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the further growth of infidelity, as they desire t« be accounted consistent Protestants, and would promote real and unadulterated Christianity, in order to please God the great author of it; I hope, they will now see the necessity there is of a reformation, from all such human traditions, by which the commandments of God are made void ; and, as a motive to induce them more speedily to set about this good work, which will gready tend to their own credit and true interest, I commit these remarks, with the following letters, to their most serious and christian consideration.
The letters were written in answer to an objection against certain persons submitting to Christ's institution of baptism, which arose in the mind of a very pious and learned divine, author of two volumes of sermons lately published •, which were preached in a course of lectures before, and after, his obedience to that sacred ordinance. For when he had got over the arguments urged in Mr. Emlyn's previous question, and some other objections, his submission to that great duty was a long time deferred from this thought: That baptism, king an ordinance of the introductory kind, was, as such, designed only for those, who had never been admitted to the privileges of the christian church ; and therefore could not be properly administered to any, who bad taken on them the christian profession, and, in consequence of that, had been admitted to the holy communion; tho' as he confessed to me, in a very irregular and unjustifiable way and manner. For he declared, that be looked upon the sprinkling, which was given him in his infancy, as nothing, and did not scruple to own himself, an unbaptized minister of the gospel; and had several times said, that the reason, why he forbore communicating at the Lord's table for several years, was, because, being unbaptized, he was not, as such, qualified to receive the Lord's-fupper.
He applied to two eminent ministers for satissaction in the cafe above-mentioned, but one of them
was was too long silent j and tho' the other sent him an excellent sermon or two, which have since been printed, and also writ him a pretty long letter * yet mistaking his objection the difficulty still remained, as Mr. informed him, desiring his
further thoughts, which were deferred for a long time, either thro' absence from home, or an application to other affairs: and therefore not obtaining from those worthy ministers the desired satissaction, he was pleased to tell me, I bad time and leisure, and be wiped I would undertake it. With this request I was at last induced to comply, merely, that I might prevent the ill consequences of their silence.
What he was pleased to say os my letter in conversation, made it known to other persons, and some of my friends requested me to favour them •with a sight, or bearing of what I bad written to him; since which I have been desired by several persons to print that with the subsequent letter. But tho' the solicitation of friends has very often been given by authors, as the reason for sending their writings abroad -, yet I could not esteem it sufficient to justify this publication, if I did not also think with them, that it might in some measure subserve the cause of truth. For which reason only I have submitted them to the public, hoping they may become useful towards checking the growth of an opinion, which I find some very able ministers, from a mistaken notion of charity, arising from mere good nature, complaisance, or private friendship, seem somewhat desirous to promote. They may hope perhaps to establish the reputation of Christianity, and prevent some attacks from the Deists or others, by uniting Christians of all denoTninations in communion together; but discern not, that they are thereby giving them a much greater advantage, by sapping one or more of the very foundation principles of the doctrine of Christy Heb. vi. 1,2; by taking away the fences and destroying straying the very boundary, which Christ hud&tt has made. But more of this hereafter. from the fifth verse. And as he there takes it for the true meaning and intention of our Lord, the fense most easily defended against the cavils of an infidel; he cannot, I think, well object against the use I have made of it, and the inferences drawn from thence in my letter.
t)f. tV*Al% in his fiistory of insant-baptism, and in hw Defence of the some, says; 1 4 That all the
* ancient Christians (without the exception of one
* man) do understand that rule of our Saviour* ''Jbhnvi. 5. to mean baptism v and that he believes
* Calvin to be the first man that ever denied k sd
* to be meant.' This- is so full an attestation to the universal judgment of all antiquity for 14 or 1500 years in favour of the fense, which t have' given of John iii. 3, 5, that I could not avoid transcribing it for my readers.
And this is further confirmed by the learned T}r. WUtby% who in his annotations fays; 4 That 1 to fee the kingdom of G«d here, and„to enter into if^ 6 ver. 5. is the fame thing, and both these" phrases
* signify to be a real member of that kingdom, and 4 to enjoy the blessings' belonging to them who are
* so i .. .That Christ seems to speak this not prima
* rify ot that heavenly kingdom, into which the 4 blessed (hall enter at the day of judgment, but 'of that spiritual kingdom which was to be erecttf ed by the Messiah -, and into which men entered
* by baptism; whence it must follow, that no
* man is indeed a member of Christ's kingdom,
* who is not truly regenerate.. t *. That this seems
* to be directed against the false and pernicious
* conceptions of the Jewish doctors, the Scribes
* &ad Pharisees, who thought they had a title ttf
* the kingdom of God, and the blessings of it, 4 as being the seed of Abraham according to the 'flesh/. . . . And on the fifth verse,
"4 That our Lord here speaks of baptismal re
f" eneration, the whole christian church from the eginnina; hath always taught, and that with very
* good reaion; for, first, tho' water is sometimes
* put to- signify, or represent the purifying opera
* Hist". 5 7 j. Desence, p. u.
Dr. Benson is very justly esteemed by.many persons for his writings, who, no doubt, will think it no small recommendation of my exposition, that it is approved by him. Therefore, tho* the passage is pretty long, yet I will give it my readers; whereby they may also see, what groundless suppositions, even the doctor himself is ready to make from Nicodemus's ignorant answer to Christ, in order to support a favourite opinion. He says, page 247,
* Our Saviour's conversation with Nicodetnus is
* the most just and proper, provided we attend to
* his character, and to all the circumstances. He 4 was a Pharisee, and laboured under the com
* mon prejudices of the Jews, and as he was a 4 ruler among them, and of a timorous temper, T he came to Jesus by night; however he owned
* his miracles, and thence inferred his divine mis
* sion; most probably taking him for the MeA
* siah. "Jesus let him know that coming to 'him by night was not sufficient, neither had he, 4 as a Jew, any right to be a member of the mef"siah's kingdom, but he must, like other prose4 lytes (in thejewijh phrase) be born again, or pub
* licly take upon him the prosession of the chris
* tian religion, by baptism j or else he could not 4 see the kingdom of God, could not become a 4 member of Christ's church,'or kingdom." Ni
* codemus thought himself already one of the peo4 pie of God, because he was a Jew. If our Sa4 viour had told him that an heathen, in order to 4 become a proselyte to the Jewish religion, must
* be born again, by baptism and circumcision, he c could have readily understood him; because