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Archive for the ‘Baptist Why and Why Not’ Category

I do plan to begin posting here more regularly, Lord willing.  However, since I don’t plan to maintain the heavy focus on Southern Baptist issues, in all likelihood I will not be posting any more chapters from Baptist Why and Why Not.  This work was published in 1901 by the Baptist Sunday School Board (now called Lifeway.) It was edited by J.M. Frost, who was instrumental in the creation of the Sunday School Board and was its first chief executive.  It is an important work on Southern Baptist faith and practice from the beginning of the 20th century.

Because some of my readers had found the previous posts to be of interest, I wanted to note that several years ago my friend Don Elbourne had posted Baptist Why and Why Not on his website, along with several other historic Southern Baptist writings from the same period that may be of interest.

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LET us consider two matters in connection with our Sunday school work as Baptists – first, several reasons for the existence of the Sunday school, and, second, some suggested methods for increasing its efficiency.

Why a Sunday School in a Baptist church?  Several reasons suggest themselves.

I. BECAUSE OF WHAT THE SUNDAY SCHOOL IS.

We must acknowledge with regret that a great many persons have a very mistaken conception of the real nature of its work.  They think that it is merely a place for the care of the children on Sunday morning-a sort of World’s Fair “Baby Room.”  So widespread is this erroneous idea that in almost every community when boys get to wearing long pants and standing collars they think they are “too old to go to Sunday school.”  They accent in speech and thought the “Sunday” and forget that it is a “school.”  The Sunday school in truth is that agency of Christianity to which is especially committed the teaching of the Scriptures. If we fail to thoroughly realize this fact we shall fail in our appreciation of its purpose and power.

II. BECAUSE WE NEED SUCH A TRAINING SCHOOL.

More than any other denomination, we Baptists need a well organized, well equipped Sunday school in every church-indeed in every mission station.  We need the training that it will give.

a. As to Doctrines.

This is emphatically true because of our very polity.  A religious organization without the usual constitution and by-laws, book of discipline or any such thing; a denomination calling no man lord, and without appeal to any earthly court, priest or potentate; a people with but one book and that book the Bible; surely if we fail to “Search the Scriptures” – if we fail to teach God’s Word, there can be no hope or expectation of our occupying that position which it is our duty and privilege to occupy.

b. As to Giving.

A Sunday school in every Baptist church and that school given a proper conception of its true work, would soon supply us with a great host of trained, systematic givers instead of a multitude that no man can number that take pleasure in a freedom they claim to possess.

As Baptists we are to-day facing the great question of how shall we enlist all our people in the financial support of the cause of the world’s evangelization?  On every hand men and women are saying, “Here am I, send me;” but for lack of means in the Lord’s treasury, they are not sent.  Organize a Sunday school in every Baptist church, give to that school the one work of teaching God’s Word, of imparting His commandments-and we shall see such a quickening in the gifts of our people as has never yet been seen.

III. BECAUSE OF ITS EFFICIENCY AS AN EVANGELIZING AGENCY.

The Sunday school is the greatest of all the agencies given to the churches of Jesus Christ for bringing the world to God.  This is true, in the first place, because it is a school, and there must be knowledge before there can be belief.  There must be fact before faith.  It is true, in the second place, because the material upon which it works is usually in the plastic state.

Daniel Webster once asked Thomas Jefferson the patriotic question:  “What is to be the salvation of our nation?”  After a pause, Jefferson replied:  “Our nation will be saved, if saved at all, by teaching the children to love the Savior.”  Solomon’s saying, “Train a child up in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it,” today has the warrant of every century’s experience that has passed since he said it.  “Lycurgus,” says Plutarch, “resolved the whole business of legislation in the bringing up of the youth.”

Statistics gathered by associations and conventions show that more than ninety per cent of all the membership of all our churches have come to us from the ranks of the Sunday school.  It is further clearly established not only as to the organized church, but also as to our mission stations, that without a Sunday school we need hardly hope for increase, for progress, for conversions.

IV. BECAUSE IT IS COMMANDED.

Some persons have an idea that the Sunday school is not a Bible institution, but is purely manmade.  They say that Robert Raikes started the movement.  There never was a more mistaken notion.  Robert Raikes simply revived in England what had been in existence in Palestine before the time of Christ.  Let us remember that preaching the Word is not the same thing as teaching the Word.  The preacher proclaims the truth; the teacher examines it with his students by questions and answer.  Both urge the acceptance-the preacher by general exhortation, the teacher by personal application.  You can preach to trees and stones, but you can’t teach them.  The gospel is meant for men, and so the teaching of it (the work of the Sunday school) is commanded:

a. By Christ’s Example.

