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Title: Baptism According to Scripture
Author: Hoare, Edward H.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Baptism According to Scripture" ***

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Transcribed from the 1850 Seeleys edition by David Price, email

                         ACCORDING TO SCRIPTURE.

                                * * * * *

                           BY E. H. HOARE, A.M.

                                * * * * *

                            THOU?”—LUKE X. 26.

                                * * * * *

                             SECOND EDITION.

                                * * * * *

                             LONDON: MDCCCL.

                                * * * * *


AT a Clerical Meeting in the country this Question was lately proposed
for discussion;—“What may be deduced _from Holy Scripture_ concerning
Baptism, as a Sacrament of the Christian Church?”

In order to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion, it appeared to one of
the members present to be necessary, that _every passage of Scripture
bearing upon the subject_ should be considered, and its true meaning
sought; and that care should of course be taken, that no text be so
expounded as to make it repugnant to another.  This course was
consequently pursued by him.  Each passage was examined in succession;
and though the inquiry extended much beyond his expectation, and was not
carried through without pains, yet the interest of the research more than
compensated for the labour of it.

The subject being of great importance, and more especially at the present
time, it was thought that the cause of truth would be served by the
publication of what had been written; and a request was made to that
effect.  In the hope, and with the earnest desire and prayer, that such
may be the result, the writer has consented to its publication: and as
the Church, to which it is his privilege to belong, has declared
concerning Holy Scripture, “that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may
be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be
believed as an Article of the faith,” (Art. vi.)—he feels himself fully
justified, as a Minister of the Church, in having endeavoured simply to
ascertain the sense of Scripture, in the several texts which have come
before him.

_January_, 1850.

_&c.  &c._

IT is thought by some, that baptism, or the washing of the person or
clothes, as a religious ceremony, commenced immediately after the deluge.
St. Peter certainly speaks of baptism in connection with that great
event: (1 Ep. iii. 20, 21,)—“While the ark was a preparing, wherein few,
that is, eight souls were saved by water: the like figure whereunto, even
baptism, doth also now save us.”  But, however this might be, we read of
it at an early period.  The first instance on record in Scripture of this
washing as a preparation for God’s service, is probably that which is
found in Genesis xxxv. 2.  God had said unto Jacob, “Arise, go up to
Bethel, and dwell there, and make thee an altar unto God that appeared
unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.  Then
Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away
the strange gods that are among you, _and be clean_, _and change your
garments_; and let us arise, and go up to Bethel, and I will make there
an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress.”  The
direction—“Be clean,” taken in connection with the change of their
garments, did probably, among other things, mean the washing of
themselves with water, as an emblem of the putting away of sin.  Dr.
Lightfoot understands by it Jacob’s admission of the proselytes of
Shechem and Syria into his religion by baptism; because circumcision was
become odious to them.  The cloud which God spread over the Israelites
for a covering, (Ps. cv. 39,) when they came out of Egypt, and their safe
passage through the waters of the Red Sea, appear to have had reference
to the same subject; for the Apostle Paul, in 1 Cor. x. 1, 2, thus
writes;—“Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, 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.”  Now
if they were “baptized unto Moses,” (which baptism represented and
confirmed their obligation to follow Moses as their leader, and to obey
the instructions and laws which he should give them,) much more were they
baptized and bound unto God: or rather, they were baptized and bound unto
Moses, as the minister of God and the medium of communication between God
and the people.

When the Israelites had entered the wilderness and had come to Mount
Sinai, where God intended to give them His covenant, He “said unto Moses,
Go unto the people, and sanctify them to-day and to-morrow, and let them
wash their clothes, and be ready against the third day; for the third day
the Lord will come down, in the sight of all the people, upon Mount
Sinai.” (Ex. xix. 10.)  And thus Maimonides, a great authority in the
Jewish Law, says, that ‘Israel was admitted into covenant with God in
three ways:—by circumcision, by baptism, (alluding to this command, “Let
them wash their clothes,”) and by sacrifice.’  When any of the heathen
became proselytes to the Jewish religion, and sought admission into the
Jewish church, it is said that the males were circumcised and
baptized,—the females were baptized,—and the children generally baptized
with the parents.  And on the subject of the baptism of heathen children,
Maimonides again says, that ‘if an Israelite should find a Gentile
infant, and baptize him in the name of a proselyte, behold, he is a

By the precepts relating to ceremonial pollutions, the Jews were rendered
incapable of appearing before God in the tabernacle or temple, till they
were cleansed either by bathing or sprinkling.  In the Nineteenth Chapter
of the Book of Numbers the subject is particularly dwelt upon.  When any
one was ceremonially unclean, it was enjoined, (v. 19,) that a “clean
person should sprinkle upon the unclean” (of the water of separation
before spoken of) “on the third day, and on the seventh day; and on the
seventh day he” (the unclean) was to “purify himself, and wash his
clothes and bathe himself in water,” and then he was to be “clean at
even.  But,” as it is added in the next verse, “the man that shall be
unclean, and shall not purify himself, _that soul shall be cut off from
among the congregation_, because he hath defiled the Sanctuary of the
Lord: the water of separation hath not been sprinkled upon him; he is

When Moses received directions from the Lord concerning the consecration
of Aaron and his sons, he was commanded (as we read in Ex. xxix. 4,) to
“bring them unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and wash
them with water;” and then to put the Priestly garments upon them.  In
short, by the law almost all things were purged by water, as well as by
blood;—the one having as distinct and definite a signification as the
other.  And so familiar and forcible was this figure of water among the
Jews, that many of the prophecies and promises relating to the Messiah
and the spiritual blessings to be enjoyed in the times of the gospel were
couched under it and conveyed by it.  By Isaiah it is said of Him, “So
shall He _sprinkle_ many nations.” (lii. 15.)  And by the prophet Ezekiel
the Lord saith,—“Then will I _sprinkle clean water_ upon you, and ye
shall be clean: from all your filthiness and from all your idols will I
cleanse you.  A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I
put within you.  And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to
walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them.” (xxxvi.

With this continued reference to water in connection with spiritual
things, before their eyes, the Jews were doubtless prepared for its still
farther use.  Accordingly, when John appeared as the forerunner of the
Messiah, and baptized with water all who were disposed to become his
disciples, no surprise was expressed at his doing it.  He was asked
indeed by the Priests and Levites why he baptized, when they understood
him as denying himself to be any one of those whom they expected to be
sent by God.  “If thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that
prophet, why baptizest thou?” (John i. 25.)  But this only shews that
they regarded baptism as a natural evidence of a divine mission.  Of
John’s baptism we are told by himself, that it was a baptism unto
repentance.  “I indeed,” said he, “baptize you with water unto
repentance.” (Matt. iii. 11.)  And thus, all who were baptized of him
“confessed their sins;”—confession being a necessary part of repentance.
They also asked of him instruction as to their conduct in future: and to
the different classes of his disciples he gave appropriate exhortations.
In the account of John’s baptism in Acts xix. 4., it is added, that he
“said unto the people, that they should believe on Him which should come
after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.”  Thus baptism was administered by
John _substantially_ upon the same principle which afterwards governed
the Christian Church; namely, upon a profession (taken to be sincere) of
repentance and the faith of the gospel.  For though the baptism of John
was connected with a preparatory dispensation, it was of an evangelical
and very practical character.  He exposed the folly of trusting to
outward advantages;—taught men their need of a Saviour;—and declared that
nothing would satisfy God, and be accepted of Him, but the bringing forth
of good fruit.  “Every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn
down and cast into the fire.” (Matt. iii. 10.)

When speaking of himself and of his baptism, John was naturally led to
speak of Him, to whom he came to bear witness: and he said that He also
would baptize, and in a manner to which he (John) could make no
pretension.  “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but He
that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to
bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and fire.” (Matt. iii.
11.)  Various expositions have been given of these latter expressions.
That they refer (among other meanings) to the outpouring of the Holy
Ghost on the day of Pentecost, which was accompanied with “cloven tongues
like as of fire,” sitting upon each of the Apostles, and by which they
were enabled to speak in languages they had never learned,—and to the
gift of divers kinds of tongues on other occasions, as in the case of
Cornelius and his company,—is evident from what is said upon the subject
in Acts i. 5. and xi. 15, 16.  “For John truly baptized with water; but
ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.”  “And as I
(Peter) began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the
beginning.  Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that He said,
John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy
Ghost.”  But the expressions, “with the Holy Ghost and fire,” have
probably a still more extensive signification.  No element is more subtle
and powerful than fire: changing whatever it comes in contact with into
its own nature.  Thus fire (like water and wind, both of which are also
made emblems of the Holy Spirit,) will represent the efficacy of Divine
grace; its enlightening, purifying, refining and inflaming power; and so
it forms a striking and happy contrast to that destroying fire, spoken of
in the former and the following verses.  And hereby would be fulfilled
the prophecies of Isaiah and Malachi:—“When the Lord shall have washed
away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood
of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the Spirit of judgment _and by the
Spirit of burning_.” (Is. iv. 4.)  “And the Lord, whom ye seek, shall
suddenly come to His temple: He is _like a refiner’s fire_, and like
fuller’s soap.  And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and
He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that
they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.” (Mal. iii.
1–3.)  Or, the baptism of fire, if taken in connection with the context,
would signify the desolating judgments of God upon the hardened Jews: or
it might represent the afflictions which Christ’s true followers were to
suffer.  To these He referred, when He said to the two sons of Zebedee,
“With the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized.” (Mark
x. 39.)

To the baptism of John, Jesus Himself submitted.  The reason He gave to
John for this was, “Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness:”
(Matt, iii. 15.) hereby inculcating the duty of attention to whatever God
hath commanded; and intimating His solemn entrance upon His Priestly
Office, according to the directions which God gave to Moses concerning
the washing of Aaron and his sons with water, as already referred to.
(Ex. xxix. 4.)  Occasion was also hereby afforded for the fulfilment of
the sign given to John for the discovery of the Messiah: “Upon whom thou
shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining upon Him, the same is He
which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.”  And John “saw, and bare record
that this was the Son of God.” (John i. 33, 34.)

After His own baptism by John, and His choice of the twelve Apostles,
Jesus also baptized those who became His disciples.  But _the fact
itself_ is all that is recorded.  Water was evidently used; but we are
not told any thing of the time when He began to baptize, nor of the
description of persons baptized, nor of the mode and form of His baptism,
nor of what followed after it.  We are simply informed in John iii. 22.,
as a part of the gospel-narrative, that “Jesus and His disciples came
into the land of Judea, and there He tarried with them and baptized.”
And the only farther mention of the subject is in reference to a report,
“that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,” and that Jesus
Himself did not administer the Ordinance in person, but that His
disciples (meaning probably the twelve) baptized for Him. (John iv. 1,
2.)  This is all that the Scripture says upon the subject.  _Why_ the
Lord did not baptize with His own hands, we are not informed.  It could
not have been lest any should say that He had baptized in His own name;
for men came to His baptism avowedly _as His disciples_.  But _for
obvious reasons_ He chose to employ Himself in preaching, and the twelve
in baptizing those whom He had taught: as He afterwards sent St. Paul
“not to baptize, but to preach the gospel.” (1 Cor. i. 15.)  He would
also wish to prevent _the preference_ which would doubtless have been
given to _His own_ administration of the Ordinance.

Of the baptism of the twelve disciples themselves we have no account.  As
the baptism of John was so general, it is probable that they, or the
greater number of them, had partaken of it.  Andrew, Simon Peter’s
brother, undoubtedly had.  He was one of the two of John’s disciples who
heard him say of Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God!” and who was afterwards
one of the twelve.  It probably was the case with others of them also.
But nothing is said respecting them.  Tertullian observes, that with
regard to them,—(the twelve)—“the peculiar privilege of the first
accession to discipleship, and of the individual familiarity to which
they were admitted with Him, had power to confer on them _the compendium_
of baptism;” the sum and substance of it.

