Once More with Feeling: William Goode

Back on my old blog, before I suspended it, I got a book out of the CTS Library and blogged about it. I thought it might be helpful to have it available again:

The Doctrine of the Church of England as to the Effects of Baptism in the Case of Infants by William Goode

These lectures were published in book form in 1849. Goode was an Evangelical Anglican defending the Evangelical faith from an Anglo-catholic. In this post I want to quote some sources Goode cites since I have never seen them before (or, if I did, I don’t remember it now). Here are a couple:

What, therefore, do we say? Do we take away all grace from the Sacraments? Far be it from us; although they [the Romanists] misrepresent us as so doing. For we say that they are most efficacious instruments of the Holy Spirit, and are also instrumental causes of grace: and this they also say; but we sa it in one sense, they in another (W. Whitaker [often cited as proof that the Westminster Assembly was inerrantist]).

Of the efficacy of the Sacraments. 1. We teach and believe that the Sacraments are signs to represent Christ with his benefits unto us. 2. We teach further, that the Sacraments are indeed instruments whereby God offereth and giveth the foresaid benefits unto us. Thus far we consent with the Roman Church (Reformed Catholic, pt. 19. Wks 1616. Vol 1. p. 610.)

Much of the first chapter is devoted to showing that the Anglican Church under Cranmer was greatly influenced by the Reformers and no other branch of the reformation. The Anglo-catholic opposition was arguing on the basis of the language of sacramental instramentalism in the early Anglican formularies that the Anglican Church had outgrown her calvinism. Goode replies by showing the same language is in the Second Helvetic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, etc. Against the argument that a high view of baptism means the decline of calvinism, he argues that calvinism has always had such a high view and thus is not evidence for the Anglo-catholic position. He writes on page 129 of 2ndHelvetica:

Now, take these general statements, and you may no doubt reasonably draw from them the doctrine of the universal efficacy of the Sacrament of Baptism. No limitation is implied in the words, intimating that the Sacrament is efficacious only in certain cases.

But what is meant by these passages is clear, both from the known doctrine of the author, and from other parts of the Confession.

And he goes on to show how the Second Helvetic Confession is clearly particularist.

I’ll write one thing more. Goode shows the Heidelberg Catechism has the same material and then quotes from Zacharias Ursinus’ commentary on the catechism to show that only the elect are ever regenerated. Then this Evangelical apologist states:

Consequently the meaning of the Catechism, so far as it seems to connect regeneration with baptism, is this, that regeneration takes place in baptism in the case of the elect; but it does not admit that this effect is produced in any others at that time, for it denies that in such it is ever produced. And this was the common view of the period.

How weird. In our milieu that claim sounds more “catholic” than Evangelical.

By the way, I’m not advocating this authors interpretation. I’m just studying history.

This book is full of other interesting stuff. Example: Luther defended infant faith by pointing out that we are still believers even when we sleep.


Luther figures in Goode’s book because, In 1536, Martin Bucer took part in a conference with him in which they hammered out an agreement regarding baptism. After this conference Bucer, published a second edition of his commentary on the four Gospels. In that commentary Bucer retracted some previous language regarding baptism. Goode extracts:

