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We have neither said, nor meant to say, that Baptism is no more than dedication to God. Nor do we describe Baptism as a ceremony. It is, without question, a divinely-appointed sacrament. But the argument is not now with those who profess to be baptists ; nor are we concerned with a controversy which we believe to have been satisfactorily settled as soon as it was raised; nor shall we debate on the meaning of the word “ ment.” Let words be taken as they are commonly understood ; and let those who substitute a ceremony of dedication for the sacrament of Baptism be respectfully advised to consider whether the substitution of something of human contrivance for that which the Lord Jesus Christ appointed, and commanded to be done in the name of the triune God, is not a sin.
3. All that we have now to do is to state a few facts of sacred history, with the conclusions from those facts.
The disciples were commanded to “go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature,” (Táoy tŷ ktíoet, including the Gentiles,)“ and to make disciples of all nations,” (margin,) " baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost : teaching them ”. by practical and constant instruction, which was, of course, to be given after Baptism—" to observe” (inpeiv) “all things whatsoever” Christ had " commanded them.” (Mark xvi. 15; Matt. xxviii. 19, 20.) The disciples went forth and preached. They baptized all who believed what they declared concerning Christ; they administered Baptism at once, without hesitation or delay, if the converts did but profess to believe with all their heart. Multitudes of Jews and heathens, who had lived in profound ignorance until the moment when they first heard the preacher, and who then suddenly declared themselves believers in his doctrine, or accepted the message of mercy the moment it was delivered, were at once baptized; their original heathenism notwithstanding, if they were but willing to cast it off. Nor was there any laxity in this practice : for the acceptance by the preachers of the Gospel of such persons was necessary to the fulfilment of the covenant promise : “ Ask of me, and I shall give the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession.” (Psalı ii. 8.) The baptizers and the baptized having promptly obeyed the Lord's command, the one had to teach, and the other to learn. The baptized persons at once came under the obligation to learn and to obey; and, according to the doctrine of St. Paul, as many of them as had been “ baptized into Christ” had “put on Christ,” or assumed the external character of Christian, with all the obligations of Christianity. All previous distinctions were annibilated ; and thenceforth there was “ neither Jew nor Greek," there was “ neither bond nor free," there was “ neither male nor female :” every heathen stigma was obliterated, and they became all one in Christ Jesus.” To this new community were transferred, in their highest import, all the promises contained in God's covenant of faith with Abraham : for, as they were “ Christ's,” then were they “ Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. iii. 29.)
This new relation was consequent on baptism. The baptized were known as “ disciples,” or “believers,” or “ brethren,” or “ saints," or "faithful;" and, after a few years, all these honourable designations were lost in the common name of Christian. The aggregate of Christians, regenerate or unregenerate, constituted" the church ;” none of these honourable names, any more than the name “ Israelite,” being taken to signify more than the external relation of the person bearing it, unless when used absolutely, and by way of eminence. Meanwhile, the nullity of a mere name was set forth with sufficient clearness; and, for the admonition of all baptized yet unregenerate disciples, there still remained the sentence of their Master,—“ Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father, which is in heaven.” (Matt. vii. 21.) But to say, “ Lord, Lord,”-to submit to circumcision, as Abraham did in his old age, and Ishmael in his boyhood ; or to baptism, as the jailer at Philippi did ; or to be circumcised in infancy, as Isaac was ; or to be baptized, as the infants of the first Christian households were, was all of like force under either the patriarchal or the Christian dispensation. The person circumcised had been bound to keep the whole law; and now the person baptized was bound to walk according to the Gospel of Christ. The baptized were all made members of the Christian church ; they were, if one may so speak, Christians by obligation, Christians by sacramental relation to Christ, yet Christians that were in danger of perishing everlastingly, unless by hearty repentance and true faith they made their calling and election sure.
