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MATT. xxviii. 19.
"Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
WE are now desirous of drawing your attention to the offices of our Church, and to point out to you, how they are founded upon the declarations of Scripture. The words that we have chosen for our text, appear to be particularly applicable to the occasion. They were the last our Saviour himself addressed to his apostles after his resurrection, just before he ascended to his Father-with them he left the following consolatory promise: "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world!"
In noticing baptism, we must first say a few words concerning circumcision, as circumcision may very properly be considered the type of baptism. Circumcision was under the old dispensation, what baptism is under the new. Circumcision was instituted by God himself, as a sign or token of the covenant, that God made with Abraham. It was not a mere mark, whereby the seed of Abraham should be known, but it was a rite by which children entered into the covenant and became the children of God'. By circumcision, children became entitled to the blessing promised by God to Abraham; it marked them as the peculiar people of God, who promised to pardon their sins and to cleanse them from their natural corruptions. But in the case of the proselyte, and at a later age, baptism was added to circumcision. Now a covenant is simply an agreement to which the parties promise strictly to adhere. God made a covenant with Abraham and his seed, wherein he promised to bless them,
1 Vid. Gen. xvii., and also the note thereon in Mant's Bible.
and make them a great nation, and from the loins of Abraham to raise the Redeemer of the world. This was God's promise; man's obligation was to perform the duties required by God, to believe in the Messiah, and to fulfil all that the Lord had commanded. Circumcision having been therefore the sign of this covenant between God and his creatures, those who entered into the covenant became partakers of its privileges, and partook largely of its advantages. But when the Gospel was substituted for the law, baptism took the place of circumcision. So that now “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature'." However, there is a like covenant, though the sign be different. God promises that he will receive man again into his favour, and man, that he will have faith in the Saviour, and keep the commandments. The sign is water, because water typifies internal purification.
Baptism in our Church is a Sacrament,
1 Gal. vi. 15.
in which there is the outward and visible sign, and the inward and spiritual grace, instituted and ordained by Christ himself, and by it children are introduced into his Church. It is the appointed mean of initiation, whereby we become members of that spiritual society, which is called in the language of Scripture, the "Church of Christ." We then receive the honourable and distinctive title of Christians, become acceptable unto God, and are placed in a condition, whereby we may, through the merits of the Saviour, work out our eternal salvation.
In our Catechism, we are instructed that there are two parts in a sacrament,—the outward visible sign, and the inward spiritual grace. Water is the outward sign-a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness, is the inward and spiritual grace. When man is born into the world, he is born in sin-at enmity with the Father-a child of wrath, with the corruptions that Adam entailed upon him; but when he is baptized, he is accepted by the Father, restored to his favour, and
becomes the child of grace.
He is rege
nerated, born again "of water, and of the Spirit," for baptism is "a sign of regeneration or new birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive baptism rightly, are grafted into the Church; the promises of forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed: faith is confirmed, and grace increased, by virtue of prayer unto God." Here then is the advantage to be derived from baptism; it restores us again to the favour of God, and obtains for us remission of sins. St. Peter baptized the converted Jews for the remission of sins; and Ananias exhorted St. Paul, "Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins." And our Saviour assured us that "he that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned "."
Again, as there are promises to be made at baptism, which a child is unable to
1 Art. xxvii.
Mark xvi. 16. Κατακριθήσεται does not allude to eternal damnation.