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A review of the baptismal controversy online

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sacramental profitableness of baptism afterwards, if re-
ceived without faith and repentance at the time, would have
introduced doubt on the largest scale into the actual mass
of existing baptisms, would have imperilled the spiritual
state of thousands, and have infected the whole atmo-
sphere of Christendom with distrust. Nor probably were
the limbs of the main position maintained without an eye
to the effect upon the centre if they were abandoned : and
the validity of schismatical and heretical baptism may have
been adhered to the more firmly from the idea that those
cases, if given up, might react upon the baptism of the
Fictus, or baptism received in a state of sin. It was a
first principle with the Church to establish the validity of
baptism upon as plain and matter-of-fact a ground as
possible, simplifying the tests of it, and relieving it from
doubt and uncertainty ; so as to set people's minds at
rest, and leave no room for fears and apprehensions on
that head. And therefore the two conditions of the
matter and the words ascertained, nothing was allowed to
interfere with the validity of baptism, or its subsequent
profitableness, where the proper conditions were fulfilled.
But though the Church did not probably shut out prac-
tical consequences altogether from her view, the doc-
trine that she laid down was clear and decisive ; and the
operation of baptism in the case of the Fictus was always



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Chap. III.] The Baptismal Character. 47

appealed to as a known^ admitted^ and aniversally received
truth.^

The law that the subsequent grace of baptism does not
depend on the qualification of the baptized person at the
time, is thus part and parcel of the doctrine of baptism
itself ; it dates from the very institution of the sacrament^
and carries with it the unanimous assent of the Church in
every age. It is, indeed, this law of baptism which has
been erroneously expressed by some divines as ^^once
regenerate, always regenerate.^' The regenerate state
may be lost because it is essentially a state of pardon and
acceptance, which is lost when the person falls into a state
of sin : but the baptismal character is not lost.

Waterland draws attention to this distinction between,
as he expresses it, '^ the baptismal consecration and the
covenant state consequent,^' and '^ the saving effect of
baptism, the new birth or spiritual life,'' in the case of
adults baptized in sin.' The real and full truth of the
case I take to lie in the particulars here following : —
1 . It is certain, in general, that the Holy Spirit, some way
or other, has a hand in every true and valid baptism ;
Crod never fails as to His part in an awful sacrament, how-
ever men may guiltily fail in theirs. 2. The Holy Spirit
is in some sort offered to all tibat receive Christian bap-
tism ; for the very nature of a sacrament requires that
the sign and the grace should so far go together, and the
unworthy could not be guilty of receding the grace, while
they receive the sign, if both were not offered them. 3.
As the Holy Spirit consecrates and sanctifies the waters
of baptism, giving them an outward and relative holiness,
so he consecrates the persons also in an outward and relative
sense, whether good or bad, by a sacred dedication of
them to the worship and service of the whole Trinity;

7 V. iv. p. 441.

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48 The Baptismal Character. [Part I.

which conseo'otion is for ever binding and has its effect,
either to the salvation of the parties, if they repent or
amend, or to the greater damnation if they do not. 4. I
must add that even the unworthy are by their baptism
put into a Christian state ; otherwise they would be as
mere Pagans still, and would want a new baptism to make
them Christians. Therefore as they are by baptism trans-
lated out of their natwral state into the state Christian^
they must be supposed to have pardon, and grace, and
Crospel privileges conditionally made over to them, though
not yet actually applied by reason of their disqualifications :
a grant which will do them no manner of service, but hurt,
if they never repent ; but if they do repent and turn to
God, then that conditional grant suspended as it were
before, with respect to any savmg effects, begins at length
to take place effectually ; and so their baptism which had
stood waiting without any salutary fruit for a time, now
becomes beneficial and saving to the returning peni-
tents. ''•

The law of baptism then being clear and decisive that
the profitableness of it does not depend upon the qualifi-
cations of the baptized person at the time, but commences
subsequently as soon as those qualifications are obtained ;
it is evident that the baptism of infants, supposed not to
have at the time the proper qualifications for the grace of
baptism, comes strictly and properly under it. For let
this be supposed of infants, still all that can be said of
infants^ even on this supposition, is that they are human
persons who are baptized without being qualified at the
time for the grace of the sacrament ; and as thus described
the above principle applies strictly to them ; and their
baptism has a suspended grace accompanying it, which
comes into operation upon their growing up and becom-

8 V. iv. p. 443.

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Chap. III.] The Baptismal Character. 49

ing qualified for it. The principle has been nndonbtedly
laid down in the Christian Church from the firsts that the
grace of the sacrament is not tied to the time of its admi-
nistration ; that the simultaneity of the sign and the thing
signified is not necessary, but that on the contrary the sign
may precede the grace by an indefinitely long interval.

