Page images
PDF
EPUB

with simple oil before baptism, the other with ointment after the ceremony. This latter unction afterwards fell to the bishops and laid the foundation for a distinct sacrament, called confirmation.

In relation to the performance of the rite, we learn that originally only the bishop, or his priest by permission, administered baptism. But in the time of Tertullian, laymen could baptize in cases of emergency. When the church was enlarged, the business of baptizing devolved on the priests and country bishops, and the bishops of great sees only confirmed afterwards. A controversy arose in the time of Cyprian in relation to the validity of baptism, as administered by heretics. A synod at Carthage, convened by him, decreed that no baptism was valid out of the catholic church, and therefore that those who had been heretics should be re-baptized.* But Stephen, Bishop of Rome, disapproved of the decision, and his opinion became prevalent in that church. With a fondness for the

pompous

rites and secret ceremonies of the pagans, the christians early sought for some mysteries in their institutions, and converted baptism and the Lord's supper to that use. They allowed none but the initiated to be present at the eucharist. And as those who were admitted to the heathen mysteries had certain signs or symbols of recognition, so the christians made the Apostles' creed and the Lord's

prayer serve that

purpose, though it is hard to understand how the latter, being openly published in the Gospels, could be employed as a secret watchword.

In the second century baptism was performed publicly only twice in the year, viz: on Easter and Whitsunday. In the same age sponsors or godfathers were introduced to answer for adult persons, though they were afterwards admitted in the baptism of infants. This, Mr Daille says, was not done till the fourth century.

It should seem from the Acts of the apostles, that it was sufficient to the ceremony of baptism, to say I baptize thee in the name of Jesus Christ. But we soon find that the

* The Presbyterian General Assembly in this country decided in 1814 that baptism by Dr Priestley, and Unitarians in general, should not be considered as valid. The same decision was also extended to other ministrations besides baptism.

form of words used, Matt. xxviii. 19, was strictly adhered to, at least in the third century, viz: I baptize thee in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. It

appears, however, that at the time of Justin Martyr, they did not always confine themselves to these particular words, but sometimes added others by way of explanation.

We find very little mention made of baptism, from the time of those who were generally called Fathers, that is from the age of Augustine to the reformation.

It soon became a maxim, that as baptism was a sacrament that was to be used only once, it was exceedingly wrong to re-baptize any person; and it is pleasant to observe the precaution that pope Boniface hit upon to prevent this in du. bious cases. In his statutes or instructions he says, “ They whose baptism is dubious, ought without scruple to be baptized, with this protestation, I do not re-baptize thee, but if thou art not baptized, I baptize thee,&c. This is the first example that I have found of conditional baptism.

From the earliest account of the ordinance, we find that children received the Lord's supper, and that baptism always preceded communion. In a book of divine offices, written as some think in the eleventh century, it is ordained that care be taken that young children receive no food after baptism, and that they do not even give them suck without necessity, till after they have participated of the body of Christ.

SECTION II.

THE STATE OF OPINIONS CONCERNING BAPTISM, SINCE THE RE

FORMATION. It is remarkable that though the Waldenses always practised infant baptism, many of the Albigenses, if not all of them, held that baptism ought to be confined to adults. This was the opinion of the Petrobrussians, and also of Berenger.

Wickliffe thought baptism to be necessary to salvation. And Luther not only retained the rite of baptism, but even the

ceremony of exorcism. At least this was retained in the greatest part of the Lutheran churches.

It appeared, however, presently after the reformation by Luther, that great numbers had been well prepared to follow him, and even to go farther than he did. Very many had been so much scandalized with the abuses of baptism, and the Lord's supper especially, as to reject them, either in the whole, or in part. The baptism of infants was very generally thought to be irrational, and therefore it was ad ministered only to adults. Most of those who rejected the doctrine of the divinity of Christ, were of this persuasion, as was Socinus himself. Indeed, he and some others, thought that the rite of baptism was only to be used when persons were converted to christianity from some other religion, and was not to be applied to any who were born of christian parents; it does not appear, however, that those who held this opinion ever formed a separate sect, or that their numbers were considerable ; but those who rejected infant baptism were then, and still are, very numerous.

