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wanting to a great part of those who call them
selves disciples of Christ, is using a language not 'conformable to that of scripture, nor indeed of .. the primitive fathers, or the offices of our own
liturgy; which declares every person who is bap* tized to be, by that very act, regenerated and • grafted into the body of Christ's church.'1
There is no doubt, a considerable difference in the manner of address used to professed Christians in the epistles, from that employed to unbelieving Jews and gentiles in the Acts of the apostles. But, when the circumstances in which men at that time embraced and professed Christianity are duly considered, this difference will be readily accounted for, without admitting that all baptized persons are
regenerated by the Holy Spirit ;' or ' by that "very act regenerated.' 'That very act' 'is indeed the act of him who baptizes ; and thus, being “ born of the Spirit,” and “ born of God,” is stated to be the act of man. “ I, indeed,” says John the Baptist, “baptize you with water unto repentance ; “ but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, “ he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and “ with fire.”? Here a baptism by one mightier than John, was promised, as distinct from that of John, and immensely superior to it. It was his act to “ baptize with water;" but it was the act of his Lord, Emmanuel, to baptize with the Holy Ghost.
The primitive Christians, contrary to all the prejudices of education, and the habits of their youthful age; contrary to all their interests, and every thing valued in life ; in the face of persecu
Archb. Secker, Ref. 92, 93.
? Matt. iii. 11.
tion, and often in the immediate prospect of martyrdom; professed faith in the crucified Saviour.
“ What shall they do who are baptized for the - “ dead, if the dead rise not?”] They enlisted, as
it were, in the stead, and to succeed to the places, of the soldiers who had already fallen in the battle. It cannot therefore be reasonably doubted, that by far the greater part of them were true believers : and it must have been evidently proper for ministers, addressing them collectively, to speak to them as “ in Christ, new creatures." Let any one candidly compare this state of things with that of modern times. Whole nations almost are Christians (so called,) by birth and education : for they have no prejudices against the name and outward profession of Christianity, which is rather conducive to their credit and interest, than otherwise ; and numbers glory and confide in these distinctions. Let him then ask himself, whether we ought to address such a multifarious body, of all characters, in the same manner as the apostles addressed their select companies of apparently true believers ; and this merely because they, when infants, received the outward form of baptism.—The addresses of the prophets, under the Old Testament, to the Jews and Israelites, who had received the sacra
ment of regeneration,' even circumcision, but were“ uncircumcised in heart ;” and that of John. the Baptist, and our Lord and his apostles, to the Jews, who were the professed people of God, as much as nominal Christians now are, and almost in every thing circumstanced like them; are cer
tainly more suitable to the case, in very many instances. And let it be noted how strongly, and indeed indignantly, our Lord's forerunner protested against a similar confidence, in the circumcised persons, who came to his baptism : “ Bring “forth therefore fruits meet for repentance : and “think not to say within yourselves, We have “ Abraham to our Father; for I say unto you, that “God is able of these stones to raise up children “ unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto “the root of the trees; every tree therefore which “ bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down and “ cast into the fire.”] Now let us suppose that these Jews pleaded their circumcision, as the sacramental sign of regeneration, and a reason why, though “uncircumcised in heart,” they should be considered as Abraham's children : what would he have answered : Perhaps nearly, in the words of St. Paul on a similar subject. Suppose that he, or one “in his power and spirit,” a genuine forrunner of Christ when he shall come to set up his kingdom throughout the earth, should hear men called Christians, pleading their baptismal regeneration as a reason why, however heretical, immoral or ungodly, they should be addressed as the apostles addressed “the saints and faithful brethren “ at Ephesus," and in other Christian churches ; and even teaching others to do the same: would not he deem them entitled even to a more indignant reply
Every confidence of this kind is most offensive
to God. Thus the Jews, in Jeremiah's days, when reproved for their sins and called on to “amend “their ways,” warded off conviction from their consciences by “trusting in lying words, that “ could not profit ;” therefore the prophet warned them thus, “Trust ye not in lying words, saying “ The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, “ are these.” | Thus Isaiah also : “ They call them“selves of the holy city, and stay themselves upon “ the God of Israel.”2 Indeed, whence did the rebellion “raised by Korah and his company” against Moses and Aaron originate, but from a similar confidence? “ They gathered themselves “ against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto “ them ; Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the “congregation is holy, and the Lord is among “ them.”3 Such a confidence in externals and outward profession was, in our Lord's days, (as it must be in every age and place,) a main obstacle to their submission to him and salvation by him : therefore he expressly says to them, “ I say unto “ you, many shall come from the east and west, “ and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and “ Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven ; but the “ children of the kingdom shall be cast out into “ outward darkness, there shall be weeping and “ gnashing of teeth.”4 What then would be the end of this supposed sonship ?
Especially Stephen's address to the Jewish council, when he was full of the Holy Ghost,“ Ye stiff“ necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears,
“ ye do always resist the Holy Ghost; as did your “ fathers so do ye ;” 1 shews that he considered the unbelieving and disobedient Israelites in every age, as unregenerate, though they had received the sign or sacrament, of regeneration : for neither “circumcision" nor baptism“ is that “ which is outward in the flesh; but that which “ is in the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; “whose praise is not of men, but of God.” 1
In support of this the words of the Homily are full to the point.-Writing to Bonefacius of the baptism of infants, he' (St. Augustine) saith, If
sacraments had not a certain similitude of those “things whereof they be sacraments, they should
be no sacraments at all. And of this similitude “they do, for the most part, receive the names of
the selfsame things they signify.' By these words of St. Augustine it appeareth, that he alloweth the common description of a sacrament, which is, that it is a visible sign of an invisible grace; that is to say, that setteth out to the eyes, and other
outward senses, the inward working of God's free "mercy; and doth, as it were, seal in our hearts
the promises of God. And so was circumcision 'a sacrament, which preached unto the outward 'senses the inward cutting away the foreskin of the heart.'2
The churches to which the apostolical epistles were written were select companies, each adult of which had been admitted into the church on an intelligent profession of faith ; such as approved
Acts vii. 51, 52. Rom. ii. 28, 29.