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sion of his past sins, would be reconciled to God, ‘and be accounted just and righteous in his sight.
Baptism would not only wash away the guilt of • all his former sins, both original and actual, and procure to him acceptance with God; but it would also communicate a portion of divine
grace, to counteract the depravity of his nature, ' and to strengthen his good resolutions.' 1
Baptism, administered according to the appointed form to a true believer, would convey justification.'-If the baptized person were previously a true believer, he was previously justified; but, if he were not 'a true believer,' would it in that case convey justification? Or is the faith of this true believer like that of him, whose sincere faith drops suddenly down into a bare belief of the gospel2 And will it, on this supposition, convey justification, and the blessings afterwards spoken of? Baptism, where it may be had, is ' essential' to “ the obedience of faith,” which must be incomplete where this sacred ordinance is neglected; and the Lord's supper is essential in exactly the same way; but is either of them essential to en· title a man to the blessings of the new and gra'cious dispensation ?' Are they so essential that no one can be saved without them? If so, we are both justified and saved by baptism, or by the Lord's supper, and not by faith. Faith is essential, because without faith no adult can be justified; and because all who believe are justified: but can this be said of baptism? “In Christ Jesus, “ neither circumcision availeth any thing nor un
« that cup."
“ circumcision, but faith which worketh by love."! Eagerness for either baptism or any other external observance often arises, especially in persons newly brought under concern about their souls, from misapprehension; and leads to an ungrounded confidence of being in a state of acceptance, though not partakers of faith working by love ; of which neither their tempers nor conduct give any clear evidence. We ought indeed to make haste, “and delay not to keep God's commandments :" yet the apostle's exhortation concerning the Lord's supper stands thus : “Let a man examine himself, “ and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of
cup.”? And why it should not be the same in respect of baptism, as received by adults, does not appear: but being eager to be baptized,' under a persuasion that it is essential to salvation, counteracts the exhortation. Concerning such an eagerness we read nothing in the New Testament, except the Ethiopian treasurer be supposed a case in point. His situation, however, was peculiar: he had for the first time heard a Christian minister, and, having before manifested a pious, inquiring, humble, and teachable disposition, he was at once fully convinced that “ Jesus was the Christ, the “Son of God.” He was journeying to a far distant land, remote from the ministers of Christ, where none would be found to administer baptism; and, before he parted with his kind instructor, “ He says, See, here is water, what doth “hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If
1 Gal. v. 6.
21 Cor. xi. 28.
“ thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest: “ and he answered and said, I believe that Jesus “ Christ is the Son of God."! Now nothing can be more clear than that, if his profession was sincere, (as no doubt it was,) he was “ justified by “ faith,” before he was baptized: and that his baptism was a profession of his faith, “and a seal of “ the righteousness of the faith, which he had yet “ being unbaptized.”? But, if he had not truly believed, would his baptism have conveyed justification? The unbaptized true believer, therefore,
justified by faith,” before he is baptized; and his baptism is the profession of his faith, the recognition of that profession, his admission into the church of Christ, and a pledge to assure him of the blessing. Saul was earnest in prayer, but not about baptism; for he needed urging by Ananias to arise and be baptized. The centurion and his friends were eager to hear the word of salvation from Peter; not to be baptized : and, after their faith had been attested by the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon them, the apostle proposed that they should be baptized, without any request on their parts.—The earnestness of the gaoler to learn “ what he must do to be saved,” and to hear “the “ word of the Lord,” is strongly marked; but nothing is said of his eagerness to be baptized. 3 The eagerness to be baptized,' among those increasing numbers in this land who are taught that infant-baptism is a nullity, is in many places pro
Acts viii. 36-38
Rom. iv. 11.
ducing effects more dangerous to the established church, to say no more, than almost any of those things which our alarmists insist on.
· Faith therefore, including repentance for former • offences, was, as far as the person himself was • concerned, the sole requisite for justification. No
previous work was enjoined; but baptism was invariably the instrument, or external form, by which justification was conveyed.'
True faith is always attended by repentance; but does not, I apprehend, include it; for then we might as properly be said to be justified by repentance as by faith :—but where is baptism' said to be invariably the instrument, or external form,
by which justification was conveyed?' Or what proof can be brought in support of this assertion?
* It is plain that these men were justified by ' faith, and by faith only. Here arises the impor'tant question, whether a person thus converted,
baptized, and justified, must necessarily continue ‘in a state of justification : Certainly not. Upon ' what then did his continuance depend? Upon his * belief of the doctrines, and obedience to the precepts of the gospel : that is, upon the performance of the conditions of the covenant into which ' he had entered by the holy rite of baptism, and · which he had engaged to observe. If he really ' performed these conditions, he continued in a 'state of justification ; and, if he persevered to the ' end of his life, his salvation was secured. But,
! Ref. 132, 133.
* if he did not perform these conditions, he was no longer in a state of justification, but again became liable to God's wrath : and, if he died in ' his sins, his apostacy from the truth would be an aggravation of his guilt and punishment.'!
All who had true faith were justified by faith alone; but if any man had not true faith, no profession, either at baptism or in any other way, could justify him. The term ' necessarily’is not expressive of our ideas ; which are simply, that God has promised, through Christ's intercession, and according to his everlasting covenant, to preserve the true believer from finally losing his justified state. It must here be observed, that wherever his Lordship speaks of justification by faith alone, he evidently means true and living faith ; but, when he comes to speak of continuance in a justified state, he as uniformly, by some inadvertency, substitutes dead faith, which none of us think will either continue a man in a justified state, or bring him into it. We only hold that the same faith, which justifies, will continue the person in a justified state ; unless it fails, or degenerates into a dead faith ; which we suppose (whether truly or erroneously) that it never does. Even the highest supralapsarian Calvinist never supposes that a dead faith will continue a man in a justified state, or ensure his perseverance : for in fact he has nothing in which to persevere, except formality and hypocrisy. And few maintain any other perseverance than that of a patient con“tinuance in well doing ;” of “ bringing forth