網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

than the name of the Church, without uniting us to the privileges, and sympathies, and spiritual fellowship which form the essential realities of the Communion of saints, how can we hope for attachment to that which is merely nominal, and with which no perception of spiritual blessings is connected. Viewed as Baptism usually is, how can profession be otherwise than loose, and attachment otherwise than fickle. Solid attachment to an object arises from a sense of its loveliness, its excellence, or from our experience of the blessings we derive from it: but where these are not perceived or felt, attachment cannot be otherwise than fickle; it rests on no solid basis, and is the sport of every error that may assail it.

And is not this fundamental error the mighty mischief which is now desolating our Church ? all the evils that have ever been ascribed to the doctrines of grace, with all their perversions, and all their misapprehensions, must sink into insignificance, when compared with those which daily and palpably issue from the assertion of "the general efficacy of Baptism in all who partake of the rite." The former evils are generally apparent, not so much in practice, as on the pages of speculative and accusing controversialists; while the latter force themselves on our notice in the experience of every day; for were a due regard paid to Baptismal privileges, and Baptismal duties, by all those who have

solemnly engaged to improve the one, and to discharge the other; and were our lives, as they should be, practically employed in accomplishing our Baptismal vows; i. e. were our Baptism not merely a profession but a reality; is it possible that we could see so much pride, vanity, ambition, covetousness, and worldlymindedness-so much mere morality, and so much awful presumption as we witness in the professing world? It could not surely be. Confidence in the sign is consistent enough with mere profession, and profession may consist with an accommodating similarity to the character of the professors around us: but vital possession of the thing signified, the blessed influence of the Holy Spirit, without which it is no Sacrament to the recipient, must purify the heart, renew the life, and thoroughly furnish the man of God" unto all good works." In the one case there is the genuine answer of a good conscience toward God," a conscientious recognition of Baptismal obligations, and a corresponding holy conversation; in the other there is nothing more than "the putting away of the outward" filth of the flesh;" an ablution which, unless joined with the influence of the Spirit, can never affect the soul. And as Bishop Jewell asserts, "Verily to ascribe felicity or remission of sin, which is the inward work of the

""

12 Tim. iii. 17.

[ocr errors]

2 1 Pet. iii. 21.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Holy Ghost, unto any manner outward action whatsoever, it is a superstitious, a gross, and a Jewish error." 1

But if the Sacrament of Baptism is thus rendered vain and effete by mistaking the sign for the thing signified,-the water for the Spirit; is this all the injury which it has received? Has it not to complain also of the unworthy treatment it has experienced in the house of its friends?

Blessed be God there are those who know and feel that Baptism is not "an outward and visible sign only, but "an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace," and yet their estimate of the privileges and efficacy of Baptism is low and inoperative: they rather consider it as an introduction into a professing Church, than as accompanied with any real spiritual blessings to the baptised, as admitted into the Communion of the saints. Their faith in the promise issues in no corresponding practice in the education of the Child. They cannot so much be said to "doubt" as to forget that God has received the infant, that he has regenerated him with his Holy Spirit, that he has received him for his own child by adoption, and incorporated him into his holy Church; and that they have given God "hearty thanks" for the same. They do not consider the Child as

Jewell's Reply, &c. p. 442.

thus " regenerated," adopted," and "incorporated," and therefore they do not plead the promise for a blessing on their education of him as devoted to God, or call upon him, as one in. vested with so high privileges as "a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven," to walk worthy of his high calling. The promise affords them no aid in bringing up the Child as a child of God, and the privileges conferred are not urged as a ground of encouragement to induce to the pursuit of holiness, the attainment of one grace, or the regulation of one temper. The rich expressions of privileges actually conferred in Baptism, which occur in the Baptismal and Confirmation Services, and in the Catechism, have no influence on their practice. Neither Baptismal blessings, nor Baptismal vows are distinctly presented to the mind of the Child, and his Baptism has no practical purpose. Even these pious Parents make no demand on the spiritual superintendence of the Sponsors of the Child ;-even pious Sponsors acknowledge no obligation of this spiritual superintendence ;-the Child grows up without any consciousness of his Baptismal enjoyments or privileges;—and the Church, not merely the professing, but the spiritual Church entertains neither hopes nor fears on account of the Child, and consequently exercises no faith in the promise, and presents no prayers for its accomplishment towards him. And thus, even

among the pious, Baptism is little more than a dead letter, promises without plea for their fulfilment vows without concern to discharge them a ceremony acquitting them from subsequent interest-a sign signifying nothing.

We have had of late many interesting treatises on education, most of which have lamented the defective instruction of our times; but as it appears to me, the best treatise on education is to be found in the best principles and order for its practice. The Church of England has made the largest and most efficient provision for the holy education of its children: and no treatises ever yet published on this most interesting subject appear to me to approach in excellence within any comparable distance, to that of the Baptismal and Confirmation Services, and the Catechism of our Church. Here are the best rules, even those proposed by the scriptures of truth-here are the best means, the application of the promises of a gracious God, the prayers of the sympathizing Church, spiritual instruction in graces and duties, and privileges unquestionably holy; and the confirming efficacy of the Holy Spirithere is the best issue, certainty of success, dependent on our faith in the promise of a faithful God. Were we but consistent Churchmen, did we but adhere to this system of education laid down by our Church, beginning with the simple devotion of the Child to God, and training him up in the way that he should go with a just con

« 上一頁繼續 »