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tined to be the first-fruits of the discipline of war which our nation is now undergoing; and if there shall be in the magnificent future before us any other work requiring the unblenching zeal of the martyr, or the entire self-consecration of the Christian heroine, there will be found, depend upon it, no lack of willing candidates for that work, even though the tortures of the rack or the flames of the martyr's stake should rise in full view as the goal of their career.
With a spirit so cultivated to sacrifice, to hardship, and to toil for the luxury of doing good, we may justly expect to see a new impulse given to the foreign missionary enterprise; and some already on the stage may live to see the earth subdued to the dominion of the King of kings as an indirect result of the terrible civil war which has so devastated our land.
ART. V.-HIBBARD ON RELIGION OF CHILDHOOD.
The Religion of Childhood; or, Children in their Relation to Native Depravity, to the Atonement, to the Family, and to the Church. By F. G. HIBBARD, D. D. Cincinnati: Poe & Hitchcock. 1864.
WE regard this book as a valuable contribution to the literature of our Church. It discusses a theme which belongs to the times, and especially to the adherents of the Wesleyan theology. Till the present century began, there was, in this country at least, little chance for the discussion of the relation of infants to the atonement and the Church. The theology of Calvin, cold, stern, inexorable, held sway, enthroning almighty self-will, and attributing to it alone all the events of history, and the destinies of all souls. In his Institutes he asks the significant question, "I inquire again how it came to pass that the fall of Adam should involve, without remedy, so many nations with their infant children in eternal death, unless because it was the will of God? A horrible decree, I confess." The Westminster Confession, with some ambiguity of speech, affirms that "Elect infants dying in infancy are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who worketh when, where, and
how he pleaseth. So also are other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word. Others not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the Word, and may have some common operations of the Spirit, yet they never truly come to Christ, and, therefore, cannot be saved."
Thus Calvin asserts, and the Confession hints, that some who die in infancy are doomed to eternal death. We heard a Calvinistic minister, not six years ago, preach at the funeral of a little child, and we remember well one remark which he made, to this effect, that when an adult dies we can look back at his character and conduct, and thus arrive at an opinion of the probable state of the soul after death; but that when an infant dies there is nothing upon which to base an opinion, and consequently he had in this case none to offer; he knew not whether the child was saved or lost.
It is evident that these sentiments, not only held in theory, but made a basis of reasoning and action, must affect the whole doctrinal scheme in regard to little children and our duty toward them. If, as Calvin declares, "All are not created with the same destiny; but to some eternal life, and to others eternal death, is foreordained," and this applies to infants, living or dying, as well as adults, no system of doctrine, no plan of Gospel labor, is sound and reliable which fails to take it into account. If the Genevan theory be scriptural, the predestined number will be filled up, no matter what we do or what we fail to do for the souls of others. It is true that the means are appointed as well as the end, but the decree so secures the whole that there can be no failure in the result; and the fortunate soul destined to eternal life will be saved, too, when the set time comes, not a day sooner or later, no human agency sufficing either to hasten or retard the hour.
There was a time when these unscriptural theories really affected the views with which the Church regarded souls. If a man sinned long and boldly, the probability that he was a reprobate grew stronger as the years increased. If he professed penitence and faith, a probability of his being elect was established, and increased in strength as he persevered in the way. But in regard to the infant all was uncertain. Whatever her fond hopes might be, the mother could never know whether
she held on her bosom a future angel or a predestined devil; but whether the one or the other, the matter had been determined from all eternity, as Calvin says, "absque remedio." With this iceberg resting upon the Church, there was no call for an inquiry into the "Religion of Childhood."
