Archive for the ‘Baptism’ Category

RobertWright-obit-11-29-12I had written this back in November  but for some reason neglected to publish it at that time.  I post it now in case any  for whom it may be of interest had perhaps missed this news.


I was saddened to see today that R.K. McGregor Wright has gone to be with the Lord.  I only knew him from the internet, but some of his unpublished essays were a great help to me a few years ago, as they have been to many others. He was an ardent premillennialist, Calvinist, and presuppositionalist. (He was also an egalitarian on gender issues.) He may be best known as the author of No Place for Sovereignty, a response to Open Theism.  I know that he was working on some writings with a view toward publication, one of which is mentioned below.

Here is the obituary that appeared in the Johnson City Press:

Dr. Robert Keith McGregor Wright, a 15-year resident of Johnson City, died Tuesday [Nov. 27 2012] at Johnson City Medical Center.

Born in Adelaide, South Australia, in 1940, Bob, as he was known to friends and family, was a high school English teacher before leaving Australia to study at the University of London in the United Kingdom. Bob earned a Bachelor of Divinity from London University, a Master’s of Theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield Illinois, and a Ph.D. from the Iliff School of Theology and University of Denver in Denver Colorado.

Dr. Wright was a Bible teacher, theologian, writer and scholar. He is the author of “No Place for Sovereignty” (InterVarsity Press) and “The Perfections of Scripture” (forthcoming in 2013). Bob’s ministry stretched from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Romania, but his influence went far beyond that via those whom he influenced through his ministry.

Bob was founding and co-director of Friendship International, an outreach ministry to international students and visiting scholars. He was also founder and co-director of the Aquila and Priscilla Study Center, whose ministry continues to reach out to others through the Internet.

Dr. Wright’s ministry of friendship, hospitality, teaching and scholarship touched everyone he met. A friend and former student recently said of Bob, “he lived his faith so vividly that people were inspired to live deeper, richer lives of Christian faith.” He lived well what he taught so well, and so helped shape the lives and faith of many people whose paths intersected with his.

Bob is survived by his wife, Julia Castle; brother, Barry James McGregor Wright; 25 nieces and nephews, including Lisa Duffy and Scott Castle; as well as countless brothers and sisters in Christ whose lives he touched so richly.
The family will receive friends on Friday, November 30th, from 4-7:00 p.m. at Hamlett-Dobson Funeral Home, Kingsport.

Funeral services will follow at 7:00 p.m. with Rev. Charlie Scalf and Dr. Alan Myatt officiating.
Graveside services will be conducted on Saturday, December 1st, at 11:00 am at Herman Cemetery in Gate City, VA.
Please visit http://www.hamlettdobson.com to leave an online condolence for the family.
Hamlett-Dobson Funeral Homes, Kingsport, is serving the family of Robert Keith McGregor Wright. (423) 378-3134



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In The Polemics of Infant Baptism, B.B. Warfield writes:

All Protestants should easily agree that only Christ’s children have a right to the ordinance of baptism. The cleavage in their ranks enters in only when we inquire how the external Church is to hold itself relatively to the recognition of the children of Christ. If we say that its attitude should be as exclusive as possible, and that it must receive as the children of Christ only those whom it is forced to recognize as such, then we shall inevitably narrow the circle of the subjects of baptism to the lowest limits. If, on the other hand, we say that its attitude should be as inclusive as possible, and that it should receive as the children of Christ all whom, in the judgment of charity, it may fairly recognize as such, then we shall naturally widen the circle of the subjects of baptism to far more ample limits. The former represents, broadly speaking, the Puritan idea of the Church, the latter the general Protestant doctrine. It is on the basis of the Puritan conception of the Church that the Baptists are led to exclude infants from baptism. For, if we are to demand anything like demonstrative evidence of actual participation in Christ before we baptize, no infant, who by reason of years is incapable of affording signs of his union with Christ, can be thought a proper subject of the rite.

Your thoughts?


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In our day, some of our more theologically sound evangelical brethren place heavy emphasis on being “Gospel centered.” In doing so, they can sometimes appear to downplay doctrinal distinctives, (in this case, perhaps most notably regarding ecclesiology) perhaps giving some the idea that they are relatively unimportant. While we should teach and preach the whole counsel of God, it is also quite possible to overemphasize doctrinal distinctives and other issues to the detriment of weightier matters. No biblical teaching is unimportant, but it would appear that some are more important than others. We must ever be on guard against focusing on one issue to the detriment of others. Related to that is a need to guard against a movement mentality when it has the tendency to emphasize some hobby horse. A few years ago, a pastor told me that “The only thing we want to go to seed on is Jesus.” The more time goes on, the more I think that is very sound advice.

I think a glance at this blog for a few minutes might suggest that when I actually get around to posting something, at times I’ve been guilty of majoring on the minors. (There are a few reasons for this that may make it more understandable, but that’s probably best left to another post.)  I know that at times I’ve focused on such things for so long that I’ve almost been incapable of clearly discussing much more basic issues related to the faith once delivered with those who aren’t as familiar with them.

