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The Hypothetical Principle.—Ministerial Addresses.
We shall not now bring evidence in proof of this principle, as we shall hereafter consider it more at large; but shall take it as admitted by our author, and proceed to show how it bears on ministerial instruction. We shall consider what sort of direction it will fairly give to the doctrines and addresses of ministers among a baptised people. This question has become more particularly interesting, because some consider, that ministers of our church are bound in consistency, and many think, in spiritual fidelity, to take the character of " baptismal regeneration" as a sort of guide or key to all their pulpit and private addresses.
A considerable volume has been, not long ago, published, * which undertakes to prove the necessity, and to exemplify the value and importance of preaching frequently the doctrine of spiritual regeneration in baptism. Of so much importance does the author deem this course to be, that if pursued, it would in his view be the means of national reformation. But from this theory we must beg liberty to dissent. We shall first just refer to the hypothetical nature of regeneration, and then proceed to our particular subject.
This respected writer, without naming the principle, states its nature in the following manner :-" The general principle of the reformed churches, is, that salvation is by promise, that the promise is sealed by baptism, and that the worshipping church, consisting of baptised members, is, in the judgment of charity, and in the exercise of faith, a communion of saints, and a portion of the holy universal Church of Christ on earth."
This principle, as we have just shewn, is that on which, we believe, our church proceeds, and on which she ac
By Mr. Budd: whose line of argument is pursued by Professor Pusey, 176: and more strongly still by Mr. Dodsworth. We need not make the subject more complex by quotations from each of these writers : for if Mr. Budd's hypothesis cannot stand, much less can theirs.
cepts persons into her communion by baptism, and pronounces their regeneration; such pronunciation being of necessity subject to the uncertainty of the conditions on which it is made. The church accepts the profession of character as real, and pronounces her blessings on that charitable assumption. She supposes, assumes, and takes as granted, the truth and sincerity of the profession made, and then declares and announces the promises which properly belong to such sincerity of profession. This is what is meant by the “hypothetical principle.” Let us now consider
The Doctrine which arises from it.
If what we have just stated be the mode in which our 'church admits her members, we must expect that they should be treated consistently with it to the end of their course. The author already alluded to, endeavours to shew this by a reference to our church services; and he states, that she treats them as believers, and leads their devotions in a truly spiritual manner, as if they were all real saints, though he admits, as the church also teaches, that they are not all so. And he also justly supposes, that she does this from its being utterly impossible to compose a liturgy for believers and unbelievers, for saints and fellow creatures,” which had lately been attempted for holy church and natural men.
And he further argues thus :-" They must, if they pray in the name of all present, give them credit for being what they profess to be. This is the principle on which every church of Christ is built; and both our church and all the churches of the reformation, are founded on the same; and for this plain reason, because they can be founded on no other. The defect then is not in the principle but in the discipline, which is not sufficiently operative to protect the principle from abuse. This is our chief want, to divide the professed communion of saints from the community of natural men." See Christian Observer for 1834, pp. 413. 663.
But this is not all, for our author enters very largely on the subject of public instruction, and contends, that the preacher should enlarge upon “the baptismal privileges," as all we have to do is “to be just to our advantages.” With respect however to public congregations, he says, that “to address them as really converted without distinction, while they are evidencing these privileges by no corresponding practice, would encourage a false security and confound nature and grace,—and would ascribe to the mere application of the sacrament what is due to the gracious effects actually wrought in the soul.” And it is added.-“On the other hand to address a baptised people as heathens, must be equally a mistake in the contrary extreme. It is admitted, that there are baptised sensualists, baptised extortioners, and baptised infidels; but even these are to be addressed as not without hope. They have been baptised, they have assumed the Christian name, they bear it; they would be offended if you deprived them of it; and we have a right, till they absolutely renounce it, to call upon them for consistency, to show forth the excellency of baptismal privileges, and the due performance of baptismal vows."
- Let this INTERPRETATION BE EXPLAINED AT LARGE FROM THE PULPIT, Let the minister dwell on the manifold advantages which directly and necessarily flow from it. An entirely new light will thus be thrown on all the services of the church.” pp. 381,383, 405.
