Monday, May 9, 2011

The Baptismal Controversy

In the nineteenth century a major controversy that divided the Church of England and the Protestant Episcopal Church was the baptismal controversy. This controversy centered upon the doctrine of the Baptismal Offices in the English and America Prayer Books. With the exception of the Scottish Prayer Book they were the only two Prayer Books in use at the time. (The Church of Ireland did not adopt its own Prayer Book until disestablishment in 1871.) The controversy was sparked by the adherents of Tractarianism, the Oxford High Church movement led by John Henry Newman, Edward Bouverie Pusey, and others in the Tracts for the Times 1833-1841. The Tractarians asserted that the Baptismal Offices of the two Prayer Books taught the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. In the Church of England the controversy was eventually settled at least officially by the Gorham Judgment, which ruled that baptismal regeneration was not the doctrine of the Church of England.

In the Protestant Episcopal Church the controversy would take a different turn. A number of Evangelical Episcopalians would come to the conclusion that the Tractarians were right in their interpretation of the 1789 Prayer Book. They would at first campaign for the revision of the American Prayer Book. When their calls for Prayer Book revision were snubbed by a General Convention sympathetic to Tractarian principles, they came to the conclusion that their only option was to leave the Protestant Episcopal Church, form a reformed Church, and adopt a reformed Prayer Book. In 1873 they established under the leadership of the former Assistant Bishop of Kentucky, the Right Reverend George David Cummins, the Reformed Episcopal Church. With the formation of this breakaway Church the Protestant Episcopal Church would loose the conservative nucleus of its Evangelical wing. The remaining Evangelical Episcopalians would be absorbed into the Protestant Episcopal Church’s Broad Church wing.

The following articles come from A Protestant Dictionary that was published seventy years after the first of the Tracts for the Times. In the Preface the book’s editors state that the object of A Protestant Dictionary is to provide “a handy work of reference for Protestants on the Romish controversy.” The work was produced under the auspices of the Protestant Reformation Society, and givs special attention to questions involving the Book of Common Prayer and of particular interest to Evangelical members of the Church of England. In addition to these four articles I have posted an excerpt from “The Baptismal Service” in Dyson Hague’s The Protestantism of the Prayer Book.


BAPTISM This word is Greek, and signifies prop. dipping, a ceremonial washing with water, and is the name of one of the two Sacraments ordained by Christ. It is of equal importance with the other Sacrament, for both are "generally necessary to salvation." By Baptism persons are admitted into the visible Church. Baptism of a certain kind, as well as circumcision, was practised by the Jews of our Lord’s time for the admission of proselytes to Judaism, and, it is said, of their families, into the Jewish congregation, and was used by the Baptist under divine direction "unto repentance for the remission of sins." But Christian Baptism was ordained by Christ just before His Ascension (Matt. xxviii. 19). According to His words on that occasion, the essentials of the ordinance are the application of water whether by immersion or by affusion in the name of the Trinity. This is laid down in the rubric at the end of the office for private Baptism. The sign of the Cross is therefore not essential, though it is an expressive symbol enjoined by the Church of England. Baptism is valid, even if thus administered by a lay person or a schismatic or a heretic. But the rubric in the office for private Baptism limits the performance of that rite to "the minister of the parish, or in his absence any other lawful minister." There is certainly no authority for the re-baptism of those who have been thus baptized in another Communion. When, however, after inquiry it may be doubtful whether it has been properly administered, a conditional form is supplied at the end of the office for private Baptism. But in both the Prayer Books of Edward VI. and in Elizabeth’s it was ordered that "one of those present" should baptize the child. The present rubric dates from the Hampton Court Conference. The Church of Rome (C. Trent, sess. iv. c. 11) anathematises any one affirming that Baptism administered even by a heretic, with the intention of doing what the Church does, is not true Baptism. The third article of the Creed of Pope Pius IV. also declares that Baptism, Confirmation, Orders cannot be reiterated without sacrilege. Nevertheless Roman priests re-baptize Protestants and thus incur the charge of sacrilege. It is asserted, however, that such baptism is performed only conditionally on the supposition that the persons have not been baptized. The condition is, however, in most cases not openly stated. There are other contradictions in which the Church of Rome is involved on this subject. As she asserts the absolute necessity of Baptism (C. Trent, sess. vi. c. 4), her theologians are forced to discuss such questions as whether infants can be baptized before birth through their mothers, whether abortions should be baptized, and the like.These questions are affirmatively answered by Dens and Benedict IV. But this is surely to limit the sovereignty of God by tying His grace to His own ordinances, and seems designed to increase the power of the priesthood.

As to the effects of Baptism there is a marked contrast between the doctrine of Rome and that of the Church of England. The Church of Rome teaches that "Everything which has the true and proper nature of sin is in Baptism taken away, and that not only is its condemnation remitted, but that concupiscence, called sin by St. Paul because it inclines to sin, is removed" (see C. Trent, sess. v. 5). This makes Baptism, not faith, the means of justification. "The point" (says Bishop Harold Browne on Article IX.) on "which these canons differed from the ninth Article of our Church is in the entire cancelling of original sin in Baptism. The Council of Trent determined that in Baptism the soul was restored pure into the state of innocency, though the punishments which follow sin be not removed." Our Reformers, on the contrary, maintained that the tendency to sin is a symptom of spiritual disease, and is itself sin. Article IX. declares that "the infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated," and that "concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin." Article XV. adds that "all we the rest, although baptized and born again in Christ, yet offend in many things." All this agrees, not only with experience, but the teaching of God’s Word e.g. Romans vii.; 1 John i. 9, 10; St. James 1. 14, 15.

The language of the baptismal offices, in which the baptized, whether adult or infant, is declared regenerate, is understood by many of our best divines as that of charitable assumption, and of faith in God’s promises, nor is it any where asserted in the Prayer Book that every baptized person is changed in heart and nature. Repentance and faith, which are prayed for in the Baptismal Service for Infants, are absolutely necessary to the realisation of the full benefits of Baptism. This view is well expressed by Bishop Harold Browne (Article XXVII.). He wrote: "If a person has been baptized, but still remains with his carnal nature unrenewed, we are not to conclude that God was unfaithful though the man has been unfaithful. But we are still to look upon that person as practically unregenerated, and we ought to try to bring him to conversion of heart, to a real change of soul and spirit. We may in deed still hope that God’s Spirit promised in Baptism will be ever ready to aid him, when he does not continue obstinately to resist Him." In this he fully agrees with Article XXVII., which defines Baptism as " a sign of regeneration or new birth, whereby as by an instrument" (i.e. a legal deed of conveyance), "they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church, the promises of forgiveness of sins and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost are visibly signed and sealed; faith is confirmed and grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God." On the other hand, the Council of Trent (sess. vii. ch. 8) anathematises those who deny that grace is given by the Sacraments of the new law ex opere operato. But it is evident, from such cases as those of St. John the Baptist and of the penitent thief, that it is possible to receive the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of sins without Baptism, or previous to it; and also, from the case of Simon Magus (Acts viii. 13-23), that a person may be baptized and remain unrenewed. The new birth is spoken of sixteen times at least in the New Testament, but only once is water connected with it (John iii. 5). Once regeneration is associated with washing or the bath (1 Peter iii. 21), and there it is expressly added that it is “not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Twice believers are said to be born of the "Word of God," or the "Word of truth" (James i. 18; 1 Peter i. 23). Augustine’s language on this point is very clear. "Outward Baptism," he says," may be administered where inward conversion of the heart is wanting, and, on the other hand, inward conversion of the heart may exist where outward Baptism has never been received " (Treatise on Adoption). Again he wrote, "the laver of regeneration is common to all who are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; but the grace itself of which they (?) are the sacraments and by which the members of the Body of Christ are regenerated is not common to all" (On Psalm lxxvii.).

