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through Jesus Christ our Lord." Of him it is written, that "Even whes we were dead in sins, God hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace are ye saved); and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." And again, that "ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."
Such, my brethren, is a specimen (and but a specimen, for passages of a similar character might be greatly multiplied) of the language by which the Scriptures designate the profession and the character of a Christian. And the actual and avowed profession of every Christian is in perfect keeping with this language; for he has pledged himself before God to renounce the lusts of the flesh, and the pomps and vanities of the world, the devil and all his works. He has pledged himself before God to live, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit; to prefer spiritual things to carnal things; the things which are not seen, and which are the objects of faith, to the things which are seen. He has pledged himself to renounce those things which now minister to his vanity and pride, and carry away his heart from God and the things of God, or which dazzle the eye with their splendour, or corrupt the mind with their frivolity. And he has solemnly pledged himself to the belief of the articles of the Christian faith. He has received the Scriptures as inspired of God, and as containing those truths which will make him wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Now when we come to compare this language of Scripture, this acknowledged profession of Christianity, with the actual state in which Christians are living, in which they have lived from their youth upwards, there certainly does appear to be a gross and palpable inconsistency. To think of addressing those who are living in every kind of worldly folly and frivolity, who are frequenters of those amusements which the world has invented to encourage vanity, pander to a refined licentiousness, and estrange the heart from God-to think of addressing these persons as "saints," a name which they themselves will ridicule!—to think of addressing them as "faithful brethren in Christ," as "quickened together with him," and "set in heavenly places with him," who are addicted to intemperance and lusts, who are found often throwing despite on the sacredness, and denying the fundamental truths of the Bible!-to think of our inviting into our Christian assemblies, and addressing as "dearly beloved brethren," and "beloved in Christ," the thousands who are living without God in the world, who know nothing of his service or worship, and who, perhaps, scarcely remember that they have entered a church, or bowed the knee to Jehovah ! Compare, I say, the scriptural delineation of a Christian, with the actual condition of those who are called by this holy and distinctive name, and what is there which appears more extravagantly inconsistent! It is scarcely, then, subject of surprise, that an inconsistency so gross and palpable, should sometimes fearfully strike the mind, and suggest a difficulty with respect to the initiatory rite of the Christian church-How is the efficacy of Christian baptism to be reconciled with the actual state of those who have been baptized?
I have endeavoured to place this discrepancy between the Christian profession and the Christian practice, in the strongest possible light, because I believe it lies at the foundation of those lax notions which widely prevail amongst the Separatists from our church and alas, amongst many members within the
church, on the subject of holy baptism. The efficacy of Christian baptism, as a channel for the conveyance of the Christian blessing of remission of sins and renewal after the divine image, is denied on the ground that it is not borne out by experience; that in point of fact we do not see that difference between baptized and unbaptized persons, which the possession of this particular privilege ought so strongly and unequivocally to indicate. Hence the Dissenters, and many who have followed them, would reduce the sacrament of baptism into a mere "outward sign of the inward and spiritual grace;" a sign which significantly points to the inward grace, which God may confer either at that or any other time, but which is not, as an ordinance, accompanied with such grace. Thus baptism is made a mere form of admission into the outward privileges of the church; the inward grace is altogether separated from it. So whilst it is admitted, of course, that God may confer grace at the same time as baptism (as he may, of course, at any time), yet no connexion between the inward grace and the outward sign is recognized.
Now of this system, I would observe, that it is entirely founded on human experience, and not upon the divine revelation. It is supported not by the testimony of Scripture-scarcely an effort is made so to support it—but by what man can discern of his fellow man. Let us suppose-and it is no impossible supposition, except to one who holds the heretical doctrine of the absolute necessity of evil-let us suppose that the Christian church did exemplify, and carry out into action, the Christian principle and character; let us suppose that all who are baptized were really living the Christian life, which baptism represents unto us-would there then be any hesitation in tracing up the origin of the new and regenerated life to that holy ordinance? If such a state of things were realized, could any one so tamper with the language of Holy Scripture, as to interpret it in any other way, than as connecting remission of sins, and regeneration by the Holy Ghost, with baptism? When we read, for instance, such exhortations as these: "Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins;" "Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord:"-when we read, that "as many of us as were baptized into Christ were baptized into his death:" that "we are buried with Christ by baptism unto death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead, even so we also should walk in newness of life :" that "we are buried with him in baptism, wherein also we are risen with him, through faith in the operation"-the energy, the in-working-" of the Holy Ghost;" not that that passage can mean that faith is thus wrought by God, but it means faith in the in-working of God, who exercises that power by which he even raised up Jesus from the dead. Again it says, "For as many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ;" that God our Saviour, "according to his mercy, hath saved us, by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost;" and to crown all, when we read, as we do in the text, "Baptism doth also now save us," and then the parenthetical explanation, "(not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ"-I say, when we read such language as this, could we for a moment call in question, if Christians lived as they ought to live, that the Scriptures intend us, yea, direct us, to look to baptism as introducing us into the new and spiritual life of Christianity; not the outward form, but the inward grace; not the mere shadow of the blessing,
but the substance of the blessing; should we not at once say, as St. Paul teaches, that the new life is conferred through baptism, and that thus baptism is the instrume nt by which we are grafted into Christ?
