Images de page

salvation, expressly ascribed to the word? Does not St. Peter speak of Christians as being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever? As if to preclude the possibility of mistake-after the interjection of a verse, which by the way of contrast illustrates the permanence and durability of this incorruptible seed— he adds―And this is the word, which by the gospel is preached unto you. Did not our Saviour say to those Jews which believed on him, if ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free ?* Did he not pray for his disciples-Sanctify them through thy truth -Thy word is truth? Did he not say to them-Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you? And if fruitfulness in good works be admitted (as it surely must be) as an evidence of that holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord, is not the same point established by the parable of the sower? To these arguments it may be added that St. James exhorts Christians to receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save their souls.

No one will suspect" the judicious Hooker" of maintaining any opinions which could tend to disparage or depreciate the sacraments, as divinely appointed

*"This divine evangelical truth shall so work with you that it shall bless you with the liberty of the sons of God, making you free from the bondage of sin and Satan, under which ye are now held."" Bishop Hall, in loco. Works, vol. iv. page 222., Pratt's Edn. "You shall obtain the greatest and most desirable freedom from the yoke of bondage to sin and corruption." D'Oyley and Mant's Bible, in loco.

means of grace. Nevertheless, his acquaintance with the sacred volume was far too exact, and his submission to its declarations far too implicit to allow him to make statements that were at variance with the foregoing citations. Accordingly he affirms that "the end of all scripture is the same which St. John proposeth in the writing of that most divine gospel, (John xx. 31.) viz. faith, and through faith salvation;" and further, "that the word of God outwardly administered (his spirit inwardly concurring therewith) converteth, edifieth, and saveth souls."*

But there is a passage in his celebrated sermon on Justification, so apposite to this question, and in which his views are so fully and distinctly stated, that I cannot resist the temptation of quoting it. "The cause of life spiritual in us, is Christ not carnally or corporally inhabiting, but dwelling in the soul of man, as a thing which (when the mind apprehendeth it) is said to inhabit or possess the mind. The mind conceiveth Christ by hearing the doctrine of Christianity, as the light of nature doth the mind to apprehend those truths

* Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity, Book v. sections 21, 22. In the latter, it is observed, “Many hear the books of God and believe them not. Howbeit their unbelief in that case we may not impute unto any weakness or insufficiency in the means which is used toward them, but to the wilful bent of their obstinate hearts against it. With minds obdurate nothing prevaileth. As well they that preach, as they that read unto such, shall still have cause to complain with the prophets which were of old: Who will give credit unto our teaching? But with whom ordinary means will prevail, surely the power of the Word of God, even without the help of interpreters in God's Church, worketh mightily, not unto their confirmation alone, which are converted, but also to their conversion, which are not."

which are merely rational, so that saving truth, which is far above the reach of human reason, cannot otherwise, than by the Spirit of the Almighty be conceived. All these are implied whensoever any of them is mentioned as the cause of the spiritual life. Wherefore, if we read that the spirit is our life; or the word our life; or Christ our life; we are in every of these to understand our life is Christ, by the hearing of the gospel apprehended as a Saviour, and assented unto by the power of the Holy Ghost. The first intellectual conceit and comprehension of Christ so embraced, St. Peter calleth the seed whereof we be new born: our first embracing of Christ, is our first reviving from the state of death and condemnation. He that hath the Son, hath life, saith St. John, and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life."*

The preceding remarks and quotations may be regarded as forming an appropriate introduction to another subject intimately connected with them, which has undergone a very elaborate discussion in the Oxford Tracts. The subject to which I allude, is that of baptismal regeneration.

As controversies upon similar points are often found to have their periodical seasons of extinction and resuscitation; so is this a revival of one which has already been keenly agitated. The cycle, however, in the present instance has been of unusually short duration. Exactly twenty years have elapsed since I was called upon to deliver my primary Charge. In consequence

* Hooker's Works P. 504. Folio.

of the division of sentiment which then prevailed upon this subject, I took occasion to state my own views in reference to it, in the hope of allaying the heat of theological contention, and producing an approximation between the conflicting parties. Little did I then imagine that before one generation had passed away, this cause of strife should have been repeated.

The subject of baptismal regeneration, even in the case of adults, is not without its difficulties; and I cannot help thinking that those, who are most capable of estimating their nature and extent, will be the least disposed to dogmatize upon it. But in the case of infants these difficulties are greatly enhanced. It seems, therefore, to have been a most injudicious proceeding to open again, within so short a period, the discussion of a question, which has already occasioned so much debate, and which can never be brought to an amicable issue in any other way than by leaving the wise, the pious, and the learned, in unmolested possession of their own conscientious convictions.

There are two ways, as it appears to me, in which the expressions contained in our baptismal service for infants may be reconciled with scripture, with reason and with experience. One is by supposing that in the sacrament of baptism, the initial grace or primary seed of regeneration is implanted indiscriminately, by virtue of its divine institution, in all to whom it is rightly administered while matter of fact too plainly demonstrates, that, whether from the prevalence of innate corruption, or from the neglect of parents and sponsors, or


from both causes combined, in the incalculably great majority of cases, the seed is smothered, and those, who have partaken of this ordinance in their infancy, do not "lead the rest of their lives according to that beginning." The other is, that this service is constructed, like all the other services of our Church, upon the charitable presumption that the parties, who are responsible for, and interested in the spiritual welfare of the infant, present it at the laver of regeneration, in the true faith and sincere profession of the gospel; and, upon this presumption, we infer that the sacred ordinance has been accompanied by the renewing of the Holy Ghost; until, when the infant shall have attained to years of discretion, it brings forth none of the genuine fruits of the Spirit. In the former case; if the first spark of the divine life has been smothered, it must be rekindled. In the latter; if it has never been communicated, it must, for the first time, be imparted because we are assured by him, who is infallible truth, that except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Which of these two hypotheses is the correct one, it probably is not too much to affirm that no penetration, or learning, or ingenuity of man will ever be able to decide with unerring certainty. But, to advert to a consideration of infinitely greater practical moment, for the failure in each case, the gracious and merciful dispensation of the gospel has made adequate provision.

This brings us to the examination of two points, with regard to which the views of the author of the tracts on baptism appear to me not only fundamentally erroneous,

« PrécédentContinuer »