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'bring thee to the inheritance of everlasting life. Amen.* tVheatley't Rational Illustration of the Book of Common Prayer. 8vo. p. 361.
In the office for the ministration of private baptism, it is ordained, that if the child afterwards live, it is to be brought into the Church, that the Congregation may be certified of its legitimate baptism. The words which the Minister is ordered to use on the occasion, are the following: 'I certify you, that im this case all is well done, and according unto due order, concerning the baptizing of this child; who being born in original sin, and in the wrath of God, is now by the laver of regeneration in Baptism, received into the number of the children of God and heirs of everlasting life.' In perfect accordance with this language, the Catechism, which is entitled,' An Instruction to be learned of every person 'before he be brought to be confirmed by the Bishop,' directs the child to answer the question, by affirming that in baptism he
* was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an in
*heritor of the kingdom of heaven.' To words so expressive and unequivocal as these, no figurative meaning, one would think, could be attached. The Catechism was framed for children; for the instruction of the uninformed and unintelligent; for those who, unable to appreciate nice distinctions or to dive into remote meanings, can receive words only in their obvious import. For these persons it was originally designed by its authors and its imposers. And in this, the simple and natural sense of those words, has the answer uniformly been given by thousands and tens of thousands of ignorant, wretched beings, during the two hundred and fifty years that the Catechism has been enforced by law. And thus has the delusion been sanctioned, that they were, in consequence of baptism,' members of 'Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of 'heaven,'—in fact, Christians ;—entitled, as such, and in consequence of their baptismal regeneration, to have the burial service read over their bodies at their interment, which declares their death to be a deliverance ' from the miseries of this sinful 'world,' and that God,' of his great mercy,' hath taken their •ouls ' unto Himself.' For the Rubric directs, that the burial service is not to be read over any that die unbaptized, which has been thought to furnish sufficient evidence as to the light in which the Church of England views the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. Yet, according to Mr. Scott and Mr. Biddulph, this fatal delusion arises after all from mere mistake, owing to the words in the Ritual being rather too strongly figurative, or founded upon the charitable hypothesis, that the baptized members of the Church were really regenerate persons j and if these poor creatures had but examined tht Article*, or
Bishop Bradford, they would have found out their mistake before Eternity discovered it. But they never heard of the hypothesis; never met with, or never read, Bishop Bradford's Tract; and so they understood the language of the Church as the ejected clergymen understood it, though they reasoned differently upon , it\ and thus, like Dr. Mant,they were led to believe that Baptismal Regeneration is the doctrine of the Bible; and to be,off, less than he is,' sure\ that at any rate ' it is the doctrine of the «■ Church of England.'
Can the Evangelical clergy, while disclaiming this doctrine, and vainly attempting to reconcile the ' popish liturgy', as Lord Chatham termed it, of the Prayer-book, with a ' Calvinistic 'Creed,'—can they reflect without shuddering, on the fact of the multitudes that have been misled, filially inis'ed, and sealed up in impenitence, by the supposed misconstruction of the Ritual of the Church to which they belong? Is there any evil to be apprehended from the prevalence of Sectarianism, that can, vuj in fearful magnitude of accumulation and extent, with this secret but damning mischief? Do they not know what a fatal advantage the ecclesiastical " hireling" derives from the countenance and authority thus at least seemingly given to the pernicious fallacies with which, in the language of the Church he serves, he smooths the pillows of the dying? And can they conscientiously maintain, that this is no reason for Nonconformity?
It is no part of our object in entering upon the controversy, to determine the doctrine of the Bible, on the subject of Regeneration. Among the Nonconformist divines, that has never been an obscure or a disputed point. Nor will it be necessary to follow Mr. Scott or Mr. Biddulph, through all the quotations from ecclesiastical authorities, which are adduced to disprove the truth of Dr. Mant's positions. Whatever those good and great men believed to be the truth, or whatever they understood to be the doctrine of their Church, we cannot admit them as evidence, in determining the fact of the obvious and generally received meaning of the language of that Church, both in the very office for administering the rite of Baptism, and in that popular form of instruction in which she more especially addresses herself to the capacities of the young, and of the lower classes.
Among Dissenters, there exists no controversy on the subject of Regeneration: that controversy is wholly confined to the Establishment. In our opinion, Dr. Mant completely proves his assertion, that the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration, as explained by the Bishop of Lincoln*, is the doctrine of the Church of England. Mr. Scott and Mr. Biddulph are equally successful
'-* *- * Those who are baptized, are immediately translated from the **c(irse of Adam to the grace of Christ: the original guilt which Vol. V.N. S. Mm
in proving that it is not the doctrine of the Bible. We must leave them to explain how the different parties, holding doctrines so opposite,and of so essential importance in their bearing upon Christian holiness and Christian hope, can conscientiously agree to unite in the same ecclesiastical establishment, the very principle and purpose of which, is perfect uniformity in matters of faith. 'The Church,' it is well kno .\n,' hath power to decide' the controversy: but no Dissenter can cherish the wish, that the present Head of that Church should, at the suggestion of any mitred, antt-Calvinist, re-invest the Convocation with legislative functions, and enforce peace upon the Bartlett's Buildings Society, by expounding the doctrine, and terminating the discussion by authority. We rejoice unfeignedly that the days of Convocations are past; and in this respect we rejoice not less in their security as Churchmen, than in our own liberty as Dissenters.
