What Is It?
Christian immersion the act appointed for the profession of gospel faith. The twelve disciples at Ephesus—The faith professed by a Catholic baptism—Campbellite—Episcopalian—Methodist—Presbyterian—Baptist—What is scriptural baptism?
"Into what then were ye baptized?" (Acts 19:3).
"Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?" (Rom. 6:3).
"Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies bathed in pure water, Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering." (Heb. 10:22,23).
The Sixth Mark of the Church of Christ
Its baptism is the profession, on the part of the subject, of the faith of the Gospel by which he is saved.
Christian baptism is not the celebration of a religious rite by modes indifferent; but it is a specific act, instituted for the expression of specific truths; to be administered by a specific body, to persons possessing specific qualifications. When one of these properties is wanting the transaction is null—since, unless the ordinances are observed as Christ commanded, they are not obeyed, but perverted.
Now the divine institutor of the rite selected but one word to indicate the act he intended, and that word—baptizo—which never had but one meaning when referring to persons, viz., "To dip in, or under water," (Liddell and Scott’s Greek Lexicon, sixth and last edition, gives but this one definition) and, therefore, immersion in water was the act He specifically commanded; by specifying one act, He forbade any other to be done in His name, Having seen that a scriptural church is the only organization He has authorized to administer the act, and only to persons who give satisfactory evidence of being regenerate in heart, it now remains to inquire for the symbolism of the rite.
The Scriptures are clear, in teaching that baptism is for the profession of something on the part of the subject, and that something is the faith of the gospel—the ground on which the soul must rest upon for its salvation. Paul explicitly states this fact. (See Heb. 10:23, above quoted.) That ground is the finished work of Christ, and our participation in it. This we are to profess and set forth in our baptism.
When Paul heard from the disciples at Ephesus (Acts 19), that they had not so much as heard of the existence of the Holy Spirit, he asked, with evident astonishment, "Into what then were ye baptized?" He was understood by them to ask what faith they could have professed by their baptism; and they said they were baptized into John’s baptism, which evidently means they professed the faith John preached in their baptism. They did not say they had been baptized by John, but their very answer implies they had not. They could not have heard John preach, or been baptized by him, without hearing of, and having experienced, the converting and regenerating influences of the Holy Spirit.
John baptized only those who gave him evidence of having repented toward Cod, and were exercising faith in Christ soon to appear, and no one could exercise these graces without the influences of the Holy Spirit; and he did distinctly mention the existence and work of the Spirit. These disciples had, doubtless, been immersed by Apollos, a disciple of John, who was preaching in these parts, for he knew nothing but the baptism of John. Now the faith which John preached before Christ came, was not the proper faith to be preached after he came; since he required them to believe that Christ was yet to come, and no one but John was authorized to administer his baptism. There were, therefore, three things unscriptural connected with their case.
1. These persons were unregenerate when they were immersed.
2. They did not profess the proper faith in their baptism.
3. They were not baptized by one having any authority to baptize.
Though they acted conscientiously, and were perfectly satisfied with the act, they were nevertheless unbaptized. This case should convince any one that Brother Jeter’s position is wrong. He holds that if persons have been dipped in water, in the name of the Trinity, and are satisfied with the act, it is valid baptism to them, irrespective of the faith they professed in it, or the moral or ecclesiastical qualifications of the administrator. These had been dipped, and were satisfied with the act. The immersion of a traveling imposter, without the vote of any church, would then be valid baptism, and Paul, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, baptized them. This has been the authority quoted by Anabaptists in all ages, as well as in this age, to justify them in baptizing those immersed by unscriptural organizations; and those who oppose them are forced to deny that these Ephesian disciples were rebaptized. "But by no rules governing the Greek language can the original be wrested to teach otherwise than that Paul, or one of his companions, baptized these disciples." The English is a faithful translation of the text; and by the laws of the English language, the version can not be construed to teach otherwise than that Paul laid his hands upon those who were said to be baptized; and it is certain that he did not lay his hands upon those John baptized. For a critical exposition of this passage, see little work by the author—"The Baptism of John." This example is positive instruction to us to readminister the act where there has been an irregularity. The church at Corinth conscientiously believed it was correctly administering the Lord’s slipper, but it was not, but utterly perverting it, and making themselves guilty of the body and blood of Christ. To return, that baptism has been regarded as the profession, on the part of the subject, of the faith of the church baptizing, whether true or false, from the third century and onward—the "catechumens"—those applying for baptism were required to repeat the creed of the church, and then the question was invariably asked: "Wilt thou be baptized into this faith?"—i.e.. Do you desire to profess that you receive, and will hold this faith, and rest your salvation upon it? Only upon the candidate answering "I will" was baptism administered. When the apostate churches perverted the rite of baptism to "a sacrament" and "seal" of salvation, and gave it to unconscious infants to secure their salvation, they invented sponsors, and godfathers, and godmothers, to answer for the infant. The Episcopalians retain this custom (See Baptism of Infants).
