[Table of Contents]
|Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)
REMISSION OF SINS.
From time to time, Mr. Campbell issued extra numbers of the Harbinger, devoted to some special theme which he desired to treat more exhaustively than the space of the regular numbers would permit. Bearing date of July 5, 1830, we have the following extra on "Remission of Sins":
Luther said that the doctrine of justification, or forgiveness, was the test of a standing or falling church. If right in this, she could not be very far wrong in anything else; but if wrong here, it was not easy to suppose her right in anything. I quote from memory, but this was the idea of that great Reformer. We agree with him in this as well as in many other sentiments. Emerging from the smoke of the great city of mystical Babylon, he saw as clearly and as far into these matters as any person could, in such a hazy atmosphere. Many of his views only require to be carried out to their legitimate issue, and we should have the ancient gospel as the result.
The doctrine of remission is the doctrine of salvation; for to talk of salvation without the knowledge of the remission of sins, is to talk without meaning. To give to the Jews "a knowledge of salvation by the remission of their sins," was the mission of John the Immerser, as said the Holy Spirit. In this way he prepared a, people for the  Lord. This doctrine of forgiveness was gradually opened to the people during the ministry of John and Jesus; but was not fully developed until Pentecost, when the secrets of the Reign of Heaven were fully opened to men.
From Abel to the resurrection of Jesus, the just obtained remission at the altar, through priests and sin-offerings; but it was an imperfect remission as respected the conscience--a shadowy and unconsolatory remission. "For the law," says Paul, (more perfect in this respect than the preceding economy,) "containing a shadow only of the good things to come, and not even the very image of these things, never could, with the same sacrifices which they offer yearly for ever, make those who come to them perfect. Since being offered, would they not have ceased? because, the worshippers being once cleansed, should have had no longer conscience of sins."
The good things to come were future during the reign of Moses and his institution. They have come; and a clear, and full, and perfect remission of sins, is the great result of the new economy in the consciences of all the citizens of the kingdom of Jesus. The perfection of the conscience of the worshippers of God under Christ, is the grand distinguishing peculiarity in them, compared with those under Moses. They have not only clearer views of God, of his love, of his character, and of immortality; but they have consciences which the Jewish and Patriarchal Ages could not produce.
If faith only were the means of this superior perfection and enjoyment, and if striking symbols or types were all that were necessary to afford this assurance and experience of pardon, the Jewish people might have been as happy as the Christian people. They had as true testimony, as much faith, and as striking emblems as we can have. Many of them through faith obtained a high reputation, were approved of God, and admired by men for their wonderful achievements.
The difference is in the constitution. They lived under a constitution of law--we under a constitution of favor. Before the law their privileges were still more circumscribed. Under the government of the Lord Jesus there is an institution for the forgiveness of sins, like which there was no institution since the world began. It was owing to this institution that Christians were so much distinguished at first from the subjects of every former institution.
Our political happiness in these United States is not owing to any other cause than to our political institutions. If we are politically the happiest people in the world, it is because we have the happiest political institutions in the world. So it is in the Christian institution. If Christians were, and may be, the happiest people that ever lived, it is because they live under the most gracious institution ever bestowed on man. The meaning of this institution has been buried under the  rubbish of human traditions for hundreds of years. It was lost in the dark ages, and has never been, till now, disinterred. Various efforts have been made, and considerable progress attended them; but since the Grand Apostacy was completed till the present generation, the gospel of Jesus Christ has not been in its original plainness, simplicity, and majesty, laid open to mankind. A vail in reading the New Institution has been on the hearts of Christians, as Paul declares it was upon the hearts of the Jews in reading the Old Institution towards the close of that economy.
To take that vail away, since we have discovered it, has been our constant object. The present essay is intended to develop the Christian Institution for the remission of sins. We can not promise much for the method we shall pursue, as we have not the means of transcribing this essay, and must put it to press just as it is written, a sheet at a time. But this we may say, being full of this subject, that we shall lay down and prove many propositions in it, which, when viewed in connection, we hope, will not fail to prove and illustrate the forgiveness of sins through immersion into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, to every proper subject. We apprize the reader that such is our design, that he may examine with the utmost care every single proposition and every proof adduced. We do not wish to take him by stratagem, to captivate him by guile, nor to decoy him by mere speciosity. To the Law and to the Testimony! How do you read? What say the Scriptures? If they hear not these, neither would they be persuaded though one rose from the dead. We request the reader to examine the following propositions and their proof:--
The Apostles taught their disciples, or converts, that their sins were forgiven, and uniformly addressed them as pardoned or justified persons.