That external words and sacraments were the certain seals, channels, and instruments of the grace of Christ, in which the Spirit of Christ is most certainly received, appeared to him to favor the error and superstition of those who seek salvation from outward ceremonies without true faith, it was his wish to vindicate as fully as possible to Christ the Lord, all remission of sins, relief of conscience, and participation of the Spirit of Christ, and diligently to teach that lesson, that we receive here by faith only what he bestows and works for our salvation. And on this account we said, that ministers absolve from sins, when they pronounce men to be absolved through Christ, and that they confirm the consciences of men, and establish and advance their faith, when they proclaim that Christ confirms consciences and increases faith: that they wash away sins by baptism and regenerate, when by words and the sacred sprinkling they represent and bear witness that Christ washes from sins, and that they feed with the body and blood of the Lord, when in like manner by words and signs they proclaim, that Christ himself nourishes us with himself. We described the principal use of baptism to be, to be received into the Church, and make a profession of faith; of the eucharist, that we should be reminded of our redemption, and profess our perseverance in faith and love. We never thought, nor wrote, that the signs are empty signs: on the contrary, in those very passages which I retract, I clearly testified at Scripture speaks of the sacred signs as they are when truly received, in which case the thing signified is annexed to the sign, and that is really performed which is represented by the signs. It is not our view that the ministers do nothing, since with Paul we wrote, that they plant and water. This only we wished to urge, that without the power of Christ by which he draws us to himself, the work of ministers, and moreover the words themselves and external signs administered, cannot bring salvation to any one. In these things any one may see that there is nothing contrary to piety: but, as I have said, they are so written that they may twisted so as to be made use of for lowering the sacred ministry below its proper place. I confess therefore first, that I have not sufficiently explained the authority of God, and the true benefit in the Word and Sacraments, in not carefully inculcating that truth, that Christ uses the minister as his organ, that above all things he may set forth in his Word and Sacraments the remission of sins and communion with himself, and that the true profit in these things is, if the minister as diligently as possible commends this exhibition, and the others embrace it by a true faith. The profession of religion is here secondary. For faith precedes the profession of faith, and the preaching of the mercy of God and the redemption of Christ, which ise object of faith, precedes faith. Moreover the symbols in the Sacraments are nothing but visible words, by which the preaching and offering of the grace of Christ becomes more influential and more effectual to rouse the mind. Further, I acknowledge, that those metaphors, that the Sacraments are instruments, organs and channels of grace, are agreeable to the Scriptures. For St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “I have begotten ou b the Gospel” (1 Cor 4). In Second Corinthians 3 he writes that he had administered to them the Spirit, not the letter, and that he had made them an epistle of Christ. To the Galatians he writes that he had received the Spirit by the hearing of faith. Hence he called baptism the laver of regeneration, and the eucharist the communion of the body and blood of Christ. He affirms that by baptism we are buried into the death of Christ, incorporated into Christ, and have put on Christ. From all of which, as it is evident, that the Gospel and the Sacraments, which are as it were visible Gospels, were instituted by Christ the Lord for this purpose, that he might communicate to us through them his own redemption; so it is very clear, that these are to the lord to a certain extent instruments and channels of his Spirit and grace, and thus that there is nothing absurd in these metaphorical expressions; if only this is carefully pointed out for observation, hat ministers and the ministry are such instruments of our salvation that they have nothing of it, nor supply anything, in themselves, but only so much of it as Chrsit, using them according to his own spontaneous mercy, condescends to give and supply through them. And in this way we ourselves have never denied that the words and Sacraments of the Gospels are Christ’s organs by which he gives us the benefit of his redemption. This only we deny, as we have clearly expressed it, that Sacraments and sacred words are such instruments and channels of grace as that they bring salvation with whatever mind or faith ou partake of them. For some have so tied the grace of Christ to them, that these external things seem of themselves to work salvation, even though the mind never seriously raises itself to Christ, so that the superstition of the common people, who are yet ignorant of the true faith of Christ, rests in these things.

Moreover, as they seemed to us so to speak of the word and Sacraments of the Gospel, that we considered that there was danger from their words lest that superstition of the common people shoule either be strengthened, where it still cleaves, or be brought back where it had been driven out; so they in their turn, when we, desirous of guarding, lest any one should seek salvation for himself from ceremonies, without certain faith in Christ, wrote that Christ bestows his grace and Spirit according to his will upon whom and when he pleases, and that what is performed by man can effect nothing of this, thought that we attributed nothing else to the Sacraments than that they are external marks of our communion in Christ, and that we did not acknowledge that they are symbols of grace, and hat grace is given through them. But the Lord has now granted , that both they should acknowledge that we, and we that they, think and teach that respecting the word and Sacraments that Scripture delivers, namely, that they are effectual signs and organs of communion with Christ, that is, of our salvation, by which the lord bestows upon us communion with himself; but that according to the good will of the Father and his own compassion towards us, with no merit of any creature; on which account they require faith. Therefore each error is excluded on both sides, both of those who seek salvation for themselves from ceremonies without faith in Christ, and of those who so pretend that they seek salvation for themselves from Christ, that they hold in small estimation the sacred ministry of the Church.

