Other questions that arose.
In our two previous articles we called attention to the views on the baptism of infants as entertained by Tertullian and Cyprian. We noted that, whereas the former presented arguments against this practice of the Christian Church, the latter strongly advocated that infants should be baptized. And we also noted that, whereas the former saw in the innocence of the infant an argument against its baptism, the latter used the same argument in support of its baptism. Attention was also called to the fact that it is an undeniable fact that the baptism of infants was considered customary in the days of the early Christian Church. In the meantime also many other questions arose in connection with the sacrament of baptism.
The question arose with respect to the proper party to administer the sacrament of baptism. It was generally held that the Church only could baptize. We need not discuss this in detail. However, we do wish to call attention to the fact that Tertullian maintained that in case of an emergency any layman could administer the sacrament of baptism, maintaining in the same connection, however, that women were strictly forbidden to do so. It should be remembered, we must bear in mind, that Tertullian advocated the administration of the sacrament by a layman only as a measure of necessity. And even then these laymen must understand that these powers to baptize do not belong to them but only to their superiors, the bishops—they must never act independently of them. Of interest in this connection is the following quotation from Tertullian, and we quote: “For concluding our brief subject, it remains to put you in mind also of the due observance of giving and receiving baptism. Of giving it, the chief priest (who is the bishop) has the right: in the next place, the presbyters and deacons, yet not without the bishop’s authority, on account of the honor of the Church, which being preserved, peace is preserved. Besides these, even laymen have the right; for what is equally received can be equally given. Unless bishops, or priests, or deacons, be on the spot, other disciples are called i.e. to the work. The word of the Lord ought not to be hidden by any: in like manner, too, baptism, which is equally God’s property, can be administered by all. But how much more is the rule of reverence and modesty incumbent on laymen—seeing that these powersbelong to their superiors—lest they assume to themselves the specific function of the bishop? Emulation of the episcopal office is the mother of schisms, the most holy apostle has said, that “all things are lawful, but not all expedient.” Let it suffice assuredly, in cases of necessity, to avail yourself (of that rule), if at any time circumstance either of place, or of time, or of person compels you (so to do); forthen the steadfast courage of the succourer, when the situation of the endangered one is urgent, is exceptionally admissible; inasmuch as he will be guilty of a human creature’s loss if he shall refrain from bestowing what he had free liberty to bestow. But the woman of pertness, who has usurped the power to teach, will of course not give birth for herself likewise to a right of baptizing, unless some new beast shall arise like the former; so that, just as the one abolished baptism, so some other should in her own right confer it! But if the writings which wrongly go under Paul’s name, claim Thecla’s example as a license for women’s teaching and baptizing, let them know that, in Asia, the presbyter who composed the whiting as if he were augmenting Paul’s fame from his own store, after being convicted, and confessing that he had done it from love of Paul,” was removed from his office. For how credible would it seem, that he who has not permitted a woman even to learn with over boldness, should give a female the power ofteaching and of baptizing! “Let them be silent,” he says, “and at home consult their own husbands.” end of quote. This quotation speaks for itself. Tertullian did declare that a layman could administer the sacrament of baptism, although he also stated at the same time that such could occur only when necessary and that the layman was subject to the bishop. And it is also evident that he forbids women the right to administer the sacrament.
In close connection with the preceding arose the question as to whether heretics should be re-baptized if they should return into the Catholic Church. This was a very important and urgent question during the early period of the Church of God in the New Dispensation. We understand, I am sure, that when we speak of the Catholic Church we do not refer to the Roman Catholic Church. There was only one Church during the early days of the Church of God in the New Dispensation and it was called the Catholic Church because it was the one, universal Church of God and of Christ. And this continued until the Reformation, although it is true that the Eastern part of this Church (the Greek part of the Church) broke away from the western or Latin part in the eleventh century. It happens often, also in our present day, that when mention is made of the Catholic Church the Roman Catholic Church is meant. To speak of the Roman Catholic Church as Catholic Church, however, is an error. The “Catholic Church” is simply the universal Church. And we surely belong to the Catholic Church, according to Lord’s Day 21 of our Heidelberg Catechism: “I believe an holy, Catholic Church.” It would undoubtedly be more correct to speak of the Church of Rome as the Romish Church rather than the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, it is simply a fact that the Romish Church is very limited and therefore can hardly be called the “Catholic Church.”
