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wholly an affair between the New Teacher and His new pupil. At the most, they can only faintly intimate the full significance of the water-baptisms in the Acts and Epistles. No fair expositor can show from these acts that baptism is indispensable “in order to be initiated into a church state.”
(5.) The two words of the Master. When Christ said to Nicodemus, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God,” did He refer to baptism in water? Long and repeated examination of the words leaves us no doubt. John the Baptist has three times referred to baptism in water, and once to baptism in the Spirit.” The two baptisms are set over against each other, and sharply contrasted. That belongs to the Baptist; this to Christ, and to Christ only. It is His prerogative to baptize in the Holy Ghost. Besides, baptism in the Jordan was a bold, out-and-out acceptance of righteousness; a courageous personal enrolment in the war against evil. Bow likely that the young and recently baptized Reformer should say to this conventional though sincere enquirer after light, “You must come out and be separate. Fear and cowardice blind the eyes to spiritual realities. Conviction must find vent in courage, or it will die, and its owner carry the festering corruption within his soul. You want light; be brave then; dare to plunge into the Rubicon of baptism, and, crossing it, you shall enter into the freedom of the blessed rule of God!” “We are saved by hope;” yes, and we are saved by “faith,” and some of us must be saved, if we are saved at all, by a dash of holy daring.
But though it is clear Christ referred to baptism, who dare say Christ taught that baptism (or the boldness and separation it involves) is in all cases essential to the “new birth 7" That which is born of flesh is flesh; and that which is born of water is—what ? Surely by the Master's authority nothing but water 1 for only that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. The rule is limited therefore, and the teaching of this severe word is that an act of bold avowal, of daring self-committal, is to some cowardly, fear-worried, tradition-bound souls the one thing needful to give them access to the kingdom of God. An honest treatment of the New Testament will then omit this passage from the proofs that “baptism is indispensable in order to be initiated into a Church state.” It may, in some cases, be indispensable to salvation—to entrance into the “kingdom of God; ” but the Master does not say even here a word about its relation to the Church—i.e., to “a visible Christian Society.” Why cannot this be remembered
Does He anywhere else? Passing over the silence of two years, and going beyond the Cross and the conquered grave, we hear words from Him more exact in form and creed-like, more distinctly emphatic and authoritative, than any in the New Testament.f The words occur in two settings. Which contains the phrases Christ actually used it is difficult to say. According to Matthew, Christ, after declaring the fulness of His power, bade His disciples go, make disciples of all the nations, baptizing
* John i., 26, 31, 33.
+ Can any one tell us how it is that the formula, so expressly and explicitly given by Christ, “baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” is nowhere used in describing baptisms in the Acts and the Epistles & We read of baptisms in the name of Jesus: but of no other. Even on the day of Pentecost—not eight weeks after the words were used—Peter does not employ that form. Why did he not? Pressensé says, (Early Years of Christianity, vol. iv. p. 30)—“The Fathers of the first three centuries identify the formula of baptism with the words of the institution of the ordinance. Several modifications are, however, traceable.”
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them and teaching them. The discipling is the work of persuading men to learn of Christ, to accept Him as Saviour and teacher; that acceptance being effected, it is notified by baptism, and followed by further education. In Mark nearly the same ideas are presented. The gospel is to be preached to the “whole creation; ” men who accept it are to be baptized, then they go forth to work. But to what is the baptism related 7 The Church? Hardly. He that believeth and is baptized shall be—admitted into the Church? No! It is not a question of church fellowship at all; but exclusively of personal salvation. In neither passage does Christ refer to the Church. He defines the work His trained followers are to do. Each is a missionary—an evangelist— a disciple-maker—a disciple-baptizer, and a trainer of disciples in the knowledge of Christ's will and the doing of Christ's work. It is only by a violent reading of our own traditions and prepossessions into His words that we can make His statement run, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be admitted into church fellowship.” This, then, is “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” about baptism and the Church in the four gospels. First, baptism is a valuable public avowal of inward conviction in reference to Christ and His kingdom—a sign of subjection to Him. Secondly, it has no declared relation whatever to church fellowship. And surely, if the formal conditions of admission into the Church were so vital, Christ would have told us; if baptism were the one and only “door” into the Church of Christ, the Master would have said at least one word about it Think how indescribably full the Gospels are of the truth that Christ is the one and only door of salvation | Did baptism hold a similar relation to church fellowship He would have said so. Assuredly the Biography of Christ, with its total silence concerning baptisms and baptizings for the space of two years out of a ministry of two and a half; with its two words and no more concerning the Church, and its two words and no more on the relations of baptism to the inward life; and without a hint as to its relations to the Church, cannot by any but, what seems to us, the most forced and unfair wrenching be cited in support of the dogma that baptism is indispensable “in order to be initiated into a church state.” And if the Lord and Lawgiver of the Church does not maintain such a theory, is it likely any of His Spirit-taught disciples will? Let us see.
XIII.-BAPTISM AND THE CHURCH IN THE ACTS AND THE EPISTLES.
