Clerical Theology Unscriptural – Part 1

24/10/2011

The below has been published by The Gospel Truth as it is an excellent and intresting article which deals with the unscriptual theology of the leaders of the  Roman and Anglican churches. It is a valuable resource as it deals with essential topics such as The fallacy of clerical reasoning, sin and the effect of Adam’s sin, the mystery of iniquity, the clergy being astray, knowledge being essential for salvation, no regeneration without faith, the fallacy of infant salvation, immortality defined, the doctrinal cause of clerical error and more.

Although written over a hundred years ago, and in the unusual form of a conversation, it has valuable scriptural exposition dotted throughout. It is hoped that it might help the reader with his or her studies of God’s word. Please read with Bible in hand…

Matt Davies

Introduction

Clerical Theology Unscriptural was published by John Thomas independently of his periodicals, and as such was among the earliest of books he distributed in propagation of the Truth. It originated out of what was called The Gorham Controversy. This was a controversy that distracted the Church of England at the time, and resulted in a number withdrawing therefrom and joining the Church of Rome.

Main contestants in the controversy were the Bishop of Exeter and a clergyman, Mr. Gorham. The latter rejected the teaching of unconditional regeneration in baptism as taught by the Church of England, namely, that infants are regenerated by the sprinkling of holy water called “baptism”. In consequence, the Bishop refused to grant a Benefice (or material livelihood) to Mr. Gorham, causing him to appeal to the Court of Privy Council. In those days, the Court exercised considerable influence over the Church of England, and had power to imprison clergymen guilty of heresy, or conversely, of granting them their supposed rights if they believed that they were unjustly treated. In this instance, the Court decided in favour of Mr. Gorham, and against the Bishop. This led to an extension of the controversy, and to a spate of pamphlets and books upon the subject, reaching headline news in the papers of the day. Clerical Theology Unscriptural set forth the Christadelphian stand in regard to the matters discussed.

Dr. Thomas refers to Mr. Gorham as “of prevenient grace celebrity”. “Prevenient grace” is a theological term relating to grace as preceding repentance and predisposing the heart to seek God. Dr. Thomas set forth the truth regarding this and related matters. As controversy still continues over the topics dealt with in the Colloquy, the clear, uncompromising and scriptural exposition presented by him upon such themes as the Church versus the Ecclesia, the Holy Spirit in its modem day application, the remission of sins, repentance, eternal life, and baptism is extremely valuable. Particularly would we draw attention to his comments upon the Spirit. The power of the Word, motivating the minds and actions of believers is the Spirit available to believers today, and not an affluence from heaven as was the case when the Holy Spirit gifts were granted in Apostolic times.

H. P. Mansfield

BOANERGES & HERESIAN

BOANERGES (soliloquises) : This Albion reminds me much of ancient Ephesus. It is full of craftsmen who have their wealth by making shrines to a strange god. Mammon, and not the God of Israel, is the Deity whom Britain and the world adore. Some of his worshippers cry one thing, and some another; for their assemblies are confused; and the more part know not wherefore they are come together. Money, the golden statue “that fell down from Jupiter,” is the motive principle enthroned in the hearts of priests and people, who at least concur in hymning its praise as the almighty wonder-working power of their system. With “Mother Church” for their goddess, and Mammon for their image, the Demetrian shrine-makers of “Christendom” are true sons of the ancient craft which stirred up the multitude against Paul and his companions, whose doctrine destroyed the books and” cunning arts “by which they made “no small gain” of a deceived and confiding people. Such is the relation of the clergy to the public purse, the public conscience, and the “things of the spirit of God.” They rob the people on false pretences; pervert their minds; handle the word of God deceitfully; and raise a clamour where truth their craft endangers. But, thanks be to God, the signs of the times are propitious to the speedy overthrow of their ascendancy over the minds of men. The masses are uncharmed by the cry of “Church and King.” The great example of America has taught them that God’s religion is independent of them both; and that were kings and clerical establishments to be abolished from the nations, the sun would rise and set, the earth yield its fruits in season, trade and commerce thrive, men become “heirs of the kingdom of God,” and the hearts of the people rejoice-aye, as they never joyed before in this beautiful island of the sea !-But here comes a friend. Ah! is it you, Heresian? what news dost thou bring to-day?

HERESIAN: I know not if it be news to you, but I have just heard that the holy bishop of Exeter has just lost his case. The Privy Council has decided against him in his dispute with Mr. Gorham. For my own part I cannot see what business laymen have with doctrinal matters in a judicial capacity at all. These are too high for them, and should be left to spiritual persons, whose peculiar province it is to define what is proper for the laity to believe.

BOANERGES: That notion of yours, Heresian, is very well suited to the dark ages in which it had its origin. The distinction you make between “lay” and “spiritual” men, in the proper sense, is unscriptural. All believers of “the gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. iv. 23; Acts x. 36, 37; Matt. xxiv. 14; Mark. 14, 15: xvi. 15, 16; Acts ii. 22-28: viii. 4, 5, 12, 35, 38), who have put on Christ Jesus, are equally lay and spiritual. They are. all God’s laity (people) and being “born of the spirit” in an intellectual and moral sense, are also spiritual. The Privy Council is as spiritual as your holy bishop of Exeter, or any of” the Bench,” a spirituality, however, in relation to the truth, whose influence is only evil and that continually. But come, Heresian, as you are “a churchman,” and a resident in this country, be so good as to explain to me, who am but recently arrived here, what is the ado about between “the Right Reverend Father in God,” and Mr. Gorham, a “reverend” of less degree.

