Alexander Campbell.

The Millennial Harbinger abridged (Volume 1) online

. (page 66 of 70)
Online LibraryAlexander CampbellThe Millennial Harbinger abridged (Volume 1) → online text (page 66 of 70)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

remission of their sins? or, to reform and he converted, that their
sins might be blotted out? — to arise, and be immersed, and wash
away their sins? If he would not, let them give a reason; and if
they say he would, let them assign a reason why they do not go, and
do likewise.

Some have objected against the "seasons of refreshment," or the
comforts of the Holy Spirit being placed subsequent to "conversion, '
or "regeneration," or "immersion;" (for, when we speak Scripturally,
we must use these terms as all descriptive of the same thing,) because
the gifts of the Holy Spirit were poured out upon the Gentiles before
immersion. They see not the design of thus welcoming the Gentiles
into the Kingdom. They forget the comparison of the Gentiles to a
returning prodigal, and his father going out to meet him, even while
he was yet a good way oif. God had welcomed the first fruits of the
Jews into his Kingdom, by a stupendous display of spiritual gifts,
called the baptism of the Holy Spirit, before any one of the Jews
had been immersed into the Lord Jesus. And, as Peter explains this
matter in Cornelius' case, it appears that God determined to make no
difference between the Jews and Gentiles in receiving them into his
Kingdom. Hence, says Peter, "He gave them the same gift which
he gave to us Jews at the beginning," (never since Pentecost.) Thus
Peter was authorized to command those Gentiles to be immersed by
the authority of the Lord, no man daring to forbid it. But these
gifts of the Holy Spirit differed exceedingly from the seasons of
refreshment, or the righteousness, peace, and joy, in the Holy Spirit,


the common enjoyment of all who woto immersed Into the name of
the Lord Jeeus for the remission of sins.*

Let it be noted here, as pertinent to our present purpose, tliat as
the Apostle Peter was interrupted by the baptism of the Holy Spirit
■when he began to speak of the forgiveness of sins by the name of
the Lord Jesus; so soon as he saw the Lord had received them, he
commanded tliem to be immersed by the autliority of the Lord. And
here I must propose another question to the learned, and the unlearned.
How comes it to pass, that though once, and only once, it is com-
nanded, that the nations who believe should be immersed into the
name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; and
though we read of no person being immersed into this name in this
■Ray; I say, how comes it to pass, that all sects use these words with-
out a scruple, and baptize or sprinkle in this name; when more than
once persons are commanded to be immersed for the remission of
sins, and but a few of the proclaimers can be induced to immerse fo,-
the remission of sins, though so repeatedly taught and proclaimed by
the Apostles? Is one command, unsupported by a single prece-
dent, sufficient to justify this practice of Christians; and sundry
commands and precedents from the same authority insufficient to
authorize, or justify us in immersing for the remission of sins?
Answer this who can; I can not, upon any other principle than that
the tyrant Custom, who gives no account of his doings, has so

I come now to another of the direct and positive testimonies of the
Apostles, showing that immersion for the remission of sins, is an in-
stitution of Jesus Christ. It is the address of Ananias to Saul. "Arise
and be immersed, and wash aw^ay your sins, calling upon the name of
the Lord." On this testimony we have not as yet descanted in this
essay. It has been mentioned; but not examined.

Paul, like the Pentecostian hearers, when convinced of the truth
01 the pretensions of the Messiah, asked what he should do. He was
commanded to go into Damascus, and it should be told him there what
to do. It was told him in the words now before us. But say some
this can not be understood literally.

For experiment, then, take it figuratively. Of what was it figura
tive? of something already received, — of pardon formerly bestowed!
a figure of the past! This is anomalous. I read one writer, and
but one, who converted this into a comwemoratirc baptism, like Is-
rael's commemorating the escape from Egypt, or Christians commemo
rating the Lord's death. And, if I do not mistake, some preacher said
it was a figurative expression, similar to "This is my hodii!'." One,
whom I pressed out of all these refuges, was candid enough to say

■'Sco <'hriatian Baptist, vulumo VI., p. "JtW.


he really did not know what it meant; but it could not mean, that Paul
vas to "be baptized for the remission of his sins."

