James Bowling Mozley.

A review of the baptismal controversy online

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given simultaneously with the sacrament. This is^ indeed^
but a natural adjunct of that fundamental law of the
institution of baptism which makes it a sacrament to be
administered once for all^ and prohibits the repetition of
it ; from which law it would in all equity follow that the
whole subsequent grace of the sacrament should not be
dependent upon the particular state of mind in the indi-
vidual at the time of admission to it. This result then
of the law of non-repetition of baptism is sufficiently
apparent in Scripture, and was assumed with entire
consent by antiquity in its judgment in the case of the
Fictus, in which it was laid down decisively that the rite
of baptism could precede the first reception of the grace
by an indefinite interval of time,' So far, however, in
ruling that the reception of the grace need not be simul-
taneous with the rite, it was only ruled that the rite could
precede the grace. But it was also decided with entire
consent that faithful adults who died unbaptized had the
grace of baptism, on account of their faith and holiness,
without the rite ; and upon the basis of this judgment it
was afterwards further ruled that the faithful adult who
was baptized had the grace of baptism, by virtue of his
faith and holiness, "before the rite. That is to say, it was
ruled that the grace could precede the rite by an
indefinite interval.* The necessity of the sign being
simultaneous with the thing signified was thus relaxed at
both ends, and the connexion of the grace and the rite
was pronounced to be subject to this important modifica-
tion, that the rite might be before the grace, or the grace
before the rite. The Reformation divines took up the
existing judgments of the Fathers and the Schools which
had been formed in the case of adults, and applied them

' Chapter iii. * Chapter ix.

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Chap. XIV.] Conclusion. 225

to the case of infants ; who^ upon their own scheme^ had
the grace of baptism on the same principle on which
adalts had^ viz. conditionally upon faith^ either a seminal
before baptism^ or actual after baptism.

1. Upon this general statement of the case there arises^
firsts the observation made above that the doctrine of
baptismal regeneration, as existing in actual theology, is
composed of a succession of judgments or applications
of the general principle, or of a growth of distinctions
and modifications, which arose according as the general
principle of the connexion of the grace with the sacrament
had to accommodate itself to oiher general principles of
equity or of morals, or came across difficulties arising
from other allowed doctrine, or from the meaning of the
word " regenerate '* itself. It was a principle of equity
which obtained the judgment that in the case of the adult
unbelieving at the time, but afterwards believing, the
rite preceded the grace. It was a truth of morals which
obtained the judgment that the faithful and repentant
adult was justified before baptism, or that the grace
could precede the rite. The allowed doctrine of pre-
destination again contained in itself, by virtue of its
actual meaning, an allowed limitation of the baptismal
doctrine ; and the very Scriptural sense of regeneration
contained the same. These limitations and modifications
then of the baptismal doctrine, as held in antiquity and
as developed and further extended by the Beformation
divines, are what actually compose and form the material
of the doctrine in the page of theology ; part of it con-
sentient and part of it controverted material: and the
short phrase, " Baptismal Regeneration,*' is the heading
to that large and complex mass and formation of state-
ment and distinction, of which I have endeavoured to
give a summary in the preceding pages.

2. Another observation is, that what is called the


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226 Conclusion.

Sacramental System was found in actual application not
to cover all the facts of Christianity, some of which were
left outside of it^ and those not mere isolated cases^ but
a class of facts^ viz. the whole formation of Christian
faith and holiness in adults^ and their consequent justifi-
cation> previous to the sacraments ; showing a void in the
sacramental system which requires a supplementary law,
and reveals an opening into another counterbalancing

3. But though such observations as these, formed upon
a general review of a large field of material, are not with-
out their place in the consideration of this subject, they
are all subordinate to one plain and simple distinction,
viz. the distinction between that part of the doctrine of
baptism which is in Scripture, and that which lies outside
of Scripture. It must be admitted that Scripture is silent
with respect to infants as recipients of the grace of bap-
tism ; and this being the case, it follows that, though the
doctors of antiquity give one plan of this omitted ground,
the divines of the Reformation another, neither plan can,
according to the rule of faith adopted by our Church,'
compel our acceptance ; and that therefore, according to
the rule of our Church, the regeneration of all infants in
baptism is not an article of the faith.

