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Noah Worcester.

Bible news, of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit : in a series of letters. In four parts. I. On the unity of God. II. On the real divinity and glory of Christ. III. On the character of the Holy Spirit. IV. An examination of difficult passages of Scripture. The whole addressed to a worthy minister of online

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Online LibraryNoah WorcesterBible news, of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit : in a series of letters. In four parts. I. On the unity of God. II. On the real divinity and glory of Christ. III. On the character of the Holy Spirit. IV. An examination of difficult passages of Scripture. The whole addressed to a worthy minister of → online text (page 16 of 19)
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and the other in earth. This difficulty you will perceive
is not peculiar to my views of the Trinity j it is equally a.



164 An Examination of difficult Passages of Scripture*

difficulty on your theory. You will not understand me as
expressing mv views with great confidence in this case, birt
only as stating what appears to me most probable.

In the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Mosaic state of the
church appears to be called heaven, ch. xii. verse 26. The
Apostle was aiming to prove to the Hebrews the abolition
of the Mosaic rituals, by the coming and death of the Son
of God. For this purpose he quoted a prophecy, u Yet
once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven"
Upon which he observes, u And this word yet once more
signified* the removing of those things that are shaken ," &c.

The word heaven is here evidently used in reference to
that external state or order of the church which was estab-
lished by the ministry of Moses. That state was to be
shaken and removed by the coming and death of the Son of
God. And if we may suppose that John used the word
heaven in the same sense, will it not solve the difficulty,
and afford us a proper dividing line, as to time, between
the testifying of the first three and the second three f What
has already been brought into view of the testifying of the
Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, was during the
Mosaic state of the church, and ended with the abolition
of the Mosaic rites. These were the things which wej-e
concomitant with Christ's residence on earth, and necessa-
ry, at that period, to prove that he was the Son of God,
and had been sent into the world by God for the redemp-
tion of sinners. But when Christ had finished the work
which he was sent to do in this world, he ascended to glo-
ry, and sat down on the right hand of God. The door was
then open for the spread of the Gospel throughout all the
earth, and from that period the second triad of witnesses
may be supposed to bear witness.

The Father no more announces with an audible voice
from heaven, " This is my beloved Son." The Son no
more goes about personally announcing his own character.
But the Spirit of God still continues to testify, and was one
of the second triad, as well as of the first. As this had been
given without measure to Christ, as a testimony that he
was the Son of God ; so it was given to the Apostles by
measure, to prove the same thing ; and to prove, also, that
they were as really sent by Clirist as He had been sent by
the Father. And thus having the Spirit of God to perform
miracles, the Apostles were enabled to produce conviction



An Examination of difficult Passages of Scripture. 1GS-

of the truth and reality of the things which they testified,
concerning Jesus. And thus they were prepared to extend
the Gospel, and the church of God, among the heathen
nations. And not only was the Holy Spirit granted for
the purpose of miracles, but to convince the world of sin,
of righteousness, and of judgment ; and to extend the con-
quests of the Redeemer over the hearts of mtn, and to en-
large his Kingdom in the world. Miracles have, indeed,
ceased to be commoti in the church ; but the Holy Spirit
has, in other respects, been granted to the church fr^m
age to age ; and by it, the church is continued and kept
alive ; and will be so to the end of the world. And what
is done by the Spirit from age to age, is of the nauire of a
testimony that " Jesus is the Son of God," " that God has
given to us eternal life, and that this Ufe is in his Son "

But what are intended by the other two witnesses, the
Water and the Blood f

In the verse immediately preceding those under consid-
eration, John said of the Son of God, " This is he that
came by WATER and BLOOD /" not by Water only, but by
WATER and BLOOD. By the Blood, in this instance, is
undoubtedly intended his sufferings and death. And by
Water, may be intended the baptism of John, by which
the way of the Lord was prepared, and by which Christ
was solemnly inaugurated as the Great High Priest, and
the Envoy of Heaven to a sinful world.

On this important occas'on we have noted, that two ex-
traordinary events took place to confirm the truth that he
was the Son of God The voice from heaven, and the de-
scent of the Spirit of God.