"To wash away sins" is a figurative expression. Like other
metaphoric expressions, it puts the resemblance in place of the proper
word. It necessarily means something analogous to what is said. But
we are said to be washed from our sins in, or by, the blood of Christ.
But even "washed in blood'' is a figurative expression, and means
something analogous to washing in water. Perhaps we may find in
another expression a means of reconciling these strong metaphor?.
Rev. vii. 14, "They have washed their robes, and made them white
in the blood of the Lamb." Here are two things equally incomprehen-
sible — to wash garments white in blood, and to wash aioay sins
in water! An efficacy is ascribed to water which it does not possess;
and, as certainly, an efficacy is ascribed to blood which it does not
possess. If blood can whiten or cleanse garments, certainly water can
uash away sins. There is, then, a transferring of the efficacy of blood
to water; and a transferring of the efficacy of water to blood. This
is a plain solution of the whole matter. God has transferred, in some
way, the whitening efficacy, or cleansing power, of -v^ater to blood;
and the absolving or pardoning power of blood to water. This i^ done
upon the same principle as that of accounting faith for righteousness.
What a gracious institution! God has opened a fountain for sin, for
moral pollution. He has given it an extension far and wide as sin
has spread — far and wide as water flows. Wherever water, faith, and
the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are, there will be found
the efficacy of the blood of Jesus. Yes; as God first gave the efficacy
CI water to blood, he has now given the efficacy of blood to water
This, as was said, is figurative; but it is not a figure which misleads.
for the meaning is given without a figure; viz.: immersion for the
remission of sins. And to him that made the washing of clay from the
eyes, the washing away of blindness, it is competent to make the
immersion of the body in water efficacious to the washing away of sin
fiovi the conscience.

From the conscience I say; for there its malignity is felt; and it
is only in releasing the conscience from guilt, and its consequences, —
fear and shame, that we are released from the dominion of sin, or
washed from its pollution in this world. This immersion, says
Peter, saves us, not by cleansing the body from its filth, but the
conscience from its guilt; yes, immersion saves us by burying us
with Christ, raising us with him, and so our consciences are
purged from dead works to serve the living God. Hence, our Lord
gave so much importance to immersion in giving the commission
to convert the world, "He that believes, and is immersed, shall
be saved."


But, while viewing the water and the blood as made to unite their
powers, as certainly as Jesus came by water and blood, we ought to
consider another testimony given to this gracious combination of
powers, by Paul the Apostle. Heb. x. 24, "Being sprinkled in heart
from an evil conscience, and being washed In body with clean water."
The application of water, the cleansing element, to the body, is made
In this gracious institution to reach the conscience, as did the blood
of sprinkling under the Law.

Some ask. How can water, which penetrates not the skin, reach the
conscience? They boast of such an objection, as exhibiting great intel-
lect, and good sense. But little do they think, that in so talking, they
laugh at, and mock the whole Divine Economy, under the Old and
New Institutions: for, I ask, did not the sacrifices, and Jewish purga-
tions, some way reach the conscience of that people! ! If they did not
it was all mere frivolity throughout And can eating Ijread, and drink
ing wine not influence, nor affect, the soull And can not Ihr breath
of one man pierce the heart of another, and so move his blood, as to
make his head a fountain of tearsi He, who thus objects to water,
and the import of immersion, objects to the whole remedial institution,
as. taught by Moses and by Christ, and insults the wisdom and good-
ness of God in the whole scheme of salvation. And he, who objects
to water, because it can only take away the filth of the fiesh, ought
rather to object to blood; because it rather besmears and pollutes, than
cleanses the body, and can not touch the soul. But all such reasonera
are foolish talkers. To submit to God's institution Is our wisdom, and
our happiness. The experience of the myriads who were immersed
for the remission of their sins, detailed in the Christian Scriptures,
to say nothing of those immersed in our times, is worth more than
volumes of arguments from the lips and pens of those who can only
regard, and venerate the traditions of their fathers; because It is
presumed their fathers were wiser, and more able to judge correctly
than their sons.

