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priety, be immersed, though they had no original sin.


TertuUian, the first who mentions infant baptism, flourished about
A. D. 21G. He writes against the practice: and among his most con-
clusive arguments against infant immersion, (for then there was no
sprinkling,) he assumes, as a fundamental principle not to be ques-
tioned, that immersion was for the remission of sins; and this being
universally conceded, he argues as follows:

"Our Lord says, indeed, 'Do not forbid them to come to me;'
therefore let them come when they are grown up — let them come when
they understand — when they are instructed whither it is that they
come. Let them be made Christians when they can know Christ.
What need their guiltless age make such haste to the forgiveness of
sins^ Men will proceed more warily in worldly goods; and he that
should not have earthly goods committed to him, yet shall have heav-
enly! Let them know how to desire this salvation, that you may ap-
pear to have given to one that asketh." — P. 74.


Origen, though so great a visionary, is, nevertheless, a competent
witness in any question of fact. And here I would again remind the
reader, that it is as witnesses in a question of fact, and not of opinion,
we summon these ancients. It is not to tell their own opinions, nor
the reasons of them; but to depose what were the views of Christians
on this institution in their times. There was no controversy on this
subject for more than four hundred years, and therefore we expect
only to find incidental allusions to it; but these are numerous, and
of the most unquestionable character. Origen, in his homily upon
Luke, says:

"Infants are baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. Of what
sins? Or when have they sinned? Or how can any reason of the
law, in their case, hold good, but according to that sense that we men-
tioned even now? (that is) none is free from pollution, though his
life be but the length of one day upon the eafth."

And in another place he says, that

"The baptism of the church is given for the forgiveness of sins. "

And again:
"If there were nothing in infants that wanted forgiveness and mercy,
the grace of baptism would be needless to them."


In another place he says:

"But in the regeneration, (or new birth,) by the laver, (or bap-
tism,) every one that is horn again of water and the Spirit, is clear
from pollution: clear (as I may venture to say) as by a glass daxkly."
—P. 82.

But now let me ask Dr. Wall — Do Gregory, Nazianzen, Basil, Am-
brose, Chrysostom, and St. Austin, concur with all their predecessors
in those views of regeneration and remission?

W. Wall. — Yes, exactly. I have observed, among the several names
which the ancients give to baptism, they often, by this phrase, 'the
forgiveness of sins,' do mean the sacrament Of baptism." — P. 179.
"And as for Chrysostom, he expressly says: "In baptism, or the spir-
itual circumcision, there is no trouble to be undergone but to throw
off the load of sins, and receive pardon for all foregoing offenses." —
P. 182. And again: "There is no receiving or having the bequeathed
inheritance before one is baptized; and none can be called a son till
he is baptized." — P. 183.

The controversy about infant baptism and original sin were con-
temporaneous, and just as soon as they decided the nature and extent
of original sin, baptism for the remission of sins was given to infants
because of this pollution, and defended because of the necessity of
regeneration and forgiveness to salvation; and because immersion was
universally admitted to be the Scriptural regeneration and remission.
In this way, there is no reasonable doubt, but infant baptism began;
and for convenience' saJie, as Dr. Wall contends, it was substituted
by infant sprinkling.

Unless we were to transcribe all the testimonies of antiquity, one
by one, no greater assurance can be given, that, for more than four
hundred years after Christ, all writers, orthodox and heterodox, Pela-
gius and Austin not excepted, concurred in the preceding views. Were
I to summon others — Eusebius, Dupin, Lightfoot and Hammond, cum
multis aliis — will depose the same.

This proposition we will dismiss with the testimony of the most
renowned of the Bishops of Africa. I extract it from a work now
generally read, called the "History of the Martyrs." It is from the
account Cyprian gives of his conversion. — P. 317.

