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THE CHURCH CATECHISM.
obligations ? Not one. Reader, are you a sponsor, and have you succeeded in any one instance in procuring the special grace of God for the children you became surety for ? If not, remember that scripture, “Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thon shouldest vow and not pay.”—Eccl. v. 5.
Besides, on what authority is the use of sponsors made to rest ? Certainly we do not read of such an order of persons in scripture. The Ethiopian eunuch was baptized without sponsors. So was Lydia. So were all whose baptism is recorded in the New Testament. It is freely admitted that the use of sponsors is a very ancient custom, nor can we point out the precise time when it began to prevail
, but the practice is unauthorised by the letter of scripture, and contrary to its spirit. Every person who knows his right hand from his left is personally responsible to God, nor is it possible for his responsibility to be shifted to another party, and if it were possible, those who know the nature and amount of their own deficiency will not be forward to become responsible for others.
My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger, thou art 'snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth.”—Prov. vi. 1, 2. “He that hateth suretyship is sure.”—Prov. xi. 15.
As to the antiquity of the custom, it is not so ancient as the days of the apostles, for we find no mention of it in their writings, and even those who plead the authority of the fathers, make no scruple themselves in contravening it, for, as Gibbon says, (Decline and Fall, ch. xx. sec. 3, note) “One circumstance may be observed, in which the modern churches have materially departed from the ancient custom; the sacrament of baptism, even when it was administered to infants, was immediately followed by confirmation and the holy communion.”
But at any rate, all parents whose children attend a church school should immediately withdraw them, if their children have not been baptized, or if they have been baptized without sponsors, otherwise the children will be compelled, twice over every time they repeat the catechism, to assert what they know, or may know, to be a direct falsehood. For how can a child say that his sureties gave him his name, if no one ever stood surety for him? How can he say that his godfathers and godmothers promised and vowed three things in his name, if he never had any godfathers and godmothers ? Is it nothing to you, nonconformist parents, that your children should be taught to confound the distinction between truth and falsehood ? Is it nothing to you, ye who have authority in the church, to incur the responsibility of training the infant mind to a disregard of truth ? Is it nothing to you, legislators of the land, whether your enactments have a tendency to purify or corrupt the infant mind ? “ Question.—What meanest thou by this word sacrument ?
THE CHURCH CATECHISM.
Answer.--I mean an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us, ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and a pledge to assure us thereof.
Question. How many parts are there in a sacrament ?
Answer.-Two; the outward visible sign, and the inward spiritual grace."
In the former question the word sacrament is meant to designate the sign only, in the latter it includes both the sign and the thing signified. Of course there can be no objection to the use of a word in any sense, if it be distinctly understood what is meant by it, but it is peculiarly unfortuuate that this word should be employed at one time to mean nothing more than the outward visible sign, and at another time to mean both the outward sign and the inward grace; for it tends much to the confounding of the two, and encourages the tendency there is in human nature to rest in mere ceremonial observances. And thus many are flattered to believe that they have a name to live while they are dead. But this is not all. It even looks as if the framers of the catechism and liturgy were lamentably deceived themselves, or had an intention of deceiving others. For let any one examine the prayer offered up after the baptism of an infant. “We yield thee most hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to regenerate this Infant with thy Holy Spirit, to receive him for thine own Child by adoption, and to incorporate him into thy holy Church !" And that baptism and nothing else, is supposed to be the means of effecting this mighty change is evident from the prayer offered before the baptism. “Give thy Holy Spirit to this Infant that he may be born again.” Thus the child is supposed after baptism to be born again, and before baptism not to be born again!
Let children have their minds thoroughly imbued with such sentiments, and is it likely that when they come to years of understanding they will feel the force of our Lord's solemn words, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God"? John iii. 3.
But are infants born again by baptism, or are they not? If they are, why is there no difference in point of moral character between baptized and unbaptized young people? If they are not, why do the catechism and liturgy make void the word of God ?