The same broad view of the Christian church is taken by the majority of theologians, and must be entertained by plain men who read the Bible without the bias of a system, and acknowledged by all who attach any importance at all to the sacrament which was divinely appointed for the solemn reception of persons born in sin into one community bearing the venerable Name by which we are called. Hence the description of the church adopted by the Rev. Richard Watson :*—“The church of Christ, in its largest sense, consists of all who have been baptized in the name of Christ, and who thereby make a yisible profession of faith in His Divine mission, and in all the doctrines taught by Him and His inspired apostles. In a stricter sense, it consists of those who are vitally united to Christ, as the members of the body to the Head ; and who, being thus imbued with spiritual life, walk no longer after the flesh, but after the Spirit.' Taken in either view, it is a visible society, bound to observe the laws of Christ, its sole Head and Lord. Visible fellowship with this church is the duty of all who profess faith in Christ ; for in this, in part, consists that 'confession of Christ before men,' on which so much stress is laid in the discourses of our Lord.”
Baptism into such a body is not a vain ceremony, but a real initiation, performed according to God's ordinance, and therefore, as we must assuredly believe, with His approval, and consequently with His blessing. How great the blessing may be, we gather from the saying of St. Paul : “By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free ; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Cor. xii. 13.)
* Theological Institutes, part iv., chap. i.
This holy sacrament, as it introduces its subjects into the universal congregation of those who thereby receive the Christian name, and are brought under the yoke of Christ Himself, must be most carefully distinguished from any form or stipulation which admits into the fellowship of any one particular congregation. The administrator of the sacrament cannot possibly, by any prerogative, enlarge the powers which our Lord gave to those whom He sent forth to baptize; nor can he, by any degree of insignificance, limit them. He may desecrate the rite, but he cannot change the institution. With the compilers of the Nicene Creed, then, we believe in one Baptism for (eis, in order to) the remission of sins. No little Society, however pure, can lawfully presume to admit a baptized person by anabaptism into its bosom, without confounding the ideas of the great multitude of the baptized whom the Lord Jesus Christ recognises as being in confessed subjection to Himself, and the small community which exists by virtue of certain regulations of its own.
Again. Persons as yet unbaptized are bound to submit themselves and their children to Baptism ; not because they are believers, and therefore fit subjects; but because of the Divine command, which requires them to be submissive subjects. In other words, Baptism is not optional, but obligatory ; as appears on the face of the apostolic commission which we have quoted.
The sacrament, having been duly administered in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, is completely done. Nothing can be added, because no addition is prescribed. It is complete. So far, it satisfies the law which appointed it ; and as there cannot be any authority superior to that which made the appointment, it is, in the very nature of things, incapable of confirmation. The Sovereign Himself has ratified the engagement by allowing the admission into His visible kingdom of this alien ; and no minister of the Sovereign can ratify his Master's act. There seems to be no place left for ecclesiastical“ confirmation.”
The question, then, may be fairly suggested, whether it be reverent, or right, or true, to say that Baptism is a sacrament “of the church.” We are stewards of the mysteries of God; but the mysteries are His, not ours.
On this, however, and on all such matters, it is beside our present purpose to dwell.
4. Now to repeat the question, “What is the use of Baptism ?” Rudely as the question is framed, it shall be accepted as sincere. The inquirer has heard tell of some sign, or seal ; of something outward and visible, answering to some inward and spiritual grace; but he sees that few indeed of the baptized myriads around him exhibit any outward evidence whatever of inward grace.“ The laver of regeneration,” he thinks, has produced no good effect. “What, then,” he again insists, “can be the use of Baptism ?”
Let us go to the baptismal font; and, as we confess our original sinfulness, and deplore the corruption inherited from us by our children, but humbly obey the command of their Saviour and ours, we will there prayerfully repeat the question, if happily we may be guided to an answer. The infant, brought openly to be grafted into the congregation of Christ's flock, will not receive any outward mark, nor will any visible trace of the solemnity remain, except it be the name now given, and the register entered in a book. But neither name nor registration will be alleged in the future life of this present infant, as evidence to the world that he was this day made a Christian. And it is possible, nay, it is to be feared, that his future conduct will be at variance with his profession of Christianity. Besides this fear, confessed by all, as to his future character, we are on both sides agreed that the washing of water, even of this baptismal water, cannot cleanse him in the least from the taint of inbred sin. We have not seen any sign, or seal; we know not of any “pledge" visibly or sensibly imparted.