"While (says he) I laid in darkness and uncertainty, I thought
on what I had heard of a second birth, proposed by the divine good-
ness; but could not comprehend how a man could receive a new life
from his being immersed in water; cease to be what he was before,
and still remain the same body. How, said I, can such a change be
possible? How can he, who is grown old in a worldly way of living.


strip himself of his former intliiiations. and inveterate habits? Can
he, who has spent his whole time in plenty, and indulged his appe-
tite without restraint, ever be transformed into an example of fru-
gality or sobriety? Or he who has always appeared in splendid appar-
el, stoop to the plain, simple, and unornamental dress of the common
people? It is impossible for a man, who has borne the most honorable
posts, ever to submit to lead a private and an obscure life: or that he
who was never seen in public without a crowd of attendants, and per-
sons who endeavored to make their fortunes by attending him, should
ever bear to be alone. This (continues he) was my way of arguing;
I thought it was impossible for me to leave my former course of life,
and the habits I was then engaged in, and accustomed to: but no
sooner did the life-giving water wash the spots off my soul, than my
heart received the heavenly light of the Holy Spirit, which trans-
formed me into a new creature; all my difficulties were cleared, my
doubts dissolved, and my darkness dispelled. I was then able to do
wliat before seemed impossible; could discern that my former life
was earthly and sinful, according to the impurity of my birth; but
that my spiritual birth gave me new ideas and inclinations, and di-
rected all my views to God."

Cyprian flourished A. D. 250.


But even the reformed creeds. Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Method-
ist, and Baptist, substantially avoic the same vieics of itnmersion,
though apparently afraid to carry thevi out in faith and practice.

This proposition will be sustained by an extract from the creed of
each of these sects.


The clergy are ordered, before proceeding to baptize, to make the
following prayer. — Common Prayer, p. 165.

"Almighty and everlasting God, who, of thy great mercy, didst save
Noah and his family in the Ark from perishing by water; and also
didst safely lead the children of Israel thy people through the Red
Sea; figuring thereby thy holy Baptism; and by the Baptism of thy
well-beloved Son Jesus Christ in the river Jordan, didst sanctify the
element of water, to the mystical washing away of sin; we beseech
thee, for thine infinite mercies, that thou wilt mercifully look upon
these thy servants; wash them and sanctify thctn with the Holy
Ghost; that they, being delivered from thy wrath, may be received into
the Ark of Christ's Church; and being steadfast in faith, joyful through
hope, and rooted in charity, may so pass the waves of this trouble-
some world, that finally they may come to the land of everlasting life;
there to reign with thee, world without end, through Jesus Christ our
Lord. Amen."


After reading a part of the discourse with Nicodemus, they are
ordered to make the following exhortation. — P. 165:

"Beloved, ye hear in this gospel the express words of our Saviour
Christ, that except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he can
not enter into the kingdom of God. Whereby ye may perceive the
great necessity of the sacrament, where it may be had. Likewise,
immediately after his ascension into heaven, (as we read in the last
chapter of St. Mark's Gospel,) he gave command to his disciples, say-
ing, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believ-
eth not, shall be damned. Which also showeth unto us the great
benefit we reap thereby. For which cause St. Peter the Apostle, when
upon his first preaching of the gospel many were pricked at the
heart, and said to him and the rest of the Apostles, Men and breth-
ren, what shall we do? replied, and said unto them. Repent and be
baptized, every one of you, for the remission of sins, and ye shall re-
ceive the gift of the Holy Ghost: for the promise is to you and your
children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our
God shall call. And with many other words exhorted he them, say-
ing. Save yourselves from this untoward generation. For, as the same
Apostle testifieth in another place, even baptism doth also now save
us, (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of
a good conscience towards God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Doubt ye not, therefore, but earnestly believe that he will favorably
receive these present persons, truly repenting, and coming unto him
by faith; that he will grant them remission of their sins, and bestow
upon them the Holy Ghost; that he will give them the blessing of
eternal life, and make them partakers of his everlasting kingdom."

This, I need not add, is in accordance with the sentiments ad-
vanced in this essay. What a pity that the Episcopal Church does
not believe and practice her own creed!