I recently came across the following passage from Mr. Spurgeon that addresses this very problem. Those who are familiar with Charles Haddon Spurgeon will know that he certainly did not believe that there is never a time to engage in controversy or polemics with other brethren when in our judgment they fall short in their biblical understanding on one issue or the other. Indeed, during the course of his ministry, he was known for engaging in three controversies in particular. However, if being a controversialist were what he was primarily known for, I doubt that he would continue to be quite as relevant today.


This may be instructively answered by describing what it is not. We do not regard it to be soul-winning to steal members out of churches already established, and train them to utter our peculiar Shibboleth: we aim rather at bringing souls to Christ than at making converts to our synagogue. There are sheep-stealers abroad, concerning whom I will say nothing except that they are not “brethren”, or, at least, they do not act in a brotherly fashion. To their own Master they must stand or fall. We count it utter meanness to build up our own house with the ruins of our neighbours’ mansions; we infinitely prefer to quarry for ourselves. I hope we all sympathize in the largehearted spirit of Dr. Chalmers, who, when it was said that such and such an effort would not be beneficial to the special interests of the Free Church of Scotland, although it might promote the general religion of the land, said, “What is the Free Church compared with the Christian good of the people of Scotland?” What, indeed, is any church, or what are all the churches put together, as mere organizations, if they stand in conflict with the moral and spiritual advantage of the nation, or if they impede the kingdom of Christ?   

It is because God blesses men through the churches that we desire to see them prosper, and not merely for the sake of the churches themselves. There is such a thing as selfishness in our eagerness for the aggrandisement of our own party; and from this evil spirit may grace deliver us! The increase of the kingdom is more to be desired than the growth of a clan. We would do a great deal to make a Paedobaptist brother into a Baptist, for we value our Lord’s ordinances; we would labour earnestly to raise a believer in salvation by free-will into a believer in salvation by grace, for we long to see all religious teaching built upon the solid rock of truth, and not upon the sand of imagination; but, at the same time, our grand object is not the revision of opinions, but the regeneration of natures. We would bring men to Christ and not to our own peculiar views of Christianity. Our first care must be that the sheep should be gathered to the great Shepherd; there will be time enough afterwards to secure them for our various folds. To make proselytes, is a suitable labour for Pharisees: to beget men unto God, is the honourable aim of ministers of Christ.

C.H. Spurgeon, The Soul Winner, p. 11-12, Pilgrim Publications, 2007.

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I first met Bro. Jeffrey Johnson several years ago at a Bible camp that I used to attend periodically.  He and his father, Don Johnson, preach there frequently.  (Part of a message by Bro. Don Johnson was previously featured on this blog.)  Jeff and I stayed in touch for a few years, but after relocating a few years ago, I lost touch with him.  However, through the wonderful world of Facebook we recently reconnected and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that he has recently published a book, The Fatal Flaw of the Theology Behind Infant Baptism. Pastor Keith Throop has recently posted a helpful review of this book.  I hope to post my own review in the coming weeks.  In the interim, Jeffrey was kind enough to answer a few questions regarding his ministry, his book and related activities.

For our readers who may not be familiar with you, tell us a little about yourself, your background, conversion, call to the ministry, and your current ministry.

I grew up in Batesville, Arkansas in a Christian home and under the prayers of my mother and the solid Biblical preaching of my father. God saved me by His grace at a young age. When I was a teenager, however, I remember mentally disagreeing with my father’s preaching on the doctrines of grace.  Yet, in my college years, the Lord not only brought me to a personal understanding of these truths, He called me into the gospel ministry.  After graduating college with a B.S. at Central Baptist College in 2000, I became the pastor of Grace Bible Church in Conway, Arkansas, where I have been actively ministering for the last ten years.  In 2008 I received my M. Min. and in 2010 my D. P. Th. from Veritas Theological Seminary.  I am currently married, my wife’s name is Letha, and we have one son named Martyn.

(You can listen here to part of a recent interview in which Jeffrey goes into some more detail about the ministry in Conway)

How did you come to have such interest in the issue of covenant theology and infant baptism that led to you writing such a weighty book?  Were you at one time drawn to the paedobaptist position?

A few years back, a close friend and a very able preacher assisted me in ministry at Grace Bible Church. Pursuing further education, he enrolled at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. Sometime afterward, he relayed to me that he was thinking about becoming Presbyterian. I did not start this study thinking, “I am going to write a book critiquing infant baptism.” Rather, the process started as a personal letter to this friend stating a few of my concerns about paedobaptism. Yet, many years passed by and I was still unable to lay down my pen and conclude my study upon the subject. Entering in the doctoral program at Veritas Theological Seminary, Dr. Gentry, who was overseeing my doctoral studies, encouraged me to expand on my research and utilize it in my dissertation at Veritas Theological Seminary. (Ed. note: Veritas Theological Seminary is not to be confused with Veritas School of Theology)

What was the writing process like?  How long did it take?  Were there any unexpected hurdles in seeing the project come to fruition?

The writing process was very hard; I now wonder how the Puritans were able to pump out so many volumes without a computer.  The biggest difficulty I had in writing this book was that I never felt completely satisfied. I worked, reworked, and then started the process all over again until I felt like I had hammered out all the lumps, only to see new problems glaring back at me, almost as if they were mocking me. Furthermore, there seemed to have always been one more book to read upon the subject. Even now, I see mistakes in my manuscript. It is almost as if I had to say to myself, “No more research, no more editing, and no more outside input.” What began as a simple letter to a friend turned out to be a seven-year project, so one can imagine how grateful I was when I first held the published edition in my hand. One of the biggest blessings of the writing this book was the friendship I gained with Richard Belcher. Dr. Belcher played a huge role in the editing of this work. I do not think this book would have been published without his constant assistance, encouragement, and corrections. I owe a great deal to him.    

