Alvah Hovey

Alvah Hovey on Baptismal Regeneration

Alvah Hovey was, at various times, both a Professor and President at the Newton Theological Institution for fifty-four years in the latter half of the 19th century. His systematic theology, entitled Manual of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics, was published in 1877. In this excerpt, Hovey explains his understanding of baptismal generation.1

In the Liturgy of the Church of England for the public baptism of infants, the minister, after baptizing the infant, is required to say, “We receive this child into the congregation of Christ’s flock”: and still further, “Seeing now, dearly beloved brethren, that this child is regenerate, and grafted into the body of Christ’s Church, let us give thanks unto Almighty God for these benefits.”

It seems to us evident that the Evangelical or Low Church wing of the English Episcopalians holds a false position, and is losing influence year by year, as compared with the High Church wing, and no less so as compared with the advocates of the Broad Church theory. The language of the Liturgy teaches plainly the doctrine of baptismal regeneration; and those who maintain it have an advantage, in the Church of England, over those who oppose it, — similar to that which Baptists have over those who reject their view of apostolic baptism.

Before considering the passages which are alleged in support of this belief, it will be proper to weigh the following facts, namely : —

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Theology Thursday - The Significance of Baptism

What does baptism signify? In this excerpt,1 Alvah Hovey, former President of Newton Theological Institute (1868 – 1898), explains. Some Baptists may be intrigued by Hovey’s assertion that (among other things) baptism symbolizes purification and washing from sin.

In determining the significance of baptism, our appeal must be to the language of the New Testament on this point, and to the natural import of the rite itself; for ritual acts are, to a certain extent, self-interpreting, and there can be no reasonable doubt that, in most instances, their true meaning lies on the face of them, — that they were chosen as being a sort of universal language, readily understood by men of every age and nation.

Hence, where the natural language of the ritual act accords with the explanation of it by the sacred writers, there remains no ground for doubt; assurance becomes doubly sure. And this is true in the present case.

For, looking at the ritual act, and at the language of Scripture, we remark:

1. That it symbolizes the regeneration of the subject, as being, on the one hand, a dying to sin, and, on the other, a rising to holiness,— (See Rom. vi. 4; Col. ii. 12; together with the passages cited under ” Penalty of Sin,” (I.) (1) 2 (4), and under “Nature of Regeneration”) …

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