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16. But here ariseth a question, for he saith that they were only baptized into the name of Christ, and that therefore they had not as yet received the Holy Ghost; but baptism must either be in vain and without grace, or else it must have all the force which it hath from the Holy Ghost. In baptism we are washed from our sins; but Paul teacheth that our washing is the work of the Holy Ghost, (Titus 3:5.) The water used in baptism is a sign of the blood of Christ; but Peter saith, that it is the Spirit by whom we are washed with the blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:2.) Our old man is crucified in baptism, that we may be raised up unto newness of life, (Romans 6:6;) and whence cometh all this save only from the sanctification of the Spirit? And, finally, what shall remain in baptism if it be separate from the Spirit? (Galatians 3:27.) Therefore, we must not deny but that the Samaritans, who had put on Christ, indeed, in baptism, had also his Spirit given them; and surely Luke speaketh not in this place of the common grace of the Spirit, whereby God doth regenerate us, that we may be his children, but of those singular gifts wherewith God would have certain endued at the beginning of the gospel to beautify Christ’s kingdom. Thus must the words of John be understood, that the disciples had not the Spirit given them as yet, forasmuch as Christ was yet conversant in the world; not that they were altogether destitute of the Spirit, seeing that they had from the same both faith, and a godly desire to follow Christ; but because they were not furnished with those excellent gifts, wherein appeared afterwards greater glory of Christ’s kingdom. To conclude, forasmuch as the Samaritans were already endtied with the Spirit of adoptioni the excellent graces of the Spirit are heaped upon them, in which God showed to his Church, for a time as it were, the visible presence of his Spirit, that he might establish for ever the authority of his gospel, and also testify that his Spirit shall be always the governor and director of the faithful.
They were only baptized. We must not understand this as spoken contemptuously of baptism; but Luke’s meaning is, that they were only endued then with the grace of common adoption and regeneration, which is offered to all the godly in baptism. As for this, it was an extraordinary thing that certain should have the gifts of the Spirit given them, which might serve to set forth the kingdom of Christ and the glory of the gospel; for this was the use thereof, that every one might profit the Church according to the measure of his ability. We must note this, therefore, because, while the Papists will set up their feigned confirmation, they are not afraid to break out into this sacrilegious speech, that they are but half Christians upon whom the hands have not been as yet laid. This is not tolerable now because, whereas this was a sign which lasted only for a time, they made it a continual law in the Church, as if they had the Spirit in readiness to give to whomsoever they would. We know that when the testimony and pledge of God’s grace is set before us in vain, and without the thing itself, it is too filthy mockery; but even they themselves are enforced to grant that the Church was beautified for a time only with these gifts; whereupon it followeth that the laying on of hands which the apostles used had an end when the effect ceased. I omit that, that they added oil unto the laying on of hands, (Mark 6:13;) but this, as I have already said, was a point of too great boldness, to prescribe a perpetual law to the Church, that that might be a general sacrament, which was peculiarly used amongst the apostles, (Galatians 3:7; Romans 6:6;) that the sign might continue still after that the thing itself was ceased; and with this they joined detestable blasphemy, because they said that sins were only forgiven by baptism, and that the Spirit of regeneration is given by that rotten oil which they presumed to bring in without the Word of God. The Scripture doth testify that we put on Christ in baptism, and that we are engrafted into his body, that our old man may be crucified, and we renewed into righteousness. These sacrilegious robbers have translated that to adorn the false visor of their sacrament which they have taken from baptism. 516516 “Detracta baptismo spolia,” the spoils taken from baptism. Neither was this the invention of one man only, but the decree of one council, whereof they babble daily in all their schools.