No other mention is made of baptism by the Evangelists, until we come to
the Commission which the Lord gave to His Apostles after His resurrection
from the dead, except in one passage, which occurs in the report of His
memorable conversation with Nicodemus, the Jewish ruler, contained in the
Third Chapter of the Gospel according to St. John.  Nicodemus having come
to Jesus with the avowed desire to be instructed by Him, as “a teacher
come from God,” “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say
unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
(v. 3.)  Nicodemus expresses his surprise at this saying, and asks, “How
can a man be born when he is old?”—evidently shewing that he did not at
all comprehend its meaning.  Upon which the Lord repeats the
asseveration, with some addition to it: “Jesus answered, Verily, verily,
I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he
cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (v. 5.)  In this instance, as in
every other, our endeavour shall be, to ascertain what the words of
Scripture do really and simply mean.  If there had been no intention on
the part of Christ to make baptism with water an Ordinance of His Church
or Kingdom upon earth, the expressions, “born of water and of the
Spirit,” might still have been used by Him with great propriety; as John
the Baptist had previously used the words, “He shall baptize you _with
the Holy Ghost and fire_:” water being, as well as fire, an appropriate
and beautiful emblem of the Holy Spirit.  If the “cloven tongues like as
of fire,” had _not_ rested upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, the
words of the Baptist, just referred to, had yet been strikingly
applicable to the operations of the Holy Ghost; and the figure would have
lost none of its force and fitness.  Water too, in like manner, might
have been connected by Christ with the mention of the Spirit, because of
the similarity between their effects.  But inasmuch as Christ Himself had
been baptized, and was about to continue baptism in His Church, (not only
during His personal Ministry upon earth, but when, after His return to
Heaven, His gospel should be preached among all nations,) and as John’s
baptism had been so general, and had drawn so much attention to the
subject,—it is reasonable to conclude, that when Jesus spake to Nicodemus
of a man’s being “born of water,” He meant his being baptized; and it is
probable that Nicodemus, who knew well that baptism had been already used
in the admission of proselytes into the Jewish Church, at once so
understood His words.  For, if not _altogether figurative_, some specific
act must have been meant; and what could this be, but baptism?  No
explanation, therefore, was given to Nicodemus of the terms, “born of
water,” because none was needed.  Having begun, in v. 3, to speak of _a
__birth_, the Lord Jesus continues the same idea, and applies it to the
other subject which He wished to introduce, namely, baptism.  And this is
not the only instance of the use of such phraseology: for, when arguing
with the Sadducees about the raising of the dead, He says of the just,
that they are “_the children of God_;”—and then, carrying on the idea, He
calls them, “_the children of the resurrection_.” (Luke xx. 36.)  To be
“born of water,” then, is to be baptized with water; and this, together
with being “born of the Spirit,” Christ declares to be necessary to an
entrance into “the kingdom of God.”  By “the Kingdom of God” is here
meant the Visible Church of Christ upon earth; the members of which are
therein prepared for the state of eternal glory in Heaven.  This shows us
of what characters Christ designed His Visible Church to consist; namely,
of those who are born of the Spirit, and baptized with water.  And thus
the true Church of Christ may well be described as ‘_A Congregation of
faithful men_, in the which the pure word of God is preached, and the
Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s Ordinance.’  (Article
XIX. of the Church of England.)  Christ would have His Church a Visible
Body, that it might be “The Pillar and Ground of the truth;”—to maintain
the truth and to hold it forth to the world.  As there had been before
His coming, so it was meet that there should continue to be, an
associated and authorized Body of God’s Worshippers and Witnesses, to
which additions might from time to time be made of “such as should be
saved,” (Acts ii. 47.), and by which Christ’s religion might be spread
abroad and propagated.  Into this Body ‘faithful men,’ or those who are
“born again,” are incorporated by baptism.  And it is of this spiritual
kingdom, which “is not of this world,” that Christ speaks in the verse we
are now considering.  The Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven, has
sometimes in Scripture a more extensive signification, and includes both
good and bad,—the true Israel and those “which say they are Jews and are
not.”  Since man cannot know the heart of his fellow-man, he must accept
his profession, where it is not contradicted by plain and palpable
evidence: and hence it comes to pass, that ‘in the Visible Church the
evil will be mingled with the good.’  (Article XXVI.)  But Christ, the
Great Head of the Church, does not acknowledge the evil as belonging to
Him, or as having any right to a place in His Church or kingdom.  Where
has He ever prescribed or demanded or allowed _a merely external
profession and service_?  What did He say to those who were satisfied
with this?  “_Ye hypocrites_, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth and honoureth me with
their lips, but their heart is far from me!” (Matt. xv. 7, 8.)  And if
this spiritual service, this service of the heart, was required of _the
Jews_, and evidently symbolized by their distinguishing Ordinance of
circumcision, and if _they_ were branded by the Lord as “hypocrites” who
did not pay it,—no wonder that it should be designed and required by the
Gospel!  Otherwise, Christ would be the minister of hypocrisy, formality,
and sin!  But He Himself has told us, that He soweth _good seed_ only in
His field; and that it is His enemy who sows _the tares_. (Matt. xiii.
37, 38.)  The wicked and such as be void of a lively faith, and all who
“have a form of godliness but denying the power thereof,” are considered
as _intruders_ into the Church of Christ, and as such will be dealt with
by Him at the last.  This was God’s complaint of His Church of
old:—“Among my people are found wicked men!” (Jer. v. 26.)  And He
remonstrates with such characters for professing that they knew Him,
while their conduct was inconsistent with their profession.  “Unto the
wicked God saith, What hast thou to do that thou shouldest take my
covenant in thy mouth?” (Ps. l. 16.)  And the Lord Jesus saith the same
to such like persons.  “Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things
which I say?” (Luke vi. 46.)  “Friend, how camest thou in hither, not
having a wedding garment?” (Matt, xxii. 12.)  And He declares that in the
last day He “will profess unto them, I never knew you.” (Matt, vii. 23.)
He calls them “goats,” not “sheep;” though while on earth they find
admittance into His fold. (Matt. xxv. 33.)  Of such is _not_ the kingdom
of God.  The Kingdom of God, or ‘the Visible Church of Christ, is _a
Congregation of faithful men_.’  Now, to enter into this kingdom, or,
which is the same thing, to be an ostensible member of this spiritual
Society, a man must be “born of water and of the Spirit.”  No one can be
a _real_ and _recognised_ member of Christ’s Church on earth, except he
be baptized and born of the Spirit.  The necessity of being “born of the
Spirit” in order to our becoming the subjects of Christ’s kingdom is
shown by Him in what immediately follows.  “That which is born of the
flesh is flesh:”—(v. 6.) that which proceeds from and is produced by
carnal and corrupt nature is carnal and corrupt also.  Hence the
necessity of a great and thorough change.  “Ye _must_ be _born again_.”
(v. 7.)  Of this change the Holy Spirit is—to keep up the idea introduced
by Christ—the Parent or Father.  And as that which generates, generates
its like, so “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit:” in other
words,—the abstract being here used by Christ for the concrete, (and by
its use He more strongly expresses the reality of what might justly be
called _a birth_ and the communication of _an entirely new nature_,)—he
that partakes of this birth of the Spirit is thereby made a spiritual
man, whereas before he was a carnal and corrupt man.  And since Christ
came (as we have seen) to set up a spiritual kingdom, (for “the kingdom
of God is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost;”) (Rom.
xiv. 17,) none can _really_ belong to this kingdom, except spiritual
persons.  And to this agrees what the Lord said on another occasion;
“Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as
a little child, _he shall not enter therein_.” (Mark x. 15.)  And if not
real members of His Kingdom on earth, we shall certainly not enter into
His Kingdom of glory.  But to be _recognised_ as well as _real_ members
of His Church, or subjects of His kingdom, we must be “born of water,” or
baptized.  This is Christ’s appointed Ordinance.  He ordained the use of
it in His Church, while He was present with His disciples, and He
subsequently enjoined the same in the case of all who should believe His
gospel.  Baptism with water, therefore, is not to be omitted, wherever it
may be had.  And, surely, the reason which Jesus Himself gave to John for
seeking this Ordinance, ought to influence those who desire to be
numbered among His friends and followers: “Thus it becometh us to fulfil
all righteousness!”

But while these two things, baptism and the birth of the Spirit, are
declared by Christ to be necessary to a certain end,—namely, an entrance
into the Kingdom of God, or Visible Church of Christ upon earth,—there is
not the slightest intimation given by Him that they are _necessarily_
connected with each other.  Not a word is said by Him from which we can
deduce this.  Two things are often required for a definite purpose;—two
witnesses, for instance, to prove a fact;—an invitation and a
wedding-garment to entitle any one to be a guest at a marriage-feast;—but
these may be quite independent of one another.  It cannot be pretended
that _one thing only_ is spoken of by Christ.  The birth of the Spirit is
twice mentioned by itself, and once in connection with baptism by water.
Baptism, then, and the birth of Spirit are clearly not identical,—not one
and the same thing.  And _their necessary connection_ is neither here,
nor any where else in Scripture, asserted.  It is a statement, not
supported by a tittle of evidence; but, on the other hand, contradicted
by express testimonies of Scripture, and by very general experience.  The
putting of these two things together in one sentence is surely no proof
of their necessary connection.  Had the two been necessarily
connected,—had baptism been the appointed channel for the conveyance of
the Spirit, Christ would undoubtedly have said so.  Or rather, it would
have been sufficient for Him to have said, “Except a man _be baptized_,
he cannot enter into the kingdom of God;” and He certainly would not have
omitted the mention of baptism, as He did omit it, in His first solemn
asseveration to Nicodemus.  The necessity of _the birth of the Spirit_
was evidently what Jesus wished to enforce upon His inquirer.  This
therefore was the _first_ thing spoken of by Him.  In His second address
He introduces water-baptism; as this would serve to make the spiritual
subject clearer, and because He would show that baptism was henceforth to
be the token of the Covenant: but how Nicodemus was to conclude from the
manner in which it was mentioned, that water was to be the means of
communicating the new birth, or that the two things were always to be
found together, it is not easy to imagine.  Especially as in the very
same address he was told, that, in giving the new birth, the Holy Spirit
acts as “the wind _blowing where it listeth_.”  Now baptism must always
be administered _at a specific time_; but is this the case with the
blowing of the wind?  Did Christ then use an inappropriate metaphor?  He
plainly tells Nicodemus, that as “a master of Israel” he ought to have
understood what He was speaking of.  But what is there in the Old
Testament from which Nicodemus could have learned the necessary
connection of the new birth with any outward Ordinance?  Was the
circumcision of the heart always connected with the circumcision of the
flesh?  Had not the Lord, in the time of Moses, bidden the people of
Israel to “circumcise the foreskin of their hearts”? (Deut. x. 16.)  And
had He not said of them by Jeremiah, “All the house of Israel are
uncircumcised in the heart”? (ix. 26.)  _This_ was the doctrine to which
Nicodemus had been accustomed:—_the necessity_ of both the outward and
the inward circumcision, but _not_ their necessary connection with each
other.  So likewise with the new birth and baptism.

And as Scripture is, and must be, consistent with Scripture, let the
latter part of Christ’s address to Nicodemus be compared with His
subsequent directions concerning baptism, and compared also with the
writings of His Apostles, and it will be seen, that _faith in Him_, which
He so frequently mentions as leading to salvation, _is that with which
the birth of the Spirit is connected_, and that _this faith is invariably
required before the administration of the Ordinance to any_.  How then
can baptism with water convey the birth of the Spirit, unless Christ and
His Apostles be at issue with each other, and the order of things, which
He Himself appointed in His Church, be inverted?  St. John expressly
declares in his Gospel, (i. 12, 13.) that “as many as received Him,
(Jesus Christ) to them _gave He power to become the sons of God_, even
_to them that believe on His name_; which were born, not of blood, nor of
the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”  And in his
First Epistle, (v. 1.)  “_Whosoever believeth_ that Jesus is the Christ
_is born of God_.”  And the order which Christ intended for the
administration of baptism by His Apostles was thus laid down for
them;—“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”  And they acted
accordingly.  No statement was ever more capable of proof than this, that
the birth of the Spirit may be without baptism, and baptism without the
birth of the Spirit.  Can any doubt, that the penitent thief on the cross
was “born of the Spirit,” who yet was not baptized?  Can any venture to
affirm, that Simon Magus, though baptized, was “born of the Spirit”?  Did
not Peter tell him, that he “had neither part nor lot in the matter, for
his heart was not right in the sight of God”?  Man must not put asunder
what God hath joined together; but neither must he of his own authority
join together what God hath left asunder.  We cannot be in manifested
communion with the Church of Christ, if we wilfully neglect the Ordinance
which He appointed for His disciples; but we may be baptized, or “born of
water” and so be in professed communion with His Church, as Simon Magus
was, and yet be, like him, void of a lively faith and the inspiration of
Christ’s Spirit.  As it has been well observed upon this subject; ‘It
would violate the principles of common sense and confound all specific
modes of instruction, to call that _a birth_ at which nothing was born,
and that person _new-born_ whose moral principles had received no
change.’ {20}  The notion of an initial act—of the communication of
something in baptism, which may never be perceived, and never produce any
holy fruit,—has no sanction from Sacred Scripture.  Our Lord here says
nothing like it.  He speaks of _a second birth_,—_a new existence_,—and
that of a spiritual nature.  “_That which is born of the Spirit is
spirit_” (v. 6.)  The language is the same as that which describes a
man’s own entrance into this world of life and activity.  And His
Apostles, when writing of this spiritual birth, always ascribe to it
perceptible and powerful effects.  “We know,” writes St. John, (1 Ep. v.
18,) “that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten
of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not.”  And
again, (v. 4,) “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.”  And
again, (iii. 10,) “_In this_ the children of God _are manifest_, and the
children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God.”
But if the birth of the Spirit, by which men are made the children of
God, necessarily accompany baptism, they may be at one and the same time
the children of God and the children of the devil!  They may be the
children of God, as being born of His Spirit in baptism, and they may be
“manifested” to be the children of the devil by committing sin; for
thousands who have been baptized never show the least spiritual
disposition, but live and die under the dominion of iniquity!  But it is
said, ‘The Spirit was given to them, and they lost it:—they were God’s
children, but they ceased to be such.’  Can _that_, with a shadow of
reason, be said to have been _lost_, of the possession of which there
never was the slightest evidence?  Can _that_, with any propriety, be
said to _cease_, which, if the statement of the Apostle is to be the
standard of judgment, never began?  “In this,” says St. John, “the
children of God _are manifest_.”  Of thousands who have been baptized it
may be asked, when were they _manifested_ to be the children of God?  And
the answer of truth must be, _Never_.  They _never_ did
righteousness:—they _always_ committed sin.  They were never therefore
“born of God:”—they never partook of the birth of the Spirit.  “They went
out from us,” St. John says again of some who had been nominal members of
the Christian Church, “they went out from us, but they were not of us;
for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us.”
(1 Ep. ii. 19.)  The only _seminal_ principle of grace which the
Scripture recognizes, is that, which this same Apostle speaks of; (iii.
9.)  “Whosoever is born of God _doth not commit sin_, _for his seed
remaineth in him_; _and he cannot sin_, _because he is born of God_.”
This is in perfect harmony with Christ’s words to Nicodemus;—“The wind
bloweth where it listeth, and _thou hearest the sound thereof_:” thou
knowest that it is blowing by the effects which it produces: “_so_ is
every one who is born of the Spirit.” (v. 8.)  But to believe that “the
wind bloweth,” when a leaf is not shaken, nor the slightest murmur in the
air heard, is so contradictory to the evidence of the senses, that after
this we might believe anything.  Transubstantiation itself need not be
rejected by us.  Why not believe a _material_ as well as a _moral_
change, if the exercise of the understanding and of the senses is to be
excluded?  Nay, transubstantiation has a greater show of
Scripture-authority in its favour.  Christ _did say_ of the bread and
wine, “This is my Body;” “This is my Blood:” but He never said, “Every
one who is born of water is born also of the Holy Spirit.”  The uniform
tenor of His teaching was, that men’s profession and principles and
privileges should be tried by their practical effects.  “By their fruits
ye shall know them.” (Matt. vii. 20.)  And as transubstantiation might as
well be believed, as that every baptized person is necessarily “born of
the Spirit,” so, to claim the power of absolutely setting God on work to
new-create the soul in baptism, is little short of the presumption of the
Church of Rome, which asserts the power of her priests to turn the bread
and wine in the Sacrament of the Supper into Christ’s real Body and
Blood!  It would _not_ then be true, (as declared in John i. 13,) that
“the sons of God we born, _not of the will of man_;” for baptism is
administered _at the will of man_;—whensoever and to whomsoever he