John testifies that the youngest disciples were pardoned, (I. Epis. ii. 12,) "I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you on account of his name." The young men strong in the Lord, and the old men steadfast in the Lord, he commends for their attainments: but the little children, the youngest converts, he addressed as possessing this blessing as one common to all disciples, "Your sins are forgiven you on account of his name."
Paul, in his letter to the Hebrews, (chapters viii. and x.,) asserts, that one of the provisions of the New Institution is the remission of the sins of all under it. "Their sins and iniquities I will remember no more." From this he argues as a first principle in the Christian economy. "Now," (says he, chapter x., verse 18,) "where remission of these is, no more offering for sin is needed." The reason assigned  by the Apostles why Christians have no sin offerings is, because they have obtained remission of sins as a standing provision in the New Institution.
The same Apostle testifies that the Ephesian disciples had obtained remission, (chap. iv. 32,) "Be to one another kind, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you." Here, also, in the enumeration of Christian privileges and immunities under Christ, he asserts forgiveness of sins as the common lot of all disciples, (chap. i. 7,) "In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his favor." In his letter to the Colossians, (chap. i. 14,) he uses the same words--"By whom we have the forgiveness of sins."
Figurative expressions are used by the same Apostle, expressive of the same forgiveness common to all Christians, (I. Cor. vi. 11,) "And such guilty characters were some of you; but you are washed; but you are sanctified; but you are justified by the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." Peter, also, is a witness here, (I. Epis. i. 22,) "Having purified your souls by obeying the truth through the Spirit."
But there is no need of foreign, or remote, or figurative expressions, when so literally and repeatedly the Apostles assert it as one of the adjuncts of being a disciple of Jesus. Had we no other testimony than that found in a single letter to the Colossians, it would be sufficient to sustain this position. The command given in chapter iii. 13, assumes it as a principle. "As Christ forgave you, so also do you." But in the second chapter, he makes this an inseparable adjunct of being in Christ. "You are complete in him--circumcised--buried with him--raised with him--made alive with him--HAVING FORGIVEN YOU ALL TRESPASSES."
These explicit testimonies from the most illustrious witnesses, sustain my first proposition. On these evidences I rely. I shall henceforth speak of it as a fact or truth not to be questioned; viz.: that all the disciples of Christ converted in the apostolic age, were taught by the Apostles to consider themselves as pardoned persons.
The apostolic converts were addressed by their teachers as justified persons.
We know that none but innocent persons can be legally justified; but it is not in the forensic sense this term is used by the Apostles. Amongst the Jews it imported no more than pardoned; and when applied to Christians, it denoted that they were acquitted from guilt--discharged from condemnation, and accounted as righteous persons in the sight of God. 
Paul at Antioch in Pisidia assured the Jews, that in or by Jesus all that believed were justified from all things, (certainly here it is equivalent to pardoned from all sins,) from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses. The disciples are said to be justified by faith. (Rom. v. 1.) By favor of grace. (Rom. iii. 24.) In or by the blood of Christ. (Rom. v. 9.) By the name of the Lord Jesus. (I. Cor. vi. 11.) By works. (Jas. ii. 24.) It is God who justifies. (Rom. viii. 33.)
Christians are said to be justified by God, by Jesus, by favor, by faith, by the blood of Jesus, by the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of God--also by works. Pardon and acquittal are the prominent ideas in every application of the term. God is the justifier. Jesus the Lord as the immediate and connecting cause; and by works an act of favor it is done; by the blood of Jesus, as the rightful and efficient cause--by faith; as the instrumental cause--by the name of Jesus the Lord as the immediate and connecting cause; and by works as the demonstrative and conclusive cause. Nothing is more plain from the above testimonies, than that all Christians are declared to be justified under the Reign of Jesus Christ.
