« AnteriorContinuar »
used may be made holy; where he is directed to dip the child in the water, “if he may well endure it,” and yet uniformly pours water upon him, not as being right, but that which shall suffice if they certify that the child is weak, and which is made to suffice whether he be weak or not; where, after baptizing, the priest makes a cross upon the child's forehead, gives thanks to God for his regeneration, charges the sureties that he be brought to the bishop to be what is called confirmed by him, so soon as he can say the Creed, the Lord's Prayer and the Ten Commandments, and be further instructed in the Church Catechism ?
Many of the most flagrant of these abuses are little known in Scotland ; and yet Baptism is, according to the general system in this country, dispensed with. out due regard to the character of the parents. At the same time, it is connected with the imposition of vows on parents, which are altogether unknown in scripture, but which they must either submit to, or forfeit their privilege, and which it is intended the child shall take upon himself, if he ever desire to be admitted to the Lord's Supper ; before baptism, prayer is, as in the other case, offered up that the water may be made holy ; Baptism is described as sprinkling and washing, and again as pouring or sprinkling, which it is declared is not only lawful but sufficient, and most expedient; and the minister is directed to address himself to the child, when he administers the ordinance, and to say, (calling him
by his name) “I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
The one National church avows a preference for immersion, while she tolerates the neglect of it, and that upon the foolish supposition that a cold bath may be more than an infant can “ well endure ;" refuses the privilege of Christian parents, while she baptizes all children without distinction; and leaves it as matter of dispute whether Baptism and Regeneration be not one and the same thing. The other National church calls Baptism washing, confounds pouring and sprinkling, and recommends what it thus represents as one mode, as merely lawful, sufficient, and most expedient : all which terms admit the inference, that another mode, namely immersion, may possibly have been the original practice.
Independents have not left this ordinance in so vague and ambiguous a condition, as Episcopalians or Presbyterians have done ; in regard however to the disputed points, they have commonly satisfied themselves with bare self-defence. They have found little or no fault with the principles and practice of Antipædobaptists; but have endeavoured to vindicate themselves for not following their example. They have said (some of them at least) that immersion was no doubt Baptism, but that pouring was Baptism also ; that the infants of believers have a right to be baptized, and that therefore the parents are justifiable in claiming it in their favour ; but some of them seem to have very little sense of their
obligation to require that parents, in their communion, do their duty in this matter.
The tendency of this negative and slovenly manner of treating the subject is to generate scepticism. The careless disregard the controversy as unprofitable, while the timid are frightened into the system of the Antipædobaptists. They see, all allow, that immersion is right, but the other mode, they find, to be by some contested: all allow that Antipædobaptists are themselves baptized, although they hold that others have no baptism either for themselves or their children. They prefer immersion, therefore, and join the Antipædobaptists, on the principle of taking the safest side of a difficult question.
Amidst all this uncertainty and confusion, many are ready to discountenance every attempt at applying a remedy. Why agitate a question of such subordinate importance ? What can you say more than has been said already? Why make divisions about a matter of doubtful disputation ? Now, this is precisely the question. Is it a matter of doubtful disputation ? Have we examined it for ourselves ? Shall indifference prevent divisions, or encourage them? Are any of the ordinances of subordinate importance? We should hardly say this of the Lord's Supper: why should we say it of Baptism? What if it should appear that every doctrine of the gospel is concerned in the discussion? Were it even granted that the question is of inferior importance in itself, it does not follow, that error in regard to it shall not be attended with important consequences. It is not
in our option, whether the question shall be agitated; but whether any thing further shall be done towards checking the career of its injurious tendency. Has it not produced much grief among Christians? Has it not done more to divide, to weaken, and to disperse, scriptural churches, and to bring reproach on endeavours to attain scriptural church-fellowship, -than any
other cause in modern times ? Whether we can say any thing on the subject more than has been said already is humbly submitted to the judgment of the public.
I have long felt myself particularly called upon to engage in a discussion of this subject, from the circumstance of having published some explanations, connected with it, of certain Greek prepositions, and verbs, and nouns, in my Greek Grammar, and Greek and English Scripture Lexicon. To these explanations, several objections were made, first in manuscript, and afterwards in a publication, containing the substance of the manuscript, by a very worthy minister of the Antipædobaptist persuasion. The explanations were not written by me, but by a very able and excellent literary Christian friend, now deceased, who favoured me with his valuable assistance. On seeing the objections, mentioned above, my friend wrote to me, with his characteristic learning, good sense, and good humour, the letter vindicating his principles, which the reader will find in the Appendix, and with which, I have no doubt, every intelligent Greek scholar, who believes the gospel, will be delighted, whatever he may think of the work which
precedes it. My friend's permission to publish his letter was given in another letter, written nearly a month after the former, in the following terms :“ I have no objection to your printing, or making any use you may wish of my remarks, provided only you do not publish the name, as I have really no inclination to come ostensively forward in the controversy. With that reservation you have my free çonsent to use it if you think it worth publication. If you intend doing so, I shall send one or two addi. tional observations that have occurred since, provided you think they are worth while.” I am very sorry to say, that the additional observations, though fully intended, and often promised by my worthy friend, were never transmitted, so that his letter must appear in its original state. The truth is, that both he and I felt the task to be, in some respects, a painful one ; and we indulged ourselves in delaying it, as long as there was no immediate prospect of another edition being wanted, of the Grammar and Lexicon. We both felt, however, that if another edition should be called for, we must come forward, in a separate work, (as the discussion must be too extensive for the Grammar or Lexicon,) to say how far we admitted of correction, and how far we abode by the doctrine, of the former publication. Time has now deprived me of the further assistance of my much valued friend, while the call for a new edition of the former work compels me to appear alone, with the aid of his original manuscript, and with some observations, which have since occurred to myself. If my views of the