Thursday, July 28, 2011

The lawful Use of the Cross in Baptism explained (From the 1604 Canons)

WE are sorry that his Majesty's most princely care and pains taken in the Conference at Hampton-Court, amongst many other points, touching this one of the Cross in Baptism, hath taken no better effect with many, but that still the use of it in Baptism is so greatly stuck at and impugned. For the further declaration therefore of the true use of this ceremony, and for the removing of all such scruple, as might any ways trouble the consciences of them who are indeed rightly religious, following the royal steps of our most worthy King, because he therein followeth the rules of the Scriptures, and the practice of the primitive Church; we do commend to all the true members of the Church of England these our directions and observations ensuing.

First, it is to be observed, that although the Jews and Ethnicks derided both the Apostles and the rest of the Christians, for preaching and believing in him who was crucified upon the Cross; yet all, both Apostles and Christians, were so far from being discouraged from their profession by the ignominy of the Cross, as they rather rejoiced and triumphed in it. Yea, the Holy Ghost by the mouths of the Apostles did honour the name of the Cross (being hateful among the Jews) so far, that under it he comprehended not only Christ crucified, but the force, effects, and merits of his Death and Passion, with all the comforts, fruits, and promises, which we receive or expect thereby.

Secondly, the honour and dignity of the name of the Cross begat a reverend estimation even in the Apostles' times (for ought that is known to the contrary) of the Sign of the Cross, which the Christians shortly after used in all their actions; thereby making an outward shew and profession, even to the astonishment of the Jews, that they were not ashamed to acknowledge him for their Lord and Saviour, who died for them upon the Cross. And this Sign they did not only use themselves with a kind of glory, when they met with any Jews, but signed therewith their children when they were christened, to dedicate them by that badge to his service, whose benefits bestowed upon them in Baptism the name of the Cross did represent. And this use of the Sign of the Cross in Baptism was held in the primitive Church, as well by the Greeks as the Latins, with one consent and great applause. At what time, if any had opposed themselves against it, they would certainly have been censured as enemies of the name of the Cross, and consequently of Christ's merits, the Sign whereof they could no better endure. This continual and general use of the Sign of the Cross is evident by many testimonies of the ancient Fathers.

Thirdly, it must be confessed, that in process of time the Sign of the Cross was greatly abused in the Church of Rome, especially after that corruption of Popery had once possessed it.

But the abuse of a thing doth not take away the lawful use of it. Nay, so far was it from the purpose of the Church of England to forsake and reject the Churches of Italy, France, Spain, Germany, or any such like Churches, in all things which they held and practised, that, as the Apology of the Church of England confesseth, it doth with reverence retain those ceremonies, which do neither endamage the Church of God, nor offend the minds of sober men; and only departed from them in those particular points, wherein they were fallen both from themselves in their ancient integrity, and from the Apostolical Churches, which were their first founders. In which respect, amongst some other very ancient ceremonies, the Sign of the Cross in Baptism hath been retained in this Church, both by the judgement and practice of those reverend Fathers and great Divines in the days of King Edward the Sixth,of whom some constantly suffered for the profession of the truth; and others being exiled in the time of Queen Mary, did after their return, in the beginning of the reign of our late dread Sovereign, continually defend and use the same. This resolution and practice of our Church hath been allowed and approved by the censure upon the Communion-book in King Edward the Sixth his days, and by the harmony of Confessions of later years: because indeed the use of this Sign in Baptism was ever accompanied here with such sufficient cautions and exceptions against all Popish superstition and error, as in the like cases are either fit or convenient.

First, the Church of England, since the abolishing of Popery, hath ever held and taught, and so doth hold and teach still, that the Sign of the Cross used in Baptism is no part of the substance of that Sacrament: for when the Minister, dipping the infant in water, or laying water upon the face of it, (as the manner also is,) hath pronounced these words, I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, the infant is fully and perfectly baptized. So as the Sign of the Cross being afterwards used, doth neither add any thing to the virtue and perfection of Baptism, nor being omitted doth detract any thing from the effect and substance of it.

Secondly, it is apparent in the Communion-book, that the infant baptized is, by virtue of Baptism, before it be signed with the Sign of the Cross, received into the congregation of Christ's flock, as a perfect member thereof and not by any power ascribed unto the Sign of the Cross. So that for the very remembrance of the Cross, which is very precious to all them that rightly believe in Jesus Christ, and in the other respects mentioned, the Church of England hath retained still the Sign of it in Baptism: following therein the primitive and apostolical Churches, and accounting it a lawful outward ceremony and honourable badge, whereby the infant is dedicated to the service of him that died upon the Cross, as by the words used in the Book of Common Prayer it may appear.

Lastly, the use of the Sign of the Cross in Baptism, being thus purged from all. Popish superstition and error, and reduced in the Church of England to the primary institution of it, upon those true rules of doctrine concerning things indifferent, which are consonant to the Word of God, and the judgements of all the ancient Fathers, we hold it the part of every private man, both Minister and other, reverently to retain the true use of it prescribed by publick authority; considering that things of themselves indifferent do in some sort alter their natures, when they are either commanded or forbidden by a lawful magistrate; and may not be omitted at every man's pleasure, contrary to the law, when they be commanded, nor used when they are prohibited.

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