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A review of the baptismal controversy online

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strument for gaining this " invisible sanctification *' is
supplied, no middle gift. To fill up this interval, and
ascertain how invisible sanctification is gained, we must
go to the Augustinian doctrine of grace.

'' Horum itaque malorum praeteritus omnis reatus sacro
fonte diluitur. Remittuntur ergo in renascentibus^ mi-
nuuntnr in proficientibus. Ignorantia minuitur veritate
magis magisque lucente : concupiscentia minuitur chari-
tate magis magisque fervente.'^ '

Here is the same chasm. Baptism removes the guilt
of original concupiscence, but how does it enable us to
conquer the living strength of it ? The answer is that
concupiscence is diminished by love. But how is love
got ? We must go to the Augustinian doctrine of grace.

'' Auctum est [bonum] quo bonus esse coepit, minutum
est quo malus esse coepit ; et hoc egit post baptismum,
non peregit in baptismo." *

We are not told whence and how the baptized infcint,
as he grew up, honvs esse coepit, and we must go, to
answer this question, to the Augustinian doctrine of

Though the baptismal statements of Augustine, then,
are decided enough so far as relates to remission of
original sin to all infants in baptism, an evident hiatus
appears in them when the other part of regeneration has
to be dealt with. The infant's hold upon this other part
is not secure by baptism, but is left dependent upon con-
ditions, the grace for fulfilling which is not mentioned in
the statements, but is described elsewhere as arbitrarily
given to some and not to others of the baptized. Re-
generation in the case of adults always implies in Au-

» Contra Jul. Pel I vi. c. 16. « Ibid. 1. vi. c. 18.

P 2

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2 1 2 Augustintanism. [Part I.

gustine actual goodness, for however he may regard
remission of original sin as constitating it in the case of
infants, he never contemplates a grown-up man as re-
generate, unless he is also leading at the time a good
life.* But how, as the infant grows into the adult, does
he become thus regenerate ? We are thrown back upon
his theory of arbitrary grace. And thus the same infant
in the Augustinian scheme moritur peccato, in the sense
of being delivered from the guilt of original sin, who, as
one of those not endowed with the irresistible grace
necessary for attaining actual goodness, is still left in
massa peccati, and in massa perditionis.^

• " Appellamns ergo nosDei filios, quia sic appellandi snntqnos
regenerates pie vivere cernimus.** De Corrept. et Grat. c. 9. " Nam
isti cum pie vivunt dicnntur filii Dei, aed quoniam viduri sunt im-
pie," &c. Ibid. c. 9.

* Lombard, who founds his baptismal language npon St. Angns-
tine's, certainly distingnishes between the remission of original sin,
which he assumes as the universal accompaniment of infant bap-
tism, and the grace qua ad majorem venientes oitatem, possint veUe
et operari bonum, which he decides not to be bestowed upon infants
(Note 14). And he interprets the Augustinian grant of the remission
of original sin as made to non-elect infants with the salvo that it
is not ad salutem. He appears to mean by this that Augustine
does not give it in their case the supplement of the latter mentioned
or positive part of the baptismal gift ; and so to interpret that
Father substantially in the same way in which Ward and Davenant
explain him. " Sacramentum et rem simul suscipiunt omnes par-
vuli, qui in baptismo ab originali mundantur peccato ; qaamvis
quidam diffiteantur illis qui perituri sint parvulis in baptismo
dimitti peccata, inniteutes illi verbo Ang. in lib. de baptism, par-
vul. Sacrament a in eolis eUdis efficiunt quod figurant ; non in-
telligentes iUud ita esse accipiendum, qaia cam in aliis efficiant
sacramenta remissionem, non hoc eis faciunt ad salutem, sed soUs
electis." (L. iv. dist. 4.) That the particular quotation here is
not genuine, does not affect this as a general judgment upon the
nature of Augustine's doctrine. " We may observe," says Burgess,
" in this answer to Lombard, 1. A distinction between that re-

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Chap. XIII.] Augustinianism. 213

The Augustinian application of the term '' regenerate ^'
to all baptized infants^ has hitherto been explained as a
literal application, in {^n inadequate sense : but secondly
we observe an evident disposition in another portion of
Augnstine's language^ to fsdl back upon an hypothetical
application of the term.

