James Bowling Mozley.

A review of the baptismal controversy online

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one that we are forbidden to make, or that it is not in
itself true and correct. The same Providence which has
left unfinished doctrine in Scripture has also endowed us
with that reason which moves us, — and within certain
limits innocently, — to build further to it, as we think

*> " Tamen Lutherani hodie non contenti hac mitiore- expositione
actaalem in pueris fidem coitstitaant." Whitaker, Prsalect. de
Sacr., p. 284

• "Summary View of the Doctrine of Justifioation," voL vi.
p. 12. See Note 5.

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34 The Doctrine of Baptism so far [Part I.

appropriately and considerately ; bat such snpplement is
still no integral part of revelation.

A neutral conclusion, however, on this subject will not
be allowed to pass without some objections.

1. It may appear an anomaly then that, when to the
Divine foreknowledge it was certain that the baptism of
infants was going to become with the spread of Christianity
the general rule and that of adults the exception, wo
should be so much better informed of the relation of
adults than of that of infants to this ordinance.^ But to
this objection the general answer may be made which is
made to the same kind of objection in other cases, viz.
that we are no judges beforehand upon such a question.
Such a combination of information with want of informa-
tion as to the opei*ation of a sacrament, is not out of
analogy with the general course of Divine revelation in
the dispensations alike of nature and of grace. On how
many subjects connected with the invisible world does the
Bible tell us something, and then suddenly stop shorty
leaving off, as it were accidentally, with partial and
fragmentary truth f And this general answer receives
additional weight when we take into consideration what
was mentioned above, that the practice of infant baptism,
though unquestionably divinely foreknown in its full
extent as almost whoUy superseding adult, is still no
essential part of the institution of baptism, but only the
particular shape which it has taken in its practical work-
ing in the Christian world.

2. Another objection to a neutral position respecting

* " To UB, to the vast majority of the Church, since the day that
the writer of the Epistle wrote those words under the guidance of
the Holy Spirit foreknowing that«Btate of things, the doctrine
of baptism is the doctrine of Infant Baptism; in that shape,
practically, it concerns as." Lord Lyttelton's Tract on Infant
Baptism.



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Chap. II.] as contained in Scripture, 35

the regeneration of infants as such^ comes in the form of
an appeal to onr consistency : for why baptize infants at
all, it may be said, when we have no certain information
that they receive at the time the beneficial effect of
baptism? But it can be no sufficient reason for not
baptizing infants that we do so with partial knowledge,
or want of absolute information. If natural feeling,
religions instincts, and the analogy of the older dispensa-
tion are all in favour of admitting infants to the initiatory
rite of a Divine covenant, we are, in the absence of
prohibition, justified in doing so.

This particular objection, however, may assume the
more formidable shape of a doubt thrown upon the whole
subsequent baptismal state of those who are baptized in
infancy; on the ground that, as persons cannot be
baptized again, if baptism is administered to them, when
it is not certain that they receive the grace of it, the
same doubt cleaves to their state ever after. I shall
reserve this question for another chapter, but in the
mean time I shall take for granted, what the whole
history of baptism from its first institution abundantly
proves, that this is an incorrect assumption; and that
the supposition, even if made, that infants are not
regenerate by baptism at the time, does not hinder but
that they are regenerate by virtue of that same baptism
afterwards, upon fulfilling the required conditions.

The general statement then of the baptismal question,
so far as this chapter goes, may be summed up as
follows : —

1. To state in the first place what the doctrine is, con-
cerning the presence or absence of which in Scripture we
are now inquiring. It is not the doctrine of baptismal
regeneration generally, winch is assumed, but the position
that all infants are regenerate in baptism. The identity
of these two positions has indeed been assumed in recent

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36 The Doctrine of Baptism so far [Part I.

controversy, the one liaving been taken to mean the
other; so that, had any one spoken of the doctrine of
baptismal regeneration in any other meaning than that of
the regeneration of all in&nts in baptism, he woold have
been regarded as using words in a non-natural sense, and
adopting an outward phraseology with an inward reserve.
But, though the verbal question is not important, it must
be seen that these are in reality two distinct positions, —
that of baptismal regeneration, or that baptism confers
regeneration upon qualified persons, and that infants are
qualified persons.

