« AnteriorContinuar »
been found by plentiful experience a nurse of formality and irreligion. At the same time declaring his judgment, with a particular eye to the churches of New England, that the power of godliness will be lost, if only doctrinal knowledge and outward behaviour come to be accounted sufficient for a title to all church-privileges ; and the use of practical confessions and examinations of men's spiritual estate be laid aside. For (says he) that which people see to be publicly required and held in reputation, that will they look after, and usually no more. In another place he observes, this will not only lose the power of godliness, but in a little time bring in profaneness, and ruin the churches, these two ways. (1.) Election of ministers will soon be carried by a formal looser sort. (2.) The exercise of discipline will by this means be impossible.—And discipline failing, profaneness riseth like a food. Agreeably he says elsewhere, Certain it is, that we stand for the purity of the churches, when we stand for such qualifications as we do, in those whom we would admit to full communion; and do withstand those notions and reasonings that would infer a laxness therein, which hath apparent peril in it. In sum (says be) we make account that we shall be near about the middle-way of church reformation, if we keep baptism within the compass of the non-excommnicable, and the Lord's supper within the compass of those that have (unto charity) somewhat of the power of godliness, or grace in exercise. For Mr. Mitchel, as he thought faith in the special and lively EXERCISE thereof necessary to a safe and comfortable participation of the Lord's supper, so he judged an appearance of this unto rational charity, judging by positive sensible signs and evidences, justly required in order to admission into full communion. Whereas he thought baptism annexed to initial faith, or faith in the being of it; the charitable judgment whereof (says he)runs upon a great latitude ; and he conceived the same strictness, as to outward signs, not necessary unto a charitable probable judgment, or hope of the being of faith, which entitles to baptism, as of that growth and special exercise of faith, which is requisite to the Lord's supper. These are the main distinctions, on which he grounded his opinion of a different latitude of the two sacraments. For I must observe, as strenuously as he pleads for a various extent, as to the subject of them, he never supposes any adult regularly admittable to either sacrament, but such as in ecclesiastical reputation sustain the character of believers; such as in the account of a rational charity (judging by probable signs) have the being of regeneration; or as he variously expresses it, have true faith, in the judgment of charity; and do in some measure perform the duties of faith and obedience, as to church-visibility and charitable hope; and therefore are such as the church ought to receive and hold as heirs of the grace of life, according to the rules of Christian charity. Though it seems, as Mr. Shepard before him speaks of his church-charity and experimental charity; so Mr. Mitchel had his positive charity and his ne. gative, and conducted his judgment and administrations accordingly, in admitting persons to the one sacrament or the other. I should not have been so prolix and particular here, but that I thought it might serve to prepare the way for a more easy, short, and intelligible answer to your remaining queries.
Question IV. Whether it be the general opinion of Protestant churches and divines, in the case of adult persons, that the terms of admission to both sacraments are the same ?
ANSWER. I presume, Sir, the question does not respect a sameness in the degree of qualifications, experiences, and evidences; but only a sameness in kind, or for the substance and general nature of things. I suppose you had no view here to any such critical distinction as that before mentioned, between an initial faith and a grown faith ; or between the simple being of faith, which entitleth to baptism, and the special exercise of faith, which fits for the Lord's supper ; nor aim at a nice adjustment of the several characters of visibility, or motives of credibility, in the one case and the other; but only intend in general to inquire, whether persons admittable to one or other sacrament, ought to profess true justifying faith, and not be admitted on the profession of any faith of a kind inferior and specifically different. Now, taking this to be the scope of your question, I have good reason to apprehend, that the generality of Protestant churches and divines, of the Calvinistic persuasion especially, have declared themselves for the affirmative.
I think all that hold the visible Christian church ought to consist of such as make a visible and credible profession of faith and holiness, and appear to rational charity real members of the church invisible, (which is the common language of Protestants,) are to be understood as in principle exploding the conceit of a conscious unbeliever's right before God to special church-ordi. nances, and as denying the apparent unbeliever's right before the church to admission, whether to one sacrament or the other. I observe, Eadem est ratio utriusque sacramenti, is a maxim in its general notion) espoused by the several contending parties in this controversy about a right to sacraments.
That a credible profession of saving faith and repentance is necessary to baptism, in the case of the adult, I can shew, by the authority of Claude's approved Defence of the Reformation, to be the general opinion of French Protestants ; and by
the Palatine Catechism, by the Leyden professors' Synopsis, &c. to be the prevailing judgment of the Reformed in Germany, Holland, and foreign parts.
And for the Dissenters in England, that they are in general of the same judgment, I might prove from the Assembly of Divines' Confession, Catechisms and Directory; and from the Heads of Agreement assented to by the United Ministers, formerly distinguished by the names of Presbyterian and Congregational; as also by a large induction of particular instances among divines of every denomination, would it not carry me to too great a length. I find Mr. Lob (in his True Dissenter) assuring us in general, “ It is held by the Dissenters, that nothing less than the profession of a saving faith gives right to baptism." Nor do I see by their writings of a later date and most in vogue, any just grounds to suppose a general change of sentiments among them. I will mention two or three moderns of distinguished name. Dr. Harris (in his Self-Dedication) tells us, The nature of the Lord's supper plainly supposes faith ; and that none but real Christians have right in the sight of God; though a credible profession entitles to it in the sight of the church, who cannot know the heart. And he declares it the same faith, which qualifies the adult, both for baptism and for the Lord's supper ; there being the same common nature to both sacraments, and the latter only a recognizing the former. The late Dr. Watts (in his Holiness of Times, Places, and People,) says, The Christian church receives none but upon profession of true faith in Christ, and sincere repentance; none but those who profess to be members of the invisible church, and in a judgment of charity are to be so esteemed. Our entrance into it is appointed to be by a visible profession of our being born of God, of real faith in Christ, of true repentance, and inward holiness. In fine, to name no more, Dr. Doddridge in his Family Expositor, on Acts viii. 37,) supposes a credible profession of their faith in Christ required of the adult in apostolic times, in order to their being admitted to baptism; even such (says he) as implied their cordially subjecting their souls to the gospel, and their being come to a point, so as to give up themselves to Christ with all their heart.