So, according to Bishop Harold Browne, Augustine taught that Baptism is not in itself conversion of heart, and of adults he says that a person may be baptized with water and not born of the Spirit. In infants he also says that the sacrament of regeneration precedes conversion of heart. As regards the Baptismal Services for infants, whilst their language is so strong and apparently absolute, it should be interpreted by that of Articles XXV. and XXVII. It clearly presupposes the existence of repentance and faith in adults, and in the case of infants relies on the virtue of the prayers of faith offered on their behalf, as answered according to St. John’s assurance (1 John v. 14, 15) and our Lord’s loving declaration that "of such is the Kingdom of Heaven." Such views were in the Gorham case pronounced by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council to be consistent with subscription to the Prayer Book, and they are in harmony with the doctrine of Holy Scripture and the Articles. See Mozley, Baptismal Regeneration; See GORHAM DECISION.

Rev. William Burnet, M.A., Ex-Scholar of Trinity College, Dublin; Vicar of Childerditch.

Baptismal Regeneration

BAPTISMAL REGENERATION In considering this subject, we shall do well to begin by endeavouring to ascertain the true meaning of the word Regeneration, as employed in the New Testament ; and then proceed to inquire into the connection of this spiritual experience with the ordinance of Christian Baptism.

It is a singular but instructive fact that the desire on the part of some to exalt this sacrament, as the means of inducing regeneration, has led to a depreciation of this term, by a lowering of the spiritual value of its connotation. Inasmuch as facts will not allow us to affirm that the administration of the ordinance is followed, in the vast majority of cases, by any moral results that can be discerned, it has been concluded by many who belong to the High Church school that the benefits of regeneration are not to be looked for (at any rate directly) in the moral region; the grace that is bestowed is a capacity or potentiality rather than any thing that affects us consciously; it is the implanting of a germ, which may or may not develop and fructify, rather than the occurrence of a moral or spiritual revolution.

The New Testament, on the other hand, represents regeneration as the most radical and far reaching that the mind can conceive of, constituting him who is the subject of it a new creature, with whom old things are passed away, and all things have become new (2 Cor. v. 17). It is the initial step in the process of salvation by cleansing from sin, and spiritual renewal (Titus iii. 5). It produces, according to St. John, deliverance from conscious and habitual sin, and victory over the world; it is a birth by the Spirit, which constitutes him who undergoes it "spirit" (John iii. 6). It in duces a sense of freedom and spontaneity in religious life, which is in the strongest contrast to all legal bondage and restraint (ibid. v. 8). It carries with it the privilege of a new and spiritual sonship towards God, and the blessed assurance of it.

That all this represents something more than a mere "capacity" goes without saying; but the case becomes immeasurably stronger when we observe that, while regeneration and its cognate terms are but seldom employed, [1] there can be no reasonable doubt that the word indicates that one supreme and radical change which is insisted on as necessary in the New Testament Scriptures under many differing designations. This change is spoken of as Justification, Salvation, Remission of sins, Cleansing from old sins, Translation from darkness into light, Passage from death into life, Death and burial with Christ and resurrection into newness of life. It is represented as inducing consequences affecting our consciousness, condition, and experience, such as inward joy, peace, and hope, love to God and to the brethren, deliverance from sin and devotion to God, the holy intimacy of sonship and the blessedness of acceptance, all resulting in actual righteousness, and at any rate incipient holiness.

One other aspect of regeneration needs to be noticed, inasmuch as it is the most important of all, and that is its close connection with the gift of spiritual life. The natural life of the human spirit having become forfeit through sin, regeneration is effected by the imparting of a new life, which is God’s gift to man through the atoning work of Christ. It is this introduction of a new life that constitutes the recipient a new creature; for the new and divine life thus communicated carries its own proper moral characteristics along with it. Our reception of this new life is dependent upon our death to sin, in the person of Christ, and our rising up with Him into a new condition, in which we live unto God. Regeneration may therefore be defined as that supreme change which takes place when by faith we regard ourselves as dead to sin in the death of Christ, and claim with Him to be raised to a new life, "through faith in the operation of God." Where faith is thus exercised God responds to its claim, by imparting that new life which is in His Son—a life that carries with it its own moral characteristics, and renders him who receives it a new creature.

If this be regeneration, what is the nature of the relation of Baptism to it? Three distinct answers may be returned to this inquiry; and between these our decision lies. First, some hold that this change, called regeneration, is directly dependent upon Baptism, so that when Baptism takes place it also occurs. Secondly, others hold that Baptism is only a sign or symbol of this change, witnessing to the fact, that it already has occurred in the case of the true believer, and also a public confession of its occurrence. Third, it may be answered that the ordinance is designed to bear witness to the specific provision for our regeneration, made in Redemption, and to concentrate our faith upon this, as a definite issue, and, in normal cases, to be its sacramental expression. [2]

The first of these answers might seem to be justified by the fact that, in the memorable words of our Lord to Nicodemus, the birth by water and that of the Spirit seem to be spoken of as elements in the same great change; and by the further fact that the Apostles seem ever to refer to the moment of Baptism as the time when that change took place. But a small amount of reflection suffices to show that to this view there are many and insuperable objections. A large amount of confusion of thought has been caused on this subject by the habit of theorising on the subject of infant Baptism, and the benefits that are believed to flow from it, instead of basing our conclusions on that which was actually revealed with respect to the Baptism of adults. Few will have the temerity to affirm that the mere process of baptizing an adult, whatever his moral condition or attitude, will produce real spiritual regeneration. A man may submit to baptism merely because the chief of his tribe has become a nominal Christian, and he desires to keep in his favour; or he may be baptized, as multitudes of Jews recently were in Russia, merely to escape persecution. To suppose that, in response to a sacrilegious abuse of the sacrament, the Holy Ghost confers on the recipient the blessing of regeneration, and works in him, as the reward of his impiety, the greatest and most beneficent change that supernatural power can effect, is to come perilously near blaspheming the Holy Ghost. But as soon as the admission is made that the act of Baptism does not produce regeneration in such cases, logic constrains us to conclude that Baptism is not the cause of regeneration; nor is it even, if we regard God Himself as the cause, a condition upon which it is absolutely dependent. In such cases as we have suggested unquestionably the man is not regenerated; but he may become so, if he comply with certain other conditions ; that is to say, if he subsequently exhibits that frame of mind which ought to have accompanied his Baptism. His regeneration, then, will have been dependent, on man’s side, not on his Baptism, but on the sincerity of his repentance and the reality of his faith.

