Page images


adduced to prove the existence of the events of which they are memorials, as the official records of a town clerk or of a secretary of state.

It is a common custom among nations to erect monuments, or to establish institutions, to perpetuate the memo

of interesting events; and this custom probably originated from Divine Example.

The Sabbath was first instituted as a memorial of God's resting on the seventh day from the work of creation. In the days of Moses, it was re-instituted not only as a memo. rial of God's rest, but of the deliverance of the people of Israel from their servitude in Egypt.

From the days of the Apostles to the present time, the first day of the week has been kept as a memorial of the res. urrection of the Son of God.

The Passover was instituted as a memorial of one of the most extraordinary events by which God delivered Israel from the oppression of Pharaoh. The paschal Lamb was a type of the LAMB OF God which was to come and be slain for the sins of the world. The Israelites, therefore, while duly attending or the Passover, naturally looked backward to their redemption from Egyptian slavery, and forward to the great Propitiation for the sins of the world. But when the Savior had actually appeared, and had, by the sacrifice of himself, made atonement for our sins, the Passover was of course set aside, to give place to a memorial of the untetype. Accordingly, the Lord's Supper was instituted as a memorial of the sufferings and death of the Messiah, or of the Blood that was shed for the remission of sins. This Sacrament is now a witnøss to the church, and to the world, that God has given to us eternal life, and that this life is in his Son, who died for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

As the Passover was an institution which connected the redemption from Egypt with the death of the Messiah ; so the Lord's Supper connects that period when Christ made his soul an offering for sin, with that event when he shall

come a second time without sin unto salvation”. “ As oft as ye do this, ye do show forth the Lord's death till he come.

God made a covenant with Abraham, in which he promised that in him and in his seed all the families of the earth should be blessed. This seed was CHRIST. The event of that covenant transaction was an extraordinary event, and one which required a memorial. As a token or memo.

rial of this event, God instituted circumcision. This insti. tution was not only calculated for a memorial of the past event, but it was peculiarly adapted to the purpose of keeping alive, in the minds of Abraham's posterity, that the Messiah was to be of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh. At length the promised Messiah was born into the world, and in due time he was publicly and solemnly in. augurated ; and God himself attended the ordination ; en. dued him with his own Spirit, and by an audible voice from his excellent glory proclaimed, “ This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” No event, prior to this, had been more worthy of a perpetual memorial. Circumcision, as it had respect to the coming of the Messiah according to the flesh, became improper to be continued in the church after it had been, in this solemn manner, announced to the world, that the promised seed had come, and had entered on his arduous work; at least, after he had come and

finished his work on earth, it appears altogether suitable that an institution, which had a particular reference to his coming in the

flesh, should be set aside, and give place to a memorial of his having come by Water, or his having been PUBLICLY INAUGURATED and ENDUED as the MESSIAH, and publicly acknowledged by God as his Son, in whom he was well pleased. Therefore, before the ascension of our Lord, he instituted the ordinance of Baptism, to be regarded as a public memorial in the church, and a standing witness to the world, that God hath given to us eternal life, and that this life is in his Son. Thus we have to this day THREE that bear witness in earth, the SPIRIT, the Water, and the Blood.

These remarks, Sir, are not intended to imply any thing against the hypothesis that circumcision in the flesh denoted the necessity of the circumcision of the heart, nor that baptism is an emblem of the washing of regeneration by the Spirit of God. The theory now advanced, respecting baptism, will rather support that hypothesis than militate against it. For on that solemn occasion, of which it is supposed baptism is the memorial, the Son of God was endued with the Spirit, that he might baptize with the Holy Ghost, and that he might give repentance and remission of sins unto Israel.

A part of what is contained in this Letter is designed to prepare the way for the solution of a difficulty, which has

[ocr errors]


been supposed to arise from the language used in the Apostles' commission; to which some attention may be paid in the next Letter.

POSTSCRIPT. It may be worthy of special notire, that the Sabbath, cire. cumcision, the Passover, the Lord's day, and the Lord's Supper, have all been regarded as instituted memorials of interesting events. Is it not then reasonable to suppose that baptism is a memorial of some extraordinary event ? And what event is so likely to be the one, as that in which the long expected Messiah was inaugurated and announced to the world? If this hypothesis be correct, I do not see how we could well spare the controverted texts.


