« AnteriorContinuar »
mal vows. If those who profess to be dead to the world cannot walk in the course of it, witbout being considered and shuaned as a kind of apparitions ; those who are alive from the dead cannot return, without resembling a living character who should take up his abode in a sepulchre. ,' A few general reflections will conclude this epistle.
The baptism of a number of serious Christians is an interesting and impressive spectacle. Often op such solemn occasions, have we witnessed the falling tear; not only from the parties baptized, and others immediately connected with them, but from indifferent spectators. We could appeal to the consciences of many serious Christians, whether they did not receive their first convictions of the reality of religion at such opportunities? We could appeal to all of you who have been in the habit of attending the administration of this ordinance, whether it has not frequently furnished you with the most solemn and tender reflections? Has not the sight of a number of young Christians, offering themselves willingly to the Lord, touched the secret springs of holy sensibility: Yes ; you have been reminded by it of your own solemn engagements, and led to inquire in what manner they have been fulfilled. You have remembered the days of your espousals, when you first went after your Saviour as in the wilderness, and have been sweetly impelled to renew the solemn surrender. Nor have your reflections been confined to yourselves : you have considered these nerv accessions to the church of God as supplying the place of others that were taken away, and as fulfilling the promise, Instead of thy fathers, shall be thy children. When a number of dear friends and useful characters, have, one after another, been removed by death, you have been ready to ask, Who shall fill up their place i and by whom shall Jacob arise ? But when others of promising gifts and graces have come forward, and yielded up themselves to the Lord in baptism, they have seemed in a manner to be baptized for the dead. Thus, when the ranks of an army in a besieged city are thinned by repeated engagements, and the hearts of survivors are ready to f.int, a reinforcement arrives : a body of new companions throw themselves in to its relief, and inspire them with new vigour.
Further: If the foregoing remarks be just, the importance of believers' baptism must appear in a very different light, from that in which some have represented it. If the ordinary acknowledg. ments of many who live in the neglect of this ordinance, and disapprove of the zeal of others who submit to it, may be considered as expressive of their principles, their conduct is not owing to a solid conviction, arising from impartial inquiry accompanied with prayer, that it is unscriptural, or that they have already been baptized according to the institution of Christ ; but to a notion that it is of little or no account. If it be of little or no account to bind ourselves to the Lord, in the way of his own prescribing ; to confess his name before men ; to avow our being dead to the world, and alive to him ; to preserve the church from being constitutionally corrupted, and yoked together with unbelievers ; to obey his commandments who saith, Repent, and be babtized EVERY ONE OF YOU ; and to follow his example who yielded obedience to this institute, saying, Thus it BECOMETH US to fulfil all righteousness-athen may this excuse be admitted. But if these things be important, then is bel ievers' baptism important ; and all attempts to depreciate it are offensive in the sight of Him who is the Lord and lawgiver in Zion.
Finally, brethren : It becomes us to beware, lest that which is good in itself should, through the corruption of our nature, become an occasion of evil. There is, perhaps, no temptation more common among religious people, than to think too highly of themselves on account of their advantages. Where such a spirit is cherished, baptism may become an idol, and the table of the Lord itself a spare. It is more than, possible that some may so value themselves on account of their baptism, as to make it a substitute for a life of holiness and universal righteousness. It appears that some among the Corinthians approached too near, at least, to this spirit. They had been baptized ... ii . they had eaten and drunk at the table of the Lord .... yet they trified with idolatry, and worldly lusts. I would not that ye should be ignorant, (said Paul,) how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea ; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud, and in the sea ; and did all eat the same spiritual meat ;
and did all drink the same spiritual drink : (for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them : and that rock was Christ.) But with many of them God was not well pleased : for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our exam. ples. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lesi he fall ! As if he had said, Are you members of a community which has the promised presence of Christ? Our fathers also were under the cloud. Has God interposed in your favour? They passed through the sea, as on dry Jand. Have you been baptized ? So were they. They descended in a body into the sea ; were buried, as it were, by the cloud above them, and the waters on each hand of them ; and afterwards ascended on the other side. Have you been admitted to the holy supper? They also ate of that food, and drank of that stream, the spiritual intent of which was much the same. Yet all this afforded them po security, when they provoked the divine jealousy. Notwithstanding these privileges they fell, and were destroyed of the destroyer. These things are recorded for our admonition.'-Of what account then will our baptism be to us, if, instead of being dead to the world and alive to God, we be the reverse ? Will baptism sare us? No : It will bear witness against us !
