Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

baptism, is not sufficient to justify its administra- | more imperfectly, if not erroneously understood.
tion; belief must be not only of the understand
ing, but also of the heart; nay, it must be with
'all the heart,' to entitle a person to receive ad-
mission into the church by baptism. Indeed, the
surrender of the whole heart to God is an essen-
tial ingredient in genuine or saving faith. No
man can give a portion of his heart to Christ in
the prospect of salvation. If he know his own
unspeakably wretched condition as a sinner, and
the unsearchable riches of Christ, he cannot avoid
giving all his anxieties to be delivered out of the
one, that he may be made a partaker or joint
heir' of the other. All persons therefore ap-
proaching to God through baptism, either in their
own personal case, or in the case of their children,
should prayerfully and diligently seek the direc-
tion and guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Ethi-
opian's knowledge of Christ as revealed in the fifty-
third chapter of Isaiah, was of very brief standing.
Indeed, it is not certain that he had ever heard
of Christ until Philip joined him in the chariot;
but that knowledge was communicated by the
Holy Spirit through the word, and was genuine
and saving. How uninteresting to the Ethiopian
nobleman must have been the portion of scrip-
ture which at the time he was engaged in read-
ing? He did not know of whom the prophet
wrote, whether of himself or of some other man.
He of course could have had no conception of
what was meant by being wounded for our
transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities.'
Being profoundly ignorant of the parties of whom
the inspired writer spoke, the whole passage must
have been to him utterly unintelligible. In fact,
although he understood the language in which the
prophecy was written, he knew as little of its
meaning as though it had been written in a foreign
tongue. He was, however, sincerely seeking the
Lord, and out of profound respect for his author-
ity, reading while he could not understand his
divine word, and therefore God, by a special
messenger, rewarded his sincerity and diligence
by a full knowledge of the truth. How profit-
able is it to be engaged in reading the scriptures,
even although we should not fully comprehend
their meaning! None ever seek God in vain.

[ocr errors]

than the doctrine of repentance. Because in true repentance there is sorrow arising from self-condemnation, therefore many are apt to mistake the sorrow and regret which the criminal feels for the offences which have brought him to condemnation, for that genuine and evangelical repentance which issues in faith and salvation. And because the sinner's first acquaintance with Christ and salvation must be preceded, or at least accompanied by repentance, many are led to the conclusion, that in the renewed Christian's after experience, there is no place for repentance whatever. Evangelical repentance cannot possibly be better defined than in the Westminster Assembly's Shorter Catechism. Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin doth turn from it.' A true sense of sin, is a just estimate of its nature, character, and consequences. Sin is in ordinary circumstances viewed by the sinner in the light of pleasure, profit, or honour; and although he inay have some misgivings respecting its perfect lawfulness, he flatters himself that, as it was under the impulse of nature that it was committed, God will not be severe to punish him for it. This, however, is far from being a just view of the matter. A correct or proper estimate of sin will exhibit it as an act of gross folly, flagrant injustice, and deep ingratitude. It is folly towards ourselves, it is generally injustice towards others, and it is always ingratitude towards God. True or evangelical repentance is of course the condition of mind and feeling which a just and deep sense of unworthiness upon all those accounts produces in the converted sinner's mind, accompanied by deep detestation of every act that had occasioned that unworthiness, and a full determination to employ every means to avoid such acts in future. No sorrow for crime, the deepest throb of which is not occasioned by regret for having sinned against a glorious and gracious God, and which is not accompanied by hatred of sin, and full purpose after new obedience, deserves the name of repentance; and of course, while the Christian is in the body, and in many things' offends (James iii. 2), he will be again and again called to the duty of repentance. The Jews, to whom the apostle Peter addresses the words quoted at the head of this meditation, were not gross profligates or abandoned sinners. On the contrary, they are said (ver. 5) to have been devout men. Yet Peter calls upon them to repent, and the call was neither unnecessary or ineffectual, for we are informed (ver. 41) that many of them 'gladly THERE is no doctrine of the New Testament received the word,' and (ver. 42.) that they con


Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost,

Acts ii. 38.



tinued steadfastly in the apostle's doctrine and bassadors they are reconciled unto God.' We fellowship.' The sin of which these Jews were see, however, strikingly in this transaction the chiefly called upon to repent, was the combined power of divine truth, when under the direction and complicated offence of negligence, ignorance, of the Holy Spirit. Before it human pride, naand unbelief. God had given them, in the writings tional prejudice, party spirit, and long cherished of Moses and the prophets, such clear and dis- or habitual contempt for despised inferiors, all criminative marks of the promised Messiah, that vanish like the mists of morning before the ascendhad they searched the scriptures with that ing day. The high, aristocratic, and self-sufficient diligence which their importance merited, they Jews become suppliants before the humble Gacould not have failed to recognise him in Jesus lilean fishermen, and say, 'Men and brethren, of Nazareth. But they had neglected the divine what shall we do?' and when so directed, they word, and trusted in traditions of men, and of gladly received baptism from them, and fellowconsequence became grossly ignorant and obstin- ship with them. What obligations do men owe ately unbelieving. Repentance in their case was to the Saviour! How constantly should they regret, or sorrow for having forsaken God, bless Jehovah for him, and how diligently should neglected his word, and through the blindness of they seek repentance for every trust in any other ignorant prejudice crucified the Lord of life and refuge, or any act unworthy of their relation to glory; and the reformation required consisted in him! being baptized for the remission of sins in the name of that Jesus' whom they had crucified, and in the hope, that through him they should ' receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.' The whole Jewish nation believed in the God of Abraham, and considered that in the scriptures they had 'eternal life,' (John v. 39); but at the time of our Lord's coming into the world, they had lost the knowledge of the God of Abraham, and were grossly ignorant of that eternal life which the scriptures were indeed ordained and able to communicate. The God of Abraham was a God in Christ, for Abraham saw Christ's coming day, and rejoiced at the sight (John viii. 56); and all the prophets prophesied of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow,' (1 Pet. i. 11). But the Jews appear to have entertained very vague ideas of God, and to have expected eternal life through some kind of favouritism, because they were the children of Abraham. The apostle therefore informs them, that they must return to the religious principles of the founders of their nation, and believe not only in God and in the truth of his word, but in Jesus Christ, whom God had sent, and set forth to be a propitiation for sin. Nothing could possibly be more humiliating to human pride, than the doctrine preached to those Jews. They had ever considered themselves as God's peculiar people, rich, and encreased in good things, and in need of nothing. They had specially despised Jesus of Galilee, and the humble fishermen his companions. And they are now told that they must renounce as erroneous all their former religious opinions, lament their ignorance and prejudice, be baptized for the remission of sins in the name of the hitherto despised Jesus, and do honour to the illiterate fishermen, by admitting, that through them as am

[ocr errors]

For the promise is unto you, and to your chil dren, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call,' Acts ii. 39. THE imperfection of man, and weakness of the Christian character, are lamentably exhibited in the feelings and conduct of parents towards their children. They in general love their children with the warmest and strongest affection; but this love is seldom wisely directed. It is either expended in all-engrossing, if not sinful efforts to make them rich and great in this world, or it is dissipated in unmeaning fondness or ruinous indulgence. Notwithstanding the strong obligations under which God has laid them, and the ample encouragement which he has given them to train up their children in the way in which they should go, parents seldom think of their children's true interest, or strenuously exert themselves to put them in possession of the imperishable riches, and unfading honours of the kingdom of heaven. How strong and cogent are the exhortations of the wise man to parents upon this head. Chasten thy son, saith he (Prov. xix. 18), while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.' Again (xiii. 24), He that spareth the rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.' And in verse 22 of the same chapter, he observes, that ‘a good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children, and the wrath of the sinner is laid up for the just,' implying that the parent who discharges his duty to his children, by training them up in God's fear, provides for them an inheritance which they will be able to