As for outward marks, although one such was once appointed, (doubtless, for sufficient reason,) and has served well to distinguish the descendants of Abraham, however destitute of the faith of Abraham they have generally been,-any such mark cannot be necessary under the Christian dispensation; nor ever was in itself necessary for salvation under any dispensation : for the sentence of an inspired apostle places it beyond dispute, that “neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature." (Gal. vi. 15.) And the new creation (ktious) is its own evidence. The regenerate child of God is himself a living epistle, known and read of all men.
As for the mournful truth that sin is not washed away by Baptism, we triumphantly set against it the assurance that the blood of Jesus Christ our Lord cleanseth from all sin ; and we remind the objector, that the intention of this sacrament is not to cleanse from sin, but to admit into the church. Pardon of sin, and deliverance from it, must be sought through faith in Christ; and then, but not before, under the heavenly Baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire, purity of heart may be attained.
As for the allegation, that baptized persons often grow up open sinners, that will not prove Baptism to be useless : for, if every baptized person were, by the act of baptizing, even made a new creature, he could not continue such without the constant exercise of that faith by which the just lives, and without which the once justified believer would cease to live. The sinfulness of countless multitudes of baptized persons would not disprove that they were spiritually regenerated in Baptism. That they were so regenerated, we do not maintain ; neither would we dogmatically pronounce that they received no blessing. Granting ex concesso, that no one ever was thus born again, we do not grant that Baptism is useless, or without effect. As well might the evangelist who sees not any fruit of his labour desist from preaching, pronounce the Gospel to be useless, and declare the preaching of the Gospel rather to be avoided, because it is the savour of death unto death to them that perish, as the minister of Christ cease from baptiziog because no sign from heaven rests upon the subject of his ministration, and no fruit of holiness subsequently appears, to prove the efficacy of the sacrament. Woe is to the evangelist who ceases to preach the Gospel;
and surely the evangelist who should refuse to baptize such as receive the truth, or, having received it, desire to bring their offspring within the covenant of grace, could not be held guiltless.
Not putting the water of Baptism in the stead of the blood of the atoning Sacrifice, not putting it in the stead of the Spirit of holiness, nor, indeed, attributing any efficacy to the water, any supernatural power to the administrator, nor ascribing salvation to the church, nor admitting any superstition that ever was conceived in relation to this holy sacrament, we do believe that there is a blessing in it, and that inestimable benefits follow its reception.
As we write these lines, we remember that many hundreds of infants have been placed in our arms for sacramental admission into the church ; and that not a few adults, not previously baptized, have presented themselves at the font. We cannot remember that we ever administered this sacrament without a consciousness—and it has often been a very deep one—of actual obedience to the express command of Him who said, “And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.” No thought of the corraption of an infant's nature, or of the sinfulness of the infant's parents, has ever made us doubt the Saviour's gracious words, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not ;” or, in the case of an adult, “ Him that cometh to me I will in no wise čast out.” (John vi. 37.)
Conscious that our act was not a mockery, (not because of any merit or virtue in ourselves, but because it was performed in obedience to a sovereign command,) we believed that each baptized person was then taken into the church of Christ. And, if it was a great thing to separate the family of Jacob from the Gentile world,—if it is a great thing still to mark them as distinct from the people of all nations among whom they are scattered, -surely it is a much greater thing to separate a people from the heathen world to bear the name of Christ, to confess His Godhead, to prosess the Christian faith, to maintain the forms of Christian worship, and to stand in even the outermost circle of those on earth who profess to worship at the footstool of Him who is King of kings, and Lord of lords. To our inmost conscience there is an unspeakable solemnity in the approach of even an infant, yet an immortal soul, ransomed by the precious blood of the Lamb of God, as it is brought over the threshold of His church, welcomed into His earthly household, declared to be an heir of everlasting life, and hailed at this moment, not only by the minister, not only by the bystanders, not only by the millions of men who profess and call themselves Christians, but by the Lord and Giver of Life.
No mark has been impressed, no charm imparted; and we have conferred no grace. But One was present, who is rich in mercy unto all who come to Him; and, surely, He has done something. The Lord Jesus Christ, present in fulfilment of His promise, although unseen by human eye, and, alas ! often unfelt by those who came to bear into His presence their immortal charge, could not have withheld His mighty blessing. When the infants were brought to Him, in the days of His flesh, even by