PRINTED BY HUGH GAINE, IN HANOVER-SQUARE.
TITUS iii. 5.
"According to his mercy he saved us by the washing of Regeneration, and renewing of the holy Ghost."
IN the preceding verses of this chapter, St. Paul reminds Titus, whom he stiles "his own son after the common faith," of his deplorable situation before his admission into the Christian Church; and, at the same time, specifies some particular duties, which were more immediately necessary to be inculcated upon the minds of the people of Crete, where Titus was constituted the first Bishop. "Put them in mind (says he) to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men. For (continues the great Apostle) we ourselves were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But, after that the kindness and love of God [5/6] our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us by the washing of Regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost."
IN discoursing upon these words, on this occasion, I mean, first, to call your attention to the natural state and condition of mankind; secondly, to explain the terms, the washing of Regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; and, lastly, to deduce some practical inferences from this important doctrine.
IN the first place. That all mankind are by nature in a state of sin and misery appears from the express and repeated testimony of the word of God. Thus it is said--"Both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin: As it is written, there is none righteous, no not one. That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." In conformity to these clear testimonies of Holy Scripture, our Church declares, in her baptismal service, "Forasmuch as all men are conceived and born in sin;"--in her catechism, "Being by nature born in sin, and the children of wrath;" and in her ninth article, "Original sin is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man." This is the unhappy condition of mankind by nature--prone to be foolish and disobedient--alienated from the love of God, and destitute of any just title to life and immortality. But, did God leave his sinful creatures in this miserable state? Is there no way of restoration to the Divine Favour? Is there no method provided, by which men are to be taken out of their natural state, and made members of Christ's Church, [6/7] children of God, and heirs of the kingdom of Heaven?--Yes--Let us bless and adore the riches of the Divine Wisdom and Mercy, that a new and living way is revealed of regaining the happiness that was forfeited--that, in order to prepare men for the enjoyment of future blessedness, there is now a washing of Regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost. Let us, therefore,
IN the second place, endeavour to ascertain what the true meaning of these terms may be. And in doing this, I must request you to lay aside all prejudice and partiality, and simply attend to the doctrines of Scripture, and the avowed principles of our own and other reformed Churches. This is certainly the fairest, the only sure method of coming to a knowledge of the truth; and they who wilfully depart from it, for the sake of following their own groundless opinions and misguided fancies, must be given up as irreclaimable.
LONG before our Saviour appeared upon earth, it was an established custom of the Jews, to receive proselytes from among the Heathens, into the Jewish Church, by the Rite of Baptism. This change of state they commonly denominated the Proselyte's New-birth, or his Regeneration. He was born a Heathen; but, when he was initiated by Baptism into the Church of God's own people the Jews, he relinquished the worship of false gods, he renounced the superstitions of his country, he broke off all his old connections which might again seduce him into heathenism, and he assumed a new mode of life and manners. Upon this introduction into a new state, he was said to be regenerated, to have a new-birth. When our Saviour was about to establish the gospel-kingdom [7/8] upon earth, HE appointed this same Rite of Baptism to be the mode of admission into his Church; and the same language was still continued, with respect to those, who, from among the Jews or Gentiles, assumed the profession of Christianity according to this instituted mode; they were said to be regenerated or born again. Thus, in the conversation which passed between our Lord and Nicodemus, Jesus said unto him, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see kingdom of God." And when Nicodemus put a wrong and gross construction upon the words, our Lord proceeds to explain them; "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God;" and then expresses some degree of surprise, that Nicodemus should have misapprehended his meaning: "Art thou a master in Israel and knoweth not these things?" "Art thou a person, who might reasonably be supposed to be well acquainted with all the customs and common modes of speech of thine own nation, and yet knowest not, that to be born again signifies a translation, by the Rite of Baptism, from the world, into the Church of God?" In exact conformity to this doctrine, the Apostle, in the text, alluding to Baptism, calls it "the washing, or (as it might be more properly translated) the Laver of Regeneration." And this language of Scripture is expressly used by our own, and other Churches. Let me entreat your indulgence, while I produce particular instances.
