« PreviousContinue »
who, like Christ, have been killed by sin. Besides we have been buried together with Christ by baptism into the likeness of his death (ver. 5.) to teach us this lesson, that though we have been killed by sin, (ver. 6.) yet like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the power of the Father, to live for ever, (ver. 9.} even so we also, by the same power shall enjoy a new, and never ending life in heaven with him. For seeing Christ, and we have been planted together in baptism in the likeness of his death, occasioned by sin, certainly by being raised out of the water of baptism, we are taught that we shall be also planted together in the likeness of his resurrection-Ye know this also to be signified by baptism that our old corrupt nature was crucified together with him, that the body with its af fections, and lusts, (Gal. 5. 24.) which sin has seized, might be rendered inactive, in order that we may no longer as slaves serve sin in the present life. Since we have died with Christ by sin, we believe that our baptism likewise teaches us that we shall also arise, and live together with him in heaven to die no more. Rom. 6. 3-6. 8.
It is not my design, in the above observations on baptism, to enter the list of controversy upon that subject. It is high time that the different denominations of christians should UNITE, and go on unto perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God; oF THE DOCTRINE OF BAPTISM, &c. Heb. 6. 1-2. My chief object in the remarks on baptism, is to get at the foundation of a great error which has obtained in almost every denomination. By transposing, in imagination, the physical operations of the Spirit, by which the resurrection of Christ was effected, and by which the bodies of believers are to be raised hereafter, to the bodies, and minds of men on this side of the grave, the word of God, by which these things are learnt, and believed, is superseded, and rendered useless-its instrumental character, in producing these mental effects, is either overlooked or denied; a strange metonomy indeed! The hope of a future resurrection depends upon the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the promise of God, that those who believe, and trust in him, shall be raised as he was. The delights, and joys of the mind, in anti
cipating this fact, by which an entire renovation or regeneration of our persons will be effected, and we qualified or suited for the enjoyment of the spiritual world in glory; and the feelings which we experience in believing these things by the divine evidence given of their truth, are said to be produced by the immediate physical operations of the Spirit. The physical operations of the Spirit, by which these great things are to be effected, are objects of faith, and are learnt, and believed by the word of God; and, by being believed, we are born again to a hope of life beyond the grave, through the influence of which, together with the other doctrines, and the duties of the Gospel, established by the authority of God, we are enabled, aided by the providences of God, pain, and the apprehension of death, &c. to crucify the flesh, with the affections, and lusts, and to live by the faith of the Son of God. To prove the truth of these ideas more fully, I ask the religious reader to exclude from the view of his mind, as an object of faith, and the foundation of his hope, the prospect of a glorious resurrection through Jesus Christ: How entirely destroyed would be the life, and soul of religion, its joys, and felicities! Destroy the Gospel, or the gracious word of God, as the mean which conveys this knowledge, and assurance to the mind, and all the consequences of the christian religion, in the soul of the believer, are annihilated! Exclude also the FAITH, that God is, and that he is omnipresent; which are also produced by the revelations of God's Spirit by his word, and we are, by a ne cessity of things, atheists-all spiritual ideas are wanting; we could no more think than speak about them, without the words of God's Spirit, since immediate revelations ceased.
Objections answered.-The reason in favour of the immediate agencies of the Spirit, taken from human depravity, God's sovereignty, &c. attended to.
I am well aware of the many objections which impassioned eloquence may, and perhaps will employ, against many of the ideas expressed, and opinions contended for, in the preceding pages.
It may be asked whether men are to save themselves; whether the Spirit has taken leave of the christian world, after having established the truths of christianity; and whether the poor christian is left entirely destitute of the aid of the Spirit, and his influence, since the establishment of the truths of the Gospel? Such zeal would spare itself much of the fervour which is thus expended, by the reflection that the opinion about immediate agencies destroys the order which God has established: its advocates would assuredly appear at least in a questionable character in respect to a sound mind, were they to allege that God in order to supply our countrymen with crops, must create them out of nothing, or produce them without the intervention of seed, rain, heat, and the industry of husbandmen. Does he give crops without the seed being sowed, and suitable cultivation? No. As well might it be expected that the growth of grace should be realized without the means of grace. The means, and their efficacy are from God; he is the author of both. Who can do any thing in the natural economy, without the use of the materials, and principles of nature? And is it true that spiritual results are expected without instrumentalities? Were it to be received as a rule of discrimination in divine and natural things, not to suppose a direct, and immediate interposition of divine power in any case where there are means or secondary causes sufficient to account for, and produce the effect, the confusion, and error upon these subjects would be soon corrected. A man might be a religious creature, according to the right rules of reason, in the eyes of rational men, without being a fanatic.