But as it is not our object to quote, and expatiate upon, all the
sacred testimonies, direct and allusive to immersion for the remission
of sins, we shall close the proof and illustration of this proposition
with an incidental allusion to the cleansing efficacy of this institution,
found in the 2d Epistle of Peter, i. 9. After enumerating the additions
tc faith necessarj- to securing our calling and election, of which
courage is the first; and charity, or universal love, the last; th-^ Apo-^
tie says, that "he who has not these things is blind, shutting his eyes,
and forgetting that he was purified or purged from his old sins." 1
need not here say that this Is, perhaps, (and certainly as far as 1
know,) universally understood to refer to Christian immersion. The
"old sins," or "former sins" can, we presume, mean no other sins than


those washed away in immersion. No person has yet attempted to
show that these words can import any thing else. It is one of thp most
unequivocal, and, because incidental, one of the most decisive proofs,
that, in Peter's judgment, all former sins were remitted in immorsioa.
With Peter we began our proof of this position, and with Peter we
shall end our proof of it. He first proclaimed reformation for th'^
remission of sins; and in his last and farewell letter to the Christian
communities, he reminds them of that purification from sin, received
in, and through immersion; and in the strongest terms cautions them
against forgetting that they were so purified.

Were any person to reason upon the simple import of the action
commanded by Jesus, I think it might be made apparent from the
action itself, in its two parts, the burial and the resurrection, that it
must import every thing we have heard tlie Apostles ascribe to it.
Corruption goes down into the grave literally; but does corruption
come forth out of it? Is there no change of state in the grave' Who
is it that expects to come forth from the grave in the same state in
which he descends into it? The first bom from the dead did not;
nor shall any of them who fall asleep in him. How, then, can it
be, that any person, buried with Christ in immersion, can rise with
Christ, and not rise in a new state! ! Surely the Apostle exhorts to a
new life from the change of state effected in immersion. If, indeed,
you have risen with Christ, set your affections above. Walk in a
new life.

Again, and in the last place here, is a child in the same state after,
as before its birth? Is not its state changed? And does it not live
a new life, compared with its former mode of living? As new born
babes desire the milk of the breast, so let the newly regenerate desire
the unadulterated milk of the Word, that they may grow thereby. Call
immersion, then, a new birth, a regeneration, a burial and resurrec
tion, and its meaning is the same. And when so denominated, it must
import that change o<f state which is imported in putting on Christ,
in being pardoned, justified, sanctified, adopted, reconciled, saved,
which was the great proposition to be proved and illustrated, and
which, we think, has been proved and illustrated by the preceding tes-
timonies and reflections.

Though no article of Christian faith, nor item of Christian practice,
can legitimately rest upon any testimony, reasoning, or authority, out
of the sacred writings of the Apostles, were it only one day after
their decease; yet the views and practices of those who were the con-
temporaries, or tEe pupils, of the Apostles and their immediate succes-
sors, may be adduced as corroborating evidence of the truths taught,
and the practices enjoined, by the Apostles; and, as such, may be cited;
still bearing in mind, that where the testimony of the Apostles ends,


Christian faith necessarily terminates. After this preliminary remark,
I proceed to sustain the following proposition: —


AU the Apostolical Fathers, as they are called; all the pupils of the
Apostles; and all the ecclesiastical writers of note, of the first four
Christian centuries,\ohose writings have come doicn to us; allude to,
and speak of Christian immersion, as the "regeneration" and "remis-
sion of sins" spoken of ui the Xcw Testament.

This proposition I shall sustain by the testimony of those who have
examined all Christian antiquity, and by citing the words of those
usually called the Apostolic Fathers, and other distinguished writer.-?
of the first four hundred years, ^^'hether the writing, attributed to
Barnabas, be genuine or spurious, it is on all hands admitted to be
a fragment of the highest antiquity: —


