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SER M. Which Baptifin of John the Baptift be II. ing preparatory only to the Reception of Christ, and intended only as a Means to a further End; 'tis no wonder it was not accompanied with the Effufion of those perfective Gifts of the Spirit, which would have made needlefs that Baptifm into the Name of Chrift, which was to follow. This therefore is the Meaning of what the Apostle thereupon anfwers them again, ver. 4; John (fays he) verily baptized with the Baptifm of Repentance; Saying unto the people, that they should believe on Him, which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. The Intention of which Reply, is; John indeed baptized you (faith he) into the expectation of the Meffiah that was to come; but before you injoy the Benefit of his actual Coming, you must verify that expectation by receiving him now he is come; and fulfil the intention of John's Baptifm, by being confequently baptized into the Name of Christ. John's Baptifm was but a Promife or Declaration of your Intention, of being afterwards baptized into Chrift; And the Advantage you expect from be
ing baptized, by John, can be made good SER M. to you only by fulfilling that Promife, in embracing the Doctrine and the Religion of Chrift. When they heard This, ver. 5. they were baptized in the Name of the Lord Jefus; And when Paul had laid his bands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them, and they fpake with tongues and prophefied.
THE Occafion and Meaning of the words being thus explained, we may from this History, whereof the words of the Text contain the principal circumstances, make the following Obfervations.
If, THAT the Nature and Spirit of the Chriftian Religion, is to lay as little ftrefs as poffible upon all external Rites and to have the greatest Regard that can be, to the moral Qualifications of mens Minds. The Perfons to whom St Paul puts the Question in the Text, are in the verfe before, ftiled Difciples or Believers, that is, Chriftians; though they had been inftructed in nothing yet, but in the DoAtrine of John the Baptift. Repentance from dead works, and Reformation of Life, and a preparatory Difpofition to D 2
SER M. receive the Will of God, when made II. known to them by the Meffias to come,
was here judged fufficient to denominate men Difciples; even before they had been baptized into the Name of Christ, or had received any of the external Gifts of the Holy Ghost, or had fo much as heard that fuch Gifts were to be bestowed upon them. There is no external Rite in matters of Religion, more pofitively and expreffly commanded by God, or more indifpenfably and without any exception required by our Saviour, than that of Baptifm: Except a man be born, faith he, of Water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God: And yet even in This very cafe of fo exprefs a command, (to fhow how much Religion is judged of in the fight of God by the moral and vir tuous Difpofition of the Heart, more than by the outward Form,) there are many inftances in Scripture, where the inward Difpofition has been accepted instead of the outward Form; but no cafe, where the Form or Ceremony has in any wife fupplied the want of the inward Difpofition. The Thief upon the Crofs was affured by our
Saviour, that he should be with him That SER M. II. day in Paradife; because in the Disposition of his Heart he was fitly qualified for Baptism, though there was no poffibility of his having the Ceremony performed upon him. The Perfons mentioned in the Text, had they died before their being baptized in the name of Chrift; it cannot be questioned, but that those whom the infpired Writer calls Difciples here, would by our Lord have been acknowledged for his true Difciples hereafter. Cornelius the good Centurion, was before his Baptifm filled with the miraculous Gifts of the Holy Spirit: And no reafon can be conceived why That Teftimony of the Divine Favour fhould be conferred upon him just before his Baptifm, which the Apoftles themselves expected could not have been bestowed till after it; but only that the Spirit of God thought it of importance to declare in fo extraordinary a manner, that even where to the Ufe of a Form or Ceremony God has annexed his Gifts, yet even there, not upon account of the Form, or the Rite itself, but upon account of the inward Qualifications
SERM.of the Mind, does he bestow' his spiritual II. Bleffings. In the regular Administration of Baptifm itself, 'tis not the washing away of the Filth of the Flesh, that faveth us; but the Anfwer of a good Confcience towards God; 1 Pet. iii. 21. Many Martyrs in the Primitive times, upon their profeffing their Faith in Chrift, were immediately hurried away to bear Testimony for him with their Blood: And no man doubted, but that they who in reality were buried with him and for him into Death; were at least equallized with thofe, who by Baptifm died with him only in a Figure. Infants, who die unbaptized; unavoidably, and not poffibly by any fault of their own; cannot with reafon be worfe and more hardly thought of, than grown perfons in the like condition, For concerning Infants, as Infants, and merely upon Account of their Innocency, it is, that our Saviour affirms, that of fuch is the Kingdom of Heaven. And the reason why they are faved, is not because they are baptized; but they are therefore baptized, because they are capable of Salvation; They are therefore fit to