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bat in one single text of scripture, or expressed but darkly, I should reasonably conclude the great God never designed that doctrine, or that duty to be of very great importance in the christinn life : For a dark expression is much more easily mistaken, as to the true sense of it; and a single text is more liable to be miscopied, or dropped by a transcriber, or be misconstrued by a translator, or overscen and neglected by a common reader or hacarer; and the great God would not put matters of high, importance on so doubtful and dangerous a foot, and leave things necessary at such uncertainties, lest honest and humble enquirers should, after all their pains, mistake their way to heaven.
A sudden thought of the form and order of baptism, prescribed to lis; Mat. xxviii. 18. made me at first suspect, that there must be one exception made to this rule, about the frequent repetition of any doctrine or duty necessary to salvation; but upon a further consideration and review of things it appears evident to me now, that though tlfis appointment of the form of baptism was presoribed to be done in the name of the Holy Spirit, as well as of the Father and the Son, yet it was by no means necessary to the salvation of any man, and therefore there was no necessity of having it often repeated. Let us consider,
I. That the appointment of it is but once expressed, and that by one holy writer, and there is never an actual example or instance of this complete form of baptisin practised iu any place of scripture. Observe that remarkable text, Acts xix. 2. where St. Paul enquired of the young converts that were baptized at Ephesus, Have you received the Holy Ghost since you believed ? and they said unto him, we have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. He then enquired, unto what were ye baptized ? and they said unto John's baptism; and Paul had, told them that John taught them, that they should believe on him that should come after him, that is, in Christ Jesus: when they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Whether they were baptized in the name of the IIoly Spirit, or no, is not actually expressed ; which is something strange, when that was the chief point of enquiry concerning their baptism into the Holy Ghost. Here also it may be observed, that those who were here baptized ; Acts xix. 5, 6. immediately received the Holy Ghost; whence it may be very probably inferred, that some persons were baptized with the Iloly Ghost itself, who were not actually baptized into the name of the Holy Ghost. Consider,
II. When the business of baptism is mentioned in several places in the epistles, it is generally declared that baptism was performed in the name of the Lord Jesus; Rom. vi. 3. “ so many of you as were baptised into Jesus Christ were baptised into his death;" Gal. iii. 27. “ As many of you as have been baptised into Christ ;" I Cor. xii. 13. “ By one Spirit we are baptised into one body," that is, Christ, as in the foregoing verse, but I can find no mention of the disciples being baptised into the Holy Ghost.
III. Though I am ready to believe from many expressions in the primitive history of the church, that the baptizers did usually keep to this form of words, “ I baptize thee in the naine of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;" yet it is evident from a long account which Grotius gives us upon this text; Mat. xxviii. 19. that they used divers forms, that is, they soinetimes expressed the Father by a periphrasis, “The God of all, or the God of the whole, the God and Father of the whole: Some: times the Son was expressed by the Word, or the only begotten Son of God: Sometimes the Holy Ghost was expressed by the Spirit who inspired the prophets.
I might add, that upon their profession of the christian religion, sometimes it is called the profession of the remission of sins, or the catholic church, or everlasting life, but they never made a scruple of their being rightly baptised into salvation upon any of these accounts; and I am persuaded that had the apostles themselves, or the primitive christiaps, thought it necessary to salvation, the form of baptism would have been more express in the history of it, and been more particularly repeated. I think therefore the rale may stand good still, that where a doctrine or a duty is mentioned but in one single place of the scripture, it can, not be of absolute necessity to salvation. I hope the reader will forgive this long digression, and then proceed.'.
On the other hand, where particular truths or duties are often repeated in scripture, and very plainly expressed in several places, it is liardly possible that they should be subject to these inconveniences.' It is not to be supposed that the transcribers of the New Testament should make the same mistake in every place, where these propositions are mentioned : that they should drop then out of every chapter ; that the translator should misconstrue them in every text; or that their misconstruction should always seem to make good sense in every context where they stand; or finally that the hearer or reader should always overlook thein when they are found in so many passages, and so often bocur to his car or eye: But it is very apparent, and all men must acknowledge that matters of less moment, and things not necessary, are not mentioned so often : And when they are mentioned, the scripture sometimes gives no determination or positive injunctions about them ; nor do the apostles determine the smaller controversies with that plain, exact and positive method of speech, which you find them use in the most substantial truths and duties. If we read the xiv. chapter to the Romans, it must
convince us of this assertion. St. Paul does not there decide the little controversies about observations of meats and days," but seems to leave them to charity. Nor are the lesser points of christianity half so often mentioned, or urged with half so much vehemence, as the grand duties of faith and love, repentance and holiness. In matters of lower concernment among the formalities and modes of religion, or even in some higher articles, whose circumstances and logical relations are not nocessary to salvation, the scripture has its duoventa et fere aiuta, as divines call them, that is, almost insolveable difficulties, and things very hard to be understood by men in this state, at least by common readers.
