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It was not, however, because they were Baptists, but because they were serious Christians also, that they took so much interest in him. Any orthodox Congregational or Pres. byterian Church of that day would have treated him with equal tenderness. So would pious Episcopalians, had they known him as well as the Baptists did. I much doubt, however, if any other orthodox body would have followed up his welcome into their fellowship, by calling him out to the ministry. In throwing out this passing hint, I do not forget that the Church at Bedford was not wholly a Baptist Church. Its pastor, however, was a Baptist ; and the majority seem to have been the same. But they were not strict Baptists. Bun. yan himself is a fine specimen of their spirit. He did not think it necessary even to mention his baptism, when he wrote for them, and dedicated to them, his Autobiography. He passes by, in silence, his initiation in the river Ouse : but in reference to the Sacrament he exclaims,—“That Scripture, • Do this in remembrance of me,' was made a very precious word unto me, when I thought of that blessed ordinance, the Last Supper : for by it the Lord did come down upon my conscience, with the discovery of his death for my sins.” Even this is not all the singularity of his own account of his joining the church : he connects with the Lord's Supper, not with Baptism, the only word by which any one could discover him to be a Baptist then, viz., s plunged.” “I felt as if he plunged me in the virtue of” his death.
Is this accident or design ? Whichever it may be, the pas. sage is curious. It runs thus :—" The Lord did come down upon my conscience with the discovery of his death for my sins; and, as I then felt, plunged me in the virtue of the same.” There seems to me in this passage, an intended use of terms which should express the views of both classes in his church, on the mode of baptism ; and yet remind both at the same time, that neither mode was the meaning, or the exact emblem of being “buried with Christ by baptism into death.” I am led to this conclusion, not merely because I find words equivalent to both immersion and pouring, transferred from Baptism to the Lord's Supper ; but chiefly because this use of them agrees with Bunyan's doctrinal theology. For although he gave many hard hits at those of “ the baptized way," as he calls the strict Baptists, this is not one of them. It is an illustration of his favourite doctrine, " that Jesus Christ is looked upon by God, and should be looked upon by us, as that public
person (or representative) in whom the whole body of his elect are always to be considered and reckoned, as having died with him, and risen from the dead with him;" not when they were baptized, but, as Bunyan expresses it, “ when He died we died, and so of His resurrection.”
The reader need not fear to go through this chapter. It will not touch the baptismal controversy ; but merely bring out Bunyan's opinion and spirit, in a light they have never been placed before. Ivimey explains Bunyan's studied silence, in both the Pilgrim and Grace Abounding, on the subject of his baptism, by saying that he made " no allusion to the event,” because « the constitution of the church at Bedford did not consider baptism by immersion, upon a personal profession of faith, as an essential requisite for communion at the Lord's Table.” This is true ; but it is not half the truth. He did not consider baptism as even an initiatory ordinance. He reckoned himself, as a believer, to have been put to death, bu. ried, and raised again, with Christ, representatively; and thus as having a right to church membership, before he was baptized. This was his cardinal point; and it astounded as well as offended those of the “water-baptism way,” as he calls them. They saw the meaning of Paul's doctrine of representation chieflv, if not only, in baptism. Bunyan saw it chiefly in the Lord's Supper, because that plunged him deepest into fellowship with the sufferings and death of Christ.
Bunyan's doctrine of the Saviour's representative character, although Paul's, in both its letter and spirit, is almost obsolete now; and this is not the place in which it can be revived. I once thought, indeed, that this was just the place in which to bring it out with some effect, and free it from the mysticism of the old writers : but I have not room. I regret this: for practical dying and rising with Christ will never be sufficiently bound upon the conscience of Christians, until they see that they were put to death, and laid in the grave, representatively, on the great day of atonement. For, all the ignominy and shame of the cross and the grave belong to us, as much as all the agony and merit of them belong to Christ. It was our desert which was exhibited in His sufferings. He was treated as we deserve; that we might be treated as He deserves. Whoever will “ unloose" this angel of the river of the water of life-the Pauline doctrine of representation by both the first and second Adam-will both speed the flight of “the mighty angel ” of the everlasting gospel, and help to bind
Satan up from perverting the doctrine of original sin. This will not be done, however, by republishing Riccalton on the Galatians. Even Luther mistook Paul on this point.
