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institute. In proportion as genuine devotion declined, the love of pomp and ceremony increased; the few and simple rites of christianity were extolled beyond all reasonable bounds; new ones were invented, to which mysterious meanings were attached, till the religion of the New Testament became, in process of time, as insupportable a yoke as the Mosaic law. The first effects of this spirit are discernible in the ideas entertained of the ordinance, so closely connected with the subject of the present treatise. From an erroneous interpretation of the figurative language of a few passages in scripture, in which the sign is identified with the thing signified, very similar to the mistake which afterwards led to transubstantiation, it was universally supposed that baptism was invariably accompanied with a supernatural effect, which totally changed the state and character of the candidate, and constituted him a child of God, and an heir of the kingdom of heaven. Hence it was almost constantly denoted by the terms illumination, regeneration, and others, expressive of the highest operations of the Spirit; and as it was believed to obtain the plenary remission of all past sins, it was often, in order to ensure that benefit, purposely deferred to the latest period of life. Thus Eusebius informs us that the Emperor Constantine, “ finding his end fast approaching, judged it a fit season for purifying himself from his offences, and cleansing his soul from that guilt which in common with other mortals he had contracted, which he believed was to be effected by the power of mysterious words, and the saving laver.” “This," said he, addressing the surrounding bishops, “ is the period I have so long hoped and prayed for, the period of obtaining the salvation of God.” Passing with the utmost rapidity through the preparatory stage, that of a catechumen, he hastened to what he regarded as his consummation; and no sooner was the ceremony completed, than he arrayed himself in white garments, and laid aside the imperial purple, in token of his bidding adieu to all secular concerns. * We have here a fair specimen of the sentiments which were universally adopted upon this subject in ancient times. Even Justin Martyr, who flourished about the middle of the second century, confounds baptism with regeneration. “ Whoever," says he, “believe the

“ things which are affirmed by us to be true, and promise to live accordingly, are afterwards conducted to a place where there is water, and are regenerated by the same method of regeneration which we have experienced.” of Theophilus, a contemporary writer, and the sixth bishop of Antioch, holds the same language. Tertullian, the earliest and most learned of the Latin fathers, exclaims with rapture, “O happy sacrament, by which, being washed from the former sins of our blindness, we are delivered unto eternal life.” I And agreeable to the fantastic style of imagery which characterizes his writings, he appears to be particularly delighted with denominating christians, little fishes, who are born in water, and are safe only in that element. Were we to attempt accurately to trace the progress of these opinions, in the first ages, and adequately to represent the extent of their prevalence, we should be under the necessity, by numberless quotations from the fathers, of extending this inquiry to a most unreasonable length.

* Eusebius in Vità Constantini, lib. iv. c. 61, 62. † Apol. p. 159, Ed. 1651.

De Baptismo, Ed. 1676, p. 224.

Suffice it to remark, that there is scarcely a writer in the three first centuries, to descend no lower, who has not spoken upon this subject in a manner, which the advocates for strict communion at least, would deem unscriptural and improper : scarcely one, from whom we should not be taught to infer that baptism was absolutely necessary to salvation. That this is the doctrine which pervades the formularies of the church of England, is too evident to require to be insisted on; nor is it less so, that similar sentiments on this head are exhibited, to a greater or less extent, in the creeds of most, if not all established churches. Is it surprising, then, that those who contend for baptism as essential to salvation, should consider it as an essential prerequisite to communion ? Or is it not a much juster occasion for surprise, that our opponents should urge us with an inference which it is acknowledged was deduced from erroneous premises, as though we were under


the necessity of admitting a conclusion, while the only argument by which it is supported is given up

For our parts, we must be permitted to look with suspicion on the genuine product of error; no more expecting to derive truth from erroneous premises, than grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles. In the present instance, there is no doubt that the opinion of the absolute necessity of baptism, previous to communion, sprang from those lofty and superstitious ideas respecting its efficacy, which our opponents would be the first to disclaim. Ask a Roman Catholic, a Lutheran, or a member of the church of England, on what ground he rests the absolute necessity of the baptismal rite, as a qualification for the eucharist; and each of them will concur in reminding you, that it is by that ordinance we become the children of God, and heirs of his kingdom. The Augsburg Confession, to which all the Lutheran churches are supposed to assent, and which was solemnly presented to Charles the Fifth at the imperial diet, as the authentic exhibition of their sentiments, expresses itself in the following terms:Concerning baptism, they (the followers of Luther) teach that it is necessary to salvation ; that by baptism is offered the grace of God; and that children are to be baptized, who, being presented to God by baptism, are received into the grace of God. They condemn the anabaptists, who disapprove of the baptism of children, and affirm that children are saved without baptism.". Some of the most learned divines of the church of England have contended that baptism is not only regeneration, but justification; and have made elaborate attempts to explode every other notion of that blessing.

* Considering the firm hold which these unscriptural ideas respecting baptism had taken of the minds of men, throughout all parts of the christian world at an early period, and recollecting the confidence with which ancient writers assert the impossibility even of infants being saved without baptism, the practice of infant sprinkling seems an almost necessary result. Who, with such a conviction, possessed of the common feelings of a parent, could fail to secure to his offspring such infinite benefits?

Such are the principles whence this vaunted unanimity is derived; principles which our brethren reprobate on all occasions, while, with a strange inconsistency, they accuse us of presumption in refusing our assent to their legitimate consequences. Let it be recollected also, that the points in which they, in common with ourselves, dissent from a vast majority of the professors of christianity, are of incomparably more importance than the particular in which they agree; for whether baptism be, on all occasions, a necessary preliminary to communion, is a trivial question, compared to that which respects the identity of baptism with regeneration.

The argument from authority, however, when fairly stated, is entirely in our favour; nor would

* Augsburg Confession, Article IX. + See Waterland's Sermon on that subject.


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