In close connection with the preceding it is well to bear in mind (as we have already remarked in passing in the preceding paragraph) that, in the early period of the New Dispensation, there was only one Church, the Catholic Church. It is commonly known as the “Old Catholic Church.” There was but one Church during the early centuries of the New Testament. The situation is so different today! It is true, of course, that the Roman Catholic Church today is one. Besides, that Church’s claim to being the one only, true Church is based, among other things, upon its oneness, and with disdain and scorn it views the many fragments which characterize the Protestant church world of the present time and which had their beginning in the Reformation. Be this as it may, the Church which today confesses the Lord Jesus Christ can hardly be classified as one. We understand that when I speak of the Church which today confesses the Lord Jesus Christ I refer to the Church in the outward and nominal sense of the word. We need not call attention to other “churches” which do not confess the Lord Jesus Christ, such as the Mohammedans, etc. This also explains why the problems which were prevalent during the early period of the Church do not exist today as they existed then. One does not doubt, when a member changes his church affiliations, that he was baptized in the Name of the triune God and in the Lord Jesus Christ. Things, however, were different in the early years of the New Dispensation. The Church was one then and, apart from the heathens (who, of course, had not been baptized) the other churches were simply heretical, denying the fundamental truths concerning God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Hence, the question was very pressing and acute indeed: What must be done with those members who joined the Catholic Church from these heretical churches; must they be baptized anew, or does their baptism stand?
Many of the early Church fathers were of the conviction that their baptism was not valid, and that therefore they must be baptized anew. Among these who contended that the baptism of heretics was invalid was Tertullian. We quote him as follows: “I know not whether any further point is mooted to bring baptism into controversy. Permit me to call to mind what I have omitted above, lest I seem to break off the train of impending thoughts in the middle. There is to us one, and but one, baptism; as well according to the Lord’s gospel as according to the apostle’s letters, inasmuch as he says, “One God, and one baptism, and one church in the heavens.” But it must be admitted that the question, “What rules are to be observed with regard to, heretics?” is worthy of being treaded. For it is to us: that that assertion refers. Heretics, however, have no fellowship in our discipline, whom the mere fact of their excommunication testifies to be outsiders. I am not bound to recognize in them a thing which is enjoined on me, because they and we have not the same God, nor one—that is, the same—Christ. And therefore their baptism is not one with ours either, because it is not the same; a baptism which, since they have it not duly, doubtless they have not at all; nor is that capable of being counted which is not had. Thus they cannot receive it either, because they have it not.—end of quote. It is evident from this quotation that Tertullian strongly advocates that the baptism by heretics must not be considered valid.
Cyprian, too, rejected the baptism by heretics. Quintus, a bishop in Mauritania, had written him and asked him for advice concerning the baptism of heretics. He answers him as follows, and we quote: “Cyprian to Quintus his brother, greeting. Lucian, our co-presbyter, has reported to me, dearest brother, that you have wished me to declare to you what I think concerning those who seem to have been baptized by heretics and schismatics (notice that Cyprian in these words speaks of these people who “seemingly” have been baptized by heretics and schismatics—H.V.); of which matter, that you may know what several of us fellow bishops, with the brother presbyters who were present, lately determined, in council, I have sent you a copy of the same epistle. For I know not by what presumption some of our colleagues are led to think that they who have been dipped by heretics ought not to be baptized when they come to us, for the reason that they say that there is one baptism; which indeed is therefore one, because the Church is one and there cannot be any baptism out of the Church. For since there cannot be two baptisms, if heretics truly baptize, they themselves have this baptism. And he who of his own authority grants this advantage to them, yields and consents to them that the enemy and adversary of Christ would seem to have the power of washing and purifying and sanctifying a man. But we say that those who come thence are not re-baptized among us, but are baptized. For indeed they do not receive anything there, where there is nothing, but they come to us, that here they may receive where there is both grace and all truth, because both grace and truth are one.” We will terminate this quotation, for the time being, at this point. Cyprian simply declares that heretics who join the Catholic Church are not re-baptized but simply baptized. He implies of course, that they have never been baptized. For, so he continues, these heretics, when they are baptized, do not receive anything for the simple reason that they have nothing. The heretical churches have nothing, therefore cannot and do not baptize; only the Catholic Church baptizes because all grace and all truth are in the Catholic Church and in that Church alone. The Lord willing, we expect to continue with this quotation in our following article.