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A review of the baptismal controversy online

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could return to goodness be a second regeneration, if goodness was
not implied in the first regeneration P For Clement's sense of the
word in other passages, see Note 11. * In Theoph. s. 10.

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84 Patristic Sense of Regeneration. [Part I.

for the term *' child of God," or '^ bom of God," is of con-
stant occurrence in the Fathers as signifying a good and
holy man/

2. But the word ''regenerate" has in the Fathers,
besides its use as a word, a special and appropriate use in
connexion with baptism ; therefore the next question is,
what is the meaning of the word in the Fathers as thus
appropriated ? Does its antecedent meaning as a word
still go on attaching to it in its sacramental connexion ;
and does regeneration continue to imply actual goodness,
when it becomes baptismal regeneration, as before when
it was regfeneration ?

There appears to be, as has been already observed, a
prevalent assumption, that when the term regenerate con-
tracts a special use and becomes appropriated to baptism,
it drops its antecedent meaning as a word ; but such an
assumption, as has been explained,* is contrary to the
laws of language, because a term is selected for a special
use on account of its antecedent meaning, to part with
which therefore on account of its special use would be a
result wholly inconsistent and irrational. The thing
which the term signifies continues the same it was
before, only .with the addition of the instrument by which
it is conveyed.

* Thus Origen, — ** Every man who has attained to matarity is
either a child of God or a child of the devil. For either he commits
sin or does not; if he does, he is a child of the devil ; if he does not,
he is a child of God." In Joan. torn. zz. 13. '* They are sons of men,"
says Angnstine, '* when they do ill, sons of Gk)d when they do well."
On Psalm liL And again, "Love alone distingnishes between the
children of Qod and the children of the deviL Let all sign them-
selves with the sign of the cross, let all say Amen, let all sing
Hallelujah, let all be baptized, let all come to church, the children
of God are only distingoished from the children of the devil by
love. They who have love are bom of God, they who have not
love are not bom of Gtod." In 1 Ep. Joan., Tiaci v. s. 7.

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Chap. VI.] Patristic Sense of Regeneration. 85

The Fathers then retain for the word as appropriated to
baptism^ the meaning of actual goodness. Other aspects
of the gift^ indeed^ such as that of pardon^ admission to
a covenant^ a new spiritual faculty^ hare an established
place in their language, and may for a time exclusively
occupy their attention, but these are not exclusive of the
gift of actual righteousness, but additional to it.

If we take the terms which the Fathers apply to bap-
tismal regeneration in a mass, we have the following col-
lective description of it. We see it called righteousness,
sanctification, transformation, renoyation, purification,
the perishing of the outer man, the formation of the inner ;
the life of virtues, the death of crimes ; the port of inno-
cence, the shipwreck of sins ; the sprinkling of the con-
science, the new infancy of innocence, the return of the
original formation, the cleansing with the invisible hyssop ;
the presence of a new heart and new spirit, the removal of
the stony heart ; the destruction of the devil, the dissolu-
tion of bondage, the stripping off of the filthy garment,
and the putting on of the incorrupt and spotless clothing
— the robe of royalty, the garment of princes, the robe of
glory, the garment of redemption; the resurrection to
immortality, the drinking in of immortality, the putting on
of immortality ; the enjoyment of the inheritance, the glory
from on high, the gleaming with the rays of righteousness
as with the brightness of the sun ; incorruption, salvation,
deification, eternal life, paradise, and heaven. Such lan-
guage is certainly the description of more than a mere
state of ability to attain even sublime holiness and good-
ness, which would be compatible with actual wickedness :
it is the description of a state of actual righteousness.

To come to particular passages, the two following
belong to a class, as it may be called, of panegyrics of
baptism ; lofty statements presenting with considerable
pomp chains of high privileges and virtues attaching to



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86 Patristic Sense of Regeneration. [Part I.

that ordinance^ and intending to give the idea of a solemn
triamphant procession. Chrysostom thus enumerates
*' the ten honours of baptism :'' — ^' Blessed be Qt)d, who
alone doeth wonders ; who maketh all things and changeth
all. Behold^ they enjoy the calm of freedom who a little
before were held captives, they are citizens of the Church
who were wandering in error, and they have the lot of
righteousness who were in the confusion of sin. For they
are not only free, but holy ; not holy only, but righteous \
not righteous only, but sons ; not sons only, but heirs ;
not heirs only, but brethren of Christ ; not brethren of
Christ only, but co-heirs ; not only co-heirs, but members ;
not members only, but a temple ; not a temple only, but
instruments of the Spirit." ^