Christ was both preacher and teacher, and yet-an examination of some passages in the New Testament will show us that His special, emphatic work was that of teaching.  In Matthew 4:23 and 7:29 we find, he went about all Galilee teaching in their synagogues as one having authority; and in Mark 1:22 that they were astonished at his doctrine for he taught not as the Scribes.  Sometimes it was with one scholar, as Nicodemus or the woman at Jacob’s well, and then again the crowd, as in Mark 10:1.  He not only taught in the synagogue, and by the seaside, but in the streets, as indicated by Luke 13:26.  So important was this teaching work to the Master that he never let an opportunity escape; even during the feast he went into the temple and taught, as in John 7:14, and early in the morning as in John 8:2.  When asked by the high priest of his disciples and his doctrine, he replied, “I ever taught in the synagogue and in the temple.”

b. By the Apostles’ Example.

Among the first of the apostles to be persecuted were Peter and John, and reference to Acts 4:18 and 5:28, 42, shows that it was because of their teaching. In Acts 11:26 we are told that Barnabas and Saul conducted a school of twelve months duration, and as one of the results “The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”  And a further result was the qualifying of others who became teachers.  This is the first account we have of what in this day we call a normal school, judging from the work that followed.

The apostle Paul, though a great preacher, relied very much upon teaching.  In 1 Cor. 4:17 he says, “I teach everywhere in every church.”  And he means by that the method of asking and answering questions, the only way that true teaching can be done.  Refer to 1 Cor. 14:19 and you see he urges the value of teaching with the voice. In 1 Tim. 6:2 Paul tells the young apostle to teach and exhort, showing that he recognized the value of both and that he did not regard them as one and the same thing.

To the Sunday school is committed this important work begun by Jesus Christ and followed up by his apostles, as to no other agency connected with a church of God.

c. By the Great Commission.

As Baptists, the Great Commission, as recorded in Matthew 28:19- 20, contains our marching orders.  It naturally falls into three parts-making disciples, baptizing them, teaching them.  The first is the mission work, the second the observance of his ordinance symbolizing His death and resurrection, and the third, imparting His commandments.  That is our work, and with us as Baptists the Sunday school is organized for obeying the last or third division of the Great Commission.

To conclude this part of our investigation, we Baptists need the Sunday school because of its efficiency as a training school for our denominational doctrines which we ought either to teach or abandon; because of its efficiency as an evangelizing agency, one command being to evangelize the world; and, lastly, because it is commanded in the Scriptures, indirectly by the example of Christ and the apostles, directly by the words of the Great Commission.  We need it as a denomination.  We need it as Christians.  Being responsible for the use of the best instrumentalities possible, we can not afford to be without it.  Claiming to be followers of the author of the Great Commission we dare not be without it.

HOW SHALL WE INCREASE THE EFFICIENCY OF THE SUNDAY SCHOOL.

Realizing the great value, the incalculable blessing possible to the Sunday school, the demand is upon us as Baptists to extend the work.  How shall we do it ?

1. By a wide reach to interest the people.

We organize all sorts of forces to reach the churches.  We urge the importance of broadcasting our literature in all our homes.  We hold mass meetings, institutes and conventions to stir our people in behalf of missions.  These are good, but have we not gone ahead of the foundation work and erected a structure that could not stand?  In some communities there are many; in most communities there are a few that deeply feel the great importance of a well organized Sunday school.  The work before us as Baptists is that of enlisting our whole people in this great work.

2. By the whole church being concerned for the success of the Sunday school.

Our most serious trouble as Baptists is not in getting a Sunday school organized in every church so much as enlisting the sympathy and cooperation of all the members.  And to this work we believe we need first of all to address ourselves.  The great majority of our churches are content with their ability to report to the association each year the fact that they have a Sunday school, giving but little thought or concern about the work committed to it or how that work is being done.  In too many of the churches the Sunday school is almost a separate organization and is in all respects so treated.  A closer relation is needed, and the more intimate it shall be made the more certainly may we look for an extension of the work.

3. By organization for increased attendance and better methods.

An inquiry in towns, cities and country neighborhoods has revealed the lamentable fact that less than one-fourth of our population in the southern states, not including the larger cities, are outside of the Sunday school.  We are not surprised with the condition in the large cities, but when these are left out, and our small towns, cities and even country districts only are considered the showing is cause for deep concern.

The cause for this is due largely to our want of systematic effort to change it.  And this is all wrong.  One of the very first things to be kept in our view in our Sunday school organization is that of reaching all the people.

As Baptists we have made a great mistake in this matter.  With a church organization so near the people our Sunday schools should swarm with young and old.

House to house visitation, as observed by a few schools, if regularly and persistently pursued by all, would bring into our ranks such a multitude as we have not dreamed of.  The people are all about us. We have said “come” in a very quiet, orderly way but have not gone “out into the highways and hedges and compelled them to come in.”  The house that fails to do this will be empty.  The house that obeys the command “may be filled.”