The Apostles' Commission considered.


AS was proposed in my last Letter, the language of the Apostles' commission, Matt. xxviii. 18, 19. shall now be considered.

“ And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

This text, Sir, has occasioned me more inquiry than any other text in the Bible. And it becomes me not to be confident that all my inquiry has issued in obtaining the ideas which Christ meant to express.

But if there be no failure in the attempt to prove that by the Holy Ghost is not intended a distinct Person, it concerns you and others, as much as it does me, to endeavor to obtain some meaning to the text now before us, consistent with that idea of the Spirit.-Believing that point is established by the general tenor of Scripture language, the result of my inquiries respecting this text will now be submitted, hoping that if it be erroneous, you may be able to detect my error.


That the text, as it stands in our translation, does very naturally suggest the idea of baptizing by the authority of three Persons, is admitted ; and of course it suggests the idea that the Holy Spirit is a Person. But when this view of the text is urged, with great confidence, as the only sible meaning, there is perhaps one thing overlooked, which ought to be considered ; and some things taken for granted, which require proof that is not easily obtained.

In the verse already quoted, immediately preceding the one so much relied on, Christ had said, “ All power is given unto me in heaven and earth.” And what is here asserted appears to be overlooked. It was, Sir, on this very ground, that he added, “ Go ye, therefore, into all the world,” &c. Now, if Christ had all authority in heaven and earth, his authority must have been sufficient for baptizing in his own name, without connecting any other. Nor does it appear very natural to suppose that Christ would say to this effect, I have all authority; go ye, there. fore, and baptize by the joint authority of myself and two other Persons. And has it not been also too much overlooked, that we have no example for baptizing in any other name than that of the Lord Jesus? If it be a matter of so much moment as has been supposed, that baptism should be administered in the name of three Persons, is it not somewhat extraordinary that we are not able co find so much as one example of the Apostles to support the practice ?

But perhaps some things are taken for granted as well as overlooked. The things which seem to have been taken for granted, that require proof, are these

1. That the preposition, which is translated in, does not mean into, to, or for

2. That the word name, unquestionably means authority

3. That the design of Christ, in the passage, was to show the authority by which baptism is to be administered, and not the End for which it is to be administered.

Respecting the Greek preposition eis, you are doubtless sensible that this is much more frequently translated into, to, or for, than it is in. And had either of those words been used in the text instead of in, this would have entirely precluded the idea of baptizing by the authority of three Persons.


And the word name is abundantly used in the Scriptures, as of the same import as the word character : it is also used for renown, glory, or praise ; and it is sometimes used as of similar import with the word memorial. In one or other of these senses, the word is used much more frequently than as importing authority.

It is, Sir, my present opinion of the words in dispute, that it was the design of Christ to express the OBJECT or END for which, and not the AUTHORITY by which, baptism is to be administered; and that the preposition would be more properly translated so as to read “ to the name," or " for the name,” than “ in the name.

Some reasons or analogies, to justify this explanation or construction of the text, may now be stated.

1. This construction agrees with the character of the Holy Spirit, as already illustrated from the general and natural import of Scripture language.

2. This construction corresponds with the idea that baptism is a standing witness and memoriul in the church, that the Son of God came by water, and was publicly inaugurated, endued, and announced, as the promised Messiah, the Son of God.

3. It agrees with the frequent use of the word name, as signifying renown,' glory, praise, or memorial.

When monuments are erected, or memorials instituted, to perpetuate the memory of illustrious characters or illustrious events, renown, glory, and praise, are the object of these memorials. When memorials are instituted to perpetuate the memory of remarkable and distinguishing events of divine providence, they are designed for the renown, glory, and praise of God.

4. When, in the New Testament, any thing is said to be done, or required to be done, for a witness, for a sign, for a testimony, for a memorial, or to the glory, or to the praise of God, this same preposition, eis, is used, and translated for or to. And can one instance to the contrary be found in the New Testament? Some instances of each will now be exhibited.

“ There was a man came from God, whose name was John ; the same came for a witness"_“ And the Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations."

« PreviousContinue »