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"CATECHUMENS, the lowest order of Christians in the primitive church. They had some title to the common name of Christians, being a degree above Pagans and heretics, though not consummated by baptism. They were admitted to the state of catechumens by the imposition of hands, and the sign of the cross. The children of believing parents were admitted catechumens as soon as ever they were capable of instruction; but at what age those of heathen parents might be admitted is not so clear. As to the time of their continuance in this state, there were no general rules fixed about it; but the practice varied according to the difference of times and places, and the readiness and proficiency of the catechumens themselves. There were four orders or degrees of catechumens. The first were those instructed privately without the church, and kept at a distance, for some time, from the privilege of entering the church, to make them the more eager and desirous of it. The next degree were the candidates, so called from their being admitted to hear sermons and the scriptures read in the church, but were not allowed to partake of the prayers. The third sort of catechumens were the genu flectentes, so called because they received imposition of hands kneeling. The fourth order was the competentes et electi; denoting the immediate candidates for baptism, or such as were appointed to be baptized the next approaching festival; before which, strict examination was made into their proficiency, under the several stages of catechetical exercises.
“After examination, they were exercised for twenty days together, and were obliged to fasting and confession. Some days before baptism they went veiled; and it was customary to touch their ears, saying, Ephatha,-i. e., Be opened; as also to anoint their eyes with clay: both ceremonies being in imitation of our Saviour's practice, and intended to signify to the catechumens their condition both before and after their admission into the Christian church."
If, then, infant baptism had been the custom of the primitive church, I ask these hoary Doctors of modern Divinity, how could it have happened that schools were so early, even in their "ancient church,” established for preparing children for baptism by inducting them into the knowledge of the facts, precepts, and promises of Christianity? Can any one of these defenders of the high antiquity of infant baptism give a good reason for such schools? Yes, says one of the most ingenuous of them, they were instituted for heathen children! Whether to ascribe this dogma to his temerity or to his intractability, I know not; but this I know, that he has read ecclesiastical history to little account who assumes this attitude on this question. Surely every mere tyro in ecclesiastic learning remembers the case of the celebrated St. Augustine, born in Tagasta, 354; who, by “his Christian mother Monica, was placed among the catechumens;” so that, says Du Pin, “falling dangerously sick, he earnestly desired to be baptized;" but was not till then better eduCated!! For according to the rule of the church, “catechumens were not to be prayed for who died without baptism.”
Dr. Mosheim assigns to these catechumens a place in the insti. tutions of the first century. His words are
“Whoever acknowledged Christ as the Saviour of mankind, and made a solemn profession of his confidence in him, was immediately baptized and received into the church. But, in process of time, when the church began to flourish, and its members to increase, it was thought prudent and necessary to divide Christians into two orders, distinguished by the names of believers and catechumens. Toe former were those who had been solemnly admitted into the church by baptism, and in consequence thereof were instructed in all the mysteries of religion, had access to all the parts of divine worship, and were authorized to vote in the ecclesiastical assemblies. The latter were such as had not been dedicated to God and Christ by baptism; and were, therefore, admitted neither to the public prayers, nor to the holy con munion, nor to the ecclesiastical assemblies."
Again he says“In the earliest times of the church, all who professed firmly to believe that Jesus was the only Redeemer of the world, and who, in consequence of this profession, promised to live in a manner conformableło the purity of his holy religion, were immediately receive ed among the disciples of Christ. This was all the preparation for baptism then required; and a more accurate instruction in the doctrines of Christianity was to be administered to them after their receiving that sacrament."
Again—“The methods of instructing the catechumens differed according to their various capacities. Those in whom the natural force of reason was small, were taught no more than the fundamental principles and truths, which are, as it were, the basis of Christianity. Those, on the contrary, whom their instructors judge ed capable of comprehending, in some measure, the whole system of divine truth, were furnished with superior degrees of knowledge; and nothing was concealed from them which could have any tendency to render them firm in their profession, and to assist them in arriving at Christian perfection. The care of instructing such was committed to persons who were distinguished by their gravity and wisdom, and also by their learning and judgment. And from hence it comes that the ancient Doctors generally divide their flock into two classes; the one comprehending such as were solidly and thoroughly in. structed; the other, those who were acquainted with little more than the first principles of religion; nor do they deny that the methods of instruction applied to these two sorts of persons were extremely different.
The Christians took all possible care to accustom their children to the study of the scriptures, and to instruct them in the doctrines of their holy religion; and schools were every where erected for this purpose, even from the very commencement of the Christian church."
Is it not clear, then, Pedobaptist historians being witness, that pains were taken by Christian parents, even before the first century, to prepare their children for baptism? Were there, in their judgment, two baptisms-one for speechless babes, and one for educated children and adults? Or does any one assume the absurd position that the catechumens were the young or old children of unbelieving Jews and Pagans! This they must assume, or admit that the children of Christian parents were taught before they were baptized.
Speaking of the 3d and 4th centuries as respects the growing custom of baptizing infants, the learned historian J. C. J. Giesler says, “The custom of considering certain doctrines and rites as mysteries, would naturally have some effect on the mode of admis. sion to the church. Baptism was preceded by a long preparatory course, during which the catechumens, (catechoumenoi,) were gradually led from general religious and moral truths to the peculiar doctrines of Christianity, by teachers appointed for the purpose (catechistes,) and must pass through various grades (audientes, genuflectentes, competentes,) before they were deemed fit to be actually admitted. This course usually ccupied several years, and often the catechumens voluntarily deferred their baptism as long as possible on account of the remission of sins by which it was accompanied. Hence it was often necessary to baptize the sick, and in that case sprinkling (baptisinus clinicorum, ton klinikon,) was subst. tuted for the usual rite. The baptism of infants became now more
The use of exorcism is distinctly mentioned, and all who had been baptized, even the children, partook of the eucharist.”. We might quote Waddington and other ecclesiastical historians on our shelves, to the same effect; but this would be more for display than for edification. It is, we think, already proved from this institution alone, that infant baptism was not from the beginning.
