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As the accident did not happen, either going or coming, we got safe home, where we found a jovial party ready to give me joy on my being made a Christian. And as soon as the labours of the day were over, the priest himself came, and joined our fireside party. A drop of the best was brought out, my godfathers smoked, my godmothers joked, and the glass went merrily round till midnight, when they all forgot to renounce the works of the devil; for they all went staggering home by the light of the moon
"The priest himself not a whit behind."
Thus ended the farce of my baby baptism, or the baptism that I was baptized with, when I was a baby.
Fit doctrine to indulge the times,
In vice and infamy of crime,
Who shall his ruin tell?
When rushing down the deep amain,
Priests, like a comet, drag a train,
In regard to John iii. 5. as stated at page 507, and out of which this notion originated, it may be observed, that had our Divine Teacher, when he declared it absolutely necessary to be "bern of water and of the Spirit." intended the ordinance of baptism by the term water; then, indeed, the necessity of that institution would have unavoidably followed, as being placed on a level with the renewing agency of the Holy Spirit. But were that the sense of our Lord, it would inevitably follow, that a positive rite is of equal necessity with the renovating influences of the Holy Spirit; that the salvation of infants, in many cases, is rendered impossible; because numbers of them are no sooner born than they expire;-that the eternal happiness of all who die in their infancy must depend, not only on the devout care of their parents, but also on the presence and pious benevolence of administrators;—that all the dying infants
mangle, hotch-potch, I cannot tell what, partly popery, and partly true religion, mingled together. They say, continues he, in my country, when they call their hogs to the swinetrough, Come to the mingle-mangle; come, purs, come: even so, do they make minglemangle of the Gospel. Gilpin's Life of Bishop Latimer.
of Jews, of Mohammedans, and of Pagans, are involved in final ruin; and that multitudes of adults must also perish, merely for the want of baptism. But who can imagine that the Lord should place our immortal interests on such a slender footing, as neither tends to illustrate the grace of God, nor to promote the comfort of man-on such a footing, as is quite inimical to the spirit of that maxim, "By grace ye are saved ;" and has no aptitude to excite virtuous tempers in the human heart? A sentiment of this kind is chiefly adapted to enhance the importance of the clerical character, and to make mankind consider themselves as under infinite obliga tions to a professional order of their fellow-mortals, for an interest in everlasting blessedness. Remarkably strong is the following language of Mr. Archibald Hall, respecting this particular: "We might well say, Wo to the earth! if it were in the power selfish and peevish order of men, to dispose of happiness and damnation according to their humour.”
A child is born-'tis born to die :
There is a numerous body of dissenters, or non-conformists, in this country, who adopt the practice of sprinkling infants, but who differ as much from the protestant church, as the protestant church does from the church of Rome. They do not profess to regenerale the child, or to ingraft it into the church of Christ; they do not use the sign of the cross on the forehead; neither do they consider godfathers and godmothers necessary.
The parents simply bring their infants to the sanctuary on the sabbath-day; the minister taking it into his arms, a small cup o water being provided, he then sprinkles a few drops on
child's face, calling it by uame, and saying, "I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." This, they contend, is the essence of baptism. But here the point at issue
is, What is meant by the word baptism? I have consulted all the authorities that came within my reach, as may be seen at page 466, and they invariably decide, that to baptize, is to immerse or dip into water. This was never disputed in the Catholic church, the Greek church, or the Protestant church, even down to the present day; for all those that practise otherwise, do it as a matter of courtesy, and not as by law established.
Now, if they say they baptize the infant, and they do it not, what do they do? Why, it appears to me, as a looker on, that the minister takes the child into his arms in the sanctuary, and in the presence of the congregation, and dedicates it to the Lord with a lie in his mouth.