[ocr errors]

transmit to their children but the sinful parent and aliens to the commonwealth of Israel, withwho neglects his children's true interest, and out God, and without hope in the world, are labours at the expense of religion or of integrity, characterized by afar off,' but still within the to make them wealthy, shall not be able to secure reach of divine call. The amount of the whole, to them that wealth. In God's all-disposing therefore is, that the middle wall of partition providence it shall wing its way to persons more between Jew and Gentile is removed; that both just. Indeed, experience and observation abun- are made one in Christ Jesus, and that whenever dantly demonstrate, that parents who are instru- parents in any nation are by God savingly called mental in procuring for their children the riches to the knowledge of the truth, they are authorized of faith, are in their old age much more honoured to consider the promise which they themselves and respected by them, than those parents who possess, to include or extend to their children. neglect the religious education of their families, In this passage the right of the infants' of such in order to procure for them immense worldly as are members of the visible church to baptism, riches and honours. In the one case the parent is clearly and unequivocally established. The is still respected by his family, because he has promise, extended through the parent to the childone his duty to them, because they fear that dren, must be to them as children, or while they God who has said, 'honour thy father and thy are, from under age, incompetent to appropriate mother,' and because although perhaps old and promises to themselves. If we understand the powerless with regard to this world, he can still words, 'The promise is to you and to your chillead them to God, and direct them onward to dren,' to signify merely, that the promise is to the world to come. In the other case, children the parent, and will be to their children when as they have not been taught to know and reve- they grow up and claim it, the statement will be rence their heavenly Father, have often little most unmeaning; for the same is the case with respect for their earthly one, and as the only the children of those whom God has not called. property which their parent had provided for If they, the children of unbelievers, when grown them, and taught them to value, they cannot up and capable, forsake their fathers' infidelity uncontrolledly enjoy until he shall have been and wickedness, and turn unto God, the promise removed, they frequently contemplate without is undoubtedly to them (Isa. lv. 7). But there much pain his separation from them by death. is in the words before us, a special promise The portion of scripture prefixed to this medita- through their parents, to the children of ‘as many tion affords to believing Christian parents, the as the Lord our God shall call.' The children highest encouragement to labour for the edifica- are beloved for their fathers' sake (Rom. xi. 28). tion and religious education of their families. The They are holy (1 Cor. vii. 14); of course, being promise is to you, and to your children.' The like the children of Abraham included with their words were, in the first instance, addressed to the parent within the compass of the same promise, Jews, the peculiar people of promise, but were they have, like them, an undoubted right to the not confined to that nation; for the same promise, seal of righteousness obtained by faith in that it is added, is to all that are afar off, even as promise. How encouraging and consolatory is many as the Lord our God shall call.' It is not this portion of scripture to Christian parents? improbable that this latter part of the statement They know that their beloved little ones are in was not fully understood by the apostle himself, danger every hour. They are in danger in at the time when he uttered it, as we find him a amusements; in the performance of duty; and considerable time afterwards unwilling to con- in juvenile folly. The parents' eye cannot always sider the Gentiles within the pale of salvation, be upon them; but through those parents, as the (Acts x. 14-47; and Acts xi. 17). Indeed, called of the Lord, the children have a promise, the prophets generally did not understand, at the and there is an eye that pervades at the same time of their utterance, their own prophecies moment all space, and watches for them. Parfully, for the apostle Peter tells us (1 Pet. i. 11), ents cannot protect their children from disease, or that they searched what time, or manner of early death. They cannot provide for them all time, the Spirit of Christ which was in them did that affection would desire. They cannot expect signify.' That the words however, all that are to remain ever with them, but in every such afar off,' refer to the Gentiles cannot possibly be strait, they can derive comfort from this promise. questioned; for the Jews were by inheritance, by How consolatory also, is this passage to ministers privilege, and by ordinance near unto God, and of the gospel, and to Christian missionaries! The were referred to in the first clause, you and call of God, and promise of salvation, are not conyour children;' while the Gentiles, as strangers fined to one nation, or one department of the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