The question of a sacrament possessing a particular
grace is decided not by the fact who are the recipients of
that grace, but by such a grace attaching to it as a
sacrament — the way in which we decide this point in the
case of the Eucharist. It is true, that if we are in
addition informed that such a class of persons are reci-
pients, this additional fact becomes a part of the true
doctrine relating to that sacrament ; but, in the absence
of such information, we cannot insert a fis^A class of
recipients — such as, e.g., in the present case infants^-
in the essence of the sacrament, and incorporate it with
its substance and basis.

2. To state with still further accuracy what the doctrine
is which we are inquiring about, it is that of the regene-
ration of infants, as stich, i.e. as distinguished from the
same in£mts grown up to years of discretion. This
distinction is important because, on the supposition that
an infant is not regenerate as such in baptism, he may
still be regenerate afterwards, as an adult, by virtue of
the same previous baptism; nor with any more doubt
attaching to his case, than what necessarily attaches to
all cases in which personal conditions have to be fulfilled,
the same doubt which must always attach to adult



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Chap. II.] as contained in Scripture. 37

3. There being two modes of proof by whioli the
regeneration of infants^ as sach^ in baptism^ might be
established as a doctrine of Scripture j one its express
mention in Scriptare^ the other the extraction of it by
logical inference from the general doctrine of baptism in
Scriptore ; of these two the former is absent^ the latter
is an incorrect application of reasoning.

4. On the assumption that baptism does not convey
regeneration to infants at the time^ it still is not a barren
form, for it conveys a pledge of and title to regeneration
upon certain conditions fulfilled, and so transfers the
infant out of a wholly natural and uncovenanted state, as
will appear more clearly in the next chapter.

5. The real difference between the baptismal state of
infants upon this supposition and upon the other is not
so great as might at first be thought. Upon the one
supposition they have regeneration from the moment of
baptism, but they are only in an elementary stage of the
state, till it is developed by action ; upon the other they
have from the same date a conditional pledge to the^Z2
state, which the same course of action secures; this
pledge being also accompanied by a preparatory grace,
such as that which the catechumens of the early Church
enjoyed, and which partakes of the true nature of Gt)spel
graca

The main question, however, which has been decided
in this chapter, is a question of &ct relating to Scripture,
viz. that Scripture asserts nowhere, either explicitly or
implicitly, the regeneration of infants in baptism.
Without neglecting the consideration of consequences,
it must still be remembered that no appeal to them can
undo or set aside the plain fact of its omission in Scrip-
ture. It is impossible, then, with this fact before us, and
with the rule before us that nothing that is not read in
Scripture, or may be proved thereby, is to be required of

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38 The Doctrine of Baptism, ^c.

B31J man that it should be believed as an article of the
faith^ to maintain that the regeneration of infants in
baptism is an article of the faith.

It may be said that Scriptore may be interpreted
eonsistently with this position^ and that antiquity does
so interpret it; but the imposition of a sense on Scripture^
which the words only admit of and do not obUge^ is not
proof from Scripture.' It may appear to some again
that the omission is accidental^ and owing to the circum-
stance that the most prominent subjects of baptism at
the first promulgation of the Gospel were, in the nature
of the case, adults ; but the rule of faith, which requires
proof from Scripture for an article of the faith, looks only
to the /ad of the presence or absence of such proof in
Scripture, without concerning itself with the reasons.*
The test which is laid down in this rule of faith is a
matter-of-fact test. We may seem to ourselves to be able
to account for the omission of infant baptism in Scripture
simply and naturally enough, by a reference to the cir-
cumstances under which the writings of the New Testa-
ment were composed, the state of things which accompanied
the first preaching of the Gospel, when the conversion of
adults was necessarily the most conspicuous and important
work ; and we may then explain the omission of infant
regeneration in Scripture by the omission of infant
baptism in Scripture. But if we think we can explain
the second of these omissions by the first, and the first
by something else, this cannot undo the fact of these
omissions; and the fact of the absence of proof in
Scripture is all that we are concerned with in the appli-
cation of this rule of faith.

