Page images
PDF
EPUB

by showing, that it was so considered in the early Church. And this is done with a view to the obvi: ous result of the consideration, and of the evidence to be given of it.

Tertullian, who wrote in the latter end of the se. cond, and the beginning of the third centuries, in his book “ De Oratione;" which treats of this prayer, refers to John's having taught his disciples a form of prayer, which had given way to what had been taught by Christ himself. It must therefore have been considered by this author, as a form also. And indeed, he had so called it just before: For he says—“Our Lord taught to his disciples the form of prayer of the New Testament.” The same author supposed, that it ascended to heaven with a peculiar privilege. He remarks however, that Christ, after he had made this appointment, foreseeing the necessities of men, added" Ask and ye shall receive." So that-says Tertullian“ Other things may be petitioned for, according to the circumstances of every one; this appointed and ordinary prayer being premised as a foundation.”

In like manner St. Cyprian, in his short treatise concerning this very prayer, calls it “ a form by which Christ has admonished and instructed us, what we should pray for.” And again, noticing the command, he introduces the Saviour speaking in person and saying "Our Father, who art in hea. ven, &c."

St. Austin, in one of his Homiliest tells his flock –“He” (Christ) " said to his disciples, said to his apostles, and to us the lambs, and to the rams of the flock he said "Pray thus.” It may be noted, that the place in St. Matthew is here translated more strictly than in the common translation, and agreeably to what was pleaded for in the lecture. The father had just before testified, that the prayer was used by the Church, and that she used it by

• Chap. i. + xix. De Verbis Apost.

divine command. In describing the celebration of the Eucharist, in two different places,* he speaks of the Lord's Prayer, as making a part of the service.

The apostolick constitutions confessedly descriptive of the practice of the Church in very early times--speakt of this prayer as making of part of the service for baptism. And the same is referred to by St. Chrysostome. I Both of these authorities also intimate, that it was used in the celebration of the Eucharist. , :: It would be easy to multiply authorities to the same effect: but on the presumption that more is unnecessary, there shall be now a transition to the results.

There are two opinions, inconsistent with the present statement. One of them censures every species of form; objecting to the use of any petitions, not suggested during the engagement in the exercise. The other permits, but does not en. join the use of the Lord's Prayer. Both of these opinions presume, that it was delivered as a general directory on the subject of prayer, rather than as a form of it.

The testimonies here cited from early writers, are not produced as obligatory in themselves; but they are thought to evince what was the opinion and the practice of the Church, at a time in which her institutions as, to this point, ought to be held strongly confirmatory of the interpretation which has been given ofthe only two places in the gospels, wherein the prayer is found.

If it was really delivered as a precise form; it will be difficult to show, that other prescribed forms, not in themselves exceptionable, but on the con trary expressive of evangelical truth, and breathing the spirit of the first and fundamental form, are contrary to the integrity of the gospel, or injurious to the cultivation of genuine piety. Far be the thought, of exalting the Church to the same grade of authority with her Divine Head. After the most that can be yielded on this point, there will remain the question—whether a power, to be lodged some. where, should be in the Church, or in each of her individual ministers. The subject will come within the plan of an ensuing dissertation: but in the mean time, it has been thought of use to clear the prepa. ratory ground of the other question; relating to the point of view, in which the Lord's Prayer should be considered.

* Hom. 83. and Ep. ad Paulum, Hom. vi, in Coloss.

+ Lib. vii. cap. 44. * See Lecture V,

DISSERTATION VII.

OF BAPTISM.*

Section I. Of Baptism as an Instituted Rite. Practice under

the Authority of Christ.--Commission.-Apostolick Prac. tice.-Baptism of the Spirit.—Plea of temporary Indul. gence.-- Primitive Church.-Section II. of Infant Baptism.--General Tenour of the Commission.--Evidence of Infant Membership.--Remarks on the opposite Opinion. -Result. Primitive Christians. Immersion and Affu. sion.

THE design of this dissertation, is to bestow more attention than was convenient in the lecture, on the objections which have been made to the evidences offered in favour of baptism, as an instituted rite; and to the evidences of infant baptism, in particular. In accommodation to the distinction between these subjects, the dissertation will be divided into two sections. It will be necessary to touch on the topicks in the lecture: but this will be with as little repetition as possible.

SECTION 1. OF BAPTISM, AS AN INSTITUTED RITE. The points principally insisted on in the lecture, in proof of baptism with water, were-practice un. der the eye, and by the authority of Christ-the commission given by him in the last act of his mi. nistry on earth—the immediately succeeding practice of the apostles—the irrelevancy of what is urged concerning the baptism of the spirit as fore. told by John, and—the untenableness of the position of temporary indulgence.

First: Of the practice of the rite, under the eye and the immediate authority of Christ. What we read—“After these things, came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judæa and baptized”*-is not denied to us to have been designed of baptism by water: but it is thought against the position, of its having been done by the disciples under the authority of their master, that we read in the next chapter—"Jesus himself baptized not, but his dis. ciples.”+ In the lecture it was contended for, as the meaning of the two places taken together, that the disciples were the immediate agents, but that they acted under the command of Christ; who must therefore be considered, according to the usual rules of interpretation, as the principal agent in the business. The object at present, is to sustain this construction, by reference to the circumstances connected with the recited passages.

Soon after the first of them, we read~" Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews, about purifying.” The whole

* John, üi. 23.

+ Verse 2.

narrative seems to imply, that the subject of the controversy was baptism, and that it related imme. diately to the question of preference, in regard to the two principal agents, just before introduced, as carrying on their respective works at the same time. The statement will be the more consistent; if, instead of “The Jews,” we read “ A certain Jew:" which is justified by many of the manuscripts, and by the Syriack version. It is probable, that the person spoken of had been baptized by Jesus; 'and was setting forth the superiority of the dispensation, of which this blessed Saviour was the head. Be this as it may, we can hardly fail to perceive symptoms of jealousy in the other party, when “they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou bearest witness, behold he baptizeth, and all men come unto him.” They remembered, that their master had born witness to the divine mission of the object of their present jealousy; but had not, it would seem, fully comprehended what had been delivered to them on the occasion. Accordingly John, with the humility which adorned his character, goes on to intimate to them, that it ill became him to set up pretensions, to what had not been bestowed on him from heaven; to remind them of his having informed them from the beginning, that he was not the Christ, but his forerunner; and to declare to them more explicitly than before, and in alliance with many attributes of the expected Messiah, that he was no other than the personage, whose baptizing had given occasion to the discourse. For it is to be noticed, that however baptism may have been administered by the hand of Christ's disciple s; yet those of John considered him as the agent in what was done, when they said "Behold he baptizeth, and all men come to him.”

The last recited of the two passages under consideration, is introduced in the following terms “ When therefore the Lord knew, how the Phari.

U u

« PreviousContinue »