HERESIAN: It is soon told. Our venerable bishop is a rigid constructionist of the letter of the creed, while Mr. Gorham is indifferent to the literal, but a great stickler for its spirit. The bishop maintains that an infant is regenerated in the act of baptism by the spirit; but Mr. Gorham objects to this, because of the inference deducible from it: for if regeneration solely in baptism be admitted, the immortal souls of all infants that die unbaptised must be lost; because it is written, “except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John iii. 3). He contends, therefore, that to be born again is to be born of the spirit, and that to this end water is not essential. That it is the infant’s soul that is the subject of the regeneration, and which cannot be affected by the water. Hence, he considers that the Spirit of God operates directly upon the spirit of the babe before and independently of the use of water. For this reason he terms the operation “prevenient grace.”

BOANERGES: So then, regeneration by prevenient grace and regeneration by water made holy by the spirit in the case of infants, is the “tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee” of this great episcopal dispute? Exeter is right enough in contending for the letter as the only way of getting at the spirit of the creed; for the spirit of a discourse is the meaning of its words. He is also right in contending for spirit and water in regeneration; but, both he and Gorham are equally wrong in assuming that an infant is a fit and proper subject of “the New Birth.” They are both wrong in supposing that the begetting influence is physical. Generation is physical: and so is regeneration when it is perfected; but in the first stage of the process, which is restricted to the present life, it is the result of the truth believed; and a matter of heart or disposition, and not of physical change. Pray tell me, my dear friend, what spiritual benefits their reverences, great and small, suppose are conferred on their regenerated infants?

HERESIAN: They have the remission of sins, “are ingrafted into Christ, made children of God, and the heirs of the kingdom of heaven.” So that in dying in infancy they ascend to God.

BOANERGES: This is, indeed, a royal road to heaven! A kind of short cut to glory ! The apostle saith, “judgment must begin at the house of God; “and that” the righteous are scarcely saved” (1 Pet. iv. 17, 18): and another says, that it is “through much tribulation they enter the Kingdom of God” (Acts xiv. 22). But if these holy men had been acquainted with Protestant and Romish theology as the Lord’s way of salvation, they would surely never have spoken thus. It would certainly be better to die in infancy, having been regenerated with holy water or” prevenient grace”; salvation would then be sure. But to live to adult age, having been rained up in the leaven of the doctors, is almost equivalent to a fore-ordainment to reprobation. If your doctrine be true, I would that I had died in infancy, that I might have avoided the “much tribulation” and “judgment,” and have been now numbered among the angels of God! But had I died then, what sins would have been remitted in my baptismal regeneration?

HERESIAN : If it be a sin to laugh, as some divines have thought, is it not also a sin to cry? Infants, by their naughtiness, are a cause of swearing and scolding in others. This is as sinful in them as for a mother to kiss her babe on the Sabbath, which was forbidden by the pious legislators of New England. -(See the Blue Laws of Connecticut). Besides these sins of which they are guilty to the great annoyance of their guardians, there is the “original sin,” which is weighty enough to sink a ship of a thousand tons, how much more, therefore, the infant soul.

BOANERGES: O fie, Heresian; I thought you had more sense than to talk thus. You do not seem to know what sin is. If I did not know otherwise, I should have concluded that you had been studying tractarianism in the dark and mystic groves of Isis, among the Puseys and the Newmans of its cloistered halls. You ought to know that the primitive sense of the word is” the transgression of law ,'” and the derived sense that of evil in the flesh. Transgression is to this evil as cause to an effect; which effect re-acts in the posterity of the original transgressors as a cause, which, uncontrolled by belief of the truth, evolves transgression in addition to those natural ills, disease, death, and corruption, which are inherent in flesh and blood. Because he transgressed the Eden-law, Adam is said to have sinned. Evil was then evolved in his flesh as the punishment of his sin; and because the evil was the punishment of the sin, it is also styled sin. “Flesh and blood” is naturally and hereditarily full of this evil. It is, therefore, called “sinful flesh,” or flesh full of sin. Hence, an apostle saith,” in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing” (Rom. vii. 18). The absence of goodness in our physical nature is the reason of flesh and blood being termed” sin.” “The Word was made flesh; “a saying which Paul synonymizes by the expression, “God hath made Jesus sin for us who knew no sin” (2 Cor. v. 21): and Peter by the words, “He made his own self bear our sins in his own body” (1 Pet. if. 24). “God made Jesus sin,” in the sense of” making him of a woman” (Gal. iv. 4), or of flesh and blood; so that having the same nature, its evil was condemned in his flesh; and consequently the sins of those who believe the gospel of the Kingdom were then borne away, if they have faith also in the breaking of his body for sin, (Rom. viii. 3; Luke xxii. 19). Besides this, John says, that all unrighteousness is sin;” and another apostle, that “whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Now, Heresian, I should like you, or some of your spiritual lords, to inform me what sins, actual or original, are remitted to an infant in the “baptismal regeneration” they talk so much about?

HERESIAN: Really, I must confess that in view of the premises you have laid down, I am at a loss to say. They cannot be actual, because they have transgressed no law. May it not, however, be the original sin? They committed that sin when in the loins of Adam. Their souls then contracted a liability to the pains of hell for ever; but by regeneration they are freed from that liability, and become “heirs of the grace of life.”

BOANGERES: Who told you that men, women, and babes became liable to eternal torments in hell-fire because Adam transgressed the Eden-law? There is no such absurdity in the Bible; it is but a fiction of the schools. Adam’s offence entailed upon us subjection to vanity (Rom. viii. 20), or to the ills that flesh inherits in the present state, which are terminated in death and corruption. If after the Lord God had sentenced man to this (Gen. iii. 17-19), he had interposed between him and his destiny no more his race, by the operation of natural causes, would have become as extinct as though it had never existed. But God’s philanthropy is preparing a better state for man, to which they of this and past generations stand related by faith in the truth concerning it. Infants die because they are born of mortal flesh, and not because they have committed sin, or are responsible for Adam’s sin. If this were remitted in baptism they ought not to die; for when God remits sin He also remits the punishment, or consequences, it entails.

