WE begin this chapter with an assertion which no one that has read the scriptures can doubt; that from the first time that God revealed himself to man to the present time, his dealings have been uniform, of a piece one with another. And it is because of this uniformity, that we receive the Old as well as the New Testament. The Christian does not reject the Old Testament, he sees that the same God who has once for all revealed himself in Jesus Christ, revealed himself to Abraham and the patriarchs, after that to Moses, and then to us. As to degree, the dispensations differ; as to the mode and manner, these are uniform.
Now the common mode, what is it? Everyone will say, the mode of covenants. There are, says the holy apostle Paul, two covenants, "the one from Mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage;" again, "Jesus the mediator of the new covenant;" and a hundred other passages which might be quoted, all testifying to the same thing. The two dispensations then, have been two covenants. The new dispensation is just as much a covenant as the old.
Now let us look at this fact a little more distinctly, and try to settle in our mind what it means. The curse and plague of religion in this age is, that we have so habituated ourselves to metaphor, that every thing has become a metaphor. A man takes Dr. Watt's paper, called a form of covenant, he writes it down, solemnly prays over it, and in its form he calls that a covenant with God. It is a vow, a series of good resolutions, no covenant with God. A very respectable denomination has a right of meeting yearly, in which they read a series of good resolutions, in which every one present is supposed to join; this is called "the renewal of the covenant"--metaphor again. A man is convinced of sin, he promises in his heart obedience to God, this is called a covenant with himself--these are metaphors. The scripture meaning of the word covenant is lost by our metaphoric talk. It has slidden away into vagueness, and become a mere phrase. Surely it has been so.
The fact that there is a covenant in the Christian dispensation between God and man, has come to have very little belief given it; men talk about it, they do not realize the fulness of its meaning.
Now let us cast aside these metaphoric notions, and remembering that a promise or vow binds only one party, and is not a "covenant," but that on the contrary, a covenant is binding upon two: let us look at the fact, and we shall find it one of astounding magnitude, and over-powering to the intellect, as well as the feelings of man. Here am I, a creature of yesterday, frail and feeble, limited in power and knowledge, impure and unholy, my position as well as my nature leading me to evil; and on the other side is the Almighty and Omniscient, the Lord of the universe, the Creator and Ruler of all, pure and holy, and between me and him there can be a covenant, an agreement binding both parties.
By virtue of this, the Omniscient shall consult for me, and from the fathomless abyss of boundless wisdom he shall provide for me; by virtue of this, the web of circumstance, that is woven in the loom of time, shall be so arranged, each circumstance that came in contact with me, as to favor me, the rain shall descend, but as he will, for my good, and all nature be modified to benefit me. I ask, is not this an overpowering idea, is it not one, which from its very magnitude, is startling and astounding to man.
And at the same time it is the very foundation and basis of the Gospel, and yet who sufficiently realizes it at the present day? It has, as it were, slipped away from the minds of men; it has almost perished from religion. Our own covenants with ourselves, covenants to act so and so, covenants with religious societies or churches, as they are called, or mere mental resolutions to adhere to God; all these metaphoric things have slipped in, they have obscured the true covenant, the fact of a real agreement between God and man, binding both parties, which, if we may use the expression, is the fundamental part of Christianity.
The truth of this assertion may be seen by a comparison. We know that infidelity is the prevailing curse of this country, which is called a Christian country. There are a large mass of men called unprofessors, who have no belief in the facts of the Gospel. And among those called Christians, every sect denies, or disputes, or doubts, something or other. I speak not of faith here, but of bare belief--belief is unfrequent. What is the reason of this? We have forgotten the fact of a true and real covenant between God and man.
Now taking the Jews as a people under a covenant, we find hardly such a thing among them as this, we call infidelity or want of belief. Excepting the case of the Sadducees, and they hardly can come within the rule, for they only disbelieved in those things not manifestly revealed in them; they were also few in numbers, and rather a political faction than a religious sect. With the Jews belief did not come with the worst of times, or in the worst of men. They ever knew that they were God's covenanted people, each of them ever acknowledged that he was under that covenant. His passions might lead him astray after the gods of the heathen, and the orgies of licentiousness and vice that always attended their religious worship. Their own stubbornness and obstinacy might lead them to rebel against the yoke under which they were, still belief in the facts and truths of the Mosaic revelation always existed, and if men sinned, it was against that belief. Belief was impressed upon the minds of all the Hebrew nation. Now let us see what kept up this belief in the facts of revelation. The realization of the fact of a covenant. This one idea passed through all the relations of life manward as well as Godward. What was the circumcision of all the children but the evidence of that covenant? sacrifice, but the keeping it before his mind? If you examine the life of a few under the old law, you will find that all circumstances) however manifold, served to impress the one idea upon him, that man was bound unto God, and God unto man, really and truly. Was he at Jerusalem, the capital of the nation, then the awful temple with its services, was an embodyment of the idea, that God was bound unto man. The Jew could look up to its gorgeous and splendid buildings, absurd and foolish upon any other idea than that its builder felt that covenant to be a reality more precious than the precious stone, and would prolong the feeling to future ages; and the Hebrew, looking upon it, felt that it was more precious than gold, and marble, and cedar, and jewels, and the skill of the workmen, and the wealth of kings. The daily sacrifice brought the same idea close home to his ordinary life, and the high and solemn festival made it a part of those extraordinary overflowings of joy, that are so natural to the heart of man, that if they are not instituted for him, he will institute them for himself. So the fasts, the stated seasons of sorrow, equally natural, in like manner, presented the same idea. In his polity too, it was most thoroughly interwoven, and stood out in the foreground of his history. No fabled hero obscurely seen through the darkness of the past, was the founder of his race; no robber chieftain, glorified by legendary ballads, was his progenitor. No: in the clear light, light of history, stood forth in its minutest circumstances, the covenant of Abraham, his ancestor, by the oaks of Mamre. The past of the Jew was historical, not legendary or fabulous.
The covenant too, was united, as we may see in the books of Moses with all the affections of his heart, with paternal reverence to parents, with love to family, nay, with the natural benevolence that is in the heart of man. He was to pity the stranger, "because thou wast a stranger in the land of Egypt, and I brought thee forth, not because thou wast great, for thou wast the meanest of nations, but for Abraham my servant's sake, and my covenant with him." And, furthermore, the Jews personal services, these all tended to the same thing, to the impressing on his mind the wonderful fact of the covenant between God and man.
Now, in view of all these things, this fact, so wonderful, so extraordinary, so likely to shock belief, could not but be believed by the Jews. In fact, he could not escape from a conviction of its truth. Pride, or passion, or sensuality, or that brutish stubbornness, so natural to the race, with which God rebuked them of old, might cause the Israelite to rebel, still, by this, his action must be against his belief, against the ineffaceable convictions of his whole life. We see that what we call an infidel--the Jew could not be.