Was The Fatal Flaw to be self published all along?  What led to that decision?

I did not seriously think about publishing until after the manuscript was submitted to Veritas Theological Seminary. Through the encouragement and prompting of Dr. Belcher, who was one of the official readers of my dissertation, I began seriously to consider the idea of publishing the work. I submitted the manuscript to various publishers, but all along Dr. Belcher encouraged me, for the sake of time, to self-publish the work. Seeing that I had always been interested in books, printing, and the publishing process, I decided (with the help of Mack Tomlinson) to go ahead and start a new Reformed publishing company.

What can you tell us your publishing house, Free Grace Press, including what has been published thus far as well as any future projects you are able to tell us about?

We are very excited about the future of Free Grace Press. We have two books that we anticipate releasing in the next few months. By the end of the summer, Lord willing, will publish Dr. E. A. Johnston’s latest book “Asahel Nettleton: Revival Preacher, A Biography.” E. A. Johnston, Ph.D, D.B.S. is a fellow of the Stephen Olford Institute for Biblical Preaching and the author of several books, including A Heart Awake: The Authorized Biography of J. Sidlow Baxter (Baker, 2005), and George Whitefield: A Definitive Biography, 2 vol. (Tentmaker, 2007). In the fall, we will release Mack Tomlinson’s book In Light of Eternity: The Life of Leonard Ravenhill.  Mack Tomlinson is an Elder and Itinerant Minster, Providence Chapel in Denton, Texas.  In addition, as the resources become available, we hope to publish additional works by past and contemporary Christian authors that seek to promote the sovereign and free grace of God.

The Fatal Flaw
received several impressive endorsements prior to its publication.  Now that it has been published, what kind of response have you received?

A few people, who are in the publishing business, warned me not to be discouraged with a slow start. Yet, without other books to compare, I have been quite pleased with the success that we have had and with the overall reception of the book. For instance, one store, which started out with a case of books, sold out in less than a week. The international sales have been the most surprising. We have sold multiple books to Canada, England, Austria, and New Zealand. We are only a few months in and we have already sold more than we had anticipated for the physical year.

We see on the back cover of your book that your son is named Martyn.  Is this an indication that you are an admirer of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones?  What kind of influence has he had on your own ministry?

Our son is named after Martyn Lloyd-Jones. My wife and I both enjoy the writings of Lloyd-Jones, and Iain Murray’s biography on Lloyd-Jones has been one of the more influential books that I have read. And, it did not hurt that we also really like the name Martyn.

Where can The Fatal Flaw be purchased?

The Fatal Flaw can be purchased at:


Solid Ground Christian Books


Richbarry Press (call for ordering information)

Free Grace Press

And, of course at eBay

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(Reposted from 3/17/2009)

Was St. Patrick a Baptist preacher?  W.A. Criswell thought so.  See here for full page transcript of the sermon.  The first link has the audio.

Former Roman Catholic priest Richard Bennett thinks similarly as well.  Last year Bennett was interviewed on this subject by Chris Arnzen on his program Iron Sharpens Iron.  (The preceding link is directly to the mp3 file.)

Richard Bennett also has similar material on his own site, Berean Beacon. Here is a video that Berean Beacon produced on “The Real St. Patrick.”

“We have strong reasons for regarding St. Patrick as a Baptist missionary, and beyond contradiction his baptism was immersion.”

– The Baptist Encyclopedia: Edited by William Cathcart. (1883) pp. 886-7

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JESUS said:  “Except a man be born again, he can not see the kingdom of God.”  (John 3 :3.)  To put this in plain English, our Lord teaches that only converted people should belong to a church.  Baptists stand squarely for this doctrine.  We contend that only those who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit through intelligent faith in Christ, and who have confessed their faith in word and declared it in baptism, are scripturally qualified for church membership.  We would not claim that every Baptist is converted; for, unfortunately, unconverted persons, those honestly deceived and hypocrites, have been received into our churches; but their number is not large.  Nor do we hold that all members of other communions are not converted.  We greatly rejoice in the many examples of eminent piety outside of our ranks; and we gladly believe that the vast majority of those who profess faith in Christ everywhere are converted.  Our contention is simply this:  Baptist principles strictly applied would exclude from church membership all but the converted; whereas the principles of other denominations strictly applied would include in their respective church memberships some who are not converted.  That is, non-Baptist churches, by admitting the unregenerate into their membership, can not be pure spiritual churches; whereas Baptists, by admitting only the regenerate into their membership, are the only people who even in theory stand for the pure spirituality of the churches.  That is, Baptist doctrine is the only system of truth which will logically, inevitably and ultimately make a church a pure spiritual body of Christ.

