James Bowling Mozley.

A review of the baptismal controversy online

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exercise our faith in it, not doubting that we are saved
after we are baptized — prorsus non dubitantes nos esse
salvos postquam sumus baptizati" ^ Such doubt of the
certainty of our salvation wholly neutralized baptism, and

• Op. torn. i. p. 76. » Tom. v. p. 638. * Tom. ii. p. 74.

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Chap. VI.] Documentary Sources. 313

defeated the very object for which the sacrament was
designed. ''^ Unless this faith that we are saved is
present^ baptism profiteth not^ yea harmeth^ and that not
only at the time it is received, but for the whole of life
after. For unbelief accuses the Divine promise of false-
hood, which is the greatest of all sins.' . • . Believe only
the truth of God, and that will preserve thee : though all
else fails, it will not leave thee. Thou hast in this what
can quell the insults of the adversary, the force of temp-
tation, the horror of death and judgment, and thou canst
say, ' God's promise is true, the seal of which I have
received in baptism.' . . . Thou seest how rich is the
baptized Christian, who cannot, if he will, lose his salva-
tion for any so great sins unless he doubts. No sins can
condemn him, but disbelief can.*' ' '' We must learn that
God is not uncertain, ambiguous, equivocal, feeble, but
true and certain. Who saith, ' I baptize thee, in the name
of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit ; I absolve thee from
all thy sins.' In that word the Father, Son, and Spirit
do not err, and are not shaken as the wind, but are as a
rock and Sela, as God is often called in the Psalms,
because He is a most firm God, upon wh9m thou mayest
rely and say — I am saved ; I am a son of God, and an
heir of God, because I am baptized — Sum facius salviiSf
8umfilivs Dei et hceres Dei, quia sum haptizatus" *

Baptism was according to Luther, then, the guarantee
to the believer, the visible token given him of his own
individual acceptance with God; and for this reason
Luther insists upon the duty of a perpetual inward re-
currence to our baptism : "Semper repetendus baptismus, '
assidue recantanda promissio, jugiter excitanda foven-
daque fides. • • • The divine promise once pronounced
over us in baptism, its truth abides till death, and faith

« Tom. ii. p. 74 » Ibid, ii. p. 75. * Tom. vi p. 553.

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314 Documentary Sources. [Part II.

in that promise must be nourished by the perpetual
memory of that promise. • • . For no sins can condemn
us, but unbelief alone. Let faith but return to the Divine
promise made to the baptized, and all the rest will be
absorbed in a moment through that faith." * It was this
recurrence to the baptismal token of the sinner's own in-
dividual acceptance with God that constituted the strength
of the priestly absolution, which was only valid by virtue
of the revival of the sinner's assurance of total pardon, of
which baptism was the seal. '' Penitence recalls and
renews the Sacrament of Baptism ; as if the priest said,
when he absolved the penitent, ' Behold, God hath for-
given thee all thy sins, oa He promised before in Bap'
tism.* . . . Which if we believe, without doubt we shall
Jiave remission of sins : if we believe not, we shall be
damned. Thus we see that remission of sin is sometimes
impeded by sins, but is wholly prevented by unbelief,
and faith alone repairs and renews the interrupted work
of baptism, and all things depend on faith. . . . Tunc
enim vim suam baptismus obtinet, et oerto mihi remissa
sunt peccata cum credo Deo promittenti quod nolit mihi
peccata imputare, quamvis maxima eorum pars adhuc in
came remaneat. Illam autem fidem sequitur peccatorum
mortificatio." • Luther thus sent the believer throughout
his earthly course to the commencing Sacrament of Bap-
tism, as the outward visible sign and token of his own
individual acceptance with God. According to the general
doctrine of assurance the faithful believed in their own
acceptance with God, and that was the evidence that
' they were accepted ; according to the baptismal doctrine
of assurance the faithful believed that baptism was the
sign of their own acceptance with God, and that belief
was the evidence that baptism was the sign of it, and did

» Tom. vi. pp. 74, 75. • Tom. i. p. 75.

