Page images

fables, and endless genealogies, which minister questions rather than godly edifying which is in faith. Now the end of the commandmeni is charity out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned: from which some having swerved, have turned aside unto vain janyling.” There cannot be too broad a distinction between the form and the power of godliness. The one is comparatively of little value; the other is absolutely essential to salvation.

We cannot leave a topic, so intimately connected with the vital interests of christianity, without just adverting to a quotation from scripture, in the first of the above extracts, and the exposition of a passage in the “ primitive creed examined.” The bishop says, ihat Christ, before bis ascent, “constituted the apostles his representatives, saying expressly, “behold I give unto you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted to them, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.'” We have here the whole of John xx. 23, appended to a small and incorrectly cited part of Matt. xvi. 18, 19. What Christ is quoted, as "saying expressly,” we have no recollection of his saying at all. These are bis words: “And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven.” We have a right to complain of such mangled citations from the scriptures, by a protestant bishop ; and the pope of Rome, we think, will object to this wresting of a passage which constitutes the only prop of his pontificate. But we have stronger objections to the exposition of a passage in the “creed examined. The bishop says:

• It by no means follows from this, however, (salvation by grace through faith, the gift of God,] that the Holy Spirit operates upon the mind and heart, according to an arbitrary system of election, by which some are saved and others lost, merely through the choice of the Deity. So far from it, that. grace,' to use the emphatic words of the same apostle, 'grace is given to EVERY MAN, to profit withal, and Jesus Christ willeth all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.' The Holy Ghost confers on all who hear the gospel, a measure of his blessed influence, sufficient to enable them to believe and obey ; and if this measure of grace be used aright, more is given, and the supply is continued and increased, so as finally to bring into the highest exercise, every power and faculty of the awakened soul.' p. 140.

This brief notice of the doctrine of election, of which we find nothing more in the work, taken in connection with what follows,

savors strongly of Arminianism, and it will require much ingenuity to make it harmonize with the seventeenth of the thirty-nine articles. But passing this, the words of Paul are misquoted, misinterpreted, and misapplied. He says, not grace, but “the manisestation of the Spirit is given to every man, (that is, christian,) 10 profit withal.” (1 Cor. xii. 7.) “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. There are diversities of gists, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” The apostle adds, “to one is given by ihe Spirit, the word of wisdom ; to another faith; to another the working of miracles, etc." By the same Spirit, miraculous gists, tongues, prophecies, are imparted, but the manifestation of the Spirit, in the diversity of its operations, is given to every christian for the common benefit (spòs so culpépov) of the household of faith.* We have long been astonished, that on this and one or two more perverted texts, should have been reared the fabric of Arminianism: the removal of original sin by the death of Christ; the giving of grace to all men, bringing them into a " salvable” or ball-converted state, and gradual regeneration, by the improvement of this inherent grace. These doctrines are repugnant to scripture and to facts in religious experience. Could it avail any thing, we would enter our solemn protest against such random quotations from the inspired word; such perversions of its meaning; and we might add, the employment of passages enforcing the practical duties of religion, to hang tradition, speculation, and the forms of religion upon. What, for instance, has the necessity of a new birth (Jobn iii. 5.) to do with The Protestant Episcopal church, misunderstood and therefore misrepresented,-infant baptism,-explanation of the sponsor's duty,—sentiments of the primitive fathers, etc.” Yet such topics, utterly foreign to his text, constitute the burden of the bishop's two succeeding lectures. We shall limit our attention, however, in this part of the work, to the more important doctrine of regeneration.

The author complains that the church is misunderstood, and wrongfully accused in regard to many points of faith and practice; but especially concerning the doctrine of regeneration.

We are aware, that Episcopalians of a certain class, are charged with error in regard to the fundamental doctrine of the new birth. We consess too, that we ourselves are of the number of those who fear, that there is too much ground for such an allega

* Vid. Schleusner, and Rosenmueller.

tion. From an examination of the subject of baptism, as set forth in the book of common prayer, and observing the application of this rite in numerous cases, we are not satisfied, that correct views are entertained of this ordinance. The “mystical washing away of sin” by sanctified water, we must regard as a canonical error, however it may plead the sanction of antiquity. We see no evidence that either a child, or adult is, in the sacrament of baptism, born again, "regenerated, and grafted into the body of Christ's church,"_"received into Christ's boly church, and made a living member of the same.' Nor are we convinced by the author's explanations, that his views of this all-important subject accord, to use his own favorite phrase, with “scriptural and apostolic doctrine.” He might have spared half his laborious citations from the primitive fathers, and the great lights of the English reformation, and yet substantiated the fact, that their views of baptisnal regeneration, correspond with his own; but the testimony of primitive fathers has not the authority of scripture, at least not with us ; nor is it certain, that in this matter they have correctly expounded the word of God. But we will give the reader the bishop's own exposition of the doctrine of regeneration.

First, What is regeneration, or the new birth. Secondly, What is a change of heart. And, Thirdly, What place do we assign to this change of heart, in relation to baptism.'

• Regeneration, as presented to us in scripture, signifies that act of divine grace, through Jesus Christ, in which we are received as the sons of God by adoption. By our first generation we are born the children of wrath, in consequence of our corrupt and sinful nature ; and we must be born again in order to become the children of God. cond generation is our regeneration. The great authority on


question is our Lord's assurance to Nicodemus. “ Verily, verily I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”. Now we have here the express declaration of Christ himself, that in the new birth, or the regeneration of the sinner, he is born of water and of the Spirit ; in which it is remarkable that the water is placed first, as if to prove incontestibly that the spiritual adoption follows the application of the water, instead of preceding it.' p. 18.