And for the church of Scotland, Mr. Anderson, who well understood their principles and practice, assures us (in his Desence of them,) that Presbyterians will not baptize without a previous profession or sponsion. To the adult (says he) it is not only necessary (as it is also in infants) that they be internally sanctified, but also that they make an outward profession, of which baptism is the badge and token. To justify this, he observes concerning the Catechumens in primitive times, that
during all that state they were probationers, not only as to their knowledge, but piety; and were obliged, before they could be admitted to baptism, to give moral evidences of the grace of God in their hearts. And he advances it as a Presbyterian principle, that faith and repentance are pre-required to baptism, in adult persons at least. By this he points out the true matter of baptismal profession: And then in opposition to such as pretend baptism to be a converting ordinance, he observes, If they can have faith and repentance without the Spirit and spiritual regeneration, which they say is not obtained but in and by baptism, I do not see why they may not go to heaven without the Spirit and spiritual regeneration : For I am sure, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, is the sum of the gospel.-Mr. Warden, another of their noted writers, (in his Essay on Baptism, says in the name of Presbyterians, we think that baptism supposeth men Christians ; else they have no right to baptism, the seal of Christianity; all seals in their nature, supposing the thing that is sealed. He that is of adult age, is to profess his faith in Christ and his compliance with the whole device of salvation, before he can have the seal of the covenant administered to him. The author of the Defence of National Churches (thought to be Mr. Willison) says, I know nothing more requisite to admission to the Lord's supper, in foro ecclesiastico, than unto baptism in an adult person ; they being both seals of the same covenant. And he thinks the objects of church-fellowship are “ all who profess to accept the offers of Christ's grace, with subjection to his ordinances, and a suitable walk, and who con. fess themselves sincere."
I have reserved Mr. Baxter for my last witness, because his attestation is comprehensive and of a general aspect. In his Disputations of Right to Sacraments, and other writings, he repeatedly declares, “It hath been the constant principle and practice of the universal church of Christ, to require a profession of saving faith and repentance, as necessary before they would baptize; and not to baptize any upon the profession of any lower kind of faith. He must shut his eyes against the fullest evidence of history and church-practice, who will deny this. I desire those otherwise minded to help me to an instance of any one approved baptism, since Christ's time or his apostles upon the account of a faith that was short of justifying, and not upon the profession of a justifying faith. Hitherto this is not done by them, but the contrary is fully done by others, and yet they confidently except against my opinion as a novelty. Mr. Gataker's books have multitudes of sentences recited out of our Protestant divines, that affirm this which they call new. It is indeed the common Protestant doctrine, that the sacraments do presuppose remission of sins, and our faith ; that they are instituted to sig. nify these as in being; and do solemnize and publicly own and confirm the mutual covenant already entered in heart. The Je. suits themselves do witness this to be the ordinary Protestant doctrine. It seems not necessary to mention the judgment of our reformed divines, as expressed in any of their particular sayings, when their public confession and practices are so satisfactory herein.” Mr. Baxter, however, recites a multitude of their tes. timonies; producing the judgment of Luther, Calvin, Beza, Peter Martyr, Piscator, Melancthon, Altingius, Junius, Polanus, Zanchius, Ursinus, Paræus, Bucanus, Musculus, professores Leyd. et Salm: Wollebius, Vossius, Wendeline, Keckerman, Bullinger, Alsted, Deodate, Dr. Ames, Dr. Moulin: The Catechism of the Church of England, and English divines; Bp. Usher, Dr. Willet, Dr. Fulk, Dr. Prideaux, Dr. Whitaker, Mr. Yates, Perkins, Cartwright, &c. : The Scottish Church in their Heads of Churchpolicy, and Divines of Scotland ; Mr. Gillespie, Mr. Rutherford, and Mr. Wood: The Westminster Assembly of Divines; their Confession, Cathechisms, and Directory: The Annot. of some of those divines, &c. And for the reformed churches in general (Mr. Baxter observes,) it is past all question, by their constant practice, that they require the profession of a saving Christian faith, and take not up with any lower. And respecting the then practice in England, he says, This is manifest by our daily administration of baptism. I never heard (says he) any man baptize an infant but upon the parent's or susceptor's, or offerer's profession of a justifying faith.
This leads to your last inquiry.
QUESTION V. Whether it be the general opinion, that the same qualifications are required in a parent bringing his child to baptism, as in an adult person for his own admission to this ordinance ?
ANSWER. Here, Sir, I suppose you intend only the same qualifications in kind; or a profession and visibility, in some degree, of the same sort of faith and repentance; meaning that which is truly evangelical and saving. And understanding you in this sense, I am persuaded, by all I can observe, that the generality of Protestants are in the affirmative; not assenting to a specific and essential difference, whatever circumstantial and gradual disparity they may allow, between the two cases you mention.
Mr. Baxter, speaking of the judgment and practice of the Christian fathers, tells us, that faith (justifying faith, and not another kind of faith) was supposed to be in the parent, for him.