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Archive for March, 2009

THE question, “What is Baptism,” lies entirely outside the province of this paper.  It is confined strictly to the question of the subjects of baptism.  By strict analysis its scope may be further limited; for all Christian bodies which practice baptism at all practice that of believers.  They all believe in that.  There is hearty agreement on that one point.  No body of Christians would reject a believer who applied for baptism, merely on the ground that he was a believer.  But while all such Christians believe in and practice the baptism of believers, some practice that kind of baptism only.  Others baptize believers and infants.  So the question becomes, not “Are believers proper subjects for baptism,” but “Are they the only proper subjects?”  In other words, are infants ever proper subjects?  That is the sole question now at issue.  In order to arrive at a correct conclusion in this matter, recourse must be had to the authority upon which baptism is based.  Why do we baptize any one?  Why practice the ordinance at all?  The sole authority for Christian baptism is found in the New Testament.  It is distinctly a New Testament ordinance.  I am not deciding offhand the much mooted question of proselyte baptism by the Jews before the Christian era.  If that ever existed, it was a different thing in essential particulars from the baptism of John, of Christ, and of the apostles.  So it is clear that baptism as a Christian ordinance is based solely upon the teaching of the New Testament.  The infallible and authoritative record of its nature, purposes, and subjects are to be found there and there only.

The supreme question, therefore, is “What does the New Testament say about infant baptism.”  Does it anywhere command it?  Is there any record of a solitary example of it?  Is there a plain allusion to it?  Is there a clear and conclusive inference for it in these records and writings of Christ and the apostles?

There is unquestionably much about believers’ baptism.  Faith and baptism are often connected; repentance and baptism stand together.  But is there anything said about infant baptism?  The plain answer to these questions is simply, no. There is not one solitary word in the whole Bible about infant baptism.  Emphasize that statement.  In all the Word of God, with its manifold commands and examples, and instructions, not so much as the mention of infant baptism is found nor even a plain inference for it.  It is simply a thing about which the Bible writers are unvaryingly silent.  It is hardly too much to say that it is a thing totally outside their experience.  In the discussion that has extended through the centuries, not one command, not one example, not one allusion, not one sound exegetical inference has been educed for infant baptism from the Word of God.  A wise teacher was wont to say that the passages relied on to support the practice of infant baptism are of three classes.  First, those which mention infants and do not mention baptism.  Second, those which mention baptism and do not mention infants.  Third, those which mention neither infants nor baptism.  An exhaustive study of God’s Word and Pedobaptist literature on this subject will clearly establish the fairness of this classification.

The truth is even stronger than has been stated.  Infant baptism is not only not sanctioned by the Word of God, it is actually incompatible with its plain teaching.  It is not only an extrascriptural practice, it is anti-scriptural.  The inferences often urged for infant baptism are rare, vague, attenuated, and baseless.  The inferences against it are numerous, logical, and irrefragable.  The admission of infant baptism destroys not only the order laid down in God’s Word, but it destroys the processes of discipleship.  Dr. E. C. Dargan truly says it is “opposed to the clear teaching of the Word, both by example and by precept.  It is out of tune with the great doctrines of the Scripture. It does not harmonize with the doctrine of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, with that of justification by faith alone, with that of the duty of repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, with that of the individual responsibility of each soul for its actions.  Again it is contrary to the general trend of Scripture teachings, and to the character of the New Testament religion.”  (Ecclesiology, p. 299.)

I am not called on to show just when or under what circumstances the practice originated.  My purpose is accomplished when it is shown that the practice has no basis in Scripture, but is on the other hand utterly contrary to it.  My contention is that it came not from God but from man.  The conditions out of which the practice sprang may readily be ascertained by an examination of the creed of the church that has longest practiced it.  That is the Catholic church beyond doubt.  And the reason it gives and has always given is that baptism is a saving sacrament.  This does not mean that all who practice infant baptism now, believe that a child is lost which does not receive it; it only means that the church which has practiced it the longest and from which other bodies received it, practices it as the effectual means of salvation.  The Catholic is at least consistent in his practice, though wrong in his premise.

Protestantism has been put to no little trouble to find a reasonable explanation for the practice, with the result that a variety of conclusions have been reached, many of them mutually destructive, and all of them inconsistent with Protestant principles.  It is not an illogical assumption, especially when every line of investigation leads to the same conclusion, to say that infant baptism, the fecund source of evil, is itself the offspring of that other evil, the doctrine of baptismal regeneration.  This practice having thus sprung up, nourished by the rich soil of superstition in which it had its roots, twined itself into the life and genius of the dominant church.  Having so much of emotional and aesthetic support, it is not strange that when its opponents attacked it, its friends sought a basis for it in the Word of God.  As the teachings of Scripture became better understood, those who believed in them as the supreme authority were forced to abandon the dogma of baptismal regeneration, and with the abandonment of that, the only logical basis for infant baptism was removed.  In their desperation, they fell back upon the Old Testament, and declared that baptism took the place of circumcision and therefore was to be administered to infants.  They seemingly forgot or ignored the inconvenient fact that Jesus, the apostles, and many of the early Jewish Christians were both circumcised and baptized; that as the Jews were the natural children of Abraham, so the Christians were children by faith, and that as the natural children were circumcised, so the children by faith are to be baptized, which would exclude infants.  They seemingly also overlooked the fact that not a word, not a hint is anywhere to be found that baptism is in lieu of circumcision, though, had it been so, various opportunities, almost necessities, arose for plainly declaring it.  The advocates of the circumcision theory of infant baptism make enormous drafts on Scriptural silence, and larger ones on willing credulity.

