« PreviousContinue »
NOTES ON BAPTISMAL REGENERATION.
ANGLO-CATHOLICISM," BY W. LINDSAY ALEXANDER, D.D.
First Serics. One of the best books to which is that it is to the baptism of the the Tractarian controversy gave birth Spirit that reference is made ; and twenty years ago, was Dr. Alex- (2.) That the place occupied by ander's “ Anglo-Catholicism
not water-baptism in the Christian sysApostolical.” The author sifted and tem, is one of a merely subordinate stated the doctrines which were con- character; in other words, that the tained in the “ Tracts for the Times,” rite derives its worth not from anywith calmness and clearness ; and in thing in itself, but solely from its the same spirit and style he examined relation as a sign or symbol to that the grounds on which these doctrines spiritual baptism—that “repentance were based. In discussing the sub- unto life' which it is the grand design ject of baptismal regeneration, he of Christianity to confer.” laid down two preliminary principles : Having stated and maintained 1. The word baptize, as used by the these principles, Dr. Alexander prosacred writers, does not necessarily ceeds to consider the texts on which imply the application of water to the Dr. Pusey, in his tract “On Baptism,” person. That word does not mean, laid the chief stress as favourable to he contends, either to immerse, or to his views, and which he regarded as pour, or to sprinkle. As used in the directly teaching the doctrine of New Testament, it denotes to cleanse, baptismal efficacy. We give his to purify generally, in whatever way, exposition of these texts almost in and by whatever means that may be füll, and commend it earnestly to all effected. And if this be the case, who would know what the mind of is obvious that, from the mere use, in Christ is on this great subject. any given instance, of the word baptize, The first text which Dr. Pusey or its cognates, we cannot justly infer
urges is John iji. 5:-that it is of a rite performed upon the 'Except a man be born of water person that the word is employed." and of the Spirit, he cannot enter 2. We are very emphatically told, into the kingdom of God.' By that the grand distinction between "water' in this passage, he underthe baptism of John and the baptism stands our Lord to mean baptismal of Christ lay in this—that the former water ; and in this light he quotes our was by, water, whilst the latter is by Lord's words, as containing a decided the Spirit. “It does not certainly declaration as to the regenerating follow from this, as some have rashly power of baptism. On this I observe, concluded, that baptism with water is 1st. That even admitting the catholic no part of the religion of Christ ; but interpretation of this passage, I do from such statements we surely cannot not see that it will greatly serve the do less than infer (1.) That where, object for which it is adduced. The in the New Testament, baptism is point to be proved is, that outward spoken of absolutely, the presumption baptism has power to regenerate those
to whom it is applied ; that is, that Trinity had not been given, and that a properly qualified person has only the person for whose instruction He to administer the baptismal waters in was speaking was a Jew, to whom order directly, ipso facto, to regenerate the meaning of such an allusion, the party receiving the rite. Now, couched in such terms, would be where is the countenance given to hardly perceptible. There was another this doctrine in the passage before meaning, however, which, to the mind us? Our Lord does not
that of one who was a master in Israel,' water, by itself, without the Spirit would naturally occur. In the ancient will regenerate; nor does He intimate Scriptures, the cleansing of the soul that the application of water to the from pollution is not rarely spoken of person secures the agency ofthe Spirit on under the figure of water applied to the mind. He simply affirms that both
I entered into a covewater and the Spirit (supposing them nant with thee,' says God to the different) are necessary to regenera- Jewish Church, and thou becamest tion. Now, one might logically enough mine; then washed
mine; then washed I thee with water.' infer from this, that, on the catholic • Then will sprinkle clean water explanation of the word water, baptism upon you,' says He again, with is essential to salvation ; but to infer reference to the times of the Mesfrom it that baptism will of itself save siah,
ye shall be clean, from (or regenerate] is clearly illegitimate. all your filthiness and from all your If I were to say—'Except a man
idols will I cleanse you. understand and believe the Gospel he heart also will I give you, and a new cannot be saved, it would be a just spirit will I put within you; and I inference from my words, that the will take away the stony heart out of understanding of the Gospel is essen- your flesh, and I will give you a heart tial to salvation ; but if any were to of flesh, and I will put my Spirit explain my statement as affirming within you,' &c. In that day, that a mere understanding of the says He again, speaking of the same Gospel was enough to save a man, I period, • there shall be a fountain should justly complain that my mean- opened to the house of David, and to ing had been perverted. I conceive the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin the case before
be quite and for uncleanness.' With these analogous. If by water,' our Lord, and similar passages there can be no in this passage, means baptism, He doubt but that Nicodemus was well certainly teaches that, without that acquainted ; and, this being the case, rite, there is no regeneration, but He it seems almost inconceivable that does not teach that that rite has, in our Lord's words, literally identical itself, the power of regeneration. as they are with the expressions used 2ndly. It may be questioned whether in the second of the above quotations, our Lord, in using the word 'water' should have led away the mind of the on this occasion intended
