly ? Such a sup-
position would be absurd, because as the infant becomes
a moral agent, and becomes capable of inward action, he
also becomes capable of (mtward. The character, then, is
by the supposition in him, and before anything can have
intervened to suppress that character, he acts, he reveals
himself, he expresses what is in him. Why does he not
express, why does he not act according to that character ?
His own action could alone destroy that implanted cha-
racter, if it was in him, and therefore that character is
necessarily in him up to the moment that he begins to act ;
and therefore that same character must be in him simul-
taneously with his^r*^ action, and expression of himself ;
and therefore that same character must come out and
manifest itself in that first general behaviour, manifest
itself on the whole. Till he is a moral agent he can have
done nothing to counteract this character, still less to
suppress and extinguish it; as soon as he t^ a moral agent
he shows it. Where is the interval then between the
point up to which this character is by the hypothesis
secure, and the point at which it becomes, if it exists,
visible, in which this character can be effaced and de-
stroyed ? There is in the very nature of things no such
interval; and therefore it is impossible that a certain
positive character and temper should have been implanted
in the in&nt by a Divine act, and yet that it never should
from the first have appeared in him, never come out, and

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152 Regeneration of Infants [Part I.

never have been observed by those who were constantly
with him^ and watching all his actions^ words^ and moral
symptoms. Such a supposition is plainly absard and nn-
tenable^ contrary to every principle of common sense and
every rule of evidence.

Were it a case of adults^ every one would see imme-
diately how absurd it would be to ascribe a religious and
virtuous character to them which never appeared; but
infants being the subject^ the necessity for expression
appears to some to be done away with altogether^ because
it is deferred, and implanted goodness, because it is
seminal at the time^ seems to entail no manifestation of
it either then or ever. But the law of expression is as
certain in the case of the infant as in the case of the
adult ; its operation only is suspended. The character^
if it is there, is not relieved from the necessity of ex-
pressing itself when it can^ because it was excused from
expressing itself before it could. Nor must we try by
representing goodness when it is present as seminal, and
when the time comes for showing itself as lost ; by ex-
cusing first the infant in respect of the future^ and then
the moral agent in respect of the past^ to elude the law of
expression altogether^ and balk manifestation at both
ends. This is the turning-point of the whole case. If
persons think that actual goodness can be implanted in
infants without any appearance or manifestation of it
whatever, earlier or later^ either when they are in£Bbnts
and cannot show it^ or afterwards as they grow up and
can : if they think that this goodness can be^ not a sus-
pended disclosure^ but a permanent secret^ totally passing
away and vanishing before one single presentation to
human cognizance^ then the absence from the very first
of all visible signs of such a character will be no proof to
them that it has not been implanted^ and they will alto-
gether deny the relevance of the test of &ct in the matter.

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Chap. X.] in Baptism. 153

But ify on the other hand^ it is admitted that if actual
goodness is implanted in an infant at baptism^ it must
come out and show itself in him as he grows up^ then the
criterion of fact must apply^ and the absence of such
appearance be taken as proof against such implantation.

It may be urged^ indeed^ that an infant may possess
actual goodness^ not only in the sense of a seminal habit,
but also in the sense of a process having commenced in
him, or a gradual work of the Holy Spirit, by means of
which he will one day attain actual goodness ; and that
such a process begun in him does not require any mani-
festation of character immediately upon the growth of
reason, but only when the character itself is completed,
which may be at any time of life near or remote. It
appears to me that if the former sense be a fair liberty
taken with the actual goodness of Scripture, this latter
is a decided strain upon it ; because if we allow that an
implanted habit, which is ready for action upon physical
power and opportunity being giyen, is present goodness,
it is still a different thing to allow that an infant is now
good because the process of the formation of such a habit
has commenced in him, which may not be completed till
after a whole adult life of sin. Provided, however, this
process is an infallible one and the issue certain, it may
be granted that, in an incorrect and metaphorical sense,
he may be called good now as being so to the Divine
prescience; because we represent God as regarding
things as they are in their end, and this end as already
present to the Divine eye. But if this sense of actual
goodness is allowed, it must be remembered that it is so
only on the condition that the issue is certain, because
the future fact must be first supposed and assumed in
order to be antedated. There can be no pretence for
calling a being actually good, who is neither good now
nor can give any guarantee that he ever will be. And

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1 54 Regeneration of Infants [Part I.

if this condition is granted^ then exactly the same
criterion of fact decides whether this process has began
in all baptized in&nts, which decides whether the habit
has been implanted in them. Because in that case all
baptized infants must at any rate become good men, if
they live, at some stage of life or other, early or remote.
Indeed this infallible process is what the Oalvinist places
in the elect.