With this state of matters, contrast the state of Christianity at the present day--Christianity being the new covenant; look at this weak, sluggish mass of inconsistent sects which, by the complaisant politeness of the world, is denominated Christianity, and wherein is its weakness? in this, that the idea. of a covenant, actual and real, has perished, and a metaphor has taken its place. I have asked professors of religion: have they the certainty of belief, the same confidence of faith, in their own position, that the old Jews had? Certainly they have not, for but few of those called orthodox, but will allow that other sects, as opposite as may be to them, are just as certain. Have they the belief in the facts of the scripture? No: when the common articles are counted, they are but few in number, amounting to little more than what is called natural religion. And what is the reason, this one, that to the old Jews, the "Church in the wilderness," as St. Paul calls it, the one idea of a covenant, a true and real covenant between God and man belonged, but now it has perished out of the ordinary religion. External circumstances all presented that one idea to them; the mind could not escape it, it was forced in upon the mind by the concurrent testimony of all circumstances from earliest youth to extremest age. And now for the want of that one idea, forming and moulding all circumstances to itself, external circumstances all tend to unbelief. That idea of a covenant is essentially in its result the idea of unity. Now the very aspect of a sect-rent Christianity is an argument to unbelief. And Christians themselves, instead of having the outward world of man as an evidence to the faith, have it as an evidence against it. They are flung inwardly upon their feelings, and this again tends to unbelief, for the wise and the thoughtful all over the country are rapidly coming to the conclusion, that feeling is no test of truth, and so all things tend to unbelief. This, no matter what men may say, is the true source and origin of infidelity.
So belief among the multitude of non-professors is gone. If they had belief in the facts of the Gospel, as the rebellious Israelite had in the facts of Moses' law, because of the covenant and the way outward things impressed it upon him; as the English peasant and artizan had, because of the same fact, upheld by the working of a liturgy weekly used; as the rude Russian serf has, because of the services of his Church; a stand could be taken and a foundation made for faith upon that belief; but now that belief is fast going, or already gone. True it is, that some time ago, there was a lingering belief in the fact of eternal punishments for the wicked, so plainly asserted in the scripture; for the stream of a nation's life precipitates but slowly the truth of revelation that ages of faith have infused into it; just as the particles of land in the Mississippi, will, by the Missouri, not fall to the bottom for hundreds of miles below their confluence. But men who were preachers took their stand upon this, the last element of Christianity, in a fierce and cruelly presumptuous manner, and where is it now? It is gone. I err not when I say, that from the mass of non-professors minds it has vanished; that of the great majority of non-professors, this, the last tradition of Christianity, the time when men really and truly believed in a covenant with God, has vanished.
Professors of religion under the banner of a sect-rent Christianity! preachers of a multifarious Christianity, perishing every day, here is your weakness--the want of a fast and firm persuasion in a true and real covenant between God and man! a want that cannot be supplied by cart-loads of evidences of Christianity, or the fiercest invectives against infidels. You have made the gap yourselves.
From John Calvin, who invented as a substitute, the idea of an invisible Church, such an idea is your abhorrence. For a covenant between God and man implies unity, it implies one visible covenanted body, a Church, co-extensive with the profession of Christianity; and it is because of this oneness and extensiveness, that outward circumstances are so arranged as to impress the mind with belief, as in the case of the Jewish Church, which I have instanced.
However, as this is the effect of the circumstance outwardly, we shall go to consider the effect upon the mind of man inwardly. The first manifest effect upon the minds of all is belief, belief in the facts of the scriptures, and in its principles, as distinguished from living faith. As I have shown in the case of the Jews, all under a "covenant" must believe, when the idea is thoroughly realized in practice, as it is--that is, when it is no metaphor, nor taken in a metaphoric sense. I have shown how it took place with regard to the Jews; now I shall just show how it takes place with us Churchmen, who still possess the idea of a "covenant."
Others use extempore prayers, we a liturgy, or set form of words. Consider what is the condition of prayer: it reasons not, it therefore argues not, and doubts not, whatever matters of belief are brought in during prayer one doubts not of. In this one form of prayer, all articles of belief are brought in, even the loftiest, and those upon which there has been most dispute, the clergyman using the liturgy takes for granted, and the congregation following him takes also for granted. He, therefore, in a measure imposes them without arguing; the people, when they follow him, take them without debate. For fifty-two Sundays in the year the same course is pursued--it manifestly tends to belief.
We believe in a covenant--that covenant including all, and, therefore, children. We shall take a boy of ten years of age in the Church; the first thing his father and mother do, is to put in his hand a prayer book, to teach him the service. From that time on, he reads the service; he says, without debate, without arguing, "O God, the Son, the Redeemer of the world, have mercy upon us: O God the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father, and the Son, have mercy upon us, miserable sinners;" he repeats daily the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments. He does this from childhood through youth. What is the impression? That of belief, when a doubt comes up on any article of the Christian faith in the years of doubt, that is, of advancing manhood. For infancy doubts not; it is the age of faith; the time of doubt is when the passions show themselves, and we begin to be brought in contact with a world whose practice and principle require us not to believe; then the impression has been made, the ground is preoccupied, doubt is at a disadvantage. He cannot readily be brought to disbelieve those things which, without doubt, he has repeated in the undoubting age of youth; which he has heard, each Lord's day, five hundred people confess, and those whom he the most respected for probity and talents; if he sink into infidelity, it must be with a mighty effort and struggle. The same is the effect upon the riper mind of man, though in a less degree.
When he listens to an extempore prayer, which, being the composition of an individual, has but his authority, lie is not trained to assent to it, there is no moral compulsion, as in the other case; his reasoning powers are immature, and their very immaturity makes doubt. He hears a preacher preaching upon the eternity of punishment; in his childish mind he says--"God is most merciful, there can be no hell;" or he says--"The Father is greater than the Son, therefore the Son cannot be God, according to the scriptures, since there cannot be a less God and a greater God." All infidelity, that is, all deficiency of belief, has marked upon it immaturity of the reasoning powers; it originates, then, when the passions begin to arise and the reason is unripe. The age of childhood and youth, this is the time of faith, of un-doubting belief upon authority. The use of a liturgy takes advantage of this, and secures belief, in the age when unbelief springs up. It is founded upon the idea of a covenant, and supposes it, and upon that, and that alone, can it be justified.
To show the force of this, I shall bring forward a very curious circumstance, illustrative also of the very point of this treatise, the use of infant baptism. Where is there a point at present more disputed? Certainly none among the non-Episcopal sects. We Churchmen, as I have said, are certain in our resolution, the Baptists are certain in their negative; but among all others it is a point of very great uncertainty, one upon which the minds of professors are most exceedingly exercised. Yet when the first Baptist arose, Peter de Bruis, in the twelfth century, one of the holiest men of his day, Peter of Clugny, in writing against him, says--"What an absurdity is your doctrine. For he, manifestly, that is not baptized with the baptism of Christ, is no Christian; so, cs all France. Spain, Germany, Italy, and all Europe, during three hundred years, or almost five hundred, has had no one who was not baptized in infancy, so it has had no Christian.'"
Such was the effect of the idea of a covenant, and the unity of faith and practice arising from it, that one of the points most debated now among those from whom the idea of a covenant has departed, then no one doubted, among so many nations, for five hundred years.
The same thing is the case among us now. Naturally, easily, and of course, the Churchman believes in infant baptism, and baptizes his children; we, the clergy of the Church, find no difficulty in persuading them to it. Can others say the same?
