Imatges de pàgina
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Fourthly, Those other words of our Saviour, which accompany these, he that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved ; and he that believeth not, shall be damned,' must unquestionably impart to these all their own force and importance; for nothing can be more evident, than that the faith here required must be a faith in the meaning of these words of the institution, and that he only who believes in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in whose name he must be baptized, can be saved.

Not only the strict conjunction of this declaration with the form of the institution, but the nature also of the thing, fully proves the justness of this assertion, whether we consider the use made of the form, or the persons mentioned therein. If the very form itself, whereby all the benefits of baptism are formally granted, is not believed, those benefits can, in no sense, be expected, a disbelief of this being the same as a renunciation of the covenant. Again, in no sense can any hopes of pardon or salvation be entertained, without a firm belief in the persons, whose names, and whose joint authority, give the institution itself all its force.

Now, it is impossible to believe any thing, but so far as we understand it. In order, therefore, to be so baptized as to receive a title to the privileges and benefits of the Christian covenant, all Christians must know who the Father is, in what sense, and for what reason they are baptized in his name; for otherwise, although it is eternal life to believe in him, they cannot possibly believe in him as they ought to do. Who the Son is they ought likewise to know, not only because they are baptized in his name, but because they are, in a peculiar sense, baptized into him, that is, into his body the church, and into his death. He who knows not these things, how can he be said to believe in the Son? And lastly, who the Holy Ghost is, every Christian ought to know, both because he is baptized in his name, as well as in those of the two other persons, and likewise because it is ‘by him we are all baptized into one body of Christ,' and baptism itself can avail nothing, if it is not the true 'baptism of the Spirit, through whose sanctification God hath chosen us from the beginning to salvation.' It is by the adoption of the Spirit, sealed to us in baptism, that we

call God our Father; and therefore no man can rightly believe, or be effectually baptized, without knowing who the Holy Spirit is. · If the apostles, and after them the whole Christian ministry, were obliged by the express command of Christ to 'teach all nations,' and then (but not till then) to baptize them ;' were they not, of all things, to teach them what baptism or the covenant is, what it is into which they were to be baptized, and who they are in whose name the covenant is granted, and to whose service they are thereby so solemnly consecrated and sealed ?

But farther, it is by no means sufficient for a Christian to know only that the Father is he from whom are all things;' that the “Son is he by whom we are redeemed;' and the Holy Ghost he, by whom we are sanctified ;' that is, to know these three persons in their offices relative to mankind; no, the Christian ought to understand in what sense it is that baptism is instituted and administered jointly in the name of all the three ; whether, as they are here joined together without any marks of distinction, he ought to believe in all the three equally, and receive the covenant with equal respect to, and trust in, all the three ; whether he, in effect, covenants by baptism with one only, or three parties ; whether he is to worship each by prayer, thanksgiving, love, and dependence, or not; and if he is, whether he ought to regard one of them only as God, or the three as three distinct Gods, or all the three, as constituting one only God. And the reason why his faith ought to be built on no less knowledge than this, is plain, not only because the Scriptures have made frequent and ample declarations on all these subjects, for his information; but because, without knowing these things, he may worship that for God, which is but a creature, or treat that as a creature only, which is really God; or whether he is to believe in one only, or three Gods, may be altogether at a loss to know. As some of the errors just now mentioned are most abominably idolatrous, and the rest horribly profane; and as either the one sort or the other are fitted to lead the world into all manner of wickedness; we may conclude, in the first place, that the word of God must be very plain and determinate on such subjects ; and in the next, that it is our indispensable duty, fairly and diligently to examine it, in order to a thorough information in points, wherein the whole system of that faith, that worship, and that obedience, to which we are bound by our baptismal vow, is founded.

On the whole, it cannot be less than absolutely necessary, that all Christians, that is, all who by baptism take on them the profession of Christianity, should know the Father, from whom they, the whole universe, and the true religion itself, derive their very being ; that all Christians should know the Son, or · Christ, and him crucified,' and that they should, with St. Paul, 'count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus their Lord ;' and that all Christians should know the Holy Spirit, by whom the prophets, apostles, and even Christ himself, wrought all their miracles, who inspired all the penmen of the holy Scriptures, and who, by his grace, regenerating and sanctifying the whole church, finishes the great work of salvation.

Having said enough to prove the importance of this knowledge, and to shew the necessity of it, in order to baptism and the Christian covenant, it is now time to shew, in the second place, what it is, and who those persons really are, in whose name we are baptized.