A change of heart, we are informed, is synonymous with repentance and faith ; and “modern theologians have confounded regeneration with this change."

• When we speak of a change of heart, in a religious sense, we mean much the same as the apostle more correctly describes under the terms, repentance towards God, and faith in [towards our Lord Jesus Christ.' Indeed, repentance, in the original Greek, signifies a change of mind; and in its full application to the sinner, it would import all that the modern and somewhat unscriptural phrase, change of heart, is

This se

supposed to mean. And here is the origin of the whole difficulty in the doctrine of regeneration, that modern writers have thought fit to call repentance by this name, because they conceived that as repentance was the first introduction of spiritual life into the soul, therefore every true penitent was born of God,—born of the Spirit, and consequently regenerate. But a very little reflection on the figurative language employed by our Lord, might have led to a different conclusion. For he refers Nicodemus to the analogy of the natural birth; and we all know, that in the case of the natural man, it is one thing to have lise, and another thing to be born. Nay, we know that in the order of nature, the infant must have life many months before its birth into our world. How simple then, is it to understand that the soul of the sinner must have spiritual life before it can be born into the spiritual world. How plain does it seem that repentance towards God, and faith in [towards] our Lord Jesus Christ, or what is popularly called the change of heart, is not the new birth, nor regeneration ; but in all who are old enough to be the subjects of this change, must, according to the order of grace, GO BEFORE IT.' pp. 19, 20.

We add one passage more. The case is supposed“ of one who has never been baptized, and who is living careless, prayerless, and prosane, without hope and without God in the world.”

This man becomes truly penitent, and “ feels within, and shows outwardly, that a mighty change is passed upon him."

• What should we say of such an one? That he is regenerate ? No. That he is born of God? No. But that he is penitent, contrite, converted, and changed by the power of divine grace, in order that he MAY BECOME REGENERATE, in order that he may be born again in the way appointed by Christ; of water and of the Spirit. The spiritual life is indeed begun, the motions of that life are manifest, but the hour of birth is not yet come.

In due time however, this penitent and converted man presents himself to the minister of God, as a candidate for baptism. He is examined in the principles of the christian faith, and found to be prepared. And then, in the presence of the Most High, and before the assembled congregation of the Lord's people, he solemnly renounces Satan, the vain pomp and glory of the world and the sinful desires of the flesh, prosesses his faith according to the apostolic creed, pledges himself to the performance of the will of God, and after the full surrender of himself, body and soul, to the Redeemer, the minister of Christ, by the authority of his divine Master, pours upon his head the water of baptism. His name is forthwith registered in the book of life; the grace of adoption descends upon him, and he is received into the family of the heavenly King, the child of God, born of water and the Spirit, -regenerate, --forgiven,washed, -sanctified, -the heir of glory,' p. 22.

We shall make a few comments on the doctrine of these passages, after we see its application to the case of infants.

or The change of heart should precede baptism,” in the case of adults, VOL. VIII.


but “ in the case of infants, this change must follow" baptismal regeneration. It is obvious, that repentance and faith must follow infant baptism, because at the time of their dedication, they are incapable of repenting and believing. But in what sense are they regenerated ? He says:

• They [the sponsors) make the solemn renunciation and profession of faith, which in due time devolves upon the infants, and thus they are adopted by Christ, and registered as his own ; their sinful nature is pardoned, a spiritual blessing descends, as a germ of life into their souls ; they are born of water and of the Spirit,-regenerated and made heirs of the heavenly kingdom.

To my mind, therefore, there is no truth more clear, and being myself a parent, there is none more precious, than the doctrine, that the Spirit of God, in receiving the infant consecrated to Christ by baptism, not only adopts him as an heir of immortality, not only grants him the remission of sins, not only registers his name in the book of life, but also gives him a spiritual blessing, which blessing I am willing to understand as the first pulse of spiritual life in his soul,--the earnest, if I may so express myself, of all the future influence of divine grace,—the dawning ray of that heavenly light which is in due time to arise upon his beart as the sun of righteousness,--the germ of sanctification.'

pp. 23, 28.

The bishop admits, that this “ first pulse of spiritual life" in the infant soul will cease, without diligent cultivation ; but he has no doubt, that if the sponsors are faithful, it will in due time result in christian character. We must be permitted to doubt, and even to reject this doctrine of infant regeneration. The scriptures are silent on the subject, and the long array of testimony from the early fathers, is by no means satisfactory. The weight of their authority rests on the nearness of time to the apostles, and the conjecture, that they must have received such a doctrine from these inspired men.

It has no other ground than this for its support. From the character of the apostles, the spirit of the gospel, and the testimony of facts, we guess that the doctrine is false.* This “ germ of life,” and “germ of sanctification,” we regard as the germ of error, and of much mischief. Followed out in its tendency, it would lead a man into the church, in the mere possession of an outward moral character, and correct religious sentiments. Take this view of the new birth, in connection with the

* Some of the old divines degraded the natural character of man below the consequences of the fall. Arminius, but much more his successors, admitting the antinomian error to bave been true before Christ came, sought a remedy in the fiction, that the atonement removed original sin, gave grace to every man, and brought him into " a salvable," or half converted stale. Neither doctrine has any basis but man's device. So extremes of error meet.

« PreviousContinue »