HERESIAN: Really I never thought of that before. The consequences of the original sin must affect the infant’s body or soul, or both. The baptismal regeneration certainly does not cure the body of its evil; or if it cure the soul, one would think that after a divine curing it ought to remain cured for life; instead of which it is invariably found sadly diseased long ere it “comes of age.” I confess I am puzzled what to think. Perhaps after all its regeneration saves its immortal soul from hell. I have read something like this in sermon-books and creeds.

BOANERGES: Upon that hypothesis, the services of those who sprinkle babies are of vast importance to the human race ! I do not wonder that the fair sex are so devoted to “the dear men,” seeing that their reverences are supposed to be able by a peculiar application of holy water to their infant to save their souls from the torments of the damned! You may well be puzzled, for you have got hold of a subject that cannot be explained upon rational or scriptural principles. The baptismal regeneration of the schools is a crotchet of certain fleshly-minded dunces of former times, who with their associates were” ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. iii. 7). It is a part of that “wisdom of our ancestors” in which they glory who are “destitute of the truth, and suppose that gain is godliness.” But, Heresian, I am also puzzled to conceive how they make out that the water gets at the infant’s soul to regenerate it. Can you explain it?

HERESIAN: The water does not find access to the soul, but the spirit contained in the water which makes the water holy.

BOANERGES: Then “Holy Water “is spirit in solution?

HERESIAN: Yes; for as the great Tertullian says, “All waters acquire by the invocation of God the sacramental virtue of sanctification; for the spirit immediately descends from heaven, rests on them, and sanctifies them by itself, and being thus sanctified by union with the spirit, they acquire the power of sanctification. For as the waters of Bethesda were imbued with a medicinal virtue by the intervention of the angel, so the spirit is diffused through the waters of baptism, and the person to whom they are applied is spiritually purified by them.” This great father of the church was the venerable Dr. Pusey and holy bishop of Exeter of the third century. The Church of Christ glories in him as one of her apostolical and brightest lights.

BOANERGES: The church of Antichrist you mean. The burning lamps of Christ’s church “shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life” (Phil. ii. 15); and not by making that word of none effect by such absurd and pestilent tradition as Tertullian’s, by which material spirit is substituted for belief of the truth. In view of the Tertullian hypothesis, how do you dispose of the testimony that “without faith it is impossible to please God; for he that comes to Him, must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” Heb. xi. 6); in what sense is this applicable to infants?

HERESIAN: The church has ordained that faith in the parents, or in default of this, faith in godfathers and godmothers, is a sufficient substitute for want of it in the infant.

BOANERGES: A church that modifies or supersedes the oracles of God by its traditions is a synagogue of Satan, and a blasphemer of the truth. Will you show me where the scripture authorises “the church” to change times and laws?

HERESIAN: As a faithful and obedient son it is sufficient for me to know what Mother Church decrees. It is no part of my business to sit in judgment upon her. She is “the pillar and support of the truth,” and is appointed of God to declare what ought to be believed, and what should be rejected. Hence I and the Church are “of one heart and one soul;” for the church believes what I believe, and I believe what the church believes, and therefore we both believe alike.

BOANERGES: That is a very “holy catholic faith” indeed ! It is, however, by no means a satisfactory reason why you and the church should make the truth of God of none effect by your tradition. I wish to know by what scriptural authority you affirm that a proxy-faith is a sufficient substitute for faith in the creature that is said to be presented before God?

HERESIAN: An apostle says, “we are saved by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Tit. iii. 5). There is no mention of faith here. The proxy-faith you speak of is not indispensable; for multitudes of parents are without faith, and as to godfathers and godmothers they are often dispensed with; or, if required, they are frequently hired in London at a shilling a head without regard to faith. They are merely supernumerary adjuncts, which the fitness of things is sometime thought to render needful. I do not, however, pretend to make the subject clear. The Archbishop of Canterbury himself does not understand it; how then can I who am no dignitary of the church! He says, “unquestionably there is much difficulty, much mystery in the case, as regards the baptism of infants.”

BOANERGES: The archbishop is quite right in that opinion. The rite of infant sprinkling is “a mystery” utterly unrevealable upon Christian principles, and irreconcilable with the testimony of God. No wonder it is” difficult” to set forth its scriptural import, seeing that there is not one word about infant baptismal regeneration from Genesis to Revelation. It is an element of “the Mystery of Iniquity.” When, therefore, “spiritual or temporal lords,” priests and ministers, attempt to explain its import by a reference to” the Law and the testimony of God,” they proclaim to heaven and earth their imbecility of mind, and profound ignorance of the glorious gospel of the blessed God.

HERESIAN: You do not mean to say that the Right Reverend Fathers in God, their graces of Canterbury and York, and the holy bishops of the church, together with the reverend clergy and ministers of the land, are ignorant! Are they not all highly skilled in Hebrew, Greek and Latin; in the mythologies of the heathen world: in logic, metaphysics, and the opinions of all the learned commentators of past and present times? Are they not as familiar with” the Fathers,” with the decrees of popes and councils, and precedents of law, as they are with the common prayer book, or the Westminster confession, and shorter catechism? How, then, say you they are ignorant and imbecile?

BOANERGES: I grant that their heads are well crammed with all this learned lumber: and so much the worse for them. It is by this sort of learning that their hearts and intellects are completely paganized, and rendered impervious to the ‘light of truth. Like the old Pharisees and hypocrites, they see but do not perceive; and hear but do not understand. The “baptismal regeneration” controversy proves them to be grossly ignorant of the gospel; and surely imbecility must be characteristic of his mind who really believes that an infant’s soul is regenerated by sprinkling its face with “holy water.” He that can swallow this must be one of three things -a knave, an idiot, or an ignorant man.

HERESIANS: Well do you deserve the name you bear. A “son of thunder” indeed you are ! You hurl your bolts at mitred and spiritual heads without respect of persons. I am your friend; but remember, Boanerges, they are office-bearers of my religion, the clergy of the most High God, and the servants of Jesus Christ. I cannot endure that you should treat them thus. My loyalty to him may disrupt our friendship in their behalf.

