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the gospel, in all parts of the world, and in all ages of time; and it has been their universal practice to administer baptism in this way.
The doctrine which we are now attending to, meets us in the first chapter of the bible; and in the last; and comes up in a multitude of other places. Much as it is complained of, it is clearly one of the letters of the christian alphabet; and how he who has never learned it can call himself a christian, is quite unintelligible. Upon this subject the declarations of Christ, and of his inspired servants, are very plain. He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man, speaking by the spirit of God, calleth Jesus accursed; and that no man can say, that Jesus is the Christ, but by the Holy Ghost. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father. Whosoever shall confess, that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life. Every one who attentively hears, will make his own comments upon these passages.
The doctrine of baptism, and of laying on of hands, are external things, and of less importance, mentioned here among first principles, or rudiments of christian knowledge. There has been much disputing with respect to baptism; as to the proper mode, and as to the proper subjects; and many have asserted that John's baptism was christian baptism, and many have denied it. But that baptism is an institution of heaven, the weakest christian can understand; and it is equally clear, that since through the laying on of the Apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, it is proper to lay on hands in the ordination of ministers.
The resurrection of the dead is another first principle of religion. So universal is death, that men of all persuasions, expect to die, though few so think about it as to realize it. But the resurrection of the dead is a matter not generally, evidenced in the same way; and we know that the sect of the Sadducees denied it, however it may have been with other sects and classes of sinners. Paul inquired before the mag
nificent assembly which he addressed when Agrippa was present, Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead? Surely that power which was exerted to bring man into being at first, is sufficient to restore to life a dead body. Many dead bodies have been raised to life, and their death and resurrection have been made manifest to many witnesses, beyond all possibility of doubt. It is true the days of miracles are past, and we cannot expect to have such proof of this matter as they had who saw Lazarus after he was raised; or the saints who rose at the time when our Savior was crucified. But we see such changes every year in the natural world, as properly improved, will lead us to conclude, that the dead may rise, and, that if there is an uniformity in the works of God, they will. The winter is the death of nature, and the spring its resurrection. Our sleep, every night, resembles death, and when we wake in our beds, it is very much like waking in the grave.
In the scriptures the subject is represented in this light. So man lieth down, says Job, and riseth not; till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth, we read in Daniel, shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame, and everlasting contempt. Our friend Lazarus, said Jesus to his disciples, sleepeth; and he observed with respect to the daughter of Jairus, who was dead, The damsel is not dead, but sleepeth. Them also which sleep in Jesus, said St. Paul to the Thessalonians, will God bring with him. There would be no propriety in using such terms with reference to death and the resurrection, if there were not some striking resemblance between sleeping and dying; between waking and rising from the dead; and if so, what we experience here, may instruct us in regard to what we shall experience hereafter.
Of a future state it may be observed, there has been a general expectation, though the ideas of the mind, unassisted upon this subject, have always been quite vague, and incoherent. If the monumental inscription of ancient, and modern Saducees, has been eternal sleep, in the places where the dead were buried, those better informed, because
Better disposed; and those not informed at all, have entertained a more correct opinion. The doctrine of the resurrection however, is not a first principle in religion, easily recieved by the christian, because easily comprehended; but since life, and immortality, are brought to light through the gospel, every one, who in heart believes the gospel, sees the doctrine of the resurrection in the light which the gospel reflects upon it. The christian leaves it to the wise man, whom Paul calls a fool, to inquire, How are the dead raised up, and with what body do they come; sensible, that the husbandman expects crop where he sows his seed, though he does not expect ever to gather again the seed which he has scattered. Since the body is continually varying, and from infancy to old age experiences many changes, very perceptible, it is impossible to determine what appearance it will assume at the resurrection. As to the grain, God gives it a body as it pleases him, and to every seed his own body; and he will take care, that his people be furnished with bodies by which they will be known, bodies suited to their condition.