Chapter i.

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The question which the Gorham Judgment decided was
a considerably narrower one than it was understood to be
at the time. No question relating to the grace of bap-
tism generally was decided by that judgment, nor was
the opinion which that judgment pronounced to be per-
missible and consistent with our formularies, the opinion
that no grace attaches to the Sacrament of Baptism.
The judgment, on the contrary, supposed a certain grace
attaching to that sacrament, and the opinion which it
pronounced to be tenable within our Church was the
opinion that that grace is never received without con-
ditions; ''that in no case is baptism unconditional.'^*

' The statement of opinion decided by the Gk)rham Judgment not
to be contrary to the doctrine of the Church of England is as follows :
" That baptism is a sacrament generally necessary to salvation,
but that the grace of regeneration does not so necessarily accom-
pany the act of baptism that regeneration invariably takes place
in baptism ; that the grace may be granted before, in, or after
baptism ; that baptism is an effectual sign of grace by which God
works invisibly in ns, but only in such as worthily receive it — ^in
them alone it has a wholesome effect ; and that without reference
to the qualification of the recipient it is not in itself an effectual
sign of grace ; that infants baptized and dying before actual sin
are undoubtedly saved; btU that in no case is baptism tmcon-

Q 2

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228 Introduction. [Part II.

The conditional character of the grace of baptism^ con-
fessed on both sides in the case of adults^ was disputed
in the case of infants as inconsistent with the formularies
of our Church ; and the point which was decided was
that the opinion which extended its conditional character
to the case of infants was not inconsistent with those for-
mularies. The judgment was concerned then with the
question, not of the grace of the sacrament, but of the
recipients of that grace. For, the grace admitted and
assumed,' it is a further question who are the recipients
of it, or what constitutes the qualification for receiving
it ; and, in particular, whether the infantine state as such
is a qualification and constitutes a worthy recipient. The
formularies of the Church then were asserted on one side
to decide this question in the affirmative, and to pro-
nounce dogmatically that all infants were regenerate in
baptism ; while, on the other, it was maintained that our
formularies did not assert this dogmatically, but lefb the
question whether the regeneration of infants in baptism
was conditional — ^i. a whether all infants were regenerate
in baptism or not — an open question; the view which
was adopted by the Court, and formed what is called the
Gorham Judgment.

The Gorham Judgment, in short, did not decide upon
the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, but upon a parti-
cular application of the doctrine. For the doctrine of
baptismal regeneration and the doctrine of the regenera-
tion of all infants in baptism are not identical, though
they have been often virtually treated as such in recent

' More notice ought to have been taken, than has been, of the plain
and decided admission of the grace of the sacrament, as distin-
guished from the question of the conditions upon which it is re-
ceived, made by the appellant side in the Gorham case : and I
would call special attention to the strong and thoughtful language
of the Dean of Eipon on this subject. Note 27.

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Chap. I.] Introduction. 229

controversy. The one is the assertion that baptism im-
parts regeneration to qualified persons; the other the
farther or particular assertion that certain persons are
qualified. This latter question may, indeed^ be decided
correctly or incorrectly, and the doctrine may be held
with this correct or incorrect adjunct ; but the doctrine
is the doctrine, as just stated, and not this adjunct.

The Gorham Judgment, however, as it has been guarded
from being taken to mean too much, must also be guarded
from being taken to mean too littla It is a curious
instance of the ambiguity of human language that this
judgment was no sooner out than its meaning was dis-
puted, and that not on any collateral but on the funda-
mental point. The late Mr. Baron Alderson suggested,
in a letter to the Bishop of Exeter, that the opinion
'^ that the grace of baptism is in no case unconditional,^'
being quite consistent with the opinion that infancy itself
is an adequate condition, the judgment in allowing the
former opinion gave no liberty to deny the latter, or
therefore to deny the regeneration of all infants in bap-
tism.' But such an interpretation however ingenious,
and dictated by however amiable a motive, is inadmis-
sible, because, if we say that the grace of baptism is not
even in the case of infants unconditional, we refer in the
very form of speaking to some condition over and above
the fact of their being infants. The judgment then must

» Baron Aldcreon's " Letter to the Bishop of Exeter."—" Selec-
tions from the Charges and other Detached Papers of Baron Aider-
son." p. 230.