An illustration of this comes to us as we write.  A little over one year ago there was a Baptist Sunday school in the little town of P. with 45 to 60 members enrolled.  The superintendent of the school attended an Institute that was held in a neighboring village and during its sessions became deeply concerned for the extension of the work at his home.  House to house canvassing was freely talked about at the Institute and on returning to the village of P. he at once organized this work in the interest of his own school.  As a result of that effort, in less than one month the little school of 45 to 60 had run up to 175, and soon to over 200.  As a further but natural result, a revival of religion soon began in the church and over 150 persons professed faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Not only do we need to organize for largely increased numbers, but also for better methods of management and teaching.  We must at once come to understand that the Sunday school demands the very wisest management and the most devoted and efficient teaching.

We are demanding these things for our day schools but we have sadly lost sight of their greater necessity for the Sunday school.  And this accounts for so much of our work that is weak, unstable, not to say almost wholly wanting in attractive, holding power.

It was a great supper that had been prepared for those in the highways and hedges, streets and lanes – not a scanty, uninviting meal.  There is abundance in the Gospel out of which to provide such a feast that all may be fed; and when they have freely and joyously partaken they will come again.

We need the most efficient and godly members of the church for the officers and teachers of the Sunday school – men and women who realize something of the great possibilities of the Sunday school, and who will give of their time, their talents and their means for its success.  And we need organized methods for the training of these teachers.  Just as a Normal school, the Teachers’ Institute and the Summer school are being established in all our states in easy reach of the day school teachers, so we must organize for the enlightenment and helpfulness of the Sunday school teachers and workers.

4. By making the Sunday school work a part of our educational system.

Not only are special chairs for technical education being added to private and state schools but the same is true of our denominational schools and colleges, and therefore it is not necessary that our boys and girls shall go away from home in order to be trained for preaching, teaching, dentistry, law, mining, milling, mechanics, etc.  “They can be trained in these various lines here in the south by the very best instructors.”  But how about Sunday school teachers?  So far as we remember, not a school in the south, outside of our Theological Seminary, pretends to prepare students for teaching the Bible.

A few of the schools have added what is called “A course in Bible Study,” or a “Chair of the Bible;” but not in one of these, so far as we know, do they pretend to instruct in the work of teaching the Bible.

But some will say a person can not teach what he does not know, and can teach if he knows what to teach.  The last part of that proposition is a mistake.  There are plenty of people that know much of the Bible and yet are not able to impart that knowledge.  Many of these with a little special training would make splendid teachers in our Sunday schools.  The truth is, for lack of training we have but few competent teachers in these schools.  Once realize the great possibilities of the work and we shall find preparation for doing it in the most efficient way possible being furnished in all our Normal and Pedagogical courses.

Yes, we need a Sunday school in every Baptist church and then from these churches we ought to plant one in practically every community of people throughout the world, and use every effort within our power to increase their efficiency, because in this God-given work is presented the opportunity for doing that personal work so necessary and so helpful to the development of the Christian and so indispensable in the work of winning souls for the Master.

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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.

1. BECAUSE IT IS SCRIPTURAL.

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.

2. BECAUSE IT PRESERVES DENOMINATIONAL INTEGRITY.

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.

3. BECAUSE IT IS THE KINDEST AND MOST CHRISTIAN PROTEST WE CAN OFFER TO THOSE WHO DEPART FROM THE TRUTH.

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.

4. BECAUSE TO EAT WITH THOSE NOT PREPARED TO COME TO THE LORD’S TABLE WOULD BE TO ENCOURAGE INDIVIDUALS TO THEIR OWN CONDEMNATION.

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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THE question as stated indicates the Baptist view, and the ”why” calls for the reasons.  It will be my aim to clearly express some of the reasons, and to compress them in the fewest words possible for me.

Baptists believe that baptism is symbolical, because it is an outward ordinance, “to be seen of men.”  There are spiritual qualifications for those seeking the ordinance, but these are preparations for the ordinance, and not the ordinance itself.  The visible features of the ordinance are to declare the spiritual features, not to procure them.  It expresses a saving faith, not procures it.  It expresses repentance not procures it.  And so of all other related doctrines.  If baptism is for the saved, it is not for the unsaved; if for the believer, it is not for the unbeliever; if for the justified, it is not for “the already condemned.”  Baptists believe that forgiveness, justification, and salvation are of Christ, through faith, and that this saving and justifying faith must precede baptism and hence the relation these sustain to baptism makes baptism symbolical.  Baptists are confirmed in this view from several considerations.  I will mention a few.