The piety and pure design of all this no one can doubt; but the wisdom and judgment of what is advanced, is in our view more than questionable. Instead however of discussing questions of minor importance, we shall examine only two, which naturally arise from those quotations,
The FIRST is—Whether what is so warmly recommended be fraught with the manifold advantages that are claimed for it?
We dispute not the necessity, duty and usefulness of early instruction, catechising, praying for and watching over the youthful mind; nor the duty of enforcing on all men the observance of their baptismal vows; nor the duty of encouraging them to believe from the heart all the promises of God which they profess to believe were made to them in their baptism. As to these things we wholly agree with our author: and these are things which belong to every minister, and to every father of a family, let his views be what they may. They are necessarily connected with the relation and office which he sustains, and in no way peculiar to our author's system.
But what we disapprove is the desire of leading people in general to think so much of their baptismal privileges,-to consider baptismal regeneration, as the sound principle of spirituality, by which a life of religion, and reformation of morals are to be expected in our church, by merging a whole audience, without “nice distinctions," into one body as a real communion of saints; while at the same time it is admitted that there may be among them (how many it is not said) baptised sensualists, extortioners and infidels !
Much labour is not necessary to refute a notion so extraordinary. History is here the best testimony. What has been, for more than a century after the restoration of Charles the Second, the doctrine of our pulpits on those points ? Has it not been the doctrine so highly extolled by this author ? And is he not old enough to remember the time, when preaching the necessity of regeneration to persons who have been baptized, or to such as were professors of Christianity in common,” was a rare thing?' Yea, does he forget, that the two tracts on regeneration and conversion, by Dr. Mant, were sent round the land by“ the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge,” as the most hopeful way of putting a stop to the regeneration heresy? And was not regeneration, about twenty years ago, denounced as the watchword of a certain sect? And can be believe that the loss of his interpretation of baptism is now a general thing? And will he not admit, that when " baptismal regeneration" was the general doctrine of our pulpits, all spirituality had well nigh disappeared from our church? Would he then have that semi-popish mode of preaching to become again general in our Protestant land? And what! shall we have this deteriorating and demoralizing mode of preaching introduced again into our churches by those very men, whose piety, diligence, and spirituality have raised the tone of religion and morals throughout our country? And if it has been raised, and we maintain that it has, how very extraordinary it is, that spirituality should advance in the inverse ratio of the means for promoting it !-But we admit, that this reference to history will not be sufficient, if we are required by our church to pursue a different course; then
The second question is,- whether the hypothetical cha
racter of our church's doctrine of regeneration either requires or justifies the method of instruction already mentioned ?
On this subject we consider our author to have gone beyond the Scriptures, beyond the church, and beyond the truth. Though our church, throughout all her rituals, official and devotional, takes for granted that her members are spiritual; yet, in her articles of doctrine, and in her homilies of instruction, she distinguishes, after the example of Christ and His Apostles, between the righteous and the wicked, between the wheat and the tares; or, in other words, between the regenerate and the unregenerate, though baptised into the same religion, and all professing the same faith. And here it is that we deem this author vulnerable; and the difficulty of his system has betrayed him into some unfairness on this point. The following question, in his Catechism, is of this description :
“ And are we to esteem a baptised person as a heathen, till, by a sound conversion, we behold his life of faith, in Christ Jesus, in him ?”
If the writer, as we suppose in this case, has an opponent in view, this question to his opponent is unfair. Who, engaged in this controversy, would allow his view of baptised persons to be thus designated ? It is unfair also to the catechuman, who is hereby led to think, that there is no middle character between a child of God and a heathen. And if so, all the writer's “ unconverted” Christians are heathens, by his own testimony. The answer is this :
“ By no means: the promise having been sealed to him by baptism, he is, in the judgment of faith and charity, a member of Christ, and as such, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven."
“ And how are we to act to such an one?"
“We are not to doubt, but earnestly believe, that he is a child of God by promise: we must wait the calling according to God's purpose, by his Spirit working in due time.” He is a child of God by promise, it seems, and not by regeneration enjoyed !
These sentences show us the difficulty involved in this subject, and the danger we are in, either of diminishing the value and importance of the sacrament of baptism, or of betraying and deluding the souls of our fellow-creatures. Now, the real gist of the subject requires an answer to