This interpretation appears to be indorsed by the Bishop of
Exeter (Pastoral Letter, 1867, p. 6), who, however, is qnite correct
in saying that "the Gk>rham Judgment has not ruled that ilk^
doctrine of Bpiritual regeneration in hajptiem is left in our Chv/rch
an open question ;" the judgment not being concerned with the
general question of the gprace of the sacrament at all, but with
another and a subordinate question exclusively.

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230 Introduction. [Part II.

be taken in the sense whicli general opinion attaches to
it^ and most be considered to permit as tenable the
opinion that all infants are not regenerate in baptism ;
while, on the other hand, to permit this opinion is by no
means to permit a denial of tiie grace of the sacrament.

From defining what the point of doctrine was which
was decided in 4ihe Gorham Judgment to be tenable
within the English Chnrch, I torn to the Churches te%i of
doctrine. Nothing need have been said on this head
were it not for a certain supposition which has been put
forward, in connexion with this controversy, that the test
of doctrine in our Church is (me particula/r construction or
sense of her formularies, called the Catholic — a sense not
necessarily belonging to the words, but supplementary
to them. This supposition if true alters the nature of
the Church's test of doctrine, and supplants the formula-
ries themselves as constituting this test. Are they con-
sistent with a certain opinion themselves? Still this
particular supposed construction of them may not be.
The test of overt language is superseded by the test of
an unexpressed sense.

But this supposition appears to be altogether without
evidence or authority. The Church's test of doctrine is
contained in the form of subscription ; and in the form of
subscription no allusion is made to any such sense in
which these formularies are to be understood. We are
not required to assent to the documents in one particular
sense, but to assent to the documents.

Nor, must it be observed, is this any proof that the
Church does not aim at agreement with antiquity, but
only that she expresses her estimate of antiquity in her
formularies ; which formularies, therefore, must contain
such estimate in their natural sense, without any need of
recourse to a supplementary sense. The Church, in
forming her exposition of Christian doctrine, had all the

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Chap. I.] Introduction. 231

data and sources of Christian truth before her; and^
among the rest^ she had^ so far as she thought it neces-
sary to avail herself of them, antiquity and the Fathers.
When that exposition of doctrine then comes out in the
shape of certain articles and formularies, it must be un-
derstood as expressing her interpretation of antiquity.
And this being the case, to go back to antiquity again
for the interpretation of these formularies, would be to
reverse the natural order of things, and instead of using
the interpretation to decide the meaning of the ori-
ginal document, to use the original document to decide
the meaning of the interpretation.

The recommendation of our Church, in the Canons of
1571, to preachers, ''that they do not teach anything
in their sermons, save what is agreeable to the doctrine
of the Old and New Testaments, and what the Catholic
Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered from that
doctrine,'' undoubtedly recommends what is in her judg-
ment primitive doctrine as true. But it is one thing to
recommend such doctrine as true, and another to append
it as supplementary, i. e. as furnishing a supplementary
sense to the formularies of the Church. Nothing can be
more natural than that the Church, having constructed
her formularies in agreement with primitive doctrine, as
she understood it, should send her clergy to the same
source of information which she had used herself; but
such a recommendation does not at all show that she
thinks her formularies defective in the expression of
primitive doctrine, and wanting a supplementary sense
from that quarter.