"Dost thou believe all the articles of the Christian faith as contained in the apostolic creed?"
(Answer by sponsor for the infant) "I do."
"Wilt thou be baptized in this faith?"
Ans. "That is my desire."
Having established the fact that the subject of baptism does not profess any private personal faith he may entertain, but always the faith or creed of the church baptizing him, let us here notice the faith of each of the leading denominations around us; that we may know into what we were baptized—if we have been baptized by them, or expect to be baptized by them.
The Greek Catholic Church (A.D. 313-337).
This, the oldest apostate church existing today, requires all its subjects personally, or by sponsors, to be baptized into this faith, as the ground of salvation:
"We believe that baptism is a sacrament appointed by the Lord, which, except a person receive, he has no communion with Christ; from whose death, burial, and resurrection proceed all the virtue and efficacy of baptism. We are certain, therefore, that both original and actual sins are forgiven to those who are baptized in the manner which our Lord requires in the gospel; and that whoever is washed in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is regenerated, cleansed, and sanctified."
There is no mistaking this language. The baptismal rite is Cod’s appointed channel by which He conveys the grace of salvation to the soul, and is therefore called a "sacrament," without which there can be no salvation.
The Roman Catholic Church (A.D. 610)
teaches this faith, and requires all baptized in her communion to profess it, viz.:
"Baptism is a sacrament instituted by our Savior to wash away original sin, and all those we may have committed; to communicate to mankind the spiritual regeneration and grace of Jesus Christ, and to unite them to the living Head.
"If any man shall say that baptism is not essential to salvation, let him be accursed . . . In baptism, not only our sins are remitted, but all the punishment of sins and wickedness" . . . (Council of Trent).
The faith of these two "churches," that constitute the apostate part of Christendom, from the fourth to the sixteenth centuries, are very similar. The perversion of the primitive faith, touching the ordinance, was by transposition; they put the water before the blood, and made it necessary to reach the blood through the water. This simple change corrupted the whole gospel, perverted the whole plan of salvation, and made regeneration depend upon the will of men—the priesthood. I ask every Baptist right here to stop and answer this question: Should the most esteemed and influential Baptist Church on this continent, from this day, baptize into this faith, and for this purpose, would you vote to receive the baptisms of that church as scriptural and valid? You can decide this.
Campbellite Design of Baptism
Compare the above with the faith into which Campbellites baptize their converts. They baptize for the remission of sins. What do they mean by the expression? Mr. Campbell, the originator of the sect, is certainly qualified to explain:
"In, and by the act of immersion, as soon as our bodies are put under the water, at that very instant all our former or old sins are washed away" (Christian Baptist, p. 100).
"Immersion is the means divinely appointed for the actual enjoyment of the first and great blessings."—Millennial Harbinger.
"Remission of sins can not be enjoyed by any person before immersion."
"Belief of this testimony is what impelled us into the water, knowing that the efficacy of his blood is to be communicated to our consciences in the way which God has pleased to appoint; we stagger not at the promise, but flee to the sacred ordinance [water of baptism] which brought the blood of Jesus in contact with our consciences. Without knowing and believing this, immersion is as a blasted nut—the shell is there, but the kernel is wanting" (Christian Baptist, p. 521).
The reader can see for himself that Campbellites baptize into the self-same faith the Catholics do. He, if possible, more strongly emphasizes the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. He asserts, with all the force he can give his language, that the sinner can only come to Christ through the water; that he can only reach the blood of Christ by being immersed into the water; and he elsewhere affirms that immersion and regeneration are terms meaning the same thing. Campbellites, therefore, unite with the apostate teachers of Christianity in placing water before blood; thus bringing an unpardoned, unregenerated sinner to water baptism, as a sacrament of salvation. Can a church of Christ indorse this pernicious doctrine, by receiving those baptized by Catholics and Campbellites as scripturally baptized? There are three vital features lacking in their immersions: 1. They have not the scriptural authority—their societies not being churches. 2. The subjects are confessedly unpardoned and unregenerate when they come to the water; and 3. The faith which they profess in the act is not the faith of the gospel.
