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melancholy fact. I am sorry,' says Bishop Hall, and we share his sorrow, that so harsh an opinion should be graced with the name of a Father so reverend, so divine, -- whose sentence yet let no man plead by halves. But the interests of truth demand that we should be reminded of what was the precise 6 and dogmatic' doctrine of Baptism held by those to whom High Churchinen of the present day are for ever appealing in behalf of views which are really as far removed from those of Augustine as the nineteenth century is from the fifth, and as London is from Hippo. Do they or do they not beliere that immersion is essential to the efficacy of baptism? Do they or do they not hold that unbaptized infants must be lost for ever? Do they or do they not hold that baptized infants must receive the Eucharist, or be lost in like manner? For this, too, strange as it may seem, was yet a necessary consequence of the same materialising system. “He who held it • impossible' (we again use the words of Bishop Hall) for a
child to be saved unless the baptismal water were poured on • his face, held it also as impossible for the same infant, unless
the sacramental bread were received in his mouth. And, lest 6 any should plead different interpretations, the same St. Augus
tine avers this later opinion also, touching the necessary com'municating of children, to have been once the common judg
ment of the Church of Rome.'* Such were the doctrines of the Fathers on Infant Baptism ;-doctrines so deeply affecting our whole conceptions of God and of man, that, in comparison, the gravest questions now in dispute shrink into utter insignificance ; — doctrines so wholly different from those professed by any English, we may almost add any European, clergymen of the present day, that had the Bishop of Exeter or the Pope of Rome himself appeared for consecration before the Bishop of Hippo, he would have been rejected at once as an unbaptized heretic.
It is a more pleasing task to trace the struggle of Christian goodness and wisdom, by which the Church was gradually delivered from this iron yoke. Even in the Patristic age itself (in its earlier stage) the subjugation had not been complete. Tertullian and Chrysostom must have accepted with hesitation, if they accepted at all, the universal condemnation of unbaptized children. No general or provincial council, except the Fifth of Carthage, ventured to affirm it. The exception in behalf of martyrs left an opening, at least in principle, which would by logical consequence no less admit other exceptions, of which the Fathers never dreamed. The saints of the Old Testament were
* Bishop Hall's · Letter to the Lady Honoria Hay.'
Change of the Doctrine of Baptism.
ress, davnih guided the" and loftier instingholds of the
rescued from their long prison-house by the hypothesis of a liberation effected for them through the Descent into Hell. But these were contradictions and exceptions to the prevailing doctrine; and the gloomy period which immediately followed the death of Augustine, fraught as it was with every imaginable horror of a falling empire, was not likely to soften the harsh creed which he had bequeathed to it; and the chains which the
durus pater infantum' had thrown round the souls of children were riveted by Gregory the Great. At last, however, with the new birth of the European nations the humanity of Christendom revived. One by one the chief strongholds of the ancient belief yielded to the purer and loftier instincts to use no higher name) which guided the Christian Church in its onward progress, dawning more and more unto the perfect day. First disappeared the necessity of immersion. Then, to the Master of the Sentences we owe the decisive change of doctrine which delivered the souls of infants from the everlasting fire to which they had been handed over by Augustine and Fulgentius, and placed them, with the heroes of the heathen world, in that mild Limbo or Elysium which every one knows in the pages of Dante. Next fell the practice of administering to them the Eucharistic elements. Last of all, in the fourteenth century, the great though silent protest against the magical theory of Baptism itself was effected in the postponement of the rite of Confirmation, which, up to that time, had been regarded as an essential part of Baptism, and, as such, was administered simultaneously with it. An ineffectual stand was made in behalf of the receding doctrine of Augustine by Gregory of Ariminum, known amongst his seraphic' and angelic' colleagues by the unenviable title of Tormentor Infantum’; and some of the severer Reformers, both in England and Germany, for a few years clung to the sterner view. But the victory was really won; and the Council of Trent, no less than the Confession of Augsburgh and the Thirty-nine Articles, has virtually abandoned the position, by which Popes and Fathers once maintained the absolute, unconditional, mystical efficacy of the sacramental elements on the body and soul of the unconscious infant. The Greek Church, indeed, with its usual tenacity of ancient forms, still immerses, still communicates, and still confirms its infant members, - a living image of the Pa. tristic practice. But in the Western Church the Christian religion has taken its free and natural course; and in the boldness which substituted a few drops of water for the ancient bath, which pronounced a charitable judgment on the innocent babes who died without the sacraments, which restored to the Eucha
VOL. XCII. NO. CLXXXV.
Refort to the uncil of Thirty:el Popestical efte uncon
rist its original intention, and gave to Confirmation a meaning of its own, by deferring both those solemn rites to years of discretion, we have at once the best proof of the total and necessary divergence of modern from ancient doctrine, and the best guarantee that surely, though slowly, the true wisdom of Christianity will be justified of all her children.
