« PreviousContinue »
The reader will easily perceive that I have not taken a general view of the subject in question. Much illustration from scripture, many branches of kindred doctrine, and a variety of argument, might have been adduced as connected with it; but they did not fall within my plan. A vast body of evidence might easily have been introduced, in the way of testimony; but as I wished not to increase the bulk of this little work, nor to adrance the price too high; and perceiving how easy it is to press authors into our service, whose genuine principles are ayainst us; and finding that every writer I consulted, (following Dr. M's. references) such as Hooker, Taylor, Beveridge, &c. were resorted to by him, tho' every one of them point blank against the exclusive regeneration of baptism; and not at all doubting but this mode would be very advantageously adopted by the very respectable names who are soinewbat before me in this cause; and it being my main point to suffer solid argument, and the free testimony of our authorised documents to have their fair and almost undivided effect: having, I say, these things in view, I have brought forward such testimony only, or chiefly, as contained argument suited to my purpose.
I have endeavoured to erase the entire foundation of Dr. M's. system, and to lay open, what I conceive to be, its bad effects. If, in doing this, I appear somewhat uncivil, in pressing the argument very hard, and in a rather homely manner, I hope
for Dr. M's. forgiveness ; for my sole object has been to demolish his doctrine, and not to write a sentence disrespectful of him as a Minister, or as an Author.
With respect to critics, I have only to say, as my rhetoric was not cast in their mould, I so far crave their indulgence: had the force of demonstration depended much upon elegant diction, I should probably have held my peace. But as to the evidence adduced, and the argumentation by which it is supported, I only ask, what every writer has reason to expect, that is, fairness. It is very possible that I may have misconceived some ideas, or even misstated an argument: in these, I shall be glad to stand corrected, and quite willing, I trust, to offer an explanation. But with respect to the main point, I have only just to observe, that I conceive, if my arguments stand, Dr. M.'s system (or any one built on the same foundation cannot stand. If, however, the reasoning I have adopted should be fairly proved, upon the whole, to be fallacious or inapplicable, I frankly acknowledge I have no better to offer; and shall, therefore, very unwillingly be drawn again into this field of controversy.
THE Doctrine of Regeneration is perhaps the most important one revealed under the Christian Dispensation; as it does not appear that either old or young can be saved without experiencing that change, both moral and relative which the term implies.* This all Divines, concerned in the present controversy, I presume, admit. This alone therefore, will justify our “Contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.”
But what is Regeneration? When, how, and by what means is it effected ? Is there any thing in its nature, effects, or connexions by which it may be known? These are very serious questions. As the simple as well as the wise must understand it or perish; it seems before-hand, a natural and almost necessary conclusion, that the comprehension of this subject lies level with the meanest capacity : and that a honest mind will find little or no difficulty in “knowing of the doctrine whether it be of God."
That so vast and necessary a change should be confined to any external rite, however valuable, and however true, is scarcely to be admitted; since neither our Lord at all,t nor his great Apostle Paul hardly ever performed it: and sinc Church of Christ, in all ages, has never required
• John iii. 3. † Jobo iv, 1, 2. i Cor. iv, 17.
this service to be performed by her highest functionaries, but has frequently permitted it to be executed by laymen and women. That the Holy Spirit in his most exalted and necessary operations, should not only be called into exercise by persons invested with no ministerial authority; an:l frequently (when a regularly appointed minister does the oflice,) under circumstances of levity and irreverence, not to say profaneness, both in the attendants and the receiver; but that these operations should be bounded by, and absolutely confined to this rite, however, and by whomsoever performed; cannot be thought less dishonourable to the Holy Spirit, than the supposition of his having liberty, among the various means of divine appointment to make his own selection, and “divide to every man severally as he will."
If these persons should not be allowed to have « administered” the ordinance “rightly," and the effect in consequence denied, still our feelings meet with no relief: as on the above supposition, all persons only so baptised must lie under an absolute impossibility of being saved.
Dr. MANT contends “ that we are born anew in baptism, and in baptism exclusively:--(33)---that this is also the doctrine of our Church :---(14)--that the generality of the national Clergy are of the same opinion :---(10) ---that it is “ heresy" in those who are of a different sentiment,
(15) But that nevertheless, “in the very bosom of the church, there are men whose preaching is irreconcileable with the church in this article of her creed.” That “Regeneration is, as it were, inscribed on their banners, and is one of the watch words of their sect: regeneration, not the fruit of Christ's holy ordinance