The Ancient Faith
THE GOOD CONFESSION
“Jesus Christ witnessed a good confession.”–1 TIM. vi: 13.
The Good Confession, more than any other peculiarity, distinguishes the people who choose to be called Christians or Disciples of Christ. What the text calls the good confession is exacted of every candidate for baptism, and upon it, rather than any other consideration apart from his hearty faith in it, the party is admitted to that holy institution. Confident of the correctness of the practice, beloved, I ask your attention to some suggestions in regard to its import, its scripturality, its uses, and its abuses.
The reasons of the course now proposed are simply these: Surrounded by a multitude of religious denominations, within the last forty-five years a community has grown from zero to a half million, without a denominational aspect, and stands to-day unmarked by a human formula. It is founded upon the good confession that JESUS IS THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD.
What is the Good Confession? The text is part of a valuable passage, which in the authorized version reads, “Thou hast professed a good profession, before many witnesses. I give thee in charge in the sight of God who quickeneth all things, and before Jesus Christ, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession,” etc. The Greek words represented by “a good profession” in the 12th, and “a good confession” in the 13th verses, are the same–ten Kalen homologian–and therefore should be rendered by the same words in both cases. It should be confession in both verses, for the verb homologeo, of the context, means to confess. It is defined, “to speak one language; to say together; to hold the same language; to agree with another; confess; to be connected with one; to come to terms of surrender.” Out of twenty-two occurrences in the New Testament, it is never translated “profess” but twice; and one of those cases is in the text. We will, therefore, translate the passage thus: “Thou hast confessed the good confession before many witnesses. I charge thee in the sight of God, who makes all things alive, and Jesus Christ, who, in the time of Pontius Pilate, witnessed the good confession, keep this commandment.” In the prosecution of our inquiries, it will be necessary to recur to this translation. It will be noticed that the article in the Greek requires the amended version to read “the good confession.” There is the width of the seas between a and the in this connection. Doubtless Timothy often confessed a good confession, but allusion is made here to one particular and peculiar confession, which the apostle designates, par excellence, the Good Confession–a formula pronounced once, and but once, in his lifetime, as a religious aft.
Both Jesus and Timothy made this confession. In what, then, did it consist? In reply, it is affirmed:
- THAT THE GOOD CONFESSION IS THE HISTORICAL AND LOGICAL ASPECT OF THE GOSPEL.
The Apostle John sums up his memoirs of Christ in these remarkable words: “These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31). It would be safe to suppose that Matthew, Mark, and Luke wrote their several works for the same purpose. It is inevitable, then, that the only recognized account of Jesus, embracing half the New Testament, is a historical and logical defense of the Messiahship and Lordship, the mission and the Divinity, of Jesus of Nazareth; in other words, that those books elaborate and defend the proposition which has been called the Good Confession. As they contain the matter-of-fact grounds on which Christ must be obeyed, they have for ages been called the Four Gospels.
In the record of that most touching interview between Jesus and the sisters of Lazarus, which has been the legacy of the children of sorrow for near two thousand years, Martha but represents the expectations of the pious Israelites, when she declares, “I believe thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” The coming one was to be, they thought, both Messiah and Son. They supposed the new kingdom would be inaugurated by the resurrection of many of the prophets, the reappearance of Moses and Elijah, and that the Messiah, who had often appeared to the nation as its deliverer, would reign in unexampled splendor.
But the instrument of salvation, called the Gospel was committed to the apostles to be preached and administered to people of all nations. The Acts of Apostles is the only inspired record of their preaching. It fully sustains the proposition that the words of this Confession are the staple of the Gospel. These heaven-qualified and commissioned preachers either ignored all other issues or used them in subservience to the elaboration and enforcement of this Confession. To a careful reader, nothing will be more apparent than that the whole purpose of the apostolic ministry was to argue and enforce the claims of Jesus upon the faith, reverence, and heartfelt obedience of all classes of persons, as the heaven-provided Savior of a lost race. They drove this one point to the conviction and submission of all but the incorrigible. They had nothing to do with doctrines. They preached a person, Jesus, made of a woman, as human as his mother, and having been declared to be the Son of God with power, as divine as his Father. Every discourse tended to this conviction, whether addressed to saint or sinner. The reign of grace opened among men by the triumphant carrying of this point under the formula “Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made Jesus whom ye crucified, both Lord and Christ;” and it was “when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart;” and that day three thousands of them surrendered to the conquering Crucified, by being baptized in his name (Acts ii: 36, 37). By a similar argument the same inspired apostle opened the door of faith to the Gentile world (Acts x: 34, 43). Philip, in Samaria, “preached Christ unto them” (Acts 8:5)
It is but necessary now to examine the method of preaching adopted by the remaining great actor of this book of primitive church history, Paul the apostle. Here we are happily relieved from all darkness or doubt in regard to the didactic course of this most renowned champion of the Cross. “Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three Sabbath-days reasoned with them out of the Scriptures, explaining and alleging that the Christ must needs have suffered and risen from the dead, and that this Jesus whom I preach unto you is the Christ” (Acts 17:2,3). Enough has been said to demonstrate our point, that there was no gospel, and it may be added, there is no gospel, which is not founded on this primitive formula.
The moral rather than the logical side of the Gospel, the love of God to the world, the sympathy of angels, and the persuasion of the Holy Spirit, not to mention objectionable forms of expression, have been unwisely permitted to usurp pulpit and popular attention, while the apostolic method of presentation, including the moral and logical, has been ignored.
- THE GOOD CONFESSION, THAT JESUS IS THE CHRIST, THE SON OF GOD, IS THE CREED AND FOUNDATION OF THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH.
The Jews never had an uninspired creed. The Bible was their only divine book. Israelites and Samaritans had the same Pentateuch. Pharisees and Sadducees worshiped in the same Synagogue. God never contemplated any substitute for his Word. It alone is to enlighten, govern, and save. The legacy of the apostle to the Ephesian elders was this sacred treasure: “I commend you to God and to the Word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you an inheritance among them which are sanctified.(Acts 20:32). Thus Jesus adopts the Good Confession as the rock of his kingdom (Matthew 16:16-18).
The church was not yet in existence, but it was to be erected upon this foundation when built. “Thus saith Jehovah God, Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner, a sure foundation; he that believeth shall not make haste” (Isaiah xxviii: 16). This was the basis of faith. In Corinth Paul laid the same foundation: “I have laid the foundation.” “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:10,11) that is, Jesus Christ doctrinal–Jesus Christ in this formula, with its accompanying proofs, illustrations, and enforcements. Until some one shall arise–no one has yet done so–and show that God ever authorized a religious society, Jewish or Christian, to be founded upon an uninspired document, it will be taken for granted that Jesus meant what he said in these utterances, and that the Good Confession, as defined in the conversation between Jesus and his disciples, is the doctrinal foundation of the Church, as it is of the individual faith of each of its members. It may be objected that the whole New Testament is considered the rock of the Church. Truly, it is the Divine directory of the Church. The Ten Commandments were the constitution of the Jews, or the old covenant, the bulwark of the unity of God against Polytheism. The Good Confession sustains the same relation to the Christian Church. It is the new covenant and the development of divine society in God–the Father, Son, and Spirit. The Confession was laid as a foundation in Zion by the Father (Isaiah xxviii: 16), and Jesus built the Church upon it throughout the Roman empire before the New Testament was written and compiled.
There is a religion of the New Testament as well defined as the religion of the Athanasian or Augsburg Confessions, or the miscalled Apostles’ Creed, and perfectly distinct from either of them. The New Testament comprises the “church standards” of Christianity. In taking the Bible we accept all truth–in taking the Bible alone, we reject all error.
III. THE GOOD CONFESSION IS DIVINE.
There is a sense in which all the Bible is Divine–it is inspired. But it is not intended in this statement to say that the Good Confession is inspired. The words of all the sacred writers are inspired, by whomsoever spoken–saint, sinner, angel, or demon; that is, God had them written. But it is claimed for this Confession that God made it, that it is the foundation which be laid in Zion. He gave these words to no prophet, angel, or apostle to announce. He charged the atmosphere with them himself. “Blessed art thou, Simon, son of Jonah, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. (Matt. xvi: 17).
Though there is some disputation as to the time when the Father made this revelation to Peter, the record seems to point to the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan as the occasion. God made the revelation, and when others were appalled by the disproportion between the common appearance and lofty claims of Jesus, Peter remembered and rightly interpreted it. For this his Master gave him the blessing. Heaven grant that it may be a revelation and a blessing to us all! John the Baptist’s testimony sustains this view. “I knew him not; but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore I am come baptizing in water” (John 1:31). By saying, further, that God had told him that upon whom he should see the Spirit descending and remaining, “the same is he that baptizeth in the Holy Spirit,” he fully identifies the revelation with the events of the baptism. Those events themselves teach us the same lesson. The heavens opened while the yet uninaugurated Son and his harbinger were but coming out of the waters of the sacred river–the heavens opened in the face of the shining sun! Was the miracle in the circumambient space, or in the eyes and ears of the beholders? Stephen, by an exaltation of vision, saw Jesus at the right hand of God, as a man by the aid of a telescope sees volcanoes in the moon. To the spectators the heavens opened, and to connect those heavens with Jesus by a visible link, the dove-like Spirit, the power and the heart of God came down in beautiful gyrations, bearing the olive-branch of glory–the Messiahship. For what is Messiah in Hebrew, and Christ, its equivalent, in Greek, but anointed? Jesus was christed by the Spirit’s descending and remaining on him. This was in fulfillment of prophecy. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek” (Isaiah 61:1; compare Luke iv: 16-21; Acts x: 38).
The first three Evangelists coincide in the statement that, following the Spirit-anointing or christing, “There came a voice, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Compare Matt. iii: 17; Mark i: 11, and Luke iii: 22). This established the Sonship of the Confession. The two, the anointing of the Spirit and the avouching of the Father, embrace its two elements, making it divine, in the sense of done and said of God in person. Again, the evangelical prophet is justified by the evangelical annals: “Behold my servant whom I will uphold, mine elect in whom my soul delights, I have put my Spirit upon him” (Isaiah 42:1). This accuracy of delineation transforms the prophecy into history. We have the Father’s words interpreted–Behold the anointed–he is my Son–my delight.
God, who has many oracles–the Spirit, angels, and men–seldom speaks in person. He spake, and it was done. He gave us a world. He spoke in Eden, and organized a family with language and religion. After a silence of twenty-five centuries, he stayed his cloud-chariot over Horeb. The heavens lighted their fires, and uttered their thunders. The terrified mountains trembled like aspen leaves. He uttered his voice, the earth melted. He spoke “the ten words,” and organized a sacred nation. Fifteen centuries more passed and the heavens open again, now over the sacred river, lying deep in the bosom of mother earth. The voice and Spirit of the Father are poured in the dove form of mercy, and the utterances of affection–My Son–my delight. This Confession, thus completed, is in the highest sense divine.
If the Good Confession is the marrow and fatness of the Gospel, if it is the rock chosen on which to found the Church, no one could object to its being called divine. But the word divine receives a new power in this connection, where the act of the Spirit and the word of the Father are proved to constitute the Confession itself. The Church of Christ is pre-eminently a divine institution, and is degraded by the thought of an uninspired basis. The convert is not called upon to emasculate his reason and humble his manhood by bowing to a humanism in the vestibule of the temple of truth. His “faith and hope rest in God.” This preaching is “in demonstration of the spirit and power, that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God (1 Cor. ii: 4, 5).
There is something peculiar in the employment of homologia as the name of the confession, and the verb homologeo to express confess. There are several other Greek words which signify confess and confession, but they do not have the superadded idea of repeating after another, or “holding the same language.” In the Greek, then, those who confess, repeat what was first said by the Father concerning his Son Jesus Christ. This appears more obvious from the consideration that the noun homologia is compounded of homos, one and the same, and lego to speak, declare, recount. The confession by a penitent is a repeating after the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as did Peter, who got the blessing. The Spirit visibly rests upon Jesus, and the aspirant for baptism cries, “Jesus is the Christ.” The Father says, “Behold my Son;” the candidate responds, “I believe Jesus is the Son of God.” The Hebrew yadah, rendered confess, means, first, to pronounce, to utter, and, after, confess; in its very common use, “give thanks, praise, celebrate, glorify, i. e., name aloud, with the accusative of the object” (Fuerst’s Lexicon).
In one of his controversies with the Jews, in the array of evidences of his mission, Jesus said, “Though I bear record of myself, my record is true” (John viii: 14. In v. 31, “Jesus said, If I testify of myself my testimony is not true”) and John the Baptist said, “He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true” (John iii: 33). God avouched Jesus, and requires that we should solemnly declare his testimony correct; that we should indorse the Father’s testimony of the Son.
In John v, Jesus appeals to his countrymen to believe the testimony of the Baptist and his own daily miracles, triumphantly adding to these evidences, “The Father himself who sent me hath borne witness of me. Did you never hear his voice, or see his form? or have you forgotten his declaration?” This translation of Dr. Campbell, the President of Marischal College, Edinburgh, has been objected to as not being true to history. Nevertheless, the weight of evidence seems to sustain it, and harmonizing admirably with the object of this discourse, it casts a flood of light on the transaction at the Jordan, when the visible anointing of the Spirit, and the audible testimony of the Father designated him of whom Moses in the Law and the prophets did write. The Spirit descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him” (Luke iii. 22).
The invisible God, who dwells in light inaccessible, has often assumed a form, and once became flesh, and tabernacled in clay for years. We beheld his glory as the glory of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, like the fire of God in the unconsumed green and flowering shrub on Horeb.
The Greek for confession, in ancient military language, was the word which designated the terms of surrender. There is great propriety in thus styling the words by which a sinner publicly concedes the victory to the Prince of Peace.
- THE GOOD CONFESSION IS THE MOST LIBERAL CONFESSION OF FAITH ON RECORD.
This may be inferred from its simplicity. There is nothing intricate in it. It involves the great fact of the Bible, the central truth of the whole revelation. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega of all sacred literature. It is truly a confession of faith, and not of opinions. In this respect it is unlike any symbol of any denomination. It relates words from the lips of Jehovah–they, words of uninspired men regarding real or fancied principles supposed to be, or implied, in the statements of the Bible. Man recoils from man clad in undue authority. It is a lesson taught by Jehovah: “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man,” (himself or another,) “and maketh flesh his arm” (Jer. xvii: 5). The time will never come when the body of Christ will be based upon any one sectarian symbol or creed, and be clad in its parti-colored garment. A prayer for union in that direction is a vain hope. The intercessory of Jesus is for those who should believe on him through the word of the apostles, that they all might be one (John 17:20, 21). The religious world gives its homage to the Word of God. It is to be regretted that their leaders of the people will not permit them to renounce their creeds and unite on it.
This formula is disentangled thus from the innumerable vexed questions of religious strife. Perhaps each one of us has a preference among the religious philosophies which have been christened after their authors, Augustine, Calvin, Arminius, etc.; but all intelligent persons separate them from Christianity. Holding or withholding assent to any of them does not necessarily make either a good or a bad man. But to confess true faith in Christ materially improves the character and advances the prospects of sinful men. As the confessor naturally takes the name of the confessed, the convert is, and he is called, a Christian. Illiberality has been charged upon the assumption of our leader’s name, as though it were ostentatious and invidious to be named after our Master. If one may, be called a Platonist or a Calvinist, may you not be named a Christian? Does not James intimate that the name of Christ was called upon all disciples? (James ii: 7. See Greek. Compare Acts xi: 26).
When will the time come for all followers of Jesus to be called Christians? Would there be any thing invidious in that? But one will say, “We are all called Christians; it is invidious in you to appropriate the name to yourselves.” We deny no one the right to confess and follow Christ, and to wear his name. We simply refuse to wear any additional name, or to hold anything as matter of faith, not found in the New Testament. This cannot be illiberal! The highest Christian liberality consists in standing up for Jesus and his Word, and inviting all others to do the same. We deny the right of any one to assume the name of an uninspired leader, as Luther, or Wesley, or Campbell, great and good as those men were. Therefore, none of our hymn-books or periodicals are thus designated. We are equally opposed to calling a church after any system of ecclesiastical polity, as Episcopal, Presbyterian, Congregational, etc. These are not descriptive. the Church claims all these terms, but puts them upon none of its books, papers, or houses of worship, or willingly wears an uninspired style. There is no denominationalism in Christianity.
- CHRIST MADE THE GOOD CONFESSION BEFORE THE JEWISH HIGH-PRIEST AND SANHEDRIM, DURING THE ADMINISTRATION OF PONTIUS PILATE, AND DIED FOR THE MAKING OF IT.
The authorized version of our text reads, “Jesus before Pontius Pilate.” I have rendered the words epi Pontiou Pilatou, in the time of Pontius Pilate, in the sense of, during the administration of, etc. Epi signifies the time in which something happens. On the subject of date, it is thus used both in the classics and in Scripture (See the Greek of Luke iii: 2. During high priesthood (singular) of Annas and Caiaphas, Mark ii: 26, common version rendered correctly epi ‘Abiathar, in the days of Abiathar. See also Mark xv: 1, Luke iv: 25, John iv: 27, where epi means during).
Attention is called to this criticism, because Jesus made his confession, truly, in the time of Pilate, but in the presence of the high priest. The incident is most important and touching. In the trial before the Sanhedrim, the complaint against Jesus came near being dismissed for want of evidence. A comparison of Matthew, Mark, and  Luke shows that many witnesses were presented by the prosecutors, but their testimony was irrelevant. At last, two agreed to say that Jesus had threatened to destroy the temple of God. As he had indeed said, if they should destroy the temple, meaning and pointing to his body, he would rear it up in three days, they had but to garble the statement to rouse the national hatred. But they failed again, as the testimony of the two did not circumstantially agree. When they were baffled at every point, the presiding Hierarch, coming to the aid of the prosecutors, cried out, “I adjure you by the Living God,” (I put you upon your oath,) “tell us whether thou be the Christ the Son of God. Jesus said unto him, Thou hast said” (Matt. xxvi: 63). It is here we find the ground of his condemnation. He died for the Good Confession! The high priest rent his clothes, an action emblematical of fear and sorrow, sometimes of indignation, and also employed when giving the accused up to the rigors of the law. The consul Paulus rent his garment through indignation, and Julius Cæsar did the same to appease the infuriated multitude. The fact is twice related of Augustus. Caiaphas tore his pontifical robe in irrepressible rage, making more impressive his surrender of the darling Lamb of God to the punishment of blasphemy, for he instantly put to vote the question of his execution on the charge of that crime. The Jews of the present day justify their ancestors and themselves in rejecting the greatest of men, as some rabbis call him, on the ground of the blasphemy involved in his claim of Divine Sonship.
In every attitude assumed by Jesus in the evangelical history, he excites our admiration and love; but that he himself should furnish the ground of his immolation, when his foes had failed, transcends all our conceptions of the morally sublime, and bankrupts love itself in its adoration.
“Come, then, expressive silence, muse his praise.”
- THE CONFESSION BY WHICH JESUS DIED IS APPOINTED FOR OUR LIFE.
Confession of Christ is a condition of salvation from sin. Confess me before men, and I will own you before the burning throne, is the promise of Christ. There is no recognition before God and angels without it (Matt. x: 32, 33. Luke xii: 8, 9). The relation of the Confession to the cure of sin will be noticed hereafter; it is enough now to show that the Confession which brought death to Jesus brings life to us. The apostle says: “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:10).
What mercy! Jesus died by our sin, and for it, and we live by his righteousness. He died for acknowledging himself to be our Messiah and God’s Son–the God-Man Savior. We live by believing and confessing the words which condemned him. He died confessing, that we might live confessing! It is a brazen serpent cures the serpent’s bite!
VII. THE IMPORT AND VALUE OF THIS FORMULA ENTITLES IT TO THE DESIGNATION GOOD OR BEAUTIFUL CONFESSION.
Can a man believe that Jesus is the Christ, and not have the spirit of obedience? Can he be a rebel against him? When about to ascend to heaven, Jesus observed to his disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth is conferred upon, me” (Matt. 28:18).
This was simply stating that he was the Messiah of the old covenant–the Christ of the new. Antiquity, weary of exhausting all the stores of its rhetoric for designations of David’s son, fell upon the expedient of calling him the mashiyach, Messiah, anointed, in Daniel, and ever after so styled him (Daniel ix: 25, 26). When the Jews adopted the Greek language, they employed Christos, Anglicised Christ, because it was of the same import. As all authority, sacerdotal and regal, was conferred by anointing with oil, to call “him that was to come” the anointed, was to say precisely what Jesus affirmed–all authority, celestial and terrestrial, is conferred upon me. The Jews on Pentecost were pierced to the heart, when they understood from the fisherman apostle that God had made the person whom they had consigned to ignominy and death both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36), and nothing could be more natural than their agonizing shriek, Brethren, what shall we do? Then, verbally, Christ is anointed, but evangelically, he receives all authority and power. Faith in the Christhood admits the regal authority of Jesus, and is the very germ of obedience.
Can one say Jesus is the Son of God without admitting the divinity of his mission? Can any make the Confession of the Sonship without acknowledging the Fatherhood? Can anyone recognize a Father and a Son in God without acknowledging God in both? Is the Father divine? So is the Son, else there were not the community of nature imparted by those two relations; for Jesus is not a Son of God by creation, but the Son of God by birth–the only-begotten of the Father.
The Confession presents Jesus objectively in all his official and personal relations to the universe–the Lord of all, God manifest in the flesh, and the Savior of sinners. Blessed be his holy name!
The words ten kalen of the text, translated “the good,” as applied to the Confession, may be rendered “the beautiful.” It is defined beautiful, applied to visible things and persons; to man’s inward nature, morally beautiful, noble; serving a good end, good, fair. The noble, the beautiful Confession! So honorable to God, so invaluable and creditable to man! During a ministry of over forty years, it has been the delight of your speaker to take this good, noble, and beautiful Confession of thousands. No pearl so priceless or diamond so bright to the eye of faith as the pure distillation of sorrow on the cheek of penitence! and no music so tender as the sweet response of the heart, “I do believe, and I wish to serve Jesus!”
The reception of thousands upon the simple confession of faith and obedience has caused some nervousness among those who require a recital of inward struggles, and delineations of the various shades of darkness and light, doubt and confidence, which may have marked the progress of the soul to final submission. Who has produced one precedent or precept for the admission of persons to baptism upon any other basis than the Confession? Echo asks, Who? and asks in vain! It must, however, be admitted that, like every other good thing, the noble Confession is liable to abuse by both administrator and subject. The preacher is warned against carelessness in building upon this foundation wood, hay, or stubble (1 Cor. iii: 8-15). His work shall pass the ordeal of fire. Let him look well, then, to the materials of his spiritual edifice. As a wise man, he will ascertain whether the candidate understands the Confession. He has Philip for his authority (Acts 8:30). An age too tender to have such understanding should be held back till more mature. He should be persuaded of the sincerity of the offer, and of the felt force of a correct understanding. No man whose habits render his failure a certainty, is in that state fit for the kingdom of God. The necessity of restraint, however, is the exception, not the rule. The great difficulty is to get persons willing to serve Christ. It is believed that the practice recommended in this discourse is more uniformly successful, when carefully and intelligently guarded, than any other in making numerous and stable converts. Disasters, indeed, have occurred by the inconsiderate zeal of some impulsive men, more desirous of multiplying trophies than of securing a lasting victory.
The want of sufficient pastoral labor has systematically invited apostasy. Traveling preachers should be dissuaded from leaving bodies of new recruits in new places without regular drill, done by themselves or those whom they provide.
The position of the Confession in the Gospel economy heightens its beauty. It immediately precedes baptism in the name of Christ, for the remission of sins through his precious blood and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts, ii: 28; xxii: 16; viii: 37, 38). Before heaven and earth the candidate states his faith in the Jesus of the New Testament, and his desire to serve him; that he is thus dead to the world in heart, as he is dead before the law; that he desires to consummate this death in an actual leaving of the world. As we bury the dead, we bury him. “As many of you as are baptized into Jesus Christ are 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 should walk in newness of life” (Rom. vi: 3, 4). The confessor is immersed both into the death of Christ, and into his own death to the world. He enacts, in a living tableaux, an allegorical death, burial, and resurrection. In the light of this and similar passages, nothing can claim to be baptism that does not fulfill its conditions of burial and rising.
In this discourse, Acts 8:37, I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, has not been quoted, because, on the authority of the Bagster Greek Testament, Tischendorf, Alford, etc., it is rejected. Yet the Bible Union Revision, Bengal, Benson, and many others having retained it, it is best to consider its authenticity an open question. If it is genuine, its testimony is decisive. If it is rejected, it is scarcely less. If it is an interpolation, it is a historic proof of the universality of the practice of taking the good Confession from the convert. That the exclusion of verse 37 leaves the eunuch’s question–”What doth hinder me to be baptized?”-unanswered, must forever stand a presumptive argument in favor of the authenticity of that verse. The Bible is never silent on direct questions of that class.
VIII. ALL MEN WILL BE COMPELLED TO CONFESS CHRIST AT THE CLOSE OF THIS DISPENSATION.
As a different Greek word is employed in these words, “Every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father,” (Phil. ii: 11) this acknowledgment of all in heaven, earth, and hades will not be making the Good, the Noble Confession. Though indeed it shall be the result of conviction, and shall be a voluntary accord from all who have loved the world too much to love Christ, it will be too late for that class. The nobleness of confessing Christ as the sinner’s friend is not to be confounded with the acknowledgment of him as judge when dragged before his tribunal. Indeed, many, in that day shall call upon overhanging rocks and towering mountains to hide them in their opened graves, that they be not dragged like culprits from their cells, before the face of God and the Lamb, now become the Lion of judgment. To look upon him whom they have pierced, and gaze upon the brow once lacerated with thorns, but now encircled by the diadem of universal dominion, were a terrible retribution, even if there were no lake of fire nor shoreless abyss below. Is it better, friendly alien, to receive an irrevocable sentence on the knees and confess the power of justice after a life’s resistance, or to compound your difficulties in accepting the offered grace of the inevitable conqueror, by an expressive confession of his well-established claims, and a union of your interests and efforts with his rising cause? “Kiss the Son lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they who put their trust in him!” Amen.
[Taken from The Living Pulpit of the Christian Church (1868) edited by W. T. Moore.]