There is but one plan of salvation for all ages.  When the writers of the New Testament argue the plan of salvation by grace, and justification by faith, and other vital doctrines, they prove these doctrines by quotations and references to the Old Scriptures.  Take the Epistle to the Romans as sufficient proof of this position.  There, Paul goes over the whole ground covered by the gospel, beginning with the fall and ruin of man and proceeding step by step through all the – doctrines of the gospel, and he supports every argument by:  “Thus is it written” or “Thus saith the Scriptures;” showing that he was preaching the same gospel that the Old Scriptures contained.  So Peter in the house of the Gentile said:  “To him give all the prophets witness that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”  Acts 10:43.  So Paul in Rom. 3:21-22.  Christ and the Apostles preached salvation according to the Scriptures and that meant always the Old Scriptures.  When the writer of the Hebrews said, “we are not of them that draw back unto perdition, but of them that believe to the saving of the soul;” he proceeded to define faith-the faith that is “unto the saving of the soul,” and then to illustrate it in the persons of the Ancients, beginning as far back as Abel, and Enoch, and when he was through with the exemplars of the olden times, he closed by joining “us” to the list.  “Wherefore seeing we (of this time) are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses (referred to in the previous chapter) let us (as they did) lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race set before us (as they did), looking (as they did) unto the author and finisher of faith.”  (Not our faith, but the faith defined and exemplified by them, and us, and which was “unto the saving of the soul.”)

If we are saved now as men were saved in the olden times, then salvation does not depend on baptism, and baptism like other outward ordinances becomes symbolic.  I use the word symbolic in its comprehensive sense, including “emblem,” “type,” “shadow,” “figure,” etc.  It is more correct to say that ordinances are typical when they declare prospectively, and symbolical when they declare retrospectively.  But is the province of outward ordinances to show or declare, or to procure?

Look first at the Passover, Ex. xiii :8-io “And thou shalt show thy Son in that day saying, this is done because of that which the Lord did unto me when I came forth out of Egypt.  And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the Lord’s law may be in thy mouth; for with a strong hand hath the Lord brought you out of Egypt. Thou shalt therefore keep this ordinance in his season from year to year.”  The Passover was a “show” ordinance, a “sign,” a “memorial,” and it was “because of.”  Retrospectively it symbolized what was done in Egypt; prospectively it typified “Christ our passover who was to be slain for us.”  Thus we see the declarative nature and province of this ordinance.

So with the Sabbath, Ex. xxxi:i6-i7, “Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations for a perpetual covenant.  It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.”

Every time the Sabbath is kept in spirit and in truth, two things are declared; first, retrospectively that God made heaven and earth in six days, and rested on the seventh; and prospectively, as we learn elsewhere, that “there remains therefore a Sabbath rest for the people of God” and that we must labor to enter it.  Sabbath-keeping does not procure these things, but declares them, in symbol, and type, and thus we learn the province of ordinances.

The ordinance for the ceremonial cleansing of lepers also confirms this view of ordinances.  In Lev. 14:2-20 we find that after the leper had been inspected by the priest, and found “the plague of leprosy healed in the leper,” which could only be clone by divine power, then the ordinance for ceremonial cleansing was in order.  Christ’s testimony on this point is unmistakable.  See Mark 1:40-45.  “And there came a leper to him beseeching him and kneeling down to him said, if thou wilt thou canst make me clean. And Jesus moved with compassion put forth his hand and touched him saying, I will, be thou clean.  And as soon as he had spoken the word, immediately the leprosy departed from him and he was cleansed.  And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away, saying, see thou say nothing to any man; but go thy way, show thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded for a testimony unto them.”  This seems as though it were written especially for our sakes, that the right view of ordinances might plainly appear to all men.  The ordinance did not procure his cleansing, but declared it.

In Hebrews, chaps, ix and x, there is a summing up of these old ordinances, with such explanatory words as these:  “The Holy Spirit thus signifying,” (sign-i-fy-ing); “a figure for the time then present;” “the patterns of things in the heavens;” “a shadow of good things to come;” “a remembrance again made of sins every year,” etc. This is inspired testimony on ordinances, being declarative instead of procurative of what they expressed.  Pilate though a Roman had the right conception of ordinances.  In publicly washing his hands, he intended to declare his innocence.  He was far from confessing his guilt, and washing that he might be innocent.  “He took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person.”  Of course he was not literally washing blood from his hands, for his blood was not yet shed.  O, that our opponents knew as well about the nature of ordinances as this heathen governor!  Through this door has come about all the perversions of the gospel of grace and of the doctrines of Christ.  Instead of going to Christ for salvation, men have been directed to ordinances, and the elements and emblems of these ordinances have been “consecrated,” and deified, and thus the world is filled with idolatry in the guise of Christianity.  What a duty rests upon Baptists to contend for the ordinances “as symbolic and not necessary to salvation!”  Let us thank God, and take courage, as the Protestant denominations are coming more and more to our help.  They see our view is correct, when they look at it, not in their creeds, but in the Word of God.

