Sermon 381. Christian Baptism
A SERMON DELIVERED ON TUESDAY EVENING, APRIL 9, 1861,
BY REV. HUGH STOWELL BROWN.
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Buried with Him in Baptism, wherein also you are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God who has raisedHim from the dead." Colossians 2:12.
IT is the firm belief of almost all Christian people that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, before He left the earth, institutedtwo ordinances, namely, Baptism and the Lord's Supper-ordinances which were to be observed by His disciples throughout everyage on to the end of the world. Perhaps,indeed, I ought to say that all Christian people without any exception whatever, acknowledge the appointment to which Ihave just referred; even the Society of Friends, although it rejects the outward and visible signs, nevertheless believesin those great principles which thosesigns are intended to symbolize, viz., the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the communion of the soul with Christ. By almostall Christians in every age of the world, the observance of the outward sign as well as the recognition of the inward Gracehas been regarded as part of thewill of the Lord Jesus Christ. On this occasion we have to do only with the ordinance of Baptism, and to this I wish todraw your candid and careful attention. The ground upon which this ordinance is founded is the command of our Savior addressedto His disciples just before Heascended to Heaven when He said, "Go you, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, andof the Holy Spirit." Now if this is a command of Christ, (and I am not aware that the genuineness of the passage in whichit appears has ever been called intoquestion), then, of course, it is the duty of all Christian people according to their convictions as to the nature and meaningof this command to observe and to maintain it on to the end of time! I think it may also be asserted that with the exceptionof the Society of Friends, allChristians regard the ordinance of Baptism as one in which water is to be employed in some way or other, and very rightlyso, because if Baptism is altogether inward and spiritual-the Baptism of the Holy Spirit-then we must believe that the Baptismof the Holy Spirit is aBaptism which one man cannot administer to another. The very fact that the Baptism mentioned in the Scripture is a Baptismwhich one man can administer to another, is sufficient to prove that in this Baptism there is some outward, visible, materialrite, ceremony, or ordinance whichChristian people are to observe. Thus far, with the exception of the Society of Friends, I believe we are all agreed thatthe ordinance of Baptism does imply the use and application of water in some way or other. So far we all, or nearly all, traveltogether, but at this point, thebody of Christians to which we belong feel compelled to pursue a different course from that which is adopted by their Brethren.The very name we bear indicates that there is something or other in connection with the ordinance of Baptism in which we donot agree with the greatmajority of Christian people. And for the information of such as may not be thoroughly well informed upon this point, (andI by no means cast the slightest slur or rejection on any man's intelligence if I suppose him to be a little uninformed uponthis point, for very extensiveignorance with regard to it prevails), I shall in a very few words try to explain the difference or differences which exist-betweenus and other Christians upon this matter.
The majority of Christian people believe that as far as the outward rite is concerned, the conditions of the ordinance arefulfilled when water, in however small a quantity, is poured or sprinkled upon the candidate; we, on the other hand, believethat the outward conditions of the ordinance arenot fulfilled unless the candidate is wholly immersed in water. Again, (and this is by far the most important point of difference),the very great majority of Christian people think infant children are fit and proper subjects for this ordinance; we, on theother hand, believe thatnone are fit and proper subjects for the ordinance of Baptism, excepting such as really believe and trust in the Lord JesusChrist as their Savior and their King. You will perceive that the difference resolves itself into two questions-a questionwith regard to the mode of thisordinance, and a question with reference to the subjects. These two questions, "How ought Baptism to be administered?" and,"To whom ought Baptism to be administered?"-these are the questions to which we in our consciences feel compelled to offeranswers which differ verymaterially from those which are given by other Christian people. Again let me explain this matter and set it in as plainterms as possible. We believe that this ordinance should never be administered apart from the entire immersion of the candidatein water, and we also believe thatnone should be candidates for this ordinance excepting those who avow their faith in Christ. And here let me observe thatthe very common notion that we are in the habit of practicing adult Baptism is utterly a mistake! We do not contend for theBaptism of adults; we contend for theBaptism of Believers. Show us a child however young, who believes in Christ, and we gladly accept him; but if a man as oldas Methuselah were to come to us in unbelief, we would say to him, "Sir, your age certainly entitles you to our respect, butit gives you no manner of claim toBaptism as ordained by Jesus Christ."