The next thing to be noticed in Scripture in connection with this
subject, is _the Charge or Commission_ which the Lord Jesus gave to His
Apostles after His resurrection from the dead and before His ascension
into Heaven.  In Matt, xxviii. 19., we find the Lord saying to the
Eleven, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations;”—or, as it is in the
margin, “make disciples of all nations;”—“baptizing them in the name of
the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to
observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”  In Mark xvi. 15,
16., the Commission to the Eleven is thus given; “And He said unto them,
Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.  He
that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not
shall be damned.”  Now in both these passages the same course is
prescribed, which had been previously adopted by Christ Himself and by
His forerunner, John the Baptist.  They (Christ and John) first made
disciples; and then baptized them, in token of their being disciples.
And the Apostles were to do the same.  They were first to preach the
gospel, and then, when any believed it,—or, as God only knoweth the
hearts, (for the discerning of spirits was not possessed by _all_ who
preached the gospel, and does not appear to have been exercised in
ordinary ministrations,) when any professed to believe it, without giving
cause for a suspicion of insincerity, they were to baptize them; and when
the profession was sincere, the promise of salvation was _assured_ unto
them.  And according to these directions the Apostles and other preachers
of the gospel acted.  The Jews had hitherto been the peculiar people and
Church of God.  But this state of things was to last no longer.  The
gospel was certainly to be _first_ preached to the Jews, but not to be
confined to them.  It was to be preached “to every creature.”—All nations
were to hear the glad tidings of salvation by Jesus Christ, and to be
called to “the obedience of faith.”  “Repentance and remission of sins
were to be preached in Christ’s name among all nations.”  _The teaching_,
then, which preceded baptism, and by which disciples were made to Christ,
was _the preaching of the gospel_.  (Of this we have a direct proof in
Acts xiv. 21.  “And when they (Paul and Barnabas) _had preached the
gospel to that city and had taught many_;”—or, as the latter word
properly signifies, “had brought many to the faith of Christ and made
them His disciples.”)  And when the gospel was believed, the Sacrament of
baptism was to be administered, and then farther instruction to be given
in all things which Christ willed that His disciples should do.  For thus
continuing baptism as the outward and visible token of believing upon
Him, the Lord Jesus gave no reason.  The Ordinance, in fact, spake for
itself.  The design of Christ’s death being to “redeem from all iniquity,
and to purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works,”
what outward rite could more suitably be enjoined upon those who became
His disciples, than the washing with pure water?  As we have seen
already, every proselyte to the Jews’ religion from among the heathen was
washed, or baptized, as well as circumcised.  In founding the New
Testament Church, which was to consist of some of all nations on equal
terms with the Jews, the Lord lays aside the distinguishing Ordinance of
the Old Testament Church,—circumcision,—and retains that which was _its
appendage_ in the case of Gentile converts, namely, baptism.  And how
delightfully consonant with the character of the New Dispensation was
this proceeding!  Instead of the painful and bloody rite of circumcision,
water only is used;—pleasant and refreshing; and moreover, still more
significant: for while circumcision conveyed only the _negative_ idea of
the putting away of sin, baptism includes both the removal of uncleanness
and the production of its opposite state of purity.  In the Commission,
then, which the Lord gave to His Apostles, we notice these two
things:—first, the universal proclamation to be made of the gospel; and
secondly, the limitation of baptism to those who should believe it.  No
mention is made of the manner in which baptism was to be administered,
(of _the form of words_ we shall speak presently) nor is there any
distinction of country, condition, sex or age.  Every one who should be
willing to give in his name to Christ and to be saved by Him, was to
partake of the rite of baptism.  And this seems the proper place for the
remark, that as the use of water was thus made common to both
Dispensations, and as no new directions were given, the Apostles would
naturally be led to pursue the course which had previously prevailed with
respect to the baptism of proselytes to the Jews’ religion.  These
proselytes had been worshippers of idols, and were therefore to be washed
or baptized, in token of their putting away of their idolatry and its
accompanying impurities.  Proselytes to Christ—from all but the Jewish
people—would be of the same description.  Circumcision was to cease, and
baptism with water alone to be retained, and to be applied alike to Jews
and Gentiles.  Why then should not the same course be pursued as
heretofore?  If the children of proselytes had been for the most part
baptized with their parents, why should not the same be continued?—The
children of believing Jews had received circumcision when eight days old,
as the token of the Covenant.  Why should the children of those Jews who
believed in Christ,—in whom that very Covenant was confirmed, of which
circumcision was the token,—why should the children of these believing
Jews not have the token of the Covenant, as well as the children of their
believing forefathers?  The Covenant is one and the same.  “The Lord said
to Abraham, I will establish my Covenant between me and thee and thy seed
after thee, in their generations, for an everlasting Covenant, to be a
God unto thee and to thy seed after thee.  And I will give unto thee, and
to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, for an
everlasting possession.” (Gen. xvii. 7, 8.)  These promises were made to
Abraham, as “the father of all them that should believe.”  The first
thing here promised is, that “the Lord would be a God unto Abraham and
his seed.” {27}  And do not the words of Christ, when He commanded His
Apostles to baptize those who should become His disciples, _convey the
same idea_?—“baptizing them in, or into the name of the Father, and of
the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”?  What is this but a declaration, that
the Triune Jehovah should be their God?  The other part of the promise
is, that “Canaan” should be their “everlasting possession.”  This by St.
Paul is called a “promise, that he should be the heir of the
world:”—which chiefly meant, that he and his true seed should inherit
Heaven.  And does not St. Paul _decide the question_ as to the
continuance of Abraham’s Covenant by asserting, that believers in Christ
are heirs of Heaven _in virtue of this very promise made to Abraham_?
“If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to
the promise.” (Gal. iii. 29.)  The Covenant being thus the same, were
children not to be brought into the blessings and the bond of it, _simply
because the token of it was changed_?  If (as it has been often observed
on this subject) the Lord had been pleased to continue the original token
of the Covenant made with Abraham, and had commanded His Apostles and
Ministers to circumcise, in the place of baptizing, all who should
embrace His gospel, would they not have continued the practice of the
Jewish Church, and have circumcised the children of all believing
parents?  How much rather then, when He saith, Wash; simply baptize with
water;—it is my will, that this mild but significant element and emblem
be henceforth exclusively used in my Church!  And having been hitherto
used in the admission of Gentile proselytes into the Jewish Church, it
forms a connection with the Covenant made with Abraham, _more manifest_
than any new Ordinance could possibly have done.  Therefore there was no
need of any directions respecting the baptism of infants, as this would
naturally follow upon the continuance of the Abrahamic Covenant.  Nay,
after all that had taken place, if Christ had not intended that the
children of believers should partake of this Sacrament, as well as the
parents, a prohibition to this effect would have been needed.  But
nothing of the kind was given.  On the contrary, (to pass on for a moment
to another portion of Scripture,) the very first day on which the
Apostles began to execute the Commission which Christ had given them,
Peter said to those who expressed a desire to become Christ’s disciples,
“_The promise is unto you and to your children_.” (Acts ii. 39.)  This
certainly did not look like an intention of excluding children from
sharing with their parents in the Ordinances of the Church of God!

It has been stated, that some farther notice would be taken of _the form
of words_ to be used in the administration of baptism.  Whether the Lord
Jesus meant, that the precise form, “In the name of the Father, and of
the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” should invariably be employed, may admit
of a question.  Baptized persons were doubtless dedicated to the service
of the glorious and blessed Trinity.  They were baptized _into_ the name
of the Triune God.  But it cannot be certainly proved, that the Lord
Jesus intended that these very words should be used on each occasion.
And it is remarkable, that in the subsequent account of instances of
baptism in The Acts of the Apostles, it is called “being baptized in the
name of the Lord Jesus.”  Irenæus observes, that this might be the
putting of a part for the whole, and that so it would be generally
understood.  The safest course has, however, been taken in the Christian
Church by the retention of _the precise form_ found in the Commission
given by Christ to His Apostles; and no objection can be justly brought
against it.

This is all that is found in The Gospels, _directly_ applicable to the
Sacrament of Baptism.

But there is a circumstance recorded in three of them, which cannot be
overlooked in connection with the subject of the administration of
baptism to children;—though baptism itself is not mentioned in it.  St.
Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke, relate the bringing of little children
or infants, or both, either by their parents or others interested for
them, to Christ, “that He should put His hands on them and pray for
them.”  The disciples, unwilling probably that their Master should be
troubled with such an application, “rebuked those who brought them: but
when Jesus saw it, He was much displeased” with the disciples, “and said
unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them
not; for of such is the kingdom of God.  Verily I say unto you, Whosoever
shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not
enter therein.  And He took them up in His arms, put His hands upon them,
and blessed them.” (Mark x. 13–16.)  What doubtless increased Christ’s
displeasure at the conduct of His disciples was their evident
forgetfulness of what had passed a short time before; when, a dispute
having arisen among them who should be the greatest, He set a child in
the midst of them and proposed him as a pattern of humility, unto which
He declared all the subjects of His kingdom must be conformed.  With
respect to the children thus brought to Christ, He only acted in His
usual benevolent manner, when He complied with the request made of Him
concerning them.  He was asked to “put His hands on them and to
pray,”—that is, for a blessing to rest upon them.  This therefore He did.
The word “blessed”—He “blessed them”—is the same with that used by
Himself in His sermon on the Mount: “bless them that curse you:”—the
meaning of which is, ‘Pray that blessings may come upon those who call
down curses upon you.’  And when Jesus blessed the children which were
brought to Him, He commended them by prayer to the compassion and favour
of His heavenly Father.  This is all that we can legitimately conclude
from what is here said.  Jesus manifested the same kindness of heart
towards the rich young ruler, mentioned immediately afterwards; when
“beholding him, He loved him;” though this object of His love went away
from Him, and there is every reason to fear that his riches proved the
cause of his ruin.  The same disposition of benevolence which led the
Lord Jesus to pray for the children that were brought to Him, led Him
also to pray for His murderers; for while hanging on the cross, He cried,
“Father, forgive them.”  But, were all that were engaged in putting Him
to death really forgiven?  Did not many of them continue in impenitence
and unbelief?  Undoubtedly they did.  It is impossible, therefore, to
conclude _absolutely_ that even these children which were brought to
Christ were _eternally saved_, whatever _hope_ and charitable opinion may
be entertained on the subject.  But He farther said respecting them,—“Of
such is the kingdom of God.”  What then did He mean by this declaration?
It is to be observed, that this was said by Jesus of these children, _not
after_ they had been brought to Him and blessed by Him, but _before_ they
were so brought, and _as the reason why they should be brought to Him_:
“For of such is the kingdom of God.”  Now it is evident that Christ does
not say this of children as they are _by nature_.  He Himself had before
described the heart of man, that is, the nature of man, as full of all
evil.  (See Mark vii. 26.)  And though these children might have been
circumcised, yet _this_ does not appear to have been contemplated by
Christ when He spake of them: and we know from what St. Paul says, as
well as from other Scriptures, that the outward circumcision was by no
means always accompanied with the circumcision of the heart.  Nor does
there appear to have been anything _peculiar_ in this case, to which
Christ’s observations were confined.  If so, _we_ should have nothing
whatever to do with it.  It seems to be of children, _as children_, that
He here speaks;—not of _children brought to Him_, (as already noticed)
but of _children in general_: “Of such is the kingdom of God.”  These
words, _strictly taken_, would intimate, that they were in the kingdom of
God already; for He does not say this of them _after_ that they had been
blessed by Him, but He says it of them _before_.  It was not, therefore,
_His reception of them_ which caused Him to speak thus concerning them.
The true view of the subject seems to be this;—that, while the whole
transaction wears a kind and gracious aspect toward man’s helpless
offspring, Jesus had special regard in it to _the dispositions found in
children_;—for by reason of infantile weakness corruption is then unable
to manifest itself, and all appears to be gentleness and
loveliness;—pride and malice and such like evils being necessarily
absent, and humility and lowliness and dependance and such like tempers
being by the same necessity present.  So that it was with regard to
_these_, rather than to _the subjects of them_, that Jesus said, “Of such
is the kingdom of God.”  This view harmonizes exactly with what He said
in immediate connection with the words we are considering: “Verily, I say
unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as _a little
child_, he shall not enter therein.”  The great object of the Lord
evidently was, to set forth children, both as to what is _not_ seen in
them, and what _is_ found in their meek, passive, harmless, submissive,
and dependant state, as the pattern for His disciples’ imitation;—as, in
fact, the exhibition of what must be found in every one, who would be a
real subject of His kingdom.  And that it was of _the age of infancy or
childhood_, and not of the persons of the children themselves, that
Christ was here speaking, is confirmed by a reference to the circumstance
already mentioned, which is related by St. Matthew, in the beginning of
the eighteenth Chapter, and which had occurred not long before the
bringing of the children to Him.  “The disciples came unto Jesus, saying,
Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?  And Jesus called a little
child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily, I say
unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as _little children_, ye
shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  Whosoever therefore shall
humble himself as this little child,”—that is, so as to be as this little
child is,—“the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”  Now it cannot
be supposed, that this child was selected by Christ as having any
peculiar excellency in him.  _Any child_ would doubtless have served His
purpose:—the child of a Gentile as well as of a Jew.  Neither _the
nature_ of the child, nor _the state of the child’s soul in the sight of
God_, had any thing to do with the use which the Lord here makes of him.
It was _the state of childhood_ that Christ evidently had respect unto,
and this He makes the model of His disciples.  Just as David had
said,—“My soul is even as _a weaned child_;” and as St. Paul afterwards
wrote to the Corinthians,—“In malice be ye _children_.”  And if farther
evidence that this was Christ’s meaning be needed, it is found in the
transition which He, as it were, insensibly makes from the “little
children” to “believers in Him;” “_those little ones_,” (the word used by
Him being changed,) “_those little ones_,” He calls them, “_which believe
in me_;”—evidently referring to such as regard themselves to be the
meanest and most humble of His disciples.  With respect to children
themselves, personally considered, the words of Christ seem only to
convey a general expression of good will toward them,—to be understood
and applied in conformity with other declarations of the Inspired Word.
As to the bearing of this whole passage upon _baptism_, it is impossible
to prove by it the connection of the new birth with baptism, or indeed
anything about baptism at all;—except that it affords great encouragement
to godly parents to bring their children to this Ordinance, and in it to
present and dedicate them to the Lord their God.  If we attempt to force
the application of the passage, it may be turned against ourselves, and
used as an argument for doing without the baptism of children altogether:
for Christ does not say anything about the baptism of the children
brought to Him, although baptism was then in use among His disciples.
His silence respecting it is no valid argument against it; but it
prevents the possibility of proving anything _absolutely_ as to the
effect of baptism from this occurrence.  In truth, the circumstances of
the cases must be analogous, before _any_ application can fairly be made
of it.  Children must not be brought in gross ignorance and utter
carelessness to be baptized, that they may receive their name from a
minister, or for some other merely temporal object, without any regard to
Christ or His grace, and this be said to correspond with what was done
for the children in the history before us.  This is to profane Christ’s
Sacrament; and shall the profanation of it be attended with a blessing?
No wonder that baptized children show no benefit from their baptism, when
it has really not been a bringing of them to Christ at all:—Christ having
never been thought of from first to last.  If an appeal be made to the
supposed efficacy of _the Ordinance itself_, then this passage has
nothing to do with the subject.  Other Scriptures must be resorted to,
wherein reference _is_ made to baptism.  From what was done and said on
this occasion, believing parents, anxious for the salvation of their
children, may draw much encouragement to bring them to Christ in baptism,
and to pray and hope for a blessing, in connection with the subsequent
use of means for their spiritual good: and they who act thus, comply much
more with His mind and spirit, than those who withhold their children
from the Ordinance.  But no absolute and unconditional benefit in baptism
can by any fair process of reasoning be deduced from it.

