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proceeded from “ a good conscience," purified by faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ, it was connected with salvation :* the apostle expressly declares that by baptism he meant, " The answer of a good conscience towards God.”. If, therefore, the word was thus used figuratively by Christ and his apostles, why must John the Baptist, as above quoted, speaking of Christ baptizing with the Holy Ghost, be debarred from the figurative use of it; especially when the literal sense, expressing water baptism, is encumbered with so many and such insuperable difficulties.
It must be allowed by every wellinformed and dispassionate person, that many who have succeeded the apostles officially, were contemptible moral characters. Be that as it may, to suppose that a penitent believer has not the Spirit of God imparted to him until he has been baptized, but has this blessing after, if but administered in due form by a successor of the apostles, (even though resembling Simon Magus in the temper of his mind,) is the direct way to a contempt of the religion that professes it; and to promote the cause of infidelity.' That the unworthiness of the minister does not disannul the real design of a divinely instituted
* 1 Pet. iii. 22.
ordinance, is fully admitted. The objection lies against the pretended design or office of baptism. Baptism itself, however unworthy the minister, we maintain, exhibits, in a very signicant manner, our need of moral purity,—the mercy of God by Jesus Christ in making provision for it according to the gospel, and our obligations to renounce every thing inconsistent with Christianity. The notion of a divinely instituted rite conferring grace ex opere operato, or as a condition sine qua non, or by any appointed inseparable connection of the sign and the thing signified, ought to be buried in oblivion, with other Jewish and Popish prejudices, lest the holy ordinances of God be exposed to contempt.
If we would defend the gospel against unbelievers, or confirm the faith of Christians, let us not insult their understanding ; but shew that its doctrines and institutions are
not unreasonable, however inadequate the principles of reason were to discover them a priori.
§ 23. “Every Christian must possess the invaluable blessing of preventing grace. This we cannot allow, unless by 'Christian' be meant, one who bears the moral image of Christ, as distinguished from one who is merely baptized. To suppose that the communication of the invaluable blessing of grace is made
' baptism, at the time of admission into the gospel
covenant, as a matter of course, in virtue of some appointed rule of operation, is not less unscriptural, than the sentiment, that the institution of confirmation communicates confirming grace, or the divine ordinance of marriage conveys the grace of a spiritual union to him who is the head and husband of his church. In short, the sentiment mixes heaven and earth, and confounds physical and moral connections. That God may communicate grace at baptism, was before admitted: but that this or any other institution can impart, convey, or communicate grace, or is adapted in its nature to be the channel of conveyance, is an idea perfectly incongruous and irreconcileable with just views of divine operations, and of sacred rites.
By baptism, indeed, we are brought into a new visible relation; and in an external sense may be said to be made or constituted « children of God, members of Christ, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven.” But we cannot suppose this new relation to be an inward change, or an introduction into a saving relation to God, and Christ, and heaven, without in effect supposing that a baptized hypocrite is a good Christian; that a man under the prevailing influence of the world, the flesh, and the devil, if baptized, is a spiritual child of God; that a baptized person, though full of the lust of the flesh, the
lust of the eye, and the pride of life, is a worthy member of Christ, and in the way, to heaven! Neither baptism, the Lord's Supper, nor any other ordinance can become inwardly profitable to the subject, except according to the proper use he makes of it. This, I am aware, some may controvert; for there are some who do call in question the first principles of knowledge, and the proper nature of things, as well as the verities of holy writ.
$ 24. Until it be made apparent that baptismal internal grace has an existence, little need be said about its supposed properties. It cannot be doubted that subjective internal holy influence is the source of holy desires, good counsels, and just works; but to affirm that it inspires, suggests, and excites them, seems to be an employment of figurative language calculated to mislead the judgment, and therefore misplaced. However, we are told that this preventing grace does not 'extinguish
the evil propensities of our nature.' But surely the tendency of all divine graee, is to extinguish the fire of sinful lusts, and to counteract evil propensities; and a person in whom no degree of flagrant evil is extinguished, though baptized, has no degree of holy grace. For if to extinguish and counteract evil be not an effect, by what medium can its existence be proved ?
If his Lordship means that there is a degree of holy influence which does not imply a perfection of character, or that persons may be found who were not made perfect at baptism, all modern Calvinists, be it remembered, are of the same opinion.
25. 'If grace were irresistible,' his Lordship asserts, ‘men could not depart from it, • and fall into sin."* In this hypothetical proposition we may notice the ambiguity of the terms 'grace and irresistible.' The Calvinists do not maintain that grace, in every acceptation of the word, is irresistible. A little reflection may satisfy any candid person, that in scripture usage it conveys different ideas, according to the connection; and especially these three exhibited favour, an internal principle of spiritual light and life, and Christian virtues in exercise. Fact proves, that exhibited favours,
gospel truth, Christ, and salvation, are actually resisted; and therefore grace in this acceptation (which is common in scripture) is not irresistible. And fact further proves, that Christian virtues, as faith, hope, and charity, are resisted by our depraved propensities, at least in some degree. When, therefore, Calvinists maintain that grace is irresistible, they mean an
* Refut. p. 63.