صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

forbids us to conclude, that the quantity of water made ufe of in this facrament, any more than the quantity of bread and wine confuned in that of the LORD's Supper, can be essential to the validity of the institution.

When PETER, ignorant of the fpiritual nature of CHRIST'S washing, required him not only to wash his feet, but also his hands and his head, judging that a partial washing could not effect a general cleanfing, our SAVIOUR's anfwer was cakulated to rebuke his carnal application of the act, by telling him, that "he that is washed, needeth na fave to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.' JOHN xiii. 10. PETER therefore was given to understand, that the effect produced in this cafe, wa not by the outward application of the element of water, because parts were faid to be cleanfed whid the water had not touched; but by the operatior of the spirit on the foul, producing that inward prity, of which an idea was conveyed to the mind by this familiar application to the body. Thus, in ike manner, the effect of washing in baptifm is not roduced by the water applied to the body, either ir whole or in part; but by the fpirit of GoD accompanying an ordinance of his own institution, and produing that effect upon

the foul of the party, of which the water is defigned to be the type or emblem.

But it is to be further obferved, that the circum. stance now reckoned by fome few individuals fo effential to baptifm, from the confideration of CHRIST'S having been baptized in a river, was, in the primitive church, either not regarded at all, or at least deemed a matter of indifference. For though the form of plunging the whole body was in general obferved, as moft fignificant of the idea meant to be conveyed on the occafion; nevertheless this was done, not in a river, but in a baptiftry, or building adjoining to their churches; where every thing was prepared for the decent administration of this fervice.

1

It is moreover well known not to have been an uncommon thing among the early Chriftians, to defer their baptifm till they were fuppofed to be on their death-beds; upon the idea of guarding thereby against the probability of falling away from grace; in which cafes, the form of plunging the party either in a river or elsewhere muft, it is prefumed, have been difpenfed with. And in the cafe of the gaoler's family who were baptized in the prison, there is reafon to think that the Apoftle made ufe of still more difcretionary latitude in the performance of this office;

from the confideration that there could be no river to be made use of on this occafion; together with the improbability that the gaoler's house fhould be provided with conveniences for the immersion of the whole body. For, according to the account given of this tranfaction, we find that it was a business of immediate dispatch; no time being given for prepa ration on the subject. Immediately upon the difcovery of the fituation of his prisoners, the gaoler (we read)" took them the fame hour of the night, and washed their stripes, and was baptized, he and all his, ftraitway." Acts xvi. 33.

And allowing, what might have been the cafe, that the gaoler's house was provided with a fountain, in which he and his family might have been baptized by immersion; yet this fountain not being a river, a deviation from the fuppofed established practice of baptifm in one point, as circumftances then required, renders the imitation of our SAVIOUR'S example, as to the letter, not effential to this fervice.

From these premises, we feel ourselves warranted in concluding, that the baptifm of JOHN in the river Jordan constitutes no precedent for the baptifm of Christians; and from the circumstance, that baptizing in a river, confidered as the neceffary form of admiffion

into the Christian church, has neither the authority of fcripture, antiquity, or reafon for its fupport, it confequently follows, that the example of CHRIST, in this cafe, was not meant to apply to his difciples. But there is another and ftill more effential confideration belonging to this fubject, which it is my duty to place before you.

Baptifm is the feal of a covenant; a pledge, to affure the parties to whom it is applied, of the performance of thofe conditions, by which a gracious GOD has been pleased to bind himself to man. The affixing this feal GOD has made the peculiar office of his appointed ministers.

Now we know, that in all human covenants the fize or shape of the feal, whether it be large or small, round or fquare, is a matter of no importance; the validity of it depending folely upon the character of the person who makes the impreffion. In a cafe where the affixing the feal is not the perfonal act of the contracting party, fhould the person who undertakes to do it, not be authorized to represent that party, the fignature becomes ineffectual; and the covenant into which this felf-appointed reprefentative has prefamed to enter, of course not binding. Apply this to the fubject of baptifm, and the conclufion, it is prefumed, will

[ocr errors]

be, that it is not a matter of so much confequence, where

baptism is administered, as by whom; and that the baptism in the church is valid, not on account of the particular form in which it is administered, but because those who adminifter it, have received a commiffion to bind the contracting party; and that the baptifm out of the church, whether the fervice be performed in a river or elfewhere, is not so, for the oppofite reason.

Much more might be faid, and has been faid. upon this fubject at different times; though, alas! with little effect; because men wedded to an opinion, however ill-founded, are seldom in a disposition to be convinced; the best arguments appearing weak and unfatisfactory, when opposed to inveterate prejudices.

Indeed, when I confider the liberal nature of the Gospel covenant, the general tenour of the Apoftolic commiffion, and the universal practice of the primitive church confequent thereupon, I cannot tell where to find ground for a dispute upon this fubject. But when I confider the nature of man, together with the many abfurdities which have at different times found their ftrenuous advocates in the church; I am furprised at no conclufion that may be drawn by a being, who, as the world now goes, claims a right of

« السابقةمتابعة »