James Bowling Mozley.

A review of the baptismal controversy online

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the Divine pledge ^' to add in process of time what grace
soever shall be necessary for the attainment of everlasting
life," according to Thorndike, " the habitual assistance of
God's Spirit making us able to perform all that Chris-
tianity requires at our hands,'' according to Barrow, ^' a
competency of grace and spiritual assistance qualifying
every man to do what Gk)d requires," then certainly all
infants are not, in the Augustinian scheme, regenerate in
baptism. Because in this scheme all infants certainly are

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Chap. XIIL] Augustinianism. 199

not admitted at baptism into a state to which this pledge
and this promise attaches^ and in which^ as they grow
up^ they have this competent and sufficient Divine grace.
It must indeed be seen that these two schemes of saving
grace are based upon directly contradictory assumptions,
and, therefore, do not admit of being reconciled. The
scheme of a general baptismal grace assumes what is
commonly called the principle of free will ;* because such
a generally bestowed grace, not being as the event shows
irresistible, depends for its effect upon the use which is
made of it by the original and independent will of the
recipient. On the other hand, the Augustinian scheme
of irresistible grace assumes the will of man to be of such
a nature, as only to act upon being controlled, and made
to act by another power ; that is to say, this scheme is
based on a denial of the principle of free will. These
are two totally contradictory assumptions then, and the
schemes of grace which are built upon them are, in
accordance with the principles which they respectively
assume, in total contradiction to each other. Upon the
principle of free will a general bestowal of sufficient
means for salvation is consistent with only a partial
success in the result ; and, therefore, this principle admits
of a general bestowal of saving grace upon the baptized
in consistency with facts. But upon the principle of the
servitude of the will, the grace which leads to salvation
being obliged to be irresistible, that grace must involve
universally that happy remli in fact wherever bestowed.

* "The doctrine of the baptismal regeneration of all infants
belongs to the Catholic system, which supposes a free, full, and
sufficient grace to be offered unto all men : its rejection originated
in that section of the Church which supposed a portion of mankind
elected to life, the rest left to the damnation which their inherited
corruption deserved." Scriptural Views of Holy Baptism. 1st
Ed. p. 148.

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200 Augustinianism. [Part I.

And therefore this principle does not admit of an universal,
but only of a partial bestowal of saving grace among the
baptized in consistency with facts.

In the doctrine of the regeneration of all infants in
baptism and in Augustinianism we have, in short, two
fundamentally opposite schemes of saving grace ; one of
which annexes it to the body, the other to individuals ;
the one to the visible system, the other to the operation of
a secret decree. One institutes a state of grace sufficient
for salvation, into which all are alike admitted in and by
baptism : the other institutes a grace necessary for salva-
tion, which is extra-baptismal, and for which baptism is
no security or guarantee.' Any reconciliation of two
such radically opposite systems must be illusory ; but the
name of St. Augustine being so prominent in antiquity,
and his authority having been so much appealed to on
the particular subject of baptism, this reconciliation has
been attempted by means of some nice distinctions, which
I proceed to notice because I might be charged with
neglect if I passed them over, and because they stand in
the way of and are urged to intercept the plain and
straightforward view of the case which has been just

1. It is observed then that predestination is a deep
mystery, and that in mysteries we may believe in contra-
dictories ; that therefore, on the same principle on which
we can believe both in predestination and free will, we
cam hold both Augustinianism and also the admission of
all infants in baptism to a state of sufficient grace. But
the answer to this plea is obvious, — that though we can
hold indefinite mysteries, and professedly unexpressed
truths which take opposite directions, we cannot hold

* For the proof of the above summary of Augustiniamsm, see
" Treatise on Angustinian Doctrine of Predestination," Chapters
V. vi. vii. viii

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Chap. XIII.] Augustinianism. 201

together definite and expressed contradictories. We can
believe in a Trinity in Unity, but not in Trinitarianism
and IJnitarianism together ; in an undefined predestination
and free will^ but not in Calvinism and Arminianism
together; in a self-contradictory infinity, but not that two
and two make six. We cannot hold that some of the
baptized are without a grace which is necessary, and, at
the same time, that all the baptized have grace which is
sufficient ; which is the Augustinian scheme on the one
hand, and the doctrine of the regeneration of all infants
in baptism on the other.