It is, indeed, common to say that a " seed " of goodness
is implanted in all infants in baptism, but that it is not
necessary that this seed should produce fruit ; but a seed
that need not produce fruit is not actual goodness, but
only a metaphorical name for an implanted faculty. If
this *' seed ^^ is in any sense actual goodness, it must,
whether as a seminal character or the beginning of an
infallible process, produce actual goodness ; and then the
test of visible fact is what must decide whether this seed
has been implanted.^

The test then of the character having been implanted,

' The " implanted goodness " abont which the question is raised
in this chapter is identical with the " infnsed habit/' or hahitualiB
gmtia of the Schools, discnssed in Chapter vii. The ** infused
habit " of the Schools was a seminal character or disposition which
was implanted in the infant at baptism ; and it got the name of
habitualis gratia, or habit of grace, because it was an elementary
habit implanted by grace. The Schoolmen decided against the
whole evidence of facts, which they met by the evasions and re-
finements noticed in Chapter yii., that this habit of goodness was
implanted in all infants in baptism.

The Calvinists of the Eeformation adopted the hahituaUs groMa
or hahituale pH/nci^ium grcUim, of the Schools, in the sense how-
ever, not of an implanted habit, but the commencement oi& process,
or course of operation on the part of the Holy Spirit, which con-
tinued till the individual reached the habit of goodness, which
might be at any point of life, early or late (see Chapter yiii.).
They assigned this gift howevw to the elect only, not to all the

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Chap. X.] in Baptism. 155

being the appearance of it in the individaal as he grows
up, does this character, as a matter of fact, appear in
every baptized infant as he grows up ? Or do we not
rather, as a plain matter of fact, see the greatest mixture
in every rising Christian generation ; some exhibiting a
religions diaracter, and others — the majority it must be
said — ^not doing so ? Indeed, if, side by side with the
supposition of an actual goodness universally implanted
in baptism, we place the real state of the case, what an
unaccountable annihilation have we of an immense spiritual
formation,-:— not, be it observed, destroyed by neglect, but
never once apparent, — gone for ever, before it to human
eye existed, And extinguished before the first perceptible
dawn of moral agency. What an unmeaning, absurd,
and incredible abortion have we here I — a whole world
of character annihilated before it has begun, and a
whole moral creation effaced before all visible moral

What a peculiar stamp again would, upon this suppo-
sition, be impressed upon all want of religion among
Christians. All want of religion in people who had been
baptized would, according to this supposition, be a fall
from previous individual piety and virtue, and would
present itself to us in that aspect. But do we look upon
it as such ? It is true that, as a race, we are fallen from
our first estate in paradise ; and it is true that we are all
personally fallen from the natural innocence of infancy,
in the sense that we are guilty of sins from which the
immaturity of infancy saved us; but that, as distinct
from these two changes, the common run of sinfulness
in Christians is a fall from a previously spiritual and
gracious character, is obviously untrue, and such an
aspect of it is plainly artificial.

There is nothing, then, in the facts of the world around
us, to show that a seminal character or habit of goodness

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156 Regeneration of Infants [Part I.

may not be implanted in some infants at baptism ; but
to maintain that it is implanted in all is to maintain
something which does altogether contradict plain facts.
Bat sach being the case, all infants are not regenerate
in baptism in the Scriptural sense; for the Scriptural
sense implies actual goodness, and this actual goodness
can only by possibility be possessed by infants in the
shape of this seminal and implanted goodness. Senses
short of the Scriptural one do not indeed involve any
collision with facts, because an implanted faculty, simple
remission of original sin, admission to a covenant, involve
no phenomenon of goodness as the consequence, and
therefore provoke no challenge of this kind. But if we
take the word in its Scriptural sense, the application of
it to all baptized infants incurs this test and is plainly
contradicted by the facts of our experience.

What are the objections, then, to this conclusion, in
the silence of Scripture on the whole subject? Did
Scripture assert indeed the regeneration of all infants in
baptism, this conclusion would place us in opposition to
an assertion of Scripture. But, inasmuch as Scripture
nowhere asserts or implies this, if we assert it, when we
cannot reconcile the assertion with the Scriptural sense
of regeneration, the difficulty is of our own making.

