Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

Hence it arises, that whilst then Christians were all well instructed; now, there are many in a fearful state of ignorance; then, those who had been initiated into Christianity by baptism, and who had renounced the vices of the world, to embrace the piety of the church, rarely declined again to the world which they had left; whilst now, we commonly see the vices of the world in the hearts of Christians. The church of the saints is all defiled with the intermingling of the wicked; and her children that she has conceived, and born from their infancy at her sides, are they who carry into her very heart, that is even to the participation of her holiest mysteries-her deadliest foes—the spirit of the world—the spirit of ambition, of revenge, of impurity, and of lust; and the love which she bears for her children, compels her to admit into her very bowels, the bitterest of her persecutors.

But we must not impute to the church the evils that have followed so fatal a change; for when she saw that the delay of baptism left a large proportion of infants still under the curse of original sin, she wished to deliver them from this perdition, by hastening the succour which she can give; and this good mother sees, with bitter regret, that the benefit which she thus holds out to infants, becomes the occasion of the ruin of adults.

The true meaning of the church is, that those whom she thus withdraws at so tender an age, from the contagion of the world, should subsequently become separate from its opinions. She anticipates the agency of reason, to prevent those vices into which corrupted reason might entice them; and that, before their natural mind could act, she might fill them with her better spirit, so that they might live in ignorance of the world, and in a state so much further removed from vice, in as much as they

have never known it. This is evident in the baptismal service; for she does not confer baptism till the children have declared, by the lips of their parents, that they desire it--that they believe-that they renounce the world and the devil. And as the church wishes them to preserve these dispositions throughout life, she expressly enjoins upon them to keep them inviolate; and by an indispensible command, she requires the parents to instruct their children in all these things; for she does not wish that those whom, from their infancy, she has nourished in her bosom, should be less enlightened, and less zealous than those whom she formerly received as her own; she cannot be satisfied with a less degree of perfection in those whom she herself has trained, than in those whom she admits to her communion.

Yet the rule of the church is so perverted from its original intention, that it cannot be thought of without hor

Men think no more of the peculiar blessing which they have received, because they did not themselves ask it, because they do not even remember having received it. But since it is evident, that the church requires no less piety in those who have been brought up from infancy as the servants of faith, than in those who aspire to become such, it becomes such persons to set before them the example of the ancient Catechumens of the early church, to consider their ardour, their devotion, their dread of the world, their noble renunciation of it ; and if they were not thought worthy to receive baptism, without these dispositions, those who do not find such dispositions in themselves, should at once submit to receive that instruction which they would have had, if they were now only about to seek an entrance into the communion of the church. It becomes them still further to humble themselves to such a penitence, as they may wish never again to throw aside; such that they may henceforth find less of disgust in the austere mortification of the senses, than of attraction in the criminal pleasures of sin.

ror.

To induce them to seek instruction, they must be made to understand the difference of the customs which have obtained in the church at different times. In the newly formed Christian church, the Catechumens, that is, those who offered for baptism, were instructed before the rite was conferred; and they were not admitted to it, till after full instruction in the mysteries of religion; till after penitence for their former life; till after a great measure of knowledge, of the grandeur and excellence of a profession of the Christian faith and obedience, on which they desire to enter for ever ; till after some eminent marks of real conversion of heart, and an extreme desire for baptism. These facts being made known to the whole church, they then conferred upon them the sacrament of incorporation or initiation, by which they became members of the church. * But now, since baptism has been, for many very important reasons, permitted to infants before the dawn of reason, we find, through the negligence of parents, that nominal Christians grow old without any knowledge of our religion.

When teaching preceded baptism, all were instructed ; but now, that baptism precedes instruction, that teaching which was then made necessary for the sacrament, is become merely voluntary, and is consequently neglected, and almost abolished. Reason then shewed the necessity

* This was the case with converted heathens; but if M. Pascal conceived it to be the case with the children of baptized believers, he is in error; and the whole tenor of the history of the church will prove him to be so.

of instruction ; and when instruction went before baptism, the necessity of the one, compelled men necessarily to have recourse to the other. But in these days, when baptism precedes instruction, as men are made Christians, in the first instance, without instruction, so they believe that they may remain Christians without being instructed; and instead of its being the case, that the primitive Christians expressed the warmest gratitude for a grace which the church only granted after reiterated petitions—the Christians of these days, manifest nothing but ingratitude for this same blessing conferred upon them, before they were in a state to ask it. If the church so decidedly abhorred the occasional, though extremely rare instances of backsliding among the primitive Christians, how ought she to hold in abhorrence, the falling again and again of modern Christians, notwithstanding the far higher degree in which they stand indebted to the church, for having so speedily and liberally removed them from that state of curse, in which, by their natural birth, they were involved. She cannot see without bitter lamentation, this abuse of her richest blessings; and that the course which she has adopted for her childrens' safety, becomes the almost certain occasion of their ruin ; for her spirit is not changed, though the primitive custom is. *

* These views of M. Pascal, evidently originate in the difficulty presented to a believing mind, by the formal and irreligious state of the Christian churches. The thought will occur to a considerate mind, lately awakened to feel the power of true religion, after a youth of nominal religion and real carelessness, “ Whence does this evil arise ?" And this reference to the mode of admitting converts from heathenism, in earlier days, is one way of settling the point, to which young Christians frequently have recourse. Yet this is cutting the knot, instead of untying it. It is an error which originates in an unfounded and imaginary notion of the state of the Christian church at any time. A little patience and experience a little practical knowledge of how the Christian system works, would give a very different view of the matter. It is, however, on this summary mode of settling the difficulty, to which the inexperienced mind resorts—that the Anabaptist Churches found their pecu. liar notions, and justify their separation; and it is in the ready application of this notion to meet the difficulty when it first arises, that they find their success. Pascal, after mature deliberation on the facts of the case, did not at all see the necessity of renouncing the custom of Infant Baptism. He could distinguish between an evil that casually accompanied, and an evil that originated in, that custom.

CHAPTER XXV.

ON THE CONVERSION OF A SINNER.

THE first thing which God imparts to a soul that he has really touched, is a degree of knowledge and perception, altogether extraordinary, by which the soul regards both itself, and other things in a totally novel manner.

This new light excites fear, and imparts to the soul a restlessness which thwarts the repose that it had formerly found in the wonted sources of indulgence.

The man can no longer relish, with tranquillity, the objects by which he had been previously charmed. A perpetual scrupulousness haunts him in his enjoyments ; and this interior perception will not allow him any longer to find the wonted sweetness in those things to which he had yielded with all the melting fulness of the heart.

But he finds yet more bitterness in the exercises of piety, than in the vanities of the world. On one side, the vanity of the things that are seen, is felt more deeply than the hope of the things that are not seen ; and, on the other, the reality of invisible things affects him more than the vanity of the things which are seen. And thus

« ForrigeFortsæt »