From all the premises before us, may we not, then, safely affirm that there is no divine precept, no approved example, no authority for infant baptism in the Holy Oracles or in the history of the primitive church? On the contrary, there are, 1st. in the faith and repentance often required; 2d. in the import of the institution itself; 3d. in the schools and discipline established in and by the ancient church for the instruction and preparation of children for the proper understanding and believing reception of the ordinance, the clearest indications that there is no more divine authority for baptizing an infant than for giving it the consecrated wafer, the holy oil of Romanism, or the sacred memorials of a Saviour's dying love?
With these premises before the candid reader, we ask him whether he can repose with a full acquiescence in the tenth and last argument of Dr. Miller, and that of his still more learned predecessor, Dr. Wall-viz. that “the history of the Christian church from the apostolic age furnishes an argument of irresistible force in favor of the divine authority of infant baptism”! Great must be the implicit confidence of any man, we think, or great must be his ignorance of church history, who can lend his assent to an assumption as gratuitous and unwarrantable as the plea for auricular confession, transubstantiation, or extreme unction.
I am now, and have long been of the opinion that these reverend gentlemen who talk so easily and so positively of church history and its faithful records, are much better read in Roman Catholic church history than in Christian antiquity or the true history of the hosts of remonstrants that never gave their assent to the haughty, imperious, and baseless assumptions of "THE MAN OF Sin," whose church history is but that of his own lofty pretensions to a regular, hereditary, ecclesiastical descent from St. Peter and that church in the imperial city, of which they say he was the first prelate, as well as the chief founder; the whole of which story, though gravely told a million of times, and fully believed by a thousand million of human kind during twelve successive centuries, is as grand a legend or as magniloquent a tale as that of the Arabian Knights or that of the more plausible Robinson Crusoe.
But that my readers may hear Dr. Miller in his own grave conclusions, and that I may give him the last word, and lest any one should think that I have done him any injustice, I shall quote directly his own epitome of the strength of his own evidence. It is in the words following, to wit:
“Such is an epitome of the direct evidence in favor of infant baptism. To me, I acknowledge, it appears nothing short of demonstration. The invariable character of all Jehovah’s dealings and covenants with the children of men; his express appointment, acted upon for two thousand years by the ancient church; the total silence of the New Testament as to any retraction or repeal of this privilege; the evident and repeated examples of family baptism in the apostolic age; the indubitable testimony of the practice of the whole church on the Pedobaptist plan, from the time of the Apestles to the sixteenth century, including the most respectable witnesses for the truth in the dark ages; all conspire to establish on the firmest foundation, the membership, and the consequent right to baptism of the infant seed of believers. If here be no divine warrant, we may despair of finding it for any institution in the church of God.”
SERIES IIJ.-Vol. V.
I do not think it necessary to proceed to an examination of all the alleged authorities for infant baptism adduced from the last half of the 3d century, and from the 4th and 5th centuries. These are all too far off from the apostolic age. Besides in the same period I find almost all the errors of the ancient church appearing in well defined outlines, explicit enough for the humblest intellect.
It may, however, be useful to some minds easily influenced by even a spurious antiquity, to state a few undeniable facts, and to make a few observations on the testimonies pressed upon our attention by Dr. Wall and his too credulous and sanguine admirers. I shall begin with the celebrated Council of Carthage, A. D. 253, and its presiding genius St. Cyprian, with his 66 Bishops. H. Danverse, in his book on Baptism, 1674, alleges that he “would rather believe that these things” (touching the baptism of infants eight days old) “had been foisted into his writings by that villainous, cursed generation, that so horribly abused the writings of most of the ancients, than to suppose Cyprian and his Bishops so ignorant as to decide in favor of baptizing on the eighth day.” I see no need for such a solution of the case: for other sayings and decisions of this Council of Carthage were equally childish. For example, "We judge,' says hue, 'that no person is to be hindered from obtaining the grace of remission, because they are not his own, but others' sins, that are forgiven him'—that is, original sin, or the sins of his parents, are forgiren him. A sage argument, truly, for infant baptism!"
But the learned Grotius takes other ground, and denies that there is any authority from any council for infant baptism previous to the Council of Carthage, held in the year 418. He argues against the universality of infant baptism even in the third century. Besides, Dr. Wall himself admits that some of the reasons given by these “Fathers” in support of the alleged decrees of the African Council, Gare weak and frivolous."
Were I challenged to the task, as a matter of consequence, to take the whole collation and authors of the 3d, 4th, and 5th centuries, adduced by Dr. Wall, and to argue from them against the assumption that infant baptism was from the beginning, I would, with much confidence of a successful issue, very cheerfully undertake it. Nothing in the form of circumstantial reasoning, could, to my mind, be more conclusive against him than his own authorities in the hand of a skilful and competent reasoner. I will give only a sample or two of his authorities and of the logical application of them to this effect. He quotes the letter of the Council of Carthage, A. D. 253, addressed to Fidus in response to the interrogato