The limits of this paper forbid a detailed discussion of the various passages which have been used as proof-texts for infant baptism.  Those desiring conclusive answer to arguments based upon the coming of little children to Christ, to be blessed not baptized, the three cases of household baptism referred to in the New Testament, and other passages upon which Pedobaptists usually rely, are referred to Dr. Wilkinson’s “The Baptist Principle.”  It is one thing to found a practice upon Scripture and quite another thing to attempt to justify a practice by Scripture.  It is possible to find passages which, wrenched from their connection, may be bent and twisted to support, apparently, a preconceived theory; but such a process is not safe, and rarely if ever leads to truth.  For instance, the practice of infant baptism became established.  Its advocates have sought to justify it by Scripture.  But I dare say that were the practice not in existence no one having any claims to scholarship or any regard for his reputation as a scholar would seek to originate such a practice on the authority of Scripture.  The fact is that the proof-texts cited to support the practice when fairly and correctly interpreted, not only do not support but oppose it.

But infant baptism is not only extra-scriptural and anti-scriptural-it has been the open door through which the most hurtful and deadly evils have entered among Christians.  It will not do to say that it is, at least, a harmless practice.  History clearly proves that it not only does no good, but that it has worked untold injury.  Dr. Wilkinson in his admirable book, above referred to, shows conclusively that without infant baptism, or some such equivalent, the papacy in its historic form could never have existed.  The papacy was possible only as it discarded believers’ baptism.  It built itself on the wreck of the true teaching of the Word of God.  Look at the spiritual dearth and death wrought by the Catholic church.  Read its history of perversion, superstition, inquisition, assassination, moral and intellectual slavery and degradation, and remembering that it would have been logically and utterly impossible but for the departure from believers’ and the substitution of infants’ baptism, and answer if this unscriptural innovation is harmless.  Furthermore, the thing that has given the deadliest blow to spirituality and freedom, after the papacy, has been the so-called state churches.  They have been an attempt to divorce the Bride from her Bridegroom and pledge her at the altar of earthly power.  And the corner stone of state churches is infant baptism.  No state church has ever been attempted without it; none could be perpetuated but for it.  And the history of state churches wherever they were not affected by the leaven of non-conformity, has been one of spiritual decay and death.

Further, infant baptism has constantly tended to the breaking down of barriers between the church and the world.  It has obscured the spiritual and emphasized the ceremonial element in religion.  It has lost sight of regeneration as an act of the Holy Spirit, and has substituted the deadly dogma of baptismal regeneration.  It has substituted a human sentiment and expedient for an inspired command.  It has discarded the spiritual conditions demanded of subjects in the days of the apostles and has thus destroyed the spiritual import of the ordinance.  Infant baptism can by no possible interpretation be called obeying the command, “be baptized.”  And so it happens when one who has been baptized in infancy comes to accountability and exercises personal faith in Christ, he finds a barrier across the path of obedience when he desires to take the next step.  He can not obey Christ in baptism because of something that was done to him in his unconscious infancy.  The result is that he must suppress conviction of duty, or break with the church of his parents.  God knows how many a Pedobaptist heart is the grave of a suppressed conviction of duty to obey Christ in baptism.

It can not be urged that baptism is a consecration of the child to God.  Baptist parents as truly consecrate their children to God as do others.  Baptism is a voluntary consecration of self to God, and infant baptism never can be that.  Infant baptism is a species of will worship.  It attempts to improve on the divine order.  It introduces the element of religion by proxy, and thus lifts the emphasis from individual responsibility.  It tends to a fatal dependence upon ceremony instead of a safe reliance upon personal obedience to Christ.  It is a fearful responsibility, whether assumed by a church or by an individual, to take from or add to the instructions left us in the Word of God.  It is a piece of unparalleled presumption to essay to improve on the divine order and harmony of the teachings of Christ.  One inconsistency in the interpretation of God’s Word and our duty easily begets another.  There are many members of Pedobaptist churches who neither believe in nor practice infant baptism.  They admit that it is unscriptural and subversive of genuine obedience.  Yet they remain members of churches that stand for it, inculcate it, and practice it.  In other words, they give their lives to the support and perpetuation of what they confess is unscriptural and injurious.  Possibly should a Baptist say anything to them they would reply by some allusion to “close communion,” forgetting that infant baptism is at bottom largely responsible for close communion.  The latter is largely a protest against the former.  The doom of infant baptism is the death knell of sprinkling and pouring; and when these pass away, close communion will for the most part pass with them; so that the people who thus act are supporting a practice in which they do not believe and which in turn is chiefly responsible for a practice in which they do not believe.  And thus they are doubly inconsistent.  Remove the offense and the protest is removed.  But as long as infant baptism continues, loyalty to God will set up a protest.

Let us come back to the sound principle of obedience to Christ.  It is always safe to follow him.  It is never safe to turn aside from the path marked by his blessed feet.  We do not acknowledge history or tradition, sentiment or esthetics, church or prelate as our master in things spiritual; “One is our Master” and He has said, “Follow me.”  It is his to direct, it is ours to obey.

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This is an older post, but it is directly related to the recent discussion over whether or not infant baptism is sin.  Dr. Barber’s post is a succinct and pithy statement of the issue.  An long and profitable discussion of this issue followed in the comments as well.  Dr. Greg Welty linked to several of his comments in the thread here.

For those who are of the opinion that so called “Baptist Identity” leaders have no interest in cooperating with Calvinists in a Great Commission Resurgence, (or in general) I commend The Barber Plan for Peace to your reading.

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Chapter 7:  Why Baptist and Not Campbellite

THE word Campbellite is not intended to be used in this article in any offensive sense, but to designate the followers of Alexander Campbell, sometimes called Christians, or Disciples, or Reformers, or by various other names.  The name Campbellite, however, is the only name by which they are universally recognized, and the only one without ambiguity.

The question might be answered in one word by saying, I am a Baptist and not a Campbellite because a follower of John the Baptist, or rather of John the Baptist’s Master, and not of Alexander Campbell.  Or theologically I am a Baptist and not a Campbellite because I am a Paulinist, and not a Socinian.  The Paulinist believes that at birth man is depraved, unable to save himself and condemned; that all sinned by having part in the sin of Adam; that Adam’s sin and our depravity and our own sins are all imputed to us; that we are saved by Christ’s work, through faith in him.  The Socinian says that man is innocent and able to obey God; that all sinned simply by following Adam’s example; that only a person’s own sins are imputed to him; and that we are saved by following Christ’s example.

