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at all inconsistent with the fact, that all true Christians will commune together in heaven; for the communion of soul which the redeemed will enjoy in heaven is a different thing from celebrating the Lord's supper.
The names of the celebrated Robert Hall, and of the late excellent Dr Stillman' are indeed dear; but we remember that our Lord has cautioned his disciples to call no man master upon earth. It may be well also, to mention, that however applauded Mr Hall's liberality may be, it proceeds ' entirely on the ground that baptism is not an indispensable prerequisite to communion ;' a principle, the propriety of which, in the commencement of this letter, Dr Griffin expressly disowns. As to the 'excellent Dr Stillman,' who is said to have stood at the head of the liberal class ' in America, we have reason to believe that the case is not quite so clear as one would suppose from Dr Griffin's remark. But what if it were ? Must we be governed by names? Our faith must not stand in the wisdom of men.*
Some topics are named in this letter which do not materially affect the leading point; such as, the baptism administered by John, and the purpose for which our Saviour received baptism. We therefore omit the consideration of these topics, and refer those who wish to see a brief yet comprehensive view of them, to the sermon on the design of baptism, which has already been named.
Though so far as our present purpose is concerned, the topics just named may be waived, yet on the general question of baptism they ought by no means to be omitted. For the fact that baptism had been frequently administered by divine authority previously to the final commission of the apostles, is one of the circumstances which must be taken into account when we endeavor to view ourselves as
Since writing the above, the following letter has been received from a much esteemed and well known individual, for many years a deacon in the church of which Dr Stillman was the pastor.
* Your note is just received, making inquiry respecting Dr Stillman's sentiments on communion. The Doctor was a man of a most catholic spirit; and he always felt so ardent an attachment to, and such an intimate union with, all whom he believed to be real Christians, that I think, had he consulted his feelings only, he would have avowed himself an open communionist. But from all that I ever heard him say on the subject, I believe he did not consider the practice correct.
*I have heard Dr Baldwin say that when Dr Stillman first came to Boston, his evangelical brethren in the ministry of the Pedobaptist denomination expected that he would commune with them, and that their opinion was grounded on some remarks made by Dr Stillman, which were understood by them to be favorable to such communion. The Doctor, however, found the brethren of his church and other Baptists unfavorable to the intercourse, and he gave it up; and my opinion is, that he did not consider it either expedient or correct. In fact, having never suspected him, during his life, to favor open communion, I never asked him particularly as to his own views on the subject; and it was not till after his death, when Dr Ephraim Eliot's pamphlet was published, that I had the conversation referred to with Dr Baldwin. I never knew him to communi. cate at the Lord's table with Pedobaptists, nor were any other than immersed professing believers ever admitted to communicate with his church during the fourteen years in which I delightedly sat under his affectionate ministry. Very respectfully yours,
in the same situation in which the apostles were when they received that commission. A recent advocate for infantsprinkling contendsearnestly (but not more earnestly than he ought) that in order to know how the apostles would understand the language of the commission, we must as far as possible conceive ourselves to be in their situation at that time. Now applying this principle, we observe, that the disciples of our Lord previously to receiving their final commission had for several years been witnessing the administration of baptism by the divinely appointed harbinger of the Messiah, and had themselves administered baptism under their Lord's immediate direction. See John iv. 1, 2. That all these instances of baptism had a very direct reference to the Messiah's dispensation, we presume no one will question. Thus baptism, administered by divine authority, was to them, when the commission was last given, no new thing. Having been accustomed to baptism, how would they naturally proceed when they were commissioned to go into all the world, to teach all nations, baptizing them? Clearly they would proceed in the manner to which they had been accustomed, unless some special directions had been given to pursue a different course. Such a direction seems to have been given as to the form of words in connexion with which the ordinance was to be administered; but neither from the commission itself, nor from the subscquent history of the apostles is there the least satisfactory evidence, that they were authorized to depart from the original institution, either as to the action to be performed, or as to the persons on whom it was to be performed.
There is one other point to which we would direct the attention of our readers. Under the fourth head of this letter, occurs the following sentence: “There is a great variety in the manner of their' (different denominations'] ‘keeping the supper, administering baptism, performing prayer, and conducting all the forms of public worship.' Thus the manner in which baptism is performed is put upon a level with the unprescribed circumstances attending the administration of the Lord's supper, the performance of prayer, and other forms of public worship. It has often been intimated that it is quite as immaterial in what manner baptism be performed, as it is in what manner prayer be performed, whether in a standing or a kneeling posture; that it is quite as reasonable to hold a controversy on the question whether we must kneel or stand in prayer, as on the question, whether in baptism we must be immersed or not. Thus Baptists are represented as contending about a mere circumstance of a religious rite, whereas it is their continual profession that they are contending about the rite itself. The illustration drawn from prayer and from the administration of the Lord's supper is by no means appropriate. For whether prayer be performed by a person kneeling, sitting, standing, or lying down, still it is prayer, as no particular manner is prescribed. Whether the Lord's supper be administered to persons sitting, or reclining according to the custom which prevailed in Palestine, still it is the Lord's supper; for we have no directions concerning posture, and there is nothing which is intended to be expressed by the Lord's supper that is inconsistent with either posture.