But now, perhaps, someone will exclaim, perhaps in scorn, perhaps in great surprise, "Who are you that you presume to differfrom the general verdict of the Christian world? Who are you that you so pertinaciously maintain these crotchety notions ofyours, when all the world is against you, and whenthere is not only the decision of the Church of Rome, against which we should ourselves rebel, but the voice of the Churchof England, the voice of the Church of Scotland, the voice of the Lutheran Church, the Presbyterians, the Methodists, andthe Congregationalists, all againstyou, and the most able divines of the Christian world all testifying that you are in error? Who are you, that you shouldthus set up your opinions against everybody else? Call a solemn assembly; canvass the Christian world; and certainly for onehand held up in favor of youropinions, there will be a thousand held up to their decided and utter condemnation."
Well, we do not choose to put it to the vote in this way. We have not such entire faith in the infallibility of majoritiesas to submit our religious convictions to any such tribunal! If the Copernican system of astronomy had been put to the vote250 years ago, it would have had a smaller minoritythan our views would have if put to the vote now. If the Doctrine of Justification by Faith had been put to the vote 400years ago, the "Nos" would have had it! If the truth of Christianity were now submitted to the vote of the entire world, therewould be somewhere about 500millions'against it. And further, let the voters be all Christian people, let the suffrage be confined to those who reallybelieve in Christ, and then if you as a Church of England man, or you as a Methodist, or you as a Congregationalist, or youas a Presbyterian, submit your viewsof Church government and some other things, depend upon it, you would as certainly be defeated as we would be if we submittedBaptism to the decision of such a council as that! I hope that no one is so silly as to suppose that we are necessarily inerror because we are in theminority-for let this be borne in mind-especially by the worshipper of majorities, that every great Truth of God was atone time held by a very small minority, if indeed it is not held by a small minority now! Every great Truth, whether in theprovince of religion, or in thedomain of science, or in the region of politics, is at first and for a very long time held by small minorities; and in allthe currency of proverbs, there is no more pernicious maxim than that, "what everybody says must be true."
But of course you will ask our reasons for maintaining this opinion. I think we have just as good a right to ask your reasonsfor maintaining the opposite opinion! Galileo had just as good a right to ask his opponents why they believed the world didnot move, as they to ask him why he believed itdid. However you ask for our reasons, and I shall endeavor to give those reasons as clearly and as briefly as I can. Weought to have good reasons, because I can assure you it has never been much to our secular comfort and advantage that we holdthese views. These views have neverdone us very much good, considered in a merely secular or worldly sense. We are not bound to them by any golden chain. Theyhave not been made plain and clear, and attractive to us by rich benefices and comfortable livings. Our opinions are not endowedwith prelacies and prebendal[stipend drawn from Anglican Church] stalls, with manses, and royal bounties. Thank God, whatever people may choose to sayof us, they cannot say we are Baptists for the love of filthy lucre! One thing is certain, "the root of all evil" is not likelyto draw much nourishment fromthe soil of Baptist ministerial stipends. We must of course state our reasons, and I say they ought to be somewhat substantialreasons. Well, then, we go on this principle mark you, that the only appeal is to the Word of God! This is a principle inwhich every honest andsound-hearted Protestant must agree with us; it is his principle as much as ours, and it is the only principle that willsave him from all the errors and superstitions of Romanism. So that, taking the matter into the court of God's Word only,it signifies very little to us what mayhave been said by such-and-such a council, or such-and-such a Church, or such-and-such a reverend father-it greatly simplifiesthe matter when it's understood that we intend to submit this question to the Word of God, and to the Word of God only! AndI say to every Protestanthere, that he must accept the principle and act upon it. If he begins to refer to fathers, and churches and councils, wellthen, let him take care; he may rely upon it that on such a prin- ciple he will not be able to stand for one moment. If hethinks with such weapons to vanquishus, let him rest assured that he will very soon be vanquished himself by the same. It may be that the charge from such ordnanceshall destroy us, but depend upon it, the recoil will destroy the man who has the temerity to fire it! This principle, then,will be agreed in by everyProtestant, excepting those who in these days are beginning to protest Scripture itself, but every sound-hearted, honest-mindedProtestant, will go with us in saying that the Word of God is the only tribunal to which we can go. This being the case, letus see how the matter stands.
