Extract from Sermon
By J. R. Graves, LL. D.
On the Effect of Baptism
1. Negatively, it does not procure for us the remission of past sins.
Christ has not proposed two ways for this blessing to be attained, nor is the way proclaimed in the New, different from the one taught in the Old Testament, and that was undoubtedly by faith alone, disconnected with any overt act: "To him gave all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth on him shall receive the remission of sins." (Acts x:43.)
2. Nor by baptism do we wash our sins away, save in a figure, for — "The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son. cleanseth from all sin." (1 John i:7.)
3. Nor by baptism are we regenerated or born again: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a man be born from above, he can not see the kingdom of God." — Christ.
4. Nor are we made the children of God by baptism: "For we are all the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ." (Galatians iii:26.)
Nor is baptism even a means or a sacrament by which, or on account of which, we have access to Christ, through whom we alone obtain every needed grace: "Therefore, being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom, also, we have access by faith into this grace, wherein ye stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." (Romans v:l.)
It is constantly asked of Baptists, What good does baptism do if it in no ways secures you salvation?
I answer, Much every way, and chiefly because — 1. By submitting to the act he appointed we obey Christ.
No words or thought can express or conceive the obligations we are under to love Christ and to obey him. The slave that is bought with the gold of the master is under obligations to serve him, or the captive whose life has been saved or redeemed by the sacrifice of another is under weighty obligations to love, and to gratify the reasonable wishes of his redeemer arid saviour. The child is under the highest earthly obligations to love and do the will of his father, and for it to refuse is to violate all filial obligations. But Christ redeemed us, when captives, from the enemy of our souls; and when he found us sold under sin he not only redeemed us by laying down his own life for us, but through him we have been adopted into the heavenly family, and made sons and daughters of the Most High God. Our obligations to obey Christ are infinite, and, as certainly as we are his children, we will desire to
obey, and we will love to obey; and the language of our hearts will be, "Lord what wilt them have me to do?" The characteristic spirit of Christ was that of obedience; and the Holy Spirit saith, "He that hath, not the mind of Christ is none of his." Baptism is the first and most important act of obedience Christ requires of his child — an act without which we can not obey several other important commands of Christ.
2. By baptism we honor Christ. It is not by our words and professions that we put the highest honor upon Christ. Indeed, if we stop at words and professions he will not accept us. The highest honor we can reflect upon Christ is to cheerfully obey him in all things whatsoever he commands us. He abominates mere lip service. How severe the reproof he gave this class when in the flesh: "Why call ye me. Lord, Lord, and do not the things I command you?" "Ye hypocrites, well did Isaias prophesy of yon, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their month, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me." (Matthew xv:7, 8.)
What a privilege of being allowed by any act to put honor upon Christ before men and angels! A child of God will consider thia his highest joy.
3. By obeying Christ in baptism we secure many and special blessings. David testified that in keeping the commandments of his God, there was great reward, and that reward is both here and hereafter. If we are a friend of
Christ or child of God we desire to honor him. But in no way possible can we honor Christ or offer him more sincere worship than by obedience to his commands ; and he has said, "They that honor me will my Father honor." Who can estimate the value and the blessedness of being honored of God before men here and angels hereafter:
" If a man love me he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." (John xiv:23.) "Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you."
What more or greater blessings for time can be desired than are implied in the above two promises? And then when we meet him at last we hear him say:
"Well done, good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
What more of heaven could be expressed than is implied in these words? We may assure ourselves that Christ will not tell an untruth to save any one. The willingly, no more than the willfully, disobedient will hear those words.
Then there is a special blessing promised that none but the truly baptized do enjoy, namely, "The answer — satisfaction — of a good conscience toward God."
Baptism has no part in making a good conscience. The quickening of the Holy Spirit and the enlightenment of the word make a good conscience, that can only be quieted and satisfied when full obedience to
Christ's command has been rendered; and therefore no other act for baptism but the one Christ commands will ever satisfy a good conscience. Tens of thousands have testified to this, and thousands yearly, ministers and members, testify that nothing but being buried with Christ in baptism, to show forth his death, burial and resurrection for their salvation, avails to satisfy their consciences.
4. We profess our faith, confess our discipleship, and evidence our friendship for Christ before men.
These acts Christ requires of every friend, —"Having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies bathed in pure water, let us hold fast the profession of our faith." (Heb. x.)5. By baptism we are introduced into a local church, and thereby into Christ's visible kingdom:
"If thou wilt openly confess with thy mouth, that Jesus is Lord, and wilt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man be-lieveth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Heb. x:9, 10.)
"For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed when he shall come in his glory," etc. (Luke ix:26.)
"And whosoever doth not bear his cross and come after me can not be my disciple. Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you." (John xv:14.)"Christ has a kingdom on earth, and he has churches. No one of his churches is his kingdom, but each one is an integral portion of his kingdom." — Dr. A. P. Williams.
The visible churches, then, compose his kingdom, and by entering a church we enter his kingdom. We are baptized into a visible church.