The Calvinists of the Beformation furnish an instance
how theologians can combine the strong assertion of the
grace of a sacrament generally, with a reserve as to who
are the recipients of it. '' God truly eflfects,^' says Calvin
himself, " through baptism what it represents '^ — " Bap-
tism is God's ordinary instrument to wash and renew us/'
*' The efficacy of the Spirit is present in baptism to cleanse
and regenerate us/' ' But withal he reserves to himself
the right of saying afterwards that baptism is all this only
to the elect. Nor do I see that he is obnoxious on that
account to the charge of " mental reservation *' in a bad
sense, brought against him by Archbishop Lawrence, as
if he deceived the world by an apparent assertion of
baptismal grace, which he explained away to himself.
This form of statement is perfectly honestand is universally
used, and indeed is necessary, for there must be some
way of asserting the benefit of a sacrament considered in
itself simply, and apart from the question who are the
recipients of it.

The Calvinists of the Reformation again were willing,
besides asserting the grace of the sacrament generally, to
eall all the baptized regenerate ; they did so on principle,
and urged the propriety and duty of such a general

mission of sin which is indifferently sealed nnto all in baptism, and
that grace which is necessary for them to obtain in it, that are nn-
doubtedly saved by it. 2. A confession that this last, to wit, grace
nnto salvation, is peculiar only nnto the elecf Bapt. Beg. of Elect
Infants, p. 134.
» Tract TheoL p. 683. Ibid. p. 25a Epist. p. 82.

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214 Augusttnianism. [Part I.

application of the term ; but they did so of course upon
the suppoaition that the person so called was one of the
elect and would finally persevere ; and with the reserva-
tion of their right to withdraw the title, if this supposition
was not verified in fact.

This liberty of language^ and this principle of reserve
have not been perhaps sufficiently taken into account in
estimating the baptismal language of St. Augustine. In
various passages he certainly apologizes for the universal
application of the term " regenerate '' to the baptized as
having been only presumptive and hypothetical; and
though mixed with this hypothetical application he still
leaves a literal application in some sense or other —
Sacramento tenua, say his Calvinistic interpreters* — the
explanation certainly amounts to a retractation of the
term either in the letter or the spirit, as thus universally

In the following passage, for example, he tells us that
though he calh all the baptized i*egenerate, it is with the
understanding that if they do not persevere, the applica-
tion of the term to them has been from the first incorrect>
having been made only on the supposition of a future final

^^Ajppellamu8QTgOTLO% etelectos etGhristidiscipuloseti>ei
jilioSf quia sic appellandi sunt quos regenerates pie vivere
cemimus ; sed tunc vere appellantur, si manserint in eo
propter quod sic appellantur. Si autem perseverantiam
non habent^ i. e. in eo quod coeperunt esse non manent,
non vere appellantur quod appellantur et non sunt.'' ^

For " child of God " here put the confessedly con-

• ** Augustine observetli," eaye Bp. Carlton, " a great differeuoe
between them that are regenerate only sacfra/mento tenus, and those
that are regenerate and justified according to the purpose of God's
election." An Examination, p. 193.

' De Corrept. et Grat. c. 9.

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Chap. XIIL] Augustinianism. 215

vertible term *^ regenerate/^ and how does this passage
stand ? " We call them regenerate because those are to
be called so who have been regenerated and live piously ;
but if they have not perseverance they are not truly called
so." We observe then first of all a verbal contradiction
in this passage, for the writer says of the same persons
that they are regenerate, and they are not regenerate, —
'^quos regenerates'* asserting the former, and "non
sunt ^* the latter. Are we then to dismiss this passage
as being absolutely without meaning? No candid com-
mentator would dismiss in such a way a statement,
which in spite of a certain carelessness of expression
suggests so very obvious a meaning as this does. We
cannot suppose that St« Augustine applies the term to and
withholds it from the same persons in the same sense ;
he applies it then in one sense, he withholds it in
another. What are these two senses respectively then ?
The sense in which he withholds it is phdnly the real
genuine and true sense, — non vere appellantur ; the sense
in which he applies it then is not the true one. The natural
meaning of the passage is that though in some secondary
sense, or presumptively and hypothetically, we call all the
baptized regenerate, only those are really so, who subse-
quently prove their title to the epithet by final perse*

Again ; '' Nee nos moveat quod filiis suis quibusdam
Deus non dat istam perseverantiam . . . Nam isti cum
pievivunt dicv/nturfilii Dei,Bed quoniam victuri sunt impie
et in eadem impietate morituri, non eos dicit filios Dei
prsdscientia Dei.'* *

Here is the same mode of testing the present by the
future, the reality of the individual's regeneration now by
the issue of it hereafter. Those who will not in the event

• De Oorrept. et Grat. c 9.

