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ner in which the sacraments are spoken of or alluded to in the Acts of the Apostles, I shall therefore pass to the examination of the apostolical Epistles; and from these, return, as it were, to the Gospels, in order to collect from them the confirmation or the qualification of our previous inferences. By taking them in this order no disparagement is intended to the last in the series; while some advantage is anticipated from thus coming to the consideration of the more obscure passages with the assistance of the light reflected from the more evident.
Beyond the conclusions to be derived from these sources, it is not my intention to pursue the inquiry. Confirmations of the views taken I may perhaps notice, as occasion may incidentally arise; and some collateral questions I may perhaps touch upon, (either by the way or in the conclusion of the course ;) but the main object in view being the establishment of that portion of the doctrine of the sacraments which relates to the benefits to be derived from their administration, to this I shall, as far as possible, confine myself.
First then, of the nature of the rite of Baptism; of the natural significancy of the action which constitutes its material part, and of the limitation of that significancy to its particular purposes by the words of institution, and the history and immediate circumstances of its appointment.
Now that the action, which constitutes the material part of the sacrament of Baptism does possess a natural and appropriate significancy, one, which words may limit, restrict, or qualify, but cannot altogether destroy, it would be trifling to make question. The act of washing has, and must, till nature itself suffer change, continue to have, one obvious meaning, that of purifying. From defilement of some sort, it is either the actual purifier, or the incontrovertible sign and token of purification. When commanded to wash, independently of any collateral signification of the command, it must be, that by washing we may be made clean; and that Christian Baptism, consisting in a material washing of water, refers to purification of some sort, may therefore be assumed as a fundamental
position in our inquiry; a position, that can only be shaken by denying the natural significancy of actions the most plainly significant.
The special character of the purification intended in Baptism, cannot however be determined from the natural significancy of the action alone. This must be sought in the history and circumstances of its appointment, and the relation it bears to the system of which it forms a part. In reference to the former of these it is, that the language of our Lord, and his declarations concerning it at the time of institution, come next under consideration. To this therefore, which constitutes the second head of inquiry, namely, how the natural significancy of the material action of Baptism is limited by the words of institution, and the declarations of our Lord concerning it at the time of establishing the rite, I now proceed.
These, as exhibited by St. Matthew, are as follows: Go ye, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Ghost: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the worlda. The parallel text of St. Mark runs thus: Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.
Now the intention of our Lord to establish a real and material Baptism of water being admitted, the first thing that strikes us in reference to that Baptism is, that the very words of institution forbid our resting in that alone; and force upon us a spiritual interpretation of the purification to be conveyed by the outward act of washing. For whether the command, to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, be considered, according to the uniform practice of the church, as establishing an invariable formulary, to be perpetually used in the administration of the rite; or only as pointing out in whose name the new Baptism, with whatever form of words it might be celebrated, was actually to be administered; it would be alike incongruous to imagine, that the impurity to be thus
a Matt. xxviii. 19, 20.
b Mark xvi. 15, 16.
got rid of, was to be removed by a mere bodily putting away of the filth of the flesh. To do this, it were no more effectual to wash in that holy name, than to wash without it.
But a merely corporal cleansing being thus excluded, we are inevitably led to a spiritual interpretation of the washing enjoined, and to an inquiry, what was the inward defilement of which the outward rite aptly represents the removal? And in determining this question also, the words of institution alone will afford us important aid. For whatever that spiritual defilement may be, for the removal of which the waters of Christian Baptism were appointed, the command, to baptize all nations, clearly implies, that it was one to which all mankind were at that time liable; while the annexed promise of the Redeemer, that he would be with those whom he authorized to administer the rite even unto the end of the world, implies that it was one, which to the end of time would require to be removed.
Now the existence of one such impurity,
c 1 Peter iii. 21.