Eternal judgment is the last thing in this Apostolic list of first principles. This is an affair which should never be out of mind. He who believes in eternal judgment, believes that all judgment is committed to the Son; and expects to see him come with the clouds of heaven, in his own mediatorial glory, in the glory of his father; and of the holy angels. Great assemblies have been collected upon different occasions, but at the day of judgment there will be an assembly of all nations, and kindreds, and tongues, and people; the dead, small and great, of every generation, will stand before God. As justice must be done to every one, the conduct of all will be found recorded in the books, or as accurately recited, as if written down particularly; and all the motives, or secret springs of action will be laid open. If the wicked conduct of any shall not be made public, it shall be the wicked conduct of those whose sins are covered over by the atonement.
This is called eternal judgment, principally, because the consequences will be of endless duration. So prone are we to expect good, that no one supposes there will be an end to the happiness of the righteous; while many forced to ad
mit, that the wicked will be condemned, endeavor to persuade themselves, that their condemnation will be only to a suffering of temporary continuance. But wherever the happiness of the one class, and the misery of the other, are spoken of, everlasting, or something equivalent, is always the term applied to both; and it would destroy the use of language to suppose the same term, in the same passage, so different in its signification. Besides, as the judgment of the great day will respect saints and sinners, how can it be eternal judgment, unless suffering, as well as happiness, be eternal? As it is not our province to decide, it would ill become us to say, that a belief in the doctrine of universal salvation, was never entertained by a christian, but we may with propriety, say, that the doctrine tends to licentiousness, and, that eternal judgment, or the judgment which eternally settles the condition of men, is reckoned by an inspired Apostle, among first principles in religion.
Having attended to the first principles of the doctrine of Christ, which the apostle calls milk, let us now inquire what he means by meat. This must be something more difficult to be apprehended, as meat is less easily digested than milk, and it is probably, what St. Peter refers to, when speaking of his beloved brother Paul's epistles, he observes that there are some things in them hard to be understood, St. Paul informed the Corinthians, that he adopted a different method of instruction towards some from what he had practised with them. Howbeit, we speak wisdom among them that are perfect, yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, which come to naught. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery; even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory.
Nothing is necessary but a close attention to these words, to discover to what they refer. If we examine we shall find, that the hidden wisdom of which St. Paul speaks; the things hard to be understood mentioned by St. Peter; are not found in the epistles to the Corinthians, but in those writings which were addressed to the other churches. We need go no farther than the epistle to the Romans, to find all those hard things, or that hidden wisdom which the apostle imparted to those who were perfect; to such as
were of full age; who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. The case of Jacob and Esau is one of the difficult cases, and that of Pharaoh is another. We have the history of these men, and when we read what St. Paul has written of them, we should, if we would understand it, compare it with the history. The historian and the apostle must both be correct in their statements, and what each has said may help to unfold the meaning of the other.
Had we been acquainted with Pharaoh, and had we seen his treatment of the people of Israel, we should undoubtedly have considered him like other tyrants; though hardened to an uncommon degree, and delighting in oppression, regardless of God, and of his fellow creatures. We are told that God hardened his heart; and, that he himself hardened it. The agency of God in this business is very apparent. God sent judgments, one after another upon this wicked man, because he would not consent that Israel should leave his land, and when he applied to Moses to intercede for him, God removed the judgments. As the judgments did not so humble him as to change his heart, he grew more rebellious in consequence of every deliverance, as is the case universally with sinners.
Of Esau it is said in the book of Genesis, that he despised his birthright; and in the epistle to the Hebrews he is called a profane person. If therefore he was an object of hatred to God, was his case peculiar, for God is angry with the wicked every day. That Esau was a wicked man is evident from his undervaluing the blessings of the birthright, which were principally, in that case, spiritual blessings; and from his marrying idolatrous women of Canaan, to the great grief of his parents. The two passages which the apostles cite, one from Genesis, and the other from Malachi, however they may suit the case of Jacob, and Esau, personally, evidently refer to their posterity. Esau never did serve Jacob in person, but the Edomites, descended from Esau, served the Israelites, descended from Jacob.
What St. Paul says of election, and of predestination, we know is hard to be understood, because it is so often misunderstood. To this perhaps St. Peter did not refer, because