Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

capac privilege of his cathe LO

credible evidence of faith in Christ. “Dost thou believe on the Son of God with all thine heart ?”' ought to be put to every candidate for baptism, as it was put by Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch; and if, as in that instance, he can reply, with entire sincerity, “I believe that Jesus is the Son of, God,” then ought he to be baptized “into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” Hence the force of the commission: “Go ye into all the world and teach (make disciples of, wasntetoate,“ disciple or convert them to the faith," Bloomfield,) all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”

That children ought to be trained for Christ and his church no intelligent Baptist will deny. It is the privilege not only of all Christians, and of the church, in its collective capacity, to labor and pray for this end; but it is the special privilege and duty of every Christian parent to pray with and for his children, to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and anticipate for them, on the ground of the Divine promise, the protection and blessing of God. But their solemn induction into the church, and their participation of gospel rites, baptism or the Lord's Supper, significant or symbolic of union to Christ and his church, is quite another thing. This privilege is reserved for believers; and hence he waits until the members of his household, young or old, children or domestics, give credible evidence of faith in Christ, before he can encourage them to enter the church, by a solemn profession, or the observance of a significant Christian rite. As to those who die in infancy, he is willing to leave them in the hands of God, without the imaginary spiritual benefit derived from an external observance.

The baptism of an unconscious child may seem to some a beautiful and appropriate act, and possibly it might possess this character, were it only of Divine appointment, and significant of nothing more than a desire, on the part of the parent, or sponsor, to consecrate the child to God, on the same ground that he would consecrate a bell, a pulpit or a church; but as an ordinance of the Christian institution, and taken in its true Scriptural import and design, baptism can have neither beauty nor significance in such a case ex-. cept as a formal induction into the visible church. If it signifies, as Dr. Bushnell claims, that the child is a Christian, or is to grow up a Christian, never knowing a conversion, beyond the initial regeneration which it receives from the family organism, or it, as the Papal, and almost all the State Churches in the world, Episcopal, Presby

signifnificant of reg. mild, or a consfounds all just

terian, Lutheran and Greek, claim, it actually confers regeneration, ex opere operato, and so constitutes the child “an heir of God and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven"all very well. There is meaning in that, however preposterous the supposition upon which it is founded. But to take the rite, significant of union to Christ and his church, or if you please, significant of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, and apply it to an unconscious child, or a conscious unconverted adult, is an abuse of the ordinance. It confounds all just distinctions, and nullifies, so far as its influence extends, the separation of the church from the world. This, too, in all ages, has been its ultimate practical effect.

There are those indeed who deny this, and hold the rite as a simple consecration, having no kind of reference to church membership or anything of the kind. Many such are intelligent and pious, and it may be, see some good in infant baptism ; but they have lost the true meaning of the rite, and have only to regain that, and take a single step further, to become intelligent, consistent Baptists. Indeed at heart they are Baptists, but only somewhat in error as to the meaning of the ordinance. They believe in the spirituality of the church, and the reality of regeneration as a Divine change, a change, too, associated with repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and have no sympathy with the ritualism of the Papal and Episcopal Churches. Why then should they not restore baptism to its appropriate place, as really significant of an inward change, and a new, spiritual relation, and thus become Baptists out and out ? Mr. Noel has done this, in a noble, consistent manner, and we commend his example to the imitation of our evangelical Pædobaptist brethren, who desire that there should be among all Christians “one Lord, one faith, one baptism."

Having established, in his own mind, the great principle of the freedom and spirituality of the church, and on this ground rejected the alliance of Church and State, Mr. Noel, in the prosecution of his inquiries, found that he must advance to Baptist sentiments. He perceived clearly that they are taught in the Bible, and are but the necessary development of the positions which he had previously assumed. Hence, as in the case of nearly all who have seceded, on evangelical grounds, from the Established Church of England, he could not be satisfied till he had himself obeyed the command of Christ, by accepting immersion in the name of the Trinity.

During his ministry among the Episcopalians he had taken

the propriety of infant baptism for granted. Indeed, “ an indefinite fear of the conclusions to which he might come,” led him to avoid the study of the question,-a condition of mind similar to that of thousands. But on seceding from s the Establishment,” he felt himself compelled to take it up ab initio. This he was enabled to do, in a calm, prayerful, candid manner. He examined, as he informs us in his preface, each passage of Scripture upon the subject which came in his way, and the evidence thus furnished convinced him that “ repentance and faith ought to precede baptism.” This course, some may say, was unphilosophical ; for infant baptism has a basis in the nature of things, in the very constitution of man, and the design of the family organization, "prepared as a mould ” to receive the child and bring it into relation and fellowship with God! But we submit, whether it was not eminently Scriptural, and as to the philosophy of the thing, that will depend upon the practical result of the whole. It is a poor way to come to the investigation of the Scriptures upon any point, with a preformed theory or notion, even if it be a philosophical one, and attempt to find what God never put there. Mr. Noel has great reverence for the teachings of the Word, and prefers evidently to submit his mind, unbiased, to its sacred guidance.