2. The doctrine of Irresistible Grace is sometimes
represented as quite consistent with the truth that all
have sufficient grace; the explanation being that the
former is the privilege of a few, the latter or lower gift
the common property of alL But those who offer such a
reconciling explanation as this miss the very point of. the
Augustinian doctrine, which is, that grace is not sufficient
unless it is irresistible.* For the wants of man after the
fall are expressly defined in this doctrine as such, that
they require irresistible grace as their necessary supple-
ment ; in the absence of which the supply of grace is not
adequate for the purpose wanted. Irresistible grace
then, in the Augustinian scheme, is not the surplus of
the individual, but the absolute want of the state of man :
it does not figure as a fortunate superfluity in the
absence of which there may still be sufficiency, but as a
necessary of which the absence is positive and fatal

3. The most common explanation given to reconcile
Augustinianism with the doctrine of the regeneration of all
infants in baptism, is that that scheme allows all the bap-
tized all grace but that of final perseverance.' But if this

* Angnstiiiian Doctrine of PredestinatLOD, p. 167.
' Bethell, p. 144.

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202 AugusHnianism. [Part I,

is trae of Aagnstinianism^ it is only half the trath^ and —
what is specially to be observed — just that half which is
not to the purpose. For those who remind us that
Augustine allows all the baptized all grace but that of
final perseverance, omit to add that all grace short of the
grace of final perseverance is absolutely useless, nugatory,
and insufficient for the purpose of salvation. They forget
that this grace, being a grace simply and an arbitrarily
conferred grace in Augnstinianism, is not, as its very name
shows, a superfluity which a Christian can do without, but
a necessary without which he is certain to be damned.
They forget that the absence of the grcxe of perseverance
is also, in that system, the absence of the pryioer to per-
severe; and that to those to whom perseverance is not
given in fact, it is not an accessible or an attainable

Final perseverance is upon any theological system neces-
sary for salvation, for everybody admits that those only
who persevere to the end can be saved, and that those
who ultimately fall away lose all the benefit of their pre-
vious goodness. But all Christians have the power of
attaining final perseverance according to the doctrine of
free will; according to the Augustinian doctrine they
have not all the power, because there it figures not only
as a state of man, but as a free gift of God, conferred
upon some and not upon others according to the secret
eternal decree of predestination which has been men-
tioned. Final perseverance is therefore in this system
both a necessary state — which all allow it to be — and also
an arbitrarily granted state, not attainable as a state by
any except those to whom it is positively given as a

4. It is observed that Augustine allows even the non-
elect temporary grace. But temporary grace, which is
only temporary because the individual by his own mis-

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Chap. XIII.] Augustinianistn. 203

conduct provokes God to withdraw it, is one thing ; tem-
porary grace, which is temporary because it was not
designed in the Divine plan to be anything more, is
another thing. Grace, intended to be withdrawn, in
accordance with an arbitrary decree, before it becomes
serviceable to the individual's eternal interests, is not
sufficient grace, or therefore regenerating grace. Au-
gustine does not indeed, as is often remarked, hold the
doctrine of the indefectibility of grace ; but defectible
grace, which owes its failure to the Divine purpose and
not to the human will, is not sufficient grace.

Does the Augustinian system, however, admit of the
bestowal of even temporary grace upon the whole body of
the baptized ? It does not, if it adheres to facts. For
the grace of the new dispensation is fundamentally defined
by Aagustine as necessarily effecting that goodness and
holiness of life to produce which it is given. But can it
be said of all the individuals of the baptized body that
they exhibit as they grow up even a temporary character
of holiness and goodness ?

5. The analogy of natural birth is sometimes resorted
to as a mode of reconciling these two confficting schemes;
and it is asked whether the spiritual life may not be, as
the natural sometimes is, truly conferred, though the
same Power that gave it intends it to be immediately
taken away. But this is arguing from a metaphor, and
metaphor should not be made the basis of reasoning.
Natural birth is a fact complete in itself, which therefore
no subsequent death, however immediate, can undo ; but
the birth spiritual has reference to an ulterior object, viz.
eternal life, which it Essentially gives the ability to attain.
If it does not give this ability, then, the absence of what
is essential to it undoes it at the very outset, and prevents
it from being a true spiritual birth.

