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to carry his gospel, and plant his religion in the world ; and that there might be a corporate society into which individual converts might flee from the power of Satan unto God, in which they might “ build up themselves in their most holy faith," to the glory and praise of Him who called them out of this sinful world, and planted them in “the kingdom of his dear Son.” This kingdom, though enclosed by a visible “ token” of character, is nevertheless the pure spiritual undefiled spouse of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is drawn together by the love of God, redeemed by the blood of Christ, and sanctified by the Holy Ghost.
Baptism, therefore, bears an office inconceivably important. It incloses and represents every thing that is most valuable on earth, and that is ripening for the glory of heaven. It embraces God's children in their respective generations, as they are successively renewed, and brought to a spiritual state of mind and faith in the Saviour. The portal of scriptural baptism has this superscription on it-" The name of the Lord is as a strong tower ; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.” This is what we conceive to be the scriptural object and design of baptism. It is the tuken of God's love, and it marks and signalizes the sanctified and elect people of God.
This representation does not regard what baptism may become by the perversion, and ever deteriorating conduct
It has no eye to the influx of persons, who, from interested motives, when the kingdom of God becomes popular, may press for admission into it, “ without having on a wedding garment.” Such are not valued in the sight of God: and in the arrangement of his sacred ordinances, at least in their design and constitution, he has no regard to such characters. And it was on this ground we consider, that the primitive church was formed by the apostles; and after them, by the early fathers; who, nevertheless, soon admitted, as we have already instanced, a sort of language into their offices, which was not perfectly scriptural, and which their less spiritual successors perverted to the worst of
purposes. But, we believe, that the apostles had, that the fathers had, and that our own reformers. had, their eye especially, if not exclusively, fixed on the holy members of the true“ kingdom of God.”
If we are here asked the reason why the ancient christians, and the church of England, in its offices, have so apparently united baptism with regeneration, and salvation, when the fact does not justify what seems to be thus taught, we would answer,--that we have already replied to this question, in our last paragraph.
But we must here remark, that the truth of our theory has nothing to do with ostensible fact. It does not extend, as we have repeatedly observed, to every thing which has the name or appearance of a church, but to the kingdom of God, and to that only, which is “ born of water and of the Spirit.” Every member of this body is holy. None can enter into it without being “ born of water and of the Spirit.” Therefore baptism and the Holy Ghost are here always united. Where, as before expressed, you see the token (as nothing in this kingdom is deceitful,) there you see the believing and regenerate children of God. The only difficulty arises from the mixed nature of the operation, by which the kingdom of God is formed in the world. The whole plan is divine. The internal agency is divine. The general arrangement is divine. But the machinery, so to speak, is worked by man. He preaches the word. He administers the ordinances. He receives members into the kingdom of God by baptism : at least he supposes he does so. But as he does not know the heart, he may mistake. God“ knows them that are his :" and these only are the true members of the kingdom. But as man does not know, though he is officially employed in gathering this kingdom, a difficulty must needs ensue, which it will be quite necessary to guard against. We shall, therefore, here make a few brief observations on these two subjects,-the holy catholic church, and the professing church.
First, the holy catholic church.
We are not aware that we have any opinion on this point, different from that of Hooker and Bishop Pearson, or from the nineteenth article of our church, which says, that it is “ a congregation of faithful men.” It is, what our Saviour declares the kingdom of God to be,composed of such as are “ born of water and of the Spirit.” Baptism is the door of entrance into this holy church. All its members are holy. God calls them holy. His covenant is with them. His Spirit dwells in them. Baptism sealş them as His. His divine image is impressed on their hearts; and his rite stands as a divine “ token ” to represent the internal image of God. They are all spiritual and regenerate souls. It is of this holy church that the scripture speaks, as we conceive, when it says such great things. This is the “peculiar people” of God. This is the church into which the apostles baptised such as believed in Christ to the saving of the soul.” This is that holy body of saints and faithful brethren, to whom the apostles addressed their epistles, and whom they designate as being sanctified in Christ Jesus, justified in his righteousness, and made heirs of eternal glory.”
The only caution we would here suggest is this-we should never confound this holy church, though all its members be holy, with “ believers,” or the truly regenerate as such ; as if this church embraced them all, and at all times. Bishop Pearson, and many others, seem to do this. But we have already shewn that this never was the case, and that it never can be the case, while converts from the world are being made by the gospel. They must all be believers before they are admitted ; and there must be a time, greater or less, according to circumstances, during which professed believers, and therefore also true believers, must remain under the character of catechumens or probationers. Such are born of the Spirit, though not yet baptised, or “born of water."