" Baptism," says Gregory Nazianzen, '' is the bright-
ness of the soul, transformation of life, the answer of a
good conscience toward God, the help of infirmity, the
putting oflF of the flesh, obedience to the Spirit, com-
munion with the Word, restoration of the creature to
rectitude, the cataclysm of sin, participation of light, dis-
persion of darkness, the chariot to God, migration with
Christ, the prop of faith, the perfection of the under-
standing, the key of the kingdom of heaven, change of
living, dissolution of bondage, unloosening of chains, the
recreation of the whole man." *

So much of the language of the Fathers which fur-
nishes the recognized proof of their doctrine of baptism
is language of this kind, or approximating to it, that we
cannot explain away these passages as rhetorical without,
in the proportion in which we do so, reducing our proof
of the Patristic doctrine altogether. We must under-
stand them as declaring something doctrinal a.s to the
nature of the baptismal gift or regeneration, and we find

7 No. 1, Note 12. » No. 2, Note 12.

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Chap. VI.] Patristic Sense of Regeneration. 87

that the most moderate and apparently literal items of
the description are terms denoting actual holiness and
goodness : — " Holy ^^ and '^ righteous '' being the terms
which Chrysostom applies to the regenerate man ; "trans-
formation of life/^ '^ the answer of a good conscience/^
the " putting off of the flesh/' " obedience to the Spirit/'
^' change of living/' being the terms Gregory of Nazian-
zen applies to the regenerate state.

Or take the following, which are more of the didactic
type: — ''Approach, man, and be regenerated/' says
Hippolytus, in a passage already partially quoted. '^ And
how, saith he? If thou do not commit adultery or
murder ; do not worship idols, art not overcome by plea-
sure or pride : if thou throwest off the filth of impurity
and burden of sin, puttest oflF the armour of Satan and
puttest on the breastplate of faith ; as saith Isaiah, ' Wash
you, seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the
fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us
reason together, saith the Lord. Though your sins be
as scarlet, they shall be white as snow ; though they be
red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing
and obedient, ye shall eat the fat of the land.' Thou
seest, beloved, how the Prophet foretold the purification
of baptism ; for he that goeth down into the laver of
regeneration with faith quits evil and joins himself to
Christ, renounces the enemy and confesses Christ to be
God, puts off slavery and puts on adoption, ascends from
baptism bright as the sun, and emitting the rays of
righteousness." ' The writer begins here with the natu-
ral use of *' regeneration " as a word meaning morally
converted; but does he give up the sense when he comes
in the next place to connect regeneration with baptism ?
By no means. The natural sense of the term as involv-

» No. 3, Note 12.

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88 Patristic Sense of Regeneration. [Part I.

ing actual goodness still continues^ and regeneration,
as '^ the parification of baptism/' retains all that it implied
as simply regeneration.

Gregory Nyssen refers renewal and regeneration to
baptism; but does he change the signification of those
terms as thus appropriated ? By no means. '* Ye who
boast of the gift of regeneration and renewal/' he says,
'' give evidence of that mystical grace by a change of
morals. . . . There are plain signs by which we know
the new-bom man ; the abandonment of old habits, and
a new life and conversation will show that the soul is
bom anew of another parentage. . . . Was the man be-
fore baptism licentious, covetous, rapacious, a reviler, a
liar, a sycophant, let him now be orderly, moderate, content
with his own and giving of that to the needy, truth-
loving, respectful, affable, practising all that is praise-
worthy. ... So ought the sons of God to have their con-
versation ; for after grace we are called His sons, and
therefore it behoves us accurately to attend to the Pater-
nal characteristics, that fashioning aud moulding our-
selves into likeness to our Father, we may show ourselves
to be His genuine sons, and not a spurious offspring.
Our Lord, in the Gospels, bids us pray for them that
despitefully use us and persecute us, that we may be the
children of our Father which is in heaven. . . . Te are
sons. He says, when you imitate your Father's good-
ness.'' * What I observe of this passage is, that it does
not represent a good life and conversation only as the
frait which ought to follow regeneration, but dlso as a
test which decides the fact of it ; and that it thus re-
presents regeneration, even that which is connected with
baptism, — not as a faculty only which is consistent with
contrary practice, but as an inward disposition and habit
which implies a corresponding practice.