6. Attempts are made to distinguish between Calvin's

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204 Augustinianism. [Part I.

and Augnstine's doctrine of predestination^ but both
assert the division of the baptized body into elect and
non-elect; the first of whom are ordained to^ and the
second excluded from eternal life^ antecedently to all
difference of life and conduct ; this assertion is Calvinism^
whether made by Calvin or Augustine ; ® and Calvinism,
by whomever held, is in the same logical contradiction to
the universal regeneration of infants in baptism.

The distinctions* then which are drawn in order to
prove, in opposition to the natural view of the case, that
the Augustinian doctrine of predestination is consistent
with the doctrine of the regeneration of all infants in
baptism, are shown to be fallacious ; and it only remains
that the essential contradiction between these two
schemes of grace should be confessed and admitted.

Such, however, being the doctrine of predestination,
which we find maintained by St. Augustine, we are re-
minded that, when this doctrine has been duly recognized,
there still remains another side of Augustine^s language ;
viz. a whole mass of statement directly asserting the re-
generation of all infants in baptism.^ This fact then, if

• ** There may be some trifling deviations from his general views,
and in some anthors an attempt to make additions to their propor-
tions, hot we have every reason to believe in the tmth of the asser-
tion that between the Angnstinian and Thomist doctrines of pre-
destination and that of Calvin there is no substantial difference,
and that those who snppose that St. Angnstine differs from Calvin
in his doctrine of predestination do not really know the doctrine
which St. Augustine held on the subject, and suppose it to be
different from what it was.** Ecclesiastic, No. 33, p. 395.

''To draw any essential distinction between Calvinism and
Austinism would argue small acquaintance with the writings of
either divine." Faber's Doctrine of Election, p. 75.

' Some others are noticed in Note 26.

' It is a mistake to suppose that this position is contained in
St. Augustine's distinction hetween baptized and unbaptized
infants dying in vi\fancy ; in which he is speaking only of some

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Chap. XIIL] Augustiniantsm, 205

true, is no refutation, becaase it does not blot out the
other fact. The doctrine spoken of remains, its toleration
by antiquity remains, and its inconsistency with the other
position remains. When a doctrine is inculcated in the
boldest, clearest, and most systematic way by an author,
when it constitutes the most conspicuous phenomenon of
his teaching, and when it is treated of so copiously that
whole books are devoted to its exposition, it cannot be
held that this doctrine is not taught by him, because the
writer elsewhere says things apparently or really conflict-
ing with it. Nor can it be held that this doctrine does
not mean what it plainly does mean, because there is
other language which is apparently of a contrary mean-
ing. Nor can it be held that this doctrine is not in plain
conflict and contradiction with a certain other position,
because the same writer maintains that other position
elsewhere in words. A writer may go on combining his
own peculiar system with certain established language,
but the circumstance of his combining them does not
make them consistent. For, a great theory once laid
down either in philosophy or theology, the author can no
more dictate the consequences of it than other persons
can; nor has he any more jurisdiction over his own
system than any one of his readers.

As a question, however, relating to the language of
this great Father, this alleged set-off in his writings to
the doctrine of predestination deserves some notice, and
is not without some interest.

1. Different explanations then have been offered by
divines of the baptismal language of St. Augustine, in
order to reconcile it with the conflicting doctrine of pre-
destination, and save his theological consistency; of
which the first that I will mention. Bishop Burnet's, is not

infants, not of all, and of those who are in his system elect infants,
an early death after baptism being a sign of election.

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2o6 Augustinianism. [Pabt I.

so mach an explanation as a simple admission of the diffi-
culty. That writer interprets Aagostine's assertion of
the regeneration of all infants in baptism as to he under-
stood in some way consistently with the' other doctrine : —
'' He thought that regenerate persons^ not being pre-
destinated, were certainly to fall from that state and from
the grace of regeneration/' * The assertion in question
is thus explained by a limitation and qualification of the
term regenerate, so as to accommodate it to the other
great characteristic doctrine, — a limitation and qualifi-
cation, however, which issues, as it must do, in a totally
inadequate and suicidal sense of that term. For a regene-
ration, which is '' certain to be fallen away from," is in
the nature of the case not a true regeneration, as involving
the want of power to persevere in that state to the end ;
i. e. a want of ability to attain salvation.