By the Water and the Blood which bear witness, we
may then naturally understand the two sacraments of the
New Testament, BAPTISM and the LORD'S SUPPER ; the
one as a memorial that the Son of God came by WATER,
a d the other as a memorial that he came by BLOOD ; or, in.
other words, the one as a memorial of the solemn and pub-
lic inauguration, enduement, and annunciation of the MES-
SIAH ; and the other as a memorial of HIS DEATH, with the
concomitant events, by which it was evinced that he was
the Son of God and the Savior of the world.

Monuments or institutions, as memorials of extraordinary
events, are properly of the nature of witnesses, and are so
considered in the Scripture ; and they may be as properly



166 An Examination of difficult Passages of Scripture

adduced to prove th^ existence of the events of which they
are memorials, as the official records of a town clerk or ol
a secretary of state.

It is a common custom imong nations to erect monu-
ments, or to establish institutions, to perpetuate the memo-
ry of interesting events ; and this custom probably origin-
ated from Divine Example.

The Sabbath was first instituted as a memorial of God's
resting on the seventh day from the work of creation. In
the days of Moses, it was re-instituted not only as a memo-
rial of God's rest, but of the deliverance of the people of
Israel from their servitude in Egypt.

From the davs of the Apostles to the present time, the
first d?y of the week has been kept as a memorial of the res-
urrection of the Son of God.

The Passover was instituted as a memorial of one of the
most extraordinary events by which God delivered Israel
from the oppression of Pharaoh. The paschal Lamb was
a type of the LAMB OF GOD which was to come and be slain,
for the sins of the world. The Israelites, therefore, while
duly attending or. the Passover, naturally looked backward
to their redemption from Egyptian slavery, and forward
to the great Propitiation for the sins of the world. But
when the Savior had actually appeared, and had, by the
sacrifice of himself , made atonement for our sins, the Pass-
over was of course set aside, to give place to a memorial of
the antetype. Accordingly, the Lord's Supper was insti-
tuted as a memorial of the sufferings and death of the Mes-
siah, or of the Blood that was shed for the remission of
sins. This Sacrament is now a witness to the church, and
to the world, that God has given to us eternal life, and
that this life is in his Son, who died for our offences, and
was raised again for our justification.

As the Passover was an institution which connected the
redemption from Egypt with the death of the Messiah ; so
the Lord's Supper connects that period when Christ made
his soul an offering for sin, with that event when he shall
" come a second time without sin unto salvation"-" As oft
as ye do this, ye do show forth the LORD'S death till he cornel

God made a covenant with Abraham, in which he prom-
ised that in him and in his SEED all the families of the earth
should be blessed. This SEED was CHRIST. The event
of that covenant transaction was an extraordinary event>
and one which required a memorial. As a token or memo-



An Examination of difficult Passages of Scripture. 167

rial of this event, God instituted circumcision. This insti-
tution was not only calculated for a memorial of the past
event, but it was peculiarly adapted to tne purpose of keep-
ing alive, in the minds of Abraham's posterity, that the
Messiah was to be of the seed of Abraham according to the
flesh. At length the promised Messiah was born into the
world, and in due time he was publicly and solemnly in-
augurated ; and God himself attended thv ordination ; en-
dued him with his own Spirit, and by an audible voice from
his excellent glory proclaimed, " This is my belovrd Son,
in whom I am well pleased." No event, prior to this, had
been more worthy of a perpetual memoria 1 . Circumcision,
as it had respect to the coming of the Messiah according t9
the flesh, became improper to be continued in the church
after it had been, in this solemn manner, announced to the
world, that the promised seed had come, and had en-
tered on his arduous w>rk ; at least, after he had come and
fnished his' work on earth, it appears altogether suitable
that an institution, which had a particular reference to his
coming In the flesh, should be set aside, and give place to
a memorial of his having come by Water, or his having been

PUBLICLY INAUGURATED and ENDUED as the MESSIAH,

and publicly acknowledged by God as his Son, in whom
he was well pleased. Therefore, before the ascension of
our Lord, he instituted the ordinance of Baptism, to be
regarded as a public memorial in the church, and a stand"
Ing witness to the world, that God hath given to us eter-
nal life, and that this life is in his Son. Thus We have to
this day THREE that bear witness in earth, the SPIRIT, the
WATER, and the BLOOD.