The Presbyterian Confession, on Baptism, chap, xxviii., sect. 1,
declares that—

"Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus
Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized in
the visible church, but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the cov-
enant of grace, of his engrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of re-
mission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ,
to walk in newness of life: which sacrament is, by Christ's own ap-
pointment, to be continued in his church until the end of the world."

"A sign and seal of remission of sins.'!" This is much nigher
the truth than this church seems to be apprized of. However, she


can not believe her own creed; for she does not believe that baptism
is a sign and a seal of remission of sins, nor of regeneration, in her
own sense of it, to her baptized or sprinkled infants. But in paying
any regard to the Scriptures, she could not say less than she has said
It is no wonder that many sectarians can not be persuaded *o think
that the Scriptures mean what they say; for they are so much accus-
tomed to say what they do not mean, that they can not think God does
mean what he says.


The Methodist Creed says:

"Dearly beloved, forasmuch as all men are conceived and born in
sin, (and that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and they that are in
the flesh can not please God, but live in sin, committing many actual
transgressions; ) and that our Saviour Christ saith. None shall enter
into the kingdom of God, except he be regenerate and bom anew of
water and of the Holy Ghost; I beseech you to call upon God the Father,
through our Lord Jesus Christ, that of his bounteous goodness he will
grant to these persons, that which by nature they can not have;
that they may be baptized with water and the Holy Ghost, and
received into Christ's holy church, and be made lively members of
the same."

Then it is ordained that the minister repeat the following prayer: —

"Almighty and immortal God, the aid of all that need, the helper
of all that flee to thee for succor, the life of them that believe, and
the resurrection of the dead: We call upon thee for these persons, that
they, coming to thy holy baptism, may receive remission of their sins,
by spiritual regeneration. Receive them, Lord, as thou hast prom-
ised by thy well-beloved Son, saying. Ask and ye shall receive, seek
and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you: so give
unto us that ask; let us that seek, find; open the gate unto us that
knock; that these persons may enjoy the everlasting benediction of
the heavenly washing, and may come to the eternal kingdom which
thou hast promised by Christ our Lord. Amen." — Dis.. p. 105.

Thus the Methodist Creed and Church are nearly as Scriptural as
the church from which they sprang. She prays for those to be bap-
tized, that in baptism they may receive remission of sins! Does sh'a
believe what she says?


Chapter xxx.. Section 1: —

"Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained bv Jesus
Christ, to be unto the party baptized a sign of his fellowship with
him in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him;
of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus
Christ, to live and walk in newness of life."


The Baptist follows the Presbyterian Church as servilely as the
Methodist Church follows the English hierarchy. But she avows her
faith that immersion is a sign of remission. A sign of the past, the
present, or the future! A sign accompanying!

Calvin and Wesley are with us here. Calvin makes remission the
principal thing in baptism. — Inst. I. 4, c. xv., p. 327.

"Baptism," says he, "resembles a legal instrument properly attested,
bj which he assures us that all our sins are cancelled, effaced, and
obliterated, so that they will never appear in his sight, or come into
his remembrance, or be imputed to us. For he commands all who be-
lieve to be baptized for the remission of their sins. Therefore, thos.?
who have imagined that baptism is nothing more than a mark or
sign by which we profess our religion before men, as soldiers wear
the insignia of their sovereign as a mark of their profession, have
not considered that which was the principal thing in baptism; which
is, that we ought to receive it with this promise — 'He that believeth,
and is baptized, shall be saved.' "

John "Wesley, in his comment on the New Testament, (p. 350,)
speaks plainer than either the Methodist Discipline or the Regular
Baptist Confession. His words are: — "Baptism administered to real
penitents, is both a means and a seal of pardon. Nor did God ordi-
narily, in the primitive church, bestow this (pardon) on any, unless
through this means." This is almost, if not altogether, as much as we
have said on the forgiveness of sins through immersion.

May we not say, that we have sustained this last proposition to the
full extent of the terms thereof?