The only answer indeed which I can suppose being
made to this distinction that infants may not be regene-
rate in baptism at the time^ and yet receive in baptism
a title to regenerating grace upon becoming afterwards
qualified for it^ is the plea that this title as carrying with
it a kind of covenanted state^ is iUdf regeneration. But
to assert this would be simply to misapprehend at the
very outset the very nature of this title or charader^
which is by its very definition^ not regeneration, but only
a conditional right to it. Regeneration is undoubtedly
grace, but nothing can be more clear and decided than
the distinction, maintained by the whole of antiquity and
pervading all subsequent theology, which separates the
baptismal character from grace.^ Regeneration is in its
own nature and at the very time it is given, beneficial,
being, besides other things, the actual pardon of sin,
which is a present advantage : but the baptismal cha-
racter does not remit sin, and is no benefit at the time,
but only a title to benefit subsequently upon conditions
ftdfilled. Regeneration is only received by the adult upon
faith and repentance; but the baptismal character is
received by every baptized person, and even without &ith
and repentance. These two things, therefore, are entirely
distinct; and that all infants receive the baptismal cha-
racter in baptism does not at all imply that all infants are
regenerate in baptism.

When, then, among other language, the divi^ies of the

» Note 6.

E

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50 The Baptismal Character.

Reformation held that infant baptism was an anticipatory
rite which^ though it was not beneficial at the time on
account of the want of qualification in the recipient^
became beneficial afterwards^ upon his obtaining that
qualification^ they had a parallel case provided for them
in antiquity. They were only applying to infants the
same law and rule of baptism^ which the Fathers had
applied to unqualified adults. The case of the Fidus^
which had received the unanimous and uninterrupted
assent of the Church, involved unquestionably the great
principle just mentioned. The Reformers applied this
principle to Infant Baptism^ nor in doing so did they
admit that they at all depreciated the virtue of the sacra-
ment. The identity of time, in the connexion of the sign
with the thing signified^ was the only point affected by
this arrangement^ and that^ besides that it was evidently
no intrinsic or fundamental part of the relation of the
two, had been completely given up by antiquity in the
case mentioned. Such a separation in time between the
sacrament itself and the virtue and benefit of it, no more
derogated from the former as the channel and instrument
of the latter, in the case of infant baptism, than it did in
the case of the baptism of the Fidus.

» Note 7.



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CHAPTER IV

BSOEMERATION C0N8IDB&ED AS BBMISSION OF SIN

Two definitions of Begeneratiou may be said to divide
theological opinion; according to one of which it is a
state of pardon and of actual goodness, according to the
other a state of pardon and a new capacity only for good-
ness^ or an assisting grace.

In this state of the case^ then, the first observation that
we make is^ that^ npon either definition^ regeneration is a
complex thing; consisting of parts of which it is the whole
or snm j only existing in any person by the presence of
both those parts^ and cancelled if either is absent; those
parts being; the one, remission of sin past; the other^ one
or other of the two alternatives jnst mentioned. It is
from overlooking this complex character of regeneration
that varioos mistakes have been made. We hear of a
non-beneficial regeneration, which is received by impeni-
tent adults in baptism ; * but if persons would examine
what it is which constitutes regeneration, they would find
that, in the nature of the case, the gift cannot be other-
wise than beneficial ; because, as the res sacramenti of
baptism, it undoubtedly comprehends the Divine pardon,
which is in its own nature an advantage and a benefit.
They would find that for that reason an impenitent adult
cannot receive regeneration in baptism, inasmuch as that
would be to suppose sin pardoned without repentance.*
They would find again that it is not *' once regenerate,

* Note 8. « Note 9.

s 2

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52 Regeneration considered as [Pabt L

always regenerate ; '' because that would be saying,
'' Once in a state of pardon^ always in a state of pardon."
The baptismal character is indeed received by impenitent
adults^ and always remains^ but the baptismal character is
not regeneration.

