Page images

CHAP. and, in a word, what was to be observed of those that VII.

are regenerated in Christ.”

LUDOVICUS Vives, in his notes on Augustin, de Civi. tate Dei, says: “No person was formerly brought to the sacred baptistery till he was of adult age, and both understood the meaning of that mystical water, and requested, once and again, to be washed in it."

SUICERUS says the same thing, but is more positive as to the time. “In the two first ages,” says he, “no person was baptized till he was instructed in the faith, and tinctured with the doctrine of Christ, and could testify his own faith ; because of those words of Christ

He that believeth and is baptized ;' therefore believing was first."

CURCELLÆUS, also, fixes the time of bringing in infant baptism. “Pædobaptism," says he, “ was not known in the world the two first ages after Christ. In the third and fourth it was approved of by a few. At length, in the fifth and following ages, it began to obtain in divers places. And, therefore, we observe this rite indeed as an ancient custom, but not as an apostolical tradition. The custom of baptizing infants did not begin before the third

age after Christ; and there appears not the least footstep of it in the two first centuries,” says this learned author.9

MOSHEIM, in his description of the rites of the church in the second century, does not venture to affirm that infant baptism was yet introduced : “ The sacrament of baptism was administered publicly twice every year, at the festivals of Easter and Pentecost, or Whitsuntide, either by the bishop or presbyters, in consequence of his authorization and appointment. The persons to be

9 Crosby's Hist. Eng. Bapt. pref. pp. 66, 49—55.


[ocr errors]

baptized, after they had repeated the creed, confessed SECT. and renounced their sins, and particularly the devil and his pompous allurements, were immersed under water, and received into Christ's kingdom by a solemn invocation of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, according to the express command of our Lord. After baptism they received the sign of the cross, were annointed, and, by prayers, were solemnly commended to the mercy of God, and dedicated to his service; in consequence of which, they received milk and honey, which concluded the ceremony. Adult persons were prepared for baptism by abstinence, prayer, and other pious exercises. It was to answer for them that sponsors, or god-fathers, were first instituted, though they were afterwards admitted also in the baptism of infants.

The celebrated German critic, BRETSCHNEIDER, in his recent work,s observes : “All the earlier traces of infant baptism are very doubtful ; on the contrary, Tertullian is the first who refers to it, and he censures it. Origen and Cyprian, on the contrary, defend it. In the fourth century its validity was generally acknowledged, although the church Fathers often found it necessary to warn against the delay of baptism. Even Pelagius did not dare to call the correctness of it in question. Augustine pointed out the removal of original sin, and the sins of the children as its definite object; and through his representations was its universal diffusion promoted.”

Winer's Manuscript Lectures: “Originally only adults were baptized; but, at the end of the second century, in Africa, and in the third century, generally, infant baptism was introduced ; and in the fourth century it was theologically maintained by Augustine.”

r Mosheim, vol. i. p. 58.

Theology, (1833) vol. i. p. 469.

sertions of

CH AP. MATTHIES, one of the latest writers on baptism, VII. p. 187, says:

“ In the first two centuries, no documents are found, which clearly show the existence of infant baptism at that time.”

According to RHEINWALD, p. 313, the “first traces of infant baptism are found in the Western church, after the middle of the second century, and it was the subject of controversy in Proconsular Africa, towards the end of this century. Though its necessity was asserted in Africa and Egypt in the beginning of the third century, it was, even to the end of the fourth century, by no means universally observed-least of all in the Eastern church. Notwithstanding the recommendation of it by the Fathers, it never became a general ecclesiastical insti

tution, till the age of Augustine." Strange as- “It is to be regretted,” observes President Sears, Dr. Woods, satirically, “ that Neander, and a few other Germans,

such as Winer, Schleiermacher, Gieseler, BaumgartenCrusius, Hahn, Olshausen, De Wette, Münscher, &c., &c., had not more extensive means of investigation, and were not more deeply versed in the study of the Fathers! Had they seen Dr. Woods on · Infant Baptism,' they would have learned, that we have evidence as abundant, and specific, and certain, as history affords of almost any fact, that infant baptism universally prevailed from the days of the Apostles through four centuries. During this period, no one denied it; and no one argued against it.'t • The testimony of the early Christian writers in favour of infant baptism, as the uniform practice of the church, is worthy of entire credit, and as the circumstances were, affords a conclusive argument that it was a divine institution.' We cannot reconcile these assertions with the

+ Dr. Woods' Lectures, p. 190.


sion of be

great respect we entertain for Dr. Woods, except upon SECT. the supposition, that he has not read the early Christian writers for himself, but has merely adopted certain isolated passages, quoted by others, without going to the original authorities, and studying the connection. It is very unsafe for the historical critic to arrive at his conclusions, without first carefully investigating the facts.” u Admitting then Dr. Wall's position, “ that there is no Nothing

certainly doubt the Apostles knew what was to be done in this

apostolic case, and consequently that the Christian church in their but immertime did as we should now ;" I would call upon my bre. Jievers. thren to do as we know the Apostles and primitive churches in their day and long after, did-immerse believers and those only. What we know only can be the guide of our conduct; and I boldly affirm that no man living knows, whatever he may suppose, that any other than believers were baptized either by the Apostles, or for one hundred years after the death of the last of those inspired missionaries.

Here I might well rest the case; but as it has been asserted by some that it is at least highly probable that infant baptism descended from the Apostles, because its introduction into the Christian church cannot be traced out, miserable as this apology is, even that will not bear the test of historical investigation to which it shall be submitted.

u Christian Review, vol. iii. p. 202.





СНАР. In this century the state of the church became rapidly VII.

corrupt; its bishops were ambitious and tyrannical, and Rapid cor.

many of its number luxurious and vicious. This state. ruption of the church ment is fully sustained by all protestant and many in the third catholic writers on ecclesiastical history. It is in the century.

a The testimony of the learned Mosheim will be deemed suffi. cient :

“ The face of things began now to change in the Christian church. The ancient method of ecclesiastical government secmed in general still to subsist, while, at the same time, by imperceptible steps it varied from the primitive rule, and degenerated towards the form of a religious monarchy. For the bishops aspired to higher degrees of power and authority than they had formerly possessed ; and not only violated the riglits of the people, but also made gradual encroachments upon the privileges of the presbyters. And that they might cover these usurpations with an air of justice, and an appearance of reason, they published new doctrines concerning the nature of the church, and of the episcopal dignity, which, however, were in general so obscured, that they themselves seem to have understood as little as those to whom they were delivered. One of the principal authors of this change in the government of the church, was Cyprian, who pleaded for the power of the bishops with more zeal and vehemence than had ever been hitherto employed in that cause, though not with an unshaken constancy and perseverance: for in difficult and perilous times, necessity sometimes obliged him to yield, and to submit several things to the judgment and authority of the church.

“ This change in the form of ecclesiastical government, was soon followed by a train of vices which dishonoured the character and authority of those to whom the administration of the church was conmitted. For, though several yet continued to exhibit to the

« PreviousContinue »