(1.) The Four Witnesses. In the New Testament biography of the Church, Peter, the first of apostles, Philip, the preaching deacon, Ananias, the disciple of Christ and guide of Saul of Tarsus, and Paul, the last and greatest of the church authorities after Christ, bear witness to the will of their Lord and ours on this subject. John in his Epistles and Revelation, and James and Jude in their letters, have said nothing that bears on the question.
(2.) Peter's Threefold Testimony. With an eagerness characteristic of the man, Peter goes forth and preaches the gospel on the day of Pentecost, makes disciples of Christ, and baptizes them. Three thousand received the word and were baptized and added to the Church. Could anything be more conclusive that the Christians of Pentecost
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regarded baptism as the door of the Church, and rigidly insisted on every one passing through it or keeping out.
Ask Peter what he said about baptism ? “Repent ye and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”* Not a word about 'admission to the Church. Baptism is the symbolical expression of the condition of enjoying something unspeakably more vital, according to Peter, than church fellowship. Pardon hangs on it. It is associated with forgiveness and the access of the Holy Spirit. It is not urged to secure a gift from the church ; but to obtain one of the richest
gifts the Lord Himself has to bestow on those who seek Him.t In the house of Cornelius the signs of the presence of the Holy Ghost are manifest in supernatural form, and the apostle exclaims," Can any man forbid the water that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we.”It is the reverse of the Pentecostal order, but the bond between the facts is the same; there it was baptism followed by the descent of the Holy Ghost; here it is the reception of the Holy Ghost followed by baptism. The relation in the thought of Peter is undeniably, not between baptism and the Church, but exclusively between baptism and Christ's gift of the Spirit.
And to all this agrees the word in his Epistle,g where he represents baptism as the decision or determination of a good conscience towards God, through the resurrection of Christ; the public avowal of a noble resolve to honour and serve God in the power and grace of the risen Christ.
Thus, in the whole witness of the man to whom Christ spoke His words concerning the building of the Church, who was one who received the great commission and opened the“ door" of the "kingdom" to Jews and Gentiles, there is not a hint of baptism being in any way related to initiation into a church state.
(3.) The Baptisms by Philip the Deacon. Fired with Stephen's zeal, Philip went into Samaria and preached the good tidings concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, and the Samaritans were baptized both men and women, in expectation of the descent of the Holy Spirit. The signs did not, however, follow the baptism, as
Acts ii., 38. This great verse contains five points. Four are obvious at a glance; but a fifth is embraced in the direction that baptism is " upon the name of Jesus Christ.” Meyer says," Upon the name, so that the name Jesus Messiah as the substance of their faith and confession, is that on which the intended baptism rests.” Hackett writes, “ Upon the name of Jesus Christ as the foundation of baptism, i.e., with an acknowledgment of Him in that act, as being what His name imports, to wit; the sinners only hope, his Redeemer, Justifier, Lord, final Judge. So we have, in this brief but comprehensive direction, (1.) Repentance; (2.) Faith in Christ; (3.) Baptism as their symbolical expression; (4.) Remissions of sins; and (5.) The gift of the Holy Spirit. Thus baptism appears as the third of three requirements for remission and the enjoyment of the powers of the Holy Spirit. The others are repentance and faith in Christ, which baptism is designed to express, embody in symbol, and to consummate in experience."
+ Though not immediately connected with the argument above, it is worth a moments notice that Professor Hackett, a strict Baptist, of special expository skill and learning, allows that baptism may have taken place after being added” to the believers. He says:
“ Were baptized. Not necessarily at once after the discourse, but naturally during the same day, if we unite the next clause (the same day) closely with this. But the compendious form of the narrative would allow us, with some editors, to place a colon between the two clauses; and then the baptism could be regarded as subsequent to were added to, taking place at such time and under such circumstances as the convenience of the parties might require."
Other scholars hold the same view. This not only lightens the supposed difficulty of immersing 3,000 in one day, but intimates the fact that the two acts, baptism and Church fellowship were not related to one another-but stood apart. | Acts x. 47; and “Baptism the Christian's Privilege,” by J. Clifford, pp. 13, 14.
§ I. Peter, iii., 18. || Acts viii., 12-88.
