MOST LEARNED PAEDOBAPTISTS,
BY ABRAHAM BOOTH
1787(An Introduction only to the book)
Having observed, for a course of years, that many of the most learned and eminent Paedobaptists, when theological subjects are under discussion, frequently argue on such principles, admit of such facts, interpret various texts of scripture in such a manner, and make such concessions, as are greatly in favour of the Baptists; I extracted a number of passages from their publications, and made many references to others, which I thought might be fairly pleaded against infant sprinkling.* On reviewing these quotations and memoranda, I concluded, merely for my own private use, to employ some leisure hours in transcribing and arranging them, under different heads of the Paedobaptist controversy.
When I had made a considerable progress in the work of transcription and arrangement, Mr. Henry's Treatise on Baptism fell into my hands. ** Prepossessed of a high regard for the character of that worthy author, I perused the treatise with care. Not convinced, however, by anything contained in it, that the sprinkling of infants is an appointment of Christ; and being fully persuaded that Mr. Henry had employed his learning and zeal in defense of an unscriptural ceremony; I determined to prosecute the subject of my enquiries and thoughts concerning it. Such was the occasion of this publication.
* N.B. As the terms infant sprinkling, wherever they occur in this Treatise, are used merely by way of distinction, and not of contempt; so the expressions, Paedo-baptism, and infant baptism, are used in compliance with general custom; not because the author thinks an infant is baptized, on whom water has been solemnly poured or sprinkled.
** The Monthly Reviewers, after pronouncing this "the most popular defense of infant baptism and of the mode of sprinkling that has appeared," very justly add; "Some reflections, however, which he casts on their [the Baptists] mode of baptism (which, perhaps, the editor might as well have omitted,)-are scarcely consistent with that candor and liberality which might have been expected from the author, and which, had he been now living, he would probably have discovered." Monthly Review, for April 1784, p.313. My reader may see in what an illiberal manner Mr. Henry has reflected on the baptismal immersion, and some animadversions upon it, Vol.1. Chap. IV. Reflect. VII, p.231, this edition.
The method of arguing here adopted, is far from being either novel or unfair: it has been used by the spirit of infallibility against pagans;(Acts xvii. 28; Titus i. 12.) by Christians against the Jews; + by the Reformed against Roman Catholics; and by Protestant Dissenters against our English Conformists. It is, in a particular manner, employed and pursued by the author of Popery confuted by Papists; a book, indeed, which I had not seen, till the far greater part of these pages was composed. The following words of that anonymous writer may be just applied, mutatis mutandis, to the present subject. "I will call the church of Rome for a witness to our cause; and if she do not plainly confess the antiquity of her own; if she herself do not proclaim the universality of our faith; if she do not confess that we are both in the more certain and safe way in the Protestant church, I will neither refuse the name *of an Anabaptist, nor any part of that censure which is due to such a character.
+So Witsius, for instance, in his Judaeus Christianizans, p.276-402; and Hoombeekius, Contra Judaeos, 1. ii. c. i.; 1. iv. c. ii ++ A remarkable instance of this kind, is mentioned by Mr. Peirce, who having informed us, that Bp. Hoadly and Mr. Ollyfe wrote against Dr. Calamy, in defence of their own Conformity, adds; "It happened, as is very usual with our adversaries, that these two defended conformity upon different principles. Dr. Calamy, therefore, in his answer, set their arguments one against another, and so handsomely defended our cause-that the Dissenters looked upon themselves obliged, not only to the doctor for his defence, but to his antagonists, who gave him the occasion of writing." Vindicat. of Dissent, part i.
Though I do not approve of every sentiment contained in the following quotations produced on behalf of the Baptists, yet, as the generality of those Paedobaptists, from whose writings the extracts were made, must be considered as persons of learning and eminence in the several communions to which they belonged; and as no small number of them were famous professors in Protestant universities, their declarations, in the argumentum ad hominem, cannot but have the utmost weight.
Nor can their testimonies, concerning the signification of Greek terms, or the practice of the church in former ages, be hastily rejected, without incurring the imputation of gross ignorance, of enormous pride, or of shameful precipitancy. Considering the quotations adduced, and the characters of those writers from whom they were taken, it is presumed, that the leading ideas of another paragraph, in Popery confuted by Papists, may be here applied. "If these witnesses had been ignorant and unlearned men, or excommunicate persons in their own church-there might be some plea why their testimonies should not be admitted. But when the points in question are articles of their own creed; when they are witnessed by popes, by councils, by cardinals, by bishops, by learned doctors and schoolmen in their own church, on our behalf, and against their own tenets; I see no cause why I should not demand judgment in defence of our church, and trial of our cause. It is the law of God and man, 'I will judge thee out of thine own mouth."t Thus also Mr. Claude, when confuting the Roman Catholics; "I will make their authors that are not suspected by them to speak, whose passages I will faithfully translate, which they made see in the originals if they will take the pains.
* Popery confuted by Papists, sect. viii.
p.43. f Ut supra, sect. x. p.152.
* To which I may add the following words of another Paedobaptist, which are considered by him as a kind of axiom. "The confessions of enemies, and circumstances favourable to any body of men, collected from the writings of their adversaries, are deserving of particular regard."+ Testimonium Adversani contra se Validissimum.
The reader will find, that our auxiliaries in this dispute are both numerous and respectable; for while a multitude of Paedobaptists reluctantly concede this, that, and the other, in support of immersion upon a profession of faith, those who may be justly esteemed impartial judges of the evidence produced on both sides of this debate, very cheerfully award the cause to us. Yes, those disinterested Friends, the people called Quakers, without so much as one exception occurring to observation, pour in their attestations on our behalf, and treat infant sprinkling as a merely human invention.
Though I am not conscious of having misrepresented the meaning of any Paedobaptist, whose testimony is produced, yet, as the quotations are very numerous, and as many of them are translated from the Latin, it is possible that mistakes may be discovered, by those readers who accurately compare my quotations with the writers from whom they were taken. Such mistakes, it is hoped, however, will be found comparatively few, and of trifling importance. I am persuaded, therefore, that the judicious and candid will impute them to inadvertency, or ignorance, rather than to a disingenuous intention.
* Defence of Reformation, part ii, p.27.
+Dr. Priestley's Letters to Dr. Horsley, p.137. "What," says the learned Chamier, "can be a more convincing proof, than that which arises from the confession of an adversary?" Panstrat. tom. iv. 1. viii. e. ix. § 4. Conformably to which, Mr. Travis, when speaking of a particular fact, says: It "is proved by the best testimony possible, the acknowledgment of an adversary." Letters to Mr. Gibbon, lett. ii. edit. 2nd.
A learned foreigner has justly observed, that while all Christians deservedly acknowledge the Bible as a divine revelation, it has fallen out, that every one desires to find in that sacred volume whatever in his own imagination seems divine; and that men are so wonderfully happy in this respect, as hardly ever to complain of being disappointed, or of having lost their labor, in searching the sacred records for what they wanted; but all, in the language of self-gratulation, repeat the old evpnka of Archimedes, I have found it!(* Werenfelsii Opuscula, p.376, 377.
I have found - is but too frequently," says Mr. Placette, "that we see truth clashing with our temporal interests, with the secret bias of our hearts, with our most violent passions, and with other things which we make the ordinary measures of our conduct. Whenever this happens, we ought to despise these vain interests, to stifle these inclinations, to repress these criminal motions, and in all our proceedings to stick close to the unalterable rule of truth. But we cannot bring ourselves to such a resolution: on the quite contrary, we endeavour to ply and bend this rule; and instead of conforming ourselves to it, would have it conform to ourselves. Not being able to change it, because it is really constant and perpetual, our next attempt is to change our own judgment about it. We try to persuade ourselves out of its directions; and, with much pains and labor, we come at length to succeed in our design. No man can, indeed, be ignorant of that mighty sway which the heart bears over the understanding. According to the order of nature, and the intention of its divine Author, it is the understanding that ought to guide the heart, and to be set up as its faithful lamp and light; but in common experience we see the reverse of this. The heart draws aside the understanding that way to which itself inclines; and if it fail to do this immediately, and by absolute command, it carries its point by time and stratagem.-It hinders the intellective power from attending to such reasons as are disagree-able to itself, and keeps it perpetually busied about the opposite arguments.-It makes us look on the former with a secret desire, that they may prove false; and on the latter, with a most unjust wish that we may find them true: and then, no wonder if it be successful in its arts, and if it effectually lead us into error.*
Very important is that declaration of our Lord; "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself:" with which the following direction of Bp. Taylor agrees: "If a man enquires after truth earnestly, as after things of great concernment; if he prays to God to assist, and uses those means which are in his hand, and are his best for the finding it; if he be indifferent to any proposition, and loves it not for any consideration, but because he thinks it true; if he will quit any interest rather than lose a truth; if he dares own what he hath found and believed; and if he loves it so much the more, conducing to piety and the honour of God; he hath done what a good and wise man should do: he needs not regard what any man threatens, nor fear God's anger when a man of another sect threatens him with damnation. For he that heartily endeavours to please God, and searches what his will is, that he may obey it, certainly loves God; and nothing that loves God can perish."t-Such is the rule of our duty in this respect; but as we are far from being insensible of our liability to be influenced by prejudices and corrupt affections in our enquiries after the mind of God respecting the ordinance of baptism, it is no small satisfaction to find, that our most learned and eminent opposers have said so much in favour of immersion, upon a profession of faith, as the appointment of Jesus Christ. For, as Dr. Owen observes, "Truth and good company will give a modest man confidence."**
* Christian Casuist, b. ii. chap. xxiii. + Ductor Dubitant, p.755. See Mr. Locke's Conduct of the Understanding, sect. xi.
In proportion as I have become acquainted with the Popish controversy, and with that between our English Episcopalians and Protestant Dissenters, the more have I been convinced, that there is a remarkable similarity between the arguments used by Roman Catholics in defence of Popery; by our Conformists, in support of their Establishment; and by Paedobaptists in general, in favour of infant sprinkling. It gives me, therefore, peculiar pleasure to find, that the general principles on which I oppose Paedobaptism, are the very same with those upon which the Reformed have always proceeded, in confuting the Papal system, and upon which Protestant Dissenters argue against the constitution, government, and unscriptural rites of the English church. By these considerations, I am the more confirmed in my disapprobation of infant sprinkling. Agreeable to which are the following words of Dr. Calamy, when speaking of the persecuted Nonconformists, and of their leading principles: "They were the more confirmed in their adherence to these principles, by finding the most eminent divines of the church forced to make use of the very same in their noble defence of the Reformation against the Romanists; and indeed, it seemed to them remarkable, that those which were reckoned by the clergy the most successful weapons against the Dissenters, should be the same that are used by the Papists against the Protestant Reformation."+
In the course of my reflections on the language and arguments of some Paedobaptists, the reader will meet with a few strokes of pleasantry. It is presumed, however, that he will have no reason to complain of ill tempe,; or of a want of benevolence to any from whom I conscientiously differ. For though it appears, from several quotations, that the harshest things have been said of the Baptists by some of their opposers;( Dr. Featley acknowledges that, when writing against the Baptists, "he could hardly dip his pen in any other liquor than the juice of gall.") In Crossby's Hist. Bap. vol. i. Pref. p.5. See Backus's Church Hist. of New Eng. vol. ii. p.323, 324. and though it must be acknowledged the Baptists have sometimes retorted in an unbecoming manner; yet, as every one must confess, that "the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God," so it may be observed of the cause that is here pleaded, Non tali auxiho, nec defensoribus istis.