These remarks, Sir, are not intended to imply any thing
against the hypothesis that circumcision in the flesh denot-
ed the necessity of the circumcision of the heart, nor that
baptism is an emblem of the washing of regeneration by the
Spirit of God. The theory now advanced, respecting bap-
tism, will rather support that hypothesis than militate
against it. For on that solemn occasion, of which it is
supposed baptism is the memorial, the Son of God was
endued with the Spirit, that he might baptize with the Ho-
ly Ghost, and that he might give repentance and remission
of sins unto Israel.

A part of what is contained in this Letter is designed to
prepare the way for the solution of a difficulty, which has



168 An Examination of difficult Passages of Scripture*

been supposed to arise from the language used in the Apos^
ties' commission ; to which some attention mav be paid in
the next Letter.

POSTSCRIPT.

It may be worthy of special noti-e, that the Sabbath, cir-
cumcision, the Passover, the Lord's day, and the Lord's
Sapper, have all been regarded as instituted memo rials of
interesting events. Is it not then reasonable to suppose
that baptism is a memorial of some extraordinary event ?
And what event is so likely to be the one, as that in which
the long expected Messiah was inaugurated and announced
to the world ? If this hvpothesis be correct, I do not see
how we could well spare the controverted texts.

LETTER VII.

The Apostles'* Commission considered.
REV. SIR,

AS was proposed in mv last Letter, the language of the
Apostles' commission, Matt, xxviii. IS, 19. shall now be
considered.

" And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All
power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye,
therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the
name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Ghost."

This text, Sir, has occasioned me more inquiry than
any other text in the Bible. And it becomes me not to be
confident that all mv inquiry has issued in obtaining the
ideas which Christ meant to express. But if there be no
failure in the attempt to prove that by the Holy Ghost is
not intended a distinct Person, it concerns you and others,
as much as it does me, to endeavor to obtain some mean-
ing to the text now before us, consistent v ith that idea of
the Spirit. Believing that point is established by the gen-
eral tenor of Scripture language, the result of my inquiries
respecting this text will now be submitted, hoping that if it
be erroneous, you may be able to detect my error.



An Examination of difficult Passages of Scripture. 169

That the text, as it stands in our translation, does very
naturally suggest the idea of baptizing by the authority of
three Persons, is admitted ; and of course it suggests the
idea that the Holy Spirit is a Person. But when this view
of the text is urged, with great confidence, as the only pos-
sible meaning, there r& perhaps one thing overlooked, which
ought to be considered ; and some things taken for granted)
which require proof that is not easily obtained.

In the verse already quoted, immediately preceding the
one so much relied on, Christ had said, " All power is
given unto me in heaven and earth." And what is here
asserted appears to be overlooked. It was, Sir, on this very
ground, that he added, u Go ye, therefore, into all the
world," &c. Now, if Christ had all authority in heaven,
and earth, his authority must have been sufficient for bap-
tizing in his own name, without connecting any other.
Nor does it appear very natural to suppose that Christ
would say to this effect, I have all authority ; go ye, there-
fore, and baptize by the joint authority of myself and tivo
other Persons. And has it not been also too much over-
looked, that we have no example for baptizing in an} other
name than that of the Lord Jesus ? If it be a matter of so
much moment as has been supposed, that baptism should
be adm nistered in the name of three Persons, is it not
somewhat extraordinary that we are not able co find so
much as one example of the Apostles to support the prac-
tice ?

But perhaps some things are taken for granted as well
as overlooked. The things which seem to have been taken
for granted, that require proof, are these

1. That the preposition, which is translated in, does
not mean into, to, or for

2. That the word name, unquestionably means au-
thority

3. That the design of Christ, in the passage, was to
show the authority by -which baptism is to be administered^
and not the END for -which it is to be administered.

Respecting the Greek preposition eis, you are doubtless
sensible that this is much more frequently translated into*
to, or for, than it is in. And had either of those words
been used in the text instead of in, this would have entire-
ly precluded the idea of baptizing by the authority of three
Persons.



170 An Examination of difficult Passages of Scripture.

And the word name is abundantly used in the Scriptures,
as of the same import as the word character .- it is also used
for renown, glory, or praise ; and it is^ometimes used as
of similar import with the word memorial. In one or other
of these senses, the word is used much more frequently
than as importing authority.