The Protestant Episcopal church baptizes into this faith: viz., in the catechism the subject is taught to say, there are two sacraments as generally necessary to salvation—i.e., baptism and the supper of the Lord. At his confirmation he is required to answer thus to the question: "Who gave you this name?"
Ans. "My sponsors in baptism; wherein I was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven." All who are baptized in this "church," come to the water as sinners, unpardoned and unregenerate, in order to receive pardon, and regeneration, and salvation. The teachings of the prayer-book abundantly sustain this.
The Methodist Episcopal Church
Many come to us immersed by these societies, but are they baptized? Let the question be asked, into what is every Methodist baptized?
To save space I will state that the office for the baptism of both infants and adults in the Discipline, is copied, almost verbatim, from the Book of Common Prayer used by the Episcopalians; and, touching the efficacy of baptism in the case of infants, Wesley, the father of the system, who copied the office from the Book of Common Prayer, is competent to explain.
"It is certain that our church supposes that all who are baptized in their infancy, are at the same time born again; and it is allowed [no Methodist ever disputed it in Wesley’s day] that the whole office for the baptism of infants proceeds upon this supposition" (Wesley’s Works, vol. 1, p. 405).
Now, into what do Methodists baptize adults?
"By baptism, we who are by nature children of wrath, are made the children of God." In all ages the outward baptism is a means of the inward . . . By water, then, as a means—the water of baptism—we are regenerated or born again (Wesley’s Works, vol. 6, sec. 4).
I might quote pages of similar teachings; and lest some one should say this is not what Methodists now teach, I ask, Do they not still use the office prescribed in the Discipline, and pray the same prayers at baptism, as they did in Wesley’s day? The last Methodist Conference that met in Memphis, in an official report, decided that for Methodists to require a profession of regeneration before baptism is an evil! I quote a paragraph:
"Baptism, too, has been unnecessarily deferred, not only in case of children, but sometimes postponed to an indefinite period in the case of adults. The practice of requiring a public profession of regeneration before baptism, has resulted in evil, and that the design of the sacrament is perverted, and the people encouraged to expect the divine blessing without the use of means, [i.e., baptism]. We call attention to these evils, that we may seek diligently to remove them" (Copied from Western Methodist).
This is sufficient. To teach and practice that a sinner can be regenerated without water baptism, as a means, is an evil in the estimation of the Methodist conference today. No regenerated person can be baptized according to the "Methodist Discipline." Every adult, without exception, is required to confess himself unregenerate, and unpardoned, and that he comes to baptism to obtain these blessings. Every song prepared to be sung at their baptism teach the same thing. Now, can a Baptist, with the teachings of God’s Word before him, indorse such baptisms as valid, and the design scriptural, by receiving them? That Baptist must know that immersion would be worse than null, if administered by Baptist Churches for such a purpose. The subject would profess a false and pernicious faith in his baptism. There are three vital defects in immersions administered by Methodists.
1. There is the lack of any church authority—Methodist societies are not churches of Christ, and therefore can not baptize.
2. The lack of qualification on the part of the subject—he confesses him- or herself unregenerate, and that he seeks it in the act.
3. The design is unscriptural—the faith it requires to be professed, as shown above, false and pernicious.
The Presbyterian Faith Required to be Professed
By referring to "Shorter Catechism" we find this:
Q.—What is a sacrament?
A.—"A sacrament is a holy ordinance instituted by Christ, wherein [i.e., in the receiving of which] by sensible signs, Christ and the benefits of the New Covenant are represented, sealed and applied to believers."
Now the covenant of grace is worthless to any one, unless it is sealed and applied to him. Therefore, unless the sacrament is received, none of the benefits of Christ’s death can be enjoyed by any one. This is clear. Now, what ordinances are sacraments?
"A.—The sacraments of the New Testament are baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
"Q.—What is baptism?
"A.—Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, wherein Christ hath ordained the washing with water in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost to be a sign and seal, of engrafting into himself of remission of sins by his blood, and regeneration by his Spirit of adoption, and resurrection unto everlasting life."—S. Catechism. This is a palpable misrepresentation. For Christ commanded to dip in or under water; and Christ
Himself was immersed into the river Jordan; and John said: I, indeed, baptize you in—en, not meta, with—water.