BOANERGES: Were they such as you suppose, Heresian, my veneration would be as profound for them as yours. They arrogate to themselves all you claim for them, and more; but when I scan them by the light of scripture, I can only see in them perverters of the gospel of Christ (Gal. i. 7-9); and “deceitful workers, transforming themselves into his apostles” (2 Cor. xi. 13-15). But without regard to their professions, look at their practice. Behold them as wine-bibbers, fox-hunters, flatterers of the rich, traders in livings, covetous, blasphemers, hypocrites, “By their fruits ye shall know them”; and do not these prove them to be evil? The only “interests” they are zealous for pertain to their own selfishness. I know of no passage so descriptive of them as the words of the prophet concerning the “watchmen of Zion,” saying, “they are all ignorant; they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand; they all look to their own way, every one for his gain from his quarter. Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine: and we will fill ourselves with strong drink: and to-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant” (Isa. lvi. 10). Such are your priests and prophets-light and treacherous characters, who teach for hire, and divine for money; yet they lean upon the Lord, and say, “Is not the Lord among us?” Hapless is the people that confides in such” spiritual guides” as they! Their baneful influence is best observed in those districts in Britain where clericalism is most unchecked and rampant. The darkest spots in Albion are cathedral towns and agricultural villages.

HERESIAN: You admit that the clergy are learned, and you say they are ignorant. This is a paradox I cannot understand.

BOANERGES: I am surprised at that ! Do you not know that a man may be learned in one department of knowledge and ignorant in another? The shame and disgrace of the parsonocracy of Britain is that they are learned in most things but what they profess to teach ! In this they are “blind leaders of the blind.” They undertake at an enormous charge on the people’s pockets, to teach them the “great salvation” -to show them what they must believe and do to be saved-while they are themselves the slaves of sin, and with all their learning ignorant of” the first principles of the oracles of God.”

HERESIAN: But how do you know that they are ignorant of the gospel of salvation?

BOANERGES: Because they do not speak according to “the word of this salvation.” It is written, “To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. viii. 20). “Preach the word” (2 Tim. iv. 2), says an apostle to the instructors of the people; an instruction which they utterly disregard. Now it is contrary to that word to affirm that any one, man, woman, or infant, is “ingrafted into Christ, made a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven” without faith. There is no such doctrine in the Bible; and the man that says there is, be he metropolitan or provincial, lord spiritual or temporal, clerk or layman, he is a blasphemer of the truth.

HERESIAN Do you mean to say that the saints, the pious and devout members of the hierarchies of Britain, are blasphemers? Pray what do you mean by blasphemy?

BOANERGES: It is anything by which the way of truth is brought into disrepute. This is the sense put upon the word by an apostle, who says, “There shall be false teachers among you (Christians), and many shall follow their pernicious ways; on account of whom the way of truth shall be blasphemed (blasphemethesetai) or evil spoken of” (2 Pet. ii. 2). Your” holy bishops,” and all others, who declare that they sprinkle the face of an infant in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, for its regeneration, or for any other purpose whatever, by divine authority, affirm a falsehood in the name of God, take His name in vain, and cause mankind to speak evil of the way of truth. They are therefore blasphemers.

HERESIAN: But, my dear friend, do you mean to say that “baptismal regeneration” is not taught in the Bible?

BOANERGES: If by” baptism “you mean” sprinkling”; and by “regeneration,” a renewal of “soul” by the physical influence of the Holy Spirit; without hesitation, I deny that there is any such regeneration of man, woman, or infant, to be found in the oracles of God. If any man speak, let him speak according to these oracles (1 Pet. iv. 11), and show where it is.

HERESIAN: How then did “baptismal regeneration” come into being?

BOANERGES: In the same way that other abominations have been introduced. It was invented by “men of corrupt minds who were reprobate concerning the faith,” in a time “when they would not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts heaped up to themselves teachers, having itching ears, which they turned away from the truth unto fables” (2 Tim. iii. 8: iv. 3). These men were the grievous ravening wolves in sheep’s clothing, against whom the Lord Jesus and his apostles warned the believers to be upon their guard; for they would speak perverse things to draw away disciples after them (Matt. vii. 15; Acts xx. 3). They styled themselves “philosophers,” and “professors of science,” of whom were Hymeneus and Philetus, who substituted for the truth “profane vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so-called; which some professing, erred from the faith” (1 Tim. vi. 20; 2 Tim. if. 16). They taught the inherent existence and hereditary propagation of a thing in the flesh, which after the nomenclature of the heathen they styled “the immortal soul.” Wherever this “vain philosophy” was received, the resurrection of the body was denied. The Kingdom of God in the Land of Israel under the Lord Jesus at his appearing in power and great glory, was superseded by a phantom “kingdom beyond the skies;” into which the ghosts, or disembodied immortal souls of men, women and infants were translated at death, if they had been duly clericalized; otherwise they consigned them to a cauldron of molten and flaming brimstone for ever. Having destroyed “the Gospel of the Kingdom of God” by these traditions, they fabricated the notion of “a spiritual millennium on earth” to be introduced by the evangelism of those upon whom the mantle of Hymeneus and Philetus should fall. The Greek, Roman and Protestant parsonocracy, who call themselves the ambassadors and ministers of Christ, are their successors, being for the most part teachers of their science and phi1osophy; which, in the letters to the Christians in Ephesus and Pergamos are styled” the deeds “and” doctrines of the Nicolaitanes,”” which,” saith the Lord Jesus,” I hate” (Rev. if. 6, 15).

HERESIAN: But, my dear friend, what has this to do with baptismal regeneration?

