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the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,” * &c. But as we differ from most others in the construction of this passage, it will be proper to enter into a particular consideration of it.
It is to be regretted, that Christians have been so habituated to unite Baptism and water together in their view, that they seem almost to forget that there is a Baptism without water, by the Spirit. There are many passages in Scripture, where the words baptize and baptism are used in a figurative sense, and in which it is evident no allusion to the use of water is intended. This is peculiarly the case where these words are used by our blessed Lord, who appears never to have used them in reference to water, except where He expressly so defines the application ; unless it can be intended by the passage in Matthew now under consideration; and which we think cannot be proved. There are two instances in which it is apprehended, all will agree that water could not be intended; the first is the question put to the sons of Zebedee : “ Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of; and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized .with ?"t By these expressions, and similar ones in the succeeding verse, it is evident that water cannot be understood ; and, indeed, it is generally agreed, that both baptism and the cup, allude to a state of deep suffering and affliction. This is also the obvious meaning of the expression in Luke : “ I have a baptism to be baptized with ; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished !” I
From these applications of the words, baptize and baptism, it appears that they were at that time frequently used in a figurative manner; and we think ourselves warranted in applying the foregoing passage in Matthew, with another in Mark, ch. xvi. 16, to an inward and spiritual Baptism. This construction is much corroborated by rendering the former passage, as the original Greek evidently implies : “ Baptizing them into the Name of the Father,”' &c. By this expression we apprehend is to be understood, the introducing of the believers into a feeling sense of the Power of God in Christ, by the Influences of the Holy Spirit ; all which the apostles were, no doubt, frequently made instrumental in producing in the hearts of their hearers. This application of the word “ Name," as symbolical of the Divine Power,* is not uncommon in Holy Writ; and we conceive that no reasonable objection can be made to it. Thus the expressions of our Lord unite with those of the apostle Paul : “ So many as were baptized into Christ Jesus, were baptized into his death :" + and again, : “ As many as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.” That these expressions have no allusion to water baptism, appears to us evident from the context; and particularly from the following expression of the same apostle : “ By one Spirit are we all baptized into one body ;-and have been all made to drink into one Spirit."
* Matt. xxviii, 19.
+ Mark x. 33.
# Luke xii. 50.
It may be alleged, that the apostles understood the command in Matthew as applying to water baptism, and practised it accordingly. That they made use of baptism with water, has been already admitted ; but that they did it in consequence of this command, is not easy to prove. But, supposing this to have been the case, it appears from various circumstances, that even the apostles were 6 slow of heart to believe” and understand this command, as well as other scriptures relating to the Gospel Dispensation : for, notwithstanding the express charge to 66 go and teach all nations,” connected with the words in dispute, we find how difficult a
* See the Concordances of Cruden and Taylor, under the word “ Name.”
+ Rom. vi. 3. Gal. iii. 27. $ 1 Cor. xii. 13. '
matter it was, to bring the apostles to this acknowledgment : 66 Then hath God also to the gentiles granted repentance unto life.” * Such, it is evident, was their attachment to the Jewish nation and Law, that they slowly and gradually relinquished many of those ceremonies which were connected with them; and with some difficulty excused the gentile converts from an adherence to these observances. The apostle Paul was, however, more quickly introduced into the spirituality of the Gospel Dispensation ; and we think it is clear, that he did not understand our Lord's command, Matt. xxviii. 19, as enjoining the practice of water baptism; concerning which it is universally agreed that he was speaking, when he thanked God that he had baptized so very few as he mentions, out of the great numbers converted by him at Corinth to the Christian faith : “ For Christ,” says he, “ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel.” of
It has been argued, that this expression of the apostle is general, and only implies that baptism was not the principal part of his mission. But we have at least an equal right to consider the words in their common acceptation; and as showing that, however the apostle might occasionally use water baptism, as a mode of initiating converts into the Christian Church, yet he did not consider it as a part of his commission ; and consequently not essential to the Christian religion, nor to the soul's salvation. If he had considered it necessary to these important objects, it is difficult to conceive, how he could solemnly thank God for the omission of it.
Another argument in favour of water baptism is urged from the following query of Peter, on the conversion of Cornelius and his family : “ Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized ?” I &c. Now it appears very probable from this query, that it was a matter of doubt
among the Christians of that time, whether water baptism was necessary to be continued ; and that Peter, on this as well as on some other occasions, inclined to the continuance of a ceremony, at least partly Jewish. How closely even the apostles were attached to the Mosaic Law, and how slowly their minds opened to the Gospel Dispensation, has been already remarked. Notwithstanding the various predictions of the prophets, and the direct command of our Saviour Himself after his resurrection, it still required an extraordinary vision from Heaven to convince Peter, that, “Of a truth God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation, he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him."* It was about ten years after this circumstance, that the apostles and elders came together, to consider of the propriety of exempting the gentile converts from the rite of circumcision; and it was not till after there had been much disputing, that they concluded not to impose this yoke upon them. Although Peter was present at this conference, and earnestly promoted the decision of it; yet it was, I apprehend, after this time, that the apostle Paul had occasion to blame him for his changeable conduct towards the gentiles, with respect to some Jewish customs.t From all these circumstances, we may account for Peter's continuing the practice of water baptism, as connected with that Dispensation under which he had been educated. However, we have reason to believe that his views on this subject enlarged, as his experience in the service of the Gospel increased; for we find him several years after, in one of his epistles, describing the Baptism that “ doth now save us," I
* Acts x. 34, 35.
+ Gal. ii. 11, 12, 13. | There appears to be an inaccuracy in our translation of the verse preceding this passage. The “ eight souls were saved,” not by, but from or through the water : and many translators render it in this sense. Also the Greek word ANTITUDOV, which is translated “ figure,” might be rendered antitype ; a rendering which, in this place, gives a different idea of the meaning of the apostle.
in this manner : “ Not the putting away the filth of the flesh; but the answer of a good conscience towards God ;" * a description by no means applicable to water baptism, which, as it was then administered by immersion, did put away the filth of the flesh; and of which we may surely say, as was said of meats and drinks, and of divers washings,” that it 6 could not make perfect, as pertaining to the conscience :" they being imposed only until the time of reformation : by which is generally understood, the Gospel Dispensation. The
In considering the various arguments on this subject, part of the diversity of sentiment appears to lie in the difficulty there sometimes is, to determine between the literal and the figurative use of words, which relate to it. Even water, as well as fire, is sometimes used figuratively. To be “ born of water and the Spirit,” I has been considered, and we think rightly considered, by some who believed in the propriety of water baptism, as figurative an expression as, being baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire ;' || and we ought to remember the explanation which the evangelist himself gives of our Saviour's use of the word water : “ This spake He of the Spirit, which they that believed on Him should receive." I
It is frequently said, that water baptism is appointed in the Christian Church, as a substitute for circumcision among the Jews. In answer to this, I would first query, from what part of the New Testament can the appointment of one instead of the other be proved? Can it be supposed, that, if our Saviour or his apostles had considered it in this point of view, they would have given no intimation of it? I apprehend that not a single text which will bear such a construction, can be produced. On the contrary, there are
* 1 Peter iii. 21. + Heb. ix. 9, 10. $ Calvin, Grotius, Piscator, &c. || Matt. iii, 11.
John iii. 5. 1 John vii. 39.