                                * * * * *

We proceed, then, to examine the passages in ‘The Acts of the Apostles,’
which relate to the subject of Baptism; and we shall there see the
directions which Christ gave them concerning it carried into effect.

No sooner had the Apostles begun to execute their important Commission by
preaching the gospel on the day of Pentecost, than God gave testimony to
their word by convincing many of sin, especially of the sin of
“crucifying the Lord of glory;” and they “said unto Peter and to the rest
of the Apostles,” (as we read in Acts ii. 37,) “Men and brethren, what
shall we do?”  To this Peter answered, “Repent, and be baptized every one
of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye
shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.  For the promise is unto you
and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the
Lord our God shall call.”  In this exhortation, the principle enjoined by
Christ upon the Apostles is found.  Repentance and faith are first
required.  For the expressions, “Be baptized _in the name of Jesus
Christ_,” do certainly mean, “Make an open profession of your believing
in Jesus Christ, by being baptized in His name.”  That this is their
meaning there can be no doubt, when we consider what is said immediately
afterwards: (v. 41.) “Then _they that gladly received his word_” (and how
is the word received but by faith?  See 1 Thess. ii. 13,) “were baptized;
and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.
And they continued stedfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship,
and in breaking of bread and in prayers.”  Here, then, things were as
Christ intended them to be.  They who were convinced of sin ask what they
shall do—that is, to be saved.  They are told to repent, and openly to
confess Christ—that is, that they believed in Him as the Saviour—by being
baptized.  And they are assured, that upon doing _these things_—(the
whole exhortation being taken together) they should receive “remission of
their sins” and “the gift of the Holy Ghost.”  They gladly received the
word preached to them; and they were then baptized; and while their
baptism was a public profession of repentance and faith on their part, it
would doubtless be a means of grace to them, and a seal and pledge on
God’s part of the forgiveness of their sins and of His good-will and
favour towards them.  And this was the right and legitimate use of the

The next instance recorded in The Acts of the Apostles is that of the
people of Samaria, to whom Philip went and preached Christ, (viii. 5.)
They had for a long time been bewitched with the sorceries of a certain
man, called Simon; but, it is added, “when they believed Philip,
preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus
Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.”  The same order is seen
here, as at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.  They first _believe_, and
then _are baptized_.  But now a very different case presents itself to
us.  Simon, the sorcerer himself, is said also to have believed and been
baptized, and to have “continued with Philip,” (having of course ceased
from his sorceries) “and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which
were done” by him.  Some think, that by pretending to be Philip’s
disciple Simon hoped to be able to do the same; for that his opinion of
Philip was, that he was but a more skilful sorcerer than himself.  It
appears that the Holy Ghost—by which the extraordinary gifts of the
Spirit, the ability to speak divers languages and such like, are
undoubtedly meant,—had not fallen upon any of the people of Samaria at
their baptism, but was reserved to be bestowed in answer to the prayers
of the Apostles and by the imposition of their hands.  For “when the
Apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God,
they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed
for them that they might receive the Holy Ghost: then laid they their
hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.” (v. 14, 15.)  The
effect of this gift must have been immediately perceptible by others; for
it led to that bold and blasphemous offer of money by Simon to the
Apostles, which betrayed the hypocrisy, and pride, and wickedness of his
heart.  “When Simon saw, that through laying on of the Apostles’ hands
the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also
this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy
Ghost.” (v. 18, 19.)  Peter’s indignant reply to him proves, that, though
he had been baptized, he was in heart a sorcerer still.  “The dog had
turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed, to her
wallowing in the mire.” (2 Peter ii. 22.)  No change whatever had taken
place in his character.  And no change seems to have taken place in him
afterwards; if we may judge from what he said to the Apostles.  For when
Peter denounced the just judgment of God against him, and declared that
he “had neither part nor lot in the matter,” there was no sign of real
penitence in his expressions.  He deprecated the judgment indeed, and
asked the Apostles to pray for him that it might not come upon him.
“Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have
spoken come upon me.” (v, 24.)  But even Pharaoh went farther than this.
He said to Moses and Aaron, “Intreat the Lord, that He may take away this
death from me;” but he also added, “I have sinned:” “I am wicked:”—a
confession, which Simon never made; for it is to be feared that the
conviction of it he never felt.  And his case incontestably proves, that
professions and Ordinances avail nothing, unless the “heart” be also
“right in the sight of God.”

In this same Chapter we have an account of the baptism of the Ethiopian
Eunuch.  As far as his knowledge reached, this interesting person was a
sincere and devout worshipper of the true God: but, as in the case of
Cornelius afterwards, it was necessary that he should be brought to the
clear and full knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Philip therefore
is sent to instruct him, and is gladly received by him as his teacher.
Philip, taking as his text the place of Scripture which he found the
Eunuch reading, “preached unto him Jesus.”  And his word was mixed with
faith in him that heard it.  And coming to a certain water, the Eunuch,
having learned what was the rite of initiation which Christ had
appointed, was anxious to take this opportunity of being openly received
into the number of His disciples; and he therefore asked Philip, “What
doth hinder me to be baptized?”  Our Authorized Version has a reply from
Philip and a confession of faith by the Eunuch, which are not found in
many very ancient Manuscripts.  Beza says of this verse, “God forbid I
should think it ought to be expunged, since it contains such a confession
of faith, as was in the Apostolic ages required of adults, in order to
their being admitted to baptism.”  But whether it be genuine or not, is
of no material consequence.  Christ had confined baptism to believers, in
His instructions to His Apostles; and this verse only repeats the
limitation.  “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayst” be
baptized.  And as for the confession of faith attributed to the Eunuch,
it is plain that he was prepared and willing to make it.  “I believe that
Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”  Both he and Philip then went down into
the water, and Philip baptized him.  In what manner, we are not told; nor
do even the expressions, “into the water,” decide whether it was by
immersion or the pouring or sprinkling of some of the water on his
person.  If the mode of administration had been essential to the validity
of the Sacrament, no doubt it would have been mentioned.  But neither
here nor any where else is this the case.  The Eunuch, then, having thus
received the grace of the Covenant and the seal of the Covenant,
confirmed too by the sign of Philip’s miraculous removal from him,—“went
on his way rejoicing.” (v. 39.)

In the next Chapter, the ninth, we have an account of the conversion and
baptism of Saul of Tarsus.  The Lord Jesus appeared to him as he went to
Damascus to persecute the disciples which might be found there: and Saul,
having fallen to the ground and being told that that same Jesus whom he
persecuted stood before him, exclaimed with all humility and entire
submission, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”  One of the most
astonishing instances of a sudden change of mind on record!  The Lord
then bade Saul “arise” from the earth, in order that he might hear what
more He had to say to him.  And well might Saul be overwhelmed by the
communication which the Lord Jesus proceeds to make to him!  In the
account given in this ninth Chapter, it is briefly stated that the Lord
commanded him to “go into the city,” (Damascus) and that “it should be
told him what he must do.”  This no doubt was a part of His
communication.  But by a reference to the account of this transaction
given by himself before Agrippa, as recorded in the xxvith Chapter of
this Book, it appears that the Lord made known to Saul _at that very
time_ much of His mind and will concerning him; and that He said to him,
“I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a Minister and
a Witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things
in the which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people and
from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to
turn them from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God,
that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them
which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” (v. 16–18)  After this,
Saul went into Damascus, and was three days without sight or food.
Ananias was then sent to him by the Lord Jesus; and having put his hands
upon him that he might receive his sight, and having repeated to him the
Commission which Jesus had in person given to him, said, (as we read in
the account of this event given in the xxiind Chapter,) “And now why
tarriest thou?  Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling
on the name of the Lord.”  And he “arose, and was baptized.”  This
address of Ananias to Saul, taken by itself, would seem to connect the
forgiveness or putting away of sin with the act of baptism.  But were not
Saul’s sins forgiven before his baptism?  And did he not know that they
were forgiven?  Suppose a subject to have a very mistaken view of his
Sovereign’s title to the crown, and an ignorant but very fervid zeal for
some other.  Suppose him not to have taken due pains to correct his
error, and to be at the same time under the influence of much
high-mindedness and self-confidence.  He takes up arms against his
Prince, and for a season is very successful in his efforts.  But suddenly
he finds himself in his power:—and at the same time his eyes are
opened;—and he is convinced of the mistake which he had made, and of the
delusion under which he had been acting.  He now casts himself at his
Sovereign’s feet, and professes his willingness to be at his absolute
disposal for the future.  Suppose the generous Monarch to reply;—‘I know
that thou wast engaged in a blind and unequal contest with me: (“it is
hard for thee to kick against the pricks:”) but I am come to tell thee,
that I have appointed thee my Ambassador Extraordinary and
Plenipotentiary, and am about to send thee forth to a distant kingdom,
there to transact for me some difficult and important business, in which
my honour and interest and the interest of my subjects are greatly
concerned: (“For I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee
a Minister and a Witness of these things which thou hast seen:”) I will
from time to time communicate most confidentially with thee: (“and of
those things in the which I will appear unto thee:”) all my authority and
power shall be put forth for thy personal preservation: (“delivering thee
from the people and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee:”) and
nothing shall be wanting on my part to make thine Ambassage successful.’
(“to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light and from
the power of Satan unto God, &c.”)  Would this subject, after such a
communication and commission,—delivered too by his Prince in person—have
any doubt on his mind respecting the pardon of his rebellion?  He might
for a few days retire into secret, to reflect on his case;—to consider
the evil of his own conduct, and the noble and generous manner in which
he had been treated, when he might justly have been dealt with in a very
different way.  But his preferment of necessity involved his pardon and
his full and complete establishment in his Sovereign’s favour.  How could
he, in the very nature of things, execute the Commission given to him, if
he were to be put to death for his treason?  Nevertheless, it might be
very expedient, that a public manifestation should be made to the kingdom
of this change in the state of things: for the Prince’s visit to his
subject was in secret, though not the least suspicion could attach to the
truth and sincerity of it.  A public Ceremony might, therefore, take
place, at which his own change of mind and his Sovereign’s pardon might
be proclaimed, and his sealed Commission delivered into his hands:—but
this, however important, would follow the previous interview as a matter
of course.  What has thus been _supposed_ was more than fulfilled in the
case of Saul of Tarsus: for no communication among men could equal the
condescension and grace of the Lord Jesus towards him and the confidence
which He reposed in him.  And the manner in which Ananias spake to Saul
of his baptism seems to convey the last-mentioned idea; namely, that,
however necessary, it was to take place as a matter of course.  “_And now
why tarriest thou_?  _Arise_, _and be baptized_, _and wash away thy
sins_, _calling on the name of the Lord_.”  This washing away of his sins
in baptism was a mystical or emblematical washing.  It was a public
manifestation of his penitence and his pardon.  It was on his part an
open avowal of submission to Christ; and on the part of the Lord Jesus
Christ it was an equally open avowal of the acceptance of his submission,
and a seal of his sonship and security.  Hereby his faith would be
confirmed, and his grace increased by virtue of “calling on the name of
the Lord.”  But how could this confirmation and increase take place,
unless faith and grace had been possessed by him previously?