Interestingly, Goode says of Bucer in relation to his tractarian target: “He is quite ready to maintain with the Bishop of Exeter himself, that God has appointed them [ the sacraments] as instruments in the use of which he conveys grace to the soul, but not indiscriminately to all that use them.”

Here is Martin Bucer again, via Goode, in a letter prefixed to his work on the Gospels:

Christ truly washes from their sins and regenerates those upon whom the Church bestows baptism, which is in fact the laver of regeneration…

Since we ought to speak of the Word and Sacraments as the lord has commended them to his Church, and wishes them to be used, I some time since acknowledged, and reassert, that it is rightly said of the Word and Sacraments, when we speak simply of them, that they are the administration of salvation, channels, vehicles, and instruments of the Spirit and grace…

We shall then speak most fully, clearly, and certainly concerning these point of faith, when we speak according to the rule and form of the Scriptures. Now therein the Lord clearly says, that his Gospel is his power for salvation to every one that believes, that baptism is the laver of regeneration, that the eucharist is the communication of his body and blood, that his ministers bind and loose, retains sins and remit them; why therefore should not we also speak thus?

Goode also quotes him from that same work saying, “by baptism we are said to be loosed and washed from our sins, because by baptism, through the power of Christ and the ministry of the Church, we receive pardon and cleansing. Goode writes: “he callse the laver of water in baptism ‘a true and exhibitive sign,’ and says that in baptism ‘the renewal of the Spirit is exhibited and received.'”

Nor will they be offended if any Scriptures seem to attribute justification to baptism; for they will observe that Scripture ascribes to those Sacramental signs what belongs o the thing signified. For they are exhibitive signs; and when it speaks of signs truly recieved, in which case that which the signs signify is present together with them, it is in the habit of joining the internal things with the external, that is, the sign and the thing signified, and thus to speak of them unitedly.

Goode’s point, remember, is that the presence of general statements about baptism in the Anglican heritage do not indicate and abandonment of calvinistic particularism. Bucer is important because Cranmer invited and brought him to teach in England. Thus, Goode goes on to point out that Bucer insists those who apostasize prove that they never received regeneration or justification. Nevertheless, our ignorance of who such people are indicates that we must offer to all except those who reject it the means of grace, especially our children:

Whence, indeed, we, who cannot reject any from the grace of Christ except the deniers of it, ought not only to permit, but also to exhort, that all children indiscriminately should be brought to the Lord, htat is, offered to his Church, because that which he himself commands cannot but be best. If they already belong to the Church, and theirs is the kingdom of heaven, why should we deny them the sign of Baptism, by which they who belong to the Church of Christ are in the habit of being received into it. If there are any goats among them, they will then be to be excluded by us, when they shall have shown themselves to be so. Meanwhile let us not be more scrupulous than Christ, who pronounced children indiscriminately brought to him to be citizens of the kingdom of heaven, and on that account was angry that they were driven away from him, and ordered them to be brought to him, and when brought took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them and blessed them. By so many signs he wished to show that they belonged to him, and were by no means to be sut out of the kingdom of heaven. Ans since by far the greater number are snatched hence in childhood, who, I make no doubt, are saved by the mercy of Christ, especially those born of believers, I believe that the Lord wished in this place [Matthew 19.14] to signify, that no period of human life gave more citizens to the kingdom of heaven.

