Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

"*

is administered; but the ordinance itself does not communicate it now, any more than in the apostolic age. Simon Magus was baptised, and yet remained

in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity,' as much after his baptism as he was before. And so it may be with us.

And this is an infallible proof, that the change which the Scriptures call the new birth, does not always and of necessity accompany this sacred ordinance. As the circumcision of the heart did not always accompany the circumcision of the flesh, so neither does the renovation of the soul always accompany the outward rite of baptism, which shadows it forth; and if only our opponents will distinguish the sign from the thing signified, and assign to each its proper place and office, there will be an immediate end of this controversy.'

These quotations from Walker, Bickersteth, and Simeon, are in unison with each other ; but what renders them valuable, is their accordance with the Holy Scriptures.

O! my soul, pray earnestly to be guided into all truth. Guard against the influence of those, who would draw thee from the simplicity of the gospel. It is most important, not only to know, but to be established, in the truth as it is in Jesus.

In the transactions of life, one false step is often attended with temporal losses ; but in religion, false doctrine, producing wrong conduct as its natural fruit, endangers the salvation of the soul. Errors in doctrine are always dangerous, and never more so, than when they are disguised and clothed with the name of truth. Let me, then, never trifle with a subject which involves my present comfort and future felicity.

Am I born again? What question can be more important. Am I a child of God, or am I not? There are some who will say,

If I ask, When was I made one of God's children? They

“When you were baptised.” Must I, Simeon.

+ 2 Pet. i. 12.

66 You are.

will reply,

then, rest satisfied with this answer? Must I conclude that I am adopted into the family of God, through the baptism of water, without any internal evidence of the baptism of the Spirit ? Must I take to myself the precious promises of the new covenant, if destitute of a new heart ? Must I call heaven my home, if my affections are glued to this world ? Surely I ought to look further into this weighty subject, lest, like the foolish virgins, when the cry is made, “ Behold, the bridegroom cometh ; go ye out to meet him," I should only have the lamp of an outward profession, while destitute of the oil of an inward and spiritual grace.*

John the Baptist, when showing the superior nature of the Baptism of Christ, He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire;” adds, " Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."+ How strikingly is the mixed character of the visible Church described by this simile. He who runs may read, except his eyes be blinded through unbelief, and prejudice, and error.

What can be more awakening, than the declaration which Jesus made to circumcised Jews, and therefore equally applicable to baptised Christians, when he was commending the faith of the Roman Centurion : Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say

shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven: but the children of the kingdom, (awful thought,) shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”Surely this should make every Christian to tremble, yea, all who rest their hopes of heaven upon their Church membership, and their baptismal regeneration, if they be unrenewed in the * Matt. xxv. 1-13. + Matt. iii. 11, 12. ; Luke iii. 16, 17.

# Matt. viii. 10-12.

[ocr errors]

unto you,

That many

spirit of their mind. “The children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness." Searching words indeed !

The Church, it is true, received me when an infant, into her maternal bosom, by the outward rite of baptism. I was then signed with the sign of the cross, as a badge of my profession, that I might become, through grace, a faithful soldier of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit was supplicated for me, and, in the language of hope and charity, I was admitted to the privileges of the gospel covenant, as a regenerated member of the universal Church. But, though thus received, much remained to be done. When come to years of discretion, I was taught by the Church, that all who truly receive the inward and spiritual grace of baptism, must die unto sin, and live unto righteousness ; must repent and believe the gospel ; that I am bound to perform, in my own person, the promises and vows then made for me by my sureties, and that if such performance be left undone, I am, by a natural inference, unregenerated, and uninterested in the blessings of the baptismal covenant.

That my mind might be deeply impressed with this truth, the Church puts this question to my conscience : 6 Dost thou not think, that thou art BOUND to believe, and to do, as they have promised for thee?"

In the same spirit of hope and charity, the Church teaches me to say : “ Yes, verily, and by God's help so I will. And I heartily thank our heavenly Father, that he hath called me to this state of salvation through Jesus Christ our Saviour. And I pray unto God to give me his

grace,

that I tinue in the same unto my life's end."

Truly this is the language of a regenerate heart; language which only such a heart can sincerely utter in the presence of a heart-searching God.

All who can say from the heart, in sincerity and truth, not trusting to their own strength, but to the

may con

grace of God, that they will renounce the devil and all his works; the pomps and vanity of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh; that they will believe all the articles of the Christian faith, and keep God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of their life: and whose lives are agreeable to their profession, are truly the members of Christ, the children of God, and the inheritors of the kingdom of heaven.

But, I would ask, is this the heart-felt language, is this the sincere determination, of every baptised child ? Experience, alas! says no, for a tree is known by its fruits.

If, while repeating these solemn vows and promises made for them at their baptism, and ratified by themselves at confirmation, the works of the devil are practised; the pomps and vanity of the world idolised; the sinful lusts of the flesh indulged ; the truths of the gospel, practically, disbelieved ; and the will and commandments of God, habitually transgressed: can such characters be considered as regenerated, in the saving sense of the term ? Though sprinkled with water, and baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and thus admitted as members of the visible Church, can they, while thus enslaved by sin, be the very members incorporate in the mystical body of Christ, which is the blessed company of all faithful people ; and be also heirs, through hope, of his everlasting kingdom?

Surely a broad distinction must be made between real and nominal Christians, if we would avoid a strong delusion. If the blind lead the blind, it is no marvel, if both fall into the ditch.*

“Oh! let us understand what regeneration really is, and the self-righteous will shrink from claiming it in baptism, and the spiritually-minded will regard baptism as a real help to holiness, humility, and love."

Matt. xv. 14. ; Luke vi. 39.

From all this, it is evident, that throughout her beautiful liturgical services, from the baptismal font, to the burial of the dead, the Church of England provides for the strengthening and refreshing of real believers, not for the formal services of her worldly members. She could not furnish two liturgies-one for the sincere, and the other for the hypocrite. If any of her members draw nigh to God with their mouths, while their hearts are far from him, they, and not the Church, will be answerable for such hypocrisy. Though baptised when infants, and thus brought into a covenant relation with God, we are bound, when arrived at riper years, to repent and believe the gospel. If we live and die impenitent and unbelieving, we shall never be admitted into the temple above. Great, indeed, is the delusion of those who place their hopes of heaven on the performance of outward forms, while destitute of the Spirit of Christ. And great is the responsibility of those ministers who, to such characters cry, peace, peace, when there is no peace.

“Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life; and few there be that find it ;** are the words of Him to whom all hearts are open, and from whom no secrets are hid. Surely this declaration should awaken all our solicitude, when it is added, “Wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.”+

Am I now walking with the many, or the few ? How important is self-knowledge. How dangerous is self-deception ! Oh! that I may have grace to detect the deceits of Satan, the corruptions of my heart, the temptations of the world. The door of mercy is still open. The God of all grace is waiting to be gracious. Jesus is pointing to his hands, his feet, his side. The Spirit

bids me fly from the wrath to come; to hasten to the Ark of the everlasting Covenant. 0! my soul, why linger, like Lot in

* Matt. vii. 13.; Luke xiii. 24.

* Matt. vii. 14.

« VorigeDoorgaan »