** Vindication against Sherlock, p.41. + Nonconformist's Memorial, Introduct. p.53.
Some persons, to avoid the labour of thinking, and to keep their consciences easy in a compliance with prevailing custom, pronounce baptism a controverted point; and then infer, that all disputes about the mode and subjects of the ordinance, are not only stale and unimportant, but unworthy the character of any who profess a warm regard for the interests of moral virtue, or for the person, the atonement, and the grace of Jesus Christ. That baptism has been the subject of much controversy must be allowed; but then I will say, with Bp. Hurd; "Show me the question in religion, or even in common morals, about which learned men have not disagreed; nay, show me a single text of scripture, though ever so plain and precise, which the perverseness or ingenuity of interpreters has not drawn into different, and often contrary meanings. What then shall we conclude? that there is no truth in religion, no certainty in morals, no authority in sacred scripture? If such conclusions as these be carried to their utmost length, in what else can they terminate, but absolute universal scepticism?"*
I may add, in the words of Dr. Waterland, "As long as religion [or any particular branch of it,] is held in any value or esteem, and meets with opposers, it must occasion warm disputes. Who would wish that it should not? What remedy is there for it, while men are men, which is not infinitely worse than the disease? A total contempt of religion, [or an universal and absolute indifference for any particular article in it,] might end all disputes about it; nothing else will."+
It must, indeed, be acknowledged, that positive rites, forms of worship, and ecclesiastical order, are not of equal importance with doctrines that immediately respect the object of our worship, as rational creatures; the ground of our hope, as intended for an immortal existence. Nor is the most punctual performance of a ritual service, detached from faith in Christ and benevolence to man, worthy of being compared with truly devotional principles and virtuous tempers, though attended with much ignorance relating to the positive parts of divine worship. But is this a sufficient reason for treating the law of baptism as of little or no importance-as if it were obsolete, or as If our great legislator had no meaning when he enacted it? That mutilation of the sacred supper, which is practiced in the Romish communion, has been sharply opposed and loudly condemned by all denominations of Protestants: and is it not lawful, is it not matter of duty, to oppose and condemn such an outrage on divine authority and primitive example? Are we not required to contend earnestly but with virtuous dispositions, for every branch of that faith which was once delivered to the saints? If, therefore, infants be solemnly sprinkled by divine right, it must be the indispensable duty of Paedobaptists to contend for it; but if, on the contrary, infant sprinkling be a human invention, the Baptists are equally bound to oppose it, as deserving to be banished from the worship of God, where it has long usurped the place of a divine institution. If Christ be the only Lord and Lawgiver in his own kingdom, then certainly it is far from being a matter of indifference whether the laws which he enacted be regarded or not: for, with equal reason, might any one question, whether our Saviour should be believed, in what he declares; as whether he should be obeyed, in what he commands.
* Introduct. to Study of Prophecies, serm. viii. + Importance of Doct. of Trinity, p.206.
Under the fair pretext of charity, forbearance, and Catholicism, we might, with Melancthon and other adiaphorists in the sixteenth century, consider the doctrine of justification by faith alone, the number of the sacraments, the jurisdiction claimed by the pope, extreme unction, the observation of Popish festivals, and several superstitious rites, as things indifferent:* or, with others, we might assert the innocence of mental error in matters of doctrine and of worship; and so, by unavoidable consequence, render the Bible itself of little worth.
It has often been asserted, by both ancients and moderns, that the followers of Christ should never seek for peace at the expense of truth, nor of religious duty. Thus, for example, Hilary, bishop of Poietiers: "The name of peace is, indeed, very specious, and the mere appearance of unity has something splendid in it; but who knows not, that the church and the gospel acknowledge no other peace than that which comes from Christ, that which he gave to his apostles before the glory of his passion, and that which he justify in trust with them by his eternal command, when he was about to leave them?" +Dr. Owen: "We are not engaged in an enquiry merely after peace, but after peace with truth. Yea, to lay aside the consideration of truth, in a disquisition after peace and agreement, in in and about spiritual things, is to exclude a regard unto God and his authority, and to provide only for ourselves .
* See Mosheim's Eccles. Hist. cent. xvi. sect. iii. part. ii. § 28. Venemae Hist. Eccies. secUl. xvi. § 156. +In Claude's Defence of Reformation, part iii, p.3.
The rule of unity, as it is supposed to comprise all church communion, falls under many restriction. For herein the special commands of Christ, and institutions of the gospel committed unto our care and observance, falling under consideration, our practice is precisely limited unto those commands, and by the nature of those institutions... We are not obliged to accommodate any of the ways or truths of Christ unto the sins and ignorance of men." J.A. Turrettin: "There ought to be no charity without truth; no charity that is an injury to truth; no charity which causes us to offend against the truth ... For this ought not to be called charity, but a confederation and a conspiracy of error. 'We wish,' says Jerome, 'for peace; and we not only wish, but also pray for it: but it is the peace of Christ, true peace, peace in which no war is involved.' Otherwise, as Naziazen teaches, war is more eligible than that peace which separates us from God."+Mr. Henry: "The method of our prayer must be, first for truth, and then for peace; for such is the method of the wisdom that is from above; it is first pure, then peaceable. '~ With this both prophets and apostles agree; for their language us Love the truth, and peace-Speaking the truth in love.§ The folly and impiety of pleading for charity and peace, at the expense of divine truth and of religious duty, are well represented and properly chastised by a Paedobaptist author, in the following manner: A considerable succedaneum for the Christian unity, is the Catholic charity; which is like the charity commended by Paul, in only this one instance, that it groweth exceedingly.-Among the stricter sort, it goes under the name of forbearance. We shall be much mistaken if we think that, by this soft and agreeable word, is chiefly meant the tenderness and compassion inculcated by the precepts of Jesus Christ and his apostles.
* Discourse on Evangelical Love and Peace, p.17, 24, 233.
+ Oration de Theologo Veritatis et Pacis Studioso. & Exposit. on Rom. xv. 5. § Zech. viii. 19; Eph. iv. 15.
It strictly means an agreement to differ quietly about the doctrines and commandments of the gospel, without interruption of visible fellowship. They distinguish carefully between fundamentals, or things necessary to be believed and practised; and circumstantials, or things that are indifferent. Now, whatever foundation there may be for such a distinction in human systems of religion, it certainly looks very ill-becoming in the churches of Christ, to question how far HE is to be believed and obeyed. Our modern churches have nearly agreed to hold all those things indifferent which would be inconvenient and disreputable; and to have communion together, in observing somewhat like the customs of their forefathers. Many of the plainest sayings of Jesus Christ and the apostles are treated with high contempt, by the advocates of this forbearance.-The common people are persuaded to believe, that all the ancient institutions of Christianity were merely local and temporary, excepting such as the learned have agreed to be suitable to these times; or, which have been customarily observed by their predecessors. But it would well become the doctors in divinity to show, by what authority any injunction of God can be revoked, besides his own; or, how any man's conscience can be lawfully released by custom, example, or human authority, from observing such things as were instituted by the apostles of Christ in his name ... This corrupt forbearance had no allowed place in the primitive churches. The apostle, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, required of them, to adorn their vocation 'with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another, IN LOVE.' But had they dispensed with the laws of Christ, for convenience and ease, it had been forbearing one another in hatred; for those laws were expressions of his love; the most fervent love that was ever shown among men, directed by infallible wisdom. Whosoever, therefore, would obliterate them, or any how attempt to change them, must either suppose himself wiser than Jesus Christ, or a greater friend to mankind. He must be moved, either by an enormous self conceit, or by the spirit of malevolence ... The more thinking part of religious men, observing what great mischiefs have arisen from contentions about truth-have found it most desirable to let truth alone, and to concern themselves chiefly about living profitably in civil society. To be of some religion, is but decent; and the interests of human life require that it be popular and compliant. If men have different notions of Jesus Christ, his divinity, his sacrifice, his kingdom, and the customs of his religion, even from what the apostles seemed to have; charity demands that we think well of their religious characters, notwithstanding this. It is unbecoming the modesty of wise men to be confident on any side; and contending earnestly for opinions, injures the peace of the Christian church. Thus kind and humble is modern charity! Instead of rejoicing in or with the truth, it rejoiceth in contemplating the admirable piety that may be produced from so many different, yea, opposite principles... The Christians of old time were taught, not to dispute about the institutions of their Lord, but to observe them thankfully; and hereby they expressed their affection to him and to each other. If that affection be granted to be more important than the tokens of it, it would be unjust to infer that the latter have no obligation; which would imply, that Christ and the apostles meant nothing by their precepts. The Methodists have not, indeed, gone so far as their spiritual Brethren [the Quakers] have done, in rejecting all external ceremonies; but they are taught to believe, that all concern about the ancient order and customs of the Christians is mere party-spirit, and injurious to the devout exercises of the heart. Thus the modern charity vaunts itself, in answering better purposes than could be accomplished by keeping the words of Christ. It produces a more extensive and generous communion, and animates the devotion of men, without perplexing them by uncertain doctrines or rigorous self-denial...though it supposes some revelation from God, and some honour due to Jesus Christ, it claims a right to dispense with both-to choose what, in his doctrine and religion, is fit to be believed and observed."*
While, however, we think it our duty with a resolute perseverance to maintain the purity and importance of baptism, as divine institution; we are far from considering ourselves as the only disciples of Christ, or our own communities as the only Christian churches. Nor is an idea of that kind justly inferable from our denying communion at the Lord's table to Paedobaptists.+
Respecting this particular, Dr. Owen says; "There is no necessity that any should deny all them to be true churches, from whom they may have just reason to withdraw their communion . . . When we judge of our own communion with them, it is not upon this question, Whether they are true churches, or not? as though the determination of our practice did depend solely thereon. For as we are not called to judge of the being of their constitution, as to the substance of it, unless they are openly judged in the scripture, as in the case of idolatry and persecution persisted in; so a determination of the truth of their constitution, or that they are true churches, will not presently resolve us in our duty, as to communion with them... It is most unwarrantable rashness and presumption, yea, an evident fruit of ignorance, or want of love, or secular private interest, when, upon lesser differences, men judge churches to be no true churches, and their ministers to be no true ministers."( Discourse on Evangelical Love and Church 'Peace, p.82,83,84. See Plain Reasons for Dissenting from the Church of England, part i. reason i.; and Stapferi Theolog. Polem. tom. i. p.518.)
* Strictures upon Modern Simony, p.48-55. Luther, in his vehement manner, says; "Maledicta sit charitas quae servatur cum jactura doctrinae fidei, cui omnia cedere debent, charitas, apostolus, angelus c coelo." Comment. in Epist. ad Galat. + See my Apology for the Baptists.
The same excellent author says; "There is nothing more clear and certain, than that our Lord Christ...never joined with [the Jews] in the observance of their own traditions and pharisaical impositions, but warned all his disciples to avoid them and refuse them; whose example we desire to follow: for, concerning all such observances in the church, he pronounced that sentence, 'Every plant that my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up.' "+
It is against what the author considers as an error in sentiment, and a corruption of worship, that the following Examination of Paedobaptism makes its appearance: errors, not persons, are here opposed. He thinks, with Mr. Leigh, that we should "distinguish between loving of men's persons and their errors;": and, with Bp. Burnet, that "whatever moderation or charity we may owe to men's persons, we owe none at all to their errors, and to that frame which is built on and supported by them."§ Nay, as Dr.Waterland in another case observes, "While we are of a contrary judgment, it cannot but be guilty practice and conduct in us, and very great too, to smother our sentiments, or not to bear our testimony in such a way as Christ has appointed, against all notorious corruptions, either of faith, or worship, or doctrine."++
Should this Examination of Paedobaptism have the honour of being regarded as deserving an answer, and should any of our opposers write against me, it will not avail to refute some particular parts of the work, detached from the general principles on which I proceed. no; the data, the principal grounds of reasoning, which are adopted from Paedobaptists them selves, must be constantly kept in view, or nothing to the honour of infant sprinkling will be effected.
+ Enquiry into Orig. and Nature of Churches, p.253. Treatise on Relig. and Learning, b. i. chap. vii.§ In Mr. Robinson's Plan of Lectures, Motto. ++Importance of Doc. of Trinity, p.135.
