any thing but Catholic, till the Pelagian Controversy had driven that celebrated father into the extremities of dogmatism, in order to uphold the necessity of baptismal regeneration for remission of original sin. Before, however, Pelagian controversy arose, Augustin had, in answer to the inquiries of Count Bonifacius, decided that it was right to say that a child believes in his baptism, and is converted, because he has the sacrament of faith and conversion. This certainly was a strange solution of the difficulty, for Bonifacius had complained that it was then the practice to ask the sponsor“ if the child believed,” to which the sponsor replied, “Yes, the child does believe :” now, if the child believed before it was baptised, what had the subsequent sacrament of “conversion and faith” to do with its faith antecedent to its baptism? This, therefore, was no answer to the question at all ; for the point to be ascertained was another, “how the child believed before it was brought to the baptistry ?" but, granting Augustin's explanation, it still remained to be shown how dipping a child in water could make it believe.

Shortly afterwards, when the Pelagian controversy had sharpened the sword of the polemics, Augustin made no scruple of asserting that unbaptised infants must go to perdition ; « There is,” says he," no middle place for any one, so as to give any hope that those shall not be with the devil who have not been with Christ. Hence our Lord himself, wishing to eradicate from the hearts of some persons

who have a bad faith the idea of a middle place, which they endeavour to grant to unbaptised infants, as if they might of merit, through their innocence, be in eternal life ; and, for the purpose of stopping the mouths of such persons, and in order to show that those who are not baptised may not be with Christ in his kingdom, definitively pronounced this sentence,* · He that is not with me is against me.' Surely no ordinance of man's invention has ever reduced its advocates to greater difficulties.

We have already noticed, that the Judaising tendency of the early church introduced infant baptism; we have only to turn to the canon law of the papal communion, to see with what Jewish argument the practice is upheld. “ Since, there fore, circumcision,” says Pope Innocent III., “is, by the command of God, conferred both on adults and on infants, do not baptism which succeeds in the place of circumcision (and which has a more general effect, seeing that both men and women are baptised), be of less effect than that to which it has succeeded. Baptism must be administered both to adults and to little children ; for as without


distinction whatever the Mosaic law cries out, “ The uncircumcised man child whose foreskin is not circumcised, shall be cut off from his people,' so, without any distinction, does the voice of the gospel cry out, ‘Unless any one be born of water and the Spirit

, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God; by this general expression excluding neither sex nor age." Decret. Greg. tit. xlii. 3.

Here the usual sophism is introduced, “it was so and so in the lawmuch more, therefore, under the gospel ;” but in this vicious argument, as has already been remarked, there is a direct invasion of the grace of God, for our Lord has taught us, “ that no man can come unto Him except the Father, who has sent Him, draw him; but every man that hath heard and learnt of the Father, cometh unto Him.” This is the doctrine of the word of God; but the dogma of the papacy, and, indeed, of all Pædobaptists, is, that every one born into the world, to whom access can be had for baptism, shall come unto Christ, and belong unto Him, and that hearing and learning from God are by no means requisite in order to become one of Christ's people. In short, the baptism of infants, unless it be declared to be a mere ceremony, and to have no spiritual import whatever, militates with the doctrines of grace, and cannot in any way be reconciled with them. We are fully assured that in many parishes there are very few of the Lord's people, for the fact is indisputable; theless, the parish priest and the Prayer-Book have regenerated and sealed amongst


* Non est ullus ulli locus medius, ut possit esse nisi cum diabolo qui non est cum Christo. Hinc et ipse Dominus volens auferre de cordibus malè credentium nescio quam medietatem, quam conantur, quidam parvulis non baptizatis tribuere, ut quasi meritò innocentiæ sint in vitâ æterna-sed quia non sunt baptizati, non sint cum Christo in regno ejus, definitivam protulit ad hæc ora obstruenda, sententiam ubi ait, 'Qui mecum non est, adversus me est.'-De Peccat. Meritis, L. i.

the elect every individual perhaps in those parishes; for every baptised person in the creed of the Church of England is “ a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.” This is the difficulty which there is no evading; this is the great national lie which cannot be met in any way except by the credulity of Puseyism, which receives baptismal regeneration and all its enormities, not only without an effort, but with perfect complacency.