The baptism of Cornelius and his company, recorded in Chapter x., is the
next instance we meet with in Scripture of the administration of this
Sacrament of the Christian Church.  This case is remarkable as being the
first-fruits of the Gentiles unto Christ.  Peter—to whom Christ had given
“the keys of the kingdom of Heaven,” (Matt. xvi. 19,) that is, the high
privilege of opening the door of faith both to the Jews and to the
Gentiles,—was sent by God to preach the gospel to this Roman Centurion.
His objections, as a Jew, to go unto one of another nation having been
removed by a vision, Peter went to the house of Cornelius, where he found
him and his kinsmen and near friends assembled together to receive and to
hear him.  He faithfully preached Christ unto them: and while he spake
those important words, “To Him give all the prophets witness, that,
through His name, whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of
sins,” “the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.”  Under the
influence of the Spirit they “spake with tongues, and magnified God.
Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be
baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?  And he
commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.”  (43–47.)  In the
case of the people of Samaria, the Holy Ghost was not given when they
were baptized, but _some time after_;—when the Apostles Peter and John,
came down from Jerusalem and laid their hands upon them.  In the case of
Cornelius and his friends, the same Holy Spirit was given before their
baptism, and while Peter was preaching the gospel to them.  Thus it was
not always _at_ the administration of the Ordinance that the Holy Ghost
was given.  And though the immediate effect of this gift of the Spirit
was manifested in the power to speak with tongues and to prophesy, yet it
also enabled and disposed them to “magnify God:” thereby showing, that
His ordinary sanctifying operations were included.  Well then might
Cornelius and they who were with him receive the outward and visible sign
of baptism by water, since they had already received the thing signified
by it!

In Chapter xvi., two very interesting cases are recorded, which are
worthy of particular attention.  They occurred at Philippi, in Macedonia;
to which country St. Paul and his company had been called by a vision to
preach the gospel there.  The first of these is the case of a woman named
Lydia.  In the 13th and 14th verses the sacred historian writes; “And on
the Sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was
wont to be made; and we spake unto the women which resorted thither.  And
a certain woman, named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of
Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened,
that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.”  In
consequence of the opening of her heart by the Lord, she heard to her
soul’s profit.  She received the gospel which Paul preached.  We are then
told concerning her, that “she was baptized, and her household.”  And her
faith brought forth fruit: for she immediately invited the Apostle and
those who were with him, to come and abide at her house; and she would
not take a denial.  They therefore abode with her many days.  Another
case then occurred, which served to show why they had been called to
preach the gospel in Macedonia.  Paul and Silas having been thrown into
prison for casting a spirit of divination out of a certain damsel, the
Lord sent a great earthquake at midnight, which opened the doors of the
prison, and awoke the jailor; who, fearing that the prisoners had fled,
drew his sword and was about to kill himself; when Paul assured him that
they were all there.  Upon this, “he sprang in, and fell down before Paul
and Silas, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  Paul and Silas
immediately preached the gospel to him, saying, “Believe on the Lord
Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”  They then at
greater length “spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were
in his house.”  The same success attended the word, as in the case of
Lydia.  And his faith, like her’s, wrought by love; for he immediately
began to show all the attention in his power to Paul and Silas.  And as
Lydia was baptized, and her household, so it is said that the jailor “was
baptized, he and all his, straightway.”  Now it is evident, that in the
baptizing of the two principal persons in this history, Lydia and the
jailor, the same course was pursued by the Apostle as in all the other
instances which have been considered.  They first believed in the Lord
Jesus Christ, and then they were baptized.  But a new feature presents
itself on both these occasions; that is, the baptizing of their
households.  And hence has been drawn a very common argument in favour of
the baptizing of children; as it has been thought _probable_ that
children formed a part of these households.  Beside these cases, there
are only two other, in which the house or family is spoken of in the New
Testament in connection with the head of the house,—the house of Crispus
and the house of Stephanas; and though it is taking them out of their
order, it may be well to notice them also here.  Let us consider first
the case of the jailor.  It is said that “he was baptized, and all
his,”—that is, “all his house;” to whom, as well as to himself, Paul and
Silas had “spoken the word of the Lord.”  But if we are told that _they
were baptized_, we are also told that _they believed_.  In the 34th verse
we read, that the jailor “rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.”
In order to force this case to support Infant-baptism, an attempt is
sometimes made to change the construction of the sentence, _thus_; “He,
believing in God, rejoiced with all his house.”  This makes very little
difference in the meaning.  For if his house were capable of rejoicing
with him, they must have been of a sufficient age to understand _why_
they rejoiced: and as his faith in Christ was the cause of _his_ joy, it
must have been also the cause of _theirs_; and if they could rejoice in
_his_ faith, why might they not have had faith _of their own_ to rejoice
in?  But the Greek will not admit of the above construction.  The adverb
translated “with all his house” must be referred to the participle
“believing,” which in the Original follows it; and these words express
the reason of his joy, which was, his own faith and the faith of his
family.  Beza gives _this_ as the sense of the latter part of the 34th
verse; “He,” that is, the jailor, “rejoiced because that with the whole
of his house he had believed in God.” {50}  _As believers_, therefore,—of
whomsoever his “house” consisted—they were entitled to baptism _on their
own account_, and thus they stood precisely in the same situation with
himself.  And _no inference_ can _hence_ be drawn respecting
Infant-baptism.  Of Crispus, the chief ruler of the Synagogue at Corinth,
mentioned in the xviiith Chapter, it is at once said that he “believed on
the Lord with all his house;” and though their baptism is not
particularly spoken of, it would of course take place with the baptism of
the other believing Corinthians.  From St. Paul’s First Epistle to the
Corinthians we learn that he himself baptized Crispus;—no mention being
made of his household: but as we are informed that they were _believers_,
they would certainly be baptized, like the household of the Philippian
jailor.  This case, therefore, does not apply to the subject of
Infant-baptism.  Neither does the baptizing of the house of Stephanas.
St. Paul tells the Corinthians, in the beginning of his First Epistle,
that he baptized this house: but what does he say of them at the close of
the Epistle?  “Ye know,” he says, “the house of Stephanas, that it is
_the first fruits of Achaia_, _and that they have addicted themselves to
the ministry of the saints_:” (xvi. 15.)—a description this, of _personal
religion_; and proving that they were _all_ capable of meeting the
requirements of baptism _in their own persons_.  The only remaining case
in which a household is said to have been baptized, is that of Lydia at
Philippi.  Now it seems evident from her history that she had no husband.
The house is twice called _her house_; and _the household_ is called
_hers_ also.  And the invitation to Paul and his company is given _by
herself and in her own name_.  “Come into _my house_, and abide there.”
(v. 15.)  This language could never have been used of her and by her, if
she had had a husband.  Nor does it appear at all likely, that she was a
widow with children; for, from the particularity with which her
circumstances are related, there is every probability that, had this been
the case, some intimation would have been given of it.  We have not only
_her name_ mentioned, but _the place_ she came from or still belonged to,
and _the business_ which she followed: but no allusion whatever to any
family.  She could not have been a person in a low condition of life, or
she would not have been able to receive and entertain in her house for
many days the Apostle and those who were with him.  She would therefore
have “household servants,” and probably persons to assist her in her
business as “a seller of purple.”  But the whole tenor of her history is
against the supposition, that there were in her house _any who could not
answer for themselves_.  It appears, then, from the consideration of the
cases in which the baptizing of households is mentioned in Scripture,
that no argument whatever can be deduced from them on the subject of
Infant-baptism.  A reference to them, therefore, only gives an advantage
to the opponents of the practice:—an argument which will not bear close
examination being always worse than none.

The xviiith Chapter of this Book of The Acts of the Apostles contains the
account of Crispus and his house just referred to.  It is also simply,
though very strikingly, said of many others of the Corinthians, that they
“heard,”—they “believed,”—and they “were baptized.” (v. 8.)  Faith came
by hearing; and baptism, according to the institution of Christ, followed

There only remains, in this Book of The Acts of the Apostles, another
instance of baptism to be noticed; and this occurred at Ephesus.  It is
related in the beginning of the nineteenth Chapter.  “Paul came to
Ephesus, and finding certain disciples, he said unto them, have ye
received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?  And they said unto him, We
have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.”  We are
reminded here of that passage in the Seventh Chapter of St. John, (v.
39.) where the Evangelist, referring to some words of the Lord Jesus,
says, “This spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him
should”—that is, afterwards—“receive;”—adding, “for the Holy Ghost was
not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified.”  The literal
translation of the latter part of this text is, “for the Holy Ghost was
not yet:”—from which it would appear, that at that time there was no Holy
Ghost; and therefore that the ignorance of His existence, of which the
disciples at Ephesus seem to speak, was not so much to be wondered at.
But the solution of the difficulty is probably the same in both cases.
When St. John says, “For the Holy Ghost was not yet, because that Jesus
was not yet glorified,” his meaning is made plain by the very proper
introduction into our translation of the word “given;”—“for the Holy
Ghost was not yet given.”  This evidently refers to the extraordinary and
abundant pouring out of the Holy Spirit, which was reserved until Jesus
had ascended up on high, and (according to the prophecy in the lxviiith
Psalm) had “received gifts for men;” and when He received them, He shed
them forth, first upon His Apostles on the day of Pentecost, and
afterwards upon multitudes of believers, generally by the laying on of
their hands.  But the disciples at Ephesus had not heard of these things.
They had had no communication with any Christian Church or people; and
thus, though they had been baptized with the baptism of John, as they
tell the Apostle Paul in answer to his next question, “Unto what then
were ye baptized?”—and _must_ therefore have heard of the existence of
the Holy Ghost, yet they had not heard of His having been given; and they
express their ignorance in language very like to that which the
Evangelist uses, when he is describing the period before the gift of the
Spirit on the day of Pentecost.  This seems a reasonable account of the
matter.  And if the same course had been pursued in the translation of
both texts, the likeness between them would have been very evident.  In
the passage in St. John the explanatory word “given” is introduced.  In
the Chapter before us, not only is this or any such word omitted, but the
word “any” is added,—“_any_ Holy Ghost,” without a word in the Original
to justify it.  The literal rendering would be; “We have not even heard
whether the Holy Ghost is.”  Now if the word “given,” or “come,” were
added, as in St. John, the two passages would exactly correspond:—“The
Holy Ghost was not yet given:”—“We have not even heard whether the Holy
Ghost is given.”  These persons had probably not been long at Ephesus,
but might have been (as Dr. Whitby suggests) “travelling into other parts
of the world, where the gospel had not yet been planted.”  But a question
has arisen, whether what is said in the fifth verse relates to _them_, or
whether it is not a continuation of St. Paul’s description of John’s
baptism, begun in the verse before.  “When they heard this, they were
baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.”  The objection to the
application of this to the twelve disciples found at Ephesus is, that it
involves a repetition of the Ordinance of baptism.  But though John’s
baptism and the Christian Sacrament were administered _substantially_
upon the same principles, there was a sufficient difference between them
to warrant the baptizing again, in the name of the Sacred Trinity, of
those who might already have partaken of John’s baptism.  The baptism of
John was connected with an intermediate, or, at most, an introductory
dispensation.  It was, what the Apostle says of the tabernacle,—“for the
time then present.”  But after that Christ had appointed baptism “in the
name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” as the door
of entrance into His Church for believers, there was no reason why such
as had been baptized with John’s baptism should not be admitted to
Christ’s Ordinance also, if occasion seemed to require it.  And indeed
St. Paul’s question, “Unto what then were ye baptized?” seems to
recognize a distinction of baptisms.  But no argument whatever can be
founded upon this case for the repetition of baptism _under the same
Dispensation_.  To suppose that the words in the 5th verse are a
continuation of St. Paul’s description of John’s baptism, would be
inconsistent with the natural course of the narrative; and to say that
John “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus,” would be to speak of his
baptism as it is no where else spoken of.  Beside, the persons on whom
St. Paul laid his hands, as stated in the 6th verse, were the disciples
found at Ephesus, and not the people in general who were baptized by
John.  So that it appears that what is said in the 5th verse relates to
these disciples.  Their knowledge was very limited; but they had the
characteristic dispositions of disciples,—humility and teachableness; and
thus, when they were farther instructed by St. Paul in the things
concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, they, no doubt with the greatest
willingness, were baptized in His name.  And then as in the case of
Samaria, “when the Apostle had laid his hands upon them,” (but not
before,) “the Holy Ghost came on them, and they spake with tongues and

This is all that is said on the subject of baptism, as a Sacrament of the
Christian Church, in the Scripture-history of The Acts of the Apostles.

                                * * * * *

                     We come, then, to The Epistles.

The first passage we meet with on our subject is in the sixth Chapter of
the Epistle to the Romans.  St. Paul, the writer of this Epistle, had
been dwelling, in the former Chapters, upon the great gospel-doctrine of
salvation by grace through faith.  He had declared, that “a man is
justified by faith without the deeds of the law;” (iii. 28,) that in this
way Abraham was justified; (iv. 3,) and that in this way every one else
must be justified: (iv. 24,) and in the latter part of the fifth Chapter
he had spoken strongly of God’s grace much more abounding where man’s sin
abounded.  The Apostle, then in the beginning of the sixth Chapter
anticipates an abuse which might be made of this doctrine, and corrects
it.  “What shall we say then?  Shall we continue in sin,” in order “that
grace may abound?  God forbid!”  Abhorred be the thought!  And he
proceeds to reason upon this; and to show, not only its _incongruity_,
but (in a sense which other Scriptures allow) its _impossibility_:—“How
shall _we_ that _are dead_ to sin, _live_ any longer therein?”  And then
he brings in the subject of their baptism.  “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 was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we
also should walk in newness of life.” (v. 3, 4.)  After what we have seen
already of baptism, as administered by the Apostles and others, we can be
at no loss to perceive the meaning of St. Paul’s expression, “baptized
into Christ.”  According to His own command, all who believed in Him were
baptized; and this act or Ordinance was their open avowal of faith in
Him,—their public and palpable engrafting and incorporation into Him and
His Church,—and their solemn dedication and consecration to the love,
worship, and service of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. {57}
Their baptism into Christ, consequent upon, and declarative of, their
faith in Him, publicly and manifestly bound them unto Him;—to strict and
spiritual conformity with Him.  And thus the Apostle goes on to remind
those who had been “baptized into Christ,”—for the Epistle was addressed
to those at Rome who were “beloved of God and called to be saints,” and
whose “faith was spoken of throughout the whole world,” (i. 7, 8,)—that
they were “baptized into His death;” that is, into conformity to His
death; that in virtue of His dying for their sins, and after the pattern
of this His death, and by motives and considerations drawn from His
death, they should die to all sin and be delivered from the reigning
power of it.  ‘The faithful,’ observes Beza on this expression, ‘are said
to be baptized into the death of Christ, that through His death sin may
die and be abolished in them.’  And to carry this conformity still
farther, St. Paul adds, “Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into
death.”  For as Christ’s burial was a manifestation of the reality of His
death, so ought it to be also with them respecting sin.  It was likewise
an introduction to, and preparation for, His glorious resurrection.  And
thus the Apostle proceeds with his exhortation;—“that like as Christ was
raised from the dead by the glory (the glorious power) of the Father,
even so we also (we who are baptized into Him) should walk in newness of
life.”  And in the following verses—indeed to the end of the Chapter—St.
Paul presses the Roman Christians to devotedness to God’s service, in
language the most forcible which could have been made use of.  Here then
we see what baptism is, in the case of real believers: and it is of such
alone that the Apostle here speaks.  The obligations which result from it
to righteousness and holiness are of the strongest possible description.
And these obligations have their influence upon the faithful; though that
influence is capable of a continued increase.  How different is this from
a service which is “outward” only “in the flesh!”