2 P. 9. » P. 19.



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CHAPTER III

THE BAPTISKAL CHABACTEB

Onb reason whicli has undoubtedly contributed mucb to
the assumption of infant regeneration in baptism, as a
necessary part of the doctrine of baptism^ is an inference
which is drawn respecting the condition of all those who
have been baptized in infancy, if this assumption is not
allowed; the inference, viz. which was noticed at the
end of the last chapter, that if it is allowed to be doubtful
whether such persons received the grace of baptism at
the actual time of being baptized, a doubt must attach
to their baptismal condition ever after.* Such a result
would of course unsettle the baptismal condition of nearly
the whole Christian world ; and, nobody being prepared
to allow this uncertainty, the inference is drawn that the
regeneration of infants as such cannot be permitted to
rank as an open question, but must be considered as part
and parcel of the fundamental doctrine of baptism.

It is, however, a principle testified to in Scripture,
and universally maintained in the Christian Church from
the first, that the grace of baptism does not depend upon
the personal state or condition of the baptized person

^ " Do all the promises and descriptions of baptism apply to
Infant Baptism? Certainly, nnless they did in effect. Infant
Baptism were wrong ; for so we should he depriving our children of
whcUever benefits it were supposed that Adult Baptism conferred,
and Infant Baptism was incapable of." Scriptural Views of Holy
Baptism, p. 63.



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40 The Baptismal Character. [Part I.

at the time of the adininistration of the rite, but is re-
ceived subsequently, upon the proper conditions of it
being fulfilled. This law, or modus operandi of the sacra-
ment, is connected with its fundamental character as an
initiatory rite, which can only be administered once, and
does not admit of repetition. The law of this sacrament
would indeed be severe if both of these conditions
attached to it at once, i.e. if together with the nde of
its institution that it cannot be repeated, the benefit of
it also altogether hung upon the particular disposition of
the recipient at the time. Along with the one rule,
therefore, another also is found to attach id the sacra-
ment, viz. that of a suspended beneficial effect ; that the
grace, even if forfeited by unworthiness at the time, still
remains conditionally attached to the state of the bap-
tized man, and is received upon his becoming worthy.'

It is the same when the state of unworthiness is not
simultaneous with but subsequent to baptism, and is a
fall from the previous possession of baptismal grace. As
in the former case the grace remains suspended till it is
had, so in the latter it remains suspended after it has
been lost, to be recovered again upon repentance ; though
in this case the recovery is not absolutely complete. The
two cases rest essentially on the same ground, and are
met by the same law.

Baptism, correctly administered, has thus one effect
which is universal and invariable, whatever be the state



' The late Mr. Faber (Primitive Doctrine of Regeneration, p. 113)
rejects the principle of suspension as untenable upon the gronnd
that ** suspension importing non-commnnication at the Ume," and
commnnication importing non-sospension, there is no room for this
middle effect. But this argument altogether misses the point,
because it justileaves out and does not take cognizance of the very
idea of suspension, which is that of B,ftUure communication in con-
nexion with a present act as the condition of it.



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Chap. III. J The Baptismal Character. 41

or condition of the baptized person at. the time^ viz. a
title to or pledge for the grace of the sacrament upon
worthiness ; an effect which places him in a certain sense
in a covenanted state ; for the promise of any gift upon
conditions is a covenant^ and therefore one who has the
promise of regenerating grace upon conditions is in a
covenanted state^ and is taken out of the simple state of
heathenism. This effect is indeed no more than a cmi-
tinuation and extension of the rite itself : still it is on that
very account something beyond the rite itself. In later
theology it obtained the formal name of the baptismal
duu-acter, a term which only really stood for this modus
operandi of the sacrament ; ' though the Schoolmen after
theii* fashion materialized its meanings and put the cause
for the effect^ assigning the character as the reason for
the non-repetition of baptism^ instead of the non-repetition
of baptism as the reason for the character.* I retain the
scholastic name as a convenient one, and one for which
there is Augustinian authority,* for this invariable effect

^ " Character sacramentuin est et sacramenti effectns." Bellar-
mine, De Effecta Sacr. 1. 2, c. 22. *'Kes et sacramentnm est
character baptismalis." Aquinas, S. T., p. 3, Q. Q^t A. 1. " Bap-
tismus ex commnni sententia aliqnod sacramentale confert etiamsi
perdpiatnr sine fide .... aliqnem effectnm sacramentalem habet
praater gratiam." Bellarmine, ibid.