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2 1 6 A ugusitnianism. [Part I.

persevere " are called " the children of Gk)d or regenerate,
but " the foreknowledge of Ood does not call them so/' The
foreknowledge of God sees that their so *' called '' regene-
ration will issae in nothing, and therefore decides against
their so " called " regeneration as not real regeneration.
The statement ^' dicnntnr filii Dei^ sed non eos dicit filios
Dei prsascientia Dei/' answers to the " appellantnr et non
sunt '' of the preceding passage.

Again ; ^^ Cum ergo filii Dei dicunt de his qui perseve-
rantiam non habuernnt, ex nobis exierunt sed non erant ex
nobis, quid aliud dicunt nisi, Non erant JUii etiam quando
erant inprofessione et nomine filiorum ? non quia justitiam
simulaverunt^ sed quia in ea non permanserunt. Erant
itaque in bono^ sed quia in eo non permanserunt^ i. e. non
usque in finem perseverarunt^ non erant, inquit, ex nobis
et quando erant nobiscum, hoc est, non erant ex numero
filiorum, et quando erant in fide filiorum ; qnoniam qui
vere filii sunt, prcesciti et prceordinati sunt conformes ima-
ginis Filii ejus, et secundum propositum vocati s^int ut electi
essentJ^ •

This passage presents exactly the same test of the
reality of regeneration that the preceding ones did, viz. the
future issue of it Those who are not about to persevere
are allowed a temporary grace, but even at the time of
receiving it they are deprived of real sonship, and pro-
nounced, because they are not sons eventually, never to
have been sons from the first. Non &i*ant filii etiam quando
erant, 8fc. The elect alone are really regenerate — vere
fiJii sunt.

Again ; ^^ Nonne postremo . . . per lavacrum regene-
rationis utrique renovati ? Sed si hsac audiret ille, qui
sciebat proculdubio quod dicebat, respondere posset et
dicere: vera sunt hsdc, secundum hsdo omnia ex nobis

• De Corrept. et Grat. c. 9.

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Chap. XIII.] Augustinianism. 2 1 7

erant ; verantamen secundum aliam quandam discretionem
non erant ex nobis ; nam si fuissent ex nobis^ mansissent
ubique nobiscum. Quas est tandem ista discretio?
Patent libri Dei, non avertamus aspectum : clamat scrip-
tura divina^ adhibeamus auditum. Non erant ex nobis
quia non erant secundum propositum vocati, non erant in
Christo electi ante constitutionem mundi, non erant in eo
sortem consecuti, non erant prsadestinati secundum pro-
positum ejus qui universa operatur/' '

The phrase *' ex nobis ^* in this passage means, as we
know from the last passage^ " ex numero filiorum/* It
is asserted here then that the non-elect have been per
lavacrum regeneratioyiis renovati, but that they have never
been regenerate or filii. What can this mean but that
they have been nominally regenerate, but not really?
The term is evidently withheld in a true and real
sense, and therefore only allowed in an incorrect or
presumptive one. The result of the whole language of
these passages, in short, is to establish a Church within a
Church, an existing Church of the elect within the visible
mixed Church ; which inner body is alone the true Church
of Christ. To this body reference is made in the expres-
sions, " ex nobis/' ** vere filii,'' &c., and membership of
this body given according to a secret arbitrary decree is
declared to be alone real membership of Christ, real son-
ship, real regeneration.

No candid writer will, I think, deny that these passages,
though written with fulness rather than precision, admit
of a natural and obvious construction, and that St. Augus-
tine in them throws some light upon his own meaning in
calling all baptized infants, without distinction, regene-
rate; that having made the assertion he afterwards
explains it, and that the explanation substantially amounts

^ De Dono PerseverantisB, c. 9.