It is alleged by us, then, that in the ordinance of Baptism the candidate should be wholly immersed in water. And now, ifwe were disposed, and if we recognized any other authority than Scripture, we might refer to the law of the Church of England,which is most distinctly to the effect thatexcepting in cases of certified weakness, immersion shall be the mode of administering this ordinance and the Church ofEngland man, at all events, has nothing to say against the adoption of this practice; it is his practice as much as ours;it is his law as much as ours! His prayerbook tells him we are right; the large fonts, three feet in diameter, which he sees in so many parish churches, tell himwe are right! And he knows that in this respect we are the only faithful Church of England people in this land! We might alsorefer to the testimony of theancient Church, and the practice of the olden time, with regard to which it may be said with perfect certainty, that inthe first ages immersion was the commonly accepted mode. But of course we appeal to the Scriptures, and appealing to the Scriptures,we find that Baptism is, asour text informs us, a burial and resurrection with Christ, that it is a sign and symbol of the Believer's participationin Christ's burial and resurrection, and this, I think as plainly as possible, shows us what the mode was in ancient times.This, indeed, is generally admitted bydivines who still maintain that this mode is not binding upon Christians at the present time; but surely, if Baptism isto be a representation of burialand resurrection, there must be something in the ordinance itself which shall be suggestiveof such a Truth of God! And then again,we appeal to the meaning of the word; this word, Baptism, has not been translated in our Scriptures excepting in one ortwo instances, in which it appears in the form of the word, "wash" or, "washing," and in these cases the idea of immersion,if not absolutely required, is at allevents perfectly admissible, and involves no incongruity; and if you search the Scriptures through, you will not find asingle passage in which this word, whether it is employed literally or figuratively, does not suggest, or may not suggestthe idea of immersion. When we considerthat Philip and the eunuch "went down both of them into the water;" that our Savior "went up straightway out of the water"after John had baptized Him; that John "was baptizing near Salim because there was much water there," I think it is very evidentthat something more thanaspersion, or pouring of water, must be implied. And if we consult trustworthy authorities for the meaning of this word,we shall find that in all cases it either may or must imply the idea of immersion.
I lately read a very valuable paper by a most scholarly divine who tells us that he has thoroughly investigated every instancein which the word can be found, whether in the fathers or in the classics. He gives us upwards of200 cases, in the great majorityof which the word must mean immersion, andin every one of which it may have, and probably really has, that signification. Indeed, almost all scholarly men are agreedthat this is the meaning of the word, and not only so, but also that this was the mode that was adopted in the Apostolic Age!These things are not disputed, orare scarcely disputed. Men do ask why should you adhere to this mode? And that is a question we shall have to consider presently;but they scarcely dispute anywhere that this mode was ordained by Christ, and practiced in the Apostolic Age; and therefore,if you ask, "Why do youimmerse in Baptism?" I say because Baptism must, in the very nature of things, be a representation setting forth figurativelythe burial and resurrection of Christ, and because to immerse, and to immerse only, is the meaning of this word, baptize.
But again, our more important difference with our Christian Brethren is that we decline to accept as candidates for the ordinanceall but those who avow their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Now here, although the practice of Christendom is very much againstus, I think that even in that practicethere are some points that tell very strongly in our favor. For example, Baptism is called a sacrament. This word is scarcelyrecognized among us I believe, but still let us examine it. Baptism is regarded as a sacrament. What is a sacrament? I supposeit is an oath. Now would youadminister an oath to an infant child? Is there common sense in such a procedure as that? You would provoke laughter ifyou were to take your infant child before a Justice of the Peace, and there administer to it an oath to the effect that heshould to the end of his days be afaithful subject, and servant of the Queen! And is there anything more rational than this, when you take an infant childto a minister of God's Word, that to that child an oath may be administered by which it shall swear fealty to the Captainof our Salvation? But you say it is notto the infant that the oath is administered at all; it is to the sponsors. Well then, I want to know to whom the sacramentis administered! The oath is administered to the sponsors; the Baptism is then administered to the sponsors, for the Baptismand the oath are one. But it wouldseem as though the ordinance were divided. The water is administered to the child, and the oath is administered to the sponsors.There is something rather like confusion here! If Baptism is a sacrament and a sacrament an oath, then in administering Baptismto a child, you areadministering an oath to a child. But surely every oath ought to be administered to such-and-such only as understand thenature of an oath, and also give a solemn assent to the propositions that are embodied in it. And thus if the word, sacrament,is to be applied to Baptism at all,I accept it then, but I submit my most strong protest against the administration of this ordinance to any except to thosewho understand, and assent to the principles which are connected with it! Although our appeal is to Scripture, our Paedo-Baptistfriends must really not supposethat the testimony of the Church is all in their favor, for certainly for two or three centuries, if not more, the Baptismof infant children was not the general practice of the Christian Church!