On the day of Pentecost three thousand were added to the church by baptism. They were baptized, and there is no intimation of any interfering act. Baptism, then, according to the record, if it is full, was the consummating act. Christ said to Nicodemus, "Unless a man be born of water and [added to the birth] of the Spirit, he coiild not enter his kingdom." Paul says: "For in one spirit we were all baptized into one body;" i. e., some local church, like that at Corinth; and lest any one might conceive that by one "body" he did not mean a local church, but some one universal, general body, in the twenty-seventh verse, he expressly tells them: "Now ye are a body of Christ and members in part," i. e., fellow-members.
The oldest Articles of faith put forth by our fathers are those of 1120. In the seventh article, after stating that they regarded baptism as an outward sign of an invisible grace, read: "And by this ordinance we are received into the holy congregation of God's people."
Dr. Dagg says: "The opinion has been held, almost as a theological axiom, that baptism is the door into the church," and we add, not by Baptists, but by all denominations.
Dr. Harvey's work on "The Church," issued by the American Publication Society, says: "Baptism is the rite of admission to the church, the public act of separating- from the world and uniting1 with God's people. It is the door of the house of God."
BAPTISM, BY INITIATING US INTO A LOCAL CHURCH OF CHRIST, ENTITLES US TO ALL THE PRIVILEGES AND RIGHTS OF THE CHURCH, NOT LEAST AMONG THOSE IS THE LORD'S SUPPER.
Christ has placed this sacred feast within, and under the guardianship of his local churches, and no one who has not been duly initiated according to the appointment of Christ, can partake of the Supper without profaning the feast and eating and drinking unworthily, and thereby "eating and drinking damnation to himself" (1 Corinthians xi).* By commanding every disciple to partake of the Supper, he virtually commanded him to qualify himself to do so, by being baptized into His "body" — one of his local churches.
From the above considerations we see that baptism, though not a condition of salvation, is far from being an unimportant or non-essential duty, since it is essential to our obedience to Christ, and essential to his public recognition by us as our Saviour and King — essential to membership in his church and citizenship in his kingdom — essential to our highest usefulness and happiness in this life, and to receiving the highest reward and honor in the kingdom of His glory.
An unwillingness to obey in the manner he has specified, and a willingness to accept a substitute, because suited to our "tastes, feelings, and convenience,"
* See Tract by the Author, entitled "What is it to Eat and to Drink Unworthily!" Price. 10 cents.
should be convincing proof that our hearts are not in subjection to the Anointed One; that we have not the spirit of Christ, and are none of his.
THE ADMINISTRATOR OF BAPTISM
The question is often asked, and it may be asked by the reader, "To whom should I apply for Christian baptism?" The question is an important one; since, if you are not baptized by the proper authority, let the act be what it may, the act is null and void. A foreigner seeking citizenship in this government must apply to an officer of the government, and the one authorized to give him his papers. He may not apply to any officer, and certainly not to an officer of another government. "How, then," you may ask, "can I know the proper officer to administer Christian baptism?" It certainly is not by an examination of men and their credentials; but it is required of you to find a church that administers the act which Christ commanded, and for the purpose and to the subjects Christ requires, and that church will furnish the proper officer — for it is the church that administers the rite and not the officer, per se — he is but the hand, the servant of the church. The ordinances of baptism and the Supper were not intrusted to the ministry to administer to whomsoever they deem qualified, but to the churches, to be observed by them "as they were delivered unto them." (1 Cor. xi:2.) Every common reader of the New Testament can easily decide between the
different religious societies claiming to be churches of Christ, which one of them all administers baptism as here set forth; for only one denomination does thus administer it.
From the overwhelming mass of proof submitted, every candid reader must conclude that immersion was the act Christ commanded, and the apostles and primitive churches observed. He can fully appreciate the statement of Prof. Moses Stuart (Pedobaptist), "I can not see how it is possible for any candid man who has examined the subject to deny this," and he will concede that the strong assertion of Prof. Paine, D.D., of the Bangor Theological Seminary (Pedobaptist), is not too strong, viz., "Any scholar who denies that immersion was the baptism of the Christian church for thirteen centuries, betrays utter ignorance or sectarian blindness." This being the established and admitted fact, the following conclusions inevitably follow: 1. If Christ commanded his apostles to immerse professed believers for baptism, in or into the name of the Trinity, he certainly forbade them to sprinkle or pour a few drops of water upon their heads in his name. The commission is the express law for baptism, and is to be construed as any other law. It is a fundamental principle of interpreting law that the specification is the limit of the act.
This maxim is as old as the Julian Code — "Specificatio, unius, exclusio alterius" — the specification
of one thing is the prohibition of every other thing.
If Christ specified immersion in water in his name, he as positively forbade any other act, as sprinkling of water upon the subject in the name of the Trinity, which means by the authority of. It is a most daring act for a Christian minister, in open violation of Christ's express command, to sprinkle and pour, and then solemnly declare before God and men that he does it by the authority of Christ! and by the authority of God the Father! and by the authority of the Holy Spirit! I would not do it for a thousand worlds!! And if it could be, worse to sprinkle an infant, a non-believer, when Christ specified a believer, thus positively and expressly forbidding the baptism of an infant, as well as sprinkling for baptism.