Moreover, from the fact that infants are destitute of faith, nothing less follows than that, as some think, the therefore cannot please God or be holy. Since John the Baptist is said to have been full of the Holy Ghost from the womb (Luke 1); the child was not said to have been endued with faith, and yet he was great in the sight of the Lord. For God leads his own as is suitable to the age and condition of each. Faith ought to proclaim the glory of God, and to be efficacious through love; and as these things do not belong to infants, what if also they have not faith, being nevertheless marked for salvation by the Spirit of God. But as to what they object from the las chapter of Mark, “He that believeth not, shall be condemned,” they show that they have not rightly weighed the passage. For there a command of Christ precedes concerning preaching the Gospel in the whole world, and then it is added, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned;” which is as much as to say, he that has faith in the Gospel preacyed by you and shall confess it by baptism, shall be saved, but he that has not shall be damned. And thus this sentence by no means applies to those who have not heard the Gospel. Therefore, with elect infant the Spirit of the Lord is present, by which, so far as it suffices for their age and condition, they are led, and when they grow up,at the time ordained by the Father, it teaches them to believe the word of God, and leads them by faith to salvation. But they who depart hence before they grow up, since they are Christs, they shall allso be with him, and be happy.

I don’t know Latin but I want to record what follows. Goode writes “And he maintains that those who are not thus elect, but are ‘hoedi et vasa irae,'” (hardened and vessels of wrath?) “grow up and lose the simplicit of children and thus are shut out of the kingdom of heaven.” Here is the footnote: “Qui vero hoedi sunt, et vasa irae, ii ut adolescentes alios animos assumunt, ita tales non perseverant, et regni coelorum redduntur extorres.”

More Latin for whoever wants to help me. Goode points out that in 1550 Bucer spoke on “‘the force and efficacy of baptism,’ while he distinctly lays down regeneration as its effect, and maintains this to be the meaning of such passages as John 3.4, Ephesians 5.26, Titus 3.5, he as distinctly limit this effect to ‘the elect.'” The Latin is appended:

Ex his jam omnibus locis clare perspicimus, baptisma commendari nobis, ut instrumentum divinae misericordiae, quo Deus non sua sed nostra causa dignatur uti, ut quo electis suis, quibus ipse haec sua destinavit dona, conferat…. regenerationem, &C…. Nec minus efficax est horum omnium donorum Dei instrumentum baptisma electis Dei, quos eo statuit Dominus sibi regignere, quam est ullum remedium…. &c ad conferendam sanitatem corpori.


Baptism is:

A sacrament instituted by the Lord, consisting of water and the word, by which we are regenerated and engrafted into Christ, for the remission of sins and eternal salvation. Water is a symbol peculiarly appopriate to it. For as by it the filth of the body is cleansed, so by this Sacrament the soul is purified.

Baptism is nothing else but the Sacrament of regeneration consisting of water and the Spirit thgough the word of God, from which we have remission of sins and eternal life according to the promise of Christ…. We draw the conclusion from this place (1 Cor 12.12), that by baptism we are most truly joined to Christ, not less than by the Eucharist…. Reason teaches us that baptism produces it more efficaciously than the Eucharist, just as we obtain more by our birth than by nourishment or food.

These statements are not intended to teach that all the baptized receive these things:

This passage declares [Romans 9.8], that what has been before promised generally was restrained by the secret election of God to certain men in particular… In the same way it happens at this day respecting the children of the faithful. We have a promise that God is willing not only to be our God but also the God of our seed; which promise being indefinite is applied to infants by the secret election of God, not indeed always to all, but to some certain ones in particular, according as it shall seem fit to God’s purpose. And since this is unknown to us, and we ought to follow the outward word which is committed to the Church, under that promise we baptize our little ones as the ancients circumcised theirs. The Anabaptists blame us for doing so; because we know nothing concerning the spirit, nor the faith, nor the election of thos little ones. But we do not think those things of any wight in the matter; we only regard the word of God which is offered to us in the form of a general and indefinite promise. But we commit its fulfilment to God, since we cannot judge respecting his election. But let them in their turn tell us, how they baptize adults, when it is uncertain whether they belong to the election, and whether what they say they believe and profess, they truly say, and come to Christ wih a sincere mind. Here they can answer nothing except that they follow the confession of faith which adults make before the Church when they are to be baptized. But since they may easily be deceived in at confession, and cannot know anything for certain either concerning their state of mind or concernin their election, there is no reason why they should find fault with us. For the same thing altogether happens to us in the case of little ones who are offered to the Church to be baptized, which happens to them in the case of adults.

