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TALK WITH CONGREGATIONAL CLERGYMEN.
The next day, Israel called at the study of the clergyman whose ministrations he had attended for some Sundays previous.
This minister was a leading one of the city of Israel's present residence, a graduate of Yale College and of Andover Theological Seminary, a
man of ancient and honorable ancestry, (as is very desirable for a representative of a sect which lays its finger reverently upon covenants extending back to Adam,) and a fair exponent of the right wing of Congregationalism, in that section.
The left wing of that sect has ministers of another type ; leaders of people are these also, but a different class. A hearer would not know precisely who these are or what they believe, not even after examining their own record. But the left wing preachers are always in the high enjoyment of popularity.
The Reverend Charles Ingersoll was not a Doctor of Divinity. Had he been a minister of either of two or three other sects, his reputation would have secured a thrice dubbing of the human-divine degree; but this denomination is much more conservative in the bestowment of their honors than some others. He was none the less a man to be revered.
He received Israel with urbanity, yet with a certain formality and reservation of confidence that often characterize these persons with strangers.
After some circumlocution, the difficulty in hand transpired.
“Until recently,” said Israel, “I have thought of uniting with the Baptists, inferring from the instruction received from them, that they and they only, were right; accident brought me among your people, of which I was glad, as I had been recommended to examine more than one side of a question so vital to one's interest as the church with which to unite."
The clergyman levelled his eye upon Israel, with the expression which a man wears who believes in high Calvinism, with a low estimate of such questions as Woman's Rights and the rights of all unprivileged classes. “ If
trouble you to assist me a little in my investigations, sir, I shall be thankful,” continued Israel.
“ What can I do for you?” asked Mr. Ingersoll, very quietly and with a half-suppressed smile.
Israel noticed this look, and felt that he was not “ appreciated," as certain sensitive and half-sustained people say; but he had too much breadth of calibre, too deep a sense of the magnitude of the work in which he was engaged, to wholly abandon himself to this painful consciousness. A young man with a sincere purpose carries a power with him, not to be vanquished in any slight encounter, provided this good seed has been sown on the soil of common sense. “ Then you have thought of uniting with the Baptists?” spoke the clergyman.
“ To listen only to their words of themselves and their authority, as also of others and their authority, a youth like myself might easily be persuaded that way," replied Israel.
“What did they teach you about us?” continued the clergyman, extending his hand upon the open book before him with a certain indescribable decision.
“ That you had no authority in the Bible for your mode of baptism, and for the baptism of children who were not believers. But this point has been considered by my Sunday School teacher, in the school connected with your church. That the practice of your sect in this regard dates back but a short time, comparatively. into antiquity, the only regular baptism throughout the Christian world for more than a thousand years being immersion, and that”
“Stay," here spoke Mr. Ingersoll ; "let us pause to consider this objection, before passing to others.”
He took down a book from his library, and opening it, said, “Irenæus, Bishop of Lyons, who was a disciple of Polycarp (who was a disciple of John the Evangelist), and, as some believe, was born before the death of the latter, has left these words.” He read, “ Christ came to save all persons through himself- all, I say, who through him are regenerated unto God; infants and little ones, and children and youth, and the aged. Therefore he passed through the several stages of life, being made an infant for infants, that he might sanctify infants; and for little ones, a little one, to sanctify them of that age.”
Next, from another book, he read as follows: “Listen to Tertullian. According to the condition, disposition, and age of each, the delay of baptism is peculiarly advantageous, especially in the case of little children (parvulos). Why should the godfathers be brought into danger? For they may fail by death to fulfil their promises, or through the perverseness of the child. Our Lord indeed says, Forbid them not to come unto me. Let them come, then, when of adult age. Let them come when they can learn; when they are taught why they come. Let them become Christians when they shall have learned Christ. Why hasten that innocent age to the forgiveness of sins ?
6 Tertullian was born about 160, at Carthage. His career was less than a century of the apostolic age. Yet you will notice that he speaks of infant baptism as a prevailing custom of the churches. If it was contrary to the authority of Scripture and the customs of the early Church, why did he not bring these statements as arguments against it? It is certain, from his words, that the practice of infant baptism was a general one in his day, and he does not allude to it as an innovation, or as contrary to the teachings of Christ.”
" It seems hardly possible,” here commented Israel, " that, with such facts as these upon the common page of history, persons who profess to be reliable critics of the present day can boldly utter such statements as those to which I have referred respecting the origin of infant sprinkling.”
“Let us turn to Origen," said the minister. “He, as you may remember, was born in 185, at Alexandria. He was a man of profound learning, studied philosophy under Ammonius, and theology under Clemens Alexandrinus. He travelled extensively, so that he was acquainted with the churches in every country. These are his words : Little children are baptized agreeably to the usage of the Church; the Church received it as a tradition from the Apostles that baptism should be administered to children.' According to Eusebius, Origen received this instruction from his pious ancestry, who of the second or third generation from him must have been contemporaries with the Apostles.
“We learn also from history,” continued Mr. Ingersoll, “ that in the time of Cyprian, who was converted to Christianity about A. D. 246, and afterwards became Bishop of Carthage, that there arose a query in the African churches whether a child might be baptized before the eighth day or not.”
He opened a book to this item, and read, “Fidus, a country bishop, referred the inquiry to a council of sixty-six bishops, convened under Cyprian, A. D. 253, for their opinion. To this inquiry they reply at length, delivering it as their unanimous opinion that baptism may, with propriety, be administered at any time previous to the eighth day.'
“If the practice was altogether wrong, why was not some objection raised on an occasion so favorable for the adjustment of difficulties as a council of bishops? On the contrary, the practice was not only defended, but left as a rite which was obligatory,” said the minister.