For as the grand principles on which my argumentation proceeds, and whence my general conclusions are drawn, are those of Protestants when contending with Papists, and those of Nonconformists when disputing with English Episcopalians; it will be incumbent on such opposer to show, either that the principles themselves are false, or that my reasoning upon them is inconclusive. Now, as I do not perceive how any Protestant can give up those principles, without virtually admitting the superstitions of Popery; nor how they can be deserted by any Dissenter, without implicitly renouncing his Nonconformity; so I conclude, that the whole force of any opponent must be employed in endeavouring to prove, that I have reasoned inconsequentially from those principles. That this might be easily proved, I am not at present convinced; and whether any of our Paedobaptist Brethren will consider this publication as of sufficient importance to excite such an attempt, is to me uncertain.
To the conclusions inferred from those very numerous concessions which our opposers have made, (and my reader will find that many of the greatest eminence among them have been the most free in making concessions,) it may, perhaps, be objected: "Notwithstanding all their concessions, they continued in the profession and practice of infant baptism."
Granted; but then it should be considered, that this objection is quite futile; because I professedly argue against Paedobaptism, on the principles, reasonings, and concessions ofPaedobaptists. Besides, though such an exception to my conclusions expresses a fact, yet it pays the consistency of the authors concerned but a poor compliment. In this light similar concessions from Roman Catholics have always been viewed by Protestants; of which the reader will meet with various instances in the course of this work.*
Being fully persuaded, that I appear in defence of a divine institution and of apostolic practice, I earnestly commend this publication to the blessing of that sublime Being, who "worketh all things after the counsel of his will." Sincerely praying, that evangelical truth and experimental religion, that purity of worship and the practice of holiness, may flourish among all denominations of Christians, I conclude in the following words of Lord Bacon: "Read, not to contradict or confute, nor to believe and take for granted, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider."+
A. BOOTH GOODMAN'S FIELDS, Aug. 8, 1787.
* See particularly Vol.1. p.268, 269, this edition. +In Dr. Edwards's Discourse concerning Truth and Error, p.456.
PAEDOBAPTISM EXAMINED &c.
Concerning the Nature, Obligation, and
Importance of Positive Institutions in Religion.
Concerning the Nature, Obligation, and Importance
of Positive Institutions in Religion.
DR. DODDRIDGE.-"Those are called positive institutions or precepts, which are not founded upon any reasons known to those to whom they are given, or discoverable by them, but which are observed merely because some superior has commanded them." Lectures, Definit. lxxi. p.238.
2. B. Taylor.-"All institutions sacramental, and positive laws, depend not upon the nature of the things themselves, according to the extension or dimunition of which our obedience might be measured; but they depend wholly on the will of the Lawgiver, and the will of the Supreme, being actually limited to this specification, this manner, this matter, this institution: whatsoever comes besides, it hath no foundation in the will of the Legislator, and therefore can have no warrant or authority. That it be obeyed, or not obeyed, is all the question and all the variety. If it can be obeyed, it must; if it cannot, it must be let alone ... Whatsoever depends upon a divine law or institution, whatsoever God wills, whatsoever is appointed instrumental to the signification of a mystery, or to the collation of a grace or a power, he that does any thing of his own head, either must be a despiser of God's will, or must suppose himself the author of a grace, or else to do nothing at all in what he does; because all his obedience and all the blessing of his obedience depend upon the will of God, which ought always to be obeyed when it can: and when it cannot, nothing can supply it, because the reason of it cannot be understood... All positive precepts, that depend upon the mere will of the lawgiver, admit no degrees, nor suppletory and commutation; because in such laws we see nothing beyond the words of the law, and the first meaning, and the named instance: and therefore it is that in individuo which God points at; it is that in which he will make the trial of our obedience; it is that in which he will so perfectly be obeyed, that he will not be disputed with or enquired of, why and how, but just according to the measures there set down; so, and no more and no less, and no otherwise. For when the will of the lawgiver is all the reason, the first instance of the law is all the measure, and there can be no product but what is just set down. No parity of reason can infer any thing else; because there is no reason but the will of God, to which nothing can be equal, because his will can be but one." Ductor Dub. b. ii. chap. iii. § 14, 18.
Mr. Reeves.-"The distinction of obligations between moral and positive duties is to be understood with great caution. For though the goodness of a law be a great motive and inducement to obedience, yet the formal reason of obligation does not arise from the goodness of a law, but from the authority and will of the legislator. God commands a thing which was before indifferent; therefore that thing is as much a law as if it was never so good in its own nature: he forbade the eating of a tree in the midst of the garden, which without that prohibition had been indifferent. But Adam, and in him all his posterity, was condemned for the for the breach of a law purely positive... When God therefore says, that he 'will have mercy and not sacrifice,' it is not to be understood as if God would have any of his laws broken; but, as our Saviour explains it, 'These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.' I ask then, what are natural laws? Why, what we conclude merely from the light of nature that God has commanded or forbidden, either to be believed or done. What then are positive laws? Why, what we know to be the will of God by his express word only. In both cases then we see, that it is the will of God, and not the goodness of the thing, or the manner of the discovery, which induces the obligation." Apologies, vol. ii. p.217, 218, edit. 1709.
4. Dr. Fiddes.-"The distinction between positive law and moral law is founded in this difference: the subject matter of positive law is something to which we are antecedently under no obligation and which only obliges by virtue of its being enacted, and perhaps to a certain limited period. The subject matter of a moral law is, on the other hand, something antecedently, in the visible reason of it, obligatory to us, and the obligation thereof will always continue unchangeably the same . . . By a positive command, I understand an express declaration made by competent authority, whether concerning things to be done, or to be omitted." Theolog. Pract. b. i. chap. vi. p.50; b. ii. part i. chap i. p.105.
5. Dr. Owen.-"Positive institutions are the free effects of the will of God, depending originally and solely on revelation, an d which therefore have been various and actually changed." Discourse concerning the Holy Spirit, b. i. chap. iii. § 3.
6. Buddeus.-"The obligation by which men are bound rightly to use positive appointments, is to be derived from the moral law itself; by which it is manifest, that men are obliged to do all those things by which their eternal felicity may be promoted ... God had the wisest reasons, why he would have an appointment administered in this or the other manner. It is not lawful, therefore, for men to alter any thing, or to mutilate the appointment. Thus, the sacraments are to be used, not according to our own pleasure, but in the manner appointed by God." Instut. Theol. Moral. pars i. c. v. § 18; pars ii. c. ii. § 50. Ups. 1727.
7. Bp. Butler.-"Moral precepts are precepts, the reasons of which we see; positive precepts are precepts, the reasons of which we do not see. Moral duties arise out of the nature of the case itself, prior to external command; positive duties do not arise out of the nature of the case, but from external command; nor would they be duties at all, were it not for such command, received from Him whose creatures and subjects we are. But the manner in which the nature of the case, or the fact of the relation is made known, this doth not denominate any duty either positive or moral... The reason of positive institutions, in general, is very obvious; though we should not see the reason why such particular ones are pitched upon, rather than others. Whoever, therefore, instead of cavilling at words, will attend to the thing itself, may clearly see, that positive institutions in general, as distinguished from this or that particular one, have the nature of moral commands, since the reasons of them appear. Thus, for instance, the external worship of God is a moral duty, though no particular mode of it be so. Care then is to be taken, when a comparison is made between positive and moral duties, that they be compared no farther than as they are different; no farther than as the former are positive, or arise out of mere external command, the reasons of which we are not acquainted with; and as the latter are moral, or arise out of the apparent reason of the case, without such external command. Unless this caution be observed, we shall run into endless confusion. Now this being premised, suppose two standing precepts enjoined by the same authority; that in certain conjunctures it is impossible to obey both; that the former is moral, i.e. a precept of which we see the reasons, and that they hold in the particular case before us; but that the latter is positive, i.e. a precept of which we do not see the reasons: it is indisputable that our obligations are to obey the former, because there is an apparent reason for this preference, and none against it ... As it is one of the peculiar weaknesses of human nature, when, upon a comparison of two things, one is found to be of greater importance than the other, to consider this other as of scarce any importance at all; it is highly necessary that we remind ourselves how great presumption it is, to make light of positive institutions of divine appointment; that our obligations to obey all God's commands whatever, are absolute and indispensable; and that commands merely positive, admitted to be from him, lay us under a moral obligation to obey them; an obligation moral in the strictest and most proper sense." Analogy of Religion, part ii. chap. 1.
8. Dr. J.G. King.-"Positive duties, having no obligation in the reason of things, can have no foundation but in the express words of the institutor, from which alone they derive their authority." Rites and Ceremonies of the Greek Church in Russia, p.12.
9. Mr. Jonathan Edwards.-"Those laws whose obligation arises from the nature of things, and from the general state and nature of mankind, as well as from God's positive revealed will, are called moral laws. Others, whose obligation depends merely upon God's positive and arbitrary institution, are not moral: such as the ceremonial laws, and the precepts of the gospel about the two sacraments."... Positive "precepts are the greatest and most proper trial of obedience; because in them the mere authority and will of the legislator is the sole ground of the obligation, and nothing in the nature of the things themselves; and therefore they are the greatest trial of any person 5 respect to that authority and will." Sermons, p. 232. Hartford, 1780. Sermons on Imp. Sub. p.79. Edinb. 1785.
10. Bp. Burnet.-"Sacraments are positive precepts, which are to be measured ONLY by the institution, in which there is not room justify for us to carry them any farther." Exposit. Thirty-nine Articles, Art. xxvii. p.279, edit. 5.
11. Mr. Steele.-"Sacraments depend merely upon the institution: hence doth their being result, and upon this their matter and signification do depend. The institution, with the element, makes the sacrament; and so the only rule and balance for them must needs be their institution." Morning Exercise against Popery, Serm. xxii. p.764, 765.
12. Stapferus.-"Visible signs are the matter of sacraments ... Signs are either natural or arbitrary. Sacred ceremonies are of the latter kind. But whatever an arbitrary sign be, it is such by institution." Institut. Theolog. Polem. tom. i. cap. iii. §1623, 1624.
13. Dr. Goodman.-The term institution "implies a setting up de no vo, or the appointing that to become a duty which was not knowable, or at least not known to be so, before it became so appointed. For this word, institution, is that which we use to express a positive command by, in opposition to that which is moral in the strictest sense, and of natural obligation. Now it is very evident, that all things of this nature ought to be appointed very plainly and expressly, or else they can carry no obligation with them; for seeing the whole reason of their becoming matter of law or duty, lies in the will of the legislator, if that be not plainly discovered, they cannot be said to be instituted, and so there can be no obligation to observe them; because where 'there is no law, there can be no transgression;' and a law is no law, in effect, which is not sufficiently promulgated." Preserv. against Popery, title viii. p.7.
14. Dr. Sherlock.-"What is matter of institution depends wholly upon the divine will and pleasure; and though all men will grant, that God and Christ have always great reason for their institution, yet it is not the reason, but the authority which makes the institution. Though we do not understand the reasons of the institution, if we see the command we must obey; and though we could fancy a great many reasons why there should be such an institution, if no such institution appears, we are free, and ought not to believe there is such an institution, because we think there are reasons to be assigned why it should be." Preserv. against Pop. title ix. p.419.
15. Anonymous.-"We deny that there are any accidental parts of instituted worship; for if instituted, (i.e. commanded by Christ,) it cannot be accidental, (i.e. justify to our liberty, as what may or may not be done without sin.) If accidental, it may be a part of somewhat else, but of the instituted worship of Christ it cannot be... Circumstances of worship (as such) undetermined by the Lord, to be appointed by men, we deny... These circumstances are such as, without which the worship of God is perfect, or it is not. If the first, we need them not; they are vain, fruitless, having without them a perfect worship. If the second, the worship God hath commanded, as it comes out of his hands, without human additaments, is imperfect; but this is little less than blasphemy... To assert, it is lawful to conform to any part of instituted worship, without warrant from the scripture, reflects sadly upon the wisdom and faithfulness of Christ. For, either he was not wise enough to foresee that such a part of worship was or would be requisite; or had not faithfulness enough to reveal it: though the scripture compares him to Moses for faithfulness, who revealed the whole will of God, to the making of a pin in the tabernacle . . . We had thought, that the perfection of scripture had consisted in this, that the whole of that obedience that God requires of us, had therein been stated and enjoined; for which end we conceive it was at first commanded to be written, and hitherto by the wonderful gracious providence of the Lord continued to us. The accidentals of worship are either part of that obedience we owe to God, or they are not. If not, how came they to be such parts of worship, as without them we are interdicted to perform it? or, indeed, whence is it, that we are tendering them up to God, when all our worship is nothing else but the solemn tender of that obedience that we owe to him? If they are, then there is some part of our obedience that is not prescribed in the scripture: then is the scripture imperfect, and that with respect the main end for which it was given forth, viz. to indoctrinate and direct us in the whole of that obedience that God requires of us." Jerubbaal, chap. ii. p.154, 155, 156.
