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says he, by blood.” And how were they thus cleansed ? By sprinkling'—we are positively assured; which is authority sufficient to justify the practice, for ages prevalent in the church, of sprinkling with the water in baptism ; and, at the same time, sufficient to assure us, that the cleansing annexed to the ordinance is obtained by aspersion, whether immersion or dipping be used or not.

But the mode of administration has never been found to excité so much controversy, as has the power or right to administer: Insomuch that upon the subject of Lay-baptism, more real learning, and solid argument have been 'expended than, in my opinion, were due : for this reason, that with me it is a matter of doubt, whether, in the strict and literal sense, without inference or deduction, such baptisms were ever practised, or even attempted, under all the corruptions of primitive times; until the church of Rome gave them a sort of countenance, by admitting thein to be valid in cases of necessity. In the primitive church, the great point of debate regarded baptisms administered by heretics—whether they were to be held valid or not. On the negative side, appeared a considerable part of the Eastern church, headed by Firmilian, bishop of Cesarea, and the whole African church, supported by the great Cyprian, bishop of Carthage. By this powerful party it was argued, that as baptism could not be valid

ly

I Heb.is. 19-23.

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ly administered out of the church, its administration by heretics, by men who had corrupted the catholic faith, and thereby departed from catholic communion, was absolutely null and void. On the affirmative side of the proposition appeared Stephen, bishop of Rome, with the churches dependent on thạt See, who, while they owned the irregularity, yet maintained the validity of such baptisms, stigmatizing those who held the opposite opinion, with the invidious charge of rebaptizers, of which the Africans did not fail to deny the application. Whatever authority might have attached to the Cyprianic doctrine, that authority was greatly impaired by the fury of the Donatist party, which raged after Cyprian's death, and carried his arguments, both in matters of faith and practice, to a most outrageous height.

Among many other matters of controversy, the Council of Nice took this also under review, and, sustained the validity of those baptisms administered by heretics, which were administered according to the appointed form, viz. in the name of the Holy and undivided Trinity, rejecting only the baptisms of such heretics. as either totally disused, or impurely altered that form. By this decision, supported by the labours of subsequent writers', the Donatist flame was at length entirely extinguished,

and

1 Augustine of Hippo, Optatus of Milevis, and many others,

and the doctrine which a general council had recognized, was universally acted upon.

But nothing in this early controversy can be said to afford a proper precedent for the irregular baptisms of these latter days; and which particularly predominate in the western parts of the christian world. The church of Rome has indeed, by one stroke of its infallibility, cut the knot of controversy,

when it found itself unable to untie it. Such of the protestant profession as plead necessity for their want of a regular episcopal succession in the church, with which it is their lot to be connected, plead the same necessity for their want of regular baptisms. Others of the same profession, who have openly and wantonly rejected regular episcopal government, and have · hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns,' derive their sacramental administrations from the same broken cisterns which they have hewed out for themselves from the same source from which, in general, their ministerial functions are derived. The united churches of Great Britain and Ireland, which have retained, and which do still enjoy the benefits of, a regular episcopal succession, (and long may they enjoy so distinguished a blessing !) while they see and lament the difficulties which unhappily embarass the subject before us, have hitherto abstained from giving any formal and final determination upon it; thus leaving it open to every clerical and lay meinber of their communion, to hold such sentiments regarding it, and to act,

in

consequence, as conscience or prudence 'shall di

rect.

That there is a defect in all irregular baptisms, a defect which, where it is felt, ought certainly to be supplied, will I hope be readily acknowledged. But whether unavoidable ignorance, and one's being, bona fide, baptized after the instituted form, may not, on his or her coming over to the cominunion of the church catholic, in some measure pave the

way for removing that defect; and whether such defect may not afterwards be supplied by imposition of the hands of the bishop in confirmation, are considerations which it would not become me to do more than simply to suggest; being not ashamed to say that I am incapable of discussing them, much more of deciding on their merit. One thing I can, with a safe conscience do, I can wish and pray, that such discussion may, in God's good time, prove to be unnecessary, by reason of all christian people becoming one fold, un• der one shepherd.' While, in the mean time, I would humbly recommend a firm dependence on the loving-kindness • of the great shepherd and • bishop of our souls,' for pardoning any undesigned mistakes, into which the frailty of man may occasionally lead him; and into which, more especially, the frailty of those who are ambassadors for him, and the regular stewards of his mysteries, may, in such perverse times as the present, be the means of their falling, when called upon to act, on the subject in hand.

Before

Before concluding this Letter, I have only to advert to the becoming practice, in the administration of baptism, of signing the candidate on the forehead with the sign' of the cross ; noi that this ceremony is reckoned any part of the sacrament, or that the sacrament is reckoned incom lete without it; but that such an early and public opportunity is deemed the most fit to be taken of entisting, by such an emblematical and long-practised sign, the baptized person under the banner of a crucified Saviour; in token that hereafter he shall not be a• shamed to confess his faith in him, and manfully ' to fight under his banner against sin, the world, • and the devil, and to continue Christ's faithful sol• dier and servant unto his life's end'' Nay, I persuade myself that something similar to this ceremony must have occasioned the following language, in St Paul's epistle to the Galatians, which, without some such reference, is wholly inexplicable— Let «no man trouble me, for I bear, in my body, the ‘marks (sr/para-impressions) of the Lord Jesus :' and what mark of the Lord Jesus has ever been heard of in the christian world, other than the mark or sign of • kim crucified ?" Q9

LET

I See Form of Baptism, in the Book of Common Prayer.

2 Gal. vi. 17.

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