Baptismal Regeneration; As Supposed To Be Taught In The Words Of Jesus: “Born Of Water And Spirit.” John 3:5 -- By: Henry Cowles
BSac 33:131 (July 1876) p. 425
Baptismal Regeneration; As Supposed To Be Taught In The
Words Of Jesus: “Born Of Water And Spirit.” John 3:5
Baptismal Regeneration is essentially regeneration by means of the water of baptism — the water being held to be efficacious to the renewing which is expressed by “regeneration.”
The question how much this efficacy of water depends on the Spirit of God working coordinately with it on the human soul, — whether this dependence be much, little, or none at all, — may be considered as subordinate, and not vital to our present discussion.
The doctrine now to be considered is, that regeneration, including the forgiveness of previously committed sin and the removal of innate or inherited sinfulness, is by water, and not without; that water when consecrated for the purposes of holy baptism becomes possessed of this virtue. The divine grace either enters into the water, or connects itself with this use of it in baptism. That thus “baptismal regeneration” is irrespective of the mental or moral state of the subject, is obvious from the fact that it takes effect upon infants so young as to preclude the supposition of mental or moral activity.
This doctrine appeared in the church at a very early period. Passing the somewhat unreliable Shepherd of Hernias, the earliest witness is Justin Martyr (middle of second century), whose words are: “We then lead them [the candidates for church membership] to a place where there is water, and then they are regenerated in the same manner as we also were; for they are then washed in that water in
BSac 33:131 (July 1876) p. 426
the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit.”1
Neander2 speaks of the “prevailing notion of a divine power which was imparted to the water, and a sensible union brought about, by means of it, with the whole nature of Christ for the deliverance of the entire spiritual and material nature of man.” In support of this view he quotes Irenaeus thus: “As the dry wheat cannot become one mass of dough and one loaf of bread without moisture, so neither can we all become one in Christ without the water which is from heaven; for our bodies through baptism, but our souls through the Spirit, have obtained communion with the imperishable Essence.”3
Tertullian on the effect of baptism, speaks thus: “When the soul attains to faith, and is transformed by the regeneration of water and the power from abo...
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