« AnteriorContinuar »
I need not tell you, my deur Friend, how much I have felt interested in your eternal welfare. I trust you have not been insensible of it. Nor will you wonder, that I should feel a deep solicitude, that you may not mistake the right way, but be led by the footsteps of the flock : Always remembering that Christ, the good Shepherd, “ calleth his sheep by name, and leadeth them out : and when he putteth forth his owu sheep he goeth before them, and they follow him : for they know his voice." JOHN X. 3, 4.
I have no doubt but you earnestly desire to know what is right, and to act in such a manner, as to answer a good conscience towards God. In order to this, you must make his holy word, the rule of your conduct. We have little difficulty in complying with the will of Christ, whenever we feel the temper of that holy apostle, who could say, "What things were gain to me, (enumerating all his Jewish privileges,) those I counted loss for Christ.” PHIL. III. 7. It is then, and then only, that we are willing to follow the Lamb, whithersoever he goeth.
I have now only to request, that with prayerful attention, and without prejudice or prepossession, you will examine the following remarks ; carefully comparing them with those parts of the sacred scriptures on which they are predicated,
It is a point, I believe, admitted by christians of all denominations, that believers are proper subjects of Baptism. The dispute between us and others, is, whether believers are the only proper subjects of this ordinance. I freely confess, I have never been able to find but one kind of subjects described in the New Testament. The language appears exceedingly plain and simple, and the practice of the first christians is in perfect accordance with it. Confession of sin, fruits of repentance, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; or, in other words, believing with all the heart, were uniformly required, as qualifications for baptism : And we read of no instance, where any were ever admitted without them, In order, howev
er, to satisfy you, that my statement is correct, I shall proceed to lay before you, a brief history of this insti. tution, as it is given to us in the sacred Oracles.
As the ordinance of baptism is never mentioned in the Old Testament, nor was ever practised under that dispensation,* all our knowledge respecting it, must be derived from the New, My present design is, to follow the Evangelists and Apostles, and place before you, in a connected view, a faithful account of “ Christian Baptism," as delivered to us in the writings of Christ and his apostles,
The first account of the baptismal institution, is in the third chapter of Matthew. Here John's ministry is introduced, as the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “ Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” And “There went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.” MATT. ill. 5, 6.
Two things are here to be observed.
1. John baptized none, but such as made confession of their sins.
2. John did not baptize by, from, nor with Jordan, but IN Jordan. It is difficult to conceive for what purpose he should go down into Jordan, unless to immerse his candidates.
Among others, many of the Pharisees and Sadducees. came to John' to bé baptized, but exhibiting no evidence of repentance towards God, or faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, he addressed them in the most faithful and solemn manner, “ Bring forth fruits meet for repentance ; and think 'not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham to our father.”
MATT. III. 8, 9.
But is not this the very ground on which it is attempted to support infant baptism . Most certainly; for this is the main pillar which supports the whole fabrick; yet John rejected it as totally invalid. Did he not act correctly? And if so, does not this decide the
* The scriptures know nothing of the baptism of proselytes.
point forever, that children cannot be admitted upon the faith of their parents ? But it will probably be said, these were not children, but men, grown to years of understauding, and, therefore, capable of acting for themselves. This will be admitted ; but still we ask, were they not as really children of Abraham now, as when but eight days old ? If the cove. naut made with Abraham did not secure for natural seed a right to baptism without their personally exhibiting the fruits of repentance, how can it secure to the seed of Gentile believers the same right while impenitent? Let us for a moment change the positioii, and suppose that these Pharisees had by some means failed of circumcision in their infancy, and had now requested to receive that rite on the same plea. i.e. that Abraham was their father'; would they, or could they have been rejected ? Let candour answer. If this remark be duly considered, we should suppose it inust convince every person desirous of finding the truth, that circumcision and baptism are distinct in their nature and design, and that a scriptural qualitication for one, furnishes no claim for the other,
The baptism of the Saviour, is the next instance recorded in this chapter.
VERSES 14-17. " Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbade him, saying, It is I that have need to be baptized of thee, and thou comest to me! Jesus answered and said unto him, permit this at present : for thus ought we to ratify every institution. Then John acquiesced.* And Jesus when he was baptized went up straigbtway out of the water,” &c.
i imagine I hear my Friend saying, "I really think that Jesus was baptized by immersion.” And will not this explicit example of our condescending Redeemer, weigh more with a conscientious believer, than a thousand mere probabilities? I confess it does with me, notwithstanding all the attempts which have
* Dr. Campbell's Translation.
been made, to prove that Christ's baptism is “not to be imitated by christians."
Mark and Luke meution the same things which we have noticed above. MARK 1.5-II. Luke III. 7-9, 21, 22. But as these accounts agree in substance with the foregoing, it is deemed unnecessary particularly to notice them. i
There are some things mentioned by John, which are not recorded by the other Evangelists : particularly the following: “ After these things, (saith be, came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judea, and there he tarried with them and baptized. And John also was baptizing in Enou, near to Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized : for John was not yet cast into prison.” * And they came and were baptized." Who? The people, say some, who attended on John's mipistry. But is it not more natural to suppose, that it means the disciples of Christ? We have a previous account of His baptism, but not of theirs. The word Disciples, seems to be the antecedent to the pronoun " they." But whether this were,
case or not, the passage
affords abundant proof, that John's baptism belonged to the gospel dispensation ; and as such, ought to be considered as gospel baptism : unless for the sake of getting clear of the difficulty, it should be asserted, that Christ and his disciples were also ministers of the legal dispensation : for both John and Christ, with his disciples, were baptizing at the same time, and in the same neighbourhood.
In order to prove that John's baptism was under the law, it should first be proved, that the law required such a service. But where can such a requirement be found ? The answer is, no where, We therefore take it as we find it recorded by Mark, That John's preachiog and baptism were the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ. MARK I. 1.
In the beginning of the 4th chapter of John, it is said,
“When, therefore, the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard, that Jesus made and baptized
more disciples than John, (though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,) he left Judea," &c. It hence
appears, that they first made disciples, and then baptized them. They did not baptize them in order to make them disciples, either now, or at some future period. The account here given serves also to show the fallacy of those who argue the baptism of infants from Christ's taking little children into his arms and blessing them. Jesus blessed them; but he baptized not, himself, but his disciples. That instance was evidently novel, or the disciples would not have opposed it.
The next thing to be noted, is, the great commission given by Christ to his apostles. « Go ye, therefore, into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature ; he that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." MATT. XXVIII. 19, 20. MARK XVI. 15, 16, It is here to be noted, that they were first to preach the gospel, and then to baptize such as gave evidence that they had received it. They had no direction to bap- . tize any but such as professed to be believers. Matthew says, “Go, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father," &e. It is hence argued by some of our Pedobaptist brethren, that as infants are a part of all nations, therefore the commission authorises their baptism.
But if the commission is not limited to such as are taught, and so taught as to believe, then adults must be baptized as well as infants : for they too are a part of all nations. But both are inadmissible. Baptism is declared, by an apostle, to be the answer of a good conscience towards God. 1 PET. III. 21. It is impossible to conceive, that an infant, or indeed, any other person than a believer, should answer a good conscience towards God, in being baptized.
Let us now follow the disciples, and we shall soon see how they understood their Lord's commission.
On the memorable day of Pentecost, when the apostles, according to Christ's promise, were baptized