In these extracts it is clearly taught that baptism is a sacrament—i.e., a rite by which the benefits of Christ’s death are applied; and also, a seal, by which they are made sure—confirmed to those receiving. Of course, if the benefits of Christ’s death—i.e., regeneration, justification, pardon and adoption—are applied in and by baptism, it can not be supposed the subject possesses them before baptism; and, therefore, none but unregenerate and unpardoned persons can be baptized, in accordance with the Presbyterian design of baptism. It is substantially the same as the Catholics and Campbellites—to make one a Christian and child of God. Water is put before Blood.
An immersion or baptism by this sect would be marked by the same three vital defects with that of the Catholics—i.e., no scriptural authority—for Presbyterian societies are not churches (see last chapter)—an unscriptural subject, and an unscriptural design; and Baptist Churches can not recognize them as valid by receiving them without renouncing their own as unscriptural; for, of two contradictory propositions, if one be true, the other must he false.
Baptist Faith Professed in Baptism
Our historical ancestors, the Anabaptists (A. D. 1120), five hundred years before a Protestant sect existed, or Luther or Calvin had been born, taught this concerning the above doctrine of regeneration by baptism, in a little work defending Antichrist:
"A third work of Antichrist consists in this, that he attributes the regeneration of the Holy Ghost unto the mere external act, baptizing infants into that faith, teaching that thereby baptism and regeneration must be had; on which principle he bestows orders, and, indeed, grounds all his Christianity, which is contrary to the Word of the Holy Scriptures."
Can it be that Baptists of this age, instead of protesting against, will approve and indorse the teachings and act as scriptural, by receiving them? Those old Baptists held the faith concerning baptism that we profess to teach. From fourteen articles of faith they put forth I copy—
"Article 7.—We believe in the ordinance of baptism. The water is the visible external, which represents to us that, which by virtue of God’s invisible operation, is within us, viz., the renovation of our mind and the mortification of our members through faith of Jesus Christ; and by this ordinance we are received into the holy congregation of God’s people, previously professing and declaring our faith and change of life."
Christ was our great exemplar as well as teacher, and He not only indicated by His example how we should be baptized, but at the very water’s edge He declared the true design of baptism. He declared that His own was to fulfill all righteousness." We know He came to earth to work out a righteousness for His people, to satisfy the infinite claims of Divine justice. This He could not accomplish literally, by being baptize , else He might have ascended in a chariot of glory to the right hand of His Father when He came up out of the water. But He did fulfill all righteousness, in some sense, and it must have been fulfilled figuratively. He painted before their eyes the three great acts by which He did fulfill the all-righteousness the law required. 1. He must sink in death. 2. Be buried. 3. Rise again from the dead. By these acts, prefigured in His baptism, He prefigured His crucifixion, His burial, and His resurrection. Paul taught .that Christian baptism represented the crucifixion of Christ (Col. 3:1), and Christ, referring to His coming crucifixion, called it a baptism —immersion (Luke 12:50). Paul also declares that three acts constitute the whole gospel, by which we are saved, if we rightly apprehend and believe: 1. How that Christ died for our sins; 2. That he was buried; 3. That He rose again the third day (1 Cor. 15:1-5).
Christ, then, in a lively figure, set before the eyes of all His sacrificial work—the gospel of our salvation—and He has made it the duty of every disciple of His to do the same. And is it too much for Christ to require us to represent these great acts of His redemptive work, and profess our own personal faith in them, for our own salvation, as we are about to enter His church? The soul, redeemed by His precious blood, will rejoice to do it, despite the sneers of an ungodly world, and the opposition of modem priests and Pharisees.
This is the baptism Christ instituted for His church, and He forbade it to recognize or receive any other. In this design we see it is—
Blood Before Water
By this simple test human societies, and all counterfeit churches, can be easily distinguished from the churches of Christ, viz., in the former, water is put before blood, and the church before Christ; in the latter Christ is put before the church, and blood before water. Reader, how do they stand in your faith, and which came first in your baptism, blood or water?"
1. Where there is no scriptural baptism, there are no scriptural churches of Christ, no scriptural ordinations, no scriptural ministers, no scriptural ordinances. (Brother N. L. Rice, Presbyterian, admits this—"no baptism, no church").
2. If immersion be the act which Christ exemplified in His own baptism, and commanded for baptism, then Pedobaptist societies are without baptism, and, consequently, are not churches, and are without scriptural ministers or scriptural ordinances.
3. If baptism is not a "seal," nor the law of pardon, nor a "sacrament" of salvation, but an act by which we profess the saving faith we possess, and in which we symbolize the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, then it must be admitted that Baptists, alone, truly baptize, and the immersions of other denominations are in no sense baptisms, and should not be indorsed as valid.