It is, Sir, my present opinion of the words in dispute,
that it was the design of Christ to express the OBJECT or
END for which, and not the AUTHORITY by which, baptism
is to be administered - r and that the preposition would be
more properly translated so as to read " to the name," or
" for the name," than " in the name."

Some reasons or analogies, to justify this explanation or
construction of the text T may now be stated.

1. This construction agrees with the character of the
Holy Spirit, as already illustrated from the general and
natural import of Scripture language-

2. This construction corresponds with the idea that bap-
tism is a standing witness and memorial in the church, that
the Son of God came by water, and was publicly inaugu-
rated, endued, and announced, as the promised Messiah,
the Son of God.

3. It agrees with the frequent use of the word name,
as signifying renown, glory, praise, or memorial.

When monuments are erected, or memorials instituted,
to perpetuate the memory of illustrious characters or illus-
trious events, renown, glory, and praise, are the object of
these memorials* When memorials are instituted to per-
petuate the memory of remarkable and distinguishing events
of divine providence, they are designed for the renown,
glory, and praise of God.

4. When, in the New Testament, any thing is said to
be done, or required to be done, for a witness, for a sign,
for a testimony, fora memorial, or to the glory, or to the
praise of God, this same preposition, eis, is used, and
translatedy^r or to. And can one instance to the contrary
be found in the New Testament ?. Some instances of each
will now be exhibited.

u There was a man came from God, whose name was-
John ; the same came for a witness" " And the Gospel
of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a
witness to all nations*"



An Examination of difficult Passages of Scripture. 171

" Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this Gospel shall
be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that
this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her."
u Thy prayers and thine alms are come up. for a memorial
before God."

u And whosoever will not receive you, nor hear you,
shake off the dust from under your feet, as a testimony
against them. And it shall turn to you for a testimony.'*
" Offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony
unto them."

" Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children
by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure
of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace." "And
that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father."

5. When any thing is represented as done in the name
of another, (and in the name certainly means by the au-
thority) a different preposition is usually, if not uniformly,
used iii the Greek.

W r hen Christ says, " I am coine in my Father's name"
and u the works that I do in my Father's name" the Greek
preposition en, not eis, is used. So likewise in this text,
" In my name they shall cast out devils," &r.

Accordingly the apostles performed miracles in the name
of Jems. Thus said Peter to the impotent man, " In the
name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk."
Thus Paul said to the spirit of divination, with which the
woman was possessed, ** I command thee, in the name of
Jesus Christ, to come out of her."

In the following instances, eis is used, " Where two or
three are gathered together in my name" u Baptized in
the name of the Lord Jesus"" Lest any should say, I
baptized in my own name" But in all these instances,
name may mean glory, and the translation might have been
for the name, that is, for the. glory or honor.

No reasonable objection, it is presumed, can be stated
against thus construing the text relative to the saints meet-
ing or gathering in Christ's name* Meetingyor his name,
or for his glory, would undoubtedly be as correct and as
striking an idea.

Nor is it at all unnatural to suppose, that Paul's fear was,
that it should be thought that he was seeking his own glory \
gn4 liot the glory of Christ. And is it not to be feared,



172 An Examination of difficult Passages of Scripture.

that some at this day do reallv haptizey^r their own name t
or their own glory or praise ?

It has indeed been observed, that we have no example
of the apostles' baptizing in any other name than that of the
Lord Jesus. And now it is not doubted, that they baptized
by the authority of the Lord Jesus ; yet that might not be
the meaning of the. phrase which is translated in the name
of the Lord Jesus. It might as naturally be for the name %
for the glory of the Lord Jesus. And to baptize for the
glory of the Lord Jesus, would amount to the same as bap-
tizingy^r a memorial rf what was done by the Father, the
S<m, and the Holy Spirit, to prove that he is the Son of
God and the Savior of the world.

In this text, u There are three that bear witness in the
earth, the Spirit, the Water, and the Blood, and the se
three agree in one," the same preposition eis is used. To
express the sense, the translators have inserted the verb
agree, which has no place in the original ; but had they
strictly regarded analogy, they might have expressed the
same idea as correctly, and perhaps more forcibly, by the
preposition only, " these three arejftr one," that is, for
one end, as testimony to prove that u God has given to us
eternal life, and this life is in his Son."

