"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Monday, August 04, 2008

Spurgeon on the Church of England Catechism

Good old snarky Spurgeon:

"The Church of England Catechism has in it, as some of you may remember, the question, 'What is required of persons to be baptised?' and the answer I was tought to give, and did give, was, 'Repentance, whereby they forsake sin, and faith, whereby they steadfastly believe the promises of God made to them in that sacrament.' I looked thart answer up in the Bible, and I found it to be strictly correct as far as repentance and faith are concerned, and of course, when I afterwards became a Christian, I also became a Baptist; and here I am, and it is due to the Church of England Catechism that I am a Baptist."

C.H. Spurgeon: The Early Years, p.38


Matthew Bradley said...

Any idea if this catechism is still available anywhere? Since the Anglicans baptize infants, and to the best of my knowledge always have, I'm curious to see if Spurgeon was taking this question out of context. Or perhaps Spurgeon's context for this quote made it clear he was doing so on purpose. As the quote stands I am in perfect agreement with the catechism question if the baptismal candidate is an adult. But Spurgeon is mistaken with regard to the biblical teaching if he assumes (and of course he did) that this is the fullness of biblical teaching on the subject. How's that for a shot across the bow? :^)

Jared Nelson said...

Hmmm...my bro venturing into the waters of baptism.

Matt: On behalf of my brother, I looked it up in the 1928 Book of Common prayer and also it is available online. The next question, actually, is why baptize infants, in which they give a Lutheran rather than Reformed answer, in my opinion.

Question. What is required of persons to be baptized?
Answer. Repentance, whereby they forsake sin; and Faith, whereby they stedfastly believe the promises of God made to them in that Sacrament.
Question. Why then are Infants baptized, when by reason of their tender age they cannot perform them?
Answer. Because they promise them both by their Sureties; which promise, when they come to age, themselves are bound to perform.


Aaron said...

Yeah I was going to say I am almost certain he is taking it at least a little out of context. Never the less he has a point. When you try to make the new covenant more like the old in ways Paul did not mean you get a weird blend like what Jared posted form the Catechism. It seems to defy the example of scripture and plain reason. I have long thought this but needed to read Judson to validate I was not just being crazy. Or at least I am not alone in my insanity. The New Covenant is NEW and not entered into like the old nor can you just borrow from the old to justify what we want to keep in our treasured traditions. That is my rather uneducated take.

Matthew Bradley said...

Jared...thanks for looking that up. My point was simply that they weren't credo baptists, so it was a strange place for Spurgeon to pull from (except that it was in his background) in support of a baptist view.

This entire discussion, as has been noted in many forums, really comes down to one question: Who belongs in the covenant community? That question can further be reduced to this: How do you read Jeremiah 31 and Hebrews 8? If you are open to considering other views, I just read the best exposition of these passages from a reformed perspective in the book "The Case for Covenantal Infant Baptism". Chapter 8 "Infant Baptism in the New Covenant" by Richard Pratt does an excellent job of showing how the New Covenant can only be properly understood as an already and a not yet. It's a quick read that is well written and thoughtfully argued.

In the end the Baptist view seems to me to be based upon a single book of the Bible (Acts) to the particular exclusion of the Old Testament.

And I should note just for clarification (since Aaron and I don't know one another well) that I was raised baptist and am now in the covenantal camp, so I was well "catechized" in the baptist view.

Aaron said...

I was not raised in the Baptist Camp and was taught a sort of adult (not infant) Catholic view of Baptism for a washing away of sins. (Restorationist) Along the same lines we could point out Adoniram Judson was raised with the Reformed Covenantal view and switched while studying the scripture over it. Examples always abound both ways. His wife Ann said she would never switch but did when praying over his case. He lost all support from home for the change. From my point of view there is no real case to be made for it accept for the love of a tradition whether you are new to the tradition or not is not my point. I have looked into the points you are making a little Matthew and plan to more. I just keep thinking why do I have to go through these hoops though? I get that it is because I do not "get covenantal thought" but do not buy it yet, and doubt I will for a host of reasons. I do not think the best points of Reformed (covenantal) theology need to hinge on infant baptism. If it does then it is a house on a very week foundation.

Aaron said...

I hope I am getting a friendly tone right. I do not claim to be the experts you fine Christian Gentlemen are. IF the case is solely based on Acts (not sure I should grant that or not but ok.) is that not better than cherry picking things from the Old Testament Covenant to justify a tradition and explain away already problematic NT passages? It just seems untenable to me. I am not even all the way through Judson's book yet though.

Aaron said...

Based on Romans 6 I can not grant the arument that is is all based on Acts. However I am not ashamed to use Acts. It is in the Cannon after all. Can't let disarm me of all the tools that way. :-)

Matthew Bradley said...


Please don't sling ugly names at me like "expert". :^)

I didn't mean we shouldn't use Acts. I mean that when Acts is understood in the context of all of Scripture, which is covenantal, then it ceases to be a problem for us. And in fact can only be a solid argument for the baptist if he ignores the rest of Scripture.

We are kind of talking around our arguments now. An example of where I think a broad view supports infant baptism is the question of the child's place in the covenant. Clearly, throughout the OT (not just in a few places) children are not only members, but considered covenant blessings themselves. The boys receive the sign of membership at 8 days and Deut commands that children be raised as covenant children belonging to God. This is instructed clearly as early as Abraham. So by the time Christ comes along, there has been at least 1800 years of God teaching his people that their children are in covenant with him (from conception, not the age of accountability). Now Peter stands up at Pentecost and says these promises (THE GOSPEL!) are for you and for your children. Now, we can be very "DTS" and argue about what the word in the Greek means in Acts 2. But the obvious fact is that those Jews that comprise his audience, who have inherited 1800 years of being told the children are in the covenant, would naturally have understood their children to still be a part of the covenant community. Paul teaches in 1 Cor 7 that the children of believers are holy...what does he mean? Again, coming out of a Jewish context, he is teaching that the children are part of the covenant community. In fact, 1800 years of GOD teaching his people that the children are in covenant would make us expect two things in the NT (if the baptists are right): First, the clear teaching that children are no longer in the covenant; and two, some indication of the Jewish church wrestling over this as they did over the other major changes that came with Christ and his earthly ministry. We see neither.

And if children are members of the community, they should receive the sign of membership, just as God commanded Abraham that they should FOREVER. A command in perpetuity of which we have not been relieved.

The fact is, there isn't a single passage of Scripture that causes me to pause on this. None that I am unable to offer a valid biblical interpretation for that supports infant baptism and still meets DTS' standards for proper biblical interpretation (that last part was tongue in cheek).