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Understanding this new birth literally, Nicodemus expressed his surprise: "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb, and be born?”
Our Lord then, in reply, explained more fully its true figurative nature, by stating the means of procuring it, and its absolute necessity to salvation, from the infirmity and corruption of human nature, or of mankind in their natural state.
"Verily, verily I say unto thee, except any one be born [anew] of water and THE SPIRIT, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God," ver. 5, 6.
By water, in this place, we understand, with the liturgy, articles, and ablest divines of the Church of England*, waterbaptism, and not merely with some sectaries, symbolical purification in general, for the following reasons.
1. OUR LORD here states the necessity of a higher baptism than that of John, with which Nicodemus must have been acquainted; and the insufficiency of which, John himself acknowledged, as ministering only to repentance; whereas the ensuing baptism of CHRIST was to be more efficacious, as being the baptism of the HOLY SPIRIT, unto regeneration, as shewn before, in the foregoing article of John the Baptist. See this Vol. p. 65.
2. And this is confirmed by the analogy between our Lord's doctrine here, and in his last commission to his Apostles; in which they were expressly required to baptize all nations with water, in the name of the HOLY TRINITY, to entitle them to initiation into the kingdom of heaven, or to the privileges of the Christian covenant, of which this peculiar mode of baptism, was to be the instrument, or stipulated condition, on GOD'S part, of granting salvation; as faith is required on our part, as the indispensable condition of receiving it.
3. And if we look to the practice of the Apostles, as the best explanation of the precept in question, we shall find, that all the converts who professed their faith or belief in the efficacy of CHRIST'S atonement for the sins of mankind, were invariably baptized in token of their conversion. Such as the first fruits of the Christian Church on the day of Pentecost, who witnessed
See especially, Waterland's masterly Sermons on Regeneration and Justification by Faith, for the scriptural and orthodox doctrines of the primitive Church on these important articles. They are now scarce, and have lately been reprinted in the Churchman's Remembrancer, Vol. I. p. 1807. 8vo. Rivingtons.
the baptism of THE SPIRIT, in the form of fire, on the Apostles and their company, as foretold by John, Acts ii. 41; Saul, or Paul, Acts xxii. 16; Simon Magus, Acts viii. 13; the Ethiopian Chamberlain, Acts viii. 25-28; Cornelius and his friends, Acts xx. 44-48; the jailor at Philippi, Acts xvi. 30-34; the twelve disciples of John the Baptist, Acts xix. 2-7, &c.
4. The universality of the practice, satisfactorily explains also, the meaning of the indefinite term, TS, 66 any one," in our Lord's answer; by shewing that it must be understood universally, as equivalent to was, "every one," corresponding to his last commission to the Apostles, "to publish the Gospel to all the creation:He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth, shall be damned; for "He" here signifies "whosoever," or "every one."
Though baptism is here considered as a necessary condition of salvation, in addition to belief; yet it is remarkable, that damnation is threatened only to disbelief, or obstinate unbelief without including the omission of baptism. This, Waterland remarks, may perhaps be a reserved case, in which GOD may dispense with the general rule of baptism, in favour of such as may not have the means or opportunity of performing this rite; as in the case of the penitent malefactor on the cross; or in sudden emergencies. At the same time, since the Christian covenant holds forth no engagement to save mankind, or make them heirs of eternal life, without the performance of this rite; baptism must be considered as the ordinary standing instrument, or conveyance of Gospel salvation on GOD's part; and therefore, no person who neglects or despises it, can properly be entitled to those privileges. Hence Quakers, who explain away one part of the institution, water baptism, and hold only the other, the baptism of THE SPIRIT *, as if the former were only symbolical of the latter, seem to run a great risk of their salvation, by disobeying a positive rite prescribed by CHRIST, not only in his own name, but in that of the whole TRINITY, and practised by his Apostles.
The necessity of this initiatory sacrament, further appears from its symbolical nature.
Baptism, Barrioμа,)" dipping," or "immersion" in water, (βαπτισμα,)
As the Quakers have curtailed one part of the sacrament of baptism, so have the Romanists one part of the sacrament of the Lord's supper, by denying the cup to the laity.
is a figurative death and burial, and "rising again," or "emersion," out of the water, is a figurative resurrection, Rom. vi. 3, 4, and well represents, in the scriptural language of our Church Catechism," a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness. For being by [our fleshly] nature born in sin, [or prone to sinning, and thereby] children of wrath, [or obnoxious to Divine punishment,] we are hereby [invested with a spiritual nature, putting off the old man, and putting on the new,' and] made children of grace," [or heirs of eternal salvation, through CHRIST.] Compare Ephes. ii. 3—6, Col. iii. 1—10, Ephes. ii. 8.
Our Church, therefore, rightly considers the baptized, whether infants or adult, immediately after the ceremony is performed, as "regenerate, and grafted into the body of Christ's Church." See the Offices of Baptism for both.
Though no instances but of adult baptism are noticed in the NEW TESTAMENT, yet, that infant baptism was also practised from the beginning, may fairly be inferred from the analogy of this rite to that of circumcision in the patriarchal and Jewish Church, which it superseded in the Christian. And it was usually admitted within the eighth day, by the primitive Christians. Hence that admonition in our Rubrick, that "The people defer not the baptism of their children longer than the first or second Sunday, or holy day, after their birth; unless upon a great and reasonable cause."