What, then, is the effect of a covenant upon the truly faithful? For, in the first place, I have shown that upon all, it is that of belief in all doctrines whatsoever. The truly faithful, therefore, has this advantage also, all the doctrines of Christianity he believes; has no doubt of their truth; his work is to live, to act, to do as a Christian. By the idea of an actual, and real, and true covenant, when the covenant is made, the man is a Christian, a subject of our Lord Christ, a member of his family, a child of the covenant, an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven. He may be a bad Christian, but he ceases not to lie a Christian; he may be a rebellious subject, but no rebellion of his frees him from being a subject; an evil member, but he does not cease being a member.
The idea of a kingdom, or a covenanted body, or a family, implies authority to correct; of magistrates, for the reform of evil subjects, implies law, and punishment, and reformation for them, and discipline: so the idea of a Christian covenant implies the bad to remain members still, under the law. The prevalent idea among those who are of the sects is, that a man ceases to be a Christian, ceases to be a member of the covenant, when he sins. Which is the true notion, any one may see by Christ's own description of the Church, his kingdom, as a field with tares and wheat; a net, with good fish, and bad. Whereas, upon the ordinary notion, I am now a Christian, bound in covenant with God; I fall away, and then I am no Christian, outside the covenant, and have no claims upon it, and, as a consequence, it has no claims upon me.
And what effect has it upon the faithful when compared with the other doctrine? "I believe in Christ, and have faith that he is my Saviour, outward forms are nothing to me," says the one; what then is your highest evidence? Surely it is neither more nor less than that inward feeling; and how your inward feeling that you have faith in Christ and that Christ is your Saviour, can make him your Saviour, is what certainly cannot be seen from the Scriptures. The strength of that feeling, the earnestness and the intensity of it, are certainly no proof of the fact, any more than the idea of a madman which he possesses that he is heir to the king of England makes him his heir, or that he is in alliance with the emperor of Morocco makes him so. On this feeling men place their salvation, on the strength of it, the evidence of it. To this I say, that the feeling makes nothing; the strength or weakness of it still less; for how does the feeling prove itself true? You feel that you are a son of God by the adoption; another man, in the lunatic asylum, feels a deal stronger than you do, that he is Jesus Christ. He goes for feeling, and so do you--which of you is right? Again, your elevation of feeling is an evidence, his feeling is far more elevated.
What, then, is the use of feeling? A very great use, indeed, when you have an actual and real covenant, an external fact of which your senses and your understanding give you evidence. Your feeling is the hand by which you hold on to this, and if your feeling should at any time change, still you have the certain fact to hold on to, the one supports the other.
Let us put it in this way: here is the fact that Christ was born, that He died for the sins of the whole world, this is a fact real and true; but still it is in the past as to time, eighteen hundred years have elapsed since then. This fact does not come directly and immediate to us, but through the evidence of a book. This causes the possibility of a doubt; just as the facts of Moses' mission and Moses' miracles, when the time of miracles and prophecy had passed, would have been to an Israelite, without a Jewish Church. But the covenant founded upon this was an actual and real covenant, an evidence palpable and plain, to every Israelite of the truth of the facts; an evidence which, as we have remarked, no Israelite could get by. And, furthermore, circumcision, the seal of that covenant, was an evidence to him personally and individually. "Why am I circumcised?" he would say; "why, but that I am under a covenant?" It was a symbol and sign of the covenant which he bore in his person; and, as all symbols do, it brought close home to himself personally all the facts connected with that covenant. It was an outward symbol, not a spiritual one; and at the same time it brought close home to him the spiritual ideas; it was a seal of the righteousness which is by faith. The outward symbol was an actual fact, upon which his own state of feeling could have no effect; and, therefore, it served as a support, and foundation, and buoy-rope, (if I may use the expression,) for his faith to rest upon, and to hold on by. It was a personal testimony that he was actually and really in covenant with God; a witness to him, that if he lived by God's laws and according to the conditions, then had he the sure promise of the Almighty and Omniscient that all circumstances should be controlled for him; a witness, too, that if he rebelled, then was he rebellious against his God, disobedient to his most merciful Father, and would suffer all the penalties of that disobedience. The reader of the bible may see a strong proof of the views before him, as to the effect of an outward covenant, as regards belief in the fact that in the reproaches God makes the Israelites, through his prophets, disobedience, obstinacy, and rebellion, these are the sins with which he rebukes them; but want of belief in the facts, or what we call infidelity, in no case does he rebuke them for this.
I shall now bring forward the proofs from scripture of a covenant, actual and true, with us
Christians. His prophecy in the old testament is this. (Jer. xxxi. 31,) "I will make with them a new covenant;" (Heb. viii. 7,) a new covenant, as the Apostle notes, makes the first old. There is, therefore, an old covenant and a new; both covenants, the one old and the other new? Does the new covenant being new make it less a covenant? Certainly not, it is a covenant still. But there are differences? certainly there are--and what are they? "Oh," say they that believe the covenant to be merely internal, "the new one, the first covenant was with the Jew as member of a family descended from one man, as of a nation, of a people chosen out, and having a priesthood; our covenant is of the individual man, without reference to family, and with no priesthood."
This, unquestionably, is the belief of the mass of ordinary Christians. How it agrees with Paul's proof that Christians are spiritually and actually the children of Abraham, I cannot see; how it agrees with the fact that Christ remains forever a priest after the order of Melchezideck, I cannot see; nor how it agrees with the assertion of his eternal priesthood in heaven. But, as it were by the spirit of prophecy, to meet all objections upon this score, the holy apostle Peter asserts the direct contrary; "Ye," says he, "are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light." (1 Peter ii. 8.) The epistle is general, addressed to the whole body of Christians throughout the world. He tells this body, therefore, that they are a generation, or family, so were the Israelites; that they are chosen as a generation, so they were; that they are a royal priesthood, a people, or nation, so were the Jews; "holy," that is, set apart by a covenant with God, who is holy for the purposes of holiness, and peculiar; that is as the Israelites, as a plain historical fact, have always been from all the nations who make up the body of what is called the world, and as the Christian Church has always been, peculiar and strange to those without. This text at once refutes the above notion. Men, of course, may think this is metaphorical; I care not for them. They may say it refers to the invisible body of the elect; when a nation, a generation, a people, is shown to have been invisible, when it is shown that the body of Christians is invisible, then we may believe that notion, not till then. The fact is this, Peter addressed the visible Church, the whole body of Christians in his day, who had one faith, one God, one baptism, and asserted that with them, as with one body, the covenant was made, and with each one as a member of that body. Nor can we find in holy scriptures so much as the mention of "an invisible Church," much less the idea of it. The Church of God, the covenanted body is visible, its covenant is one manifest to the senses, the seal of the covenant is a visible external fact.
One will say, then, the first business when we repent and have faith in the Lord Jesus, is to be united by baptism with the visible Church; and which is that? Take Peter's description, and there is no difficulty--it is peculiar. None of the non-Episcopal sects are so, they have no peculiarity in worship, rites, or modes of thinking, they are all on the broad basis of Christian liberality." Episcopal churches only are "peculiar."
