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A review of the baptismal controversy online

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argument of the animus imponentis thus brings us round
immediately to the letter of the formularies, and there
leaves us.

But the argument of the sense of the compiler is a
solid and valid argument if used with a proper distinction.
The sense of the compiler is of no authority in itself, nor
can it of itself affect the meaning of a statement in a
formulaj*y ; because as soon as the formulary is made, we
must then interpret it according to the authorized rules
of language, and the constructor has no more right than
any other person to give his own meaning to it. But
though the sense of the compiler is of no authority in
itself, it is valid evidence to the fact of the force of a
particular statement as a piece of language in the com-
piler's day. For if it can be shown that the compiler
either held himself or allowed as tenable, a certain doctrine
which is inconsistent with the literal construction of a



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Chap. VIII.] Argument of Precedent. 339

particalar statement^ inserted by him in a formulary^ that
is good evidence that the statement admitted in the
compiler's day of a different construction from the literal
one ; because that otherwise he would not for the most
obvious reasons have inserted it. Thus^ to make the
supposition, had the compilers of the Prayer Book been
Calvinists, and held that the elect only could be regenerate^
it would then follow directly that the statement in the
Baptismal Service — ^Hhis infent is regenerate/' could
not have borne a necessarily literal meaning at that time^
because^ if it had, they would not have inserted it in con-
demnation of themselves. Or, to make another less
strong supposition, if it could be shown that the com-
pilers of our Prayer Book considered Calvinism tenable,
and acquiesced in it as held by others, even that would
be valid evidence to the same point ; because they would
not have inserted the statement in question had it
necessarily borne a construction condemnatory of a doc-
trine which they allowed.

The value, force and acceptation of a statement at a
particulfur time, like the meaning of a word, is thus a
point determinable by evidence; and the sense of the
compiler, or the construction which the compiler con-
sidered admissible, where it can be ascertained, is good
evidence to this point.

To apply then this principle of evidence to the case
before us. Whatever may have been the personal belief
of our Beformers, and whether or not they held Oalvinistio
doctrine themselves, it is very certain that they acquiesced
in it as held by others ; that they were on intimate reli-
gious terms with leading divines of this School, admitted
them to their counsels, and asked their advice and
criticism upon the very construction of this Prayer Book
itself. The position that the elect alone could be regene-
rate, was a well-known and conspicuous tenet in theology

z 2

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340 Argument of Precedent. [Part II.

at tlie date of the construction of our Prayer Book, and
the maxim Sacramenta in solis elecHs efficiunt quodfigu-
rant, was the maxim at that time of a large and promi-
nent School of Reformers. The Institutes of Calvin had
been published then fifteen years, and this doctrine was
known by the advocacy of, among others, Peter Martyr
and Bucer. But the doctrine being thus known, the
compilers of our Prayer Book put themselves in intimate
relation with the maintainers of this doctrine, and Cran-
mer, in 1549, seated Peter Martyr at Oxford, and Bucer
at Cambridge, as Regius Professors of Divinity, and laid
the new Prayer Book before them for the benefit of their
criticism, previous to its revision. He also invited, in
1552, Calvin, with Bullinger and Melancthon, to a con-
ference in England for the preparation of a general
confession of faith for the Protestant Churches.

But such being the relations in which the compilers of
our Prayer Book stood to the Calvinistic School, this
fact has a plain bearing upon the question before us,
because, as has been said, it is not only the doctrine which
the compiler himself holds, but the doctrine which he
considers tenable, and in which he acquiesces as held by
others, which is a witness to the value of a statement in
the compiler's day. It is unreasonable to suppose that,
standing in these relations to this school, they would have
inserted in the first, and retained in the amended Prayer
Book, a statement which contradicted a known funda-
mental tenet of that school, and would have excluded
that school from the use of the Prayer Book. But if they
would not have inserted any statement which contradicted
a fundamental tenet of these divines, it follows that any
statement which they did insert, must have been capable
of being understood at that time in a sense consistent
with that tenet ; and we thus have evidence to the force
and value of the statement in the Baptismal Service^ as a



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Chap. VllI.J Argument of Precedent. 341

piece of language at that time, that it admitted of an
hypothetical construction, and had not the character of a
dogmatic statement.