" born of water.” The scripture, as we have seen, teaches this.
6. He that believeth on him, hath everlasting life.” Baptism does not make a man a believer; it requires faith beforehand. But
Baptism designates believers or the regenerate. Before baptism they do not enter into the kingdom. They are, therefore, not of Christ's church, though they are believers, and would go to heaven as the crucified thief did, and many martyrs and sincere holy converts have done, who dicd without having ever entered into the church of God. The baptised, therefore, can alone be recognised by the church as believers, or regenerate, or heirs of heaven, though others may be members of the mystical body of Christ, and as such go to heaven.
Herce we see how the baptised and the regenerate came to be nearly identified :
1. They are so denominated in scripture. They are
“ born of water and of the Spirit.” This is the case with every real member of the true church; he is baptised, he is regenerate. The theory and the fact agree with respect to all such members. God spake to Abraham of circumcision, (and Christ speaks the same respecting baptism,)“ this is my covenant, my covenant is with thee;" that is, the sign for the thing signified by the sign, the “ token" of the covenant.
2. The early fathers, according to St. Augustine, denominated sacraments in this way. “Sacraments,
he says, "are holy signs," that is, signs of holy things, of the new birth, of the election of God, of his true church. And as we have observed, the fact, as well as the theory, respecting this spiritual church, is true. They are all baptised; they are all born again, though not spiritually born by baptism, but before they were baptised. Yet as the true church is the holy church, no mischief could arise, in a practical shape, from speaking of their baptism as their regeneration, because in every member of this church both were united. *
3. Our baptismal offices, and indeed all the offices of our liturgy, were made for this true, believing, holy church ; as circumcision and baptism were made, as appointed by God, for the same. They legitimately belong to this church and to no other. Christ Jesus, strictly speaking, has no other church. Let not the reader be startled at this declaration ; let him thoroughly consider so as to understand the matter, and he will soon see its truth. There can be no other church strictly belonging to Christ but the true one. Hence it is, that every office in our liturgy is full of holy petitions, prayers, thanksgivings, expectations, and assurances; for they scarcely stop at hope. Regeneration and baptism, though not identified, are yet in Christ's church connected : and in “the kingdom of God” they are, as we have seen, connected in scripture.
Every male child shall be circumcised.” Every one that “entereth into the kingdom of God," must be®“ born of water and of the Spirit.”
Having these scriptural truths firmly riveted in our
As Mr. Miller, in his History has observed-No great evil could arise in Cyprian's time from confounding regeneration with baptism, becausé, generally speaking, they were then both united ; but in our day it becomes a poisonous error,
minds, we shall be able to see what would otherwise be very mysterious, namely, the true ground and reason why our offices speak in the way they do. And though we may not wholly consider every phrase as perfectly uniform and consistent, (for some of them have a gentle touch of the ambiguous language of the fathers,) yet we shall not fail to observe how nearly they correspond with what would naturally arise in a pious mind from such considerations as have been stated respecting the true, the holy, the only “ kingdom of God." We shall also further perceive the extreme difficulty of constructing offices for this holy church in any way that differs essentially from our own; or indeed at all, except in a few words or phrases.
Secondly. The professing church.
Were all who profess Christ's holy religion, holy persons, no difficulty would arise, because there would be no confusion. But the evil as well as the difficulty, has now become very great. There is a professing church which is not a church, though called by that name. There are those who profess to be, and call themselves Christians, who are not Christians; and yet they bear that name both in the church and in the scripture. God, as we have heard, calls such in numerous places “ his people,” who were not his people, according to his own definition, but had only the name of being So. If the reader asks, why does the scripture call persons by names which their character does not indicate? we shall not answer him by saying, “ Who art thou that repliest against God ;" but we shall request him to think out the case. And we shall also ask him another question,Why is any person called in scripture, or in any other document, a Christian ? and why were any baptised into the church by the apostles, as Christians ? God did not say of each of them, “He is a chosen vessel unto me.” On what ground, then, were they baptised ? Clearly on the ground of their PROFESSION, accompanied with the appearance of a new heart which they at the time exhibited. This is the only ground on which men can judge of the hearts of men, till farther experience develope them; it is on the ground of a creditable profession. "Man judgeth according to the outward appearance." God does not blame him for this; for he has no other way of judging. This correctly corresponds with our remarks on Ministerial Instruction,” in the Second Number.