Imatges de pÓgina
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pressions used by our Lord to Nicodemus, with respect to that institution, would probably have had no other effect, than to awaken superstitious or enthusiastic fancies, which even the knowledge of the truth has not been able at all times to exclude from the church of Christ. Or, to have laid so great a stress on a birth of water, as well as of the Spirit, before this connection was practically made known, might have been as perplexing, as it is now consolatory With the information we possess of the establishment of the sacrament, and of its administration by the Apostles, the anticipative notice of it by our Lord serves only to enhance our estimate of the value of his institution : and his use of the language, which staggered Nicodemus, is to us accounted for by the fact, that more was ultimately meant, than He at that time thought fit to reveal. But if Baptism be not intended, the passage, and that touching on a point very nearly concerning us, our admission to the kingdom of heaven, still continues, and without any apparent reason, as mysterious to us, as it was to him. A solitary instance, we may observe, of such obscurity in our Lord's teaching; if we except a similar passage in the sixth chapter of the same Evangelist, in which it is in like manner disputed, whether the reference is to the Lord's Supper; and to which we shall have occasion hereafter to advert.

Our conclusion therefore in favour of the application of the passage to the sacrament remains unshaken; and we may safely make use of the declaration of our Lord to Nicodemus, with respect to a new birth of water and of the Spirit, as referring to Christian Baptism, and confirming by the coincidence of the doctrine enforced in it, the inferences deduced from other sources, with respect to the indispensability of the rite itself, as the mode of initiation into the Christian church, and the concomitant gift of the Spirit in its administration; while at the same time it gives a peculiar interest to the assertion of the Apostle, that in Baptism we are made the children of God", by the adoption of the

b Gal. iii. 26, 27.

metaphor by our Lord himself, to express the change of state, in reference to our hea. venly Father, which we undergo on our admission to his church.

And having thus completed so much of our inquiry, as relates more especially to Baptism, it may not be inexpedient to sum up the results arrived at, before we proceed to a like examination in reference to the Lord's Supper.

From the consideration of the rite itself, and the words and circumstances of institution, combined with the essential character of the religion of which it forms a part, we have inferred, that in Baptism is conveyed a spiritual purification, consisting a discharge from the guilt, and a remission of the penalties of sin ; effected by the operation of the Holy Spirit, placing us in a state of salvation, and restoring to us our original title to eternal life.

From the manner in which it is mentioned, or referred to in the Acts of the Apostles, we have obtained the confirmation of so much of our inferences, as respects the spiritual purification conveyed in Bap

tism, the remission of sin implied in it, and the gift of the Holy Ghost accompanying the rite.

From the language of the apostolical Epistles we have derived a like confirmation of our preceding conclusions, with the addition of some important benefits, directly, or by easy inference, to be connected with Baptism. Such are the assertion of sanctification and justification, as the concomitants of the rite"; of the Holy Spirit's being the agent, by whom, through Baptism, we are incorporated into the body of Christ's church d; that in it we are made the sons of God, and by consequence, heirs of eternal life, in the kingdom of our Father"; that in it we receive the earnest of the Spirit'; and that in it are communicated to us the benefits of Christ's death and resurrections.

And, lastly, from the anticipative references to the rite, both by our Lord and his forerunner, we derive the further and con

c 1 Cor. vi. 11. Ephes. v. 25, 26. d 1 Cor. xii. 13. e Gal. iii. 26, 27. Tit. iii. 5, 6, 7. f 2 Cor. ii. 21, 22. v. 5. Ephes. i. 13, 14. 5 Rom. vi. 4, 5. Coloss. ii. 11, 12. 1 Pet. iii. 21.

firmed assurance, that by Baptism alone we enter into the kingdom of God, are born to him, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

If, for the purpose of a more distinct apprehension of the benefits annexed to the sacrament, we endeavour to reduce them to more distinct heads, we shall find, that the fundamental grace of Christian Baptism, from which all the others flow, and to which they may be referred, as their source is the remission of sin, original and actual. For by this the great and only obstacle to the exertion of God's goodness towards us being removed, we are at once placed in a state of reconciliation, and become capable of whatever further benefits he may graciously confer upon us.

Of these, the next, and most important, are undoubtedly the continued grant of that Spirit, by which we can alone afterwards be preserved from sin; and the restoration of our title to eternal life, which seems to be the unavoidable result of the removal of that which brought death into the world. And in these, perhaps, the direct and present benefits of Baptism may be considered as fully stated.

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