16. Chamerius.-"This is a most certain principle, that the sacraments are nothing, except from their institution; and this institution must be divine. Whatever, therefore, was invented by man, does not belong to a sacrament. . . The use of the sacraments depends upon their institution... Nothing belongs to the institution of the Lord's supper, that is not essential to it... If the whole essence of the sacrament be of divine institution, certainly, that being violated, the sacrament itself cannot stand." Paustrat, tom. iv. 1. v. c. xvi. § 23; lvii. ciii. § 1; cxv. § 7; 1. viii. c. ii. § 3.
17. Gerhardus.-"Seeing that a sacrament depends entirely on the appointment of God, when we do not what God has appointed, it certainly will not be a sacrament." Loci Theolog. tom. iv. De Sacram. § 52. Francof. 1657.
18. Dr. Clagett.-"To conclude, that in matters depending upon the pleasure of God, he hath done that which seemeth best to our reason, is to suppose that in these things we know what is best, no less than God doth; that we have weighed all the conveniences and inconveniences of either side; the advantages and disadvantages of every thing that lies before us; the arguments for, and the objections against this or that, with the same exactness, wherein they are comprehended in his infinite understanding . . . When once the institutions of God are revealed and testified to us, we must not only conclude that they are wise and good, because they are his; but we ought also to take notice of those footsteps of divine wisdom and goodness, which are discernible in them: and the more that a wise man considers and understands their ends and usefulness, the more worthy of their Author he will find them to be. But their congruity to our reason is not the proof of their divine institution; since there are very many things, which to our finite understandings would appear as useful and as reasonable, but which yet God hath not instituted.. .Even where the appointments of God are evident, that wisdom and goodness which I can discover in them, is not the proper ground of my assurance that he hath established them; for that is no other than the evidence of the institution. Nor can that discovery alone give me the least assurance, that in making such provision he hath not been wanting to our needs; for the reason of that assurance is this, that it is He, it is God, I say, that hath made such provision for us. When it once appears what God hath instituted in order to our salvation, and no more, we are to conclude that this is enough in its kind, because it is all that God hath done. But for that other kind of arguing, that God hath been wanting to us in his institutions, if he has not instituted [this or that,] and therefore he has instituted it, I leave to those whose conclusions need it; very much desiring them to consider, what a cause that must be which drives them to such bold reasonings as these are." Preserv. against Pop. title vii. p.93.
19. Dr. Grosvenor. *(* Anonymous, indeed, but supposed to be Dr. Benj. Grosvenor -)"The dimunitive things that have been said by some, of the positive appointments in religion, and the extravagant things that have been said by others, are two extremes which true reasoning leads nobody into, on either hand. It is as contrary to the nature of things to make nothing of them, as to make them the whole of religion. To know exactly the regard that is due to them, is to find out the rank and order they are placed in by Him who has appointed them shall lay together what I have to say on this subject, under the following propositions.
"Proposition I. Some things are absolutely necessary to salvation, and in their own nature. We call those things absolutely necessary, without which there can be no salvation at all. Thus, a mind suited to the happiness intended by the. word salvation, is absolutely necessary; or holiness, 'without which no man shall see the Lord.' All the titles in the world to heaven, can never give the pleasure of heaven, without a suitableness to its enjoyments. Fitness here is as the eye to the delights of colours and prospects; the ear, to the pleasures of harmony; and as the palate, to those of taste and relish; that is, a capacity of enjoyment. As there must be an animal nature for animal pleasures, and a rational nature for rational ones; so there must be the divine and heavenly nature, for those that are divine and heavenly. No man would care to live even with a God whom he did not love.
"Prop. II. No merely positive appointments are necessary in this sense, i.e., absolutely and in their own nature. If there never had been a sacrament in the world, I might have been happy without it: you cannot say so of love to God and likeness to him...
"Prop. III. A disposition to obey divine orders, wherever they are discerned, either positive or moral, is part of that 'holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.' I may be saved without a sacrament; but I cannot be saved without a disposition to obey God's authority wherever I see it. A sacrament is a positive rite, and not to be compared with moral virtue: but is not a disposition to obey God's order, moral virtue and Christian grace? Or can there by any moral virtue, or Christian grace, without a disposition to obey the authority of Christ, wherever I discern it? Surely, obedience to God's command is a moral excellence, though the instances of that obedience may lie in positive rites. The command to Abraham, to sacrifice his son, was a positive order, and a very strange one too; seemingly opposite to some moral orders given out before: and yet his disposition to obey, when he was sure of a divine warrant in the case, has set him as the head of all the believing world; as the hero of faith, the father of the faithful, and the friend of God. The command of sprinkling the blood of the passover upon the doorposts of Israelites, was an external positive rite: if there had not been a disposition to obey that order, it would have cost some lives; as it had like to have done to Moses, the neglect of circumcising his child, as good a man as he was in other respects. Was not the forbidden fruit a positive instance? An external thing? Setting aside the divine prohibition, there was nothing immoral in eating of that, any more than of any other tree; but disobedience is an immorality, let the instance be what it will.
"Prop. IV. The sincerity and truth of such a disposition, is best known by its being uniform and universal. (Psalm exis. 6; Col. iv. 3.) The Author of our religion has told us, and added his example to his word, that 'thus it becomes us to fulfill all righteousness,' and so ordered himself to be baptized. Baptism was a positive rite, an external thing; and yet he calls it righteousness. Such righteousness as became Him who was the Holy One of God; became Him who had intrinsically no need of any outward ceremony; whose inward purity was perfectly divine: and if it became Him to fulfil such a sort of righteousness, it can hardly become any who pretend to be his followers to neglect it.
"Prop. V. As a competent evidence is supposed needful, for any external rite being of divine appointment; so again, a wilful ignorance of that evidence, or not discerning it, through criminal causes, will not excuse from guilt. The criminal causes of not seeing the evidence for such appointments, are, in this case, as in many other cases, non-enquiry, laziness, prejudice, lust, pride, and passion. That an ignorance owing to these causes, cannot be pleaded for a neglect of any of God's appointments, is so much the general sense of all casuists, that I shall only add here, THAT IT IS AT EVERY MAN'S PERIL, How HE COMES NOT TO KNOW THE WILL OF GOD, AS WELL AS NOT TO DO IT. We must look to it, how we came not to see the appointment, and must answer that to God and our own conscience.
It is not enough to say, Lord, I did not know it was appointed; when the answer may justly be, You never enquired into the matter: you never allowed yourself to think of it; or if you did, you resolved in your mind that you would not be convinced. You made the most of every cavil, but never minded the solution to any of your objections.
"Prop. VI. The duty and necessity of any external rites, and particularly of sacraments, have their measures and degrees. And here I apprehend, the measures of the duty and necessity of sacraments to be,-The authority enjoining. When we see the broad seal of heaven, where there is the divine warrant, 'Thus saith the Lord;' it is worse than trifling, to cavil and say, It is but an external rite.-The degree of evidence of their being so appointed. Where the evidence is not so clear, the obligation is weakened in proportion; but where the terms are plainly binding, and strongly commanding, there the obligation is not to be evaded. When positive appointments and moral duties cannot be both performed; when the one or the other must be omitted, the preference is given to the moral and spiritual duty.-The stress God lays upon them for the time they are to continue. Sprinkling the blood of the passover upon the posts of the doors, was not all necessary in itself to preservation from the destroying angel; but God laid that stress upon it. The oracle, or the mercy-seat, was a mere positive appointment. God could have met Moses any where else; but God laying that stress upon it, measures the degree of the necessity of observing that order: 'There will I meet thee, and commune with thee,' Exod. xxv. 22. Moses might have reasoned with himself, God is every where, and can meet me any where, if he pleases, and if he does not please, he will not do it here; and so have missed the honour of communion with his Maker; broke the divine order; lost the benefit of the oracle; and offended God, by the neglect.-The reason and end of them. If there should be any reasons of these injunctions that we do not know, it is sufficient that they are known to God. Our obedience is always a reasonable service whether we know God's reasons for the injunction or not. His command is always reason enough for us ...
"Prop. VII. He that commands the outward positive rite, commands the inward and moral temper at the same time. He does not say, Do this, without concerning himself how it is done; whether in a manner suitable to an end appointed or not... There is no such command of his, as enjoins the outward act without the inward temper and disposition.
"Prop. VIII. Positive appointments for such uses and ends as these, are of a quite different nature from arbitrary impositions, with which they are too often confounded. The idea of arbitrary I think, implies a weakness incompatible to the divine nature; whose perfection it is, to do nothing but for some wise reason, and for some good end...
"Prop. I. Though no positive appointments are absolutely necessary, yet the contempt of them, and of the divine authority discerned in them, cannot consist with holiness. This contempt may be shown-by contemptuous language.. .a careless attendance ... a total neglect... and by prostituting them to persons that do condemn them, and to purposes that are unworthy...
"To conclude: External rites are nothing without the inward temper and virtue of mind; the inward temper is but pretended to, in many cases, without the external rites, and is acquired, promoted, and evidenced by the use of them. If 'I give all my goods to the poor, and have not charity;' there is the external act, without the inward moral temper, and so it is all nothing. If, on the other hand, I say, I have the inward temper of charity, and give nothing to the poor, but say to my brother, 'Be thou warmed; be thou clothed:' how dwelleth the love bf God in that man? Therefore what God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. Whatever comparative excellence there may be in the two different instances of obedience; and the direction of our regard is summed up in that text, (Matt. xxiii. 23,) 'These ought ye to have done, and not to have justify the other undone."' Moral Obligation to the Positive Appointments in Religion, passim. Lond. 1732.
20. Bp. Hoadly.-"I. The partaking of the Lord's supper is not a duty of itself, or a duty apparent to us from the nature of things; but a duty made such to Christians, by the positive institution of Jesus Christ.
"II. All positive duties, or duties made such by institution alone, depend entirely upon the will and declaration of the person who institutes or ordains them, with respect to the real design and end of them; and consequently to the due manner of performing them. For, there being no other foundation for them with regard to us but the will of the institutors, this will must of necessity be our sole direction, both as to our understanding their true intent, and practising them accordingly: because we can have no other direction in this sort of duties, unless we willl have recourse to mere invention; which makes them our own institutions, and not the institutions of those who first appointed them.
"III. It is plain, therefore, that the nature, the design, and the due manner of partaking of the Lord's supper, must of necessity depend upon what Jesus Christ, who instituted it, hath declared about it.
"IV. It cannot be doubted, that he himself sufficiently declared to his first and immediate followers the whole of what he designed should be understood by it, or implied in it. For this being a positive institution depending entirely upon his will, and not designed to contain any thing in it, but what he himself should please to affix to it, it must follow, that he declared his mind about it fully and plainly: because otherwise, he must be supposed to institute a duty, of which no one could have any notion without his institution; and at the same time not to instruct his followers sufficiently what that duty was to be.
"V. It is of small importance, therefore, to Christians to know what the many writers upon this subject, since the time of the evangelists and apostles, have affirmed. Much less can it be the duty of Christians to be guided by what any persons, by their own authority, or from their own imaginations, may teach concerning this duty. This reason is plain: because in the matter of an instituted duty, (or a duty made so by the positive will of any person), no one can be a judge, but the institutor himself, of what he designed should be contained in it; and because, supposing him not to have spoken his mind plainly about it, it is impossible that any other person (to whom the institutor himself never revealed his design) should make up that defect. All that is added, therefore, to Christ's institution, as a necessary part of it, ought to be esteemed only as the invention of those who add it: and the more there is added (let it be done with never so much solemnity, and never so great pretences to authority,) the less there is remaining of the simplicity of the institution, as Christ himself justify it.
