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It may here be objected, and not unnaturally, that the State has by law made provision for the relief of all poor persons ; that all members of Churches contribute to this charity, in common with others ; and that their suffering members take their share of the bounty. My answer to this objection is the following.
First. That the poor, both of the Church and community at large, have exactly the same right to the property, supplied by this tax, which the contributors have to the remainder of their own possessions.
The law alone creates every man's right to what he calls his estate. To the great mass of the property, denoted by this word, he has by nature no right at all. But the same law gives exactly the same right to the poor, of receiving whatever is taxed upon others for supplying their necessities. The payment of this tax, therefore, is in no sense an act of charity ; but the mere payment of a debt, by which, together with other acts of the like nature, each man holds a right to his estate.
Secondly. The Charity in question was immediately instituted and required by God; and is independent of all human institutions.
No conformity to any regulation, no obedience to any law, of man, can go a step towards excusing us from obeying a law of God.
Thirdly. The provision in question is not made by human laws.
The intention of furnishing this fund is not to relieve the absolute necessities of poor Christians: these being customarily supplied by the operation of law. The object, here in view, is to provide for their comfort. Nothing can be more contrary to the spirit of Christianity, than that one part of the members of a Church should abound in the conveniences and luxuries of life, and another be stinted to its mere necessaries. Every one ought, plainly, to share in blessings, superior to these. This provision ought to extend to all those enjoyments, which are generally denominated decencies and comforts. Without the possession of these, in some good degree, life, so far as its external accommodations are concerned, can hardly be said to be desirable.
I am well aware, that the unhappy neglect of this great duty by many of our own Churches will be urged, and felt, as a defence of the contrary doctrine. It is hardly necessary to observe, that no negligence can justify a further neglect of our duty. Nehemiah and his companions, when they found it written in the law, that the children of Israel should dwell in Booths, at the feast of the tabernacles, went forth, and made themselves Booths, every one of them, although their nation had failed of performing this duty, as this excellent man declares, from the days of Joshua the son of Nun.
I am also aware, that the love of money, the root of so much evil in other cases, is the root of great evil in this; and will, even in the minds of some good men, create not a little opposition to this duty. Until such men learn to love this world less, and God and their fellow-Christians more; objections, springing from this source, will undoubtedly have their influence.
My audience is chiefly composed of those who are young, and therefore neither devoted to avarice, nor decply affected by the too customary negligence of this duty. Before them, therefore, I feel a peculiar satisfaction in bringing up to view this benevolent, and divine, Institution. On their minds, the arguments which have been urged, will, I trust, have their proper weight. To quicken his just views of this subject, let every one present, remember, that even the Emperor Julian has said: “I do not believe any man is the poorer for what he gives to the necessitous. I, who have often relieved the poor, have been rewarded by the gods many fold; although wealth is a thing, on which I was never much intent." Above all things, let every one remember, that Christ, alleging the beneficence of Christians as a ground of their endless happiness in the world above, closes his infinitely momentous address to them with this remarkable declaration : Inasmuch as ye hate done it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it mio ine.
THE EXTRAORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.—THE ORDINANCES OF
THE CHURCH.-BAPTISM.-ITS REALITY AND INTENTION.
MATTHEW Xxviii. 19.—Go ye, therefore, teach all nations, baptising them in the name
of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
IN seven discourses, preceding this, I have considered the institution of the Church ; the Members of which it is formed; the Officers appointed in the Scriptures to superintend its affairs ; and the principal Duties which they are appointed to perform. The next subject in a system of Theology is the Ordinances, which belong peculiarly to this body of men, and which they are required to celebrate.
Of these, the first in order is Baptism ; as being that, by which the members of the Church are, according to Christ's appointment, introduced into this Body.
In the Text, Christ directs his Apostles to go forth into the world, and teach, or make disciples of, all nations, and to baptize them in, or into, the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. This, then, is a duty, which the Apostles were required to perform towards all nations, so far as they made them disciples of Christ.
The Text, therefore, presents the subject of Baptism to us, as an ordinance to be administered by the Pastors of the Church to its several members, in consequence of their discipleship. What was the duty of the Apostles in this case, is equally the duty of all succeeding ministers. Of course, it is the duty of every person, who wishes, and is qualified, to become a member of the Church, to receive the ordinance of Baptism.
