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that ordinance, we ought to stand reproved as guilty of enthusiasm, as being wise above what is written in the sacred oracles. Conversion also, in our view, may take place, before, or after, or at baptism; but cannot take place without regeneration, any more than voluntary motion can be exerted without a vital principle. Regeneration, as the immediate effect of divine influence, we maintain is instantaneous ;-and so, indeed, does his Lordship; it being, according to him, the one immediate effect of baptism once administered;' nay, so immediate, so instantaneous, that it is never 'subsequent to baptism!'
§ 5. To limit either regeneration or conversion to any period of human life, or as the effect of any external rite, while the will of God is sovereign in dispensing blessings, and the will of man is free from constraint, we regard as enthusiastic. An opinion which appears a priori so very improbable, so inconsistent with the analogy of divine dispensations; which makes a physical act, as water-baptism is, to be a certain medium of a spiritual effect, while the subject is entirely passive; ought, we to conceive, before it can be exonerated from this charge, to have no dubious evidence of divine authority. We study the scriptures, as well as our opponents, and conclude that they contain no such evidence. His Lordship, however, has produced several
passages in support of the contrary opinion. Let us now candidly examine them.
§ 6. “ Born of Water and of the Spirit.” There was a dispute among the Jews about purifying, occasioned, it should seem, by the baptism of John and that of Christ's disciples. Th Now it seems natural to suppose, that they regarded the terms “ baptizing,” and “purifying” as synonymous ;-and indeed what more properly expresses the nature of baptism than a ceremonial purification? The “ washing of water by the word,” constitutes the ceremonial institution; and the signification is the removal of moral impurity. The Jews hastily inferred, (and Nicodemus was not free from the prejudice,) that baptism itself was enough to constitute a complete disciple. But our Lord shews them their mistake, by stating, that saving discipleship includes a heavenly and spiritual, as well as a watery birth. Hence, to be baptized is to be “ born of water;" which introduces the subject of it into a visible relation to the Messiah, as circumcision introduced its subject into the privileges and obligations of the preceding dispensation; and to be spiritually regenerated is to : be “ born of the Spirit,” without which no one can be a spiritual subject of Christ's kingdom,
* John iii. 22-26.
or be rendered meet for heaven. For that which is spiritual must be born of the Spirit; as that which is flesh must be born of the flesh, or as that which is natural must arise from the constituted laws of nature. Can any thing, therefore, be plainer than these words to shew, first, that to be “born of water” is to be baptized, by which we enter on a new state of relative existence, or enjoyment of external privileges, and consequently of corresponding obligations : secondly, that to be “ born of the Spirit” is an effect of some operation of the Spirit of God in the mind, distinct from and superior to the baptismal rite: thirdly, that those who regard the immediate effect of this operation of the Spirit of God in the mind as regeneration, are conformable to scripture in the use of the term,
§ 7. We freely admit that to be “ born of water” is, in an inferior sense, to be “ born again,” when contrasted with our “natural birth:” for as by the latter we are introduced into a new state of existence, so by the former, in a figurative sense, we are brought into a new state of things-into new relations to Christ and his church, new privileges and obligations, new associates and services. In a word, by being “ born of water” we become externally and visibly related to the Christian dispensation, as
a man by being circumcised became related to the Jewish church. But to infer that an ex-. ternal rite, however significant, introduces the subject of it into a spiritual and saving relation to God, was an error into which the Jews had very generally fallen, and from which many professing Christians are not free. « For he is not a Jew, who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh : but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God."* Here it is quite clear that circumcision was a rite by which a change “ of the heart,” a change " in the spirit,” was the thing signified; and, that persons being circumcised in the flesh was no proof of their being circumcised in the spirit. And from the analogy of divine dispensations we may conclusively argue (mutatis mutandis) with the apostle: he is not a Christian who is one outwardly; neither is that baptism which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Christian who is one inwardly; and baptism is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God.
§ 8. Let the candid reader now judge whether
* Rom. ij. 28, 29.
we have any room to infer that a spiritual change • is an immediate effect of an external rite; either of circumcision, of baptism, or, by parity of reason, of any other. As to the words first noticed, “ born of water” and “ born of the Spirit” (for the word born is evidently implied in the latter clause) there is no intimation, either in the words themselves or in the connection, that the one birth is the immediate effect of the other, any more than being born again of water is the immediate effect of being born of the flesh. A mere nominal Christian, is born of the flesh and of water; but if changed in heart and spirit, he is also born of the Spirit. And, if I may express ' my own conviction, every attempt to shew that being “ born of the Spirit,” “ born from above,” “ born of God," and the like, denote either baptism itself, or some immediate effect of baptism, has a direct tendency to expose the simple but sublime religion of Jesus Christ to the derision of its enemies; — and ought to be as strenuously exploded, as the unscriptural and unintelligible dogmas of transubstantiation and consubstantiation.
§ 9. It has been observed before, that the modern Calvinists use the term Regeneration as denoting sometimes the formation of Christian virtues and tempers; which acceptation also