In other words the religion of the Baptist is an inward, spiritual religion, that of the Campbellite an external, formal, mechanical religion.  Between them there is the difference of the poles.  People sometimes say that Baptists and Campbellites are so near together that they ought to unite.  As a matter of fact, there are no two denominations on the face of the globe farther apart.  There is absolutely only one point of agreement between them, and that is the form of baptism, the outward observance of the ordinance.  They differ in every other respect.

1. I am a Baptist and not a Campbellite because the Campbellite says that sin is on the outside, in the word, the act.  The Baptist says it is on the inside, in the heart.  The Campbellite says that sin consists only of personal sins, while the Baptist says it consists (1) Of the guilt of Adam’s sin imputed to us because he was the representative head of the race, and when he sinned all sinned.  (2) Of depraved dispositions of the soul, resulting from this sin of Adam which has descended to us by inheritance.  (3) Of personal sins resulting from this depravity.  The Scriptures describe a man not only as a sinner but sinful, not only committing personal sins, but his whole nature corrupt, “shapen in iniquity,” “conceived in sin,” “with no good thing dwelling in him,” “carnally minded,” instead of “spiritually minded,” “at enmity with God,” “not subject to the law of God,” “neither indeed can be” subject to it in his present state, “by nature a child of wrath,” “dead in trespasses and in sins.”

2. The Campbellite says that the Holy Spirit dwells in the Word and does not operate apart from the Word.  The Baptist says that the Holy Spirit is a living, breathing personality, not a thing, that the Word is only the sword of the Spirit, the instrument with which He operates, but that the Spirit is separate from and back of the Word, as the soldier is separate from and back of the sword.

3. The Campbellite says that regeneration is simply a reformation of the outward life, expressed especially in the act of baptism.  Mr. Campbell himself said that “regeneration is equivalent to immersion.”  The Baptist says that regeneration is a change in the dispositions of the soul wrought by the Holy Spirit through repentance and faith.  If the person’s heart is depraved, as the Baptist believes, and as the Scriptures describe it in the passages quoted above, then reforming that man is like cutting down the shoots of a tree.  Others will immediately grow out again.  Or to use a Scripture illustration, homely but expressive, it is like washing the sow.  As soon as she comes to another mud hole, she will rush into it and be as muddy as ever.  What is needed is to cut up the roots, and not simply to cut down the shoots, of the tree; to change the nature of the sow so that she will not love to go into the mud holes.  In short, it is regeneration, not reformation the person needs; revolution not evolution.  Evolution means only carrying him farther in the direction in which he is going.  Revolution means turning him back and starting him over again.

4. The Campbellite believes that repentance is a mere change of mind, an outward reformation.  The Baptist believes that repentance is the result of a godly sorrow which leads to a change of mind and involves a change of care, of purpose, and so eventuates in a change of life.

5. The Campbellite says that faith is simply a “condition of the mind founded on evidence,” that it is a mere historical belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  The Baptist says that faith means:  I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; I believe that he came into the world to save sinners; I believe that he is able and willing and ready to save sinners.  It means all that, but it means one step more than that.  It means, Lord, I am a sinner and I take thee for my Savior.  A personal trust in Christ as a personal Savior – that is its essential meaning.

6. The Campbellite reverses the order in which these two come.  He puts faith before repentance.  And with his views of faith as an intellectual assent, and of repentance as a mere outward reformation, this is natural.  But to the Baptist, to whom repentance and faith strike far deeper, to whom they are inward and spiritual, not outward and mechanical, to whom they are intense exercises of the soul, not mere acts-to the Baptist it is an utter absurdity and an absolute impossibility that faith should come before repentance.  I am talking, of course, about saving faith and saving repentance; repentance and faith in the plan of salvation.  Without repentance, until the person has experienced a sorrow for his sins which has led to a change of mind, he will not want a Savior, he will feel no need of him.  No one will send for a physician until he is sick, and realizes his sickness.  But a stronger reason than this why repentance precedes faith is found in the fact that whenever in the New Testament the two are mentioned together the order is invariably repentance first, and faith second.  This surely was no accident.

7. The Campbellite does not believe in an “experience of grace” in the heart.  He makes fun of such a thing.  It might seem unkind to suggest that the reason he does not believe in it is because he has never had such an experience himself.  But as a matter of fact, he does not profess ever to have had it.  It is not in his system of theology, and not in accordance with that system.  He is simply consistent with his belief that religion is an outward, mechanical thing-a matter of deeds, and not a matter of the heart.

But when a Baptist hears any one say that there is no such thing as an experience of grace, he always feels like replying as the old negro did to his master who said that there is no such thing as religion.  The negro answered, “Master, don’t say there ain’t no such thing as religion; say, not as you knows on.”

The Baptist knows there is such a thing as an experience of grace.  He has felt it.  To him it is real, deeply, intensely real.  He can tell you the day his soul was born from above by the power of the Holy Spirit through repentance for his sins and faith in the Savior, more certainly that he can tell you the day of his natural birth.  It is an event to him even more distinct, as well as more important, than the birth of his body.  He remembers the very time and place when it occurred.  He remembers how, when under conviction by the Holy Spirit, he cried out in the agony of his soul, as he felt himself sinking in the waves of sin, “Lord, save, I perish;” and how the Savior reached forth his hand and helped him up.  He remembers how, when the Master came on board his little boat, the waves of sorrow in his tempest tossed soul subsided into a beautiful quiet, and there was a great calm.

