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their preferments in the Church, as the ejected clergy in the days of Charles the Second did. But so long as they can avail themselves of the help of hypothesis and conjectural explanation, and opposite citations, to render it so far doubtful what the Church intended in the service, that her expressions may be used in a meaning they will not fairly admit of, it cannot be expected that they will dare refuse conformity, and incur the guilt of schism.
Differences of opinion and infirmities of judgement in the best of men, experience teaches us to expect, and our principles as Dissenters dispose us to tolerate. But there is something unavoidably painful to an ingenuous mind, in witnessing the expedients to which excellent men are reduced in order to vindicate their conduct from the appearance of inconsistency. It affords their adversaries a mortifying advantage, that they can quote the language of the Church in its obvious import, with out note or comment, and tauntingly reproach the Evangelical clergy with striving to accommodate that language to their own religious tenets. Mr. Simeon confesses that the language of the Ritual is stronger than could be desired. Mr. Scott acknowledges that the Church speaks of every person whom she has
baptized as regenerate : but then, it is upon a hypothetical
assumption, present or future, of their spiritual regeneration :' it is upon a supposition that the persons to whom these rites are administered, were devout in the prayers in which they had been joining; sincere in the vows which they had been making.' This supposition, be it remembered, is presumed to have been in the minds of the framers of this awful form,' in composing a Baptismal service for a whole nation! Is this credible upon any other ground than a further supposition, that they looked upon an external communion with an ecclesiastical institute, as really involving a spiritual participation of Christ?
Mr. Biddulph, however, understands the words in the Baptismal service in an absolute sense,' grounded on a lower definition of baptismal regeneration :' but both he and Mr. Scott' assume, that there is something also supposititious in the mind of the Church, as to spiritual regeneration.'
• Is there any impropriety or contradiction, gravely adds an ingenious Reviewer, in supposing that the framers of our invaluable
prayers had respect to both views in their use of the term
regenerated by the Holy Ghost ?"" Alas ! alas ! And must these invaluable prayers be at last explained by conjectures, and defended by suppositions ? and would such men as Mr. Scott, if once discharged from the obligation of their vows, ever imagine themselves authorized by hypothetical reasonings in reading the Baptismal service over an infant, the office for the Visitation of the Sick over an impenitent, or the Burial service over a profligate? It is impossible to suppose that the language of the Church of England in her Ritual, is such as the opponents of Dr. Mant would have chosen as the expression of their own belief. How then can it receive their unfeigned assent and consent? Mr. Bugg contends that the literal interpretation of the
language of the baptismal office, and its universal application 6 to all persons receiving it, cannot be supported.' Why? Because, as he affirms,
• The baptismal office, like all the other offices, and Liturgy of the Church, was constructed for worthy receivers, and the benefits of course, must be confined to such.”. She is all along speaking of Christ's institution ; to Christ's Church of “ faithful men," and of the promise which Christ has made to those who, with a right spirit, wish to enter into it; and although it be too true, that, “ in the visible Church the “ evil be ever mingled with the good;" 29th Article) yet the Church knows them not. She owns them not.' p. 71-67.
Mr. Bugg concedes, that upon any other supposition, that is, if Dr. Mant's interpretation of the office is just, the Church is convicted of absurdity, and of inconsistency at once with herself, with the Scriptures, and with common sense. But surely Mr. Bugg is charging upon the Church a still grosser absurdity. He is accusing his Church of composing a national liturgy, and offices, designed to be indiscriminately administered, not at the discretion of the clergy, but to all sorts and conditions of men, the ' literal interpretation of which cannot be supported; the literal interpretation of which would involve absurdity and impiety! Although the Church of England is so identified with the political constitution, that its whole system of discipline and of government is political ;-although, at the period of its establishment by law, to dissent from her was considered as a civil offence, and involved the severest penalties ;-yet, the universal
application' of its language cannot be supported. Though enforced upon all, it was constructed, it seems, but for a few.
She had only a spiritual service in her mind, in establishing a temporal institute. Her design was to compel men to be come true Christians; not to come to Church as good citizens. As to the multitudes who in every age she foresaw would come to her sacraments, misled by ignorant notions of their efficacy, or guided by merely secular motives, it is enough to say, The
Church knows them not, she owns them not !!--What miserable sophistry is this ! How palpable a self-refutation does such a statement furnish, with regard to the plain fact! Whatever was designed by the original framers of the offices of the Church, (a point, however, which we do not consider as doubtful,) the intention of those who decreed its rites and ceremonies as the matter of law, has been too unequivocally manifested. Be it so, then, that upon the Establishment, as an establishment, the absurdity, the inconsistency, the impiety of the Ritual, as interpreted by Dr. Mant, should rest. Will “ The Church” admit of this distinction in vindication of herself, and consent to escape in the immaterial form of an abstraction, from the awful responsibility which attaches to her legislators ?