The expressions, “buried with Christ by baptism” and “walking in newness
of life” “after the pattern of His resurrection,” seem to imply, that the
method of baptizing was by immersion, or plunging the whole body under
water, from which it would come forth as by a kind of resurrection.  That
baptism _has been_ thus administered, and _may be_ thus administered, is
freely admitted.  But this is _no proof_ that such was the unvarying
method, and certainly _no precept_ that it shall always be administered
in this way.  It may, however, with much reason be argued, that the
expressions, “baptized into His death,”—“buried with Him,”—and “walking
in newness of life” like unto His resurrection,—were not used by the
Apostle with any reference to _the mode of administration_, but to _the
events spoken of_; namely, Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.
Christians are said to have been “circumcised in Christ,” and to be
“crucified with Him,” without any outward corresponding actions.  But if
an argument for _immersion_ may be drawn from this passage, an argument
for _affusion_, or the pouring of water upon the person, may with greater
force be drawn from the manner in which the Holy Ghost descended upon
Christ Himself at His baptism, and upon the Apostles on the day of
Pentecost, and subsequently upon others who were baptized, and from the
language used to describe it.  When Peter preached to Cornelius, it is
said, “The Holy Ghost _fell on_ all them that heard the word:” and again,
“On the Gentiles also _was poured out_ the gift of the Holy Ghost.”  This
is expressly called by St. Peter, their being “baptized with the Holy
Ghost.” (Acts xi. 15, 16.)  An argument might also be drawn for the
practice of _sprinkling_, not only from the striking similarity between
baptism and the water of separation which was to be sprinkled upon the
unclean, (Numb. xix. 19.,) but from the connection between the water of
baptism and the blood of Christ, of which, as well as of the Holy Spirit,
this water is an emblem, and which is called “the blood of sprinkling”
from the method of its application to the heart.  From all these things,
and from the absence of any specific directions on the subject, it is
reasonable to conclude, that baptism may be rightly administered in each
of the _three_ ways which have been mentioned.  And it is too much like
an undue magnifying of _the sign_, when it is attempted to make it in all
respects answerable to the thing signified by it.

This is the only passage _directly_ relating to baptism in the Epistle to
the Romans.

But there is a statement of the Apostle in the eleventh Chapter, which
not only confirms what has been already said of the continuance of the
Covenant with Abraham under the Christian Dispensation, but which also
bears strongly upon the subject of the right of the children of believing
parents to the token of the Covenant, together with their parents.  The
passage particularly referred to is the 24th verse of the eleventh
Chapter.  “For if thou wert cut out of the olive-tree which is wild by
nature, and wert grafted contrary to nature into a good olive-tree, how
much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be grafted into
_their own olive-tree_!”  The Apostle is here comparing the admission of
the Gentiles into the Church of God, to the cutting off of branches from
a wild olive and the grafting of them into a good olive; the good olive
being the ancient church, planted, as it were, in the person of believing
Abraham.  ‘In the view of St. Paul, the establishment of the Christian
Church was no dissolution of the Jewish Church.  It is the same Society
still;—the same Body Corporate.  Some of its rules and regulations,
indeed, have been altered: a disfranchisement of many of its old members
has taken place, and new ones have been admitted: but the same
Church,—the same Chartered Company,—which existed _before the Law and
under the Law_, exists to this present hour under the Gospel
Dispensation.  It is still Abraham’s family.  He is “the father of all
them that believe.”  “If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and
heirs according to the promise.” {61}  When, therefore, any of the Jews
“abide not in unbelief,” and are received into the Church of Christ, it
is but “the grafting of the natural branches into _their own
olive-tree_.”  They are restored to the privileges which their fathers
enjoyed, and are made members of the Church of God.  But are their
children to be left behind?  Are they to be left out of the Covenant?
And is this, might a converted Israelite justly ask,—Is this to be
restored to our fathers’ privileges?  “Circumcision was not of the law,
but of the fathers.”  _That_ is taken away; and what have we in its
place, if baptism, which is now the token of the covenant, be withheld
from our children?  If circumcision was our children’s birthright before,
how can they be deprived of it, and have nothing given them in the stead
thereof, and yet the privileges possessed by our fathers not be lessened?
This is _not_ to be “grafted into _our own olive-tree_”!

In the first Chapter of his first Epistle to the Corinthians, St. Paul
speaks of baptism; but as it is principally with a reference to himself,
it is scarcely necessary to notice it in our present
consideration,—except for the statement he is led to make of the great
object of his mission; which was “_not_ to baptize, but to preach the
gospel:” the latter being the far more important and difficult work;
necessary as it was that converts to Christ should be baptized.
Divisions had arisen among the Corinthians: “one saying, I am of
Paul,”—that is, I prefer Paul before all other Ministers, and others of
them preferring others.  This state of things caused the Apostle great
distress, and he anxiously endeavours to correct it.  He indignantly asks
them, whether he (or any other Minister) had been “crucified for them,”
or whether they had been “baptized _in his name_.”  This shows that
baptism implies an entire dedication to him, in whose name it is
administered.  The Apostle then tells them, that he was very thankful it
had been so ordered that he had baptized very few of them
himself;—adding, as the cause of this, “for Christ sent me not to
baptize,”—_that_ might be done by others,—“but”—He sent me—“to preach the
gospel.”  The Apostle here cannot intend to put any slight upon Christ’s
Ordinance of baptism, as is evident from what he has just said of it,
“_Were ye baptized in the name of Paul_?”—but he intends to show, that it
might be administered by persons of inferior station and gifts in the
Church.  And this is manifest from the very nature of the service.

In the viith Chapter of this Epistle and the 14th verse there is a text,
in which (as with respect to the children brought to Christ that He
should touch them) baptism is not mentioned, and yet it has so decided a
bearing upon the subject, that we cannot but carefully notice it.  St.
Paul is speaking of the case of married persons, when one party believed,
while the other believed not.  This he says is not a sufficient reason
for their separation: at least the separation should not be made by the
one that believed.  And to satisfy the mind of the believing “brother or
sister” that the children did not suffer, he says,—“For the unbelieving
husband is sanctified by (or in) the wife, and the unbelieving wife is
sanctified by (or in) the husband; _else were your children unclean_,
_but now are they holy_.”  It is with the latter part of this verse that
we have to do.  The Apostle here declares that children, which have one
believing parent, are on equal terms or in the same condition with
children, both of whose parents are believers; and thus they are said to
be not “_unclean_” but “_holy_.”  Now, can there be a doubt, that the
Apostle uses these epithets “unclean” and “holy,” in the same sense in
which they were used in reference to the distinction between the Jews and
the Gentiles?  The latter were called “unclean,” because of their
idolatries and other abominations; the former were called “holy,” because
of their connection and Covenant with God.  When the Apostle Peter was
sent to preach the gospel to Cornelius, he applied this word “unclean” to
all who were not Jews.  “Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a
man that is a Jew, to keep company or come unto _one of another nation_;
but God hath showed me that I should not call any man common or
_unclean_.”  And the people of Israel are repeatedly called “holy to the
Lord,” because of the Lord’s choice of them and Covenant with them.
“Thou art _a holy people_ unto the Lord thy God,” was the language in
which Moses addressed them. (Deut, vii. 6).  And in this description
their children were included: for God’s Covenant with Israel embraced
them also; and thus every man-child, when eight days old, was to receive
circumcision, which was the token of the Covenant.  From these things we
may learn the meaning of the Apostle in the passage under consideration.
The _uncleanness_ of the Gentiles was a barrier against their
participating in the Ordinances of the Jewish Church.  The _holiness_ of
Israel was their title to those Ordinances; and this too in the case of
their children.  Surely, then, when the Apostle says to believing
Christian parents, “Your children are _holy_,” he must mean that they are
entitled to the Ordinances of the Church of Christ!  It seems impossible,
if St. Paul’s language has any meaning, to avoid _this_ conclusion,—that
_the children of the faithful_, _as soon as they are born_, _have a
Covenant-holiness_, _and so a right and title to baptism_, _which is now
the token of the Covenant_.  Their holiness, that is, their being in
covenant with God, does not date from their _baptism_, but from their
_birth_. {65}  To every believing parent God may be supposed to say, as
He said to Abraham, “I will establish my Covenant between me and thee and
thy seed after thee, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.”
Much profit ariseth from this connection, if it be made a right use of.
Baptism, like circumcision, verily profiteth, if the baptized child keep
the law—the requisition which God makes of faith and obedience; but if he
be a breaker of the law, his baptism is made no baptism at all; as
circumcision was in such a case made uncircumcision.  (See Rom. ii. 25.)
And let it be farther observed from this text, that it is of _real
believers_ and their children that the Apostle speaks when he says,—“Now
are your children _holy_.”  Hence it appears, that the faith of the
parents is the foundation of any children’s claim to baptism.
“_Unclean_” is the description which is given of all others.

The only other passage in this Epistle in which baptism is referred to,
as a Christian Sacrament, is the 13th verse of the xiith Chapter:—“For by
one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or
Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink
into one Spirit.”  St. Paul may here allude to baptism in the former part
of the verse, and to the cup in the Lord’s Supper in the latter part of
it.  But whatever he may _allude to_, what he _asserts_ is this;—that it
was the baptism of the Holy Spirit which made them real members of
Christ’s mystical body.  The baptism of water was the sign of this; but
the sign would have profited them little, if they had not received also
the thing signified.  The same may be said of the cup in the Lord’s
Supper.  It is for the nourishment of those who are real members of the
Church of Christ by the baptism of the Spirit: in fact, it cannot
possibly nourish any other.  The essential unity of all baptized
believers, and yet the diversity of Offices and gifts belonging to the
several constituent parts or members of Christ’s Church, seems to be what
the Apostle is here inculcating upon the Corinthians; and this with the
special design to show them the inconsistency and the evil of their
emulations and divisions.  He aimed at curing them of their unseemly
strife, by reminding them that one and the same Holy Spirit had made them
all “members of one body,” but had set those members in their several and
suitable places; so that each should be content with the place assigned
him; and without aspiring to something which had not been given him, or
envying those who might be in a higher or a supposed more honourable
state, should use what he had for the common good,—for the strengthening
and well-being of the whole: “_that there should be_,” as he says in the
25th verse, “_no schism in the body_, _but that the members should have
the same care one for another_.”

The Epistle to the Galatians furnishes us with the next passage in our
important inquiry.  It is at the close of the iiird Chapter, the 26th and
two following verses:—“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.  There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither bond nor
free; there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ
Jesus.”  Here a new idea is introduced;—a fresh practical use is made by
the Apostle of the Ordinance of baptism.  And a very striking and
beautiful idea it is.  The order hitherto invariably found to prevail in
what the Scripture says on the subject of baptism is observable also
here.  The Apostle first reminds the Galatians that _they were made the
children of God by faith in Christ Jesus_, and then he refers to their
baptism and what they had done by it.  As we have considered the
expressions, “baptized into Christ,” as they occur in the Epistle to the
Romans, they need not be noticed here.  But the words, “have put on
Christ,” represent to us—what in connection with our subject we have not
had before—the clothing or garments which baptized believers have put on,
and in which they appear (when things are as they ought to be with them)
both before God and before men.  This phrase is said to have been taken
from the method of dipping or plunging adults in baptism; who, when they
came forth from the water, were clothed with their own garments as though
they had been new, or with other garments really new.  There are two
senses in which true believers may be said to “put on Christ.”  First,
they put Him on as their righteousness for acceptance with God or for
their justification; and, secondly, they put Him on—(and this seems
especially intended here)—for sanctification; that is, His Spirit is
imparted to them, by which they are so changed as to become new
creatures.  The graces of Christ’s Spirit are sometimes thus described
under the figure of clothing.  “Put on, as the elect of God, holy and
beloved,” writes St. Paul to the Colossians, “bowels of mercies,
kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering.”  “And above all
these things, put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.” (iii.
12, 14.)  The Spirit of Christ ought to be as apparent in those who have
been baptized into Him as the garments which they wear.  Nay, His
meekness, and lowliness, and gentleness, and goodness, and
heavenly-mindedness, should become _a part of themselves_—_their very
nature_.  For as the work of sanctification, expressed by the being
clothed upon with ‘Christ, is both _internal_ and _outward_, it may be
compared to _the natural beauty_ with which Christ Himself said that God
clothes the plants and the flowers: and when Christians manifest the
genuine influence of the Spirit of Christ, it may then indeed be said of
them, as He said of the lilies, “that Solomon in all his glory was not
arrayed like one of these.”  The words in the 28th verse, “There is
neither male nor female,”—connected with what follows, “If ye be
Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed,”—clearly show that circumcision was
superseded, and that baptism now supplied its place.

Upon St. Paul’s declaration in the ivth Chapter of his Epistle to the
Ephesians, “One baptism,” it is perhaps only necessary to remark, that it
again follows faith;—“One faith,”—the same doctrine of salvation once for
all delivered to the saints and to be received by faith,—and then, “One
baptism” with water, by which that faith is professed, and in which
believers are by One Spirit baptized into One body, and dedicated to the
service of the One living and true God.  It is One and the same Ordinance
for all,—for Jews and Gentiles; and once administered, not to be
repeated.  The practical purpose for which this, with the other Unities,
was mentioned by the Apostle, was to enforce the same lesson as that
given to the Corinthians,—that Christians should “endeavour to keep the
unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (v. 3.)