To the evidence drawn from the relations of our Re-
formers to the Galvinistic School, succeeds the evidence
which consists in the tacit acquiescence of the Calvinists
themselves in this statement in the Baptismal Service :
for if it can be shown that the Galvinistic School holding
the regeneration of the elect alone, acquiesced without
complaint or objection in this statement^ that again is
valid evidence at least to the latitude of construction
attaching to this statement at that time; inasmuch as
had it had the force of a dogmatic statement, they could
not possibly have acquiesced in it.

On this head, then, we have the tacit testimony just
mentioned of Peter Martyr and Bucer, two of the most
distinguished foreign Reformers, who distinctly holdinop
the tenet that only the elect could be regenerate,^ passed
over without even a hint of disapprobation this statement
in the Baptismal Service, in their judgment upon the
new Prayer Book, which had been placed before them
for the benefit of their criticism. Calvin himself regretted
tolerairiles inepticb in the Prayer Book, but discovered no
doctrinal error in it And Bucer actually inserted this
very statement in the new Cologne Service, which he had
the task of constructing.' But it stands to reason that
this statement must have been objected to by such critics,
had it had the force of a dogmatic statement at that time,
and admitted only of a literal construction. Nor would the
constructor of a new Service have inserted a statement in

1 Notes 34, 35.

^ The date of the new Cologne Seryice Book is 1543. A second
edition of Bucer's Commentary on the four Gospels, which con-
tained indisputably the Calvinistic doctrine of baptism, was pub-
lished in 1536.



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342 Argument of Precedent [Past II.

it, which he coald not himself hold; which is what we
must sappose Bncer doing, if this statement had at that
time the force of a dogmatic statement.

Again, the Convocation of 1562 was in the main a
Calyinistic body.* Of the Upper House almost all the
members, of whom we know anything, were in close
correspondence with the Continental Reformers of the
Calyinistic School, with whom they professed the most
entire doctrinal sympathy and agreement. Of the Lower
House only a majority of one rejected the G-enevan model
with respect to church-vestments and other points of
external ritual ; — the Genevan party in respect of eaBior-
naU being, it is important to observe, only one portion
of the whole doctrinal Calvinistic party, which included
the strongest defenders of our ritual as well as its
assailants.^ This Convocation, then, which is made up
of Calvinists either doctrinal or Puritan, and the leading
members of which are fresh from Marian exile and perse-
cution, and from the focus of the Continental Reformation,
revises our ritual, and the party for change suggests and
all but carries various Genevan alterations ; but neither
the doctrinal Calvinists, nor even the Genevan party

' Strype gives a curions petition (Elizabeth, vol. i. p. 496) from
a minority of modified predestinarians, deprecating the persecution
of the majority. " Please it your gracious fatherhoods therefore
that it may be provided and enacted that none of these corrections,
ponishments, and executions, which the Clergy have in their
authority already, and hereafter by authority of this present par-
liament from henceforth shall have in their authority to exercise
upon any of the aforesaid errors and sects, or any other, shall in
nowise extend to be executed upon any manner of person or per-
sons as do hold of predestination as above declared/*

* Bp. Carleton says, ** It is confessed on both sides that Pro-
testants and Puritans have held the same doctrines without variance.
The discipline varied in England, Scotland, Geneva, and else-
where ; yet the doctrine hath been hitherto held the same.'' An
Examination, p. 121.



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Chap. VIII.] Argument of Precedent. 343

raise any objection to the statement in the Baptismal
Service.