But if Baptism be not the cause of regeneration (on man’s side), is it one of two alternative causes? Are we, for instance, to believe that God sometimes regenerates through the act of Baptism without faith, and sometimes by faith without Baptism? To ask such a question is to answer it. God does not deal in alternative methods, saving one man through a mere mechanical act while he saves another by a moral process. On this point nothing more need be said. But are we then driven to believe that Baptism and faith are two co-ordinate causes of regeneration? For a full discussion of this important point the reader may be referred to a book which has recently appeared on the subject of this article (Canon Aitken’s Doctrine of Baptism: Nisbet). In this volume the writer points out that in both the Acts and the Epistles one and the same great change is represented as sometimes conditioned on Baptism and sometimes on faith; and argues that this could never have occurred if it were the case that two entirely distinct and co-ordinate conditions had to be fulfilled before regeneration could occur. If peace were offered to China on the two co-ordinate conditions that the Celestial authorities should pay down sixty millions and also abolish a score of their forts, what should we think of an ambassador who should at one time affirm that peace could be secured by the payment of sixty millions, without referring to the forts ; while at another time he averred that it could be obtained by the destruction of the forts, without referring to the millions?

There is only one way in which this phenomenon can be explained. The sacramental act was regarded as the appointed means of expressing the faith, which it concentrated on the specific provision of divine grace; and therefore it was the means whereby the spiritual grace of regeneration was received while it was also a pledge that assured us of its reception. To say this is not to affirm, in accordance with the second of the three views of the relation of regeneration to the sacrament stated above, that the ordinance is a mere symbol of the spiritual experience, or a public confession that it has taken place. This explanation of the case is forbidden by the fact that the spiritual benefits symbolised by the ordinance are invariably spoken of in the New Testament as being realised in and through the ordinance. The ordinance is nowhere described as a mere sign of a spiritual benefit independently realised, and Protestants do untold damage to their cause when they put themselves in the position of having to explain away numerous clear and definite expressions to this effect. The true statement of the case would seem to be, that regeneration is conditioned upon faith in Christ and His atoning work; while Baptism has been appointed to concentrate that faith upon the specific features of that atonement, and to give it definite expression when so concentrated. Thus, in strictly normal cases the moment of the believing reception of Baptism would be the moment of regeneration, but in many cases the faith may precede the ordinance, with the result that the spiritual regeneration will take place before Baptism, as in the instance of Cornelius and his friends. Where this occurs the ordinance will be the outward and formal expression of a faith already existing (Rom. iv. 11; Col. ii. 11); and on God’s side the pledge assuring us of a benefit already received. It will be to the Christian very much what his coronation was to our King. It did not make him king, yet it was the complement of his accession, and who will say that it was unnecessary to the recognition of his kingly position? Besides this, Baptism will be the sacramental admission of the recipient into the spiritual society called the Christian Church, which the kingdom of heaven upon earth identifies itself with, and by which he is assured of the enjoyment of all the rights of our heavenly citizenship.

Where, on the other hand, the ordinance is performed upon an adult without that faith being exercised which it was specially designed to evoke (excitat, Art. xxv. ), as, for instance, in the case of Simon Magus, regeneration does not occur. It is clear that Simon Magus could not have been born of God, and made a new creature in Christ Jesus, and yet have remained "in the bond of iniquity and the gall of bitterness." He could not have been received into that Church of the first-born whose names are written in heaven, and yet have been "without part or lot in the matter." In all such cases regeneration, if it occurs at all, must occur apart from the sacrament; and this in itself suffices to show that the ordinance, considered apart from the faith which it should express, does not stand to regeneration in the relation of cause to effect. Yet, even in such a case, upon the occurrence of repentance and faith, the penitent would find in the ordinance an assurance of his pardon, and a pledge of the specific divine grace to which the ordinance bears witness. See Homily of Salvation.

With regard to Inward Baptism we may point out that we have strong ground for inferring that God has a provisional economy of grace for our little ones, resulting, at any rate in certain cases, in their regeneration, and thus in their final salvation, if they die in infancy. Why then should not the Christian parent plead that this economy of grace may be extended to his child, inasmuch as it is needed, as for death so also for the perils of continued life; and why should he not prove the faith of his prayer by submitting his child to the ordinance, which is the means whereby this grace of regeneration is normally received? In such a case, whatever benefit may be granted through the ordinance by Him who sees the faith of those who bear the helpless infant and lay him at the Master’s feet, that benefit must needs be provisional in its character. The condition on which the enjoyment of the new life is dependent, i.e. faith in the Life-giver, cannot be evaded or dispensed with; and if special adaptations of divine grace to the case of helpless infancy are not met by such a repentance as forsakes sin, and such a faith as steadfastly believes the specific promise of God made in the sacrament, all such benefits must needs be forfeited.

The point of cleavage between those who hold the crude theory of Baptismal regeneration, ex opere operato, and those who maintain what is usually spoken of as the "Hypothetical Theory," lies just here. The former believe that the recital of a formula and the performance of a particular action necessarily produce the spiritual effect of regeneration; the latter hold that where believing prayer is offered for a blessing, which we have reason to believe it is God’s will to grant, that prayer will be provisionally answered. The former believe that this spiritual result is absolute, and admits of being neither reversed nor supplemented; the latter maintain that the result, whatever it is, must needs be provisional in its character, and cannot be made absolute until the condition upon which in the case of an adult it is contingent is complied with. The former maintain that the saving effect of this ordinance may be lost by wilful sin; the latter maintain that such saving effects only remain if the condition on which they are contingent is complied with, and, even where wilful sin does not occur, are forfeited by the non-fulfilment of the appointed condition. According to the former theory, no baptized member of our congregations needs to be born again, or, indeed, can be, although his life may be a discredit to our common humanity, and it would seem that the only hope for him lay in the possibility of so radical a change ; according to the other, all who have never consciously exercised faith in the special promise of God made in Baptism need to be told, "Ye must be born again." The difference between the two positions, which may seem to be slight, is really radical. The Gorham judgment given on appeal by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council affirmed that the hypothetical explanation of the formularies of the Church of England was a perfectly reasonable and legitimate one, though it did not affirm that it was the only possible interpretation. See GORHAM CASE.