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seems to have been the case at the outset; but whatever there is in this fact that is inexplicable, it is obvious that this deacon acted upon the supposition of real and causal relation between baptism and the access of the Holy Ghost to the soul. From that work Philip was sent to the Ethiopian eunuch, and to him “he preached Jesus”—a preaching which so obviously included baptism; that, on his own proposal, the treasurer of Candace's queen was at once baptized without any possible reference to admission to a Church, and wholly on the ground of his acceptance of Christ. Perfect harmony reigns between the preaching deacon and the man who held the keys of the Church. Baptism, for both, is a question of the soul and Christ; and not of the soul and the Church. (4.) Ananias of Damascus. Sent of God to the awakened persecutor, Saul of Tarsus, this disciple delivers his message, and, with the clearest emphasis, enjoins immediate baptism. “Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on His name,” and “be filled with the Holy Ghost.” “And immediately there fell from his eyes as it were scales, and he received his sight, and he arose and was baptized;” and after a while, when Saul assayed to join himself to the disciples, Barnabas commended him to the church on two grounds—first, he had seen the Lord; and, secondly, he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. It does not appear that he said anything about his baptism; and it does appear that, in the judgment of Ananias, as well as of Philip and Peter, baptism was related to forgiveness and the enjoyment of the power of the Spirit. (5.) The Five Elements of Paul's Testimony. The chief contributor to the New Testament literature, and principal builder of churches, might be expected to supply the most complete evidence on the conditions of admission into those churches. He has; and in five forms. (a.) In the baptisms of Lydia ; the Philippian jailor, Crispus; and Gaius, the only fact concerning baptism laid bare is that in each instance it follows faith in the Lord Jesus; f but in the case of the imperfect Baptists at Ephesus—men who had received John's baptism—they were re-baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus, followed by the laying on of hands and the access of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is the one instance in the story of Paul in which the idea that sprang into sway on the day of Pentecost in the preaching of Peter finds a distinct echo.' (b.) In the allusions made by Paul in his letters, he treats baptism as a forcible symbol of the putting on of Christ, of the unity of believers, and of the total death of the old and sinful life, and of the resurrection to newness of being through Christ; and, therefore, containing a store of motive for perfecting holiness in the fear of God. It is abused, like the Lord's Supper at Corinth, but he does not abrogate it, though he is grateful he has not fostered their divisive and factious spirit by neglecting his great evangelizing work in order to baptize.T Probably it is of an exaggerated and mistaken idea of the saving efficacy of baptism he speaks in his allusion to the fact that some Corinthians had been baptized for those young believers who had passed away before they could have an opportunity of accepting baptism.** * Acts iz., 17; xxii., 16. + Acts xvi., 14, 34. 1 Corinthians, i., 14.
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(c). It is significant that in the various epithets Paul applies to the Church he never calls it a “ baptized ” Church. It is the “Church of God ;” "sanctified in Christ Jesus ; ” called to be saints; "united with all Christians everywhere,” of and so on, and yet he never thinks of prefixing the epithet“ baptized.” It avails nothing to say against this that the universality and commonness of baptism accounts for this omission. The terms used denote facts ; such as the divine “call," sanctification,” etc., quite as universal and common as baptism. Is not the real reason that in the mind of Paul baptism had no relation at all to Church life ; but was wholly concerned with the soul and the Saviour, in His gifts of pardon and of the Spirit ?
(d.). This is more manifest from the fact that, though Paul has given three letters to the two young pastors, Timothy and Titus, and dwelt on many details of Church life, he does not write a line about baptism as a condition of admission to church membership! How suggestively different from the directions and descriptions of the imposing ceremony of baptism found in the writings of the leaders of the church of the next century! It is when we get near to the introduction of "sprinkling," and the enrolment of “infants” as church members, that we hear about baptism as a church ordinance. I
(e.) And, finally, the principles which govern the Christian relations in Church life are stated in such a way as to conclusively prove that Paul never could have assented to the proposition that " baptism is indispensable in order to be initiated into a Church state." "Him that is weak in the faith receive ye; but not to doubtful disputations.” Agreement in opinion is not for a moment accepted as the bond of cohesion among Christians; but a common honesty and thoroughness of conscientious conviction, in spite of differences of opinion. each man be fully assured in his own mind,” credit his brethren with more honesty and sincerity than he claims for himself, and abstain from “judging” his brother, remembering that each must give account of himself to God. The ground of dispute at Rome was precisely one of ritual -of" positive divine commands," of the observance of days, and eating of foods; and the apostle shows that the man who is weak in the faith “of ritual” is not to be rejected, but received with hearty affection and self-sacrificing kindness and benignity.|| “ Receive ye one another, even as Christ received you’-to the glory of God! How graciously and with what loving kindness, with what infinite forbearance towards our infirmities of knowledge and of faith and of service our loving Christ receives us! O, may the spirit of that unique example rule all our hearts !
But is there not another side to this picture in the directions of Paul to the Thessalonians and Corinthians concerning separation and withdrawal from those who unworthily lay claim to Christ's name.** No doubt. And yet these counsels are confirmatory of our position. For the dividing line amongst New Testament Christians is between morality and immorality, not between opinion and opinion. The bases
+ Acts xx. 29; 1 Cor. i. 2; 2 Cor. i. 1. | Cf. Pressense, “Early Years of Christianity," Vol. IV., pp. 23–36. $ Rom. xiv. 1-5. || An opponent most helpfully reminds me that in Col, ii. 12—20, it is “baptized" people who are forbidden to subject themselves to “ordinances.” Surely, if they may not "subject” themselves, they ought not to subject others against their convictions of duty.
| Rom. xy. 7. ** 1 Cor. v. 9, 11; 2 Thess. iii. 7, 8.