James Bowling Mozley.

A review of the baptismal controversy online

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principle. She frames her services upon the principle
of. charitable presumption — a rule which pervades the
language of society and common life, and is largely used

The same answer may be made with respect to the conjunction
in the Fifteenth Article, — " Sed nos reliqoi etiam baptizati, et in
Christo regenerati."

* By "literal statement," I mean, of coarse, literal in form,
literal as far as words go. The epithet literal may be nsed either
of the sense of a term, to denote its true as distinguished from a
secondary or incorrect sense ; or of the application of a term, to
denote its being predicated in matter of fact, not hypothetically.

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238 The Infant Baptismal Service. [Part II.

in Scriptupe. Indeed a little reflection will show how
difficult it would be to frame pablic services npon any
other. We have no right to deprive the true members
of the Church of the language which is due to them^ and
if we apply the language to any we must apply it to all,
because we do not know which are the true, and which
are the false members. Thus even the ordinary language
of public prayer supposes all the congregation to be true
worshippers of God, a supposition which issues in the
kind of statement which we are now considering, literal
in form, but not intended to be taken literally, such as
that in the Te Deum " we,'' i. e. all here, '^ do put our
trust in Thee." It is true that our Church services
suppose what is but too certain in fact, that we are all
sinners, but they also presume what is only true as a
supposition, that we are all sincere and true penitents
and worshippers.

The argument then that the statement in the Infant
Baptismal Service has necessarily a literal meaning,
becatise it is a literal statement, receives a plain refutation
from the fact of a class of statements in the services,
which are literal in form but not in meaning; and is
rendered wholly untenable by an admitted and unquestion-
able usage of language in our Prayer Book. Indeed the
very service in which this statement occurs contains on
the face of it some peculiar statements, which cannot be
understood literally. A person, who is called a sponsor,
declares that he believes all the articles of the Christian
faith, renounces the world and the flesh, and desires
baptism, in the name of the child going to be baptized.
In the first book of King Edward these statements were
put into the infant's own mouth, which was altered into
the present form in the second book ; but the distinction
is unimportant, for under either form a literal statement
is made which is not intended to be understood literally ;

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Chap, II.] The Infant Baptismal Service. 239

for nobody imagines that a really vicarious act is performed
in the sponsor's belief^ renunciation^ and desire for
baptism^ in the name of the child^ inasmuch as no one
person can really believe or desire in the stead of another.
When, therefore, following this series of literal state-
ments, which are not intended to be understood literally,
and in obvious connexion with them, another statement
comes, viz. the one now in question, it is evident that the
latter does not stand on the same ground, with regard to
the necessity of understanding it literally, on which it
would if we met it in another situation. It is true these
sponsorial statements are not essential to the rite, and do
not occur in the private service ;. but they do occur in
this service, and stamp the office in which they do occur
as a kind of document which admits of statements which
are literal in form, but not intended to be understood

Again, this very service contains a verbally absolute
statement of the future salvation of the infant. Nobody
can be required to believe without doubt any particular
fact, unless it is true ; and, therefore, to tell us to *' doubt
not but earnestly believe that God wiU give unto him
[this infant] the blessing of eternal life, and make him
partaker of His everlasting kingdom,^' is to assert the
fact of the future salvation of the infant. But this
assertion cannot possibly be understood literally, and is
therefore another proof contained within this very service
of the character of a baptismal service, viz. that it admits
of a class of statements which are literal in form, but
hypothetical in meaning.

But we have only to turn over a page in the Prayer
Book to see that this argument, from the simple literalness
of the statement, is at any rate incorrect. We have the
very same statement, which is used in the Infant Baptismal
Service, used in the Adult Baptismal Service; and in the

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240 The Infant Baptismal Service. [Part II.

latter service it is used by the confession of all parties in
an hypothetical sense. We may certainly dismiss this
ground then of the simple literalness of the statement as
at ODce insufficient, because to the argument that a literal
meaning must be given to the statement in the Infant
Baptismal Service because it is a literal statement^ it is at
once a full and decisive reply to produce the very same
literal statement as used in another service hypothetically.