This preliminary remark, however, made, it will be con-
venient, in approaching the question of the real or Scrip-
tural meaning of regeneration, to eliminate, in the first
instance, from the two antagonistic definitions that which
is common to both, viz. this particular benefit of remission
of sin, in order to clear the ground for a comparison of
the two on the point on which they differ ; and to relieve
ourselves from the necessity of carrying about with us
throDghout the discussion an extra weight of language,
caused by the perpetual junction of that which is not with
that which is in dispute.

In eliminating, however, from the two rival definitions
of regeneration, the common benefit of remission of sin,
we must pause a short time to consider a question relating
to this particular gift of remission, which bears imme-
diately upon the main point of difference between the two
definitions. For whereas the two received definitions of
regeneration differ in this respect, that one does and the
other does not make regeneration actual goodness, the
question may be raised whether this gift of remission of
sin, which both adopt in common, does not of itself con-
stitute actual goodness ; inasmuch as it may be argued
that a man must be good in the sight of God as soon as
ever sin is no longer imputed to him.

What is it then which is involved in remission of sin ?
In examining the precise effect of remission, and what
actually takes place in this Divine act, we find that we
cannot describe this effect, regarded by itself, as being
more than the removal of an existing impediment in the
way of the individual's goodness. It is the nature of sin



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Chap. IV.] Remission of Sin. 53

that, thongli the act passes away^ it leaves a result behind
it' in that stain upon the soul which we call gailt — a
result which affects the cJux/racter even after the act,
making the character of the individual, so long as this
guilt attaches to him, bad. The guilt of past sin then
being an impediment to the present goodness- of the indi-
vidual^ remission of sin is the removal of that impediment:
but the removal of an impediment to goodness is not
goodness, because the removal of an impediment is only a
negative thing, whereas goodness is a positive quality,
and consists in certain actual habits and dispositions,
which are active and living principles of goodness within
the soul, producing acts upon the opportunity and power
being supplied. The individual is by remission relieved
of a certain effect of his past wrong acts, but has he there-
fore right habits and dispositions ? Has he a present
inclination to virtue simply on account of such forgiveness
of past vice ? We must see, if we examine the matter,
that the absence of a certain effect of past wickedness is
altogether a different thing from the production of positive
goodness within the soul, that these are in their own
nature different spiritual facts. And we must also see
that it is no derogation from the Divine act of remitting
sin to insist on this distinction ; it being no defect in a
Divine act that it should be the act which it professes to
be, and not another, and that the end in which it issues
should be its own appropriate end and no other.

The Divine act of remission of sin is in its own nature
then limited to the removal of an effect which has followed
from past sin, and does not of itself produce the existence
of actual goodness in the soul. Nor is it true to say that
the individual is good in the sight of God by virtue of the
non-imputation of sin simply ; because Ood sees things as

> " Manent peccata reatu, qu89 pradterienmt actn." Augustine
contra Jul. PeL L vi. c. 19.



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54 Regeneration considered as [Part I.

they are, and if actual goodness is not produced in the
person by simple remission of sin^ actual goodness is not
perceived in him by God as the eflPect of such remission.
The argument mighty indeed^ at first sight commend itself
that pw^on is an act of love, and that Divine love implies
goodness in the object of it; but this would be an inference
drawn from a word which had one meaning in the premiss,
and another in the conclusion. In one sense G-od only loves
the good, but in another sense God^s love is bestowed upon
the creature as such, of whose welfare it is the desira*

It is true that remission of sin in the case of moral
agents supposes a certain actual goodness in them as the
condition of it, viz. faith and repentance : but such good-
ness as being the condition of remission, and therefore
preceding it, is plainly not the effect of such remission, or
contained in it as its cause, or constituted by remission of
sin ; — ^which is the question with which we are concerned.