Sometimes the matter is so sublime, so unlike all mortal affairs, and so divinely superior to every thing here below, that perhaps it was not possible to describe it fully and plainly in human words : And the more enlightened the writer or speaker was, the deeper and more inexpressible might the truths be which he reveals. Our Saviour' has made some such discoveries at the latter end of his prayer in the xvii. of St. John's gospel. Such are the doctrines of the union or oneness of Christ with God biş Father, and the oneness or union of the saints with God and Christ. Some things are constrained to be expressed in a human way less suitable to their own dignity, and yet even then they are not perSectly easy to be understood, for earthly metaphors will not convey to our thoughts a full idea of things divine and heavenly. When Christ had been teaching Nicodemus the doctrine of rege neration ; John iii. 12. he adds, If I have told you earthly things and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things? The apostle Paul, the most enlightened of all mere men, savy and heard some things among his visions and revelations, that were unutterable ; 2 Cor. xii. 4. And some things which he has published for the use of the church, according to the wisdom given to him, are hard to be understood, as St. Peter himself assures us ; 2 Pet. iii. 16. Again, I might take notice, that in matters which are prophetical both in the Old Testament and in the New, there are many dark expressions, many parables and hard figures of speech, which are made use of to express and convey some general and in distinct ideas of future events, which were not fit to be more fully revealed in that day, and which only the accomplishment was designed to explain to future days or ages, when these things are come to pass, then shall ye know that I hure foretold them; John xüi. 19. and chapters xiy. 29. and xvi. 4.
The Spirit of God, for wise ends, liath expressed some things in particular scasons, whether doctrinal or prophetical, in obscure phrases, capable of a double interpretation. Other things are very briefly hinted, and the holy writer doth but just
glance at them in passing, and does not dwell upon them long enougi to explain them, that being not his present chief design. Some words are so ambiguous and of various meaning in the same chapter, that it is not easy to determine their precise sense in each verse; and these words also transferred into our lan. guage may not have the same different meanings as the original, and perhaps too, may be determined to the wrong sense by the translators; but the vulgar can read only their own language, and their judgments are determined by the translator's opinion. The various meanings put on the words you gu the law, xxxnsi* the church, x!1p0700w to ordain, E TIJ HOTO a bisirop or overseer, &c. sufficiently prove this.
Besides, the sense of many a scripture depends not merely on the literal constructions of the words, but on the knowledge of the context, and on the consideration of the scope and design of the writer, and perhaps the deeper design of the Spirit of God that inspired him : It depends on the character and condition of the persons to wliom lie writes, into what errors or evil practices they were falten, at what times, and under what circunistances these things fell out : All which it is impossible every mechanic sliould know, and but few scholars are we acquainted with : These difficulties in scripture occasion different opinions among the readers ; and becausc each would impose his sense upon all the rest of christians, a tlupusand quarrelling folios have sprung.
There is another difficulty and shade of darkness which falls upon many texts of scripture, and particularly in the New Testament, from the extraordinary actions and modes of action in the primitive and inspired times. It is certain that some things recorded in the acts of the apostles, and occasionally spoken of in the epistles, refor only to the extraordinary and juspired transactions of those miraculous times, and cannot be imitated by us: Such are the communcation of gifts by the imposition of hands, the healing the-sick by anointing with oil, the multitude of use. ful speakers in one assembly, the talking various languages in public worsbip if an interpreter were present, &c. It is as certain also, that soine things are recorded in some of tirose scriptures, as patterns and directions for our initation in all ages. . Such are the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's-supper, the choice of deacons, the ordination of overseers or bishops, the practice of occasional communion, &c. But there are some circumstances relating to these actions, concerning which it is hard to determine how far they belong to the extraordinary affairs of that day, and how far they are rules for our conduct in ordinary cases. Now from all these differences have arisen many laborious and angry volumes of noise and wrangle about the mind, the anise, and the cummin, about the dress and the fringes of religion, which have vexed the learned world, and disqnicted and divided the church of Clirist.
Nothwithstanding all these difficulties in scripture, and the divided sentiments of men about them ; yet there is no rooin for the popish doctrine of the insufficiency of the holy scriptures ; no Deed of any living judge of controversies, or a seat of infallibili. ty on earth ; for the grand doctrines and duties which are nes · cessary to salvation, such as repentance towards God, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, as a prophet, a high-priest, and a king, the necessity of universal holiness, pardon of sin through the blood of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal rewards and punishments in the world to coine; all these, I say, are written down in scripture, in as plain and express a manner as the nature and importance of them required ; and about these things persons of a sober, hunble and honest mind cannot well mistake if they are diligent in their enquiry, and seek wisdom of that God who gives liberally, and upbraids us not with our owu folly ; James 1. 5. Not only are all matters necessary to salvation written plain enough for every reader, but we have also, as I hivted before, the promise of the assistance of the Iloly Spirit to teach us to understand all such rovelations, that sincere and diligent men may not be suffered to fall into such a mistake as to fail of acceptance with God. Nay further, we have good encouragement to hope, that even in some things on which salvation doth not necessarily depend, but are only designed to promote the farther sanctifieation and comfort, peace and hope of the church, the Spirit of God will often assist the upright and humble seeker, yet still there will remain difficulties enough to exercise inquisitive souls, for I find uo certain promise that God will always satisly every sincere enquirer in the full meaning of all difficult texts.
“I glorify thec, O my God, that thou hast not confined the knowledge of thyself to the wise and the learncil world, but hast written down the way of salvation so plain, that a child may read and attain it. Let the scribes and doctors, and critics of the age wrangle about the pins of the tabernacle, and the seats in the synagogue, let them contend, even to 'blood, about the “ ofs,” the auds,” and the “ moreovers,” of the bible, my soul shall dwell in peace, and rest on these pillars of safety, even the great and evident doctrines of the christian faith. I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast revealed thyself and thy Son unto babes, and hast not made it a matter of wit and criticism to be a christian ; Mat. xi. 25. The foolish and the base, and the weak things of this world are chosen to salvation, 1 Cor. i. 26. and they understand, and believe, and practise all · the necessary articles, while they may differ from each other in some lesser forms of worship and discipline, and are not able to maintain an argument on either side.
What is here asserted concerning the substance of some of