Page images
PDF
EPUB

LETTER V.

Buptism--Sign--Its import- How to be adminis

teredBrief view of John's baptism.

BELOVED PEOPLE,

Tuus far we have considered sacraments in general, with a special reference, however, to baptismand the Lord's supper; which, as was stated at the conclusion of my third leiter, are designed for the use and benefit of the Christian Church, until the end of time. We have now arrived at a point when it becomes necessary to examine these ordinances separately; and to enquire into the nature of eachthe signs, which are to be employed—the benefits, which are signified and sealed by them--the subjects, who are to participate in them-and the solemn obligations, which all who vow are under, to pay to the Lord that which they have vowed.

We begin with the sacrament of baptism. It is an institution of the Lord Jesus Christ, in which, by the application of water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, the subject is solemnly recognized, as a member of God's visible church, and is consecrated to the service of Jehovah, the God of salvation ; with a direct reference to the justifying righteousness, and the sanctifying grace of the Lord Jesus, as signified and sealed in the ordi. imance.

Water, 6 pure unmixed water,” is the sign to be used in this ordinance. Nothing can be found in scripture to justify the use of oil, and other ingredients, employed by the Church of Rome, any more than the ceremonies which they practise, in the administration of baptism. The Apostles, and their fellow labourers in the gospel, used such water as could be most conveniently obtained, only attending to its purity, that it might be a fit emblem of spiritual cleansing. And such water, wherever it was found, they used in the state in which they found it, without any foreign adınixtures. When the Ethiopean Eunuch had been instructed in the principles, and converted to the faith of the Christian religion by the instrumentality of Philip, “ as they went on their way, they came to a certain water.” Observe, it is not stated whether it was a living spring, a running stream, or a stagnant pond; for that was completely immaterial: “ They came to a certain water; and the Eunuch said, See liere is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized ? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the ehariot to stand still; and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the Eunuch, and he baptized him."*

The water, thus used in baptism, is a sign of the blood and grace of the Lord Jesus; and the application of this water, in the administration of the ordinance, is a sign and seal of the washing away of sin by the merit of that ilood and the efficacy of that grace. Nothing but the blood of Christ can cleanse us from our guilt, whether original or actual. No one but the Spirit of Christ can renew and sanctify our depraved hearts. And these are the benefits signified and sealed in this sacrament; viz. justification through the imputed righteousness, and sancrification by the invincible grace of the Son of God. for as water applied to the body cleanses it from natural impurities, so the blood and grace of Christ, applied to the soul, cleanse it from moral defilement.

* Acts vfii. 36--23.

How the water, used in the ordinance of baptism, is to be applied, has long been a subject of controversy ; although to me it appears to be a subject of minor importance. Our “ form” concedes that it may be used by dipping in, or sprinkling with. The application of water by authorized hands, in the name of the triune Jehovah, to a proper subject, is baptism. We, indeed, have our choice; and we have our reasons for it: although, upon the supposition that either mode will answer, it might be sufficient barely to say, that we prefer sprinkling on the ground of convenience, of safety, and of decency.

But perhaps the subject ought not to be dismissed in this summary manner. It is our duty, on all proper occasions, to assign the reasons of our hope, and of our practice too. And

1st, I observe, that it is utterly impossible to come to any positive conclusion as to the manner in

which baptism ought to be administered, from au examination of the original word Bursitw, used in the New Testament, in relation to this ordinance. I avail myself of remarks made on this point by the late Rev. Samuel S. Smith, D.D. president of the College of New Jersey.* “ I observe (says be,) that the term baptism, in the sacred writings, is applied in differently, to signify either partial or entire washings—either sprinkling or immersion. It is unnecessary to recite all the passages, in which this is demonstrated. To one or two only I shall refer. << When Jesus went to eat with a certain Pharisee, the Pharisee wondered that he had not first washed," (Luke xi. 39.) referring to the Jewish custoin of washing their hands before meat. But in the original, it is he wondered that he had not first [efuntion] baptized. “Many other things there be,” says the evangelist Mark, (vii. 4.) “which they have received to hold, as the washing [in the original, the Bantidues, baptisms,] of cups, of pots, of brazen vessels, and of tables.” As the sacred writer, probably, refers to the instruments of the temple service, or iv those domestic utensils, which were religiously purified according to the same forms, the whole Levitical ritual proves that these purifications were effected by various sprinklings or aspersions. See Lev. xiv. Num. viii. and xix. Heb. ix. 19, 20." The Aposile Paul, too, in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, x chap. od verse, says that the children of Israel *were all baptized [ecantidavTO] unto Moses in the cloud, and in the sea.” Now it is evident, that they were baptized in no other way than by being sprinkled with the spray, or drops, falling from the cloud.—But I need not enlarge. The attentive and critical reader well knows, that the original term means sprinkling as well as immersion. Paul, Heb. ix. 10, calls the Jewish purifications, which we know were generally performed by affusion or sprinkling, divers washings. In the original it is dio.copeis βαπτισμοις.

* See Christian's Magazine, rol. ii. p. 544

2. It will occur to every reader, that in sacraments, it is an object of high importance, that there should be as strict a resemblance between the sign and the thing signified as the nature of the case admits of. We have before remarked, that the water in baptism ought to be pure, to make it a proper emblem of spiritual cleansing. We now assert, that the water used in baptism ought to be applied in that way, in which the benefits siguified by the water are said to be applied ; and in what way are those benefits said to be applied ? By sprinkling. This is an important consideration ; and to me it appears to possess more weight than any other that can be urged in relation to the subject in dispute. “In forming our judgment of the validity of the mode by aspersion (says the writer above referred 10), it deserves to be particularly remarked, that sprinkling is, throughout the sacred writings, used as one of the most common and significant emblems of purity, of cleansing, of repentance-of every thing that is implied in the waters of baptism. Not to speak of the

« PreviousContinue »