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The Apostle having shown, in the preceding part of the Epistle to the Romans, that christians are justified by faith in the righteousness of Christ, proceeds, in this chapter and the two next, to confute the slanderous report, mentioned in chap. iii. 8, of some who “ affirmed that he said, Let us do evil, that good may come;" and to prove, that he did not make void the law through faith, but established the law. He enters on the subject with great animation. “ What shall we say then ? Shall we continue in sin that grace may
abound ? God forbid !” He rejects the hateful thought as implying an impossibility. “ How shall we that are dead to sin (or, as some render it,“ dead by sin") live any longer therein ?" He appeals to the meaning of our Baptism, which, being the first ordinance observed among converts, in the original propagation of the gospel, may be justly considered as exhibiting the first principles of the oracles of God, and the first elements of christian character. “ Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death ?” He then infers, that since Baptism has so immediate a reference to the death of Christ, it must by consequence, be connected also with his resurrection; and that, as in the former view, it teaches the regenerated the abandoning of the old life of sin; so, in the latter, it equally teaches them the habitual, increasing, and permanent pursuit and progress of the new life of righteousness, “ Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ
was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
A particular emphasis is here laid, on our “ being buried with Christ by Baptism into death.” The expression contains an allusion to our Lord's burial, and to our being buried with him by Baptism into his death. This allusion must have been well understood at first, for it is here made as an illustration. From various causes, however, it now requires illustration itself. This we shall endeavour to supply, in the hope that we may, by means of it, not only understand the Apostle's language, but, through the blessing of God, feel and be led more and more to exemplify the force of his reasoning.
It is a common remark, that the Apostle is treating in this passage, not of the form of Baptism, but of its object, its design, and its actual effects. On this account, many are of opinion, that no inference can be drawn from his language concerning the form of Baptism at all. Perhaps it would be more correct to say, that he is here treating of the connection between the justification and the sanctification of christians; and
; that, in doing so, he makes three distinct allusions to Baptism, to Grafting, and to Crucifixion. In each of these, therefore, there must be points of resemblance, for all the allusions of scripture are admirably correct; and wherever we meet with any, which seem to be exceptions from this character, we have much reason to suspect, that the difficulty is owing to our own inattention and ignorance.
That this has been remarkably the case with the allusion to Baptism, in the passage before us, will perhaps appear in the sequel. To many it presents no difficulty. They have been accustomed to think Baptism and Immersion to be synonymous terms. They conceive the expression, “ Buried with him in Baptism,” to arise from the resemblance between the interment of a dead body, and its subsequent resurrection from beneath the ground ; and the covering of a baptized person entirely with water, and the raising of him up again from beneath its surface. To others it has seemed very extraordinary, that a word which, in every other part of scripture, implies the act of pouring out froin above, should, in this single expression, have its meaning reversed, and be supposed to refer to an act of immersing in water below. I be. lieve, that if the meaning of the Apostle's allusion can be ascertained, it will be found to be natural and striking, and perfectly consistent with all the other instances in scripture of the application of the word Baptism.* Let us consider,
1st. The scriptural meaning of being buried;" 2dly. The manner in which Christ was buried ;
3dly. The union with Christ in his burial, which is signified by our Baptism ; and,
4thly. The design of the Apostle, in reminding us of this sign of that union.
Let us consider, 1st, the scriptural meaning of being
* See • Letters to a Deacon of a Baptist Church,' to the author of which I feel myself under great obligations, especially in this part of the Essay.
buried. I speak of the scriptural meaning, because it will be found somewhat different from the common, at least from the modern, meaning, of being buried. By burying, we commonly mean the lowering of a dead body into the grave, covering it with earth, and so leaving it under ground. On a little reflection, we shall also probably acknowledge, that, in burying, we include the various operations of laying out the body for interment. In scripture, “to bury," not only includes all the preparations of the body for interment, but is the expression used, in cases, where our method of interment was not practised, where no interment followed at the time, and where no final interment followed at all. Thus, in Gen. l. 26. where it is said, in the Hebrew, 1230"), “ they embalmed him” (the body of Joseph) the Septuagint says, dar av, “they buried him ;" although all that was, at that time, done more than embalming, was putting his body in a coffin in Egypt. This is an example of translation, merely, but I mention it here, because the word will be found, in the same sense, in the original of the New Testament, when we come to inquire into the manner in which Christ was buried. Meanwhile, it may be proper to remark what were the preparations of the body for interment; and what was done, when our method of interment was not practised.
Of all the preparations of a dead body for interment, the first was washing. There were sometimes added the rites of anointing and embalming with spices. These, however, depended on the honour
done to the deceased, and the expense which friends could afford to incur. Washing, which was attended with no expense, was probably never neglected. It is accordingly mentioned, as a matter of course, in the account of the death of Dorcas, Acts ix. 37. “ And it came to pass in those days that she was sick, and died; whom, WHEN THEY HAD WASHED, they laid her in an upper chamber.”
This preparation, so common in ordinary cases, must have been particularly called for, in the case of violent death. Homer accordingly represents it as necessary, when the Trojans were burying the multitude of their slain in the field of battle.
"Ενθα διαγνώναι χαλεπώς ήν άνδρα έκαστον
'IA. H'. 424-426.
The dead so foul with gore as to be scarce
Iliad VII. 441-443.
Still more must it have been held to be indispensable, when particular honour was intended to the slaughtered body of a beloved friend. Hence the orders of Achilles respecting the corpse of Patroclus.
“Ως είπών, εσάροισιν εκέκλετο διος 'Αχιλλεύς