« AnteriorContinuar »
LETTER ON BAPTISM.
I have not time to give you my opinion fully on Mr. Mason's book—therefore will only state very briefly my objections to what he says on the subject of baptism—one of the great questions on which his society differ from other denomination of christians. Mr. Mason acknowledges the command of Christ to “baptize all nations,” but denies that the use of water was enjoined. We think this an abundant proof that it was—that the apostles who were immediately taught by him did use water, and it is no objection that water was not expressly mentioned in this text by their teacher, because we are also told, that he continued with them forty days, instructing them—-and who knows with what precision he might not have explained to them this very command in that time? besides, he assures them, that he would send his Spirit who would “guide them into all truth,” and we find, that after the descent of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, they did constantly use water in baptising converts. After they had adhered to this practice eight years, Mr. M. thinks “they began to doubt of water baptism,” because Peter says on the conversion of Cornelius and his company, “Can any man forbid water,” &c. when he himself has just before given the reason why Peter asks this question. “The apostles who had hitherto thought salvation was confined to the Jews, were astonished because the spirit was con
ferred on the Gentiles also,” he therefore exclaims, doubtingly, “Is there any reason why these Gentiles should not be baptised even as we?” Another text is quoted, 1 Peter iii. 23, in the following manner, by Mr. M., to show that the apostles doubted of the “efficacy” of water baptism— “In a more experienced state of their ministry,” he says," “the like figure whereunto baptism doth also now save us" —mark, he professes being saved by baptism, not the putting away the filth of the flesh, (which is the utmost effect of water,) but the answer of a good conscience towards God—“by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” But let the context be attended to: Peter says, speaking of Noah's ark, “wherein few”—that is, eight souls—“were saved by scater,” then adds the like figure, (that is water,) &c. which in my mind may be rendered thus: as the family of Noah were saved by water, so, by the like figure, (water,) our salvation by the resurrection of Jesus Christ is represented, not the mere putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God. So, that this text is rather an explanation of what we profess, that the washing with water is not of itself efficacious to salvation, but represents the purification of our consciences by the grace of Jesus Christ, in whose name, and in obedience to whose command we perform this rite. Mr. M. then goes on to state, that Paul did not approve of water baptism; in proof of which he quotes the apostle's words: “I thank God that I did not baptise any of you, lest any should say I had baptised in my own name.” Mr. M. could not, surely, be ignorant of the occasion on which this written, for it is explained in the verses immediately preceding: “It hath been declared unto me,” “that there are contentions among you,” “that every one of you saith, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ.” Is Christ divided ? was Paul crucified for you? or were we baptised in the name of Paul?—from which it is very obvious, that the apostle was reproving them for the divisions in the church, and tells them they were ignorant of the meaning of that baptism which they had received; that they were all baptised in the name of Christ, Paul and Apollos being only “the ministers by whom they believed,” as he says, continuing the subject in the next chapter. That Paul was sent rather to “preach than baptise,” (as he says himself) is very probable; because, in his extensive travels and labours to teach the gospel, it was impossible for him to have baptised all his converts; but that he did not disapprove of baptism is evident in his baptising some persons himself, and in his sanctioning by his presence and instructions the administration of this ordinance by others—Acts xix. 1–6; where we think water baptism was evidently intended, and chap. xv. verses 15 and 33, &c. Mr. Mason further contends, that water baptism could not be meant in the command of Christ, because he says, “They that believe and are baptised, shall (positively) be saved, not excepting Simon Magus, for he believed and was baptised; and it is well known, that thousands who have been so baptised, produce not the fruits of the gospel in their lives, but live in all the luxuries of sensuality.” But, we answer, although they have been so baptised, they have not so believed, and herein is Mr. M.'s misunderstand
ing of this text. Believed is a word used in Scripture in two senses. In the words of our Saviour alluded to, it means that saving faith which regenerates the heart and disposes us to accept of him as our Redeemer; in other places it means, simply, an assent of the mind to any truth that may be offered to its consideration, as in the case of Simon Magus, of whom it is said, that he believed and was baptised, but his “heart was not right in the sight of God;” and of other converts it is said, in the same place, where this is related, “they had not received the Holy Ghost,” only they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus. In the nineteenth chapter of Acts, Paul asks the disciples of Ephesus, If they had received the Holy Ghost since they believed, and they answered that they had not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. Mr. M. talks as if he believed that his opponents thought the mere washing with water were of itself sufficient to salvation, and indignantly asks, “Are there any among the sons of Adam so replete with credulity as to believe that water, however and by whomsoever administered, is possessed of such soul-redeeming efficacy?” We answer, No—we do not believe any such thing—we use the ceremony of baptism to show our obedience to an express command of Christ, than which nothing can be more plain— and to express our desire to partake of the benefits of his death for ourselves and our children.
In the Port Folio for March, 1816, a writer inquires, “By what means was Mark enabled to convey to us in his gospel, c. 14, v. 39, the exact words of our Saviour's prayer in the garden, when the three disciples had fallen asleep, and himself had previously gone to a distance from them?” A little attention to this and the parallel passages in Matthew and Luke, will show that there is no difficulty in the explanation. Matthew says: Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter, and the two sons of Zebedee.—And he went a little farther, and prayed, &c.—And he cometh and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What! could ye not watch with me one hour?—The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, &c. And he came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. Mark says: And he went forward a little, &c. And he cometh and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou ! couldst thou not watch one hour 7 The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak. And when he returned again, he found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy, &c. Luke says: And he was withdrawn from them about a