1. It is but just to examine these statements a little more in detail to see if they are in fact true.  In the first place, is it true that Baptist principles strictly applied in practice will limit church membership to the converted exclusively?  We can answer this inquiry only by looking at the customs of our churches.  Baptists demand a public, personal, intelligent profession of faith in Christ before admitting any one into their churches.  We will not receive one individual into membership on the confession of another individual; for we repudiate in theory and in practice the doctrine of proxies in religion; for “Every one of us shall give account of himself to God,” (Rom. 14:12.)  This public profession of faith is the voluntary act of an intelligent moral agent declaring his conversion.  No one is ever admitted into a Baptist church until he professes conversion.  Again, Baptists demand that the convert shall further declare his faith in baptism, a public immersion of the believer in water.  Thus we require two professions of the applicant for church membership; one in the word of confession, the other in the act of baptism.  In the former the convert speaks his faith; in the latter he acts his faith in the solemn symbolism of immersion.  All of this is a genuinely kindly arrangement; for a church would be untrue to the applicant for membership if it did not assist him by simple and severe tests of his true heart condition to ascertain certainly and consciously the fact of his conversion; and a church would be untrue to itself if it did not exercise the utmost care to prevent those who are honestly deceived, or hypocrites, from assuming duties and obligations which they will certainly renounce to the injury of their own souls and the distress of the body of Christ.  Thus Baptist churches in principle and in practice do all that human beings can do to make a church a spiritual body.  If an unconverted man gets into a Baptist church, he must profess conversion, and his presence in the membership is not the fault of the church but of himself.  If after joining a Baptist church, it is discovered that one is not converted, then it is his duty to withdraw, or it becomes the duty of the church to exclude him.  Thus we see that Baptist doctrine will inevitably and ultimately produce a pure spiritual church.

II. In the second place, it is equally just to inquire if the principles and practices of other churches do introduce into their respective memberships some who are not converted.  We can answer this inquiry only by looking at the creeds and customs of these churches.  These can broadly be divided into two groups; that is there are two kinds of practices in non-Baptist churches which may introduce the unconverted into church membership.

1. Those who practice infant baptism do in some sense consider these infants as members of their churches.  In which case they have received into their churches those who can not exercise saving faith in Christ, and hence who are unconverted.  Having thus introduced unregenerate material into their churches, their churches cease to be pure spiritual bodies.  And these churches are themselves responsible for this, for it is the act of the church that brings the unintelligent infant into membership.  These churches are not to be excused as they would be in the case of hypocrites who creep into the membership by assuming conversion, or as in the case of those who are honestly deceived.  This custom might be practically harmless if the infants would remain infants, but they will not.  Often the unregenerate infant grows into the unregenerate man, and these congregations are embarrassed by having un-Christian men in their membership as Christian churches.  However harmless we may consider the practice, the principle is an error, and it will logically and inevitably destroy the pure spirituality of the church.

It is but fair to state that churches which practice infant baptism are of two kinds, viz.:

(1) There are those who claim that the infant is actually regenerated in baptism.  Cardinal Gibbons states the belief of Catholics:  “Water is the appropriate instrument of the new birth.”  “Hence baptism is essential for the infant in order to attain the kingdom of heaven.”  As the infant can not believe, it follows that baptism must do all of the saving.  The Episcopal view of this matter can be found in the formula for the baptism of infants:  “We receive this child into the congregation of Christ’s flock.”  “Seeing now that this child is regenerated and grafted into the body of Christ’s church,” etc., etc.  In both cases we have baptismal regeneration pure and simple.  If baptism regenerates, then unbelieving children would be converted church members.  Laying aside the paradox as to how one incapable of exercising faith can be converted when faith is necessary for conversion, Baptists would contend that baptism does not regenerate, and that this practice of Romanists and Episcopalians opens a wide door for the admission of the unconverted into their churches.  For it is in evidence on all sides that some who received this presumed baptismal regeneration in infancy fail to give any evidence of it in maturity, either in a profession of saving faith in Christ, or in the practice of piety, and yet they remain unchallenged members of the churches which they were baptized into.  Thus these churches assume a grave risk of not being pure spiritual bodies of Christ.

(2) Again, there are those who practice infant baptism who profess not to believe that the baptism saves the infant; and yet these all do in some sense receive these infants into their church memberships.  The position of all such can be fairly stated in the language of the Presbyterian confession of faith, viz.:  “The infants of one or both believing parents are to be baptized.”  “Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church.”  “The visible church consists of all those who make a profession of true religion together with their children.”  “The infant seed of believers are members of the church.”  Let it be noted that this second class in the practice of infant baptism denies a belief in baptismal regeneration, though the writer does not see how they can escape such a belief, or some other fatal error, if the logic of their position is severely pressed to a just conclusion.  For they baptize infants either to save them, or not to save them.  If the baptism is not to save, as they say, then the baptism of the infant must be for a declaration of faith, or for some other purpose.  It can not be a declaration of the infant’s faith, for the infant has not and can not have intelligent faith, nor is the act of baptism the voluntary act of the infant.  If it be a declaration of faith, it declares the faith of some person other than the infant.  But we have no right to baptize one person on another person’s faith Rom. 14:12.  If the baptism of the infant be neither a saving act, nor a declaration of faith, then it is for some other purpose.  But, if they use baptism for any other purpose save as a declaration of faith, they pervert that ordinance from the meaning and mission which Christ gave to it; and besides they construct two baptisms, one for adults with one meaning, and another for infants with another meaning, which is contrary to the scripture which saith:  “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Eph. 4:5.  Therefore as they turn away from baptismal regeneration to escape one error, the logic of their position coerces them either into the practice of proxies in professions of faith, which is an error condemned by Rom. 14:12, or into a perversion of the ordinance, which is contrary to Eph. 4:5.