In the sixteenth century, the Baptists, so called, brought great odium upon themselves in Europe, by reason of their wild notions, respecting the reign of Christ, or of the saints upon earth, but at present they are as peaceable as any other christians. In Holland, they are called Mennonites, from Menno, a distinguished character among them, and they espouse the pacific principles of the Quakers. In England, the Baptists are very numerous, consisting of two sects, the largest, called particular Baptists, from their holding the doctrine of particular election, the other general Baptists, from their holding the belief of general redemption.

The church of England retains the baptism of infants, and also the use of the sign of the cross, and of godfathers. It also admits of baptism by women, a custom derived from the opinion of the indispensable necessity of baptism to salvation. In the thirty-nine articles we find the doctrine of an invisible work of God accompanying baptism, as well as the Lord's supper; and in the church catechism it is said that by baptism a person becomes a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.

The doctrine of the church of Scotland is of a piece with this. For baptism is said, in their confession of faith, to be "a sign or seal of the covenant of grace, of persons ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins," &c.

The Dissenters of the Calvinistic persuasion in England, may possibly retain the opinion of some spiritual grace accompanying baptism, though I rather think it is not at present held by them. Nothing, however, of it is retained by those who are called rational Dissenters. They consider the baptism of adult persons as the mode of taking upon them the christian profession; and that when it is applied to infants, an obligation is acknowledged by the parents to educate their children in the principles of the christian religion. The Quakers make no use either of this rite, or of the Lord's

supper. After baptism and the Lord's supper had been overlaid with the superstitious practices above described, five other ceremonies came to be ranked in the same class with them, as accompanied with a certain divine virtue and efficacy. Peter Lombard, in the twelfth century, is the first who mentions seven sacraments. It is supposed that from the expression of the seven spirits of God, in the book of Rev. elation, there came to be a notion of the seven-fold operation of the spirit. But the origin is doubtful. Eugenius, the pope, mentions these seven sacraments in his instructions to the Armenians, and the whole doctrine concerning them was finally settled by the council of Trent.

The five additional sacraments to the Lord's Supper, and Baptism, are, Confirmation, Penance, Holy Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction.

Confirmation was derived from the second unction, which was originally

an appendage to baptism. The first express institution of this sacrament is in the decree of pope

Eugenius, in 1439, in which he says, "the second sacrament is confirmation, the matter of which is chrism (a composition of olive oil and balm) blessed by the bishop, and though the priest may give the other unction, the bishop only can confer this.” Confirmation is still retained in the church of Rome. The rite is preserved in the church of England, but it is not regarded as a sacrament. Chrism is omitted, but the ceremony can only be performed by the bishop.

Penance will be treated of in another connection in this work. The church of England retains something of this sacrament in what is termed absolution.

Holy orders relates to the delivery of the vessels, used in the celebration of the eucharist, from the bishop to the priest, giving him power “ to offer sacrifices to God, and to celebrate masses for the living and the dead.;' This is distinct from the office of the Priesthood in general. The Catholics say, that their priests have two kinds of power, viz: that of consecrating and that of absolving; the one they receive by the imposition of hands by the bishop, the other by the delivery of the vessels, or the performance of the sacrament of holy orders.

Matrimony, according to the church of Rome, consists of the matter which is the inward consent of the parties, and the form which is the priest solemnly declaring them to be man and wife, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. A great inconvenience that resulted from making marriage a sacrament was, that the connection was held to be indissoluble. The doctrine of the absolute indissolubility of marriage, even for adultery, was not finally settled till the council of Trent.

Extreme Unction, so called from its being used only on the near approach of death, is the application of olive oil, blessed by the bishop, to all the five senses, using these words, “ By this sacred unction may God grant thee his mercy in whatsoever thou hast offended, by sight, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching;” the priest applying the oil to each of the senses, as he pronounces the name of it.

It is much to be wished, that as these five additional sacraments are now universally abandoned in all the reformed churches, christians would rectify their notions concerning the remaining two, and not consider them, as they did in the times of popish darkness, to be outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace. For that will always encourage the laying an improper stress upon them, to the undervaluing of that good disposition of mind, and those good works, which alone can recommend us to the favor of God, and to which only his especial grace and favor is annexed.

PART VIII.

IN

A HISTORY OF THE CHANGES THAT HAVE BEEN MADE

THE METHOD OF CONDUCTING PUBLIC WORSHIP.

The first Christians probably assembled in large rooms in private houses for public worship, or used buildings for the purpose, similar to the Jewish synagogues. These buildings were not called temples till the time of Constantine. When that Emperor ordered the Christian churches

« PreviousContinue »