As continuing education after the H&S on R. C. Baptism, I’ve been reading Hodge’s “On the Validity of Romish Baptism.” Hodge’s argument is hugely important in this debate, because after a vote of 169-8 (6 abstaining) against R.C. Baptism, Hodge’s arguments reversed the tide. His writing on this topic can be found in this Google Book, starting on page 191. As I read along, I find a whole bunch of bad arguments (note that I went into the debate convinced (and came out more convinced) that Catholics should be rebaptized).
Early on, Hodge recounts some history (p. 193).
When the controversy first arose in the Church about the baptism of heretics there were two extreme opinions Cyprian and those African bishops who were under his influence took the ground that the baptism of all those who separated from the outward communion of the Catholic Church whether for heresy or schism was null and void In this view the bishops of Asia Minor generally coincided a fact easily accounted for as all the heretics with whom they were in conflict denied the very essentials of the gospel.
Indeed, that is the easy case, but what we have to deal with is the case in which the trinity is upheld, but the gospel is denied. The eventual resolution of this controversy landed on rebaptism only in the event of problems with the Trinigy. But I echo Roger Wagner’s point, why do we draw the line at the Trinity, and not where Paul draws lines, at the Gospel?
A little later, Hodge references Calvin, who said:
[Baptism] is a sacred and immutable testimony of the grace of God, though it were administered by the devil, though all who may partake of it were ungodly and polluted as to their own persons. Baptism ever retains its own character, and is never contaminated by the vices of men.
Hodge concurs (p. 204):
The illustration used by Calvin derived from the fact that those circumcised by apostate priests under the old dispensation were never recircumcised or treated as not having received that rite by the inspired prophets.
if we deny to any body of men [i.e. Rome] the character of a Church on account of its creed we thereby assert that no man holding that creed can be saved.
Any body of men therefore that retains the doctrine of the incarnation or that Jesus is the Son of God that sets him forth as the object of religious worship and confidence retains the vital principle of Christianity. Nothing can prevent the saving power of that truth when it is really embraced.
One of the speakers [of the General Assembly of 1845] did indeed say that, although there were true believers in the Church of Rome, they were not members of the visible Church; which is a contradiction in terms since the visible Church consists of all who profess the true religion or saving doctrine. The mere fact of their having faith and avowing it in their conversation and deportment makes them members of the visible Church in the true scriptural and Presbyterian though not in the Puseyite sense of the term.
We rejoice therefore that the Assembly freely admits in their Minute that there are true believers in the Church of Rome. Indeed we are not sure that truth would not demand the admission that there were more of evangelical doctrine and of true religion in that Church than were to be found in the Church of England or in some of the Protestant Churches of the continent of Europe notwithstanding their orthodox creeds during their long declension in the last century.