Preachers, Pastors, and Ambassadors: Puritan Wisdom for Todays Church (St Antholin Lectures Book 2)

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That being said, baptism is not solely an outward boundary marker. Anglicans assert that it is more than that. It is also a sign, an instrument, and a seal. As a sign it signifies regeneration it does not, note, produce that new birth! I think it is clear, then, that the Article here borrows a crisp headline from the Institutes. It is not even said in the Articles that it is an absolute requirement for Christian parents to baptise their children, however desirable it may be.

It is clearly expected of Anglicans that they will do so, of course and ministers were enjoined by the and Canons to seek out unbaptised children so they could be baptised. Certainly those who claim to be in accord with the official formularies should be content to baptise their children, and strongly advocate that others do so. It ought to be remembered, however, that only ministers are expected to declare any level of assent to the Articles; it is not required of each and every churchgoer that they do so.

If this Article is true, then we must not so overvalue dramatic conversions as wonderful as they are that we think lightly of the tremendous blessing of being baptised as an infant and brought up to know and love the Lord Jesus from an early age. Rather, we ought to think and speak more often of the common experience of baptised children who may grow spiritually into a deeper appreciation of the blessings signed and sealed to them in their baptism, in gradual or sudden ways analogous to physical growth which can be slow and steady or come in spurts.

Having looked at the Anglican theology of baptism, we turn now to examine, more briefly, its liturgical expression in the Book of Common Prayer. The authoritative edition is that from , celebrating its th anniversary this year, though this is very close to the second Cranmerian Prayer Book of , and is substantially just a lightly amended evolution of that earlier book. As we will see, it is important to note that this must be read through the primary lens of the Articles and not be interpreted in such a way that it serves an agenda foreign to them. The first thing to note about the infant baptism service is that it is focused on prayer and instruction.

There then follow two long prayers to that effect, a Bible reading Mark and an exhortation based upon that reading, and another prayer. Puritan exceptions to the baptism service were various.

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They asked for more notice to be given to the minister than just 24 hours. Concerning the sign of the cross, this is part of a wider debate about church ceremonies that was going on throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Concerning the language of baptismal regeneration, it is well worth noting that until the Laudians made too much of this in the s and s, even the Puritans had not, on the whole, objected to it.

That is, they understood what it meant, in harmony with the Articles, and did not imagine that it was an affirmation of the Roman Catholic doctrine of regeneration ex opere operato. As Dyson Hague put it,. All the troubles in regard to our Baptismal Service have come from disintegration or misinterpretation. The teaching of the Church on baptism must never be taken in segments, nor are fragmentary elements of the service to be excised or protruded. This understanding of the language of the Prayer Book was tested in the mid nineteenth century in the so-called Gorham Case.

George Gorham was barred from taking up his role as vicar of Brampford Speke by Bishop Phillpotts of Exeter who found, after grilling Gorham with questions covering 52 hours over 8 days in and , that his doctrine of baptismal efficacy was unsound. This gave great encouragement to Victorian Evangelicals.

So, for example, J. There has always been a spectrum of evangelical opinion on this subject. Though all would reject the Roman Catholic view, some have always been more Zwinglian, so to speak, and felt uncomfortable with anything more than symbolic, tokenistic language. Most evangelical Anglicans have taken the hypothetical, conditional view of baptismal efficacy. Others have also held to the view that as well as signifying these conditional blessings, baptism truly does admit a child into the privileges of the church in a covenant relation to God, and that this is such a great and distinctive blessing as to deserve the name regeneration.

Yet regeneration is not by them understood as conversion, or the spiritual transformation of the soul. Regeneration is birth into the visible Church; conversion is birth into the Church invisible So that Baptism is the introduction of the recipient, whether adult or child, into a new condition or relation. It must not be overlooked that since the Puritan age Regeneration has come to mean renovation or conversion.

But this was not the meaning of the Reformers, nor has the idea been changed in the Prayer Book. Nineteenth century commentator T. Boultbee outlined four schools of thought on this subject: A1 was the Tridentine ex opere operato view; A2 was a more high church Anglican view, similar but not identical to that; A3 was this objective covenant view.

The idea that baptism automatically produces a spiritual new birth is a problem within a particular conception of salvation. But the salvation thus acquired is in many respects the same. The root remedy for sin is therefore the creating of relationship in a community centred on God with a new pattern of life.

For their right growth new human beings need to be grafted in from the start.