Nor will any genuine Calvinist now feel much interest in the investigation. The subject belongs, of right, to those who hold a general atonement and a free salvation; and outside of their ranks our author, we imagine, will find no open sympathy, and yet, perhaps, encounter little criticism. We, indeed, regard the remorseless system of Calvin as a defeated theology. It still remains in the old formularies, we admit, and is duly subscribed by candidates for the ministry, but the tendency to interpret its terms more and more mildly is universal and irresistible. The mind revolts at the harsher features of it, and anxiously seeks relief. Some go about to defend its arbitrary giving and withholding of saving grace, on the supposition that man, without divine aid, can repent and believe, (though they tell us that it is absolutely certain that without grace he never will,) and thus they fancy that they clear the character of God from the charge of cruelty. Others, wise and learned men too, take the strange position that both Calvin's absolute election and reprobation, and Wesley's free salvation, are taught in the Scriptures, and that we are to believe both, leaving it to God to reconcile the contradiction. Meanwhile, the preaching, the prayers, the labors of all the orthodox denominations of Christians, the whole system of Gospel activities whereby the Church seeks to reach and save the world, are such as can logically grow only out of the conviction that every soul may be saved; that Christ died for all, and that those who die eternally perish not by God's neglect, but their own. Sometimes the minister, feeling in his heart a divine compassion for souls, and at the same moment remembering his theories, employs ingenious forms of speech, which, to his own mind, seem to save the creed, while they leave the appeal to the sinner in full force. But these niceties do not reach the multitude. The people pronounce the sermon "real Methodist doctrine," and receive it and are saved by it, and herein do we rejoice. The ingenious Calvinistic wad falls down at the muzzle of the
gun, while the solid Gospel truth speeds to the mark, and pierces the heart and conscience, not to kill, but to "make alive."
With this virtual return of the Churches to the true Gospel of Christ, there is a general tendency to regard the young as the most hopeful part of the field, and to strive, in all right ways, to lead them to the Saviour. Sabbath-schools are established as an integral part of the Gospel enginery, and the Church which neglects them is deemed twice dead and ready to be plucked up. But, as might have been foreseen, the new field of labor cannot be cultivated with all this ardor and Christian zeal, without originating questions in regard to the religious status and capabilities of childhood. If the teacher is to instruct his class in religious truth, what part of religion is he to teach, its creed, its morals, or its spiritual experiences? The child is exhorted to believe the creed, and practice the morals, but what is he to do with the experience? Having memorized a definition of repentance, is he then to be exhorted to repent? Having learned what faith is, so far as the words of another can teach it, is he to be encouraged at once to trust in Christ for his own salvation? At what age will you feel at liberty to urge upon him the attainment of spiritual piety? Again, if you teach a little child to pray, however simple your language and your modes of explanation, you must in reality tell him how God regards him, how God is affected toward him. Will you teach him to stand afar off, with fear and trembling, confessing his sins to a stern embodiment of relentless law? Or will you assure him that God is his friend, and encourage him to come as to one that loves him? And where will you tell him that he stands in reference to the Church of God? Is he at a distance, with a mighty wall between, or with his foot upon the threshold of an open door? And then comes the great question of all, What does the word of God authorize you to say in regard to all these things? Thus our Sunday-school system originates questions which touch the very vitals of our faith, and demand answer before we can proceed to our work with clear convictions in regard to the thing to be aimed at, and the means to be employed in the pursuit. In our own communion these questions have begun to attract great attention; and they are destined, we think, to attract
more and more, till our theory is settled, and its spirit is fully infused into our economy.
Dr. Hibbard's book will aid much in the final adjustment of some important points of the interesting problem. He discusses the subject in eight chapters, of which the first traces the history of the doctrine of infant salvation, stating the opinions held by the various Churches and theological leaders of the past and the present; the second treats of natural depravity, affirming emphatically the doctrine of John Wesley, the Church of England, and the seventh of our own Articles of Religion; the third and fourth set forth the relation of childhood to the atonement, showing that the infant is so included in the provisions of the atonement that it is no more a child of wrath, but an heir of the kingdom of God, so that dying it is eternally saved, or living begins accountable life in the favor of God, which it retains without interruption, unless by willful sin, and voluntary rejection of divine mercy, that favor is forfeited. Our author argues that all infants, by virtue of their relation to the atonement, are, "in a qualified sense" of the term, regenerate. The fifth chapter, which comprises more than a fourth part of the entire volume, discusses the relation of childhood to the family and the Church, taking the position that infants are eligible to the Church relation, and that we are bound "to Now recognize them as legitimate members of the spiritual commonwealth." The family is declared a "normal Church agency," by which the infant disciple is to be taught and trained in divine wisdom and all holy living, as the precepts of the word of God, the example of the patriarchs, the institutions of Moses, and the customs of the primitive Christians testify. The sixth chapter gives abstract argument to prove the efficacy of early religious training; the seventh cites numerous examples in corroboration of the abstract argument; and the final chapter inculcates the "duty of the Church in the devotional and experimental culture of the children."
The points about which our interest chiefly gathers are three in number, infant regeneration, infant Church membership, and the religious capabilities of early childhood; the first and the second because they are matters of controversy, the third because of its great practical importance. In regard to the regeneration of infants, on one point there is no dispute; no
FOURTH SERIES, VOL. XVII.-6