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CHRISTIAN FAITH IS FAITH IN THE HOLY TRINITY.
Matt. XXVIII. 18—20. 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;
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. In these words of our blessed Saviour, and those reported by St. Mark, chap. xvi. 15, 16, is contained the institution of baptism; and with it is conveyed to a thinking reader, but briefly indeed, as the nature of the case requires, the whole sum and substance of the Christian religion. The words in St. Mark are these. 'He said unto them (the eleven), Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.'
On that fulness of power, both celestial and terrestrial, wherewith our Saviour, after his resurrection, was vested, he founds, you see, the authority whereby he institutes this holy sacrament; and you will soon perceive also, that any less or limited power had been insufficient for so great a purpose.
It is likewise plainly apparent from the words repeated, that this institution is a covenant; for salvation is promised to every man, not absolutely, but on the express condition of his believing and being baptized,' and damnation threatened, in case he shall not believe.'
It is equally manifest, that faith is not more necessarily required of all Christians as a condition of this covenant, than obedience to the commands of Christ, for we are obliged 'to observe and do all things which Christ hath commanded his apostles.'
On the terms of this faith, and of obedience founded on this faith, our almighty Master promises to be with us his
church alway, even unto the end of the world. How great the benefits of his gracious presence continually vouchsafed to the whole church, and every one of its members, must be, is easily conceived by the mind of a true believer. Without him we can do nothing,' nothing ‘at least that is good; but we can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth us,' and 'whose grace is sufficient for us.' If he, to whom 'belongeth all power in heaven and earth, be with us, who shall be against us?' If he is always with us, then of necessity must we be always with him, and in him, even here, although as yet contending with the flesh; and hereafter, 'where he is, there shall we be also, partakers of his holiness, of his inheritance,' of the divine nature,' and consequently of that rest, that peace, that joy, that crown, which he hath prepared for them that love him. Such are the promises, and such the part of God in this covenant.
A commission to bestow Christ, and impart eternal salvation, to all men, requires, you see, unlimited power and authority in him who grants it. None but the Almighty can either forgive us our sins, or fit us for forgiveness. Accordingly, it is in the name, and by the authority, of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, that is, of the ever blessed and glorious Trinity, that we are commanded to be baptized, or received into that covenant of mercy and peace which Christ hath procured for us by, and established in, his precious blood, which he therefore calls his blood of the new covenant.'
Having thus a little opened the nature of baptism from the words of the institution itself, I intend to lay out the remainder of this Discourse entirely on the form prescribed by our Saviour for the administration of this sacrament, contained in these particular words, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,' considered, however, chiefly as applied to this weighty and solemn purpose of the covenant.
In order to awaken those who hear me to a fair and diligent inquiry into the true import or meaning of the words mentioned, it will be necessary first to shew the high importance of that meaning, be it what it will.
After observing to you, that some men, with equal impiety and absurdity, regard the words of this most awful institution as little more than words, and a mere empty form, it will be proper to call you, who, I trust, are otherwise minded, to a serious and respectful consideration, that no terms or expressions used by Christ himself, be the occasion what it will, can possibly contain any thing less than the most important meaning, which the nature of the subject, or of the occasion, calls for; and that still, as the dignity of the occasion rises, so the importance of his words, being supposed, as they certainly ought to be, to rise in proportion, demand a suitable degree of attention and veneration from all who hear or read them.
These things feelingly laid to heart, let me beseech you, in the next place, to consider, what that occasion or purpose is, to which the words are applied.
First, They are applied to that awful covenant, which contains all the rules whereby we are to think, speak, and act, and whereby our consciences are to be regulated, during our whole lives. Every article of the Christian faith, and every duty of the Christian life, being hereby bound on our consciences in a solemn promise made to God himself, that is, by a deliberate and awful vow, we cannot suppose the very words, which on God's part authorize this covenant, can be less than infinitely important.
Secondly, The words are applied to that covenant whereby all men are to be judged at the last day, before the throne of God, and in the sight of the whole intelligent creation, for all the thoughts, words, and actions, of their whole lives; and, of consequence, whereby they are to be adjudged to eternal happiness or misery. No words, used by Christ on such an occasion, can surely be of less than infinite importance.
