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CHAPTER II. THE QUESTION AMONG PRESBYTERIANS.

The Report of the Old School General Assembly in 1845--Its Answer fatal to the Ecclesiastical Claims of Presbyterians and all Protestants.

THE question of the validity of Romish baptisms has been up for discussion no less than three times before the Presbyterian General Assembly, within the past few years; and with each discussion and attempt to settle it, the more unsettled it appears to be left, and the greater the dissatisfaction arising from it. We have not at hand a digest of the acts of the Assembly, but from the Report below, we find that this question has vexed Presbyterian Assemblies since the year 1790, and has been bequeathed, unsettled, to each succeeding generation.

It was before Parliament so early as 1558, as we shall see.

So early as 1790, Presbyterians decided that the Romish Church was not a true church, and her ordinances, therefore, invalid.

It appeared in 1829, and was indefinitely postponed, for reasons given by one who was at that time a member of the Assembly:

[[* J. F. Bliss, in "Popery and Protestantism Compared."]]

It reappeared again in the year 1835, when the Assembly decided that the Romish Church was "apostate from Christ, and no true church," and her priests as usurpers of the sacred functions of the ministry, consequently, their baptisms null and void.

But notwithstanding this strong decision, in 1845, the Presbytery of Ohio sent up the question for a re-settlement.

The General Assembly met in Cincinnati, O., May 15, 1835, and the following is its report, in extenso, on the subject: REPORT.

 

The religious world must entertain a profound respect for the matured decisions of such a body as the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of America; and the Assembly of 1845 was said to have presented a "brilliant array of ministers in the first rank of intellectual endowment." The above Report, it must be conceded by all, is a masterly production. Its premises are unambiguous and eminently Scriptural. No Protestant or Baptist will gainsay them. The conclusion is invincible, that the Romish Church never had authority to administer baptism, or to ordain ministers who could administer valid baptism, because she was never a true church of Christ visible, but always apostate, from the truth, and the "Man of Sin."

But has not the General Assembly as clearly demonstrated that Presbyterian and all Protestant baptisms are no baptisms, as it has that "there is no baptism in the Romish Church?"

We ask the serious, candid reader to compare the premises in the above Report, and the plain facts of history.

I. If it be true that no baptism is valid unless administered by "a duly ordained minister of the true Church of God visible," (though we should grant that the Church of Rome is, and ever has been, such a church,) even then no Presbyterian or Pedobaptist can have a reasonable assurance that he has been truly baptized.

That Presbyterians, in common with all the Reformed or Protestant sects, received their baptisms and ordinations from the Romish apostasy, is denied by no one, is admitted by the Assembly itself.

That the Romish Church did, from its "first coming and working after the manner of Satan," corrupt the design and administration of baptism, is well known to the merest tyro in historical reading. She, at a very early day, before her universal Bishop sat upon the seven hills of Rome, in the seat, to exercise all the powers of the Dragon--Pagan Rome--ascribed a saving efficacy to baptism, and taught that without it there was no salvation. This led her to provide for its administration to all in every period of life, and under every necessitous circumstance. Under ordinary circumstances, the duly ordained priest was the appointed administrator; but, if in danger of death, and no priest was at hand, a layman; and if he could not be had, any one, male or female, a midwife, cook, or scullion, or even heretic, infidel, or Turk! and if water could not be procured, that wine, or milk, or any fluid might be used!!

Such was the sacredness of baptism in the eye of "Holy Mother," that when it was administered by boys in sport upon each other, it was held by her as valid baptism and conferring salvation!

It is related by Ruffinus, and indorsed by other writers, that Alexander, bishop of Alexandria once saw a parcel of boys engaged in a play, called "boy bishop," in which they were wont to imitate all things usually performed in the Church, especially the administration of baptism. This worthy bishop conferred with a council of his clergy, and the conclave solemnly resolved, that "the baptism so administered by these boys in play was lawful and valid, and was not to be repeated."

Now, unquestionably, thousands and tens of thousands, received baptism in the Romish

Church by these informal and blasphemous ways, and it has been strongly said:*

[[* Western Baptist Review, Vol. I, p. 12.]]

