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such a situation to “hold their peace,” we might almost say, “ the stones would
oat." In order to understand more accurately the language of the Fathers, and more correctly to comprehend the nature, importance, and efficacy, as well as the general necessity of baptism, as appointed by our Lord, and practised in the primitive church, we will introduce a modern illustration of a baptism of exactly the same description as those of early times. We who are brought up under the visible banners of divine protection, and who have the cloud of the Almighty's presence continually over our tabernacle, can appreciate but very imperfectly the fearful distance and awful state of the heathens, while “ without hope and without God in the world :" nor can we fully enter into their peace and joy when suddenly “ called out of darkness into marvellous light.” But let us look at Gentile baptisms in India now, and we shall easily perceive how the ancient Fathers were led into the habit of speaking of baptism as regeneration, without supposing them to have mistaken or misunderstood the real difference between them; though mistakes on this important subject had very soon become the offspring of their incautious language.
When persons like ourselves see baptism daily administered without perceiving any visible effects flowing from it, they are extremely liable to undervalue baptism, and lose sight of its character as originally intended.* Now let us view a recent baptism under circumstances of a more primitive nature; and this will carry us back to the apostles' “ washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost."-Respecting the public baptism of a Musselman, at Gurrackpore, the Rev. Mr. Wilkinson writes
“I hope he was baptised from above with the Holy
* We have the impression on our minds, that the late celebrated Robert Hall considered, that baptism in certain cases might be dispensed with altogether, inasmuch as God's covenant blessings may be considered as virtually ratified and enjoyed in the constant attendance on Christian ordinances and open profession of the Christian name, without the visible symbol of Christ's church being received. Though we cannot think on this point with the renowned author of this opinion, it yet enables us to perceive how circumstances and situations may change men's views of the efficacy and importance of positive insti. tutions.
Ghost. It is extraordinary to observe the effect of this sacred ordinance on the mind in this country, compared with what we witness in England, even at the baptism of adults. Here it is really a translation from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of God's dear Son; and the subjects of the ordinance, so far as they are under right influences, seem really to feel it as such. It was remarkably so in the case of the person in question. His own expressions of what his views and feelings were, can alone convey a proper idea. The mind carried back then resting on the present-connexions to be broken-old habits to be given up-new connexions to be formed-new habits to be acquired—and a hundred circumstances connected with the past, present, and the future, do not operate slightly on a sensitive mind.”
Would not this aged Musselman, all his life after, look back to and consider his baptism as the time of his conversion and regeneration, and this with a great degree of reason, though it is plain that his faith, and repentance, and spiritual state of soul were believed to be real and Christian before his baptism. Now had this man in the state supposed died (as two native Christians who gave “long and decided proofs” of their piety did last year in New Zealand) before he was baptised, would he not have been saved ? Doubtless he would. Then did he not enjoy spiritual regeneration ? Most certainly he did, else he could not be saved. This is what he must have understood, if his faith was firm and his Christian instruction good ; and yet he could not be content without baptism, and could not under his circumstances fairly consider himself in covenant with God, and properly classed among his people, till he had separated himself from his former connexions, ratified his engagements with God, and put on the livery and public character of Jesus Christ. He had not entered into the kingdom of God until he was baptised.
It is not only possible, but very likely, and we doubt not, very common in early times, that persons, emerging from a state of beathen darkness into the marvellous light of the Gospel, did enjoy at their baptism a high degree of divine light and spiritual consolation, by which Christianity was distinguished from false religions, and by which its open profession was distinguished and “ sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise." When Christ went up out of
BAPTISM, as used by our church, involves or implies a spiritual covenant or mutual stipulation between God and the persons baptised. Its blessings, therefore, must necessarily be hypothetical.
From our previous discussion we derived this conclusion,--that the sacrament, and the heart required by it, are not always united, and that the ordinance may be received without any beneficial effect; and therefore that baptism is not regeneration, nor necessarily connected with it. Though the requirements and promises of the covenant, as we have seen, always implied and supposed a regenerate state of soul and mind in Abraham and his seed, yet it did not always meet, in fact, with that state of mind : for it was often wanting, not only before, but also after the sacrament was administered. But we do not, as God does not, speak of the sacraments as they are too often received by men, but as they were and are intended and appointed to be received by him who has prescribed them. In this view then we may say, that baptism is the introduction into the Christian covenant.
This notion of baptism seems to be admitted on all hands, however persons may differ in their ideas respecting its efficacy and importance. The church of England clearly views it in this light. We shall now consider the nature and requirements, the form and the working of this momentous concern.
I. Baptism viewed as a covenant.
It evidently bears this character in our church. In our articles and formularies we may very distinctly perceive all the characteristics of a covenant. We have
Baptism as the “instrument," —
The proceeding throughout bearing the character of a covenant,-and
Suitable admonitions grounded on the faith of it.
1. The instrument.
Baptism is a sign and seal of a public engagement. This is the doctrine of the 27th Article :-“ Baptism is not only a sign of profession and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened; but it is also a sign of regeneration or new birth, whereby as b, an instrument they that receive baptism rightly are grafted into the church; the promise of forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed; faith is confirmed and grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God.” The same view is given in the 25th Article :“ Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men's profession : but rather they be certain sure witnesses and effectual signs of grace and God's good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken but also strengthen and confirm our faith in him. The sacraments were not ordained,—but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same, they have a wholesome effect or operation : but they that receive them unworthily, purchase to themselves damnation, as St. Paul saith.” And in the 26th Article, we have these words :-“ Neither is the effect of Christ's ordinance taken away by their (ministers) wickedness, nor the grace of God's gifts diminished from such, as by faith and rightly do receive the sacraments ministered unto them ; which be effectual, because of Christ's institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.”