Thus, Sir, you have before you some of the analogies which
at least seem to justify me in supposing, that it was the
design of Christ, in the apostles' commission, to express
the END for -which, and not merely the AUTHORITY by
-which, baptism is to be administered. The AUTHORITY by
-which, is indeed expressed in the introductory words, u All
power is given unto me in heaven and earth ; go ye,
therefore y" but the clause in dispute appears to me not de-
signed to re-express the authority, but to show the END for
which baptism was instituted.

Can you, Sir, produce such analogies in support of the
common construction of this passage ? Can you produce
one analogy from the Bible which will justify you in saying
that this texf requires us to baptize by the authority of the
Holy Spirit as a distinct Person %

If the construction now given of the passage should be
admitted and adopted, it ould occasion no change in the
form of words to be used in baptizing, but simp'y that of
using to or for instead of in. The adoption would, how-
ever, open a door for much to be pertinently and profitably



An Examination of difficult Passages of Scripture. 173

said, respecting that momentous event in which the prom-
ised Messiah was publicly inaugurated, endued, and 'an*
nounced to the world as the SON OF GOD ; and the grace
and glory which was displayed on that memorable, occa-
sion.

In this inauguration we may contemplate a fulfilment of
what had heen promised and predicted, and also of what had
been typified in the manner in which Prophets, Priests,
and Kings, had been invested with their respective offices,
The holy oz/was poured on the heads of Prophets and
Kings, as an emblem of the Holy Spirit, with which the
M ssiah was to be endued. And Aaron was first -washed
with water, and then had the oil of consecration pouivrl on
his head, as the Son of God was first -washed or baptized^
and then endued with the Spirit of God. And if we may
connect, in one view, the Old and the New Testament
forms of inauguration or ordination ; in that event we may
behold the Messiah condescending to come to John, his
herald, to be "washed with water as Aaron was ; then we
behold him making his own ordination prayer ; and what
is still more august, we may behold the ETERNAL FATHER
performing the solemn rites of laying on of hands, and giving*
the Right Hand of Fellowship He first sent down his Zfo-
ly Spirit, which is often represented as his Hand ; this
abode on the Son ; then, with an audible voice, God pro.
claimed, in the ears of attending angels and men, u THIS

IS MY BELOVED SON, IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED."

A scene more august, and more expressive of GRACE and
LORY, had perhaps never been seen in heaven nor earth.

POSTSCRIPT.

LET it be distinctly understood, that the opinion, that
baptism was instituted as a memorial of the inauguration of
the Messiah, is not viewed by me as essential to the main
theory respecting the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The
opinion resulted from a serious inquiry into the meaning
of Christ's coming by Wuter, and of the Water's bearing
witness. It is proposed, for examination, as that which
appears to me probably true. But the main things had in
view do not depend on the correctness of that opinion. Va-
rious reasons may be given for the use of the terms Holy
Spirit, in the apostles' commission, which do not imply the



An Examination of difficult Passages of Scripture*

personality of the Spirit. But what, Sir, if no such reason
could be given by "me, or by yourself ?1 Shall one clause
of a text, of doubtful import, be admitted as proof of afact 9
in opposition to the general tenor of plain and inspired rep'
resentations f IV? ore, it is believed, than two hundred
times, the Holy Spirit of God is brought into view in the
Scriptures,in a manner which clearly conveys the idea,that,
by the Spirit, a self-existent Person is not intended. And
shall 072?, tivo, or three texts, which seem to favor your opin-
ion, be allowed more weight than two hundred others which
are clearly in opposition f Suppose, Sir, that after long
and laborious inquiry, I could obtain no satisfactory expo-
sition of the disputed clause in the apostles' commission,
which would accord with my present views of the Holy
Spirit ; and on that ground should give up the whole theo-
ry, and return to your doctrine of the Trinity ; what then
would be my situation ? I must cease to reflect, or must
take into view the numerous texts which naturally oppose
your idea of the Spirit, with the multitude which are op-
posed to the self-existence of the Son of God, and the many
thousands which distinctly represent Gpd as one Person


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Online LibraryNoah WorcesterBible news, of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit : in a series of letters. In four parts. I. On the unity of God. II. On the real divinity and glory of Christ. III. On the character of the Holy Spirit. IV. An examination of difficult passages of Scripture. The whole addressed to a worthy minister of → online text (page 16 of 19)