The Schoolmen, who went with their usual minuteness
into the nature of the Divine gift of remission of sin, were
particular in drawing attention to this distinction, that
the non-imputation of sin did not constitute actual good-
ness. They identified justification indeed with actual
goodness, but justification, in the Roman and Scholastic
sense, means more than remission of sin, viz. the actual
infusion into the creature of good habits, and of the virtues
of faith, hope, and charity. This infusion, then, of actual
goodness into the human soul, was decided in the schools
to constitute such actual goodness, but the simple remis-
sion of sin was pronounced not to do so. And though
the doctrine of the later Schoolmen was that infusion of
virtues and remission of sin went together de facto, in the
Divine dispensation ; the goodness of the justified person
was attributed expressly to the infusion and not to the

* Note 10.

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Chap. IV.] Remission of Sin. 55

remission. A section of the schools indeed went so far as
to maintain only one Divine act in justification^ viz. that of
infusion of virtues^ and with it this result^ that so far from
remission of sin causing actual goodness^ on the contrary^
it was the infusion of actual goodness which caused remis-
sion of sin, " extinguishing it by contrary disposition.'' *
Calvinism, — and the same may be said of Lutheranism,
— ^is less decided against the claim of remission of sin to
constitute actual goodness, and appears at first sight to
contemplate a point in the life of the soul, at which it is
good in the sight of God, simply by reason of delivery
from guilt, viz. when the Divine grace arresting the sinner
in the midst of his pollution, and conveying to him instan-
taneously a pardon in full of the past, by this pardon
justifies him. But justification, in the Galvinistic sense,
does not coincide with the precise idea of actual goodness
in God's sight, being distinguished by the Calvinist him-
self from that insertion of the habit of holiness and good-
ness, i.e. sanctification, which he upholds as a necessary
accompaniment of justification.^ For by maintaining the

• Thomdike, Covenant of Grace, b. 2, c. 30, s. 19. " Vasquez
acriter contendit remissionem peccati nihil prorsos in re esse, nisi
infnsionem jnstitise, tribaitque banc opinionem qnibusdam Boma-
nensibus." Forbes' Considerations, 1. 2, de Jnstif., c. 4. Occham
on the contrary, — '' Dens de potentia sua absolnta potest remittere
cnlpam et pcenam sine infosione gratise . . . Tamen dico de facto
qaod gratia infdnditnr, quia hoc sonant anctoritates sacrsd Scrip-
tnrsB et dicta sanctomm." In Lomb. iv. 3. And Bellarmine, —
" Eeatns poensa et ofEensa possent qnidem tolli sine infasione jnsti-
tisB, nihil enim impedire yidetnr quo minus possit Deus velle non
ordinare poonam et condonare offensam, et non habere pro inimico
iUum cui donum habitualis justitise non concesserit." De Jnstifi-
catione, 1. 2, c. 16.

* "Cum justificatione sanctificatio necessario conjungitur."
Whitaker de Sacr. Q. 5, c. 3, p. 146. The Lutheran doctrine is the
same: " Opera sequunturjustificationemfideiinfallibiter." Luther,
torn. i. p. 373.



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56 Regeneration considered as [Paet I.

necessity of inward sanctification as the criterion of justi-
fication^ the Calvinist substantially requires more than
simple pardon as necessary to constitute the man actually
good in the sight of Ood. The Lutheran doctrine is the
same as the Calvinistic.

The bearing of this negative characteristic of remission
of sin^ viz. that it does not constitute actual goodness,
upon the case of baptized infants^ deserves attention.
Remission to adults of actual sin presupposes^ in the shape
of faith and repentance^ certain actual goodness : but the
remission to the infant of original sin^ not requiring^ as in
the nature of the case it cannot, any such conditions^ we
have in consequence^ in the state of the baptized in&nt^
simply the effect of remission of sin itself^ abstracted from
adjuncts and accompaniments. What then is the effect
of this naked and pure remission of sin upon the baptized
infant ? It is evident from the foregoing considerations
what the effect is notj — that though the infant has of
course the goodness of natural innocence, he does not
possess goodness in a moral or theological sense, by reason
of the remission of original sin. He is free, indeed, from
personal sin, and he is admitted to Divine favour; but
neither does the admission into Divine favour, — ^inasmuch
as God loves us independently of goodness in us, — neither
does the absence of personal sin, where this is the effect of
mere physical immaturity ; nor do both of these together
constitute actual goodness : in the place of which an im-
pending and as yet uncertain struggle between concu-
piscence and grace, the flesh and the spirit, between an
inherent principle of evil and a latent germinal principle
of good, forms a morally neutral and indeterminate state
in the infant to whom original sin is yet remitted. He
has implanted spiritual faculties of which after-life may
show either the culture or neglect, but at present his
character is wholly unformed for good or for evil, and the



