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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 somewhere, 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 preparatory ground of the other question; relating to the point of view, in which the Lord's Prayer should be considered.
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 Indulgence. 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
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
*See Lecture V.
two sections. It will be necessary to touch on the topicks in the lecture: but this will be with as little repetition as possible.
OF BAPTISM, AS AN INSTITUTED RITE.
The points principally insisted on in the lecture, in proof of baptism with water, were-practice under the eye, and by the authority of Christ-the commission given by him in the last act of his ministry on earth-the immediately succeeding practice of the apostles-the irrelevancy of what is urged concerning the baptism of the spirit as foretold 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 disciples." 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, iii. 23.
+ Verse 2.
narrative seems to imply, that the subject of the controversy was baptism, and that it related immediately 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 symptóms 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 disciples; 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
sees had heard, that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John:" and then, the words expressing that Jesus did not baptize in person, come in as a parenthesis. Here it appears, that the Pharisees, like the disciples of John, considered Jesus as the principal agent in what was done by his disciples: the fact being unequivocally understood, that it was with his knowledge, and by virtue of his command. And with this agrees what is added"He left Judæa, and departed again into Galilee:" retiring from too great notoriety, in this stage of his ministry; agreeably to what is said by him in the chapter but one preceding-"Mine hour is not yet
Such are the circumstances, here thought to repel the only objection, which has been made to the position, that our Lord, at a very early period of his ministry, instituted a rite of baptism, of which the use of water was an accompaniment. The objection rests entirely on the taking of the parenthesis in the second verse of the fourth chapter, without regard to the twenty-third verse of the chapter immediately preceding; and both of the places, disjoined from the attendant circumstances.
The second point, is the commission given by Christ in the last act of his ministry,* that of "teaching all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Whatever acknowledgments have been made of the intendment of water baptism in other places; it has been perceived, that there is no way of detaching this place from subserviency to the rite, but by interpreting it of spiritual baptism. Against this there lies the objection, that it supposes the apostles clothed with power, more than human. On the other hand, to sustain the interpretation, there is adduced-" In Christ Jesus, I have begotten you, through the gospel."+ But let the circumstances of
* Matt. xxviii. 19.
† 1 Cor. iv. 15.
the two sayings be considered. The apostles, in the preceding chapter, had been discoursing of that factious spirit, which led the Corinthians to arrange themselves under the characters of the persons, by whom they had been respectively brought within the fold. Although he had disclaimed any headship of this sort over any of them; yet he does not disdain to remind them, of his having been the founder of their Church. There was especial propriety in this, when he was about to announce to them an intended visit of ecclesiastical discipline, and to ask them-"What will ye? Shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?"* All these circumstances show a reference to visible Church membership. On this subject, it was no overstrained figure to say to themThough ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel." But what analogy is there between such a saying, on such a subject, and in a glow of mind excited by argument; and a similar saying, where the subject is the operation of the grace of God over the human heart; and under the solemnity of a command, which was to be operative to the end of time? To administer an ordinance divinely instituted, might be the act of man: and if any benefit attached thereto, it was of the grace of God. And yet, that this is in the power of man, is involved in the merely spiritual interpretation given to the passage. What is here affirmed will be distinctly seen, if we suppose any Christian minister speaking of himself, as performing an operation thus supposed to have been committed to them all, at all times, and in all places.
The third point, is the practice of the apostles, immediately succeeding the receipt of their commission. The book of the Acts of the Apostles abounds with instances of this. After the first ser
* Verse 21.