« ПредишнаНапред »
BY THE REV. BROOKE LAMBERT.
"So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.'—ST. MARK iv. 26, 27.
JOHN WESLEY dreamt one night that he got to heaven's gate, and was refused admittance when he presented the credentials of a denomination. Surprised, he asked what was the favoured creed, and running through the genera and species of differing sects, he asked, “Are they all this, or all that?' 'Nay, but they are all Christians.' It is, I suppose, under the influence of some such thought as this, that the course of which my sermon is one has been projected. Not ours assuredly is it to glorify our Church as the only school through which men pass to the kingdom ; rather ours to trace out what part each section of the Church invisible sings in that great chorus of worship by which we are schooled. Multæ terricolis lingua, cælestibus una, earth's many voices make one heavenly song.
To-day we have to consider what part the Baptists sing in the psalmody of eternity.
The Baptists are logically, if not lineally, one of the oldest of sects. The temptations to which professors of Christianity were exposed were in early days terrible. The earnest dreaded the awful sin of those who lapsed under persecution into heathenism. Better it seemed not to have known the truth, than having known it to turn away. They tried to protect men from danger. They advised them to defer baptism till they were unlikely to incur danger, either because their faith was so firmly established that they were strong in Christ, or till the prospect of death near at hand removed all chance of failure. The kalapoi, the Puritans of those days, unmindful of their Lord's word, tried to sever the wheat from the tares. Hence the first origin of adult baptism. Time ran on, and the world was nominally Christian. Earnest men shuddered to see those who professed a Christian faith living a life unworthy of the name. They would not call them Christians. They reserved that name for those who consciously accepted the faith, and lived up to their privileges. They and they only were worthy of the name of Christians. It was profaning the Sacra
ment to administer it to babes, who could have no faith ; so they deferred the rite till the candidates were old enough to make personal profession. And if men had nominally received the rite, yet, since they could not really have entered into the meaning, when they came of age and made a true profession, they were to be rebaptised. Hence the two longer names, Anabaptists, applying to the rebaptised; Antipædobaptists, opponents of infant baptism, which we shorten into Baptists. Baptism by immersion is strictly no peculiarity of the Baptist sect. The rubrics of our Church make baptism by immersion the rule. It prescribes baptism by immersion “if they shall certify that the child may well endure it, but if they certify that the child is weak, it shall suffice to pour water upon it.' The exception has by custom become the rule.
It is only as we see the principle on which their view of adult baptism rests that we grasp the meaning of their protest. Much of their action depends on the desire to separate the wheat from the tares. But this has been specially since the seventeenth century connected with that view, which finds its strongest expression in Calvinism -the view of God's grace as confined to a few, and those few consciously saved.
The Baptists are, I think, the only logical dissenters. We can conceive of other sects modifying their statements of doctrine and discipline, till they shall become in fact, if not in name, one Church. The Baptist differs as to his conception of a Church. The Romanists, the Quakers, the Independents, the Methodists, the Presbyterians, may be incorporated in the Church of the future, since many in the Church of England at present incline to one or other of these views. But whilst the world lasts there will ever be in the Church universal two bodies, the one which looks on man in his individual relation to God—the Baptist—the Calvinistic theory; the other, which looks on each man as a member of a great society or corporation, and that society the body of Christ; and this is the theory of our Church.
Now, what is the essence of the Calvinistic or Baptist theory ? It is the personal relation between man and God. It is a doctrine so important, that the spread of this sect on the other side of the Atlantic, where it is, with but one exception, the largest denomination, is no marvel. The aim of religion is to establish the personal contact between man and God. The Book of Job is a parable of the religious life ; Job is in
doubt, like many a good man. His friends try to convince him, and win him to faith. Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, Zophar the Naamathite, Elihu the Zealot, all trying their special nostrum, are like the various Christian sects. They all say the same thing in different words. Job is unconvinced, and at last the Almighty is represented as coming on the scene. Read carefully through the utterances. ascribed to Him, which are like the voice of man's. own conscience witnessing to a truth underlying all that has been said, and you find absolutely no new statement. And yet the appearance of the Almighty has changed the whole attitude of Job.
I have heard of Thee with the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.' This has changed the man. He has touched God. Old things have passed away, all things have become new. So is it with many who have known what is called conversion, who have been roused to a higher life. When the new impulse came there was no revelation of new truth : only the veil which hid the truth under a mass of incomprehensible words was lifted. They saw God, and the old words became instinct with life. The