[1]The word translated regeneration (παλιγγενεσία – paliggenesia) only occurs twice in the New Testament: (1) in Matt. xix. 28, where by "the regeneration" is meant the new birth of the world, or its restitution to its original state of blessedness ; (2) in Titus iii. 5, where " the washing of regeneration " or " the laver of regeneration " i.e. the laver of baptism, which symbolises "regeneration" is spoken of. See note p. 141, and C. H. H. Wright, Roman Catholicism, R.T.S., p. 39.—EDD.
[2] [Note by Editors. The phrase used by John the Baptist, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire" (Matt. iii. 11), is
essentially the same as "born of water and of the Holy Spirit " (John iii. 5), used by our Lord, and explained by Him in the subsequent verses. The first refers to the work of the Spirit as "the Spirit of burning," predicted in Isaiah iv. 4, the second to that of the Spirit predicted in Isaiah xliv. 3, and Ezekiel xxxvi. 25-27, which a "master of Israel" ought to have understood. The first phrase might, exegetically considered, have reference to a rite or ceremony, for "baptize" is used; the second refers only to an inner birth unto righteousness, and therefore ought, we contend, to be explained by such passages as 1 John ii. 29, 1 John iii. 9. Both phrases speak of the work of the Spirit as a cleansing and purifying work, and both use language drawn from the prophets of Israel. Christ’s words are of universal reference, and ought not, we maintain, to be interpreted primarily to refer to Christian Baptism which was not ordained till Christ had risen from the dead.]

Rev. W. H. M. H. Aitken, M.A..Canon Residentiary of Norwich. Author of Mission Sermons(3 vols.); The School of Grace; The Highway of Holiness; The Doctrine of Baptism, Mechanical or Spiritual; and other works.

The Gorham Case

GORHAM CASE, THE. According to the judgment of the Privy Council in the case of Gorham v. the Bishop of Exeter, the validity of the doctrine of the conditional (or hypothetical) regeneration of infants in baptism was declared consistent with the teaching of the Church of England. The Gorham Case proved to be one of far-reaching importance in the history of the Church of England. It was the first great decision on a doctrinal question since the Reformation, and though its effects were minimised by the leaders and sympathisers of the then incipient Tractarian Movement, the decision of the Court was nevertheless viewed by them as a serious blow to their theory of Sacramental Grace. The circumstances of the case were as follows.

The Rev. Geo. Cornelius Gorham, B.D., Fellow of Queen’s College, Cambridge, and a clergyman of over thirty years standing, incurred, when vicar of St. Just, Cornwall, the displeasure of his diocesan, Bishop Henry Phillpots of Exeter, on account of certain phrases,such as "National Establishment, "used by him in a circular relating to a new church in Pendeen, and in advertising for a curate "free from Tractarian Error." The vicar, on his part, protested against the bishop's determination to institute a particular inquiry into any curate nominated by him. This was the first indication of that friction which developed into a serious and protracted controversy. In 1847 Lord Chancellor Cottenham offered Mr. Gorham the living of Brampford Speke in the same diocese. The required signatures of three beneficed clergymen were, on his acceptance of the offer, appended to the Letters Testimonial. These, on being submitted to the bishop for his counter-signature, were endorsed to the effect that he must conscientiously withhold his signature, inasmuch as he considered that the affixing of his name would imply his personal belief that the party to whom it relates had not held, written, or taught anything contrary to the doctrine of the United Church of England and Ireland, and that his own experience attested that Mr. Gorham did hold, write, and maintain what was contrary to the discipline of the said Church. This drew forth a remonstrance from Mr. Gorham. The bishop refused to alter his determination. The Lord Chancellor, on being appealed to, ordered the Presentation to be made out, which was done on November 2nd. Mr. Gorham in due course applied to the bishop for institution. That application led to a correspondence which resulted in the signification of the bishop’s intention to test the presentee’s soundness as to doctrine by examination. This examination began on November 17, 1847, lasting six days in spite of Mr. Gorham’s protest against its continuance, "on the ground that his doctrine-had been sufficiently tested, and that the examination was becoming over-minute and inquisitorial. "Notwithstanding, for three days in the following March (1848) it was resumed, and finally terminated on the llth of that month. The examination was conducted partly by written questions and partly viva voce. When the latter method was used, the bishop’s chaplain and Mr. Gorham took down both question and answer. The whole examination was eventually published by Mr. Gorham, and acknowledged to be correct by the bishop, who subsequently incorporated the book in his Act of Petition to the Court of Arches. No less than 149 questions were put at this examination, most of which were answered by Mr. Gorham, while some were declined on the ground of irrelevancy.

To Questions V., VI., and VII., which were to the effect, "Does the Church hold, and do you hold, that every infant lawfully baptized is by God made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven that such infants are born again of water and of the Holy Ghost, and received by the laver of regeneration into the number of the children of God? " Mr. Gorham replied that these propositions being stated in the words of the Book of Common Prayer must be held to contain nothing contrary to the Word of God or to sound doctrine, "and therefore may be deemed to be fairly defensible, if it shall be allowed such just and favourable construction as in common equity ought to be allowed to all human writings, especially such as are set forth by authority." (See Preface to Book of Common Prayer.)

"Just and favourable construction" of passages like these must be sought, argued Mr. Gorham, (1) by bringing them into juxtaposition with the precise and dogmatical teaching of the Church in her explicit standard of doctrine, the XXXIX. Articles; (2) by comparing the various parts of her Formularies with each other; (3) by ascertaining the views of those by whom her services were reformed and her Articles sanctioned.

The real point involved in these questions was the efficacy of the Sacrament of Baptism, not merely in infants, but in adults, and that question could not, he argued, be fairly dissevered from the efficacy of the other Sacrament, that of the Lord s Supper. (See Article XXIX.) The Articles were cited as teaching that, in addition to right administration of both sacraments, "worthy reception" is essential to their becoming " effectual signs of grace." No distinction is made in this respect between adults and infants. "They that receive baptism rightly (recte baptismum suscipientes, i.e. not merely by lawful administration, but by worthy reception) are grafted into the Church; the promises of the forgiveness of sins and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed."

Such, Mr. Gorham contended, is the doctrine of the Articles on the efficacy of both Sacraments—where there is no worthy reception, there is no bestowal of grace.

The Formularies fairly construed are consistent with the Articles. In the Catechism "the inward and spiritual grace" is carefully distinguished from "the outward and visible sign" which is its token, pledge, and manifestation when rightly received. The conditions of repentance and faith " are expressly required even of infants, who must enter into these stipulations by their representatives. Faith and repentance are declared by the adult in his own person, and are stipulated by the infant through his sponsors as dispositions which exist, or shall hereafter exist, in the mind of the candidate. The whole Baptismal Service, therefore, is constructed on the assumption that these promises are sincere, and are pledged on behalf of the infant by its sponsors as conditions which should be forth coming in the mind of the candidate for baptism. In this charitable hope the Formularies of the Church affirm that the subject of baptism is "a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven" (Question V.).

