Review of Thornwell’s The Validity of the Baptism of the Church of Rome

Thornwell forgot that Protestantism was and is not a revolution to destroy worthless Paganism, but a Reformation to purge a deformed Church.   Though "the horrible harlot," she is also "the Kirk malignant" (Scotch Confession art. 18).   Rome is indeed false.   She is ecclesia falsa — a false Church, and one plagued by the papal Antichrist.   Indeed, she is "the false Church" (Belgic Confession art. 29).   Yet she is also "the false Church" — and not a Non-Church like Islamic Mosques or like Post-Christian Judaistic Synagogues.

As Calvin himself declared in the French Confession (art. 28): "We condemn the papal assemblies, as the pure Word of God is banished from them [and] their sacraments are corrupted or falsified….   Nevertheless, as some trace of the Church is left in the papacy, and the virtue and substance of baptism remain, and as the efficacy of baptism does not depend upon the person who administers it — we confess that those baptized in it do not need a second baptism.   But, on account of its corruptions, we cannot present children to be baptised in it without incurring pollution."

It is amazing that Thornwell apparently never wrestled  with  the anti-rebaptist implications of passages in infallible Holy Scripture (like Gen. l7:10f; Ex. 4:24f; Acts 19:1-7; Rom. 6:3f; Eph. 4:4-6; Col. 2:6-16; & Heb. 6:1-6).   He  studiously  avoided any discussion of  the very strongly anti-catabaptist views of Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and Knox — and even iquite wrongly sinuated that Calvin agreed with Catabaptists like Thornwell (and incidentally also the Anabaptists)!  

Nothing, however, is further from the truth.   See Calvin’s Inst. IV:2:llf & IV:l5:l6f; his Comm. on Ezek. (l6:20f & 20:26-31f); and his Tracts and Treatises (especially On Trent and Against Westphal, and On the True Method of Reforming the Church).

We totally concur with Thornwell’s massive invective against the Romish Mass, but are amazed he apparently did not realise Rome has never alleged any sort of transubstantiation at baptism!   He also avoided all discussion of the Westminster Confession (27:3-5 & 28:5-7) anent the unrepeatability of baptism — even when received from very unworthy administrators.  

Surely the infant son of Moses was validly (because unrepeatably) circumcised by the irregular act of his own mother {WCF 28:5n)?   Surely the Protestant Reformers John Calvin and John Craig did not with their unrepeated and unrescinded baptisms by Romish

priests desecrate the Presbyterian Communion Table (cf. Ex. 12:48)?   But would Thornwell then have admitted them, as such, to communion in his own congregation? For consider WCF 29:8p-q)!

Thornwell also overlooked the implications of the Westminster Directory for the Publick Worship of God, where it says that "Baptism…is not…to be administered in any case by any private person….   Nor is it to be administered in private places…[nor] in the places where fonts in the time of Popery were unfitly and superstitiously placed."

He also overlooked the force of the statements in John Craig’s 1580 National Covenant against "that Roman Antichrist" and his "use of the holy sacraments" and "his cruel judgment against infants departing without the sacrament" and "his absolute necessity of baptism" and his agitations to "use the holy sacraments in the Kirk deceitfully."

Certainly God’s children within should, after strenuously striving to reform it, leave the Romish Babylon and also her apostate daughter denominations with their women ministers (etc.) — as well as all (Ana)Baptist sects.   Thereafter, they should obviously have their own subsequently-born infants baptized only in purer churches.   But they are not to repudiate the baptism of the Triune God Whose Name they themselves already bear!    To the contrary, precisely because they themselves have been marked with baptism as the seal of the  Living God (even if in the Papal Church or in a submersionistic sect) — they need to "improve" that baptism.   This they should do not by repeating it elsewhere, but by repudiating inter alia also the papal perversions thereof.   Westminster Larger Catechism 167 & 179.   See Rev. 7:2f; 9:4f; 13:4-18; 14:1-12; 17:4-18; 18:2-4; 22:3-5.

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