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profession, and their change of state in reference to God. To interpret the regeneration and renewal of the Holy Ghost, of that change only, which is internally effected in the heart, would render the passage inapplicable to St. Paul's argument. His language would then be, Live a holy life, because your hearts are changed, and you now look with abhorrence on your former way of living ;
;-a very nugatory exhortation. Whereas, his real argument is, You have been admitted to the privileges of the Gospel, your former sins have been washed away, you have been adopted into the family of God, and have received the earnest of the Spirit ;go on accordingly; be no more disobedient, maintain good works, submit yourselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, live soberly, righteously, and godly in the world. Let it not however be supposed, from my insisting upon this as the true intent of the passage in question, that I am desirous of raising a doubt as to the necessity of a change of heart, in turning from the service of the world to the service of God; what I contend for is, that neither St. Paul, nor any reasonable
person, would lay the foundation of an exhortation to holiness on the fact of that change having taken place : and that his exhortation implying that some great and beneficial change had been experienced by them, we can only refer his language to that change of state in reference to God, which takes place at our adoption to be his children in Baptism: a change, we may add, which had undoubtedly been undergone both by Titus and St. Paul himself.
We seem therefore justly entitled to claim from the passage in question, the confirmation of those previous views of the benefits annexed to the sacrament, which, in the absence of more direct proof, might have been safely derived from it alone. These are, as has been observed, the assurance of salvation, justification, of our being born again, and of our receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit in its administration. Upon these points its testimony is clear and distinct.
There remains but one passage directly referring to Baptism, to which upon the
present occasion I deem it necessary to call your attention. It is that, in which St. Peter, having incidentally alluded to the saving of Noah in the ark, by water, observes, that the like figure to this, even Baptism, doth now save us (not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ!
After what has been already said, perhaps the chief value of this passage, in reference to that part of the doctrine of Baptism with which we are more immediately concerned, is its clear statement of the circumstances, under which the sacrament will be efficacious to its ultimate end-final salvation : viz. when accompanied by a good conscience towards God. This is indeed so strongly and unequivocally declared, that, but for the express allusion to water, and to our being saved by water, as corresponding to the saving of Noah, the same sort of question might here be raised, which we have had to meet elsewhere; as to whether
11 Peter iii. 21.
true Christian Baptism does not consist in the answer of a good conscience, or rather, perhaps, in the engagement to keep a good conscience towards God, and not in washing of water at all: more especially the words, not the putting away the filth of the flesh, being taken into consideration. But the mention of the salvation of Noah by water, as that to which the Baptism, which saves us, corresponds, is conclusive as to a material and water Baptism being intended by St. Peter : and the introduction of the answer of a good conscience is to be taken, rather as a caution against resting in the mere outward act, than as intended to derogate from the necessity of that act. Indeed it is clear, that the Baptism here spoken of, must be one, in which the filth of the flesh is removed; or the mistake, against which St. Peter's observation is directed, could never have existed. And Christian Baptism being one, the necessity of a good conscience towards God must be taken, not as superseding that washing, which may be considered as literally removing the filth of the flesh; but as conjointly with it making up that Baptism, which saveth us, who in it have, according to the similar expression in the Epistle to the Hebrews, our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with
pure water m.
Inasmuch then as the passage declares the necessity of a Baptism, not to be confined in its interpretation to a mere outward washing, it confirms our earliest inference from the very nature of the rite, and its adoption into a spiritual religion, that by it must be conveyed to them who rightly use it, a purification, not corporal but spiritual; i. e. from the defilement of sin. Inasmuch as it declares, that this Baptism saveth us, it falls in with the early declaration of our Lord, that he, which believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: the belief, in the one case, as the engagement to keep a good conscience, in the other, being the indispensable requisites to give effect to the outward washing with which they are conjoined :- the one as that, without which
m Heb. x. 22.