Question VI. In the same strain of charitable hypothesis it is affirmed that infants" so baptized," namely, not merely according to the institution of Christ, but, with "the stipulation (the answer) of a good conscience towards God," are born again of water and of the Holy Ghost; (Question VII. ) it being impossible that such dispositions and fruits should exist, except when the Holy Ghost has imparted a new nature, which He may do before baptism, in baptism, or after baptism, "as He listeth."

The examination resulted in the refusal on the part of the bishop to institute Mr. Gorham. on the ground of the unsoundness of the doctrines enunciated by him.

In compelling the bishop by legal proceedings to grant institution, the form known as Duplex Querula was adopted, which consisted of a complaint tendered to the archbishop against his Ordinary for some alleged denial of justice. The Dean of Arches (Sir H. J. Fust) issued a monition to the bishop to institute Mr. Gorham within fifteen days, or show cause for refusing; institution to be proceeded with by default. The bishop responded by what is called an "Act on Petition," in which he included the book published by Mr. Gorham containing a detailed account of his examination. The bishop expressed himself convinced that Mr. Gorham was of unsound doctrine in respect to the efficacy of the Sacrament of Baptism, inasmuch as he held that spiritual regeneration is not given or conferred in that Holy Sacrament. This elicited a defensive rejoinder from Mr Gorham. The case came on for hearing in the Arches Court in February 1849, and judgment was given in the following August in favour of the bishop. Sir H. J. Fust concluded his judgment by stating that "the doctrine of the Church of England undoubtedly is that children baptized are regenerated at baptism, and are undoubtedly saved if they die without committing actual sin. Mr. Gorham has maintained, and does maintain, opinions opposed to that Church of which he professes himself a member and a minister."

From the decision of the Court of Arches Mr. Gorham appealed to her Majesty in Council. The case came on for hearing on Appeal, before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, December 11, 1849. The appellant’s points, as put by his Counsel, were principally these: The Articles are the Code of Doctrine in the Church of England, the Prayer Book the Code of Devotion. It is not imputed to Mr. Gorham that he holds anything inconsistent with the Articles, but that he holds doctrine inconsistent with opinions gathered by the bishop inferentially from the Services of the Church. The doctrine which Mr. Gorham is alleged to contradict may be stated as that of unconditional regeneration in baptism, which is substantially the same as that opus operatum of the Council of Trent, which Article XXV. condemns, as is shown by the version of that Article in the edition of 1552 (their Article XXVI.), where the words used were "and in such only as worthily receive the same, have they a wholesome effect, and that not on account of the work wrought, "idque non ex opera (ut quidam loquuntur) operate."The present Article XXV., though leaving out the particular words ex opere operato, as effectually condemns the idea of unconditional grace. The question is not whether the doctrine of Mr. Gorham is laid down in the Articles, but whether it is tenable consistently with them.

A true view of the baptismal services shows that they all admit of explanation on that same charitable hypothesis which is confessedly the true explanation in the service for adult baptism, and which charitable hypothesis necessarily pervades the entire Prayer Book from Morning Prayer onward to the close.

Mr. Gorham, on his part, denied the allegation of the bishop that he maintained, or had at any time maintained, unsound doctrine respecting the efficacy of the Sacrament of Baptism, or that he had held, or persisted in holding, any opinions thereon at variance with the plain teaching of the Church of England in her Articles and Liturgy.

The construction put upon Mr. Gorham’s doctrine by the Judicial Committee was as follows:--

"Baptism is a Sacrament generally necessary to salvation, but the grace of regeneration does not so necessarily accompany the act of baptism that regeneration invariably takes place in baptism; that the grace may be granted before, in, or after baptism; that baptism is an effectual sign of grace, by which God works invisibly in us, but only in such as worthily receive it in them alone it has a wholesome effect; and that without reference to the qualification of the recipient, it is not in itself an effectual sign of grace. That infants baptized, and dying before actual sin, are certainly saved; but that in no case is regeneration in baptism unconditional."

The concluding words of the judgment given in the Court of Appeal, reversing that of the Court of Arches, are as follows:--

"The judgment of their lordships is, that the doctrine held by Mr. Gorham is not contrary or repugnant to the declared doctrine of the Church of England as by law established, and that Mr. Gorham ought not, by reason of the doctrine held by him, to have been refused admission to the vicarage of Brampford Speke. We shall therefore humbly report to her Majesty that the sentence pronounced by the learned Judge of the Arches Court of Canterbury ought to be reversed, and that it ought to be declared that the respondent, the Lord Bishop of Exeter, has no shown sufficient cause why he did not institute Mr. Gorham to the said vicarage.

"We shall humbly advise her Majesty to remit the cause with that declaration to the Arches Court of Canterbury, to the end that right and justice may be done in this matte: pursuant to the said declaration " (March 8 1850).

As the result of this judgment, the Dean of Arches, acting for the archbishop, duly instituted Mr. Gorham to the living of Brampford

Literature.--Brodrick and Fremantle’ s Judgments of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, London, 1865. Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury from the Bishop of Exeter, 91 pp., London, 1850. By the same to the Churchwardens of the Parish of Brampford Speke. A Pastoral Letter by the Bishop of Exeter to his Clergy on " The Present State of the Church," 126 pp., London, 1851. This last contains an Address of sympathy from thirty-seven ministers in Prussia. J. B. Mozley, Review of the Baptismal Controversy, new edition, 1895, and his Primitive Doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration, 1856. Among Mr. Gorham s publications relating to the case, the following maybe quoted: "Examination before Admission to a Benefice, by the Bishop of Exeter, followed by Refusal to Institute," London. This is the book mentioned as having been filed in the Register of the Court of Arches. The Rev. W. Goode issued a remarkable pamphlet by way of comment on the Bishop of Exeter’s Letter to the Primate above mentioned, 107 pp.

Rev. W. Heber Wright, M.A., of Trinity College, Dublin, Vicar of St. George's, Worthing.