Thirdly, The words are applied as the essential form, both of institution and administration to that covenant of mercy and peace with an offended God, no otherwise to be appeased, which was obtained by the reconciling blood of Christ, the only begotten Son of God himself. If, therefore, justification instead of guilt, and peace, eternal peace, instead of enmity and war, with Almighty God, can give importance to the covenant itself, the covenant must undoubtedly give equal importance to the very words of its institution.
Fourthly, Those other words of our Saviour, which accompany these, he that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; and be that believeth not, shall be damned,' must unquestionably impart to these all their own force and importance; for nothing can be more evident, than that the faith here required must be a faith in the meaning of these words of the institution, and that he only who believes in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in whose name be must be baptized, can be saved.
Not only the strict conjunction of this declaration with the form of the institution, but the nature also of the thing, fully proves the justness of this assertion, whether we consider the use made of the form, or the persons mentioned therein. If the very form itself, whereby all the benefits of baptism are formally granted, is not believed, those benefits can, in no sense, be expected, a disbelief of this being the same as a renunciation of the covenant. Again, in no sense can any hopes of pardon or salvation be entertained, without a firm belief in the persons, whose names, and whose joint authority, give the institution itself all its force.
Now, it is impossible to believe any thing, but so far as we understand it. In order, therefore, to be so baptized as to receive a title to the privileges and benefits of the Christian covenant, all Christians must know who the Father is, in what sense, and for what reason they are baptized in his name ; for otherwise, although it is eternal life to believe in him, they cannot possibly believe in him as they ought to do. Who the Son is they ought likewise to know, not only because they are baptized in his name, but because they are, in a peculiar sense, baptized into him, that is, into his body the church, and into his death. He who knows not these things, how can he be said to believe in the Son? And lastly, who the Holy Ghost is, every Christian ought to know, both because he is baptized in his name, as well as in those of the two other persons, and likewise because it is ‘by him we are all baptized into one body of Christ,' and baptism itself can avail nothing, if it is not the true
baptism of the Spirit, through whose sanctification God hath chosen us from the beginning to salvation. It is by the adoption of the Spirit, sealed to us in baptism, that we call God our Father; and therefore no man can rightly believe, or be effectually baptized, without knowing who the Holy Spirit is.
If the apostles, and after them the whole Christian ministry, were obliged by the express command of Christ to 'teach all nations,' and then (but not till then) to baptize them ;' were they not, of all things, to teach them what baptism or the covenant is, what it is into which they were to be baptized, and who they are in whose name the covenant is granted, and to whose service they are thereby so solemnly consecrated and sealed!
But farther, it is by no means sufficient for a Christian to know only that the Father is he from whom are all things;' that the Son is he by whom we are redeemed;' and the Holy Ghost he, by whom we are sanctified;' that is, to know these three persons in their offices relative to mankind; no, the Christian ought to understand in what sense it is that baptism is instituted and administered jointly in the name of all the three ; whether, as they are here joined together without any marks of distinction, he ought to believe in all the three equally, and receive the covenant with equal respect to, and trust in, all the three ; whether he, in effect, covenants by baptism with one only, or three parties; whether he is to worship each by prayer, thanksgiving, love, and dependence, or not; and if he is, whether he ought to regard one of them only as God, or the three as three distinct Gods, or all the three, as constituting one only God. And the reason why his faith ought to be built on no less knowledge than this, is plain, not only because the Scriptures have made frequent and ample declarations on all these subjects, for his information; but because, without knowing these things, he may worship that for God, which is but a creature, or treat that as a creature only, which is really God; or whether he is to believe in one only, or three Gods, may be altogether at a loss to know. As some of the errors just now mentioned are most abominably idolatrous, and the rest horribly profane; and as either the one sort or the other are fitted to lead the world into all manner of wickedness; we may conclude, in the first place, that the word of God must be very plain and determinate on such subjects ; and in the