I ask how I am to distinguish between those immediate operations, and inspirations of the Spirit contended for amongst those sects who call themselves orthodox, and the errorists of all descriptions, and even idolaters too? Do the true operations consist in feelings, ecstasies, and joys? The Shakers exceed in them, and so do the Indian Priests. Where ignorance of the qualities, and powers of human nature, its passions, and emotions, and the influence of imagination prɛvail, pretences to inspiration will soon gain credit. The advocates of the necessity of the immediate operations of the Spirit in order to the belief, and worship in the christian religion, do
not realize that they by the same arguments prove the necèssity of them in the belief, and worship of Baal, of Moloch, Ashteroth, &c. Their worshippers undergo the most dreadful tortures to which their religion exposes them; of parents being burnt, and burning their children, and submitting to be crushed to death under the wheels of the car upon which the grim monster is moved.
It is urged that those immediate operations are necessary in order to overcome the passions, the appetites, &c. which belong to man by nature; and also to aid him in his religious exercises, on account of his natural weakness. The utter inability of man by nature to save himself, is acknowl edged, and nothing short of a Redeemer, the Mighty God, can effect it. But, in the sense in which these things are taken, I ask, what is there in the weakness of human nature, and its depravities, which render it more difficult to believe in christianity, than in Mahometanism? Or does the christian religion require greater privations, and sacrifices? Does it come less authentic, and with weaker proof, than that, and those of the Pagan kind? Let us repair to the Tyrian, and Carthagenian sacrifices; to the idol Moloch, almost too shocking to be rehearsed. There we behold the most promising children, of noble, and reputable families, thrown into the arms of the molten idol who stands in the midst of a large fire, and is red with heat. What can be more horrid to the imagination, than to behold a father leading the dearest of all his sons to such an infernal shrine? Or a mother, the most engaging, and affectionate of her daughters, just rising to maturity, to be slaughtered at the altar of Ashteroth or Baal. They embrace their children, says Justin, with great fondness, and encourage them in the gentlest terms that they might not be appalled at the sight of the hellish process; begging them to submit with cheerfulness to this fearful operation. If there is any appearance of a tear rising, or a cry unawares escaping, the mother smothers it with her kisses. These cruel endearments over, they stab them to the heart, or otherwise open the sluices of life; and with the blood, warm as it runs, besmear the altar and the grim visage of the idol. These were the customs which the Iraclites learnt from the people
of Canaan, and for which they were upbraided by the Psalmist in the 106th Psalm. Ask the parents thus crimsoned over, and their hands dripping, and smoking with the blood of their dearest, and most fond children, By what influence they perpetrated these most horrid deeds? In devout accents, they reply that the Spirit of their gods had directed them. I ask, whether human privation, the sacrifice of feeling, and natural disposition, are not much greater here, than is required by the christian religion? It is the knowledge of the truths contained in, and the customs, and manners formed by, the principles of christianity, that have stoped these cruelties, and exalted man to a noble state of improvement, and which, consistent with his highest perfection, extends to him the most refined, and exquisite enjoyments, and rational indulgences. The certainty of the truths of christianity is the foundation of its practical influences on the minds, and conduct of men: and that certainty consists in the evidence, the divine evidence, which it contains. The opinion of the natural weakness of the human mind, consisting in physical construction, and the necessity of foreign physical aid, independent of, and distinct from, the influence of knowledge in the understanding, to produce any thing great or good, is the foundation of all that enthusiasm which, in all ages, has been, and to this very day is, the reproach of christianity. The whole of the doctrine of the new birth, as consisting in immediate physical agencies of the Spirit on this side of the grave, is built upon it. As was before observed, there is, naturally, no more power in the human mind to know God without revelation, than there is in the eye to see without light. And there is, naturally, as little capacity in man to save himself from damnation, as there is for creating an universe, or subverting the throne of God. The only merit that can be attached to man, as it relates to his salvation, consists in nothing more than in merely receiving pardon. In order to this, as a moral, intelligent being, he must first know that he is condemned, and also that a reprieve is offered. And what other objects in preaching the Gospel are proposed, or accomplished?
By the operations of God's Spirit as detailed, in the signs,