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THE GOSPEL TO EVERY CREATURE.
Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned. (Mark xvi. 15, 16.)
OUR text has been repeatedly before us; we have exhibited our view of the Gospel; we are now to inquire into the nature and necessity of faith.
An inspired apostle tells us, that faith is the substance (ground, or confidence) of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen; (Heb. xi. 1 ;) but so various and discordant have been the views which men have taken of the Holy Scriptures, that some, either from inability to discern, or want of industry to search after truth, have given up the pursuit, or fallen into such a state of indifference respecting it, that they forget its value, and think themselves liberal when they exclaim,
"For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight;
Now, we cannot see why a man, obeying the apostolic injunction, by earnestly contending for the faith once delivered unto the saints, (Jude 3,) should be consider.
ed as graceless, or without the favour of God; neither have we found the man whose life is in the right. Who can look into the law of God in its purity, then into his own heart, and answer to the heart-searching God, Not guilty? If one is on the face of the earth so great a stranger to his God and to himself, surely he can see no necessity for a Saviour; with him, one faith is as good as another, and none as good as any. We fear that there is an error in the religious world respecting faith in religion; that it is something different in its essential nature from faith on other subjects; the apostle makes no dif. ference, why should we make any? We make none; we believe, on evidence, a thousand things relative to past ages, and respecting foreign countries, persons, and things, in the present age; nay, there is not a day, or hour, that we live, but we put faith in those with whom we have intercourse; and why is it that we thus put faith in poor, fallible, weak man? We answer, our faith is in proportion to the evidence we have, that our expectations will not be disappointed; and when we place no confidence, we have no faith, we withdraw our intercourse, and avoid all connexion. How plain and simple a thing is faith: it is merely confidence grounded on evidence. In the case before us, what ground of confidence have we for the faith which we profess? We answer, the greatest and the best: the word of God. Our fellow men may, under the most plausible appearances, deceive us; our senses may deceive us ; but the word of God never can. And this is the word which, by the Gospel, is preached unto you. (1 Pet. i. 25.)
Has not this Gospel been preached unto us? is it not
glad tidings of great joy? shall it not be to all people? is it not endless life to us (i. e. all men) in Christ Jesus? and have we not for the ground of our confidence the word of him who cannot lie? Surely, those who have such evidence must shut their eyes and ears, or believe.
But we are told, he that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; it is, therefore, our duty to consider the subject of baptism. And here we might enter into a wide field of controversy, and endeavour to show you what men have thought, and why they so thought, on this part of our text; but on this we will be brief. It does appear to us, that it is expedient, that on entering into any community, there is a propriety in having some fixed form or rule by which the party so received should be recognised as a member of that community. John the Baptist used external baptism; and the Saviour not only submitted to it, but approved it, saying, thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. (Mat. iii. 15.) The doctrine of John was, that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, and therefore he required of the multitude repentance; but when Jesus appeared, to be baptized, he would have declined; and it was only on the Saviour's persevering that John submitted. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water and lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo, a voice from heaven, say. ing, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. (Mat. iii. 16, 17.) Such was the honour conferred on the external baptism of John; for, surely,
even at that early day Jesus had the Spirit of God with
John's baptism ended with his ministry; and so sensible was he of his inferiority to him of whom he was but the herald, that he says to Jesus, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? (Mat. iii. 14.) and to the multitude, I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire. (Mat. iii. 11.)
This is the baptism we desire; the baptism of Jesus; the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and of fire. We must, however, acknowledge, that Jesus countenanced external baptism; for the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John; though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples. (John iv. 1, 2.)
Baptism, as practised among professing Christians, varies in its subjects and its forms, but we believe all who practise it, consider it indicative of cleansing, or purification: some, considering all infants proper subjects, baptize by sprinkling; and if this is in token of that sprinkling which cleanseth from all sin, why is it not appropriate? others consider, that the baptism of infants must be confined to the children of believers; and if this is because children are heirs of the promises made unto the fathers, (for the promise is unto you and your children-Acts ii. 39,) then their rule is according to their understanding of Scripture. Those who consider believers only as fit subjects of baptism, usually immerse; and this being done as a sign of our being
buried with Christ in baptism, and risen with him, (Col. ii. 12,) we cannot but acknowledge, that the form seems suited to the case. While we neither pretend to support any one of these forms to the exclusion of all others, there is one thing in which we rejoice: We believe that each performs this rite in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; thus distinguishing the distinctive character of each, and the unity of the three. Will any one object to this? it is the command of Christ, who says, by his evangelist Matthew, Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, (or make disciples, or Christians, of all nations,) bap. tizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (Mat. xxviii. 19.) But what is our own practice relative to this matter? We answer, that, considering Christ as the head of every man, (1 Cor. xi. 3,) we receive even infants as members of his body, and dedicate them to God, the Father of their spirits, to whom they properly belong, to be baptized with his baptism, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, pronouncing on them the blessing wherewith God commanded Moses to bless all his people, saying, "The Lord bless thee and keep thee; the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. And returning the child with this short exhortation: Take this child, the gift of God, our common Father, bring him (or her) up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and God will bless you and him (or her.) When the party thus baptized, or dedicated, is an infant, it must be considered as the act of the party offering, and a recognition of the