It was opposed by Tortellini at the latter end of the Second Century or the beginning of the third; and at a far later datethan this, we find Baptism administered to persons of mature years. I do not wish to press into our service such cases asthat of Constantine, who was baptized late in life.He was born a heathen, and he appears to have continued practically a heathen of the very worst stamp to the last. The mistakein his case was not that he was baptized so late, but that he was baptized at all! As he was baptized during his last illness,his Baptism I presume wasclinical, and therefore administered by aspersion, and those who are in favor of this mode are perfectly welcome to thissprinkled Pagan! I am very glad that the ordinance in its Scriptural form was never disgraced by having Constantine for asubject. But we find that several of themost eminent and pious fathers of the Church were not baptized until they had arrived at maturity, and were thoroughly Christianmen. In the Fourth Century flourished Gregory of Nazianzum, Ambrose of Milan, Jerome, Chrys-ostom, and Augustine; these eminentmen, who were afterwardssuch great theologians, were all of them the sons of Christian parents, at least of Christian mothers, and yet not one ofthem was baptized until mature age, and until each of them had strong religious convictions; in fact, none of them were baptizeduntil they were truly convertedto Jesus Christ. The case of Gregory is peculiarly in point. Gregory of Nazianzum, was the son of a Christian bishop; hispious mother, Nona, dedicated him to God from his very birth, and yet when was he baptized? When he was 30 years old! Theinstance of Augustine is, perhaps,still more remarkable. Augustine was the object of his pious mother's deepest solicitude; his conversion was the thing nearestand dearest to her heart, and yet she did not have him baptized. When he was a grown-up lad, he was attacked with a very dangerousillness, and expressed astrong desire for Baptism, and yet the ordinance was deferred, and the great Augustine was not baptized until he was a man32 years old and was fully imbued with the knowledge and spirit of the Gospel of Christ! Now mark you, I do not say that thesecases prove that there was nosuch thing as infant Baptism in the Fourth Century, and it is for no such purpose I adduce them; but they do prove this-thatChristian mothers such as Nona and Monica and Anthusa-Christian women of the very highest intelligence and piety, did notin that age deem it necessarythat their infant children should be baptized-but they left the matter to be one of personal profession when their childrenshould have a faith to profess.
But still we would appeal to the Scriptures, and when we come to consult God's Word, strange as it may appear, there is notone passage from the beginning to the end which indicates the Baptism of any but professed believers in Christ! It is truethat households were baptized, and it is said thatthere might have been infant children in those households. It is a sufficient answer to this to say that there might nothavebeen any infants in those households! As to the Phi-lippian jailer, we read that, "he believed in God with all his house;"as to the house of Stephanas, weread, "they had addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints;" and, as to Lydia, there is not the slightest evidencethat she was either a wife or mother. And in fact, so far as historical narrative is concerned, there is not a single incidentin Scripture that leads us tosuppose that any but professed believers in Christ were baptized. It would have been very strange if such an incident hadturned up anywhere, seeing that our Lord's commission runs in this order-"Go you, teach all nations, baptizing them; he whobelieves and is baptized shall besaved." And we read that Peter says, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you;" and again, he says, "Can any man forbidwater that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit as well as we?" Does it not appear that he wouldhave anticipated an objection, andwould have allowed an objection if there had been no evidence of conversion to God? And Paul says, "As many of you as havebeen baptized into Christ have put on Christ." Is not this the work of an intelligent and believing man? Or to come to ourtext, Paul says that we are, "Buriedwith Him in Baptism, wherein also we are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who has raised Him fromthe dead." The meaning of this passage seems to be this-We are buried and risen with Christ through the faith of the operationof God, through faith in God'soperation, God's work, energy, and power, as manifested in the Resurrection of Christ from the dead; that is to say thosepersons evidently were baptized, buried, and raised with Christ through their faith in the fact that God's energy or powerhad raised Jesus Christ from the dead.The fact of Christ's Resurrection is evidently attached to Baptism here. And the Apostle Peter says, "Baptism does alsonow save us, (not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), by the Resurrectionof Jesus Christ;" that is to say,those persons who have been baptized are persons who have the answer of a good conscience towards God through Christ's Resurrection-throughfaith in Christ's Resurrection they now have the consciousness of the forgiveness of sins; and so faith in the Resurrectionof Christ, isrepresented as an essential and indeed the chief element of Christian Baptism.