world, but extend to all that are afar off. God, circumcision was, in its origin, intended to be a in the gospel, is no respecter of persons; but in token between God and Abraham and his family. every nation he that feareth him, and worketh Abraham had believed from the mouth of God righteousness, is accepted with him,' (Acts x. that a second Adam-a second federal head and 34). The effectual call, however, is from God. representative, would be raised up of his posterity, 'It is not of him that willeth, or of him that and that through and by him he should receive runneth, but of God that showeth mercy,' Rom. pardon, reconciliation, and everlasting righteousix. 16. Paul may plant, and Apollos water, but ness. In the faith and hope of these high priGod giveth the encrease,' (1 Cor. iii. 6). Let vileges he gave up all connection with his first or then parents trust only in the Lord. Let chil- original ancestor, and rejoiced to consider himself, dren early seek the Lord. Let ministers labour by adoption, a member of a new and better family. in the Lord. And let missionaries look for suc- God then, as a token to Abraham that his faith cess only through the Lord. Amen! and hope were well founded, instituted or appointed the ordinance of circumcision, that he might feel and know as well as believe, that he was cut off from the family of the old, and introduced into the family of the new Adam. And God required circumcision in Abraham, his


In whom also ye are circumcised with the cir

cumcision made without hands, in putting off family, and all his posterity, as a token on their the body of the sins of the flesh by the circum-part, cision of Christ,' Col. ii. 11.

THE two chiefly besetting sins by which the church of God has in every age been humbled and afflicted, are unbelief and hypocrisy. By the one, men are led to neglect and estrange themselves from God; and by the other, to mock him with insincere and most unworthy worship. The history of God's chosen people in the Old Testament, affords numerous and melancholy instances of both sins. The Israelites, as a nation, were far from being spiritually-minded, (indeed what nation ever was?) They were disposed to arrogate and claim to themselves, all the privileges which the patriarchs, their ancestors, possessed and enjoyed in the favour of God; but they seldom thought of walking with God, or denying themselves, or confessing that they were strangers and pilgrims in this world, or looking for a heavenly country as those patriarchs had done. Their whole history is a succession of apostacies, chastisements, humiliations of themselves, and merciful restorations to divine favour. Even in the periods of their history, during which they did not apostatize or openly worship other gods, they are charged with a 'drawing near to God with their mouth, and honouring him with their lips, but with having removed their hearts far from him (Isa. xxix. 13). Their grand error in the department of worship however, consisted in mistaking the means for the end, and imagining that when they had observed the ordinance, which was intended merely as an instrument to communicate or strengthen faith, they had done all, although in no way edified by the act, that God required or expected of them. The rite of

[ocr errors]

that they had renounced the family of the fallen and sinful Adam, and entered into the family of him who was holy, harmless, and undefiled.' The ordinance of circumcision therefore was, in all that was valuable and important in it, strictly spiritual. Take away what was spiritual and typical from it, and there remained nothing but a painful, useless, and unmeaning rite. The mass of the Israelites however, in every period of their history, but especially in the times of our Lord and his apostles, were blind to its spiritual signification; and yet with extraordinary senselessness and stupidity, they insisted upon its necessity and importance. The ordinance was typical. It was a token, on God's part, that the new and better federal head would come; and on the believer's part, that he and his would continue to expect and rely upon his coming. But the federal head was now come, the family was organized, and while all that was spiritual in circumcision, continued in full force, the material or sensible part was superseded and abrogated for ever. saints or believers at Colosse were generally Gentile converts, who of course had not in infancy received circumcision outwardly, but Paul tells them in the portion of his Epistle quoted above, that they had now received it spiritually, or inwardly, in believing on Christ, 'In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.' That is, by Christ when they believed on him, and he was formed in them the hope of glory, they were cut off from the guilt, the punishment, and the power of the body of the sins of the flesh, and (ver. 13.) were quickened together with him;'

[ocr errors]

His body

beware, lest they be found obstructing the grace of God, and usurping his high prerogatives. The importance of baptism, however, like the ordinance of circumcision, to which it has succeeded, is its spiritual signification. Let all the baptized then, examine carefully themselves, and let parents study, and attend to the obligations they have come under at the baptismal dedication of their children.