He will never forget the ecstacy of that moment, the thrill of joy which ran through him, and set all the bells within his soul ringing in harmony with the bells of heaven.  You need not talk to him about there being no such thing as an experience of grace.  He has had one-if he is a Baptist at all-and he knows there is.  He has had it.  He has it now.

8. The Campbellite baptizes in the same way the Baptist does-by immersion.  But the resemblance stops with the outward form.  The design of the ordinance is utterly different with the two peoples.  The Campbellite says that baptism is for (in order to) the remission of past sins.  He makes baptism a part of the plan of salvation, without which there is no salvation.  The Baptist says that baptism is simply a picture, an object lesson expressing outwardly the inward experience of grace which had taken place in the heart.  As the person is buried in the water and then is raised up again, this act, the Baptist believes, symbolizes the death and the resurrection of Jesus and also his own death to sin and his resurrection to a new life, the life of faith.  In other words, baptism simply typifies in outward act the repentance for sin and the faith in Christ which the soul had experienced in being saved.  In language more eloquent than human tongue could frame it tells these facts to the world.  To make it a part of the plan of salvation is to rob it of all its significance and beauty, and to make it only a cold mechanical form.

The Baptist draws the line of salvation at faith and not at baptism.  He says that when the person has repented of his sins and believes on Christ as his personal Savior, he is saved from all sins, and all the powers of earth and all the devils in hell can not prevent his being saved.  To make baptism a part of the plan of salvation is to make salvation partly spiritual and partly material, partly inward and partly outward, partly dependent upon God, partly upon yourself, and largely upon a third person.  Thank God, salvation is a matter to be settled simply between the soul and its Savior, without the intervention of any third party or the manipulation of priestly hands.

9. Nor does it help matters any to say, as some Campbellites say, that salvation is a matter of obedience to God’s commands, and obedience is essential to salvation.  If we must obey in any respect in order to be saved, we must obey in every respect.  If a person starts out on that line, of saving himself by his own obedience, he can not stop at one point.  He must go the whole way.  “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.” “He that keepeth the whole law and yet offendeth in one point is guilty of the whole.”  It was exactly because we did not and could not obey, because we were sinners, guilty and helpless, that it became necessary for Christ to come and die for us.  If we must obey now there was no use for his coming.  To say that he came to make it possible for us to obey is sheer nonsense.  It is not our obedience but Christ’s that saves.  Listen:  “For as by the disobedience of one (Adam) many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one”-of one, of one, of ONE, and that one Christ Jesus-“shall many be made righteous.”  We obey not in order to be saved but because we are saved.  Our obedience is not that of the slave, but of the child. It springs not from fear but from love and gratitude.  This is what the Baptist believes.

10. It is only another phase of the same idea as the preceding to say, as the Campbellite does, that salvation is a matter of works.  They quote over and over again the saying of James, “Faith without works is dead,” and they proceed immediately to apply it to one work, baptism, forgetting that the word is in the plural not the singular, and means all kinds of works.

There is the same idea in this verse as in the expression of our Savior, “By their fruits ye shall know them.”  The fruits don’t make the tree.  They show the tree.  The works don’t make the Christian.  They show the Christian.  Faith is the root and works the fruit.  But the life is in the root.  The fruit is only the outcome, the expression, the flowering out of that life.

Faith is the cause and works the effect; faith the antecedent and works the consequent; faith the engine and works the train of cars.  This is the Baptist position.  Between that and the Campbellite position there is an infinity of distance.

11. With the views indicated above it is perfectly natural that the Campbellite should believe in falling from grace.  It is thoroughly in accord with his whole system of doctrines.  If sin is only an outward act; if the Holy Spirit does not operate on the heart; if regeneration is simply the conformity to a ceremony; if repentance is only a reformation; if faith is merely a “condition of the mind founded on evidence;” if there is no such thing as an experience of grace in the heart; if salvation is only the observance of a ceremony, or a question of obedience to the law, or of works; if it is all a matter of externalities; in a word, if it depends entirely upon the person whether he shall get salvation or not, then it will depend on him whether he shall lose it.  But if sin is in the heart; if the Holy Spirit operates upon the heart by His convicting and converting power; if regeneration is a change in the dispositions of the soul wrought by the Holy Spirit, through faith in Christ; if repentance is the result of a godly sorrow for sin; if faith is a personal trust in a personal Savior; if the line of salvation is drawn at faith; if baptism is only the outward figurative expression of the inward experience of grace; if obedience is the result of, and not the cause of salvation; if works are the fruit of faith -in short, if a person’s salvation is not a matter of acts but goes deep down into his soul and involves a change so complete as to be called a new birth, the birth of the soul, then he can not lose it. What is born can not be unborn.  If salvation depends not upon the person himself but on God, then God will see that he does not lose it.

It depends on who saves.  If the person saves himself he can lose his salvation.  If God saves him, God will keep him.  Baptists believe with Peter that “We are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed at the last day.”

12. The church polity of the Campbellite is a presbyterial form of government; that of the Baptist congregational.  One is a government by ruling elders, the other by the congregation. One is an oligarchy, the other a democracy.

From the above statement of the differences between Baptists and Campbellites, which I have tried to make as fair and comprehensive as possible within the limited space allotted me, it will be seen how wide the differences are, and how utterly irreconcilable.  Talk about Baptists and Campbellites uniting!  You may as well talk about the union of oil and water, or of the east with the west, or of the north pole with the south pole.

And this is the reason why I am a Baptist and not a Campbellite.

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No, says Andrew Lih, the author of a new book about Wikipedia.

I use the site often and think it can be helpful provided that one understands the nature and limitations of it.  Some articles obviously are much more useful than others, and it’s not the last word on any subject.

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Chapter 6:  Why Baptist and Not Presbyterian

MY ancestors for several generations, on both the paternal and maternal sides, being Baptists, I was born and reared in that communion.  What originally came to me by heredity, early impressions, and training, I now hold to by the convictions of judgment and experience, after years of as careful and impartial study of the New Testament as I am capable of making.