In the vth Chapter of this Epistle there appears another allusion to
baptism, when the Apostle says, that “Christ loved the Church, and gave
Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of
water by the word.” (v. 26.)  It is not necessary to the sense and force
of this verse to suppose that baptism is referred to in it; for the word
of God has a cleansing and sanctifying power, when applied by His Spirit.
“Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth;” was Christ’s prayer
for His disciples to His heavenly Father.  And He also said unto them,
“Now ye are clean _through the word_ which I have spoken unto you.”  And
as it is a continuous and progressive work, which the Apostle is here
speaking of, and not any one particular act,—for the use of God’s
“_word_” in the work of sanctification is continually repeated,—it seems
much more natural to understand the expressions, “with the washing of
water by” or in “the word,” as referring to the figure of water, and its
purifying properties in general, rather than to a single instance of its
application.  But there can be no objection to refer these expressions to
baptism, as being an Ordinance which is supposed to be kept always in
remembrance, and to have a constant bearing upon the believer’s life and
conduct.  Let us take it here, and every where else, in connection with
the context, and we shall find that it represents—not an imaginary, but a
real—not a temporary, but an abiding—influence upon the soul;—issuing in
its final salvation.  Who is this that is said to be washed with water by
the word?  The mixed multitude of professors of Christ’s religion?
No:—but “_the Church_,”—the blessed Company of all faithful people—“the
Bride—the Lambs wife.”  And what is the effect ascribed to the washing?
Her cleansing and sanctification.  But as the Church is composed of
individuals, every individual member thereof is “sanctified, and cleansed
with the washing of water by the word,” and so is made meet to be
presented by Christ to Himself at the last in perfect beauty.  Let these
things attend and crown the use of the Ordinances, and men may magnify
them—as Paul did his Office—as much as they please.

The next place in Scripture in which baptism is spoken of, is in the iind
Chapter of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians.  At the 11th verse he
begins the subject.  “In whom also,” that is, in Christ, “ye are
circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the
body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: buried with
Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of
the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead.”  The Apostle’s
object here is to show, that the Christian’s completeness in Christ
(asserted in the former verse) is not affected by the want of
circumcision; for that true believers have that which was represented by
circumcision, only under another form and name.  By “the circumcision
made without hands,” the circumcision of the heart is evidently intended.
By “the circumcision of Christ” is probably _not_ meant the circumcision
which Christ Himself was subjected to, but the circumcision with which
Christ circumcises.  This would therefore refer to the Christian
Sacrament of baptism, wherever rightly received.  This is the
corresponding type with, as well as antitype of, circumcision; because,
like circumcision, it represents and seals the blessings of the Covenant
to believers.  The latter part of this passage is so like the one already
considered in the vith chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, that it need
not be dwelt upon.  The death, burial and resurrection of Christ are not
only signs and patterns of what _should take place_ with respect to
Christians, but they are effectual causes thereof in the case of all who
are spiritually joined to Him; and the whole is, as it were,
_consolidated in baptism_.  The faith which goes before, and which is
exercised in the Ordinance, and the fruits which follow after, are all
summed up in and referred to this Sacrament: and well and happy it is,
whenever this is truly the case.

Two texts more remain to be considered in relation to our subject.  The
first is found in that passage in the iiird Chapter of St. Paul’s Epistle
to Titus, from the 4th to the 7th verse.  “But after that the kindness
and love of God 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, which He
shed on us abundantly, through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being
justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of
eternal life.”  The word here translated “washing” signifies also _a
laver_, or vessel for washing: but the translation is undoubtedly
correct, and _ablution_ or _the act of washing_, is intended.  This word
only occurs here and in Ephes. v. 26., which we have already considered;
where it must be translated (as it is) “_washing_:”—“the washing of water
by the word.”  That regeneration washes or cleanses the soul from the
filthiness of sin, is all that can be proved by this passage.  The
washing is by the regeneration, and not the regeneration by the washing.
There _may be_ an allusion to the Christian Sacrament of baptism; but it
is not at all necessary to the understanding of the Apostle’s words.
_St. Paul is here describing what God does when He saves any_.  He sheds
on them abundantly the Holy Ghost through Jesus Christ the Saviour, and
this Holy Ghost regenerates, and washes and renews; and, in connection
with this, God justifies the subjects of this change by His grace, and so
makes them heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  The regeneration
and the renewal are not two distinct things; but the latter is the
declaration of the former;—the transforming of the soul into the divine
image, consequent upon and in necessary connection with its regeneration.
But does this text prove, that all who are washed by the water of baptism
partake of regeneration?  Then it also proves, that all baptized persons
are saved, and that they are renewed by the Holy Ghost, and that the Holy
Ghost is shed on them abundantly, and that they are justified by God’s
grace, and that they are heirs of eternal life!  It is impossible,
without doing violence to God’s word, to rend the blessings, here spoken
of, asunder.  They are links in one and the same golden chain, both the
ends of which are in Heaven;—beginning with “the love of God” and
terminating with “eternal life.”  And are these things true in the case
of _all who are baptized_?  If this were taught in the Scripture, what
then might the infidel say of it?  He might then say, that Scripture and
matter of fact directly contradict each other.  Or it would follow, that
regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost and justification and
salvation, are terms which mean nothing, because the things they profess
to represent have no practical influence upon the lives of men!  We must,
then, take the passage altogether, or not touch it at all.  We must not
choose a word or two out of it,—caught by the sound,—and affix a meaning
to them, which is inconsistent with the context and other plain portions
of revealed truth.  If baptism be the washing here spoken of, it is
accompanied with regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost, shed on
the baptized abundantly; and this cannot be without the exhibition of the
fruits of the Spirit in the life and conduct.  And if this be Christian
baptism, where these things are not, Christian baptism is not.  And this
is incontestably established by the testimony of St. Peter, in the text
about to be noticed.  Let it only be farther observed, in connection with
this passage in St. Paul’s Epistle to Titus, that a no mean authority in
the interpretation of Scripture (Mr. Joseph Mede) thinks, that the
Apostle here alludes to the cleansing of the new-born infant from the
pollutions which attend its birth: and he refers to the description given
in the beginning of the xvith Chapter of the Book of the prophet Ezekiel
in confirmation of this:—“Neither wast thou washed in water.” (v. 4.)
Here, then, _life_ is first found, and then there is _the washing_ for

The text, already referred to, in St. Peter, is the 21st verse of the
iiird Chapter of his First Epistle.  This perfects the proof of the view
hitherto taken of the Christian Sacrament of baptism; and is _a key_
which would unlock any difficulty which other portions of Scripture might
present;—if indeed such assistance were needed.  St. Peter is speaking of
the days of Noah, and he says, that “the long-suffering of God then
waited, while the ark was preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls
were saved by water;” and then he adds, “The like figure whereunto,”—the
corresponding type with it, and the antitype of it—(as was observed
before respecting circumcision) “even baptism, doth now save us,”—but
before he completes the sentence, he breaks off to tell us what this
baptism, of which he speaks, is, “_not_ the putting away of the filth of
the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God,” and then he
finishes what he had begun to say,—“by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Now if the two things here spoken of in relation to baptism were always
found together, the words of St. Peter would be without meaning; for
none, possessing them both, could be so blind as to imagine that it is
the outward washing which saves them, and not “the answer of a good
conscience;” though _it is possible_ (as experience shows) that men might
be satisfied with the outward sign, and look no farther, as the Jews had
done in the case of circumcision.  The Holy Spirit, therefore, by the pen
of St. Peter warns against this error, and assures us, that the baptism
which is unto salvation consists of, not only, nor chiefly, the
application of water to the body, but “the answer of a good conscience
toward God.”  It is thought by some, that a _reference_ is here made to
the custom of putting questions to those who were about to be baptized as
to their faith and repentance: and something of this kind had passed
between Philip and the Eunuch, when Philip told him that “if he believed
with all his heart he might be baptized, and the Eunuch answered, I
believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”  In every such case there
doubtless is _the baptism_—because there has been _the birth_—of the
Spirit.  But though St. Peter’s words _may be_ applicable to such a
custom, if it prevailed in his time, yet, as Archbishop Leighton says in
his Commentary on this text, ‘This questioning and answering farther
expresses the inward questioning and answering which is transacted
betwixt the soul and itself, and the soul of God.  The word,’ he says,
‘is _judicial_, and means the interrogation used in law for the trial and
executing of processes: and this is the great business of conscience, to
hold courts in the soul; and it is of continual necessity that it be so.
This “answer of a good conscience unto God” (as likewise its questioning
to enable itself for that answer) is touching great points that are of
chief concern to the soul, its justification and sanctification; for
baptism is the seal of _both_, and purges the conscience in both
respects.  Now, the conscience of a real believer inquiring within, upon
right discovery, will make this answer unto God;—“Lord, I have found that
there is no standing before Thee, for the soul in itself is overwhelmed
with a world of guiltiness; but I find a blood sprinkled upon it, that
hath, I am sure, virtue enough to purge it all away, and to present it
pure unto Thee.”  And this the Lord does agree to, and authorizes the
conscience, on this account, to return back an answer of peace and safety
to the soul.  So for the other: “Lord, I find a living work of holiness
on this soul.  Though there is yet corruption there, it is as a continual
grief and vexation: and if I cannot say much of high degrees of grace,
yet I may say, there is the beginning of them;—at least this I most
confidently affirm, that there are real and earnest desires in the soul
after these things.  It would know and conform to Thy will, and it would
gladly walk _in all well-pleasing_ unto Thee.”  Now He that sees the
truth of these things, owns it as His own work, and engages to advance it
and bring it to perfection.’

Such is the intercourse which the purified conscience hath with God; and
wherever this is, there is the “baptism” which is unto salvation.

In the examination which has thus been made into the Scripture-testimony
concerning the Christian Sacrament of Baptism, no text has been—at least
intentionally—overlooked, from which any additional information could be
obtained on the subject.

                                * * * * *

From the passages which have been considered, the following conclusions
may be taken as the Summary of the whole:—

1.  That baptism with water has been appointed by Christ as the door of
entrance into His Visible Church, and is the token of the Covenant of
grace under the Christian Dispensation, in the place of circumcision,
which was the token of this Covenant upon its formal establishment with
Abraham.  To be baptized with water, therefore, is necessary to
constitute any one a member of the Visible Church of Christ or Kingdom of
God upon earth.

2.  That since _faith_ hath from the beginning been appointed by God, as
the instrument or means by which men are admitted into Covenant with Him,
it was the command of the Lord Jesus Christ that baptism, which is now
the token of the Covenant, should be administered only to _believers_.
It was the same with respect to circumcision.  Abraham believed God: and,
as a believer, he was circumcised.  And true believers only are
acknowledged by Christ as rightful members of His Church.  Yet as
Abraham’s children were admitted to circumcision together with himself,
it is hence inferred, that the children of believers in Christ should be
baptized, as well as their parents: no prohibition of their admission to
the Ordinance having been given.  This conclusion is confirmed by
Christ’s kind reception of the children that were brought to Him—by the
application of Old Testament promises after Christ’s resurrection—by the
declared continuance of the root and fatness of the Olive-tree planted at
first in Abraham—and by the description given of the children of even one
believing parent, namely, that they are holy; that is, such as ought to
be presented to the Lord.  Still, no direction to administer baptism to
children has been found, nor is any instance of it recorded.

3.  That although Christ, the Head of the Church, sows only good seed in
His field, His enemy has succeeded in sowing tares among the wheat; and
thus it comes to pass, that evil men are in the Visible Church mingled
with the good.  Hence we learn, that neither baptism nor any outward
Ordinances are _necessarily_ attended with spiritual blessings.  “All
were not Israel, who were of Israel.”  “He was not a Jew, who was one
outwardly; neither was that circumcision, which was outward in the
flesh.”  And we have seen that the “baptism” which “saves,” is “not the
putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good
conscience toward God.”  Simon Magus, though baptized, was not sound in
heart from the beginning.  And if during the life-time of the Apostles,
and when persons were baptized upon their own profession, men thus found
admission into the Church, who “had the form of godliness, but denied its
power,”—no wonder that in later times, and since baptism has been
administered almost exclusively to infants, the case should have been the
same.  For we have met with no promise that God will give His grace to
any particular persons, except in connection with the state of mind and
the character which He prescribes.  In no place of Scripture has God
bound the first communication of His grace to any Ordinance, time, or
circumstance whatsoever:—and for this simple, but sufficient reason, that
if He had done so, it would have been an abdication of His authority; His
sovereignty would have ceased; and man would have become—what in truth he
wishes to be—the virtual ruler in God’s Kingdom.  God no where promised
to circumcise the hearts of all the children of the Israelites, although
He commanded them to be circumcised in the flesh.  And with respect to
the baptism of children, how can _any thing absolute and unconditional_
be predicated concerning it, since no command or direction was given for
it?  The administration of baptism to infants is certainly most agreeable
with the spirit of Christ and of His Dispensation, and it is but a
continuance of what was begun in the family of Abraham.  But resting, as
it does, upon inference and analogy, it is not possible to assign any
specific spiritual influence with absolute certainty to it.

4.  That with respect to the advantages and uses of baptism,—besides its
being appointed by Christ as the door of admission into His Visible
Church, and the practical purposes to which it is applied in the course
of the Christian’s conduct and experience,—very little particular
instruction is given in Scripture.  To the corresponding rite of
circumcision, therefore, we chiefly look for direction here.

