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To the second part of the plea respecting the baptism of Christ in the river Jordan, considered as establishing a precedent for the practice of a similar form of admission into the Christian church, we have the following answer to make; though the subject itself is almost too ridiculous to be entitled to serious discussion.
Our Saviour, we read, was baptized by JOHN in the river Jordan. But the conclusion drawn from thence, respecting the form of administering Cbristian baptism, does not appear by any means warranted by the premises.
The baptism of John was a peculiar ministration, preparatory to the establishment of Christ's church; but did not actually admit into it, or convey the privileges of it. For which reason, we find St. Paul baptizing fome disciples of John, whom he found at Ephesus, a second time, in the name of the LORD JESUS: Acts xix. The baptism of JOHN, then, and the baptism appointed by Jesus CHRIST, being two different ordinances, in use at different times, and for different purposes; it does not appear that the one, as to the exact form of its administration, should necessarily constitute a precedent for the other.
The disciples of Christ and John lived under a different oeconomy, and were subjected to different rules; a circumstance which occasionally gave offence to those who understood not the nature of our SAviour's mission. In this temper of mind, the difciples of John came to Jesus to know the reafon,
why the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fafted oft, whilst his disciples fafted not.” But what was a rule in the one case, did not become obligatory in the other; the parties to 'whom it was applied being differently circumstanced.
Christ, it must be considered then, baptized men to be his own disciples, not to be the disciples of John: and his baptism was the baptism of admission into the Christian church; whilst that of John was only a baptism of discipleship into his own peculiar ministry. - Allowing, therefore, that all John's disciples were baptized in a river, (which is more than can be proved, and from the nature of John's ministry, as the preacher of the wilderness, it is
proBable that he made use of water in any place where it was convenient for his purpose;) it does not follow from this circumstance, that the disciples of CHRIST should be baptized in a river also; Christ having no where ordained that they should be: and reason forbids us to conclude, that the quantity of water made use of in this facrament, any more than the quantity of bread and wine consumed in that of the LORD's Supper, can be effential to the validity of the institution.
When Peter, ignorant of the spiritual 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 cleansing, our Saviour's answer was calculated to rebuke his carnal application of the act, by telling him, that “ he that is washed, needeth not 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 case, was not by the outward application of the element of water, because parts were said to be cleansed which the water had not touched; but by the operation of the spirit on the soul, producing that inward purity, of which an idea was conveyed to the mind by this familiar application to the body. Thus, in like manner, the effect of washing in baptism is not produced by the water applied to the body, either in whole or in part; but by the spirit of God accompanying an ordinance of his own institution, and producing that effect upon
the soul of the party, of which the water is designed to be the type or emblem.
But it is to be further observed, that the circum. stance now reckoned by some few individuals fo effen. tial to baptism, 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 observed, as most significant of the idea meant to be conveyed on the occasion; nevertheless this was done, not in a river, but in a baptistry, or building adjoining to their churches; where every thing was prepared for the decent administration of this service.
It is moreover well known not to have been an uncommon thing among the early Christians, to defer their baptism 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 cases, the form of plunging the party
either in a river or elsewhere mult, it is presumed, have been dispensed with. And in the case of the gaoler's family who were baptized in the prison, there is reason to think that the Apostle made use of still more discretionary latitude in the performance of this office;
from the consideration that there could be no river to be made use of on this occasion; together with the improbability that the gaoler's house should be provided with conveniences for the immersion of the whole body. For, according to the account given of this transaction, we find that it was a business of immediate dispatch; no time being given for preparation on the subject. Immediately upon the discovery of the situation of his prisoners, the gaoler (we read) “ took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes, and was baptized, he and all his, straitway.” Acts xvi. 33.
And allowing, what might have been the case, 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 supposed established practice of baptism in one point, as circumstances then required, renders the imitation of our Saviour's example, as to the letter, not essential to this service.
From these premises, we feel ourselves warranted in concluding, that the baptism of John in the river Jordan constitutes no precedent for the baptism of Christians; and from the circumstance, that baptizing in a river, considered as the necessary form of admission