But no, it is not by baptism that regeneration is effected. A settled aversion from God hath fastened its roots in the very spirit of the human mind. Men by nature are "alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them.” Ephesians iv. 18. They do not like to retain God in their knowledge, they say to him, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways." Job xxi. 14. Their understandings are dark, their minds vain, their wills obstinate, their consciences seared, their hearts hard, their lives one continued act of rebellion against
God. Hence it is most evident that if any of us would enter the place where there is nothing that defileth, or that maketh a lie, we must be renewed in the spirit of our minds. (Eph. iv. 23.) We must be made new creatures-old things must pass away and all things become new. (2 Cor. v. 17.) This change, and not our being baptized, is regeneration, and without this none can enter the kingdom of heaven. Your baptism, dear reader, will avail you nothing if you have not undergone this change. It is not by means of baptism that it is produced, nor is your baptism any pledge that it has been, or will be effected in you.
No. The stains of our guilt are too foul for the waters of baptism to wash away, but “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” 1 John i. 7 The outward visible sign is one thing, the inward spiritual grace is another. To suppose you have the latter because the former has been administered, is a delusion. To join in giving thanks over baptized infants as regenerated beings is a mockery. To call the administration of baptism a sacrament, and then to define that sacrament as embracing both the sign and the thing signified, is
“Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Gal. iii. 26.
BY AN ESSEX HEDGER, AGED SEVENTY.SEVEN YEARS.
No name is so dear and delightful to me,
COMPASSION eternal, unbounded, and free,
How blessed, dear Saviour, are those who now see,
T hat Jesus has liv'd and has died to save me,
How ardent the love of the Saviour must be,
ANECDOTES, SELECTIONS, AND GEMS.
Anecdotes, Selections, and Gems.
What if you
Hitting THE NAIL.-I once went set you down at the days of the to listen to the holding forth of a apostles,
very nearly.” Then right reverend bishop, at the conse- comes another, or if you like, the cration of a church, when it came same party, who would adopt the to pass that, instead of proclaiming same course, in order to give yon the glad tidings of salvation, which satisfaction that you certainly don't might have served to the edifying need to be “buried with Christ in of the church of Christ, the entire baptism," as the sprinkling of a few purpose, I was concerned to find, drops “will do;" and here, again, went to pull down the “house, you shall have evidence, such as it hovel, or barn,” of the hapless is, up to the epoch of those same voluntaries, in order the more effec. days " very nearly." tually to build up the cathedral. A could trace infant sprinkling up to learned induction of historical facts the apostle's days, both very nearly were searched out to demonstrate and altogether, (which, however, that the institution of diocesan has not yet been done by a good episcopacy might be traced very long inch) nevertheless, even then nearly up to the days of the apostles. you would not hit the nail upon the This reminded me of a transaction head, except very nearly.” The which I once witnessed. An nin apostles themselves inform you that fledged carpenter was making some even in their days “the mystery of very industrious attempts at nail- iniquity was at work, and already driving in the putting up of some there were many antichrists." But sheep-pens in the public street. trace an institution, if you can, up “ Hit the nail on the bead, boy !" | to the authority of Christ and his said a passer by. “He does very apostles, and you hit the nail upon nearly, sir,” said the boy's master, the head. Bul, again, without kindly, as he commencer an exhi. this, trace as you may, you hit it bition ot his own niore certain not at all; the most that can be tactics. Well, thought I, hitting said is that the thing has been acthe nail on the head “ very nearly" complished " very nearly," and, will not send the nail home, accord- saith the proverb of the ancients, ing to my notion. And yet, some & miss is as good as a mile.” of our most deft and experienced Strange that the commodity called hands who have busied themselves common sense shall have fair play in church matters, while professing in the driving, age, and clenching to hit the nail on the head, have too, of a paltry nail, while in the succeeded in doing the thing only most important concerns it shall
very nearly.” There is one who have no place! It will be much if will undertake to show that, in the those who are content with hitting affair of baptism, for instance, faith, the nail " very nearly” do not make repentance, and the answer of a the discovery that they have been good conscience, are not once to be bruising their own fingers, and the mentioned, and that, by all means, fingers of many besides. I, for the rite must be administered to one, shall take leave to dissent from subjects who are incapable of either, all such proceedings, even in a and, when you ask for the proof, bishop, whether in a cathedral or they will row you along up the elsewhere ; and whoever handles stream of church history, and then the hammer, my “humble petition