Being a pronounced Baptist, and in thorough accord with my great denomination in its doctrines, practices, and polity, it follows that I could not be identified with the Presbyterians without doing violence to my conscience and disregarding what I believe to be the plain and authoritative teaching of the Scriptures.

And yet it is but simple justice to the Presbyterians to say that there are many of their beliefs and practices which entitle them to my highest respect, warmest admiration and brotherly love.  Concerning what are called the doctrines of divine grace, the Baptists and Presbyterians are perhaps nearer agreed in their beliefs than any other large and distinct Protestant denominations.  The soundness of their views concerning these doctrines of grace, their intelligence, the prominent part they have taken in higher education, their reverence for God’s word, their strict observance of the Sabbath, their fervent piety and consistent Christian living, call forth the praise and admiration of every true Baptist.  While I would not dim the lustre of a single star that shines in the crown which they so worthily wear, yet I could not be a Presbyterian for many reasons, some of which I now proceed to point out.

1. Because of their teachings and practices respecting the ordinance of baptism, both as to mode and subjects. While the Baptists hold that, according to New Testament teaching, nothing but the immersion of a professed believer in Christ in water into the name of the Holy Trinity constitutes Christian baptism, the Presbyterians not only practice sprinkling for baptism, but they go so far as to declare that immersion is unscriptural and no baptism at all.  In the proceedings of the General Assembly which met in Nashville in May, 1894, on page 197, there is this minute:  “An overture from a number of persons asking whether in the discretion granted to the sessions to receive members from evangelical immersion churches, it is intended to admit immersion to be the Scriptural mode of baptism,” the following was given for answer:  “Baptism by immersion is not Scriptural as to its mode, but the irregularity of this unscriptural mode does not invalidate the sacred ordinance, and persons who have been baptized by immersion, by the authority of an evangelical church, are not required to be rebaptized by the Scriptural mode of sprinkling or pouring when received into the communion of our church.”

By this deliverance our Presbyterian brethren not only put themselves in direct antagonism with the Baptists, but with all other Protestant denominations who acknowledge the scripturalness of immersion, and admit that it was the primitive mode of baptism.  And they show an unaccountable inconsistency when they declare that “baptism by immersion is not Scriptural,” and yet it is to be recognized as valid when an immersed person seeks membership in a Presbyterian church.

2. Again, our Presbyterian brethren are as much in error as to the proper subjects of baptism as they are in regard to the mode.  While the Baptists maintain that the Scriptures clearly teach that only believers are proper subjects for baptism, they hold that unbelieving and unconscious infants are proper subjects for the ordinance.

Dr. Hodge, in his “Outline of Theology” (p. 419), says “the proper subjects of baptism are all those, and those only, who are members of the visible church. These are, first, they who make a credible profession of faith, and secondly, the children of one or both believing parents.”

In the “Book of Church Order,” adopted by the General Assembly of 1879, on page 10, is the following:  “The infant seed of believers are through the covenant and by right of birth members of the church. Hence they are entitled to baptism.”  While such is the teaching of Presbyterianism, the Baptists hold that there is no scriptural warrant for believing that there can be inherited goodness or right or title to the ordinances or church privileges; but that all are alike born in sin, and each for himself must repent of sin on reaching the years of accountability, believe on Christ, and voluntarily submit to the ordinance of baptism.

3. I am a Baptist and not a Presbyterian because I believe the latter are unscriptural in their beliefs and practices concerning the Lord’s Supper.  While the former believe that only baptized believers are entitled to partake of that ordinance, baptism being a scriptural prerequisite, the latter administer the communion not only to persons that they do not consider scripturally baptized, but to persons who make no profession of faith.  Dr. Hodge says in his book already referred to, on page 513, “What do our authorities teach as to the qualifications to the Lord’s Supper?  Children born within the pale of the visible church and dedicated to God in baptism, when they come to years of discretion, if they be free from scandal and appear sober and steady, and to have sufficient knowledge to discern the Lord’s body, ought to be informed that it is their duty and privilege to come to the Lord’s Supper.”

4. I am a Baptist and not a Presbyterian because I believe the views and practices of the latter are unscriptural concerning church membership, government, and polity.  While the Baptists maintain that only baptized believers are proper subjects for church membership, the Presbyterians, in common with other Pedobaptist denominations, claim that “all children baptized in infancy are already members of the church.”  In the “Book of Church Order,” on page 6, it is said, “The visible church consists of all those who make a profession of true religion, together with their children.”  While the Baptists maintain that the New Testament teaches that the local church is a voluntary assembly of baptized believers, organized for the worship and service of God; that each church is independent of every other church; that her government is democratic or congregational; that she is only subject to Christ as her Head and Lawgiver, and his word is the sole authority in the matters of faith and practice, government and polity; the Presbyterian church adopts the presbyterial form of government, or an ecclesiastical government by presbyters, and that the local churches are subject to ecclesiastical bodies, legislative and judicial.

The distinguished Dr. Cuyler, in an article in the Treasury, July 1897, entitled, “Why am I a Presbyterian,” says:  “Our normal legislative body and the fountain head of ecclesiastical authority is the Presbytery, which consists of all the ministers and one ruling elder within a certain district.  The General Assembly is our highest judicial body and represents all the Presbyteries; but it has no legislative powers, for every new law or change in the constitution must be submitted to the different Presbyteries, and a majority of them is required to order its adoption.”  Here, by very high authority, is recognized the authority and binding force of ecclesiastical legislatures and courts in the government and polity of the churches.  The Baptists, on the other hand, acknowledge no authority over the local churches save Christ, who is head over all things to the church.  They found their claims on the New Testament alone, and they have no other authority, creed, or confession, that is binding upon them.  So strong is the form of presbyterial government that they declare that “no minister shall receive a call from a church but by the permission of a Presbytery.”  No pastoral relation can be formed or broken except by the consent and action of the Presbytery, and so they deny the independence of the local church and her right to self-government.