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Being in the community and conforming to it is what counts, and in such a context baptism is most importantly a boundary marker of corporate belonging. To address this, a much longer article would be required! This may be surprising, given that almost all theological discussion of sacraments is suffused in covenantal terminology.

To whom the Covenant belongs: the seal of it belongs. It would of course be absurd to suggest that the sacraments have nothing to do with the biblical theme of covenant. The mere absence of the buzz word does not mean the concept and reality is not present. Though it may be true that the Anabaptist challenge of the sixteenth century made Reformed theologians work harder at grounding the doctrine biblically and systematically, covenant theology including its application to infant baptism does of course have both a patristic and medieval pedigree.

More recently, however, covenantal infant baptism has fallen on hard times within Anglican Evangelical circles. Despite its pedigree amongst the leaders of post-war evangelicalism such as John Stott and Alec Motyer, it has come to be viewed by some with suspicion. Yet secondary issues are not unimportant issues, and with care it should be possible robustly to expound a view on such matters while graciously maintaining fellowship with brothers and sisters who read the Scriptures differently at this point.

Sadly, however, as a result of this and other trends such as a knee-jerk anti-Romanism , at many Anglican Evangelical baptisms one is likely to hear only a list of things which baptism is not , rather than a clear and robust exposition of its covenantal basis, blessings, and obligations. Little wonder, then, if people go away with the impression that we are embarrassed about infant baptism and do not take it as seriously as Anglican Evangelicals have done in the past. Hence it would seem that there is some confusion regarding baptism in a number of Anglican Evangelical churches at present.

As a result, many have lapsed into either Zwinglianism or a kind of default anti-paedobaptism, because these seem easier to understand and feel most distant from Roman Catholicism. There are many Presbyterian works of great value, clarity, and erudition, [] but less from a distinctively Anglican perspective that is dependable. Few expository preachers would pause in a standard Sunday sermon to unpack the implications of their text for the doctrine of infant baptism or perhaps, any other doctrine. It is to be feared, therefore, that congregations are not often exposed to the biblical and theological reasoning behind the practice, which leaves them only with superstitious or erroneous explanations from less reliable sources that can quickly be dismissed by the biblically literate.

In addition, there are movements within Reformed and conservative evangelicalism at present, with support from certain circles in the United States, which are strongly and passionately paedobaptist but which also defend some less mainstream views. Yet a greater awareness and appreciation of our Reformation and post-Reformation heritage could prevent such over-reactions.

But on this subject, I defer to the authority of our beloved Bishop J. The subject of infant baptism is undoubtedly a delicate and difficult one. Holy and praying men are unable to see alike upon it.

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Although they read the same Bible, and profess to be led by the same Spirit, they arrive at different conclusions about this sacrament. The great majority of Christians hold, that infant baptism is Scriptural and right. A comparatively small section of the Protestant Church, but one containing many eminent saints among its members, regards infant baptism as unscriptural and wrong But the difference now referred to, must not make members of the Church of England shrink from holding decided opinions on the subject.

Predestination is the means by which God manifests the glory of the Godhead outside of Himself to the human race.


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He returns glory to Himself via mercy to the elect and justice to the reprobate. Both proceed from His sovereignty. Through election and reprobation—the two parts of predestination—God sets the eternal destiny of men prior to viewing them as either created or fallen. Whatever his destiny, man may be assured that he cannot move the immovable will of God.

Nor can he help but glorify God in either His justice or mercy. Like Edwards, who later said that people should be brought to such God-centeredness that they will glorify God even in condemnation, Perkins teaches that the glory of God should make all persons, regardless of their end, praise the sovereign God.

Like Beza, Perkins upheld a supralapsarian position by denying that God, in reprobating, considered man as fallen. Thus God first decided the end—the manifestation of His glory in saving and damning—before He considered the means, such as creation and the fall.

As a theological tightrope walker, Perkins knew that his supralapsarian view prompted two objections: 1 it makes God the author of sin; 2 it subordinates Christ. He explained how God was not the cause of the fall by using the illustration of an unpropped house in a windstorm. As an unsupported house would fall with the blowing of the wind, so man without the help of God falls. Thus, the cause of the fall may not be imputed to the owner but to the wind. Without constraint, men willingly fall from integrity.

And God leaves them to their own desires, freely suffering them to fall. God did not make Adam sin. He merely ceased for a time to give Adam the grace necessary to stand.