» No. 4, Note 12.

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Chap. VI.] Patristic Sense of Regeneration. 89

Justin Martyr^ in the well-known passage in the Apology
which describes the process of baptismal admission into
the Christian Church and Covenant^ regards regeneration,
even as appropriated to baptism, in the light of an actu-
ally holy disposition of mind, '^ being made the child of
freedom and choice :" and the ^^ illumination/' which in
him and other early writers figures as so prominent a
characteristic of the baptismal gift, is not a mere &culty,
but a habit of mind, and that of a religious and monJ
kind.' Clement of Alexandria appropriates, like Justin,
regeneration to baptism ; but still how does he describe
r^eneration even as tied to a sacrament ? ^^ Being rege-
nerated,'' he says, " we forthwith received perfection, for
we were enlightened, and that is to know God. Bap-
tized, we are enlightened; enlightened, we are adopted ;
adopted, we are perfected ; perfected, we are made im-
mortal . . . We believe that we are perfect so far as is
possible in this world. • • . We wash away all our sins, and
are no longer bent upon evil. For this is this very grace
of illumination, that we are no longer the same in moral
disposition that we were before baptism. . . . We are
purified by baptism, and run up to the immortal light as
children to their father . . . that being children of God
who have put off the old man, having stripped ourselves
of the tunic of wickedness and put on the incorruptibility
of Christ, we may, as a people new-made, holy, regene-
rated, preserve the unpolluted man.'''

Cyprian, in the well-known letter in which he describes

Koi marfiiiTjs, a4>€<rtoii T€ d/jLaprimv trntp 2>v nporjfxdprofiep Tvxoap^v cV
r^ vdarif €irovofUi(€Tai rf tkofxevip dvaytyvriefjvaLf kol fieravoriaaim cWt
Tois iffiaprrifiepois, rb tov narpbs r&v SKtiv Koi ^((nr6Tov Btov 6vofjM . . .
jcoXctroi df TOVTo t6 \ovTp6v <f>mTia'fji6s. Apolog. L 1, 8. 61.

Mia x^P^^ ''^'^ ^^^ <f>wri(TpaTOi rh firj rdi' avrbw Civoi r^ nph fj Xov-
aaa6ai rby Tp6irop. Clem. Alex. Peed. 1. 1, c. 6.

» No. 6, Note 12.



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90 Patristic Sense of Regeneration. pPABT I.

liis own regeneration in the baptismal water, still de-
scribes that regeneration as "a conversion/'* He de-
scribes the effects of this new birth by water much,
indeed, in the same way in which one of a modern school,
who connected the new birth not with water but with
the impulse of the Spirit only, would describe those effects,
i. e. as conscious and felt, as a sensible inward enlighten-
ment and elevation, and the immediate possession of a
new temper of mind and a new point of view in which to
look at everything. ^' Forthwith, in a wonderful man-
ner, doubtful things began to certify themselves, shut
things to open, dark things to shine, difficult things to
be easy, things impossible to be practicable ; so that one
could not but recognize the difference between that which
being subject by carnal birth to sin was earthly, and that
which being quickened by the Holy Spirit had begun to
be of God/' Though he contemplates regeneration then
as imparted in and by baptism, the term still retains with
Cyprian, in this connexion, its natural meaning of an
actual conversion of heart and temper.

Augustine, in the well-known passage in which he
answers the objection of the absence of faith in infants
as recipients of baptism, identifies regeneration even in
its sacramental connexion with actual conversion of heart.
"As in Isaac, who was circumcised the eighth day
afler birth, the sign of the righteousness of faith
preceded, and when he grew up the righteousness
itself followed; so in baptized infants the sacrament
of regeneration precedes, and, if they preserve Chris-
tian piety, that conversion follows in the heart the
sacrament of which preceded in the body." * To call

* "Difficile prorsns ac durum opinabar ut qtds renasd denao
posset .... Qui possibilis aiebam, est tanta convei'eio" Ep. 1.

* *' In baptizatis infantibns prsscedit regenerationis sacramen-



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Chap. VI.] Patristic Sense of Regeneration. 91

baptism alternately the sacratnent of regeneration and
the sacrament of conversion is to identify one of these
terms in meaning with the other: there cannot be a
plainer proof that^ to the writer's mind at the time, both
terms meant the same thing. The natural sense of
regeneration then, as implying actual goodness, still goes
on adhering to it, even as appropriated to baptism, in
this statement of Augustine.

