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fulfilled at the period of their conversion: “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean from all your filthiness; and from all your idols will I cleanse you.” That regeneration, or a new birth unto righteousness by the Holy Ghost, is the blessing which God engages to bestow upon them, seems evident, from the
explanation given of the promise in the next verses:"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will cause you to walk in my statutes ; and
ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” Baptism, under the Gospel Covenant,corresponds, in its design, with Circumcision under the dispensation of the Law. Baptism emphatically testifies the doctrine of original sin, and the necessity of regeneration ; for it declares every man, "as born of the flesh," to be so polluted in heart, that, unless he be washed with purifying water, he cannot be received even into the outward Church of God; and unless he be inwardly cleansed by the Holy Ghost
, he cannot be a member of the true Church. In this respect, it coincides with Circumcision, which im plied, that without the mortification of the corrupt nature derived from fallen Adam, and the removal of that obstacle to the love and service of God, no man could be admitted into covenant with him?" And, like that ordinance, “it is the seal of the righteousness of faith :” for he, and he alone, who possesses the inward and spiritual grace which both Circumcision and Baptism outwardly denote, has a Divine attestation to the sincerity of his faith, and to the reality of his justification through the righteousness of the Redeemer. 2. This sacred ordinance is highly important, for . Ezek. xxxvi. 25-28.
f Jer, iv. 4.
the following reasons. First, the very form of Baptisın, "in (or into) the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," affords an irresistible
argument for the doctrine of the Trinity; and was designed by our Lord to maintain the perpetual profession of it in his Church, that men in every age might be led to regard each of the Divine
Persons as concurring in the merciful work of their À salvation.
Secondly, Baptism is a specialact of self-dedication, by which every baptized person openly avows, in the face of the whole world, that he is a worshipper and servant of God in Trinity; that he tacitly acknow
ledges that he is a sinner, needing forgiveness, and the (new birth unto righteousness; that he relies on the
mercy of the Father, on the death and intercession of Christ, and on the grace of the Holy Spirit, for salvation; and, consequently, that he sincerely pur: poses to forsake every sin and hurtful lust, and to
live in dutiful obedience to God, the remainder of his days. Surely, then, all who thus devote themselves to God should feel a holy anxiety to fulfil the duties which their baptisınal covenant imposes, that they may be numbered with the righteous, and have their last end like Hish.
Thirdly, the administration of Infant Baptism is of considerable use, in giving to great multitudes some ideas of the leading doctrines of the Christian Religion, especially of original sin, regeneration, sanctification, and the Trinity. The knowledge of these truths is, in some degree, as necessary to the right worship of God, as to the obtaining salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ. Let parents, therefore, honour this Divine appointment, by bring& 2 Cor. xiii. 14.
h Numbers xxiii. 10.
ing their infant offspring to the font to be baptized, and to be solemnly set apart to the service of the · Lord. Let thein earnestly pray for their children, that they may become new creatures by regenerating grace; and that, through their instructions and example, they may be brought up, and continue stedfast, in the faith and practice of the Gospel.
It is of great advantage to be thus early adınitted into the visible Church, and trained up as her professing sons ; because it entitles the baptized to the privilege of holy ordinances, which are made to the faithful the means of spiritual nourishment, and growth in devout affections.
3. But peculiar blessings may be expected to accrue to those “who rightly and by faith” receive the ordinance of baptism. In answer to the devout prayers of parents and believing friends, the Spirit of God may, in some particular cases, regenerate the soul of the infant, even at the hour of baptism. At that season the child may be separated to God as a chosen vessel, and, by the infusion of His grace, be enabled to glorify him through all the subsequent stages of his earthly existence. To suppose the impossibility of such cases, is to liinit the power of the Holy Ghost, and to deny the utility of that sacrament which Christ himself has instituted.
4. But, when baptism is not rightly received in faith, no such benefits can result from its adininistration. For, although a blessing is supposed, in some special instances, to follow the proper use and observance of the sacred rite, yet this admission does not oblige us to confound the outward sign with the inward and spiritual grace, or to imagine, with the meinbers of the Rómish Church, that the Sacraments produce a necessary effect by their own energy.
Whether water, the mere sign in baptism, is made the medium of actually conveying to the baptized person those spiritual benefits of the new birth which are represented by it, depends as much on the blessing of God to render the ordinance effectual,
on the temper in which it is approached. As the i abuse, or improper use, of the ordinary means of
grace which God has appointed for our salvation, such as, reading and hearing the Divine Word, and prayer, hinders their beneficial effect, yea, renders them injurious to those who misemploy them'; so a spiritual blessing may, on the same ground, be justly withheld from all who approach God in this ordinance in a worldly and unbelieving spirit, or act: unworthily with regard to the solemn engagements into which they then enter.
Can they who come to the holy rite of baptism without a due consideration of the obligations which it involves, without serious prayer for grace, without faith and penitence and love, which are dispositions so essential to their acceptance with God, complain, if their children be sent empty away, without receive ing the blessing of the Lord, which he restricts to them that obey him? : It is incumbent, then, on parents and sponsors, at the time of baptism, to devote their offspring to God by sincere prayer, and to come to the holy institution in that state of mind which God approves; and, afterwards, to take especial care, by theirinstructions,“ to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Thus might this Divine ordinance, which is now so often abused, more frequently bećoine the means of spiritual life and happiness to the unholy offspring of Adam. 5. Those who have broken the solemn covenant
Matt, xiii. 18-23. 2 Cor. ii. 15, 16.
made with Christ in baptism, should deeply abase themselves on account of the high degree of guilt which they have incurred. It is no slight offence thus to dishonour Christ, to whom you have sworn allegiance. As the King punishes a deserter, or the General disgraces a coward who flies from the face of the enemy, so will Christ, hereafter, inflict the heaviest punishment on those who forsake his standard, to fight under the banners of his avowed foesk. You, O faithless, irreligious souls ! have committed this great crime against the Majesty of Heaven. You have wantonly torn the cross from your forehead, and trodden it under your feet. Instead of fulfilling the engagements into which you entered at your baptism, you have left the service of Christ, abjured his righteous cause, and have joined with Satan in opposing the interests of his kingdom'. The least reparation you can make to your offended Lord, is to repent in dust and ashes, to reproach your ingratitude and treason, and to resolve, that, if spared, you will in future consecrate yourselves to the glory of the Most High. Yet make not this resolution in your own strength; because you have no power to withstand temptation, or to persevere in well-doing, without the grace of God assisting you. Would you be faithful unto death, and receive the crown of righteousness which fadeth not away; then you must seek that grace of Christ which is sufficient to enable you to overcome the world, and manifest a decided attachment to your Saviour. Then, He will forget your past unkindness in forsaking him ; and recompense your fidelity at the last day, by saying, “ Well done, good and faithful servants, enter ye into the joy of your Lord.” * Luke xix. 27.
1 ib. xi. 29.