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I have now stated to you, that from your active REASON personal Faith-and, supreme Love to Christ, arise your competency to improve your baptism. It must be so, for all the institutions and precepts of Jesus Christ are spiritual, and are spiritually discerned. In vain, therefore, will you reflect on those who are baptized in ignorance and in unbelief, whether infants or adults, if you are deficient in the improvement of your own privilege. I shall, therefore, proceed to state to you, some of those important purposes for which you may, and ought to realize and obtain advantages from your baptism.
1. The First is, to increase your Humility. Humility is one of the most valuable virtues that can possibly fill the breast and adorn the Christian character. That there is a strong connexion between the baptism and the death of Jesus, you can have no doubt; for he said unto his disciples, I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished ? (Luke xii. 50.) That by this he referred to his sufferings and death, is further evident from his question to the sons of Zebedee, Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with ? (Mat. xx. 22.) As Henry justly comments on the former passage, “He calls his sufferings a baptism, not a deluge; I must be dipped in them, not drowned in them.” “ And this Jesus anticipated,” continues that author,
as a woman in travail, that is pained to be delivered, and welcomes her pains because they hasten the birth.” Compare this with the cheerfulness and alacrity with which Jesus came from Galilee to be baptized of John in Jordan, and you will instantly be convinced of the voluntary sufferings of Him, Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Phil. ii. 6-8.) What humility, love, and mercy are here
combined in the Son of God! For whom were these displayed ? For you, who are the chief of sinners ; for you was the Saviour baptized first in water, and then in death, to deliver you from the wrath to come, and to bring you near to God as your everlasting Father. Did you not publicly profess your interest in these invaluable blessings, when you put on Christ in your baptism? Cease not, therefore, to improve your baptism, which is so admirably designed at once to keep in remembrance your Saviour's love, mortify your own pride, and keep you humble in the sight of God and man.
. As humility is so necessary and important to a Christian, there is another view you may take of your baptism, in order to its cultivation. It is probable, that some of you were baptized into Christ, some years since; and surely you cannot have forgotten the obligation you then laid yourselves under to be the Lord's for ever. But this morning, while witnessing the haptism of others, you could not forbear the painful reflection of your own unfaithfulness, temptations, and sorrows which you have now deeply to deplore. Here, every heart knoweth its own bitterness! Yes, the treachery of the heart, the allurements of the world, and the numberless snares which have surrounded you, have too often succeeded and led your hearts and feet astray, notwithstanding your most solemn engagements. The recollection of these must create a deep blush upon your spirit. False, unfaithful heart! Well for you that Jesus, in whose holy name you were baptized, is the same yesterday, to day, and for ever. He hath not cast you away. Let' this persuasion lead you afresh to his arms, and devote yourselves anew to his service and glory. Forget not, that if the remembrance of the way in which the Lord led the Israelites from the waters of the Red sea, through the wilderness for forty years, was designed to prove and to humble them the recollection of the conduct of your God towards you, from the waters of baptism, to the present period, is certainly calculated to clothe you with humility.