For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy,' 1 Cor. vii. 14.

the deadly weight of their trespasses being wholly from his people (Gen. xvii. 14). Let men then removed. In the 12th, or immediately succeeding verse, the believing Colossians are informed that they had been buried with Christ in baptism,' from which expression Baptists have inconclusively inferred, that the mode of performing that ceremony in the apostolic times was by immersion. There is, however, no analogy or resemblance between the mode of our Lord's burial and resurrection, and the operation of dipping in the Baptist's baptism. Our Lord was not inserted into the earth in burial, as the body in baptism is immersed into the water; nor in resurrection did he emerge from the grave, as the baptized arise above the surface of the water. was conveyed horizontally into an excavation in a rock, and after resurrection returned in the same way, so that there could be no allusion in the passage in question to the similarity of the outward form of baptism, to the form of his burial and resurrection. In fact, the apostle is contending for the comparatively insignificance of outward forms, and the great importance of spiritual experiences. It is therefore most obvious, that by being buried with Christ in baptism,' he means that by baptism believers are declared to be made one with Christ; that when he died and was buried, they, that is, their life and hope, were dead and buried (2 Cor. v. 14), that when he arose, their life and hope arose with him; that because death could not hold him, it will not be able to hold them (Psal. xxiii. 4), and that because he lives, they shall live also. The Colossian Christians are told that they have received the spiritual circumcision in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh.' And they are further informed, that it was by baptism into his death that they had put off the body of those sins.' They had put them upon the Christ, who came into this world to bear them in his own body,' and under them he died and entered into the grave. But as death could not hold him; as he had finished the transgression, and made an end of sin,' (Dan. ix. 24), it was not possible that the holy One of God could see corruption (Acts vii. 27), and when he arose, they arose with him. The essentials, the spiritual signification of circumcision and of baptism are therefore identified, or baptism is the New Testament of the righteous. And in the passage under circumcision. And if so, not only are the infant children of believing parents fit and proper subjects for baptism, but it is absolutely sinful and unchristian to forbid or prevent them from being baptized. Circumcision was so cogently enforced under the Old Testament dispensation, that the uncircumcised man- child was declared cut off

[ocr errors]

My thoughts,' saith Jehovah, speaking to the children of men, are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' (Isa. lv. 8). Indeed, no two things can be more unlike than the estimate formed of the world by the mere men of the world, and the estimate formed of it by God. In the judgment of worldly men, saints or believers are the most useless, if not most contemptible portion of society. Their scruples, particularities, and self-denials are considered senseless and unreasonable; and their answers and rebukes are condemned as ill-natured and uncharitable. In the judgment of God, on the contrary, they are the excellent of the earth; the pillars of society. 'Ye are the salt of the earth,' said our blessed Lord to his disciples, implying that but for them, the world, which is a mass of corruption, would be lost in rottenness and putrefaction. 'Ye are the light of the world,' saith he again, implying that only for them the world would speedily be overwhelmed with darkness. In the opinion of the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot was an insignificant stranger, who came in upon sufferance to sojourn among them; but had there been ten such men resident in those cities, they might have remained until this day. In our Lord s parable of the field in which the enemy sowed tares, the wicked are represented as permitted to continue until the day of judgment for the sake

meditation, the 'unbelieving husband' is said to be sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife by the husband.' There are two kinds of sanctity or holiness spoken of in scripture. The sanctity of dedication, whereby persons or things are appropriated to God, so that they cannot without sacrilege or injustice be employed to any

« AnteriorContinuar »