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and indolence about the things of God, which are only a more covert sort of Atheism. I should not be very triumphant to hear, that any proselytes are made, by the arguments that have been delivered on this subject; nor will it give me any uneasiness to be told that there are none; but this is a lamentation, and shall be for a lamentation, that after all the warmth of persuasion, men will go on in their stupid, heedless, lifeless way: it will be enough for them to wash away the filth of the flesh, and they will expect in vain the salvation from that which only comes from the answer of a good conscience towards God.
Here you observe in these words these three
First, The faculty engaged in this ordinance, and that is your conscience. .
Secondly, The benefit that arises from this solemnity, and that is the answer of a good conscience ; and
Thirdly, in this you have very little concern with men, but it is all towards God. You do it to please him, and no other approbation than his will be of any avail to you.
First, You see that being baptized, either offering up yourselves or children to God in that ordinance, is a work of conscience, which is that faculty that affirms a judgment about your duty. Therefore if all you have to say for doing it, is, “ that it is a family prac“ tice, that you tread in the steps of your $ fathers, it is the custom of the place where " you live, people will think it strange if “ you neglect it, you will have the reproach “ of being singular:" in short, if these are your best reasons for it, though the thing itself is an act of religion, yet in you, it is no more than a conformity to the world. And I fear it may be said of many a one even in the duties of worship, that he only fashions himself according to his lust in the days of his ignorance. · Conscience has no part in the splutter that some people make about their devotions. They do not pretend to give you reasons for it from the word of God. If they plead the authority of the Church it is as high as they will go : but that is a great way short of the sacred rule. Your duty arises purely from a divine command. If it is with a sense of this that you offer up, either yourselves or children to God, you begin well. But if your reasons for serving him are fetched any lower than from himself, your baptism will be no more, than that of Simon Magus.
No manner of doubt of it, it was valid, according to the wretched sense that is put on the word, in this dispute. By the validity of your baptism they mean that which every serious person ought to despise; whether it is performed by one who had authority for it. Certainly there can be no question but the apostle Peter had that: But I can tell them, that this baptism was not valid, to any good purpose. It passed for nothing in the soul of the man who received it; his heart was not right in the sight of God; and instead of being indulged by the talk of vain men in our day, that he had got the baptismal regeneration, he is bid to repent of his wickedness, if perhaps the thought of his heart might be forgiven, for he had no lot or portion in this matter, Acts viii. 21; he was in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity, notwithstanding his being bap. tized by a person of undoubted authority.
Secondly, You see further, that the benefit which arises from this Ordinance is owing to the answer of a good conscience. The word emegaTimux signifies a question as well as an answer. A good conscience is first, one that is well instructed about the things of God, it must have a correspondence with his word. As to the Unbelievers, their mind and consciences are defiled. Tit, i. 15, . Secondly, It signifies the grace of God in that faculty, that there is a love of the truth, a delight in the law of the Lord after the inward man, that it endeavours to make persons blameless and harmless as the sons of God.
Now the answer of this good conscience may be taken two ways, according to the different sense, that is given of the word,
1. For the profession that it makes; Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? Truly I am thy servant. Thou art he whose I am, and whom I would serve. I am not my own, but bought with a price.
2. It may be understood of the demand, or plea, that arises from a good conscience. This is an act of faith in the covenant: and each of
these belong to the improvement of baptism; for, as in that, we confess our dedication by which we are the Lord's, so, at the same time, we lay hold on the relation by which he is ours. I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people, is the substance of that covenant, to which both parties set their seal in the solemnity of baptism. The ordinance itself, without this, is a thing of nought; but they that say, and do such things, declare plainly that they seek a city, which is an heavenly, wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God. Heb. xi. 16. As to others he shuns the title. It is as it were forced upon him; but these he owns with pleasure. The importance of this answer of a good conscience will appear from
Thirdly, The concern it has with God. It is towards him. Our relation to Churches, or particular professors, is of a lower nature. Religion, is first of all, an individual thing, what I have in myself and not another; I am the Lord's and his only: not my own, and much less theirs who can have no share in my salvation..
For which reason, I wish some good and learned men had not fallen in so much as they have done with the popish cant, of living within the pale of the Church. It is plain, this phrase is used in a very selfish way, and seldom means any more than the reputation of a par. ty. Therefore I was grieved to find this remark in an useful annotator upon the story of Noah's Ark, that there is no salvation buit in the Church. If by the Church they mean in Christ, the change of the word is scandalous; and if they mean any thing else, the doctrine is false. To say that by being in the church our derivations are from it, is, both foolish and wicked; and if by being in the Church, we understand our communion with it, there must be salvation antecedent to that. A man is supposed to be in Christ, and therefore a new creature before he is admitted into the fellowship of the Gospel. And if he never does complete his profession, either for want of opportunity, or for want of care; though the first is his unhappiness, and the latter his fault, yet to say that he shall not be saved, is talking at random ; for the foundation of God stands sure, having this seal, not that the Lord knows them who are Church-members, but them that are his.*
* The author is not to be understood as affecting to despise the Church of God. Had he, however, been careful to attend to the distinction between the Church invisible and the Church visible, his remarks would have been more perspicuous and just. By being within the Church'invisible, the same thing is meant as being in Christ; because the church invisible comprises all those who are effectually called to be saints, and are united to the Redeemer as the Head of his body the Church. Without this pale there is no salvation. By being in the church', Mr. Bradbury, evidently understands actual fellowship with some visible society of religious professors; and he accordingly, very justly condemns the rashness of those who assert that there is no salvation without being, in this sense of the word, within the pale of the church. He is far from denying the advantages of communion with the church of Christ, and from encouraging inattention to the duty of making a