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genitive is exceedingly common; as in Jude 11, the way of Cain, the error of Balaam and the gainsaying of Core mean a way, error and gainsaying, like that of Cain, Balaam and Core. So in Luke 11: 29, the sign of Jonas, the prophet, is a sign like that of Jonas the prophet; for in fact it was the burial of Christ three days and nights. But to put it beyond all doubt, in v.
5 it is expressed in full-τω ομοιώματα του θάνατου αυτού « the likeness of his death,” i. e. a spiritual death, like his natural death.
5. Finally, the usus loquendi, as it regards both spiritual baptism, and spiritual crucifixion and death, authorizes and requires us thus to interpret Rom. 6:3, 4, and Col. 2: 12.
Know ye not that so many of us, as have been purified into Christ, i. e. truly united to Christ by the forgiveness of sins, have been, by the forgiveness of sins, subjected to a spiritual death, like his natural death? Therefore as he was naturally buried, so are we spiritually buried by that forgiveness of sins, which subjected us to a spiritual death. That, like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Rom. 6: 3,4. As he was buried naturally, so were ye spiritually buried in the forgiveness of your sins, in which ye also rose spiritually as he did naturally, by that faith through which is exerted the power of that God, who raised him from the dead. Col. 2: 12. From the whole context, nothing can be more certain than the spiritual sense of this passage. We have, in v. 11, internal circumcision, and putting off the body of the flesh; in v. 12, a resurrection by faith ; in v. 13, an internal death in sin and an internal restoration to life. Who then can have the least ground for calling the burial an external burial ? So Rom. 6: 6. Paul expressly states that all that he has said of the death of the believer is to be understood of the death of the old man, and the destruction of the body of sin. But of course the burial and resurrection are as the death.
§ 34. Argument from the congruity of the interpretation with the general system of truth.
The system of truth is but one. Hence all truth is consistent with itself; and the more we investigate its minute relations, the more are we impressed with a conviction of its universal harmony. It is this perception of congruity in ten thousand minute particulars, which produces what we call a sense or feeling of verisimilitude. And as the operations of the mind are often so rapid as to elude analysis, it gives rise to what may be called a presentiment of truth, even before investigation. Nor is this to be despised. In any mind familiar with the great outlines of truth, such rapid perceptions of the agreement or disagreement of a given view with those great outlines have a real and logical basis, as investigation seldom fails to show. But when investigation has taken place, they can be stated and exhibited in their true relations. Some of the incongruities of the external system of interpretation with the existing system of truth, I shall proceed to state.
1. It is incongruous to take so much notice of one external institution, and to say nothing of the rest.
2. It is incongruous, if only one is taken, to notice one which is less adapted to exert a great moral influence, and not to notice one more adapted.
3. It is incongruous for Paul to make so much of any external rite and especially of this.
4. It is still more incongruous for Jesus Christ to do the same.
5. It is incongruous to establish one institution to commemorate the death of Christ, and then intrude on its province by another, established for a different end.
As has been stated, the external interpretation rests the reforming power of the gospel, in a great degree, on the influence of professions and promises connected with an external rite, or, on its influence in presenting truth to the mind. And are there no other institutions that have the same external power ? Are there no solemn vows around the Lord's table, and no intensely affecting truths as to the death of Christ, inculcated by it? Does the Sabbath declare nothing of a heavenly rest, nor bid man to die to the world ? Has the ministry and the preached word no reforming power? Why say so much of the “holy tendency” of immersion and omit all these? But if
any one of these was to be selected, why choose that one which occurs but once in the life of a believer, and omit the oft-recurring influence of the Lord's supper, and the solemn promises, renewed with increasing fervency, from year to year, till death closes the scene? Why say so much of the weaker, and yet wholly omit the stronger moral power ? Is there indeed in this one rite a secret mystic influence, as the fathers thought, operating with immense power, breaking down and destroying all sin, actual and original, at one blow ? If not, and if it stands solely on the ground of moral influence, in inpressing truth by symbols on the mind, then the selection of this and the omission of the Lord's supper are truly incongruous.
But if we could expect such an effort to magnify an external rite from any one, we should least of all expect it from Paul, who regarded it, in comparison with the gospel, as of so little weight that he thanked God that he baptized none of the Corinthians, but Crispus and Gaius and the household of Stephanus, and affirmed that God sent him not to baptize but to preach the gospel, and who gloried in nothing save in the cross of Christ. "Is it possible that this same Paul has, in another place, attempted to refute a fundamental objection to this same gospel, by magnifying the influence of this same external rite? What! at one time ascribe to it in some way such prodigious power to eradicate sin, and then thank God that he did not administer it, and declare that he was not sent to do it !
Turn now to Christ, and hear him (Matt. 12: 7) rebuke the rigid construers of external observances by the reproof: “If ye had known what that meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless." Again, when Peter desired a more complete washing than the rest of the disciples (John 13: 10) hear him declare that, to indicate complete purification, a washing of the feet is enough. And can we believe that this same Jesus inspired his beloved Paul to declare that purification cannot be acceptably signified in more than one way, and that one immersion of the whole body?
