« AnteriorContinua »
Acts ii. 38, 39.
Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the
name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and
shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your chil
dren, and to all that are afar off, even as
many as the Lord our God shall call. FROM the consideration of the nature of the rite of Baptism, and the words and circumstances of institution, I now pass to an examination of the general language of the New Testament, with respect to the benefits annexed to the ordinance. The limits of my undertaking will however necessarily confine me to the consideration of the more remarkable passages, and those which bear most directly upon the particular point of the benefits annexed to a participation in the rite.
The passages worthy of notice, in this point of view, are of two sorts; those which
expressly name, or clearly allude to the particular benefits to be expected; and those which, without precisely defining, imply the existence of some benefit, as the result of a participation in the sacrament. Though the former of these will claim our more especial regard, some notice of the latter, as occasion may present itself, will be found desirable; not only as affording support and confirmation to our particular inferences, but as strengthening the conclusions to which we were formerly led from the consideration of the nature and intent of external appointments in religion in general. A review of such passages, as occur to our purpose in the Acts of the Apostles, will, in accordance with the method proposed in my last, be the subject of the present Lecture.
Among these, the first which presents itself in the narrative, and perhaps, all things considered, the most important in the book itself, is the answer given by St. Peter, in the words of my text, to the anxious inquiry of the abashed and conscience-struck multitude, who had witnessed the miraculous effects of the first visible descent of the Holy Ghost, and been present at St. Peter's discourse to them immediately following it. At the hearing of his forcible appeal, being pricked in their hearts, they address the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? To which St. Peter answers in the words of my text, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call". And in consequence, we are told, that they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls 5.
The corroboration of our previous views deducible from these words of St. Peter, and the accompanying narrative of St. Luke, is of the highest importance. Not only are our former conclusions, with respect to the purification conveyed in Baptism, and the salvation which accompanies it, confirmed by the direct assertion, that by it, or in it, is given the remission of sins; but we further derive from them a clear and explicit declaration of that which we have hitherto gathered, less directly, from the special character of that purification, and the fundamental principles of the religion itself; namely, that to Baptism is annexed the promise of the Holy Ghost; who here, as elsewhere in the New Testament, is thus brought before us, as the agent, by whose sole operation every spiritual benefit is actually and immediately conveyed to the faithful. And these two most important benefits are, in the words of the apostle, so closely connected with the administration of the rite, that to evade or invalidate the force of this text, would seem at first sight to be a hopeless endeavour.
a Acts ii. 37, 38, 39.
b Acts ii. 41.
Two objections have however been raised to the interpretation thus given to the passage, and to the doctrine raised upon the one respecting the nature of the gift of the Holy Ghost here alluded to by St. Peter; the other, the connection asserted
between both the remission of sin and that gift, and the observance of Baptism. The consideration of the former of these will not long detain us; the discussion of the latter, of necessity involving some consideration, both of the context and of the adaptation of the language of the apostle to the particular purpose of his address, will make a larger demand upon your attention, than might seem justifiable in the consideration of an objection only, were the passage itself, out of which the discussion arises, of less importance than it is, or the points of discussion themselves less interesting to the main object of our inquiry.
It is then objected to our interpretation, so far as it respects the nature of the gift of the Holy Ghost alluded to by St. Peter, that the gift here spoken of was not the ordinary grace or benefit, which we would hence endeavour to attach to the perpetual administration of Baptism in the church ; but that extraordinary and visible effusion of the Spirit, of which the first effects had just been witnessed, and which appears on other occasions to have accompanied, ex