It is true Augustine goes on to say : — ^' The Sacrament
of Baptism is one thing, conversion of the heart is
another ;'' and hence Bishop Bethell extracts a ground
for the following remark upon this whole passage, viz.
that ^' it appears to him to be a direct example of the
manner in which the Fathers separated regeneration from
conversion.'* But Augustine is not distinguishing here
between regeneration and conversion, which he has
obviously just identified with each other, but between
^' the Sacrament of Baptism '* and conversion.

We come now to a later and more advanced language
descriptive of the baptismal gift. *' What mind,'' says
Leo, '^ can comprehend this sacrament ? what tongue can
describe this grace ? Iniquity returns to innocence, and
old age to newness ; aliens come into the adoption, and
strangers into the heirdom. Men begin to be just from
being ungodly, bountiful from being covetous, chaste
from being incontinent, heavenly from being earthly.
What is this transformation but the right hand of the
Most High ? " " Not only the glorious fortitude of
martyrs," says the same Father, '' but the faith of all the
re-bom, in the very act of regeneration, suffers with
Christ; for while they renounce the devil and confess
their belief in God, while they pass from old age to

tmn, et si Christianam tenuerint pietatem, seqnitur etiam in corde
conversio cnijvs mysterinm prsBcessit in corpore." De Bapt. contra
Donat. 1. 4, c. 24.

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92 Patristic Sense of Regeneration. [Part I.

newness^ while they put off the image of the earthly and
assume the form of the heavenly, a certain similitude of
death and resurrection takes place ; so that being taken
up by Christ and taking up Christ, the man is not the
same after baptism that he was before it, but the body of
the regenerate becomes the flesh of Christ/' — " The new
creature in baptism is not stripped of the covering of real
flesh, but of the infection of the old condemned nature,
so that the man is made the body of Christ because
Christ is the body of man/' "It is manifest that all
incur damnation by birth in Adam, unless they are
rescued by being re-bom in Christ; wherefore we must
accurately consider what it is which is done in the gift
of regeneration. Although all the portions of the same
mystery meet together in one, what is enacted visibly is
one thing, what is solemnized invisibly is another; the
form of the sacrament is not the same as its virtue, the
form being administered by man, the virtue being im-
parted by God ; to whose power it is to be referred, that
while the outer man is washed, the inner man is changed ;
a new creature made out of an old, vessels of wrath trans-
formed into vessels of mercy, the sinful flesh changed into
the body of Christ ; from ungodly men become righteous,
from captives free, from sons of men sons of God/' •

Here is a view of baptism which connects it more
intimately and radically with the Inccumation than the
earlier language of the Fathers did ; incorporating it as
it were in that fundamental mystery, and constructing a
rationale of the sacrament upon a basis of theological
science and system. It is a view which was elicited by
the Eutychian heresy, which denied the proper human
nature of our Lord, and by this denial extracted from the
orthodox side a stronger and intenser contradictory

• No. 6, Note 12.

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Chap. VI.] Patristic Sense of Regeneration. 93

rationale of that baman nature, making it even a more
active centre in theology, with more of ramification and
result. Baptism, upon this view, incorporated the
humanity of the individual man in the central human
nature of our Lord, who, as the second Adam, was the
typical man, the exemplar and true representative of
humanity. The sacrament — ^if the term " physical '^ can
be applied to spiritual things — thus produced something
of a physical change in the soul in the shape of an actual
participation of our Lord's human nature, and imparted
to it a positive form and mould in the impress of the
image of the second Adam. But what was this change
as a moral change, or a moral rise in the condition of the
soul ? Was it the being endowed with a faculty only by
which the individual was enabled to attain holiness and
goodness ? Leo certainly describes more than a faculty
when he says, that " while the outer man is washed, the
inner man is changed ; '^ that '^ he is a new creature made
out of an old,'' ^'a righteous man begun out of an
ungodly, a charitable out of a covetous, a captive out of a
free ; '' that '^ the image of the earthly man is cast oflf,
and the form assumed of the heavenly man,'' and that
** he is not the same man after baptism that he was before
it." '^ What is this transformation," he says, '' but the
right hand of the Most High P " The new moral state
thus described is certainly a state inconsistent with the
person who is in it being at the time wicked ; and there-
fore is a state of actual holiness and goodness.