In congratulating Dr. Mant's opponents, on their security, rather than on their consistency, as ministers of the Establishment, •we shall not, we trust, be understood as insinuating, in the remotest manner, a suspicion that the Evangelical clergy are not sincerely persuaded that their representation of the doctrine of the Church is correct. Their own explanation of the confessedly strong language of the Ritual and of the Catechism, is, we have no doubt, quite sufficient to reconcile them to the necessity they are under of perpetually using it. They certainly believe, that what they explain that language to mean, was really intended by the Church; although they concede, that it is a very different question ' whether her mode of expression is best caf1 culated to convey that intention.' We may, indeed, be allowed to wonder that they can be of this opinion; and we are led to account for it, partly on the ground of a natural indisposition ' after vows to make enquiry,'' which places them in the most unfavourable circumstances for coming to an unbiassed decision, and partly by their attachment to the National Church, which leads them anxiously to wish to identify its doctrines on, all points with Scripture. Were their assent and consent to the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration, as explained by Dr. Mant, to be peremptorily required as a condition of remaining in the Establishment, it would be unwarrantable to suppose that numbers of the pious clergy would not resign, how reluctantly soever,
* they brought into the world is mystically washed away; and they 'receive forgiveness of the actual sins which they may themselves 'have committed; they become reconciled to God, partakers of the. « Holy Ghost, and heirs of eternal happiness.' Refutation of Catp. 83. See Scott on the Effect of Baptism, p. 81.
their preferments in the Church, as the ejected clergy in the days of Charles the Second did. But so long as they can avail themselves of the help of hypothesis and conjectural explanation, and opposite citations, to render it so far doubtful "what the Church intended in the service, that her expressions may be used in a meauing they will not fairly admit of, it cannot be expected that they will dare refuse conformity, and incur the guilt of schism.
Differences of opinion and infirmities of judgement in the best of men, experience teaches us to expect, and our principles as Dissenters dispose us to tolerate. But there is something unavoidably painful to an ingenuous mind, in witnessing the expedients to which excellent men are reduced in order to vindicate their conduct from the appearance of inconsistency. It af-.fords their adversaries a mortifying advantage, that they can quote the language of the Church in its obvious import, without note or comment, and tauntingly reproach the Evangelical clergy with striving to accommodate that language to their own religious tenets. Mr. Simeon confesses that the language of the Ritual is stronger than could be desired. Mr. Scott acknowledges that the Church 'speaks of every person whom she has 'baptized as regenerate:' but then, it is upon a hypothetical 'assumption, present or future, of their spiritual regeneration:' it is upon a supposition that the persons to whom these rites are administered, were' devout in the prayers in which they had 4 been joining, sincere in the vows which they had been making.' This supposition, be it remembered, is presumed to have been in the minds of the framers of this 'awful form,' in composing a Baptismal service for a whole nation I Is this credible upon any other ground than a further supposition, that they looked upon an external communion with an ecclesiastical institute, as really involving a spiritual participation of Christ?
Mr. Biddulph, however, understands the words in the Baptismal service' in an absolute sense,' grounded on a lower de'fiuition of baptismal regeneration:' but both he and Mr. Scott' assume, that there is something also supposititious in the 'mind of the Church, as to spiritual regeneration.' 'Is there 'any impropriety or contradiction,' gravely adds an ingenious Reviewer, 'in supposing that the framers of our invaluable 'prayers had respect to both views in their use of the term "regenerated by the Holy Ghost ?"' Alas! alas! And must these invaluable prayers be at last explained by conjectures, and defended by suppositions? and would such men as Mr. Scott, if once discharged from the obligation of their vows, ever imagine themselves authorized by hypothetical reasonings in reading the Baptismal service over an infant, the office for the Visitation of the Sick over an impenitent, or the Burial service over a profligate? It is impossible to suppose that the language of the Church of England in her Ritual, is such as the opponents of Dr. Mant would have chosen as the expression of their own belief. How then can it receive their unfeigned assent and consent? Mr. Bugg contends that' the literal interpretation of the 4 language of the baptismal office, and its universal application 4 to all persons receiving it, cannot be supported.' Why? Because, as he affirms,
« The baptismal office, like all the other offices, and Liturgy of the Church, was constructed for worthy receivers, and the benefits of course, mustbe confined to such.'' She is all along speaking of Christ's institution; to Christ's Church of " faithful men," and of the promise which Christ has made to those who, with a right spirit, wish to enter into it; and although it be too true, that, " in the visible Church the "evil be ever mingled with the good;" (29th Article) yet the Church knows them not. She otons them not.' p. 71—67.
Mr. Bugg concedes, that upon any other supposition, that is, if Dr. Mant's interpretation of the office is just, the Church is convicted of absurdity, and of inconsistency at once with herself, with the Scriptures, and with common sense. But surely Mr. Bugg is charging upon the Church a still grosser absurdity. He is accusing his Church of composing a national liturgy, and offices, designed to be indiscriminately administered, not at the discretion of the clergy, but to all sorts and conditions of men, the 4 literal interpretation'' of which cannot be supported; the literal interpretation of which would involve absurdity and impiety! Although the Church of England is so identified with the political constitution, that its whole system of discipline and of government is political;—although, at the period of its establishment by law, to dissent from her was considered as a civil offence, and involved the severest penalties ;—yet,4 the universal 'application' of its language cannot be supported. Though enforced upon all, it was constructed, it seems, but for a few. 'She had only a spiritual service in her mind,' in establishing a temporal institute. Her design was to compel men to become true Christians; not to come to Church as good citizens. As to the multitudes who in every age she foresaw would come to her sacraments, misled by ignorant notions of their efficacy, or guided by merely secular motives, it is enough to say,' The 4 Church knows them not, she owns them not!!'—What miserable sophistry is this! How palpable a self-refutation does such a statement furnish, with regard to the plain fact! Whatever was designed by the original framers of the offices of the Church, (a point, however, which we do not consider as doubtful,) the intention of those who decreed its rites and ceremonies