BOANERGES: Much every way, Heresian, as you will discover, if you hear me out. The “profane vain babblings” of Hymeneus and his brethren became the foundation of sand upon which clericalism raised its temple. Their speculations “increased to more ungodliness ;” and their word “eat out the truth like a gangrene” (2 Tim. if. 16, 17). “The Fathers,” as they are styled by the Apostasy, such as Tertullian, Clement Alexandrinus, Origen, Cyprian, etc., succeeded to their work of perverting “the way of truth.” The perversion was not consummated all at once, but gradually. Their foolish hearts having become darkened by the admixture of Judaism and Platonism with the doctrine of the apostles, they lost sight of “the knowledge of God, by which are given to us exceeding great and precious promises; that by (faith in) these we might become partakers of the Divine Nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Pet. i. 3, 4). They ceased to look to faith in these promises as regenerative of the inner man of the heart; but attributed it to the physical agency of the Spirit diffused through “the Bath of Water” in which they immersed their proselytes. Your quotation from Tertullian proves this. He says, that” all waters acquire by the invocation of God the sacramental virtue of sanctification.” If you ask him “how?” he tells you, “by the Spirit descending tom heaven and resting upon them, and making them holy by itself;” and that in this way, “they acquire the power of sanctification,” or of making them holy to whom they are applied! Tertullianism was the Romanism and Anglicanism of the third century; and may be summarily stated as sanctification by Holy Water ! The water was made holy by prayer and spirit, and the person by the water; not by water alone; for says Cyprian, “water alone cannot cleanse away sin and sanctify the man, unless the water have the Holy Spirit.” A wonderful thing is holy water ! It has done great things in the hands of the clergy. “The Devil,” they say, “hates it ;” and the witches, and evil spirits in the air, are scared out of their wits when they hear the village bells, sanctified with holy water at their “baptism,” sounding forth their sacred chimes! A baptismal regeneration of bells! Quite as reasonable, and altogether as scriptural as the regeneration of babes and sires by holy water without faith in “the things of the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus Christ.”

HERESIAN: Do I then understand you to say, that the Baptismal Regeneration of infants grew out of the engrafting of the Nicolaitan doctrine upon the doctrine of the apostles?

BOANERGES: Even so. The Nicolaitanes, of whom were Hymeneus and Philetus, engrafted the heathen speculation of immortal soulism upon the doctrine of Christ; and then taught the regeneration of the pagan “soul” by a physical operation of the Holy Spirit upon it. In this way was substituted by men of corrupt minds like “the Fathers,” a physical spiritual agency for an intellectual and moral agency upon the heart in the regeneration of individuals.

HERESIAN: But the apostle saith, we are saved by “the renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Tit. iii. 5).

BOANERGES: He also says, we are renewed by knowledge” (Col. iii. 10). In this, however, he does not contradict himself, but rather makes the one phrase explanatory of the other; as if he had said, “we are renewed by the Holy Spirit through knowledge.” The Holy Spirit renews or regenerates man intellectually and morally by the truth believed. “Sanctify them by thy truth,” says Jesus; “thy word, O Father, is truth” (John xvii. 17). “Ye are clean,” said he to his apostles, “through the word which I have spoken to you” (John xv. 3). God’s power is manifested through means. His Spirit is His power by which He effects intellectual, moral, and physical results. When He wills to produce intellectual and moral effects, it is by knowledge revealed by His Spirit through the prophets and apostles. This knowledge becomes power when received into “good and honest hearts”; and because God is the author of it, it is styled “the Knowledge of God” (2 Pet. i. 2), or “the word of truth” (James i. 18), by which He begets sinners to Himself as His sons and daughters. “The word of the truth of the gospel,”” the gospel of the kingdom.” “the incorruptible seed,” “the word,” “the truth as it is in Jesus,”” the word of the kingdom,”” the word of reconciliation,” “the law and the testimony,” “the word of faith,” “the sword of the spirit which is the word of God,” “the word of Christ,” “the perfection of liberty,” etc.-are all phrases richly expressive of” the power of God” by which He saves His people from their sins, and translates them into the Hope of the kingdom and glory to which He invites them. The truth is the power that makes men free indeed (John viii. 32, 36). Hence Jesus says, “My words are spirit, and they are life.” The prophets, Jesus, and the apostles were the channels through which it was transmitted to mankind; and the spirit the agent by which the knowledge was conveyed to them. Hence, the knowledge or the truth being suggested to the prophets by the spirit is sometimes styled “the spirit” (Rom. ii. 20). The spirit is to the truth as cause and effect; and by a very common figure of speech, the one is put for the other in speaking of them relatively to the mind and heart of man. So that the phrase “renewed by the holy spirit” is equivalent to renewed by the belief of the truth testified by the Holy Spirit (John xv. 26: xiv. 13-14).

HERESIAN: In that case babes and ignorant men and women are not the subjects of a renewal by the spirit?

BOANERGES: Babes are out of the question. God’s institution is not a baby-religion. It has to do with men of good and honest hearts capable of reasoning, and of examining and believing testimony; and who can be operated upon by high intellectual and moral considerations. A baby-religion is a thing for clergymen to trifle with when they play at hocus-pocus with the ignorant. Babes without sense, and a gaping multitude without knowledge of the word, are the subjects of the pranks they perform in the name of God before high heaven which make the angels grieve. Their power is maintained by keeping the people in ignorance of the truth. They profess to desire the enlightenment of mankind; but however sincere their professions may be, their own minds are so dark that they are unable to give them light, and those that are able they hinder. The clergy and their flocks are all walking in “the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their hearts “(Eph. iv. 18). The consequences of ignorance are fatal. An ignorant man cannot be saved in his ignorance of the gospel of the kingdom of God and name of Jesus ;. because it alienates him from God’s life, which is obtainable only through a possession of that kingdom. The spirit renews an ignorant man by enlightening him. When such an one comes to understand and believe the truth his ignorance is dispelled; the blindness of his heart is cured; and a spiritual relation established between him and God. He is then in a prepared state for salvation by the grace of God through faith (Eph. ii. 8).