II. Reviewing your baptism will have an admirable tendency to enliven and increase your AFFECTIONS. By the affections, I mean the religious exercise of the finer powers of the mind and heart, so operated upon by a desire for, or the possession of a divine object, as to produce the most ardent delight and pleasure. This, at the same time, exciting a strong influence upon all the corresponding faculties of the soul, and dictating suitable actions in the life. You are at no loss to apply this object to the Son of God, who is the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person ; and in whom all the fulness of the Godhead dwelleth bodily. And, if the human affections are strengthened and enlivened by constant favours received, and by an increasing intercourse with a beloved object-David happily expressed both, which you may correctly apply to Christ, when in a sublime exercise of devotion to his God, he exclaimed : Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. The time was, when your affections were carnal, earthly, sensual and devilish. Grace has made the difference. Abhorring yourselves for your own sinful ways, you were led to Jesus as your only Saviour. The love of Christ constrained you to lead the stream of your affections into a new and happy channel. By the same love you were cheerfully constrained to obey your Lord's command, followed his example, and were baptized in his name. Since that period, you have received from his gracious hand numerous favours; and the repeated intercourse which you have enjoyed with him, by faith, in his word, in his church, and by prayer, cannot be denied. On this baptismal occasion, you cannot but bring to recollection the ardour of your first affections to your Redeemer, and, with what cheerfulness and joy you then walked in the ways of the Lord. Happy days; never to be forgotten; enrolled in heaven, and deeply inscribed upon your breast! What may be the present state of your affections to the Lord, is best known to him, and to yourselves. It is presumed, that since your baptism you may have been, in a good degree, steady and correct in your outward profession and conduct; yet the Lord may have
just occasion to address you, as he did the church at Ephesus : I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them that are evil; nevertheless I have somewhat against thee ; because thou hast lefi thy first love. (Rev. ii.) If that love you professed, was from God, you cannot possibly have lost it; but, there is a possibility that you may have left its ardent, cheerful, and animating exercises. There are, it must be confessed, a thousand ways by which the Christian's affections may grow languid ; and, while it becomes necessary to examine the causes, forget not the admonition of the Lord to that church, Remember, therefore, from whence thou art fallen and repent, and do the first works ; then shalt thou eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
You will easily recollect what were your first works of faith, love, and prayer, both before and after your baptism; and the lively manner in which they were performed. And you can as easily pass an opinion upon your present frame, temper of mind, and disposition of heart, towards the Lord, and likewise the manner in which you now either enjoy your privileges, or perform your duties. By this self-investigation, you must have been highly favoured above many, if indeed you have no occasion for repentance. Some of you may have just reason to say: Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me! my soul desireth the first ripe fruit. Under this decline of your affections, be not discouraged. The Lord can, and will, restore to you the joys of his salvation ; for, he resteth in his love and hateth putting away. Remember the oneness of your baptism, and it will teach you the oneness of his love. Set your affections on things above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God; thus, when Christ, who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
III. From both the letter, and the spirit of my text, you must also be convinced, that you are under strong obligations to improve your baptism for the important purpose of maintaining your PROFESSION. For as many of you, as have been
baptized into Christ, have put on Christ; whether ye be bond or free, male or female, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. A public profession of religion, is intended not only to render obedience to the will of Christ, who is King in Zion, but to demonstrate to the world the reality and excellence of its internal virtues in the heart, as much as the fruit shows the nature and quality of the tree. Besides, a correct, steady profession of the Gospel, has an admirable tendency to encourage the inquirer, and to produce the most charming social pleasures among yourselves; and indeed these cannot be exceeded, but by the full enjoyment of the everlasting mansions in heaven. To maintain such a profession, the Lord whom you serve, has given you such a variety of directions in his Gospel, as are necessary for the government of the heart, and your general conduct, whether in the church, in the family, or in the world. To persevere in such a profession with steadfastness and honour, amidst snares and opposition, and that too for a considerable length of time, must certainly be considered of the greatest importance. From a conviction of this, we are thus exhorted by the apostle Paul : Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; having this encouragement, he is faithful that hath promised. (Heb. x. 23.) One way to the practice of this, the same apostle directs, Call to remembrance the former days in which ye were illumirrated. (Heb. X. 32.) That is, the days in which the primitive Christians were illuminated by the Holy Spirit, to believe the truth of the Gospel, and externally professed it by being baptized into Christ, and thereby made members of his church. Such a view of this text has been taken by many able writers ;* and, it must be confessed that baptism is the privilege of every convert, let that person be young or old, whether in years or in grace. For, if a person of grace should have delayed his baptism for a number of years, and be denominated even a father in Christ, and then convinced of his duty, he can only receive his baptism as one illuminated, or a convert. At any rate, the apostolic injunction to call to