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regeneration where it is really possessed; and can we discern that evidence ? This matter rests entirely here.
If there are marks afforded by our church, and by the word of God, to enable us to know (not individnally perhaps, but discriptively) who are regenerate and who are not regenerate, we shall then of course, be enabled to address our hearers accordingly; and we shall not only be justified in speaking of, and to the unregenerate as such, but we shall be bound in obligation and duty to do so. The matter is simply this, can we or can we not, describe the nature, effects, and concomitants of the new birth, so distinctly, that persons possessing it may themselves know, and we ourselves (satisfactorily enough to regulate our instruction toward thein) also know, that they are, or are not born arrain ? We do not pretend to know persons bearts; and the wisest have been deceivedl. But the question is, can we in doctrine define it accurately; and in practice un. derstand it satisfactorily? If we can do this, we hope to “ both save ourselves, and them that hear
Dr. Mant's System, void of all Evidence of
Regeneration. Dr. M. very rightly observes, that it is matter " of the nearest and dearest interest, that we examine what is meant by being born again, in order that we may be filled with all joy and peace in believing that we partake of it." (24.) There are two points in this quotation, of vast importance. The oue, what regeneration is: the other, whether we partake of it. We have already seen what regeneration is; and we are much concerned to observe that Dr. M. has left this essential point in perfect uncertainty. Nor does he appear to have done better as to the second point; namely,
The Evidences of Regeneration. Let us enquire, what evidence has he given, or what marks has he laid down, by which serious minds may know, both what it is, and where it is?
These questions are fatal to Dr. M.'s whole systein. He has no evidence. His system adınits of none. Any thing in the shape of evidence, would be destructive to his tract; the design of which is manifestly to prove, that all baptised persons are regenerate. But if character be allowed to distinguish the regenerate from the unregenerate, then all are not reger:erate. Yea, none will prove to be regenerate, (Dr. M. himself being witness) who have not the real marks and evidences of regeneration. But thus Dr. M. and his “ self-denominated brethren,” are got upon the same ground. This is the rock on which those whom he opposes stand ; and they consider the church, beyond doubt, as built upon the same foundation, and in this very business as entirely with them. They have adopted the principles of Lord Bacon, and of the word of God, to receive nothing without evidence.
But if Dr. M. say that his system is not without evidence of regeneration, though moral character cannot be admitted as evidence in this case) for that baptism, “ rightly administered,” is quite sufficient
proof of it.
To this statement I have two very serious objections to make.
I. Baptisin, “rightly administered," does itself stand in need of proof.
Dr. M. has no where informed us when and how it is to be “ rightly administered. And I most earnestly request him to supply this defect, as well as to inform us most explicitly what regeneration is. As these two points are (upon his principles) essential to salvation, there should not be left a shadow of doubt hanging about them.
Does Dr. M. mean us to understand, that the parish register is evidence of baptism rightly admimistered? But, as the soul is infinitely precious, let me enquire again : Is it not possible (yea, certainly the case, on Dr. M.'s principles in various instances) that something essential to this office may be “ omitted" or neglected? Every minister (or pretended minister) is not always rightly, or at all ordained ; witness many impostors of late. How easy, also, is mistake or forgetfulness? And how many may be supposed to have been privately baptised, who really have not been so baptised ? I have known the attendants frequently ignorant whether they have or not.
I ask again, is it the only evidence which ought to be allowed of baptism rightly administered ? Mr. Wheatly thinks we ought not “ to take notice of any baptisms, except they are to be proved by the register of the church.” (492.) Then what of the case of thousands of private baptisms which are never entered ? And the
thousands more who have never been baptised by her ministers?
“ Right administration" of baptism, therefore, can never, in numberless instances, be proved. And no person baptised in infancy can be sure that he was ever baptised at all; much less rightly baptised. This must depend entirely upon the correctness and veracity of others.
But allowing baptism to be rightly administered, we have proved that regeneration does not necessarily accompany it.
It cannot therefore be evidence in all cases. We inust, then, reject this as insufficient, and seek for something better as an evidence of so important a thing. But as Dr. M. makes much of baptisin, and as he most manifestly has not a particle of evidence of regeneration independent of baptism, I shall now endeavour to prove that this foundation utterly fails him. .
II. That baptism,“ rightly administered, upon Dr. M.'s system, neither is, nor can be, any evidence whatever of regeneration; yet this is clearly the only evidence which he professes to have, and which his scheme admits of.
He declares very explicitly, “ that if the work of regeneration be not effected by baptism, it is almost impossible for any sober man to say when, and by what means it is; and that we are thus left without any other guide than the very questionable criterion of our own imagination, or our own feelings.” 25.
In this quotation we learn that there are no means of obtaining regeneration, and no evidence of its being possessed, but baptism. If we leave this ground, we are, Dr. M. says, left without any other guide but our own imagination and our own feelings, s to determine whether we are in possession" of re
generation or not. Still we are to rejoice “ in believing that we partake of it.” (24.) But are we to believe without evidence ? He rejects our own“ imayination and our own feelings ;" and tells us that w
“ left without any other guide. There is no evidence, then, to be obtained, but baptism, on the one hand, and our “ feelings” on the other. And if our own feelings be a "questionable criterion, ' nothing remains as evidence but baptism. Yet we are to “ believe." Then mast we not believe witlıout evidence? No, Dr. M. will say, baptism is evidence. But this I shall endeavour to prove is impossible.
Let it be here particularly regarded what it is which we are seeking evidence of. It is not simply an abstract doctrine, but a matter of fact. It is a fact which is assumed to take place, namely, regencration or new birth; a death unto sin, and new birth unto righteousness."
But I understand baptism, according to Dr. M. to be the means of obtaining regeneration. How, then, is it evidence that regeneration is obtained ? There is clearly a fallacy here. Means are things going before, in order to produce an effect. But evidence of existence is grounded upon the previous existence of the object of which it is evidence. Baptism, then, as the means, must go before, and baptism, as the evidence, must follow after regeneration. But as there is but “ one baptism,” it would thus be both before and after itself.
Will Dr. M. say that baptism may be evidence notwithstanding this ? because we know certainly beforehand, that it will produce its effect; therefore we are sure that wherever baptism has been