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fore” said he just before his ascension to heaven, “ and make i disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and to I am with you alway even unto the end of the world. These words contain a general command to make disciples of all nations, and two specific directions how it is to be accomplished; a) by baptizing them in the name of the triune God, and b) teaching them to observe whatsoever he had commanded. By the former, they are made members of the visible church; by the latter, they are to be trained up as worthy followers of their divine Master. Baptism is, therefore, a duty obligatory upon all, who have an opportunity of receiving it; and upon them alone. The irregular practice of lay baptism, was introduced into the church, in consequence of the superstitious and unscriptural notion of the absolute and unconditional necessity of baptism to salvation.
2. The essential constituents of Christian baptism are, that water be applied to a suitable subject, by an authorized minister of Christ, in the name of the triune God. a) Water was wisely selected, because it is every where found, and well adapted to express the signification of this ordinance and the obligations of its subjects. The question, whether in a case
1 The common version is here evidently incorrect. The word uaintEvo atɛ is derived from uaonins a disciple, and signifies “to inake disciples.” This version which we find even in the Peschito or Syriac version of the 2d century, is now acknowledged to be correct by all respectable critics.
2 Acts 22: 16. And now why tarriest thou ? arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
Eph. 5: 26. That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water, by the word.
3 Heb. 10: 22. Let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Eph. 5: 26.
of absolute necessity, milk or wine, or sand might be used, must be answered in the negative. b) It must be applied to a suitable subject, not to a bell, or organ, or any other inanimate object; but to a sane human being. c) It must be applied by an authorized person.
The Saviour entrusted the duty of baptizing to the same persons who were to “teach,” that is, to the ministers of his gospel. And d) The water must be applied in the name of the triune God. Hence the baptism of Socinians, who do not use the name of the Trinity, is not Christian baptism.
3. The Import of Baptism. This is, a) Symbolic. It figuratively represents the process of spiritual purification, and thus 1. implies that natural depravity, of which we need to be cleansed: 2. teaches the remedial nature of the New Testament church, which prescribes the means of purification : and 3. the influences of the Holy Spirit, which accompany these means.
The influence of baptism is also, b) Initiatory. This is explicitly taught by the Saviour, when he says, “ make disciples of all nations (by) baptizing” and teaching them, &c. It was moreover, viewed in this light by the Jews generally, and by the Essenes, before it was appointed by the Saviour ; and it has uniformly been so considered by Christians from the days of the apostles. Baptism is, therefore, that ordinance by which alone men can be admitted into the visible church of Christ.
The third import of baptism is c) federal. By this ordinance we enter into a solemn covenant with our God, as did the Jews by circumcision.
4. To the foregoing prescribed constituents of baptism, various unauthorised additions were made. Such was the superstitious ceremony of exorcism, by which the priest designed to expel the evil spirit from the candidate for baptism, prior to the administration of the ordinance.
11 Peter 3: 21. The answer (stipulation) of a good conscience (Enepwinua stipulation or profession). Gal. 3: 16. 18. Gen. 17: 7.
Owing to the frequent persecutions of the early Christians, baptism was even in the second century, performed in the presence of witnesses termed sponsors, who in case of necessity might attest the fact, and if requisite, provide for the religious education of the baptized. These sponsors were still unnecessary ; because the church record ought to attest the baptism, and it is always the duty of the church to provide for the religious education of her orphan or destitute children. In the Lutheran church of America, this custom is rapidly declining. Several synodical recommendations of its abandonment have been published to our churches, with the happiest results.
II. Subjects of Baptism.
The next inquiry presenting itself is, Who are the proper subjects of baptism?
1. The command of the Saviour, Go ye therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them, &c. is general in its terms; and whilst it does not specifically mention either adults or infants, males or females, manifestly embraces them all. It is admitted by all, that
Adult believers are proper subjects of baptism; those who having heard the gospel call, believe its representations, and have resolved to accept the offers of mercy as presented in it.
We shall present the argument for infant baptism in its simplest, historical and exegetical form.
The language of the Saviour's precept being general, “baptize all nations," also includes infants ; unless other texts can be found declaring, that they shall be debarred from the privilege, or unless the circumstances of the case naturally limit the words. But even the opponents of infant baptism do not pretend to find any such passage in the sacred volume. And the circumstances, in which these words were uttered, instead of limiting their meaning, afford additional and incontestable proof
that the apostles and other Jews could not possibly have understood them as designed to exclude infants. For
a) They well knew, that God had expressly commanded the admission of infants into his visible church ; when he first made his covenant with Abraham, appointed circumcision as the initiatory rite, and determined to whom it should be applied. On this subject there never had been and never could be any doubt. The covenant was expressly extended to infants descended from Abraham, to servants born in Jewish families, and to servants purchased with money.
b) They well knew, that the covenant, which God thus made with their father Abraham, and on the basis of which infants were received into the visible church, was not a temporary one, soon to be abolished; but that it was to remain in its essential features through all future generations, for an everlasting covenant ; God promising to be a God unto them and to their seed after them,” and requiring them to be his people. The same covenant was promulgated anew by Moses, as the covenant made with “ Abraham ;"p3 and represented as the basis of that visible people of God, which should profess his name in all future generations.
1 Gen 16: 10—14. This is my covenant which you shall keep between me and you, and thy seed aster thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised—and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations ; he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed ;and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
2 Gen. 17:7. To Abraham God said: “I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations, for an everlasting covenant; to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee.”
3 Deut. 19: 13–15. That he may establish them to day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers ; to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob: neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath,—but also with him that is not here with us this day.
c) They knew too, that, in accordance with these divine commands children had, for nearly TWO THOUSAND YEARS,
been invariably received into the church of God. Nor was this the case only with the children of Jewish parents. When individual proselytes were made, as was frequently done, both in Greece and at Rome, and when after the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, whole nations, such as the Idumeans, Itureans, and Moabites professed Judaism, their children were also uniformly received. Various alterations had been made in the external ceremonials of worship, but nothing had been ordained changing the nature of “the everlasting covenant," no one had during this long course of nearly twenty centuries, contended, that God had excluded children from the privileges originally granted them, or that he would hereafter exclude them. They had therefore never heard and never expected to hear of a church of God, into which children were not received. Accordingly, when the Saviour uttered the general and unlimited command; go ye and make disciples of “ all nations ;" how could they possibly understand him by these general terms to convey a new and unheard of restriction, which was contrary to all their prepossessions, feelings, and opinions, and of which they could not know any thing, unless it had been explicitly communicated to them.
d) The force of these circumstances is augmented by the fact, that baptism had been introduced among the Jews in connexion with circumcision as an initiatory rite, and was thus applied to infants. It has already been stated, that the Jews generally, and the Essenes in particular, had prior to the Saviour's advent, been in the habit of receiving proselytes by baptism. But their own writers inform us that it was customary also ta baptize the children of those who were thus received.
The truth of their statement is confirmed by other testimony, which clearly establishes the fact that infant baptism prevailed very generally among the Jews, at least as early as about a century after the crucifixion ; and as it cannot well be believed that