It is alleged, indeed, on the strength of the expression^
^^ truly repenting and coming unto Him by faith/' which
is applied to the adult who comes to be baptized, that
the evidence of an hypothetical meaning in his case is
incorporated in the service, which it is said not to be in the
case of the infant. But, even if the meaning of this
statement in the Adult Service is shown by evidence in
the very service to be hypothetical, that cannot alter the
fact that it is hypothetical, which is all that has been
observed. If the above expressions, indeed, in the Adult
Service are to be considered as such internal evidence of
such a meaning in that service, the sponsorial statements
might be appealed to as affording something like the same
internal evidence in the In&nt Service ; for the infant is
certainly supposed in these statements to believe and
renounce the world in the person of his sponsor, as the
adult is in the other statement supposed to repent and
believe in his own person. But, without entering into
any comparison of this kind, it is enough to say that the
statement in the Adult Service, that the adult just baptized
is regenerate, is undoubtedly a literal statement with an
hypothetical meaning ; and that this fact shows beyond
dispute that the statement in the Infant Service that the
infant is regenerate has not a literal meaning, because it
is a literal statement.

It is an instance of the inaccuracy of the reasoning
which has been employed on this question that some

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Chap. II.] The Infant Baptismal Service. 241

writers have appealed to the posteriority of the date of
the Adult Service, as an answer to the above argument,
on the principle that nothing in a service of a later date
can argumentatively affect a service of a prior date.^ " As
if the question of date were of any relevance in deciding
the simple fact of the existence of a certain kind of state-
ment in our Prayer Book ! The Adult Baptismal Service
is a part of our Prayer Book, whatever be the date of its
insertion, and a statement in it is a statement in our
Prayer Book ; and this statement is by the confession of
all parties a literal statement intended to be understood
hypothetically. If it was not inserted in our Prayer
Book before 1662, that only shows that, it devolving
upon the Church at that time to construct a new bap-
tismal service, she availed herself of the hypothetical
principle in constructing it, and introduced an additional
statement into our Prayer Book founded upon this prin-
ciple. In doing which, indeed, she only followed ancient
precedent ; all the ancient baptismal offices making the
same literal statement, intended to be understood hypo-
thetically, over the baptized adult.

The Gorham Judgment drew attention to this charac-
teristic of servidfes as distinguished from dogmatic formu-
laries or articles, and to its plain and immediate bearing
upon the point in controversy. To the argument from
the literalness of the statement in the baptismal office,
the judges replied that, however correct it would have
been had the statement been made in the Articles, literal
statements were not necessarily to be interpreted literally
in Church services. They said that we must take into
consideration the 'plaxie of the statement, the class of
document in which it occurred, as well as the statement
itself. The same distinction, indeed, holds good in ordi-

* Mr. Harold Browne's ** Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles,"
p. 668. " Bevision of the Liturgy," by John 0. Fisher, p. 436.


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242 The Infant Baptismal Service, [Part II.

nary literatare^ for it would make all the difference often
in the oblifi^ation to the literal interpretation of a state-
ment, whether the latter occurred in an oration or in a

I will leave this first part of the argument then with
two remarks. The first is, that if the Church intended
this statement as a dogmatic statement to enforce the
doctrine of the regeneration of all infants in baptism, she
has made an unaccountable choice of the place where she
has introduced it. Had this statement appeared in the
Articles, or had it appeared as an independent and de-
tached statement, it would have been necessarily inter-
preted according to the rules by which we interpret
Articles, and by which we interpret independent and
isolated statements; and in neither of these situations
does the principle of hypothetical interpretation come in.
But she has inserted it in a service, in the regular order
of that service, and as part and parcel of it. She has
therefore deliberately not introduced it in a situation in
which literal construction is necessary, and just intro-
duced it in a situation in which hypothetical construction
is admissible. What reason can be assigned for such an
arrangement as this ? Why, when the whole subject of
baptism is before her in the Twenty-seventh Article, does
she not make the statement fhen instead of confining her-
self to the assertion, which is the only one she makes
about infant baptism speci^.lly — that ''the baptism of
young children is in any wise to be retained in the
Church ? ''