" Fictione recedente character totam snpplet qnod sacramentnm
sine fictione faceret." Bonaventnre, 1 v. p. 81.

* " Oausa qnare non potest iterari baptismns est character qnem
imprimit." Bonaventnre, tom. v. p. 75. " Baptisma non potest
repeti .... sed vera cansa non potest assignari hnjns discnminis
nisi character." Bellarmine, De Effectn Sacr. 1. 2, c. 22.

• " Nam si Ghristiani baptismi sacramentnm etiam apud hsereti-
cos valet et snfficit ad consecrationem, qnamvis ad vitaa sdtema
participationem non snfficiat ; qnse consecratio renm qnidem facit
hsBreticnm extra Domini gregem habentem dommicum charaderemy^
Ac Ep. 98. " Ovem quae foris errabat et dominicnm ckaracterem
a fallacibus depredatoribns snis foris acceperat, venientem ad Cbris-



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42 The Baptismal Character. [Pabt I.

of baptism, which is, it will be observed, distinguished
by its very definition from regeneration, existing before
the possession of and after the loss of the grace of baptism.
The New Testament nowhere formally states this par-
ticular effect of baptism. It is clear, however, that those
who lost the grace of baptism by wilful sin were not,
according to Apostolic practice, cut off for ever from the
new Covenant ; but on their repentance were treated as
again partaking of a grace which had only been sus-
pended by unworthiness, being re-admitted to the Church
and the state and privileges of Christian brethren. We
gather no less plainly from Scripture that even when
baptism was received in the first instance without the
proper qualifications, and therefore without grace, it
still gave a conditional title to that grace, and imparted
a new distinction of some kind. When we read of three
thousand being baptized in one day by the Apostles,
and of the admission into the Church of five thousand at
once on another occasion, we cannot suppose that every
one of that large number of adults was in a state of
mind which constituted a qualification for the saving
grace of baptism ; but we cannot reasonably doubt that
all without exception, in being *' added to the Church,'^
were brought within the Christiati covenant, in this sense,
that they were admitted to a state and a title which dis-
tinguished them from heathens; and that upon the

tiansB veritatis salntem ab errore corrigi, cKaracier&n tamen in ea
dommicum agnosci potius quam improbari ; qnandoquidein ipsnm
oharacterem mnlti et Inpi et lupis inflgnnt," Ac. De Bapt. contra
Donat. 1. 6, c. 1. This effect of baptism, however, he more com-
monly expresses nnder the terms — " integritas sacramenti," " Veri-
tas sacramenti," " visibilis sanctificatio," " Christibaptismns nsqne
ad celebrationem," ** Christnm induere nsqne ad Sacramenti per-
ceptionem," " vemm baptisma," " baptismns sanctns," " baptismns
vivns," <S^.



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Chap. III.] The Baptismal Character. 43

strength of this title every one of them^ whatever may
have been his disposition of mind at the time of being
baptized^ had subsequently upon worthiness the saving
grace of the sacrament

With reference to this pointy indeed^ another and an
important consideration comes in^ viz. that of the free
and liberal policy of the new dispensation from the firsts
with respect to the rule and tests of admission into its
pale. Faith and repentance are undoubtedly laid down
in the case of adults^ as necessary for receiving the grace
of the sacrament^ but the criterion for ascertaining the
existence of these qualifications in individuals has never
been a rigid one. ^ The Gospel^ in this respect, stands in
remarkable contrast with the precision of particular sects
which have aimed at too much perfection in the constitu-
tion of the visible Church, and have only in consequence
narrowed and circumscribed their limits as Christian
bodies, without even really attaining their own object of
a higher standard, — for no human test can exclude
hypocrisy. The Gospel plan of admission has been from
the first large and comprehensive, applying no scrupulous
touchstone of inward personal qualifications, but content
rather with the outward hold of men in the first instance,
trusting to* its own power of moulding and disciplining
them afterwards. Our Lord's parables describe the area
of the Christian Church as wide, and the occupation as
miscellaneous, the tares and the wheat both finding their
way in together, to await in a large mixed society the
final division ; and the parting command to the Apostles
was, — " Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the
name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Ghost.'' Nor, as has been observed, when we come to
New Testament practice and the scale of Apostolic bap-
tisms, does this rite at all figure as one designed to be admi-
nistered with a sparing hand and by the use of nice tests.