"VI. The passages in the New Testament, which relate to this duty, and they alone, are the original accounts of the nature and end of this institution; and the only authentic declarations, upon which we of later ages can safely depend." Works, vol. iii. p.845, 846, 847. See also Heidegg. Corp. Theol. bc. ix. § 40; bc. xxv. § 2. Mr. Alsop's Antisozzo, p.
468. Dr. Ridgley's Bod. Div. quest. xci. xcii. p.491, 492. Glasg. edit. Puffendorffs I,,,aw of Nat. and Nations, b. i. c. vi. § 18. Mr. Reynolds on Angelical Worlds, p.11, 12, 15.
Reflect. I. By this learned and respectable body of Paedobaptists we are taught, that positive institutions originate entirely in the sovereign will of God, No.1-20; that positive laws must be plain and express, No.4,8, 12, 13, 20;-that the obligation to observe them arises, not from the goodness of the things themselves, but from the authority of God, No.2, 3;-that they are determined by divine institution, as to their matter, manner, and signification, No.2, 16, 20;-that they admit of no commutation, mutilation, or alteration, by human authority, No.2, 6;-that they depend entirely on divine institution, and are to be regulated by it, No.10, 11, 16;-that we ought not to conclude that God has appointed such a rite, for such a purpose, because we imagine ourselves to stand in need of it, and that there are sufficient reasons for it, No.14, 18;-that our obligation to observe them does not result from our seeing the reasons of them, but from the command of God; and that his positive command is enforced by the moral law, No.6,7, 14;-that there are no accidental parts of a positive institution, No. 15;-that it is unlawful to conform to any part of a religious rite, without a divine warrant, No. 15;-that it is at our peril to continue ignorant of the will of God, relating to his positive appointments, No. 19;-that it is a great presumption to obey God in his positive institutes, is part of that holiness without which none shall see the Lord, No. 19;-and, that external rites are of little worth, detached from virtuous tempers, No.19. Such are the declared sentiments of these respectable authors concerning positive institutions.
Reflect. II. As it seems to be the unanimous and well attested opinion of these learned Paedobaptists, that positive institutions derive their whole being from the sovereign pleasure of God; so his revealed will must have given them their existence under every dispensation of true religion. Consequently, we cannot know any thing about their precise nature, their true design, the proper subjects of them, or the right mode of their administration, farther than the scriptures teach: for "they are to be measured only by the institution, in which there is not room justify for us to carry them any farther." See No.10,20. It follows, therefore, from the nature of the case, that positive ordinances must be entirely under the direction of positive precepts, or of examples in scripture, that are warranted by the Holy Spirit. For, as Dr. Goodwin observes, "There is this difference between doctrinal truths and institutions, that one truth may be, by reason, better fetched out of another, and more safely and easily than institutions: for one truth begets another, and truth is infinite in the consequences of it; but so institutions are not. And the reason of the difference is this; because they depend upon a promise, and upon the power and will of God, immediately to concur with them, and set them up. They are things that are singled out by the will of God, to a spiritual end, with a spiritual efficacy. We may be assured what is an institution of God, by examples which we meet with in the scriptures: for one way by which Christ was pleased to convey his institutions to us, is by way of examples in the New Testament; without the which, being intended as a rule for us, we acknowledge that a complete rule for all things could not be made ....... If an example be written as a rule, then it will bind, because there is no supposition of error.* * Works, vol. iv. Government of the Church of Christ, chap. iv. p.21, 22.
Remarkably strong to our purpose, is the language of Dr. Sherlock, who speaks as follows: "I would not be thought wholly to reject a plain and evident consequence from scripture; but yet I will never admit of a mere consequence to prove an institution, which must be delivered in plain terms, as all laws ought to be: and where I have no other proof, but some scripture-proof. If the consequence be plain and obvious, and such as every man sees, I shall not question it: but remote, and dubious, and disputed consequences, if we have no better evidence, to be sure are a very ill foundation for articles of faith, [or ordinances of worship.] Let our Protestant then tell such disputants, that for the institution of sacraments, and for articles of faith, he expects plain positive proofs: that, as much as the Protestant faith is charged with uncertainty, we desire a little more certainty for our faith, than mere inferences from scripture, and those none of the plainest neither."+-With Dr. Sherlock, Peter Martyr agreed, when he says, "It is necessary that we should have a clear testimony from the holy scriptures, concerning sacraments. "
It seems, indeed, to be the general practice of all Protestants, when contending with Roman Catholics about their claims of prerogative and their numerous rites, to proceed on this principle: nothing short of an explicit grant, a positive command, or a plain example in the New Testament, can prove their divine origin. Is the debate concerning Papal supremacy, or infallibility? No reasonings from remote principles, no conclusions from far-fetched consequences, are allowed. The honours in dispute being such as depend entirely on the sovereign pleasure and special donation of God, an explicit divine grant of these prerogatives is loudly demanded.-Are five of their seven sacraments; the ceremonies per-formed by them, when administering baptism and the Lord's supper; their withholding the cup from the people, and other things of a similar kind, the subjects in debate? Protestants hardly ever fail to require a direct proof,-a positive precept, or a plain example, from the New Testament. All arguments drawn from ancient Jewish rites; all that are formed on general principles, or moral consideration; and all endeavours to produce inferential proof, are justly discarded as incompetent-as having nothing to do with the subject. For the subject being no other than the ritual part of that worship which God requires under the New Testament; a divine institution rites in question, a plain positive order, or an apostolic example, may well be required, before they have a place in our creed, or become a part of our solemn service.
+Preserv. against Pop. vol. ii. Appendix, p.23. * Apud Chamicrum, Panstrat. torn. iv. 1. i.e. xi. § 8.
If, therefore, the New Testament say nothing about the institution or the practice of such rites, we have nothing to do with them, nor any thing to believe concerning them.-On the same principle Protestant dissenters proceed, when defending Non-conformity; using many of the same arguments against their Episcopalian opponents, which those Episcopalians employ when vindicating their own secession from the church of Rome. The demand of Nonconformists upon their Episcopalian brethren is; Produce your warrant (for this, that, and the other,) from our only rule of faith and practice-a divine precept, or an apostolic example, relating to the point in dispute. So important is this principle, respecting every thing of a positive nature in Christianity, that I can hardly imagine any sensible Protestant would ever think of writing against the Popish system; or any conscientious Dissenter of justifying his Nonconformity, without availing himself of it in many cases. Nay, so obvious and so important is this principle, so congenial to that grand maxim, THE BIBLE ONLY IS THE RELIGION OF PROTESTANTS; that we might well wonder if a judicious author omitted it, when handling the doctrine of positive rites; except it appeared, that he laboured to establish some hypothesis, to which this principle is inimical.
Nor does it appear from the records of the Old Testament, that when Jehovah appointed any branch of ritual worship, he justify either the subjects of it, or the mode of administration, to be inferred by the people, from the relation in which they stood to himself, or from general moral precepts, or from any branch of his moral worship; nor yet from any other well known positive rite: but he gave them special directions relating to the very case; and those directions they were bound to regard, whether they appeared in a pleasing or a painful, in a decent or a disgusting light. For as nothing but the divine will can oblige the conscience, and as that will cannot be known unless revealed; so, when made known, whether in reference to moral or positive duties, it must oblige. We are bound, therefore, to regard the divine laws, not so much on account of what they are in themselves, however excellent; as because they are the will of HIM whose claim of obedience is prior to every other consideration. See No.2,3. Consequently, seeing baptism is as really and entirely a positive institution, as any that were given to the chosen tribes; we cannot with safety infer, either the mode, or the subject of it, from any thing short of a precept, or a precedent, recorded in scripture, and relating to that very ordinance.
That the laws of positive worship under the Old Testament we particular, clear, and decisive, will not be denied; and that our Lord has furnished the gospel church with as complete a rubric of solemn service in the New Testament, as that recorded by Moses in the Pentateuch, our Paedobaptist brethren assert. Thus Dr. Owen, for instance: "Ml things concerning the worship of God in the whole church or house now under the gospel, are no less perfectly and completely ordered and ordained by the Lord Jesus Christ, than they were by Moses under the law.* Dr. Isaac Chauncy: "Christ hath been more faithful than Moses, and therefore hath not justify his churches without sufficient rules to walk by."+ Dr. Ridgley: "It is a great dishonour to Christ, the king and head of his church, to suppose that he has justify it without a rule to direct them, in what respects the communion of saints; as much as it would be to assert that he has justify it without a rule of faith. If God was so particular in giving directions concerning every part of that worship that was to be performed in the church before Christ's coming, so that they were not, on pain of his highest dis pleasure, to deviate from it; certainly we must not think that our Saviour has neglected to give those laws by which the gospel church is to be governed."
* On Heb. ii. 2, 3, VOl. ii. p.26. + Preface to Dr. Owen's True Nature of a Gospel Church.
: Mr. Polhill: "Christ was as faithful in the house of God as Moses; his provision was as perfect for rituals, as that of Moses' was."§
Reflect. III. It seems natural hence to infer, that our sovereign Lord must have revealed his will concerning the ordinance of of baptism, in a manner proportional to its obligation and importance. For, as an appointment of Christ, it originated in his will, and from a revelation of that will the whole of its obligation results. In proportion, therefore, as we annex the idea of obscurity to what he says about the mode and the subject of it, we either sink the idea of obligation to regard it, or impeach the wisdom, the goodness, or the equity of our divine Legislator; for we neither have, nor can have any acquaintance with a positive institution, farther than it is revealed; and a natural incapacity will always excuse the non-performance of what would otherwise be an indispensable duty. We are therefore obliged to conclude, that our Lord has clearly revealed his pleasure, with reference to both his positive appointments, in that code of law and rule of religious worship, which are contained in the New Testament. See No.20.
On this point let us hear Mr. Payne, when contending with the learned and artful Bossuet, bishop of Meaux. "Surely," say the Protestant Paedobaptist, "so wise a lawgiver as our blessed Saviour, would not give a law to all Christians that was not easy to be understood by them; it cannot be said without great reflection upon his infinite wisdom, that his laws are so obscure and dark, as they are delivered by himself, and as they are necessary to be observed by us, that we cannot know the meaning of them without a farther explication... God's laws may be very fairly explained away, if they are justify wholly to the mercy of men to explain them.~~*
Body of Divinity, quest. lxi-lxiv. § Discourse on Schism, p. 66.
Agreeable to this is the language of Mr. Arch. Hall, when he says, "The appointments of the Deity concerning his worship, are not to be gathered from the uncertain tradition of the elders, the authority of men, or the dictates of our own reason: no; they stand engrossed in the volume of his Book, which is the ONLY rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him."* J.A. Turrettinus tells us, "That whatever of importance the scripture delivers concerning the sacraments, may be included in a few pages, nay, perhaps, in a few lines; and that so as a little child may understand it."+Once more: Chemnitius assures us, that a positive rite "should have an express divine command ...Whatever is maintained to be necessary in the church of Christ, have a command in the divine word, and scriptural examples.": Nay, even Bellarmine declares, that "in things which depend on the will of God, nothing ought to be affirmed, unless God hath revealed it in the holy scriptures."§-Clear, however, as the positive laws of Christ are, Dr. Waterland has well observed from Le Clerc, that if men be "governed by their passions, and conceited of their prejudices, the most evident things in the world are obscure; and, that there is no law so clear, but a wrangler may raise a thousand difficulties about it." Il-It is, I think, worthy of remark, that though Protestant authors in general, consider the meaning of the law of Christ relating to his last supper, as being evident beyond all reasonable doubt; and though they severely censure the Roman Catholics for insinuating the contrary, yet, with regard to the law of baptism, they frequently represent its meaning, as ambiguous and embarrassed; nay, as favouring opposite practices: so that whether an infant, or one professing faith, be sprinkled, or immersed, the whole design of the law may be fulfilled, and a divine blessing on the administration expected.
