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OF THE PUBLIC ORDINANCES OF DIVINE WORSHIP.
As the first Covenant, or Testament, had ordinances of divine service, which are shaken, removed, and abolished; so the New-Testament, of gospel-dispensation, has ordinances of divine worship, which cannot be shaken, but will remain until the second coming of Christ: these, are few, and easy to be observed, and of a very expressive signification. Among which, Baptism must be reckoned one, and is proper to be treated of in the first place; for though it is not a church-ordinance, it is an ordinance of God, and a part and branch of public worship. When I say it is not a church-ordinance, I mean it is not an ordinance administered in the church, but out of it, and in order to admission into it, and communion with it; it is preparatory to it, and a qualification for it; it does not make a person a member of a church, or admit him into a visible church; persons must first be baptized, and then added to the church, as the three thousand converts were; a church has nothing to do with the baptism of any, but to be satisfied they are baptized before they are admitted into communion with it. Admission to baptism lies solely in the breast of the administrator, who is the only judge of qualifications for it, and has the sole power of receiving to it, and of rejecting from it; if not satisfied, he may reject a person thought fit by a church, and admit a person to baptism not thought fit by a church; but a disagreement is not desirable nor adviseable: the orderly, regular, scriptural rule of proceeding seems to be this: a person inclined to submit to baptism, and to join in communion with a church, should first apply to an administrator; and, upon giving him satisfaction, be baptized by him; and then should propose to the church for communion; when he would be able to answer all proper questions: if asked, to give a reason of the hope that is in him, he is ready to do it; if a testimony of his life and conversation is required, if none present can give it, he can direct where it is to be had; and if a question is put to him, whether he is a baptized person or no, he can answer in the affirmative, and give proof of it, and so the way is clear for his admission into church-fellowship. So Saul, when converted, was immediately baptized by Ananias, without any previous knowledge and consent of the church; and it was many days after this that he proposed to join himself to the discioles, and
was received, Acts ix. 1828. and as it is water-baptism which is meant, I shall,
I. Prove that this is peculiar to the gospel-dispensation, is a standing ordinance in it, and will be continued to the second coming of Christ. This is opposed to the sentiments of such who say baptism was in use before the times of John, of Christ and his apostles; and of such who restrain water-baptism to the interval between the beginning of John's ministry and the death of Christ, when they suppossd this, with other external rites, ceased; and of such, who think that only the first converts to christianity in a nation are to be baptized, and their children, but not their after-posterity. There were indeed divers washings, bathings, or baptisms, under the legal dispensation, for the purification of persons and things unclean, by the ceremonial law; which had a doctrine in them, called the doctrine of baptisms, which taught the cleansing of sin by the blood of Christ; but there was nothing similar in them to the ordinance of water-baptism, but immersion only. The Jews pretend, their ancestors were received into covenant by baptism, or dipping, as well as by circumcision and sacrifice; and that proselytes from heathenism were received the same ways and this is greedily catched at by the advocates for infant-baptism; who fancy that John, Christ, and his apostles, took up this custom as they found it, and continued it; and which they imagine accounts for the silence about it in the New-Testament, and why there is neither precept for it, nor example of it; but surely if it was in such common use as pretended, though no new precept had been given, there would have been precedents enough of it; but no proof is to be given of any such practice obtaining in those times, neither from the Old nor New-Testament; nor from the apocryphal books written by Jews between them; nor from Josephus and Philo the Jew, who wrote a little after the times of John and Christ; nor from the Jewish Misnah, or book of traditions: only from later writings of theirs, too late for the proof of it before those times. John was the first administrator of the ordinance of baptism, and therefore is called the Baptist, Matt. iii. 1. by way of emphasis; whereas, had it been in common use, there must have been many baptizers before him, who had a like claim to this title; and why should the people be so alarmned with it, as to come from all parts to see it administered, and to hear it preached, when, had it been in frequent use, they must have often seen it? and why should the Jewish sanhedrim send priests and Levites from Jerusalem to John, to know who he was, whether the Messiah, or his forerunner Elias, or that prophet spoken of and expected? and when he confessed, and denied that he was neither of them, they say to him, Why baptizest thou then? by which it appears it was a new thing, and which they expected when the Messiah came, but not before; and that then it would be performed by some great personage, one or other of the before-mentioned; whereas, had it been performed by an or dinary teacher, common Rabbi or doctor, priest or Levite, in ages immemorial,
See the Dissertation conterning the Baptism of Jewish Proselytes, at the end of this work.
