« AnteriorContinuar »
the horrors of the grave itself, with a cheerful countenance, and sing with holy Job, Although after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself ; mine eyes shall behold, and not another, though my reins be consumed within me!
Upon the whole, permit us to advise and exhort you, dear brethren, to a few things which become persons who have expectations like yours. While you guard against presumption, beware of despair. The latter, as well as the former, is dangerous to men, and offensive to God. Despair is the death of action. To despair of mercy, and so never apply for it, is to act like the wicked and slothful servant, than which nothing tends inore to cast reproach on the character of God. Even a man of honour cannot bear to be mistrusted. While fear keeps you from presumption, let hope preserve you from despair. As condemned criminals in yourselves considered, oast yourselves on him for mercy; as servants, serve him cheerfully and rely on bis bounty ; and as suffering the loss of all things for him, trust him, like Moses, to make up your fosses. Remember, the Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.
Observe also, He that has this hope must purify himself as Christ is pure.He must take him for his example, and aim at no less than a complete conformity to his temper' and spirit. That which true hope centres in, is not only to see bim as he is, but to be like him. Be constant, then, dear brethren, in holy exercises. We trust your hope is not of that kind which, in proportion as it increases, slackens the hand of diligence. Neglect neither public nor private duties; it is at the peril of your souls' welfare if you do! Shame may keep you to the one, but rather let the love of Christ constrain you to both. Think nothing too great to perform, too much to lose, or too hard to endure, that you may obtain so blessed a hope. O brethren, be it our daily concern and earnest endeavour to grow in every grace, to excel in every virtue. Re. member he whose eyes are flames of fire surveys our heart and life: bow transporting the thought, could we conceive him addressing each of us as he did the Thyatiran church, I know thy
works, and charity, and service, and faith ; and thy patience, and thy works, and the last to be more than the first ! .
Finally: Use all means to cultivate this heavenly grace..Remember, sin is its worst enemy; beware of that. The Holy Spirit is its best friend; see that you grieve not him. Tribulations themselves, though they may seem to destroy it, in the end cherish it. They work patience, and patience experience, and experience hope ; therefore be reconciled to them. Read the holy scriptures ; pray in secret as well as openly ; though sojourners on earth, let your conversation be in heaven ; learn to set light by this world; court not its smiles, nor fear its frowns ; live in daily expectation of dying, and die daily in humble expectation of living for evermore ; realize and anticipate those enjoyments and employments to which ye are hastening: in proportion to this, your desires will be strong and your hopes lively. Remember hope is one of those graces which must do its all within the limits of time : be sober, therefore, and hope to the end; aim, like Enoch, to walk with God till God shall take you; let your loins be girt, and your lights burning, and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord. Blessed are those servants whom the Lord when he cometh shall find so doing! Verily I say unto you, said this blessed Lord of yours, (O hearken and be astonished !) Verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them!
Dearly beloved brethren, farewell! May our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, who hath loved us, and given us everlasting consolation, and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work !
THE PRACTICAL USES OF CHRISTIAN BAPTISM.
In connexion with our last general Letter, and agreeably to the appointment made at the yearly meeting, we now address you, on a subject, not only of general interest, but wbich more immediately relates to that solemn profession which you have made of Christianity ; namely, THE PRACTICAL USES OF THE ORDINANCE OF BAPTISM.
That Christian baptism is properly administered only by immersion, and to those who make a credible profession of faith in Cbrist, it is no part of our present design to prove. Addressing you, we sball take each of these particulars for granted. The only subject to which we now request your attention, is the influence of ibis ordinance, where it produces its proper effects, in promoting piety in individuals, and purity in the church.
There is no part of true religiou that is merely speculative: the whole is designed and adapted to sanctify the soul. We may presume, therefore, that if baptism be an ordinance of God, and of
perpetual obligation in the church, it is of importance to Christian · practice.