With the testimony of John Wesley, the last of the reformers, 1
close my list of human vouchers for the import of Christian immer-
sion. This list I could swell greatly; for, indeed, I have been quite
disappointed in looking back into creeds, councils, commentators, and
lerormers, ancient and modern. I begin to fear, that I should be susr
pected to have come to the conclusions, which I have exhibited from
consulting human writings, creeds, and reformers. My fears are not
that we, who plead for reformation, may appear to have nothing
criginal to offer in this reformation; that we are mere gleaners in the
fields which other minds have cultivated. It is not on this account our
fears are excited: for the reformation we plead is not characterized
by new and original ideas, or human inventions; but by a return to
the original ideas and institutions developed in the New Institution.
Nor do we profess to have any originality of mind, strength of reason,
or compass of imagination worthy of admiration, worthy of a temple,
or a memorial of any sort whatever. But we fear lest any should
suspect the views offered to be a human invention or tradition; because
we have found so much countenance for them in the works of the most


ancient and renowned Christian writers, and the creeds of ancient and
modern reformers. We can assure our readers, that we have been led lo
these conclusions from the simple perusal, unprejudiced and impartial
examination of the New Teetament alone. And, we may add, that we are
as much astonished, as any reader of this essay can be, to find such a
cloud of witnesses to the truth, and importance of the views offered.

Though we had, many years ago, read most of these documents, wo
read them as many of our readers read the Bible; without attending
to what is read, or feeling the import of it. We can sympathize with
those who have this doctrine in their own creeds unregarded, and
unheeded in its import and utility; for we exhibited it fully in our
debate with Mr. M'Calla, 1823, without feeling its great importance,
and without beginning to practice upon its tendencies for some time
afterwards. But since it has been fully preached and practiced upon, it
has proved itself to be all divine.

We now press it upon all persons to believe the gospel, and to be
immersed for the remission of their sins; that seasons of refreshment
from the Lord, may come to them. Every one who has so much faith
in the mission and character of Jesus Christ, and so much attachment
to his person as to submit to his absolute government, we invite^
command, entreat, to receive the bounty, and enlist during the war:
to put on his regimentals, to stand in the ranks, and to fight the good
fight of faith. We discover, in practice, that this change' of state,
this seal of remission, changes the affections still more and more, and
reforms the lives of all who honestly submit to it. It produces more
peace, love, joy, righteousness, and more holiness of heart and life,
than we ever witnessed to result from the Calvinian, Arminian, or
mixed gospels of the day. We love the ancient gospel for its fruits, its
holiness of heart, and righteousness of life. None, but those who have
frequently witnessed it, can form any adequate idea of the impulse
which is given to the mind by a believing reception of this 'vashing
of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit. Like a strong im-
pulse given to a ball which puts it in motion, immersion for the for-
giveness of sins, carries the mind forward, far beyond all tl\e experi-
ences formerly demanded as preparatory to immersion. A change of
state so great, so sensible, so complete, so sudden, operates more like
the ancient cures, than the cold, dark, and tedious mental regenera-
tions of the philosophizing theologues. He, that passes from V'rginia
into Pennsylvania, passes over a mere imaginary geographical line,
without scarcely perceiving the transition; but he that passes from
Virginia into the State of Ohio by swimming the river, the natural and
sensible boundary, immediately realizes the change. Still greater, and
more sensible is the rhange from the state of condemnation to the
state of favor.


But to return to the argument. The propositions now provod, and
illustrated, must convince all, that there is some connection between
immersion, and the forgiveness of sins. What that connection is,
may be disputed by some; but that such a connection exists, none can
dispute, who acknowledge the New Testament to contain a divine com-
munication to man. With John Wesley we say, it is "to the believing
the means an'd seal of pardon for all previous offenses;" and we not
only say we think so, but we preach it as such, and practice it as such.
Those who think of any other connection, would do well to attempt to
form clear ideas of what they mean: for we are assured there is no
meaning in any other connection. To make it a commemorative sign
of past remission is an outrage upon all rules of interpretation, and
a perfect anomaly in all the revelation of God. To make it, prospec-
tively, the sign of a future remission, is liable to the same exceptions.
Nothing remains, but that it be considered, what it is in truth, the
accompanying sign of an accompanying remission; the sign and the
seal, or the means and the seal of remission then granted through the
water, connected with the blood of Jesus by the divine appointment, and
through our faith in it.