there could have been no room for such a question; and had this been the case, there would have been no difficulty with the Jews to answer the question of our Lord; The baptisin of John, whence was it, from heaven or of men? they could have answered, It was a tradition of theirs, a custom in use among them time out of mind, had this been the known case; nor would they have been subject to any dilemma: but John's baptism was not a device of men; but the counsel of God, according to his will and wise determination, Luke vii. 30. John had a mission and commission from God, he was a man sent of God, and sent to baptize, John i. 6, 33. and his baptism was water-baptism, this he affirms, and the places he made use of for that purpose shew it, and none will deny it.
Now his baptism, and that of Christ and his apostles, were the same. Christ was baptized by John, and his baptism was surely christian-baptism; of this no one can doubt, Matt. iii. 13-17. and his disciples also were baptized by him; for by whom else could they be baptized? not by Christ himself, for he baptized none, John iv. 2. And it is observable, that the baptism of John, and the baptism of Christ and his apostles, were at the same time; they were contemporary, and did not the one succeed the other: now it is not reasonable to suppose there should be two sorts of baptism administered at the same time; but one and the same by both.
The baptism of John, and that which was practised by the apostles of Christ, even after his death and resurrection from the dead, agreed, 1. In the subjects thereof. Those whom John baptized were sensible penitent sinners, who were convinced of their sins, and made an ingenuous confession of them; and of whom he required fruits meet for repentance, and which shewed it to be genuine; and hence his baptism is called, the baptism of repentance, because he required it previous to it, Matt. iii. 6-8. Mark i. 4. So the apostles of Christ exhorted men to repent, to profess their repentance, and give evidence of it, previous to their baptism, Acts ii. 38. John said to the people that came to his baptism, That they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus, upon which they were baptized in his name, Acts xix. 4, 5. and faith in Christ was made a pre-requisite to baptisin by Christ and his apostles, Mark xvi. 16. Acts viii. 36, 37. 2. In the way and manner of the adminis tration of both. John's baptism was by immersion, as the places chosen by him for it shew; and the baptism of Christ by him is a proof of it, Matt. iii. 6, 16. John iii. 23. and in like manner was baptism performed by the apostles, as of the eunuch by Philip, Acts viii. 38, 39.-3. In the form of their administration. John was sent of God to baptize; and in whose name should he baptize, but in the name of the one true God, who sent him, even in the name of God Father, Son, and Spirit? The doctrine of the Trinity was known to John, as it was to the Jews in common; it is said of John's hearers apd disciples, that they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, Acts xix. 5. The same form is used of the baptism of those baptized by the apostles of Christ, Acts viii. 16.
