The Ancient Faith
THE DESIGN OF BAPTISM
The GOSPEL PLAN OF SALVATION is the grandest system of harmony and order ever devised by God for man. There is a place for everything, and everything should be in its place. We have found a place for faith, what it is, how it comes, and what it does; a place for repentance, what it is, how it is produced, and what it does; a place for the good confession, what it is, how it is made, when it should be made, who should make it, and what it is made for; a place for baptism, what it is, and who should submit to it; and now it remains for us to see what it is for, or to learn, if we can, the design of it — what office, if any, it fills in the great system of salvation to which it belongs.
It is not to be presumed that the Lord required men and women to be baptized into the awfully sublime names of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, without some important design or end to be accomplished by it; and when we take from baptism this design, it becomes an unmeaning pageant, which may be attended to or neglected as the caprice of the clergy or the people may determine. If a sick man waits until he gets well before he takes the medicine designed to cure him, it is scarcely necessary that he should then trouble himself to take it at all. So, if a man must wait until he be saved from his sins, made a child of God and an heir of heaven, before he obeys the Lord, we see not why he should still be baptized for the remission of sins already pardoned. Hence, when we take from baptism its design, it matters little who is baptized, how it is done, or whether it is done at all. That we may have something tangible and definite before us, we affirm that BAPTISM IS FOR, OR IN ORDER TO, THE REMISSION OF SINS. This is its design, as taught by Christ and those who wrote the New Testament.
Before offering the proof of this affirmation, it may be well to get its import clearly before the mind of the reader. We fully realize the importance of the proposition, and feel, therefore, that we should well understand the import of the terms employed in its construction. “Sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John iii:4. Not a law, some law, or any law, but the law. There are laws which, we suppose, it would be no sin to violate; but sin is the transgression of divine law, and whenever any other law comes in conflict with this law, it is no crime, but may be a virtue to violate it. That we be more plain, the wife is required to obey her husband, but were the husband to command her to steal, we suppose she had better obey God, who says “thou shalt not steal,” than the husband who says “you shall steal.” “All unrighteousness is sin.” 1 John v:19. There can be no enforcement of law without a penalty for its violation, and this penalty must be suffered by the guilty or it must be forgiven by the offended. By remission of sins, then, we mean a release from the punishment due the violation of God’s law. The same thought is expressed in different forms; as: “Remission of sins,” Matt. xxvi:28; Acts ii:38. “Forgiveness of sins,” Acts v:31; xiii:38;
xxvi:18. “Salvation from sins,” Matt. i:21. “Cleansing from sin,” 1 John i:7. “Blotting out of sin,” Ps.ii:1; Isa. xliii:25; Jer. xviii:23. “Washing away sins,” Acts xxii:16. “Ceasing to remember sins,” Jer. xxxi:34; Heb. viii:12, x:17.
All these, and others which we might give are but different ways of expressing the same thought. A sin once committed can never be undone by any power, human or divine. The punishment may be commuted, suspended, or forgiven — undone it cannot be, but must remain in the history of past events as long as eternity endures. How important, then, it is that we look well to the record we are making; and how wonderfully kind, too, has been our Heavenly Father in providing a plan of salvation by which we may escape the punishment justly due those who violate His law! But while baptism is appointed of the Lord for the remission of sins, the pardon granted is retrospective, only for the sins of the past; hence says Paul: “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past.” Rom. iii:24, 25. But does anyone suppose that baptism is for the remission of all the sins of the party baptized, future as well as past? If not, what means John Calvin by the following language: “Nor must it be supposed that baptism is administered only for the time past, so that for sins into which we fall after baptism it would be necessary to seek other new remedies of expiation, in I know not what other sacraments, as if the virtue of baptism were become obsolete. In consequence of this error, it happened in former ages that some persons would not be baptized except at the close of their life, and almost in the moment of their death, so that they might obtain pardon for their whole life — a preposterous caution, which is frequently censured in the writings of the ancient bishops. But we ought to conclude that at whatever time we are baptized we are washed and purified for the whole life. Whenever we have
fallen, therefore, we must recur to the remembrance of baptism, and arm our minds with the consideration of it, that we may be always certified and assured of the remission of our sins.” Calvin in Campbell on Baptism, pp. 262, 263.
This is an error into which Mr. Calvin and others fell by failing to recognize the fact that God has ordained a law of pardon or naturalization for the alien, by which he must become a citizen of His kingdom, and another law of pardon for him after he becomes a subject of His government — one law of pardon for the stranger and another for His children. We do not know whether there are any who now believe the doctrine of the foregoing paragraph from Mr. Calvin’s pen or not, but we do know that many, like him, have failed to make any distinction in the law which applies to the alien and that which applies to the erring Christian; and, hence, the common objection to the doctrine of baptism for the remission of sins: “If baptism is for the remission of sins, why do you not baptize a man every time he sins? We are not surprised when such an objection comes from those who never read the Bible, but when it comes from good men who study the Bible, we know not how to account for it.
Our charity, however, inclines us to make great allowance for the blinding influences of a false theory, and to conclude that the objection is honestly made and must be met accordingly; we, therefore, proceed to show that God has given a law of pardon applicable to His erring children differing from the law of pardon given to the unconverted sinner. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to
the people, and “when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also; and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.” Acts viii:12, 13. Here is one law to which the Samaritans submitted, in doing which they became children of God. Jesus said: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Mark xvi:16. The Samaritans, Simon among them, did believe and were baptized, and hence were pardoned as surely as there is any truth in the record. Simon did just what the others did, and was saved if they were saved. But “when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands he may receive the Holy Ghost.” Ver. 18, 19. Here was a wicked thought which entered into the heart of Simon, but did the inspired teachers rebaptize him? No; but why not? This is a case exactly applicable to the objection under examination. He, with the other Samaritans, had believed and been baptized, and was, therefore, saved; yet he sinned. What shall he do now? Peter said: “Repent, therefore, of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.” Ver. 22. Here is the law which applies to those who sin after having been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of their past sins. They must repent of the sin or sins committed, and pray to God for pardon, and, as His children, He will hear and pardon them. Being a child of God, “if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 1 John ii:1. And, again: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John i:9.
Here are privileges which the children of God have, which aliens, while children of the wicked one, have not. It is their gracious privilege to pray to their Father, with the assurance that He will grant them such favors as they ask in accordance with His will. But Mr. Ditzler says Simon “did not believe on Christ, but they simply believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God and were baptized. Acts viii:12. Ver. 13: Then Simon himself believed (i.e., Philip preaching), and was baptized.” Louisville Debate, p. 222. He says Simon did not believe on Christ, yet the scriptures he quotes show that he believed just what the others did; and no one doubts their faith. But he omits some words in the quotation, which, of course, he deems unimportant to the sense, yet we think them calculated to show just the opposite of what he said. They are the words “and the name of Jesus Christ” in the sentence, “They believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ.”
Then Philip preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, which they and Simon believed, yet he did not believe on Christ at all! Philip must have acted strangely inconsistent; for, in the same chapter (ver. 37), we find that he would not baptize the eunuch until he confessed his faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and yet he baptized Simon and the Samaritans who did not believe on Christ! How is this? But he continues: “Now, because Simon was baptized, sorcerer as he was, though at once said to be in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity.” How does he know that as soon as Simon was baptized this was at once said to him? The record says: “When the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down,” etc. Ver. 14, 15. This shows that after Simon’s baptism a report of the success of Philip’s preaching had to go from Samaria to Jerusalem (a distance of thirty-six miles); the apostles have a meeting, and Peter and John go from Jerusalem to Samaria before Peter could have said to him what Mr. Ditzler says was said at once. We suppose the news went from Samaria to Jerusalem by the ordinary intercourse between those cities; as we have no account of special messengers being sent to carry it, then it is impossible to tell how long a time elapsed from Simon’s baptism to his rebuke by Peter. But when we take into consideration the means of travel in that country at that time, we know it was several days at least. Mr. Ditzler continues: “Peter’s very words, ‘I perceive thou art in the gall of bitterness,’ imply he discovered he never had been right.” Do Peter’s words show that Simon never had been right? Peter does not tell Simon to repent of all his sins, or even of sins, but of a specific sin — repent of THIS thy wickedness. Nor does he tell him to pray to God for the pardon of all his past sins, but for a specific sin — pray God if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee — this thought of purchasing the gift of God with money. We insist that this language clearly shows that one sin, and only one, stood charged against Simon, and that all his former sins had been pardoned prior to that time.
Nor is this all; Simon did not manifest a wicked, but a penitent, disposition after Peter rebuked him. Said he: “Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things come upon me.” Acts viii:24. And if Peter obeyed the instructions which were given to other disciples, to “pray one for another” (Jas. v:16), he did pray for Simon, and none of these things came upon him.
We have quoted Mr. Ditzler as expressing the generally received theory on Simon’s case, because his language is a matter of record, and can be found by those who will take the trouble to find and read the page to which we have referred them. Simon’s case as clearly shows two laws of pardon — one for the alien and another for the erring Christian — as it is possible to show any thing by proof; we shall, therefore, treat this as settled, and proceed to examine the testimony upon which we rely to prove that baptism is for the remission of sins.
Though John’s baptism is not now binding upon anyone, and has not been since the establishment of the kingdom for which it prepared material, yet a brief examination of it is deemed important to a proper understanding of the baptism to which the taught of all nations are now required to submit. Indeed, that differed from this rather in its adjuncts than in the baptism itself. John required those baptized by him to believe in a Saviour to come. John required those who came to his baptism to confess their sins — now those who would be baptized must confess their faith in the Son of God. Now, persons are baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. What formula John used is not known, but it is certain he did not baptize into these sublime names. John’s baptism prepared material for position in a kingdom to be established, or a temple or church to be built; now, persons are baptized into a kingdom already established, a temple which has been built, a church already in existence. While there are these differences in the adjuncts, John’s baptism was immersion in water — adults only were subjects of it, and it was for the remission of the sins of those who submitted to it. When John was named by the direction of the angel, his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying: “Thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins.” Luke i:76, 77. In fulfillment of the prophecy, and others made by the prophets, it is said “John did baptize in the wilderness, and peach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” Mark i:4. “And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” Luke ii:3. If these scriptures do not prove, beyond the possibility of even respectable quibble, that John’s baptism was for the remission of sins, then we know not how language might be shaped capable of proving that fact. To keep within the range of English criticism, the preposition of in these quotations implies possession — i.e., that baptism belongs to or grows out of repentance; hence, those baptized by John were truly penitent, and desired to obey God in baptism that they might have knowledge of salvation by the remission of their sins. But we are told that John’s baptism did not follow repentance, but preceded and obligated to it. Then we are to understand that John baptized the impenitent upon a promise of future repentance. Suppose an applicant for baptism had said: “John, I have not repented, but if you will baptize me, I will repent at a more convenient season,” would John have baptized such an applicant? But let us suppose this theory true for a moment, and see what it will do for the theory of those who advocate it. They tell us that there never has been but one law of pardon from the days of Adam until now, and that repentance precedes faith in the order of their occurrence. Then, as the same law of pardon existed in John’s day that exists now, and baptism preceded repentance, and repentance preceded faith, it follows that baptism is first in order, then repentance, and faith comes last; and, hence, we must baptize persons without faith or repentance. Paul says: “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” therefore such baptism could not be pleasing to God; and as that which is not of faith is sin, such baptism is sin. The advocates of this theory have often tantalized us for baptizing persons without sufficient preparation, but we would like to know how much preparation for baptism belongs to this theory. As it precedes repentance, and repentance precedes faith,
what precedes and prepares for baptism? Just nothing at all. But again: suppose their theory be true that repentance did follow, not precede, John’s baptism, does it follow that his baptism was not for the remission of sins because it was not last in the order of conditions complied with?
We are told that Jacob served seven years for Rachel (Gen. xxix:20); was not the first year’s service as much for Rachel as that of the seventh year? and could he ever have reached the seventh year without passing through all the preceding years? When Naaman dipped himself seven times in Jordan, that he might be cured of his leprosy, though the cure followed the seventh dipping, all the preceding were as much for his cure as was the seventh. We might give numerous illustrations of this principle, but these are enough to show that were we to concede that John’s baptism preceded repentance, the concession would not prove that it was not for remission of sins. When the Bible says that John preached the baptism of repentance for remission of sins, the language affirms nothing of repentance, but that the baptism which belongs to repentance is for remission of sins. But why argue the question further? It is plain enough.
We base our second argument upon the language of Christ to Nicodemus: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” John iii:5. Having devoted a chapter each to the establishment of the kingdom and the philosophy of the new birth, we need not stop here to enlarge upon either; but it is sufficient to remark that in the kingdom is a state of safety — out of it we know of no salvation for anyone who belongs to the class of persons for whom it was established. Paul says: “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father.” 1 Cor. xv:24.
How shall those for whom the kingdom was established be delivered with the kingdom unless they be in it? He who enters the kingdom is saved, pardoned, justified; but if there is salvation for intelligent men and women out of it, why did Christ give His life to establish it? Surely it could do no good to establish a kingdom out of which persons could be saved as well as in it; and had such been the fact, when Jesus said “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom,” Nicodemus could have replied: ‘It matters not whether a man enters it or not, as he can be saved as well out of it as in it.”
As it is an incontrovertible truth, then, that men who would be saved from their sins must enter the kingdom, and as they cannot enter it without being born of water and of the Spirit, it follows that a birth of water and of the Spirit is indispensable to salvation from sins. The only remaining question, then, is: Did the Lord allude to baptism when He used the language “born of water?” If not, to what did He allude? What other connection with water can there be to which He may have referred? The religious world, with one voice, from the days of Christ until quite recently, has ascribed this language to water baptism. Speaking of the primitive fathers, Dr. Wall, the great pedobaptist historian, says: “They understood that rule of our Saviour, ‘Except one be regenerated (or born again) of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God,’ of water baptism, and concluded from it that without such baptism., no person could come to heaven — and so did all the writers of these four hundred years, not one man excepted.” Wall’s History of Infant Bap., Vol. 1, pp. 69, 70. Thus we have Dr. Wall’s testimony that every writer of the first four hundred years, without a single exception, understood the
Saviour to refer to water baptism, and that no man could be saved without it. Again: on page 147, of the same volume, Dr. Wall says: “There is not anyone Christian writer of any antiquity in any language, but
what understands it of baptism; and if it be not so understood, it is difficult to give an account how a person is born of water any more than born of wood.” This is strong language, but no writer has ventured to dispute it. If it were not true, and any writer understood it otherwise, his writings would have been produced in refutation of the statement.
But what is the testimony of modern writers on this subject? Mr. Wesley says: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit — except he experiences that great inward change by the Spirit and be baptized (wherever baptism can be had) as the outward sign and means of it.” Wesley’s Notes on John iii:5.
“By baptism, we who were ‘by nature children of wrath,’ are made the children of God; and this regeneration which our church in so many places ascribes to baptism is more than barely being admitted into the church, though commonly connected therewith; being ‘grafted into the body of Christ’s church, we are made the children of God by adoption and grace.’ This is grounded on the plain words of our Lord, ‘Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’ John iii:5. By water, then, as a means, the water of baptism, we are regenerated or born again; whence it is also called by the apostle ‘the washing of regeneration.'” Doctrinal Tracts, published by order of the Methodist General Conference, pp. 248, 249.
BLOOMFIELD: “The purpose of the next verse (6) seems to be to set forth the indispensable necessity of this regeneration by water and the Spirit, in order to the attainment of everlasting salvation; for that as the natural or animal life depends on flesh and blood, so does the spiritual life depend on the baptism by water and by the Spirit.” Greek Testament and Notes.
WHITBY: “If a man be not born of water: That our Lord speaks here of baptismal regeneration, the whole Christian church from the beginning hath always taught, and that with very good reason.” Notes on John iii:5.
BARNES: “Born of water: By water here is evidently signified baptism; thus, the word is used, Eph. v:26; Titus iii:5.” Notes on John iii:5.
TIMOTHY DWIGHT, president of Yale College: “To be born again is precisely the same thing as to be born of water and of the Spirit; and to be born of water is to be baptized, and he who understands the nature and authority of this institution, and refuses to be baptized, will never enter the visible or invisible kingdom of God.”
GEORGE WHITFIELD: Born of water and of the Spirit: Does not this verse urge the absolute necessity of baptism? Yes, when it may be had.” Works, Vol. iv, p. 355.
While we do not endorse everything quoted from these authors, they show that the learned of all ages understand baptism by the language born of water. Did space permit we might extend the list of quotations ad infinitum. The Methodist Discipline quotes John iii:1-8, in the baptismal ceremony. The Westminster and Cumberland Presbyterian Confessions refer to John iii:5, as a proof text under the head of baptism, showing that they understand the passage to refer to water baptism, otherwise they would not thus refer to it. The Episcopalian Church so understands it, as the following questions and answers from the Catechism will clearly show:
“Question. What is the inward and spiritual grace (of baptism)?
Answer. A death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness, for being by nature born in sin, and the children of wrath, we are hereby made the children of grace.
“Q. But are there not some conditions required on the part of man in order to his being saved by the death of Christ?
“A. We must become members of that spiritual society or body of which Christ is the head.
“Q. Why must we become members of this body?
“A. Because we cannot partake of the Spirit of Christ unless we are members of the body of Christ. ‘There is one body and one Spirit.’ Eph. iv:4.
“Q. What is the body of Christ commonly called?
“A. It is called the church. Eph. i:23.
“Q. How are we made members of the church or mystical body of Christ?
“A. By baptism. ‘We are all baptized into one body.’ 1 Cor. xii: 13.
“Q. For what end did our Lord institute the rite of baptism?
“A. To be the way and means of admitting man again into the favor of God. ‘Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.’ John iii:5.
“Q. What favors or privileges does God grant to persons baptized in this new covenant?
“A. The forgiveness of all his own sins, if he hath committed any, and the sin of Adam so far as concerned him; a title to the Holy Spirit, as being the life of the body whereof he is now made a member, and the promise of a resurrection of his body, and a glorious immortality in heaven.
“Q. Can forgiveness of sin be obtained by those to whom the gospel is preached, out of the church?
“A. No; for it is obtained only through Jesus Christ.
“Q. Does baptism cleanse us from all the actual sins we have committed before it?
“A. Yes; as well as from original sin. ‘Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins.’ Acts xxii:16.
“Q. Who instituted the sacrament of baptism and the Lord’s Supper?
“A. Our Lord Jesus Christ, for the purpose of applying the merits of his death to us.
“Q. Is it, then, a great advantage to receive these sacraments worthily?
“A. It is the greatest blessing of this life, because they are the means of conveying grace into our souls, without which we can do no good thing.”
This catechism teaches that baptism brings us into the church, out of which those to whom the gospel is preached cannot be saved; it brings us into the body of Christ, out of which we cannot partake of the Spirit of Christ, without which we are none of His; it is the means of obtaining the remission of all our sins, and Adam’s sin as far as it pertains to us; it gives a title to the Holy Spirit, a promise of a resurrection of the body, and a glorious immortality in heaven. Is not this enough? Whoever attached more importance to baptism than this?
But our chief object in quoting it was to show that it refers the language of Jesus (born of water) to baptism. How comes it to pass NOW that men will abandon their own creeds and the plainest teaching of Holy Writ, as understood by the learned of all ages, and deny that the passage has any reference to baptism at all. When the Lord said: “Suffer little children to come unto me,” and said not a word about water, or baptism, they can see plenty of water to baptize an infant; yet where the Lord uses the language “born of water and of the Spirit,” they cannot find a drop of water in the passage. Whether or not they are consistent the reader will judge for himself.
But we are told that if the kingdom was not established until the day of Pentecost, this language cannot apply to it, for it was used before that time. It is true that the kingdom was not set up until the day of Pentecost; and it is also true that this language was used by Christ before 4that time, but the same is true of everything He said while on the earth; hence it may all be wiped out by the same rule. The New Testament is the last will of the Saviour; was there ever a will the provisions of which were not arranged before the death of the testator? Jesus Christ arranged the provisions of His will before His death, and one very important provision was the manner of entering His kingdom when it should be established. The clause containing this provision was given to Nicodemus in a figure, and went into effect when His apostles were installed executors of the will on the day of Pentecost.
But the tenth verse — “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” — is supposed to show that the lesson contained in the conversation was one which Nicodemus was presumed to know as a teacher of the Jewish law; and as baptism for remission of sins was not taught in that law, he could not know it, and therefore it was not embraced in the conversation between Christ and him. As a teacher of Israel, it was presumed that Nicodemus was capable of understanding plain instruction such as Christ had given him, but after Christ had explained the whole matter to him, he still did not understand it; hence the question, “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” and Jesus proceeds to tell him the reason: “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you of earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things?” Vs. 11, 12. Thus, we see he did not know what Jesus had taught him because he did not receive the testimony presented. The Jewish age abounded with types and prophecies pointing to Christ and His kingdom, with which Nicodemus should have been familiar, yet he did not understand them when explained to him. Hence the objection amounts to nothing, and the argument stands forth in all its strength: When Jesus spake of a birth of water and Spirit, He referred to baptism, without which no man can enter the kingdom of God, and out of which there is no salvation for those to whom the kingdom comes.
Our third argument is based upon the commission as recorded by Mark: “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Mark xvi:16. To suit the theory of some who regard baptism a nonessential, and teach that man is justified by faith alone, the commission should read, “He that believeth and is saved may be baptized if convenient.” Their theory confronts the Lord when He says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,” and says, “Not so, Lord; he that believes is saved, whether baptized or not.” When a blessing is promised on certain conditions, it cannot be enjoyed until the last condition is completed with. E.g.: When Naaman was commanded to wash himself seven times in Jordan, that he might be healed of his leprosy, he was not healed until he dipped himself the seventh time. When the Jews were required to go around the city seven days, and on the seventh day seven times, that they might possess the city, the walls were not thrown down until they came to the end of the conditions prescribed; so, when the Lord promises salvation to him who believes AND is baptized, no one need expect the promised salvation until he has complied with the last prescribed condition. If he believes, yet has not been baptized, the blessing promised cannot be expected. But we are told that the salvation here promised was salvation in heaven, or future salvation. This attaches much more importance to baptism than belongs to it. We cannot be saved in heaven unless first saved from sin; and as baptism secures salvation in heaven, it must save us from sin, and everything beyond that. This is too strong meat for us. As Peter was one of those to whom this commission was given, and had the Spirit to guide him into all
truth, perhaps he might tell us what baptism saves us from. On the day of Pentecost, operating under this commission, he commanded persons to repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; hence he understood “remission of sins,” or salvation from the punishment due sin, to be the salvation of the commission. And when he wrote to his brethren he said, “Baptism doth also NOW save us” (1 Pet. iii:21); hence it is not a future but a present salvation which is received by baptism — not salvation in heaven, for it now saves us. But infidelity has furnished our neighbors an easier way of escape from the commission by Mark. Finding all other quibbles ineffectual, they now tell us it is an interpolation — a Roman Catholic forgery — “the whole of the chapter, from the ninth verse to the twentieth, inclusive, is spurious.” This is a very convenient way of disposing of an argument which cannot be met otherwise. If a passage is in harmony with our theory it is canonical, otherwise it is
a forgery. We wish to enter our protest against the immolation of our Bible in this way. Interpolations in it there may be, but they must be incontrovertibly shown such before we can respect the attack of one
against whose theory they chance to come. Such men cannot blow a chapter out of our Bible with a breath.
We propose to submit some testimony which may not be in the possession of every one, with regard to the authenticity of this connection of Scripture. Prof. Stowe has made the authenticity of the books of the Bible a specialty, and we suppose has given the subject more attention than any man in America — perhaps than any man now living. He wrote a notice of Tischendorf’s New Testament, which was published in the “Christian Union,” from which we extract the following:
“The New Testament in English, edited by Tischendorf and published by Tauchnitz, is a work of great merit, in a scholarly point of view; but to those not fully acquainted with the subject, altogether deceptive, though not intentionally so. Such are apt to think that the three oldest manuscripts must be the best authority for the original text, and that what cannot be found in them could not have been a part of the New Testament as it came from the hands of the apostles. This is a great and mischievous mistake. The three oldest manuscripts used by Tischendorf date from the first quarter of the fourth to the middle of the fifth century; that is, some two hundred and twenty-five years, at least, after the New Testament had been written, read in the churches, and scattered all over the Christian world — liable to all the accidents incident to frequent transcription. “Now we have translations of the New Testament in various
languages — Syrian, Egyptian, Ethiopic, and others — beginning with the latter part of the second century. From the first century to the fifth there are not less than ten of these translations, and they certainly are a much better authority than manuscripts which had no existence till early in the fourth century. When these translations contain passages which are not contained in later manuscripts, the translations are much more likely to give the text as it stood in their time than the manuscripts. The loss of a leaf (for these manuscripts are all in book form, and not in rolls), the beginning in wrong places by the transcriber after a rest from writing, and various other circumstances, may easily account for an unintentional omission in the manuscripts, but an interpolation must be intentional. On these accounts, and others that might be mentioned, it is easy to see that, at least in regard to interpolations, a good translation of the second or third century is a far more reliable authority for the original of the text than the manuscript of the fourth or fifth century.
The ten translations above alluded to are, therefore, on these points, far more trustworthy than the three
manuscripts used by Tischendorf in his new edition of the New Testament. “Again, we have numerous Christian writers — from the first century to the fifth — who constantly quote the New Testament as it stood in their time; and the quotations of the first three centuries are an earlier authority for the original text than any of the Tischendorf manuscripts. There are some seventy-five of these writers, and their quotations are so numerous that if every manuscript of the New Testament were lost, the substance of it could be reproduced from their writings. Moreover, the manuscripts are all anonymous. We know not who wrote them; but the quotations are given with responsible names. We know the authors of the books in which they occur. It is true that these translations, and the writings of the early Christian fathers, are generally more or less incomplete, and the text somewhat varied, but the same is true of the New Testament manuscripts. In the very best manuscript (the Sinaitic), Tischendorf indicates four different classes or kinds of variation. On this point all the authorities, whether translations or manuscripts, need careful editing — they all stand on precisely the same ground. “Now apply these principles to a single case by way of illustration. The last chapter of Mark’s gospel, from the eighth verse onward, is omitted in the Sinaitic and Vatican manuscripts, but is contained in the Alexandrian. It is in all the Syrian, Egyptian, and
other translations of the second and third centuries, and it is quoted as the last part of Mark’s gospel by Irenaeus, the most learned Christian writer of the second century, and the student of Polycarp, who had studied with the apostle John. Irenaeus tells us that he had the books of the Christian Scriptures in his possession at the very time when he was on terms of familiarity with Polycarp, daily listening to his accounts of what he had himself heard from John and others, who had seen the Lord. This chapter of Mark is also found in more than five hundred Greek manuscripts, and also in the Latin and Gothic. Now, which is the more probable that all these most ancient witnesses had been deceived by an interpolation,
or that, by some accident, the last leaf of Mark’s gospel had been dropped out from the manuscript from which the Sinaitic and Vatican were copied? From this statement of fact, it is obvious that anyone who should, in making a revised text of the New Testament, strike out all that is not contained in the three oldest manuscripts used by Tischendorf, must be guilty of a very faulty text. It is a remarkable fact, not to be lightly estimated, that a whole column of space is left blank in the Vatican manuscript as if the copyist had intended, but for some reason had omitted, to fill it with the text.”
In a subsequent paper Prof. Stowe enters into specifications as follows: “We are perfectly safe and within bounds in concluding that, at least, the historical books of the New Testament were in circulation in the Syrian churches in the Peshito translation as early as the latter part of the first century. If so, then the Syrian Christians, the near neighbors and contemporaries, and relations by language and race, of the apostles themselves, read this passage, the last verses of Mark’s gospel, without question, as a genuine portion of the gospel of Mark, nearly three centuries before the oldest manuscript used by Tischendorf was written. Now take this in connection with the fact that no one knows either the origin or the history of the Tischendorf manuscripts, while both the origin and history of the Syrian translation are known and well attested as to substance, and also the fact that an accidental omission, especially of the last leaf, is much more easily accounted for than an interlined interpolation, which, at that early period, and in those circumstances, would have been well-nigh impossible, and anyone can see that the authority of the Syrian
translation must be, in this instance, altogether superior to that of the Greek manuscript. To this add the authority on the same point of all the translations of the second and third centuries, and of more than five hundred Greek manuscripts, and the case is made out. “Second authority, Irenaeus. He was born in Smyrna, near the beginning of the second century; was the student of Polycarp, the celebrated bishop and martyr of that city, the disciple of John the apostle, and, not unlikely, the very angel of that church to whom John directed the epistle in Rev. ii:8-17, dictated by the Lord Jesus. He had resided at Rome and early went as a missionary to France, where he suffered martyrdom in the year 202. In writing to his friend Iconius, who was an elder in the church at Rome, he says: ‘I saw thee when I was yet a boy in the lower class with Polycarp. I remember the events of those times much better than those of more recent occurrence. I can tell the very place where the blessed Polycarp was accustomed to sit and discourse of his familiar intercourse with John, as he was accustomed to tell, as also his familiarity with those who had seen the Lord; how, also, he used to relate their discourses concerning his miracles, his doctrine; all these were told by Polycarp, in consistency with the Holy Scriptures, as he had received them from the eye-witnesses. These things I attentively heard, noting them down in my mind; and these same facts I am always in the habit of recalling faithfully to mind.’ Is not Irenaeus better authority on such a point as that which we are now considering than any anonymous manuscript written nearly two centuries after his time? Yet Irenaeus, in his great work on Heresies, iii, 10:6, writes thus: ‘Mark says in the end of his gospel (Mark xvi:19), And, indeed, the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was received up into
heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.’ “The third authority, Hippolytus. Hippolytus was a student of
Irenaeus, the pastor of a church in the neighborhood of Rome, one of the most pious preachers and able writers of his time, and his works are still highly esteemed and widely read. In 1551, a statue of him, with biographical inscriptions, was disinterred near Rome, and in 1661 and 1832, important long-lost writings of his were discovered, all of which excited great interest and enthusiasm. In his work on spiritual gifts there is this passage: ‘Jesus says to all, at the same time, concerning the gifts which shall be given by Him through the Holy Spirit. And these signs shall follow them that believe,’ etc., etc., quoting the whole of Mark xvi:17, 18.
We need pursue the subject no further, nor quote the later fathers, Augustine, Jerome, and others. So far as the weight of authority is concerned, is not the genuineness of the passage in question established beyond reasonable doubt? Tischendorf has no superior in regard to New Testament Greek manuscript authority; but as to authority of translations, church writers, etc., which are more ancient than any of our existing New Testament Greek manuscripts, Lachmann is his superior, and Lachmann retains this passage as genuine. As to the internal evidence, without these verses how abrupt and awkward the closing words of the gospel: ‘For they were afraid.’ From the analogy of all the other gospels we could certainly expect something beyond this, and common sense would teach the same.” We offer no apology for these long extracts from Prof. Stowe, they throw a flood of light upon the whole subject, and we can well afford the space given if we may thereby preserve the integrity of the Bible. We could abundantly prove the doctrine of baptism for the remission of sins without this passage, but with it there can be no plausible opposition. In the Introduction to the Tischendorf New Testament we find the following admission: “The ordinary
conclusion of the gospel of St. Mark, namely, xvi:9-20, is found in more than five hundred Greek manuscripts, in the whole of the Syriac and Coptic, and most of the Latin manuscripts, and even in the Gothic version. But by Eusebius and Jerome (the former of whom died in the year 340), it is stated expressly that in nearly all the trustworthy copies of their time the gospel ended with the eighth verse; and, with this, of all existing known Greek manuscripts, only the Vatican and the Sinaitic now agree.”
We might quote numerous other authorities, but the foregoing are all for which we have room, and are deemed quite sufficient to establish the purity of the text beyond doubt. It is a positive utterance of Him who had all authority in heaven and upon the earth, that “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Heaven and earth may pass away, but the words of Jesus cannot fail. Reader, are you a believer? If so, have you been baptized? If not, can you feel that the promise, “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,” offers any consolation to you while in your present condition? If not, “why tarriest thou? arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
We base our next argument upon the operations of the apostles under this commission. They were instructed to tarry at Jerusalem until endued with power from on high. They were all with one accord in one place when the Spirit came from heaven and took possession of their tongues, and spake forth the wonderful and mighty works of God to Jews, devout men, of every nation under heaven. The gospel was preached, they heard and believed it, and were cut to the heart by it, and cried out “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” To this important inquiry Peter replied: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” Acts ii:38. This answer was dictated by the Holy
Spirit, and must therefore be accepted as applicable to the question asked. If there was ever a time when a plain, unambiguous answer was demanded, this was the time. His answer not only concerned the thousands then present, but as to him was committed the keys of the kingdom, and he was, for the first time, proclaiming the terms of admission, his answer must constitute a law of entrance for those who would become subjects of the kingdom until it shall have been delivered up to God even the Father. A plain answer was demanded, and we insist that such was the character of the answer given. There are two adjunctive phrases in the answer which we may first understand, and then remove for a moment in order to get the meaning of the trunk without them. Repent, and be baptized [every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ] for the remission of sins. Every one of you. This shows that all are addressed, and this is the measure of its import. In the name of Jesus Christ. This shows by what authority he gave to the command. When Peter healed the lame man who lay at the gate of the temple, he said: “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” Acts iii:6. When the people were astonished at what was done, Peter explained: “Ye men of Israel, why marvel at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?” Ver. 12. This shows that the phrase “in the name of Jesus Christ” simply conveys the idea of authority or power.
This settled, then we leave out the adjunctive phrases that the members of the trunk may stand closer together, and we read it thus: Repent, and be baptized for the remission of sins. This leaves no room to doubt the object or design of the obedience required. Repent, and be baptized. What for? For the remission of sins. The preposition for connects repent and be baptized on the one hand with remission on the other; of connecting sins with remission and governing it in the objective case. Hence, the relation expressed by the word for is between repent and be baptized on one side, and remission of sins on the other. The word for cannot be divided and made mean one thing as to repent, and another thing as to be baptized. We have already shown, by rules of language quoted more than once, that the same word cannot have more than one meaning at the same time, and in the same place; hence, whatever may be the meaning of the preposition for as to repentance is its meaning as to baptism. They are connected by the copulative conjunction and, and must not be separated, but must sustain, in this sentence, the same relation to remission. This point being settled, we turn to Peter for an explanation of the relation existing between repentance and remission, feeling sure that baptism sustains the same relation. We read: “Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” Acts iii:19. Do what? Repent and be converted. What for? That your sins may be blotted out. Then, as men are to repent that their sins may be
blotted out, and baptism sustains the same relation to remission of sins, it follows that men must be baptized that their sins may be blotted out. From this decision there is no appeal; it is strong as Holy Writ and the laws of language can make a proposition. Before leaving this argument, we may say that were it shown that men must be baptized because their sins are pardoned, it would follow that they must repent for the same thing, i.e., because their sins are pardoned. As before stated, the preposition for cannot mean in order to and because of at the same time and place. More than this, for is from the Greek preposition eis, which looks forward, not backward. Liddell and Scott define it, “direction toward,” “motion to,” “on,” or “into.” It is not used in the sense of because of a single time in the Bible. In Matt. xxvi:28, we have a similarly constructed sentence both. in the Greek and in the English scriptures: “For this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” The words “for the remission of sins,” are not only the same as in Acts ii:38, but they are from the same Greek words, eis aphesin amartioon. No one believes that Christ shed His blood because the sins of the people were remitted, but in order that they might be remitted. Then if the same set of words means the same thing, Peter commanded the Pentecostians to repent and be baptized in order that their sins might be remitted, or as in the French Bible, “in order to OBTAIN the remission of sins.” But an objector says that “when Jesus cured a man of his leprosy, ‘he charged him to tell no man: but go, and show thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing according as Moses commended, for a testimony unto them’ (Luke v:14; Mark i:44) — thus showing that for means ‘because of.’ He was to make the offering because of his cleansing.” In the first place, we reply that the word for, in the phrase “for thy cleansing,” is not from eis, the word used in Acts ii:38. In the next place, by consulting the law of Moses for the cure of leprosy, it will be seen that there was first a cure, and then a ceremonial cleansing from leprosy; and it was in order to this cleansing that the cured man was required by the Lord to make the offering. Hence, even in this place, the preposition for, though not a translation of eis at all, means “in order to,” and not “because of.” And if it did mean “because of,” as it comes not from eis the objection amounts to nothing. But since Mr. Ditzler has come upon the arena, the argument based upon “because of,” as a meaning of eis, has been very generally abandoned in this country. He says: “Eis is always prospective, and never retrospective. The Baptists are all wrong on eis — making it retrospective — ‘in consequence of.”‘ Louisville Debate, p. 307.
This position is well taken, but it takes away all chance of even a respectable quibble on Acts ii:38, against baptism for remission of sins. He says: “Neither repentance nor baptism is for remission, but conditions precedent to doing that which is for remission.” P. 295. If this were true it could give no relief to his theory. How can he get to remission until he passes through the conditions precedent to it? But he continues: “The repentance would as much be for remission as baptism, since they are coupled with kai — and ‘repent and be baptized.’ But it is never for remission of sins. Whatever is for remission, of necessity brings remission of sins. Faith does this — repentance never. The repentance here as usual precedes faith.” Ut supra. Repentance is not for remission of sins, yet Peter commanded persons to repent and be converted, that their sins might be blotted out!! (Acts iii:19.) Wonder what difference there is in remission of sins and blotting out of sins! But he says repentance precedes faith; and as repentance precedes baptism, and both are conditions precedent to faith, which brings remission, it follows that they are without faith, and not pleasing to God; for “without faith it is impossible to please him.” Heb. xi:6. And as that which is not of faith is sin, such repentance and baptism as precede faith are sin. But this reverses the order of the commission — “he that believeth and is baptized,” not he that is baptized and then believes. It also reverses the order of Philip’s operations. When the Samaritans believed Philip’s preaching, they were baptized; and when the eunuch demanded baptism, Philip replied: “If thou believest with all thy heart thou mayest.” No inspired man ever taught that repentance and baptism were conditions precedent to faith, or that anyone should be baptized who did not believe. The conversion of the Pentecostians may be regarded as an inspired commentary on the commission under which the apostles acted. The commission required teaching or preaching – Peter preached to Jews, devout men, who were present on the occasion. The commission required faith or belief — these were cut to the heart when they heard and believed what Peter preached. The commission, as recorded by Luke, associated repentance with remission of sins; so did Peter. The commission required believers of all nations to be baptized; so did Peter. The commission followed baptism by a promise of salvation — Peter made remission of sins the object of repentance and baptism. Thus, we see how the apostles understood the commission.
But an objector says: “Anderson’s Translation of Acts ii:47, says: ‘The Lord added the saved daily to the church.’ And as men are added to the church by baptism, it follows that they were saved before they were added by baptism.” Anderson believed that the word ekklesia, here rendered church, simply meant a local church or congregation, and that after they were saved by obedience to the gospel they were daily added to the congregation, or placed together. Mr. Campbell’s compilation of Campbell, MacKnight, and
Doddridge, renders this verse, “And the Lord daily added the saved to the congregation.” Whether Anderson correctly translated the verse or not, no honest man will take advantage of his translation to pervert his teaching. T. S. Green, of London, renders the passage thus: “And the Lord was adding daily those that were being saved.” Twofold New Testament. Thus, he leaves out the word church, for which there is nothing in the original, and is faithful to the participial form and present tense of the Greek. This rendering comes to us from, and is supported by, very high authority, and is in harmony with the general teaching of the Bible on the subject. It should, therefore, be very carefully considered before it is rejected.
It is a fact beyond controversy that those who complied with the terms imposed on the day of Pentecost were pardoned at some time of that day. At what time were they pardoned? Were they pardoned when they came together that morning? No, for they believed that Jesus Christ was an impostor, and they had crucified Him as such. Were they pardoned when Peter began to preach? Surely not, for he accused them with the murder of the Son of God, and they believed him drunk with wine. Were they forgiven when, convinced of their great wrong, they cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Such is not the style of those who are forgiven. Surely they did not cry out in the anguish of their souls, “Men and brethren, what shall we do because God has graciously forgiven us all our sins?” They were charged with the murder of Jesus Christ, and they wanted to know how to escape the punishment due them as sinners. Did Peter answer the question they put to him? We suppose he did. He commanded them to repent, and
be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins. As many as “gladly received his word were baptized.” Now, are they pardoned? No one doubts it. When were they pardoned? When they complied with the conditions specified in the command; not before. Sinner, would you be saved? then do as they did. The command came fresh from heaven, and cannot be wrong. We base another argument upon the language of Ananias to Saul: “And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Acts xxii:16 Saul’s conversion, though in some respects extraordinary, has within it all the elements contained in the commission and in the conversions of Pentecost. He was a violent persecutor of the people of God, and believed Jesus an impostor, and His followers worthy of punishment. Jesus presented Himself to him and made known the fact that He was truly the Son of God. Believing it, he cried out, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” Here would have been a good time to have verified the theory of justification by faith alone. Saul had the faith, and, if justification was by it alone, he would have gladly known the fact. As the Lord did not so inform him, we infer that no such theory was in operation at that time. Having delegated the proclamation of the gospel
to men, the Lord did not usurp the authority delegated to others by telling Saul himself, but tells him where he might go and find one competent to furnish the desired information — “Arise, and go into the city and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” Not what you may do or can do, if convenient, but what you must do. The Lord sent Ananias to answer the inquiry, which he did, saying, “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” He did not tell Saul to believe, for he had been a believer from the time the Lord appeared to him in the way, three days before; nor was he told to repent, because he had been truly penitent the same length of time; but the instructions began just where Saul’s obedience had stopped, and at the point necessary to perfect it. We stop not to inquire what washed Paul’s sins away — whether blood, water, or anything else — sufficient it is for us to know that they were not washed away until he was baptized.
Granting, as we do, that the blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin, Paul could not literally come in contact with it, but must approach it through some means appointed for that purpose. Commenting upon the phrase “be baptized and wash away thy sins,” Mr. Wesley says: “Baptism administered to real penitents is both a means and seal of pardon. Nor did God, ordinarily, in the primitive church, bestow this on any, unless through this means.” Wesley’s Notes. Burkitt says: “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins. Here note that sacraments are not empty, insignificant signs; but God, by His grace and blessing, renders His own ordinances effectual for these great ends for which his wisdom has appointed them: Be baptized and wash away thy sins. As water cleanseth the body, so the blood of Christ, signified by water, washes away the guilt of the soul. Where true faith is, together with the profession of it by baptism, there is salvation promised. Mark xvi:16. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Burkitt’s Notes.
But Mr. Campbell says: “Paul’s sins were really pardoned when he believed, yet he had no solemn pledge of the fact, no formal acquittal, no formal purgation of his sins, until he washes them away in the water of baptism.” Debate with MacCalla, p. 135. Yes, Mr. Campbell said this in his debate with MacCalla in
October of 1823, while he was a Baptist and believed and taught as Baptists do; but when he became a man he put away childish things. But we are told that Paul was commanded to arise and be baptized and wash away his sins BY calling on the name of the Lord. We respectfully suggest that the language will not bear this rendering. The word epikalesamenos (epicalesamenos) is, 1st Aorist, corresponding to the indefinite past tense of English, and, hence must indicate a calling which had previously been made. Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, having called on the name of the Lord. *We would transpose and paraphrase the passage thus: “Having called upon the name of the Lord for information, or to know what to do, He has sent me to tell you; and now why tarry? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins.” The indefinite past tense cannot express a calling yet to be made. “But Paul said to the jailer, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house,’ and it is not likely he would have given to the jailer a system of pardon differing from his own.” What are we to do with such a passage as this? Shall we tear it from its context, and build a theory of justification by faith alone because it says nothing about repentance or baptism? If so, may we not take the language of Ananias to Saul, and construct a theory of justification by baptism alone because he was told to arise and be baptized, and not a word was said about faith or repentance? And may not a third party take Peter’s language, “Repent, and be converted that your sins may be blotted out,” and construct a theory of justification upon repentance alone, because faith nor baptism is mentioned? So a fourth party may quote Peter on Pentecost, saying, Repent, and be baptized, and build a theory on these two to the exclusion of faith because it is not mentioned, and thus we may have as many theories of justification as there are cases of conversion recorded.
We must allow the apostles to adapt their teaching to the condition of the taught. When Paul addressed the jailer in infidelity — one who believed Jesus an imposter and had Paul and Silas in prison for performing a miracle in His name — it was necessary to begin at the beginning; hence, they told him to believe as the first thing necessary, and then they spake unto him the word of the Lord; that is, they further developed the plan of salvation to him. When Peter addressed believers on the day of Pentecost, he did not tell them to do that which they had already done, but added what was lacking, “Repent, and be baptized.” But when Ananias addressed a believing penitent in the person of Saul, he did not tell him to
believe and repent, for both of these he had done; but he told him to do the only thing which, at that stage of his conversion, he lacked “Arise, and be baptized.”
But we propose now to show that Paul did impose the same conditions upon the jailer that Peter did upon the Pentecostians, and that Peter and Paul did not preach different gospels. Paul said to the jailer: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house, and they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house.” Acts xvi:31, 32. The reader will please note the fact that the word of the Lord was spoken to the jailer; and if we would know what was required of him, we must learn what was embraced in the word of the Lord. The prophet said: “And many people shall go and say, Come ye and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” Isa. ii:3. Thus we see that the word of the Lord spoken to the jailer was to go forth from Jerusalem; hence, if we can find what went forth as the word of the Lord from Jerusalem, we may know what was preached to the jailer. The Lord said: “That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” Luke xxiv:47. The prophet tells us that the word of the Lord should go forth from Jerusalem, and the Lord explains this by saying it was written that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning there.
Then how did the word of the Lord go forth from Jerusalem? and how was repentance and remission of sins preached in the name of Jesus, beginning there? Peter said: “Repent, and be baptized, every one of
you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” This was what went forth as the word of the Lord from Jerusalem; and, as this constituted the word of the Lord at Jerusalem, it took the same thing to constitute it at the Philippian jail; and as this was the way repentance and remission of sins began to be preached in the name of Jesus at Jerusalem, and was to be preached among all nations, and as the jailer and all his were a part of all nations, it is certainly what was preached as the word of the Lord to them, Not only so, but we find the same result produced by the preaching at both places. At Jerusalem “they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” Acts ii:41. At the jail “he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes, and was baptized, he and all his straightway.” Acts xvi:33. Thus we see that the same gospel was reached at both places, and the parties understood and obeyed it in the same way. If baptism was not included in the word of the Lord spoken to the jailer, and especially if it be a mere non-essential, why did he so promptly attend to it the same hour of the night?
Before leaving Paul’s case we must attend to another objection which comes in our way occasionally: “If baptism be for the remission of sins, then remission is made to depend upon third parties, and the subject is dependent upon an administrator.” Had the Lord been disposed to have dispensed with the services of third parties, why did he not pardon Saul without sending him off to wait three days for Ananias, the third party? Why did He not pardon the devout Cornelius without sending to Joppa for Simon Peter, the third party? Why did He not pardon the Ethiopian nobleman without the services of Philip, the third party? God did specially interpose in each of these cases, and yet He dispensed not with the services of the third party. When an unclean person was to be purified under the law, “a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched a bone, or one slain, or one dead, or a grave; and the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day and on the seventh day.” Num. xix:18, 19. Thus we see that God’s law has ever required the services of third parties, or the services of one class in behalf of another. But if this objection be worth anything, is the theory of justification by faith alone free from it? Paul tells us that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, and asks: “How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” Rom. x:14. Then, as he cannot get faith without a third party, the preacher, the difficulty rests with all its weight upon the objector. When he gets done preaching to him, if he has faith enough, it will not detain him much longer to baptize him and make a clean job of it at once. “But in a desert he might believe in preaching previously heard.” Yes; but the preacher was still present when the preaching was done by the third party, and when the sinner heard the gospel, then was the time he should have obeyed it; and if he declined to do it, it was his misfortune, and God will hold him responsible for opportunities thus slighted, just as he will another man who has the same opportunities and dies in place of falling in a desert. In both cases it is the misfortune of the parties that they did not obey the gospel when they had the opportunity of doing so. The man who slighted ten thousand opportunities of obeying the gospel, until he gets into a condition that offers no opportunity, need scarcely expect to be held guiltless for slighting the overtures of the past. Now is the day of salvation.
Now is your time — tomorrow to you may never come. We come next to examine the epistles, in which are various allusions to our subject. In Paul’s letter to the church at Rome we have the following very significant paragraph: “But ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” Rom. vi:17, 18. Here we learn that the Romans obeyed a form, system, or mould of doctrine, in doing which they were made free from sin. Having made the subject of a change of heart a theme of special examination in another part of our work, we need not stop to consider it here.
It is sufficient at present to state that all acceptable obedience comes from the heart. God is not mocked, but seeks such to worship Him as worship Him in spirit and in truth. He that worships God to be seen of men, to gain popular applause, professional patronage, the hand of a lady, the approval of a companion, is but mocking Him with that which is an abomination in His sight. The Romans obeyed from the heart the form of doctrine delivered them. They did not obey the doctrine, but they obeyed the form of it. In order to recognize the form or likeness of anything, we must be acquainted with that of which it is a form; ea., to recognize the form or likeness of a man, we must first be acquainted with the man of whom it is a likeness. Then, to recognize the form of doctrine obeyed by the Romans, we must know the doctrine itself. Paul says: “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I
preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Cor. xv:1-4. Paul says he delivered to the Corinthians that which he received, and he says the Romans obeyed the form of doctrine delivered them. He further says that he preached the gospel to the Corinthians, and we suppose he preached the same gospel at Rome which he preached at Corinth, for he invokes the curses of heaven upon himself, or an angel, should either preach another gospel. Gal. i:8.
Then, what was the gospel preached by Paul? In its facts it was: “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” These three facts are the gospel which Paul preached, the form of which the Romans obeyed, in doing of which they were made free from sin. We are now prepared to look for the form. Paul says: “If we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him; knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God.” Rom. vi:8-11. Then the sinner dies unto sin — Christ died unto sin once. Going back to the third verse, we read: “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; for if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” Christ died for sin — the sinner must die to sin. Christ was buried — the sinner must be buried with him by baptism; Christ was raised up from the dead — the sinner must be raised up from his
baptism into death to walk in newness of life. Thus they are planted in the likeness of His death, and, raised to newness of life, should live in expectation of a final resurrection like His.
There is another thought connected with baptism into Christ’s death. We are not baptized into Christ’s death literally, but we are baptized into the benefits of His death; this being so, we can reach the benefits of His death only through baptism as the means of reaching it. A burial with Christ by baptism is the subject introduced in the beginning of the chapter, and Paul labors it and its results until he comes to the language quoted: “You have obeyed [in baptism] the form of doctrine delivered you [what was the effect of this obedience]?; being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.”
But we would next call attention to the fact that out of Christ there is no salvation. All the blessings of the gospel are to be realized in Him, none out of Him: “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Cor. v:17. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.” Ver. 19. “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” Col. i:14; Gal. i:7. “Ye are complete in him who is the head of all principality and power.” Col. ii:10. “For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the godhead bodily.” Ver. 9. “It pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell.” Col. i:19. “Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.” Eph. i:3. All things are gathered in Christ. Ver. 10. We trust in him. Ver. 12. Our redemption is in Christ. Rom. iii:24. While living, the Christian has hope in Christ. 1 Cor. xv:19. When dead, the Christian sleeps in Christ. 1 These. iv:16. Will be made alive from the dead in Christ. 1 Cor. xv:22. Seeing, then, that all the blessings of the gospel are in Christ, and that if we enjoy them, we must get into Christ, the question next in order is, How do we get into Christ? Paul says: “Know ye not,that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized
into his death.” Rom. vi:3.
And, again: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Gal. iii:27. Of course, we are not speaking of baptism to a faithless impenitent, for we have labored the antecedents sufficiently to be understood on these subjects. By the above passages we find baptism to be the act by which a proper
subject puts on Christ, where all spiritual blessings are. Luther says: “This is not done by changing of a garment, or by any laws of works, but by a new birth, and by the renewing of the inward man, which is done in baptism, as Paul saith: ‘All ye that are baptized have put on Christ.’ Also: ‘According to his mercy he saved us by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.’ Tit. iii:5. For, besides that, they who are baptized are regenerated and renewed by the Holy Ghost to a heavenly righteousness and to eternal life, there ariseth in them new and holy affections, as the fear of God, true faith, and assured hopes, etc. There beginneth in them also a new will; and this is to put on Christ truly and according to the gospel. Therefore, the righteousness of the law, or our own works, is not given unto us in baptism, but Christ himself is our garment. Now, Christ is no law, no lawgiver, no works, but a divine and an inestimable gift, whom God hath given unto us, that he might be our Justifier, our Saviour, and our Redeemer. Wherefore, to be appareled with Christ according to the gospel, is not to be appareled with the law or with works, but with an incomparable gift — that is, with remission of sins, righteousness, peace, consolation, joy of spirit, salvation, life, and Christ himself.” Luther on Galatians in Campbell on Baptism, p. 261. “For ‘as many as are baptized into Christ,’ in his name ‘have’ thereby ‘put on Christ’ (Gal. iii:27) — that is, are mystically united to Christ, and made one with him. For ‘by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body’ (1 Cor. xii:13) — namely, the church, ‘the body of Christ’ (Eph. iv:12). From which spiritual, vital union with Him proceeds the influence of His grace on those that are baptized; as from our union with the church, a share in all its privileges, and in all the promises Christ has made to it.” Doctrinal Tracts, p. 248.
But we have another argument upon Paul’s seven units, of which baptism is one. He says: “There is one body and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Eph. iv:4-6. Having shown in the preceding chapters of this epistle that in the death of Jesus Christ God had broken down the middle wall which had long separated Jews from Gentiles, that He might make of twain one new church, reconciling both Jews and Gentiles in one body by the cross (ii:11- 20), the apostle’s argument culminated in the grand fact that there is now ONE BODY, or church, composed of both Jews and Gentiles — ONE SPIRIT sealing both Jews and Gentiles – ONE HOPE animating both Jews and Gentiles — ONE LORD, who died for all, both Jews and Gentiles — ONE FAITH common to Jews and Gentiles — ONE BAPTISM enjoined upon all, whether Jews or Gentiles — ONE GOD and Father of all, if Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles.
Now, are all the items of this compendium of doctrine for the remission of sins?
1. We are to be reconciled to God in one body, and Jesus gave Himself for it. Eph. ii:16.
2. We must all drink into one Spirit (1 Cor. xii:13), and unless we have the Spirit of Christ, we are none of his. Rom. viii:9.
3. We are saved by hope. Rom. viii:24.
4. Christ the one Lord died for man, and there is no salvation in any other name. Acts iv:12.
5. Without faith it is impossible to please God. Heb. xi:6.
6. Baptism doth also now save us. 1 Pet. iii:21.
7. It is God that justifieth. Rom. viii:33. Now, are all these grand pillars in the spiritual temple essential save one which is unimportant? “But this is spiritual baptism.” Then let us turn quaker, and repudiate water baptism, so that Paul may be consistent in saying “there is one baptism.” The language “there is one baptism” just as clearly implies that there is but one baptism, as does the phrase there is one God imply that there is but one God.
But the one Spirit is specifically mentioned in its own place; then why afterward mention one baptism, and refer it back to Spirit which fills its own place? Alexander Had once made a remark on the use of prepositions as follows: “We now present five prepositions: in, by, with, for, and into. Upon these five prepositions we predicate five propositions, viz: that we are baptized in something, by something, with something, for something, and into something; and that all these refer to water baptism. They are, 1st, in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts x:48; xix:5); 2d, by the Spirit of God (1 Cor. xii:13) — i.e., according to its authority or directions; 3d, with water (Matt. iii:11, should be in); 4th, for the remission of sins (Acts ii:38; 5th, into Christ (Gal. iii:27); into one body (1 Cor. xii:13). “Here, then, we have these five relations clearly expressed by these five prepositions; and thus we are baptized in the name of Christ, by the Spirit of God, with [in] water, for the remission of sins, and into the one body, which are all one and the same baptism — the same ordinance which brought three thousand penitent believers into the kingdom of God on the day of Pentecost.” Gospel Proclamation, Vol. ii, p. 342.
In this summary Paul groups the great fundamental pillars of the Christian religion; and that the one baptism is in water, has been the opinion of the learned until the baptismal controversy became rife in modern times. Dr. Clark’s note on this passage is as follows: “One baptism administered in the name of the Holy Trinity; indicative of the influences, privileges, and effects of the Christian religion.”
Wesley’s note is composed of three words: “One outward baptism.” In his sermons upon the church, however, he is more ample. He says: “There is one baptism, which is the outward sign our one Lord has been pleased to appoint of all that inward and spiritual grace which he is continually bestowing upon his church. Some, indeed, have been inclined to interpret this in a figurative sense, as if it referred to the baptism of the Holy Spirit which the apostles received on the day of Pentecost, and which, in a lower degree, is given to all believers. But it is a stated rule, in interpreting Scripture, never to depart from the plain, literal sense unless it implies an absurdity; and, besides, if we thus understood it, it would be a
needless repetition, as being included in ‘there is one Spirit.”‘ Mr. Rice, in his debate with Mr. Campbell (p. 264), says: “This one baptism is an ordinance administered with WATER, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, by an ordained minister of the gospel.” Thus we see the very highest authority understands Paul to refer to water baptism when he says “there is one baptism;” indeed, we suppose no one ever thought of anything else until this passage was brought into the recent controversy on the design of baptism.
But this is not all upon this subject. The apostle says: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.” Eph. v:25, 26. Christ gave Himself for the church, that He might sanctify and cleanse it how; With the washing of water by the Word. Not a washing with the Word — the washing of water by the Word; that is, in obedience to it, or in accordance with it — just as we are baptized by one Spirit into one body; that is, in obedience to it, and in harmony with its teaching. That the washing of water by the Word, here, is baptism, Watson, Wesley, Clark, MacKnight, Stuart, and all other commentators, teach, as far as we have been able to examine. Then, if baptism be the means by which the church is sanctified and
cleansed, how shall it be cleansed without the means? Surely, it cannot be. If baptism be not the washing of water alluded to, what other washing of water is there connected with spiritual cleansing to which Paul may have referred? “But it is the church that is cleansed, not the people before they enter it.” Yes, and Christ gave Himself for the church before it was a church; so, the church is cleansed by cleansing the material of which it is made. Does anyone suppose men and women are to enter the church uncleansed, or unpardoned, and then be cleansed by the washing of water? The objector might be willing to apply this theory to infants, but it would not do for men; and it would involve the necessity of rebaptizing even those baptized in infancy. But the creeds will not allow the theory, for they all teach that the washing with water brings them into the church.