HERESIAN: But doth the Spirit of God exert no physical energy upon man in his regeneration?

BOANERGES: Certainly it does ‘ but not in the renewal of his character. It will operate physically upon “the new creature in Christ Jesus,” when through Jesus it raises him from the dead (2 Cor. iv. 14). For the apostle saith, “If Christ be in you (dwelling in your hearts by faith) (Eph. iii. 17) the body is dead in respect to sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness. But (though your body be dead being under sentence of death) if the spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you (by faith) He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also make alive your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you” (Rom. iii. 10-1 I).

HERESIAN: Then if I understand you aright, regeneration is not an instantaneous mesmeric action upon an immortal soul; but a process beginning with the truth understood and believed, and ending with the resurrection of the believer from the dead?

BOANERGES: Precisely so. The order of the process is to hear the truth, understand the truth, believe the truth, obey the truth in baptism, walk in the truth, and inherit the truth by obtaining possession of its promises at the resurrection. When the process is completed the believer will then have been “born of water and the spirit” (John iii. 5), and be a fit and proper person to inherit the kingdom preparing for such as he from the foundation of the world (Matt. xxv. 34).

HERESIAN: Really, I begin to feel quite interested in your exposition. There appears to be an intellegibility about it, which I confess with the Archbishop of Canterbury, is not observable in the baptism of infants. But, when “the Fathers” let go their hold upon “the form of sound words” delivered by the apostle (2 Tim. i. 13); and embraced the philosophy and vain deceit after the tradition of Hymeneus and Philetus, as you have stated-what was their next step in the development of Baptismal Regeneration? I should like to know.

BOANERGES: Having “let slip” the things delivered by the apostles, and allowed the doctrine of Christ concerning the “Great Salvation” to fall into oblivion (Heb ii. 1, 5), their fleshly minds settled down upon the dogma of sacramental efficacy. They called baptism a sacrament, which they taught was efficacious to the cleansing from all past sins, and to the impartation of a right to the regenerated soul to a phantom kingdom beyond the skies at the instant of death. The cleansing they attributed to the spirit in the water. Furmilianus, bishop of Caesarea Cappadocia, says that Stephen, who boasted that he had succeeded to the chair of St. Peter, was not animated with any great zeal against the heretics, but conceded to them “the greatest powers of grace.” Furmilianus was very indignant against him on this account. His holy ire flared up at the idea that baptismal waters could be made sanctifying by the spirit descending into them in answer to the prayers of heretics. He charges pope Stephen with” saying and asseverating that they (the heretics) by the sacrament of baptism wash away the pollution of the old man, remit all former deadly sins, make sons of God by a celestial birth, and renew them unto eternal life, by the sanctification of the Divine Bath. After ascribing these great and celestial prerogatives of the church to the heretics,” continues Furmilianus, “what else can he do than to communicate with those to whom he attributes such grace?”

HERESIAN: But when spirit in aqueous solution, as you say, was substituted for the truth as the sanctifier, would not this “holy water” be as regenerative of infants as of men and women? Is not infant regeneration, then, more than hypothetical?

BOANERGES: Yes, Heresian, “holy water” is as regenerative of apes and infants as of men and women t I see no reason why baboons should not be sanctified by this spirituous solution as well as village bells. But I suppose the right reverend fathers of the Episcopal Bench, and “the Church” would object to this on the ground that apes had no” immortal souls “in their flesh for the spirit to act upon ! The same objection, however, they would contend does not lie against the sanctification of infants. Yet, I cannot see that their objection is valid, seeing that, though the bell-metal is not regenerated or transmuted into anything else, yet it is said to acquire the new property of purifying the air of diabolical enchantments, which the vibration of unsprinkled, and therefore unsanctified bells in a profane factory, cannot do. The clergy of the Roman Mother of England’s “Venerable Church” have sprinkled asses; which I conceive, being thus “converted” from the profane crowd to a “Holy Order” of asses, may be taken as a most appropriate emblem of all “bishops, priests and deacons,” who in the august presence of the Bible preach the regeneration of babes by holy water! This holy water, I admit, is as regenerative of infants as of men and women; and that is just not at all. Infant regeneration aqueous or spiritual, whether moral or physical, has not the shadow of a testimony in scripture to found even an hypothesis upon. There can be no regeneration without faith in the baptised; and that faith must be the assured belief of” things hoped for” and” things unseen” (Heb. xi. 1).

HERESIAN: Am I then to understand that faith in the gospel came to be deemed unnecessary as preliminary to Baptismal Regeneration?

BOANERGES: Yes; for the innovation of church-baptismal regeneration could not have been received so long as the doctrine of justification by faith of the gospel of the kingdom held possession of the public mind. It was necessary first to supersede this-to transmute this apostolic gospel into “another gospel” (Gal. i. 6, 7) by mixing it up with the traditions of the Judaizers and philosophising Greeks. In this way, “the key of knowledge” was abstracted from the congregations of Christ, and an assent to human dogmas substituted instead. They were thus converted into” Synagogues of Satan” (Rev. it. 9: iii. 9), and in the aggregate constituted “THE APOSTASY” (2 Thess. it. 3), which in later times allied itself with the Roman government, and became the parent of all State Churches, and the numerous progeny which has descended from them. When Satan thus became Lord of “the Church” baptismal regeneration was decreed to be God’s truth; and his bishops and clergy (I mean Satan’s, not God’s) such as the right reverend fathers of London, Exeter, and Oxford, and their adherents, became the zealous sticklers for the fable. So long however as men “held fast the form of sound words” delivered by the apostles, there was no scope for the ideas contained in “the strife of words and perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, and who supposed that gain was godliness” (1 Tim. vi. 5; 2 Tim. i. 13). “Infant baptism,” “baptismal regeneration,” “immortal soul,” and a multitude of like phrases, do not belong to” the form of sound words.” There is nothing about them in the Bible. They belong not to “the wholesome words of the Lord Jesus Christ,” nor to “the doctrine which is according to godliness” (1 Tim. vi. 3). They are the vain questions upon which the “proud, know-nothing” dignitaries of Satan’s state synagogues, and meaner men of the same spirit, have been “doting” from the days of the apostles to the present times. “He that believes the Gospel, AND) is baptised, shall be saved; he that believes not shall be condemned” (Mark xvi. 15, 16). These are the “wholesome words,” “sound speech which cannot be condemned,” which the Lord Jesus who uttered them has never modified nor repealed; and plainly show that his proclamation has no saving benefits for unbelievers, nor for believers either who do not obey (Heb. v. 8, 9), but stumble at the word (1 Pet. it. 7, 8).