Again^ it is a remarkable fact that for a centary
succeeding the Eeformation, this statement was not
objected to by the most rigid Puritans, though criticizing
most stringently the ritual of the Chui*ch, and complain-
ing bitterly of some parts even of this very Baptismal
Service. In no one of the great protests of the Puritan
School against the Prayer Book, does this statement
appear as matter of complaint ; not in the '^ Admonition
to Parliament," not in the '* Declaration of Ecclesiastical
Discipline/' not in the ^' Millennarian Petition." It is
wholly omitted in the great liturgical controversies of
that day, not once met with in the whole of Whitgift, not
once met with in the whole of Hooker^ not once alluded
to in the Conference at Hampton Couijb. We take up
the '' Defence of the Answer to the Admonition.^' This
work contains distributed in paragraphs the Admonition
itself, Whitgift's reply to it, Cartwright's answer to him,
and his rejoinder. All this controversy relates to the
Church's government and services. At Tract xvi. we
come to " matters touching baptism,*' and we find objec-
tions made to sponsors, the sign of the cross, and other
points in the Service. We look for some objection from
Cartwright to the assertion of the infant's regeneration,
but the most eager Puritan and fiercest Calvinist of the
day passes it over in silence. In the same way we take
up the " Ecclesiastical Polity." Here is a standard work
devoted to the task of answering all the objections which
the Puritans of the time advanced against our Church
Government and Services. We come to theobjections made
to the Baptismal Service, and find sponsors, the sign of the
cross, and other points complained of, but no complaint
made about this statement. In the Conference at Hamp-
ton Court the same class of complaints comes up again^



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344 Argument of Precedent. [Pakt II.

and with exactly the same omission. How is this?
Had this statement been understood then as requiring a
literal interpretation, it must have been objected to by
such rigid Galvinists as the Puritans of the School of
Cartwright and Travers. If, then, it was not objected to,
but passed ^uh nlentio, the only conclusion we can draw
is, that it could not have been understood then as
requiring a literal interpretation/

2. The whole of the foregoing then is evidence to an
admissible construction of the statement in the Baptismal
Service at the time of the compilation of that service. It is
the evidence of contemporary interpretation, which has
more than the weight of mere precedent, because it estab-
lishes an actual sense of this statement coeval with its adop-
tion : it proves its acceptation, and determines its actual
force and value, as a piece of langfuage, at that time.
But now we come to the simple ground of precedent, i.e.
to the de facto liberty of holding a particular construction
of that statement, which has been enjoyed from the date
of its insertion in the Prayer Book to the present day.

And, first of all, it is to be observed that the hypo-
thetical interpretation of this statement, having been
largely openly and without disguise held in our Church
throughout the whole time that this service has been in
use, was never legally called in question till the other
day, in the case of Mr. Gorham. This long silence of
ecclesiastical law is significant; for that an open denial
on so large a scale, of a plain and important dogmatic

* Tboee two notorious Puritans and ** severe Galvinists," as
Anthony Wood calls them, Sampson and Laurence Humphrey,
exhibit in a joint letter to Bullinger a list of *' blemishes," still
attaching to the services of the Church. At number 3 come the
blemishes in the baptismal service, and the sponsors, the sign of
the cross, &e,t are objected to, but not this statement, which is
passed over altogether. Zurich Letters, 1558 — 1579, p. 167.



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Chap. VIII.] Argument of Precedent. 345

statement, should have been carried on in a Charch for
three centuries, without one challenge or appeal to the
authorized tribunals of the Church, is without a parallel
in the history of Christendom.

It is admitted again, that for the better part of a cen-
tury after the Reformation Calvinism was dominant in
our Church ; that it had possession of the Episcopacy,
Universities, Theological Faculties, the ecclesiastical
posts of eminence and dignity, and the great majority of
the names of learning and ability. Here was a doctrinal
system then not only permitted but reigning in the
Church, and actually suppressing and punishing other
manifestations of doctrine as heterodox, which was abso-
lutely inconsistent with the literal interpretation of the
Baptismal Service: the hypothetical interpretation of
which service was therefore plainly throughout this
period the dominant interpretation, the authoritative inter-
pretation ; the interpretation, that is, that had the voice
of the practical and living authorities of the Church on
its side.

