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those religious systems invented by man without the Bible. How childish, how senseless, how self-contradictory, have been the opinions, how infatuated, how sottish the precepts, by which they have pro. fessedly regulated the moral conduct of men; how debased, how full of turpitude, how fraught with frenzy, the religious services by which they have labored to propitiate their gods! The Bible unfolds a better system. It teaches man the true object of worship, how his sins may be forgiven, and how to obtain a glorious immortality. It is the win. dow through which the Christian beholds his long.sought rest. It is man's unerring guide, his only hope. With all the light of reason every thing would be dark and gloomy. The Bible sheds a lustre on our pathway to the tomb,” and points to our home in glory. With the Bible in our hands, who can deprive us of our treasure above ? “O how love I thy law!" “ May it be my meditation day and night !" Amen.
Manchester, Conn., April, 1839.
For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review.
BAPTISM. A Sermon on Acts x, 47, delivered before the Junior Preachers' Society of the
New-England Conference, by Rev. J. PORTER. “Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we ?"
This text forms a part of a conversation which took place between Peter and his associates, in the house of Cornelius, the centurion. At the command of God, which Peter received in a vision, he came to this house ; and, after hearing the circumstances which led to his being sent for, he preached unto Cornelius and others Jesus of Naza. reth. And while he yet spake, the Holy Ghost fell on them that beard the word, though Gentiles, and they spake with tongues, and magnified God. At this, those of the circumcision were much asto. nished, not because they were ignorant of the Holy Ghost, or his operations ; but because he had fallen on the Gentiles, whom they supposed to be precluded from all the blessings of the new, as well as those of the old covenant. Peter, discovering this, and knowing the inveteracy of their prejudices against the Gentiles, addressed them in the language of the text, “ Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” As much as if he had said, Have you any objection to their receiving the sign, baptism, and being added to the Christian church, now they have received the thing signified, the Holy Ghost ? The water being furnished in token of their assent, they were baptized as the gospel directs.
With this view of the text, I have made choice of it as an appropriate foundation for my discourse. And here let it be premised, that at this age of the Christian church, almost every period of which has been characterized by learned and critical discussion on this subject, it can hardly be expected that much new and interesting can be said upon it, especially by a junior in the clerical office. This, it is presumed, was uot anticipated by the committee, at whose request this discourse has been prepared, much less by your speaker. As, however, the beauty, force, and importance of truth, consist, not in its novelty, or in the manner of its presentation, but rather in its own intrinsic character, a discourse on this subject may not be entirely useless. The least it can do is to stir our minds to remember the relation this doctrine holds in the Christian system, and the principles and arguments by which its practical observance is regulated and enforced. If, however, any yet remain in the mists of error and superstition, we may hope, I trust, without presumption, that it will lead them to, at least, a more careful and unprejudiced examination. And, as in pursuing the subject I shall naturally be led to vindicate those views which we have denominationally adopted, it is exceedingly desirable that it may serve to demolish the walls of partition between us and our opponents, and educe the concession, if no more, that we may be right.
But, leaving all results to Him whose blessing we have supplicated, I shall proceed to show
I. The nature of water baptism.
I. I am to show the nature of baptism. Error on this point necessarily leads to error in regard to the mode. As, for illustration, if we suppose the nature of baptism to consist chiefly in the amount of water used, we shall naturally incline to that mode which requires the amount supposed to be requisite. Or, if we consider it, as many do, a representation and memorial of the death and resurrection of Christ, we shall of course adopt immersion as more expressive of these events than any other mode practised. And thus it is in regard to every other supposable case, as error is unalterably and for ever the tendency of error.
It is therefore highly essential, in seeking the mode in which baptism ought to be administered, that we have correct views of its nature.
To proceed, then, I observe, 1. Baptism consists not in the amount of water used, or the manner of its application. It is a common remark among Baptists, that all Christians agree in pronouncing immersion, baptism. But this is not correct. Immersion is not baptism, neither do the Baptists so understand it. I repeat it, immersion is not baptism. If it were, then all who have been immersed are baptized persons, which is not true. That the antediluvians, and Pharaoh and his hosts, were immersed, all concede : but were they baptized ? All males, who have come to years of maturity, with scarcely an exception, have been immersed; and yet, to say they have been baptized in the gospel sense is absurd.
