Page images

are united in their origin, in their youth, they were mai ried in the prime of life, and it is cruel to divorce and separate them in their old days.

The philosophical cause of sponsers appears to have been this. It was plain to all, that faith was required in order to baptism, as instituted in the New Testament. As soon as men first thought of extending it to infants, the absence of faith in the infants was a difficulty, which they set about surmounting in the best possible manner some ingenious person suggested the scheme of having faith by proxy, that is some person profess faith, answer questions, and vow resolutions for the infant the idea struck-the plan was approved, and God-fathers multiplied, not merely in the same ratio of the infants, for some of them had a hundred God-fathers. The rich had many, and the poor, who are ever on the back ground, had but few. The meaning and use of these proxies or secu. rities, will be better understood by the following questions and answers. What is your name Ans. John Zealous

Who gave you this name? Ans. my God-fathers and God-mothers in my baptis:n, wherein I was made a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of Heaven. What did your God.fathers and God-mothers then for you? Ans. They did promise and vow three things in my name ; first, that I should repounce the Devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh? second, that I should believe all the articles of the Christian faith : third, that I should keep God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the same to my life's end." If infant baptism and God-mothers, can secure all this, they are worth contending for! Such is the practice of the Church of England, which professes to stand upon the holy scriptures, and the first four general councils ; leaving all the other holy and learned councils 'of antiquity to whosoever pleases to adopt them.

But I have another testimony of Tertullian to read, which I hope will be heard with all the impartiality you can command. It accounts for more than the prigin of infant baptism, it is doubtless one of the best authenticated testimonies of antiquity-It is in the following words De Corona Militis as quoted by Du Pin, page 92, vol. 1st. “ To begin, says he, with baptism, when we are ready to enter into the water, and even before we make our protestations before the bishop, and in the church ; that we renounce the Devil, and all his pomps and ministers ; afterwards we are plunged in the water three times, and they make us answer to some things which are not precisely set down in the Gospel ; after that they make us taste milk and honey and we bathe ourselves every day during the whole week. We receive the sacrament of the Eucharist instituted by Jesus Christ, when we eat, and in the morning assemblies, and we do not receive it but from the hands of those that preside there. We offer yearly oblations for the dead in honor of the martyrs. We believe, that it is not lawful to fast on Sundays, and to pray to God kneel. ing. From Easter to Whitsuntide we enjoy the same privilege. We take great care not to suffer any part of the wine and consecrated bread to fall to the ground. We often sign ourselves with the sign of the cross. If you demand a law for these practises, taken from the scriptures, we cannot find one there, but we must answer

that 'tis tradition that has established them, custom that has authorised them, and faith (superstition) that has made them to be observed."

So testifies Tertullian, an advocate for tradition. So speaks this great hero of pedo-baptists, who has the honor of first recording the practice-such was the profile of Christianity in the year 216such was the soil, such the climate that produced the luxuriant tradition of infant baptism. Not an ordinance of Christ remained pure and uncorrupted in the days of Tertullian-Innovations had corrupted baptism, the Eucharist, prayer, fasting and the Lord's day. The above testimony establishes and con. firms this declaration. But this was not all ; new institutes or traditions were incorporated with the remains of primitive Christianity, and the Christian Church exhibited an unnatural, irrational & unscriptural appearance. I need not repeat the testimony I have just now quoted, I need not again tell you of the superstition and wild eccentricities of the close of the second, and beginning of the third century. But what is most to be deplored in the history of the era of infant baptisin, is, that tradition itself, as a proper source of instruction, and as a rule of faith and practice, was defended and supported by such men as this famous Latin father. I consider it of no consequence who acknowledged and maintained infant baptism after this time. Were it not far rcasons unconnected with the

merits of this debate, I should never dispute, with my opponent, nor with any other man, respecting the decrees of St. Cyprian and his 66 Bishops, or the testimony of Origen, Augustine, Pelagius, &c.; when in the days of Tertullian, traditions, the most palpably absurd and extravagant, were viewed as tantamount to scripture authority; what may we expect to find one or two hundred years after! Yes, my friends, I may say in relation to you, as the Queen of Sheba once said in relation to herself : « The one half has not been told you." Before I dismiss this part of the subject, I will lead you back to take a second view of the 1st and ed centuries. In the mean time, when you hear of the antiquity of infant baptism, or any other religious practice, not taught in the Bible, remember the declaration of the venerable Tertullian. “If you demand a law for these practices, taken from the scriptures, we cannot find one there, but we must answer, that 'tis tradition that has established them, custoin that has authorized them, and faith that has made them to be observed.” With regard to infant baptism, the above is as true, in my opinion, as that Adam and Eve were the parents of us all.