** Preserv. against Popery, title vii. p.147.* Gospel Worship~ vol. i. p.30. t Cogitat & Dissertat. torn. i. p.18, 19 : Examen Concil. Trident. p.204, 285.§ In Preserv. against Popery, title viii. p.83.II Importance of Doct. of Trinity, p.461, edit. 2nd.
But whether this be consistent or scriptural, is justify with the reader.
Reflect. IV. That no addition should be made by human authority to the positive appointments of Jesus Christ; and that it is not lawful, under any pretence, either to corrupt or depart from the primitive institution of those appointments; are things generally maintained and strongly urged against the Papists, by Protestants of all descriptions. The following quotations may serve as a specimen of their language and sentiments, in reference to these particulars. Dr. Owen: "All worship is obedience; obedience respects authority; and authority exerts itself in commands. And if this authority be not the authority of God, the worship performed in obedience unto it is not the worship of GOD, but of him or them whose commands and authority are the reason and cause of it. It is the authority of God alone that can make any worship to be religious, or the performance of it to be an act of obedience unto him. God would never allow that the will and wisdom of any of his creatures should be the rise, rule, or measure of his worship, or any part of it, or any thing that belongs unto it. This honour he hath reserved unto himself, neither will he part with it unto any other. He alone knows what becomes his own greatness and holiness, and what tends to the advancement of his glory. Hence the scripture abounds with severe interdictions and comminations against them who shall presume to do or appoint any thing in his worship, besides or beyond his own institution... Divine institution alone, is that which renders any thing acceptable unto God . . All divine service, or worship, must be resolved into divine ordination or institution. A worship not ordained of God, is not accepted of God ... It is a hard and rare thing to have the minds of men kept upright with God in the observation of the institutions of divine worship. Adam lost himself and us all by his failure therein. The Old [Testament] Church seldom attained unto it... And at this day there are very few in the world who judge a diligent observation of divine institutions to be a thing of any great importance. By some they are neglected; by some corrupted with additions of their own; and by some they are exalted above their proper place and use, and turned into an occasion of neglecting more important duties . Our utmost care and diligence in the consideration of the mind of God, is required in all that we do about his worship There is nothing wherein men, for the most part, are more careless. Some suppose it belongs unto their own wisdom to order things in the worship of God, as it seems most meet unto them; some think they are no farther concerned in these things, than only to follow the traditions of their fathers. This, unto the community of Christians, is the only rule of divine worship. To suppose that it is their duty to enquire into the way and manner of the worship of God, the grounds and reasons of what they practise therein, is most remote from them ... It were no hard thing to demonstrate, that the principal way and means whereby God expects that we should give glory unto him in this world, is by a due observation of the divine worship that he hath appointed. For herein do we in an especial manner, ascribe unto him the glory of his sovereignty, of his wisdom, of his grace, and holiness; when in his worship we bow down to his authority alone; when we see such an impress of divine wisdom on all his institutions, as to judge all other ways folly in comparison of them; when we have experience of the grace represented and exhibited in them, then do we glorify God aright. And without these things, whatever we pretend, we honour him not in the solemnities of our worship.~'*~Turrettinus: "The appointment of God, is the highest law, the supreme necessity."t- * On Heb. i. 6; ix. 1; viji. 5. t Instit. Theol. loc. xix, quaest. xiv. torn. iii. p. 441
Mr. Archibald Hall: "As we live under the gospel dispensation, all our worship must be regulated by gospel institution, that it may be performed according to the appointment of Christ, as king of the church.'' The same author, when speaking of baptism, says: ''This ordinance should be observed with an honest simplicity, and kept pure and entire, as Christ hath appointed it. The rule given us in the word of God is our directory, and we do well to take heed to it in this duty, as much as in every other. How grand and awful is that weighty preface to the institution of Christian baptism! (Matt. xxviii. 18,
1.). Who is the daring insolent worm, that will presume to dispute the authority, or change the ordinances of him who is given to be head over all things to the church?... The solemnity of this ordinance is complete, and all the great purposes of its institution are secured by the authority and blessing of Christ, who is a rock, whose work is perfect, and all his commandments are sure. His laws are not subject to any of those imperfections, which are attendants of the best contrived systems among men, and frequently need explanations, amendments, and corrections. It is most dangerous and presumptuous, to add any ceremony, or to join any service, on any pretence, unto heaven's appointment. This is the most criminal rashness; and, if it is not disputing the authority of Christ directly, it is mingling the authority of men with the authority of Him who has a name above every name... When divine authority is interposed to point out the will of God concerning any service, which is enjoined for standing use among the saints, such a service ought to be observed without any regard to the manners and usages of mankind; because both substance and the manner of it are the institution of Christ.*
* Gospel Worship, vol. i. p.32, 325, 326; vol. ii.p.434
Reflect. V. Concerning the circumstances of positive institutions, our Paedobaptist brethren speak as follow. Mr. Vincent Alsop: "Under the Mosaical law God commanded that they should offer to him the daily burnt-offering; and, in this case, the colour of the beast (provided it was otherwise rightly qualified) was a mere circumstance: such as God laid no stress upon, and that man had proved himself a superstitious busybody, that should curiously adhere to any one colour. But, for the heifer whose ashes were to make the water of separation, there the colour was no circumstance, but made by God's command a substantial part of the service. To be red, was as much as to be a heifer: for when circumstances have once passed the royal assent, and are stamped with the divine seal, they become substantials in instituted worship... We ought not to judge that God has little regard to any of his commands, because the matter of them, abstracted from his authority, is little: for we must not conceive that Christ sets little by baptism, because the element is plain, fair water; or little by that other sacrament, because the materials thereof are common bread and wine ... For though the things in themselves be small, yet his authority is great... Though the things be small, yet God can bless them to great purposes, (2 Kings v.11.)- Nor are we to judge that God lays little stress upon his institutes, because he does not immediately avenge the contempt and neglect of them upon the violaters. (Eccles. viii. 11; Matt. v.29; 1 Cor. ......... As we must not think that God appreciates whatever men set a high value upon, so neither are we to judge that he disesteems any thing because it is grown out of fashion, and thereby exposed to contempt by the atheistical wits of mercenary writers . . . If any of Christ's institutions seem necessary to be broken, it will be first necessary to decry them as poor, low, inconsiderable circumstances; and then to fill the people's heads with a noise and din, that Christ lays little stress on them; and in order hereto call them the circumstantials, the accidentals, the minutes, the punctiliocs, and, if need be, the petty Johns of religion, that conscience may not kick at the contemning of them ... It would be injurious to conclude that God has very little respect to his own institutions, because he may suspend their exercise pro hic & nunc, rather than the duties imperated by a moral precept. Mint, anise, and cummin, are inconsiderable things, compared with the weightier matters of the law,judgment, mercy, and faith; and yet our Saviour tells them, (Matt. xxiii. 23,) 'These ought ye to have done, and not to have justify the other undone' .. . God is the sovereign and absolute legislator, who may suspend, rescind, alter his own laws at pleasure; and yet he has laid such a stress upon the meanest of them, that no man may, nor any man, but the man of sin, dares presume to dispense with them, much less to dispense against them.
Positives may be altered, changed, or abolished, by the legislator, when and how far he pleases; but this will never prove that he lays little stress upon them whilst they are not changed, not abolished: nor will it prove that man may chop and change, barter and truck one of God's least circumstantials, because the Lawgiver himself may do it. He that may alter one, may, for aught I know, alter them all, seeing they all bear the same image and superscription of divine authority... If God was so rigorous in his animadversions, so punctual in his prescriptions, when his institutions were so numerous, his prescriptions so multiform; what will he be when he has prescribed us so few, and those so easy and useful to the observer? If we cannot be punctual in the observation of a very few positives of so plain signification, how should we have repined had we been charged with a numerous retinue of types and carnal rudiments! If Christ's yoke be accounted heavy, how should we have sunk under the Mosaical pedagogy!*
* Sober Enquiry, p. 289-304.
Mr. Payne: "It is from the institution of the sacrament [of the Lord's supper,] that we know what belongs to the substance of it, and is essential to it, and what is only circumstantial and accidental. I own, there were several things, even at the institution of it by Christ, which were only circumstantials; as, the place, the time when, the number of persons to whom, the posture in which he gave it; for all these are plainly, and in their own nature, circumstantial matters; so that nobody can think it necessary or essential to the sacrament, that it be celebrated in an upper room, at night after supper, only with twelve persons, and those sitting or lying upon beds, as the Jews used to do at meals; for the same thing which Christ bids them to do, may be done, the same sacramental action performed in another place, at another time, with fewer or more persons, and those otherwise postured or situated; but it cannot be the same sacrament or same action, if bread be not blessed and eaten, if wine be not blessed and drunken, as they were both then blessed by Christ, and eaten and drunk by his apostles. The doing of these is not a circumstance, but the very thing itself, and the very substance and essence of the sacrament; for without these we do not what Christ did; whereas we may do the very same thing which he did, without any of those circumstances with which he did it . . . The command of Christ, Do this, does not in the least extend to these [circumstances,] but only to the sacramental action of blessing bread and eating it; blessing wine and drinking it, in remembrance of Christ: for that was the thing which Christ did, and which he commanded them to do ... He that does not plainly see those to be circumstances [before mention,] and cannot easily distinguish them from the thing itself which Christ did, and commanded to be done, must not know what it is to eat and drink, unless it be with his own family, in such a room of his own house, and at such an hour of the day: it is certainly as easy to know what Christ instituted, and what he commanded, as to know this; and consequently, what belongs to the essence of the sacrament, without which it would not be such a sacrament as Christ celebrated and appointed, as to know what it is to eat and to drink; and yet Monsieur de Meaux is pleased to make this the great difficulty, to know what belongs to the essence of the sacrament, and what does not, and to distinguish what is essential in it, from what is not.*
Mr. Arch. Hall; "The signs, and even every circumstance relative to the use of them, must be appointed by Christ, and not contrived by men: for here, as in every other duty, we must observe all things that Christ hath commanded us. It is equally presumptuous and vain, to teach for doctrines the commandments or inventions of men. The signs that are used in the sacraments have a natural fitness to bring the things they represent to our mind."+
Reflect. VI. With regard to positive institutions Protestant Paedobaptists farther inform us, that the Lord Jesus Christ is jealous of his honour; that what is not commanded, need not be forbidden; and that nothing is lawful, which is not a duty. The following instance may here suffice.-Dr. Witherspoon: Our obedience "must be implicit; founded immediately on the authority of God. We must not take upon us to judge of the moment and importance of any part of his will, farther than he hath made it known himself. It is a very dangerous thing for us to make comparisons between one duty and another; especially with a view of dispensing with any of them, or altering their order, and substituting one in another's place."||
-Dr. Owen: "Christ marrying his church to himself, taking it to that relation, still expresseth the main of their chaste and choice affections to him, to lie in their keeping his institutions and his worship according to his appointment. The breach of this he calls adultery everywhere, and whoredom; he is a jealous God, and he gives himself that title only in respect of his institutions.
* Preserv.. against Pop. title vii. p.110, 137.138. + Gospel Worship, vol. i. chap. vii. p.235.
|| Practical Discourse, vol. i.