Now if this be conceded, as indeed we think it must be, the only question which remains is, How far are the assertions of Scripture to be superseded or modified by human experience? How far may we allow what we can actually discover in the state of our fellow men to stand in the way of the plain testimony of God's holy word? Now to this it must be replied, that in reference to such questions, and especially in reference to this question, the Scriptures must be the sole umpire, and that the testimony of human observation is to be entirely, altogether, and absolutely set aside. For in a matter which has respect to the planting of the inward and secret life in the soul, it is clear that human observation cannot be cognizant of it. It is a matter to which above all things we must apply the Christian rule, "We walk by faith, not by sight." We have nothing but the bare simple word of God to rely upon: to all outward appearance the individual comes up out of the waters of baptism even as he went down into them; the change which has passed upon his soul is confessedly secret and invisible. As to the change which in due time is to be manifested, as to the time when the holy seed, sown in the waters of baptism, should spring up and bring forth fruit, we still are not constituted judges in this matter. The seed may lie for a longer or a shorter time beneath the ground; it may be choked with weeds; it may be choked in its growth, by the unfavourableness of its situation; still we are not competent to say it is not there: this is a matter altogether above and beyond our cognizance. If, for instance, we had seen David, guilty at once of the most degrading lust and the most treacherous murder, we might have imagined that the root of godliness had altogether died away in him; and yet we should have been mistaken. Or had we witnessed Peter repeatedly denying his Master, with all the solemnity of an oath, we might have judged him fallen to rise no more, and that the root of the matter was not in him; but we should have judged erroneously. So I admit there are even greater difficulties in our reconciling the efficacy of baptism with the practice of professing Christians. Yet our judgment in such a matter, if we venture to exercise it, would be doubtless erroneous; for it is a doctrine altogether out of and beyond the reach of any faculties we possess. We are not competent to exercise any judgment upon it; we must then at once and altogether come back to the law and the testimony; we must appeal to Scripture; we must judge of the efficacy of baptism, not by our own impressions, but by the simple testimony of the Word of God.
And here we may challenge any one to produce a single passage from the Word of God, in support of that view of baptism to which I have alluded as generally entertained amongst the Separatists, namely, that baptism is merely an outward sign of the inward grace, which may be then, or at any other time, imparted. The Scriptures always connect the waters of baptism with the inward grace upon the soul: they speak of baptism as the laver of regeneration, as in the epistle of Titus; as the rise of the new birth, as in the third chapter of John; as the grafting us into Christ, in the sixth of the Romans; as the beginning of our spiritual sanctification, in the fifth chapter of the Ephesians" Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word:" and as
in the text itself, as the medium, or rather the instrument of salvation; "Baptism doth also now save us.”
If, then, the question concerning the efficacy of baptism is to rest on the evidence of Scripture alone, we may consider it as settled; the testimony of Scripture is entirely on one side, and the Dissenting view of it rests altogether on human reasoning, and on a supposed experience in a matter in which man can have no experience. I may assert it without fear of contradiction, that the efficacy of this sacrament was universally held by the early church, and that the opposite doctrine, with only a few exceptions scarcely worth notice, was a novelty introduced as late as the fifteenth century, and is clearly to be traced to that violent re-action that took place at the Reformation, which carried away some good men into extremes, and led them to work changes, which, neither an impartial examination of Scripture, nor a candid appeal to ecclesiastical antiquity could justify. That our own church has avoided these extremes, and in the present case has adhered to Holy Scripture and the primitive doctrine, we have happily the most explicit and substantial authority.