and x. 48. which is only a part of the form put for the whole, and is sufficiently, expressive of christian baptism, which is to be performed in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Matt. xxviii. 19. 4. In the end and use of baptism. John's baptism, and so the apostles was, upon repentance for the remission of sins, Mark i. 4. Acts viii. 38. not that either repentance or baptism procure the pardon of sin; that is only obtained by the blood of Christ; but baptism is a means of leading to the blood of Christ; and repentance gives encouragement to hope for it, through it. Now since there is such an agreement between the baptism of John, as administered before the death of Christ; and between the baptism of the apostles, after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ; it is a plain case, it was not limited to the interval of time from the beginning of John's ministry to the death of Christ; but was afterwards continued; which farther appears from the commission of Christ, Matt. xxviii. 19. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them; and though water is not expressed, it is always implied, when the act of baptizing is ascribed to men; for it is peculiar to Christ to baptize with the Holy Spirit, Matt. iii. 11. Acts i. 5. nor did he give to his apostles, nor to any man, or set of men, a commission and power to baptize with the Spirit: besides, an increase of the graces of the Spirit, and a large donation of his gifts, are promised to persons after baptism, and as distinct from it, Acts ii. 38. The apostles, doubtless understood the commission of their Lord and Master to baptize in water, since they practised it upon it; such was the baptism administered by Philip, who, having taught the eunuch the doctrine of it, when they came to a certain water, he said to him, See, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized? that is, in water; and when Philip had observed unto him the grand requisite of it, even faith in Christ, which he at once professed; and the chariot in which they rode being ordered to stand, they went down both into the water, and he baptized him; this was most certainly water-baptism; and so was that which Peter ordered to be administered to Cornelius and his friends, upon their receiving of the Holy Ghost, and so a baptism different from that; Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized? Acts viii. 36-39, and x. 47, 48. And this was designed to be continued unto the end of the world, to the second coming of Christ; as the ordinance of the supper is to be kept to that time, the ordinance of water-baptism is to be continued as long; hence says Christ, to encourage his ministers to preach his gospel, and to baptize in his name; Lo, I am with you always, in the ministry of the word, and in the administration of baptism, even unto the end of the world, Matt. xxviii. 19, 20.
II. I shall next consider the author of it; and shew, that it is not a device of men, but an ordinance of God; it is a solemn part of divine worship, being performed in the name of the Three divine Persons in Deity, Father, Son, and Spirit, and by their authority; in which the name of God is invoked, faith in him expressed, and a man gives up himself to God, obliges himself to yield obedience to him, expecting all good things from him. Now for an act of
religious worship there must be a command of God. God is a jealous God, and will not suffer any thing to be admitted into the worship of him, but what is according to his word and will; if not commanded by him, he may justly say, Who hath required this at your hands? and will resent it: a command from men is not sufficient; no man on earth is to be called master; one is our Master in heaven, and him only we are to obey: if the commandments of men are taught for doctrines, in vain is the Lord worshipped; what is done according to them is superstition and will-worship. Indeed, as it is now commonly practised, it is a mere invention of men, the whole of it corrupted and changed; instead of rational spiritual men the subjects of it, infants, who have neither the use of reason, nor the exercise of grace, are admitted to it and instead of immersion in water, and immersion out of it, a very expressive emblem of the sufferings of Christ, his death, burial, and resurrection from the dead; sprink ling a few drops of water on the face is introduced; with a number of foolish rites and ceremonies used by the papists, and some of their usages are retained by some protestants; as sponsors, or sureties for infants, and the signing thei with the sign of the cross. In short, the face of the ordinance is so altered, that if the apostles were to rise from the dead, and see it as now performed, they would neither know nor own it to be the ordinance commanded them by Christ, and practised by them. But as it is administered according to the pattern, and as first delivered, it appears to be of an heavenly orignal; the counsel of God, a wise appointment of his, and in which all the Three Persons have a concern; they all appeared at the baptism of Christ, and gave a sanction to the ordinance by their presence; the Father by a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased! as in his person, so in this act of his, in submitting to the ordinance of baptism; the Son in human nature, yielding obedience to it; and the Spirit descending on him as a dove; and it is ordered to be administered in the name of all Three, Father, Son, and Spirit. Which, among other things, is expressive of divine authority, under which it is performed. Christ received from God the Father honour and glory, as at his transfiguration, so at his baptism, by the voice from heaven, owning his relation to him, as his Son, and expressing his well-pleasedness in him, as obedient to his will; the Son of God, in human nature, not only left an example of it, that we should tread in his steps; though he himself baptized none, yet he countenanced it in his disciples, and gave them orders to do it; which orders were repeated, and a fresh commission given for the same after his resurrection from the dead: and the Spirit of God shewed his approbation of it, by his descent on Christ at his baptism; and his authority for it is to be seen in the administration of it in his name, as in the name of the other Two Persons; so that it is to be regarded, not as an institution of men, but as an ordinance of God; as a part of righteousness to be fulfilled, a branch of the righteous will of God, to be observed in obedience to it.