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CHAPTER II. Containing Remarks upon the nature of Covenant
Engagements, and of Baptism, as an Instrument by which we are grafted into the Church.
INTRODUCTORY REMARKS. DR. M. in p. 1. gives us this description of the rite of circumcision.----1st. He states it to the instituted rite, “whereby they (i. c. the Jews) were to be admitted into covenant" with God.----2d. As “an outward mark to distinguish those who professed their belief in the true God.”----3d.“ For a memorial to remind them of his covenant.”- -4th. “ For a monument to incite them to perform their part of the covenant,' and, 5th,“ for a token that God would perform his part.” He further adds, in words before quoted, that “upon the introduction of the new covenant in Christ, God was pleased to institute a new ceremony; whereby mankind at large were to be admitted into covenant with him, as the Jews had been by the rite of circumcision. For this
purpose Christ adopted baptism, which had been consecrated by his brethren after the flesh to a similar use; and ordained it as a rite, by which those who believe in him, should be admitted to the privileges of his religion,” 7. “ It was to this sacrament of baptism," he adds “ the institution of which he was anticipating, that our Saviour alluded,” in his conversation with the Jewish Rabbi.* He was here
* John iii. 1--5.
alluding to the sacrament of baptism, which he intended to ordain ; and to that supernatural grace, which was thereby to be conferred through the instrumentality of water, and by the agency of the Holy Ghost.” 8. I would just observe here, how improbable the idea of Dr. M. must be of baptismal regeneration. Christ was instructing Nicodemus in the nature and necessity of the new birth, which Dr. M.confines to baptism, to which he declares our Lord was here alluding. But he also adds that this baptism was not yet established. Our Saviour “ intended to ordain” it (after his resurrection I presume) which we learn he did. The baptism of Christ's disciples which was then practised, does not appear to have been the sacrament by which regeneration was to be conveyed. But what will be the consequence of such a confinement of regeneration ? Nicodemus (and consequently every one beside) would be incapacitated of necessity, not from choice, for the new birth, till after our Lord's resurrection. And as this conversation appears to have taken place at the first passover at which our Saviour attended during his public ministry, there must, upon every reasonable hypothesis, have been three (and on Sir Isaac Newton's four) passovers between this conference with the Jewish Rabbi, and Christ's resurrection; a period of three or four years.
It is not possible that our Saviour, as the God of all
grace and mercy, could lay so many rational creatures (who might and must have died in the mean time) under a fatal and involuntary necessity of perishing for ever. I am unacquainted with any fatalism, reprobation, or exclusion of modern days, that would equal, in harshness and severity, this
unavoidable consequence of Dr. M.'s system. Indeed, the notion of regeneration and salvation being inseparably linked with baptism, would universally, as Bishop Barnet justly remarks, make a person's salvation, however disposed, impossible to himself, by putting his salvation on a condition not always within his reach, because it depends on the will of others. Baptism, he observes, (Article 27,), “ being an action not always in our power, but is to be done by another, it were to put our salvation or damnation in the
power of another, to imagine, that we cannot be saved without baptism.'
Dr. M.'s definition of this sacrament, does not vary materially from my ideas upon the subject; nor I believe from the doctrine of the church. The 25th article, says
Sacraments ordained of Christ, be not only badyes or tokens of Christian men's profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and essectual 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 27th article.----“Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference whereby Christian men are discerned from others that are not christened; but it is also a sign of regeneration or new birth; whereby, as by an instrument, they that receivc Baptism rightly, are grafted into the church: the promises of forgiveness of sin, and 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 to God.” And in the catechism we are instructed, that a sacrament is an “ outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, given unto us, ordained
by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and a pledge to assure us thereof."
In each of these guides, (Dr. M. and the charch of England,) we perceive there is information to this effect:--
First, a general generic term, (that is) admission into covenant with God.
Secondly, the “Instrument, or mode of admission, namely baptism, which is the sign of our profession and enjoyments, and the seal of our privileges and our obligation.
On the nature of a Covenant in generai.
Baptism, in its spiritual import, as we here perceive, is allowed on all hands to embrace ap admission into covenant with God. Let us examine whether the very nature and adjuncts of a covenant do not absolutely preclude the possibility of always ensuring the internal privileges designed by it. And if it should prove to be so, Dr. M's, notions of baptismal regeneration must fall to the ground. What is a covenant? In its least compounded shape, it must imply " a mutual agreement between different partįes.". If we consider it in the light of a contract or bargain, the same ideas must have place. It is impossible to conceive of any thing which has the nature of a contract, which does not embrace different parties, and mutual agreement. The nature, however of the stipulation, its obligations, conditions, provisions, &c. are arbitrary, and may vary according to the object contracted for, and the design of the
contracting parties. If the covenant be of a religious nature, the Almighty being concerned, he may well be supposed to arrange and propose the whole consideration, namely, the nature, privileges, duty, instrumsnt, bond, &c. But then no person can be said to have entered into covenant with God, unless his consent and agreement to what God proposes is really found to have place. If there is no agreement or consent of mind, there is no covenant.
When Dr. M. contends that a sacrament, such” includes the outward sign, and the inward and spiritual grace, he is right, if he would confine it to those in whom there is a true consenting and corresponding disposition of mind. To such, the sign is significant and important; it is really a seal of the covenant. I make a wide difference between the covenant simply, and the covenant and seal. The covenant (though complex with respect to the two parties) is simple with respect to its essential requirements. The mind is all that is absolutely necessary to its formation and possession, and as such, there can be no covenant without the mind. But the sign or seal is required for the sake of publicity, confirmation, and evidence of the state of mind required. But note here, we have now a complex or compound subject before us, namely, the covenant, which is internal, and sign which is external. Here, then, of course, there may be a separation of these two parts. In order to this, a person need only to appear to be what he is not.
But the nature of this consent, must of course be according to the nature of the covenant and its privileges. If the matter is merely temporary and ex. ternal, as a simple contract, or purchase, then when