Our Church, in her twenty-seventh article, declares, "Baptism is a sign of Regeneration, or New-birth, whereby, by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church--the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed." And in her office [8/9] for the public baptism of infants, whenever an infant is baptised, she directs her ministers to say, "We yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to regenerate this infant with thy Holy Spirit, and to receive him for thine own child by adoption." The Dutch Reformed Church, in the Heidelbergh Catechism, has this question and answer: "Why then doth the Holy Ghost call Baptism the washing of Regeneration, and the washing away of sins? God speaks thus not without great cause, to wit: Not only thereby to teach us, that as the filth of the body is purged away by water, so our sins are removed by the blood and spirit of Jesus Christ; but especially, that by this divine pledge and sign he may assure us, that we are spiritually cleansed from our sins as really, as we are externally washed with water." The Presbyterian Confession of Faith has these words: "Baptism is a Sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptised into the visible Church; but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of Regeneration, of remission of sins." And, in their larger catechism, to the question, "What is Baptism?" this answer is given: "Baptism is a Sacrament of the New Testament, wherein Christ hath ordained the washing of water in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, to be sign and seal of ingrafting into himself, of remission of sins by his blood, and Regeneration by his spirit." The Methodists, in their seventeenth article of religion, say, "Baptism is not only a sign of profession and mark of difference, whereby Christians are distinguished from others that are not baptised; but it is also a sign [9/10] of Regeneration, or New-birth." And whenever they baptise a child, they return solemn thanks to Almighty God, "for incorporating that infant into his holy Church, and receiving him for his own child by adoption."
You perceive what an exact uniformity of doctrine runs thro' all these instances which I have produced; and the sum of the whole is this, that man, as he comes into this world, is born in sin, and a child of wrath; that God, in mercy, hath provided a method to rescue him from this sad condition; that Baptism is the only instituted mode of taking us out of a wicked world, and making us children of God by adoption; and that those, whose natural state and condition is thus changed, are said to be regenerate, or born again.
IT will be objected by some--"This is attributing very great efficacy to the ordinance of Baptism." Not greater than we are authorized to attribute to it by the word of God. Is it not to be supposed, that Christ will make his own institutions effectual, and accompany them with his blessing? In Scripture, with Baptism is always connoted reception into the Church, and Regeneration, and remission of sin. St. Paul was checked in his wicked progress, and called to be an Apostle, by a miraculous interposition of Divine Providence; but this did not supersede the necessity of Baptism. His sins were not remitted; he was not received into the Church, till Ananias, a minister of the Gospel, was sent to him; when he forthwith arose, and was baptised, to wash away his sins. St. Peter, in his sermon to the Jews on the day of Pentecost, calls upon them in these words: "Repent and be baptised every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins." And in [10/11] his first Epistle, he asserts, "Even Baptism doth now save us." In repeating the Nicene Creed, we constantly and solemnly profess to believe "in one Baptism for the remission of sins." And, I suppose, we all assent to the truth of the Rubric at the conclusion of the office of public Baptism, which asserts, "It is certain by God's word, that the children which are baptised, dying before they commit actual sin, are undoubtedly saved." But, if we believe, that all baptised children are in a capacity to be saved, we must, of course, believe, that the effects of original sin are done away; that they are justified in the sight of God, and qualified to pass thro' his Church upon earth, into the mansions of heavenly happiness.
IT will again be objected--"If there blessings accompany Baptism, such as remission of sin, adoption into God's family, the aid of Divine Grace; how is it, that, in so many instances, we see so little good effect, when persons arrive at mature age? They frequently are as much addicted to sin, as if they had never taken upon themselves the Christian profession." This is, indeed, a lamentable truth. But, is it therefore to be assumed, that God has never assisted them by his grace? It is expressly declared in Scripture, "that we may do despite to the Spirit of Grace--that we may quench the Spirit--that we may grieve the Holy Spirit of God." And consonant to this doctrine, it is declared in our sixteenth article, "The grant of Repentance is not to be denied to such as fall into sin, after Baptism. After we have received the Holy Ghost, we may depart from grace given and fall into sin; and by the grace of God we may rise again and amend our lives." But, when a baptised person departs [11/12] from grace given and falls into sin; and afterwards, by any means, is induced to rise again to righteousness, and amend his evil life; this, as you have heard, is not called in Scripture, or by any Christian Church, Regeneration or New-birth. That is conveyed only in Baptism. But, it is Repentance, or Amendment, or Conversion from a bad way, to a good one. When baptised persons fall into sin, they are never, in the New Testament, exhorted to be regenerated, to be put into a new family. That is supposed to have been once done in Baptism. But, they are commanded to repent and turn unto God--to be converted from the evil of their ways; so that they may not lose their right to the blessings of the Gospel-covenant, into which they were admitted by Baptism, the Laver of Regeneration.
