Bishop Bedell and Paedocommunion

William Bedell was an Irish Bishop and a contemporary of James Ussher and Samuel Ward. He took issue with Ward’s position that baptism removed original sin in all baptized infants. Joel Garver has reproduced Ward’s letter to Ussher on this topic here. Bedell seems to limit infant baptism’s immediate effect to obsignation, and he and Ward have a spirited exchange which can be found in Ussher’s Whole Works vol. XV.

I currently favor Ward on the question of baptism, but in his rebuttal to Ward, Bedell espouses some interesting views on paedocommunion. Bedell writes:

Thirdly, you say, ‘What necessity of baptizing infants, if their baptism produce no effect till they come to years of discretion?’ Though the most principal effect be not attained presently, the less principal are not to be refused. So children were circumcised, which could not understand the reason of it; and the same also did eat the Passover. And so did also children baptized in the primitive Church communicate in the Lord’s Supper. Which I know not why it should not be so still, de quo alias.

A little later Bedell also states:

Lastly, by this doctrine you must also maintain that children do spiritually eat the flesh of Christ, and drink his blood, if they receive the Eucharist, as for divers ages they did, and by the analogy of the Passover they may, perhaps ought…

Now it must be confessed that these are sparse and passing remarks. Bedell is chiefly employing them to persuade Ward against his view of baptism. However, it must be pointed out that Bedell goes beyond a mere hypothetical negative and uses the terms “should” and “ought.” He also frankly admits the authority of Augustine and the ancient church in regards to child-participation in the Supper. Finally, he uses the analogy of passover, which he thinks is consistent with all paedobaptists’ use of the similitude between circumcision and baptism.

This entry was posted in church history, eucharist by Steven Wedgeworth. Bookmark the permalink.

About Steven Wedgeworth

Steven Wedgeworth is the associate pastor of Faith Presbyterian Church in Vancouver, British Columbia. He writes about theology, history, and political theory, and he has taught Jr. High and High School. He is the founder and general editor of The Calvinist International, an online journal of Christian Humanism and political theology, and a Director for the Davenant Institute.

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