But in the other ordinance, the form is prescribed, just as really as it would appear to be, if the original word, instead of being adopted or transferred from the Greek into the English language, had been translated. It would then have been expressed, in plain English, by the word immersion. Moreover, something essential to the ordinance, as to what it is intended to represent, is omitted if any thing be substituted for immersion. So that our controversy is not respecting the form of baptism, but respecting baptism itself; not whether persons shall be baptized in this or in that way, but whether they shall be baptized. Pedobaptists say, any one of certain things is baptism; we say only one of those things is baptism. The controversy then is about the thing, not about a circumstance of the thing. The illustration drawn from prayer and from the Lord's supper would be apposite, if the matter in controversy were, whether the validity of baptism be affected by the circumstance of the candidate's standing or kneeling in the water, or by the circumstance of prayer's preceding or following his immersion. But plainly about mere circumstances we have no dispute; and it is unjust and unkind to compare the manner of baptism to the posture in prayer and at the Lord's table. We repeat it, the controversy is about the thing itself. Baptists view themselves as contending for the very existence of a Christian ordinance; as contending, not whether baptism shall be administered in this or in that way, but whether it shall be retained in the church.
The views of other denominations respecting baptism are not definite; with them, immersion, pouring, sprinkling, are all equally valid baptism. With Baptists, immersion only is acknowledged as baptism. Other denominations then may without any peculiar generosity or kindness invite us to come to the Lord's table; for they admit that we are baptized. We however cannot invite and encourage them, without violating our conscience, because we cannot consider them as baptized, i. e. immersed, according to the command of our Lord. There is then a manifest difference between the two cases; and since it is the Pedobaptists who have departed from the command, we confidently and solemuly ask, who are to be blamed for the want of union between them and us?
We pray that knowledge and holiness may increase. We call upon all the friends of Christ to search the Scriptures. We affectionately entreat them to remember his words, If ye love me, keep my commandments; and thus to examine themselves, in respect to baptism as well as in respect to other duties, whenever they think of the memorials of his death. And may all who keep the ordinances as they were originally delivered, become living proofs that their baptism is not an unmeaning ceremony, but a powerful incitement to walk in newness of life.
INTERPRETATION OF 1 Pet. iv. 6.
For, for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
The epistle in which this passage occurs, was written about the year 64. At that period, a great part of the generation alive when our Lord was upon the earth, had been numbered with the dead; and, according to a very important rule of interpretation, the word 'dead, in this verse, inust be understood in its literal sense ; for there is nothing in the connexion that requires us to explain it figuratively. Besides, in the preceding verse, mention is made of the dead' in the literal sense. The expression, 'the quick, or living, and the dead,' can be explained in no other than its literal acceptation. The literal sense is always to be preferred, unless some good reason can be given for its rejection. No such reason appears in the present case. The Christian revelation taught, with peculiar' emphasis, the doctrine of a resurrection, and of a general judgment, when not only the living, but the dead also will stand before their Maker. John, in describing his prophetic view, says: the dead, small and great, stand before God: and the books were opened ; and another book was opened, which is the book of life : and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.'* Ilere it is manifest, that 'the dead' are mentioned as of different characters. Some will be wicked, and some righteous. "The dead,' therefore, cannot mean such as are dead in trespasses and sins,' but the literally dead; as is equally manifest from John v. 28. The hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth ; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation.'
In reference to the same subject, our Lord is spoken of, in Acts x. 42, as judge of quick and dead;' and in 2 T'im. iv. 1, as the one who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom.' Can it be doubted that by 'the dead' is meant the same in these instances as in the preceding ?
It is objected : “ Those who are alive on the earth will have a change passed upon them equivalent to death ; hence to say that Christ is ordained to be the judge of those who are dead, and those who shall be alive when he descends, does not convey a definite idea.” In reply, it is sufficient to observe, that the change spoken of will be equivalent, not so much to death as to the resurrection, or the glorious preparation for heaven connected with that event. * The dead,' says Paul, (1 Cor. xv. 52.) 'shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.' Notwithstanding the change, Paul continues to speak of those who experience it as alive, in
* Rev. xx. 12.
distinction from the dead:' Then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them.'*
The fact exhibited in 2 Tim. iv. 1, that a day of judgment is approaching, from which no man, living or dead, can escape, is a consideration which may well rouse the efforts of the minister of Christ. God ‘now commandeth all men every where to repent; because he hath appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.'t
If any thing can be added to the proofs already presented, that the words • living' and 'dead,' in such connexions as have been mentioned, are not to be interpreted figuratively, it is afforded by Rom. xiv, 9. •For to this end Christ both died, and rose and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living.'
To be judged, as the original word is used in the passage that we are considering, is be condemned, to be made or led to suffer. In this sense it is often used; as in John iii. 17, 'God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved ;' and in 1 Cor. xi. 31, 'When we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord.'
The meaning of the word here rendered according to, seems to be better expressed by among, or before—among men-before God. In this manner the same word is not unfrequently translated; as in Acts xxi. 21, 'And they are informed of thee that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles ; ' and in Luke ii. 31, 'Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people.'
In the sacred Scriptures, the sanctified disposition is sometimes denominated the spirit; and hence its opposite, the unsanctified disposition, came to be called the body, or the flesh.
That the clause 'in the flesh,' is in the construction to be connected with judged,' and not with 'men,' appears from the corresponding part of the verse ; for it is perfectly clear that in the spirit’ should be construed with 'live, and not with ‘God.'
From the connexion, it is obvious that the apostle Peter, (very
uch as the apostle Paul on another occasion, f) reasoned with his brethren in this manner: Christ suffered for us in the flesh, the just indeed for the unjust. He for us refused no suffering, however se
For us he submitted his flesh, in the literal sense of the word, to crucifixion. Ye ought, then, to crucify your flesh, in the figurative sense of the word—to subdue and inortify your carnal nature, your sinful propensities which ocasioned his death. Commencing with the chapter, we may read the paragraph thus:
Christ, therefore, having suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves, also, with the same mind, (for he that hath suffered in the flesh, or mortified his carnal nature, hath refrained from sin,) to the end that ye no longer spend the rest of your earthly time according to the lusts of men, but according to the will of God. For
* 1 Thes. iv. 17.
† Acts xvii. 30, 31.