Opus Operatum

OPUS OPERATUM. Work wrought, as though it were said that the benefit of a rite accrued ex opere operato, by virtue of the work wrought, i.e. by virtue of the due administration. The doctrine meant by the expression opus operatum was first enunciated in form by the Schoolman Duns Scotus [1] (ob. 1308), who thus wrote (as Robertson translates): "A sacrament confers grace through the virtue of the work which is wrought, so that there is not required any inward good motion such as to deserve grace, but it is enough if the receiver place no bar" in the way of its operation. [2] The doctrine thus stated makes the passive reception of a sacrament sufficient, and if it does not intentionally teach that the ordinance works mechanically like a charm, it must inevitably spread among ordinary people the perilous notion that it does. The German Schoolman Gabriel Biel (ob. 1495), taught the doctrine in no more guarded a way, though avoiding some dangerous expressions, saying that ex opere operato meant "by virtue of the very consecration, oblation, and reception, of the venerable eucharist." [3]

On March 3, 1547, the Council of Trent, in its seventh session, passed Canon 8, De Sacramentis, anathematising those who should say that "by the sacraments themselves of the new law, ex opere operato, grace is not conferred, but that faith alone in the divine promise is sufficient to obtain grace."In Edward VI.’s 42 Articles [4] of 1553 (since made 39), there occurred (Article XXVI., now XXV.) after the word "operation" this passage: "not as some say, ex opere operato, which terms, as they are strange and utterly unknown to the Holy Scripture, so do they yield a sense which savoureth of little piety but of much superstition." The Articles signed by Convocation in 1563, omitted this passage and never again mentioned the opus operatum; but even without mentioning it they clearly enough assert a view as to sacramental efficacy entirely opposed to the opus operatum theory, however expounded. Moreover, the addition of Article XXIX. in 1563 fully made up for the withdrawal of the clause referred to. On Dec. 4, 1563, ended the Council of Trent, which on Jan. 26, 1564, received papal confirmation, and its decrees then became binding.

Bishop Jewel’s Challenge Sermon at St. Paul s Cross, March 31, 1560, included among its twenty-seven points one (No. 20) on Opus Operatum, [5] and this article in the controversy which the sermon produced with Harding in 1564, 1505, was discussed at some length. Jewel, speaking of the ancient superstitions connected with the Eucharist before the terms opus operatum were invented, went on to say: "This old error our adversaries of late years have taken up and made it catholic, bearing the people in hand that their Mass itself, ex opere operato, only of itself, and because it is said, is available for the remission of their sins." [6] Harding had asserted [7] that the Challenge Sermon misrepresented the Roman doctrine, referring opus operatum to the bare act of the priest; not so, it was the work which God Himself worked by the ministry of the priest, namely, the body and blood of Christ offered in sacrifice to God, which was available "where there is no stop nor let on the behalf of the receiver." Thus, with Harding, the recipient was simply passive, just as Duns Scotus put it. Jewel, therefore, produced his authorities, successfully, as it seems to us, to make good his original point. The Reformation period, therefore (that of Trent, the 42 Articles, Jewel), was an active one in the debate on this subject, and the Roman side seems to have made then no real advance beyond the dictum of Duns Scotus, which, to the Reformers, looking to Scripture, was repellent in the extreme.

Perhaps it was the severe handling the papal Article received from them that made its exponents more cautious; for later on we find Bellarmine (ob. 1621) asserting the need of faith and repentance in the recipient; still, however, adding: "But that which actively, proximately, and instrumentally effects the grace of justification is only the external act called sacrament, and this is called opus operatum, by receiving it passively (operatum), so that it is the same thing (to say) that the sacrament confers grace ex opere operato as (to say) that it confers grace by virtue of the sacramental act itself, instituted by God for this purpose, not by the merit of the minister or the recipient."[8] If in that language there seems some degree of concession, it is more apparent than real. Bellarmine may be held the chief authority for the current Roman view, as this is expounded in Addis and Arnold’s Catholic Dictionary, where what we have given above from that writer, somewhat differently rendered, and much more of his, is quoted. See BAPTISM, GORHAM CASE.

[1] Gieseler, Text-book of Ch. Hist., vol. ii. p. 490,
n. 22 sub. fin.; Robertson, Ch. Hist., vol. vi. p. 446, ed. 1874.
[2] Scotus, Quaestiones in Lib. IV. Sententiarum, distinctio i. qusestio vi. sec. 10 sub. fin., in his Works, ed. Lyons, 1639, vol. viii. p. 125, col. 1. Sacramentum enim ex opere.
[3] Biel, Sacri Canonis missae Expositio, lectio xxvi.
fol. 50, col. 1, sub. fin., Basel, 1515; quoted in Jewel’s Works, ii. 751, Parker Society.
[4 ]To be seen in Burnet (vol. iv. p. 311, ed. Nares; vol. v. p. 314, ed. Pocock), with notes giving the later changes.
[5] Works, vol. i. pp. 21, 103 ; vol. ii. p. 749.
[6] Ibid., vol. ii. 751.
[7] Ibid., 749.
[8] De Sacramentis, lib. ii. c. 1, in Works, 1872, Naples, vol. iii. p. 87. col. 1.

Rev. Charles Hole, B.A., Trinity College, Cambridge (Wrangler), Lecturer on Ecclesiastical Hististory, King’s College, London. Author of A Manual of the Book of Common Prayer; Early Missions in the British Islands; By-Paths of English Church History, and other works.

The Baptismal Service

Editor’s Note: The following passages are taken from the Reverend Dyson Hague’s The Protestantism of the Prayer Book, which was published by the Church Association in the late nineteenth century in a revised and enlarged edition for English readers with a preface by the first Bishop of Liverpool, the Right Reverend J. C. Ryle. Dyson Hague was an Evangelical minister in the Church of England in Canada. He was also Professor of Liturgics and Ecclesiology at Wycliffe College in Toronto. Hague wrote at a time when the Church of England and her overseas branches were racked by controversy over the doctrine and liturgical usages of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

With the publication of the Tracts for the Times in the 1830s the Tractarians had undertaken the self-appointed task of changing the identity of the Church of England. They imposed a new meaning upon the 1662 Prayer Book, reinterpreting it in what they described as “a Catholic sense”. They engaged in a “microscopic search” for “words and phrases, devotional and rubrical,” that might serve “to establish an interpretation of the Prayer Book, unknown to its authors, and to three centuries of Christian life and thought.” No part of the Prayer Book was neglected in this search but the Baptismal Offices received particular attention. The Tractarians would claim that the Prayer Book taught the doctrine of baptismal regeneration as taught by the Roman Catholic Church.

Hague wrote not only to defend the Protestant character of the 1662 Prayer Book but also to allay the uneasiness of his fellow Evangelicals with the Prayer Book. A similar controversy had raged in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States over the 1789 Book of Common Prayer. Evangelical Episcopalians had developed qualms about using its Baptismal Offices. They initially sought to persuade the General Convention to revise the 1789 Prayer Book—to adopt an alternative form or alternative wording in the Baptismal Offices that they could use in place of the form and wording of the Prayer Book. Those sympathetic to Tractarian principles by this time had come to dominate the General Convention and were not open to any proposal for revision of the Prayer Book.

