Page images

Thus David figuratively ascribes to the sign what evidently belongs to the thing signified.

Purg'e me with hyssop, and I shall be clean."* What really takes away the guilt of past sins, is the merit of Christ's obedience unto death in our stead, and which, according to the plan of divine

mercy in the gospel, we are encouraged to receive by faith for that end. « The blood of Jesus Christ his Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” † “ If the blood of bulls, and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ--purge your conscience from dead works to the living God?” Hence we may see, that to ascribe to baptism the washing away of guilt is to confound the sign with the thing signified.

§ 18. Nor can it be consistently maintained, that the thing signified is, in its application, inseparably associated with baptism. That it may please God, in some instances, to apply the blessing at the ministration of the ordinance is not disputed; because he may do it then as well as at any other time: but that he has laid himself under the obligation of a promise to do so, does not appear from his word,—and plain

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

facts recorded there, as before shewn, prove the contrary. The same may be said of imparting the Holy Ghost; for this plain reason, that there appears no greater connection between baptism and the giving of the Spirit, than between baptism and the remission of sin. It is allowed, as before concerning the remission of sin, that God may give his spirit to the baptized person at the time of ministration, because he is confined to no time; and it is

proper to pray for the blessing on that occasion, not only because we may ask it of our Father in heaven at all times, as children may ask a gift of their earthly parents, but also because the use of the sign is calculated to remind us of our need, and to excite our desires after the blessing represented.

§ 19. The same remark is applicable to the ancient custom of “laying hands” on the head of a person in some peculiarly act of solemn prayer. It is an outward sign whereby the şubject is affectionately discriminated from others, and in the use of which blessings have been sought. Hence the employment of it is calculated not only to bring to remembrance God's promised blessing of his Holy Spirit, but also to increase our importunity. The miraculous gifts of the Spirit were bestowed upon many in the Christian church long after their

baptism, - as is evident from the following passage; “ Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem, heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John. Who when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost. (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands, the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.”* Here, not baptism but the imposition of hands was the outward sign; not at the time of baptism, but at some future period. Had the Holy Ghost been imparted by baptism, as a matter of course, Simon would not have been destitute of the heavenly gift.

§ 20. But his Lordship supposes, that it is the office of baptism to impart the Holy Ghost to those who shall previously have repented and believed.' Here we might ask, did any ever believe and repent without the influence of the Holy Ghost? Is not the spirit of faith and

* Acts viii. 14-19.

repentance a heavenly gift? Do not all true penitents and believers readily ascribe this to the Father of lights, and the exalted Lord and Saviour? Does not supplication to God for the spirit of love, of repentance and faith, for unbaptized persons imply the same? Is not this communication of the Holy Spirit's influence different from his miraculous effusion, designed for different purposes, and attended with different effects? and was not that which was extraordinary given in a manner, and at different intervals of time, sufficient to prove that it was not the office of baptism to impart it? It is well worthy of consideration, whether to pray for the same kind of operation now, as what followed the apostolic laying on of hands, be not as much chargeable with presumption and enthusiasm, as to pray for the gift of tongues, or for power to raise the dead.

§ 21. His Lordship, when explaining the meaning of John the Baptist, asserts, that baptism administered by the apostles and their successors,


the supernatural * assistance of the Spirit of God. If this, however, was the only use of baptism, it ought to have been discontinued from the time of the apostles, or at least of their immediate successors, when similar effects no longer followed. How much more worthy of the sacred oracles is the

[merged small][ocr errors]

other interpretation, viz. That the effusion of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was itself a kind of baptism, an initiation into the mysteries of Christ's spiritual reign, rather than a mystical effect of water baptism? That the word baptism was sometimes used figuratively by Christ and his apostles, as well as by John the Baptist, is evident. When our Lord was about to be initiated into his last sufferings, he says, “ I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished?"*_“ Are

?"*__" Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with ?-Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with.” † Here evidently the “ cup” denotes deep sorrow; and

baptism” a being devoted to, set apart for, or initiated into that state in which he exclaimed, “ My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” – St. Paul says, that the Israelites were baptized into Moses, when he clearly means initiated into his dispensation : and Saint Peter calls a sincere confession of the Christian faith baptism. Noah and his family, by entering into the ark, were initiated into a new dispensation, and persons entering into the Christian church professed the same; and when their answer

* Luke xii. 5.

+ Matt. xx. 22, 23.

Ib. xxvi. 38.

« PreviousContinue »