5. I am a Baptist and not a Presbyterian because of our widely-differing views about a call to the ministry and the scriptural qualifications of a minister of Christ.  The Baptists believe in a divine call to the ministry, and that the prescribed qualifications for this office are piety and experimental knowledge of gospel truth, an aptness to teach, and a burning desire for the salvation of souls and the glory of God.  While we believe in an educated ministry, as far as possible, and encourage learning, we feel we have no right to prescribe a certain amount of learning before we will recognize a divine call to the ministry.

In their “Book of Church Orders,” on the subject of ordination, the Presbyterians say:  “It is recommended that the candidate be required to produce a diploma of Bachelor or Master of Arts from some college or university; or at least authentic testimonials of his having gone through a regular course of learning.  The Presbytery shall try each candidate as to his knowledge of the Latin language and the original languages of the Holy Scriptures (Hebrew and Greek).  It shall also examine him on mental philosophy, logic, and rhetoric; on ethics; on the natural and exact sciences; on theology, natural and revealed; on ecclesiastical history, the sacraments and church government.  Moreover, the Presbytery shall require of him a discussion in Latin, of a thesis on some common head in divinity.” (See page 49.)

While the Baptists in many ways have shown that they value and have striven to promote the education of the ministry, they have never been disposed to confine the office to those who have passed through a prescribed course of study.  They believe that God calls men into the ministry who have not had, and can not obtain, opportunity of a regular classical education.  And they believe that the only test which the churches ought to apply is that laid down in the New Testament.  For their course in this matter they have the example and teaching of our Lord and his apostles.

While we have a profound respect for the ministry of the Presbyterian church, we inquire, what would have become of the masses of the people in America if all the other denominations had done as they have done with reference to the ministry?  Had it not been for the great Baptist and Methodist Bodies, and some others like them, who have encouraged men called of God to preach who have been comparatively destitute of a liberal education, what would have become of the masses of the people?  Let him called of God to preach be encouraged and recognized in his work, though he may not be a Latin, Greek and Hebrew scholar.  Our Lord chose the uncultured fishermen to be the first heralds of salvation to a lost world.  If a man is pious, and has an aptness to teach, and feels called of God to preach, encourage him to preach and win as many souls as he can to Christ.

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Chapter 5:  Why Baptist and Not Methodist

The differences and distinctions between the Baptists and the Methodists are sufficiently numerous and radical to make it necessary and possible for one to tell why he is the one and not the other.  The object of this paper is to give some reasons why I am a Baptist and not a Methodist.  The differences between these respective organizations are both Ecclesiastical and Doctrinal.

I. ECCLESIASTICAL.

1. The constituency of the organisation. The Methodists hold that not only penitent believers are to compose the church but those who have a desire to be saved, a willingness to be saved, are likewise entitled to membership.  That this is their position is so generally understood as to make it unnecessary to quote any special authority as proof. Unconverted persons are urged to join the church as a means of grace, a means of conversion.

I am a Baptist and not a Methodist because I believe the New Testament teaches that a scriptural church is composed exclusively of regenerate persons, or what in effect is the same, penitent believers.  This is manifest from two considerations: (a) The first duty required by Jesus and the apostles was repentance and faith. The exercise of these is the beginning of that new relation and life which marks the distinction between the Christian and the non-christian, the saved and the lost, the spiritually dead and spiritually alive.  These are attendant upon regeneration by the Spirit and are its first fruits.  So Jesus told Nicodemus he must be born from above, born of the Spirit.  But he likewise said that God gave his Son, that whosoever believed in him should have everlasting life.  The penitent believer is therefore “born from above,” “born of God,” “born of the Spirit,” and is saved.  This new birth and its accompanying expressions of faith and repentance are indispensable to admission into the kingdom of God and to salvation.  Jesus taught his disciples that they were in the kingdom and in a state of salvation.  Whatever organization he left as a church, was composed of these renewed and penitent believers.  The preaching of the apostles after his ascension required repentance and faith as one of the indispensable conditions to membership and fellowship with the one hundred and twenty whom Jesus left as his representatives and church in inchoate form.

(b) Again, the Epistles show that the New Testament churches were composed of those who had been renewed in their minds, raised up with Christ, passed from death unto life. The church at Rome was composed of the called of Jesus Christ – those who were dead to sin and alive to Christ and in Christ.  The church at Corinth are the sanctified in Christ Jesus called to be saints.  The churches of Galatia began in the Spirit, being called in the grace of Christ.  The church of Ephesus “heard the word of the truth of the gospel and were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise;” once aliens and now brought nigh by the blood of Christ; they are of the household of God.  The same characteristics attached to the church at Philippi, at Colosse, and Thessalonica; likewise of those Peter addressed, and all the rest.  The Baptists are loyal to God’s word in this respect.  They admit none to membership in a church except those who claim to be penitently trusting Jesus Christ for salvation, and who give credible evidence of renewal by the Holy Spirit.  But the Methodists admit any who express a desire to be saved.  Repentance and faith are not made conditions to church membership.  I am not and can not be a Methodist, since I can not willfully disregard the plain teaching of the New Testament in a matter so vital.

2. The Ordinance of Baptism. Baptism, according to New Testament teaching, is the immersion of a penitent believer in the name of the Holy Trinity, (a) That baptism was by immersion is manifest. It is shown (1) by the meaning of the word Baptiso, expressive of the act commanded.  (2) The accounts of its observance as recorded in the New Testament.  (3) The symbolism of the ordinance.  (4) The testimony of competent authorities of all denominations.  (5)  The question as to the mode of New Testament baptism is now almost entirely relegated from the realm of debate.  (6) That all who were members of the Apostolic churches were baptised believers is too clear to admit of denial.  Baptism was the divinely prescribed method of confessing Christ.  It was the first response of the renewed soul to the authority of the ascended Lord.