But to return to Bunyan's own baptism. No one, surely, can regret that he was baptized by immersion! That was just the mode calculated to impress him-practised as it usu. ally was then in rivers. He felt the sublimity of the whole scene at the Ouse, as well as its solemnity. Gifford's eye may have realized nothing on the occasion, but the meaning of the ordinance; but Bunyan saw Jordan in the lilied Ouse, and John the Baptist in the holy minister, aud almost the dove in the passing birds; whilst the sun-struck waters flashed around and over him, as if the Shechinah had descended upon them. For let it not be thought that he was indifferent about his baptism, because he was indignant against strict Baptists, and laid more stress upon the doctrine it taught than upon its symbolic significancy. He loved immersion, although he hated the close communion of the Baptist churches. The fact isand I mention it with more than complacency—he always looked back upon this voluntary act of obedience to Christ, just as those do upon parental dedication, who, like myself, have the high and hallowed consciousness, that we could not, by any personal submission to baptism now, exceed, in faith or devotion, the intense solicitude of a holy mother, or the solemn faith of a godly father, who with united hands and hearts baptized us into the “ one body” of the church of their “God and our God.” Bunyan could not look back upon his baptism in infancy (if he was baptized then ?) with either our emotions or convictions. We think, therefore, that he did wisely in being re-baptized. I think he did right in preferring immersion to sprinkling ; not, however, that I believe in mersion to be right, or sprinkling wrong, according to any scriptural rule ; for there is none : but because the former suited his temperament best, inasmuch as it gave him most to do, and thus most to think of and feel. For that is the best mode of baptism to any Tan, which most absorbs his own mind with its meaning and design; now that no man can tell another (for God has not told us) what was done by John and the apostles, in the interral between going down into the water, and coming up from the water. Neither the going down, nor the coming up, was baptism. That was something intermediate, and performed by the minister. What,—I know not. I respect, therefore, equally, the man who thinks it was immersion, and the man
who thinks it was sprinkling; because, as they are equally ignorant of the form, they may be equally sincere. Let it not be said, that this is either levity or laxness. I revere baptism, just as I do the Lord's Supper, in any form. It is not in levity nor in laxness, that some churches sit and others kneel at the Sacrament; and yet both postures are a departure from the original position ; but neither a departure from the spirit of commemoration. This subject will come up again in the chapter on Bunyan and the Baptists.
It was not chiefly because Gifford's church had been friendly to Bunyan, nor because their communion was open, that Bunyan preferred their fellowship; but because they were a holy church. He hated “mixed communion,” in the sense of promiscuous, even more than strict communion. “I dare not,” he says, “ hold coinmunion with them that profess not faith and holiness, or that are not visible saints by calling. He that is visibly or openly profane, cannot be a saint. He that is a visible saint must profess faith and repentance, and consequently (show) holiness of life: and with none etse dare I communicate."-Works, p. 277.
He adds, “ Church-communion with the openly profane and ungodly polluteth God's ordinances, it violateth his law, it defileth his people, and provoketh the Lord to severe and terrible judgments.” Having proved this at large from both the Old and New Testament, he flings to the winds, with withering scorn, the pretence, that “the openly profane have always been in the church of God." “ They were not such when they were received into communion," he says; " and they were only retained in order to their admonition; and if that failed, they were to be cut off from the church," or the church pun. ished for harbouring them.-Works, p. 281.
Such were Bunyan's convictions of the supreme importance of open and pure communion in the church, that he said, after enduring eleven years' imprisonment for non-conformity,-“I dare not now revolt, nor deny them, on the pain of eternal damnation! My principles lead me to a denial to communicate with the ungodly in the things of the kingdom of Christ. Neither can I consent that my soul should be governed in any of my approaches to God. But if nothing will do (for my judges) unless I make my conscience a continual butchery and slaughter-shop ; unless, putting out my own eyes, I commit me to the blind to lead me,I have determined, the Almighty God being my help and shield, yet to suffer until even the moss shall grow on mine eye-brows, if frail life continue so long, rather than violate my faith and principles.”—Preface to Bunyan's Confession of Faith.
These winged words will keep upon the wing for ever. The Tinker's protest against human authority and worldly associ. ations in the church of Christ, will maintain in that church a “ sacramental host,” whom power can neither crush nor coerce, nor policy deceive. How true it is, that such "a word spoken in season,” is a word upon wheels! Its wheels will go rolling down the track of time, without oiling, or wearing out. Nothing can stop them, nor turn them out of their course long.
The Oxford Tracts may exalt the sacrament into a sacrifice, and Canon Law keep open the altar to the clean and the unclean, for a time; but Bunyan's protest will outlive and outlaw both. Bishop Pearson's personal declaration, “I mean that church alone which is both catholic and holy, when I say, • I believe in the Holy Catholic Church,'” will become public opinion eventually ; and his definition of the “ Communion of Saints,"_" that to communicate with a sinner in that which is not sin (the sacrament,) can be no sin,”- will not pass long for an exposition of the Creed.-Pearson on the Creed. Fol. pp. 334, 356. The Protestants of Britain will soon think with Jeremy Taylor, that “a fly can boast of as much privilege as a wicked person can receive from this holy feast" (by tasting it;) although we may never say of it, in his words, that “ it is more healthful than rhubarb, more pleasant than cassia: the botele and lareca of the Indians, the moly or nepenthe of Pliny, the lirinon of the Persians, the balsam of Judea, the manna of Israel, the honey of Jonathan, are but weak expressions to tell us, that it is excellent above art and nature.”—We may not speak in this style ; but we shall think in this spirit : and re, echo him to the letter, when he says, “ All these must needs fall very short of those plain words of Christ, THIS IS MY Body.' Here we must sit down and rest ourselves; for this is the Mountain of the Lord,' and we can go no further.” “ This holy sacrament is a nourishment of spiritual life ; and therefore cannot with effect be ministered to them who are in a state of spiritual death. It is giving a cordial to a dead man : and, therefore, it were well they abstained from the rite itself.” - Taylor's Life of Christ. Dis. 19. Bunyan summed up his own opinion of the sacraments thus ;