« PreviousContinue »
Privileges of Baptifm.
HE Catechifm of our Church begins, with a prudent Condefcenfion and Familiarity, by asking the introductory Queftions, What is your Name, and Who gave you this Name: which lead very naturally the Perfon catechized to the Mention of his Baptifm, at which Time it was given him. Not that giving a Name is any neceflary Part of Baptifm; but might have been done either before or afterwards, though it hath always been done then, as indeed it was likely that the first public Opportunity would be taken for that Purpose. But befides, it was no uncommon Thing in ancient Times, that when a Perfon entered into the Service of a new Mafter, he had a new Name beftowed on him. Whence perhaps the Jews might derive the Practice of naming the Child, when it was circumcifed; it being then devoted to the Service of God. The firft Chriftians, in Imitation of them, would of courfe do the fame Thing, for the fame Reason, when it was baptized: and no Wonder, that we continue the Practice. For it might be a very useful one, if Perfons would but remember, what it tends to remind them of, that they were dedicated to Chrift, when their Chriftian Name was given them; and would make use of that Circumftance frequently to recollect thofe Promises, which were then folemnly made for them; and which they have fince confirmed, or are to confirm and make perfonally for themselves. Without performing thefe, we are Chriftians, not in Deed, but in Name only and fhall greatly difhonour that Name, while we bear it and boast of it.
Our baptifmal Name is given us, not by our Parents, as we read in Scripture the Name of Jewish Children was, but by our Godfathers and Godmothers. And this Cuftom alfo may have a double Advantage. It may admonish them, that having conferred the Title of Christians upon us, they are bound to endeavour, that we may behave worthily of it. And it may admonish us, that our Name having been given us by Persons, who were our Sureties, we are bound to make good their Engagement.
But the Office and Ufe of Godfathers will be confidered under one of the following Queftions. The Subject to be confidered at prefent, though not fully, is Baptifm. For this being our firft Entrance into the Christian Church, by which we become entitled to certain Privileges, and obliged to certain Duties; religious Inftruction begins very properly by teaching young Perfons, what both of them are. And in order to recommend the Duties to us, the Privileges are mentioned first.
Not but that God hath an abfolute Right to our Obfervance of his Laws, without informing us beforehand what Benefit we fhall reap from it. Surely it would be enough to know, that he is Lord and King of the whole Earth; and that all his Dealings with the Works of his Hands are juft and reasonable. Our Bufinefs is to obey, and truft him with the Confequences. But in great Mercy, to encourage and attract his poor Creatures, he hath been pleafed to enter into a Covenant, a gracious Agreement with Man: fubjecting himself, as it were, to beftow certain Bleffings on us, provided we perform certain Conditions. But though, in this Covenant, the Promises, made on his Part, flow from his own free Goodness; yet the Terms, required on ours, are Matter of neceffary Obligation: and what was altogether voluntary in him, firmly binds us a.
See Waterland's Review of the Doctrine of the Eucharist, C, xi, P. 425. A 6
Now the Privileges, thus conditionally fecured to us in Baptifm, we find in our Catechifm very fitly reduced to these three Heads: that the Perfon, who receives it, is therein made a Member of Chrift, a Child of God, and an Inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven.
1. The firft, and Foundation of the others, is, that he is made a Member of Christ. This Figure of Speech all of you may not immediately underftand: but when it is understood, you will perceive in it great Strength and Beauty. It prefuppofes, what we must be fenfible of, more or lefs, that we are every one originally prone to Sin, and actually Sinners; liable thence to Punishment; and without Hope of preferving ourfelves, by our own Strength, either from Guilt or from Mifery. It further implies, what the Scripture clearly teaches, that Jefus Chrift hath delivered us from both, in fuch Manner as fhall hereafter be explained to you, on the moft equitable Terms of our becoming his, by accepting him from the Hand of God for our Saviour, our Teacher and our Lord. This Union to him, in order to receive thefe Benefits from him, our Catechifm, in Conformity with the Language of holy Writ, compares with that of the Members of the Body to the Head. And how proper the Comparison is, will eafily appear, by carrying it through the feveral Particulars, in which the Similitude holds.