It was the opinion of several early Fathers of the Church, Irenæus, Tertullian, Cyril, Nazianzen, Hilary, Ammonius, Damascen, &c. that the water applied in baptism, secured, or sealed, as it were, the body to a happy resurrection; while THE SPIRIT more immediately sealed the soul; and so the whole man was understood to be cleansed, sanctified, and accepted by GOD in baptism. Which seems to be countenanced by the following texts, Titus iii. 5, Ephes. v. 25, 26, Rom. xv. 16, 1 Thess. v. 23.
Baptism once administered, is effectual unto regeneration, on GOD's part, and need not be repeated. As there is but ONE LORD, and one faith, so there is but " one baptism" once performed, Eph. iv. 5. For as the natural birth happens but once, so does the spiritual. The grant of regeneration subsists in force after baptism, though its efficacy depends upon performance of the conditions of the covenant then made, (namely,
repentance, faith, and obedience,) for the privileges may be vacated, or forfeited, unless we walk in newness of life. And lapsed converts, in Scripture, such as Simon Magus, Acts viii. 22; the revolting Churches of Asia Minor, Rev. ii. 5—16, iii. 3-19; the wicked prophetess, Jezebel, Rev. ii. 20, 21, &c. are no where exhorted to be born anew, or regenerated, after they had been once baptized; but frequently to repent, to be converted, to be renewed in the spirit of their mind, or transformed by the renewing of their mind, Acts iii. 19, Ephes. iv. 23, Rom. xii. 2, upon which they may be reinstated in their former privileges.
Hence the Anabaptists and General Baptists, who re-baptize infants after they become adult, seem to perform a work of supererogation, running into the opposite extreme from the Quakers.
RENOVATION AND SANCTIFICATION BY THE LORD'S
SUPPER, AND THE SPIRIT.
Renovation, or reformation of life, is not to be confounded with regeneration. We can be born anew but once, because we can live but once in this present world. But we can rise and recover often, we can grow, and be nourished often with spiritual food, because we can fall often, and offend often, (Prov. xxiv. 16. The distinction is noticed expressly in the NEW TESTAMENT.) "We are saved by the washing, [or baptism,] of regeneration, and by the renovation of THE HOLY SPIRIT," Tit. iii. 5; we are exhorted, as Christians, after admission into the Church, or regeneration, " to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service: not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, to approve what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of GOD," Rom. xii. 1, 2. And accordingly, the reasonable service of the Church of England prays, "That we being regenerate, and made GOD's children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by his HOLY SPIRIT." Collect for Christmas day.
And this necessity of renovation after regeneration, results from the fleshly part of man's nature: "CHRIST, indeed, in the truth of our nature, was made like unto us in all things, sin only except; from which he was clearly void, both in his flesh
and in his spirit."-" But all we, the rest, although baptized, and born again in CHRIST, yet offend in many things." Article XV.-" And this infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, always contrary to the Spirit, (Rom. viii. 6, 7,) is not subject to the LAW of God." Article IX *.
Hence the baptismal prayer before the ceremony, "That all carnal affections may die in him, and that all things belonging to the Spirit, may live and grow in him;" and again, after, "that we who are [already] baptized, may continually mortify all our evil and corrupt affections, and daily proceed in all virtue and godliness of living."
Thus does the cautious wisdom of our Church, guard against two dangerous errors of enthusiasm.
1. That regeneration is a state of sinless perfection ↑.
• When it is said in this ninth article, that "original, or birth sin,”—“ in every person born into this world, descrveth GOD's wrath and damnation ;”—to deserve, must signify to be liable or subject to," as formerly "to merit," signified" to obtain ;” as in the Wittenberg confession, "We teach that good works are necessary to be done, and by the free kindness of GOD, they merit their certain rewards." So Hooker observes of that latter, p. 25.
Nothing can be more express, than the whole tenor of SCRIPTURE, both OLD and NEW, against this presumptuous doctrine of sinless perfection, so contrary to our just sense of the present imperfection of human nature, even in its most improved state." Behold I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me," Psalm li. 5. "Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O LORD, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified," Psalm cxliii. 2. “If thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O LORD, who shall stand!" Psalm cxxx. 3. For "there is no man that sinneth not," either in thought, word, or deed, 1 Kings viii. 46. "There is no just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not," Eccles. vii. 20; " In many things we all slip," James iii. 2. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us," we deceive others also, 1 John i. 8. ART. XV.
When, therefore, we meet with such counter-declarations in Scripture, as that "Noah was perfect in his generation," Gen. vi. 9, that " David followed GOD with all his heart, to do only what was right in His eyes," 1 Kings xiv. 8, that "Zecharias and his wife Elizabeth, were both righteous before GOD, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of THE LORD, blameless," Luke i. 6, &c. we know, from their history, that they were far from "perfect," or absolutely "sinless." Such declarations, therefore, to preserve truth and consistency, must be understood in a qualified sense, as if such persons were, comparatively, perfect or blameless in their generation, though not absolutely. And when it is said, "Every one that is born of GOD, committeth not sin, because His seed remaineth in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of GOD," 1 John iii. 9, if we suppose the Apostle to write consistently with his former declaration, he must mean that whosoever is born of GOD, by spiritual regeneration, at baptism, neither doth nor can live in the allowed commission of sin; that he cannot sin with allowance, continuance, and satisfaction to himself. For as Dr. Doddridge justly observes, "unless the words be understood in a qualified sense, they would prove not only the sinless perfection of every