It is agreed on all hands, that the first is true, real, and eternal God, and that God, or the divine nature, is incomprehensible. But whether, either the second or the third person, is as truly and really God, or not, is disputed.

Had nothing farther been revealed in holy Scripture concerning these two persons but what is intimated in the form of baptism, we must have concluded, that as to the mere act of covenanting, we ought to judge the authority of all the persons to be equal in that act, since they are mentioned simply, and without any marks of distinction, in the form itself. If a covenant is made between three contracting parties, thus simply mentioned, on the one side, and a single party on the other, the last will never be able to see any reason in such covenant for his depending more on any one of the three for the performance, than on the other two; if this covenant is a voluntary grant given in the joint name of all the three, whereby the other single party is to hold a va

luable title, or enjoy considerable privileges, that single party thus endowed, will never be able to see any reason, why he should think himself more obliged in gratitude to love any one of the three, than the other two. And farthe, if in consideration of this, tithe, and these privileges, he is by virtue of the covenant bound to any services, thus simply contracted for in behalf of all the three, he will never be able, from the tenor of such a covenant, to see a reason, why he should serve or obey any one of the three parties, preferably to the rest.

This reasoning would be sound and just, although the covenant should run plurally in the names of three persons granting and covenanting on the one part; but grows still stronger when it is expressed singularly in the name of all the three, for, in this case, either a unity of nature or authority, or rather of both, as it is irrational and impious to admit the one in this case without the other, infers a unity of gratitude, love, dependence, and obedience, that is, one worship, due from the other covenanting party, to all.

It is farther to be observed, that as the authority whereby we are baptized into this covenant is one, and the name also whereinto we are baptized (such is the expression in the original Greek) is one name, so consequently, in plain construction, that name ought to stand for one being, that one being which constitutes the first and second persons, John x. 30, and includes the third, namely, 'the Spirit of the Father,' Matt. x. 20, and the Spirit of the Son,' Gal. iv. 6, which three are one,' 1 John v. 7.

If therefore the Christian covenant is the gift of God, who can neither deceive, nor be deceived, all persons who are baptized, are taught by the form of the covenant itself, to render to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, an equal degree of dependence, love, and obedience, unless what is not distinguished in the form, is plainly distinguished elsewhere in the word of God. If such distinction is not elsewhere made, it will follow from the authoritative form of the covenant itself, given by God himself, either that the Son and the Holy Ghost are, each of them, true and real God, or that the true and real God hath solemnly authorized the worship of two creatures upon a level with himself, because, for any thing that appears in the covenant, the dependence, love, and obedience contracted for in that covenant, must be equal in kind and degree, must be the very same, and must be the highest that can possibly be paid, inasmuch as they are confessedly due from all Christians, by virtue of the covenant itself, to the true and real God. To ascribe a covenant like this to the God of all majesty and truth, whereby God and two creatures are to be believed in, loved, obeyed, and worshipped on a level, is, I think, as high an instance of absurdity and blasphemy in one, as the enemy of God could inspire. But, to avoid the wickedness of supposing, that God, contrary to his own declaration, hath actually given his honour to another,' to two others, to two creatures, and commanded all men to honour the Son, even as they honour the Father, though infinitely different in dignity of nature; it will be our business carefully to inquire, whether these scriptural expressions are not to be taken in the common obvious sense of the words; whether the terms, God,' and 'worship,' when applied to the Father and the other persons, are equivocal ; and whether the Father hath any where in his word, either from himself, or by his Son, or his Holy Spirit, taught us to make the important and necessary distinction between his own divine, and their created natures, and between the love, dependence, and worship, which we ought to pay to him alone, and the respect he allows us to pay to two of his creatures so highly dignified. I call this an important distinction, because, of all things, we ought to know the object of divine worship; and I call it a necessary distinction, because, without it, we might be tempted to turn the truth of God into a lie, and to worship the creature,' rather than the Creator,' Now nothing was easier than for the Scriptures to tell us, once for all, that although Christ and the Holy Ghost are set forth in very exalted lights by revelation, yet we are to know, that neither of them is God, nor to be worshipped by prayer as God; or at least, that they are but inferior delegated Gods, and to be worshipped only as such, only as mere representatives of the one true and supreme God. This would have prevented all doubts and disputes on the most important point by far of our whole religion; and this, I say it again, and beg it may be well considered, was as easy as it was absolutely necessary.

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