In my examination of this subject, I shall consider,
1. I shall make some observations concerning the Reality of Baptism.
To persons, at all acquainted with Ecclesiastical History, it is well known, that several classes of men have denied Baptism, in the proper sense, to be a Divine Institution. Some of these persons have supported their opinion from Heb. ix. 10; Which stood only in meats, and drinks, and diverse washings, and cardinal ordinan
ces, imposed on them until the time of Reformation. The word, here rendered washings, is in the Greek, Barriomois, Baptisms. In this passage, they have, without any warrant, supposed the Baptism of the Gospel to be included. The Apostle, in this passage, refers only to the Jewish worship, as is evident from the preceding part of the chapter ; particularly from the ninth verse. That Evangelical Baptism was in use, as an institution of Christ, when this Epistle was written, is abundantly manifest from the following chapter, verses 19, 22, particularly from the two last of these verses. Having an High Priest, says the Apostle, over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith ; Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water : or, in other words, being baptized.
The same persons endeavour to support their opinion, also, from 1 Pet. iii. 21 ; The like figure whereunto even Baptism doth also now save us, (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God') by the Resurrection of Christ. But the objectors are not less unhappy in their construction of this passage, than of that, mentioned above. The true, as well as obvious, meaning in this passage is the following: “Baptism, the Antitype of the water of the deluge, doth now save us by the Resurrection of Christ; not indeed the cleansing of the filth of the flesh, but that which is signified by it; the answer of a good conscience towards God.” This passage is a direct recognition of the existence of Baptism, as an Institution in the Christian Church: and, therefore, instead of being a support, is a refutation, of the scheme in question.
Persons, who deny the doctrine of the Trinity, or the satisfaction of Christ, are, in a sense, constrained to deny Baptism also, in order to preserve consistency in their opinions. The command to baptize in, or into, the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is a plain, unanswerable exhibition of the Doctrine of the TrinITY. "The cleansing with water, also, is too unequivocal a symbol of our spiritual purification by the Blɔod of
rist, to suffer any rational denial, or doubt. It seems, therefore, scarcely possible for those, who deny either the Trinity, or the Atonement, to admit the Institution of Baptism, without a plain contradiction in their principles.
Others, still, have removed both Baptism and the Lord's Supper, by the aid of Spiritual, or mystical, construction. These persons appear to build their scheme, especially, on the answer of John the Baptist to the Pharisees and Sadducees, who came to his Baptism. l'indeed baptize you with water unto repentance : but He, that cometh after me, is mightier than 1; whose shoes I am not worthy to bear. He will baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire. From this passage, chiefly, the doctrine has been drawn, that Baptism with water was not intended to be, nor actually made, by Christ, an institution of the Gospel. It is hardly necessary to re
mark, that this interpretation of the Baptist's words is wholly erroneous; and that they have no connexion with the doctrine, to which they are here applied.
The proof, on which this Institution rests as a perpetual ordinance of Christ in his Church, is so entire, and so obvious, that every doubt concerning it is more properly an object of surprise, than of serious opposition. In the text, Christ commands his Apostles, and all his succeeding ministers, to baptize those, whom they should make disciples. În obedience to this command, the Apostles accordingly baptized all those, who were made disciples by them. Those, who followed them in the ministry, followed them, also, in this practice. In this manner, the Institution has been continued in the Church, with the exception of a few dissentients, to the present time. Except a man be born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. To be born of water is to be baptized. To be born of the Spirit is to be regenerated. The Kingdom of God is a phrase, used in the Gospel, in a twofold sense; and denotes his visible, and his invisible, kingdom; or the collection of apparent, and the collection of real saints. The indispensable condition of entering the former, or visible, kingdom, is here made by our Saviour Baptism. The indispensable qualification for admission into the invisible Kingdom is Regeneration: the great act of the Spirit of God, which constitutes men real Saints. Baptism, therefore, is here made by Christ a condition, absolutely necessary to our authorized entrance into his visible Church.
II. I shall now inquire into the Intention of this Ordinance.
Washing with water is the most natural, and universal, mode of cleansing from external impurities; and is, therefore, the most obvious, and proper, symbol of internal, or spiritual, purification. Baptism denotes, generally, this purification ; and, particularly, is intended to present to us the cleansing of the soul by the blood of Christ; and, still more particularly, by the affusion of the Divine Spirit. To this interpretation of it, we are directed by the Prophet Isaiah, in the forty-fourth chapter of his prophecy. I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground : 1 will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thy offspring. The same explanation is given of it, also, by God, in the Prophet Ezekiel, chapter xxxvi. 25–27, Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean. And I will put my Spirit within you,
to walk in
Statutes. As both these passages refer to the Evangelical dispensation; there can be no reasonable doubt, that the application, here made of them, is just; or that Baptism especially signifies the affusion of the Spirit of God
It is, however, to be very carefully remarked here, that, although Baptism is a symbol of this affusion, and of the Regeneration, which is ils consequence, yet Baptism neither ensures, nor proves, Regen
and cause you
upon the soul.