The Church is apostolic, has the succession of authority and ministry; well, but so has the Roman Church, and which shall we unite with? Little difficulty there either. Israel was God's covenanted people, with them was the visible covenant; yet Israel was divided in two parts, Judah and Samaria--the first retained the pure worship of God, the last was idolatrous. So it is with the two branches here: saint-worship, money-worship, angel-worship, these at once point out which answers to Samaria, and what the proper mode of acting in such a case.
There is a visible body, then, a covenanted body, a visible covenant, and visible members; and these last divided in two classes, the disobedient and rebellious, and the obedient and good. Now, we asserted in our last chapter, that to those brought into the Church by baptism certain privileges belong, as under the Jewish law certain privileges belonged to those brought under it; we asserted, too, that these privileges were exclusive, that is, belonged to them alone, in virtue of their having entered within the covenant; and that they are attributed to baptism, in virtue of baptism being the door and entrance into the covenant now.
And this brings us to another part of the subject, which, too, has been wrought into metaphor.
The old covenant, it is well known, concerned mainly temporal things; the new covenant is "spiritual." Now what does "spiritual" mean? Take it as men take it, and you will find spiritual means "figurative;" a "spiritual covenant" is a metaphoric covenant; spiritual blessings are the general blessings of Christianity.
No, there is no such vagueness about it, no such unreality. There are two worlds, the visible world, and the spiritual world, or world of spirits; and spiritual blessings are blessings that are connected with the world of spirits--they are real and actual, although spiritual.
As being of the spiritual world, they are unseen; faith, which is the evidence of things unseen, is their evidence, faith in God's word and his power. On that principle I shall deal with the matter. Here is the covenant, a visible and real covenanted body, the Church; a visible and real seal, the sacrament of baptism; all these facts are visible, tangible, proveable. Here are the spiritual blessings, the object of faith, not of the senses, asserted in the scriptures, believed in by faith, without proof, by the members of the covenant through all ages. You, outside the covenant, ask us how it can be, you want proof; we give you none, because none can be given; we bring you the plain words of scripture asserting them, and then we say, "we believe." If you choose to take it, well and good; if not, you may go on your own way, for your position, as one in fact not united with the visible Church of Christ, but a sect, is such as naturally to incline you to disbelieve in the fact of a real visible covenant, having spiritual blessings attached to it; and if the plain and manifest words of the scripture cause you no belief, my arguments will have no effect.
The first doctrine, then, which I specified in the last chapter, is, that coming to baptism with repentance from dead works, and faith in the Lord Jesus as requisites, we receive the blessings of regeneration; we are introduced into the Church, that is, into the kingdom' of God upon earth; we have the adoption of sons; we are made members of Christ, children of God, inheritors of the kingdom of heaven; all these phrases implying one and the same thing--regeneration. We shall give a few texts.
1. "Except a man be born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven."
2. "He saved us by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." (Tit. iii. 5.)
3. "Therefore we are buried by baptism into death." (Rom. vi. 4.)
4. "As many as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death." (Rom. vi. 3.)
5. "Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ." (Gal. iii. 26, 27.)
6. "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be glorified together with him." (Rom. via. 17.)
7. "He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved." (Mark xvi. 16.)
8. "Go ye, and make disciples of (out of) all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." (Matt, xxviii. 19.)
9. "As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John i. 12, 13.) See No. 1.
Now let us take these passages in their plain sense, and what do they say, neither more nor less, than that we are born of "water and the Spirit." They hang together in asserting this doctrine, that in baptism we are taken out of the world and placed in the kingdom of God--the visible Church of God. This is the plain and evident sense; but how can it be?
As I said before, I cannot tell; I have faith that it is so. Is it not of a piece with God's dealing in other things? Look at the case of the Syrian leper coming to be healed of his disease, he was desired to dip seven times in the Jordan. How was he healed? Simply because God chose to attach to the use of that washing the benefit. The water was not medicinal, by no power of it was he healed. Yet most undoubtedly had he not dipped in the water, he could not have been healed. So with baptism.
Look at Christ ordering the blind man to bathe and receive his sight: here too, the instrument was nothing in itself, yet the effect followed by its use, would have followed by the use of nothing else. Look at the use of means in general, by God who is almighty, and think that he may establish any means he pleases, and the effect will follow. If, in these cases, God acted manifestly and plainly, is it now incredible, especially when he himself has asserted it in plain words.
The next benefit that is in the holy scriptures attached to baptism, is the remission of sins.
Acts ii. 38. "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the 'remission of sins."
Acts xxii. 16. "Ananias said unto Saul, why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord."
Rom. vi. 3, 4. "So many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death. (By his death applies the pardon of sin.) "Then we are buried with him by baptism unto death."
"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved."
"All power is given me in heaven and earth, go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name," &c.
"All power in heaven and earth," i. e. I am God omnipotent, by gift from the Father, "go ye therefore teach all nations." The word therefore implies a direct commission from Christ, in reference to his power it must be in either "teach "or "baptize; " "teach" belongs to any man, "baptize" only to those commissioned. Baptism is for the forgiveness of sins, and none but Almighty power can forgive sins. The assertion, therefore, of Almighty power, in the first clause, directly implies that baptism is for the forgiveness of sins.
Peter's assertion, that baptism is a saving ordinance, implies remission of sins--since this is salvation.
Acts x. 43. "To him give all the prophets witness, that whosoever believeth on him should receive remission of sins." And then, verse 38, "He commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord."
"With the mouth confession is made unto salvation."
Luke i. 77. "To give knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins."
Christ's baptism is of the Holy Ghost, therefore of God, for the remission of sins. Here then is baptism plainly said to be for the remission of sins, just as plainly as I say in our creed, that "I believe one baptism for the remission of sins." There is no text that says it is not for the remission of sins, and only a mere form. There is no passage that asserts that faith without baptism can obtain remission of sins for the unbaptized. The assertion of the scriptures is plainly, that repentance and faith being required as prerequisites, baptism is for the forgiveness of sins, and absolutely necessary, except in the uncovenanted mercies of God.
Again, we are met in this by the old question, "How can this be?" Again we see the manifest inclination to deny the very words of the holy scriptures, because we cannot quite understand the mode.
Men will say, we cannot believe that to the sprinkling or immersion in water, such a gift can be attached. I do not believe myself it can. Baptism is a little more than this. First: It is a solemn sacrifice on the part of the officiating clergyman, wherein he offers to the power of the Father, Son, and Spirit, the subject of it. Secondly: On the part of the individual or sponsors, it is a solemn dedication of himself to God's service. Thirdly: It is a covenant concluded by a symbolic action between the individual and Almighty God. And, fourthly: It is wrought by the immediate power of the Holy Ghost.
If Christians viewed it in this light, as a solemn sacrifice to Almighty God, appointed by his Son: as a solemn dedication of the individual; as the seal and completing rite of a covenant for the remission of sin, and as brought out and completed by the Holy Spirit, there would be few such cavillings.
If it cannot be for the remission of sins, pray what can? Wherein does faith so much meet as here? Here is the clergyman praying that this man be forgiven, the man himself praying the same, his witnesses and the congregation. If faith be the means whereby we are to obtain all spiritual blessing, when or at what other time and place are we to expect it more than at such a conjuncture as this? If, when two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them, is not the Saviour present then? "If two of you shall agree upon earth, touching any thing they shall ask, it shall be done for them by my Father which is in heaven." (Matt, xviii. 19.) Shall we not expect at the baptism of an individual the promise he has made of remission of sins at his holy baptism, when we unite in praying for it?
