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faith of the operation of God, between the world renewed and the world depraved, of which baptism is the appointed sign. If, after this, we are found among evil-doers, we may well be considered and shunned as a kind of apparitions, which have no proper concerns in the affairs of mortals.
The apostle applied this reasoning against a conformity to abro*' gated ceremonies. If ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances? The same reasoning is applicable to other things. If we be dead with Christ, why, as though living, are we subject to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, which are of the world? Why are any of us conformed to this world; and not rather transformed by the renewing of our minds? If we be dead, and our life be hid with Christ in God; why are not our affections set on things above, and not on things on the earth? We cannot but express our concern, that persons professing godliness should be carried away by the course of this world, as many are; meanly imitating the ungodly, whose conduct they ought rather to reprove. Such imitation, so far as it operates, contains a virtual renunciation of our baptism. The ideas of baptism and a separation from the world, whether connected by us or not, are strongly associated in the minds of men in general. After this, we cannot unite with them in evil, without drawing upon ourselves their most pointed censures. They may labour to seduce us for the sake of comforting themselves; and while accomplishing their purpose may suppress their private thoughts of us, and even compliment us for our liberality, but if we comply, their pretended esteem will be turned into reproach. Nor ought we to consider this as an evil, but rather as a mercy. God has hereby set a hedge about us, which tends more than a little to preserve us from temptation. If any think otherwise, and feel uneasy that they cannot act like other men, without drawing upon themselves the censures of mankind, it is a dark sign that their hearts are not right in the sight of God.
Nor is this ordinance adapted merely to separate bclweeo believers and unbelievers, individually considered: its de sign is also to draw a line of distinction between the kingdom of
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Christ, and the kingdom of Satan. Whatever may be said ofbaptism, as it is now generally understood and practised, and of the personal religion of those who practise it, it was originally appointed to be the boundary of visible Christianity. This is a principle, which, if properly acted upon, would go far to prevent the confounding of the church and the world; and which, consequently, tends more than any thing of the kind to counteract ecclesiastical degeneracy and corruption. Had the Christian church in all ages admitted none to baptism, from whomsoever descended, but those who professed to repent and believe the gospel, it is scarcely conceivable that any others would have been admitted to the Lord'; supper: and if so, a stream of corruption which has actually deluged it with antichristianism, would have been diverted at the spring-head. The church might, indeed, haev been corrupted from other causes, but these would have been merely occtdental. Hypocrites and formalists might have imposed themselves upon it, as they did in some degree in the apostolic age; but they weuld hare been intruders. Whatever of this kind might have existed, believers could not have been constitutionally yoked together with unbelievers. The carnal descendants of godly people could not have claimed a place in Christ's visible kingdom. The church could not have become national, embracing as its children all who are born in a Christianized country, without any profession of personal religion. Princes and nobles, if worthy, would have been received into its communion as brethren; but not as rulers or patrons: and if unworthy, refused; even though an exposure to persecution had been the consequence. But if persons be admitted to baptism without any profession of personal religion, or upon the profession of others on their behalf, their admission to the Lord's supper will in most cases follow as a matter of course. Indeed it ought to follow: for though among evangelical dissenters, these things are separated, yet from the beginning it was not so. Neither scripture nor the practice of the ancient churches affords a single example of a baptized person, unless his conduct was grossly immoral, being ineligible to communion. And if all who are now baptized, be admitted to the supper, the line of separation will be broken; the church will no longer
be a garden enclosed; but an open wilderness, where every besst of prey canrange at pleasure. Thus, indeed, it was foretold it should be. The writer of the Apocalypse, describing the corruptions which should prevail in the visible church during the twelve hundred and sixty years' reign of antichrist, represents it under the form of the outer court of the temple being left out of the measurement as profane, and given to the Gentiles to be trodden underfoot, in like manner as the holy place and holy city had been trodden down by the heathen, in the time of Antiochus.
As the principle of believers' baptism, properly acted upon, would prevent the admission of all unconverted characters, except hypocrites and self-deceivers, so it would have its influence in repelling them. The habits of some hypocritical characters, it is true, would render it an easy thing to overleap this boundary; but it is equally true, that to others it would be an effectual bar. There are not a few in the religious world who would like well to be members of a Christian church, especially where the pastor is a man of respectability, provided they could be admitted without drawing upon themselves the laugh of the irreligious. There is reason to believe that many persons of genteel connexions, who wish to be thought religious, and whose consciences approve of believers' baptism, are withheld by this kind of shame from offering themselves to our churches. An ordinance which thus operates, possesses a mark of its pertaining to that kingdom which is not of this world, and into which it is hard for a rich man to enter.