In his Catholic Epistle, chapter xi., says, "Let us now inquire whether
the Lord took care to manifest any thing beforehand, concerning water
and the cross: Now, for the former of these, it is written to the people
of Israel, how they shall i\ot receive that baptism which brings to for-
giveness of sins: but shall institute another to themselves that can
not. For thus saith the Prophet, "Be astonished, O Heaven! and let
the Earth tremble at it; because this people have done two great and
wicked things: They have left me, the fountain of living waters, and
have digged for themselves broken cisterns that can hold no water.
Is my holy mountain, Zion, a desolate wilderness? For she shall be as
a young bird when its nest is taken away." "Consider how he hath
joined both the cross and the icater together. For this he saith,
"Blessed are they, who, putting their trtist i7i the cross, descend into
the water: for they shall have thoir reward in due time: then, saith
he, will I give it them." But as concerning the present time, he saith,
'Their leaves shall not fail." Meaning thereby, that every word that
shall go out of your mouth, shall, through faith and charity, be to the
conversion and hope of many. In like manner does another Prophet
speak: "And the land of Jacob was the praise of all the earth;" mag-
nifying thereby the vessels of his Spirit. And what follows? "And
there was a river running on the right hand, and beautiful trees grew
up by it: and he that shall eat of them shall live for ever." The sig-
nification of which is this: — that we go down into the tcater, full of
sins and pollutions; but come up again bringing forth fruit; having
in our hearts the fear and hope which are in Jesus by the Spirit "And
whosoever .shall eat of them shall live forever." That is. whosoever
shall hearken to those that call them, and shall believe, shall livo
for ever."



The former gives no testimony on the subject. The latter deposes
a? follows. [Book of Similitudes, chapter xvi.] —

In speaking of a tower, built upon the water, by which he signified
the building of Christ's church, he thus speaks: — "Hear, therefore,
why the tower is built on the waters: — Because your life is saved, and
shall be saved by water." In answer to the question, "Why did the
stones come up into this tower out of the deep?" he says, "It was
necessary for them to come up by (or through) water, that they
might be at rest; for they could not otlierwise enter into the kingdom
cf Ood: for before any one receives the name of the Son of God, he is
liable to death; but when he receives that seal, he is delievered from
death, and assigned to life. Now that seal is water, into which per-
sons go down, liable to death; but come out of it, assigned to life: for
which reason to these also was this seal preached: and they made use
of it, that they might enter into the kingdom of God."

Both Clement and Hermas wrote about the end of the first, or
beginning of the second century.

Hermas, moreover, deposes as follows, in another work of his, calle 1
"The Commands of Hermas." [Com. 4, chap, iii.] —

"And I said to him, I have even now heard from certain teachers,
that there is no other repentance besides that of 'baptism; when we
go down into the water, and receive the forgiveness of sins; and after
that we should sin no more, but live in purity. And he said to me,
Thou hast been rightly informed.'"

Having closely and repeatedly examined the Epistles of Clement;
of Polycarp, to the Philippians; of Ignatius, to the Ephesians; that
to the Magnesians; that to the Trallians, the Romans, the Philadel-
phians, the Smyrnians, and his Epistle to Polycarp; together with
the Catholic Epistle of Barnabas, and the genuine works of Hermas,
I can affirm that the preceding extracts are the only passages, in all
these writings, that speak of immersion. This closes the evidence
from the Apostolic fathers. Much more might be brought forward,
but these voices are sufficiently clear and distinct. Let him who hath
eyes see, and who hath ears hear these testimonies as to what was
the custom and teaching during the times of the Apostolic Fathers.

Having heard the Apostolic Fathers, as they are called, depose to
the views of the pupils of the Apostles, down to A. D. 140; I will
summon a very learned Paidobaptist antiquarian, who can bring for-
ward every writer and Father, down to the fifth century; and before
we hear any of his witnesses, we shall interrogate him concerning his
own convictions after he had spent several years in rummaging all
Christian antiquity: —



Pray, Doctor, have you examined all the primitive writers, from the
death of John down to the fifth century?

W. Wall— I have.

And will you explicitly avow what was the established and universal
view of all Christians, public and private, for four hundred years from
the nativity of the Messiah, on the import of the saying, (John lii.
5.) "Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he can not enter
into the kingdom of God?"

W. Wall. — "There is not any one Christian writer, of any antiquity.
In any language, but who understand it of haptisnt : and if it be not
so understood, it is difficult to give an account how a person is born
of tcater, any more than born of wood." — 4th London edition, page
116, vol. 1, A. D. 1819.