But how can remission of sins be attached to baptism, even admitting that it is all that we say, an offering on the part of the clergyman, a dedication on the part of the individual, and the seal of a covenant? It avails in this way, that it is wrought by the direct power of the holy Spirit. John's baptism he himself distinguishes from the baptism of Christ, that he indeed baptized unto repentance, "but there cometh one after me, that shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." And, accordingly, we find in the Acts, Paul found certain disciples at Ephesus, "He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? They said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? They said, Unto John's baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts xix. 1--5.)
The distinction had been laid down by John; here it was carried out by Paul. The distinction was this, that the baptism of John was a baptism upon repentance unto faith, a preparation to the 'full blessings of Christianity. Christ's baptism, a baptism in which the agent was the Holy Spirit; and, therefore, it is that the baptism of Christ is a baptism for the remission of sins, the Holy Spirit being God Almighty, and in it forgiving, by that power, sins.
Accordingly, in the holy scriptures throughout we find the Spirit mentioned in connexion with baptism. I have brought those two passages together, and shown the last especially, fully as it is, that I may notice two facts in it. First, it is twisted round in the most extraordinary way, to show that these men were not rebaptized. I argue not upon it. People may take it as it stands or not. I take it as it stands.
They who do not have strong motives in their tradition. First, they assert that John's baptism was the same as Christ's baptism; secondly, they deny that Christian baptism is for the remission of sins; thirdly, in the words since "ye believed," they, upon their principle, that faith without baptism can give remission of sins, cannot see any necessity of baptizing these "believers" again. Men that come to such a text with such principles, must of course explain it as well as they can, to argue with these principles.
Had they looked to Paul they might have seen that he had repentance, and had faith in Christ, and three days afterward Ananias baptized him for the remission of sins; had they looked to the scriptures they would have seen that, "by one Spirit we are baptized into one body?" had they looked to John's own description, they would have seen that his was not baptism of the Spirit. I argue not upon the point with them, for in their denial of the character of Christian baptism, which the scriptures assert in plain words, there is motive enough to enable them to withstand any argument of mine. I believe in the remission of sins, because the baptism of Christ for this is wrought by the Spirit. "Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven." (John iii. 5.) "Ye are washed, (that is, baptized,) ye are sanctified, ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, (a short way of mentioning the baptismal form, as in another place, 'they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus,') and by the Spirit of our God," (1 Cor. vi. 11,) in which the agency of the Spirit in baptism is directly asserted. Again, in reference to baptism, the seal of the Christian covenant, as was circumcision of the Jewish, he says, "God hath given us the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." (2 Cor. i. 22.)
If one, therefore, ask of me why I believe in baptism for the remission of sins, I say, because it is plainly asserted in the holy scriptures, and one word of them I dare not deny.
Secondly, I see that in this the Spirit is asserted every where to have the chief agency, and corresponding to it is the peculiar character of Christian baptism as distinguished from the baptism of John.
Thirdly, Because of the peculiar character of baptism as a sacrifice, by which the minister dedicates the individual to God, by virtue of his; "having the ministry of reconciliation," which cannot take place without the remission of sin, and sets forward that ministry, and that power, in the words, "I baptize thee in the name, (that is, by the power and authority of) the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." And to use the words of a most admirable author, Bishop Nicholson, on the Catechism, which, book I would were in the hands of all our clergy and all our laity, "These words are retained that we may know that what the minister doth, he doth not himself, or from himself, us of his own head, but by commission, command, and good authority, even by the authority of the whole Trinity. And, therefore, what he doth is of the tame validity as if God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, should baptize, since it is in their name, their authority, their power."
The plain meaning of the form cannot be mistaken as implying remission of sins, by an offering and sacrificial dedication on the part of the clergyman.
And as a support to this fact is another, that in the Church it was long the only form of ordination, "Receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a priest in the Church of God, now committed to thee by the imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost remit, they are remitted; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained." A plain allusion to the commission to baptize, as plain a one to the text, "baptism for the remission of sins." Not that the clergyman of himself has the power of remission, but as "a minister of reconciliation," of the "one baptism for the remission of sins."
And to the vilest, and worst, and wickedest who repents and professes faith in the Lord Jesus, I dare say, upon his baptism: If thy repentance be true, thy faith sincere, then by thy baptism thy sins are remitted as certainly as God has spoken. I send him not to his own feelings, not to the weak and unestablished heart of a babe in Christ, not to the faint and feeble faith that may be but as a grain of mustard seed, but to the sure fact which he cannot mistake, of the sealed covenant, to his dedication by holy baptism unto Almighty God.
Fourthly, I believe in a baptism for the remission of sins, because it is upon his part a voluntary agreement and dedication "in the name," that is, into the profession of faith, in the Father, Son, and Spirit. For he confesses there this fact, "For whosoever shall confess me before men, him also will I confess before my Father which is in heaven." (Matt. x. 32.) And "with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, with the mouth confession is made to salvation." A plain allusion to the confession implied, and then most fully made in baptism. And certainly there cannot be salvation without the remission of our sins.
Lastly, because the baptismal covenant, the new covenant, is a true covenant, a spiritual covenant, a covenant of grace. And it is manifestly impossible to enter within it in our sins, we must leave them at the door, the very entrance. And, therefore, the ordinance by which we enter in must of necessity be for the remission of sins. For these reasons, in addition to the plain declaration of the scriptures, which I must hold to, I cannot but consent, in the plain literal sense, to the scripture declaration, the baptism of Christ is for the remission of sins.
Again, the Christian covenant, that is, the covenant into which all Christians are introduced by holy baptism, embraces in it some peculiar privileges in consequence of itself. One of the first and most important of which is, the indwelling of the Spirit. Here, again, we are met by the metaphor of the age, one class of Christians, so calling themselves, make the Spirit itself a quality, and speak of the holy and eternal Spirit of God, the third person of the blessed Trinity, as they speak of the spirit, that is, temper and influence of a people or city; another class, not so far gone in metaphor, though on their road to it, so far that when the scripture speaks of "His dwelling in us," understand by this phrase a metaphor also, we are under its influence, or our temper is modified by it; of course, the natural conclusion is, that it is external to us, and necessarily the only evidence we have of its existence, is our moral and religious feeling.
With their good leave it is not so; far different from this is the doctrine of the holy scriptures, as to the privilege of the Christian in reference to the indwelling Spirit of God; so it is to all men that have a conscience, for the conscience is the ear wherewith the soul of man listens to the voice of the Spirit, and what we call the suggestions of the conscience, are His voice.
But the Christian's privilege is higher still, in consequence of this covenant with the Almighty. That covenant is made in baptism, and the efficient agent in it is the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. And because of this, not externally, does he work upon the Christian but internally. He dwelleth in us actually and really, not in our souls only, but in our bodies also. I understand this indwelling to be a literal and personal abidance of the Holy Spirit of God in and within this our corporeal frame, and that this is the sense of the scriptures, this the feeling of the old Church undefiled, this the true and real sense of the scriptures.