But they argue upon this point, that the word baptize (with a little stretching) will bear to be interpreted sprinkling. It may be so; but here I respectfully contend that they are not justified in using any language that is not familiar (in an ordinance of this kind) to the capacity of the most humble individual of their flock. Suppose a master should say to his servant, " You should baptize the gravel walk, before you sweep it;" the servant, desirous of doing his master's will, yet not understanding the term, takes an opportunity of consulting a dictionary; he there finds his master ordered him to dip or plunge the gravel walk in water—which was never meant. But if he had said, "You should sprinkle the gravel walk, before you sweep it;" the servant would at once have understood him, however ignorant he might have been.
As many, therefore, as are of opinion that sprinkling is right, I. do contend, ought, in justice to their brethren of the opposite opinion, to call it by its proper name, and not stand before the world in false colours, using the words only, but not the ordinance. The following extracts may perhaps be useful to direct us in the present case, as to how far words ought to be taken in their plain and simple meaning; and are therefore submitted to the reader's
It is necessary doubtless, that he who desires to be understood when he writes or speaks, should intend to convey only one meaning; which if we obtain, we have the true and genuine sense.
There is but one genuine sense of a text.
If it (the Scripture) have not every where one proper determinate sense, it hath none at all.
Laws being directed to the unlearned, ought to be construed in their most obvious meaning, and not explained away by subtle distinctions: and no law is to suffer a figurative interpretation, where the proper sense of the words is as commodious, and equally fitted Encyclopædia. Article Law to the subject of the statute.
When the words of the law are capable of different senses, and reason is for one sense, and the other sense against reason, there it is fit that a plain and necessary reason should expound the law. But when the law is not capable of such different senses, or there is no such reason as makes one sense absurd and the other neces sary; the law must be expounded according to the most plain and obvious signification of the words, though it may condemn that which we think there may be some reason for, or at least no reason against; for otherwise it is an easy matter to expound away all the law of God.
Dr. Sherlock's Preservative against Popery. In all things where the precept is given in the proper style of laws, he that takes the first sense is the likeliest to be well guided. In the interpretation of the laws of Christ, the strict sense is to be
In words which are capable of two senses, the natural and proper is the primary; and therefore ought, in the first place chiefly to be regarded.
Dr. Jonathan Edwards's Preservative against Socinianism. It is a principle with me, that the true sense of any phrase in the New Testament, is what may be called its standing sense: that which will be the first to occur to common people of every country Dr. Horsley's Reply to Dr. Priestley. meaning, if we take
and in every age.
Since words are designed to convey some
the liberty of playing upon words after the meaning is fixed and certain, there can be no security against equivocation and wile, in any laws, or any engagements whatever. All the ends and uses of
speech will hereby be perverted.
Dr. Waterland on Arianism.
I am more and more convinced, that the vulgar sense of the New Testament, that is, the sense in which an honest man of plain sense would take it, on his first reading the original, or any good translation, is almost every where the true general sense of any passage. I choose to follow the plainest and most obvious and common interpretation; which, indeed, I generally think the best.
Dr. Doddridge on Matt. xviii,
We must now close a subject, already much too long; but as this is the great stumbling-block, or rock of offence, between the two principal bodies of dissenters in the present day, I have made many extracts, more for my own amusement, than for any advantage they will be towards convincing those I have in view; for it is very rare that any arguments, however well authenticated, will change the creed of a professor, when once established: converted characters, like the moon, generally shine by borrowed light. We cannot suppose that the new convert to the Christian religion, though learned, can patiently wade through ten thousand volumes of polemic divinity, before he determines to what sect or party be will unite himself; and hence we invariably find, that those who scarcely ever read an author in their lives, are as positive and dogmatical in the peculiarities of their creed, as those who have read hundreds, and weighed the matter in the balance of a sound judgment.
Though man a thinking being" is defin'd,
The mind of an infant is like a sheet of white paper; and alt the characters drawn there are produced by sound and vision. (Let us imagine the case of a child born deaf and blind.) Now there is an analogy between this state and that of a man destitute of spiritual perception, (who actually is, in this sense, both deaf and blind) out of which state he is delivered by conversion. It is by conversion he becomes susceptible of new impressions, which are readily received from the lips of his favourite spiritual guide, through the