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Chap. IV.] Remission of Sin. 57

issue is in suspense^ and awaits a fntore contingency.
Nor has he by reason of such remission even an implanted
or seminal habit of goodness. He possesses^ therefore^
in no sense a determinate moral character^ and therefore
is not good in a moral or theological sense.

The later Schoolmen refused indeed to recognize this
neutral and indeterminate state in baptized infants, and
insisted upon the point that they possessed positive
goodness ; but^ as has been said^ they assigned them this
goodness as the consequence of a distinct infusion of
habits into them^ and not as the result of remission of
original sin. Besting upon the maxim that the remission
of sin and implantation of goodness^ though in the abstract
separable^ always went together de fa/cto in the Divine
economy^ in the same way in which the Calvinist asserts
that justification and sanctification go together, they
maintained that, together with the remission of original
sin in baptism, the infant had also the habits of faith,
hope, and charity infused into him. Nor was the refusal
in this case to separate a state of pardon from a state of
actual g<9bdness an unnatural and unreasonable refusal,
had the pardon which is supposed in this case been a
pardon of the natural . and comprehensible kind ; for
certainly when a being enjoys the Divine pardon in the
natural and comprehensible sense, it is only reasonable
to conclude that he is in a state of positive goodness.
But the pardon which is here supposed as the privilege
of the baptized infant, viz. remission of original sin, is
not pardon in the ordinary and natural, but in an incom-
prehensible sense j because the sin being incomprehensible
sin, the forgiveness of it is incomprehensible forgiveness
—a distinction which accounts for the forgiveness of the
infant being without the moral accompaniments of the
forgiveness of the adult.

If we adopt the Scholastic notion, then, of the im-



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58 Regeneration considered, ^c.

plantation of the actoal habit of goodness in the infemtj
that is another and a distinct ground on which to lay the
infant's claim to moral or personal goodness; but the
remission of original sin is no ground for this claim ; it
does not give him moral character^ or therefore make him
good in a moral sense. He is as yet an unformed being
in moral respects^ and his condition is neutral^ suspended^
and as yet undetermined either to good or evil. Anglican
divines are unanimous on this pointy viz. that remission
of original sin does not constitute actual goodness. They
maintain the remission of original sin in baptism^ but
they entirely reject at the same time the idea that the
baptized infant is good in a moral sense; they regard him
as incapable of possessing such goodness^ because they
regard him as incapable of possessing moral character in
any sense,— although a pardoned being, having received
remission of original sin.^ They look upon him as a
being endowed with latent moral faculties, the use or
neglect of which in after-life will determine then his
character either for good or evil; but as a being at
present neither good nor bad morally, but Ih a state
altogether neutral and indeterminate.

' " He may question me respecting the regeneration of infants,
whether or not I believe that a moral change takes place in them.
Without the slightest hesitation, however, I answer I do nat; and
for this plain reason, because I am persuaded the thing itself is
impossible ; morality and immorality being alike incompatible with
their state of being.*' Abp. Lawrence, Efficacy of Baptism, Partii.
p. 25. *' Infants are indeed sanctified in a certain sense, but not in
the sense of proper renewal of mind and heart." Waterland, Sum-
mary View of Justification, vol. vi. p. 7. It must be observed,
however, that this neutral state of the in&uit is no obstacle to his
salvation, if he die as an infant ; it being in the power of God in
the act of admitting him to eternal life to bestow such supplemen-
tary qualifications as are necessary for that new state of existence.



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Online LibraryJames Bowling MozleyA review of the baptismal controversy → online text (page 5 of 38)