What, some one will say, this is a most astonishing notion, that the Holy Spirit dwells within the person of the covenanted subject of the kingdom of God, that within the limits of his frame, the Third Person should abide--it is a manifest absurdity. Be it so. Let us look at the position of the man with reference to his own soul. You are perfectly certain that your own soul is connected with your body, yet when you go to apply the idea of locality to it, which is involved in the idea of body, what miserable absurdities do you fall into; if you suppose the soul in every part, why then the soul must be the shape of the body, as being 'agreeably diffused, therefore the souls of men must have legs, and arms, and a nose! an idea which was that of old Tutulliun. When you suppose it dwelling in any particular part, then you have the soul the shape of that part; and, besides, as the body moves, you have the soul moving in the body from one part of space to another, and so forth. Of one fact only you are certain, that in some way or other within the corporeal limits of your frame, there is your immortal spirit; but when you come to examine the mode, then are you cast into doubt, absurdity, and confusion, unbounded. Yet the soul does still abide within the body, and every man that believes he has a soul must and does believe it. Now this is my assertion, that precisely in the same way as the soul abides in the body of any man, precisely so does the Spirit of the most holy God personally and actually dwell in the covenanted Christian's person.
We go to examine the texts that assert it. 1 Cor. vi. 19, 20. "What! know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are riot your own? for ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's."
Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, and therefore glorify God in your body and in your soul, which are God's. Now let the reader look at this passage in connexion with, the previous passages; they are an argument, not against all sin, but against a particular class of sins, sins of the flesh, sins in which the body is the instrument; and he must see, plainer than the light, that St. Paul took this as no metaphor, for our souls, being under the influence of the spirit, but as an actual and real indwelling, an abidance as in a temple, really and truly. And as the certainty of the dwelling of the Schekinah in the temple, the presence of God really and locally there, though beyond our comprehension as to how it could have been, led the old Jews to all reverence and purity as to what concerned the sanctuary, so should the same feeling exist as to the body of man.
Take any metaphor you choose, even of the highest, and the argument in its strength and fullness is destroyed; take it literally, and it remains.
1 Cor. iii. 16, Eph. ii. 21, 22, "In whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." Here is the same doctrine. The material temple was for God's indwelling; the Church also universally is the interior dwelling of the Spirit in this world, in contradistinction to His outer influence upon all through the conscience; yet its being a temple was caused by the Spirit in each one indwelling. Because of the one Spirit in each, and that the Spirit of life, the "stones grow together." Within the limits of the old temple the Spirit dwelt, yet stones were dead; and now it is the life in each stone that causes the unity and the growth. Language sinks under the weight of heavenly things, and therefore we have the apparently incongruous metaphor of stones in a building, find life in these stones. Accordingly, in 1 Peter ii. 5, we have the same metaphor--"Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house."
In accordance with this we have, in Rom. viii, 9--"Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you." This is taken for granted here, and is made for the mortification of the deeds of the body; and furthermore, that there be no mistake about the actual and real indwelling of the Spirit, it is declared that--"If the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you," then as a consequence to the body itself, in which the Spirit dwells--" He that raised up Jesus from the dead, shall also quicken your mortal bodies, by his Spirit which dwelleth in you." The whole argument of the chapter supposes that actual indwelling which, as I have stated, Paul so plainly utters in the first quoted passage. Without this it all falls to the ground.
Let a man admit this to be a fact, and no metaphor, and he shall see most plain reasons for fasting, for mortification of body, and self-denial in all its various forms, as enjoined in the scripture; let him deny it, and explain it away by metaphor and so forth, and all motive is gone.
Again, the same idea is made an argument against "eating in idol temples." (2 Cor. vi. 16.) "What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And I will be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters." Here again is the same idea; the Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost, is the Spirit of adoption, he that makes via s6ns and daughters through the covenant. The consequence of this is, that God the Spirit dwells in Christians, and "walks in them;" therefore each individual Christian is the temple, actually and really, of God. Wherefore, then, bring into the temple of idols that mortal frame which is the tabernacle of God? The argument is complete, the idea being taken literally. As a metaphor, it sinks and loses all force.
I shall end with one or two more quotations. 1 Col. i. 19 it is said--"It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;" and, same Epistle ii. 9--"In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." Of Christians it is said, Eph. iii. 19---"That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." Now it is manifest, that if the Holy Spirit, who is God, makes an actual dwelling of the bodies of Christians, that living up in action to their privileges they are filled with the "fulness of God," literally and truly; if the body of Christ was formed by the spirit of God in the womb of the virgin, then the Spirit dwells in him, and the "fulness of the Godhead bodily," since his body is framed and formed of the spirit, and the nature United to that body is God the. word. But if the fulness of God dwelling in us be a metaphor for knowledge, wisdom, and spiritual experience, Which are of God, what is the other? Surely it is gone as an argument for the divinity of Christ.
I know that the doctrine contained in the above is forgotten, obliterated, clear gone out of mind--ordinary Christians have let it glide away into unreality and metaphor, still it is true. I know many will sneer and call it absurd, I cannot help this.
I shall, therefore, as to its truth and reality, give a passage from one of a different class. Here is the opinion of Novalin, or Hurdenberg, as quoted by Thomas Carlyle--the one a German mystic, the other a pantheist, or, if you please, an atheist: "Knowest thou what reverence is due to a human body, how deep a mystery? for herein the most high dwells upon earth in a human shape." Alas, alas! that it is come to this--that the sentiment and persuasion of Paul, and Peter, and the Apostles, and the primitive Church, has so perished from what is called Christianity, that in a pantheistic atheist a nearer approach can be found to it than in ordinary Christians--'that they should take the truth for a metaphor, and be the atheist for a high and fruitful reality.
But if the doctrine be true, what new motives does it furnish to the Christian? Let the reader just look back to the passages quoted by St. Paul, and he shall see. There is, no doubt, in human nature a two-fold tendency; there are feelings, and those of the highest of our nature, by which purity, personally and actually, is encouraged, and this of all kinds of personal purity, from the highest to the lowest; so that from this peculiar class of feelings there is no doubt that even personal cleanliness has a high moral and religious tendency--the very act of washing has a moral influence upon the body.
Again, there is no doubt that a low, and base, and sensual feeling as to our human nature and our human body, is one of the very first incentives to sin; this, in its further advance, developes itself in coarseness and filthiness of language, debasing still more the mind, and the next ready step is actual sin. Now every one can see this in himself, he can see that the idea of purity and delicacy attached to our person is a high preservative of morality--the contrary idea, just the contrary. These two are instincts of our nature.
Consider then how these natural feelings are supported the one, and suppressed the other, by the doctrine above mentioned; a strong motive this to believe that the doctrine as it stands is true, since the same God that made man's nature also made the holy scriptures. 'Christians,' says St. Paul, 'the Spirit of holiness and purity dwells in you, making your mortal frame a temple to himself;' how can you then defile the temple of him who is God dwelling in you? how can you the temple of God enter within the temple of demons? Must you not daily and hourly watch over yourselves, and mortify the inclinations of your natural body, which is now sanctified by his indwelling? Every one can see the effect of the truth as realized by such an one as Paul.
