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yourselves, as well as to compassionate the case of those, to whom it has never been offered, or by whom it is slighted. And this leads me to another reflection; 2. What reason have we to pity those, who reject this glorious
gospel, even when they have opportunities of enquiring into its clearest evidences ?
Such undoubtedly there are in our own age and nation ; and surely we should sometimes bestow a compassionate thought upon them, and lift up an humble prayer for them ; If God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are now led captive by him at his pleasure*. We should pity the heathens and Mahometans, under their darkness and errors : But how much more deplorable is the case of those, who, though they dwell in Emmanuel's land, and in the valley of vision, turn it into the valley of the shadow of death, by closing their eyes against so bright a lustre, and stopping their ears against The voice of the charmert? They are indeed in their own conceit the only people, and Wisdom will die with thems; so that to be sure, they will scorn our pity : But who can forbear it ? Is there a more melancholy thought than this, that the Son of God should have done so much to introduce and establish the gospel, and his Spirit so much to perpetuate and increase its evidence, and that after all, it should be contemptuously despised, even by creatures who are perishing without it? That the blessed Jesus, instead of being received with open arms as the great Deliverer, should either be treated as an empty name ; or if acknowledged to be a real person, should then, be represented as a visionary enthusiast or a wicked impostor? for there is no other alternative? And this, not only, though I believe most frequently, by men of profligate and abandoned lives, but sometimes by persons of external morality and decency, of great humanity and sweetness of temper; for such I know are to be found amongst them, as well as men of wit and genius, of politeness and learning, of human prudence and experience in affairs. I may also add, that it is the case of some, who were the children of pious parents, who were trained up in religious exercises, who once discovered serious impressions, and gave very encouraging hopes. Alas, whither are they fallen ! and whither have we reason to fear, they will at length fall! How shall we shelter those, that were once our brethren, that are perhaps still our friends, from the awful sentence, which the gospel denounces against all that re. ject it, without any exception? As to the wretches, that add insult and derision to their infidelity, I tremble to think of that load of guilt, which they are bringing on themselves, and how near they approach to the unpardonable sin, if they have not committed it. For the rest, who behave in a more modest manner, it will, no doubt, be a very difficult task to convince them; and so much the rather, as some of them, by too easy a transition have renounced many of the most important principles of natural religion, nay, I might add, even the whole of it, together with the christian revelation. But the influences of divine grace are almighty ; let us recommend them to these, and omit no other proper method, either of recovering those who are already seduced, or at least of securing those who are not yet'infected, but may be as most of the youth are, especially in the most populous places, in imminent danger of the contagion. To this end let me add, 3. How reasonable is it, that christians should form a familiar
* 2 Timn. ii. 25, 26.
* Psal. Iviii. 4, 5.
Job xii. 2.
acquaintance with the great evidences of our own cominon faith!
It is what we so apparently owe to the honour of God, to the interest of Christ, to the peace of our own souls, and the edification of others, that I hope, I need not urge it at large ; especially considering what was said in the introduction to these discourses. In consequence of all, let it be your care to make the evidences of christianity the subject of your serious reflections, and of your frequent converse : Especially study your bibles, where there are such marks of truth and divinity to be found, that I believe, few that have familiarly known them, and have had a relish for them, were ever brought to make shipwreck of the faith as it is in Jesus. Above all, let it be your care to act on the rules which are here laid down; and then, you will find your faith growing in a happy proportion, and will experience the truth of our Saviour's declaration, that If any man will resolutely and faithfully do his will, he shall know of the christian doctrine whether it be of God*. I verily believe, it is the purity of its precepts, which lies at the bottom of most men's opposition to it; or a natural pride of heart, which gives them an aversion to so humbling a scheme; or a fond affectation
body of men in the world to that title, though in its purest state it contained some ignorant and wicked members. In a word, a man by baptism solemnly professed hiinself a christian; and as it was generally the first over act by which his believing the gospel could be publicly and generally known, and was also supposed to be very near the time of his inward conversion, they dated his regeneration, that is, his happy change, as that word used to signify even among the heathen*, from that time. We own therefore that these ancient christians, of whom I always think and speak with great respect, had a very good excuse for this method of speaking: But whether they were perfectly accurate in this, and whether they did not recede from the scripture use of the word, may be matter of farther enquiry.