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44 The Baptismal Character. [Pabt I.

Bat sucli a liberal rule of admission as tliis is alto-
gether inconsistent with the rigid supposition^ that the
whole future benefit . of the new Covenant to the indi-
vidual should be dependent upon the disposition of mind
he was in at the particular time of his first admission
into it. In that case, the practice of baptizing men in
masses, upon a general desire indeed expressed for the
sacrament, but certainly without any strict examination of
individual qualifications, would be attended by the most
fearful risks, and would indeed be a positive cruelty
rather than an indulgent or wise policy : for it would be
the extremity of rashness and precipitation, it would be
sporting with men's souls and eternal interests, to invite
them in crowds to baptism, if a certain inward state of
mind at that particular time was everything, in the
absence of which, so to speak, all chance was gone. But,
indeed, such a supposition as this latter receives no kind
of warrant from any part of the New Testament; for
though Scripture, so far as it speaks on the subject,
attaches moral conditions to the reception of the grace
of baptism, it attadhes no conditions of iime^ nor ever
once implies that the grace of baptism, in order to be
had subsequently to baptism, must have been had simul-
taneously with it.

The Church has followed the liberal rule of Scripture
in this matter, and the fundamental characteristic of the
new Covenant as one of mercy has, like a general prin-
ciple of equity interpreting a civil statute, dictated the
catholic law of baptism. It was held universally fix)mthe
first, that in the case of the Fictus, or the person who
received baptism in a state of unworthiness, the grace,
though not received at the time, was received afterwards
upon his change of inward disposition. In other words,
the Church drew a distinction between the grace or salu-
tary effects of baptism and a title or character which it



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Chap. III.] The Baptismal Character. 45

conferred, by which grace, at the time absent or present,
the recipient was removed from the position of a heathen.
The same distinction was applied to the case of persons
who fell into states of nnworthiness subsequently to bap-
tism which they had received at the time worthily. A
small party — the Novatian — took a hopeless view of the
condition of persons, who, having once enjoyed the grace
of baptism, afterwards fell away from and lost it by wilful
sin ; but the Church recognized a Christian title which
continued good throughout, even while the grace of the
sacrament was lost; which title, without any fresh bap-
tism, re-admitted them to grace upon true repentance. '
This admitted operation of baptism in the case of the
Fidtis became, indeed, the basis upon which other large
and important baptismal rules in the same direction were
maintained ; and the Church rested upon it as her argu-
mentative fulcrum in deciding the point at issue in the
Cyprianic and Donatist controversies, i.e. in establishing
the validity of schismatical and heretical baptism. St.
Augustine appeals to it throughout his anti-Donatist
works as a settled point, which he could take for granted
without fear of challenge ; and upon the ground of the
subsequent profitableness of the baptism of the Fictvs
assumed as universally admitted, argued for the same effect
the case of the person baptized in schism and heresy.^
The two cases were indeed, upon the assumption of cer-
tain effects of schism, almost identical ; the preliminary
obstacle being in both alike nnworthiness in the recipient,
only occasioned in the one place by personal defect, in the
other by a want inherent in a position external to the
Church, outside of which the spiritual disposition of love
could not be had, inasmuch as it was only within her that

* De Baptismo cos^ Donate 1. 1, c* 12; 1. 5, c. 20; 1. 6, c. 84
and passim.



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46 The Baptismal Character. [Part I.

the Holy Spirit operated. The validity of heretical bap-
tism was thus raised as a anperstracture upon the basis
of the operation of baptism in the case of the Fictus^
assumed to possess an antecedent undoubted position as an
established catholic truth.

In maintaining this general position with respect to the
operation of baptism^ the Church doubtless did not altoge-
ther shut its eye to a certain evident expediency, for very
awkward consequences would have followed upon any
different ground taken. Any uncertainty attaching to the



Online LibraryJames Bowling MozleyA review of the baptismal controversy → online text (page 4 of 38)