Did all the Christians, public and private, and all the Christian
writers from Barnabas to the times of Pelagius, (410,) as far as you
know, continue to use the term regenerate as only applicable to im-

W. Wall. — "The Christians did, in all ancient times, continue the
use of this name, 'regeneration' for baptism; so that they never use
the word 'regenerate.' or 'Ijorn again' but they mean, or denote by
it, baptism. And almost all the quotations which I shall bring in this
book, shall be instances of it." — Vol. 1, p. 24.

Did they not also substitute for "baptism" and "baptize," the words
renewed, sanctified, sealed, enlightened, initiated, as well as regen-

W. Wall. — "For to baptize, they used the following w^ords- — Most
commonly, anagennan, to regenerate; sometimes, kainopoicn, or ana-
kainizo. to renew; frequently, agiazein, to sanctify. Sometimes they
call it the seal; and frequently, illumination, as it is also called, Heb.
vi. 4, and sometimes, ieliosis, initiation." — Vol. 1, p. 8. "St. Austin,
not less than a hundred times, expressed baptized by the word sancti-
fied."— P. 194.

We shall now hear some of W. Wall's witnesses; and I choose
rather to introduce them from his own pen, as he can not be supposed
partial to the views I have presented in this essay: —


Justin Martyr wrote about forty years after John the Apostlr" died,
and stands most conspicuous among the primitive Fathers. He ad-
dressed an apology to the Emperor Antoninus Pius. In this apology lie
narrates the practices of the Christians, and the reasons of them.


Concerning those who are persuaded and believe the things which are
taught, and who promise to live according to them, he writes: —

"Then we bring them to some place where there is water, and they
are regenerated by the same way of regeneration by which we were
regenerated; for they are washed in water (en tu udati) in the name
of God the Father and Lord of all things, and of our Saviour Jesus
Christ, and of the Holy Spirit: for Christ says. Unless you be regen-
erated you can not enter into the kingdom of heaven; and everybody
knows it is impossible for those who are once generated (or born) to
enter again into their mother's womb.

"It was foretold by Isaiah, as I said, by what means they who should
repent of their sins might escape them; and was written in these
words, 'Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil,' etc.

"And we have been taught by the Apostles this reason for this
thing. Because we being ignorant of our first birth, were generated
by necessity (or course of nature) and have been brought up in ill
customs and conversation; 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.) Then is invoked over him that has a mind
to be regenerated, the name of God, the Father, etc. And this washing
is called the enlightening."

As you trace the history of infant baptism, Mr. Wall, as nigh the
apostolic times as possible, pray why do you quote Justin Martyr, who
Eever mentions it?

W. Wall. — "Because his is the most ancient account of tJie xoay
of baptizing, next the Scripture; and shows the plain and simple
manner of administering it. Because it shows that the Christians of
those times (many of whom in the days of the apostles) used the
word 'regeneration' (or 'being born again') for baptism; and that
they were taught to do so by the Apostles. And because we see by
it that they understood John iii. 5, of water baptism; and so did all
the writers of these 400 years, not oxe max excepted." — P. 54.

Did any of the ancients use the word matheteuin (to disciple) as
it is used in the commission; or did they call the baptized discipled?

W. Wall. — "Justin Martyr, in his second apology to Antoninus, uses
it. His words are: — 'Several persons among us, of 60 and 70 years
old, of both sexes, who were discipled {matheteuin) to Christ, in or
the writers of these 400 years, not one man excepted." — P. 54.

So soon as they began to mysticise they began to teach that im-
mersion without faith would obtain remission of sins, and that immer-
sion without faith was regeneration. Then came the debates about
original sin: and so soon as original sin was proved, then came the
necessity of infant immersion for the remission of original sin. And


so undisputed was the import of baptism for remission, that when the
Pelagians denied original sin, pressed with the difficulty, "Why im-
merse those who have no sins?" they were pushed to invent actual
sins for infants; such as their, crying, peevishness, restlessness, etc.,
on arcount of which sins they supposed that infants might, with pro-

Online LibraryAlexander CampbellThe Millennial Harbinger abridged (Volume 1) → online text (page 66 of 70)