As to the arguments from scripture in support of the interpretation I oppose, they are taken partly from particular places; but chiefly, as I apprehend, from the general tenor of it, in which christians are spoken of as regenerated.
The particular texts are John iii. 5. and Tit. iii. 5. on which much of the stress of this controversy is laid; but on considering them attentively, I find nothing in either of them to lead us to think baptism the regeneration spoken. of there.
As to the former of them, John iii. 5. When our Lord says, Except a man be born of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God; it is, (after all the contempt with which that interpretation has been treated) very possible he may mean, by a well known figure, to express one idea by both those clauses, that is, the purifying influences of the Spirit cleansing the mind as water does the body: As elsewhere to be Baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire; Mat. iii. 11. signifies to be baptized by the Spirit operating like fire. But if there is indeed a reference to baptism in these words, which I own I am much inclined to believe, it will by no means follow that baptism is regeneration. On that supposition, I still think the sense of the passage must be that which I have given in my paraphrase on it. (Family Expositor.) • Whosoever would become a regular member of the kingdom of God, must not only be baptized, but as ever he desires to share in its spiritual and eternal blessings, must experience the renewing and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit on his soul, to cleanse it from the power of corruption, and to animate and quicken it to a spiritual and divine life.” It is granted therefore, that how excellent soever any man's character is, he must be baptized before he can be looked upon as completely a member of the church of Christ; and that, in general, being born of the Spirit, he will also be solicitous that he may be born of water, and so fulfil all righteousness. But it will never follow from hence, that being born of water and born of the Spirit are the same thing. The text rather implies they are different; and I think every body must own, they may be actually separate.
* It is well known that Cicero expresses the happy change made in his state, when restored from his banishment, by this word. Cic. ad Attic. Lib. vi. Epist. 6. The Greeks expressed by it the doctrine of the Brachmans, in which they affirmed our entering on a new state of being after death. Clem. Alex. Strom. Lib. iii. p. 451. And the Stoics used it to denote their expected renovation of the world after successive conflagrations. Marc. Antonin. Medit. Lib. xi. 5. 1. v. 13. x. 7. See Lucian, Oper. p.532. Euseb. Præp. Erang. ex Numen. Lib. xv. Cap. 19. Phil. Jud. de Mundi Immort. p. 940, 951, and in many other places. And so the fathers often use it to signify the resurrection which christians expect. See Euseb. Eccl. Hist. Lib. v. Cap. 1. in fin. Compare Matt, xix. 28. and the note there : Fam. Expos.
Nothing therefore can be more absurd than to infer from this text, that if there be two persons, one of which is born of the Spirit, and not of water ; another of water, and not of the Spirit; the latter, that is, the wicked man who has perhaps with some iniquitous design been baptized, may properly be said to be regenerated, or born of God, and consequently to be an Heir of God; Rom. viii. 17. rather than a truly religious man who has not yet been baptized, either through want of opportunity, or through some unhappy mistake, as to the nature and design, or the perpetuity and obligations of that ordinance. Now this I take to be precisely the question, and must declare that when a baptized person is destitute of true religion, that birth which he had by water, seems to me as it were an evanescent thing, or a thing which disappears as unworthy the mention; and that it must be therefore most safe and advisable, as well as most agreeable to the scripture sense, to appropriate the title of regenerate persons to those sanctified by divine grace, rather than to use it of all who are baptized.