But such are the difficulties of this question, that it is not possible for any one to entertain infant baptism in any modification, without encountering the most startling consequences; for if we turn to the evangelical clergy, or the Pædobaptist dissenters, and ask them to tell us what are the advantages conferred on a child by baptism, thus much at least they must tell us, “that the children are thereby acknowledged to be Christians.”. And with this short sentence we have heard some ministers dismiss the whole subject, as if it were not worthy of any further consideration. But to the Scripture we turn, and we find more, far more, than this said of baptism. They that are baptised “ are buried with Christ into his death, that like as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so they also should walk in newness of life; for if they have been planted together in the likeness of his death, they shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. They are buried with him in baptism, wherein also they are risen with him by faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead; and they, being dead in their sins, and in the uncircumcision of their flesh, hath he quickened together with Christ, having forgiven them all trespasses. They are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, for as many of them as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither male nor female, they are all one in Christ Jesus; and thus being Christ's, they are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Is all this, and much more too, to be quietly swept away out of the record, in order to make way for the modern nullity of the Pædobaptists? And is baptism, which in the Scriptures is set forth in terms so high, to be divested of all its valuable properties, and to be turned into a mere ceremony of initiation ? Or supposing it, for argument's sake, to be true that children are by baptism merely “ acknowledged to be Christians," have we not then come to this monstrous dilemma, that to be a Christian, it is not requisite to believe in Christ, or ever to have heard of him? And do we not then renounce our belief in the grace of God, which, our sounder creed assures us, can alone make a Christian ?” and do we not erase regeneration, repentance, and faith from the “ kingdom of Jesus ?” for if any one can become a Christian” without the new birth, without repentance, and without faith, what better is he to be when he has been born again, and when he has believed ? Are there two sorts of Christians, those who believe in Christ, and those who do not ? And if so, is not the whole unbelieving world to be ranked in one of these divisions of Christianity ? Nay, does it not come to this, that an infidel is a Christian, and a Christian an infidel ?

But, last of all, where can the Pædobaptists find the origin of their practice but in tradition? To tradition the Church of Rome always carries us in this question, and very plainly and candidly confesses that she cannot find the baptism of infants in the New Testament; but by referring to Tertullian, Origen, and Cyprian, she assures us that the case may be easily made out. Not so, however, our modern Pædobaptists; they refer to two or three well-known passages, out of which they would persuade us, that by innuendo, and by some latitude for probabilities, it may be inferred that infant baptism was practised in the days of the apostles.

Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not," is one of these hints, as they pretend; but let them shew that our Lord baptised the children when their parents brought them to him to receive his benediction, and we will then give up the point. Let them also prove, that when the household of Lydia and the jailor were baptised, infants were also baptised at the same time, and we will give up the question ; or let them shew one single instance in the New Testament of this practice, or adduce one precept, which enjoins it, and it will then be impossible for any one who believes the Scriptures, any longer to oppose that which at present stands wholly, and exclusively, on the authority of tradition. If this had been a practice before the Canon of Scripture was closed, it could not possibly have been omitted by the inspired penman; and as the subject of baptism is frequently mentioned in Scripture, something, also, must have been added on the baptism of infants, which would require a new exposition of doctrine, as it is obviously impossible to apply the language of scripture, as it now stands, to the case of infants; but nothing of the sort is to be found, and the baptism of children in practice, precept, and doctrine, is wholly pretermitted. Now, if we turn to the apostolical constitutions, there we do find what we are seeking for

-“ Baptise also your children,” says the fifteenth chapter, Ban TILETE de vuwy kal ta vntia, and though the precept is very short, yet it is quite sufficient; these few words satisfy us, that in the beginning of the fourth century the rulers of the Church were anxious to establish the practice : find, then, but as many words as these, direct to the point, in the New Testament, and how could we, then, any longer deny the validity of infant baptism ?

But, in truth, the modern Pædobaptists, in the course of argument which they have pursued, and in their desire to make out their case, have resorted to a mode of proof wholly foreign to the spirit of the Gospel, which does not admit of subtilties, and ingenuities, and elaborate dialectics, but requires the truth to be made manifest in plain and perspicuous statements. The duties in the Church of Christ are not muffled up in mysteries, nor are they imprisoned in the centre of an intricate labyrinth, to which none but acute logicians can have an access, and we may be sure of this, that if infant baptism were indeed an ordinance of the Church, it would not be requisite to bring it forth into daylight by the operose and recondite argument of the Abrahamic covenant,” which has, indeed, been argued with much ability by some modern writers, but which only can produce this impression on those who base their faith solely on the Word of God, that there is nothing which the ingenuity of man cannot invest with plausibility, and that when a body of learned men have an interest to prove that which is not true, they need not despair of of making out a tolerable case, in the face of difficulties even greater than those which oppose the tradition of infant baptism.

The subtilty of the human intellect can perform“ signs and wonders" in the eyes of the world, and can put darkness for light, and light for darkness ; but the Gospel does not allow the science of intellectual legerdemain ; and this is certain, that that which cannot be proved by one plain precept, or by one authenticated example in the New Testament, is not to be taken as a part of Christian verity.