HERESIAN: Then there is no need for baptism at all; for” the wholesome words of the Lord” do not say “he that is not baptised shall be condemned?”

BOANERGES: You do credit to your teachers; for none but the disciples of the clergy would reason so absurdly. You have yet to learn the utter impossibility of baptising an unbeliever. Faith is essential and indispensable to baptism; for without faith in the subject neither sprinkling, pouring, nor immersion, is baptism. The subject-matter of that faith must be the gospel of the Kingdom, and Name of Jesus as its Christ, with a disposition of heart constituting the true heartedness of the scripture. Reason teaches every man unspoiled by “metaphysics” that if belief of the gospel and baptism be the affirmed conditions of salvation, as they are, no man since the Day of Pentecost can inherit the Kingdom of God and of his Christ, who, though a believer, is unbaptised. The dictates of reason are here in harmony with the divine testimony, which, in “the wholesome words of the Lord Jesus,” declares that “Except a man be born out of water and of Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John iii. 5). No man can be born who is not first begotten; therefore it was enough for Jesus to say “he that believeth not shall be condemned.”

HERESIAN: Thank you, Boanerges, I see it now, and therefore stand corrected. But to return. If” he that believeth not is condemned” what becomes of the infants? Will not their immortal souls fall into” the lake of fire that burneth with brimstone,” and be therefore tormented for ever and ever?

BOANERGES: It was this hideous conceit that originated the baptismal regeneration of infants. The Philpotts and Puseys of other days argued that as all unbelievers would be condemned, therefore infants would be damned, seeing they were faithless in the nature of things! The idea was horrible especially to mothers. Hence it was deemed necessary to invent something for their benefit. Infant damnation having got possession of their carnal minds, the dogma of infant salvation in some way came in to the rescue. The “immortal souls” of the infants of the heathen were supposed to be monopolised by the devil, who rejoices in horns, hoofs, and forked tail; but those of Christian parents were imagined to be salvable upon the ground of their being born of holy flesh; although Jesus had said that “the flesh profiteth nothing.” But they who “love and invent a lie” (Rev. xxii. 15) care nothing more about Christ and his words than is convenient. To work they went, and in process of time taught that the “immortal souls” of infants were as precious as those of adults; that “of such was the kingdom of heaven”; and that when they died, if properly attended to by the clergy before death, they would be translated, and become little winged angels there. But as there were several scriptures quoted against their theory by those they styled “the heretics,” they were obliged to invent interpretations to reconcile their fictions with the word. This reconciliation, however, they found as difficult as his Grace of Canterbury admits it to be even now. But, by straining at gnats and swallowing camels, they at length became such adepts at mystification, or religious juggling, that there was nothing the absurdity of which was too immense to go down, hoofs, hunches and everything. They proclaimed “holy water” to be as sanctifying and regenerating for babes as for adults. It was not faith, but a sort of mesmeric aura called “grace,” that regenerated “the soul.” Nor was this physical grace “prevenient” but in the water. It was not a Gorhamite afflation before immersion; but a regular Philport-solution of spirit in “the Divine Bath !” When the water evaporated, or was wiped off, the spirit, in spite of a known law in physics, remained behind, and saturated the soul! A wonderful discovery this, and worthy of the dark minds that invented, and still defend and believe it ! The souls of infants saved from fire and brimstone by mesmerized water, the laceration of maternal feelings healed, and the babes clutched by griffin claws almost at birth, to be marked, and trained in priestism as the way in which they should go !

HERESIAN: Then you deny the truth of the following lines in relation to infants, that

“God His dire decree did seal

Their fix’d unalterable doom:

Consign’d their unborn souls to hell,

And damn’d them from their mother’s womb?”

BOANERGES: I do unquestionably. Such a fiendish notion is akin to the dogma of “infants in hell a span long,” an “article of faith” which could have only found place in the dark and cruel natures of men under the dominion of sin and “vain deceit.”

HERESIAN: If then “infant damnation” be as you intimate a mere invention of ignorant priests, what becomes of their immortal souls, for they cannot be saved by faith?

BOANERGES: So long, Heresian, as your mind is darkened with the pagan tradition of immortal soulism you will be unable to see the truth. You must dismiss this “foolish notion,” and reduce your convictions to the limit of the divine testimony if you would understand “the gospel of the kingdom of God “.(Mar. i. 14). The Platonic speculation of the immortality of the soul is not the immortality taught in the Bible. The Bible doctrine is the immortality of man and not of an immortal soul in flesh and blood capable of an un-embodied existence after corporeal death. If we admit that immortal soulism be true, then we must also admit that immortality was “brought to light “by Plato in his philosophy. I say by Plato, because he is the great authority of the heathen, catholic, and protestant worlds upon the subject. But an apostle says, “life and incorruptibility not were brought to light by Jesus through the Gospel” (2 Tim. i. 10). Now this being unquestionable how could Plato’s theory be true? It was part of “the wisdom of the wise” which God proved to be foolishness by the doctrine of “the Hope and Resurrection” (1 Cor. i. 19-20: ii. 7-8; Acts xxiii. 6). There is no alternative, and can be no compromise between Jesus and Plato. If we profess faith in the immortal soulism of the heathens we practically reject the doctrine of Christ ‘ if we believe this, Plato’s speculation must be rejected as mere foolishness. There is no neutral ground between them.