Two important sets of Articles — the Lambeth and the
Irish — embodied this dominant doctrine; the former
having, though not a legal position, the weight of an
authoritative statement of doctrine proceeding from
head-quarters ; the latter having the formal and legal
position of the Articles of a Church. There can hardly
be clearer evidence of the general acceptation at that
time of the statement in the Baptismal Service, as not
being dogmatic, but admitting of an hypothetical con-
struction, than the fact that the Irish Articles contained
the dogmatic statement that the regenerate cannot fall
finally away ;• while the Irish Prayer Book, being the

• " A true justifying faith and the sanctifying grace of the Spirit
of Grod is not extinguished or yanisheth away in the regenerate
totally or finally.'* — Thirty-seventh Irish Article. It is worth



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346 Argument of Precedent. [Part TI.

same as the English, contained the statement^ made
over every baptized infant, that it '* is regenerate/' No
Irish clergyman could, in the nature of the case, hold
both statements, except by giving an hypothetical con-
stiniction to the latter of the two. The received English
exposition again of the Thirty-nine Articles, which con-
demned the position ^^ that the regenerate may fall from
the grace of God,'' was inconsistent with any other than
an hypothetical interpretation of this statement/

We have indeed laid down by the divines of this
period, definitely and expressly, the rule of charitable
presumption ; that the elect alone were really regenerate,
but that inasmuch as we do not know who are elect and
who are not, we must coll all regenerate. There is some-
thing, which at first sight requires accounting for, in the
fact that the early guides and directors of a Church, so
moderately balanced and tolerant in temper as our own, —
those men who re-erected the standard of the Eeforma-
tion after its suppression, and into whose hand the desti-
nies of our Church were so long entrusted, were rigid
Calvin ists; and we naturally inquire what it was which
regulated and controlled this doctrinal bias, which pre-
vented it from operating mischievously, and subordinated
it to the practical wants and objects of the Church.
Various reasons then may be assigned for the moderate
and practical temper of the Anglican Calvinistic School;
but one was the clear perception of the following
important distinction.

Everybody must see the wide distinction there is between
holding the doctrine that some are from all eternity pre-
destinated by God to eternal life, and pretending to see

mentioning that these Articles never have been formally repealed,
though sabsoription to them dropped at the Eestoration.

' Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles by Thomas Rogers,
Chaplain to Archbishop Bancroft. Ed. Parker Soc, p. 147.



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Chap. VIII.] Argument of Precedent. 347

K

who these persons are, and to distingaish them from the
rest. And yet, practically, Calvinists have been often
apt to forget this distinction, and from the doctrine that
some are, to proceed to point out who are the elect.
Where men have nominally disclaimed this power, and
insisted much on the secrecy of the Divine decree, the
belief that there was sach a decree, has yet practically
put it into their heads to be constantly trying to discover
the subjects of it, and to fix on some persons in distinc-
tion to others as being the elect ; and various notes of
sanctity, and those sometimes more or less technical, have
been laid down to assist the believer in forming this
judgment. An indisposition has been thus apparent in
many Calvinists to recognize the visible Church as dis-
tinct from the invisible: they have shrunk from the
admission of a mixed Church, and, though knowing that
it never could be realized in fact, have been haunted by
the idea of a pure society of saints upon earth.

The Anglican Calvinistic divines then were totally
free from this error. They embraced thoroughly and
practically the distinction which has been mentioned, and
treated the Divine decree not nominally only, but really
as a secret thing. And this being the case, Calvinism,
in their hands, without losing one of its characteristic
doctrines, ceased to be in any collision with the practical
system of the Church. It dealt with men and things as
it found them, and recogfuized no difference between one
man and another; for though it was held undoubtingly
that such a difference did exist from all eternity, it was
also seen as a plain fact that G-od had not revealed the
persons between whom it lay; and therefore the old
proverb, " de Tion eociatentibus et non apparentibtis/' was
followed as a rule of action. These divines accordingly
accepted fully the idea of the visible or earthly Church,
as a mixed body ; a result with which they were taunted



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348 Argument of Precedent. [Part II.

by the Puritans, who were for a premature winnowing of
the tares from the wheat. A reader will see this differ-
ence in the standard of the earthly Church pervrading the
controversies of that day between the ecclesiastical and
the sectarian Calvinists ; the permanent idea of the one
being to extend the Church and of the other to confine it,
of the one to include and of the other to exclude.

