“Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies.” 1 Samuel 4:3
Suggested Further Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:13-17
How vain are the hopes that men build upon their good works, and ceremonial observances! How frightful is that delusion which teaches for the gospel a thing which is not “the gospel”, nor “another gospel”; but it is a thing that would pervert the gospel of Christ. Let me ask thee solemnly, what is thy ground of hope? Dost thou rely on baptism? O man, how foolish thou art! What can a few drops of water, put upon an infant’s forehead, do? Some lying hypocrites tell us that children are regenerated by drops of water. What kind of regeneration is that? We have seen people hanged that were regenerated in this fashion. There have been men that have lived all their lives as whoremongers, adulterers, thieves, and murderers, who have been regenerated in their baptism by that kind of regeneration. Oh, be not deceived by a regeneration so absurd, so palpable even to flesh and blood, as one of the lying wonders that have come from hell itself. But maybe thou sayest, “Sir, I rely upon my baptism, in after life.” Ah, my friends, what can washing in water do? As the Lord liveth, if thou trustest in baptism thou trustest in a thing that will fail thee at last. For what is washing in water, unless it is preceded by faith and repentance? We baptize you, not in order to wash away your sins, but because we believe they are washed away beforehand; and if we did not think you believed so, we would not admit you to a participation in that ordinance. But if you will pervert this to your own destruction, by trusting in it, take heed; you are warned this morning. For as “circumcision availeth nothing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature,” so baptism availeth nothing.
For meditation: Baptism is supposed to illustrate the gospel, not to replace it. The command to be baptised follows the new birth, repentance and faith in Christ (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 8:12,36-38; 9:17-18; 10:47-48; 16:14-15,31-34; 18:8).
Sermon no. 186
4 April (1858)