The Assistant Bishop of Kentucky, the Right Reverend George David Cummins, became convinced by a pamphlet then in circulation that the American Prayer Book did indeed contain “the germs of Romanism.” Cummins would resign his office and leave the Protestant Episcopal Church. He would form the Reformed Episcopal Church with other Evangelicals who like himself had concluded that they could not in good conscience remain any longer in the Protestant Episcopal Church.

Among Hague’s works are The Church of England before the Reformation; The Story of the English Book of Common Prayer: its Origin and Developments; and Through the Prayer Book: an Exposition of its Teaching and Language: the Origins and Contents of Its Services. Hague was a major contributor to The Fundamentals.

Having dwelt sufficiently upon the outward form, let us proceed now to the doctrinal expressions of the service. Though it is hardly within the purpose of this work to offer explanations upon controverted points of theology, it may not be out of place to dwell for a little space upon those expressions which have, to so many Protestant minds, offered most serious difficulty, the words, "seeing that this child is regenerate," & c.

But the reader must distinctly understand that the difficulty of these words and the Popery of these words are two entirely different things. Difficult they are; Popish they are not. They are found in a service compiled by men flatly opposed to Popery, and if any interpretation can be given to them but the Roman, it must be given. They are words, moreover, which are found elsewhere in ultra-Protestant formularies, and employed by men of must Protestant prejudices. They are precisely similar, for instance, to those employed by one whom no one ever suspected of Popish proclivities, John Calvin, in his catechism; [1] and they may be employed by any who really believe in the power of God to receive as His own disciples the little infants.

They are, moreover, words similar to those which are used by most ultra-Evangelicals to illustrate the baptismal blessing.

In a book lately written by the Rev. Andrew Murray, who is, I believe, a Presbyterian minister, author of "Abide in Christ," "With Christ," and other works, it is said: "Not only are the children when grown up, but even from the birth, to be partakers of the covenant." "The promise is not held in abeyance to wait for the child's faith, but is given to the father's faith in the assurance that the child's faith will follow." "The promise of God is no empty word, though our unbelief may make it of none effect. In His purpose the water and the spirit are inseparably united; ‘What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder’; let not a parent's unbelief rest content with the water without the spirit." And throughout the whole work similar reasoning is to be found. The expressions, therefore, of our baptismal service can no more be adduced in themselves as indications of the lingering Romanism of the Prayer Book, than the expressions employed by John Calvin and Mr. Murray could be brought forward as proofs of the Popish tendency of their works. Certain it is that in the baptismal service of the Church of England the Roman doctrine of baptismal regeneration is not taught. In proof of this four facts may be

The first fact is this:—

That after the baptismal service was completed it was eulogized by Peter Martyr, one of the most uncompromising Protestants of the Reformation age, a man summoned by Archbishop Cranmer to aid in the work of reforming the Church of England, and declared by Archbishop Parker to be one "who had sustained constant labours in the defence of evangelical truth against the Papists." This eulogy is possessed of more than ordinary importance, for it occurs in one of the most important publications bearing upon the baptismal controversy, viz., a letter of this Peter Martyr, Regius Divinity Professor in Oxford in 1552, preserved in the archives of the ecclesiastical library in Zurich and edited by Goode, written to his friend Bullinger just after the completion of the Second Prayer Book of Edward the Sixth. In this letter, speaking of the Prayer Book as then published. Martyr states: "For all things are removed from it which could nourish superstition." Then, almost immediately afterwards, he mentions as one of the doctrines, like that of the real presence, which would bring with it superstitions, the doctrine that grace is invariably conferred in the sacraments, that is, the Romish doctrine of baptismal regeneration. Since, therefore, in Martyr's opinion the doctrine that grace is invariably conferred by the sacraments brings with it superstitions, and Martyr testified that all things are removed from the Prayer Book that could nourish superstitions, it is certain that in the mind of those who were identified with Martyr's views, viz., the Reformers, the doctrine of the invariable spiritual regeneration of infants in baptism (the Tractarian doctrine of baptismal regeneration) is not the teaching of the Book of Common Prayer. It is, moreover, most significant, as pointed out by Goode, that the leading Reformers held the evangelical view with Peter Martyr, as opposed to the Romish, and that when the Articles were afterwards published to abolish controversy and determine the true teaching of the Church of England, the phraseology of the Article on baptism was the phraseology of Peter Martyr, and the views of the sacrament the views of the party with which he was connected, and not the views of the Romish party.

The second fact is this:—

That among all the controversies raised by the early Puritans about the baptismal services, none was ever raised about the doctrine of regeneration as taught in it. This fact, which is pointed out by Boultbee in his exposition of the Articles, though apparently insignificant, and not generally known, is, to the careful observer, most important. These men were, as everybody is aware, the most uncompromising, and often the most unreasonable, opponents of everything that savoured of Papistry. Beneath their searching scrutiny a mole-hill of Churchiness was magnified into a mountain of Romanism. They would have destroyed even the very formula and materials of Rome, not because they were wrong, but because they were Roman. Yet these men, amidst all their objections, never so much as raised a whisper against the expressions of the baptismal service, or everdreamed of exhibiting the words, "this child is regenerate," as a proof of lingering Romanism.

The third fact is this:—

That there is so striking a difference between the Articles of the Church of England in 1536, the Church's first effort in the way of doctrinal reform, and the Articles of 1553, in their treatment of the doctrine of baptism, as to make it clear that the Reformers intended to discard the Romish doctrine of baptismal regeneration. Indeed, no stronger proof of the soundness and legitimacy, from a Church standpoint, of the position of those who deny the Tractarian doctrine of baptismal regeneration can be offered than a comparison of the Articles of 1536 and our present Articles, Homilies, and Catechism. We have presented in these Articles of 1536 the spectacle of a Church trying to rid itself of Romanism, yet ignorant of evangelical truth. The very fact of their publication, though at such a date, speaks volumes for their Protestantism, for the "Roma lacuta est, causa finita est" doctrine was just as true then as now, and ten times more practical. But of course they are full of Romish errors, and many doctrines afterwards discarded are there plainly set forth. In the Article on baptism, the doctrine of baptismal regeneration is clearly taught, and were it the doctrinal standard of to-day the position of Pusey and the Tractarian school would be demonstrated and established beyond cavil. It begins by asserting that people must of necessity believe all those things which hath, by the whole consent of the Church, been always approved, received, and used in the sacrament of baptism; that it was instituted by Christ, &c. ; that it is offered unto all men, as well as to infants such as have the use of reason, that by baptism they shall have remission of sins, and the grace and favour of God, according to the saying of Christ: Whosoever believeth and is baptized shall be saved ; and continues by arguing at great length, that the promise of grace and everlasting life (which promise is adjoined to this sacrament of baptism) pertaineth not only unto such as have the use of reason, but also to infants, innocents, and children ; and that they ought, therefore, and must needs be baptized; and that by the sacrament of baptism they do also obtain remission of their sins, the grace and favour of God, and be made thereby the very sons and children of God; that infants must needs be christened because they be born in original sin, which sin must needs be remitted, which cannot be done but by the sacrament of baptism, whereby they receive the Hoiy Ghost, which exerciseth His grace and efficacy in them, and cleanseth and purifieth them from sin by His most secret virtue and operation." And much more to the same effect.