But are the formularies of the Church necessarily a
perfectly adequate expression of her faith, or may they not
omit points which the Church still intends to be believed ?
It is possible they may, but still the Church imposes no
doctrine but what she expresses ; and the remedy to such

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232 Introduction. [Pabt II.

an omission^ if there is one^ is a correction or addition to
the formnlaries^ and not an obligatory unexpressed sense
of them/

Nor is precedent^ less than common sense^ in favour of
such a rule, and against the claim to judge men by an
unexpressed sense^ as distinguished from the language of
creeds and formularies. The Church has always made
language her test, nor, when her written creed was found
an inadequate expression of the article of our Lord's
Divinity, did she continue to use the imperfect docu-
ment, and judge the Arians by the Catholic sense
of it; but corrected the creed so as to express that
sense, and then demanded subscription to the corrected

The hypothesis, however, of inadequate expression is
only applicable correctly to an earlier stage of doctrine,
when those questions have not been mooted or those
differences arisen which call for accuracy and fulness of
definition. It is strangely out of place, as applied to our
Church's statements on the baptismal question, constructed
in a developed state of that question, when the differences
connected with it had come out, and undergone great
discussion. The very character of the Articles on this

^ Two points of belief have been noticed as omitted in onr formn-
lanes, the inspiration of Scriptare, and the personahtj of the
devil. Witli respect to the former, the assertion of its omission
appears to be a mistake. The Articles expressly refer to the Bible
as the " Word of God," which is to assert its inspiration. Nor
wonld it have been easy for the Church to say more on this point
without going into distinctions which are fair subjects for latitude
of opinion. The latter is certainly nowhere formally laid down,
but it would be more reasonable to suppose in this case that the
Church was satisfied with the general da facto belief in a point
which she had not unnaturally passed over as uncontroverted,
rather than that she enforced it by a supplementary unexpressed
sense of her formularies.

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Chap. I.] Introduction, 233

subject, worded with the utmost caution and deliberation,
evidently upon a survey of a variety of opinions and a
large ^ growth of controversy, through which they steer
their way with the most jealous determination to say just
as much as and no more than is considered necessary
for sound faith, forbids such a supposition, and supplies,
on the contrary, the strongest reason for reckoning our
Churches statements on this subject to be an adequate
expression of her faith upon it.

I cannot, indeed, but observe that the claim for a supple-
mentary Catholic sense, in addition to the language of
our formularies, comes not very consistently from those
who appeal at the same time to the simple language of
those formularies, as self-evidently decisive on this ques-
tion : for why is a supplementary sense wanfed if the
language is proof positive by itself?

One of the ablest assailants of the Corham Judgment
falls unconsciously into this contradiction, and while
asserting his conclusion as evident from the Church's
express language, at tbe same time demands for this
language the Catholic as distinguished from the '' legal
principle" of interpretation; and urges that there should
be made, as soon as it shall be found practicable, " a
public, formal, and authoritative declaration, that of all
the various interpretations which by possible construction
may be given to the formularies of the Reformation,
that alone which has been from the first the doctrine of
the Catholic Church shall henceforth be recognized as
the doctrine of the Church of England." ' But if the
language of our Church is open to *' various constructions,'^
some other construction besides the particular one for
which this writer contends is admissible ; and if a new
doctrinal statement is wanted to enforce a doctrine, it is

' Archdeacon Dodgson's Controversy of Faith, p. 101.

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234 Introduction.

plain that oar formolaries do not enforce it as they

* Though the impositioii of a supplementarj unexpressed sense
which is more stringent than the hmguage of our formularies is un-
tenahle, it is an entirely different question, whether the subscriber
may not be allowed in certain cases a relaxation of the strictly
literal sense. Such a liberty of divergence from the sense, being a
concession to the subscriber and an accommodation for his benefit,
because otherwise he could not accept the language, has at any rate
no objection to meet with on the subscriber's part : but.if , when he
coidd accept the language, he is stopped by a supposed sense which
is more stringent than the language, he has a right to throw him-
self upon the form of subscription as excluding such a claim, by
the simple fact of omitting all reference to auob sense, and only
requiring his assent to the document

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The formularies of oar Church may be divided broadly
into Articles and Services ; though this is not an exact
division. Under the head of Articles however we may
place the Creeds to which the Articles demand assent,
and also some dogmatic statements appended to the
Services though not forming part of them. I reserve the
Catechism, which does not come under either head, for
another chapter.