PLYMOUTH BRETHREN.” [The following remarks on a subject to which we have already referred (see July Number,

p. 343), have been communicated to us by one of the “ Brethren.”] It is at all times sufficiently distressing to those who desire to walk in the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and, according to the law of love, to be compelled by a sense of duty to point out even doctrinal errors, calculated injuriously to affect the glory of the Lord or the spiritual welfare of His people. But how much more painful is the task, when it becomes needful to bring to light positive misrepresentations and departures from truth, whether in the shape of disingenuous insinuations, or direct and open misstatements, put forward by those who profess to be the disciples of Jesus, and against those whose claim to be regarded as his people is fully acknowledged by their accusers. This task, however painful though it be, is seldom difficult ; inasmuch as the testimony of a false witness rarely hangs so well together as to bear a rigid scrutiny; and therefore, independently of any extrinsic evidence to contradict it, there is generally sufficient internal proof of its inconsistency with itself and with truth, to leave it open to easy exposure.

If the ascription of unscriptural doctrines, or sinister intentions, to any disciple or body of disciples, were to affect themselves only, without touching the Lord's glory, the honour of his truth, or the welfare of His saints, there should not be a moment's hesitation as to the course which they should pursue; namely, to suffer such charges and aspersions to pass altogether unnoticed; satisfied with the assurance that their judgment was with their God, that the truth and the falsehood were alike open to Him, and that the day was coming when the Lord would“ bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the hearts;" believing also his words in the days of his flesh: “ Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall suy all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake, rejoice and be exceeding glad ; for great is your reward in heaven,” &c. But perhaps this writer thinks it foolish to take such passages literally (see p. 579); as also such a one as this, “ Inasmuch as ye did it to one of the least of my brethren, ye did it unto me.

The Lord, however, is not only the Comforter of His people, but was their forerunner also in this species of trial; for, when here below, he said, “ They laid to my charge things that I knew not ;” and again, “ They devise deceitful matters against them that are quiet in the land.And how could it be otherwise with Him? for darkness loves not to be reproved or made manifest; and He was "the light” which “ maketh manifest." He was indeed “ quiet in the land,” “ He did not strive nor cry, neither was His voice heard in the street;" He was no loud and busy meddler with this world's politics. But still (and here was the secret of all) Ile would not “prophesy smooth things” to a religious but ungodly people; and therefore they were angry. He “told them the truth ;” and therefore they believed Him not. Strange reason! and yet ever the reason of unbelief. He wanted to do them good, for He was a true philanthropist ;" but it was in God's way, and not their own; and therefore they “ hated Him without a cause.”.

But, though a Christian should have no anxiety about character in the abstract, or in reference to self, which would be just seeking “the honour that cometh from men,” and, therefore, as regarded himself only, should be very careless about selfvindication, as having personally to do with God (though surely he should " exercise himself herein, to have a conscience void of offence toward God and toward men"); yet, if scripture and experience teach us that the Lord's glory may be affected before men, by the known or supposed principles and conduct of those who profess to be His—if impediments and offences may be placed in the way of sinners--if the hearts of the Lord's people may be made sorrowful, and their minds shaken by unfounded imputations of error to their brethren ; then, indeed, it becomes the paramount duty of the latter, nay, a labour of love, to vindicate themselves and expose the falsehood ;* and, should any still be hurt by the “slanderous report” (Rom. iii

. 8), the responsibility, and it is a solemn one, rests upon him, who, in thus sinning against his weak disciples, sins against Christ himself. “ It must needs be that offences come : but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!”

Having said thus much, as to my reason for noticing it at all, I shall now proceed to make some observations upon a paper which has appeared in the Eclec!ic Review for the month of May last, entitled, " The Plymouth Brethren;" a production sadly illustrative of the low state of moral principle which characterises the religious controversy of the present day, “per fas aut nefasbeing, in reality, too often the principle of procedure when an end is to be gained, and the loudest and angriest opponents of Romanism frequently proving that they can give it a lesson in carrying out the maxim, that the means are sanctified by the end. If the author of this article be a Christian man, for his soul's sake I can rejoice, but for the truth's sake I cannot; for it does no honour to the truth. One thing, however, is evident, namely, that if the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ has ceased to be foolishness to bim, yet many of the words and ways of Jesus are so still. With respect to the former, he may have laid aside for a moment “ the wisdom of this world,” but, as regards the latter, he has taken it up again.

This singular production consists of two parts; a confession of evil on the part of modern Dissenters, and a series of charges against the “ Plymouth Brethren;" and before noticing the latter, I shall make some observations on the former. The evil acknowledged is a departure from the “ apostolic model.”