(1) Peter required baptism on the day of Pentecost. Acts 2:38, “And Peter said unto them, repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins.” Verse 41, “They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about three thousands souls.” (2) Philip baptized the eunuch. Acts 8:36-38, “And the eunuch saith, Behold, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? …. and they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.” (3) Cornelius was baptized. Acts 10:48, “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”  Paul was baptized. Acts 9:18, “And he received his sight forthwith, and he arose, and was baptized.”  (4) The Philippian jailer was baptized. Acts 16:33, “And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, immediately.”  (5) The members of the churches in Rome and Colosse and Corinth were baptized believers. Rom. 6:3, “Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death.” Col. 2:12, “Having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.”  I Cor. 12:13, “For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body.”

Since baptism is immersion and nothing else in the New Testament I could not be a Methodist.  They sprinkle and pour for baptism, thus substituting a meaningless form for the sacred rite which our Lord commanded to be observed for all time.  I could not be loyal to God’s Word and lend myself to an organization which prides itself in a constant violation of Scriptural teaching.

(c) But since immersion only is New Testament baptism, and since only penitent believers are Scriptural subjects for baptism, infant baptism is unwarranted by the word of God and fraught with evil.

That there is Scriptural precept or example for infant baptism no one has ever been able to show, and that there is prima facie evidence against it is as plain as the noonday’s sun.  (1) There is no mention of the baptism of infants. (2) There is not one single passage from which the practice can be securely inferred.  (3) The requirements of repentance and faith as conditions to baptism forever preclude the baptism of infants.  (4) The sanctity of individualism as taught in the New Testament, making the individual soul responsible to his Lord, makes infant baptism an impossible thing. The writer was christened a Methodist in infancy, by a Methodist preacher.  When he grew almost to young manhood he made a profession of faith in Christ, wished to be baptized, not only as a personal duty, but as a joyous privilege, but he was informed by the Methodist pastor he had been baptized in infancy and that he would not repeat the act.  The writer then and there felt his parents had usurped a personal right and privilege; that he was forced to accept what had been done by proxy for him, which he and he alone had the right to do, or was under obligation to do.  The sacredness of his personal relation to his Saviour and Master had been tampered with. He was forced to break either with the Methodist church and disregard the christening which his parents had effected for him, or he must stultify his own conscience, and throw to the winds his convictions as to duty in a matter of such vital importance.  He broke with the Methodists.  I am a Baptist and not a Methodist, therefore, because I believe the Methodist’s views and practice of the sacred rite of baptism, both as to the subjects and mode, are utterly without Scriptural warrant, contravening the precepts, example and Spirit of New Testament teaching.

3. The Church Polity, (1) That the churches of New Testament times had some uniform polity must appear reasonable to all.  Since the form of church government is so intimately related to the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel, as history has proved, it is hardly conceivable that Christ would have left his followers without some form of government by which to regulate their affairs in a corporate capacity.

That form of church polity which would best emphasize the absolute and exclusive rulership of Jesus Christ over each individual believer, as responsible to him, would be the only consistent one, since Jesus Christ would not authorize a form of church government which would forbid the individual believer’s being individually loyal to his king.

(2) The New Testament teaching and church organization and life in apostolic times shows that the churches were autonomous.  Each church controlled its own affairs.  Every member was on equality with every other.  Each was animated by the Spirit and united to Christ and responsible to the Master.  The Holy Spirit creates and operates the church by renewing each individual member, and the mind of the Spirit is made known through each individual composing the organization, and not through a ministerial or priestly episcopal class, who are set up to govern the church of churches.  That the apostolic churches were autonomous, or self-governing, is made to appear from several considerations, (a) They received members into their fellowship.  (b) They excluded members from their fellowship.   The disciples had the power to receive or reject Paul; at Rome they were commanded to receive him that is weak in faith.  The Corinthian church was censured for retaining the incestuous young man, and was charged with the responsibility of his expulsion, afterwards of his restoration.  The Thessalonian church was instructed to withdraw from every brother walking disorderly.  The action of a local church was final in dealing with an offending brother, (c) The churches elected their own deacons, pastors, agents, missionaries and messengers to advisory bodies.  There is not the slightest indication in the New Testament that there was a ruling class in the apostolic churches, whose function and duty it was to regulate the affairs of the church. The ruling function belonged to the body as a whole.  The Holy Spirit created no autocracy in the person of certain individuals, but a democracy, pure and simple.  The Methodists deny that there was any uniformity in the government of the New Testament churches, or that any form of government therein practiced is of any binding force. They insist that conditions must determine the form of government, and not New Testament precedent or practice.

One of their standard writers has recently stated the Methodist position on the subject as follows:

“Theories are often maintained on the presumption of a divinely ordered polity; but there is no such polity; consequently such discussions are groundless. The question of chief importance is the adaptation of the polity to the attainment of the spiritual ends for which the church is constituted. This should always be the determining principle. The principle means that the construction of the polity is left to the discretion of the church” (Miley’s Theol., Vol. 2:416). The Methodists have the Episcopal form of polity, with exceptions of course, and they seek to apply this everywhere.  Dissimilarities in conditions are not regarded by them in their practice.  Believing as I do that the New Testament polity is binding, I could not be a Methodist.  I can not separate the New Testament church polity from pure Christianity.

4. Church Officers. These autonomous or self-governing churches of apostolic times had only two orders of officers, the pastor and the deacons.  There are two passages which show that bishop, elder and pastor are one and the same officer.  Acts 20:17-28, “And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders (Presbuterous) of the church, and when they were come to him he said to them (ver. 28), take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to the flock, in which the Holy Ghost hath made you bishops, to feed (shepherd, to be pastor of) the church of God which he purchased with his own blood.”

Verse 17 represents these men as elders (presbuteroi), but in verse 28 they are called bishops (episcopoi). They are exhorted by Paul to shepherd (act the pastor over) the church.