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Chap. VI.] Documentary Sources. 315

represent this special and particular &ct. And Lnther
tells them to go back to this token of their own accept-
ance, as often as they foond their assurance wavering
and their hearts trembling. But this doctrine of baptism
was only the doctrine of assurance, with an immaterial
addition; for it made no real difference whether the
believer said simply, ''I am assured of my own par-
ticular salvation/* or whether he said, '^I am assured
that baptism is the token of my own particular salvation/*
Baptism had no virtue of its own in this whole use and
employment of it, but only that office which the believer
himself gave to it by arbitrarily connecting it with his
own assurance, and making it stand for the token of his
own individual acceptance.

Such was the baptismal doctrine of Luther, which
Archbishop Laurence mistook for the Patristic doctrine,
quoting the ^^Salvus sum, quia haptizatvs aum^^*^ as if
it meant, '^I have received in baptism grace enabling
me to be saved;" whereas it really meant, "I have
received in baptism a pledge and token of my own in*
dividual salvation.** He was thus misled by a delusive
resemblance of language into praising, as orthodox and
Patristic, statements which really contained the fiiU doc-
trine of assurance. The true explanation shows how
different in meaning similar verbal statements may be,
according as they arise upon one basis of doctrine or

The baptismal doctrine of Melancthon is a mild copy
of that of Luther. '^ Baptism is called a Sacrament be-
cause it is added to the promise, so as to witness that the
promise of grace truly pertains to him who is baptized ;
and we must think of tl]is witness as if God testified by a
voice from heaven that Re accepted this person. And the

' Ban^pton L^ctords, p. 151.

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3i6 Documentary Sources. [Part II.

baptized person must, when he understands^ exert this
faith : he must beUeye that he is truly accepted by God
for Christ's sake, and is sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
Thus must baptism be used in after life ; it must every
day remind us : ^ Behold, God has testified by this sign
that thou art received into grace.' He will not have this
testimony scorned. Wherefore believe that thou art verily
accepted — creclas te vere receptum ease — and invoke Him
with this belief. . . . God declares that He accepts us ;
that declaration the believing conscience embraces." •

Upon an examination then of the Lutheran baptismal
language, we find, first, that the grace of baptism is, ac-
cording to the Lutheran doctrinC) conditional upon faith
even in the case of infants, and that this condition issues,
in the language of Melancthon, in a limitation of regene-
ration to some members of the visible Church; and,
secondly, we find that baptism is not an instrument of
grace in Lutheran doctrine, but only the sign of it ; and,
lastly, that baptism is in Luther's scheme incorporated
and absorbed in the doctrine of Assurance, which assur-
ance simply uses it as its own seal, arbitrarily converting
it into the sign of the particular salvation of the baptized

To go back then to the argument from documentary
sources. We have been dealing with the first question
which arises in that argument, viz. the question of fact.
Was the assertion of the regeneration of the infant dog-
matic in the Lutheran baptismal services f The whole
baptismal doctrine of the Lutherans seems to testify to
the contrary, and to show that it was not understood as
such by the Lutherans themselves. It must be admitted,
that side by side with the service, even at the very date
of its construction, the Lutheran doctrine of baptism ex-

• Tom. i. p. 236.

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Chap. VI.] Documentary Sources. 3 1 7

patiates most freely, and does not consider itself as com-
mitted or shackled. Nor perhaps would some of those
who use the argument — " Our Baptismal Service is bor-
rowed from the Lutherans : the Lutherans held a certain
doctrine of baptism, therefore we hold the same ;" choose
themselves, after an inspection* of the Lutheran doctrine
of baptismal assurance, to acknowledge its validity.

I would indeed, with all deference to many respectable
writers, demur to the judgment which has given the
Lutheran such an advantage over the Calvinistic School,
as a witness to the efficacy of the sacraments. It is true
that the doctrine of election, in the writings of the latter
school, limits the recipients of the grace of the sacra-
ments; but the sacraments themselves are still largely
recognized as instrumentsy and the Calvinistic language
would appear, upon comparison, to be more sacramental
than the Lutheran, which is more purely committed to the
obsignatory view. The moderation of Melancthon and his
retractation of extreme predestinarianism have naturally
recommended him to the writers to whom I allude, but his
representation of the sacraments as signa and testimonial
cannot itseH be acceptable to those who elevate the sacra-
ments and follow the teaching of the Fathers. Nor, upon
this question, is Lutheranism a source from which a stricter
interpretation of our formularies can be derived.