The other remark is, that though the argument from
the Baptismal Service is not yet fully disposed of, a very
important part of it is. It is not, I think, any misrepre-
sentation to say, that though particular persons have
gone more critically into the question, the popular argu-
ment of the side opposed to the Gorham Judgment has

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Chap. II.] The Infant Baptismal Service. 243

been the broad, simple, and downright one that a literal
statement tmiBi have a literal meaning ; that this has
been the great working argament in the whole contro-
versy, the great instrument of persuasion, and basis of
confidence. What I observe then is, that this argument
is refuted not certainly by any subtle or elaborate ex-
planation, but by the simple process of turning over a
page in the Prayer Book, on the other side of which is
seen this same literal statement, used by the confession
of all parties in an hypothetical sense.

11. It is urged, however, that the argument does not
rest here, because, though that kind of statement which
IS literal in form but not in meaning is admitted into
Church services, we are not therefore at liberty to set
down any statement that we meet with in a Church
Service as a statement of this kind, and to give it an
hjrpothetical construction; but that, in addition to the
general fact of the admissibility of such a class of state-
ments into Church services, some further reason is needed
to justify this construction in the particular case.

This further reason then is asserted to be the necessity
of such a construction — that the hypothetical interpre-
tation is necessary in the particular case, and the literal
one impossible.* And on this principle a distinction is
drawn between the same statement, as occurring in the
Adult, and as occurring in the Infant Baptismal Service ;
because it is alleged that repentance and faith being by
universal admission conditions of regeneration in the case
of adults, and conditions of which we do not know
whether they are fulfilled or not, this statement cannot
be anything but hypothetical in the case of adults;
whereas, the regeneration of infants being without con-
ditions, the reason which justifies this construction in the

' Davison's Eemains, p. 294.
B 2

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244 '^^ Infant Baptismal Senrice. [Part II.

case of adults does not exist in the case of the infant to
supply this justification.

When this distinction is made then between the state-
ment as occurring in the In&nt Baptismal Service, and
the same statement as occurring in the Adult Service,
viz. that there are conditions of unknown fulfilment in
the case of adults which do not exist in the case of
infants; I observe, first, that this is a very difierent
ground, in respect of pretensions to be obvious, palpable,
and self-evident, from the ground which has been popu-
larly used in this controversy; for, in the place of an
universal claim for the literal interpretation of literal
statements, we have on this ground only a distinction
between one case for hypothetical interpretation and
another. But, what is much more important, I observe
next that this distinction does not in truth at all meet
the case ; and for this simple reason, that it assumes to
begin with the ultimate and fundamental point in dispute,
viz. that the regeneration of infants is without conditions.
One school indeed in the Church asserts this, but another
denies it.^ It is true that the condition of faith and
repentance in act is an impossible one in the case of
infants ; but there still remain conditions which are as-
serted by one whole section of the Church to attach to
the regeneration of infants; and conditions of such a
nature that we cannot tell at the time whether they are
fulfilled or not. It is the doctrine of one school that the
infant must like the adult have faith, as the condition of
his receiving, while an infant, the grace of baptism ; that
is to say, that he must have had a seminal faith, or the
seed of a future faith, implanted in him by Divine grace
before his baptism, as the condition of his being regene-
rated at baptism. This is what is called the doctrine of

? Part I. Chapter ii. and Note 28.

