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Bunyan, a name equally dear to genius and to piety. The reader will not expect me to follow him in his declamatory excursions, or in those miscellaneous quotations, often irrelevant, which the extent of his reading has supplied : it will suffice if I carefully examine his arguments, without omitting a single consideration on which he could be supposed to lay a stress.
The Argument from the Order of Time in which
Baptism and the Lord's Supper are supposed to have been instituted.
One of the principal pleas in favour of strict communion is derived from the supposed priority of the institution of baptism to the Lord's supper. “ That baptism was an ordinance of God,” say our opponents, “ that submission to it was required, that it was administered to multitudes before the sacred supper was heard of, are undeniable facts. There never was a time since the ministry of our Lord's successors, in which it was not the duty of repenting and believing sinners to be baptized. The venerable John, the twelve apostles, and the Son of God incarnate, all united in commanding baptism, at a time when it would have been impious to have eaten bread, and drank wine, as an ordinance of divine worship. Baptism, therefore, had the priority in point of institution, which is a presumptive evidence that it has, and ever will have, a prior claim to our obedience. So under the ancient economy, sacrifices and circumcision were appointed and practised in the patriarchal ages: in the time of Moses, the paschal feast, and burning incense in the holy place, were appointed by the God of Israel. But the two former being prior in point of institution, always had the priority in point of administration.”*
As this is a leading argument, and will go far towards determining the point at issue, the reader will excuse the examination of it being extended to some length. It proceeds, obviously, entirely on a matter of fact, which it assumes as undeniable, the priority in point of time of the institution of christian baptism, to that of the Lord's supper; and this again rests on another assumption, which is the identity of John's baptism with that of our Lord. If it should clearly appear that these were two distinct institutes, the argument will be reversed, and it will be evident that the eucharist was appointed and celebrated before christian baptism existed. Let me request the reader not to be startled at the paradoxical air of this assertion, but to lend an impartial attention to the following reasons :
1. The commission to baptize all nations, which was executed by the apostles after our Saviour's
* Booth's Apology, page 41.
resurrection, originated in his express command; John's baptism, it is evident, had no such origin. John had baptized for some time before he knew him; it is certain, then, that he did not receive
l his commission from him. " And I knew him not,” saith he, “but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.” If the manifesting Christ to Israel was the end and design of John's mission, he must have been in a previous state of obscurity; not in a situation to act the part of a legislator by enacting laws or establishing rites. John uniformly ascribes his commission, not to Christ, but the Father, so that to assert his baptism to be a christian institute, is not to interpret, but to contradict him. “ And I knew him not,” is his language, “ but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bear record, that this is the Son of God.” It was not till he had accredited his mission, by many miracles, and other demonstrations of a preternatural power and wisdom, that our Lord proceeded to modify religion by new institutions, of which the eucharist is the first example. But a christian ordinance not founded on the authority of Christ, not the effect, but the means of his manifestation, and which was first executed by one who knew him not, is to me an incomprehensible mystery.
2. The baptism of John was the baptism of repentance, or reformation, as a preparation for the approaching kingdom of God: the institute of Christ included an explicit profession of faith in a particular person, as the Lord of that kingdom. The ministry of John was the voice of one crying in the wilderness,“ Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” All he demanded of such as repaired to him, was to declare their conviction that the Messiah was shortly to appear, to repent of their sins, and resolve to frame their lives in a manner agreeable to such an expectation, without requiring a belief in any existing individual as the Messiah. They were merely to express their readiness to believe on him who was to come,* on the reasonable supposition that his actual appearance would not fail to be accompanied with attestations sufficient to establish his pretensions. The profession required in a candidate for christian baptism, involved an historical faith, a belief in a certain individual, an illustrious personage, who had wrought miracles, declared himself the Son of God, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and rose again the third day. As the conviction demanded in the two cases was totally distinct, it was possible for him who sincerely avowed the one, to be destitute of the other; and though the rejection of Christ by John's converts would have been criminal and destructive of salvation, it would not have been self-contradictory, or absurd, since he might sincerely believe on his testimony, that the Christ was shortly to appear, and make some preparations for his approach, who was not satisfied with his character when he was actually manifested.
* Acts xix. 4.
That such was the real situation of the great body of the Jewish people, at our Lord's advent, is evident from the evangelical records. In short, the profession demanded in the baptism of John was nothing more than a solemn recognition of that great article of the Jewish faith, the appearance of the Messiah, accompanied, indeed, with this additional circumstance, that it was nigh at hand. The faith required by the apostles included a persuasion of all the miraculous facts which they attested, comprehending the preternatural conception, the deity, incarnation and atonement, the miracles, the death, and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. In the one, was contained a general expectation of the speedy appearance of an illustrious person under the character of the Messiah ; in the other, an explicit declaration that Jesus of Nazareth, whose life and death are recorded in the evangelists, was the identical person. But in order to constitute an identity in religious rites, two things are requisite, a sameness in the corporeal action, and a sameness in the import. The action may be the same, yet the rites totally different, or christian baptism must be confounded with legal Jewish purifications, the greater part of which consisted in a total immersion of the