These then, are some of our reasons for holding these views. If you ask why we immerse, we say, "Because this is the undisputed-orall but undisputed-sole meaning of the word. and because apart from immersion, there is no sign of burial and resurrectionwith Christ." And if you ask, "Why do youbaptize only those who believe?" We say, "Because we can discover no trace in God's Word of the baptism of any other; andwe think, that as Baptism is a profession of a man's faith in Christ, this profession ought never to be made excepting bysuch as really are the subjects of thefaith that is thus professed." And now, if anything can be advanced to show that any other but immersion is really the meaningof the word, and if any case can be had from the Scriptures, either directly or by implication, showing that any but believer'swere baptized, we give thismatter up. We have no interest to subserve but the cause of Truth.
Of course many objections are urged against these views of ours, and to some of these objections, for we shall not have timeto notice them all, I shall now briefly direct attention.
I have heard it said by some, and I dare say you have heard it too, that the administration of this ordinance by immersionis scarcely consistent with decency. With decency! There are some people in the world, who I suppose would advocate the omissionof the first Chapter from the Epistle to theRomans; there are some people who must think it would be a very proper thing to blot the Seventh Commandment from the Decalogue,for it is scarcely decent; and they ought to go in for an expurgated edition of the Sermon on the Mount, and that I hope wouldsatisfy them! My dearFriends, Christ ordained, and His Apostles practiced this ordinance of immersion; most certainly they did; there is no disputeabout that. There is dispute whether the ordinance is obligatory in this form at the present day, but really there is no disputethat this was commanded,and that this was done! Do you think that our Lord Jesus Christ would ever have sanctioned anything that bordered in theslightest degree on indecency? I have only one word to say to such objectors, and it is this, "To the pure all things arepure, but unto them who are defiled andunbelieving is nothing pure, but even their mind and conscience is defiled."
But it is a strong point, or supposed to be a strong point, that on the day of Pentecost, 3,000 people were baptized, andhow could they all be immersed? Well, why not? The only objections I can imagine are these-a lack of water, and a lack oftime. But to suppose that there was a deficient watersupply-to suppose this from all that we know, and especially from all that we do not know about ancient Jerusalem, appearsto me to be a great absurdity! And as to the lack of time-if the Apostles alone had baptized these three thousand, there certainlywould be something ratherformidable in the objection; but it would seem that the Apostles were not in the habit of baptizing many, and that theyoften gave this work to others-and on that occasion there might have been a hundred administrators of Baptism-those who werefirst baptized might baptizeothers-and in this way the administration to the whole 3,000 might very easily be accomplished before the sun went downupon the day of Pentecost!
"Ah, but," say some, "there is a passage in the first Epistle to the Corinthians that you cannot get over. It is said thatthe Israelites 'were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.' How can that be a case of immersion?" Well, I mightask you, how could it be a case of anything else?Undoubtedly it was a case of immersion! When you think of the cloud, you must not think of a small pillar of cloud suspendedhigh above the people, and always going before them. It is written in one of the Psalms, "He spread His cloud for a covering."And they passed under thecloud; the channel of the
Red Sea, with the waters piled up on either hand-this constituted the huge Baptistery for the people, and the cloud was theelement in which they were baptized; as plainly as possible it was a case of immersion in the cloud.
But again, there are many who say, "Well, after all, what does it really matter? If a man has been baptized by the Spiritof God, and is really regenerated and born-again, and has his sins washed away by the blood of Christ, the outward and visiblesign is a thing of very little importance." Well,if it is such a matter of indifference whether you adopt this or that mode, I would say it would be as well to follow theSociety of Friends, and adopt neither one nor the other! But you do believe there is some external rite-well, then-surelythe external rite should be thatwhich sets forth figuratively the very Truth intended by the ordinance! In the language of symbols, forms are everything;forms give those symbols all their meaning, and therefore it is not altogether an unimportant matter that Baptism, signifyingburial and resurrection withChrist, should indicate this even in its very form and mode!
But there are also objections to our baptizing none but Believers. Infants, it is said, should be baptized, not that thereis any positive and direct proof of this in God's Word, still it may be inferred. For instance. "They brought infants to Jesus."What did they bring them for? That He might puthis hand upon them, and pray for them! Yet it is inferred by many that our Savior was in the habit of baptizing infantsbecause they brought infants to Him, that He might touch them and bless them! The opposite inference is the one I would beprepared to draw, for if our Savior werein the habit of baptizing infants, the disciples certainly would not have rebuked those who brought the infants to Jesus,because such an act would have been quite a matter of course! On this incident, Jeremy Taylor remarks, "To infer from sucha passage as this that infants shouldbe baptized only proves that there is a great need of better arguments." But again-it is said Baptism came in the placeof circumcision, and since infants were circumcised, infants ought to be baptized. Now it appears to me to be altogether amatter of assumption that Baptism camein the place of circumcision. There is nothing in God's Word that states this. And let me particularly call attention tothis fact; it is well known to every reader of the Acts and the Epistles that a great controversy arose in the early Churchwith reference to this matter ofcircumcision- certain men went down to Antioch, and said to the Christians there, "Unless you are circumcised you cannotbe saved." The church at Jerusalem met to consider this matter and they sent their decision. Now, if Baptism is come in theplace of circumcision, of course theway in which common sense would settle the question would be this, "No, you need not be circumcised, because you have beenbaptized, and Baptism has come in the place of circumcision." But in the decision which the Church at Jerusalem sent to theChurch at Antioch there is not theslightest allusion to any such substitution!
Then again, Paul was perpetually arguing against those who were insisting upon the importance of circumcision-if Baptism issubstituted for that institution, Paul's short and easy method of silencing every objector would have been this, "No, thesepeople have been baptized, and that is theChristian circumcision." But what does Paul say?-we read what he says in the verse which precedes our text. He says, "Inwhom"-that is, in Christ-"In whom also you are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the bodyof the sins of the flesh by thecircumcision of Christ." Now observe, "In whom you are circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in putting offthe body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ." The circumcision of Christ is the Christian circumcision,is that which has come in the placeof the old circumcision, and this Christian circumcision is a circumcision, "made without hands." Will any man in his sensessay that this is Baptism? Christian circumcision is something that is accomplished without human agency! Baptism is not anordinance made or administeredwithout hands. Moreover, he says, with reference to this matter, that we are circumcised "in the putting off the body ofthe sins of the flesh," which is certainly the work of an intelligent, conscientious, believing, and God-fearing man! In oneword, if you want to know what theChristian equivalent for circumcision under the new dispensation is, it is conversion to God! It is this and it is nothingelse. If Baptism has come in the place of circumcision, on what principle, then, did Paul circumcise Timothy? If this ideaof the substitution of Baptism forcircumcision is correct, then ought not Paul to have said, "In Christ Jesus circumcision avails nothing, neither uncircumcision,but Baptism"? Ought he not to have said, "We are the circumcised-we who have been baptized"? But what he does say is this,"In Christ Jesus neithercircumcision avails anything nor uncircumcision, but the keeping of the Commandments of God," and, "We are the congregationwho worship God in one Spirit, and who rejoice in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh." Evidently, then, thosewho have received the Christiancircumcision are those who keep the Commandments of God, who worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus-andthese conditions are certainly applicable to none excepting those who are believersin the Lord Jesus Christ! Therefore I wouldsay there seems to be no fairnessin arguing from the one institution to the other. Only consider this fact, that in a controversy which this supposed ideaof Baptism having come in the place of circumcision would have settled in a moment, there is no allusion to such mode of settlingthe question, and I think thatwe are led to infer, with the most absolute certainty, that it is altogether a baseless assumption that circumcision isrepresented by Baptism. No, in the Christian dispensation, if there is any equivalent, any succession to the circumcisionof the Old Covenant, it is conversion toGod-it is the circumcision of the heart-it is the putting off of the body of the sins of the flesh. Thatis the Christiancircumcision!