This we are all justified in saying — and, if we are the friends of Jesus we are in duty bound to say — that such a human substitution for the act Christ commanded is no baptism, and far worse than no baptism.
But Dr. N. L. Rice (Old School), in his work on Baptism, asserts:
2. The second fact, that where there is no scriptural baptism there can be no churches, no ministers, and no Christian ordinances.
This, then, is the conclusion from which there is no escape; that Pedobaptist societies are not Christian or evangelical churches in any sense, and their preachers, not being baptized, are not members of a
church of Christ, and are not ordained, and are without the shadow of authority to baptize others, any more than any other un baptized men.
3. The third fact is that all who have received the office of "baptism" at their hands by any act, are before God unbaptized. This seems a hard sentence, but it is the fact, just as certainly as immersion was commanded by Christ, which no candid man will deny, and duty to the misled and faithfulness to the truth constrains me to say it. And it is a fact that not less than ten thousand a year, including ministers as well as members, acknowledge the force of it, and come to Baptists for Christian immersion. It is evident, if Pedobaptist ministers are unbaptized themselves, they can not administer valid immersions — can not give what they themselves do not possess.
4. But if Pedobaptist and Campbellite societies are not churches, because unbaptized, they have, as Dr. Rice says, no Lord's Supper; the rite they celebrate not being that Supper, and, therefore, it is as wrong for any to partake of it as that ordinance, as it would for a company of unbaptized converts to presume to celebrate the Supper without a church and without baptism. No conscientious Baptist could desire, or would presume to participate in such a transaction.
The fact of those societies being unbaptized — and they are as certainly as that baptize means to dip in or under water, as all scholars agree that it does, and never to sprinkle — settles the whole question of intercommunion between the members of those societies
and the Baptist churches, or the members of Baptist churches and those societies. Surely to one disposed to accept and to submit to the truth, nothing more need be said on Intercommunion between Pedobaptists and Baptists.
5. But there is another thing the above facts should settle forever in the minds and conviction of all Baptists, viz., the question of
If Pedobaptist and Campbellite societies are not churches — and they are not if Christ commanded the immersion of professedly regenerated persons in water — they can no more administer valid baptism than they can a scriptural Lord's Supper; no more than could a Lodge of Masons or Odd-Fellows, if every member was a devout Christian.
Dr. Rice says, what every Pedobaptist on earth will agree to, that a body of unbaptized Christians is no church, and can not administer valid ordinances.
Therefore the immersions of all those societies, not scriptural churches, are as null and void as their sprinklings would be, and they can no more be accepted by Baptist churches. No rightly instructed Baptist church will receive the ordinances of un baptized societies as valid or scriptural.
The Campbellites certainly immerse, but their immersions are no better than those of the Greeks or Roman Catholics, since they immerse for the self-same purpose, i. e., in order to secure the remission of sins, regeneration, and the blessing of salvation, as all know.
The question, "What does baptism introduce the recipient into?" is an open question with some Baptists, and they are principally confined to the South and West. It is urged by these, contrary to the universal practice of the denomination, and their own practice, that baptism introduces into the kingdom only — after which, if the subject desires to unite with a local church, he applies upon his certificate of baptism, and, after examination, must be received, by a unanimous vote, into the church! This feature of the question is purely theoretical as yet. In forty-six years of membership, in four different Baptist churches, in as many different States, I have never witnessed or heard of an addition on this wise, save some few who were irregularly baptized by army chaplains or ministers. In some places, towns and cities, all received into the church by baptism, or letter, since the last communion, just before the administration of the Supper, are called forward by the pastor, and a charge delivered, and the right-hand of fellowship extended by the pastor, sometimes, and it should always be, followed by all the church. This is a purely formal act, not an ordinance, or the completion of an ordinance — the persons having been previously received into the church by baptism or letter. If, to all these, the Articles of Faith and the church Covenant were read, and they were called upon to rise with the whole membership of the church, to indorse the faith, and to enter into covenant, the practice would be most commendable. This theory is grounded iipon the assumption that
baptism is an ordinance of the kingdom, and not of the church, and, therefore, it inducts into the kingdom, and not into the church — "the kingdom being the vestibule of the church" (Gardner); but the kingdom, as we have seen (Chapter IV), has neither executive officers nor ordinances, and, therefore, the theory is groundless. The practical evil that is cropping out of the theory, in some quarters, to the great disturbance of the churches, is that ministers claiming to be officers of the kingdom are assuming the control of baptism, and baptizing whom they please, and where they please, whether in a Baptist Church as was the immersion of Dr. Weaver, of Louisville, Ky., by Prof. Jas. P. Boyce. without consulting the church. — or [of] fifty miles away. But the unscriptural-ness of this is evident from the fact that the ordinances, both, or all, were delivered to the churches and not to the ministry; and ministers, therefore, liave no more authority to administer baptism, to whom they please, and where they please, than to administer the Supper to whom and where they please. It is a presumptuous and unscriptural assumption of power that does not belong to them. Our churches should be admonished that "Eternal vigilance is the price of their safety," in this regard, as well as others.
================[Ben M. Bogard, editor, Pillars of Orthodoxy, or Defenders of the Faith, 1900. - jrd]
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