1. But it wiU be said in the first place that we must
not test the truth of a mysterious Divine act in a sacra-
ment by its '* visible f ruits.'* But where a Divine act is
defined in its very nature to be such as that ^^ visible fruits ^'
must proceed from it, if it has really taken place, this is
a reasonable and a necessary test to apply. It is no
presumptuous objection of rationalism, but it is the
natural criterion of the existence of the Divine act in
question. The test of " visible fruits " is one which we
cannot indiscriminately condemn as inapplicable to all
Divine acts as such ; it depends on the nature of the act

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Chap. X.] in Baptism. 157

whether this test properly applies to it or not Were
the Divine act one of implanting a spiritaal faculty only,
such a test would be an impertinent and irrelevant one,
because the existence of the faculty is consistent with
the total neglect of it by the individual, and therefore
with the absence of all visible fruits. But the act in
question being that of implanting a character, this test
does properly and necessarily apply to it, for if the
character had been implanted it would have shown itself,
i. e. there would have been visible fruits.

2. The ground of mystery will be appealed to against
the test of fact; the argument being that regeneration is
too mysterious a thing for such an argument to be founded
upon its meaning. To that extent, however, to which a
state is clearly described in Scripture, in language ad-
dressed to our natural understanding, such a state is not
a mystery to us, but a thing known j and it is an illegi-
timate use of the ground of mystery to employ it to in-
tercept the natural argument from such plain meaning
of Scripture where we have it. Regeneration is plainly
described in Scripture as a state of actual goodness,
and if it is described as such, we have a right in
deciding the existence of regeneration, to apply those
tests by which we ascertain the existence of actual

3. This objection of fact again to the supposition of
the universal regeneration of in&nts at baptism, will be
met with the answer that regeneration is a '^past act,"
which is not interfered with by any amount or duration
of subsequent wickedness in the individual who has tmder-

*gone it. Much stress is laid upon this distinction, and it
is observed that in the passages in the New Testament in
which the Divine act of regenerating is directly or indi-
rectly referred to, the verb which expresses it is put in
a past tense in the original, though our translation does

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158 Regeneration of Infants [Part I.

not give it so ; thereby showing, it is said, that regene-
ration is a past act. Bat thoagh regeneration, as being
a '' past act/' is quite consistent with a present bad cha-
racter in the indiTidual, it is not consistent with there
never having appeared a former good one. And it is not
the sabseqaent rise of the bad character which is the
objection to be met here, bat the previoas non-appearance
of the good ona The '* act " may be past, but if it is of
the nature here supposed, we have a right to ask for some
fruits of it, present or past.

4. The argument just quoted is sometimes put into the
form of a distinction between regeneration as an act, and
regeneration as a state. A person, it is said, may not be in
the state of regeneration, or of actual goodness, and yet
the act of regeneration implanting such goodness in him,
may have passed over him. This is a true distinction, but
not at all to the point Regeneration is doubtless an act
of God, as well as a state of man, but the act involves the
existence at some time of the state, and the state, even if
it has ceased now, still involved visible fruits before its

5. The test of fact again is met by the answer that this
implanted goodness is not indefectible. It has been lost,
we are told, and that accounts for your not seeing it now.
Yes, but before we talk of it being lost, let it first be
ascertained that it was ever had. The objection of &ct
which is here raised is no Calvinistic one ; it is based upon
no peculiar theory of grace, and indeed upon no theory
whatever ; but upon the simple and plain ground of com-
mon s^nse that if a character has been implanted in an
individual, it must somehow or other appear and show '
itself. In the case of what we call a natural character, or
a character implanted by nature, we make it necessary
that it should come out, and if it never comes out, then we
say it has not been implanted. And on the same prin-

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Chap. X.] in Baptism. 159

ciple, if a character has been implanted in a man by
grace, tliat character mnst come oat, and if it never
comes oat, then we mast say that it never has been

6. The loss, however, asserted ander the last head, of
all this once existing goodness, is sometime^ explained
and defended by the sapposition of a universal early
fall A particnlar kind of langaage is in ose in some
qaarters, which assames a aniversal early lapse from bap-
tismal goodness. Bat what is it which is meant by this
langaage ? In the first place, it is not the fall of the race
from oi'iginal righteoasness, bat a aniversal personal fall
from ba/ptismal goodness, which is asserted. But if we
examine the different meanings in which this assertion can
be nnderstood, — ^for writers are not very clear in it, — we
shall find that there is either some confusion in the idea of
baptismal goodness, or a mistake in the fact that there
has been such an universal lapse from this goodness. Do
they mean to assert the loss of the natural innocence of
infancy ? The loss is true, but the thing lost is no result
of baptism* Do they mean to assert the loss of a state of
pardon resulting from the remission of original sin, in
the absence of capacity for actual ? If that state has
been lost, that state did not constitute goodness.* Lastly,
do they mean the loss of an implanted habit or character of
goodness ? That may be admitted to be goodness ; but
then that goodness has not been naiversally lost, because
if it had been, it would have appeared as universally before
the loss.

Online LibraryJames Bowling MozleyA review of the baptismal controversy → online text (page 13 of 38)