« PreviousContinue »
they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity." So in the 27th Article, and baptismal office, and Homilies, &c. Dr. Mant too, considers the regenerate person to be God's “own child by adoption,” to have “undergone a death unto sin, and new birth unto righteousness," and to have received forgiveness of sin, and as being entitled to “ eternal life.” 49, 15, 29, 31, 32, 42, &c. &c.
It is not easy I confess, to know what Dr. M. means by regeneration, or baptisın; (for with him they are much the same thing,) as he writes confusedly, and inconsistently upon the subject. He speaks very often as if he meant by regeneration, a change of state or relationship. He speaks of the regenerate, as " dead to their former relations," as being entitled to, “rights and privileges”.---To the privileges of Christ's religion"--as a “death unto sin, and a new birth unto those spiritual privileges, which should accompany his adoption." (6, 7, 8.) He nevertheless speaks of regeneration as a change of nature. “The change wrought in the baptised," (8) he makes the catecheuman to say of his instructor, “he spoke of my having been quickened by the Holy Spirit, who had infused into me a new principle of life.” 50.
This is wise, as a doctrine, but when and how it is conferred, is another consideration. Whatever it means, whether a change of relation, by which a title to life is obtained; or a change of disposition, by which we are fitted for the enjoyment of heaven, or both of them together, I shall not now further contend. I consider them as united, and would on no account dispute about a term.' It is not the name, but the thing. And with respect to that, as it is absolutely necessary, (as is confessed by all parties,) to our salvation, we ought most cautiously and crupulously to examine how it is obtained, and whether we do indeed possess
it. Dr. Mant contends that regeneration is inseparably connected with baptism : and that this is the doctrine of our church. The whole of his Tract upon the subject, turns upon this point. This we must, however, prove from the essay before us. The church takes for granted, (he says, “the connexion between baptism and the new birth,” (18) and that Christians universally, are designated by the appellation of “those who believe and are baptised,” (18,) that the water and the Spirit are “absolutely necessary” to regeneration, 27. It is declared to be “inconceivable effrontery” in a certain author to assert, when 4 who would as soon believe the doctrine of transubstantiation, as that all peopie baptised are born again", 23.
He not only connects baptism and regeneration together, where baptism “can be had,” but makes it absolutely necessary in all cases; and declares that no regeneration is possible in this world, but that which is effected in baptism. His words are these. He states “an opinion presently to be insisted on, that no other than baptismal regeneration is possible in this world." 32. Again, “We are born again in baptism, and in baptism exclusively." 33. See 46, 47, 48 pages.
This then is the grand point I mean to oppose.--If the Spirit's operations in renewing our nature at the first, and sanctifying the soul, and making it Ricet for heaven, be absolutely and in every case confined to baptism, then is not only the doctrine of the most zealous part of the clergy, erroneous root and branch; but great numbers of christian professors, however sincere their repentance, and undisguised their error, and however blameless their lives, or strong their faith, or warm their love, or active their zeal, must of necessity be shut out of heaven, for not having been baptized. This is certainly very alarming.
Should Dr. Mant, however, deny this to be argument, we will proceed to shew that his notion militates both against the cases recorded in scripture, and against the universal experience of mankind.
I would observe in opposition to Dr. M's. notion of baptism, as absolutely necessary to regeneration and salvation, which he endeavours to prove at large, in pages (32-.-43,) that if it be so, we shall never find any persons saved without being baptised; nor any persons baptised who at their baptism were not regenerated, and put into a state of salvation. But we have infallible testimony that both these conclusions are unfounded.
As to the first, we are sure that the thief on the cross was saved without baptism. Our Lord says, “this day shalt thou be with me in Paradise.” But it was impossible he could be baptised, as he was nailed to the cross before he made any profession of religion, of penitence, or desire of being saved
by Christ. Baptism, had for a length of time, beer instituted; at least, in Dr. M’s. language, by anticipation; and Nicodemus was assured by Christ himself, that no man can see, or enter into tho kingdom of heaven without being born again..----It necessarily follows therefore, that the thief was born again, or he could not have been saved. also necessarily follows, that as this man was both born again, and saved without being baptised, that baptism is not in ai cases necessary, either to regeneration or sulcation. There is no possibility of getting away from this consequence: and one instance is as good as many, to slew that baptism and regeneration are not absolutely and necessarily connected. This scriptural fact, therefore, utterly annihilates Dr. M's, rigid and unbending doctrine of the impossibility of being regenerated or saved without being baptised.
As to the other conclusion, of regeneration not always attending baptism when it is administered, we have likewise the same infallible evidence.---Simon Magus, the sorcerer, was baptised; and rightly baptised, beyond all doubt, so far as the external rite was concerned, And yet he was neither born again, nor brought into a state of salvation. St. Peter addresses him thus after baptism, “thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God--thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity." I dont think a stronger instance could possibly exist. It is not however the only scriptural evidence that baptism and regeneration may be separated.
• Acts viii, 21.
ANANIAS aad SAPHIRA, whose awful end, proved the divine displeasure against them; and Peter's declaration that they had “agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord,” is an infallible proof of their unregenerate state. It is vain to say that we are not told that they were baptised. For there is not any doubt but they were. There is no mentiou made of the baptism of the multitude, who are said to have “believed, and to have been of one heart and one soul”, with whom these awful characters had united themselves. * It is moreover said, (5, 13,)“ of the rest durst no man join himself to them.” Doubtless this means that they durst not make a public and open profession of Christ's religion, by being admitted to their number by the rite of baptism.
It will, I know, be replied to this argument, that the reasoning is gratuitous, and void of foundation; as we are not told that these persons were not born again. I acknowledge that I am aware Dr. M. considers that Simon Magus was born again, and that he had “no necessity of undergoing another new birth.” (43.) To this I would reply, (though we shall have occasion to take more notice of this subject hereafter,) that nothing can be more evident, than that he was not regenerate and born again. Or if Dr. M. contends that he was; I would observe that this shews infallibly that his notions of the new birth are not the scripture doctrines upon that subject; are not the church doctrines; do not include "spiritual regeneration." (30.) In short, mean nothing; are of no use, as to the essential parts of salvation. Dr. M's. notion on this supposition, would