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Chap. II.] The Infant Baptismal Service. 245

'^ prevenient grace," which is the appKcation to infant
baptism of the law of adalt baptism. It is admitted on
all sides that prevenient grace is necessary for the adult's
regeneration at baptism, being necessary in order to
enable him to have faith, which is the condition of his
regeneration. One school maintains that the same pre-
venient grace is necessary for the regeneration of the
infant at baptism as well, and for the same reason, viz.
for the implanting faith in him. Bat this is a condition
of unknown fulfilment, because we cannot tell whether an
infant has had this seminal faith implanted in him or not.
The Calvinist even adds to this concUtion, that the seminal
faith thus implanted should be indefectible : he makes
election the necessary condition of regeneration, and
allows no one to be regenerate who will not finally per-
severe. He adds, therefore, another condition of un-
known fulfilment, for we cannot tell whether the infant
brought to the font is or is not one of the elect, and will
or will not finally persevere. Such being the state of the
case then, those who maintain that the regeneration of
infants is accompanied by conditions of unknown fulfil-
ment, say that the same reason which obliges them to
understand this statement hypothetically as made respect-
ing adults, obliges them to understand it hypothetically
as made respecting infants.^

* I have only taken in this argument one of two aJtematives in-
Tolved in the doctrine of the conditional regeneration of infants,
viz. that of their conditional present regeneration, while infants.
There is another alternative, viz. the futu/re regeneration of the
infant, npon conditions, when he is grown np; which I have
omitted, becanse it might be objected that the principle of hypo-
thetical constmction requires at any rate a basis of present fact ;
that what we now suppose of oK, is now literally true of some.
" What I have always been struck with,** says Lord Ly ttelton, " is,
that whenever these reasoners give any definition whatever or state*
ment of regeneration, it is one which by the nature of things is

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246 The Infant Baptismal Service. [Part II.

What is there to be said then in answer to this claim ?
Can it be shown that the Church anywhere prohibits
this doctrine of the conditional regeneration of infants ?
It cannot: she is neutral and silent upon this point.
One baptismal scheme puts infants upon a different
ground, with respect to baptism^ from that of adults ;
another baptismal scheme puts both upon the same
ground. One baptismal scheme makes the infantine
state in the Infant equivalent to faith in the Adult;
another requires a previous implantation of faith in the
Infant, as in the Adult, in order to his being regenerate
while an in&nt. One scheme, in short, is that of un-
conditional infant regeneration, the other of conditional.
But our Church lays down nothing upon this question,
and allows by her silence her ministers to adopt either of
the two schemes which appears to them most reasonable.
She leaves even the full Calvinistio conditions of rege-
neration untouched, maintaining at the very least a neutral
ground upon the general Calvinistic question; and in
particular nowhere saying that regeneration is not con-
ditional upon election, or that it is not conditional upon

impossible and inapplicable to any infant ; from which inevitably
follows not the hypothetical doctrine, bat the resnlt that in no case
can the words of the service be actually true ; in no case can an
infimt be regenerate." (Tract on Infant Baptism, p. 11.) With-
out entering therefore into the qaestion whether the basis of fttct
which is necessary in supposition may not be supplied by future
tajct, as well as by present, I have only here taken the case of
present fact, and have argued upon the doctrine of those who hold
a jpresent regeneration of infants, while infants, but that only con-
ditionally ; which is a position which has been from the Eeforma-
tion to the present day largely held in the school which maintains
the conditional regeneration of infants (see Chapter viL); and
which was the most prominent side of that doctrine in the language
of Mr. Gorham, and evoked the conspicuous and notable phrase of
** prevenient grace.**

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Chap. II.] The Infant Baptismal Service. 247

final perseverance. The doctrine of the conditional re-
generation of infants then is nowhere prohibited by the
Church, but stands on a par with the other doctrine, as
one of two alternatives between which the Church does
not decide. And this being the case, the liberty to hold
the doctrine carries with it the liberty to hold the con-
comitant interpretation of this statement. This state-
ment, it must be remembered, is a statement in a Service,
not in an Article ; and as a statement in a Service it has
to begin with a liability to an hypothetical interpretation
which a statement in an Article has not. The Church
then, in this state of the case, allows a doctrine which
makes that interpretation here necessary : she therefore
allows that interpretation.

