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same his command to Saint Paul—“ Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins * ;" this was that baptism “ for the remission of sins," to which Saint Peter invited the Jews upon the day of Pentecost t; that “wash. ing of regeneration,” by which, as Saint Paul writes to Titus, “ he saved us 1.” Now, when we come to speak of the baptism which obtains in most Christian churches at present, where no conversion is supposed, or possible, it is manifest, that, if these expressions be applied at all, they must be applied with extreme qualification and

reserve.

Secondly; the community of Christians were at first a handful of men connected amongst themselves by the strictest union, and divided from the rest of the world by a real difference of principle and persuasion, and what was more observable, by many outward peculiarities of worship and behaviour. This society, considered collectively, and as a body, were set apart from the rest of mankind for a more gracious dispensation, as well as actually distinguished by a superior purity of life and conversation. In this view, and in opposition to the unbelieving world, they were denominated in Scripture by titles of great seeming dignity and import; they were “ elect,” “ called,” “ saints $;” they were

” “in Christ|l;” they were “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar peopleq.” That is, ese terms were employed to distinguish the professors of Christianity from the rest of mankind, in the same manner as the names of Greek and Barbarian, Jew and Gentile, distinguished the people of Greece and Israel from other nations. The application of such

* Acts xxii. 16: + Acts ii. 38.

Rom. viii. 33; i. 6, 7. || Rom. viii. 1.

| Titus iii. 5.

fi Pet. ii. 9.

;

phrases to the whole body of Christians is become now obscure; partly because it is not easy to conceive of Christians as a body at all, by reason of the extent of their name and numbers, and the little visible union that subsists among them; and partly, because the heathen world with whom they were compared, and to which comparison these phrases relate, is now ceased, or is removed from our observation. Supposing, therefore, these expressions to have a perpetual meaning, and either forgetting the original use of them, or finding that, at this time, in a great measure exhausted and insignificant, we resort to a sense and an application of them easier, it may be, to our comprehension, but extremely foreign from the design of their authors, namely, to distinguish individuals amongst us, the professors of Christianity from one another: agreeably to which idea the most flattering of these names, the “ elect,"

called,” “ saints,” have, by bold and unlearned men, been appropriated to themselves and their own party with a presumption and conceit injurious to the reputation of our religion amongst them that are without,”

“ , and extremely disgusting to the sober part of its professors; whereas, that such titles were intended in a sense common to all Christian converts, is well argued from many places in which they occur, in which places you may plainly substitute the terms convert, or converted, for the strongest of these phrases, without any alteration of the author's meaning: e.g. you go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints * ?” “ is any man called being circumcised, let him not become uncircumcised + :" “ the church that is at Babylon elected together with

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* 1 Cor. vi. 1.

† 1 Cor. vii, 18.

Pet. v. 13.

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Thirdly; in opposition to the Jews, who were so much offended by the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles, Saint Paul maintains, with great industry, that it was God Almighty's intention, from the first, to substitute at a fit season into the place of the rejected Israelites a society of men taken indifferently out of all nations under heaven, and admitted to be the people of God upon easier and more comprehensive terms: this is expressed in the Epistle to the Ephesians, as follows

Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself, that, in the dispensation of the fulness of times, he might gather together in one all things in Christt.” This scheme of collecting such a society was what God foreknew before the foundation of the world; was what he did predestinate; was the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus ; and, by consequence, this society, in their collective capacity, were the objects of this foreknowledge, predestination, and purpose; that is, in the language of the apostles, they were they “whom he did foreknow," they “whom he did predestinate ;" they were “ chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world $ ;” they were “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father ||.” This doctrine has nothing in it harsh or obscure. But what have we made of it? The rejection of the Jews, and the adopting another community into their place, composed, whilst it was carrying on, an object of great magnitude in the attention of the inspired writers who

• Rom. xvi. 7. + Eph. i. 9, 10; also see Eph. iii. 5,

Rom, viij. 29. $ Eph. i, 4. || 1 Pet. i. 2.

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understood and observed it. This event, which engaged so much the thoughts of the apostle, is now only read of, and hardly that—the reality and the importance of it are little known or attended to. Losing sight, therefore, of the proper occasion of these expressions, yet willing, after our fashion, to adapt them to ourselves, and finding nothing else in our circumstances that su'ted with them, we have learnt at length to apply the

"he final destiny of individuals at the day of juc it; and upon this foundation has been erected a doctrine which lays the axe at once to the root of all religion,—that of an absolute appointment to salvation or perdition, independent of ourselves or any thing we can do; and, what is extraordinary, those very arguments and expressions (Rom. chap. ix. x. xi.), which the apostle employed to vindicate the impartial mercies of God, against the narrow and excluding claims of Jewish prejudice, have been interpreted to establish a dispensation the most arbitrary and partial that could be devised.

Fourthly; the conversion of a grown person from Heathenism to Christianity, which is the case of conversion commonly intended in the Epistles, was a change of which we have now no just conception : it was a new name, a new language, a new society; a new faith, a new hope ; a new object of worship, a new rule of life : a history was disclosed full of discovery and surprise ; a prospect of futurity was unfolded, beyond imagination awful and august; the same description applies in a great part, though not entirely, to the conversion of a few. This, accompanied as it was with the pardon of every former sin (Rom. iii. 25), was such an æra in a man's life, so remarkable a period in his recol. lection, such a revolution of every thing that was most

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important to him, as might well admit of those strong figures and significant allusions by which it is described in Scripture: it was a “regeneration *,” or a new birth; it was to be “born again of God, and of the Spiritt;" it was to be “ dead to sin,” and “ alive from the dead ;” it was to be “ buried with Christ in baptism, and raised together with him $;" it was “a new creaturell,” and “ a new creation :" it was a tra'' slation su from the condition of “ slaves to that of sons' “ strangers and foreigners, to be fellow-citize the saints, and of the household of God'++.” *** 'It is manifest that no change equal or similar to the conversion of a Heathen can be experienced by us, or by any one educated in a Christian country, and to whom the facts, precepts, and hopes of Christianity, have been from his infancy familiar: yet we will retain the same language; and what has been the consequence ? One sort of men, observing nothing in the lives of Christians corresponding to the magnificence, if I may so say, of these expressions, have been tempted to conclude, that the expressions themselves had no foundation in truth and nature, or in any thing but the enthusiasm of their authors. Others, again, understand these phrases to signify nothing more than that gradual amendment of life and conversation, which reason and religion sometimes produce in particular Christians : of which interpretation it is truly said, that it degrades too much the proper force of language, to apply expressions of such energy and import to an event so ordinary in its own nature, and which is common to Christianity with every other moral institution. Lastly; a third sort, in order

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# Tit. iii. 5.
$ Col. ii. 12.
** Gal. iv. 7.

t John i. 13. jii. 5.
ll 2 Cor. y. 17.
ff Eph. ii. 19.

#Rom. vi. 2. 13.

Eph. iv. 24

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