The ancient Christians were addressed by the Apostles as sanctified persons.
Paul addressed all the disciples in Rome as saints or sanctified persons. In his first letter to the Corinthians, he addressed them all as the sanctified under Christ Jesus. "To the congregation of God which is at Corinth, to the sanctified under Christ Jesus." Paul argues with the Hebrews that "By the will of God we are sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once only." "For by this one offering he has for ever perfected (the conscience) of the sanctified." So usual was it for the Apostles to address their disciples as sanctified persons, that occasionally they are thus designated in the inscription upon their epistles. Thus Jude, addressing indiscriminately the whole Christian community, inscribes his catholic epistle--"To the sanctified by God our Father, and to the preserved (or saved) by Jesus Christ, to the called." "The Sanctifier and the sanctified are all of one family," says the Apostle to the Gentiles. And therefore the sanctifier addressed the sanctified as his brethren; and all his brethren, the disciples, as sanctified. But once more we must hear Paul, and hear him connecting his sanctification with the name of the Lord Jesus. He says, (I. Cor. iv. 16,) "But now you are sanctified by the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." 
The ancient Christians, the apostolic converts, were addressed as "reconciled to God."
Paul repeatedly declares that the disciples were reconciled to God, (Rom. v. 10,) "When enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son." To the Corinthians, (II. Epis. v. 18,) he says, "God has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ;" and to the Colossians, (i. 21,) he asserts, "It pleased the Father by him to reconcile all things to him, having made peace by the blood of his cross; I say, whether they be things on the earth or things in the heavens. Even you [Gentiles] who were formerly alienated in mind, and enemies by works which are wicked, he has now, indeed, reconciled in the body of his flesh through death." To the Ephesians he declares, that though "once they were without God and without hope in the world, far off, they are now, through the blood of Christ, made nigh." He has made the believing Jews and Gentiles one, that he might, under Christ, reconcile both in one body to God, through the cross, having slain the enmity between both thereby. Indeed, he represents God as in Christ, reconciling a world to himself; and so all under Christ are frequently said to be reconciled to God through him: which was the point to be proved.
The first disciples were considered and addressed by the Apostles, as "adopted into the family of God."
This adoption is presented by the Apostle as the great reason which called forth the Son of God. "God," (says he, Gal. iv. 6,) "sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that he might buy off those under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." "And because you are sons, he has sent forth the spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." "You are, therefore, now sons of God."
Indeed, the same writer, in his letter to the Ephesians, goes still farther, and represents this adoption of Jews and Gentiles into the rank and dignity of sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty, as the great object contemplated in God's predestination. (Eph. i. 5.) "Having," says he, "predestinated, or beforehand determinately pointed us out, for an adoption into the number of children by Jesus Christ, for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will." Another testimony must suffice on this point. "Beloved," says the Apostle John, "now are we the sons of God; and what manner of love has God bestowed upon us that we should be called sons of God! If sons, then we are heirs of God--joint heirs with Christ." 
My sixth proposition is, that the first Christians were taught by the inspired teachers to consider themselves as saved persons.
Because of some ambiguity in the popular import of the term saved, when applied to the disciples of Christ, we shall define it as used in this proposition. I need not here descant upon the temporal saviours and temporal salvations which are so conspicuous in sacred history; nor need I mention that Noah and his family were saved from the judgment inflicted upon the Old World; the Israelites from the Egyptians, and from all their enemies--as Paul's companions were saved from the deep, and God's people, in all ages, in common with all mankind, from ten thousand perils to which their persons, their families, and their property have been exposed. It is not the present salvation of our persons from the ills of this life; but it is the salvation of the soul from the guilt, pollution, and dominion of sin. "Thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." It is the salvation of the soul in this present life of which we speak. And here it ought to be clearly and distinctly stated that there is a present and a future salvation, of which all Christians are to be partakers. The former is properly the salvation of the soul, and the latter is the salvation of the body, or the whole man, at the resurrection of the just. There are few professing Christianity, perhaps none, who do not expect a future salvation--the glory or salvation to be revealed in us at the last time. Peter, who uses this expression in the beginning of his first epistle, and who invites the saints to look forward to the salvation yet future, in the same connection reminds them that they have now received the salvation of the soul. Indeed, the salvation of the soul is but the first fruit of the Spirit, and but an earnest until the adoption, "the redemption of the body" from the bondage of corruption. It was in this sense of the word that salvation was announced to all who submitted to the Lord Jesus, and hence it is in this connection equivalent to a deliverance of the soul from the guilt, pollution, and dominion of sin. Having thus defined the present salvation of the soul, I proceed to the proof of my second proposition, viz.--that the first Christians were taught by their inspired teachers to consider themselves as saved persons.