And the whole apostasy of the Christian church unto false worship, is called fornication, (Rev. xvii. 5,) and the church that leads the others to false worship, the mother of harlots. On this account, those believers who really attend to communion with Jesus Christ, do labour to keep their hearts chaste to him in his ordinances, practise nothing, own nothing in his worship, but what is of his appointment. They know that from the foundation of the world he never did allow, nor ever will, that in any thing the will of the creatures should be the measure of his honour, or the principle of his worship, either as to matter or manner. . That principle, That the church hath power to institute and appoint any thing; or ceremony belonging to the worship of God, either as to matter or to manner, beyond the orderly observance of such circumstances as necessarily attend such ordinances as Christ himself hath instituted, lies at the bottom of all the horrible superstition and idolatry, of all the confusion, blood, persecution, and wars, that have, for so long a season, spread themselves over the face of the Christian world; and it is the design a great part of the Revelation [of John] to make a discovery of this truth.*
Mr. Arch. Hall: "God will bless nothing but his own institutions. The inventions of men, in serving God, are as unprofitable as they are wicked and presumptuous, (Deut. xii. 31, 32.)... We cannot think God will honour the inventions of men, however they may be dignified by the specious names of useful, decent, agreeable, or prudent contrivances; yet, if they are an addition to his system, will he not say, Who hath required these things at your hands ?"+
-Hoornbeckius: "In what relates to the sacraments, and the affairs of religion, it is unlawful to do any thing that is not warranted by the command of God.
* Commun. with God, part ii. chap. v.p. 169, 170. t View of Gospel Church, p.33, 82.
*~Dr. Sherlock: "Our [Popish]
author, and some of his size, who do not see half a consequence before them, think they
have a mighty advantage of us, in demanding the same proofs from us to justify our
rejecting their doctrines, which we demand of them to justify their belief of them. That
is to say, as we demand of them a scripture-proof, that there is such a place as
purgatory; they think they may as reasonably demand of us a scripture-proof, that there is
no such place as purgatory: just with as much reason, as if one should tell me, that, by
the laws of England, every man is bound to marry at twenty years old; and when I desire
him to show me the law which makes this necessary, he should answer, Though he cannot show
such a law, yet it may be necessary, unless I can show him a law which expressly declares
that it is not necessary. Whereas nothing is necessary, but what the law makes
so; and if the law has not made it necessary, there is no need of any law to declare that
it is not necessary."+ -Dr. Owen: "What men have a right
to do in the church, by God's institution, that they have a command to
do.":-Anonymous: "There is nothing relating to instituted worship, as such, that
is lawful, but is our necessary duty; viz. necessary, necessitate praecepti instituting
it."§ Reflect. VII. That the subjects of
positive divine laws cannot slight or neglect them without offending
God, is maintained with a decisive tone by our learned Paedobaptist brethren. Thus, for
instance, Bp. Taylor: "The positive laws of Jesus Christ cannot be dispensed with by
any human power. All laws given by Christ, are now made for ever to be obligatory."**
* Socin. Confut. torn. iii. p.436.
+Preservat. against Pop. Vol. ii.Appendix, p.65. : On Heb. vii. 4, 5, 6, vol. iii.
p.127.§ Jerubbaal, p.458 Joseph White, speaking of the ancient
ceremonial law, says: "To slight any of its services, was to insult the authority
which enjoined it."+ -Dr. Waterland:"Positive duties
stand upon a moral foot... To obey God in whatsoever he commands is the first moral law,
and the fundamental principle of all morality. The reason of things, and the relation we
bear to God, require that God should be obeyed in matters otherwise indifferent: and
such obedience is moral, and the opposite disobedience immoral . . .
Positives, therefore, while under precept, cannot be slighted without slighting morals
also. In short, positive laws, as soon as enacted, become part of moral law; because,
as I said, universal obedience to God's commands, is the first moral law into which all
laws resolve . . . Whenever positive duties are so performed as to become true obedience,
they are as valuable in God's sight as any moral performances whatever, because obeying
God's voice is all in all. Obedience was the thing insisted upon with Adam, with Abraham,
with Saul, and with many others, in positive instances; and God laid as great a stress
upon obedience there, as in any moral instances whatever. To conclude then, moral
performances, without the obedience of the heart, are nothing; and positive performances,
without the like obedience are nothing: but the sincere obeying of God's voice in both, is
true religion and true morality.": -Mr. Reynolds: "To call some law moral,
in contra-distinction from other law, as if it was moral at all, is improper enough.
Every law, properly so called, is regula moralis, or regula morum; an
obliging rule for the moral creature to walk or act by ... Positive commands are more
easily transgressed than those that bear hard upon the light and law of nature. The
seeming indifferency of the subject, or matter, in which they are concerned, allays the
awe, and fear, and distance, that attends more criminal matter.++ ** Doctor dub. b. ii. chap. iii. p.334.+
Sermons before University of Oxford, p.130, edit. 2nd. : Scripture Vindicated, part iii.
p.37, 71, 72. ++* Enquiries concerning Angelical Worlds, p.11, 12, 15. Mr. Wadsworth: "Some may say,-Sure,
God will not be so much concerned with a failure in so small a punctilio as a ceremony! True,
it [the Lord's supper] is a ceremony; but it is such a one that beareth the stamp of the
authority of the Lord Jesus. If He appoints it, will you slight it, and say, It is but
a ceremony?- It is but a ceremony, but you are greatly mistaken if you think
that therefore there is no danger to neglect it. What was the tree of knowledge of good
and evil, but a ceremony? Yet, for disobedience in eating thereof, do you not know and
feel what wrath it hath brought on the whole race of mankind? And tell me, was
circumcision any more than a ceremony? Yet, for disobedience in eating thereof, do you not
know and feel what wrath it hath brought on the whole race of mankind? And tell me, was
circumcision any more than a ceremony? Yet it had almost cost Moses his life for
neglecting to circumcise his son; for the angel stood ready with his sword to slay him, if
he had not prevented it by his obedience, (Exod. iv. 24, 25, 26). So, for the Lord's
supper, as much a ceremony as it is, yet for the abuse of it, some of the church [at
Corinth] were sick and weak, others fell asleep, that is, died: and if God did so severely
punish the abuse, how think you to escape, that presumptuously neglect the use
thereof? But I am regenerate and become a new creature;-1 do not fear that God will
cast me away for the disuse of a ceremony. Is this the reasoning of one regenerate?
Surely, thou dost not understand what regeneration meaneth. Is it not the same with
being born of God? And what is it to be obedient to the Father, but to do as he
commandeth? And hath he not commanded you by his Son, to remember your Savior in this
supper? When you have considered this, then tell me what you think of this kind of
reasoning: I am a child of God, therefore I will presume to disobey him. He bids me
remember Jesus in this supper, and I will not. Methinks thou blushest at the very
mentioning of it. And what, if he should not cast thee quite off for this neglect? yet
thou has no reason to think, but that either outwardly, or inwardly, or both, he will
scourge thee for this sin before thou diest.* -This reasoning, it is plain, mutatis
mutandis, applies with equal force to a neglect of baptism: to which I will add the
following passage from Dr. Owen: "Slaves take liberty from duty; children
have liberty in duty. There is not a greater mistake in the world, than that the
liberty of sons in the house of God consists in this, they can perform duties, or
take the freedom to omit them: they can serve in the family of God, that
is, they think they may if they will, and they can choose whether they will or
no. This is a liberty stolen by slaves; not a liberty given by the
Spirit unto sons."+ It is well observed by Chamier, and it is
a dictate of common sense, "That no law derives its authority from the judgment [or
the inclination] of those to whom it is given."||: And it is equally clear, that when
a law has been fairly promulgated, ignorance of its demands cannot render a non-compliance
innocent. For, as Dr. Waterland observes, the law presumes, "that when a man has done
an ill thing, [or neglected his duty] he either knew that it was evil, or else ought
to have known it. Ignorantia juris non excusat delictum. ' It is therefore
incumbent on every professor of Christianity, to make a diligent and impartial search into
the records of the New Testament, that he may know and perform the will of his Lord
respecting baptism. Nor has any one reason to consider himself as possessed of a pious and
virtuous temper, while destitute of a disposition to make such an enquiry. * Supplem. to Morn. Exercise at
Cripplegate, p.243, 244.+ Communion with God, part ii. chap. x. p.246.|| Panstrat. torn.
i. 1. Vi. chap. xx. § I. § Import. of Doct. of Tria. Because "virtue," says
Heineccius, "is always united with an earnest, indefatigable care to understand the
divine law. The greater progress one has made in virtue, the more ardent is this desire in
his breast." Nay, though a person should plead conscience for the omission
or corruption of a positive institute, he would not be exculpated; for, as the last
mentioned author justly observed, "Though he be guilty who acts contrary to his
conscience, whether certain or probable, yet he cannot, for that reason, be said to act
rightly and justly, who contends that he has acted according to his conscience. Conscience
is not the rule, but it applies the rule to facts and cases which occur. . . He
who follows an erroneous conscience sins on this very account, That he follows it rather
than the will of the Legislator: though he be more excusable than one who acts directly
against conscience, yet he is guilty.* The morality of our conduct does not
depend on the understanding; for our knowing or being ignorant of a thing, is not the
reason of its being good or evil, any more than the nature of an action does upon the
will; because the willing a bad action to a good end, cannot render it innocent. Divine
law is the rule of our conduct; and a want of conformity to that rule is a sin. It appears, therefore, by the preceding
reasoning, and from the authors produced, that none are worthy the name of Christians who
are destitute of a disposition to acknowledge the authority of Christ by submission to his
positive appointments; and, that ignorance of their nature, obligation, and use, is far
from excusing, except it arise from natural incapacity, and not from a bad state
of the will. Now, in regard to baptism, we have not only the command of our Lord, but his
own example also, to enforce our observance of it; concerning which, Mr. Wesley
very properly says: "Lot our Lord's submitting to baptism teach us a holy exactness
in the observance of those institutions which owe their obligation merely to a divine
command. Surely, thus it becometh all his followers to fulfill all righteousness. ' * Universal Law, b i. chap. ii. § 37,
45. ~ It has been justly remarked by a
learned Lutheran, "That so great an honour was never conferred upon any
ceremony,"+ as there was upon baptism, when our Lord himself was immersed in Jordan,
by the hands of John; when the divine Father, with an audible voice, proclaimed him his
beloved Son; and when the Holy Spirit descended upon him. I will conclude this part of our subject
with the reasoning of Dr. Gerard. "A total disregard to the positive and external
duties of religion, or a very great neglect of them, is justly reckoned more blameable,
and a stronger evidence of an unprincipled character, than even some transgressions of
moral obligation . . . Even particular positive precepts, as soon as they are given by
God, have something moral in their nature. Suppose the rites which are enjoined by them,
perfectly indifferent before they were enjoined; yet from that moment they cease to be
indifferent. The divine authority is interposed for the observance of them. To neglect
them is no longer to forbear an indifferent action, or to do a thing in one way I rather
than another, which has naturally no great propriety; it is very different; it is to
disobey God, it is to despise his authority, it is to resist his will. Can any man believe
a God, and not acknowledge that disobedience to him, and contempt of his authority is
immoral, and far from the least heinous species of immorality?... All positive
institutions of divine appointment, are means of cultivating moral virtue. Be the rites
themselves what they will, their being enjoined by God, renders them proper trials of our
obedience to him, and renders our observance of them the means of cherishing a sense of
his authority, and of improving a principle of subjection to it. A principle of subjection
to the authority of God, is one of the firmest supports of all goodness and virtue; and
positive institutions are the most direct means of cultivating it, for the observance of
them proceeds solely from the principle of obedience; but in every moral virtue, other
principles are conjoined with this. * Note on Matt. ji. 16 f Centur. Magdeb.