But turning away from these objections which are fatal to the practice of infant baptism, it is just that we should fairly examine the grounds of those who are in this practice and yet who claim that they do not believe in baptismal regeneration. They allege two reasons for baptizing their unregenerate infants into then church membership. This inquiry is legitimate to this paper because infant baptism leads to infant church membership.

(a) It is argued from the baptism of certain households (Acts 10:47; 16:15; 16:32-34; 1 Cor. 16:15) that there were infants in those homes which were baptized into church membership.  It is enough to say in reply that the burden of proof is upon those who affirm that there were infants in those homes.  The only possible proof is the Scripture record.  But the record contains no mention of infants.  Therefore the assertion is without possibility of proof.  If you will look about you, you will see many homes where there are no babes.  Besides, there are intimations in each account of these household baptisms which deny the assumption that there were babes in these homes.  In the case of Cornelius it is said that “all his house feared God;” Paul and Silas “comforted” those who were baptized in Lydia’s home; Paul distinctly tells the jailer that those who “believe” should be saved; and it is said of the household of Stephanas that they all “have addicted themselves to the ministry.”  None of these terms or conditions could apply to infants, they describe the acts of intelligent believers.  There is no such thing in the New Testament as infant baptism begetting infant church membership.  It is true that Jesus blessed babes but he did not baptize them.  Late in our Lord’s life his disciples quarreled at mothers for bringing their children to Jesus.  (Matt. 19:13).  If infant baptism had been in vogue then these disciples would have welcomed these babes into the church.  The New Testament recognizes as church members none but converted adults.

(b) Again, it is alleged that the infants of believers should be baptized and received into the church for the reason that baptism takes the place of circumcision; that as circumcision inducted the infant into the Old Testament church, so baptism inducts it into the New Testament church.  This is a blind confounding of the Jewish state with the Christian church.  There was no Old Testament church with its rites corresponding to the New Testament church with its ordinances.  The Christian church was for the first time set up in the New Testament.  Circumcision was a racial, not a regenerating act.  It has always been true that men became the true children of Abraham through faith, not through any rite, be it circumcision or baptism.  One could be born a Jew, but all must be re-born to become Christians.  And so circumcised Jews and uncircumcised Gentiles were alike baptized on the common grounds that they believed in Christ.  This is clearly the teaching of Gal. 3 :29:  “If ye be Christ’s, then ye are Abraham’s seed, and his heirs according to the promise.”  To be Christ’s one must believe; infants can not believe, and so they are not entitled to baptism or to membership in a Christian church.  Thus again true scripture teaching blocks the entrance of unregenerate children into Christian churches.

There is no warrant either in scripture doctrine or precedent for the baptism of infants; and those churches which in any sense receive into their membership these baptized unregenerate infants have in that far destroyed the pure spirituality of their churches.  Their very principles unavoidably lead them into receiving the unconverted into their membership.

2. Infant baptism is the most frequent way of bringing the unregenerate into church membership; but we are now to examine other practices of non-Baptist churches which may corrupt the pure spirituality of the body of Christ.  A word before getting to the main point about the danger of receiving members into churches on probation.  In some sense they are members, and yet their conversion is not certain.  The probationer may turn out to be a Christian, or he may not.  As long as he is on probation his conversion can not be affirmed, and the church which receives him is not a pure spiritual body.  If probationers are on its list all the time, then it never is a pure spiritual body.  Nor is this all the harm such a church does itself; this practice will inevitably lead men to believe that there is a saving efficacy in just belonging to a church.  They will come to look to Christ and church membership to save them.  This is a fatal partition of faith.  How very dangerous this is will appear in the next paragraph.

Next to infant baptism the most prolific source of unconverted church members is sacramentarian baptism administered to adults.  There are churches which do not practice infant baptism and yet they attach a saving significance, in part or in whole, to the baptism of adults.  From this perversion of the meaning of baptism arises another danger of an unconverted church membership.  For we are saved by faith in Christ alone (Jo. 3:16; Acts 16:31; Eph. 2:8).  Our Lord did not invent baptism to help him save sinners.  A man who gives part of his faith to Christ and part to baptism has a divided faith.  Paul says that to such a man “Christ is become of no effect,” (Gal. 5:4.)  The apostle is arguing this matter in Galatians.  In the fifth chapter he maintains that to administer circumcision as the ground of salvation, or the condition of justification, is to renounce Christ himself.  It does not take Christ and circumcision to save a soul, and to divide one’s faith between the two results in a renunciation of Christ.  Just so baptism can be no part of salvation without destroying the pure faith principle of redemption, and “Christ is become of no effect.” If “Christ has become of no effect” to such a one, then he can not claim conversion; and, if he comes into the church with this divided faith, he will be an unconverted church member.  This teaching is severe, but Paul emphatically declares that to condition salvation, in part or in whole, on any ordinance or institution is to do away with Christ himself.  If the inquirer in any sense looks to circumcision or to baptism, or to church membership to help in his salvation, then he has destroyed the possibility of his salvation because he is not trusting Christ alone for redemption, for our Lord will not accept a divided heart.  Thus the practice of sacramentarian baptism and of probationary membership may open the door for the unregenerate to enter the churches.