The same may be said of sprinkling and pouring. Simply considered, they are no more baptism than immersion.
2. Christian baptism is a religious application of water, by a professed minister of Christ, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Thus Christ, when he commissioned his apostles for their great work, said, “ Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” And the Apostle Paul seems to have been Vol. X.-July, 1839.
impressed with this sentiment, when he said to the dissentious Corin. thians, “ Were ye baptized in the name of Paul ? I thank God that I baptized none of
that I had baptized in mine own name. Baptism, then, consists not in much water or little ; but in the name in which it is applied. Hence the amount of water can. not be considered essential to the validity of baptism, unless it can be distinctly shown from Scripture that it is particularly specified. Till this is done; to say that this or that mode of applying water to any amount, in the prescribed name, is not baptism, is to assume what needs the clearest proof, and what cannot rationally be conceded without it.
3. “ Baptism is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spi. ritual grace, given us by Christ.” I would not be understood, that it is an infallible sign; or, in other words, that all who have been baptized have the grace of God in their hearts, and are accepted of him; but merely that this is one of its designs. It is doubtless to Christianity what circumcision was to Judaism. This was an outward sign of interest in the Abrahamic covenant, and by consequence in all its blessings, present and future. It was the insignia of religious character, and tacitly said of all who bore it, he is a child of Abraham, a friend of God. But still, says St. Paul, “ they are not all Israel who are of Israel. Neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children.” That is, though they have the name of Israelites, and wear the Israelitish badge; and though they are the seed—the natural descendants of Abraham-they are not all of spiritual Israel, not spiritual children, children of God. Thus also of baptism. It is the outward sign of an interest in Christ, by faith—the badge of our profession. By it we publicly profess our faith in him, as the true Messiah, the Saviour of the world, and our sole dependence on him for salvation. Hence all Jews and heathens converted to Christianity are required to be baptized.
4. It is a means of grace to all who are the proper subjects of it. This the Scriptures place beyond doubt. When Christ commanded his apostles to go into all the world, and preach the gospel,” he added, “ He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved.” From which we learn that baptism is no less a means of grace and salvation than faith. The language of Peter is equally decisive: “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Here “the remission of sins” and the reception of the Holy Ghost" are proffered no less in connection with baptism than repentance; so, if repentance be a means of grace, baptism is also. The address of Ananias to Saul of Tarsus goes to the same point: “ Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling upon the name of the Lord.” To these we may add the experience of the three thousand who were baptized on the day of pentecost : “ They continued steadfastly in the apostle's doctrine, and in fellowship, and in prayer, praising God." The Ethiopian eunuch also “ went on his way rejoicing” in the grace, doubtless, he had received in this solemn ordinance. To deny the connection of this duty, as a means, with the blessings here promised or conferred, is to deny the connection between the promise and blessing of God-the duty and happiness of man.
5. Baptism is our pledge of obedience to God. “Therefore,” says St. Paul, “ we are buried with him by baptism into death, that, like as Christ was raised from the dead, even so we also should walk in newness of life,” Rom. vi, 4. And again; to the Galatians, who had taken upon them the responsibilities of baptism, he says, “ Ye did run well, who did hinder you, that ye should not obey the truth.” It is not only therefore a pledge of “God's good will toward us," as saith our sixteenth article; but it is our pledge to God, to the church, and to the world, that we will fulfil our part of the covenant to which we virtually subscribe, and into which we enter, by this rite. Thus, in our examination of candidates for baptism, we not only ask, “ Dost thou renounce the devil and all his works ?”' &c.; but, “ Wilt thou then,” that is, after being baptized, “ obediently keep God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of thy life ?” Baptism, therefore, is the ratification of the covenant between God and us, in which God pledges to us his grace and good will, and we pledge ourselves to obey his " holy will and commandments.”
