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Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." It should be noticed, that when our Lord uttered these words, baptism, as a Christian ordinance, had not been instituted, though the baptism of John was generally practised; but it is not likely that our Lord would insist in this solemn manner on the absolute necessity of baptism, when as yet it was not ordained by Christ himself. The most natural interpretation of being "born of water and of the Spirit is, that the grace of God purifies the soul, as water cleanses the body. In like manner it was predicted of Christ, "he shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost and with fire; that is, the grace of God, the Spirit, shall operate on your souls like fire, consuming the dross of corruption in your natures. Besides, there is no more reason to suppose that baptism is always accompanied by the regenerating influence of the Holy Ghost, than that in the Lord's Supper every communicant is made a partaker of the body and blood of Christ, to his spiritual nourishment and growth in grace; doubtless it is too often received in an unworthy, and therefore fruitless manner.
Besides, if persons will maintain, as the authors I have alluded to do, that being born of water and of the Spirit necessarily signifies baptism-what will be the consequence? I conceive, nothing less than the eternal damnation of every one that is not baptised; for Christ solemnly declares, that Except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God; and if baptism be regeneration, then it follows, that if a person be not baptised, he cannot be saved. But who will venture to assert this? If children, for instance, are not baptised, it is generally occasioned by the neglect of their parents; and will any person dare to assert that children shall be condemned for this fault of their parents?
Besides, these is a great number of pious persons, who conscientiously reject infant baptism, and think that none but adults ought to be baptised; never
theless, their own baptism is deferred, perhaps from
an unfounded fear that they are not proper subjects of baptism; in the same manner as many abstain from the Lord's table; but shall they therefore be condemned? and would it not be uncharitable in the extreme to say they are not born of God, but are ́the children of the devil, because water has not been applied to them? There is another class of Christians, who reject baptism altogether, and the Lord's Supper too; I do not plead for such an opinion or practice; but must they therefore be doomed to destruction? They must, if baptism be regeneration; for, on that principle, the unbaptized are unregenerated, and the unregenerate cannot be saved.
Another text is pressed into this service. We are referred to Titus, iii. 5. where we read of "the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost:" and some maintain, that baptism is here intended, and that it is the renewing of the Holy Ghost; especially say they, as the word washing may be rendered laver; but it is by no means certain that here is any allusion at all to baptism; and if there be any allusion to the laver used by the Jewish priests, it is merely to shew, that as water purifies the body, so the Spirit of Christ purifies the soul. The latter sentence, "the renewing of the Holy Ghost," is explanatory of the former, and the plain meaning is," according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration-even the renewing of the Holy Ghost."
Antiquity is also pleaded for the purpose of proving that baptism is regeneration. It is freely admitted, that some of the early writers, called the Fathers, in the second and following centuries, did speak in this manner. But this may be readily accounted for. Such was the state of the world at that time, and such the danger of making a public profession of Christianity, that it was charitably concluded that all adult persons, coming forward by baptism to profess themselves Christians, were sincere, and therefore it was presumed that the bap
tised were regenerated, and this led them to call the sign by the name of the thing signified; baptism being an outward and visible sign of that inward and spiritual grace.
In like manner many of the ancient writers call baptism, illumination; and baptised persons, the illuminated; not that they supposed the minds of men to be illuminated by the rite of baptism; but they charitably concluded that the baptised were illuminated. But all this does not make it necessary to suppose that baptism and regeneration are the same thing. The fact is, they called the sign by the name of the thing signified, and the consequence has been injurious.
We also freely admit, that in an external and ecclesiastical sense, baptised persons may be said to be regenerate. Converts from the Heathen, the Jewish, and the Mahometan world, are, by baptism, christianized, or, as it is vulgarly called christened, regularly devoted to Christ-they assume a Christian profession; they are "baptised unto Christ," as Israel was (( baptised unto Moses in the cloud and by the sea. But it is dangerous in the extreme to maintain, that no other regeneration is necessary than that which is external in baptism; it remains to baptised, as well as to unbaptised persons, an unchangeable and solemn truth, "Ye must be born again."
I shall close this discourse with a passage from Dr. Doddridge, in his sermons upon regeneration, which is worthy of the most serious consideration: "And though persons are taught to speak of their state, in consequence of baptism, in very high, and I fear dangerous terms, yet when good men come to explain those terms, it evidently appears that many of whom they are used, are so in a state of salvation, as to be daily obnoxious to damnation-so the children of God, as also to be children of the devil-and so inheritors of the kingdom of heaven, as to be children of wrath and on the brink of hell."
Let us beware, then, of depending upon our baptism, without being made spiritually "new creatures in Christ Jesus." To me and to many persons this appears to be a dangerous doctrine; and though it should be publicly pleaded for by men of great learning, eminent station, and circulated through the country by high authority, yet I must deem it my duty as one, though one of the most unworthy of the watchmen in Israel, to cry aloud and sound the alarm when the souls of men are endangered by a destructive error. It matters not by what names, ancient or modern, error is maintained and sanctioned, we must and do refer to "the law and to the testimony;" and if men speak not according to these, it is because "there is no truth in them."
Let us, my brethren, seriously enquire, each for himself, Am I born of God? and the answer does not seem to be difficult. We quoted several passages of Scripture, in which the Apostle tells us what are the characters of persons who are born of God; they are persons who have "received Christ," who "do not commit sin," and who have "overcome the world." By these marks we may know whether we are born of God or not.
And let us, if born of God, render it manifest in the whole of our character and conduct. Let us consider what dispositions of mind, and what kind of behaviour may be expected from persons of such high birth. Let us, "be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom we are to shine as lights in the world." Let us be "followers, or imitators, of God as dear children."
Finally, Let us recollect what future and eternal blessings appertain to us as children of God. If we are born of God, we are the children of God; and "if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and jointheirs with Jesus Christ ;" to whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be everlasting praises. Amen.
INVOCATION OF CHRIST.
Romans x: 13. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall
HE Jews were for
the peculiar people of God. The introduction of the Gentiles into the church, was a mystery which had been hidden from the world; and therefore when that great event took place, it was difficult to reconcile the Jewish Christians to it. The apostles themselves, who were Jews, were not forward to obey their Master's command-"Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel in every nation, and to every creature." God led them to it, as it were, by miracles; and the apostles found it necessary to quote passages from those prophets who had predicted this event; and to shew the Jews how they were then fulfilling. Of this nature and design are the words of our text, which are quoted from the prophecy of Joel, (ch. ii. 32.) which scripture was a prediction of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, on the day of Pentecost, and is so applied by St. Peter, in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. The words of our text are, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved;" in the prophet Joel, it is, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of JEHOVAH shall be saved." Doubtless, Jesus Christ is the person intended in the text, as all the verses connected with it clearly shew: and, if so, this passage of scripture, like many others, proves that Bb