But it will be asked. Is not the statement in the Infant
Baptismal Service itself a prohibition of the doctrine of
the conditional regeneration of infants ? The answer is,
Certainly not. Because to assert it to be such a prohibi-
tion would be to asswney to begin with, that the state-
ment must necessarily be interpreted literally, which is
the very point which has to be proved. Taken hypothe-
tically, this statement is no prohibition at all of the doc-
trine of the conditional regeneration of infants, but can
be accepted quite consistently with it. Unless we go
back again then to the old disproved ground that a
literal statement must have a literal meaning, we are
debarred from adducing this statement as any prohibi-
tion of the doctrine of the conditional regeneration of
infants. Indeed, the statement in the In&nt Baptismal
Service is no more of itself opposed to the doctrine of
the conditional regeneration of infants, than the state-
ment in the Adult Service is opposed to the doctrine of
the conditional regeneration of adults.

The Church's admitted toleration of Calvinism again is
met by saying that all Calvinists do not deny the uncon-

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248 The Infant Baptismal Service. [Part II.

ditional regeneration of infants.* Bat whether or not
there exists an exceptional Calvinism (which I have no-
where come across) which admits this doctrine^ the qaes-
tion is whether the Charch does not tolerate that ordi*
nary Calvinism which denies it. If any one maintains
that she does not^ will he point out the prohibitory pas-
sage in oar formularies ?

It is objected again that the hypothetical groand can
only apply to adolts and not to infants^ becaase ^^ cha-
ritable sapposition " can only apply " to cases of capable
and responsible agents ; in relation to whom some gift or
promise of God is referred to, which is known from
Scripture to be conditional upon some act of their ownJ' '
This objection, however, is met by simply dropping the
word *^ charitable,'* the omission of which will not affect
the argument. A Calvinist can plainly make the supposition
that an infant is one of the elect ; whether this is a cha-
ritable supposition or not is altogether immaterial, though
it would be difficult to say that the supposition that an
infant would finally persevere was not a charitable sup-

The liberty then to hold the doctrine of the condi-
tional regeneration of infants being clear and evident, in
the order of reason upon conditional follows hypothetical ;
and the right to hold the doctrine includes the right to
give the interpretation.

The argument is the same if, in the place of the con*

• ** It is a fact beyond dispute," says Archdeacon Dodgson, " that
men holding the Oalvinistio doctrine of absolute decrees, have also
held the universality of regeneration in infant baptism." I have
looked in vain for this fact. Ward and Davenant held a *' regenera-
tio aacramentalis " of all infants in baptism, but not a true rege-
neration. They were very particular in saying that they did not
use the word in this universal application in its true sense. See
Chapter xi. Part I.

* Archdeacon Dodgson's " Controversy of Faith," p. 75.

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Chap. II.] The Infant Baptismal Service. 249

ditions of regeneration, we put the sense of the term
" regenerate/* When we come to this statement in the
Infant Baptismal Seryice, an inmiediate natural obstacle
to the literal constraction of it meets ns in the very sense
of the term "regenerate/* or "born of 6o4*' For this
term in its true and Scriptural sense implies actual good-
ness.' But are all infants made actually good in bap-
tism ? This is contrary to plain experience.* Without
assuming, however, this as the Scriptural sense of the
term " regenerate/^ the sense of regeneration still stands
on the same ground on which the conditions of regenera-
tion stood just now, and with the same results. The
Church nowhere defines the sense of this term: she
therefore, at any rate, leaves it open to the sense of
actual goodness. She even leaves it open to the Cal-
vinistic sense of indefectible goodness, i. e. that cannot be
fallen away from totally or finally ; and leaving it open
to that sense which involves the hypothetical construc-
tion of this statement, she allows that hypothetical con-

One distinction must indeed be admitted between the
Infant and Adult Services as cases for hypothetical inter-
pretation, viz. that in the one case the interpretation is a
universal one, in the other not. But this is not a relevant
distinction here, because, in order to found a simple right
or liberty to hold a particular interpretation, it is not
necessary that that interpretation should be held by
everybody. The whole Church interprets the statement

Online LibraryJames Bowling MozleyA review of the baptismal controversy → online text (page 20 of 38)