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St. Paul, to convey the notion of water baptism communicating spiritual blessings; rather than significantly representing, and requiring of the baptized to put off the whole body of sin, to bury it for ever, to rise with Christ by faith, and to live a holy life to the glory of God. The apostle's design was evidently to counteract the Judaizing teachers, who pleaded for the importance of circumcision.
In prosecution of that design, he shews, that they ought to part with that rite, because the end of it was answered. The ancient circumcision had an important meaning; in Christians that meaning was accomplished, because they were virtually cir; cumcised, with the “circumcision not made with hands." The phrase "not made with hands," which occurs repeatedly in the New Testament, always denotes the spiritual reality of something adumbrated: and “ the circumcision of Christ,” or what was instituted by him in the room of circumcision, could not, in the nature of the case, communicate, but only represent and require the renunciation and burial of the old man of sin, and a new life of faith in Christ. And this faith was of " the operation of God,” not “ the immediate effect of baptism.” The notion of baptism communicating “a lively lope," has been before considered; and the same arguments will prove that baptism does not communicate “ the faith of the operation of
God," by which believers are, risen with Christ.
< Born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible.”* His Lordship asserts, that these words relate to baptism. The leading position is, that regeneration means baptism; and as“ born again” is synonymous with
regenerated,” baptism must be intended. The words are found in connection as follows: “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the spirit, unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently; being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever.” † These Christians had obeyed the truth; this obedience was through, or by the assistance of the Spirit; the effect of this obedience was the purification of their souls, and the love of the brethren, which they were called upon to cultivate. In order to enforce this duty more powerfully, they are reminded, that they were regenerated; and lest there should be any mistake respecting the kind of regeneration intended, they are told it was that which was derived from an incorruptible seed—the word of God. Now, is it possible for an attentive
1 Pet. 1. 23.
+ Ver. 22, 23.
and impartial mind to suppose that the apostle meant, “ born of water,” or the regeneration of baptism? On what principle can such an opinion be founded? Does it not appear with a noon-day plainness, that he designs that regeneration which takes place on the reception of God's testimony; and which consists in the exercise of faith and love? That “new man" which consists in knowledge and other Christian graces, is formed by the union of a gracious principle with divine truth: the soul is regenerated, properly speaking, by the Spirit, but the body of Christian graces requires for its formation the word of truth, before either knowledge, faith, love, hope, fear, and the like, can have existence: baptismal water is corruptible seed, but “ the word of our God abideth for ever."
Baptism doth now save us, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ."* sions, in their detached form, undoubtedly carry a semblance of proof in favour of his Lordship’s interpretation; but the words with which they stand connected entirely deprive him even of that semblance. “ Once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water. The like figure whereunto
* 1 Pet. iii. 21.
even baptism, doth also now save us (not the putting away the filth of the flesh; but the answer of a good conscience toward God), by the resurrection of Jesus Christ."* It is obvious that St. Peter institutes a comparison between the unbelieving inhabitants before the deluge, and those who reject the gospel, on the one hand; and between believing Noah with his family, and professing Christians, on the other : the rejectors of God's testimony, in both cases, were the objects of divine displeasure; but those who believed and obeyed this testimony were objects of the divine approbation and care: the water of the deluge formed a separation between two dispensations; and so does that of baptism. But, we are expressly, told, that “hy faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.”+ He was a partaker of saving faith, righteousness, and true holiness, before he was saved by water. Consequently, his being preserved in the ark related only to God's external dispensation towards him; he was delivered from that calamity which divine judgment brought upon the unbelieving and disobedient, in consequence of his being, “ found
* 1 Pet. iii. 20, 21,
+ Heb. xi. 7.
righteous in his generation." In like manner believing Jews and Gentiles entered into the Christian church (typified by the ark), that they might escape the righteous judgment of God which awaited professed unbelievers, and God sealed to them by baptism his new covenant. Christ's obedience, as our substitute, was sealed by his blood and death; but his testamentary grant of privileges and blessings to be enjoyed on gospel terms, is both signified and sealed by the institution of baptism. A seal affixed to a will is designed to certify that it is the real testament of him who seals it.
§ 22. But it is very observable, how particularly the apostle cautions us against the inference of water baptism effecting our salvation, as if aware that some might be disposed to form such conclusion: “Not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God.” The spiritual salvation is secured to us not by the external rite, but by a conscientious regard to God's covenant, of which that rite is the sign and seal. Not the profession of repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, which was expected to be made by the candidate, but the godly sincerity of that. profession. A hypocrite might be admitted to the church, as Ham was admitted into the ark; but as the ark and the deluge made no one