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"Baptism, wherein I was made a child of God." There is a strange confusion of thought on the subject of this relationship, a confusion which has the mischievous result of dividing good men, who, were it not for this, would all "speak the same thing." By Baptism a relationship with God is contracted, the baptized person being admitted into His family. It is strange that persons cannot see that a relationship stands clear altogether of the moral conduct of the person holding it, and cannot be in any way affected or shaken by that moral conduct. The prodigal son in the Parable was a son still, all his profligate and ungrateful conduct notwithstanding. His leaving the home of his childhood, his taking up his abode in a far country, his squandering his fortune, his connexion with vile outlandish women, his abject poverty, his ultimate degradation to the office of swineherd, all these things did not alter his lineage, nor drain his father's blood out of his veins. He said and he felt that he was not worthy to be called a son ; but in the same breath he called his father "Father," showing that the relationship was not annihilated, however unworthy of it he had proved. It is so with God's children, who are adopted into His family by Baptism. Nothing which occurs in after-life can rase the seal off the bond of their Baptism. However they may dishonour and cast a stain upon their divine lineage, it still exists. And hence it was that Luther called upon sinners, as the first effort in the direction of Repentance, to go back to their Baptism, and to stand.
upon that before God. He felt that the baptismal relationship must be for a christened man the very ground and foundation of all his subsequent dealings with God.
There are, it is true, passages of Holy Scripture (let us not blink one of them) which seem expressly to connect Divine Sonship with abstinence from sin and correspondence to grace, and which at first sight forbid us to predicate that sonship where these features of character do not exist. The strongest passages of this sort I can think of are, "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God ;" and, "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." But these and the like words are capable of an easy explanation, which renders them consistent not only with the doctrine of baptismal Regeneration, but also with the analogy of natural sonship. Might not a father say of a very vile son, who had brought a stain upon the honour of his family, "He is no son of mine; I can trace in him nothing of my character and disposition; I disown him altogether, and recognize only those of my children who maintain the credit of my name "? In saying this, no one would understand him to deny the natural relationship of the bad son to him, but only to repudiate in the strongest terms he could find any moral affinity. In God's family too there is a sonship of moral affinity, as well as a far wider sonship of Sacramental relation, and of course it
is only those who exhibit the sonship of moral affinity who will be recognized as sons at the Great Day; all else will be repudiated and solemnly disowned by our Heavenly Father.
II. Having thus explained the baptismal relationship, we will now point out the grace which it carries along with it, and which may be defined as the first force, the earliest motive power, of the Christian life. Did I say I would point it out? But it lies under our hands, though, like other things which lie under our hands, we are apt to miss it, because we search for it too far afield. The shape which the baptismal grace takes in all men in general is good desires. You have these good desires attributed to grace, and to "special grace" in the Easter Collect:"As, by Thy special grace preventing us, Thou dost put into our minds good desires." Our esteem for devout and religious people, the wish to be good and to lead a devout and religious life, the wish to amend and shake off bad habits, and conquer faults of character-these at the lower end of the scale; and at the higher, the restlessness and emptiness engendered in the heart by a day without prayer, the calm which earnest prayer is felt to induce, and the desire after prayer which results from these experiences; the longing, too, after Holy Communion, combined, as it often is, with a fear of approaching the ordinance unworthily,-these are some of the impulses, more or less fluctuating, more or less allowed to colour the life, more or less strong, according
to the occasions which call them forth and the characters of the persons harbouring them, which spring up continually in the heart of the baptized, and which represent the action of the Holy Spirit upon the soul, in virtue of Baptism'. They are not the fruit, which God will require in its season from those who have been planted in His vineyard; but they are the blossom on the fruit-tree, an efflorescence, which shows the tree's vitality, and gives hope that, with proper culture, it will bear fruit hereafter.
But in those who have fallen into wilful and deliberate sin, and, it may be, have long persisted in that evil course, the grace of Baptism, unless, indeed, it has become altogether extinct, operates in another manner.
1 It will no doubt be said that persons merely educated in Christian Truth, and submitted freely to the influences of Christian civilization-children, for instance, of a Baptist or a Quakerwould probably have all the sentiments here described, even without the administration of the Sacrament of Baptism. No doubt Christian education, which Our Lord ordained in close and vital connexion with the Sacrament of Baptism ("baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you," Matt. xxviii. 19, 20), has of itself a great effect in instilling these "good desires." But the fact that God is good and gracious, even to those who have never formally been brought into the bond of His Covenant, and is pleased sometimes to attach grace to that which is only half a Sacrament, cannot disprove the normal connexion between Baptism and those drawings of the heart which are here said to be its effects. The warmth of incubation is the usual and regular means of quickening the germ of life in an egg: that chickens may be hatched by artificial warmth does not really make against this truth.
The parable of the Prodigal Son beautifully illustrates this working of the grace in question. The son had tried to live on unsatisfying food, and had found by experience that it could not fill or nourish him. The craving of natural appetite brought him to himself, and it was then that he began to bethink him of the abundant diet provided even for menials in his father's house; 66 How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!" It is very observable that his earliest instigation to return arises from nothing nobler than a sense that he was famishing. It is not, in the first instance, love for his father, it is not a touching memory of earlier and purer days sweeping across his heart, which moves him to retrace his steps; but merely the gnawing of hunger. Oh, great and gracious encouragement to a sinner who has wandered far from God, and seems quite to have estranged himself from his heavenly home! The mere dissatisfaction with the creature, arising from making trial of it and finding it to fail, the mere void which is created in the heart by constant disappointment, when all worldly sources of happiness have been proved one after another, and turned out broken cisterns which can hold no water,—even this motive, interested and selfish as it is, is accepted, if it lead to an effective penitence, or rather to a hearty effort in that direction. And why? Because this intense dissatisfaction of the soul with the creature, this refusal to acquiesce in any thing which does not fully content the heart, is instigated by