As the leading idea suggested by a death and burial is that of separation from the world, so the principal thing denoted by a resurrection is an entrance into a new state of being. Such is that newness of life, of which the emersion of the body from the waters of baptism is a sign, and to which it furnishes an important motive. The religion of Jesus does not consist in mere negatives, it is not enough that we be dead to the world: we must be alive to God. With real Christians, old things are passed away, and all things are become new. Unless out baptism, therefore, be merely a sign, or an unmeaning ceremony, our hopes fears, sorrows, joy6, companions, principles, and pursuits, are opposite to those of this world. Even a partial return to it is inconsistent with our baptmmal rows. If those who profess to be dead to the world cannot walk in the course of it, without being considered and shunned as a kind of apparitions ; those who are alive from the dead cannot return, without resembling a living character who should take up his abode in a sepulchre.
A few general reflections will conclude this epistle.
The baptism of a number of serious Christians is an interesting and impressive spectacle. Often on such solemn occasions, have we witnessed the falling tear; not only from the parties baptized and others immediately connected with them, but from indifferent spectators. We could appeal to the consciences of many serious Christians, whether they did not receive their first convictions of the reality of religion at such opportunities? We could appeal to all of you who have been in the habit of attending the administration of this ordinance, whether it has not frequently furnished you with the most solemn and tender reflections? Has not the sight of a number of young Christians, offering themselves willingly to the Lord, touched the secret springs of holy sensibility? Yes; you have been reminded by it of your own solemn engagements and led to inquire in what manner they have been fulfilled. You Lave remembered the days of your espousals, when you first went after your Saviour as in the wilderness, and have been sweetly. impelled to renew the solemn surrender. Nor have your reflections been confined to yourselves: you have considered these newaccessions to the church of God as supplying the place of others that were taken away, and as fulfilling the promise, Instead of thy fathers, shall be thy children. When a number of dear friends and useful characters, have, one after another, been removed by death, you have been ready to ask, Who shall fill up their place > and by whom shall Jacob arise? But when others of promising gifts and graces have come forward, and yielded up themselves to the Lord in baptism, they have seemed in a manner to be baptized fir the dead. Thus, when the ranks of an army in a besieged city are thinned by repeated engagements, and the hearts of survivors are ready to f. nt, a reinforcement arrives: a body of new companions throw themselves in to its relief, and inspire them with new vigour.
Further: If the foregoing remarks be just, the importance of believers' baptism must appear in a very different light, from that in which some have represented it. If the ordinary acknowledge ments of many who live in the neglect of this ordinance, and disapprove of the zeal of others who submit to it, may be considered as expressive of their principles, their conduct is not owing to a solid conviction, arising from impartial inquiry accompanied with prayer, that it is unscriptural, or that they have already been baptized according to the institution of Christ ; but to a nation that it is of little or no account. If it be of little or no account to bind ourselves to the Lord, in the way of his own prescribing; to confess his name before men; to avow our being dead to the world, and alive to him ; to preserve the church from being constitutionally corrupted, and yoked together with unbelievers; to obey his commandments who saith, Repent, and be babtizedEvery One Of you ; and to follow his example who yielded obedience to this institute, saying, Thus it Becometh Us to fulfil all righteousness—then may this excuse be admitted. But if these things be important, then is bel ieveis' baptism important ; and all attempts to depreciate it are offensive in the sight of Him who is the Lord and lawgiver in Zion.
Finally, brethren: It becomes us to beware, lest that which is good in itself should, through the corruption of our nature, become an occasion of evil. There is, perhaps, no temptation more common among religious people, than to think too highly of themselves on account of their advantages. Where such a spirit is cherished, baptism may become an idol, and the table of the Lord itself a snare. It is more than possible that some may so value themselves on account of their baptism, as to make it a substitute for a life of holiness and universal righteousness. It appears that some among the Corinthians approached too near, at least, to this spirit. They had been baptized .... they had eaten and drunk at the table of the Lord .... yet they trifled with idolatry, and worldly lusts. / would not that ye should be ignorant, (said Paul,) how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud, and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat: