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If any one inquire of us, "What doth hinder me to be baptized?"—we uniformly reply in the language of Philip to the eunuch: "If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest." It must be obvious to every one who has examined the principles and practice of the denomination, that every person received as a candidate for the sacred ordinance, is, in the judgment of the church, a Christian, before he is baptized. But from whom does this charge of laying an unwarrantable stress on the ordinance of baptism come?
Does it come from Episcopalians? And what stress do they lay upon baptism?
In their catechism, to the question, "How many sacraments hath Christ ordained in his church?" they answer, "Two only, as generally necessary to salvation— that is to say, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord." After the baptism of an infant, the minister is instructed to say, "Seeing now, dearly beloved brethren, that this child is regenerate, and grafted into the body of Christ's church, let us give thanks unto Almighty God for these benefits." And now follows a part of the Thanksgiving: "We yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it hath pleased thee to regenerate this infant with thy holy Spirit, to receive him for thine own child by adoption, and to incorporate him into thy holy church." Before confirmation, the baptized child is required to learn a catechism. The following question and answer will shew that he is taught to regard baptism in the same important light.
"Who gave you this name?"
"My sponsors in baptism; wherein I was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheriter of the kingdom of heaven."
Does this objection come from Presbyterians? And what stress do they place upon baptism?
In their confession of faith, they say, "Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only as a solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church, but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins."
Does this objection come from Congregationalists? And what stress do they lay on the ordinance? Hear Dr. Dwight, one of their ablest divines: "When children die in infancy, and are scripturally dedicated to God in baptism, there is much, and very consoling reason furnished to believe that they are accepted beyond the grave." He further says: "There is, I think, reason to hope well concerning other children, dying in infancy; but there is certainly peculiar reasons for Christian parents to entertain strong consolation with regard to their offspring."
Does this objection come from Methodists? And what stress is placed upon the institution by them? Hear the celebrated John Wesley, the founder of Methodism: "By baptism, we who were the children of wrath, are made the children of God. And this regeneration, which our church in so many places ascribes to baptism, is more than barely being admitted into the church, though commonly connected therewith. Being grafted into the body of Christ's church, we are made the children of God by adoption and grace.John iii. 5. By water then, as the means, the water of baptism, we are regenerated, or born again: whence it is called by the apostle, the washing of regeneration.' In all ages, the outward baptism, is a means of the in
ward. Herein we receive a title to, and an earnest of, a kingdom which cannot be moved. In the ordinary way, there is no other means of entering into the church or into heaven. If infants are guilty of original sin, then they are proper subjects of baptism; seeing, in the ordinary way, they cannot be saved, unless this be washed away by baptism."
Was language so strong as that which I have quoted from the published sentiments of these different denominations, ever used by Baptists, in reference to this sacred institution?
And these published sentiments are, to a very great extent, embraced by the people. Why are Pedobaptist ministers so frequently awakened at midnight, and hastened away to baptize children supposed to be dying, if it is not believed that baptism will confer some important benefit upon them, and the better prepare them for heaven?
And are these the denominations, and these the ministers, that charge the Baptists with laying an unwarrantable stress upon the ordinance of Baptism? I have quoted the opinions of others; I will now, by way of contrast, make a few quotations from the publications of Baptists. The first shall be from our old fathers, the Waldenses. In their confessions of faith, we find the following explicit declarations: "We consider the sacraments as signs of holy things, or as the emblems of invisible blessings. We regard it as proper and necessary that believers use these symbols or visible forms, when it can be done. Notwithstanding which, we maintain that believers may be saved without these signs, when they have neither place nor opportunity of observing them." Again, "We believe that in the or
dinance of baptism, the water is the visible and external sign, which represents to us that which, by God's invisible operation is within us—namely, the renovation of our minds, and the mortification of our members, through Jesus Christ.”
Now hear Dr. Baldwin, one of the ablest expounders and advocates of Baptist principles: "We may as well argue that the epaulette worn by an officer is what makes him an officer, as that baptism makes the person baptized a Christian. Whereas a person must be an officer, before he can have any right to wear the badge; so a person ought to be a Christian, before he takes upon him the sacred badge of that profession."
The opinion that baptism is a saving ordinance, cannot be found in any Baptist publication that I have ever seen; and the reiterated imputation of such a sentiment to the denomination, "has an aspect so perfectly resembling what the scriptures call slander, that if it had not come from sources so respectable, we should have been liable to mistake it for that detestable vice." We believe the thief was saved without baptism.
The fact is, the Baptists consider faith essential to salvation, immersion essential to baptism, and baptism essential to communion. We regard baptism as an act of obedience, designed as an evidence of love to him who instituted it—as an emblem of his death and resurrection, and as an initiatory rite of the Christian Church.
We attach to it no other importance. And can this be called an unwarrantable stress? It is only placing it where the Bible places it, among the positive institutions of the gospel, which we are not at liberty either to annul or even to change.
9. The Baptists practise close communion. And what denomination of Christians admit to their table persons who, in their judgment, are unbaptized? In this practice what do the Baptists more than others? It is not close communion upon which the objection rests, but upon the mode of baptism-or Christian Baptism. If any be disposed to controvert us in this respect, let them show first, that we do wrong to require baptism as a prerequisite to communion at the Lord's Supper; and second, that there is any other baptism than the immersion of a believer; and we will take the ground at once, that all who believe in Christ to the saving of the soul, may come to the table, though they have never been baptized. But on this point I refer my audience to my fourth sermon of this series of discourses.
In the course of sermons of which this is the concluding one, in the first discourse I attempted to shew that John's baptism was Christian baptism; in the second, that believers in Christ are the only proper subjects of baptism; in the third, that immersion is the only scriptural mode of administration; in the fourth, that restricting the communion to the baptized, is in accordance with apostolic example, and the practice of every other denomination holding to baptism at all; in the fifth, I gave a brief account of the origin and subsequent history of the Baptists; and in this sixth and last, I have endeavored to refute some of the popular objections that have, at different times, been urged against us. And in this investigation, you cannot, I think, have failed to observe one remarkable fact, that many Pedobaptists of high standing, have admitted all the facts on which we reason. "Do we maintain, for instance, that baptism is a positive institution, and that positive