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new and spiritual birth, can be of no advantage to the person who docs not partake of the Holy Spirit's influence. The death unto sin, and new birth unto righteousness, of which the application of water is the fitting and appointed emblem, is that essential principle and vital change of nature which our Lord declares is absolutely necessary in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. Do not then deceive yourselves with the opinion that the outward form alone can ensure your salvation, unattended by the operation of the Spirit of God on the heart. This would be merely to possess the shadow without the substance; the sign without the thing signified.
2. We learn from this subject, not to undervalue or disregard baptism as an ordinance of God.
Is baptism, indeed, a divinely appointed means of imparting spiritual blessings? Then we are to regard it as a token of God's love to us and to our children, whereby we are admitted into his church, and by faith made partakers of the blessings of salvation. Think not lightly of an ordinance instituted by Christ himself, for ends so important and glorious. To the penitent believer, this holy sacrament is not only a sign and emblem of spiritual grace, but a means of communicating it, and a pledge that he assuredly receives it.
3. The subject shews us that infants are capable of regeneration.
To baptize infants, and at the same time to consider them incapable of the new birth, signified by the application of the water of baptism, would be to degrade this holy ordinance, and reduce it to a mere vain and worthless ceremony. That infants can be admitted subjects of baptism, proves them to be capable of that which baptism denotes—a renewal of the corrupt nature which every individual inherits from his parents, and the implanting of a holy principle which will in due time produce those effects which evidence the reality of the change. I trust enough has been said to prevent your supposing that all who receive the outward sign, receive also the inward grace. We have, however, sufficient reason to believe that all who die before the commission of actual sin, are through God's mercy removed from the fellowship of the church below, to the perfect communion of the church above, as the subjects of the renewing grace of the Holy Spirit.
4. Regeneration may exist where circumstances may, in some measure, prevent the manifestation of its effects and evidences.
This divine principle may be implanted in the soul of infants long before any evidence of a holy change can appear; in cases when the intellect may be too weak to understand the truths of the gospel; or, again, in some instances when the light is but very partially vouchsafed. Yet the work of God may be carried on in the soul; and when this heavenly and incorruptible seed is once sown, it will, by the power of God, spring up to perfection, and in his time be matured, notwithstanding every unfavourable circumstance which might impede its growth.
5. If any of you are conscious that you do not possess regeneration, in what manner ought I to address you?
Shall I say, regenerate yourselves? Oh, no! This work can be effected by the operation of no created power. But let me entreat you to seek the influences of the blessed and holy Spirit; repent of your sins; believe in Jesus Christ, and accept his offered salvation; obey the gospel; and so you will possess those evidences of regeneration, which will prove that you are indeed born of God, and thus become heirs of glory. But, oh! trifle not on a subject so momentous and important. Remember the words of the compassionate Saviour himself— "Except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."
Matthew xxviii. 19.
GO YE, THEREFORE, AND TEACH ALL NATIONS, BAPTIZING THEM IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON, AND OF THE HOLY GHOST.
The Christian religion possesses only two positive institutions, namely, Baptism, and the Lord's Supper. Our gracious Master, in this respect, has not laid on his disciples a burden which they are unable to bear. But it is incumbent on the members of his church, properly to understand and practise those which he has instituted. It is my intention to speak to you at present on the ordinance of Baptism.
It has been observed by an admirable commentator (Mr. Scott), that "vastly too much eagerness and acrimony have been employed in disputes on the subject of baptism; and vastly too little instruction suggested by the ordinance, and to the practical improvement which might be made to the administration of it, for the benefit of all concerned, both at the time and afterwards."
This is an important remark on the subject upon which we are entering. May we derive profit from it, and consider the ordinance of baptism in such a way as may tend to afford us instruction and edification. While we maintain our sentiments, let us take care that they are scriptural; and as many wise and holy men differ, with reference to the circumstances of baptism, in a great variety of particulars, let us support and deliver our opinions on the ordinance with moderation and candour; and let us be anxious principally to obtain those lessons of improvement which the subject is calculated to afford.
My dear and respected brethren have deputed to me the task of addressing you on the nature, subjects. and mode of baptism;* to these divisions it will be useful to add its benefits and its obligations. As these arc topics of great importance, on which Christians of different denominations, and even those of the same denomination hold conflicting opinions, I earnestly entreat, and anxiously hope, that my christian brethren of every communion, laying aside all prepossessions and prejudices, will listen to the preacher's views with attention and candour, and with an earnest desire to know and practise the truth, and the will of the Lord on this interesting and important ordinance of our holy religion. I beg to premise, that I shall say nothing on any part of my subject that I do not myself cordially believe to be consistent with scripture. In these lectures, it will be my object to present a full, though concise, outline of the subject; in order to which, I shall select, simplify, and arrange such facts, observations, and arguments, as may be necessary to elucidate it.
Christian baptism, you will observe, is that with
* These Sermons on Baptism were preached in the course of Monthly Lectures.