But let us look particularly at the ordinances of the New Testament.  Were they ordained to show by symbol, emblem or type, the great fundamental doctrines of the gospel?  The Lord’s supper “shows” his death (in emblems) till he come.  While we do it eis remembrance of him, yet it is clear, that in doing it, we declare the fact that we hold him in affectionate remembrance.  The supper is not necessary to a remembrance of his death, but necessary to a proper declaration of it.  The memory must precede the declaration of it.

Is baptism an exceptional ordinance in this regard?  Evidently not; for baptism is called a “figure,” a “likeness,” a “washing away of sin,” which can not be literally done with literal water.  It is called a “clothing” a “putting on of Christ,” which can be done only symbolically, and not really in baptism, for the Romans were exhorted to put on Christ after they had been baptized (Rom. 12:14) but they were not exhorted to be baptized again; and hence Christ is really put on some other way, which fact can only be symbolized by baptism.  Now, since the other ordinances are not necessary to the reality of the things they set forth, so we concluded that baptism is not necessary to the reality of the things it sets forth.  We are baptized eis repentance, but so far from repentance depending on baptism, the very reverse is true.  We are baptized eis the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, eis Christ, eis the name of Christ, eis the death of Christ, etc.; but none of these depend on baptism, but baptism depends on them.  Only the really dead are to be baptized, hence we are baptized eis death symbolically.  If we are baptized eis one body, the one body really exists before our baptism, and our baptism is the formal declaration of it.  Then, is it not reasonable to conclude, that the same interpretation should be given to baptize eis remission of sins?  If baptize eis repentance denotes the previous repentance, then does not baptize eis remission denote the previous remission?  Christ blood was shed eis remission, but the shedding of that blood was not an outward ordinance.  If ordinances declare symbolically what has taken place, and typically what will take place, then the remission of sins is either before baptism, or after baptism, and can not be in baptism.

This view is powerfully confirmed, not only in the Province of Ordinances, but also in those many Scriptures which predicate salvation with all of its accompanying blessings to grace, “through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.”  All efforts to make pre-baptism faith a dead faith, have resulted in failure, and resemble one cutting off the limb on which he sits; for it effectually makes his baptism a dead baptism.

The woman of whom Christ said:  “She loved much because she had been forgiven much,” and to whom he said:  “Thy faith hath saved thee, go in peace,” was a proper subject for baptism.  If she had not been baptized, then salvation was predicated of her pre-baptism faith, and her pre-baptism love evidenced her forgiveness.  If she had been baptized, then Christ overlooked her baptism, and predicated her salvation of a faith that was not expressed, or “perfected” in baptism, and proved her forgiveness by a love that expressed itself in other ways than baptism.  When Christ said:  He that believeth not is condemned, but he that believeth is not condemned, he was talking about faith necessary to baptism, for he was addressing an unbaptized man on the subject of salvation.  When he said:  “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life,” he was talking of the faith that is pre-requisite to baptism, for he was talking to unbelievers.  When Peter said:  “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him should receive remission of sins,” he was addressing unbaptized Gentiles, who, hearing this, believed; and God who knows the heart, bore them witness giving them the Holy Spirit as he did to the Apostles, and put no difference between them, purifying their hearts by faith.  And when they spoke with tongues and magnified God, then answered Peter:  “Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Ghost as well as we.”  When Paul spoke of “the righteousness of God by faith in Jesus Christ unto all and upon all that believe,” he was referring to a righteousness by faith- as “witnessed by the law and the prophets.”  This faith was expressly “without works,” and “without law,” and evidently without baptism.  So, all the scriptures that predicate salvation and its blessings of repentance, confession, love, etc.; and those promises to prayer, sacrifices and good works.  These could not be fulfilled to the unbaptized millions who have repented, believed, confessed, loved, prayed, sacrificed, and continued to the end in good works, if baptism was essential to salvation.  If space permitted I would add the testimony of our experience, and personal consciousness, to the obtaining of these blessings according to the promises, and by which we certainly know, that baptism is symbolical and in no sense a saving ordinance.

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HAPPILY for us who are called Baptists our principles are marked by great simplicity. In the presentation of them no special ingenuity is required and in their vindication there is no need of resorting to any process of explaining away the sources from which they are derived.  They so lie on the surface of things that the unprejudiced reader can scarcely fail to see them, yet they are not superficial.  So clearly are they imbedded in the truth itself, so unmistakably are they a part of the truth, that any candid look beneath the surface will find them amply confirmed.