Here’s another quotation of interest:

Wherefore we may conclude from these words, that as formerly circumcision was given to infants, so now baptism cannot be denied them; for if they have the thing, what reason is there why they should not have the sign? And lest you should doubt whether circumcision and baptism are equal and have the same purpose, Paul shows this most manifestly in his Epistle to the Colossians, where he calls baptism the circumcision of Christ. And they who lay it down, that the infants of the Hebrews ought to be circumcised, but that ours ought not to be baptized, make God more just to the Jews than to Christians. Some inquire, why, when we are ignorant whether infants have the reality of the Sacrament, we give them the sign, and seal that which is uncertain to us. To whom we reply that this question is alleged not against us, but against the word of God. For he clearly commanded and willed that children should be circumcised. Then further let them tell us why they admit adults to baptism or the communion, when they are uncertain of their state of mind. For they who are baptized or communicate, may pretend to be what they are not, and deceive the Church. They reply that they hold their profession to be sufficient. If they speak falsely, what is that to us, they say? they must look to that themselves. So we say concerning infants; that it is sufficient for us that they are offered to the Church, either by their parents, or by those in whose power they are. but if election and predestination concur with the administration of the Sacrament, what we do is ratified; if not, it is useless. For our salvation depends upon the election and mercy of God. But of the former, since to us it is hidden, we judge nothing. We only follow those indications which we can have respecting it, such as these, that those of maturer years profess in words that they believe Christ; which marks, although they are not so certain that they cannot deceive, yet they are sufficient for us for making them partakers of the Sacraments.


One reason I have a son named “Nevin” is that Jennifer ruled out Zacharias Ursinus. Re-readng him now, I get wistful. His lectures on the Heidelberg Catechism (of which he is the author) are incomparable. William Goode claims that Ursinus thought the elect baptized infants were regenerated at baptism. I can see where Goode gets that idea, but I’m sure it is wrong (at least defining “regeneration” in the way Goode, as an good Evangelical anti-tractarian would define the term). Ursinus insists that the sacraments are not absolutely necessary. I don’t see any way that is compatible with Goode’s view. Plainly, while Ursinus affirms strongly that grace is conferred in baptism, he doesn’t think the children of believers are normally in any danger.

Just as plainly, Ursinus believes the children of Christian are Christians.

That is old news for all Reformed readers, of course. What is interesting is that Ursinus provides interesting information for those who want to claim that any such Christian status of uncomprehending infants is rulled out by the Westminster Confession of Faith:

The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word, by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened (Chapter 14, paragraph 1).

This is interpreted in a way to clash with Calvin’s claim that baptism is inextricably involved in the ministry of the Word for baptized believers:

I know it is a common belief that forgiveness, which at our first regeneration we receive by baptism alone, is after baptism procured by means of penitence and the keys (see chap. 19 sec. 17). But those who entertain this fiction err from not considering that the power of the keys, of which they speak, so depends on baptism, that it ought not on any account to be separated from it. The sinner receives forgiveness by the ministry of the Church; in other words, not without the preaching of the gospel. And of what nature is this preaching? That we are washed from our sins by the blood of Christ. And what is the sign and evidence of that washing if it be not baptism? We see, then, that that forgiveness has reference to baptism. This error had its origin in the fictitious sacrament of penance, on which I have already touched. What remains will be said at the proper place. There is no wonder if men who, from the grossness of their minds, are excessively attached to external things, have here also betrayed the defect, not contented with the pure institution of God, they have introduced new helps devised by themselves, as if baptism were not itself a sacrament of penance. But if repentance is recommended during the whole of life, the power of baptism ought to have the same extent. Wherefore, there can be no doubt that all the godly may, during the whole course of their lives, whenever they are vexed by a consciousness of their sins, recall the remembrance of their baptism, that they may thereby assure themselves of that sole and perpetual ablution which we have in the blood of Christ (John Calvin, Institutes, IV, 15, 4).

