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passage too, I cannot but add, strongly confirms the general importance of Baptism itself, and of the results to be anticipated from it; it being inconceivable, that the eunuch should have expressed the anxiety he does to be baptized, but for the stress which had been laid upon it by Philip, or for the deductions of his own mind from Philip's preaching.
We come now to a very important transaction, the Baptism of the great Apostle of the Gentiles, twice narrated in the Acts; once by Luke in his character of historian', and once by St. Paul himself in his speech to the Jewish people at Jerusalem'.
It is valuable to us on many accounts: first, as the consideration of the circumstances, under which St. Paul was baptized at all, strengthens our opinion of the indispensable necessity of Baptism, and confirms the general presumption, that some important benefit is annexed to its administration; and secondly, as it distinctly recognizes two of the benefits to which we have already laid claim as conferred in the rite. r Acts ix: 3-18.
s Acts xxii. 6-16.
If in any case Baptism could have been dispensed with, it would seem to have been in that of St. Paul. Brought to repentance and converted, by a remarkable miracle, and the direct interposition of the Almighty, declared to be a vessel chosen of God himself, having received his knowledge of the Gospel he was to teach, by revelation, and not by the teaching of others, he might seem to be already no whit behind the very chiefest of the Apostles" themselves, to be nothing wanting in the fulness of his Christian calling, and to have little needed that formal initiation, by which less favoured persons received their admission to the holy society, of which he was already destined to be so eminent a support. But we find the fact to be otherwise. He could not, it appears, though in other respects fully enlightened from above, legitimately preach Christ, till he was himself a member of Christ's body; and even he could no otherwise become a member, and be partaker of the advantages accruing from that relationship, than through the medium of that Baptism, which the head of the body had instituted.
+ Gal. i. 11, 12. Ephes. iii. 3.
u 2 Cor. xi. 5.
The value of the passage before us, is not however confined to the testimony it bears to the general importance and necessity of Baptism. So far indeed as we have hitherto considered it, that necessity may seem to have reference rather to the inviolability of the constitution of the Christian church, than to the provision made in it to meet the exigences of the individual members of the body. But the whole account of the transaction, as delivered both by St. Paul himself and his historian, leads us further, to a distinct recognition of the actual benefits conveyed in it to individuals. If from the general narrative we are justified in inferring its necessity, as the rite of introduction to the Christian church; from the speech of Paul himself to the people at Jerusalem, we fairly deduce the fact, that it is at least the instrumental means by which a freedom from the impurity of sin is conveyed to the believer. St. Paul tells us, that the words of Ananias to him were,
Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord”. And from the account given by St. Luke we may fairly infer, that the gift of the Holy Ghost was to be an accompanying benefit. For Ananias, having declared the purport of his coming to him as twofold'; first, that he should receive his sight; and secondly, that he should be filled with the Holy Ghost; we find immediately that there fell from his eyes scales, and that he was baptized”; the one, the outward sign of the miraculous restoration of his powers of seeing; the other, as it would appear, the well understood and acknowledged pledge and assurance of the gift of the Holy Ghost.
The last passage in the Acts of the Apostles, to which I shall specially refer you, is the account of the baptism of Cornelius; a transaction contributing not a little to the support of our previous conclusions in two particulars; first, in reference to the importance and indispensability of the rite itself; and secondly, in respect to the true
* Acts xxii. 16.
y Acts ix. 17.
2 Acts ix. 18.
notion of that extraordinary and visible effusion of the Holy Ghost, which characterized the apostolic era.
On these two points the language of St. Peter, after the descent of the Holy Ghost on Cornelius and his friends, seems conclusive. If the miraculous effusion of the Spirit conveyed to him on whom it fell the full benefits of the Christian profession, what need of any thing further? If Baptism conferred no additional benefit, why should it be, as it appears to have been, on such an occasion, first in the thoughts of the Apostle? Why does he so immediately seize
upon this divine testimony to the faith of Cornelius, as a convincing and conclusive argument for the Baptism of these Gentile converts? Had not Baptism by water been by him deemed essential to the Christian proselyte, would he not rather have at once congratulated Cornelius and his friends on their visible aggregation to the number of the faithful ? And is not his not doing so a sufficient proof, that the object of this extraordinary manifestation of the Spirit was distinct from and independent of that,