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THE GENTILES BAPTIZED.
IF, following the example of the Holy Scriptures, we call them a covenant, and then divide it into the Old and New, we indicate thereby the divine origin, the character, aim, and history of the revelations of God. The Bible is the glorious word, profound and true, which, rightly understood, reveals to us the mystery of the dependence of man on his heavenly Father, and the connection of God with man. The words of the prophet,
men have transgressed the covenant,' find their confirmation both in human feeling and in human history. Slavish fear, striving to reconcile the offended Godhead by self-chosen mediators, or by its own art to appease the divine anger, and quiet its own terror, has been the basis of idolatry in all ages, and in all nations. Every religion not grounded on revelation, is false, being a proof of sin and of apostacy from God,—tending, besides, to a perpetually increasing separation from Jehovah and his salvation. Man could only be reconciled to God, by means of a divine mediator; but this was beyond the
power of man to conceive till God himself revealed it.
The history of that nation, which God chose from amidst the idolatrous world, to be his own peculiar people, amply proves how difficult it is for the natural man
to raise his faith, so as to comprehend the covenant of God with the human race; simplicity and humility alone can do it. Therefore the Lord says, by the mouth of his prophets, “Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities. I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins,' Is. xliii. 24, 25. "I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.' Jer. xxxi. 3. These words paint with striking reality, both the unwearied mercy of God, and the unceasing rebellion of men. The next step which the Jewish nation shall take, is deeply interesting to all mankind; though God is also the God of the Gentiles, yet Israel is his first-born son.
It is unspeakably touching to observe how he, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night,' how the Lord of Sabaoth condescends to draw men unto himself, and if they will humbly believe on him, covers their transgressions, showering blessings upon them. As the Lord, after the first judgment had been passed over the miserable earth, extended his bow in the clouds, as a pledge to Noah that he would keep his covenant and his promises; so all the exterior forms and observances of the Old Testament had no other object than the visible ratification of his gracious words, For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee, Is. liv. 10.
And the Apostle Paul says, ' Israelites, to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God and the promises ; whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever ! Rom. ix. 4, 5.
After the kindness and love of God our Savior towards man had appeared, when the promises were fulfilled, and the eternal covenant was concluded, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.' Baptism stands among the ordinances of Christianity, in wonderful simplicity, as the seal of the covenant of God, as a visible pledge of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the love of God, and of the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Oh! that all would regard it as the glad token of a new covenant, like the bright testimony God stretched among the clouds, the footstool of him whose throne is in heaven! Oh! that Sion would hear his voice; lo, I shall be with thee, even unto the end of the world ! ' I have graven thee on the palms of my hands."
* THEN answered Peter, can any man forbid water that these
should not be bap:ized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Acts x. 46–48.
Peter had preached the Gospel to Cornelius and his friends; they had received the word of truth joyfully,
and had believed. A new life had commenced in their souls, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit, like the Apostles at the feast of Pentecost, so that they spake with tongues and magnified God. And now Peter asks, in the joy of his heart, 'Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized ?' One may well inquire how they that were born again by the Spirit of God, should require the ceremonial of baptism ? Certainly not, if baptism were a mere outward form! But it must have been much more, or the Apostle would not have used it to conclude that work of salvation and blessing, for which he had been sent to the house of the Centurion ; making it, as it were, the very crown of God's first manifestation to the Gentiles! Those
believers were to receive a blessing through the ordinance of baptism, the last good and perfect gift of which they stood in need.
Baptism seems, at the first glance, a mere outward ceremony. The person to be baptized must either be plunged into water, as was the custom in the East, or else, as among European Christians, be merely sprinkled with it, while the clergyman is pronouncing the name of the Holy Trinity. Nothing can be simpler than this, yet it is the seal of the greatest of God's gifts and blessings. God acts with simplicity; it is man alone that employs art. What can be simpler than the manner in which, for so many thousand years, he has poured out his light upon the earth, and has sent rain and dew from above? When the Almighty created man in his own image, he formed his body out of the dust of the ground, breathed into his nostrils the
breath of life, and man became a living soul. Sin, however, has transformed us, making that manifold which was formerly simple, and causing flesh and spirit to strive against one another.
But what is more, the Lord Jesus himself has appointed and ordained this sacrament. He who walked upon earth in the simplest and most obscure form of man, in order to seek them which were lost, and to save them from sin, he who, by his simple Gospel, has done away with the unnecessary forms of the law, and enjoined the worship of God in Spirit and in truth, he it it who has solemnly ordained baptism to be used by the church. His words are, 'Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.'
Baptism is the symbol of Christianity, of belief in the Gospel, and of reception into the community of saints. The Apostles, wherever they went, enjoined this command of the Lord, and baptized all who, renouncing either Judaism or Heathenism, professed their belief in the name of Jesus. “Repent and be baptized, every one
you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins,' are the words of Peter on the day of Pentecost. Cornelius and his companions must also be baptized, in order to be withdrawn from the dark regions of Gentilism, and received into the congregation of the Lord. As a little infant, at its entrance into this world of tears, stands in need of the swaddling clothes which are given to it, without its own co-operation ; so the new-born heavenly child requires baptism, the covering given to it from heaven for its spiritual man.