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2 1 8 AugusHnianism, [Part I.

to retracting the term in its true sense, where the event
shows that the person to whom it was applied, on the
mere strength of his baptism, did not finally persevere,
and by so doing show himself to be one of the elect : that
he makes election or predestination to life a condition of
true regeneration ; and that in the mean time he applies
the term with a reserve, waiting for the issue lo show
whether those who are called so are really and truly so,
or whether non vere appellantur quod appellcmtur et non

I have thus drawn attention to some explanations of
St. Augustine^s application of the term " regenerate ^' to
all baptized infants, as made simultaneously with his
predestinarian statements. But I must now again remind
the reader, that whether such explanations are right or
wrong, the result does not afifect the argument of this chapter.
The argument of this chapter tm-ns simply upon the
question whether Augustine's doctrine of Predestination
is consistent with the doctrine of the regeneration of all
infants in baptism. And this question has been decided.
It was proved in the first part of this chapter that one of
these doctrines is totally inconsistent with the other.
Whatever may have been the results, therefore, which
Augustine himself individually drew from his own doc-
trine of predestination, and whether he saw all the results
or not, and in particular whether he saw fully the results
upon the baptismal question or not, — all this has nothing
to do with the real argument. The first systematic
teacher of predestinarianism hsis no more right on that
account than any other person to dictate the bearing
which that doctrine has upon the baptismal question.
Once out and formally promulgated, that doctrine is out
of the promulgator's hands, and the question whether or
not it is consistent with another given doctrine, must be
decided by the plain rules of common sense, and not by

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Chap. XIIL] Augustinianism. 219

the arbitrary opinion of the author, who can no more
check the argumentative consequences of his own system
than any other person can.

Had antiquity^ then, wished to impose and enforce the
position that all baptized infants possessed a true regene-
rating grace, enabling them to attain salvation, as an
article of the faith, there was one plain course which it
ought to have taken ; it ought to have condemned St.
Augustine's doctrine of predestination. Whatever the
language of St. Augustine individually as regards that
baptismal position may have been, there was a doctrine
laid down in his writings, which intrinsically contradicted
it, which not only cut at the very root of a universal
saving grace accompanying infSEint baptism, but in actual
sense and meaning denied it; which denied that all
baptized infants had as they grew up that grace which
was necessary to attain salvation. The doctrine was
clear, full, open, and decisive, it was proclaimed to the
whole Church, it challenged criticism, it called aloud for
judgment and condemnation, on the supposition that the
other position was essential, and a part of the Catholic
faith. But it was passed over by authority wholly and
absolutely, and to this present hour not one word has the
Church Catholic spoken in condemnation of this doctrine.
The plaii^ and necessary inference is, that the position
which it contradicts is not an article of the faith, and
that predestinarianism being a Catholic liberty, the
denial of the regeneration of all infants in baptism is not

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An examination of the doctrine of '' Baptismal Regene-
ration" issues in what is not an uncommon result of
examination^ viz. in our becomiug aware that the truth
on the subject is not contained within the compass of the
single phrase or formula which is used^ for the sake of
shortness and convenience, to denote the doctrine.
Persons who have not examined this question are accus-
tomed to rest in the phrase itself — *' Baptismal Regene-
ration '' — as the sum total of the doctrine ; for inasmuch
as they are not conscious of the assumptions they make
in their own mode of applying this general formula,
everything is, as it were, in their eyes shut in a nutshell.
But when they came to examine the matter, they would
find that what they had supposed to be the whole doctrine
was in &tct not so much the doctrine as a heading to it ;
and that when they had got the phrase ^^ baptismal*
Regeneration,'^ they were as yet only upon the threshold
of the substantial contents of the subject which was
denoted by that phrase. For what is regeneration ? And
what are the terms on which it is given in baptism ? And
how do those terms stand in the two cases of adults and
infants ? Is regeneration conditional in both, or only in
one and not in the other ? And what are the relations of
time between the sign and the thing signified, the sacra-
ment and the grace ? Is the grace always given at the
actual time of baptism^ or may it be separated in time

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Conclusion. 221

from the rite, and be given before it, or not till after it ?
These are questions which are none of them settled by
the mere phrase, " Baptismal Regeneration,'* which only
states generally a connexion between the rite and the
grace, leaving the particulars with respect to the con-
ditions and the time for farther decision. But it is of
these particulars that the baptismal question substantially
consists, and upon them that the whole controversy turns.
And the way in which these questions have been dealt
with in the Church — some having been decided with
general agreement, others not — this actual history of the
doctrine of baptismal regeneration constitutes the mate-
rial of the doctrine ; part of it being settled material, and
part of it controversial. In the case of principles or
maxims of law, we know that the substance of them lies
in a number of applications of the general formula which
expresses the principle, and in the growth of a variety of
distinctions and modifications in such course of appli-
cation. And in somewhat the same way the substance
of the rule of baptismal regeneration lies in the way in
which the flile has been applied, lies* in the actual history
of it, and in the growth of successive actual interpreta-
tions of it ; in some of which there has been substantial
agreement, in others not.

The doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration leaves Scripture
unformed and incomplete. What is contained in Scrip-
ture is a connexion between the two, baptism and re-
generation ; a connexion, however, of which the par-
ticulars are not determined,* except as respects the con-
ditions of faith and repentance in adults. The remainder
of the doctrine which relates, first, to the conditions in
the case of infants, and, secondly, to the relation of time
between the sacrament and the grace, was handed over

> Chapter ii.

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222 Conclusion. [Part I.

to the Church to be dealt with accordiug to the best of
her judgment, and subject to such difierences of opinion
as may legitimately arise upon questions which are left
undetermined in Scripture.

1. With respect to the conditions of regeneration, a
broad distinction was drawn by the doctors of antiquity
between infants and adults ; this grace being maintained
to be conditional in the case of adults, unconditional in
the case of infants. That is to say, it was decided that
all infants were regenerate in baptism. In ruling a point
left open in Scripture, however, in this way, the writers
of antiquity did not explain how they reconciled their
dictum with the plain sense of the term '' regenerate,^' or
"bom of God," in Scripture. One great difficulty in
this whole question would indeed be got rid of, if we
could make the term " regenerate ** or " born of God ''
mean what we pleased ; but this word, like other words,
has a meaning of its own, which it bears in Scripture,'
and in theological use from the first ; • and this meaning
implies more than a faculty or capacity, and more than
remission of original sin,* and admission to 9^ covenant,
viz. actual goodness. But even if it is allowed that
infants can have actual goodness implanted in them in
baptism, as a seminal character, as a character is said to
be implanted in some persons at birth, which we call
a natural character; yet ifc is contrary to plain facts
to say that all baptized infants have such implanted
goodness, because if they had they would all show it as
they grow up, which is opposed to plain experience. If
the Fathers, therefore, in the dictum that all infants are
regenerate in baptism, use the word in its Scriptural
sense, they say in this dictum what is contrary to plain
experience ; if they use the word in a sense short of its

* Chapter v. • Chapters vi. vii. viii. * Chapter iv.

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Chap. XIV.] Conclusion. 223

Scriptural one, they say what is no part of revealed
truth; if they use the word ambiguously, they say we do
not know what. And the latter is the alternative to
which the division among interpreters seems to point;
the very divines who agree in accepting this dictum
disagreeing totally as to what it means, and taking it in
contradictory senses.*

It must be added that the doctrine of the regeneration
of all infants in baptism, besides its collision with the
meaning of the word '^ regenerate,'' also struck upon
another rock, viz. the doctrine of Predestination ; which,
though in actual meaning contradictory to it, obtained
full toleration from antiquity, and has met with no con-
demnation from the Church up to the present day.'

Such, however, being the strong line of demarcation
drawn in antiquity between infants and adults in relation
to baptism, the divines of the Reformation for the most
part adopted a difEerent position, and decided that the
grace of baptism was given to infants upon the same
principle on which it was given to adults, viz. conditionally;
the condition being sometimes described as a future actual
faith in them when grown up, sometimes as a present
sure seed or root of faith implanted in them as infants.
And this method of treating the two cases upon the same
principle involved the same consequence in both cases,
viz. that all infants were not regenerate in baptism any
more than all adults were ; for that all infants had not
this seminal, any more than all adults had actual faith
before baptism ; or were all going to have actual faith
any more than all adults had it already.

2. With respect to the relation of time between the
sacrament and the grace, it has been ruled with complete
consent that the connexion of the two — the sacrament

• Chapter xii. • Chapter xiii.

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2 24 Conclusion. [Part I.

and the grace — does not require that the grace should be

Online LibraryJames Bowling MozleyA review of the baptismal controversy → online text (page 18 of 38)