Page images



[ocr errors]

CHAP. judge of the justness of, and form their own conclusions VII.

whether they accord with the facts themselves or not. Tradition By consenting to go into the investigation of the quesnot a safe foundation. tion, whether the baptism of babes can be traced to the als

times of the apostles, I do not mean for a moment to do
admit that, if the fact were so, the conclusion is just that I
it is of apostolic authority ; since it is affirmed by the
apostle that “the mystery of iniquity had already begun
to work,” it is clear that the fact of the existence of any
practice or doctrine during the lifetime of the apostles is
not sufficient to give it divine authority, without from the inh

inspired writings such existing practice has their sanction. ta Contrast Between inspired history and uninspired there is a between inspired and wide difference, which must never be forgotten. In the uninspired former all the facts are true, all the inferences sound, R histories.

and all the commands binding-authoritative. In uninspired history some of the statements are false, (and it is often difficult to discover whether they are true or false ;) most of the inferences or doctrines are utterly unsound; and nearly all the promises absolutely fallacious. This difference our Lord distinctly recognises in his address to the Pharisees, when he declares : “ Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition,” (Matt. xv. 6.) He holds up the Jewish traditions, as not only merely human and unauthoritative, but as frequently, if not usually, making void the commandment of God. As the Christian church became more and more imbued with Judaic ceremonies and principles, it came fully to adopt the Jewish notion of the authority of tradition being equal to that of the writ. ten word of God. This matter has been sọ excellently illustrated by Cruden, an eminent pædobaptist, in his article on - Tradition,” that I present his own words, yielding them my most unqualified assent.


- Tradition is put for a doctrine first delivered by sect. speech from God, and afterwards writ in his book, for the 1. use of the church. This is an object of our faith.* It Cruden, on also stands for a human ordinance or ceremony, handed * 1 Cor. ii. 2; down from one to another, as the Jewish oral law. Thess. ii. These are good or bad, according as they agree with, or deviate from, the word of God, which is our only rule of faith and practice. The Jews call their traditions the oral law, pretending that God delivered them to Moses by word of mouth on Mount Sinai, at the same time that he gave them the written law. That this lawgiver taught them to the elders of the people, and committed them to them as a trust which they were to convey down to their successors, and so on. The church of

Rome is very near akin to the Jews in this matter. She · holds, that besides what we have in the New Testament,

the apostles delivered many things to the primitive church only by word of mouth, which have since that time been imparted to succeeding churches; to the observation of which Christians are as much obliged as to the written word. The council of Trent says concern

ing traditions : • That the truth and discipline of the | catholic church are comprehended both in the sacred . books and in the traditions, which have been received

from the mouth of Jesus Christ himself, or his apostles, and which have been preserved and transmitted to us by an uninterrupted chain and succession. The doctrine of the reformed churches concerning traditions, is : • That the Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.'” d

[ocr errors]


Cruden's Concordance, 4to edit. Art. Tradition.

CH AP. Upon the protestant principle, therefore, Dr. Wall, VII.

and all the most learned and candid writers on that side, Pædobap- must abandon infant baptism. In Dr. W., however, it tism unte nable on

is no inconsistency, for the church of which he was an Protestant able advocate was in this point, as in many others, semiprinciples.

papal ;e and rded then, as the Oxford tract men do now, the writings of the Fathers as a necessary portion of the evidence and authority for Christian doctrine and practice. In our closing chapter it will be demonstrated that one of the great evils of the unhappy perversion of the ordinance of baptism is, that it tends materially to weaken the attachment of those deluded by it to the great protestant principle, or rather principle of the true church, that “the Bible, and the Bible ALONE, is suf. ficient for all matters both of faith and practice.” Indeed it is manifest that whenever pædobaptists engage in a contest with the advocates of popery, they find their position on the subject of baptism one of great embarrassment, to say the least, and giving great advantage to their opponents.

Although denying the conclusion, therefore, that the practice of the churches in the apostolic age, and still less that of the second century, would be a sufficient warrant for the adoption of infant baptism; yet since, if the facts are so, it will, in some measure at least, excuse those whose minds are imbued with a high reverence for uninspired antiquity for embracing it; and as the truth on this point, be it what it may, cannot fail to be advantageous to the whole question, when properly considered, we enter thoroughly on the investigation.

e I use this term simply in an historical, not an offensive sense.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

of a correct

BEFORE presenting the evidence which the writinys SECT.

II. and practice of the early ages afford, it is very desirable that the inquirer after truth should have a correct im- Importance pression respecting the reliance that is to be placed on idea rethe ecclesiastical literature and religious practices of the specting an. first four or five centuries of the Christian church. tianity. No erroneous misapprehension has been more exten- Erroneous

impressions sively diffused, more cordially embraced, more tena. generally ciously adhered to, or more detrimental to the perfect prevalent ; reformation of the Christian church, than the idea that in the times immediately succeeding to those of the apostles, (from the first to the fourth centuries,) the Christian church exhibited resplendently the purity of divine truth, both in doctrine and practice. It has generally been supposed that the fires of persecution blazed so furiously and so constantly that the purity of the church, in faith and practice, was generally preserved.

This idea has been fondly indulged, not only by the even among advocates of the Romish hierarchy, but equally by pro. protestants. testants in general," with the exception of a few of the best informed and boldest of the “ sect every where spoken against.” When baptist authors have exposed some of the follies of the early fathers, and corruptions of Christians of the early ages, they have been assailed as either barbarians in literature, or traitors to Christianity.

a Mr. Le Clerk, whom Dr. Wall so much vilifies, and a very few others, have ventured to express fully the truth on this point.

of the Ox.

CH A P. The wisest of men said, however, there is wa time VII.

for all things ;” and the time for the end of this deluPrinciples sion has arrived. (Truly this is the time of the end, ford Tract

in a great many respects.) Under the providential Party. guidance of the Head of the church, circumstances, sin

gular and unexpected, have arisen, which have resulted in throwing a powerful light on this subject. Several divines, of high ecclesiastical standing and literary character, in the very citadel of English episcopacy, (the university of Oxford,) have for several years past devoted their talents and their influence to impregnate the public mind with the idea, that the true model of the Christian church, both in its doctrines and forms, is to be found in the writings and practices of the fathers who lived prior to the council of Nice. This would, in effect, (whether so insidiously designed or not,) lead back the church of England from the position of a reformed church, to an ecclesiastical body possessing almost every feature of the papacy, except the acknowledgment of the spiritual domination of the bishop of Rome. This attempt has been made not only through the pulpit, but through the medium of the press, by the issue of a series of pamphlets, entitled, “ Tracts for the Times;" and the individuals engaged in this effort have acquired the title of “ The Oxford Tract Party.” All christendom is interested in this movement; and a very large portion of it regards these efforts with intense interest. The advocates of popery, throughout both hemispheres, are indulging in pleasing dreams of the re-union of England with the papal see; and even all around us are most hopefully engaged in praying for the conversion of the young queen of the British isles. In truth, the controversy which has arisen out of these circumstances deeply affects every ecclesiastical organization extant;

« PreviousContinue »