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In connexion with our last general Letter, and agreeably to the appointment made at the yearly meeting, we now address you, on a subject, not only of general interest, but which more immediately relates to that solemn profession which you have made of Christianity; namely, The Practical Uses Of Thk Ordinance Of Baptism.
That Christian baptism is properly administered only by immersion, and to those who make a credible profession of faith in Christ, it is no part of our present design to prove. Addressing you, we shall take each of these particulars for granted. The only subject to which we now request your attention, is the influence of this ordinance, where it produces its proper effects, in promoting piety in individuals, and purity in the church.
There is no part of true religion that is merely speculative: the whole is designed and adapted to sanctify the soul. We may presume, therefore, that if baptism be an ordinance of God, and of perpetual obligation in the church, it is of importance to Christian practice.
But it is not on presumptive evidence that we wish to rest the improvement of this institution, any more than the institution itself: neither shall we go about to connect with it acknowledged duties by imaginary alliances; but shall confine ourselves to those uses of the ordinance which are actually made or suggested in the New Testament. We could address many things to parents, and things of importance too, on bringing up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord: we could also urge it upon the children of believers.that they were committed to God from their earliest infancy; but as we find nothing of this kind in the scriptures, connected with baptism, however important these things would be in
their place, they would be altogether irrelevant while treating on this ordinance.
Baptism is a divine institution, pertaining to the kingdom of the Messiah, or the gospel dispensation. John received it fromheaven and administered it to the Jews, who, on his proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, confessed their sins. Jesus gave sanction to it by his example; and after his resurrection, when all power in heaven and earth was committed to him, he con6rmed and extended it to believers of all nations. Whatever circumstantial differences there might be, therefore, between the baptism of John and that of Christ, they were substantially the same. There were things in former ages which bore a resemblance to it; as, the salvation of Noah and his family in the ark, the passage of the Israelites through the sea, divers washings or bathings prescribed by the Mosaic ritual, &c.; but the thing itself existed not, till it was revealed to the immediate forerunner of Christ.
The principal design of it appears to be, A solemn and practical profession of the Christian religion. Such was the baptism of John, who said unto the people, that they should believe on him ,who should come after him; that is, on Christ Jesus. And such was that in the times of the apostles. Paul, addressing himself to the churches in Galatia, who, after having professed to believe in Christ, cleaved to the Mosaic law as a medium of justification, thus speaks: The law was our schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith: but after that faith is come, tve are no longer Under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have Put On Christ. The allusion is to the putting on of apparel, as when one that enters into the service of a prince puts on his distinguishing attire: and the design of the sacred writer is to remind those of them who had before professed the Jewish religion, that by a solemn act of their own they had, as it were, put off Moses, and put on Christ. There is a putting on of Christ, which is internal, and consists in relinquishing the former lusts, and being of the mind of Christ; but that which is here referred to appears to be an open profession of his name, to the renouncing of every thing that stood in competition with him. It
was therefore true of as many as had been baptized, whether they abode in the truth or not. And even their being the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus seems to express what they were in profession, rather than what they were in fact. They had by their baptism disowned all dependence on the privileges of birth, and the adoption which pertained to them as the children of Abraham; and declared their acquiescence in that power, or privilege to become the sons of God, which the gospel imparts to them that believe. The mention of this was perfectly in point, as it greatly heightened the evil of their defection. The amount is, That as many as were baptized in the primitive ages were voluntary agents, and submitted to this ordinance for the purpose of making a solemn and practical profession of the Christian faith. It was their oath of allegiance to the King of Zion; that by which they avowed the Lord to be their God. Hence a rejection of it involved a rejection of the counsel of God. The sin of the pharisees and lawyers consisted, not in their refusing to submit to baptism as unbelievers; but in not embracing the Messiah, and so putting on the badge of his profession. Their rejection of the sign was justly construed as a rejection of the thing signified; as when a rebel refuses to take the oath of allegiance, it is construed as a refusal of submission and subjection to his rightful prince.
