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On Baptism and the Supper.
Preliminary Observations. Two kinds of Baptism,-- Water and the Spirit.-Remarks on Matt. xxviii. 19.-This and other Arguments in favour of Water Baptism answered.--Sprinkling not baptism.-Sprinkling of Infants not authorized by Scripture. -Circumstances attending it highly objectionable.— The Lord's Supper.—The Circumstances attending it fully admitted. -Not considered perpetual, any more than washing of Feet. The true Lord's Supper.-Our dissent on these Subjects, not from Disesteem of Christianity, but the reverse.
BEFORE entering into a separate consideration of these subjects, I shall premise a few words on the nature of religious observances and ceremonies. These appear to me to be generally local or temporary; and, if we may judge from what we read in the New Testament, we may safely conclude, that the use of them is variable. There is not a practice more strictly enjoined by our blessed Lord, and that hoth by precept and exomple, than (the washing of each other's feet, as related by the
evangelist Jobn, chap. xii. But who, considering the different local circumstances, believes this to be a duty now incumbent upon us? The apostles who met at Jerusalem, to consider the attempt of some Jewish Christians, to impose the rite of circumcision on those Gentiles who embraced Christianity, came to a solemn, and no doubt right conclusion, on such things as it was then deemed necessary to observe ;* yet none of these, except one of a moral nature, is now considered obligatory. Nay, we eyen find the apostle Paul, a few years after, enforcing a liberty with respect to meats offered to idols, which this decree certainly does not warrant; a decree which there is great reason to believe he had himself united in forming.
The Christian church was, at that time, just emerging from the ceremonies of Judaism, and the superstitions of Heathenism. In this state of things, “it seemed good to the Holy Ghost,” gradually to remove those legal observances and ceremonies, connected with the Mosaic dispensation; and not to enjoin an immediate disregard to the whole of them at once. It was the morning of the gospel day;
* Acts. xv.
and if the brightness of that morning has been greatly obscured, which I apprehend all protestants agree with us in believing; and that the sun has been prevented from shining forth with meridian splendour, by the darkness of many unnecessary observances and traditions, which were afterwards introduced into the Christian church; we must indeed regret the circumstance: but when further light is renewed and afforded, ought we not to avail ourselves of its advantages, and endeavour to stand open to those further discoveries, which are consistent with the nature and spirit of the gospel; and which may be supported as such, by the doctrines contained in the Holy Scriptures, particularly in the New Testament?
After making these general remarks, we may proceed to the consideration of the subject of Baptism. Of this we find two kinds mentioned in the New Testament; namely, Baptism with Water, and Baptism with the Spirit. The former was, in some degree, in use under the Jewish law; and some writers mention that it was occasionally both added to circumcision, and substituted for it, in the admission of proselytes. When the forerunner of our Lord appeared to fulfil his mission, he made particular use of this ceremony; and from him it was called the Baptism of John. From this practice among the Jews, and by John the Baptist, Water Baptism appears to to have been introduced into the Christian church, as the mode of acknowledging its converts ; but we conceive it was no more an essential part of Christianity, than other Jewish ceremonies, for a time practised by the early Christians.
It is clear that John considered his dispensation and baptism as only temporary; nor does he, as a substitute for his baptism, refer his disciples to any other baptism with water, to be instituted by Christ. On the contrary, he plainly shows, that the baptism which was to supersede his, was to be of a different and a spiritual nature, as appears by these words: “ I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: whose fan is in his hand; and He will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather the wheat into his garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” * * Matt. iii. 11, 12.
On another occasion, John also says: “He must increase, but I must decrease."* From these expressions, as well as from others in the New Testament, we are induced to believe that the “one Baptism,”+ which now remains necessary to the church of Christ, is that of the Spirit. This, according to the foregoing instructive allegory, cleanses the heart; and, as the apostle Peter informs us, does not consist in putting away the filth of the flesh; but in procuring for us “the answer of a good conscience towards God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” I
The practice of Water Baptism is principally defended, by the direction given by our Saviour to his disciples, after his resurrection, when He addressed them in this manner: “Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,"'$ &c. But as we differ from most others in the construction of this passage, it will be proper to enter into a particular consideration of it.
It is to be regretted, that Christians have ... been so habituated to unite Baptism and
* John iii. 30.
1 Pet. iii. 21.
+ Ephes. iv. 5.