This basic position was still considered orthodox and Reformed as late as the time of Francis Turretin:

Does baptism… take away past and present sins only and leave future sins to repentances? Or does it extend itself to sins committed not only before but also after baptism? The former we deny; the latter we affirm against the Romanists.…

II… [T]he Romansists teach… “The virtue of baptism does not reach to future sins, but the sacrament of penitence is necessary for their expiation.” Thus, the Council of Trent expresses it: “If anyone shall say that all the sins which are committed after baptism are either dismissed or made venial by the recollection of faith of the received baptism alone, let him be anathema (session 7, Canon 10, Schroeder, p. 54)….

XII. …However, we maintain that by baptism is sealed to us the remission not only of past and present, but also of future sins; still so that penitence (not a sacramental work and what they invent, but that which is commanded in the gospel) and especially saving faith is not excluded, but is coordinated with baptism as a divinely constituted means of our salvation (Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 3).

What is interesting about Ursinus is that he makes statements that sound very much like the statement produced from the Westminster Confession of Faith:

The Holy Ghost ordinarily produces faith … in us by the ecclesiastical ministry, which consists of two parts, the word and the sacraments. The Holy Ghost works faith in our hearts by the preaching of the gospel; and cherishes, confirms, and seals it by the use of the sacraments (Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, p. 340).

Faith is begun and confirmed by the word; by the sacraments it is only confirmed, as in the supper. The word teaches and confirms without the sacraments, but the sacaments not without the word. Adults are not saved without a knowledge of the word; but men may be regenerated and saved without the use of the sacraments, if this omission be not accompanied with any contempt. The word is preached to unbelievers and wicked men; the church should admit none to the sacraments, but such as will have us to regard as members of his kingdom (p. 356; emphasis added)

I’m not going to bother producing the copious quotations of Ursinus explicitly saying that the infants of Christians are those to be regarded as members of God’s kingdom and are not to be considered “unbelievers and wicked.” The requirement that they be converted by some event in which they understand the preaching of the Word is foreign to Ursinus’ way of thinking. They are to be nurtured by Word and Sacrament as believers. Adults are the ones who must be brought to conscious faith through the word, infants can be raised in it.

Thus, A. A. Hodge, a rather famous Westminsterian, wrote:

When the child is taught and trained under the regimen of his baptism–-taught from the first to recognize himself as a child of God, with all its privileges and duties; trained to think, feel, and act as a child of God, to exercise filial love, to render filial obedience–-the benefit to the child directly is obvious and immeasurable. He has invaluable birthright privileges, and corresponding obligations and responsibilities (A. A. Hodge, “The Sacraments:Baptism,” in Evangelical Theology: Lectures on Doctrine [Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1990], 337, emphasis added).

I am sure that other views were meant to be encompassed by the Westminster Assembly, but there is certainly no reason or method by which Ursinus’ position can be ruled out of court. Consider the Larger Catechism as it applies to someone who was baptized as an infant:

The needful but much neglected duty of improving our baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long, especially in the time of temptation, and when we are present at the administration of it to others; by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the ends for which Christ instituted it, the privileges and benefits conferred and sealed thereby, and our solemn vow made therein; by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short of, and walking contrary to, the grace of baptism, and our engagements; by growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament; by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace; and by endeavoring to live by faith, to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness, as those that have therein given up their names to Christ; and to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body

Notice, pardon is a possession that has already been sealed to you in baptism. You are supposed to grow into assurance of it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *