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L E C T U RE
Privileges of Baptism.
HE Catechism of our Church begins, with a
prudent Condescension and Familiarity, by asking the introductory Questions, What is your Name, and Who gave you this Name : which lead very naturally the Person catechized to the Mention of his Baptism, at which Time it was given him. Not that giving a Name is any necessary Part of Baptism ; but might have been done either before or afterwards, though it hath always been done then, as indeed it was likely that the first public Opportunity would be taken for that Purpose. But besides, it was no uncommon Thing in ancient Times, that when a Person entered into the Service of a new Master, he had a new Name bestowed on him. Whence perhaps the Jews might derive the Practice of naming the Child, when it was circumcised; it being then devoted to the Service of God. The first Christians, in Imitation of them, would of course do the same Thing, for the same Reason, when it was baptized : and no Wonder, that we continue the Practice. For it might be a very useful one, if Persons would but remember, what it tends to remind them of, that they were dedicated to Christ, when their Christian Name was given them; and would make use of that Circumstance frequently to recollect those Promises, which were then folemnly made for them; and which they have fince confirmed, or are to confirm and make personally for themselves. Without performing these, we are Chriftians, not in Deed, but in Name only: and shall greatly dishonour that Name, while we bear it and boast of it.
Our baptismal Name is given us, not by our Parents, as we read in Scripture the Name of Jewish Children was, but by our Godfathers and Godmothers. And this Custom also may have a double Advantage. It may admonish them, that having conferred the Title of Christians upon us, they are bound to endeavour, that we may behave worthily of it. And it may admonish us, that our Name having been given us by Persons, who were our Sureties, we are bound to make good their Engagement.
But the Office and Use of Godfathers will be confidered under one of the following Questions. The Subject to be considered at present, though not fully, is Baptism. For this being our first Entrance into the Christian Church, by which we become entitled to certain Privileges, and obliged to certain Duties ; religious Instruction begins very properly by teaching young Persons, what both of them are. And in order to recommend the Duties to us, the Privileges are mentioned firft.
Not but that God hath an absolute Right to our Observance of his Laws, without informing us beforehand what Beneft we shall reap from it. Surely it would be enough to know, that he is Lord and King of the whole Earth; and that all his Dealings with the Works of his Hands are just and reasonable. Our Business is to obey, and trust him with the Consequences. But in great Mercy, to encourage and attract his poor Creatures, he hath been pleased to enter into a Covenant, a gracious Agreement with Man: subjecting himself, as it were, to bestow certain Blessings on us, provided we perform certain Conditions. But though, in this Covenant, the Promises, made on his Part, flow from his own free Goodness; yet the Terms, required on ours, are Matter of necessary Obligation : and what was altogether voluntary in him, firmly binds us a.
See Waterland's Review of the Doctrine of the Eucharift, C. xi, P. 425.
Now the Privileges, thus conditionally secured to us in Baptism, we find in our Catechism very fitly reduced to these three Heads : that the Person, who receives it, is therein made a Member of Christ, a Child of God, and an Inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven.
1. The first, and Foundation of the others, is, that he is made a Member of Christ. This Figure of Speech all of you may not immediately understand: but when it is understood, you will perceive in it great Strength and Beauty. It presupposes, what we must be sensible of, more or less, that we are every one originally prone to Sin, and actually Sinners; liable thence to Punishment; and without Hope of preserving ourselves, by our own Strength, either from Guilt or from Misery. It further implies, what the Scripture clearly teaches, that Jesus Christ hath delivered us from both, in such Manner as fhall hereafter be explained to you, on the moft equitable Terms of our becoming his, by accepting him from the Hand of God for our Saviour, our Teacher and our Lord. This Union to him, in order to receive these Benefits from him, our Catechism, in Conformity with the Language of holy Writ, compares with that of the Members of the Body to the Head. And how proper the Comparison is, will easily appear, by carrying it through the several Particulars, in which the Similitude holds,
As, in every living Creature, Perception and Motion proceed from the Head ; so, to every Christian, Knowjedge of God's Will, and Power to obey it, flow from Christ. As the Head governs and directs each Limb, fo Christ is the Sovereign and Law-giver of each Believer. As being joined to the Head makes the whole Body one animal Frame; so being joined to Chrift makes the whole Number of Christians one spiritual Society. As Communication with the Head preserves our natural Life; fo Communion with Chrift fupports our religious Life. He therefore is to the Church what the Head is to the Body: and each person who belo to the Church, is a Member of that Body, or, in the
Language of the Catechism, a Member of Chrift. For he, as St. Paul expresses it, is the Head: from which all the Body, having Nourishment ministered, and knit together by Joints and Bands, increaseth with the Increase of Godb.
And this Manner of Speaking is frequently repeated in Scripture, as it well deserves ; being not only, as you have seen, admirably fitted to represent the happy Relations, in which we stand to our Redeemer, but also to remind us of the Duties, which are derived from them : of the Honour and Obedience due to him, who is Head over all Things to his Body, the Church'; of our continual Dependence on him, since he is our Life"; and of the Tenderness and Kindness, which we owe to our Fellow-Chriftians, and they to us, being all united, through him, fo intimately to each other. For fince, as the Apostle argues, by one Spirit we are all baptized into one Body : as in the natural Body, the Eye cannot say unto the Hand, I have no Need of thee, nor any one Member to the rest, I have no Need of you; but even the more feeble and less honourable Members are necessaryo: so in the spiritual Body, they, who in any Respect may seem to excel others, ought by no Means to defpise them ; since every good Christian is, in his proper Degree and Place, both a valuable and an useful Member of Christ. And again : As, in the natural Body, there is a Connection and Sympathy of the several Parts ; by which the good State of one preserves the others in Health and Ease, or its bad State gives them Pain and Disorder ; fo should there be in the spiritual Body, and there is in all true Members of it, a mutual Caution not to do Harm to each other, and a mutual Defire of each others Benefit. If one Member suffer, all the other Members should by a compassionate 'Temper suffer with it; and if one Member be honoured, all the rest should fincerely rejoice with it. Think then, do you feel in your Hearts this good Disposition, as a Mark of being
Members of Christ? If not, study to form yourselves to it without Delay.
2. The second Privilege of Baptism is, that by it we are made the Children of God, in a Sense and Manner, in which by Nature we are not so.
Our blessed Saviour indeed is called in Scripture the only begotten Son of God. Nor can the highest of Creatures claim God for his Father by the same Right, that he doth. But in a lower Sense, God is the Father of Angels and Men; whom he hath created in their feveral Degrees of Likeness to his own Image. Adam, our first Parent, was the Son of God by a strong Resumblance to his heavenly Father in original Uprightness. But as this Similitude was greatly obscured both in him and in his Descendants by the Fall, though preserved by the Covenant of the promised Seed from being utterly effaced; so in Time it was almost entirely lost amongst Men, by the Prevalence of Sin; and they became in general Enemies of God, and Children of Devilh.
But our gracious Maker, pitying us notwithstanding, and treating us like Children, even when thus degenerated, hath mercifully appointed a Method for adopting us into his Family again, after we have cast ourselves out of it; and for restoring and raising us gradually to the fame and greater Likeness to him and Favour with him, than even our first Parents ever enjoyed. Now this inestimable Blessing was procured for Mankind through the Means of Jesus Christ, and we become entitled to it by taking him for our Head, and becoming his Members, in such Manner as you have heard briefly explained. For to as n.any as receive him, to them gives he Power to become the Sons of God, even to them that believe in his Name i. Being therefore thus united to him, who is in the highest Senle the Son of God; and claiming not in our own Name, but under him; we are admitted again into such a Degree of Sonship as we are capable
& Rom. v. 10. Col. i. 21.
John įži. 10.
John i. 12.