Such, brethren, is the profession we have made. We have not only declared, in words, our repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord. Jesus Christ; but have said the same things by our baptism. We have solemnly surrendered ourselves up to Christ, taking him to be our prophet, priest, and king; engaging to receive his doctrine, to rely on his atonement, and to obey his laws. The vows of God are upon us. We have even sworn to keep his righteous judgments; and without violating the oath of God, we cannot go back. If it be a sin not to confess the Lord Jesus, through fear or shame, it is a still greater sin, after we have confessed him to turn from the holy commandment.
The religion of Jesus consists partly of truths to be believed, and partly of precepts to be obeyed; and the ordinance of baptism furnishes motives for a faithful adherence to both.
We have been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; and have thus practically avowed out belief in them. It was at Jordan that the Father bore witness to his well-beloved Son, and that the Holy Spirit descended apon him: hither, therefore, in the early ages men were directed to repair, that they might learn the doctrine of the Trinity. If we relinquish this doctrine, we virtually relinquish our baptism. Of this there need not be a more convincing proof than the inclination Which has been discovered by those who have renounced the doctrine, to disuse the form of baptizing in the name of the Sacred Three.
We have also professed by our baptism to embrace that great salvation which is accomplished by the united influence of the Sacred Three. We have in effect declared our acquiescence in the freeness of the Father's grace, in the all-sufficient atonement of the Son, and in the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit: for these are the principal things by which, in the New Testament account of the economy of grace, each is distinguished. Nor can we renounce them, without virtually renouncing our baptism.
The immersion of the body In water, which is a purifying element, contains a profession of our faith in' Christ, through the shedding of whose blood we are cleansed from all sin. Hence, baptism in the name of Christ is said to be for the remission of sins. Not that there is any such virtue in the element, whatever be the quantity; nor in the ceremony, though of divine appointment: but it contains a sign of the way in which we must be saved. Sin is washed away in baptism in the same sense as Christ's flesh is eaten, and his blood drank, in the Lord's supper: the sign, when rightly used, leads to the thing signified. Remission of sins'is ascribed, by Peter, not properly to baptism; but to the name in which the parties were to be baptized. Thus also Saul was directed to Wash Away His Sins, calling on The Name Of The Lord. Nearly akin to this is the idea conveyed to us in the first epistle of Peter: The long-suffering of God waited in tlfi days of Noah, while the ark was preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were Saved By Water. The like figure whereunto baptism doth Now Save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The salvation of Noah and his family by the ark was a figure of our salvation by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The ark for a time was surrounded, as it were, with waters from above, and from beneath: but it survived its trial, and those who were in it were at length brought safe to landChrist, also, for a time sustained the deluge of wrath due to our sins; but survived the trial, rising triumphantly from the dead, and thereby saved us from everlasting death. Of this great transaction baptism is a like figure. It is another sign of the same thing. The resemblance of baptism by immersion, to the death and resurrection of Christ and the suitableness of the one to signify our faith in the other, are manifest. It is thus that baptism does now save us: not as putting away the filth of the flesh; (for all the virtue contained in the ordinance itself is the anstcer of a good conscience toward God,) but as affording a sign of our salvation by the victorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And, as we are taught by our baptism to adhere to the doctrine of God our Saviour, so we are furnished with motives to adorn it by a holy conversation. Thus it is introduced in the epistles to the Romans and Colossians, as a sign of our being dead and buried to the principles and pursuits of the present world; and, by faith in Christ, raised as into a new world. The death of Christ is emphatically mentioned as that into which we are baptized—Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his Death? Therefore, we are buried with him by baptism Into Death; that like as Christ died, and was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Christ's dying for sin afforded a most powerful motive for our dying to it; and the immersion of the body in baptism, being in the likeness of the former, furnishes an additional motive to the latter.
The leading idea suggested by a death and burial seems to be that of separation from the world. There is no greater line of separation than that which is drawn between the dead and the living. The dead know not any thing; and have no portion in all that is done under the sun. Such is the line which is drawn by the