In nothing else are we more clear-cut than in our position on the first of the two Christian ordinances, and at no other point in the statement and defense of our faith are we more entirely free from the necessity of artifice or indirection.  With us, baptism is not in a mode, but in an act, a specific, definite act, a well designed, God-appointed act, a truth-proclaiming act, from which one can not diverge and maintain the rite itself.  It is without the slightest reservation, but of course in perfect fraternity toward all Christian people everywhere, that we commit ourselves to the advocacy of immersion as against sprinkling or pouring, as the act in Christian baptism.  And we rejoice to find ourselves more and more confirmed by every new appeal to the final authority no less than by the growing Christian scholarship of the world and the growing candor of those who represent it.

The question, “Why immersion and not sprinkling or pouring?” may be answered in the light of three considerations attaching to the former:  First, its natural superiority; second, its normalness as the act in baptism; and third, its solitary position as the baptism of the New Testament.

1. THE NATURAL SUPERIORITY OF THE ACT.

On the supposition that immersion and sprinkling or pouring are valid modes of baptism, and hence that one is at liberty to make a choice between them, the former should be insisted upon for several reasons.  In the first place, though not chiefly, it has the advantage of being universally acceptable.  Whatever misgivings there may be in the mind of millions of Christian people touching the validity of sprinkling or pouring, there are absolutely none concerning immersion.  The latter, it must be confessed, is greatly discredited in some quarters which witness every effort to break it down, but it is not absolutely rejected.  No immersed person is ever required by any denomination of Christians to undergo sprinkling or pouring in order to baptism.  The coin passes current universally, a fact which may some day become a stone in the temple of Christian union.

Of more importance is the consideration that in the act of immersion there is a gain on the dramatic, a legitimate, a necessary feature of baptism.  Both in its nature and in its purpose, baptism is an acting out of certain truths or principles, and the more impressive it is made in the mode of its administration the truer it is to its own genius and the greater influence it exerts over the mind of candidate and observer.  To intelligent and reverent persons who are in sympathy with any of the high and holy ideas associated with baptism, immersion properly administered must be more impressive than either of the other acts.  It is a solemn, a meaningful performance; and, where all the conditions are favorable, it is beautiful beyond compare.

But more important still, it is a much better interpreter of the Scripture.  We can handle the Bible better with immersion as our act in baptism than we can with sprinkling or pouring.  There are many passages of Scripture back of the ordinance of baptism that were meant to be brought out in every administration of the ordinance, but some of them, yea most of them, it must be said, are exceedingly awkward in the hands of one who is sprinkling a candidate or pouring water on his head.  It has been openly deplored by many devout Christian thinkers not of our faith that much of Christian baptism, the baptism of the Bible, the baptism that was known by our Lord and his apostles, is really left out in the acts of sprinkling and pouring.  “It must be a subject of regret,” say Conybeare and Howson in their great work on the life and epistles of the apostle Paul, “that the general discontinuance of this original form of baptism (though perhaps necessary in our northern climates) has rendered obscure to popular apprehension some very important passages of Scripture.”  The reference to “northern climates” might have been omitted if the distinguished authors had kept in mind the custom of the Greek church which has consistently practiced immersion in northern Siberia and Alaska, the coldest countries in the world.  In any case, they note the inadequacy of sprinkling or pouring to convey the whole content of Bible baptism, and in this they have the company of Dean Stanley who wrote in the Nineteenth Century for October, 1879:  “The change from immersion to sprinkling has set aside the larger part of the apostolic language regarding baptism and has altered the very meaning of the word.”

2. ITS NORMALNESS AS THE ACT IN BAPTISM.

It will stand to reason that three different acts that are equally acceptable as Christian baptism must be equally normal. But can this be said of immersion and sprinkling and pouring?  Is it possible for any one to claim it?  On the contrary nothing else is more generally and uniformly declared by church historians than that immersion was the normal baptism of New Testament times and indeed until a comparatively late day in the Christian centuries.  “In respect to the form of baptism,” says Neander, including the first three centuries of the Christian era, “it was in conformity to the original institution and the original import of the symbol, performed by immersion, as a sign of entire baptism into the Holy Spirit, of being entirely penetrated by the same.  It was only with the sick, where the exigency required it, that any exception was made; and in this case baptism was administered by sprinkling.”  “The usual form of the act was immersion,” says Schaff, covering nearly the same period, “as is plain from the original meaning of the Greek βαπτιζειν and βαπτισμος from the analogy of John’s baptism in the Jordan; from the apostles’ comparison of the sacred rite with the miraculous passage of the Red Sea; with the escape of the ark from the flood; with a cleansing and refreshing bath, and with burial and resurrection; finally from the custom of the ancient church, which prevails in the east to this day. But sprinkling also, or copious pouring, was practiced at an early day with sick and dying persons, and probably with children and others, where total or partial immersion was impracticable.”  In the same line are Mosheim and Stanley and Kurtz, and church historians generally, though no one of then, as neither Neander nor Schaff, asserts that there was any known deviation from the observance of immersion actually within the period of the New Testament.

