« PreviousContinue »
whether saving faith is prior to his internal, ordinary, and enlightening influence. That those to whom the apostles preached expressed their faith in Christ, before they received the one, is no conclusive argument that they were not the subjects of the other operation prior to the expression of their faith. What is recorded of Lydia is a case in point. It is expressly said, that “the Lord opened her heart," as the predisposing cause of her attention and faith.
§ 13. The statement made in the quotation, it may
be further observed, confounds the exercise of faith with its principle. No Calvinist denies, that the hearing of the word precedes the exercise of faith; for we constantly maintain that belief is produced by hearing, or, as the apostle expresses it, that “ faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” There can be no belief without a testimony; bụt surely the thing believed can no more produce the principle or spirit of faith, than the act of reasoning can produce the reasoning faculty, or the act of volition produce the will. We are neither so unscriptural nor unreasonable as to suppose, that believing, trusting, or sealing, are not preceded by hearing: we set forth the testimony of God before our hearers, in order that they may believe and trust in it, and that they may be sealed with the Holy Spirit of
promise as the consequent privilege: but we should offend against scripture and reason, were we to profess that the principle of faith, any more than the testimony believed, is “ of ourselves," as the production of free-will.
§ 14. Equally inapplicable to Calvinists is the intimation, that they (for who else can be intended by his. Lordship?) pretend that the Spirit is sometimes communicated to those who refuse to believe. We freely grant, and openly profess, that the communication of the Spirit in an extraordinary manner for, the first propagation of Christianity, was subsequent to belief, and consequently was never communicated to those who refused to believe,'—and we are as ready to deny that any person is the subject of divine influence, and at the same time refuses to believe. But to suppose a person prior to such influence refused to believe, and believed in consequence of it, is neither inconsistent with scripture nor with reason. Few will deny, that Saul of Tarsus became the subject of divine operation, when previously he had refused to believe; for he was “ breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord,” at the very time he was arrested by divine power
between Jerusalem and Damascus. But no sooner did he experience that heavenly power, than his enmity against the Saviour and
his disciples was subdued, and he refused to believe' no longer: for to imagine that he first believed, without receiving the spirit of faith, but that this was imparted to him as the consequence of believing, is at variance with all analogy. But the insufficiency of reason and free-will to make the heart good, or to beget a spiritual principle of saving faith, has been already considered.
It is very explicitly avowed by his Lordship, that baptism washes away sin, and imparts the Holy Ghost. “The rite of baptism,' he observes, ' was ordained by Christ
himself; and its two-fold office is here [Acts * ii. 38.] described by his apostle, namely, that • it washes away the guilt of former sin, and
imparts the Holy Ghost to those who shall ' previously have repented and believed. It had
been foretold by John the Baptist, that Christ should baptize with the Holy Ghost, meaning,
that the baptism instituted by Christ, and ? administered by his apostles and their suc
cessors, should convey the supernatural assist·ance of the Spirit of God. This communica“tion being made at baptism, at the time of 4 admission into the gospel covenant, every Christian must possess the invaluable blessing ! of preventing grace, which, without extinguishing the evil propensities of our nature,
inspires holy desires, suggests good counsels, and excites to just works.'*
As to the quotation from Dr. BARROW, which asserts that this “ hath been the doctrine constantly, and with very general consent, delivered in the Catholic church,” it proves one thing at least,—that the Catholic church has never been so pure but it needed reformation; needed it, in proportion as the sentiment here maintained is inconsistent with the genuine sense of the sacred scriptures, and the reasonableness of Christianity. And whether this be not the fact, let us now proceed calmly and impartially to examine.
§ 16. That the rite of baptism was ordained by Christ himself is admitted on all sides; but that its two-fold office is to wash away the guilt of sin, and to impart the Holy Ghost, according to Peter, or any other inspired writer, wants proof. “ Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”+ Here the first question is, with what remission of sin stands connected? With repentance, with baptism, or with both united? Let Peter himself answer: Repent ye therefore and be con
verted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come, &c.”* We know from scripture testimony that the penitent shall be pardoned, though unbaptized, and we know too that every baptized person was not pardoned, as in the case of Simon Magus. Consequently, the union of repentance and baptism was not an indispensable condition for the remission of sin. It is therefore plain, that as baptism was not, either alone or united with repentance, inseparably connected, even in the apostolic age, with the remission of sin, it was not one office of baptism to “ wash away the guilt of former sins." Peter's expression must mean, to make it consistent with other scriptures, “ Repent-for the remission of sins, be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ;" so that baptism is urged as a suitable mode of testifying their repentance, because an instituted rite of entering into a new visible relation to Jesus Christ, the true Messiah.
§ 17. Baptism, being “ an outward, visible sign, of an inward spiritual grace,” represents the washing away of sin; but it is not the sign that effects it, though by a common figure of speech it is put for that which does so in reality.
* Acts jii. 19.