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venly gift, and embraced the word of life; he is large, (almost, I should say, to the exclusion of any other topic,) on the importance of holiness of life, and conduct corresponding to their Christian profession. In the one, the burden of his exhortation is, that having been born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, they should purify their souls in obeying the truth, and lay aside all malice, guile, hypocrisies, and evil speakings"; in the other, that having all things pertaining to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who hath called us to glory and virtue, they should neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But in the discourses before us this great topic of Christian exhortation is hardly touched upon "; the points he is there arguing are, that God had made
f 1 Peter i. 22, 23. ii. 1.
h The only apparent allusion to it is in the last verse of chap. iii. where he tells them, that “unto you first,
God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” Acts üi. 26.
that same Jesus whom they had crucified both Lord and Christ, that the things which God before had shewn by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he had so fulfilledk. And these assertions being directly contrary, both to the prejudices of his hearers, and to the comments they were in the habit of receiving from the doctors of their law, it was with reference to these that he calls for change; for repentance and conversion ; exhorting them to save themselves from that untoward generation', in whose fellowship and communion they had hitherto walked, and join themselves to the new family of God, and the church of the firstborn.
And the objections which have been raised to our original interpretation of the passage being thus removed, we may safely adopt the conclusions to which it plainly leads us; and from it assert, as unquestionable benefits of Christian Baptism, the remission of sin, already deduced from the very nature of the observance, and the
i Acts ii. 36.
k Acts iii. 18.
1 Acts ii. 40.
words of institution; and the gift of the Holy Ghost, already inferred from the fundamental principles of the religion, of which the ordinance itself forms a part.
The next important passage bearing upon our inquiry is to be found in the eighth chapter ; in which the gift of the Holy Ghost, which we have been endeavouring to connect with the rite of Baptism, is apparently declared to be wholly independent of it. It is indeed, as it appears to me, the passage, from which the conjunction of the Holy Ghost with Baptism may be most plausibly controverted. It occurs in the narrative of the visitation of the new made converts in Samaria by Peter and John, under the direction of the Apostles at Jerusalem ; when they laid hands on those who had already received the word and been baptized; and prayed that they might receive the Holy Ghost: for as yet, adds the historian, and it is to these words that our attention is attracted, he had fallen upon none of them; only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus ".
ther ne da
m Acts viii. 14, 15, 16.
But, if I mistake not, there is here no reference to the ordinary gift of the Spirit; for which alone we contend, as connected with Baptism. For it plainly appears by what follows, that the falling of the holy Spirit upon them here spoken of, refers to that visible and sensible manifestation of the gift, with which it pleased God to give evidence of his being with the first promulgators of his religion; and which had not yet been exhibited to the Samaritan converts. That it was a visible effusion of the Spirit, which was here granted, is evident from the effect produced on Simon Magus, when he saw" it. But to deny that the Holy Ghost had been given to the converts at their Baptism, because he was not on that occasion thus given, would lead to a denial of his ever being given in any other than this extraordinary manner; and hence to a denial of all spiritual influence since the apostolic times, or indeed in the absence of the Apostles themselves.
The fact seems to be, that this visible
n Acts viii. 18.
manifestation of God's favour to these early converts in Samaria, was in exact harmony with the first miraculous effusion on the day of Pentecost. No one, who has read in the Gospel of St. John, that the blessed Jesus, in giving his Apostles their great commission, breathed on them, and said, Receive
ye the Holy Ghosto, can for a moment suppose that they were without the enjoyment of the benefit, thus apparently conveyed to them, till the outward manifestation of God's presence with them was made, in the first visible descent of the Spirit, subsequent to our Lord's exaltation. They were indeed to suspend the exercise of their apostolic function, they were not to make disciples, they were neither to preach nor to baptize, till endued with power from on high; till the promise of the Father should be sensibly confirmed to them, in a manner analogous to that, by which the mission of the Son himself had been ratified at his baptism by John; which should satisfy them, that they were sent as he was
o John xx. 22.