But it will be said by some, "You make a great deal too much of this ordinance of Baptism." Well, I am free to confess thatthere may be here and there a good Brother who makes rather too much of this ordinance. Yet this I certainly can say, froma somewhat extensive knowledge of our denomination,that in almost every case you will find that the ordinance of Baptism is held by us in a most thorough and lowly subordinationto the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the work of Atonement by His Sacrifice and death, to the influence and the indwellingof the Divine Spirit, to thenecessity of repentance and of faith, to the importance of a life of personal holiness, and to every other great principleof the holy faith which we profess. I do not think that we are fairly charged with making too much of this ordinance. Whenwe say of this ordinance that itregenerates the soul-when we say that herein persons are made "members of Christ, children of God, and heirs of the Kingdomof Heaven"-when we rush with all haste to baptize the sick and the dying, and when we refuse to accord to those who die unbaptized,the rites, thedecencies, the charities of Christian burial-then tell us, for indeed we shall deserve to be told-that we do most monstrouslyexaggerate the importance of this ordinance! But you shall go through the length and breadth of this realm, and you shallvisit all the Baptist churchesin the States of America, and on the continent of Europe, and nowhere will you find such sentiments or such practices prevailingamong the Baptist people! I trust we make no more of this ordinance, and no less than is made of it in God's Word. We do notbaptize our own infantchildren, and this, I think, is evidence enough that we do not very grossly exaggerate the importance of this institution.
Still you say, "You do not regard it as essential to salvation, and therefore why do you make this the ground of separationfrom your Brethren?" My dear Friend, are you a Congregationalist? You do not believe that your Congregational polity is essentialto salvation-why, then, do you not join theEpiscopal communion? Are you a Methodist? You do not think the Conference is to save your soul-why do you not return tothe bosom of the Established Church? Are you a Free Church of Scotland man? You will admit that people can still be savedin the old Church; then why did youmake such a fuss about that Disruption business? I do not blame you for the Disruption, not by any means-perhaps you didwhat was perfectly right. A thing may not be essential, and yet it may be very far from unimportant! We cannot but regardinfant baptism as the main root of thesuperstitious and destructive dogma of baptismal regeneration, to which as Protestants we are opposed! We cannot but regardinfant baptism as the chief cornerstone of State Church, to which as Dissenters we are opposed! We cannot but regard infantbaptism as unscriptural, and toeverything that is unscriptural we, as disciples of Jesus Christ, must be opposed! And we do trust that all who differ fromus, and however widely they may differ, will still admit that we are only doing what is right in maintaining what we believeto be the Truth of God withreference to this matter. Up to now it has been in disgrace, and scorn, and ridicule, and oftentimes in persecution thatthese principles have been held! Up to now we have been a sect everywhere spoken against. Probably the first martyr burntin England for religion, and certainlythe last, was a Baptist! And others had trials of cruel mocking, and scourging, yes and of bonds and imprisonments-and becamedestitute, afflicted, and tormented.
We cannot glory in our numbers, we cannot glory in our power, we cannot glory in our wealth; but we can glory in the faithand constancy by which those who went before us were enabled by Divine Grace to sustain the infliction of the most grievouswrongs-wrongs which were all the more keenly feltbecause they were received at the hands of fellow-Christians, fellow-Protestants, and even fellow-Puritans! Up to now wehave been few in number, and have been oftentimes violently and bitterly opposed-nor do I think that there is now any verybrilliant prospect of our rising todenominational greatness, and basking in the sunshine of popular applause. And indeed, when I see what the effect of suchgreatness and applause has been upon some Christian churches, I am disposed to say, "God defend us from power and popularity,for these are more dangerous foesthan all the contumely, and persecution, and straitened circumstances with which we have had to struggle in the times goneby!" I do hope and verily believe that we have a far purer objective in view than mere denominational aggrandizement, andthat we shall be content, asheretofore we have been content, come evil report or good, to have the testimony of a clear conscience that according tothe best of our knowledge, and to the utmost of our power we have faithfully tried to maintain God's Truth against the commandmentsand traditions of men!