cent i. 1. i. c. iv. p. 113. All the rites appointed by God, are
likewise direct and very powerful means of improving many particular virtuous affections,
all the affections which are naturally exercised in performing them. Neglect of the means
demonstrates, in every case, indifference about the end. But unconcern for moral
improvement is not the defect of a single virtue, is not a single vice; it is a corruption
and degeneracy of the whole soul, and therefore must appear highly detestable to
every person of sound and unbiased judgment... It is not they who reckon a regard to
positive institutions essential to a good and unblemished character, that judge weakly,
but they who reckon that regard of no importance. Vain are their pretensions to
enlargement of sentiment, and elevation above prejudice; their minds are so contracted,
that they can admit only a partial idea of the nature of positive duties; they consider
but the mere matter of them; they comprehend not their moral principles, their sublime
end, or their important signification."( Sermons, Vol. i. p.312-314, 316, 317, 320,
edit. 2nd.) As the leading ideas in the preceding
paragraphs are the grand principles of legitimate reasoning on the doctrine of
positive institutions; as it is on these principles that our most eminent Protestant
authors proceed, when exploding the superstitions of Popery; and as it is our intention to
examine Paedobaptism on these very principles; the reader is desired to keep them in mind,
while perusing the following pages. It has been unjustly remarked by Bp. Taylor, that
"men are easy enough to consent to a general rule; but they will not suffer their own
case to be concerned in it.* This observation is, doubtless, founded in fact, and it
expresses an affecting truth. While, therefore, we consider the aforementioned authors as
having verified the remark by practising infant sprinkling, we shall endeavour to avoid a
*~Dr. Sherlock: "Our [Popish] author, and some of his size, who do not see half a consequence before them, think they have a mighty advantage of us, in demanding the same proofs from us to justify our rejecting their doctrines, which we demand of them to justify their belief of them. That is to say, as we demand of them a scripture-proof, that there is such a place as purgatory; they think they may as reasonably demand of us a scripture-proof, that there is no such place as purgatory: just with as much reason, as if one should tell me, that, by the laws of England, every man is bound to marry at twenty years old; and when I desire him to show me the law which makes this necessary, he should answer, Though he cannot show such a law, yet it may be necessary, unless I can show him a law which expressly declares that it is not necessary. Whereas nothing is necessary, but what the law makes so; and if the law has not made it necessary, there is no need of any law to declare that it is not necessary."+
-Dr. Owen: "What men have a right to do in the church, by God's institution, that they have a command to do.":-Anonymous: "There is nothing relating to instituted worship, as such, that is lawful, but is our necessary duty; viz. necessary, necessitate praecepti instituting it."§
Reflect. VII. That the subjects of positive divine laws cannot slight or neglect them without offending God, is maintained with a decisive tone by our learned Paedobaptist brethren. Thus, for instance, Bp. Taylor: "The positive laws of Jesus Christ cannot be dispensed with by any human power. All laws given by Christ, are now made for ever to be obligatory."**
* Socin. Confut. torn. iii. p.436. +Preservat. against Pop. Vol. ii.Appendix, p.65. : On Heb. vii. 4, 5, 6, vol. iii. p.127.§ Jerubbaal, p.458
Joseph White, speaking of the ancient ceremonial law, says: "To slight any of its services, was to insult the authority which enjoined it."+
-Dr. Waterland:"Positive duties stand upon a moral foot... To obey God in whatsoever he commands is the first moral law, and the fundamental principle of all morality. The reason of things, and the relation we bear to God, require that God should be obeyed in matters otherwise indifferent: and such obedience is moral, and the opposite disobedience immoral . . . Positives, therefore, while under precept, cannot be slighted without slighting morals also. In short, positive laws, as soon as enacted, become part of moral law; because, as I said, universal obedience to God's commands, is the first moral law into which all laws resolve . . . Whenever positive duties are so performed as to become true obedience, they are as valuable in God's sight as any moral performances whatever, because obeying God's voice is all in all. Obedience was the thing insisted upon with Adam, with Abraham, with Saul, and with many others, in positive instances; and God laid as great a stress upon obedience there, as in any moral instances whatever. To conclude then, moral performances, without the obedience of the heart, are nothing; and positive performances, without the like obedience are nothing: but the sincere obeying of God's voice in both, is true religion and true morality.":
-Mr. Reynolds: "To call some law moral, in contra-distinction from other law, as if it was moral at all, is improper enough. Every law, properly so called, is regula moralis, or regula morum; an obliging rule for the moral creature to walk or act by ... Positive commands are more easily transgressed than those that bear hard upon the light and law of nature. The seeming indifferency of the subject, or matter, in which they are concerned, allays the awe, and fear, and distance, that attends more criminal matter.++
** Doctor dub. b. ii. chap. iii. p.334.+ Sermons before University of Oxford, p.130, edit. 2nd. : Scripture Vindicated, part iii. p.37, 71, 72. ++* Enquiries concerning Angelical Worlds, p.11, 12, 15.
Mr. Wadsworth: "Some may say,-Sure, God will not be so much concerned with a failure in so small a punctilio as a ceremony! True, it [the Lord's supper] is a ceremony; but it is such a one that beareth the stamp of the authority of the Lord Jesus. If He appoints it, will you slight it, and say, It is but a ceremony?- It is but a ceremony, but you are greatly mistaken if you think that therefore there is no danger to neglect it. What was the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but a ceremony? Yet, for disobedience in eating thereof, do you not know and feel what wrath it hath brought on the whole race of mankind? And tell me, was circumcision any more than a ceremony? Yet, for disobedience in eating thereof, do you not know and feel what wrath it hath brought on the whole race of mankind? And tell me, was circumcision any more than a ceremony? Yet it had almost cost Moses his life for neglecting to circumcise his son; for the angel stood ready with his sword to slay him, if he had not prevented it by his obedience, (Exod. iv. 24, 25, 26). So, for the Lord's supper, as much a ceremony as it is, yet for the abuse of it, some of the church [at Corinth] were sick and weak, others fell asleep, that is, died: and if God did so severely punish the abuse, how think you to escape, that presumptuously neglect the use thereof? But I am regenerate and become a new creature;-1 do not fear that God will cast me away for the disuse of a ceremony. Is this the reasoning of one regenerate? Surely, thou dost not understand what regeneration meaneth. Is it not the same with being born of God? And what is it to be obedient to the Father, but to do as he commandeth? And hath he not commanded you by his Son, to remember your Savior in this supper? When you have considered this, then tell me what you think of this kind of reasoning: I am a child of God, therefore I will presume to disobey him. He bids me remember Jesus in this supper, and I will not. Methinks thou blushest at the very mentioning of it. And what, if he should not cast thee quite off for this neglect? yet thou has no reason to think, but that either outwardly, or inwardly, or both, he will scourge thee for this sin before thou diest.*
-This reasoning, it is plain, mutatis mutandis, applies with equal force to a neglect of baptism: to which I will add the following passage from Dr. Owen: "Slaves take liberty from duty; children have liberty in duty. There is not a greater mistake in the world, than that the liberty of sons in the house of God consists in this, they can perform duties, or take the freedom to omit them: they can serve in the family of God, that is, they think they may if they will, and they can choose whether they will or no. This is a liberty stolen by slaves; not a liberty given by the Spirit unto sons."+
It is well observed by Chamier, and it is a dictate of common sense, "That no law derives its authority from the judgment [or the inclination] of those to whom it is given."||: And it is equally clear, that when a law has been fairly promulgated, ignorance of its demands cannot render a non-compliance innocent. For, as Dr. Waterland observes, the law presumes, "that when a man has done an ill thing, [or neglected his duty] he either knew that it was evil, or else ought to have known it. Ignorantia juris non excusat delictum. ' It is therefore incumbent on every professor of Christianity, to make a diligent and impartial search into the records of the New Testament, that he may know and perform the will of his Lord respecting baptism. Nor has any one reason to consider himself as possessed of a pious and virtuous temper, while destitute of a disposition to make such an enquiry.
* Supplem. to Morn. Exercise at Cripplegate, p.243, 244.+ Communion with God, part ii. chap. x. p.246.|| Panstrat. torn. i. 1. Vi. chap. xx. § I. § Import. of Doct. of Tria.
Because "virtue," says Heineccius, "is always united with an earnest, indefatigable care to understand the divine law. The greater progress one has made in virtue, the more ardent is this desire in his breast." Nay, though a person should plead conscience for the omission or corruption of a positive institute, he would not be exculpated; for, as the last mentioned author justly observed, "Though he be guilty who acts contrary to his conscience, whether certain or probable, yet he cannot, for that reason, be said to act rightly and justly, who contends that he has acted according to his conscience. Conscience is not the rule, but it applies the rule to facts and cases which occur. . . He who follows an erroneous conscience sins on this very account, That he follows it rather than the will of the Legislator: though he be more excusable than one who acts directly against conscience, yet he is guilty.*
The morality of our conduct does not depend on the understanding; for our knowing or being ignorant of a thing, is not the reason of its being good or evil, any more than the nature of an action does upon the will; because the willing a bad action to a good end, cannot render it innocent. Divine law is the rule of our conduct; and a want of conformity to that rule is a sin.
It appears, therefore, by the preceding reasoning, and from the authors produced, that none are worthy the name of Christians who are destitute of a disposition to acknowledge the authority of Christ by submission to his positive appointments; and, that ignorance of their nature, obligation, and use, is far from excusing, except it arise from natural incapacity, and not from a bad state of the will. Now, in regard to baptism, we have not only the command of our Lord, but his own example also, to enforce our observance of it; concerning which, Mr. Wesley very properly says: "Lot our Lord's submitting to baptism teach us a holy exactness in the observance of those institutions which owe their obligation merely to a divine command. Surely, thus it becometh all his followers to fulfill all righteousness. '
* Universal Law, b i. chap. ii. § 37, 45.
~ It has been justly remarked by a learned Lutheran, "That so great an honour was never conferred upon any ceremony,"+ as there was upon baptism, when our Lord himself was immersed in Jordan, by the hands of John; when the divine Father, with an audible voice, proclaimed him his beloved Son; and when the Holy Spirit descended upon him.
I will conclude this part of our subject with the reasoning of Dr. Gerard. "A total disregard to the positive and external duties of religion, or a very great neglect of them, is justly reckoned more blameable, and a stronger evidence of an unprincipled character, than even some transgressions of moral obligation . . . Even particular positive precepts, as soon as they are given by God, have something moral in their nature. Suppose the rites which are enjoined by them, perfectly indifferent before they were enjoined; yet from that moment they cease to be indifferent. The divine authority is interposed for the observance of them. To neglect them is no longer to forbear an indifferent action, or to do a thing in one way I rather than another, which has naturally no great propriety; it is very different; it is to disobey God, it is to despise his authority, it is to resist his will. Can any man believe a God, and not acknowledge that disobedience to him, and contempt of his authority is immoral, and far from the least heinous species of immorality?... All positive institutions of divine appointment, are means of cultivating moral virtue. Be the rites themselves what they will, their being enjoined by God, renders them proper trials of our obedience to him, and renders our observance of them the means of cherishing a sense of his authority, and of improving a principle of subjection to it. A principle of subjection to the authority of God, is one of the firmest supports of all goodness and virtue; and positive institutions are the most direct means of cultivating it, for the observance of them proceeds solely from the principle of obedience; but in every moral virtue, other principles are conjoined with this.
* Note on Matt. ji. 16 f Centur. Magdeb. cent i. 1. i. c. iv. p. 113.
All the rites appointed by God, are likewise direct and very powerful means of improving many particular virtuous affections, all the affections which are naturally exercised in performing them. Neglect of the means demonstrates, in every case, indifference about the end. But unconcern for moral improvement is not the defect of a single virtue, is not a single vice; it is a corruption and degeneracy of the whole soul, and therefore must appear highly detestable to every person of sound and unbiased judgment... It is not they who reckon a regard to positive institutions essential to a good and unblemished character, that judge weakly, but they who reckon that regard of no importance. Vain are their pretensions to enlargement of sentiment, and elevation above prejudice; their minds are so contracted, that they can admit only a partial idea of the nature of positive duties; they consider but the mere matter of them; they comprehend not their moral principles, their sublime end, or their important signification."( Sermons, Vol. i. p.312-314, 316, 317, 320, edit. 2nd.)
As the leading ideas in the preceding paragraphs are the grand principles of legitimate reasoning on the doctrine of positive institutions; as it is on these principles that our most eminent Protestant authors proceed, when exploding the superstitions of Popery; and as it is our intention to examine Paedobaptism on these very principles; the reader is desired to keep them in mind, while perusing the following pages. It has been unjustly remarked by Bp. Taylor, that "men are easy enough to consent to a general rule; but they will not suffer their own case to be concerned in it.* This observation is, doubtless, founded in fact, and it expresses an affecting truth. While, therefore, we consider the aforementioned authors as having verified the remark by practising infant sprinkling, we shall endeavour to avoid a similar inconsistency.
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