Images de page

himself would have claimed, if, with the best intentions, he had not been able to come to the same conclusion, on any given point of importance, as had been adopted by others.

Let me then ask, in the first place, What is the great characteristic of the religion we profess?

If we look to divines for an answer to this question, we may easily obtain it. We shall find some of them, in their sermons, speaking of circumcision, baptismal washings and purifications, new moons, feasts of the passover and unleavened bread, sacrifices and other rites: we shall find them dwelling on these, as constituent parts of the religion of the Jews. We shall find them immediately passing from thence to the religion of Jesus Christ. Here all is considered by them to be spiritual. Devotion of the heart is insisted upon as that alone which is acceptable to God. If God is to be worshipped, it is laid down as a position, that he is to be worshipped in spirit and in truth. We shall find them also, in other of their sermons, but particularly in those preached after the Reformation, stating the advantages obtained


by that event.

The Roman Catholic system

is here considered by them to be as ceremonial as that of the Jews. The Protestant is held out as of a more spiritual nature, and as more congenial therefore with the spirit of the Gospel. But what is this but a confession, in each case, that in proportion as men give up ceremonies, and become spiritual in their worship, their religion is the best; or that spirituality is the grand characteristic of the religion of Jesus Christ? Now there immediately arises a presumption, if spirituality of feeling had been intended as the characteristic of any religion, that no ceremonious ordinances would have been introduced into it.

[ocr errors]

If, again, I were to make an assertion to divines, that Jesus Christ came to put an end to the ceremonious part of the Jewish Law, and to the types and shadows belonging to the Jewish dispensation, they would not deny it. But Baptism and the Supper were both of them outward Jewish ceremonies, connected with the Jewish religion. They were both of them types and shadows, of which the antitypes and substances had been realized at the death of Christ. And therefore

[ocr errors]

therefore a presumption arises again, that these were not intended to be continued.

And that they were not intended to be continued, may be presumed again from. another consideration. For, what was baptism to any but a Jew? What could a Gentile have understood by it? What notion could he have formed, by means of it, of the necessity of the baptism of Christ? Unacquainted with purifications by water, as symbols of purification of heart, he could never have entered, like a Jew, into the spiritual life of such an ordinance. And similar observations may be made with respect to the Passover-supper. A Gentile could have known nothing, like a Jew, of the meaning of this ceremony. He could never have seen in the paschal lamb any type of Christ, or in the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage any type of his own deliverance from sin, so clearly and feelingly as if the facts and customs had related to his own history, or as if he had been trained to the connection by a long series of prophecies. In short, the Passover could have had but little meaning to him. From these circumstances, therefore, there


would be reason to conclude that these ceremonies were not to be continued, at least to any but Jews, because they were not fitted to the knowledge, the genius, or the condition of the Gentile world.

But independently of these difficulties, which arise from a general view of these ordinances as annexed to a religion which is confessed to be spiritual, others arise from a particular view of each. On the subject of Baptism, there is ground for argument as to the meaning of the word "baptize." This word, in consequence of its representation of a watery ceremony, is usually connected with water in our minds, But it may also very consistently be connected even with fire. Its general meaning is to purify. In this sense many understand it: and those who do, and who apply it to the great command of Jesus to his disciples, think they give a better interpretation of it than those who connect it with water; for they think it more reasonable that the Apostles should have been enjoined to go into all nations, and to endeavour to purify the hearts of individuals, by the spirit and power of their preaching, from the dross of heathen-no

tions, and to lead them to spirituality of mind, by the inculcation of Gospel-principles, than to dip them under water, as an essential part of their new religion.

But on a supposition that the word "baptize" should signify to immerse, and not to purify, another difficulty occurs; for, if it was thought proper or necessary that persons should be initiated into Christianity by water-baptism, in order to distinguish their new state from that of the Jews or Heathens, who then surrounded them, it seems unnecessary for the children of Christian parents, who were born in a Christian community, and whose ancestors for cen turies have professed the Christian name.

Nor is it to be considered as any other than a difficulty, that the Christian world have known so little about water-baptism, that they have been divided as to the right manner of performing it. The Eastern and Western Churches differed early upon this point; and Christians continue to differ upon it to the present day, some thinking that none but adults, others that none but infants, should be baptized; some that the faces only of the baptized should be sprinkled


« PrécédentContinuer »