This general representation of baptismal regeneration
in the Fathers as implying actual goodness and holiness,
will be confirmed by some points of detail.

1. The delivery or release from sin imparted in baptism,
appears in the Fathers to include more than what is
commonly understood by '^ remission of sin," or release
from the guilt and penalty of past sin, viz. an actual



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94 Patristic Sense of Regeneration. [Paut I.

purification of the soul from present sin ; and thus a good
deal of the language of the Fathers which at first sight
might appear to express only ''remission of sin '' virtually
expresses a state of actual holiness^ as the effect of
baptism. Clement of Alexandria distinguishes between
these two effects of delivery from sin. " Baptism/' he
says, " is called the laver because it is that by which we
cast off* our sins, the gift because it is that by which are
remitted the penalties due to our sins.'' ^ And it is a
purification from present sin which he describes when he
says, — "clearing away in baptism the darkening cloud
of our sins, we have our spiritual eye firee and unim-
peded."* The cleansing of baptism is here made to
consist in the removal of present sin, as well as the
remission of past. Ghrysostom understands the baptismal
release from sin in the same sense, in his comment on
Kom. vi. 2, '' We that have died to sin, how shall we live
any longer therein ? " " What is died ? Our becoming
dead to it, believing and being enlightened. What is
becoming dead to it ? Obeying it no longer. For this
hath baptism done for us once; it deadened us to it. . . .
What the cross and burial then was to Christ, this hath
baptism been to us, though not in the same material;
for He died and was buried to the flesh, we to sin ; as
the death of Christ to flesh was real, so was ours to sin
real." • This deliverance from sin in baptism is spoken
of as a spiritual resurrection. "One resurrection is a
delivery from sin, the second is the resurrection of the
body ; He hath given the greater ; expect the less, for
this is indeed much greater than the other ; the delivery
from sin far greater than the resurrection of the body.
.... We have risen the greater resurrection wherein
we cast ofi* the death of sin so difficult to get rid of, and

' No. 5, Note 12. « Ibid. • No. 7, Note 12.

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Chap. VI.] Patristic Sense of Regeneration. 95

pat off the old garment ; let ns not despair of the less
when we long ago had the greater in baptism/' * The
baptismal deliverance from sin^ then^ in the sense in
which the Fathers understood it, was not only remission
of past sin, but purification from present, and so implied
actual goodness and holiness.

2. Regeneration in baptism always figures in the
Fathers as the reality of which circumcision was the
type ; it is represented as spiritual circumcision. '^ The
hand applieth not this circumcision,*' says Chrysostom,
''but the Spirit; it circumciseth not a part, but the
whole man. The body is circumcised in both, but in the
one corporally, in the other spiritually. Ye have put off
like the Jews not your flesh, but your sins. When and
how? In Baptism.'** '' Our circumcision,** says Theo-
doret, " is not bodily but spiritual, not made by the hand
but divine, not the riddance of a little flesh, but the
delivery from all corruption.**' But there can be no
doubt that spiritual circumcision is actual goodness and
holiness. If regeneration in baptism then is spiritual
circumcision, regeneration in baptism is actual goodness
and holiness.

3. In practical exhortation we employ two different
kinds of language, according as we suppose men simply
\A have a faculty for goodness which they ought to use
to become good, or an actual habit of goodness which
they ought to guard, maintain, and properly improve as
an existing treasure. In the one case the argument is —
you are not yet good, and therefore you must endeavour
to become so ; in the other it is — ^you are good, and
therefore you must take care and remain so ; and express
and embody your inward habit in all your actions. This
latter argument becomes — persons who are the proper

> No. 8, Note 12. « No. 9, Note 12. » No. 10, Note 12.

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96 Patristic Sense of Regeneration. [Part I.

subjects of it being supposed — the most forcible and
stirring inducement there is to a good life and conduct.
For it must be remembered that persons do not cease to
be subjects of exhortation because they are good ; they
have a most important work to do to which they are to
be strenuously urged, viz. to sustain and advance their
own goodness, for people may easily neglect even their
own virtue, and fall away from it. In this case then the



Online LibraryJames Bowling MozleyA review of the baptismal controversy → online text (page 8 of 38)