“ The reasons,” he adds in his preface, " assigned by the Anglican Catechism, why an infant should be baptized without repentance and faith, are very unsatisfactory. As soon then as I had settled my mind upon the union of the churches with the State, I turned my attention to this question.” To prevent any undue bias from “ such a partial, one-sided investigation," as some are conscious of making themselves, and thence uniformly suspect in others, Mr. Noel resolved to confine his inquiries to the Scriptures and the writings of those who defend infant baptism. “ Not having read a single Baptist work or tract,” he tells us with candor, “I publish the following work as an independent testimony to the exclusive right of believers to Christian baptism.”

In this feature consists the principal value of the work. We have met with more critical discussions of the subject by Baptist writers, but none more clear, more candid and convincing. Mr. Noel doubtless would have enriched his volume by a perusal of Baptist writers, and especially by extending his inquiries among the German critics, with whom he does not seem familiar; perhaps also he might have corrected, by this means, some slight mistakes, in the interpretation of particular passages of Scripture, into which he has inadvertently

fallen, and given to his work a higher critical value ; but after all, it would have possessed less adaptation to the public mind, as a spontaneous, independent testimony to the truth. Upon the whole, we are glad he has adopted this course, and in view of all the circumstances, must say, that the work is one of great and permanent value. No candid man, it seems to us, with the least scholarly, and above all, Christian spirit, can rise from its perusal without profound respect and affection for its gifted and conscientious author.

The present work is confined entirely to the question as to the proper subjects of baptism. Mr. Noel assumes that the word means immersion, which he may very well do, in the present state of Biblical criticism, and promises a separate volume upon this point. Built

His first great argument for the exclusive baptism of believers is derived from the import of the commission of Christ, in the 28th chapter of Matthew ; in which he shows, very clearly, that faith or discipleship must precede baptism. Upon this point he occasionally confirms his statements and reasonings by an apt quotation from Pædobaptist authority. The following from Calvin, on Matt. xxviii. 19, in which that distinguished theologian and admirable interpreter of Scripture writes like an honest Baptist, is an instance in point : “ Christ orders them to be baptized who shall have given their name to the gospel, and shall have proposed themselves disciples ; partly that baptism may be to them a watchword of eternal life before God, partly the external sign of faith amongst men. Therefore in Mark it is said,

He that believeth and is baptized. By which words Christ joins baptism to doctrine, so that the former may be merely an occasion to the latter. But since Christ orders to teach before baptizing, and wills that believers alone be admitted to baptism, baptism seems not to be rightly administered unless faith has preceded. And properly is faith in the Word placed before baptism, since the Gentiles were wholly alienated from God, nor had anything in common with the elect people; otherwise the figure would be mendacious, offering the remission of sins and the gift of the Spirit to unbelievers who were not as yet members of Christ." 212

To this and similar quotations, Mr. Noel might have added some pertinent ones from the better class of the German theologians and critics, who, though they practise infant baptism, as something natural and becoming, and springing, as they would say, from the gradual development of Christianity, almost universally abandon the idea of its apostolic

[graphic]

the second, or traces of in Wette, most distin such as Gi

origin. Their best ecclesiastical historians, such as Gieseler and Neander, and some of their most distinguished scholars and critics, such as De Wette, Bretschneider, Jacobi and others, find no traces of infant baptism till the latter part of the second, or the commencement of the third century ; but they believe that it was gradually introduced, as a natural custom, greatly strengthened by the exaggerated ideas which began to prevail even in the times of Justin Martyr and Irenæus, and especially in those of Cyprian and Origen, of the magical value of the ordinances, and which gave rise not only to infant baptism, but to infant confirmation and communion. “Since baptism,” says Neander, (Planting of the Church," p. 101,) « marked the entrance into communion with Christ, it resulted from the nature of the rite, that a confession of faith in Jesus as the Redeemer would be made by the person baptized ; and in the latter part of the apostolic age, we may find indications of the existence of such a practice. As baptism was closely united with a conscious entrance on Christian communion, faith and baptism were always connected with one another; and thus it is in the highest degree probable that baptism was performed only in instances where both could meet together, and that the practice of infant baptism was unknown at this period. We cannot infer the existence of infant baptism from the instance of the baptism of whole families, for the passage in 1 Cor. xvi. 15 shows the fallacy of such a conclusion, as from that it appears that the whole family of Stephanas, who were baptized by Paul, consisted of adults. That not till so late a period as (at least certainly not earlier than) Irenæus, a trace of infant baptism appears, and that it first became recognized as an apostolic tradition in the course of the third century, is evidence rather against than for the admission of its apostolic origin ; especially since in the spirit of the age when Christianity appeared, there were many elements which must have been favorable to the introduction of infant baptism—the same elements from which proceeded the notion of the magical effects of outward baptism, the notion of its absolute necessity for salvation, the notion which gave

rise to the mythus that the apostles baptized the Old Testa,ment saints in Hades.” To the same effect see his Church History, vol. I. pp. 310–11 ; vol. II. pp. 319, 320. The Rev. J. Jacobi, a distinguished member of the University of Berlin, the friend and associate of Neander, in his article on the subject of baptism, written with much ability and candor, in Kitto's Biblical Cyclopedia, vol. I. p. 287, says decisively,

vol." Hades." "To apostles baptizeation which

320. The

in Kitthject of end and inguished vol. 11.effect sede, old leave

Kitto's Biofi baptism, associate of mber of the

« AnteriorContinuar »