It is certainly, brethren, surprising, that any one can call in question the fact, that the Church of England holds the efficacy of baptism. By adopting the Nicene Creed into her formularies, she calls upon her members to profess their belief in "one baptism for the remission of sins." In her baptismal service she adopts such terms as these: "We call upon thee for this infant, that he coming to thy holy baptism, may receive remission of his sins by spiritual regeneration." "Sanctify this water to the mystical washing away of sin." And after baptism, "We yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to regenerate this infant with thy Holy Spirit ; to receive him for thine own child by adoption, and to incorporate him into thy holy church." Consistently with this, in her catechism, she teaches every one of her baptized children to say, " My baptism, wherein I was made a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven." It asserts that "the inward and spiritual grace of baptism is a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness; for being by nature born in sin, and the children of wrath, we are hereby made the children of grace."
Such, then, is clearly the doctrine of the Church of England. She teaches her members to look back to their baptism, as the instrument whereby they were grafted into Christ; as that in which they began to receive from God the elements of a new and spiritual life: not only “ badges or tokens of Christian men's profession"-not as a significant emblem and sign-" but rather they be certain, sure witnesses, and effectual signs, of grace, and God's good-will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our faith in him," as the twenty-fifth article of our church speaks.
Now the constant charge which in modern times is brought against this doctrine of the efficacy of baptism is, that it brings back the ex operati of the Roman Church. Yet I believe that men bring this charge without clearly understanding the nature of the charge itself. It is, indeed, rather difficult to discover what the Romish Church actually does hold on this subject, for there is a great inconsistency in her writers upon it. If that corrupt communion maintains the efficacy of the sacraments independently of the power of the Spirit, that the receiving the outward elements alone, independently of the
divine influence, does work remission of sins; that the Divine Spirit does regenerate, ex operati, mechanically, as it were, which some Romish writers assert then to these doctrines the Church of England is altogether adverse, and protests against the Romish corruption. But I believe it would not be fair to charge this error upon the Romish church in principle. I rather believe the doctrine of that corrupt church to be in theory, that the faithful alone partake of any benefit from the sacrament, although that doctrine has not been so much insisted upon by them as one could wish. But the practical error of the Romanists seems to be this, and it is indeed no small one-that they attribute to baptism itself that which ought to be attributed to the grace of God in baptism. This I take to be the great distinction between the Romish doctrine of baptism and the Church of England doctrine.
However this may be, our own church is entirely clear from all the objectionable meaning that can be attached to the doctrine of the ex operati. If we ask, "What is required of those who come to be baptized?" She distinctly replies, "Repentance, whereby they forsake sin; and faith, whereby they steadfastly believe the promises of God made to them in that sacrament." And if we further ask, "Why then are infants baptized, when by reason of their tender age they cannot perform these promises?" She replies, " Because they promise them both by their sureties; which promise, when they come of age, themselves are bound to perform." It is her doctrine, then, not that regeneration accompanies baptism in all cases, merely ex operati, mechanically, as it were. But only when it is the case of an adult is there actually required repentance and faith. In the case of infants this promise is made for them. Such infants she considers entitled to make this promise, and so enjoy this blessed privilege, as are either born within her pale of Christian parents, or who, in respect of their Christian profession, are adopted by Christians in communion with the church, and who thus become their sponsors: thus the church provides, so far as she is able, that they shall be brought up to live the rest of their life according to this beginning. Such baptism she ever regards as efficacious to the cleansing away of the sin in which we are born, to justification, to the implanting the new life, to adoption into God's family, and heirship of the kingdom of heaven.
Such, then, my brethren, I conceive to be the doctrine of our church, founded on the sure warrant of Holy Scripture, and confirmed by all ecclesiastical antiquity. I would point out now any seeming difficulties that may arise from actual experience, and which stand in the way of the explicit declarations of Scripture. Undoubtedly, as I have already admitted, these difficulties are very great, and require a large exercise of faith to uphold the efficacy of baptism in the face of the fact, that to all appearance, thousands and hundreds of thousands receive no benefit from it. It calls for the faith of Abraham, "who against hope yet believed in hope." Yet the proper use to be made of this sad truth is, not an encouragement to unbelief, not to cause us to lower down the force of Scripture language, but to lead us to search and examine, and see whether we ought not to consider the anomalous state of the baptized as caused by the carelessness, faithlessness, and thoughtlessness of ourselves. With feelings of deep humiliation and grief it must be admitted, that the practice of our church lamentably encourages the desecration of this holy sacrament. Practically excluded as it is from our public service; with rare exceptions,