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baptized. The Eunuch professes, “ I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”
We cannot suppose, that the Evangelist required, or that the Eunuch made a declaration of a certain knowledge of his own gracious sincerity. This is to be proved by those fruits, which could not yet be made to appear either to Philip, or to the Eunuch. But the latter might know, whether he believed Jesus to be the Son of God; and consequently, whether he believed the religion, taught by Jesus and his Apostles, to be divine; and whether it was his present purpose to be governed by this religion. There is a great difference between knowing our present views and exercises, and knowing our habitual state and character. Of the former we may be immediately conscious: The latter is known by experience. The Eunuch was baptized on that knowledge which he had of himself in this interview with Philip. The evangelist did not advise him to delay his baptism, until he could prove the sincerity of his faith by its permanent effects; but upon his professing to believe in the Son of God, Philip baptized him immediately; for he supposed, that a man might know what he believed to be true, and what he intended to do. In this manner the apostles uniformly and invariably conducted in admitting persons to baptism and the communion of the church. They were not such inconsistent instructors, as to direct weak and doubting believers to acquire stability and assurance, before they used the means of these acquirements. If believers must give diligence to ascertain their sincerity and establish their hope, they must apply the necessary means for this purpose. And where shall they find them Must they withdraw from the church to find them ?? or seek them there?
A man who is conscious, that he does not believe the gospel to be true, nor regard it, if it is true, cer. tainly is not qualified to enter into the church; nor has he any serious desire to come into it; nor can it be a case of conscience with him, whether he ought to come into it. If he asks the question, it is merely for speculation, or controversy; not with a wish to know, or intention to do his duty. And let the question be answered either way, he still follows his own corrupt inclination. But the man who believes the gospel to be divine-whọ views it as important who resolves to walk agreeably to it, and who desires the aids of God's grace, and the counsels and prayers of his fellow Christians, that he may obey the precepts and secure the blessings of it-this man ought to come into the church, and attend on the ordimances of Christ, though he may still have many humble doubts concerning his habitual sincerity and saving conversion.
There are some pious and humble souls, who, by conscientious, but mistaken scruples, are detained from the fellowship of Christ's church. These honest scruples a gracious God will treat with indulgence, and a candid Christian will treat with tenderness. But the man, who feels no inclination, and seeks no preparation to enjoy this fellowship, lies under the continued guilt of contemning a di: vine institution.
They who excuse themselves from the communion of the church by alleging its laxness of disci. pline and impurity of manners, betray their own insincerity; for an honest zeal would induce them to join the church, that they might strengthen the things which remain, and reform those which are amiss. Nothing is more selfcontradictory, than to complain of prevailing evils, and still leave the evils to prevail. If I discover my neighbor's house on
fire in the night, my retiring to a distance, and there standing a silent, inactive spectator, neither calling for the assistance of others, nor affording my own, would be no evidence, that I wished the flame extinguished, or the family saved.
But of all men, he shews the grossest inconsistency, who, after he has explicitly covenanted with a church for fellowship in worship and discipline, withdraws from it on account of offenders, whom he has never sought to reclaim. If he knows that there are offenders, he is the person first bound to reprove them, and, in case of necessity, to call for the concurrence of others in the pious work of reformation, If he, in such a case, is silent, he becomes partaker of their sins. And though he should withdraw from the church, he carries his guilt with him : He cannot leave that behind him for his brethren to bear. Every man must bear his own burden ; and the burden of guilt contracted in one place, cannot be thrown off by removing to another. The Christian best shews, that he cannot bear them who are evil, when he shuns the practice of evil himself, and endeavors to reclaim transgressors by the application of the means, which the gospel prescribes.
We will return to our narrative. When the Eunuch learned from Philip, that there was nothing to hinder his being baptized," he commanded the chariot to stand still ; and they went down into the water, both Philip and the Eunuch, and he baptized him; and they came up out of the water.'
Some, to prove that immersion into water is essential to baptism, have adduced this passage ; but very impertinently; for it imports nothing more than going to, and returning from the water. sons stept only within the margin of the water, they might be said to go into it, as properly as if they went to any supposed depth. Philip is said to ga
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into, and come out of the water, as well as the Eunuch, and there is no intimation, that one was buried in water more than the other. The passage there. fore leaves it undetermined, whether the Evangelist baptized his proselyte by dipping him in the water, or by putting water upon him. The advocates for immersion, in order to prove the necessity of this mode, must shew, that the word baptism, always signifies immersion, and is never used in any other sense ; and that the apostles, in baptizing, uniformly practised immersion, and never admitted any
This they cannot shew ; for the word, usually at least, signifies putting water upon the sub, ject ; and it is certain that the Apostles sometimes baptized in this manner. I will not, however, take upon me to determine, that no other mode was ever used ; nor do I feel any scruple in administering baptism with a greater or less quantity of water, as the subjects may desire. To grant to our fellow Christians this liberty is but a small indulgence. In differences much greater than this the Apostles adyise Christians to mutual condescension and forbear. ance,
When Philip and the Eunuch returned from the water, " the spirit of God caught Philip away, and the Eunuch saw him no more ; and Philip was found at Azotus;" or Ashdod, as it is called in the Old Testament. It is not necessary to suppose, that Philip was transported by an angel through the air to Azotus. Probably all that is intended is, that Philip, by the direction of the spirit, parted from the Eunuch, and turned to go north toward Azotus, so that the Eunuch, who was going to the south, had no farther interview with him. It is probable, the Eunuch solicited his
company to Ethiopia, to preach the gospel for the conversion of the Gentiles in that country. This is implied in
the expression, "The Eunuch saw him no more." He wished for his company longer, but could not enjoy it. A visit to Ethiopia, was not consistent with the order which the Evangelist had received. This required him to preach in other places. He made no stop, until he came to Azotus. There he began his service, and, passing along, he preached in all the cities, until he came to Cesarea. There he took up a house and made a considerable stand; and there, some time afterward, Paul's companions found him, and lodged with him. It is said, in the xxi chapter of Acts, “They who were of Paul's company came to Cesarea, and entered into the house of Philip the Evangelist, and tarried there many days."
When the Eunuch was baptized, and Philip had left him, “ he went his way rejoicing.” And great cause he had for rejoicing.
He rejoiced in the wonderful scheme of salvation, which was now discovered to him. Of this he had before but an imperfect knowledge, such as might be collected from the types, figures and prophecies of the Jewish scriptures. Now the scheme of divine grace was opened to his understanding, and he saw the prophecies fulfilled in the Savior who had actually come into the world. He beheld an atonement made for human guilt, pardon offered to the chief of sinners, and the terms of salvation clearly stated. — All former doubts, whether God would forgive sin, in what way sinners might come to God, and whether Gentiles, as well as Jews, might obtain mercy, were fully removed.
He rejoiced in the wonderful steps, which God had taken to bring him to a knowledge of the gospel scheme. He reflected with gratitude on the happy moment, when he met with Philip, who, by God's