HERESIAN: Will you be kind enough to inform me what is the scriptural import of immortality?

BOANERGES: The word signifies deathlessness. This is affirmed of body. A deathless body is the scriptural idea attachable to the words immortal soul. Hence” immortality” implies life manifested through an incorruptible body as opposed to “mortality” which is life manifested through a corruptible body. Life and corruptibility are the result of sin; “life and incorruptibility,” of obedience to the gospel. They both have relation to body, the nature of the life being predicable of the quality of the body through which it is manifested. Incorruptibility does not necessarily imply life ,’ but endless life necessitates incorruptibility of body. The body of Jesus might have lain in the tomb until this day unchanged. This, however, would only have proved its incorruptibility thus far but for him to have become immortal something more would have been necessary, namely, life must have been superadded. An incorruptible body animated by the Spirit of God direct is the immortality of the scripture’ and is styled “spirit,” “spiritual body,” and “nature of angels.” Such is the. “life and incorruptibility brought to light by Jesus through the gospel.”

HERESIAN: What is the gospel?

BOANERGES: The glad tidings (Isa. lxi.; Luke iv. 18) that God intends to set up a Kingdom and Empire on earth which shall comprehend all people, nations, and languages. (Dan. ii. 44 vii. 14, 18, 27 ‘ Eph. i. 10); that mankind shall then be in a state of blessedness which shall continue uninterruptedly for one thousand years (Rev. x.: xx. 3, 4); during which they shall be ruled by a king and government of His. appointment; all the members of which shall possess the glory, honour, and majesty of the dominion from its establishment to the end. This is summarily expressed in words, “Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him” (Gen. xviii. 18; Gal. iii. 8).

HERESIAN: Ah! this is a glorious future; what must a man do that he may share in it?

BOANERGES: Believe the testimony of God concerning it, and in “the mystery” which belongs to it.

HERESIAN: But what am I to understand by “the Mystery of the Gospel?” (Rom. xvi. 25; Eph. vi. 19: iii. 3-6,9).

BOANERGES: “The things concerning the Name of Jesus as the Anointed One of God.” Repentance, remission of sins (Luke xxiv. 27), and eternal life (John xx. 31) are offered to believers of the gospel in his name. They are required to believe that Jesus is the king God intends to set upon the throne of his future kingdom, which is David’s throne; that he is Son of David and Son of God; that he died for the sins of believers, and was raised from the tomb to life for their justification (Rom. iv. 25; 1 Cor. xv. 1-4); and is now sitting at the right hand of God (Acts ii. 34-36: iii. 19-21). If you believe these things with “a good and honest heart” your faith and disposition will he counted to you for repentance and remission of sins in the name of Jesus as Lord and King.

HERESIAN: Suppose then I believed the Gospel, or as you show it is defined in Acts, “the things of the Kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus Christ,” WHEN and How would my faith and disposition be reckoned to me for repentance and remission of sins in the name of Jesus?

BOANERGES: In your being immersed into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. By this action you would be united to the name of Jesus, and become entitled to all his name is able to impart (Acts ii. 38: iv. 12: viii. 12-16: x. 48). Being released from your past sins, you are translated from under a sentence of death and placed under a sentence of life. You are said to be passed from death into life, and to have become “heir of the Kingdom of God” (James ii. 5). The nature of this kingdom demands that its heirs should become immortal; because flesh and blood, or mortal men, cannot inherit for ever that which is indestructible. This immortality is brought to light as a necessity through the gospel of the kingdom; and is exhibited, not as an essence in man, but as a gift to such believers of God’s truth as shall be accounted worthy of the kingdom and age to come (Luke xx. 35, 36). Immortality is a good thing, and promised only to the righteous. It is part of the reward for good character. Infants are without character, having ability to do neither good nor evil. They are, therefore, eligible for neither rewards nor punishments, for both of these are predicated on well or evil doing. They are simply physical beings innocent of right and wrong, as were Adam and Eve at the epoch of their creation; but, being descended from them after they became sinners and were sentenced to mortality, infants inherit no more than pertains to flesh and blood. They sojourn here a little while, and then slip out of life as unconsciously as they came in. They brought nothing with them into the world, and take nothing away with them so that in their exit they become as though they had never been.

HERESIAN: This is a very different account of things to that implied, in the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, especially of infants! If these things be indeed so, I can only say that the world must have been egregiously befooled by the right reverend fathers and the Church. I confess that my veneration for their wisdom, piety, and authority has been very much diminished since I have conversed witch you. Immortal soulism seems to be the chief corner-stone of all their speculations.

BOANERGES: You are beginning, I perceive, to put a true estimate on spiritualism. The religion of the day is mere superstition, and “the church” nothing more than a system of ecclesiastical police. The clergy are a necessary evil; they abuse religion to purposes of their own selfishness and glorification, but use it also for the maintenance of order in society. They are a more dignified, though less honest, kind of policeman than the civil force, inasmuch as they rule by imposing fictions upon popular ignorance for the sake of gain. They are traders in religion, unblushing soul merchants, “who think that gain is godliness; …. walking after their own lusts, and speaking great swelling words, and having men’s persons in admiration for the sake of advantage” (Jude 16). They vapour about the Bible being their religion, which is about as true as that the Koran came from God. This is evinced by the fact that when they try to sustain their creeds by appeals to its divine testimonies it antagonizes them and throws them all into confusion, as in the case of Messrs. Fust, Exeter, Gorham, Privy Council, and company; so that though they all believe what “the Church” believes, they can none of them agree upon what it is ! Skillful doctors these for the cure of people’s souls !

 

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