When we hear a paido-baptist referring to church' history to prove his practice, when we hear him talking of the successors of the Apostles ; of the purity, the doctrinal precision of those men, and their extraordinary attainments and advantages, we would be alınost persuaded to consider them little Apostles, and their writings almost canonical.

The most orthodox of the fathers were full of wild notions and extravagant fancies that would dishonor the lowest grade of Christians amongst us. Many of them were no doubt good men and faithful witnesses of facts; but they held many puerile opinions. Tertullian himself, a great writer, and distinguished amongst the Latin Fathers, as one of the most renowned champions of Chris. tianity, held many foolish and absurd opinions, such as, that the soul is corporeal, that it takes a certain form of the body, that it is generated thus: the body of the parents generates a body, and the soul of the parent generates a soul ; that the souls of all after death are disposed of in a certain subterraneous place, where they receive refreshment and torment, according to the good or evil they have done ; that the soul and breath are the same in many respects ;

Chatevery soul has its dæmon ;* of baptism he said, “that the external application of water to the body, in a mira. culous manner took away all the stains of sin from the soul; and that when that stain is taken away the punishment is remitted unto us.” « That the body should be anointed with oil after baptism, and hands imposed to in. duce the holy spirit to descend. That as John prepared the way of the Lord, so the Angel that presided over the baptism of men, prepares the way of the Holy Ghost;" with many other things of a similar nature.

From his book on penance," I will transcribe a few words and dismiss this worthy Father.

66 I confess, says he, that God grants remission of sins to those who receive baptism, but they luust take pains to be made worthy of it, for who would be so bold as to confer this sacrament on a person, of whose repentance he has any reason to make a doubt. You may impose upon the minister, and so procure baptism by false pretences; but God, who knows the heart, keeps his own treasures to himself, and does not grant his grace, but only to those that are worthy of it; so that none can imagine that he may sin more freely, because being yet but a Catechumen, he shall receive the remission of his sins in baptism; for this sacrament is the seal of faith, and repentance is the beginning and stamp of faith. Lastly, wc, are not washed from our pollutions by baptism, only that we might sin no more, but because we have our heart already purified."-Quia jain corde loti

To those who sinned after baptisın, he allowed there was but one repentance that he called “ the second repentance, which is the last hope that remains to those who have committed any crimes, that is enormous sins, after baptism. God, however, foreseeing man's infirmities and the Devil's temptations, was willing that though the gate of remission was shut and the grace of baptism refused forever to those who had forfeited their baptisinal innocence, they should have yet one remedy left, which is a second repentance; but that it is granted unto then but once.” He then proceeds to describe this public penance called Exomologesis— 'Tis an exercise to abase the sins ner, it makes him lie in sackcloth and upon ashes, entire. ly to neglect his body, it overwhelms his mind with grief

* See his book on the Soul, written against the Platonists, Pythagorians and Heretics, as also Du Pin, page 90, vol. 1.


and sorrow; it reduces him to drink nothing but water, and to eat nothing but bread; and to take no more than what is necessary for his sustenance; it obliges him to prolong his prayers, and to feed them by fastings: it cau ses him to break out in sighs and groans and tears, to cry day and night to the Lord, and to cast himself at the priest's feet, and to prostrate himself before God's favorites; to conjure all his brethren to pray for him, and to appease the wrath of God by their prayers.". So much for Tertullian and his Exomologesis. You that look up to antiquity, you that venerate the fathers; study and practice this venerable prescription, and remember that this Exomologesis is as apostolical, and as venerable, more ancient, and more approved by Tertullian, than infant baptism. Hitherto we have discoursed of the lights of the first and second centuries, and excepting those whose testimonies are bound up in the New Testament, we have seen that there are too many dark spots in the brightest of them to constitute them truly luminous bodies. But besides these, there was a host of deluded creatures that had no light in them. They emitted a false glare, only to bewilder and deceive the ignorant and unwary. Their followers resembled the benighted traveller lured from the path of safety, by the illusive glimmerings of an ignesfatuus.

In the two first centuries, errors, heresies, and heretics, encreased in an alarming ratio. The Christian church seemed to be almost deluged with error, and book after book was written on both sides of each question, which rather augmented than diminished the errors of the day. I shall siinply mention the names of some of the different sects, that warred against what we would call the most orthodox party, from the days of the Apostle John till Tertullian's time, but little more than an interval of 100 years. These were the Nicolaitans, the Ebionites, the Corinthians, the Nazarenes (not those first called the Nazarenes,) the Marcionites, the Gnostics, the Valentinians, the Marcellians, the Montanists, the Bardesanites, the Basilidians, the Simonians, and the Carpocratians, &c. &c. These all flourished either previous to, or in the time of Tertullian. You will, no doubt, agree with me, that the Devil was as busy in those days as in any subsequent period and that it is no way surprizing that in such a flood of error, infant baptism might begin to appear in the beginning of the third century.

« PreviousContinue »