And though we may not fall into so fatal an error, as to substitute baptism in the place of holiness, righteousness, and godliness ; yet if we cherish a fond conceit of ourselves, magnifying our advantages, to the neglect of a spirit of humble watchfulness; dur baptism, instead of aiding us, will become a snare. We do not always act up to our advantages. It is very possible that Christians who are behind us in this particular, may notwithstanding be before us in their general character. It were vain and foolish to imagine, that our possessing the truth in one instance will secure us from error in every other; or that our fulfilling this command of Christ, however important, will ensure a course of universal obedience.
Let us never forget, that however adapted this or that ordinance, form, or mode of church government, may be to promote our spiritual interests, yet if we rest in the means, they will deceive us; or rather, we shall deceive ourselves. It is the presence of
Christ only that can keep us alive, either as individuals, or as churches. While, therefore, we recommend the means which he has prescribed, we devoutly add, with the Apostle, The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all! Amen.
THB PASTOR'S ADDRESS TO HIS CHRISTIAN HEARERS, ENTREATING THEIR ASSISTANCE IN PROMOTING
THE INTEREST OF CHRIST.
The ministry to which God by your election has called us, forms a distinguished part of the gospel dispensation. Divine instruction was communicated under the Old Testament, and an order of men appointed of God for the purpose : but their work can scarcely be denominated preaching. They foretold the good news : but it is for us to proclaim it. The poor having the gospel preached to them is alleged in proof that the Messiah was come, and that they were not to look for another.
The very existence of Christian churches is in subserviency to the preaching of the gospel ; or they would not have been described as golden candlesticks, the use of which is to impart light 10 those around them. We speak not thus, brethren, to magnify ourselves. There is an important difference between Christian ministers, and the Christian ministry. The former, we are ready to acknowledge, exists for your sakes. Whether Paul, Apollos, or Cephas—all are yours ; but the latter, as being the chosen mean of extending the Redeemer's kingdom, is that for which both we and you exist. Ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's.
These considerations will enable us to account for the joy which the apostle expressed in Christ's being preached, even though it were from envy; and may teach us to rejoice in the same thing, though it be in the most corrupt communities, or even from the most suspicious motives. But though God may cause his truth to triumph, wherever and by whomsoever it is taught; yet it should be our concern to publish it willingly, and to the best advantage.
The primitive churches were not mere assemblies of men who agreed to meet together once or twice a week, and to subscribe to the support of an accomplished man who should on those occasions deliver lectures on religion. They were men gathered out of the world by the preaching of the cross, and formed into society for the promotion of Christ's kingdom, in their own souls, and in the world around them. It was not the concern of the ministers or elders only: the body of the people were interested in all that was done, and according to their several abilities and stations took part in it. Neither were they assemblies of heady, high-minded, contentious people, meeting together to argue on points of doctrine or discipline, and converting the worship of God into scenes of strife. They spake the truth ; but it was in love: they observed discipline ; but, like an army of chosen men, it was that they might attack the kingdom of Satan to greater advantage. Happy were it for our churches if we could come to a closer imitation of this model !
We trust it is our sincere desire, as ministers, to be more intent upon our work; but allow us to ask for your ASSISTANCE. Nehemiah, zealous as he was, could not bave built the wall if the people Irad not had a mind to work. Nor could Ezra have reformed the abuses among the people if nobody had stood with him. But in this case, the elders, when convinced of the necessity of the measure, offered themselves willingly to assist him. Arise, (said they,) for this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage and do it. Such is the assistance, brethren, which we solicit at your hands.
We might enumerate the different ways in which your assistance in promoting the interest of Christ is needed. We might ask for your prayers, your early attendance, your counsels, your contri