So far as the writer knows Baptists are the only people who are entirely free from infant baptism, on the one hand, and from sacramentarian baptism on the other.  We condition salvation for all alike on simple, personal faith in Christ.  We admit into our churches only those who have, or who profess to have, this saving faith.  Thus Baptist principles strictly applied will admit to church membership only those who are converted, which is the first proposition laid down in the opening paragraph of this paper; whereas, the principles of other denominations strictly applied will include in church membership some who are not converted, which is the second proposition affirmed in this argument.

III. In the third place, it is just to inquire into the correctness of the Baptist position.  Ought we to have only converted persons in our churches?  Should churches be pure spiritual bodies?  We answer these questions in the affirmative.  The proposition submitted is this:  Only the regenerate should be members of a church because of what a church is and does; and we appeal to sound reason and obvious Scripture teaching to support this proposition.

The Greek word for church (ekklesia} means “the called out.”  Only those can be called who can hear and who can come.  This recognizes intelligence and voluntariness as necessary qualifications of the called.  God is calling on men to believe in Christ that he may organize them into churches to whom he will commit his word (1 Tim. 3:15) and his work (Matt. 28:19, 20).  In the nature of the case, only those can answer this call who can understand its conditions, and who will voluntarily comply with its requirements, and who are qualified and competent to discharge the duties imposed.  God does not refuse as coworkers men of humble gifts and children who have reached the years of discretion; but he does require willing loyalty and intelligent obedience.  All who answer the call must be workers, though they are not to be perfect workers.  Capacity then is the necessary qualification in the called rather than competency.  It would be absurd to think that God would lay the duties above mentioned upon those who could not, or upon those who would not, discharge them.  Our Lord would not exhort impotent infants or unwilling unbelievers to go into all the world and preach the gospel.  Hence it follows from the very work required of the churches that their members should all be active, intelligent, spiritual agents.

The New Testament history is in exact accord with this conclusion.  Search the record and you will find no instance of a professedly unconverted man being baptized.  There were doubtless hypocrites like Ananias (Acts 5 13) who came in under pretense of faith; but the one aim of our Lord and his followers was to recruit to their service only regenerate men to whom the work could be committed.  Naturally enough those churches would receive into membership only those who could help in the work; and so baptism was refused to infants and unbelievers.  The writer feels that in justice he must state that no denomination would advocate the admission of professedly unconverted adults into the church; but the practice of infant baptism and sacramentarian baptism will bring unconverted adults into these churches, and this is ample apology for the extended argument above on these two points.

Our Baptist churches in refusing to receive members in either of these ways are in exact line with New Testament precedent; and our practice of requiring an intelligent faith before baptism, and faith and baptism before church membership, is the only sure way of bringing into the churches the same kind of material that came into the Apostolic churches of the New Testament era.

We must look to the Scripture for more explicit instruction.  If we would know the qualifications for church membership, let us read Acts 2:41-47.  Every person which the Lord added to that Jerusalem church was converted. Here is the description of them:  They “received his word,” were “baptized,” and “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship,” etc., etc.  Surely these terms can not apply to infants or to unbelievers; there were none such in that Jerusalem church.  In Acts 11:21 we have a description of the material which was gathered into the church at Antioch:  “A great number believed and turned unto the Lord.”  Under these conditions there could be no infants in the Antioch church.  A duty is required of church members which none but intelligent converts can discharge:  “Give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.”  (1 Pet. 3:15.)  Infants and unbelievers can not do this.  The discourses of Jesus, and the Epistles of Paul. Peter and John are all addressed to intelligent, spiritual agents.  The saints are those who can serve.  The argument from Scripture is cumulative and conclusive that all church members should be converted.  The reason is that God wants in his churches only spiritual workers to do his spiritual work.  Baptist practice is in exact accord with this Scripture principle.

To admit the unconverted into the churches is to destroy the very nature of the church.  When we speak of a church being a pure spiritual body we mean it has in its membership only those who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ.  We have proved from Scripture that only the regenerate should be admitted to church membership; hence to receive the unregenerate would pervert the very nature of a gospel church.  A church is the body of Christ, 1 Cor. 12 :12-21; it is a big composite body made up of individual believers who belong to it as organs and members.  Each member of this body must be alive, that is he must be converted; he must by the power of the Holy Spirit be competent to discharge the spiritual functions of a member of the spiritual body of a church.  The living Christ dwells in this body; through it he speaks, and in it he walks and works (1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 6:16).  Now, if through infant or sacramentarian baptism, or through probationary membership, the unconverted are brought into a church, then Christ’s body has become afflicted with dead members, and the very nature of that church is perverted and its work hindered.