Peter, on Pentecost, exhorted the Jews to save themselves from that untoward generation, by reforming and by being "immersed for the remission of their sins in the name of the Lord Jesus." Luke, in recording the success attendant on Peter's labors, expresses himself thus, (Acts ii. 42,) "And the Lord added, daily, the saved to the congregation." Those who obeyed the gospel were recorded by Luke as "the saved." The King's translators supplied out of their own system  the words "should be." They are not in any copy of the Greek Scriptures. Such is the first application of the words, "the saved," in the Christian Scriptures.
Paul uses the same words in his first letter to the Corinthians, and applies them to all the disciples of Jesus, (chap. i. 18,) "To the destroyed the doctrine of the cross is foolishness; but to us, the saved, it is the power of God." In the same letter, (chap. xv. 2,) he says of the gospel, "By which you are saved if you retain in your memory the word which I announced to you." In his second letter he uses the same style, and distinguishes the disciples by the same designation: "We are to God a fragrant odor of Christ among the saved, and among the destroyed." The Ephesians he declares are saved through favor; and to Titus he says, "God has saved us not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his own mercy." By what means we shall soon hear Paul affirm. To multiply testimonies, when there is no need of them, is only making a display for its own sake. The above selections are chosen because they are pointed, express, and unequivocal. Promises of salvation to the obedient are to be found in almost every public address pronounced by the Apostles and first preachers. For the Saviour commanded them to assure mankind that every one who believed the gospel, and was immersed, should be saved. And, connecting faith with immersion, Peter averred that immersion saved us, purifying the conscience through the resurrection of Jesus.
While Christians are taught to expect and hope for a future salvation--a salvation from the power of death and the grave--a salvation to be revealed in the last time--they receive the first fruit of the Spirit, the salvation of the soul from guilt, pollution, and the dominion of sin, and come under the dominion of righteousness, peace, and joy. This is what Peter affirms of all the Christians in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia Minor, and Bithynia, to whom he thus speaks: "Jesus, having not seen, you love; on whom, not now looking, but believing, you rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, receiving the reward of your faith, the salvation of your souls."
These six propositions, being each and every one of them, clearly sustained by the unequivocal testimony of God, as adduced, and as is well known to the intelligent disciples, by many more passages. equally plain and forcible, not adduced; we shall now engross them into one leading proposition, which we shall in this essay consider as not to be questioned--as irrefragably proved.
The converts made to Jesus Christ by the Apostles were taught to consider themselves pardoned, justified, sanctified, reconciled, adopted, and saved; and were addressed as pardoned, justified,  sanctified, reconciled, adopted, and saved persons, by all who first preached the gospel of Christ.
While this proposition is before us, it may be expedient to remark that all these terms are expressive not of any quality of mind--not of any personal attribute of body, soul, or spirit; but each of them represents, and all of them together represent a state or condition. But though these terms represent state and not character, there is a relation between state and character, or an influence which state has upon character, which makes the state of immense importance in a moral and religious point of view.
Indeed, the strongest arguments which the Apostles use with the Christians to urge them forward in the cultivation and display of all the moral and religious excellencies of character, are drawn from the meaning and value of the state in which they are placed. Because forgiven, they should forgive; because justified, they should live righteously; because sanctified, they should live holily and unblameably because reconciled to God, they should cultivate peace with all men, and act benevolently towards all; because adopted, they should walk in the dignity and purity of sons of God; because saved, they should abound in thanksgiving, praises, and rejoicings, living soberly, righteously, and godly, looking forward to the blessed hope.