We now leave the Lutheran and come to the Ancient
baptismal offices ; and first of all, as in the case of the
Lutheran, what is the state of the fact with respect to the
Ancient offices? It must be admitted then that the
statement of the regeneration of the baptized infant in
the Ancient offices was understood in the Ancient Church
literally. But here an important distinction must be
drawn. This statement, though understood literally, was
not so understood because it was a literal statement in a
service, but because the current doctrine of that period

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3 1 8 Documentary Sources. [Paet II.

gave it that literal meaning ; for it must be remembered
that the very same statement was made in the Ancient
offices over every baptized Adult, in whose case it was
understood by the whole Church as hypothetical The
statement therefore was not in itself literal in meaning,
but derived that meaning where it had it from current
contemporary doctrine. And therefore this statement
was not in the Ancient Baptismal Offices a dogmatic
statement, as this very alternative of meanings shows :
for had it been dogmatic it would not in any case have
borne an hypothetical meaning, but must in every case
have borne a literal one. But this statement does not
come down to us from the Ancient Church stamped with
the literal sense only; because, as being no statement
special and appropriate to infants, but one common to
infants and adults, it had in truth either meaning, hypo-
thetical or literal, according to the case in which it was

But now the state of the fact with respect to the
meaning of this statement in the Lutheran and Ancient
offices being ascertained, another question still remains.
For whatever may be the state of fact with respect to
the original documents from which, mediately or imme-
diately, our own service is derived, we have still to con-
sider the conclusion which is to be drawn from the fact,
or the solidity and justice of the general argument from
documentary sources. Are compiled services necessarily
to be interpreted by the services from which they are
compiled? Does a service, because it is constructed upon

* Though it makes no difference in the argument, the statement
being the same, even if the services were distinct, it may be men-
tioned that the ancient baptismal offices were not distinct generally,
bat that there was one service in common for adults and infants ;
and that both came under the same statement in the same eei'vice —
the " Qui te regeneravit.**

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Chap. VI.] Documentary Sources. 3/9

the model of another anterior service, necessarily borrow
the meaning of the latter in every case, and nse all its
phrases and its statements in the very sense in which
they are nsed in the older formulary ? No ; because it
is quite open to a Church in constructing a new service
to avail itself of old liturgical material without binding
itself to the exact sense in which this language in its
original was used. Our Communion Service would
supply an indisputable instance of a principle, which
would apply to the other service as well, viz. that the
Church in adopting the language of an older formulary
may adopt it with the accommodation which a new doc-
trinal ground requires. The meaning then of this or that
phrase, or piece of language in a compiled service does ^
not depend absolutely upon the meaning which it had in
the original document from which it was borrowed, but
it depends upon the doctrine of the Church which has
compiled that service and borrowed that liturgical lan-
guage. In the Ancient offices the baptismal statement,
as made over an infant, had a literal meaning, because
the baptismal regeneration of all infants was laid down
positively then in the current theology of the Church.
But in our service this statement wants this doctrinal
support and interpretation from without, and stands simply
upon its own ground as a statement in a service, in which
capacity it has not necessarily a literal meaning.

When the remark is made then that in none of the
Ancient offices is the statement of the regeneration of
the infant more positive than it is in our own, the truth
of it may be admitted, but the fact is not to the purpose.
It by no means follows from it that our Church uses this
statement in the same exclusively literal meaning in
which it was used in the Ancient offices ; because she is
not bound to the sense which accompanied it in the ori-
ginal document, but only to her own sense as indicated by

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320 Documentary Sources.

her own doctrine. Contemporary baptismal doctrine gave
a literal sense to this statement as made over the infant
in the Ancient offices ; bat her own baptismal doctrine
does not give it that exclusive sense in her own service,
but leaves it open to an hypothetical one. The state-
ment in the service reflects the doctrine of the Com-
munion. The doctrine of the Roman Church is that of
unconditional infant regeneration in baptism, and there-
fore this statement in the Boman service has a literal
meaning. The doctrine of the Irish Church, as laid
down in the Irish Articles, was that the regeneration of
infants in baptism was conditional;^ and therefore in the
Irish service this statement was hypothetical The doc-
trine of the English Church is open and neutral on this
point, and therefore allows of either interpretation. In
each of these cases the doctrine of the Church decides
the sense of the statement in the service. One who has
subscribed to it in a doctrinal formulary must attach a
doctrinal meaning to it in a service : one who has con-
tradicted it in a doctrinal formulary cannot attach a
doctrinal meaning to it in a service : one who has sub-
scribed to no doctrinal proposition either way is free to
adopt either aspect of it.