Finally, the Lord's supper was established to show forth the Lord's atoning death until he should come. Baptism indicates the actual purgation of the heart and conscience from sin, when the atonement is applied by the Holy Spirit. One indicates how redemption was procured; the other how it is applied. One commemorates atonement by Christ; the other regeneration by the Holy Spirit. But the external interpretation makes baptism a commemoration of three things—1, the natural death and resurrection of Christ; 2, the spiritual death and resurrection of the believer, and 3, the natural resurrection of the believer. Carson, p. 232. This is incongruous indeed. It is a manifest intrusion into the province of the Lord's supper, and that without the least reason; and it nearly loses in ideas of death and resurrection, all reference to purity. In truth, it seems to immerse and almost to bury out of sight the main idea of the rite, and to bring vividly before the mind the fundamental ideas of another rite; so much so, that, in reading Prof. Chase's sermon on the design of baptism, one can hardly avoid feeling that it is even more a discourse on the design of the Lord's supper than a discourse on the design of that rite, which was peculiarly ordained to show forth the work of the Holy Ghost. Moreover, so far as it relates to purity, it is not the direct figure of the reality, but only the figure of a figure of the reality. Purification is the reality. But immersion, the Baptists all affirm, is the figure of death. But death is only a figure of the spiritual destruction of the old man, in which purification actually consists. But of purification it is no figure.
Such then are the inconsistencies and incongruities, which attend all efforts to force an external sense on the baptism and burial spoken of in these passages. But assign to them the internal and spiritual sense, and all is consistent and clear. For it rests the reforming power of the gospel on no external rite, and intrudes on none. Nor does it at all disagree with the known character and feelings of Christ or of Paul, but perfectly agrees
with both; for it directs us at once to the internal power of a spiritual purgation of the soul by the Holy Ghost to unite to Christ, and thus to destroy the body of sin. And it presents distinctly and fully to the mind that in which Paul was wont most to glory—the cross of Christ—and the energy of the gospel as the
of God to salvation to every one that believeth.
$ 35. Argument from the moral tendencies and effects of each mode of interpretation.
The principles of this argument are plain. They are these. All truth, in its permanent influences, tends to holiness; all error, to sin. Therefore, if we can show, a priori, a tendency to sin in any view, or prove by an appeal to facts that it has resulted in sin, we are authorized to draw the conclusion that the view is false. Nevertheless, in this mode of reasoning great care is needed not to confound mere accidental sequences with real and genuine effects. To guard against this, note the following facts :
1. Self-crucifixion is of all things most painful. From all suffering men naturally shrink; but much more from the internal pain and humiliation attendant on subduing sin, than from any other. Hence to spare the old man, pilgrimages, fastings, flagellations, bodily sufferings of all kinds and even death itself are willingly endured.
2. Hence in all ages a universal propensity to avoid the real
and internal crucifixion of the old man, by a reliance on external forms of mysterious operation, or on an authorized ministry, or a primitive church, or solemn ceremonies, rather than on the simple and sure crucifixion of the flesh with the affections and lusts thereof.
3. The most powerful system, by which the devil ever corrupted and destroyed the gospel of Christ, even the great mystery of iniquity, has its foundation on a skilful use of this tendency of the human heart. It is a system expressly designed to exclude spiritual crucifixion, that is, to exclude real holiness, and to replace it by a religion of ceremonies and forms.
4. The external interpretation tends naturally to that very view, for its obvious sense is to make external baptism the great destroyer of sin, and the great defence of the church against it.
5. By the fathers, and even by Augustine, it was practically so regarded. He did not indeed exclude the Holy Spirit, but regarded the water, when consecrated, as involving, in some mysterious way, his presence; and though he threw out cautions against the grosser forms of baptismal regeneration, yet the practical influence of his urgent appeals to sinners to come to the baptismal pool, and wash away all their sins, or bury the old man, etc. etc., could not possibly have but one result
. Baptism became practically the great thing; and on it, eternal life or eternal death seerned to hang. And in all this mournful process, the external interpretation of these texts is almost the great moving power of the whole. It is not wise to give to any one cause exclusive power in forming the papal system, but I hesitate not to say, that no one cause did more than baptisinal regeneration ; and no one cause did more to develop and mature that doctrine, than the external interpretation of these texts. Of this fact, pages of proof are at hand, and, if any one desires, can easily be produced. But to those who have examined enough to judge, no proof, I think, can be needed.
6. No modern corrections or limitations of the patristic interpretation of these passages have been able to neutralize, or destroy the injurious tendency of the external view ; nor can it be done, so long as the great fact remains, that in an argument designed unanswerably to prove the sanctifying power of the gospel, an external rite comes where the internal energy of truth and the Holy Spirit ought to come. The external rite, if admitted at all with such a view, wrests and distorts the great SECOND SERIES, VOL. VI. NO. I.