The importance of this doctrine can hardly be overestimated.  There are many who honestly misconceive the nature and mission of the church.  A church is not a nursery for infants, nor an infirmary for the ungodly, nor a refuge for the unbelieving and the indifferent; it is a recruiting station for the soldiers of the cross, every one of whom is commanded to fight the good fight of faith.  To change the figure, “the church is a force not a field.”  The world is the field, and the church is the force to work the field.  The work is spiritual and the force must be spiritual.  It will not do to have in an army those who are not soldiers, or in this force those who are not workers.  Hence we see from its very nature that there is no place in a Christian church for the unconverted.  From an understanding of this doctrine we Baptists limit church membership to those who profess conversion.  We hold that scripture and reason support our position that a church is a pure spiritual body and that none but the regenerate are to be received into its membership.  Relying on this truth, we reject infant and sacramentarian baptism, we refuse probationary membership, and we require an intelligent profession of faith before baptism, and faith and baptism before church membership.  We contend that these requirements are the only true safe-guards for the spirituality of the churches; and being the only people who hold these doctrines in their purity and simplicity, we affirm that Baptist principles are the only tenets which will inevitably bring the churches to the New Testament standard of membership.  Only as churches are pure spiritual forces can they accomplish their true spiritual mission in this world.

This is a proud position which we occupy but we do not hold it proudly.  These doctrines beget humility, sympathy, and mighty dependence on God.  If we hold this high standard of church membership, then we assume a high standard of duty.  If we are all God’s children then we should all “do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God,” Mi. 6:8. In a peculiar sense we should “do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith,” (Gal. 6:10.)  We should be conspicuous in works of charity and love, and foremost of all in preaching the gospel to the world.  If in fact ours is the best doctrine, then we should be the best people and have the best churches.  And so the claims set forth in this paper do not exalt us, they humble us and fill us with love for all humanity.

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BY close communion we mean that practice among Baptists in which they limit the participation in the observance of the Lord’s Supper to those who are members in good standing in Baptist churches.  And by open communion the practice of other denominations in which they give and accept invitations from members of other churches.  I believe the practice of close communion as observed by the Baptists is right and proper, for several reasons.


The Lord’s Supper is a church ordinance, and can be properly observed only as a church ordinance.  And therefore those only who are members of a church can properly partake of it.  It is an ordinance given by the Lord Jesus Christ to be observed by his churches and in his churches.  And there is no instruction nor provision for extending the ordinance, or the observance of it to any other.  Leaving aside, for the moment, the question of time and method of its establishment and full equipment, the Savior organized his church and prescribed its characteristics, established its laws, gave its doctrines, outlined its mission.

To his churches he gave the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, as a sacred trust, to be kept and observed till he shall return in personal presence to the earth again.  And he has clearly indicated his will as to the character and qualifications of the persons who shall partake of it.  I repeat he has indicated the character, thus showing that those without moral character, as for instance infants, were not prepared to partake of it; and qualifications, showing that certain experiences must precede the approach to the table.

The Bible summons all men to obey the Lord Jesus Christ.  And to those who give heed these commands are given.  “Repent, believe, be baptised, do this in remembrance of me.” These occur in the same unfailing order.  Where one is expressed alone, it presupposes all that go before it in this order.  And where two or more occur together, they always stand, I think, in the order of their precedence, repentance preceding faith, repentance and faith preceding baptism, and repentance, faith and baptism preceding the “do this in remembrance of me.”  So that no one can begin in the middle of the series and proceed to the end without first obeying those that go before.  No one could exercise faith unless preceded by repentance.  I speak with respect to nature rather than time.  Nor could one be Scripturally baptized until he has believed; nor properly approach the Lord’s table unless he had been previously baptized.  The first active step for the sinner is repentance.  The next is faith in the Lord Jesus as his Savior.  Then comes baptism, and all these before the table.  And since no one could be baptized without the assistance or cooperation of other parties, the Lord has provided for that.  And his provision excludes the provision on the part of any others.

A little careful and discriminating thought will discover to us the reason for the order of these commands, for they are given in harmony with the nature of things.  Let us examine these with reference to the last two, as just here there is some need of clear thinking.  We say that no one is prepared to approach the Lord’s table until he has been properly baptized.  The Savior’s commands make this true.  But I think we can discover why his commands had to be given in this order, if they were to have the significance he intended to attach to them.

In baptism, as designed by the Lord, we are baptized into his death.  This is symbolic of course.  But symbols must represent realities.  What is that reality?  It is the consciousness of the death of Christ for our sin which we appropriate by a living faith.  But there is at the same time another death, the death of the sinner to his old life of sin.  He now is “crucified with Christ.”  And henceforth the life he lives is no more unto himself, but unto the Lord.  He now for the first time has a vivid knowledge of the death of the Lord.  And it so lays hold on him that he dies with him.  And to represent this death, this first knowledge of his death, the man who died to sin, and died with Christ, is buried to sin, and is buried with Christ in baptism.  But this death of the old life is the beginning of a new life.  For he rises now with Christ to walk in a new life.  Hence the Scriptures say that we were buried with Christ in baptism, wherein we are risen with him.

