William Perkins & Roman Catholic Baptism

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Puritan Board Junior
William Perkins, a giant among the Puritans, was born in 1558 at Marston in Warwickshire, England and lived to the age of forty-four years, dying in 1602. (Notice that he lived well after the Council of Trent.)

In the following excerpt from his "A Treatise of Conscience",
Perkins explains why it is possible for an illegitimate minister to administer a valid baptism:

Of the Sacraments in general, the Receiving, and use of them.

In the next place, follow the questions of conscience touching the third part of God´s outward worship, namely, the sacraments; and these concern either the administration or the receiving of them. The administration I will here let pass, and handle those questions only, that concern the receiving and use thereof, both in general and in particular. Touching the receiving of the sacraments in general, there is one only question: Whether the sacraments ministered by heretics, idolaters, and insufficient ministers be sacraments or no?

For answer hereunto, we are to know [that] there be three sorts of men that may administer the sacraments. Some are true & lawful ministers, lawfully called by God & men to that function, keeping the right form of the sacrament according to the institution. Some again, are more private persons, that have no authority at all to administer, whom we may oppose to the room of lawful ministers by the acceptation & consent of men, or by custom, though corrupt, and these are in a mean between the two former sorts. Of the first there is no question. But the sacrament administered by the second is in truth a mere nullity; because they have no calling thereto, neither can they do it of faith: for as much as they be not indeed lawful pastors; yet being in the place of such, by the consent, allowance, and custom of men, though corrupt; their action is of force, and the sacrament which is administered by them, is in deed a true sacrament; which I prove by these reasons.

First, the preaching of the word, and administration of the sacraments are all one in substance. For in the one the will of God is seen, in the other heard. Now the word preached by heretics, is the true word of God, and may have his effect. The Scribes and Pharisees, great Doctors of the Jews, were not all of the Tribe of Levi, but descended from other tribes. Again, even the principal of them lived by extortion and bribery, and were wicked men, yea heretics and Apostates, deposed & excommunicated persons. And yet because they occupied the places of good teachers, and sat in the chair of Moses, that is, read the doctrine of Moses Law, Christ bids his disciples to hear them. Matt. 23.3. Provided only that they took heed of the leaven of their false doctrine and wicked life. Now if the word taught by their ministry was powerful, why may not the sacraments ministered by the heretics standing in the room of true ministers be true sacraments? In the days of Paul, (Phillip. 1.15) some preached Christ through envy and strife,and some of good will; what was the Apostles judgment in this case? Himself answers (v. 18), What then? Yet, Christ is preached all manner of ways, whether it be under a pretence or sincerly, and I therein joy, yea and will joy.

Secondly, this point is plain by examples. The Levitical priests under the Law, were heretics, and taught after a sort the breach of the moral law. Yea they held justification by works (Rom. 10.3) and yet circumcision by them administered, was in force; neither was the Passover, celebrated by them, or the sacrifices which they offered, any other then the true Passover and true sacrifices. Judas was a very hypocrite, yea Christ calls him a devil (John 6.70) and yet he preached the word at Christ´s commandment, and baptized with the rest of his disciples (John 4.1-2).

Thirdly, the sacrament, if it be administered in the name, and by the power of Christ, is the ordinance of God, being received by faith, yea a true sacrament of Christ; and the force and the efficacy thereof, doth not depend upon the worthiness of the minister, but upon Christ. The letters or epistles sent from one man to another, are authentic, and serve fully to express the mind of the author, though the messenger or carrier be wicked or naughty man. And in like manner, the sin of any man that stands in the room of a lawful minister, doth not nullify the sacrament, and therefore not heresy, or insufficiency. S. Cyprian who lived 300 years after Christ, was of this opinion, that sacraments administered by heretics were no sacraments. But the churches of Africa in those times concluded the contrary against him, according to the doctrine that hath been delivered.

The use.

I. By this doctrine they are justly to be blamed, who would
have their children rebaptized, which were before baptized by Popish priests; because the sacrament, though administered by a Papist, if he stand in the room of a true pastor; & keep the form thereof, is a true sacrament.

II. Others by this doctrine come to be reproved, that refuse
to receive the sacrament at the hands of nonpreaching ministers. For though the minister be insufficient, & preach not, yet if he be called bythe Church, he hath the place of a lawful pastor, his administration is warrantable, and the Sacrament by him administered, a true Sacrament. If it be said, that then the true sacraments may be out of the true church, as in the church of Rome at this day; because heretics and such like ministers are not of the church. I answer, that there is in the church of Rome, the hidden church of God, and the Sacraments are there used, not for the Romish church, but for the hidden church which is in the midst of Papacy; like as the lantern bears light not for itself, but for the passengers: yet hence it follows not, that we should communicate with idolaters, heretics, and wicked persons.

Amen, Mr. Perkins!

[Edited on 9-13-2005 by biblelighthouse]


Puritan Board Junior
I counted some five "IFs" from the renowned and blessed minister of Christ, and I say ":amen:" to everyone of them.

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