allusion ruler from the ideas of internal purifiwhatever to baptism. Let it be re- cation, which, in connexion with membered that, at the time He spoke these passages, they suggest, to a thus, the commission to His disciples mere outward rite, and one which, in to baptize men into the name of the its proper character, as a Christian
institute, did not at the time they water, operating with the power of were uttered, exist. Surely, if in the Spirit,' &c. The only question, this solemn declaration, our Lord then, between him and us is, whether meant to teach the necessity of bap- the water qualifies the Spirit, or the tism to salvation, He would have Spirit qualifies the water; in other condescended to use towards
words, whether our Saviour, to exwhom He showed such a gracious plain the mysterious agency of water, desire to instruct, language of a compared it to the Divine Spirit; or, nature less likely to mislead His to explain the operation of the Spirit, hearer. 3dly. It is worthy of remark, compared it to water.
compared it to water. Between these that, in what follows in our Lord's two there cannot surely be much discourse, it is only of the birth by hesitation in our choice, when we the Spirit that He speaks ; this He remember that with all correct repeatedly mentions, while no further speakers it is usual to illustrate allusion is made by Him to a birth by spiritual objects by material, not water. Now, this seems greatly to material objects by spiritual. favour the opinion, that, in this 5th “ Following Dr. Pusey's guidance, verse, he makes use of a hendiadys, the next passage that comes under and that, by 'water and the Spirit,' consideration is our Lord's commisHe only means the Spirit which sion to His apostles immediately cleanses like water, the purifying or before His ascension. This, as given cleansing Spirit. This figure is of by the Evangelists Matthew and Mark, frequent occurrence in the New Testa- runs thus :— Having gone into all ment, and one example of it is so the world preach the Gospel to every exactly parallel to the words before
creature ; make disciples of all the us, as almost to require for them the nations, [by] baptizing them into (or interpretation just given. I allude to for, čis) the name of the Father, and the words of John the Baptist con- the Son, and the Holy Spirit, incerning Christ: “He shall baptize structing them to keep whatsoever you with the Holy Spirit and with things I have enjoined on you. He fire,' words which can bear no other that believeth and is baptized shall meaning than that the baptism of be saved; but he that believeth not the Spirit should purify like fire. shall be condemned. And lo! I am Why should not the same principle with you always, even to the end of of interpretation be resorted to in the the world. Amen.' (Matt. xxviii. case before us? If a hendiadys be 19, 20; Mark xvi. 15, 16.) From admitted in the one case, why not in these words it appears that our Lord the other? Are not the two exactly commissioned His apostles to make men parallel ? In fine, it may be observed, disciples by two means—by baptizing that Dr. Pusey cannot object to the them and by teaching them; and that principle of this interpretation, for consequently men are to become dishis own, if I do not misapprehend his ciples by the correspondent acts of being meaning, proceeds upon the supposi- baptized and believing what they are tion of a hendiadys in this passage. taught. We also learn from them He understands the passage as if it
that both belief and baptism are read-—Except a
man be born of required for salvation; but there is certainly no intimation in the whole imply, he tells us, no mere profescommission to the effect that baptism sion of obedience, sovereignty, belief, of itself will save, still less that faith but (if one may so speak) a real without baptism will not save. The appropriation of the person baptized main stress is evidently laid on the to the Holy Trinity, a transfer believing, which leads to the conclu- of him from the dominion of Satan sion that baptism is here said to them; an insertion of him within to be essential to salvation only in their blessed Name; and a casting the same
sense in which a public the shield (to speak humanly) of profession of attachment to Christ that Almighty Name over him,' &c. is elsewhere said to be essential This language is not very intel(Rom. x. 9; Luke xii. 8, &c.), viz., as ligible; but I suppose the author an outward index or symbol of the means by it that baptism into the faith within with which it stands asso- name of the Trinity means an actual
ted. I understand our Lord's and not a mere professed submission words, then, as virtually meaning to God, and embracing of the gracious that every one who believes and benefits which He is pleased to bestow. duly professes that belief shall be Now, that wherever there is such a saved. That such was the interpre- profession, it ought to be accompanied tation put upon them by the apostles with the reality there can be no doubt, themselves may be inferred, I think, but that the phrase "to baptize into with considerable certainty from their the name of God'implies anything subsequent practice, in the history of more than to introduce by means of which we find no trace of their baptism to the profession of God's attempting to baptize any but such service and worship, will not easily as they had previously taught. It is admit of proof. Happily for the due worthy of remark also, that Paul, understanding of such phraseology, it speaking of his apostolic commission, is not only of the Divine Being that says, ' Christ sent me not to baptize, it is employed in Scripture. Paul but to preach the Gospel' (1 Cor. i. 17); asks the Corinthians,
Were ye language which by no means intimates baptized into the name of Paul ?' that the apostle considered the ad- and again, in the same epistle he says ministration of baptism as no part of of the Israelites, that they were all his duty, but which very clearly baptized into Moses by (év) the cloud teaches that he regarded it as alto- and by the sea. (1 Cor. i. 13; x. 2.) gether subordinate to the great work In both these passages the phrase in of announcing to men the message of question can imply nothing else than salvation through Christ.
external profession; in the case of “ Against this view of the apostolic the Corinthians of submission to Paul, commission, Dr. Pusey urges that it in the case of the Israelites of submisis incompatible with the due interpre- sion to Moses. Upon what grounds, tation of the phrase baptizing them then, can it be argued that it has a into the name of the Father, and the different meaning in our Lord's comSon, and the Holy Spirit.' These mission to His apostles ? words, he contends, are full of very “ The only other passages adduced deep and mysterious meaning. They by Dr. Pusey as proving by their
direct testimony the efficacy of out- ward but.moral purification to which ward baptism, are Tit. iii. 5, and he refers ; ‘not,' he says, the putting 1 Pet. iii. 21. In the former of these, away of the filth of the flesh, but the God is said to save us 'according answer of a good conscience toward to His mercy by the washing of rege- God.' Here again, then, there is neration and of renewing of the Holy nothing about water-baptism, except Spirit.” Such is the rendering of it may be in the way of distant alluthe passage which Dr. Pusey himself sion; the saving power being ascribed gives, and which will, I think, be solely to the moral cleansing which admitted on all hands to be correct. is effected by the Divine Spirit. And Now, what is the idea intended to with this accords fully the context of be conveyed to us by such a peculiar the passage, which, indeed, only on combination of words as this ? All this view receives, as it appears to these genitives depend from the word me, any consistent interpretation. dovtpoo, rendered 'washing,' and con- In the preceding verse, Peter, speaksequently are all explanatory of it. ing of the flood in the days of Noah, The washing here spoken of is the says that the salvation of the patriarch washing of regeneration, and of re- and his family by water was a type newing of the Holy Spirit. Can this of the salvation of Christians by mean anything else than the regene- baptism. In this comparison the rating and renewing washing of the water of the flood answers to the Holy Spirit ? in other words, the baptism of which the apostle speaks, moral cleansing which the Spirit as type to antitype. But what is effects on the mind ? If so, this the relation of type to antitype ? Is passage says nothing about outward it that of one material object or act baptism (except it may be in the way to another ? or is it not that of a of dim and indistinct allusion), while material object or act to something what it does say, so far from favour- spiritual and invisible ?
If we are ing the notion of baptismal efficacy, to be guided by the case of the leads rather to the conclusion that Mosaic types, the latter is the decias it is not by any works of ours (and sion to which we must come. The ritual baptism is surely a human entire system of Mosaic types was work) but by the direct agency of the composed of outward symbols of Divine Spirit that we are regenerated unseen and invisible things ; and the and renewed, it is to the latter and correspondence between them and the not to the former, we should look as system of Christianity is not that of alone efficacious in our salvation. act to act, or person to person, but of
" As respects the statement by the acts, persons, offices, times, and apostle Peter, that baptism, as an places, to the great spiritual truths antitype to the flood, now saves us, which Christianity unfolds. When, whatever difficulties may, in other therefore, Peter says here that baprespects, attach to the passage, there tism is the antitype to the water of can be none in determining of what the flood, the analogy of typical intersort the baptism is of which the pretation leads us to infer, that it is apostle speaks ; "for he himself ex- not the material baptism—the baptism pressly tells us, that it is not out- with water--that is spoken of (for
VOL 1-NEW SERIES.