" It would argue,” says this writer, "little knowledge, or little discretion (not honesty), in English Independents or Baptists, to justify their adherence to their respective communities, on the ground that these were organised according to a perfect apos

* We have the example of · Paul for such vindication. As to himself, he could, in the consciousness of the integrity of his heart, say, With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you or of man's judgment " and yet, for the sake of others, he frequently vindicated himself from the most unworthy charges. Nay, a greater than Paul, who said, " I receive not testimony from man,” could nevertheless turn his opposers over to that of John, because of the esteem in which they had held him, and say, " These things I say unto you that ye might be saved." This testimony was to prove that he was not a deceiver

[blocks in formation]

tolic model." And yet some of these “ sects," * which have thus admittedly departed from the apostolic model (which, as regards ecclesiastical order, is simply apostasy), are immediately afterwards spoken of as “ acknowledging no authority but that of Christ and his apostles !”. This is like praising a servant for his respectful submission to his master's authority, while he was breaking his commands, and running counter to his orders. A simple mind, however, would regard this, not as subjection, but presumption and self-will.

The writer then proceeds to speak of what he calls “primitive episcopacy," in which the bishop was not an “isolated minister,” but “primus inter pares," as the first departure from the divine order and appointment; and this, because of the necessity of the case. Is not the assertion of such a necessity a bold imputation of want of wisdom and fore-thought to God?

Next in order follows an acknowledgment that even this departure has been entirely departed from by modern dissenting churches. “The organisation of modern dissenting churches (he says) having rarely even a pretence of similarityt to the churches of the first century, it is not wonderful that those who are honestly desirous of following the highest antiquity (why not Scripture ?] should, from time to time, utter loud remonstrances against our present degenerate condition.” And yet he is very angry with a certain “ class of brethren” for being loud in declamation against this degenerate condition of things; which some one, it would appear, has justly entitled, “ the one-man system," as distinguishing it from the divine order set forth in Scripture, of many members, ministering their respective gifts, and performing their

proper functions, for the healthful growth and increase of the body (see Ro. xii. 3, 8). The anger or censure of man is, however, a small thing ; but I

the conscience of this writer, to consider with whom God is most angry, those who confess but coolly abide in degeneracy of condition, and apostasy from lis order, or those who, having discovered this apostasy, have withdrawn from it, and even uttered “loud remonstrances against it;” which is at least “not wonderful;" according to his own admission. Their accuser, however, is in error in supposing that their cry is “ Delenda est Carthago.” This is neither their object nor their cry. They would leave Carthage to itself. It is with the

would press

it upon

* This is the writer's own self-condemning word, not mine, though I believe it to be most correct. It is assumed throughout his paper that the hindrance of the Spirit, in His gifts, is the only ground of “ the Brethren’s” testimony against these systems. Surely it is a chief one; but there is another distinct and important one involved in the title here assigned by the writer to such systems. They are so constructed as to admit the world, while they scatter and exclude numbers of the saints. Their bond of union is some point of difference (not fundamental) from others; a point from which, for the most part, each takes its distinguishing name. Now this is sectarianism, or what constitutes a sect. (See Rom. xiv. I, 17, 18; xv. 7).

+ I would here, once for all, observe, that the italics here and in many other quotations from this writer are sometimes mine; the words always his own.

These departures from the divine order are sometimes vindicated on the plea of Christian liberty. “Alas ! how far can some carry this liberty when it suits their purpose, and upon points where the Scriptures have given no liberty, and upon which, therefore, liberty is license; while they at the same time angrily denounce those who may, in the fear of God, use liberty of judgment in matters as to which the Apostolic word gives them liberty, with this qualification only, “ Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (see Rom. xiv. 5). How zealous were some of old for certain ordinances, while they were " making the word of God of none effect through their traditions,” and “ teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." The Sabbath was their weapon against Christ! (see John v. 16; vii. 23; ix. 16, &c.). I confess I am at a loss to know what just ground of com: plaint those who make such acknowledgments of departure from the “ Apostolic model" have against the Establishment, or even Romanism. They both alike have their traditions ; and I see no reason why those of modern congregationalist doctors should take precedence of those of the fathers or reformers. Let them, however, settle this amongst themselves. It gives no embarrassment to those who are accustomed to prove all things" by the Apostolic word. It does not, however, require much penetration to discern that their opposition to establishments is, for the most part, the result of fleshly emulation (see Gal. v. 20), and not of godly “abhorrence of evil.” Witness that most evil combination, entitled, “The General Association for Promoting Religious Equality” (see the Inquirer for January, 1839).

« ElőzőTovább »