2. The Augustinian sense of the term, in this general
application of it, has been explained by one writer of
great authority on the baptismal question, as conven-
tional and secondary. Wall sees that some explanation
is wanted of the baptismal assertion as made by a rigid
predestinarian, and gives the following: — '' And whereas,"
he says, ^' some people have expressed a wonder at St.
Austin, that he should hold that all the baptized are re-
generate ; no man living can read him without perceiving
that he uses the word regenerate as another word for
baptized; and that this with him would have been an
identical proposition, as if one would say now-a-days, ' all
that are baptized are christened.' '' * The term '' rege-
nerate " did undoubtedly contract in antiquity a secon-
dary sense, in which it stood for the simple fact of
baptism; and Augustine, as was observed in a former
chapter,* employs, though not the very term itself, cognate

• On Article XVII. • History of Infant Baptism, v. il p. 187.

* Chapter xi.

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Chap, XIII.] Augustinianism. 207

terms, in an expressly secondary sense, to denote specially
a valid, baptism : '*Ecclesia orrmes per baptismom parit." —
'^ Ecclesia generat filios, sive apvd se, sive extra se^ The
birth or generation here mentioned is a wholly different
thing from regeneration, being that effect of baptism
which is not grace^ bat what was called in later theology
the baptismal character * — an effect received in common
by good and bad recipients, members of the Chnrch and
schismatics. It is, however, as we see, called by Aagos-
tine a birth, — '^ Ecclesia generat,'' ^' Ecclesia parit */' and
therefore Wallas explanation is not without language
in antiquity, and special language in Augustine, favour-
ing it.

3. Another explanation of the baptismal assertion as
made by Augustine, is that given by Ward and Davenant.
These divines, as was explained in a preceding chapter,*
retaining the substance of Elizabethan Calvinism, but
wishing to combine with it the regeneration of all infants
in baptism, constructed a particular sense of " regenerate,*'
to meet this double aim, and allowed even to the non-
elect a regeneration which consisted in the remission of
original sin only, specially excluding sufficient grace for
the future, or power to attain salvation ; for which end
the arbitrary gift of perseverance, admitted to be with-
held from them, was necessary. In this curtailed and
artificial sense, then, accommodated to a particular system,
they applied themselves the term '^regenerate'' to all
baptized infants, and maintained it so to be applied by

This interpretation, then, is so far favoured by the lan-
guage of Augustine, that, as has been already remarked,
the argument of the anti-Pelagian treatises, which supply
the principal evidence of Augustine's doctrine of baptism,

» Chapter xi. • P. 165.

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2o8 Augustiniantsm. [Part I.

is only concerned with the effect of baptism as remission
of original sin. The Pelagians denying original sin,
Angus tine challenged them to explain the Catholic prac-
tice of admitting infants to baptism, which, as being re-
mission of sin, supposed sin in the recipients of it, and
therefore in infant recipients, personal sin being im-
possible, original sin. His argument thus naturally tended
to create a particular exclusive aspect of the baptismal
gift, as remission of original sin — pardon of the past
without reference to grace for the future. " I willingly
acknowledge," says Burgess, *'that Augustine's own
opinion is that, in some sense, all infants do receive re-
mission of sin in baptism ; but yet in such sense, as doth
not suffice for their salvation, if they be not of the number
of the elect."'

It is true other phrases are used in these treatises
besides that of "remission of sin." Infants are said to
" die to sin," to be " rescued from the power of dark-
ness," and sometimes " to be illuminated '' in baptism ;
but when these phrases are examined, we find that they
refer to and mean remission of original sin ; that it is
original sin to which infants die in baptism^ as being
freed from the guilt of it ; that it is the darkness of this
guilt from which they are rescued ; and the removal of
this darkness which constitutes their illumination.