1 Upon final perseverance. " A true lively jnstifying faith and
the sanctifying Spirit of Grod is not eztingnished, or vaDishetk
away in the regenerate, either finally or totally." Irish Art. 37.

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Though the question before us is one which must be
decided by the language of our formularies^ a certain
weight is still due to current and established opinion^
backed by the best authorities. An opinion of this kind
is embodied in the dictum, with which we are all of us so
familiar^ that ^^the Church of England tolerates Cal-
vinism/' '^ I know not/' says Bishop Horsley, '^ what
hinders but that the highest supralapsarian Calvinist may
be as good a churchman as an Arminian; and if the
Church of England in her moderation opens her^arms to
both, neither can with a very good grace desire that the
other should be excluded/' * This is a ddctum then which
I may venture to argue upon, as, though an informal, a
generally admitted premiss ; and therefore before enter-
ing upon the regular argument of precedent, which is
reserved for another chapter, let us examine what this
current saying amounts to, and to what it commits those
who agree with it.

The current dictum then that '^ the Church of England
tolerates Calvinism " concedes the whole claim which we

* Primary Charge, 1806.— The statement in Art 16, that "we
may depart from grace given, may be subscribed by the Calvinist
who admits the fact of falls from grace, only denying the totcdity
of them in the elect, in whom there is asserted to remain through-
oat a * radix occulta qusB deinde pullulat/ " Calvin, on 1 John
iii. 9.


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322 Baptismal Language of Calvinism. [Part II.

have been discussing^ the claim^ viz. of the liberty to
interpret the statement in the Infant Baptismal Service
hypothetically. The Calvinistic School maintains that
the elect alone^ or those who will finally persevere, can
be regenerate;' nor is this a doctrine of subordinate
rank in the teaching of this school, but it occupies the
very front of its doctrinal language. This is the Cal-
vinistic SohooFs %en8e of the term ^^ regenerate/' without
which sense the word has no place in its theology.

But this being the doctrine of the Calvinistic School,
it is evident that this school cannot possibly accept the
statement in the baptismal service literally, which would
be simply to say that every baptized infant was one of the
elect and would finally persevere; and that therefore the
alternative lies between the admissibility of the hypo-
thetical interpretation of it, and the total exclusion of
this school from the Church of England. If the hypo-
thetical interpretation is not admitted, it is untrue to say
that the Calvinistic School m, because in that case this
statement of itself absolutely and directly excludes this
school. On the other hand, if the Calvinistic School is
admitted, it is untrue to say that the literal interpretation
of this statement is imposed, which it ipso foxio is not.
We cannot therefore consistently go on using this current
dictum about the '^ Church tolerating Calvinism,'^ and at
the same time stand up for the necessity of the literal

' On the strength of two Calvinistio divines, Ward and Dave-
nant, having, for a particular purpose, maintained a Mi%d of re-
generation which did not implj indef ectibility, it has been sometimes
assumed that the indefectibility of regenerating grace is not a regu-
lar tenet of the Calvinistic School. But in the first place the opi-
nion of two individual writers does not affect the doctrine of the
echool, which is quite clear on this point. In the next place, though
these two divines held a kviid of regeneration, which did not imply
indefectibility, they expressly said that they did not by that kind
of regeneration mean true regeneration. See p. 165.

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Chap. VIL] Baptismal Language of Calvinism. 323

interpretation of this statement ; but we must face the
alternative of ezoluding the Calvinist, if we enforce this
interpretation, or giving up the necessity of this inter-
pretation^ if we admit the Calvinist.

Few, I think^ will venture upon the former alternative ;
should any however be disposed to do so, I will put before
them in few words the baptismal position of the Calvinist
— the position, I mean, which a Calvinist may hold with
respect to baptism, and yet hold in its integrity all that is
essential to Calvinism.