It is unnecessary for any practical purpose to pursue the history of Baptism further. That unconditional efficacy which was once believed by the Fathers, and is still believed by the Eastern Church, to flow from both the sacraments alike to infants and adults, has been restrained within narrower and narrower limits, till, in this country at least, it has (except by a very few individuals) been withheld from infant communion, from adult communion, from adult baptism, and lingers only in the now disputed region of the baptism of infants. But, although it is foreign to our purpose to enter into that dispute itself, it is satisfactory to be assured how genuine and almost universal is the agreement which, after all this toil and conflict, prevails upon the practice around which the dispute rages. All Christian parents feel that in bringing their children to the font they are obeying the natural instincts of a Christian heart, by dedicating their newborn offspring to the service of God, in the hope and prayer that the rest of his life may be led according to this beginning. And, whatever may be the response which particular portions of the service of the Church of England may awaken in their minds, yet with its main spirit, with its fundamental idea, they recognise in themselves the most entire sympathy. They may be perplexed or instructed, exasperated or soothed, as the case may be, by those passages which crowd together, by a perhaps not unnatural anachronism and accommodation, into one brief act, at the commencement of life, the various forms which once expressed a long preparation, a deliberate intention, a complete reformation of character at the most critical moment of mature years; but they can all alike enter into the solemn words in which the Church recalls their thoughts to the touching scene in the Gospel narrative, on which, and on which alone, the Liturgy rests the practice of Infant Baptism, - when they are reminded of the words of our Saviour Christ,' • how He com• manded the children to be brought unto Him; how He blamed • those that would have kept them from Him; how He exhorted • all men to follow their innocency. This is the true basis of Infant Baptism, as it appears in the New Testament. This is the doctrine of the Church of England, as it exists on the face of the Liturgy. This is the blessing which Christian parents seek and find in that sacred ordinance. On this immoveable
basis they may rest, without fear of disturbance from any modern speculation. In this wise, and wholesome, and holy doctrine, and in its application to Christian education, they may find enough to occupy their thoughts and their energies, without craving for an authoritative statement on points which can be apprehended by the wisest and best of men only in faint and partial glimpses, and which, for the most part, lie altogether beyond the province of human discernment, certainly beyond the ordinary limits of religious edification. In the favour of Him who embraced little children in His arms, and laid His * hands upon them and blessed them,' there is enough to satisfy the longings of every truly Christian heart, without insisting upon Mr. Gorham's prevenient grace' on the one hand, or on the Bishop of Exeter's “ unconditional change of nature on the other hand.
We have now gone through the main points of interest in this controversy. Many topics have necessarily been omitted altogether; many treated most imperfectly. But there is one misconstruction which we would deprecate before we bid farewell to the subject. We have spoken of the dispute as a strife of words, rather than of realities, — we have spoken of its social effects and of its historical origin, rather than of the doctrine which it is supposed to involve. Such a view of the matter constantly exposes its advocates to taunts of indifference to truth, or of insensibility to the feelings of those whose interests and sympathies are warmly enlisted in the struggle. Against these insinuations, from whatever quarter they come, we most solemnly protest. We have spoken as we have spoken, in part from our profound conviction that the importance with which the controversy has been invested is adventitious only, not real. But we have spoken also from a conviction no less profound that there is a truth as lofty as ever Council decreed,-an image of Christianity as holy as ever won the admiration of Saint or Martyr, — which by such controversies is obscured, corrupted, denied. It is not this or that tenet of any particular school, but the moral and spiritual character of religion itself which suffers in struggles like these. It is not in behalf of any party in the National Church, but in behalf of the Church itself, in this its truly Christian and apostolic mission, that we have endeavoured, however faintly and humbly, to lift up our voice. The end of the controversy is still unknown. It has already, we are told, filled four octavo volumes, and may fill many more. Court after Court has been, and may yet again be, called to adjudicate the tortuous case. The effects of the judgment, to which we have endeavoured to render its deserved tribute, may be marred by some new turn in this labyrinth of litigation. The malcontents of the Church may, from some mistaken point of honour, some imaginary grievance, some desperate step of their own choice, precipitate a rupture for which none but themselves will be answerable. But, whatever be the result, it will still be a satisfaction for those who have laboured to set forth the higher considerations of justice, mercy, and truth, in this disastrous agitation, that they have done what in them lay, faithfully to keep the deposit committed to their trust for future generations, — truly to build up the Church that is amongst us for the great and holy purposes for which it was established in these realms. Such purposes it may still accomplish, if it is but true to itself. And if, after all, it should lose — not by its own fault, but by their fancy — some who would else have been amongst its most distinguished ornaments, there will still be left for those who remain, the noble task of proving, by greater energy and devotion, that zeal is not inconsistent with toleration, nor the love of goodness incompatible with the love of truth.
. These things,'— may we thus venture with due humility to conclude in the words of the great Chancellor, — these things • have we, in all sincerity and simplicity, set down, touching the
controversies which now trouble the Church of England, and that without all art and insinuation; and therefore not like to • be grateful to either part. Notwithstanding, we trust what • hath been said shall find a correspondence in their minds which • are not embarked in partiality, and which like the whole better * than a part: wherefore we are not out of hope that it may do • good : at least, we shall not repent ourselves of the medita
* Bacon, on ‘Church Controversies,' vol. iii. p. 60.
No. CLXXXVI, will be published in October.