Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

ceive a title to all the privileges of the Christian covenant; she therefore styles baptism regeneration, and baptized persons regenerate. This was proved by a particular appeal to the offices of baptism and confirmation, to the catechism, to the articles of religion, and to other parts of the liturgy. The detail of quotations need not now be repeated, as the application, by our church, of the term regeneration to baptism, must have been noticed by the most superficial observer of her offices.

ture.

Under the second head, the sense of our church on this subject was sustained by an appeal to ScripThe term regeneration occurs but twice in the sacred volume; one of the passages having no particular bearing on this point; and the other, the passage in Titus recited in my text, styling baptism "the washing of regeneration;" and our Saviour himself, in his conversation with Nicodemus, the ruler of the Jews, designates baptism by "being born again," "born of water and of the Spirit." The primitive church, by the testimony of her early and late fathers, applied the term regeneration to baptism only. This application of the term, it is a remarkable fact, continued in the church until about two centuries ago, when the introduction of the novel doctrine of the indefectibility of grace, led to the denial of baptismal grace, and of course of baptismal regeneration. The term then became applied, by the Calvinists generally, to that spiritual change of heart and life which is properly styled, not "the washing of regeneration," but "the renewing of the Holy Ghost," renovation or sanctification. The scriptural and primitive style and opinions were preserved by some divines of our church who were inclined to Calvinism; and the

scriptural and primitive notion of baptism, as conveying a title to the remission of sins, to the favour of God, to the grace of the Holy Spirit, and to everlasting life, was still maintained by divines decidedly anticalvinistic, but who unfortunately departed from correctness and precision of language, by frequently employing the term regeneration in its novel, but popular sense, of a spiritual change of heart and life. This was proved, by reciting to you quotations from their writings.

Under the third division of the subject, I endeavoured to point out, clearly and fully, the distinction between regeneration and renovation; the former being a regular and sacramental commencement of the spiritual life, the latter its progress and consummation-regeneration being the reception of spiritual privileges on certain conditions, and renovation the actual fulfilment of the conditionsregeneration conferring in baptism the grace which enables us to work out our salvation, and renovation being the employment of this grace in this essential work-regeneration being the gift in baptism of that Spirit which quickens the spiritual life, and renovation being the exertion of his renewing and sanctifying powers on the soul-regeneration being a change of state, in which our salvation is rendered possible; renovation being that moral change which secures this salvation.

According to this view of the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, the spiritual life commencing in baptism, the Christian being in this sacrament called into a state of salvation, receiving the powerful influences of divine grace and the offer of the most exalted privileges, he is possessed of every mean, and is operated upon by every possible exVOL. II. 61

citement, to obtain that holy change of heart, that spiritual renovation, which is the only pledge of God's favour here, and the only passport to his blissful presence hereafter.

The doctrine, then, of baptismal regeneration, so far from being a doctrine which is calculated to relax the efforts of the Christian, and to settle him in dangerous eontentment with low degrees of virtue, affords to him the most cogent and animating motives possible to make his calling and election sure.

These were the views presented to you under the three first divisions of the subject, which were discussed in the last discourse. I proceed now to the fourth division of the subject.

IV. To apply the doctrine of regeneration and renovation to the case of adults receiving baptism rightly, on a sincere profession of repentance and faith-of adults receiving baptism unworthily, in impenitence and unbelief-of those who are baptized in infancy-of baptized persons who have violated their baptismal engagements-and lastly, of baptized persons who, through the power of divine grace, as far as human infirmity will permit, have fulfilled their baptismal vows.

1. Let us consider the case of adults who receive baptism rightly, on a sincere profession of repentance and faith.

What was their state before baptism? Drawn and excited by God's preventing grace, that grace which goes before man in every good thought and work, they became sensible of the evil and guilt of sin; they mourned over their transgressions with godly sorrow; they implored God to create a clean

heart and to renew a right spirit within them; they contemplated the all-sufficiency and the fulness of his grace and mercy in Jesus Christ; they thankfully embraced the promises of pardon declared to mankind by their Lord and Saviour; and they resolved, in reliance on his merits and the aids of his grace, to serve God in newness of life. Thus exercising true repentance and faith, they were in a capacity for receiving all the blessings of the Gospel covenant.

This, then, was their condition before baptism. They had received a certain portion of divine grace, by which they were excited to repentance and faith; and thus the work of renovation had, in a certain degree, commenced in their hearts; and they were qualified for the reception of pardon, of a more full measure of grace, of the favour of God, of a title to everlasting glory-they were qualified for being brought into a state of salvation.

But what was the mean appointed by God for the reception of these blessings, and for their translation into this state of salvation? What was the pledge to assure to them those blessings, and their title to salvation? Baptism. For we have seen, that, by being born of water and of the Spirit, we enter into the kingdom of God; by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body, and receive a title to all the privileges of the church, the mystical body of Christ.

Until, then, true penitents and believers are baptized, they have not, on the Gospel plan, a title to the blessings of salvation; Christ's merits are not applied to them by the external sign; they are not regenerated; they are not born into the kingdom and family of God; nor made members of Christ,

children of God, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven.

Not that salvation is absolutely oonfined to baptism; for God, as a merciful Judge, will dispense with his own institutions where they cannot be had, and when the rejection of them proceeds from a sincere but misguided judgment. Still, baptism is the mean appointed by God by which we must receive a title to salvation; this is the pledge to assure salvation to us; this is the door of admission into the church of Christ, to which, we are told in Scripture, "the Lord added such as should be saved."

They, therefore, who are baptized in the exercise of true repentance and faith, receive in this holy sacrament the actual remission of their sins, the quickening power of the Divine Spirit, the favour of God, a complete title to the glories of heaventhese are blessings for which their repentance and faith qualified them, but of which they must be put in possession by the mean and pledge which God ordained.

Their spiritual life now commences under the seal of the covenant; that Divine Spirit who, by his previous influences, had been preparing their souls for his presence, now solemnly consecrates them to his service, and takes possession of these sacred temples; to that portion of grace which inspired their good resolutions, and went before them in their good works, is now added that greater measure of quickening power which, cherished and improved by the other ordinances of the church, will be advanced to that degree of renovating and strengthening grace by which all sinful affections will die in them, and all things belonging to the

« AnteriorContinua »