Again, as to calmness, quietness, and peace, look at it. If our bodies be the temple of the Spirit, shall we have recourse to vehement struggles of the mind and imagination that we may realize the gifts of the Spirit? if the Spirit were without us, no doubt we should; if only when we felt peculiar and extraordinary religious emotions, then were we under his influence, no doubt our business were to employ all external means for ever to seek him without us. But we can be free from this struggle, for believing that the Spirit of glory and God resteth upon us, "we ascend not up to heaven to bring Christ down from above, we descend not into the deep to bring him again from the dead, for the word is nigh us, even in our mouth and in our heart, the word of faith;" and, therefore, not to extraordinary emotions or to intense awakenings of conscience, but to calm abidance in well-doing, to the sanctification of the body and soul, which are his, do we trust. And not only when we are employed in religious worship, in prayer or in meditation; but when we are upon our daily business, when we eat, when we sleep, then is the spirit dwelling in his temple, ever abiding, ever sanctifying. Let man think upon this; how high, how lofty a position is this, how suitable to transform into the Godlike and divine in us all that which we have in common with other animals of passions, appetites and desires.
By this the wife is sacred and reverend in the eyes of the husband, and the husband in the eyes of the wife; by this our children, as the Apostle says, are holy (1 Cor. vii. 14); by this the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife by the husband; by this the home and domestic hearth, so dear to man's heart, becomes a temple, and he and all Christian fathers thus are "a royal priesthood" within that temple-home; by this even the bread that we eat, the Christian meal, sanctified by prayer and thanksgiving, is sacramental.
But men have lost the doctrine, the sentiment, therefore, has perished and cannot be realized, and we see the fruits around us. The men of old had it, the doctrine and the sentiment, and we see what a difference it makes.
This leads us to the fourth privilege of the Christian in covenant with God, the promise of sufficient grace. What is meant by grace? Persons say such and such a man is a subject of grace, when he begins to feel strongly on the subject of religion. This is limiting it to consciousness and the feelings. It is not so: grace is the peculiar influence upon man of the Spirit, this is what we know of it; it is compared to the oil of the lamp, to the life in man. In the whole scriptures through, it is no fitful influence, no influence that operates at random, or by sudden starts; the Christian has it at all times and at all seasons, by virtue of being in, the covenant. His natural feelings ebb and flow, his physical temperament varies, influences from without will cause joy or sadness to predominate; but for all these variations of temper and circumstances there is, if he knew it aright, a sufficient supply of the assistance of the Spirit given to him. The secret channel may pass unseen down the steep descents of affliction and the lowly vallies of humiliation, still to the one level it arises, that of his needs and his position. "Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ;" that is, according to the measure of the Spirit, who is the gift of Christ--the Spirit divideth to every one as he will. And again, "My grace is sufficient for thee," he says to St. Paul.
Now, unto what is that grace sufficient? We answer, to the fulfilment of the law of the covenant of Christ, the law of his kingdom, of which we are subjects, the law of grace; for herein is the difference between the old covenant and the new, that the law under the old covenant was an outward thing, but the new law, to which we can be obedient, is a law in our hearts. That by the law of Moses man could not be justified, is plainly asserted in the scriptures; that not by the law of our nature, (virtue is the law of man's nature,) is also, by the experience of each man, manifest. But the law of the Spirit of Life in Jesus Christ, (Rom. viii. 10)--the royal law, (James ii. 8)--the perfect law of liberty, (James i. 25)--this is the law of God's Spirit in the heart of the covenanted Christian; and at the same time it is a law prescribing actions, and a power giving ability to perform its prescription; an inward law conforming to the outward law of God's word, a transcript, as it were, upon, man's heart of his revelation. This is the sufficiency given to the Christian--a sufficiency according to his sphere to walk on in the path of his duty towards God and man, justified by his faith in Christ, and the works, not of any law of man, or law of nature, but of the law of Christ. For justified he is by faith and by works; by faith which apprehends Christ as his king, and by works according to his royal law.
The next benefit of the Christian covenant is the reception of the body and blood of Christ, and although this be mainly given by the sacrament of the Lord's supper, still to none is it given but to those within the Christian covenant; and for so great a gift it would seem that the supernatural gift of life, the principle, as we have before explained, is the proper preparation. Baptism, therefore, is the door unto this, as to all the gifts of the Christian covenant, that entrance by which we must come in if we would reach unto it. This is an actual and real privilege, an actual and real partaking of the blood of Christ and its benefits. The atonement of Christ is hereby applied, and the temper and tone of Christ, as during his incarnation, he showed himself upon earth, implanted in us. This grace of his body and blood is truly and really the source and spring of all the Christ-like tempers in us; for as the good tree grafted upon the old stock will produce good fruit, so the human nature of our Lord is upon our human nature, as it were, truly and really ingrafted; so that we abide in Christ as "branches in the vine," as "limbs to the body," as the body to the head; and thereby the graces of his human nature, the only perfect and sinless humanity that ever has been, are propagated in us.
Another effect of this is, that thereby we arise again unto life. "Whosoever eateth my body and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." Men ordinarily believe in the doctrine of the resurrection, for Christianity has forced upon man this doctrine, so that even infidels cannot deny it. There, is an infidel doctrine of the resurrection; the infidel doctrine is this--the beasts are animals, who by their organization arise not again, and men are animals, who by their organization do arise. The Christian doctrine is this, that all men arise by the power of Christ; the wicked even by the same power. That our Lord went down into the grave, and for this arose that by his omnipotence he should cause all men to arise. This is the plain doctrine of the scripture, and not the organization--doctrine. And then that in the good his body and blood are the seed of eternal life, whereby they arise unto life everlasting. Objections may be started to this of course; I do not meddle with them. This is the plain doctrine of the scriptures, and no where is the resurrection of any man, bad or good, in the holy scriptures attributed to organization, or to any other cause than the power of Christ's resurrection. Suffice it then for me to believe it.
Again, as a benefit of the covenant; its children are admitted to the guardianship of angels, and if obedient to the Spirit, and therefore holy, to the communion of saints. An express assertion there is of this as a privilege of the new covenant in Heb. xii. 22,23. After speaking of Sinai--it will be remembered that in a previously quoted passage, Sinai was typical of the old covenant--"but ye," says the apostle, "are come unto mount Sion, (that is, the new covenant,) and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels--to the general assembly and Church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to the spirits of just men made perfect; "plainly asserting the guardianship of angels as one of the privileges of individual Christians under the new covenant; plainly asserting too, that under that covenant the spirit of the righteous dead commune with our unconscious souls, take an interest in us, and are aware of our situation. And indeed, our Lord himself, in a saying of his, asserts the same: he says, "take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven." (Matt, xviii. 10.) From which most plainly we draw the conclusion, that each Christian has a peculiar angelic attendant allotted as minister unto him; and from the second clause, that this angel is a guardian to him in life. The impression of the old Church was this, that at the baptism, then was the angelic minister allotted to him for the course of his life. Moreover, they believed that then, by the baptismal water, and by the seal of the cross then imprinted, was placed upon his brow a character perpetually remaining, which, to the angels and ministers of God walking to and fro upon the earth, was the evidence of his citizenship in the heavenly kingdom. A motive, perhaps, that will be sneered at by those have not heard of it before; but when I consider that the baptism, in the water, is an actual washing in Christ's blood; when I think how the blood upon the lintels of the Paschal Lamb, typical, as it is well known, of Christ's blood, was a sign to the angel that that house should be passed over; I certainly do not think the opinion in any degree an improbable one; and, candidly to speak, I consider it to be true.