We have heard some objections, and we can conceive of new objec-
tions which may be presented to immersion for the remission of sins.
Some of them are anticipated and attended to in the preceding re-
marks. We could wish that we had them all drawn up numerically,
that we might examine and refute them. There can be objections made
to any person, doctrine, sentiment, or practice, natural, moral, political,
or religious, which ever existed. But notwithstanding all the objections
made to every thing, there are thousands of matters and things we hold
to be facts and truths indubitable. Amongst those certain and sure
things, not to be shaken, is this Christian institution.

We will state and examine some objections partially noticed already:
but, because they are the most common, or may become common, we
will bestow upon them a formal statement, and a formal refutation.

Objection 1. — "To make the attainment, and the enjoyment of present
salvation, pardon, justification, sanctification, reconciliation, adoption,
dependent upon the contingency of water being present, or accessible,
is beneath the dignity and character of a salvation from God."

And to make the attainment, and the enjoyment of present salva
tion, pardon, etc., dependent upon the contingency of faith bein:,'
present or accessible — upon the blood of Jesus Christ being heard of.
or known, is equally objectionable: — for what is faith but the belief of
testimony? Or what is it in the most popular sense but something
wrought in the heart, a compound of knowledge and feeling, of assent
and consent? And what was the blood of Jesus shed upon Mt. Cal-
vary but matter, and a few pounds of matter, viewed by itself abstractly


as some view water; I say, what was it but matter? And are no:
both blood and faith less accessible to mankind than the element of
water? How much more water than faith, or candidates for immersion?
And is there not as much power, wisdom, and goodness of God in
creating water, as in creating air, words, letters, faith, etc.? Is not
water more universal than language, words, books, preachers, faith,
etc.? This objection lies as much against any one means of salvation
as another; nay. against all means of salvation. "Whenever a case shall
occur of much faith and little water; or of a little faith and no water,
we will repel it by other arguments than these.

Objection 2. — "It makes void the value, excellency, and importance
of both faith and grace." By no means. If a man. say, with Paul,
we are justified by faith; does it follow that grace is made void?
Or, if one say we are justified by grace; does it make the blood of
Christ of none effect? Or, if, with Paul, a man say we are iu stifled
by his blood; does it make faith, repentance, and grace of no effect?
Nay, indeed, this gives to faith its proper place, and its due value.
It makes it the principle of action. It brings us to the water, to
Christ, and to heaven. But it is as a principle of action only, it
was not Abel's faith in his head, or heart; but Abel's faith at the altar,
which obtained such reputation. It was not Enoch's faith in pria
ciple, but Enoch's faith in his xcalk with Ood, which translated him
to heaven. It was not Noah's faith in God's promise and threatening,
but his faith exhibited in building an ark, which saved himfelf and
family from the Deluge, and made him an heir of a new world, an
heir of righteousness. It was not Abraham's faith in God's call, but
his going out in obedience to that call, that first distinguished him
as a pilgrim, and began his reputation. It w'as not faith in God's
promise that Jericho should fall, but that faith carried out in the
blowing of rams' horns, which laid its walla in ruins, etc. It is not
our faith in God's promise of remission, but our going down into tlie
water, that obtains the remission of sins. But any one may see why
faith has so much praise, and is of so much value. Because, without
it, Abel would not have offered more sacrifices than Cain; Enoch would
not have walked with God; Noah would not have built an ark, Abra-
ham would not have left Ur of the Chaldees, nor offered up his son
upon the altar. Without it, Israel would not have passed through th3
wilderness, nor crossed the Jordan; and without it, none receive the

Online LibraryAlexander CampbellThe Millennial Harbinger abridged (Volume 1) → online text (page 67 of 70)