The Calvinistic School then holds, in the first place,
that regeneration is a change of which infants are, in the
very state of infancy, capable. Bishop Bethell has
exceeded the truth in laying it down, as part of Cal-
vinism, that regeneration dates &om the moment of the
" efiectual call,'' or the conscious conversion of the man
as an adult. That may have been the practical tendency
of Calvinism as a popular system, but the^ great divines of
the Calvinistic School have always assigned an earlier
ordinary date to regeneration. They have uniformly, and
without any hesitation, laid down the principle that
infants as infants were capable of regeneration ; that they
were susceptible of a real and bona fide spiritual change,
wrought in them by the Holy Spirit, and admitted of
having implanted in them a present principle or root of
spiritual life, though the manifestation of it was deferred
to a subsequent age, when either the natural growth of
reason or a particular act of Divine Providence elicited
and developed it. ^^We deny,** says Calvin, ^Hhat
infants cannot be regenerated by the power of God, in a
way as easy and ready to Him as it is incomprehensible
and wonderful to us. . . . Why cannot they receive that
grace in part now which they will enjoy in such plenitude
hereafter ? ... It is true that faith and repentance are
not as yet formed in them, but they have implanted within

T 2

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324 Baptismal Language of Calvinism. [Paet II.

them^ by the secret operation of the Spirit, the latent
seed of both/' • " It is true,'' says Peter Martyr, ^' that
infants cannot actually believe, but they have infused into
them the Holy Spirit, which is the root of faith, hope,
charity, and all those virtues which are afterwards called
forth and manifested in the children of God when their
age allows. Infants, therefore, can in a certain sense be
called faithful, just as they can be called rational. They
cannot actually reason, but they have a soul which will
reason and exert itself in the various sciences, faculties,
and arts when they grow up. In the same way, they can
have the Holy Spirit, even while they are infants.^ . . .
Wherefore in adults we require faith expressed and in
acts ; in infants we maintain an inchoate faith, existing in
its principle and root, which is the Holy Spirit, the
source of faith and all the virtues.'* ' " We believe and
teach,'' says Bucer, "a real regeneration and a true
adoption of infants, and an actual operation of the Holy
Spirit in them, according to their measure and capacity." *
Whitaker, the star of Elizabethan Calvinism, adopts
Peter Martyr's position of an inchoate faith in infants,
" who have both the act and the habit of faith in the
seed, i e. the Holy Spirit ;" and denies on this ground
the charge of Bellarmine, " that we baptize infants only
to be members of the visible Church ; because, though
they are baptized as infants, they will not always be
infants, but will, if life is granted them, feel when grown
up the virtue of that baptism which they received as
infants." ' '^ Infants," says Zanchius, ^^ are not, because

» Inst. iv. 16. 18—20. * Loc. Comm. iv. 8, 14.

* Ibid. p. 15. « Script. Angl. p. 666.

7 " Pueri habent turn actum, turn habitum fidei in sao semine,
i. e. in Spiritu Sancto . . . Petras Martyr satis esse indicat at dica-
tnns eos qui servantnr, cum sint de pecnlio Domini per parentes et
ecclesiam, Sancto Spiritu perfundi, qui radix sit fidei, spei et chari-

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CflAP. VII.] Baptismal Language of Calvinism. 325

they cannot believe on account of their immaturity,
therefore destitute of the Spirit of faith by which they
are regenerated, any more than they are without reason,
simply because they have not come to the use of reason." '
" Regeneration,'' says Junius, " is to be considered in one
way, as in its foundation, i.e. Christ, or in habit; in
another way, in ourselves, or in act. The first regene-
ration, which is as it were the cause of which the second
is the effect, takes place in infants.'* • Burgess proves
the infant's capacity for "initial r^eneration" by the
same argument that the writers above quoted use. " This
ought not to sdem strange to any, for just so it is in the
course of nature. So soon as the reasonable soul is
infused there is in some sense a rational life. But how ?
The soul is there, and in that soul are included all the
principles of reason ; but the soul doth not send forth
those principles into action (unless in some insensible
manner by little and little preparing the infant unto
human action) till afterwards that the senses begin to
act ; yet, forasmuch as the infant hath not at that time
the actual use of reason, for this cause we call the further

Online LibraryJames Bowling MozleyA review of the baptismal controversy → online text (page 26 of 38)