There is another consideration which renders it still more difficult to admit of the hypothetical explanations of the Catechism and offices of the Establishment. At no period in the history of the Christian Church, has there prevailed a disposition to undervalue the external ordinances of religion. Among the many corruptions which even in apostolic times crept into Christian societies, producing a departure from the “ simplicity which is “ in Christ,” we do not find that an indifference to the forms of external profession was
The apprehension of a very contrary danger, suggested the solemn cautions, the pathetic remonstrances, with which the Sacred Epistles abound, addressed to those who had put on the profession of Christianity. If the literal interpretation of the great Apostle's language is in any case such as cannot be supported, it is when he seems to treat as nothing all outward privileges, all ritual duties, in his anxiety to secure the intelligent reception of the religion of Christ as a spiritual reality. Had the language of the Church erred in this respect, had it insisted too exclusively on the claims of religion on the heart, we might have allowed of hypothetical explanations, for they would not have involved a contradiction of the literal import. There would have been at least no very fatal danger of misinterpreting it. But what has been, under every form in which Christianity has been established, the grand practical evil to be supremely deprecated ? What, but that fatal compromise of ritual obedience for moral holiness, which nullifies the very end of religion? The Jew trusted that his descent, or that circumcision, could save him ; and so obstinately did he cherish this proud reliance, that when he had embraced Christianity, it excited the fears of an Apostle, that he had bestowed his labour in vain. The Papist believes that the Sacraments and the Absolution are to save him : though such advocates as Butler and Eustace, have their hypothetical explanations ready, to palliate the language of even the Romish Church. And is the language of the heart in a Protestant . country, different? Is there no danger of a self-righteous adherence to the forms of a Reformed Church of a reliance upon an external communion with that Church, and a participation in its Sacraments? How fearful is the number of those who live and die under such a delusion! Regenerated'in baptism, confirmed afterwards by the imposition of Episcopal hands, absolved in their
death-sickness from all their sins, they at last receive the Sacrament as their supposed passport, and are buried in 'sure and • certain hope of the resurrection unto eternal life,' without haying exhibited any evidence of the Christian character. These are cases of daily occurrence, snch as must be contemplated as necessarily arising out of the present state of human nature. The framers of the offices and Catechisın must have known this ;; and either they must
have believed, as Dr. Mant, Bishop Tomline, and the Romish Church, believe, that Sacraments have a justifying, a sanctifying, and a saving efficacy, or they did deliberately adopt language worse than inapplicable to the majority of a nation at that time but partially rescued from the dominion of popery: language literally false, and indefensible but on hypothesis : language calculated awfully to mislead the souls of men, the charge of which the Established Church took upon herself as her exclusive prerogative. For knowing this, the compilers of the Catechism taught every child to believe and to declare, that in baptism he is made a member of Christ, the child of • God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven. And what has been the practical consequence which has so extensively resulted from this use of the language of the Ritual and of the Catechism, enforced by the sentiments of by far the greater part of the Established clergy, till within these last fifty years ? That which Mr. Bugg allows to be the natural and necessary consequence of Dr. Mant's opinions : “ The utter destruction of the
necessity of any vital religion, or any Christian morality what
ever.' This, Mr. B. owns, would afford Dissenters so far a 'ground of justification. We accept it as such : it is one of the principal reasons of Dişsent.
But, once more : If the literal interpretation of the language in the Baptismal service, were to be, for argument sake, given up, what is that ' lower definition of baptismal regeneration,' that figurative or hypothetical sense, in which the words can be supported? The subject of Baptismal Regeneration, is an infant, incapable of faith ; a passive subject of the change supposed to be wrought iu baptisın, by which he becomes the child of God and the heir of eternal life. Does the Regeneration conveyed by • baptism rightly administered, relate, on this supposition, to the infant's character, or to his state? If to the former, the change effected, whatever it bę, must be absolute acd necessary by reason of a physical efficiency in the means, and consequently inseparable from Baptism. If it relate to a change of state, how can the present benefit, as defined by the Church of England, be suspended on conditions to be afterwards performed by the unconscious subject of that benefit? The question respects pot the reality, but the nature, of the efficacy of the sacrament. A Sacrament partakes of the nature of a covenant : it has necessarily a relation to the antecedent promise of God, of which it forms the ratification and seal. But, by what promise in the Divine word, is the belief supported, that every baptizedi person, whether an infant or an adult, becomes, in consequence of his admission into the visible Church,' a member of Christ, • the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdoin of heaven? What supposed conditions can justify this language? Take it literally or figuratively, absolutely or hypothetically, this description of the effects of Baptism, is equally contrary to reason and to Scripture: but, nevertheless, Dr. Mant is right in this respect; it is the doctrine of the Church of England.
It cannot be wondered at, that the publication of Dr. Mant's • Two Tracts,” by the Bartlett's Buildings Society, which has furnished' occasion for the present controversy, should begin to be lamented as a most impolitic measure. It has furnished at least one reason for not subscribing to that Society in preference to the Bible Society. Nor will the schism to which it has led, in the former of these Societies, be very easily healed. The proud, inveterate jealousy which the AntiBiblicul faction have manifested towards the Evangelical clergy, in the various publications that have appeared on the subject, sufficiently illustrate the motives which have led them to oppose the circulation of the “ Bible only. It is not to be forgotten, that the opposition to the Bible Society rests with the abettors of the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration, and the ridiculers of Methodistic conversion. It is, in fact, the last convulsive struggle of Popery within a Protestant Church. In the proud attitude of authority, she has taken her stand on the offices of that Church, and smiles in defiance.
The sentiments of the Church of England with regard to BAPTISM, deserve however, apart from the present controversy, to receive further attention, as throwing considerable light on the general use which has been made of the word Regeneration, in reference to an initiation into the visible Church. Did the con; troversy indeed zest upon the use of a single word, as Mr. Cun; ninghain, in his “Conciliatory Suggestions," seems to imagine, it would not surely be very difficult to heal the schism ; but the fact, as we have sufficiently shewn, is widely different. Calvin remarks, with his usual sagacity, I have found, by long and
frequent experience, that those who pertinaciously contend against words, cherish some latent poison : so that it were better, designedly to provoke their resentment, than to use
obscure language for the sake of obtaining their favour.' Institutes. B. 1. C. 13.
SACRAMENTS,' as Hooker remarks, 'by reason of their mixt nature, are more diversely interpreted and disputed of, than any other parts of religion besides.' In what their mixed nature