But it is not on presumptive evidence that we wish to rest the improvement of this institution, any more than the institution itself: neither shall we go about to connect with it acknowledged duties hy imaginary alliances; but shall confine ourselves to those uses of the ordinance which are actually made or suggested in the New Testament. We could address many things to parents, and things of importance too, on bringing up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord : we could also urge it upon the children of believers that they were committed to God from their earliest infancy; but as we find nothing of this kind in the scriptures, connected with baptism, however important these things would be in
their place, they would be altogether irrelevant while treating on this ordinance.
Baptism is a divine institution, pertaining to the kingdom of the Messiah, or the gospel dispensation. Jobo received it from heaven and administered it to the Jews, who, on his proclaiming that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, confessed their sins. Jesus gave sanction to it by his example ; and after his resurrection, when all power in heaven and earth was committed to him, he confirmed and extended it to believers of all nations. Whatever circumstantial differences there might be, therefore, between the baptism of John and that of Christ, they were substantially the same. There were things in former ages which bore a resemblance to it; as, the salvation of Noah and his family in the ark, the passage of the Israelites through the sea, divers wasbings or bathings prescribed by the Mosaic ritual, &c. ; but the thing itself existed not, till it was revealed to the immediate forerunner of Christ. . ' .
The principal design of it appears to be, A solemn and practical profession of the Christian religion. Such was the baptism of John, who said unto the people, that they should believe on him who should come after him; that is, on Christ Jesus. And such was that in the times of the apostles. Paul, addressing himself to the churches in Galatia, who, after having professed to believe in Christ, cleaved to the Mosaic law as a medium of justification, thus speaks : The law was our schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith: but after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have PUT ON CHRIST. The allusion is to the putting on of apparel, as when one that enters into the service of a prince puts on his distinguishing attire: and the design of the sacred writer is to remind those of them who had before professed the Jewish religion, that by a solemn act of their own they had, as it were, put off Moses, and put on Christ. There is a putting on of Christ, which is internal, and consists in relinquishing the former lusts, and being of the mind of Christ; but that which is here referred to appears to be an open profession of his name, to the renouncing of every thing that stood in competition with him. It' was therefore true of as many as had been baptized, whether they abode in the truth or not. And even their being the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus seems to express what they were in profession, rather than what they were in fact. They had by their baptism disowned all dependence on the privileges of birth, and the adoption which pertained to them as the children of Abraham; and declared their acquiescence in that power, or privilege to become the sons of God, which the gospel imparts to them tbat believe. The mention of this was perfectly in point, as it greatly heightened the evil of their defection. The amount is, That as many as were baptized in the primitive ages were voluntary agents, and submitted to this ordinance for the purpose of making a solemn and practical profession of the Christian faith. It was their oath of allegiance to the King of Zion ; that by wbich they avowed the Lord to be their God. Hence a rejection of it involved a rejection of the counsel of God. The sin of the pharisees and lawyers consisted, not in their refusing to submit to baptism as unbelievers ; but in not embracing the Messiah, and so putting on the badge of his profession. Their rejection of the sign was justly construed as a rejection of the thing signified; as when a rebel refuses to take the oath of allegiance, it is construed as a refusal of submission and subjection to his rightful prince.
Such, brethren, is the profession we bave made. We have not only declared, in words, our repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ ; but have said the same things by our baptism. We have solemnly surrendered ourselves up to Christ, taking him to be our prophet, priest, and king; engaging to receive his doctrine, to rely on bis atonement, and to obey his laws. The vows of God are upon us. We have even sworn to keep his righteous judgments; and without violating the oath of God, we cannot go back. If it be a sin not to covfess the Lord Jesus, through fear or shame, it is a still greater sin, after we have confessed him to turn from the holy commandment.
The religion of Jesus consists partly of truths to be believed, and partly of precepts to be obeyed; and the ordinance of baptism furnishes motives for a faithful adherence to both.. .