It should be noted that when the departure came it was from immersion to the other acts and that these, at least at the time when we first come across them, were regarded as only a substitute for the former.  Already in the second century the contest between principal and substitute had begun, as is known from the rule concerning baptism in the work called the Didache, or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles: “Having first uttered all of these things, baptize (baptisate) into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in running water.  But if thou hast not running water, baptize (baptisate) in other water; and if thou canst not in cold, then in warm.  But if thou hast neither, pour (ekkeon) water upon the head thrice into the name of the Father and Son, and Holy Spirit.”  In other words, if the administrator could not baptize the candidate (which was to immerse him) he must pour water on his head.  The earliest known instance of administration out of the usual way was in the case of Novatian in the third century, whose baptism was seriously questioned after his recovery from sickness during which it was applied.  The substitute appears to have arisen in accommodation of infirm persons or persons in danger of dying, and out of a mistaken and superstitious view of the ordinance of baptism.

It should make little difference with us that afterwards the substitute became baptism in the popular estimation.  No authority on earth could change its real character.  Baptists can not give it any countenance without some special authorization from the Lord himself.  Our Roman Catholic friends, seeing the manifest incongruity between the normal act in baptism and the widespread practice of its substitute, have made bold to declare that the church purposely changed baptism from immersion, it having been invested with the authority to do so, a position which no Protestant can well assume.

3. ITS SOLITARY POSITION AS THE BAPTISM OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.

But would the Lord invite his people to make a choice of modes of baptism that do not equally represent the ordinance?  Is it not in the nature of a positive institution to call for precise observance, and is it possible that baptism which is such an institution, may, in the intention of its divine author, be performed by one of several acts not equally normal?  God is a God, not of confusion, but of order.  Now we reach our highest point:  that which has shown itself to be the superior act in baptism, and also the normal act, is in addition the only act known to the Savior and his apostles, and hence the only one obligatory upon us.  And in support of this our confident appeal is to the meaning of the enacting word itself, to the examples of baptism given in the New Testament, to the figurative references to baptism therein contained, and to the New Testament symbolism of the ordinance.

It may have occurred to the reader ere this that it is manifestly absurd to speak of modes of baptism, though we have had to do it.  If a person should stand up in one of our pulpits and read:  “Go ye therefore and matheteusatize all nations” and then proceed to expatiate upon the different modes of matheteusatizing the nations, what would we think?  We should want to know first what the word means in English, what duty or duties it commands in English, then we could listen to a discussion of the modes of performance.  Now “baptize” is an anglicized Greek word, not a Greek word translated into English.  What does it mean in English?  If it means to sprinkle, we may discuss modes of sprinkling; if to pour, modes of pouring; if to immerse, modes of immersing; but we can not in strict intelligence speak of modes of baptism. The Greek word baptizo is found one hundred and seventy-five times in extant Greek literature outside of the New Testament, before, during, and for three or four centuries after the Savior and the apostles, and in every instance it has the same general meaning.  Whether employed literally, or figuratively, it never deviates from dip, immerse, overwhelm, plunge, sink; and there is absolutely no reason why it should not be taken in the same sense in the New Testament.  As the Greeks used it, and as they use it to-day, it was used by the Savior and the apostles.  What say the leading lexicographers on the subject?  “To dip in or under water” is the pronouncement of Liddell and Scott, whose lexicon of classic Greek is as good as we have.  Sophocles, in his exhaustive lexicon of Greek usage in the Roman and Byzantine periods, from 140 B. C. to 1000 A. D., gives “to dip, to immerse, to sink,” adding:  “There is no evidence that Luke and Paul and the other writers of the New Testament put upon this verb meanings not recognized by the Greeks.”  Doubtless the very best lexicon of New Testament Greek in existence is Grimm’s Wilke’s edited by Thayer; and in this, after the definitions “to dip repeatedly, to immerse, submerge,” and some secondary and figurative meanings of a similar import, the learned author says:  “In the New Testament it is used particularly of the rite of sacred ablution, first instituted by John the Baptist, afterwards by Christ’s command received by Christians and adjusted to the contents and nature of their religion, viz.:  an immersion in water, performed as a sign of the renewal from sin, and administered to those who, impelled by a desire for salvation, sought admission to the benefits of the Messiah’s kingdom.”  It is useless after such a showing as this to quote any example of the use of the word in Greek literature.  The Greeks had words which meant to sprinkle and to pour, and they are freely used in the New Testament, but somehow they are never employed in connection with the ordinance of baptism; but the word and its cognates which always implied an immersion are the ones invariably used.