The contrast to the present teaching of the C'hurch in the twenty-seventh Article is remarkable. In the Article of 1536 baptism is declared to be the bestower of the Holy Ghost, and this in the most unqualified terms. It is Rome's "ex opere operato" theory most clearly. In our Article baptism is said to be the sign and seal of regeneration, and the qualifying expressions are carefully added : And in such only as worthily receive the same they have a wholesome effect or operation." "They that receive baptism rightly," &c. In the First Book of Articles the baptism of infants and their sacramental remission of sins and regeneration occupies an extremely prominent part and place. In the Article of to-day instead of this there is the qualified statement that the baptism of young infants is, in anywise, to be retained as most agreeable with the institution of Christ.

This fact may at first sight appear trivial, but to the careful observer it is profoundly significant, and throws strong light on the interpretation of the baptismal service.

The fourth fact is this: —

That throughout the whole of the Prayer Book expressions are found which clearly prove that the Church frames the language of many of her services upon what is commonly called the principle of charitable assumption. The services are drawn up upon the supposition of faith in those who are addressed by them in other words, that the participants in the Church services are in reality what they are declared to be. Without this principle many of the expressions in the Catechism, the Collects, the Burial Service, and other offices, cannot be understood. If then it is a fact that this principle obtains throughout the Prayer Book, there is no reason why it should not be found in the baptismal service; and it is evident then that the Reformers, holding as they did strong Calvinistic doctrines with regard to the salvation of the elect, and the perpetuity of faith in them, could not compile formularies which taught the very Romish doctrines they were drawn up to protest against and destroy. Believing as they did that infants may be spiritually regenerate, and believing most certainly that all infants are not spiritually regenerate, and therefore could not be spiritually regenerated in baptism, it is clear that the language of the service, "this child is regenerate," was intended to bear an hypothetical interpretation. This seems borne out by the fact that in the very prayer in which the priest gives God thanks for the regeneration of the infant, he almost immediately afterwards prays that "finally, with the residue of God's holy Church, he maybe an inheritor of God's everlasting kingdom," which proves that from the standpoint of the Reformation age, the statement about regeneration was generic and presumptive, not a positive judgment with regard to each particular infant. The teaching of the catechism that infants are bound to perform the promises made by their sureties when they come to age, a statement that is in flat opposition to the Romish doctrine of invariable spiritual regeneration, and is honoured by a special anathema against it from the Church of Rome in the Council of Trent, [2] also bears out the principle of hypothetical explanation. In fact it seems from a consideration of the known views of the Reformers, and the literal statements of the Articles and Services, that on the one hand the teaching of the Church is plainly this, that the blessing of newness of life and spiritual regeneration is possible alike to adult and infant. As Samuel was the child of God from infancy, and John the Baptist filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb, so is it possible for God now to settle on even new-born infants the fulness of His grace. Since, therefore, it is as impossible for the Church to discern which are not to be recipients of this blessing as to discern which are, she charitably uses the only language that is scripturally possible in connection with baptism. On the other hand, while the regeneration in the highest sense, though possible, is in many cases in adults and in all cases in infants the charitable language of faith and "expectative" hope, a relative change has always taken place. All children brought into a covenant state of grace by baptism, as the Jews of old by circumcision, and all adults likewise who have professed their faith, are relatively, that is as far as covenant privilege, and responsibility goes, and as far as a dispensation of grace is concerned, "members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of Heaven." But as all circumcised were not circumcised in heart, Romans ii. 28-29, so all baptized are not necessarily baptized of the Spirit because baptized with water. Acts viii. 21-23. It is perfectly right, therefore, to address those as unregenerate, that is in the spiritual sense, from the pulpit, who are without any signs of spiritual life, even though they have been publicly pronounced regenerate at the font.

Could not the expressions of the Church of England baptismal service have been applied to Simon Magus on his baptism ? Certainly they could have. And yet, notwithstanding, there can be no doubt that St. Peter was justified in addressing him as one who had still need of a change of heart and newness of life. "Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter; for thy heart is not right in the sight of God." Numberless quotations from the greatest and most authoritative teachers of the Church of England could be collected to prove that this view, as opposed to the Romish doctrine of baptismal regeneration, has been the commonly accepted interpretation of the language of the Prayer Book in the baptismal service.[3] It is a fact that the principle of hypothetical interpretation was evidently intended by the Church to obtain in the case of the Collects, the Catechism, and the Burial Service. It is also a fact that a great number of most learned, pious, and representative Churchmen have united to declare that the principle of the prayer in these general cases is the principle of interpretation that must be applied to the words, "this child is regenerate," in the baptismal service.

It is evident, therefore, to thoughtful minds that hasty expressions of opinion as to the Romanism of this service are entirely inconsiderate. They are too frequently the utterances of ignorant and prejudiced men whose judgment is crude, and knowledge shallow; men who consider it a blemish that anything should be found in the service which needs an explanation. Such persons forget apparently that the whole of the Word of God abounds with expressions which require most careful investigation and studied explanation. And no expressions, perhaps, in the Word of God are more difficult of correct explanation than the expressions of the Prayer Book with regard to baptism. See Rom. vi., Col. ii. 12, I Peter iii. 21, Acts xxii. 16.

In fact, enlarging Origen's sagacious remark, as quoted by Butler in his Analogy, that he who believes the Scripture to have proceeded from Him who is the author of nature, may well expect to find the same sort of difficulties in it as are found in the constitution of nature ; we may say also: he who finds difficulties in those very Scriptures which were given by the Holy Ghost for the illumination of mankind, may expect more difficulties in compilations which, however beautiful and complete, were still drawn up by the hands of fallible men.

One thing, however, we confidently affirm to the student of the Prayer Book: difficulties he will find, but Popery never.

[1] See Mozley on the Baptismal Controversy, Part ii, Chap. vii. [On the Internet at:; and]
[2] See Bungener's " History- of the Council of Trent," page 29. [On the Internet at: and] The 14th Anathema on Baptism anathrmatizes those who maintain that persons baptized in infancy should, when they come of age, be asked whether they are willing to ratify the promise made in their name.
[3] I would heartily commend to my fellow Churchmen the work of Dean Goode on Baptism. [On the Internet at:] The argument is somewhat involved and lengthy, but when once mastered it convinces the reader that the Romish doctrine of baptismal regeneration never was, and never can be, with the Prayer Book untampered with, the doctrine of the Church of England.