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his resurrection, he repeated his injunctions with greater and more affecting solemnity, and sent forth his disciples to fulfil the duty which he had so explicitly prescribed. “ Go ye, therefore, and teach and
baptize all nations *.”
On that occasion he may be said to have closed the sublime labours of his ministry. He had amply, instructed his followers by precept and by example; had unfolded to them in clear and explicit terms the high destiny of human nature; had taught the august doctrine of redemption from sin, and regeneration by grace; and had finally ratified, by suffering and by blood, the faith which he had preached. Having thus fulfilled “ the covenant of righteousness," he conferred his last commission on his disciples; and his disciples, no longer doubting that it was he who should redeem Israel, and impressed with the spirit of their divine Master, were to go forth, in the con-' fidence of the authority with which they were in-' vested, and admit to the sanctuary of the Gospel the instructed proselytes of all nations.
But the admission was no idle and formal ceremony. The Apostles were first to preach, and then to baptize. The Jew and the Gentile were to be primarily instructed in the doctrines of the new dispensation, and to be impressed with the necessity of repentance and of faith ; and the administration of Baptism was to be the evidence of the edification, the purity, and the acceptance, of the convert.
It was to be more. It was to confirm, by an additional sanction, the indispensable obligation of future holiness and faith. The sprinkling of water whicli typified the purity of the convert, was to be accom
* Matt. xxviii. 19.
panied by the real or virtual vow of Christian perseverance; and the high privileges which were conferred by the rite, were of no absolute and indelible character, except to those who fulfilled the conditions on which they were granted; for, “ as
many as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were to “ be baptized into his death, that, professing them“ selves his disciples, they might die unto sin as he “ died unto sin, and live to him that rose for us “ again*.”
Such is the principle on which this rite was founded by the wisdom of the Gospel. The external form was not to supply, but to attest, the internal purity. The condition was to be inseparably connected with the benefit of the baptismal covenant, and, therefore, where the conditions were broken, the benefits were annulled t.
And the fulfilment of the condition is to be abundantly recompensed by the benefits received. For he who is baptized is not merely consecrated to the Gospel, but admitted to the privileges of the Gospel covenant. Becoming “ a member of Christ, the “ child of God and the inheritor of the kingdom of “ heaven,” he is united to that spiritual society of which Christ is the head, restored to the similitude of his Maker, which the bondage and corruption of sin had destroyed, and begotten into a lively hope, and to “ an inheritance uncorruptible and undefiled, " and that fadeth not away, reserved in the heavens.” Of such privileges and blessings it is not easy to express the extent and the importance; but that they
* i Pet. iv. 1, 2. See also, ad Epist. to Corinth. v. 15, and Epist. to Romans vi. 4, 6.
† Appendix, Note Y. Y.
issue from one world to another, and involve the interests of time and the glories of eternity, will be sufficient to attest the celestial goodness by which they are promised and to be conferred *.
Baptism, then, is an institution of grace and mercy, intimately connected with piety and morals. It binds by the most solemn obligations, tenders the most important benefits, authorizes the sublimest hopes. It becomes, on the part of man, the pledge of obedience; on the part of God, of pardon and acceptance. It is the rite of peace, which restores the sinner to himself and to God. It is the rite of holiness, which consecrates the creature to his Creator, and opens to regenerated man the pale of the everlasting covenant
The infidel himself has explicitly admitted the wisdom and the utility of this admirable ordinance. “ No institution,” he affirms, “can be imagined more
simple, or more void of all those pompous rites " and theatrical representations which abound in “ the religious worship of the heathen, than that of " baptism in its origin. It is not only an innocent, “ but a profitable ceremony, because it is extremely
proper to keep up the spirit of true natural religion,
by keeping up that of Christianity, and to pro“ mote the observance of moral duties by marking
a respect for the revelation that confirmed them t."
We agree with this writer. There is, indeed, in the rite which he extols, no pompous and theatrical representation. All is plain, intelligible, and interesting before us. If there be a vow, it is that of
Coloss. ii. 19; Ephes. i. 22, 23; Coloss. iii. 4; 1 Corinth. xii. 13, &c.; Rom. v. 10; 1 John iii. 10; Pet. i. 3, 4. † Bolingbroke's Works, 4to, vol. v. p. 302.
duty; if there be a condition, it is that which connects present obedience with future blessedness; if there be a stipulation, it is that which unites us more intimately to God, which strengthens virtue by a more solemn and affecting engagement, and which, while it contributes to the moral and intellectual improvement of man in one world, sustains and sanctifies the hope of his immortal destination in another.
II. If we now advert to the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, we shall discover a new evidence of the wisdom with which the legislator of man adapted his institutions to the edification and happiness of man. Many were the awful and affecting circumstances under which that ordinance was announced. Christ foresaw that he was soon to be separated, by a painful death, from those whom he had chosen to share the labours of his ministry ; and the band who were issuing forth to insult and seize him, the haté of Pilate, the ignominious scourge, the procession of Calvary, the crown of thorns, the expiring agonies of the cross, were all clearly and distinctly before him, At such an hour it was, when the fortitude of the child of the world would have withered away, that our Saviour, unshaken and unappalled, sat down with his disciples to his last supper. There was a dignified affection in his words and actions, which might well have excited the love and reverence of
“ With desire,” said he “have I desired “to eat this passover with you before I suffer* ; "and, then, instituting that sacrament by which the sacrifice of his death was to be commemorated through all ages of the Christian Church, he bade them a solemn and affecting farewell,—“I say unto you, I shall
* Luke xxii. 15.
"drink no more of this fruit of the vine, until the day “ when I shall drink it new with
Father's “ kingdom*.” Such was the last institution of the legislator of man! Conquerors and kings, great too often but by crime, demand temples and statues to perpetuate the glory acquired by deeds of blood. But a simple ordinance of affectionate commemoration was enough for Him who had communicated light and wisdom to the world, and was about to terminate a life consecrated to the service of mankind by the ignominious sufferings of the cross.
If he had been merely the patriot who had exer-cised his zeal for the welfare of his countrymen, or the benefactor who had multiplied to his country the blessings of order and of peace, he might justly have expected to live in the memory of his own, and of succeeding times. But the claim of Christ to the grateful recollection of mankind was of an incomparably higher character. He had communicated precepts which were to become not merely the edification of a period or of a realm, but the illumination of ages and of empires; and he was about to sacrifice his life, not for those who reverenced and loved him, but for those by whom he was rejected and decried. The very bigotry which led him to the place of skulls, participated his compassion and his blessings. For the very multitude who were to insult him in his last agonies, he was ready to pour forth his most benevolent and ardent prayer; and he was to purchase, at the expense of long and afflicting suffering, the salvation of an ungrateful and sinful world. If there be any thing worthy of the affectionate and eternal recollection of mankind, it is surely here to be found.
* Matt. xvi. 29.