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of Christ no tradition more universal and unquestioned, than the invariable use of this sacrament, as the means of admission to the covenanted mercies of the Gospel.
In what has hitherto been urged I have dwelt more particularly upon the authority of the ordinance—the dignity and power of that Lord by whom it was instituted, and the importance which He evidently attached to it, by the solemn and impressive circumstances of its institution. But there is another point of view in which it may be regarded ; namely, the deep interest which we have in observing it, and the great and precious promises attached to it. As St. Peter's converts had but recently acknowledged their Lord, and were, therefore, less likely to be impressed with motives based on reverence of His authority, than with a sense of their own peculiar condition, and of the advantages they were to derive from entering into His service, this Apostle, with sound judgment, passes lightly over the former motive, but prominently puts forward the latter: he tells them that on being baptized in the name of Jesus, they shall receive remission of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost.
There is no reason why we, having considered the necessity and authority of this sacrament, should not profit by these additional motives of self-interest and self-preservation suggested by St. Peter's words. To the desire of obedience springing from gratitude and duty to our Lord, we, there
fore, add the encouragement to be derived from the benefits of which He has been pleased to assure us in that sacrament. Not only does St. Peter assert this promise, but Jesus Himself, as we have before stated, says,
“ he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” And again, to Nicodemus He makes the declaration, Except a man be born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” In these declarations, and St. Peter's, we have the promise of remission of sins, of the gists of the Holy Ghost, of salvation, and admission to the kingdom of God, annexed to Baptism, which is the means through which God covenants to impart these blessings, and requires his people to seek them. It must be then our highest, our all-important, interest, to obey this ordinance of Christ, and to secure the blessings to which it may finally lead. I
say, may finally lead ; for though Baptism, where it
may be had, is represented in these passages, and received by the Church, as a means of grace and salvation, necessary and effectual for entrance into the Church of Christ; yet this does not exclude the addition of other means of grace, and the requirement of certain duties for our continuance in that Church, and our perseverance till we shall obtain its crown in heaven. It places man in what the Catechism describes as a “ state of salvation ;” that is, in a state in which they may, but not must, be finally saved. They have remission of sins, and are received into the kingdom of God; but they will
not remain in it, unless their faith and conduct shall be worthy of the vocation wherewith they are called. This St. Peter very carefully explains to the disciples. Speaking of the wonderful preservation of Noah and his family in the ark, he says, “ these eight souls were saved by water; 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 towards God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
He tells us here, that inward purity is signified and represented by the outward washing with water; and, to enable us to do our part in this respect, the sanctifying grace of the Holy Ghost is one of the covenanted benefits of this sacrament. For Baptism is a sacrament, and consists (as is concisely mentioned in the Catechism) of two parts, “ an outward visible sign,” and “an inward spiritual grace." By the “ outward and visible sign,” is meant something which can be seen and perceived by our bodily senses, and which is used to figure and represent to our imagination something spiritual, which we cannot see or perceive by our bodily senses. In Baptism, water, which we can see, and of which we experience the effects upon our bodies, is the outward and visible sign, to represent to us the benefits and advantages which, in this ordinance, are conferred upon our souls. As water cleanses and purifies the body, so Baptism (not by any natural effect, but by the ordinance and promise of
Christ, and by the power of the Holy Spirit) cleanses and purifies the soul. This purifying the soul, this washing away the guilt of our sinful and corrupt nature, this reception of us into the ark of Christ's Church, from that terrible sentence, which, like the deluge, covered the whole earth, is described in the Catechism as “ a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness; for being by nature born in sin, and the children of wrath, we are hereby made the children of grace.” hereby, our Church teaches, born again to a new life.
“ All men” (says the late Bishop of Winchester, in his exposition of the article on Baptism,)“ being, through the disobedience of our first parents, subject to death, the rite of Baptism, by which we are admitted into the religion of Jesus, who hath abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light, is, with great propriety, called a sign of regeneration. The original corruption of our nature is thus washed away, and we are born again to new hopes and new prospects, as is represented in St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, in which he says, that we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. And to Titus he says, ' According to his mercy He saved us by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.' By Baptism we become dead unto sin, but alive unto God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. We put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him. Thus is the inward effect of Baptism constantly asserted in Scripture. We are said to be born again of water and of the Spirit, which are frequently mentioned together; the one applied externally, the other operating internally. Baptism, therefore, is not a mere external badge, or token, of our being Christians; it is a new birth from the death of sin, and a regeneration to a new life in Christ; it is a change and renovation of nature by the spirit and grace of God; it is an infusion of spiritual life into the soul, by which it is made capable of performing spiritual actions, and of living unto God.”
Baptism then was ordained by Christ as a means of our receiving those benefits, of which water figures the nature to our minds. But the Catechism teaches, that it is also “ a pledge, to assure us” of those benefits, or of that inward and spiritual grace, signified or shown by the outward sign of washing with water. And this brings us to the last peculiarity of Baptism, to which your attention will be directed in this discourse.
Baptism, you will remember, is the means of your admission into covenant with Christ, and water He has appointed to be the seal of that covenant. It thus becomes a pledge, assuring us of the benefits