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purification. This is not questioned; and this furnishes us with the import of that part of the rite of baptism which the use of water occupies. Accordingly, while the end of the rite, taken as a whole, is to denote consecration, it has pleased Christ to appoint that an element should be employed, in doing this, which at the same time conveys a meaning of its own, in its limited sphere; a "meaning additional, but subordinate; neither inconsistent nor diverting. For, while the rite pledges the individual to God, the water, a single element of the rite, by a beautiful significance of its own, points to the purity implied in such a soul-dedication. While the entire ordinance symbolizes the new direction of one's being, from self and the world to God, this section of it suggests the holiness of the transaction. The two ideas harmonize perfectly; they harmonize in the same way as a part harmonizes with the whole, or rather as a result with the cause. For consecration makes the consecrated object, on the part of him who has set it apart, holy to God; holiness is a part, a resultant idea, of consecration. Now the entire ceremony of baptism covers the idea of the consecration; and the water, that of the holiness. Hence we are not to conceive that this element points to the general cleansing of the heart by the Holy Spirit, but only to the cleansing implied in the transfer to the new end of being. The object of the right must be regarded as simple, though its elements may be complex. We cannot suppose that it was intended to have two parallel and unrelated meanings — as it would have, if one of its meanings pointed independently to the general cleansing by the Holy Spirit. But as the transaction which the rite denotes has in itself a subordinate element denoting purification, so with perfect fitness the rite has in the water an element corresponding with it and pointing to it.
It must not be overlooked, as confirming this position, that in the Jewish ceremonial, in which water acquired, and from which we learn, its exact significance, it does not denote cleansing by the Spirit of God, or spiritual cleansing generally, but ceremonial cleansing; that cleansing which attaches to and becomes the new sacred relation in which the person or object stands towards God directly or as represented by his people. Thus symbolic ablution was performed when Aaron and his sons were to be introduced to the priests' office,1 and ever after, on pain of death, when they or their successors were about to minister at the altar ;2 when a leper was to be restored to God's people ;8 when any one who had acquired ceremonial uncleanness was to be ceremonially cleansed ;4 and even when inanimate objects, such as "any vessel of wood, or raiment, or skin, or sack"5 had been tainted with ceremonial impurity. Now since we have the import of water from this usage, and since we find by examining that usage that, while water symbolizes purification, it is not the general purification effected by the Holy Spirit, but that which results from the d^jvotement or restoration of the person or object to God in his own person or in that of his people, — we see how we are to understand the use of water when transferred to Christian baptism: that it is designed indeed to denote purification, but only purification as resulting from consecration to God.
This view of the import of baptism has the advantage, we think, of satisfying the demands of exegesis; making many baptisms one baptism; and explaining the historical developments of doctrine on this subject, — while at the same time maintaining the strict simplicity and unity of its design. From this we can readily see, why the Apostles, when speaking with any fulness of the rite of baptism, should bring out the great End of the baptismal consecration; but when speaking of the duty to lead a holy life, and wishing to illustrate or enforce this duty by reference to baptism, should seize only on its minor, purificatory element. Truths, however, or elements of truth, which in inspiration are still held in their real and concrete connection, however much more prominently the one or the other may be brought forward in any place, are very apt, when
delivered over to uninspired men, to be violently and permanently separated; some, according to their peculiarities, or the influences about them, seizing on the one part, and others on the other part, of the related truth, magnifying it, and suppressing or overlooking its fellow. Thus, while the Syriac Christians, who stood almost near enough to the Apostles, in time, to hear them speak, grasped and perpetuated the consecratory nature of this rite; possibly too exclusively; thus showing that in that early age it was altogether the central and predominant one, — the more "Western Christians, on the other hand, being brought into closer contact with the superstitions of cultivated Paganism, and the mystic doctrines of the Platonists, naturally betook themselves to the minor element of purification, discarding the grand object of the rite; and this they so built upon with superstition and mysticism, according to the tendeacy of that age, that they soon reached the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, and even of the cleansing of the heart from all sin by the act of baptism alone. By many it was regarded as an opus operatum; and there was room for the scoff, flung by the Emperor Julian: "Baptism, which cannot remove leprosy, gout, warts, and other lesser or greater bodily defects, is able to purge away all the sins of the soul I"1
And in later times, those writers or sections of the Church, whose views have inclined them to mysticism, or to ascribe an inherent virtue to divinely appointed forms, magnify the water above the fia,irrl£a> eh To Ovofmi; the subordinate element above the whole rite.