Indeed we cannot but observe a remarkable difference
in the precision with which St. Augustine speaks when
he has to do with the regeneration of infants as remission
of original sin^ and when he has to do with it as positive
renovation. He asserts with exactness enough, that all
are freed from original sin in baptism, but when he comes
to the question what grace they receive from baptism to
renovate and convert them in after life as they grow up,

" Bapt. Reg. of Elect Infants, p. 135.

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Chap, XIII.] Augustintanism. 209

his language Iialts and gives way^ and lie leaves a manifest
chasm in his baptismal scheme. Let us take the well-
known passage in his chief work against the Donatists : —

'' Sicut in Isaac qui octavo die nativitatis suae circum-
cisus est preecessit signaculum justitiae fidei ; et quoniam
patris fidem imitatus est^ secuta est in crescente ipsa
justitia^ cujus signaculum in infante prsecesserat ; ita in
baptizatis infantibuspreecedit regenerationissacramentum;
et, si Ohristianam tenuerint jpietatenty sequetur etiam in
corde conversio cujus mysterium preecessit in corpore.'*

In this passage we come to a further sense of regenera-
tion, in which it advances beyond remission of sin, and
becomes positive renewal. How is the connexion of
regeneration in this sense then^ with baptism, conducted?
In the first place, the grace is not spoken of as simul-
taneous with the sacrament, but separated from it by an
indefinite interval : the infant has the '^ sacrament of re-
generation/' but the " res sacramenti '' is obtained after-
wards ; the one " precedes,'* the other "follows '* upon
certain conditions, viz. si Christianam tenuerint pietatem.
In the second place, no grace is mentioned by which the
infant, as he grows up, is enabled to fulfil this condition,
and the scheme is left incompleta There is an interval
between the baptism of the infant, and his reception of
the baptismal renewal, which is not filled up in this state-
ment, and we are left in suspense — unless indeed we go
to the general Augustinian scheme to bridge over this
chasm, and supply the enabling grace wanted. But then
with the reference to that scheme the universality of such
enabling grace at once goes ; inasmuch as that scheme
only recognizes grace as enahlingy when it is irresistible,
and such grace is not given to all the baptized. In the
third place, the nature itself of regeneration is represented
as such, that, as a plain matter of fact, it is not attained
by all baptized infants even as they grow up. For, inas-


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2 1 o A ugtisttnianism, [Part I.

much as baptism is called at the same time regenerationia
sacramentum^ and conversionis nvysterivm, regeneration is
identified with conversion; and of this '^conversion"
again " Christian piety " is made the condition. But
without staying to ask why that is made the condition,
which is indeed the actual thing, it is enough to observe
that certainly all baptized infants do not, even as they
grow up, show either '' conversion,'^ which is the gift, or
'^ Christian piety," which is the condition of the gift.

The above-quoted statement is the type of a class.

'' Indunnt homines Christum aliqnando usque ad sacra-
menti perceptionem, aliquando et ad vitas sanctificationem :
atque illud primum et bonis et malis potest esse commune,
hoc autem alterum proprium est bonorum et piorum." *

This statement exhibits the same chasm that the former
did. We go at once, for there is nothing intermediate,
from the visible sacrament to '' sanctification of life.''
But how this sanctification is obtained is not said. Pro-
priwm est bonorvm ; but that is only to say that those
who have it, have it. We are thrown back upon the
general Augustinian scheme to supply the void, but that
scheme only gives the grace for obtaining this sanctifica-
tion to some, and not to all the baptized. Indeed if
*' sanctification of life" stands here, as "conversion"
did in the former passage, for the res sacramenti, the
latter becomes ipso facto not the universal eflEect of infant

"Proinde colligitur invisibilem sanctificationem quibus-
dam afiuisse atque profuisse sine visibilibus sacramentis
. . . visibilem vero sanctificationem, quae fieret per visi-
bilia sacramenta, sine ista invisibili posse adesse, non
posse prodesse." •

Here again there is nothing between the simple re-

* De Baptismo contra Donat. 1. v. c. 24.
» la Heptat 1. iii. c. 84.

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Chap. XIII.] Augustintantsm. 2 1 1

ception of the sacrament or '' visible sanctification/' and
actual conversion or ^' invisible sanctifi cation/' No in-

Online LibraryJames Bowling MozleyA review of the baptismal controversy → online text (page 17 of 38)