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TRACTS FOR THE PEOPLE-No, XXI.
The Roman Bishop of Philadelphia, in 1843, published “A Trea'ise on Baptism, with an exhortation to receive it, translated from the works of St. Basil the Great, to which is added a Treatise on Confirmation,” with the following motto: “Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and the ministers of the mysteries of God.” i Cor. iv. 1. “Philadelphia: M. Tilhian, 61, North Second Street: 1843."
In reviewing the arguments and apologies for infant baptism which have fallen under our notice, we intended to place the most ancient and authoritative treatise on that subject first before our readers; that in reviewing its strong points we should be relieved from the labor of reviewing more modern treatises, as they are generally but a reiteration or new modification of those which have preceded them. We had then purposed to place the celebrated work of Dr. Wall, or that of Peter Edwards, as first on our table But on glancing over the works in my library on that subject, I found the work now defore me, from the pen of a Roman Prelate; and although of recent and contemporaneous origin, containing, as it does, the varied ecclesiastic learning of the mother and mistress of all Pedobaptist churches, so far as this rite is derived from them, I concluded that popular judgment and popular taste would give precedence to the Mother Church, and hear her first with all the respect due to her great learning and hoary antiquity.
The Bishops of Rome have a higher reputation for ecclesiastic learning than even the Protestant Prelates of England, whether deserved or not I am not appointed an arbiter to decide; but think, at least, having been the foster parents of infant baptism, they are worthy of precedence. SERIES III- -VOL.V.
Now although the work before us is of recent origin, we must regard it as better and even more learned than works of a higher antiquity; because, superadded to all that Roman Prelates formerly knew on that subject are the experience, reflections, and modern literature of our contemporary Bishop Kenrick.
We shall, therefore, hear him in his own language set forth the foundation on which he places the institution of infant baptism; and, for the sake of future reference, arrange numerically his arguments in proof of his position. First, then, we shall hear from him the doctrine of what he calls the Catholic Church—by which he does not mean the Greek Catholic nor the Protestant Catholic, but the Roman Catholic Church. “The Catholic Church holds that all infants are capable of baptism, independently of the piety or faith of their parents; although the children of unbelievers are not to be baptized against the will of their parents, or in circumstances that expose the sacrament to manifest profanation."* The Calvinistic or Presbyterian Church, or “Calvin and his followers ground the practice of baptizing infants on the principle that the covenant of God is with the faithful and their posterity; whence they restrict it to the children of believers; who, being embraced in the covenant, have a right to receive the sign of association with the visible church.” See a discussion on Christian Baptism, by W. L. M:Calla, Philadelphia, 1828.
Concerning this Presbyterian foundation of infant baptism founded on a covenant with the faithful and their posterity, the Bishop only says that it is "gratuitously supposed, and cannot be inferred from the ancient covenant with Abraham and his seed.” To which I may add, that this hypothesis is suicidal to the Presbyterian doctrine of election, or, if not, to the church itself. She maintains that the Christian ordinances belong to the visible elect family or church of God, and to none else. Now as she does not believe nor teach that the children of even believing parents are, as such, the elect children of God, or regenerated in fact, or in form, or in profession, how can she dispense to them the ordinance of Christ, they not belonging in fact or profession to the elect of God? She never has been able, and I predict never will be able, to reconcile her doctrine of election and her doctrine of grace and the ordinances of grace with her assumption of the Abrahamic covenants; for all the children of Abraham were an elect nation for the same purpose-according to the flesh; and neither infants nor adults were required to believe in any doctrine of grace in order to circumcision.
* Page 125. + Page 124.
They were circumcised because of fleshly relation, and not because of any spiritual relation to God or Christ. But we have to do at present with Bishop Kenrick of the Roman church in Philadelphia; and now we shall consider his proof of his assumption that all infants, as such, whether the offspring of Turk, Jew, Infidel, or Christian, are alike the proper subjects of Christian baptism. His first is
Logical Argument I. "All of us are by nature children of wrath, being stained by sin. Baptism is the laver wherein sin is washed away. It must, then, be applicable to infants.”
Romantic logic! A syllogism of four or five terms, and yet without a middle term! Pope Pius IX., with all his infallibility and liberality, could not consecrate it into a logical or rational argument. It is as if one should argue—All of us are by nature children of appetite, being impelled by hunger. The table is the place whereat hunger is driven away by those who can eat. The table, then, must be applicable to infants whether they can eat or not. This is even a better argument than the Bishop's syllogism; for that assumes that baptism is, without any qualification whatever on the part of the subject, the laver wherein sin is washed away! But no well informed man does believe that. To make his argument stand out in all its logical grandeur, it would read thus:-All of us are by nature children of wrath, being stained by sin. Baptism is the laver wherein the sin of living men is washed away. It must, then, be applicable to infants living or dead.' But we take more interest in his biblical than in his logical arguments. Of these the first is
Bible Argument, No. I. “Who," says the Bishop, "would venture to deny that they can be saved of whom Christ has said, “Suffer little children to come to me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God?' »
To this argument I have four objections:
1. It changes the subject of discussion. It is baptism, and not salvation, for which the Bishop pleads; and now he talks of salvation, and asks, Who can deny that infants can be saved.
2. These children were brought to the Messiah neither for baptism nor for salvation, but for his blessing.
3. They were brought to Jesus before Christian baptism was or. dained; and, therefore, their case can have no logical nor scriptural connexion with baptism.
4. Jesus does not say that the kingdom of God is composed of little children; but of such as are, in some respects, like them.
The English Hexapla, in all its versions, even including the
Rheims, has "of such,” and not of them. The late Polyglott, containing eight languages, which I have just examined, also favors this version. The French version expresses the full sense of them all. It reads in Matth. xix. 13.-Mark x. 14—Luke xviii. 15—Qui leur ressemblent. The kingdom of God is of those who resemble them. There is not, then, a single version of the New Testament, in either Bagster's Hexapla, or in Bagster's recent splendid Polyglott Bible, containing the Greek, Hebrew, Latin, English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish approved versions, that justifies the Bishop's gloss.
But strange to tell, while the Bishop makes original sin at one time a reason for infant baptism, he quotes with approbation the Abbot of Cluney, who wrote against Peter de Bruis of the twelfth century, pleading the innocence of children as a reason why they should certainly be baptized. The Abbot asks, “How will you any longer repel innocence from Christ? Will you snatch children from Christ who embraces children?” Thus the Bishop, in his logical argument, will have original sin, and now will have their innocence a passport to Christian baptism! Surely the legs of the lame are unequal!
A 2d Logical Argument. The Bishop draws his second logical argument from “all scriptural texts which speak of baptism as a washing, a renovation of the Holy Spirit.” He says, “All such texts warrant the baptism of infants”-because “they must be washed in the blood of the Lamb from the hereditary defilement.” They, therefore, come forth from the font purified, justified, sanctified, having no spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. This is another new variety of the syllogism. If this be proof, I know not what could not be proved by putting a therefore after any three assertions
Assertion 1. All scriptural texts that speak of the washing of regeneration, warrant the baptism of infants.
Assertion 2. Because they must be washed in the blood of the Lamb from hereditary defilement.
Assertion 3. Therefore, they come forth from the font purified justified, sanctified, having no spot, wrinkle, or any such thing.
This is another Romantic syllogism, and would be universally smiled at were it not that it comes from a Roman Bishop in Philadelphia. I have only to say, that it assumes that a few drops of water from the finger of priest or layman, (for Rome admits of lay baptism,) pronounced with the name of “the Trinity,” is equal to the blood of Christ—nay, more than equal to the blood of Christ: for that blood, in its justifying power, requires faith on the part of