II. This Scriptural view also affords important assistance in determining the proper Subjects of baptism — an application of our theme to which we now turn.
Those, who see in this rite only or mainly a reference to purification, are plunged in difficulty, when they approach the question of Infant baptism. If he be a Baptist, he denies the ordinance to this class of persons altogether; but the denial puts him in a false relation to the covenant
1 Seamier, II. 87.
as including his household with himself; wars with the yearnings of the pious, parental heart; and is at variance with the general usage of the Church. If he be an Evangelical Psedo-baptist, he either regards the rite as anticipatory — prophetic of future cleansing, or abandons its strict import altogether, and regards it as merely dedicatory; thus in effect, contemplating it as essentially another ordinance, though bearing the same name. If he be a High Churchman or a Catholic, he maintains his consistency, indeed, but at the expense of holding to the dogma — so entirely unscriptural, and even hostile to the genius of the gospel — that this sacrament of the Church, in and of itself, imparts spiritual cleansing; "insomuch " — in the language of Kurtz,1 an advocate of this doctrine — "that he who receives the sensible sign, at the same time receives the supersensual gift in, with, and under it."
But if its meaning be regarded as consecratory, as indicating the dedication of a human soul to God, it has the same fitness, the same significance, when applied to infants, as to adults, — and this without doing violence to the nature and genius of the gospel. The only difference is, that the adult receives the symbol by his own consent and act and faith, while the child receives it by the vicarious consent, act, faith, of the parent, who is at that age, according to the Divine constitution of the family, its representative, in relation to its moral and religious interests. Thus the difficulties connected with this subject, otherwise existing, clear away; and we are enabled to proceed at once, with the whole impulse of the consecratory nature of this rite guiding and bearing us on its bosom, to the propriety and duty of Infant baptism.
In the first place, then, the Christian is required to consecrate all he has to God: his time, substance, means of influence, children. But there is an impassable, infinite distance between the consecration of perishing objects, and of immortal mind. Now, as God has given us a symbol expres
1 Manual of S»cred History, S 188, Obs. 1.
sive of this better and higher kind of consecration, is there not a propriety in the Christian applying it to his offspring, to attest the fact that he sets them apart for God? Consecrate them he must; the only question is, whether, having a rite meaning that very thing, he shall refuse to apply it to them, when the Bible furnishes no intimation of such restriction. If it be alleged, that the order, in which our Saviour and the Apostles sometimes speak of faith and repentance in connection with baptism, indicates that they regarded them as its necessary antecedents and conditions, it is sufficient to reply that they were addressing or contemplating adults, who, they knew, had not received Christian baptism, and could not receive it sincerely and conscientiously without faith andrepentance. Accordingly, standing as they did at the commencement of the christian dispensation, and addressing such unbaptized persons, the order of their message must be the same as any Peedo-baptist at this day might adopt in addressing the heathen: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;"1 "Repent and be baptized every one of you;" 2 "If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest" — be baptized.3
Hence, in the absence of any limitation, it would be an unnatural and violent separation of things intended to be united together, if a christian parent should withhold the consecratory rite from his sublimest consecratory act, especially when that rite is designed to signify this very thing. It is meet that his children— those gifts of God, frail, tender; yet infolding immortal mind, and infinite capabilities of good or evil — should be solemnly and publicly devoted to their Father, and the divinely appointed symbol of such devotement, extended to them. Why should it not; why ought it not?
But there is a profounder consideration enforcing this duty. The family, in the Divine constitution of society, is the social unit. A solitary individual is a fraction, a fragment. Nothing short of a family constitutes the human in