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least a tacit declaration to all men, that in their esteem it is an indifserent thing. But can it be reasonably thought, the Son of God, the Lord of lise and glory, would institute an ordinance of so trifling and insignificant a nature, that any man may be obedient to it, or let it alone, as he pleases; and yet be received to membership in his church, and also partake of his holy supper . notwithstanding his express words, that Except a man be born again os water and of the spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God, or «iter into his church, John iii. 3. 5. And whether the guilt of such a profanation by unbaptized communicants may not be laid to their charge in the awful day of account, is what, in my opinion, they ought to weigh maturely, and consider with the utmost seriousness. This is certain, that there can be no necessity for admitting such persons, and it is undoubtedly most sase to avoid any hazard of the divine displeasure.]
And if an unbaptized believer, who has once communicated, ought not then to have come to the Lord's table; because he had not been planted into the church of Christ by baptism, in obedience to our Lord's command; he ought also to consider, whether every time he communicates at the Lord's table, whilst he remains unbaptized, is any thing else but a repetition of the first profanation i For if it was at first unlawful or unfit for him to partake of the Lord's-supper, because he was not baptized ; it must and will be unlawful and unfit for him to partake thereof at any time, so long as he remains unbaptized. For a person's once doing a thing, which lie had no right to do, can never give him a right to do the fame thing again. And tha' perhaps such a faulty and unlawful communicating at the Lord's table, when arising from the powerful influence of a wrong education, and done by a believer in the integrity of his heart, knowing no better than that he might lawfully, nay, supposing perhaps, that it was his duty to partake of that supper, may be so far from being laid to his charge as a sin, that the integrity of his heart and the sincerity of his intentions, tho' not the actual partaking, may be acceptable to God: yet after he comes to know, and to be convinced, that no man ought to come to the Lord's table, till he has first been baptized ; his own partaking there again, without submitting to t,he ordinance os baptism, may be to his condemnation. From the guilt of which, and all other sins, an assured promise is made over to the sincere believer, upon his obedience to she positive institution of baptism, Acis n. 38. and xxi^ i£. AsorÆ xvi. 16. a blessing, not so certainly to be depended upon, by any unbaptized believer in the performance of any other christian duty whatsoever, whilst he lives in the wilful neglect of this. And therefore let them who live in the wilful neglect of baptism, well consider, what the servants of Nagman faic| to their master; If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he faith to thee, wajh and be clean? And as the Syrian had no promise of a cure any other way, than by dipping himself in Jordan, and could not therefore have the least ground to hope for his ever being cleansed from his leprosy, if he wilfully neglected to do this, according to the direction given him, 2 Kings v. 10: so it behoves all unbaptized persons to consider, whether they can have so good grounds to hope for the remission of sin in the neglect of that ordinance, to which it is annexed, as if they are sincerely obedient to it, according to the appointment of God.
1 make no doubt but your candour will overlook the common errors of a writer; and that you will not account me uncharitable in my zeal for maintaining to the ordinance of baptism the use and end, for which it was designed; altho' I cannot allow those Christians to be members of the true visible church of Christ, who have never yet put en Christ by baptism, or been planted together in the likeness of his death by being baptized into Christ: since I am convinced, that he has not appointed any other way, for believers in him to be initiated into, ot made members of, his church here on earth. And I am very far from carrying what I have here said any further. Put am,
Dear Sir, your affeltionate,sincere Friends
Norwich, April and very bumble Servant,
The The Second Letter.
TH E conceit, which you mentioned to me in our last conversation, that all persons become members of the church of Christ, as soon as they believe in Christ, or are persuaded in their minds., that the christian revelation is from God; tbo' they never were obedient to any institution of Christ, hath something in it so very wild and romantic, that, upon this supposition, baptism would soon be laid aside ; and it must be impossible for the church of Christ to maintain any order or discipline, or indeed to know who are, or who are not related to them, in the gospel of Christ. For, if there is no initiatory rite to beobserved, whereby believers are to be constituted members of his visible church, can they be at all accountable to any church for their conversation? Or is it possible, even for gross immoralities, to cast those out of the church, who have never been received into it by any rite? At this rate, tho' a man walks ev«r so disorderly, yet if he says he believes the christian institution, he may still think himself a member of the visible church of Christ, whether others will own him, or not, and who then can pretend to fay he is not? This notion therefore, as it gives some encouragement to licentiousness, it seems also to be an inlet to disorder and confusion, and would render it almost impossible to describe, what a visible church of Christ is.
But as we were both agreed, that baptism is an introductory ordinance, I thought my arguments ftomjohn iii.5. sufficient to take off the force of your objection. Nor did I imagine, that by your giving up the very foundation of your own objection, I should have any further occasion to. shew, that baptism is the initiating ordinance, by which believers are to be taken into the church of Christ: but that it is so, I think, is evident enough from the following scriptures.
Ails ii. 4.1. Then they that gladly received his word, were baptized: and the fame day there were added unto them, [the church consisting of an. hundred and twenty men and women] about three thousand souls. Is it not the plain, obvious fense of this place, that those three thousand believers, who gladly received the gospel preached by St. Peter, were thereupon initiated into the church by baptism; and being by this ordinance constituted members of the church of Christ, -were admitted to all the privileges and benefits of the fame? For it is said, ver. 42. They continuedstedsajlly in the apostles dottrine andfellowship, and in breaking os bread, and in prayers. After which wb read, that the Lord wrought so powerfully upon the hearts of the people, by the wonders andsigns—done by the apojlles, and by their daily preaching in the temple, that there were added to the church daily such as should be saved. ver. 43, 47. And how this was done, we are fully informed in the 4.1st verse, as hath been observed.
We have also a like expression with this, ASis v. 14. And believers were the more added to the Lord, [or to the church, which is his body] multitudes both of men and women. I observe here, that those persons were believers, before they were added to the church; and because they were believers, something was done, whereby they -were added to the Lord. And that this was baptism is sufficiently plain, from Ads ii. 38, 41. But if a bare believing in Christ, or a declaration, that they believed the christian religion was from God, added them to his visible church; or was sufficient of itself to constitute them members thereof, without there being baptized, St. Luke would hardly have expressed himself in such terms, as plainly shew, that believing, and being added to the church,were two distinct things; so that the former was only a qualification for the latter. The context in this place likewise plainly shews, according to Grotius and Beza, as Dr. IVhitby observes, that there were many believers, who mag. nified the apojlles, but durst not join themselves to, or associate with them as members, because they Were not yet of the church.
I mentioned to you what the apostle soys, Rom. v\. 5. of Christians in his time being planted together in the likeness of Christ''s death; thereby alluding to baptism, as the way by which they were constituted members of his visible church. Nor can any thing less be understood by their being baptized into Jesus Christ, ver. 3, or into the church,
- which which is his body. But a word to the Wise is sufficient; and therefore I will only add, that the remarkable passage of the (ame apostle, which informs us, that the way, by which a believer puts on Christ, or takes upon him the prosession of his religion, is by being Baptizeb Into Christ. Pot ye are all the children of God bysa'tth in Chrijl Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Chrijl, Gal. iii. 26, 27. And I can assure you, it would be the greatest rejoicing to me, and many other members of the true visible church of Christ, to see or hear this of you; but it would be more abundantly to your own Joy and comfort, which that ydu may experience, as the Eunuch did, AEls viii. 39. is the servent prayer of,