On page 247, Doctrinal Tracts, we find a comment on the verse under consideration, as follows: “And the virtue of this free gift, the merits of Christ’s life and death are applied to us in baptism. ‘He gave himself for the church, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word’ (Eph. v:25, 26); namely, in baptism, the ordinary instrument of our justification. Agreeably to this, our church prays, in the baptismal office, that the person to be baptized may be ‘washed and sanctified by the Holy Ghost, and, being delivered from God’s wrath, receive remission of sins, and enjoy the everlasting benediction of His heavenly washing.'”
Again, the apostle says: “Ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power; in whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 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 you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.” Col. ii:10-13. Here we learn that the Colossians put off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ, in being buried with him in baptism; and thus, they were forgiven all trespasses. On this passage Mr. Watson remarks: “Here baptism is also made the initiatory rite of the new dispensation, that by which the Colossians were joined to Christ, in whom they are said to be complete.” Institutes, Vol. ii, p. 621. If baptism be the act which joins us to Christ, then we ask whether or not we can be saved until we are joined to Christ? If not, we cannot be saved until baptized, that we may be joined to Christ.
But the apostle says: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us; by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Tit. iii:5. He saved us how? By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost. What is this washing of regeneration? It cannot be the renewing of the Holy Ghost, for that is specifically mentioned. The Spirit and the water are not the same, for “there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood.” 1 John v:8. Then, if this washing of regeneration is not baptism, what is it? Wesley and Whitby call this “the laver of regeneration.” Clark says: “Undoubtedly the apostle here means baptism.” Watson, MacKnight, Alford, Bloomfield, Stuart, Smith, and Wall, say it means baptism. Well, what if it does mean baptism?
Only this: Paul says we are saved by it. He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost. Wall says: “The washing of regeneration (Tit. iii:5) is the washing of baptism.” Vol. 1, p.70.
“But baptism is a work.” Yes; so is faith. “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” John vi:29. Hence, if baptism may be set aside because it is a work, then faith goes the same road. “But faith is the work of God.” Yes, and so is baptism, in the same sense, the work of God. They are both acts of man, but the works of God by authority, because God has ordained them. Paul says: ‘We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Eph. ii:10. The works which God has ordained are not the procuring cause of our salvation, but according to His mercy He saved us through just such means as He saw fit to appoint; and Paul says they were the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.
We come now to examine the types and shadows of former dispensations, and their antitypes and substances in the Christian dispensation. We might begin with Adam, and show that from him until the coming of Christ there were numerous single types of Him. Moses, as lawgiver, mediator, etc., was a type of Christ. Aaron, as high priest, was a type of Christ. But there were great systems of types adumbrating the deliverance of men from the guilt and pollution of sin under the gospel. Some of these we will briefly examine. God proposed to save Noah and his family from the sin-cursed world with which he was identified prior to the deluge. With a view to this end, He revealed to Noah the plan by which his deliverance was to be effected. Noah believed it, and Paul says: “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” Heb. xi:7. Faith was the great principle which moved Noah. Faith alone, however, did not save him, but, moved with fear, he prepared an ark to the saving of himself and family. Peter says: “Once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. 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.” 1 Pet. iii:20, 21. The words like figure, in the above quotation, are from the Greek antitupon, which should be rendered antitype; thus: the antitype water of baptism doth also now save us. Here Peter says in plain terms that baptism saves us, and that it is the antitype of Noah’s salvation in the ark by water. Now, if baptism does not save us from sin, from what does it save us? It does not save us from temporal punishment, such as persecution, insult, hunger, sickness, death, for the baptized man is as subject to these as the unbaptized. Nor can Peter allude to final salvation, for he says baptism NOW saves us. Then, if baptism does not save from sin, we repeat the question, with emphasis, from what does it save us? It does not save us from the filth of the flesh, for it is not a mere fleshly washing, but has to do with the conscience. “But it is the answer of a good conscience, and hence the conscience must be good before baptism.” Waiving any objection to this rendering for the present, we inquire what is meant by a good conscience? Certainly, a good conscience does not always imply that he who has it is a pardoned man. Paul had a good conscience when he was killing Christians; after his conversion he says: “I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” Acts xxii:1. Yet, he had to be pardoned, and says: “But I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.” 1 Tim. i:13. Then all that can be claimed for a good conscience is, that its possessor is an honest man; and we are quite willing to grant that such he must be, in order to acceptably obey God in baptism or anything else. But the rendering might be improved, perhaps, by rendering it seeking of a good conscience; and we know not how a man might seek a good conscience more effectually than by being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of his sins. If he were as correctly taught as the eunuch, he would likely have a good conscience when done. “Well but Noah was a good man before he was saved in the ark by water; hence we must be Christians before we are baptized.” If this proves anything against baptism for remission, it proves just as much against faith; for Noah was as good a man before he had faith in the plan of his delivery as he was after the deluge, or when he was in the ark. Hence that which proves too much proves nothing at all.
Watson says: “It is thus that we see how St. Peter preserves the correspondence between the act of Noah in preparing the ark as an act of faith by which he was justified, and the act of submitting to Christian baptism, which is also obviously an act of faith, in order to the remission of sins or the obtaining a good conscience before God.” Institutes, Vol. ii, pp. 624, 625.
Wesley says: “The antitype whereof — the thing typified by the ark, even baptism, now saveth us. That is, through the water of baptism we are saved from the sin which overwhelms the world as a flood; not indeed the bare outward sign, but the inward grace – a divine consciousness that both our persons and our actions are accepted through Him who died and rose again for us.” Wesley’s Notes.
Clark says: “Noah believed in God, walked uprightly before Him, and found grace in His sight; he obeyed Him in building the ark, and God made it the means of his salvation from the waters of the deluge. Baptism implies a consecration and dedication of the soul and body to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He who is faithful to his baptismal covenant, taking God through Christ, by the eternal Spirit, for his portion, is saved here from his sins, and, through the resurrection of Christ from the dead, has the well-grounded hope of eternal glory.” Commentary on 1 Pet. iii:21. “Baptism doth now save us if we live answerable thereto — if we repent, believe, and obey the gospel; supposing this, as it admits us into the church here, so into glory hereafter.” Doctrinal Tracts, p. 249. But we are told the word rupos, rendered filth in this verse (1 Pet. iii:21), means sin; and hence the parenthetical clause negatives the idea of baptism saving from sin; thus, “not the putting away sin.”
Let us see about this.
LIDDELL AND SCOTT: Rupos — dirt, filth, dirtiness.
PICKERING: “Rupos — dirt, foulness, scurf; metaphorically, avariciousness; also, sealing-wax.”
DONNIGAN: “Rupos — filth; metaphorically, sordid avarice,” etc. Rupos may sometimes, metaphorically, mean sin, but we are bound by the laws of exegesis to give its obvious meaning unless
it involves an absurdity. No one will say that it does this here; hence it must simply mean filth, especially as it is qualified by the word flesh — filth of the flesh. Baptism is not for the removal of this, but has to do with the conscience. Peter remembered the commission given by the Lord — “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” — and commanded the Pentecostians to repent, and be baptized for the remission of sins; hence he understood baptism to be for remission of sins, and hence, with great propriety, could say, “Baptism doth also now save us.” Save us how? From our sins. After the deluge the world was again peopled by the descendants of Noah, and they again became wicked; but He had entered into covenant not to a second time destroy the world by water; hence, finding Abram righteous before Him, he determined to separate him from the wicked people and of him make to Himself a great nation. In due time Isaac was born to Abraham, and then Jacob was born to Isaac, and to Jacob were born twelve sons, who became heads of the twelve tribes of Israel. After a time, by their wickedness, they became slaves in Egypt where, notwithstanding their sore oppression, they rapidly increased, until Pharaoh, fearing for the safety of his throne, issued an order that all male children born of the Hebrew mothers should be put to death. Pending this order, Moses was born, and hid by his mother until she could conceal him no longer; she placed him in an ark on the river, where his sister lingered to see the result. Pharaoh’s daughter found the child and adopted him as her own, and thus he was saved from death by the decree of her father. “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproaches of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. Through faith he kept the Passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the first-born should touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land, which the Egyptians essaying to do were drowned.” Heb. xi:24-29, In due time God appeared to Moses and revealed to him His purpose to deliver the Hebrews through him; “And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee. And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. And the Lord said unto Moses, Put forth thy hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: that they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.” Ex. iv:1-5. By this sign, and two others which we have not space to mention, God enabled Moses to bear witness to his brethren that he was sent of God, that they might believe. Moses went to them and delivered the message, confirming it by signs which God had enabled him to perform in their presence. They believed the message given them by Moses, and, with full confidence in Moses, they turned their backs upon their former taskmasters and set forward on their journey toward Canaan. After a time they came to the Red Sea, and, finding themselves closely pursued by their late masters, they murmured at Moses for bringing them out of Egypt to die in the wilderness. But Moses replied: “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord,
which he will show to you to-day; for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to-day, ye shall see them again no more forever.” Ex. xiv:13. Moses stretched his arm and raised his rod over the sea — the waters were divided, and stood as walls on either side; the people moved forward, the cloud overshadowed them, and they landed safely on the opposite shore. The Egyptians pursued them and were drowned in the sea: seeing which the children of Israel sang a song of deliverance and rejoiced, believing in God and His servant Moses. But though their enemies were gone, they were still far from Canaan; and for forty years they were in a state of probation, until, of the male adults who crossed the Red Sea, only Caleb and Joshua remained alive. Under the lead of these faithful men, Joshua being chief, they crossed the river Jordan and entered the land of Canaan — the inheritance promised to their fathers.
Touching the leading features of this narrative, Paul says: “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, 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; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples.” 1 Cor. x:1-6.
Let us now gather the chief features of this system of types, and see their application to the antitype:
1. The children of Israel became slaves in Egypt by their own wickedness — men become servants of sin by indulgence in crime.
2. God heard the groanings of His people in Egypt and provided for their deliverance — God so loved the world that He gave His Son to die for them.
3. Moses was the deliverer of the children of Israel — Jesus is our deliverer.
4. Pharaoh feared for the safety of his throne and ordered all male children born of Hebrew mothers to be put to death – when Jesus was born, Herod feared for the safety of his throne and sent and slew all the male children from two years old and under.
5. God preserved Moses from death by Pharaoh’s decree – God sent Joseph with the infant Jesus into Egypt, there to remain until Herod was dead, and thus saved him from death by Herod’s decree.
6. Moses was enabled to perform miracles in confirmation of his mission, that the people might believe that God had sent him — “Many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book; but these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name.” John xx:30, 31.
7. Moses, through Aaron, made known to the Israelites the plan of their delivery, and they believed it, for Paul says they did everything by faith — Jesus required His apostles to preach the gospel to every creature in all the world, that every one might believe it; for faith comes by hearing, and without faith it is impossible to please God.
8. The Israelites were required to quit serving the Egyptians and turn away from them — Jesus required the people everywhere to repent, turn away from the service of sin.
9. The Israelites were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea — Peter commanded the people to be baptized, in the name of the Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins.
10. The Egyptian task-masters of the Israelites were left just where the people were baptized unto Moses, and they saw them no more — those baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission
of sins, leave their sins just where they are baptized.
11. The Israelites rejoiced in their deliverance on the shore after their baptism — as soon as the eunuch was baptized, he went on his way rejoicing.
12. The Israelites were not secure in Canaan as soon as baptized, but had to be faithful to God or die short of the promised land — those baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, though freed from past sins, are not in heaven, but must live a life of devotion to God or be lost at last.
13. The Israelites who remained faithful to God through their period of probation were conducted across the Jordan and into the land of Canaan, the inheritance promised to their fathers – those Christians who remain faithful to God through life will be conducted across the Jordan of death into heaven, the everlasting Canaan which God has prepared for them that love Him. Thus we have presented, as briefly as possible, the more important features of this great system of types, omitting, for want of room, many things which would have been of interest to the reader; but the great point to which we would especially direct his attention at present is the time when the Israelites were freed from their enemies, and the corresponding time when we are freed from sin.
We are told that men must be saved from their sins before they are baptized — i.e., that they are pardoned as soon as they believe on Jesus Christ. If so, then there is no fitness in this type. The Jews believed in the plan of their delivery when it was presented, otherwise they would not have set out under the lead of Moses; but they were not saved from their enemies at that time. Moses specifically locates the time of their salvation. “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will show to you to-day” (Ex. xiv:13) — not did show you back in the place where you believed. And what was the salvation shown them that day? “The Egyptians whom ye have seen to-day, ye shall see them again no more forever.” Ut supra. Where did they leave these enemies? In the sea where they were baptized. “Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians.” Ver. 30. Language could not more definitely locate the time of their salvation upon the day of their baptism than it here does. Then, if there be any fitness in type and antitype, we must be saved from our sins when we are baptized, not before. When a type spells the word God, the antitype cannot spell devil; so when the type says saved in baptism, the antitype cannot say saved by faith alone before baptism. No one denies that the salvation of the Israelites from bondage was a type of our salvation from sin, and that their baptism in the cloud and sea was a type of our baptism; but some seek to evade the force of the argument by saying that God recognized the Israelites as His people when He appeared to Moses in the burning bush; and as this was before their baptism, we must be God’s people before we are baptized. But if this objection amounts to anything against baptism for remission of sins, it amounts to just as much against faith, for the Lord had not then revealed the plan of their delivery, but had then appeared to Moses for the purpose of revealing it to him. The Israelites knew nothing about it. So they were God’s people before they had faith, as well as before they were baptized. Indeed, they were God’s national people before the birth of Moses; hence, if we must be God’s people at the same time they were, it follows that we must have been God’s people before Jesus, the antitype of Moses, was born. This would be Calvinism sublimated.
The objector forgets that the type was in the salvation of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, hence we cannot go behind the type for impressions in the antitype. In debate upon this subject once, our opponent replied that there was no remission of sins in the deliverance of the Israelites, and as there was no remission in the type there could be none in the antitype; yet he freely quoted, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John iii:14, 15. Now, was there any remission of sins in the brazen serpent placed on the pole by Moses? Surely not; yet it could represent his system of justification by faith alone, as he thought. The idea that a figure can represent nothing not in the figure itself would simply destroy all figures. The serpent on the pole could not be a type of Christ unless Christ became a serpent; a lamb could not be a type of Christ until Christ is shown to have been a sheep. We dislike to dignify such an objection with a reply, but when great men make such objections, others may think there is something in them. It was our original purpose to have followed these types through the Tabernacle of the wilderness and the consecration of a Jewish priest as types of the more perfect Tabernacle and the consecration of a Christian priest, but want of space compels us to forego the pleasure of doing so.
We must notice some of the more prominent objections urged by those who oppose our teaching. First, we are told that “there are two kingdoms, one visible and the other invisible — that the visible kingdom is the visible church, and is for the visible man. Baptism is purely a visible act of the visible man, who is pardoned when baptized, and thus introduced into the visible kingdom. This is formal pardon, indicative of real pardon which was secured by faith — a purely mental act, an act of the invisible man by which it was introduced into the invisible kingdom when he believed. And whether the visible man is ever justified and introduced by baptism into the visible kingdom, yea, or nay, is of but little importance as to the ultimate happiness and final salvation of the spiritual man.”
This is substantially the theory of the two kingdoms, and we will examine it briefly. If it be true, it is evident that there are two churches or two kingdoms governed by the same King at the same time. And as the church is the body, and Jesus “is the head of the body, the church” (Col. i:18), it follows that He is the head of two bodies at the same time, or one of the bodies has no head, or if each has a head one of them has a human head. John saw a beast having seven heads to one body (Rev. xiii:1); but here we have a different beast — two bodies to one head. When Paul said “there is one body” (Eph. iv:4), and again, “now are there many members yet but one body” (1 Cor. xii:20), he was not aware of the existence of one of
the bodies contemplated in this theory. Once more: The church is said to be the “bride, the Lamb’s wife.” According to this theory, the Lamb has two wives at the same time, and one of them invisible, hence, He would be unfit for a bishop in the church, to say nothing of its head, for Paul tells us that a bishop must be “the husband of one wife.” 1 Tim. iii:2. These visible and invisible brides must both belong to one husband, or one of them has either no husband or an illegitimate one. “There is one body and one spirit” (Eph. iv:4) in this body; and as one spirit cannot animate two bodies at the same time, it follows that one of them is without a spirit (unless it be a human spirit); and as James tells us that “the body without the spirit is dead” (Jas. ii:26), it follows that one of these is a dead body.
It will be remembered that at the time, the subject believes, the invisible man is introduced into the invisible kingdom of the Lord, and baptism is the only way of introducing the visible man into the Lord’s visible kingdom. Then, if a man believed twenty years ago, and by that act had the inner man introduced into the invisible kingdom at that time, and he has not been baptized until today, where was the visible man from that time until this? It was not in the visible kingdom, for it could only enter this kingdom by baptism; and as he was unbaptized, of course he was not in it. He was not in the invisible kingdom, for that was prepared for the invisible man, and is in heaven and he upon the earth. Then, we repeat the question: where is the visible man from the time faith is exercised until he is baptized? As we have seen that he is in neither of the theoretical kingdoms of the Lord, he must be in the dominion of
Satan, and if so, then there must be a singular partnership between the Lord and his satanic majesty in the same person, the former having the invisible and the latter the visible man from the time he believes until he is baptized. Well might Paul ask: “What concord hath Christ with Belial?” 2 Cor. vi:15.
Once more: It will be remembered that the locality of the visible kingdom is on the earth, and that of the invisible kingdom is in heaven; and it will be admitted that the visible man is the dwelling place of the invisible through life, and their separation takes place only at death. How, therefore, can the invisible man be translated to heaven, the place of the invisible kingdom, by faith or otherwise, and the body remain upon the earth during life, and no separation take place? When Paul said he was “willing to be absent from the body and be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. v:8), he had not learned the theory by which he could be with the body and the Lord at the same time. In this theory we have the very anomalous idea of a king having two kingdoms in different localities, the same subjects being in both at the same time.
But we come now to examine the foundation of the theory. Is faith purely mental, or does it require the cooperative exercise of mind and body? Paul says: “Faith comes by hearing.” Rom. x:17. How do persons hear? Jesus quoted the prophet thus: “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest at any time they should see with their eyes, hear with their ears,” etc. Matt. xiii:15. Then, if faith comes by hearing, and hearing is done with the ear, and the ear is a part of the physical or visible man, it is certain that the faith of which Paul spake is not purely mental. But the objector quotes Paul again: “With the heart (mind) man believeth unto righteousness.” Rom. x:10. True, indeed; but how does he obtain possession of what he believes? Surely, through his senses.
At the time faith is exercised, or is present, there has been an exercise of mind and body, and hence the theory is false that would justify the invisible man at that time, because nothing but mind had entered into the service. Once more: The brain is as much the organ of the mind as is the eye the organ of sight, or the ear the organ of hearing, and we are as much compelled to use the brain in thought as we are the eye to see or the ear to hear. Then, if we are compelled to think in the act of believing, and the brain, a part of the physical and visible man, is used in thought, it follows that to have faith there must be an exercise of mind and body.
But is baptism purely a physical act? If so, why will not the advocates of the theory baptize a maniac in the absence of mind? If a man’s reason is dethroned, no one will say he may be baptized. But why not? If there is nothing mental connected with its validity, surely he would be as fit a subject then as at any other time. In the administration of infant sprinkling they are more consistent, for here, indeed, there is nothing mental to accompany it. But even here they reverse the order of the theory. In the case of adults the invisible man is first saved by faith, then the visible by baptism; but here the visible man (infant) is introduced into the visible kingdom, and the invisible or spiritual man is left in the devil’s kingdom for years, perhaps for life. If we wish to baptize a man, we must first operate on his mind or invisible man until we convince his judgment that it is his duty to submit to it. When we have done this, the mind transmits the will to act, through the nerves to the muscles; they contract, in obedience to the will, upon the bones, and thus by a co-operation of mind and body the man steps forward. But whenever the mind ceases to cooperate the process is at once arrested. Hence, baptism cannot be performed as an acceptable service to God without the action of mind and body. There is no foundation for the objection, and it therefore amounts to nothing.
But another very common objection is that when Jesus healed the woman of her plague, He said: “Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole: go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.” Mark v:34.
And it is insisted that this miraculous healing from disease must constitute the basis of a theory of conversion. We insist that no one has a right to select one miracle and make it the basis of a theory, to the
exclusion of other miracles of like character. If one man may make such selection, others may. One may select the healing of the centurion’s servant. Jesus said to him: “Go thy way: and as thou hast believed so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the self-same hour.” Matt. viii:13. A servant may build a theory of conversion for him on this case and seek to be saved on the faith of the master. But some are not servants and would prefer to be saved upon the faith of their parents, hence they select a different miracle. “Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.” Matt. xv:28. Again: “As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.” Mark v:36. And on his faith Jesus restored his dead daughter to life, though twelve years of age. Then, if anyone has parents he may get them to have faith for him, and upon their faith his sins may be pardoned.
But another may not be a servant, nor yet have parents, but may have brothers or sisters, hence he selects the following: When Jesus was standing over the grave of Lazarus, He said to Martha: “Said I not unto thee, that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” John xi:40. Then, if a man wishes to be saved, he may get his sister to have faith, and that will do for him. But another has no relatives, and hence must select another example. “They brought a man sick of the palsy, lying on the bed; and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee.” Matt. ix:2. Taking this case as a foundation, a man may get his neighbors to have faith for him.
But as many have more faith in the preachers than anyone else, they select another example suited to their taste. “Peter, fastening his eyes upon him, with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up.” Acts iii:4-7. Then, with this case as a foundation, a man may get the preacher to have faith, and that will do for him. But there are infidels who have no faith in anyone. They may be saved too. ‘When Jesus was come into Peter’s house, he saw his wife’s mother laid, and sick of a fever. And he touched her hand, and the fever left her.” Matt. viii:14. All the faith in this case was in Jesus. So, of the blind man restored to sight John ix:6, 7. These examples would justify the theory of justification upon the faith of Christ without any faith in the saved at all. But there are those who seem to have more communion with evil spirits than with the Lord. They, too, may find examples suited to their taste. “Unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God.” Mark iii:11. See also v:7. Luke iv:41. These examples would secure salvation upon the faith of evil spirits.
But we return now to the case whence we set out; and by an examination it will be seen that her faith did not make her whole until she did the thing contemplated in her faith. “When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind and touched his garment. For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole. And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.” Mark v:27-29. Then, this example would not do for justification by faith alone, for she did the thing contemplated in her faith before she was healed.
But what have all these miracles to do with remission of sins? If one man may select one of them on which to build a theory of conversion, others may do the same thing, and we may thus have as many different theories of conversion as there are miracles recorded. John said: “Many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” John xx:30, 31. Then these miracles were not written upon which to construct theories of conversion, but they were written that the people might believe in the divine character and mission of Jesus Christ. They could not have been done by unaided human power; hence, says Nicodemus: “We know that thou art a teacher come from God, for no man can do the miracles that thou doest except God be with him.” John iii:2. This is the object of these miracles, and hence they have nothing to do with justification by faith alone. “But the thief was saved without being baptized.” To this assumption we file three objections: 1. No man can prove that the thief was saved at all. 2. No man can prove that he was unbaptized. 3. This was before the kingdom was established, and before the law of remission began to be preached under the new covenant. It is true that the thief “said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Luke xxiii:42, 43. It is doubtful whether the thief made this request in derision or in good faith, for the thieves had both derided Him (see Matt. xxvii:44; Mark xv:32). And, in the next place, if the thief understood the nature of Christ’s kingdom, he had higher conceptions of it than did even the apostles, for they thought it a merely temporal kingdom. In the next place, Jesus only promised the thief that they would meet in paradise. Jesus was in the heart of the earth (Matt. xii:40), and when He arose from the grave, He said He had not yet ascended to His Father. John xx:17. Then we think it would be difficult to prove that this amounted to a promise of salvation. Was the thief baptized? We cannot prove positively that he was, nor can anyone prove that he was not. John was baptizing in that country, and there “went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in
Jordan, confessing their sins.” Matt. iii:5, 6. That this language implies the baptism of large masses of the people no one will deny; then “Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John.” John iv:1. Then, taking what John baptized and what Jesus, through his disciples, baptized in that country — and we suppose there were but few left unbaptized — hence the probabilities are strongly in favor of the presumption that the thief was baptized. But whether he was or was not baptized affects not the doctrine of baptism for the remission of sins. While a man lives, he may give his property to whom he will, but when he dies, leaving a will, there can be no more special bequests, but his property must be distributed according to the provisions of the will. So while Christ was upon the earth, He could say to a man, “Thy sins be forgiven thee,” and it was so; but when He died, leaving a will, He would not afterward pardon, even Saul, contrary to the provisions of the will, but sent him where he might find a man to tell him how he might obtain pardon according to the provisions of the will. Granting, then, what cannot be proved, that the thief was saved without baptism, while Christ was alive, it is no evidence that men may be so saved after the law went into force, which required them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.
But Paul says: “Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Rom. v:1. By supplying the word only or alone after the word faith, this passage has been made to negative the doctrine of baptism for remission of sins by setting up the doctrine of justification by faith alone. If this be the correct interpretation of the passage, then the word alone may be supplied in the reading; thus: “Being justified by faith alone we have peace with God.” Then how are we to reconcile this statement with others made by Paul himself? If we are justified by faith alone, we are justified by faith to the exclusion of everything else; yet, in the same chapter from which the above quotation is made, he says: “Much more, then, being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” Ver. 9. Does Paul thus flatly contradict himself in the same chapter? Again, he says: “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Rom. iii:24. Once more: “Ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Cor. vi:11. Now, how can we be justified by ALL these things and justified by anyone of them alone? We may be justified by grace, but not by grace alone; by Christ, but not by Christ alone; by blood, but not by blood alone; by the Spirit, but not by the Spirit alone; in the name of the Lord Jesus, but not by His name alone; by faith, but not by faith alone; by works, but not by works alone. We live by breathing, but not by breathing alone; we live by eating but not by eating alone; we live by sleeping, but not by sleeping alone; we live by exercise, but not by exercise alone. A place for everything, and everything in its place, is God’s order everywhere. But if we may supply the word alone after the word faith, in Rom. v:1, why may we not do the same thing elsewhere? If the phrase “by faith” means by faith alone, then we may supply the word alone and make sense wherever this form of expression occurs.
Shall we try a few passages, to see whether or not the phrase “by faith” means by faith alone? “By faith alone Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain.” Heb. xi:4. “By faith alone Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house. Ver. 7. “By faith alone Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he
should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.” Ver. 8. That is, he sat perfectly still, went nowhere, nor did anything only by faith! “By faith alone Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac.” Ver. 17. That is, by faith alone he went three days’ journey to a mountain shown him by the Lord; by faith alone he built an altar; by faith alone he bound his son upon the altar; and by faith alone he raised his knife and would have slain him had not the Lord interposed!! And thus, we might go through the whole list of examples given in this chapter, but these are sufficient to show the absurdity of supplying the word alone or only after faith. These ancient worthies did what they were commanded to do, in order to accomplish the object contemplated in their faith. They practically carried out their faith, and perfected it by obedience to the law of the Lord. James says: “By works was
faith made perfect.” Jas. ii:22. Surely, an imperfect faith can do no good — and if not, it can only be perfected in obedience. “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” Ver. 17. And again: “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” Ver. 26. Can dead faith justify anyone? But by supplying the word alone, or only in the passage quoted, thus making Paul say, “Therefore, being justified by faith only, we have peace with God,” we not only make him contradict himself, but we make him contradict James, when he says: “Ye see, then, how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” Jas. ii:24. Now, James does not say that a man is justified by works alone, to the exclusion of faith, for the phrase “not by faith only” shows that faith is included. But we are told that Paul speaks of justification in the sense of pardon, and James speaks of justification in the sense of approval — that Paul draws his argument from Abraham’s faith, by which he was justified or pardoned of his sins, when the covenant of circumcision was instituted, an account of which we have in the seventeenth chapter of Genesis — and James draws his argument from Abraham’s justification as a righteous man when he offered his son, an account of which we have in the twenty-second chapter.
Now, we respectfully deny that Abraham was an unpardoned sinner up to the time of which Paul speaks. The first account we have of him is as follows: “Now, the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee; and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing; and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” Gen. xii:1-3. Now, this precedes the time to which Paul refers by twenty-five years; and can any sane man believe that God fell in love with Abraham so as to induce his removal from among the wicked that he might be the father of God’s peculiar people; and that God promised to bless them who blessed him, and curse them who cursed him, when he was condemned, unpardoned sinner himself, and so remained for twenty-five years afterward? Abraham was as good a man the first account we ever
have of him as he ever got to be, and both Paul and James allude to his justification in the sense of approval; but they did it to show the kind of faith which has always been required to meet the favor of God — a faith which trusted in the promise of God, and perfected itself by obedience to His will. God never accepted any other faith than this from saint or sinner. This is the doctrine taught by Paul and James, and there is neither discrepancy in their teachings nor difference in the justification to which they allude. The principle will apply to the alien or to the Christian, as an imperfect or dead faith will profit neither.