The first division of our formularies then will not
occupy us long, because it is obvious upon a slight
examination, that there is nothing in their language at all
definitive on the question before us. The clause in the
Nicene Creed : " I believe in one baptism for the remission
of sins/^ only mentions a particulai* benefit attaching to
the sacrament as such, leaving open the further question
who are the recipients of, or what are the conditions
of, this benefit. The Twenty-seventh Article, and that
part of the Twenty-fifth which relates to baptism, con-
tain, it is admitted, nothing conclusive on the present
question ; the statement that the sacraments '* are effec-
tual signs of grace,'' leaving the question open who are
the recipients of that grace.^ The dogmatic statement
appended to the service for the Public Baptism of Infants,
''It is certain by God's word that children which are

» "The Article leaves it doubtful what worthy reception is."
Sir H. J. Fust's Judgment, p. 34.

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236 The Infant Baptismal Service. [Pabt II.

baptized, dying before they commit actual sin, are un-
doubtedly saved,'* may be accepted and subscribed with
perfect honesty by one who thinks it certain by God's
word that all infants^ even those who are unbaptized,
dying before they commit actual sin are saved, because
he regards it as inconsistent with the character of
Goodness and Mercy assigned to God in Scripture, that
He should exclude from salvation any beings who never
committed actual sin. There is nothing in the terms of
this statement^ as they lie before us, to prevent the person
just mentioned from subscribing to it; even without
taking into consideration that, whereas the Articles of
1 536, in asserting that " children dying in their infancy
shall undoubtedly be saved,'' add, *' ani else not/* this
addition is pointedly omitted in the statement before us.
It may be accepted and subscribed to again with perfect
honesty by predestinarians, who regard the early death
of Christian infants and their removal from the evil to
come as the sign of their election, but who would justly
observe that to hold that some, i. e. elect infants were saved
was one thing, and to hold that all baptized infants
were regenerate was another.' This statement speaks
of a certain class of baptized infants, viz. those who '^ die
before they commit actual sin," and what it ctsserts is
limited to them : it does not speak of all baptized

^ ** Qaos electione sna dignatas est Dominns, si, aocepto regenera-
tionis signo, prsesenti vita ante demigrent quam aboleverint, eos
virtute sui Spiritns nobis incomprehensa renovat, quo modo ex-
pedire solus ipse providet." Calvin, Instit. 1. 4, c. 16.

• The translation of " renatis " in the Latin Article IX. by
"baptized" in the Enghsh Article of 1552 and 1562, cannot imply
that these two are equivalent terills, which would be by universal
admission a gross error, involving even impenitent and unbelieving
adults being regenerate by baptism : and not implying this, the
translation proves nothing in regard to the present question.

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Chap. IL] The Infant Baptismal Service. 237

From the dogmatic formularies of the Church then we
turn to the services^ and there we go at once to that
statement upon which this whole controversy has mainly
hinged — ^the statement in the Infant Baptismal Service,
that ^^ this child is regenerate/^

Here then we have undoubtedly a literal statement*
made by the Church, respecting every baptized infant,
that it is regenerate ; and the only question is, is it
necessary to give it a literal meaning, or is an hypothetical
meaning admissible ?

I. Let us take first then the broad popular argument
that this is a literal statement, and that therefore it must
have a literal meaning, and that it is an obvious violation
of language to give it any other. Is this argument
correct then, and has this statement necessarily a literal
meaning because it is a literal statement ?

This argument is disposed of at once by a simple
reference to the obvious and admitted fact that the
Church does in her services make use of a form of state-
ment which is literal in terms, but not in meaning. The
instances of this kind of language in our Prayer Book
are so familiar and well known, that it is hardly necessary
to cite them here ; it is enough to refer to this usage as
one which is adopted by the Church and adopted upon

Online LibraryJames Bowling MozleyA review of the baptismal controversy → online text (page 19 of 38)