THE result of the doctrine which has been now inculcated, is this; that man, by nature, is in a lost and helpless state--that, according to our tenth article, "We have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will;"--that a sufficient degree of this preventing and assisting grace always accompanies the regular administration of Baptism; as our Saviour connects them, in his discourse with Nicodemus, "a man must be born of water and of the spirit;" and as St. Paul, in the text, affirms "that we are saved by the Laver of Regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost:"--And, therefore, that when baptised persons fall into sin, and do not recover themselves by faith and repentance, God is free from the guilt of all men--their obduracy springs from their own wilful neglect, and not from the want of sufficient aid.
 FROM what has been now said, we may draw the following practical inferences.
1st. OUR Lord and Master has instituted certain ordinances in his Church, as pledges of his love, and instruments by which to convey his grace and Holy Spirit to the hearts of men. It is our duty to submit to the Divine appointment. We must comply with the means, or we have no right to expect the accomplishment of the end. Are there any who neglect to bring their children to Baptism? In what manner, do they suppose, their helpless offspring are to be made members of Christ's Church and children of God by adoption? These inestimable privileges are communications of mere grace and favour; and unless we obtain them, in the way which Christ himself has appointed, we know not whether we can ever obtain them at all. Are there any, who say they are desirous to fulfil their Baptismal-covenant, and yet habitually abstain from the Lord's Supper? But, whence are they to derive, from time to time, fresh supplies of spiritual strength? To support them in their Christian warfare, where are they to obtain that bread of life which cometh down from Heaven? How can they expect to receive the nourishment, without coming to the banquet of that most heavenly food? In all cases let us comply with our Master's institutions, and then we need not doubt of his blessing.
2d. WE see the Gospel-scheme of Salvation is a regular, well-connoted plan; in all things well-ordered and sure. In infancy, by Baptism we are taken out of a wicked world, and incorporated into the Church of Christ. At mature age, in Confirmation we ratify in person our baptismal engagements [13/14] of repentance, faith, and obedience. And during the whole course of our Christian life, from the Holy Communion we derive strength to fulfil these solemn promises. Have you been regularly baptised? Have you been blessed with a pious education? Are you sensible of the infirmity of your own nature, and of the truth and excellency of the gospel? And are you therefore penitent and believing? Is it the sincere desire of your hearts to grow in grace, and to abound more and more in the works of righteousness?--You can have no better evidence of your being children of God, qualified for the enjoyment of the happiness of Heaven.
3d. You see the absurdity of first acknowledging, that persons "are incorporated, by Baptism, into Christ's holy Church, and received for his own children by adoption;" and afterwards, pointing out to them another mode of becoming members of Christ's mystical body, which is to be carried on by a course of inexplicable feelings. It is said, in our ninth article, "Altho' there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptised, yet the sinful infection of nature doth remain, yea, in them that are regenerate." When baptised persons yield to this vicious propensity of nature, and violate their part of the sacred covenant into which they have entered, let them be exhorted, by all the terrors of the Divine Law, to repent and amend; let them be taught, that the Spirit of God stands ready to assist them--that altho' man is faithless, God remains unchangeable; and that, therefore, whenever they enter upon a sincere discharge of their baptismal vows, the promises of God made to them in their Baptism remain certain and sure--they have a right to claim the pardon of sin, and to rejoice in the expectation of the everlasting inheritance.
 Lastly, LET me entreat you to consider seriously, how dreadfully aggravated will be the guilt, how peculiarly severe the condemnation of those, who have been admitted into the Christian covenant, and yet have forfeited all its benefits--who have wandered from the sheepfold like lost sheep--who have been cut off from the flock, into which they were ingrafted, and cast away as useless branches--"who (according to the words of St. Paul) fall away, after they were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come."
PROFESSING Christians! ye, who by Baptism have put on Christ! if you have any gratitude or fidelity; if you have any desire to enjoy exalted felicity, or dread of accumulated woe, walk worthy of your holy profession. Will you continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid!--How shall ye who are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of you as were baptised into Jesus Christ, were baptised into his death? Therefore you are buried with him by Baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so ye also should walk in newness of life.