As to the text in Titus, chap. iii. 5. where God is said to save us by the washing of regeneration, or, as some earnestly contend it should be rendered, by the laver of regeneration : I might answer, that as that interpretation is by no means necessary*, it cannot be proved that baptism is here designed, though I acknowledge there may be a graceful allusion to it: The apostle may mean, we are saved by God's washing our hearts by bis sanctifying Spirit, a phrase so often used in the Old Testament, and thereby making us his children: And in this sense it might have been used, though baptism had never been instituted. But granting, as I have done in the beginning of the seventh sermon, that Axlpon may be rendered laver, and that baptism may be the laver referred to; and that “there is indeed an allusion to the washing new-born children;" as Mr. Mede in his Diatribe on this text contends; I think this text will be so far from proving that St. Paul meant to call baptism Regeneration, that it will prove the contrary: For regeneration itself, and the laver of regeneration, cannot be the same thing; and whatever Tertullian and other ancients may fancifully talk of our being generated like little fishes in the water, in a weak allusion to the technical word Ixore, common sense will see how absurd it would be to apply this to a child, and will teach us rather to argue, that as children must be born before they can be washed, so they must be regenerated before the washing of regeneration, that is, the washing which belongs to their new birth, can be applied to them. But on the whole, as washing an infant refers to its pollution, and no pollution attends our regeneration as such, I am more and more inclined to tbink there is no reference at all here to a laver, or to the washing new-born children; and therefore, that this washing and the renewing of the Holy Ghost are exegetical, and that the latter clause might be rendered, even the renewing, &c. which inakes the text decisive for the sense in which I use the word,
* The original is die 187p3 madzayeverias. Now it is certain, the seventy use another word, that is, Astup, to signify laver, Exod, xxx. 18. 28. xxxi. 9; and I think, so far as I have observed, every where else: And Artpor (St. Paul's word here) is used where it cannot signify laver, for the water in which sheep are washed, Cant. iv. 2, and for a large quantity of water in which an adult person was washed or bath. ed, Eph. v. 26. And this remark quite overthrows all the argument from this text, if any argument would follow from rendering it laver; but I think I need not urge this,
After all then, if any argument can be deduced from scripture in favour of the manner of speaking now in debate, it must be from the general tenor of it; according to which is seems that all who are members of the visible church are spoken of as regenerate; from which it may be inferred, with some plausible probability at least, that baptism, by which they are admitted into that society, may be called regeneration: And I am ready to believe, as I hinted above, that this was the chief reason why the ancients so often used the word in the sense I am now opposing.
Now with relation to this, I desire it may be recollected, that when christianity first appeared in the world, it was attended with such discourage ments, as made the very profession of it, in a great measure, a test of men's characters. The Apostles therefore, knowing the number of hypocrites to be comparatively very small, generally take no notice of them, but address themselves to wh bodies of christians, as if they were truly wbat they professed to be. Just as our Lord Jesus Christ, though he knew the wickedness of Judas, often addresses himself to the whole body of his Apostles, as if they were all his faithful servants, and makes gracious declarations and promises to the whole society, which could by no means be applicable to this one corrupt and wretched member of it; telling them, for instance, that they should share in his final triumph, and Sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Mat. xix. 28.
This is therefore the true key to all those passages in which christians are, in the general, said to be adopted, sanctified, justified, &c. as well as regenerated. The apostles had reason, in the judgment of charity, to think thus of by far the greatest part of them; and therefore they speak to them all, as in such a happy state. And agreeably to this, we find not only such privileges, but also such characters, ascribed to christians in general, as were only applicable to such of them as were christians indeed. Thus all the Coriathians are spoken of by the apostle Paul, as Waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Cor. i. 7. and all the Ephesians, and all the Colossians, as have ing Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and love to all the saints, Eph. i. 15. Col. i. 4. and all the Philippians, as having a good work begun in them, which Paul was persuaded God would perfect, Phil. i. 6. and all the Thessalonians, as remarkable for their Work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope, i Thess. i. 3. though it evidently appears there were persons in several of these churches wbo behaved much amiss, and to whom, had he been particularly addressing to each of them alone, he could not by any means have used such language. On the like principles Peter, when addressing to all the christians in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, speaks of the whole aggregate of them, 1 Pet. i. 8. as loving an unseen Saviour, and amidst all their tribulations rejoicing in him With joy unspeakable and full of glory; though probably there were some weak and dejected christians among them, and undoubtedly in so large an extent of country, in which there were such a vast number of churches, not a few, who, as our Lord afterwards expresses it of some of them, had only A name to live, while they were dead, Rev. iii. 1. in which passage, by the way, our Lord uses the same figure, and describes the whole body by the character of those who made the greater part of it.
I state the matter thus particularly, because I think this obvious remark is a sufficient answer to what is most peculiar and important in a late discourse, consisting of near 130 quarto pages, and intitled,' A Key to the Apostolic Writings, &c. prefixed by the Rev. Mr. Taylor of Norwich to his late Paraphrase and Notes on the Romans. I think what I have briefly advanced