The rule then which was adopted by the Anglican
Calvinists was, as has been said, the rule of charitable
presumption. '^Who can tell,'^ says Abp. Whitgift,
*^ whether he be holy or unholy, good or evil, eUci or
reprobate, that is baptized, be he infant or at years of
discretion?" "Whoever are baptized,'* says Abp.
Abbot, '^ are to us and the Church regenerated, justified,
sanctified ; nor to be looked upon in any other light until
they manifest themselves not to be so.'* " All that
receive baptism/' says Bishop Carlton, *' are called the
children of God, regenerate, justified, for to us they must
be taken for such in charity until they show themselves
other." "What thou art invisibly,'' says Benefield,
" and in the sight of God, God alone knoweth : He alone
is /capSioyvaxm]^, and sees and knows thy heart. But
since thou hast given thy name to Christ, and hast had
the washing of the new birth, the Church in charity
must judge of thee as of one truly grafted into Christ
and truly regenerate." "We are," says Bishop
Downame, "to distinguish between the judgment of
charity and the judgment of certainty. For although
in general we know not that every one that is
baptized is justified or shall be saved, yet, when we
come to speak of particulars, we are to judge of them
that are baptized that they are regenerated and
justified, and that they shall be saved, until they shall
discover themselves not to be such. And so our Book
of Common Prayer speaketh of them, as the Scrip-



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Chap. VIIl.] Argument of Precedent. 349

tores also teach us to speak of them that are baptized,
that they are regenerated and engrafted into the body of
Christ ; though perhaps they be only regenerated sacra-
mento teiiiis, and engrafted only into the body of the
visible Church. But this judgment of charity is no
matter of certainty, or of faith, but may be deceived/'
'' Our Church,^' says Burgess, a zealous champion of the
principle of sacramental grace, though as a strict Cal-
vinist he limited its operation by the other and secret
principle of the Divine election, — " our Church excludes
none from participation of the inward grace of the Sacra-
ment [of baptism]; but knowing for certain that all the
elect do partake of it, and not knowing at all that this
or that particular infant is not elected, suffers not any of
her children to speak or judge of any particular infant
that he doth not receive the inward grace ; no more than
she permits him to say that such a particular is not
elected. For ' who hath known the mind of the Lord ? '
and, ' who art thou that judgest another man's servant ? *
Howbeit, our Church knows very well, and presumes that
all her children know also, that in respect of election,
known only to God, they are not all Israel that are of
Israel ; and that of those many that be called but a few
be chosen. But who those few be, she will not deter-
mine, yet thus much she doth determine, that any par-
ticular infant rightly baptized is to be taken and held in
the judgment of charity for a member of the true invisible
elected, sanctified Church of Christ, and that he is rege-
rated."

The name of Hooker stands by itself and has always a
reserved place in theological surveys, as appearing to
occupy a middle ground between two systems, where
Calvinism just verges upon the later or Anglican view.
His doctrinal language in this department, which is a great
battle-field of interpretation, consists of two parts, a part



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350 Argument of Precedent. [Part IT.

agreed upon and a disputed part. It is agreed that he
held the doctrine of the Indefectibility of grace, and that
this doctrine is incompatible with the Baptismal Service
literally interpreted.' It is disputed whether his baptisnuil
statements are consistent with the statements of the doc-
trine, of Indefectibility or contradictory to them. The
matter then lies thus ; that, if the baptismal statements
are pronounced to chime in with the statements of the
Indefectibility of grace, Hooker's doctrine of baptism was
undividedly Calvinistic; if the two are inconsistent.
Hooker is neutral, self -contradictory, and not an authority
either way. The two sets of statements do not appear to
me to be inconsistent; but upon either view the fact
remains that Hooker throughout his works makes state-
ments which are inconsistent with the literal interpreta-
tion of the Baptismal Service.*

Without basing the admissibility of a particular inter-
pretation then upon such a body of precedent as this, I
may yet call attention to a difficulty which this Calvinistic
period of our Church throws upon the prohibition of it.
'' May I by the law of the Church hold the doctrine of the
Lambeth Articles, and the Irish Articles — the doctrine
which was dominant in the Church for a century after the
Reformation, and the interpretation of the statement in
the Baptismal Service which was dominant with it
throughout this period V is a question which a clergyman



Online LibraryJames Bowling MozleyA review of the baptismal controversy → online text (page 28 of 38)