In the New Testament the word faith is used in at least three different significations. 1. As the synonym of belief; 2. To indicate a spiritual gift by which miracles were wrought; and 3. To indicate a system of justification by the gospel in contrast with the law of Moses. The first two of these we have examined sufficiently in the chapter on faith; the system of faith demands some further notice just here. We have seen that James says we are justified by works, yet Paul says: “Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Eph. ii:9. How shall we reconcile these two statements? Paul says: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed on Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” Gal. ii:16. Then, when Paul said “not of works, lest any man should boast,” he referred, first, to the origin of the plan of salvation, that it was by grace or unmerited favor, and, secondly, that it was not by the works of the law of Moses. By the faith of Jesus Christ, which Paul here contrasts with the law, is meant the system of faith or gospel plan of salvation given by Jesus Christ. By the phrase works of the law is meant the works of the law of Moses which had been taken out of the way by the death of Christ, by which if a man could be saved now he might have whereof to glory, for he would be saved upon a plan of his own, and not upon God’s plan; hence, Paul asks: “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay; but by the law of faith. Therefore, we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Rom. iii:27, 28. What is the law of faith? Certainly, it is the gospel, and by it boasting is excluded because it is God’s plan, which was given in mercy, from a principle of love, grace, or unmerited favor; and “was made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.” Rom. xvi:26. Paul calls this same law of faith “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” which he says “hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Rom. viii:2. To be made free from sin by a law we must comply with the requirements of the law; hence says Paul: “You have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you, being then made free from sin.” Rom. vi:17, 18.
But we are told that “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” Rom. iv:3. But when was faith counted to him for righteousness? James says: “Was not Abraham, our father, justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God. Ye see, then, how that by works a man if justified, and not by faith only.” Jas. ii:2l-24. Then, it was when Abraham obeyed God, and perfected his faith by obedience that his faith was counted to him for righteousness, Hence, if we would be justified by faith, as Abraham was, we must “walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham.” Rom. iv:12. “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.” Heb. xi:8. Abraham walked by faith, not by sight, and if we would walk in the steps of his faith, we must trust in God and go where He commands us to go, whether we can or cannot see to the end.
But the advocates of justification by faith alone invoke the aid of John as well as Paul in support of their theory. He says: “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.” 1 John v:1. That the translation of this verse is defective any one can see by the context.
The words born, begat, begotten are from the same original word, and the word born here should have been begotten, as the context clearly shows. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God; and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him that is begotten of him.” This harmonizes the passage with itself, and with the general teaching of the Scriptures on the subject of the new birth to the chapter on which the reader is referred. When a man believes the Gospel, he is begotten of God, and is prepared to be born. As an effect of his faith he must love God; hence “He that loveth is born [begotten] of God.” 1 John iv:7. Nor is this all. “Every one that doeth righteousness is born [begotten] of God.” 1 John ii:29. Whosoever, then, believes that Jesus is the Christ, is begotten of God — loves God, and does righteousness; for “Whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God.” 1 John iii:10. That the word born in 1 John v:1, should be begotten is a point upon which critics are very generally agreed.
DR. CLARKE says: “He that believes that Jesus is the Messiah, and confides in him for the remission of sins, is begotten of God.” Commentary, John v:1.
T. S. GREEN, of London, translates the verse thus “Every one that believes that Jesus is the Christ has been begotten of God; and every one that loves the begetter loves him that has been begotten of him.” Twofold New Testament.
When the translation is corrected, the difficulty is gone. He who makes a proper distinction between being begotten of God and the new birth knows that when a man believes the Gospel he is begotten; but if begotten of God and born again mean the same thing, we see no use in correcting the translation.
John further says: “He came unto his own, and his own received him not; but as many as received him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John i:11-13. Jesus came to his own — John came to prepare a people for the Lord, and when they were made ready Jesus came to them, but as a people they did not receive Him. Some did, however, and believed on His name, and to them He gave the power or privilege of becoming sons of God. John baptized the people, saying “That they should believe on him which should come after him — that is, on Christ Jesus.” Acts xix:4. Having
been previously baptized by John, and made ready for the Lord, when they believed on Him, He gave them permission to enter the family of God when it should be organized on the day of Pentecost. The style of expression shows that their faith did not make them sons of God, but simply prepared them to become such in future. It was a prospective privilege with them; but no persons are situated now as they were then. They were baptized before Jesus came, and when He came they believed on Him before His Father’s family was organized, or the kingdom of God had come; hence they had permission given them to become His children when the fullness of time should arrive.
We come now to notice a class of proof texts more relied on to prove the doctrine of justification by faith alone than any others, perhaps, in the Bible. They are in the third chapter of John, and we begin to read with the fourteenth verse: “And so Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Vs. 14-16. Now be it observed that Jesus is here speaking to Nicodemus, to whom he had just said: “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Ver. 5. Does anyone believe that Jesus intended to contradict this statement by what he said in the fourteenth to sixteenth verses? That is, “I know, Nicodemus, that I did say that a man must be born of water and of the Spirit, or into the kingdom of God he should not go; but I was wrong in that, for he that believeth on Me has everlasting life, whether born of water or not.” Jesus had fully explained the new birth to Nicodemus, and he did not believe the testimony — “you receive not our witness;” hence Jesus appeals to an incident in Jewish history with which, as a teacher of Israel, Nicodemus was bound to be familiar, to confirm the fact that He was the promised Messiah, through Whom alone the world could hope for eternal life. The Israelites were bitten by poisonous serpents, and were dying without remedy, but God instructed Moses to make a serpent of brass, and place it upon a pole in the midst of the camp, and he that would look upon it should live. Now, Nicodemus, you are acquainted with this fact; then, “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up.” And how was the serpent lifted up? Were the bitten Israelites cured by faith alone? They might have believed that the brazen serpent was on the pole, and they might have believed in the power of God to heal them, yet had they regarded the look as non-essential, and acted accordingly, they would have died without remedy. They had to do the thing commanded or die; even so may the sinner believe that Jesus was lifted upon the cross and died for sinners, yet if he refuses to look to God in His appointed way, he will die in his sins and be lost at last. Then, it was believe, look, and live; now, he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. Baptism is the act of faith now; look was the act of faith then.
But Jesus makes another declaration to Nicodemus which, to understand, we must remember the circumstances under which it was said: “He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that
believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.” Ver. 18. We have seen that John’s baptism obligated those who received it to believe on Jesus when He should come; hence those who believed on Him were not condemned, but had permission to become sons of God; but those who did not believe on Him had forfeited their obligations, and hence were in a state of condemnation for their unbelief.
One more verse in this chapter demands a passing notice: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” Ver. 36. We have no doubt that this declaration was made with reference to the same class of persons — namely, those who had been baptized. Paul says: “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.” 1 Cor xv:1, 2. How could a man believe in vain if he were in possession of eternal life the moment he believed? Every part of
God’s Word must be so interpreted as to harmonize with every other part; and nothing is more clearly taught in Holy Writ than that man never has eternal life otherwise than in prospect while he dwells in the flesh. “Eternal” means without beginning or end of endless duration; hence, if anyone has eternal life in actual possession, he cannot believe in vain — he cannot fall away and be lost; for, whenever he falls, that is an end to his spiritual life, which, therefore, could not have been eternal. That it is possible for a child of God to fall away and be lost, we have seen on pages 28-32, to which the reader is respectfully referred.
In further confirmation of the fact that the Christian has eternal life only in prospect, Jesus says: “There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children or lands for my sake and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundred-fold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.” Mark x:29, 30. Luke gives an abridgement of this promise, thus: “Manifold more in this present time; and in the world to come life everlasting.” Luke xviii:30. Here the Lord expressly tells us when His followers shall have eternal life — in the world to come. According to the theory of some, His disciples might have replied: “Lord, you said, ‘He that believeth on the Son of God hath everlasting life;’ we believe on you, and, therefore, have eternal life now: why do you say we shall have it in the world to come?” Paul says: “Now being made free from sin, and become servants of God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the
end everlasting life.” Rom. vi:22. Paul’s brethren at Rome were then pardoned — free from sin — servants of God — and of course were believers in Jesus, yet they were to have eternal life at the end.
Again: Paul speaks of the righteous judgment, when God “will render to every man according to his deeds; to them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory, and honor, and immortality, eternal life.” Rom. ii:6, 7. Those who persevere in well- doing to the end will get eternal life in the judgment of the great day, when the wicked “shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal.” Matt. xxv:46. The eternal life of the righteous is co-etaneous with the punishment of the wicked. Paul admonished Timothy to fight the good fight of faith, that he might “lay hold on eternal life.” 1 Tim. vi:12. Surely, this man of God did not have to fight in order to lay hold on that which he already had. And to Titus Paul said: “Being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” Tit. iii:7. He who is justified by grace hopes for eternal life; yet he cannot hope for that which he already has; “but if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” Rom. viii:25. Then they who had been baptized by John, and believed on Jesus as the Son of God when He came, had everlasting life; but how did they have it? In prospect — by right or grant — were heirs of eternal life, and by patient continuance in well-doing, would lay hold on it in the world to come. And no man has it otherwise now, however confidingly he believes in Jesus Christ, or honestly he may have obeyed the gospel. “Among the chief rulers also many believed on him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue, for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” John xii:42, 43. Here were persons who believed on Jesus, yet surely no one will say they had eternal life when they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. They would not confess Jesus before men; and he says: “Whosoever, therefore, shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven; but whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” Matt. x:32, 33; Luke xii:8. And again: “Whosoever, therefore, shall be ashamed of me and of my words, in this adulterous generation, of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” Mark viii:38; Luke ix:26. If this does not cut off those rulers who believed on Jesus, no language could do it; and yet they did the very thing which, it is claimed, secures eternal life. Their faith was dead, and surely dead faith cannot secure eternal life.
But we have another case. “As he spake these words, many believed on him.” Here are believers — have they eternal life? We will see. “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed.” John viii:30, 31. Jesus continues His address to “those Jews which believed on him” until at the fortieth verse He says: “But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God.” To these same believers He says: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.” Ver. 44. Here were persons who believed on the Son of God, yet they sought to kill Him, and He tells them that they are children of the devil. Surely, then, he who believes on the Son of God, and does not perfect his faith by obedience to His will, cannot have eternal life, either in possession or in prospect, unless, indeed, he may be the son of God and a child of the devil at the same time. If it be true that man is justified by faith alone, is it not a little remarkable that no case of conversion can be found on record where a man rejoiced in the pardon of his sins before, or without baptism after the new covenant went into operation on the day of Pentecost? Thousands were converted under the teaching of inspired men, and the cases are recorded for “our learning,” yet not a case of justification, or pardon by faith alone — not one. “Yes, Cornelius was baptized with the Holy Ghost
and spake with tongues before he was baptized in the name of the Lord; and, as the world cannot receive the Spirit, he was, of course, pardoned by faith alone before baptism.” This is the most plausible case, and we have put the objection in the strongest possible terms, that we may examine it in all its strength.
That the Holy Spirit or Comforter cannot be received as an indwelling guest by a man of the world is a fact conceded; but the ability to speak with tongues was not always conclusive proof of the conversion of the party speaking by the Spirit, or that the Spirit had taken up its abode in him. Very wicked men have spoken by inspiration of God. Balaam prophesied against Balak by the immediate direction of God. * The Spirit of God came upon Saul, and he prophesied. The old lying prophet of Bethel was enabled by the Spirit to foretell the sad fate of the man of God, whom by falsehood he had seduced from the word of the Lord. Caiaphas, though one of the chief priests who conspired against the Lord, prophesied of the death of Christ for the Jewish nation.§ These men, though wicked as need be, prophesied truly by the Spirit of God; hence, the fact that Cornelius was enabled to prophesy cannot prove that his sins were pardoned at that time. Cornelius was told to send to Joppa for Simon Peter, “who shall tell thee words whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.” And Peter says: “As I began to speak the Holy Ghost fell on them as on us at the beginning.” Acts vi:14, 15. Now, if Cornelius had to hear words by which * Num. xxiii, xxiv. Two chapters entire 1 Sam. x:10. 1 Kings xiii:11-32. § John xi:47-53 to be saved, he could not have been saved by the words until he heard them. And as the Holy Spirit fell on them as Peter began to speak, it follows that they had not heard the words when the Holy Spirit fell on them, and hence they were not saved at that time. From this decision there can be no appeal. Alluding to this event, “Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago, God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel and believe.” Acts xv:7. Then, if they were pardoned when the Holy Ghost fell on them at the beginning of Peter’s discourse, they were pardoned before they heard and believed the gospel, and therefore they were pardoned without faith as well as without baptism. Paul says: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.” 1 Cor. xiii:1. Hence, were a man baptized with the Holy Spirit, and enabled to speak in all the languages of earth, yet without charity or love he would be nothing; and “this is the love of God that we keep his commandments.” 1 John v:3. And what was
His commandment to Cornelius? “He commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” Acts x:48. What were they baptized in the name of the Lord for? To the Pentecostians Peter said: “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” Acts ii:38. Then Peter understood baptism in the name of the Lord to be for the remission of sins, and this is what he commanded Cornelius to do; and he says God “put no difference between us and them;” and again: “We
believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved even as they.” Acts xv:9-11. Then, unless God did make a difference between the salvation of the Jews and the Gentiles, which Peter says He did not, Cornelius was baptized in the name of the Lord for the remission of sins. For the design of his baptism with the Holy Spirit, see the chapter on that subject.
CONYBEARE and HOWSON say: “The case of Cornelius, in which the gifts of the Holy Spirit were bestowed before baptism, was an exception to the ordinary rule.” Life and Epistles of Paul, p. 384.
That they are right m this statement, is clear from the fact that the Pentecostian converts were not baptized with the Holy Spirit at all, and were only promised the gift of the Holy Spirit as a sequence to baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and from the additional fact that the Samaritans believed and were baptized, and yet the Holy Spirit fell upon none of them until Peter and John went there.* But Peter said: “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.” Acts x:43. Yes, believers get remission of sins through His name, and that is the reason Peter commanded Cornelius and the Pentecostians to be baptized in His name, that they might receive remission of sins as the prophets had testified; and we know of no other way by which believers may receive remission of sins in His name than by accepting remission as He proposed it, saying: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Mark xvi:16.