[[* "The tonsure in the Romish Church may be received after the age of seven years. It is the first part of the ceremony of ordination. The candidate presents himself, in a black cassock, before the bishop, with a surplice on the right arm, and a lighted taper in his hand. He kneels, and the bishop standing, covered with his miter, repeats a prayer, and several verses from the Scriptures. The bishop, then sitting, cuts five different parcels of hair from the head of the candidate, who repeats these words, 'The Lord is my inheritance.' Putting off his miter, the bishop says a prayer over the person tonsured; an anthem is sung by the choir; then a prayer, in the middle of which the bishop puts the surplice on the candidate for orders, and says, 'May the Lord clothe thee with thy new name.' The ceremony is concluded by the candidate's presenting the wax taper to the bishop, who gives him his blessing." -Dr. Hurde's Rites and Ceremonies, p. 282.]]

But bad as this is, it is not the worst.

II. In asserting that Calvin and Luther, and all the first ministers of the Reformation, received valid baptism in the Romish Church, as it does, the General Assembly annulled the baptisms of all Presbyterians and Pedobaptists!

I submit the reasoning of the editor of the "Western Baptist Review" upon this proposition:

 

Once more:

III. The Papal hierarchy, at the time of the Reformation, was no more the true Church of Christ, visible, than now, and her baptisms, therefore, were no more valid then than they are to-day.

The same editor says:

 

From the fatal conclusions of the positions taken by the General Assembly, there is no possible escape. The baptisms and ordinances of all Protestants are nullified, whether Romish baptisms are valid or invalid.

There is one position that might be taken, if one could be found willing to destroy the people's confidence in the Word of God, in the truth of prophecy, in the veracity, faithfulness, and power of Jesus Christ, to save his party organization.

That position is to affirm that the gates of hell had triumphed over the Church of Christ; the last visible Church, that composed his kingdom on earth, had been "given to another people"--had been destroyed from the face of the earth,--and that "the faith" was the second time given to the world for another trial with the powers of darkness; that the kingdom set up by the God of heaven--the Church upbuilt by Jesus Christ himself--having yielded to the assaults of hell, Christ divinely commissioned Luther and Calvin, and their coadjutors, to see if they could not do better than he had done, in establishing visible Churches that could stand against the powers of Satan; that Christ commissioned these men, directly, as he did John the Baptist, to preach, and to baptize, and recover the victory, which he had so ignominiously lost, from the hands of Satan!

The man who would say this, would brand the Bible with falsehood, and Christ with imposture, it is true; but what will not man do rather than confess that he is wrong, and has led others into error? It may possibly be thought that no Christian man would advocate, before the Christian world, such a position.

What will the reader say when we inform him that one of the members of that very Assembly did rise upon that floor and urge the Presbyterian Assembly to take this very ground! That man was Professor Thornwell. We quote one paragraph from his speech:

 

It was well that the General Assembly did not countenance such irreverent utterances,* preferring to peril the ecclesiastical claims of all Protestants, in the eyes of man, and be repudiated, it may be, rather than to assume this attitude toward Christ.

[[* Do not Methodists take this very ground with reference to the Wesleys? See their Discipline, page 1.]]

Suppose it were granted that God raised up Luther, and Calvin, and others, to do what his Son had failed to do, did he not inspire them? Did he not deliver "the faith" to them, as he did to the saints at first? Did he leave them to teach for doctrine and for observance whatever they severally saw fit in their own unassisted wisdom to do?--to form visible Churches after patterns not shown in the mount, but after their own devisings?

The position of Professor Thornwell forces him to claim inspiration for the founders of the Reformed Churches. And then, what follows? In what a light is God placed by this assumption, and Christ, also, if he essayed the second time to raise up visible Churches? Did God inspire Luther to teach consubstantiation, and Calvin to denounce it as false and impious? Luther to give one form of Church government, and Calvin a different one? and so on through all the variant doctrines and practices of Protestants; until, displeased with these, he raised up Wesley to deny his sovereignty and salvation by grace, without works, as taught by Calvin, Luther, and Paul?

We leave this subject to the serious and prayerful reflection of the reader.

If no baptism be valid except administered by a duly ordained minister of Christ in a true Church of Christ, visible, as the Assembly truly decided, let Presbyterians and the world decide if the baptisms of Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, or any one of the first Presbyterian ministers or members, were valid.

Here is a literal history of the baptism of John Calvin, the father and founder of Presbyterianism. We take it from the columns of an exchange paper:

[[*As little Calvin was only a few hours or days old, of course he spoke this through his godfather.]]

 
 
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