II. I propose to show, that no particular mode of baptism is specified in the gospel.
In this position Pedobaptists perfectly harmonize; and it is on this ground that they have adopted several modes, and pronounced them equally valid. The advocates of immersion deny the position, and assume that one mode is specified, and only one; and hence that baptism can be validly administered only in that mode. Now, if they are right, the position I have taken is wrong and untenable. To establish this position the more firmly, therefore, I shall first consider some of the arguments they adduce in support of their exclusive mode, immer. sion. And,
1. It is argued, that this is the only mode, from the Greek word baptizo, which they say signifies to dip or immerse. This word, let it be understood, with its derivatives, is always used in the gospel to designate the ordinance of baptism. That it signifies to immerse, Pedobaptists readily allow; but that it signifies this, and nothing else, they deny. It is not enough, therefore, that the Baptists have proved, (though they may have done it by a thousand authorities, that this word means to immerse, for this we have never questioned.
To give this argument the least weight, it must be proved, by good and substantial evidence, not that baptizo means to immerse, for this is not disputed, but that it has no other meaning. And have they done this? I fearlessly and unhesitatingly answer, No! Neither can they do it, for this very good reason—there is no such evidence in existence. The truth in the case is, baptizo means to dip or immerse: but, then, it is spoiled for the advocates of immersion by having, like almost every other word, several meanings; such as, to stain with blood—to wet—to moisten-to pour water upon the bands—to sprinkle -to be dyed or colored—to wash, &c., &c. Hear what the very celebrated lexicographer Schrevelius says on this point. The four definitions he gives of the word are, to immerse—to wash—to sprinkle -to moisten, or wet. Schleusner, whose lexicon is undisputed autho. rity in questions of this kind, gives the same in import, though in a little different words. Parkhurst and Leigh give nearly the same; and, among a dozen other lexicographers of acknowledged eminence, not one is found who does not give more than one definition to the word. The testimony of Greek critics is equally conclusive Says Whitaker, “ the word baptizo signifies, not only to immerse, but to tinge, or wet.” Tertullian, who lived in the second century, within one hundred years of the apostles, says, that “ baptizo means not only to immerse, but also to pour.” And were it necessary I might quote Danæus, Thomas Aquinas, Calvin, Wall, Owen, Lightfoot, Wickliffe, Clarke, Stuart, Poole, Dwight, Hemmenway, and a score more; all of whom define baptizo to mean, not immersion only, but sprinkling, pouring, &c. I cannot, however, refrain from quoting Doddridge, as he is known to have had very strong partialities in favor of immersion: He says, " Baptizo may signify any method of washing, and is sometimes used in Scripture for washing things which were not dipped in water, but on which it was poured.”
But, were it entirely the reverse-did every lexicographer in the known world define the word to mean immersion, and nothing else, the Scriptures would stand in eternal contradiction of them; for they use the term where immersion cannot be understood.
In Mark vii, 4, it is said, “ And when they come from the market, except they wash, (or baptize, for the original is baptisontai, one of the modifications of baptizo,) they eat not.” And it is said, Mark xi, 38, that “when the Pharisees saw that Christ had not first washed (ebap. tisthe) before dinner, they marvelled.” Can any one say the word, as here used, signifies immersion ?
Again : it is said, “ And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing (baptismous) of cups, and pots, brazen vessels, and tables, or couches.” Certainly it is not impossible that they immersed these; but is it probable they did ? immersion the mode they practised in washing such artieles? Is there a shadow of evidence in history that it was? Is it the common mode ? To affirm it is verily to contradict both common sense and common usage.
Another passage, and it is the last I shall quote on this point, is 1 Cor. x, 1, 2: “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud, and in the sea.” This, no doubt, refers to the Israelites passing through the Red sea. And were they immersed ? Moses tells us, they went into the midst of the sea on dry ground; which, together with other particulars of the event, preclude the possibility of their being im. mersed. Had the apostle said the Egyptians were baptized, we might reconcile him with Moses on the principle of exclusive immersion ; but as it is, we cannot.
To these might be added many other passages wherein the word is similarly used; but these are sufficient. They prove beyond reason. able doubt the point in hand; and must convince all, who would be convinced, were the number swelled to hundreds.
Thus it appears, from the testimony of the most eminent lexicographers and critics, and from the plain and unsophisticated word of God, from which there is no appeal, that baptizo means not only to immerse, but to sprinkle, pour, &c.; and therefore proves no more for immersion than for the other modes in common use.