It may be said, then, of baptism, as of circumcision,

(1.)  That it is _a sign_ of spiritual blessings.  Of Abraham we are
told, that he “received _the sign_ of circumcision.” (Rom. iv. 11.)  This
Ordinance _represented_ “the putting off of the body of the sins of the
flesh.”  Baptism with water also _signifies_ the washing of the soul from
sin;—both from the guilt of it by forgiveness and from the pollution of
it.  When Saul of Tarsus was bidden to “be baptized, and wash away his
sins,” this twofold purification was visibly represented.  And so it is
in all cases.  “The putting away of the filth of the flesh” by the
application of “pure water” to the body, does in a very simple and
intelligible, yet striking and significant manner, represent the purging
of the conscience by the sprinkling of the blood of Christ, and the
cleansing of the heart from its filthiness and idols by God’s Holy
Spirit.  It symbolizes both pardon and purity:—especially the latter;—the
soul’s death unto sin and its new birth unto righteousness.

(2.)  Like circumcision, baptism is also _a seal_.  “Abraham” (as we also
read in Rom. iv. 11,) “received circumcision, _a seal_ of the
righteousness of the faith, which he had yet being uncircumcised.”  A
seal ratifies a Deed, and is a token and pledge that the engagements of
it will be fulfilled by all the contracting parties.  When Abraham
submitted to circumcision, he ratified or confirmed his former faith in
God and obedience to Him; and God, by the same pledge, assured Abraham of
his justification—of his adoption into His family—and that he should
finally inherit a better country, that is, Heaven.

Baptism, in like manner, is _a seal_ on the part of those who receive it
rightly, that they believe in God through Christ, and regard themselves
as bound to forsake all sin, and to serve Him unto their lives’ end: and
God thereby visibly assures them of the remission of their sins and of
their adoption as His children, and that, as He gives them grace, so He
will give them glory.  And if this visible seal of the Covenant had not
been serviceable, the wise and gracious God would never, either in the
case of circumcision or baptism, have caused it to be affixed unto it.

(3.)  Circumcision had _this_ “profit” also connected with it,—that the
different means of grace, which God from time to time appointed, followed
in its train.  St. Paul, having distinctly declared at the end of the
iind Chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, that the circumcision of the
flesh and of the heart did not necessarily accompany each other, supposes
some, who were “Jews outwardly,” to exclaim,—If this be so,—if the inward
grace does not always attend the outward sign,—and that the want of the
inward grace puts us circumcised Jews on the same level spiritually with
uncircumcised Gentiles, then, “What advantage hath the Jew?  Or what
profit is thereof circumcision?” (iii. 1.)  _Is the same question asked
respecting baptism_, _when a like separation is made between the water
and the Holy Spirit_?  The Apostle’s answer shall suffice for both:—“Much
every way; chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of
God.”  It is here evident, that God regards the possession of a
Revelation from Heaven as highly advantageous, considered in itself; so
that for the neglect or misuse of it men are deeply responsible.  In the
beginning of the ixth Chapter, St. Paul again takes up the subject, and
enumerates several other “advantages” as belonging to the Jews;—“the
adoption, and the glory, and the Covenants, and the giving of the law,
and the service of God, and the promises, and the fathers, and that
Christ, as concerning His human nature, was born a Jew;”—and though the
circumcision of the heart together with that of the flesh is not found
among these, yet the Apostle maintains, that the possession of them did
set the Israelites, in point of religious privileges, far above all the
other nations of the earth.  And it is the same with those who are
admitted into Christ’s Church by baptism.  Having free access to the word
of God and instruction in its sacred truths—the enjoyment of His Sabbaths
and Service—having His promises and threatenings, and the experience of
their fulfilment in time past, together with the examples of faith and
godliness and the blessed effects of them in such as have gone before—all
these are so many means of improvement, as will leave speechless at the
last those who had them and did not profit by them.  While all who use
them aright, and sincerely seek to derive benefit from them, find to
their exceeding great comfort, that God hath “not said to the seed of
Jacob, Seek ye me in vain.”  It was no small advantage to Abraham’s
family to be “commanded by him to keep the way of the Lord, to do justice
and judgment:” (Gen. xviii. 19,) and that children should be “brought up”
by Christian parents “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” and be
taught what was done for them at their baptism, united too with earnest
prayers on their behalf,—is a privilege, for which many will to all
eternity have cause to bless Him, who gave them so “goodly a heritage.”
(Ps. xvi. 6.)

Lastly.  We would refer again, concerning the advantages and uses of
baptism, to that _practical __application of it_ which we have seen may
be made throughout the whole course of the Christian’s life upon earth.
He is to remember, that he was “baptized into the death of Christ and
buried with Him,” that so he may die unto sin, and have, as much as
possible, done with it.  “Risen with Christ in baptism,” his “affections
should be set on things above,” and he should “walk in newness of life.”
“Baptized into one body,” strife and divisions should not be seen among
Christians, and “the unity of the spirit should be kept in the bond of
peace.”  “Baptized into Christ, and having put on Christ,” they should
appear in the beautiful clothing of His mind and Spirit.  They should
seek and pray daily to be more and more “sanctified and cleansed with the
washing of water by the word,” that they may be “prepared as a bride
adorned for her husband.”  Thus baptism, if used as the Scripture uses
it, would be of great practical influence.  And when this is the case, it
may be productive of much comfort; for, like the bow in the cloud, it is
a token of God’s Covenant to save and not destroy.  The water of baptism,
in the case of every true believer, “is as the waters of Noah unto the
Lord: for as He hath sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over
the earth,” so in this Sacrament He hath, as it were, added His oath to
His word of promise, that “he that believeth and is baptized _shall he
saved_.” (Is. liv. 9.  Mark xvi 16.)


_Note_ (A.) _page_ 27.

WHEN God said to Abraham, (Gen. xvii. 7.) “I will establish my Covenant
between me and thee and thy seed after thee, in their generations for an
everlasting Covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee,”
His meaning was, that as He was the God of _believing Abraham_, so He
would be the God of all Abraham’s _believing children and descendants_.
And when He farther promised to “give unto Abraham and to his seed after
him, the land in which he was a stranger, even all the land of Canaan,
for an everlasting possession,” the same limitation as to “his seed” was
also intended.  That these, and these only, are the “seed” referred to,
is as clear as the declarations of Holy Scripture can make it.  In the
Epistles to the Romans and Galatians this matter is placed beyond a
doubt.  The “seed” must partake of _the character of the father_, and
then the promises were theirs, as well as his.  In the ivth Chapter of
the Epistle to the Romans and the 12th verse, the Apostle, speaking of
Abraham, says, that he was to be “the father of circumcision to them _who
are not of the circumcision only_, (that is, who are not only circumcised
in the flesh) _but also walk in the steps of that faith of Abraham_,
_which he had yet being uncircumcised_.”  Could any thing be plainer than
this?  St. Paul is here speaking of the circumcised Jews, (he had spoken
of the uncircumcised Gentiles in the former verse, the 11th,) and he says
distinctly, that Abraham was a father to those circumcised ones who
should “walk in the steps of his faith.”  So that the following is
evidently the Apostle’s meaning in the 11th and 12th verses: ‘Both Jew
and Gentile may see, in God’s dealings with Abraham, an exhibition of the
plan in which each is to seek the imputation of righteousness.  Let the
uncircumcised believe in God, as Abraham, when yet uncircumcised,
believed in God; and his faith shall be counted to him for righteousness,
as Abraham’s was.  Let the Jews, too, learn from the case before them,
that though, like circumcised Abraham, they bear in their bodies the seal
of the Covenant, yet _the sign of circumcision alone will not ensure the
blessing signified_, _unless at the same time they are found resembling
Abraham in the exercise of that faith_, _in consequence of which the seal
was fixed upon him_.’ {88}  These, then,—_believers_,—are the “seed” of
Abraham, with whom the Covenant was made, and to whom the promises were
given.  And this is confirmed by what follows.  In the next verse the
Apostle goes on to say; “For the promise that he should be the heir of
the world,”—(which is the inspired exposition of the other part or
promise of God’s Covenant with Abraham; “And I will give unto thee, and
to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, for an
everlasting possession;”)—“For the promise that he should be the heir of
the world, was not to Abraham or _to his seed_ through the law, but
_through the righteousness of faith_:” and again, in the 16th verse;
“Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end _the
promise might be sure to all the seed_; not to that only which is of the
law, (believing circumcised Jews) but to that also which is of the faith
of Abraham, (believing uncircumcised Gentiles) who is _the father of us
all_,”—that is, of all believers, whether circumcised or not,—“before Him
whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead.”  “The promise,”
then, “that he should be the heir of the world” (evidently meaning the
better world, that is, the heavenly,) “was to Abraham and _to his seed
through the righteousness of faith_.”  Not to his _unbelieving
descendants_, but to those only who were partakers of his faith;—to all
of whom, the promise was and still is “_sure_.”  We pass over the ixth
Chapter of this Epistle, though it is full of evidence to the same
effect; and proceed to the Epistle to the Galatians; where we shall find
the description of Abraham’s “seed” given in language, if possible, still
plainer and stronger.  In the iiird Chapter and the 6th verse the Apostle
begins the subject: “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted
to him for righteousness.  Know ye, therefore, that _they which are of
faith_, the same _are the children_ of Abraham.”  “So then they which be
of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.”  And then in the 14th verse,
the Apostle tells us more of this blessing of Abraham: “That the blessing
of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, that we might
receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”  “The promise of the
Spirit” is here said to be “received through faith;”—that is, by them
that believe.  But in the 16th verse, the account given of the “seed” of
Abraham is as distinct and decisive as words can make it.  Referring to
the Covenant made by God with Abraham, (contained in Gen. xvii.) St. Paul
says, “Now to Abraham _and his seed_ were the promises made.  He saith
not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to _thy seed which is
Christ_.”  By “Christ” here (it is scarcely necessary to remark) is not
meant Christ _personal_, but Christ _mystical_;—His mystical Body,
consisting of Christ himself, the Head, and true believers, both Jews and
Gentiles, “all one in Him.” (v. 28.)  The same expression is used in 1
Cor. xii. 12: “For as the body (the natural body) is one, and hath many
members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body;
_so also is Christ_.”  Believers in Christ, then, who compose His
mystical Body, are _the seed of Abraham_, to whom with himself,—“the
father of all them that believe,”—the promises of the Covenant were made.
And, intent upon inforcing this truth, and leaving no possibility of
mistaking his meaning, the Apostle concludes the subject with these
words; (v. 29.) “And if ye be Christ’s,” (by believing in Him and by
being baptized by One Spirit into his One Body) “_then_ are ye Abraham’s
seed, and heirs according to the promise.”  A clearer and a fuller
description of _the persons_, to whom the promises of the Covenant were
made, could not possibly have been given!  God did not promise to be a
God, and to give the inheritance of which Canaan was a type, _to all_ the
natural descendants of Abraham, though they were all to be circumcised;
but _to those only who should_ “_walk in the steps of his faith_.”  For
this _limitation_ of the meaning of the “_seed_” of Abraham does no more
violence to the text, than the _extension_ of the meaning of “Canaan” to
the heavenly world.  But there is (as we have seen) _inspired authority_
for both interpretations.  _These_, then, were the “seed,” to whom the
promises were made.  And it is the same still.  The children of
professing believers are baptized; but the outward form of baptism does
not secure to them the blessings thereby sealed to the believer, unless
they also have a true and lively faith.  _Then_ the promises are theirs.
The Scripture warrants us to go thus far, but no farther.  And when man
attempts to put benefits into Ordinances, which God has not revealed to
him, he makes himself wise “above that which is written;” and thus does
in effect what the Jews did,—and for which they were so justly reproved
by the Lord Jesus Himself;—he “teaches for doctrines the commandments of
men.” (Matt. xv. 9.)

_Note_ (B.) _page_ 50.

It is expressly said in the 32nd verse, that Paul and Silas “spake the
word of the Lord to _all that were in the jailor’s house_.”  This was
_before_ they were baptized.  All that were in his house were capable
therefore of instruction; and thus their “faith came by hearing.”  And to
show more decidedly the existence of faith in _the __family_, not only is
_the fact_ itself stated, but also _the fruit_ which it produced: namely,
its adding to the jailor’s joy.  He rejoiced—of course _the more_—because
that _his house believed_, as well as himself.

_Note_ (C.) _page_ 57.

The baptism of a believer is like the coronation of a lawful Sovereign.
The latter at his coronation publicly enters upon his Office.  He is then
anointed, and invested with the robes and other ensigns of royalty.  The
crown is then solemnly put upon his head—the sceptre into his hand—and he
swears in the presence of the nobles and chief of the people to rule
according to law: and any subsequent dereliction of duty would be called
_a breaking of his coronation-oath_.  But he was _in reality_ king before
his coronation.  Thus when a man repents, he forsakes sin; (and what is
the forsaking of it but the dying to it?) and when he believes, he is
born of God; (and what is this but his spiritual resurrection?) and this
repentance and this faith are both required of every one _before_, _and
in order to_, _his baptism_.  But at his baptism he is publicly invested
with his privileges as a Christian, and he then solemnly swears to live
according to Christ’s laws for the future.  And thus every departure from
duty may well be called _a violation of his baptismal engagements_.  But
_in reality_ his death unto sin and his new birth unto righteousness
commenced when he repented and believed; that is, at a period prior to
(and under some circumstances the interval of time might be very
considerable) his baptism.  His claim to baptism is founded upon his
having already renounced sin and being possessed of a lively faith;—as a
claim to be crowned is founded upon this, that the person who makes it is
the rightful sovereign already.  In both cases, there is _the
confirmation_ of the relationship with all its rights and duties, but not
_the commencement_ of it.  _This_ had taken place _before_.

                                * * * * *

                                L. SEELEY,
                              THAMES DITTON.

                                * * * * *


{20}  See Plain Tracts for Critical Times, by a Union of Clergymen.  And
on this text generally.

{27}  With reference to the “seed” of Abraham, see Note A. in Appendix.

{50}  See Note (B.)

{57}  See Note (C.)

{61}  Lectures on The Epistle to the Romans.  By the Rev. John Fry, A.B.,

{65}  See the connection between _the Covenant-holiness_ of children and
_their being presented to the Lord_, more distinctly shown in the case of
the first-born of Israel.  (Exod. xiii. 2, compared with Luke ii. 22,

{88}  Lectures on The Epistle to the Romans, by the Rev. John Fry, A.B.,

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