Imatges de pÓgina
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of God itself, so far as its members are concerned, could have been instituted only for the benefit of the individuals composing it. If no advantage resulted from our aggregation to it, we should in vain be invited to enter in. Again, of whatever benefits we might hope to become partakers through the medium of the society, of these the rite by which we are admitted into it, and the rite or rites by which we declare and keep up our communion with it, must be allowed to be, at least, the primary occasion. I say the rite or rites, because, though the rite of initiation can in nature be but one, the rites of communion, as in Judaism, may be many. But, whether few or many, the immediate result of their observance can be no other, than a title to participate in the privileges, which that communion confers. Such was the case with the various observances of the Mosaic institution, and such must be the case, not only in the Christian, but in every conceivable form of society, whether secular or religious, whether founded upon the voluntary agreement of the parties composing it, or upon the enactments of a superior power. And therefore, of whatever benefits the church of Christ, as such, has the exclusive dispensation, of these we naturally and of course become partakers, through the medium of those rites, if any, by which we first establish, and afterwards keep up our connection with the society.

Accordingly, we might hence with safety and facility arrive at some general conclusions, with respect, not only to the reality and nature, but the particular distribution of the benefits accruing from the establishment of that connection. For the benefits themselves are either immediate or consequent. They result from our admission into, or from our continuance in the society. Of the former, Baptism, of the latter, the Lord's Supper, might be considered as the channel of conveyance.

But for the more express determination and appropriation of the benefits in question, a less abstract, and therefore perhaps a more eligible, mode of proceeding presented itself, in the investigation of the nature of the observances themselves, and the language of the New Testament concerning them. In the prosecution of this we have been led to inquire, first, into the natural significancy of the rites, and secondly, into that significancy, as limited by the words and circumstances of institution, or more fully developed in the conventional meaning attributed to them, in corresponding observances of other religions; we have further considered the language of Jesus Christ himself respecting them, at the time of appointment, and of his Apostles, as the first authorized administrators of the rites; and lastly, we have referred to the anticipative declarations of our Lord and his forerunner on the subject, previous to their actual institution.

The result of this inquiry, which was terminated in my last discourse, has been, I would hope, the establishment of the following propositions.

First with respect to Baptism.

That the nature of the rite itself, considered as a religious observance, implies that it conveys to him, who rightly partakes of it, a spiritual purification ; a purification determined by the very nature of the religion to consist in a removal of the stain, and consequent remission of the penalties of sin.

But the spiritual work thus signified in the very

action of Baptism, being, upon the fundamental principles of the religion, referable to no other agent than the Spirit of God, a concomitant gift of the Holy Ghost seems to be indispensable, to effect the

purification thus announced in the establishment of the rite itself: while, again, the express declaration of Jesus Christ, accompanying his institution, that he who is baptized shall be saved“, points out, as its no less certain consequence, our restoration to that eternal life, the title to which was forfeited by the transgression of Adam.

And these conclusions, from the nature of the rite, the language of our Lord at the time of its appointment, and the character of the religion of which it forms a part, being confirmed by the direct assertion, no less than the implied meaning, of various texts adduced in the course of our more

a Mark xvi. 16.

particular investigation of the language of the New Testament, we may safely challenge, as the unquestionable benefits of our participation in Christian Baptism, the three things already mentioned ; viz. the remission of sin, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the restoration to the hope of eternal life.

But the examination of the Scriptures of the New Testament, to which we had recourse for the confirmation or the rectification of our earlier inferences from the nature of the rite, and the words and circumstances of institution, while it corroborated the conclusions already drawn, opened upon us new views or new descriptions of benefits, agreeing with these, or flowing from them.

Thus it appeared from the comparison instituted, and the correspondence asserted by St. Paul, between Baptism and Circumcision, that the former, like the latter, may justly be considered as of the nature of a seal to a covenant; implying the ratification on the one part, and the acceptance on the other, of the promises made in the engage

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