I Peter 5:1, 2, “The elders (presbuterous) among you I exhort, who am a fellow elder (sum-preshuteros) and a witness of the sufferings of Christ tend (shepherd, serve as pastor) the flock of God which is among you, exercising (acting as bishops, episcopountes) the oversight, etc.

Bishop and elder were synonymous with pastor-bishop emphasizing the function of the office, elder that of the dignity. The pastor was to tend, shepherd the flock, and feed it.  He was a minister of the word.  The deacon was a helper of the pastor, subordinate to the pastor, and with him is charged with the spiritual welfare of the flock.  Every duty incumbent upon the pastor is equally binding upon the deacon, save that of teaching the word officially.  The Methodists disregard the New Testament precedent and practice, and have three orders of ministers, ranking one above the other, the bishop, the elder, and the pastor.  The New Testament knows no such gradation.  In apostolic times the ministers were on equality.  I could not be a Methodist in the face of such a flagrant disregard of the New Testament teaching and practice.  Besides, the Methodists clothe these three orders of the ministry with an authority over the churches which the apostles themselves did not presume to exercise.  They utterly disregard the sovereignty of the local churches and invest all government in the bishop, elder, and pastor.  This I believe to be a pestilential error, one to which I could not be a party nor lend my influence.  The Baptists hold to one order of the ministry of the Word.  These are leaders of the churches and not lords over them.  I am therefore a Baptist.

Since the Methodists are unscriptural in their views of the constituency of a church, and unscriptural as to the subjects of baptism, and unscriptural in the form of baptism, and unscriptural in their teaching and practice as to the New Testament church officers, I can not possibly ally myself with them, nor encourage them in the theory and practice of error.

II. DOCTRINAL.

There are doctrinal differences between the Methodists and Baptists which would forbid my being a Methodist. The Methodists are essentially Arminian and I believe unscriptural in their doctrinal system.  The Baptists are Pauline, i. e., Paul was the first expounder of these doctrines which the Baptists generally hold.  When these doctrines had well nigh been lost sight of, they were reproduced and restated by Calvin, with a clearness and systematic arrangement which bind them in an inseparable union with his name.  Baptists are generally known as Calvinists.  This in spite of the fact that few of them are willing to adopt Calvin’s views on all the points involved in the system wrought out by him. The Methodists are Arminian though they can hardly be said to hold the system of doctrine formulated by Arminius.  Mr. Wesley modified the system in some important respects.  Methodists are governed by Mr. Wesley’s statements of the doctrines.  His image and subscription is stamped upon the currency which makes up the volume of their thought and gives confidence in its value and permanency, on the part of his followers.  Wesleyanism is Methodism, doctrinally considered.

1. I can not agree with my Methodist brethren in respect to the effect of Christ’s death.  They hold that Christ’s death brought all men into a state of justification, freeing them from all guilt or liability to punishment, which came to them in consequence of Adam’s sin.  That all liability to punishment now must be the result of personal transgression is a fundamental doctrine with them.  This I believe to be contrary to the teaching of God’s word.

2. Again I can not agree with them in respect to what they hold as “gracious ability;” that in consequence of the death of Christ man’s inability to cooperate with God has been removed and that men, all men, now have the ability to believe without further divine interposition.  This I believe to be unscriptural and dangerous in the extreme.

3. I can not agree with them as to the doctrine of election and predestination.  They hold that God’s election unto salvation was based upon his foreknowledge; that God foreknew that some would believe and as many as he knew would believe he elected to salvation.  The sovereign will of God had nothing to do in deciding his electing grace.  This I believe to be contrary both to reason and revelation.

4. I can not agree with them as to the order of salvation as practically realized in the individual soul, (a) They hold that because of a gracious ability the unrenewed man believes in Christ, in consequence of which he is justified as a reward of his faith.  God does not inspire the faith, but he rewards it with justification.  (b) The next step in the saving process is the regeneration of the heart, or the impartation of a holy disposition.  This view I believe to be a destructive error and hence without Scriptural warrant.  I could not accept it as the truth of God.

5. I can not agree with them in their doctrine of perfection.  They hold that it is possible for one to reach a state of perfection here.  This doctrine Mr. Wesley seeks to justify on the ground that the Christian lives under an economy which takes no account of the little faults and foibles, peccadillos, and moral delinquencies such as are incident to men.  His theory is that men may touch the skies, not by growing heaven high, but by bringing the stars down to them. This I believe to be unscriptural and erroneous.

6. Again I can not agree with my Methodist brethren as to the doctrine of final apostacy.  They hold that it is not only possible for a believer to apostatize and be finally lost, but that this possibility is often realized.  As a consequence they hold that one may be in a saved condition to-day, and in a lost condition to-morrow, and in a saved condition again the next day.  I can not agree with them in all this.  I could not therefore be a Methodist.

There are other important doctrines about which I am as remote from agreement with my Methodist friends as are the poles apart.  But these must go without mention in this paper.  I may be allowed to express my regret that my Methodist brethren are in my judgment so far away from the Bible teaching in doctrine and organization.  I was reared among them, in the bosom of a Methodist family.  All my early associations and attachments were with them.  Once a member of the Methodist church, and first licensed to preach by these people, I would be disloyal to much that is sacred and uplifting if I did not love them.

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The controversy (generally speaking, one could hardly call it a conversation) continues.  For the latest update on the reaction to Phil Johnson’s Shepherd’s Conference message, see here.  He notes that by profane he doesn’t necessarily mean “cussing” and he provides a clear answer to those critics who charged him with hypocrisy given some of his parodies and wisecracks in previous years:

“I’m certainly not proud of every parody I have ever invented or every wisecrack I have made. The sudden rise of profaneness in the pulpit over the past 3 years is one of the things that has driven me to rethink how freely we ought to indulge in hard-edged humor.”

Phil sums up with the following:

“If I could ask just one question of them, it would be this: What, precisely, do you think Ephesians 5:4 forbids?”

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