But we have an overwhelming objection to the doctrine of baptism for the remission of sins in the fact that Paul says: “Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel.” 1 Cor. i:17. This is an elliptical form of expression, like which we have many in the Bible; e.g., “He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that (* See Acts viii:13-16) sent me.” John xii:44. Here the Saviour is made to contradict Himself in a single sentence, by saying he that believed on Him did not believe on Him; but when we supply the ellipsis all is plain. “He that believeth on me, believeth not [only] on me, but [also] on him that sent me.”
We suppose all will agree that the words only and also should be supplied in this quotation. Let us try another. “But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak; for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak; for it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” Matt. x:19, 20. Here, again, unless the ellipsis be supplied, Christ contradicts Himself by first saying it should be given them what they should speak, and then telling them that they should not speak at all. When the ellipsis is supplied the passage reads thus: “It is not [only] you that speak, but [also] the Spirit of my Father that speaketh in you.” Do all agree to this? Then, why may we not understand Paul in the same way? “Christ sent me not [only] to baptize, but [also] to preach the gospel.” If this ellipsis be not allowed, then we have Paul doing that for which he had no authority; for he says he did baptize even some of these Corinthians; and he says himself he baptized Crispus, and Gaius, and the household of Stephanus. Now, can anyone suppose that Paul raised his hand before God and said: “In the name of Jesus Christ I baptize you,” when Christ gave him no authority to baptize at all? Surely not. Then Paul was sent not only to baptize, but also to preach the gospel. “But Paul thanked God that he had baptized but few of them; and if baptism had been for the remission of sins he would have gladly baptized many of them.” Paul did not thank God that but few had been baptized, but that but few of them had been baptized by him, and he gives a reason for this: “Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.” Ver. 15. He does not say that he had baptized but few persons at all, but only that he had baptized but few of the Corinthians, among whom this unfortunate division had sprung up. He may have baptized thousands elsewhere. But had baptism been an unmeaning formality, it occurs to us that Paul would not have feared a disparagement of its value by a false report concerning the name in which it was administered. But some of them had claimed to be of Paul, some of Apollos, some of Cephas, and some of Christ; hence he asks: “Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” thus showing that they could not be of Paul unless they had been baptized in his name, nor could they be of Christ unless baptized in His name. The apostle asks: “Was Paul crucified for you?” thus showing that they were Christ’s because He had died for them, and they had been baptized in His name, that they might enjoy the benefits of His death. Reader, will you be baptized in the name of Him who has been crucified for you, that you may be His and enjoy the benefits of His death? “But what efficacy is there in water to wash away sins?” Just none at all. “Then why should we be baptized in water for the remission of sins?” Because God has required it: is not this reason enough? The blood of Christ cleanseth us from all sin; but as we cannot come in contact with it literally, we must approach it through the means which God has appointed for that purpose. As God saw fit to appoint baptism for this purpose, it is our duty to submit, but not our province to object. Had He seen proper to appoint prayer at the mourner’s bench, or anything else, for this purpose, then this, and not baptism, would have been the act of obedience for us.
When God commands, the man of faith obeys without a why or an if, and the promised blessing is sure to follow. Naaman reasoned very much like the people; do now.* He was afflicted with a loathsome leprosy which bid defiance to all the remedies at his command, when he was induced by a captive girl, who waited on his wife, to go to Samaria, that Elisha the prophet might cure him. He prepared himself with presents, and a letter from the king of Syria to the king of Israel, that he might be properly introduced on his arrival. When he presented his letter to the king, it gave offense to him, rather than secured his favor; but when Elisha heard of it, he ordered Naaman to be brought unto him, that he might know there was a prophet in Israel. When he stood before the house of Elisha, he did not even go out to see him, but “sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.” But Naaman was angry, and went away, saying, “Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them and be clean? So, he turned and went away in a rage.” But a servant, more prudent than himself, entreated him to go and do what the prophet had directed: “Then went he down and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child.” Just so people reason now. “What virtue is there in water? Why not go to the altar or to the grove and be pardoned?” But Naaman thought there was no virtue in the waters of the Jordan; and truly there was none; yet God healed him when he did the thing commanded. So there is no abstract virtue connected with the water in which we are baptized; but the Lord said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;” and (* 2 Kings, chap. v, entire) as Naaman was cured when he obeyed, so will the sinner be saved who obeys the commandment of the Lord. God commanded Moses to make a serpent of brass and put it on a pole in the midst of the camps of Israel, promising that the bitten Israelite who looked thereon should live; * and it came to pass according to His word. Was there any virtue in the brass? None. Any in the peculiar form into which it was cast? None. Any in the pole on which it was reared? None. Any in looking at it on the pole? None. Yet God healed the bitten man when he did just what was required of him. Jesus made ointment of spittle and clay and anointed the eyes of one who had been born blind, and told him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam, which he did, and came seeing. Was there any efficacy in the spittle? None. Any in the clay? None. Any in the waters of the pool in which he washed? None. Yet the Lord gave him sight when he availed himself of the means appointed for that purpose. These illustrations might be extended indefinitely; but surely the thought is sufficiently clear that we are baptized because God has required it of us, and in respect to His authority; and we expect remission of sins, not because of any virtue in water, or merit in any act of our own, but because the Lord has promised to bestow it upon us when we comply with His will. But why should we have to thus explain a doctrine as though it were new which has been taught not only by the writers of the New Testament, but also by primitive Christians even from the days of the apostles.
At the risk of being tedious, we must present a few extracts from the writings of the ”fathers” in proof of this fact.
HERMAS says: “For before anyone receives the name (*Num. xxi:8-12. John ix:1-7) of the Son of God he is liable to death; but when he receives that seal, he is delivered from death and is assigned to life. Now, that seal is water, into which persons go down liable to death, but come out of it assigned to life. For which reason to these also was the seal preached; and they made use of it that they might enter into the kingdom of God.” Wall’s History, vol. 1, p. 51. (Paul salutes Hermas, Rom. xvi:14.) Wall says: “This book was written before St. John wrote his gospel.” ibid, p. 52. On page 54 he says: “The scope of the place is to represent the necessity of water baptism to salvation or to entrance into the kingdom of God, in the opinion of the then Christians — i.e., the Christians of the apostles’ times.” Thus we see, according to Dr. Wall, that Hermas lived in the days of the apostles, and wrote before John wrote his gospel; and he says persons go down into the water liable to death, and come out of it assigned to life.
BARNABAS says: “This meaneth that we indeed descend into the water full of sins and defilement, but come up bearing fruit in our heart, having the fear of God, and trust in Jesus in our spirit.” Apostolic Fathers, p. 154. Barnabas is said to have been the companion of Paul. Orchard’s History, vol. 1, p. 12.
JUSTIN MARTYR wrote about ninety years after Matthew wrote his gospel. He says “that we should not continue children of that necessity and ignorance, but of will, or choice, and knowledge, and should obtain forgiveness of the sins in which we have lived, by water, [or in the water] there is invoked, over him that has a mind to be regenerated, the name of God the Father,” etc. Wall’s History, vol. 1, p. 69.
Orchard quotes Justin as follows: “This food we call the eucharist, of which none are allowed to be partakers but such only as are true believers, and have been baptized in the laver of regeneration for the remission of sins.” Orchard’s History, vol. 1, p.24. Wall comments on a quotation from Justin thus: “I recite this to show that in these times, so very near the apostles’, they spoke of original sin affecting all mankind descended of Adam; and understood that, besides the actual sins of each particular person, there is in our nature itself, since the fall, something that needs redemption and forgiveness by the merits of Christ. And that is ordinarily applied to every particular person by baptism.” Wall’s History, vol. 1, p. 64.
ORIGEN wrote about the year 185 A.D. He says: “They are rightly baptized who are washed unto salvation. He that is baptized unto salvation receives the water and the Holy Spirit; such baptism as is accompanied with crucifying the flesh, and rising again to newness of life, is the approved baptism.” Orchard’s History, vol. 1, p. 35.
CYRIL, Bishop of Jerusalem, in the year 385 A.D., said: “If anyone receive not baptism he cannot be saved.” Ibid., p. 43.
AMBROSE: “There is no regeneration without water.” Wall’s History, vol. 1, p. 78.
TERTULLIAN. Wall comments upon Tertullian thus: “This author, in the places here first cited, treating of the necessity of baptism, speaks of that necessity as absolute, and of those who die unbaptized as lost men; and is enraged at those who maintain that faith without it is sufficient to salvation.” Wall’s History, vol. 1, p. 96.
GREGORY NAZIANZEN. Wall comments on Gregory after the following style: “When he deters the baptized person from falling back into sinful courses, tells him ‘there is not another regeneration afterward to be had, though it be sought with ever so much crying and tears,’ and yet grants, in the next words, that there is repentance after baptism, but shows a difference between that and the free forgiveness given in baptism.” Ibid, pp. 77, 78.
CYPRIAN: “If anyone be not baptized and regenerated, he cannot come to the kingdom of God.” Ibid, p. 146.
GREGORY, Bishop of Nysa, A.D. 388, says: “In baptism there are three things which conduct us to immortal life — Prayer, Water and Faith.” Orchard’s History, vol. 1, p. 44.
AMBROSE, Bishop of Milan, A.D. 390, says: “The body was plunged into this water to wash away sin.” ibid.
In commenting upon the doctrine of Novatian, who figured in the middle of the third century, Neander says: “The church, he could say, has no right to grant absolution to a person who, by any mortal sin, has trifled away the pardon obtained for him by Christ, and appropriated to him by baptism.” Neander, vol. 1, p. 244. Concerning baptism in the third century, Mosheim says: “The remission of sin was thought to be its immediate and happy fruit.” Maclain, Mosheim, vol. 1, p. 91.
We might pursue this line of testimony on through the Donatists, the Albigenses, the Waldenses, and other parties of more recent date, showing that they all were of one mind on this subject, but we have not room to do so. Even the abuses of baptism point to the well-recognized doctrine of baptism for the remission of sins. In the previous chapter we saw that infant baptism grew out of the absurd dogma of original sin, and the well-known fact that baptism was for the remission of sins. “The Council of MELA, in Numedia in Africa, enjoin Christians to baptize their infants for forgiveness of sin, and curse all who deny the doctrine.” Orchard’s History, vol. 1, p. 47. For abundant proof of this fact the reader is referred to the previous chapter. We have not the space, nor is it necessary, to elaborate it here — though a volume might be filled with proof of the fact.
But if baptism for remission of sins was taught by the writers of the New Testament, and by the primitive Christians for centuries after inspiration ceased, how comes it to pass that it is so zealously opposed by good men of modern times? From some cause a radical change has been effected in the theology of religious parties on this subject very recently. We have before us some two or three editions of the Methodist Discipline which differ from each other widely upon this subject. One of them was published by John Early for the Methodist Episcopal Church South in Louisville, in 1846, from which we quote a prayer used at the baptism of persons of riper years, as follows:
“Almighty and immortal God, the aid of all that need, the helper of all that flee to Thee for succor, the life of them that believe, and the resurrection of the dead; we call upon Thee for these persons, that they, coming to Thy holy baptism, may receive remission of their sins by spiritual regeneration. Receive them, O Lord, as thou hast promised by thy well-beloved Son, saying, Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; so give now unto us that ask: let us that seek, find; open the gate unto us that knock; that these persons may enjoy the everlasting benediction of Thy heavenly washing, and may come to the eternal kingdom which Thou hast promised by Christ our Lord.
Now we pick up another edition which was published by J. B. McFerrin, of Nashville, in 1858; and find that after the words “these persons” all the following words are omitted: “that they, coming to Thy holy baptism, may receive remission of their sins by spiritual regeneration.” Why were these words stricken out? If they were expressive of truth in 1846, were they not equally orthodox in 1858? If baptism was for the remission of sins when the first edition was published, is there any good reason why it should not be so yet?
But there is a change in the next prayer equally significant. In 1846 the minister was instructed to pray for the candidates thus: “Give Thy Holy Spirit to these persons, that they may be born again, and be made heirs of everlasting salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” But in 1858 he prays, ‘Give Thy Holy Spirit to these persons, that they, being born again, may be made heirs of everlasting salvation,” etc. Then he prayed that “they may be born again” in baptism; now he must recognize them as already born again before baptism. And still he must pray that they be made heirs of eternal life — as though they could be born again without being heirs of eternal life. But why cease to pray that they should be born again in baptism? If it was true then that men must be born of water and of Spirit, it is certainly true yet. We do not object to the abandonment of error when it is discovered, but these changes show that these parties found themselves teaching the doctrine of baptism for the remission of sins down to 1858, when the change was made, and that a doctrine now regarded as a monstrous heresy was believed and taught up to that time. Indeed, it seems hard for the creed-makers to avoid teaching this doctrine even when seeking to avoid it. The Westminster and Cumberland Presbyterian Confessions have both taught it, despite of their efforts to the contrary. They say: “Although it be a great sin to condemn or neglect this ordinance, yet grace and salvation are not so inseparably annexed unto it as that no person can be regenerated or saved without it.” Here note the fact that it is a great sin to condemn or neglect baptism. Of repentance they say: “As there is no sin so small but it deserves damnation, so there is no sin so great that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.” Here note the fact that there is no sin so small but deserves damnation; hence, if the smallest sin deserves damnation, the great sin of neglecting baptism deserves it none the less.
On the attributes of God they say: He hates all sin, and will by no means clear the guilty.” Then they who neglect baptism deserve, and will receive, damnation, if these books be true. But the last resort is an appeal to the prejudice of the people: “If baptism is for the remission of sins, all our pious fathers and mothers who died unbaptized are lost.” As to what God will do with those who sought to know the truth, and made an honest mistake with regard to baptism or anything else, He has not seen fit to reveal, and therefore we will not attempt to decide; but if, like many do now, they allowed prejudice to stop their ears and close their eyes against the truth, then we hesitate not to say that their ignorance of the law will be no excuse. But suppose they were deprived of opportunities which you have, and they honestly believed non-essential that which you know to be a solemn requisition of the Lord, will you be excused because they were? But suppose we concede that they were lost, will it benefit them for you to persist in rebellion and be lost also? Would it not be wiser for you to seek a knowledge of your duty, and perform it to your own salvation, than to cling to known error because your parents believed it true? Though you were to weep tears of blood on account of their mistake, you could not correct it. They are in the hands of a God whose infinite love and mercy will secure a just decision as to them: and this is all you can know on the subject. You have an immortal spirit of your own, which must live in endless bliss with God and His Son in heaven, or writhe in eternal misery with the devil and the damned. Oh, then, as you have a heaven to gain and a hell to shun, why not accept salvation upon the terms which God has proposed?
[This if from The Gospel Plan of Salvation (1874). A special thanks to Lindsay England for her hard work in formatting this sermon.]