As, in every living Creature, Perception and Motion proceed from the Head; fo, to every Chriftian, KnowJedge of God's Will, and Power to obey it, flow from Chrift. As the Head governs and directs each Limb, fo Chrift is the Sovereign and Law-giver of each Believer. As being joined to the Head makes the whole Body one animal Frame; fo being joined to Chrift makes the whole Number of Chriftians one fpiritual Society. As Communication with the Head preferves our natural Life; fo Communion with Chrift fupports our religious Life. He therefore is to the Church what the Head is to the Body: and each Perfon who belongs to the Church, is a Member of that Body, or, in the
Language of the Catechifm, a Member of Chrift. For he, as St. Paul expreffes it, is the Head: from which all the Body, having Nourishment ministered, and knit together by Joints and Bands, increafeth with the Increase of God".
And this Manner of Speaking is frequently repeated in Scripture, as it well deferves; being not only, as you have feen, admirably fitted to reprefent the happy Relations, in which we ftand to our Redeemer, but alfo to remind us of the Duties, which are derived from them of the Honour and Obedience due to him, who is Head over all Things to his Body, the Church; of our continual Dependence on him, fince he is our Life"; and of the Tenderness and Kindness, which we owe to our Fellow-Chriftians, and they to us, being all united, through him, fo intimately to each other. For fince, as the Apostle argues, by one Spirit we are all baptized into one Body: as in the natural Body, the Eye cannot fay unto the Hand, I have no Need of thee, nor any one Member to the reft, I have no Need of you; but even the more feeble and lefs honourable Members are neceffary*: fo in the spiritual Body, they, who in any Refpect may feem to excel others, ought by no Means to defpife them; fince every good Chriftian is, in his proper Degree and Place, both a valuable and an useful Member of Chrift. And again: As, in the natural Body, there is a Connection and Sympathy of the feveral Parts; by which the good State of one preferves the others in Health and Eafe, or its bad State gives them,Pain and Diforder; fo fhould there be in the fpiritual Body, and there is in all true Members of it, a mutual Caution not to do Harm to each other, and a mutual Defire of each others Benefit. If one Member fuffer, all the other Members fhould by a compaffionate Temper fuffer with it; and if one Member be honoured, all the relt should fincerely rejoice with it. Think then, do you feel in your Hearts this good Difpofition, as a Mark of being
* 1 Cor. xii.
b Col. ii. 19. 33, 21, 22, 23,
Col. iii. 4.
Members of Chrift? If not, ftudy to form yourselves to it without Delay.
2. The fecond Privilege of Baptifm is, that by it we are made the Children of God, in a Sense and Manner, in which by Nature we are not fo.
Our bleffed Saviour indeed is called in Scripture the only begotten Son of God. Nor can the highest of Creatures claim God for his Father by the fame Right, that he doth. But in a lower Senfe, God is the Father of Angels and Men; whom he hath created in their feveral Degrees of Likeness to his own Image. Adam, our first Parent, was the Son of God by a ftrong Refemblance to his heavenly Father in original Uprightness. But as this Similitude was greatly obfcured both in him and in his Descendants by the Fall, though preferved by the Covenant of the promised Seed from being utterly effaced; fo in Time it was almost entirely loft amongst Men, by the Prevalence of Sin; and they became in general Enemies of God, and Children of the Devil h
But our gracious Maker, pitying us notwithstanding, and treating us like Children, even when thus degenerated, hath mercifully appointed a Method for adopting us into his Family again, after we have caft ourselves out of it; and for reftoring and raising us gradually to the fame and greater Likeness to him and Favour with him, than even our first Parents ever enjoyed. Now this ineftimable Bleffing was procured for Mankind through the Means of Jefus Chrift; and we become entitled to it by taking him for our Head, and becoming his Members, in fuch Manner as you have heard briefly explained. For to as many as receive him, to them gives he Power to become the Sons of God, even to them that believe in his Name. Being therefore thus united to him, who is in the highest Sense the Son of God; and claiming not in our own Name, but under him ; we are admitted again into fuch a Degree of Sonship as we are capable
Rom. v. 10. Col. i, 21.
♪ 1 John jii. 10. ! John i. 12.