And then the Christian, if of the holy and true, has communion with the spirits of just men made perfect; not a prayer arises to the throne on high, but he has a living interest in it; not one of the holy and the best, even in the remotest ends of the earth, but his spirit flows forth to their's with a secret influence and sympathy, which, although he be unconscious of it, is not the less real; and their's again returns unto him laden with blessings. The clouds that fall upon my land here may have arisen in the broad Atlantic or the far Pacific, yet here they have fallen, and here is their blessing. So the aid that comes to me in my weakness and my distress, may have come from the solemn litanies and prayers of the holy in the remotest ends of the earth.
Then our liturgic prayers, so general, as they seem to those who pray "for Colonel Jacob Jones, who has so helped the people of God," for "the dear brother who preceded me in prayer, and so fruitfully ministers to this congregation," to "convert, O Lord, the soul of Sarah Ward; "then our prayers, that to these folks seem so general and uninteresting, assume quite a different aspect when viewed with the feeling upon us, of the communion of saints. And when we think that with the spirits of just men made perfect, we have communion, actual and true; when the thought burst upon us, that of our departed friends, we are not therefore left alone when they die, even as to locality, but that were our eyes unsealed, we should view them by us; how does it make a heaven of earth, and embalm them to us. What thoughts of love to the brother it suggests, or the sister, or the son of the departed, "they are not gone, they are not vanished; but although we see them not, still have we communion with them." The mother who was taken away from the child whom she had began to train in the ways of God; she may have been taken away in order to train him all the better, through her spiritual influence upon his soul. The father dead may still guide the son in God's holy ways," and the love of the wife to the husband, of the husband to the wife, may still last and still endure.
And this last, (I am fond of these old Christian feelings and opinions, they have all a touch of nobleness, a tenderness of sentiment and of heart about them, which I rather like, and do not see in modern religion,) was the cause of a very prevalent sentiment among the old Christians in favor of only one marriage, of which a trace may be seen in St. Paul's advice, that a bishop should be the husband of one wife, a thing plainly absurd, if we interpret it of only one at a time, for if he had more he could not be in Christian communion, or be qualified even for baptism.
These then are the privileges of Christian baptism as laid down in the scriptures, and of the Christian covenant, unto which baptism is the entrance. These, and not those other notions, "that baptism is a form of profession and nothing more, and that we do it only because it is a commanded ordinance." All these privileges, as the reader will have seen, are plainly asserted in the express words of scripture. All spiritual privileges belonging to the kingdom of heaven, not one of them proveable by any earthly arguments, or tangible to our senses in any way, but declared by the word of God, and received by faith.
Well, but you may say, I have known many baptized persons, and in none of them have I seen any evidence of these things.
Now there are two things to be answered to this. First, What kind of baptism were they baptized with?
At Christ's coming there was the baptism of John, "a baptism of repentance, that they should believe in him that came after," a baptism which was both of repentance and faith, as we see by this passage, and the other above cited, in which Paul asks them, "had they received the Holy Ghost since they believed?" implying most plainly, that those baptized with John's baptism had faith as well as repentance. Secondly, There was the Christian baptism with all these privileges. Now what baptism do the various non-Episcopal sects preach and administer?, is it not this baptism, the baptism of faith and repentance, without any thing else? Do they not in their universal doctrine declare, that it is nothing else; that it, as baptism, has no one of the privileges attached to it that I have specified; how am I, therefore, to expect in that which by its very terms, and the description of those that minister it, as well by the want of apostolic authority, is the baptism of John, the effects of the other? Certainly I cannot. They that make the objection, most likely make it from instances they have seen of those who had this kind of baptism.
Again, with regard to the Church and her baptism; of those privileges some are to be seen and employed by faith, others are in their effects only to be known as to the causes in heaven. For instance, the faithful only eat the Lord's body, and they who discern it not do not eat it, because they have not the faith which is requisite. The guardianship of angels, the communion of saints, we have no possible evidence by experience; as to them, we must go upon pure faith. Now our dissenting brethren will acknowledge that there are holy, and pious, and good men in the Episcopal Church. They have laid it down themselves as an axiom, that none are such but they that have gone through the peculiar process called conversion, and that none can be converted but they must know it. Now, of those men and women that they acknowledge pious and holy in the Church, nine out of ten will tell you that they never went through that peculiar process, and they know they never did.
How, then, did they obtain their station? It will, I think, be a sufficient reason, that repenting of their sins, and having faith in Christ as their Saviour, they received the one baptism for the remission of sins. The principle of spiritual life was implanted in them by the Holy Ghost and by the water; they entered within the ark of God's Church; in which, "having exceeding great and precious privileges," that the Holy Ghost should dwell in them; that he should supply them with sufficient grace; that the body and blood of Christ should be received by them unto eternal life, and the resurrection at the last day; and, lastly, that they should come under the guardianship of the holy angels, and into the communion of the saints on earth and the saints in heaven. These things, methinks, should be as true founts and sources of holiness and piety, as ever I have seen at revivals or camp-meetings.
And to those who will tell me that these means fail often, or that the subjects of them fail, which prove them unreal, I say boldly, they never fail, except in the case of sin of such a character "as to be unto death." And as a proof of this, I will show the fact, that of the baptized who have faith to discern their privileges and their duties in the Church, that of those who, instructed by the Church, come forward to that ordinance which perfects all those privileges, and is the great test of Christian faith--for faith in the covenant has many important differences from faith outside it--that of them there is not one fails, for twenty among the sects, who have been declared "converted." Of this fact every Episcopal clergymen, who knows any thing of the sects, can bear sufficient witness--so that the comparison is in our favor.
We all know the way this fact is got over; the broad declaration, that the Christian man or woman, a communicant in the Church, who goes on in the path of duty as a good father, or husband, or son, mother, wife, or daughter, quietly and calmly doing his duty in the sphere where God has placed him, without talking of feelings and experience, is no Christian, forsooth.
We are content it should be so asserted; in the mean time, upon God's ordinance, which we have approached with repentance from our sins, and faith in Christ as our Saviour, upon it and its privileges we shall rest, and the doctrines that belong to it we shall believe in, and our progress will be accordingly.
To those in our own Church who may perhaps be startled by some of these things, and who never have considered the practical use of baptism, I would just add these few words from an old author.
"I add this in the close, that baptism is of special use through a Christian's whole life. It is but once administered, but the virtue and efficacy thereof grows not old by time.
"1st. In all thy fears and doubts look to thy baptism and the promises of God then sealed to thee. Lay hold on them by faith, and thou mayest have actual comfort.
"2d. In all thy failings, slips, and revolts, to recover the sooner, look to thy baptism. New baptism shall not need; the covenant and seal of God stands firm and changeth not.
"3d. Renew thy repentance, renew thy faith in those blessed promises of grace sealed and secured in baptism, and then expect all good from God's free mercies in Christ, although thy performances fall very short; though thou art an unprofitable servant."