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divine grace. The frame and temper of the ? mind will thus be gradually improved; the force of sinful temptations will grow less and less; we shall · daily proceed in all virtue and godliness of living,'“ till we come unto a perfect man, unto the 'measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."' |
The question here occurs, Does the Holy Spirit, uniformly in and by the use of water-baptism, ' work the new birth ?' Does he not often, nay generally, work it “ by the word of truth," either before, or after, baptism? “ Being born again, “ not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by “ the word of God, which liveth and abideth for “ ever.” 2—But this has already been discussed. Regeneration is the cause, and repentance and conversion are the effects. Regeneration imparts life; and where life is there will be feeling and activity. Regeneration “takes away the heart of “stone, and gives the heart of flesh;" which is susceptible of holy fear, godly sorrow, ingenuous shame, remorse, contrition, hatred of sin, humiliation before God, longing after holiness, love, gratitude, enlarged pure benevolence, and all holy affections: but neither in scripture, nor in the writings of Calvinists in general, are the cause and the effects confounded.- Almighty and ever• lasting God, who dost forgive the sins of all
them that are penitent, create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness, through Jesus • Christ our Lord.' -Regeneration, as giving spiritual life to the dead, may, indeed, must be instantaneous; though the person regenerated is seldom, perhaps never, at the moment aware of what has taken place: but conversion may be more or less gradual, according to various circumstances : and indeed we must be converted more and more, or turned more and more from sin to God and holiness, till we become perfectly holy: and especially if any turn aside they must again be converted from the evil of their ways. 2_ Be
a James i. 18. 1 Pet. i. 23.
ing placed in a state of salvation, from which it ' is impossible for them to fall, belongs to another part of the work, and will there be fully examined.
I might here close this part of my remarks on regeneration ; but, aware of the misconstruction which is often put upon the words of those who maintain that baptism is not regeneration by the Holy Spirit, nor always attended with it, I deem it proper to add, that this sentiment is not accompanied with any hesitation as to the propriety and scriptural authority of infant-baptism. It appears to me, as much the Christian parent's duty to present his child to God in baptism, as it was that of Abraham and his descendents to devote their male offspring to God by circumcision. The blessing of God must be expected in the way of obedience to his commandments, and observance of his ordinances : and, when all concerned in the baptism of infants conscientiously attend to their several duties, and unite in their fervent prayers that
· Col. Ash Wednesday.
the children may have ‘ the inward and spiritual • grace of baptism ;' and when the parents and others concerned, endeavour to “ train up their “ children in the nurture and admonition of the “ Lord;" there is good ground for hope that the blessing will be vouchsafed, either at the time, or afterwards, if the children live. And, in respect to those who die before they commit actual sin, it is a comfort to the parents to reflect, that they brought their children to the Saviour, and sought his blessing, according to his own appointment. But we must not add, that those who die unbaptized, whether by the mistake or fault of the parents or not, die unregenerate ; and so “ cannot “ enter the kingdom of God: " for this would not only inflict a cruel wound on the afflicted mind of the parents ; but would imply a reflection on the mercy and goodness of God to his ancient church, to the unoffending offspring of believing Abraham, to whom he said, “I will be a God to thee and to “ thy seed.” Infants were not to be circumcised till the eighth day; no doubt numbers died before the eighth day; and, if “ the circumcision of “the heart, by the Spirit,” were inseparable from that of the body, they must have died among the uncircumcised in heart, and have had their portion with them. John the Baptist, being “ filled with “ the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb," was doubtless regenerated before he was circumcised. And, if those whom Jeremiah called on to “ cir“ cumcise themselves unto the Lord, and take “ away the foreskins of their hearts," ! (a command,
"Jer. iv. 3, 4.
by the way, given to circumcised persons to re'generate themselves,') through grace obeyed the call, it is evident that they were regenerated subsequently to their sacrament of regeneration. The same was the case of all the Israelites who profited by the exhortations of the servants and ministers of God, before the change of the initiatory ordinance, the sacrament of regeneration, from circumcision to baptism: and the same is for substance the case with all ungodly baptized persons, who at length become “ new creatures," and “ walk in newness of life.” We are required to do our several duties, but the Lord must not be limited. “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and “ thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not “ tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth : “ so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”!
Quotations from the Reformers or Fathers of our Church concerning Baptism and Regeneration.
* This outward sign doth neither give us the Spirit of God, neither yet grace, that is, the fa'vour of God. For, if, through the washing in
the water, the Spirit of grace were given, then it 'should follow, that whosoever were baptized in 'water should receive this precious gift : but that
is not so : wherefore I must needs conclude that ‘this outward sign, by any power or influence that • it hath, bringeth not the Spirit or favour of God.
John ji, 8.
' That every man receiveth not this treasure in baptism it is evident; for, put the case, that a Jew or an infidel should say that he did believe, and believe not indeed; and upon his words were baptized indeed ; (for no man can judge what his heart is, but we must receive him unto • baptism, if he confess our faith with his mouth, • albeit his heart be far from thence ;) this mis
creant, now thus baptized, hath received this 'outward sign and sacrament, as well as the most • faithful man believing. Howbeit he neither re'ceiveth the Spirit of God, neither yet any grace, but rather condemnation.'— It followeth that the outward sign giveth no man any grace. Moreover, if the Spirit of God and his grace were bound unto the sacraments, then where the sacraments were ministered there must the Spirit of grace wait on; and where they were not ministered should be neither Spirit nor grace. But that is false ; for Cornelius and all his household received the Holy Ghost before they were baptized. . . .Here may we see that, as the Spirit of God lighteth where he will, neither is he bound 'to any thing. Yea, and this example doth well declare unto us, that the sacraments are given to be an outward witness unto all the congrega‘tion of that grace which is given before privately unto every man.'— When we baptize one that is come to the age of discretion, we ask of him whether he believe: if he answer, Yea, and de
sire baptism, then he is baptized : so that we re'quire faith of him before he be baptized, (which
Should it not be living?