Catabaptism in the Presbyterian Church in America

"Most Calvinists even in the United States (e.g. Hodge, Hoeksema, Boice etc.) have to this very day held firmly to the anti-catabaptist faith once and for all delivered to the saints.   All Classic  Presbyterians ancient and modern — in almost every other country of the world except the United States — have always done so, and still do so.

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"It is a matter for rejoicing that the recently republished Thornwell is again being read for his undoubted excellence  in almost all fields except that of baptism.  Yet it is an awful tragedy indeed that his maverick catabaptism is again being promoted by those who uncritically venerate even his baptismal aberrations.  At this very point, they too fall into the ancient and schismatic and grievous error of catabaptism….

"Praise God for the excellencies of Thornwell!   But let him hang his hoary head in shame for his shocking anticovenantal and anti-Calvinistic statement (Collected Writings IV:348) that even the  covenantal seed are to be regarded as 'enemies of God' until 'they come to Him' — and for his shocking departure (ib. III:283f) from orthodox historic Calvinism toward great catabaptist error!

"The historic post-Trent Calvinistic position (of the modern Reformed Ecumenical Synod etc.), is rightly given in the 1562 Belgic Confession article 34: 'We believe that every man who is earnestly desirous to obtain life eternal, ought to be baptized with this [one and] only baptism, without ever repeating the same, since we cannot be born twice.  We detest the error of the Anabaptists who are not content with the one only baptism they have once received and moreover condemn the baptism of the infants of believers….

"How tragic that some modern 'Presbyterians' have enormous problems recognizing the validity of admittedly irregular Roman Catholic paidobaptist sprinkling, but uncritically have no problems at all co-operating with even more irregular baptistic immersionists who hate and detest the precious covenant theology which the early Calvinists bled and died to uphold.   O mores, o tempora!

"The true visible Historic Christian Church of all the ages — as distinct from heretical or schismatic sects — has always recognized the validity of triune baptism, even when administered by various  overly-rigoristic schismatic groups such as separatistic Novatianists and Donatists. 

“Similarly, today too, true Presbyterians should most certainly recognize the irregular but valid triune baptisms of overly-rigoristic schismatics — such as those of assorted fundamentalistic Baptists, of catabaptistic Thornwellian paidobaptists, and also of overly-ritualist trinitarian groups such as Romanists and Episcopalians….

"For truly confessional Presbyterians pay more than just lip service to the Westminster Standards. Solemnly do the latter declare:  'Neither doth the efficacy of a sacrament depend upon the piety or intention of him that doth administer it…. The sacrament of baptism is but once to be administered to any person' [including the Romanist previously baptized by a priest].   Westminster Confession 27:3 & 28:7 and Larger Catechism 177.

"Furthermore, baptism is not to 'be dispensed by any but by a Minister of the Word lawfully ordained' — as distinct from a Ruling Elder, or a Plymouth Brethren layman, or a Modernistic Presbyterian Lady-Minister, or an unordained Baptist working

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through some non-denominational missionary society.   Westminster Confession 27:4 & 28:2 and Larger Catechism 176.

However, even baptisms irregularly performed by the latter — are valid. So too are baptisms validly performed by male Romish priests — and even by Pentecostalistic homosexual TV Evangelists. Such should never be repeated in more orthodox circles later.   See Westminster Confession 27:3 and 28:5 (citing Romans 2:28f & Exodus 4:24-26).

"Let us then go forth and lead the millions of irregularly but validly baptized Romanists of South America to the Triune God of their baptism!   Let us not, with Thornwell and the whole gang of non-denominational rebaptizing missionary societies) antagonize them — and lose them for the Gospel — instead of winning them for the very Christ to Whom their baptism points!"

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