With this meaning of the word in mind, it is easy to understand how John baptized “in the river of Jordan” and “at Elim near to Salem because there was much water there,” and how Jesus when he was baptized “came up out of the water,” and how Philip and the eunuch “went down both into the water” and after the baptism of the latter, “were come up out of” it again.  It is easy also to understand the meaning of every passage in the New Testament in which the verb baptizo or its corresponding noun is found in connection with these prepositions.  And there is no reason for supposing the slightest departure from the common meaning of the word in the administration of baptism to the three thousand on the day of Pentecost.  Distributing the three thousand equally among the apostles and allowing one minute of time for each candidate, the whole work would have been accomplished in four hours and ten minutes:  or, if the apostles had called to their assistance the seventy disciples mentioned in the tenth chapter of Luke, each administrator would have had only about thirty-six candidates to baptize.  In our Baptist mission at Ongole in India, in 1879, two thousand two hundred and twenty-two converts were baptized by six ministers in nine hours, with only two baptizing at a time.

The figurative uses of baptism in the New Testament also become clear and even luminous under this meaning of the word.  What could the Savior have meant by the question, “Are ye able to drink the cup that I drink of? or to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” or by the expression, “I have a baptism to be baptized with and how am I straitened till it be accomplished,” aside from the thought of the overwhelming sufferings into which He was about to he plunged.”  I would not that ye should be ignorant,” said the apostle Paul to his brethren at Corinth, “how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea,” while the apostle Peter, in addressing the strangers scattered throughout Pontus and Galatia and other parts beheld a baptism in the picture of the ark emerging from the flood, “When once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is eight souls were saved by water.”

And when we turn to the symbolism of the ordinance with this meaning of baptizo in our thought there can be no question on the mind concerning what baptism was in the days of the New Testament.  It symbolized purification indeed, but total purification, purification through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, purification always connected with its procuring cause in the Lord Jesus Christ, and so the believers’ union with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection.  The element employed in baptism is symbolical, and the act is symbolical.  The element is water and stands for purification, the act is an immersion, followed in the nature of the case, by an emersion, the one standing for a burial (which implies of course a death) and the other for a resurrection.  Now neither sprinkling nor pouring will suit the case.  Either of these could represent a partial purification, but it is a total purification that must be set forth; and neither of these could ever represent a burial and a resurrection.  Do the words of the Savior, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he can not enter into the kingdom of God,” refer to baptism; and if so, how can that birth be set forth by sprinkling a few drops of water in the face or dropping a teaspoonful on the head?  The figure is that of a delivery from the womb.  In his letter to the Romans the apostle Paul says:  “Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death:  that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father even so we also should walk in newness of life.”  To the Colossians also he spake in a similar strain:  “Buried with him in baptism wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God who hath raised him from the dead.”  And the apostle Peter:  “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”  What John Wesley says on the first of these passages, namely, that the apostle was “alluding to the ancient manner of baptizing by immersion,” is said by nearly all scholars on all of them.  The thought of a sprinkling or a pouring is so utterly incongruous as to be inadmissible.  We must have enough water for a mystic grave, and we must effect in symbol a burial and a resurrection.  If it be suggested, as sometimes it has been, that the Greek word can not mean an immersion and an emersion at the same time, a reply is ready.  The word means to dip as well as to immerse and may have generally had this meaning in the New Testament period; but it was not necessary for it to carry both meanings, the latter being implied in the purpose of the immersion.  Still further, neither sprinkling nor pouring could have any advantage in such an issue.  The Greek word could not mean to sprinkle and to cease to sprinkle at the same time, nor to pour and to cease to pour at the same time; so that if we should begin to do either we should have no authority from the word itself to cease.  It would be as agreeable to drown by remaining under the water in the act of immersion as to die of congestion of the brain as a result of an unceasing application of water to the head.

Now with immersion as the superior act and the normal act and the sole New Testament act, what are we to do?  Shall we join hands with those who say that it is sometimes impracticable, dangerous to health and life, indecent, inconvenient, and for these reasons set it aside for a substitute?  Baptism is not a duty where it is really impracticable, and it should never be administered when it endangers health or life.  The Father who instituted it, and the Son and Saviour who submitted to it in his own person in order “to fulfill all righteousness,” and the Holy Spirit who was present with approval and a blessing at the baptism of the Son, may be allowed to be the best judge of whether it is decent or not; and the question of our personal convenience should be allowed to be sunk out of sight, and that utterly, in the larger issue of an honest and loving and selfsacrificing loyalty to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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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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