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IV. The history of the rite affords no evidence that it is an exception to the general rule; but rather the contrary. Washing or dipping in water, under various forms was ordained as a part of the Mosaic ritual, and was often practised as a figure of purification. In that peculiar mode, in which John the Baptist and the apostles used it, it was employed by the Jews, both before and after the Christian era, on the admission of proselytes into the church; and in all these cases, it was the obvious type of repentance and conversion. John, who lived under the law, baptized by divine authority; and Jesus himself submitted to his baptism, as part of the righteousness which then was.
The apostles observed the rite, as they did a variety of other Jewish ceremonies; and having connected it in their practice with conversion to Christianity, they applied it even to the Gentiles. But Christ himself, as the Institutor of the Gospel dispensation, baptized not; and Paul, who to a great extent personally abstained from the use of this ceremony, declared that he had received no commission from Christ to perform it.
V. Shortly before his ascension, the Lord Jesus commanded his apostles to go and make disciples of all nations, “ baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” That the use made by the apostles of water-baptism is not to be ascribed to this command, is clear from the fact that they employed the rite before the command was issued. That the command is to be understood only in a spiritual sense—as indicating the washing of water by the word”—may be inferred from the figurative use which our Lord has elsewhere made of the word baptize; from his own doctrine respecting the spirituality of true worship, and from the distinction which he so clearly drew between the water-baptism of John, and Christian baptism by the Spirit. It may also be inferred from the declaration of Paul-an undoubted partaker in the apostolic commission—that the Lord Jesus did not send him to baptize with water, but to preach the gospel.
Had a typical ceremony thus binding on the church been here instituted, the analogy of the Jewish law would lead us to expect the most precise directions, as to the persons who should perform it, and as to the manner, times, and circumstances, in which it should be performed. But no such directions are given, and Christians who admit the continued authority of the rite, are left in reference to these particulars, in a state of irremediable doubt and dispute.
VI. In the meantime Christianity has a baptism of its own, of which our Lord and his apostles made frequent mention, without attaching to it the condition or accompaniment of any outward ceremony. It is that of Christ himself, “ with the Holy Ghost and with fire;” and is productive of a new birth, by the Spirit. It is the baptism which“ now saveth us,” and which brings the “ answer of a good conscience toward God, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ;"> it is “the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” This baptism properly agrees with the nature and character of Christianity, and coincides with that worship of God, which is “in spirit and in truth.” Without it, the sinner cannot be converted, or joined in fellowship with the church; without it, the soul of the believer can never be prepared for an entrance into heaven.
VII. Whatsoever opinion therefore they may entertain respecting the ceremonial rite, this is the baptism on which Christians of every denomination ought chiefly to insist, and in so doing, they will not fail to experience the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.”
I. When the Lord Jesus celebrated his last Passover-supper with his disciples, “ he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, take, eat; this is my body which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the New Testament in my blood : this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me."
II. The words used by our Lord on this solemn occasion, afford no more evidence that the bread which he brake was itself his body, than they do, that the cup which he held in his hand, was itself the New Testament in his blood. The bread was distinct and separate from his body, occupying a different part of space, and could not possibly be the same with it. But the bread represented his body, which was about to be broken for many; and the wine in the cup was a symbol of his blood which was about to be shed for many, for the remission of sins.
III. It was at an actual meal, intended for bodily refreshment, that our Saviour thus addressed his disciples; and when, in conformity with his command, the earliest Christians partook of “the Lord's Supper," there was no mystery in the observance; much less was any miraculous change wrought upon their food. Convened from time to time, at their social repasts, they brake their bread, and handed round their cup of wine, in the sweet fellowship of the gospel of Christ, and in solemn remembrance of his death.
IV. The Scriptures do not appear to afford us any sufficient proof that the command on which this custom was founded, was intended for the whole church of Christ in all ages, any more than our Lord's injunction to his disciples to wash one another's feet. There is nothing however in the practice itself, as it was thus observed by the primitive believers, inconsistent with the general law, that all mere types and figures in worship, are abolished under the gospel. Let Christians when they eat their meat together “ with gladness and singleness of heart,” still be reminded by their very food, of the Lord who bought them. Let them, more often than the day, gratefully recollect their divine Master, “who bare our sins in his own body, on the tree,” and whose precious blood was shed for all mankind.
V. But no sooner was this practice changed from its original simple character, employed as a part of the public worship of God, and converted into a purely ceremonial rite, than the state of the case was entirely altered. The great principle that God is to be worshipped only in spirit and in truth, was infringed; and, as far as relates to this particular, a return took place, to the old legal system of forms and shadows.
VI. It is probably in consequence of this change—the invention and contrivance of man—that an ordinance, of which the sole purpose was the thankful remembrance of the death of Jesus, has been abused to an astonishing extent. Nothing among professing Christians, has been perverted into an occasion of so much superstition; few things have been the means of staining the annals of the church with so much blood.
VII. “ It is the Spirit that quickeneth,” as our Saviour himself has taught us—“the flesh profiteth nothing ;” and Christianity is distinguished by a spiritual supper, as well as baptism. To partake of this supper is essential to salvation. No man can ever have a claim on the hopes and joys set before us in the Gospel, who does not feed, by a living faith, on the bread which came down from heaven, and giveth life to the world—who does not “ eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man.” Now they who partake of this celestial food, are fellow-members of one body; they are joined together by a social compact of the dearest and holiest character, because they all commune with the same glorious Head. They are one in Christ Jesus ; and when they meet in solemn worship_Christ himself being present—they are guests, even here, at the table of their Lord, and drink the wine “new," with him “in his kingdom."
May this be the happy experience of all who read this volume, whether they use, or disuse, what is called the sacrament of the supper !
ON THE NATURE AND CHARACTER OF THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY
The influences of the Holy Spirit on the hearts of men are both general and extraordinary. By the general influences of the Spirit I mean the work of grace—a work essential to the salvation of the soul : by which alone we are turned from our evil ways, enabled to serve God out of a pure heart, and preserved alive, as members of the body of Christ. “ The grace of God that bringeth salvation,” says the apostle Paul, “ hath appeared to all men; teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” Again, he says “ By grace are ye saved through faith : and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." The extraordinary influences of the Spirit are those which qualify individuals for particular religious services; they are by no means indispensable to salvation: it is not by them that we maintain our spiritual life; neither are they, as a whole, the common allotment of all the living members of the true church: but are variously bestowed-one upon one person, and another upon another.
These extraordinary influences are usually denominated the gifts of the Spirit. “To one," says Paul, “is given, by the Spirit, the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge, by the same Spirit; to another faith, by the same Spirit ; (that is, probably, such faith as qualified for the execution of some peculiarly important service ;) to another the gifts of healing, by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues ; to
1 Tit. ii, 11, 12.
2 Eph. ii, 8.