Now, and never before, is the believer ready to approach the Lord’s table.  For at the Lord’s table he is to remember the Lord’s death, or if I may so express it, he is to reknow the Lord’s death.  Baptism represents the first knowledge of the Lord’s death, and the Supper the subsequent reknowing or remembrance of it.  It goes with the saying that a man could not remember what he had never known.  Both his first knowledge of the Lord’s death, and his subsequent remembrance of that death are to be symbolized; the first knowledge of it by baptism and the second by the emblems of his broken body and shed blood.  And it is appropriate that these symbols should have the same order of their realities.  It is just this way that the Greek represents it.  In English the prefix re means again, as recount means to count again.  Now in English we do not use the word ”member” in the sense of “know.” But “re-member” in the sense of “re know.” A* in the text “do this in remembrance of me.”

Or again.  Baptism symbolizes the beginning of the new spiritual life, or the new birth.  And the Lord’s Supper symbolizes the sustenance of that life.  And as we are born first and then nourished the ordinance which signifies birth ought to precede that which signifies nourishment.


The Baptist denomination is held together by no ecclesiastical or episcopal organization.  We are so many units of the same kind and as a denomination we are what we are because we believe something definite and distinctive.  I might perhaps be allowed to say we hold a circle of views and convictions that differentiate us, from all the world, and so from all religious denominations.  Our conception of what the Lord intended us to be, and desires us to be now, requires practices which characterize us.  The very basic principle of our organic life is unfaltering obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ.  We believe that this is the truest and worthiest thing we can do; the wisest and best; the safest and most effective way to serve him, and to serve the world.  For Jesus said, “if ye love me keep my commandments.”  And he said also, “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men;” and again he asks, “Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”

Let no one think that we are willfully perverse, or that we do care nothing for the opinions, feelings or good will of others.  We covet their highest good and their favorable opinion.  But our convictions are imperative and they limit us.  Are we charged with placing limitations on others?  We have first placed them on ourselves.  We ask nothing of anybody that each one of us has not personally performed.  The Lord’s table in Baptist churches is open to all the world.  But there is only one way to it.  And whomsoever you see at the table in a Baptist church has come the same way.  Try the Lord’s appointed way, repent, believe and be baptized and preserve an orderly walk, and you will find no bars across your way.

But we are asked to change our practice.  Were we to change our practice, we should be compelled first to change the contents of our faith.  But to change the contents of our faith, would be to change our very denominational nature, or constitution.  And to do that would be but to make another and a different denomination.  For our faith is a unit, which would be destroyed by a change.  And Baptists do not believe that the multiplication of denominations has ever been conducive to the best interests of the Lord’s cause, nor the salvation of the world.  Nor do we think such a change in our denomination would contribute to that end.  But to abandon the principles which require close communion as a Baptist practice would destroy our denomination as such.  And I do not think that even those who plead for open communion would ask it at that cost.


It is remarkable that there should be occasion for saying that Baptists believe, and greatly rejoice in believing, that there are many, very many excellent Christians who are not Baptists.  We heartily wish they were Baptists.  And we are led to believe that many of them could become Baptists without any very great sacrifice of principles or convictions.  And we believe convictions ought to control men.

Now many of these dear people seem to desire Baptists to so far depart from their practices as to eat the Lord’s supper with them, and invite them to eat with us.  They have perfected an organization which they call a church and they are not satisfied until Baptists also recognize it as such.  And because of the intimate relation between baptism and the Lord’s Supper, they perceive that to acknowledge one is practically to acknowledge the other.  So they seek recognition at the table.  We believe that it was a departure from the truth to organize any one of these.  And that every one of these organizations hold and teach error.  But at the same time we hold another cherished doctrine, which is known among us as Liberty of Conscience.  We have always contended for this.  And we believe it to be as much a right of other men as Baptists.  So we can only enter our protest against their unscriptural organizations and the error which they teach.  And the practice of close communion is the kindest and most Christian way in which we can do so.  For by confining the Lord’s Supper to our own fellowship and refusing to accept their invitations we effectually manifest our dissent from their views and practices, and yet in no way interfere with their utmost freedom.  This is no railing accusation.  It is as mild as it can be made, and leaves them the utmost freedom of conscience.  This practice of close communion is not of our own choosing, while it is most agreeable to our ideas of right.  If there had been no other organizations started and asking to be recognized as churches, the terms would probably never have come into use.  But they must properly conclude that for us to recognize them at the Lord’s table would be to recognize them as churches.

But is it not worthy of remark that this complaint is always urged against the Baptists, as if Baptist recognition was of special value?  Who ever heard an open communionist complain about the close communion of any except Baptists?  And yet Baptists are not the only close comnunionists.  But they seem to feel especially the lack of recognition by the Baptists.  To the thoughtful student this is a very significant concession to the claims of Baptists to be the true churches of the Lord.


For whosoever eats this bread and drinks this cup when he is not prepared to do so, brings condemnation upon himself.  The revised version of the New Testament puts it thus:

“Wherefore whosoever shall eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.  For he that eateth and drinketh, eateth and drinketh judgment unto himself, if he discern not the body.”  One who is not regenerated could not possibly discern the body as broken for him, or the blood as shed for the remission of his sins.  One not baptized is not prepared to “do this in remembrance” of the Lord, as we have seen before.  Now if Baptists, by invitation, or by accepting the invitations of others should encourage such persons to partake of the emblems in this way, they would encourage such to bring condemnation upon themselves.  And in so far as they influenced them, would be parties to their sin.  There are other reasons why I believe that the practice of close communion is right rather than open communion.  But with these I submit the case.

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