As this essay is designed for readers of the most common capacity and most superficial education, I trust I may be permitted to speak still more plainly upon the difference between state and character. Childhood is a state; so is manhood. Now a person in the state of childhood may act sometimes like a person in the state of manhood, and those arrived at the state of manhood may in character or behaviour resemble those in a state of childhood. A person in the state of a son may have the character of a servant, and a person in the state of a servant may have the character of a son. This is not generally to be expected, though it sometimes happens. Parents and children, masters and servants, husbands and wives, are terms denoting relations or states. To act in accordance with these states or relations, is quite a different thing from being in any of these states. Many persons enter into the state of matrimony, and yet act unworthily of it. This is true of many other states. Enough, we presume, is said to contradistinguish state and character, relations and moral qualities.
It is scarcely necessary to remark here, that, as the disciples of Christ are declared to be in a pardoned, justified, sanctified, reconciled, adopted, and saved state, they are the only persons in such a state; and all others are in an unpardoned, unjustified, unsanctified, unreconciled, unadopted, and lost state. 
When, then, is a change of state effected, and by what means? This is the great question soon to be discussed.
We are constrained to admit that a change in any one of these states necessarily implies, because it involves, a change in all the others. Every one who is pardoned is justified, sanctified, reconciled, adopted, and saved; and so every one that is saved, is adopted, reconciled, sanctified, justified, and pardoned.
To illustrate what has already been proved, let us turn to some of the changes of state which take place in society as at present constituted. A female changes her state. She enters into the state of matrimony. So soon as she has surrendered herself to the affectionate government and control of him who has become her husband, she has not only become a wife, but a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a niece, etc., and may stand in many other relations in which she before stood not. All these are connected with her becoming the wife of a person who stands in many relations. So when a person becomes Christ's, he is a son of Abraham, an heir, a brother, or is pardoned, justified, sanctified, reconciled, adopted, and saved.
To be in Christ, or under Christ, then, is to stand in these new relations to God, angels, and men: and to be out of him, or not under his mediatorship or government, is to be in, or under Adam only. It is to be in what is called "the state of nature," unpardoned, unjustified, unsanctified, unreconciled, and an alien from the family of God, lost in trespasses and sins.
These things premised, the question presents itself, When are persons in Christ? I choose this phrase in accommodation to the familiar style of this day. No person is in a home, in a ship, in a state, in a kingdom, but he that has gone or is introduced into a house, into a ship, into a state, into a kingdom; so no person is in Christ but he who has been introduced into Christ. The Scripture style is most religiously accurate. We have the words "in Christ" and the words "into Christ" often repeated in the Christian Scriptures; but in no one place can the one phrase be substituted for the other. Hence in all places, when any person is said to be in Christ, it refers not to his conversion, regeneration, or putting on Christ, but to a state of rest or privilege subsequent to conversion, regeneration, or putting on Christ. But the phrase "into Christ" is always connected with conversion, regeneration, immersion, or putting on Christ. Before we are justified in Christ, live in Christ, or fall asleep in Christ, we must come, be introduced, or immersed into Christ. Into belongs only to verbs implying motion towards; and in to verbs implying rest, or motion in. He eats, sleeps, sits in the house. He walks into the field, he rides into the city. "Into Christ" is a phrase only applicable to conversion, immersion, or regeneration, or what is called putting  on Christ, translation into his kingdom, or submission to his government.1
Presuming on the intelligence of our readers, so far as to suppose them assured that this is no mere verbal criticism, but a discrimination that detects one of the pillars of an apostate church, I proceed to another preliminary proposition which I choose to submit in the following words, to wit:-- 
A change of heart, though it necessarily precedes, is in no case equivalent to, and never to be identified with, a change of state.
In all the relations of this life, in all states or conditions of men, we feel the truth of this; and I would to Heaven that our readers could see as plainly what is of infinitely more importance to them, that no change of heart is equivalent to, or can be substituted for, a change of state! A change of heart is the result of a change of views; and whatever can accomplish a change of views may accomplish a change of heart or feeling, but a change of state always calls for something more.
Lavinia was the servant of Palemon, and once thought him a hard master. She changed her views of him, and her feelings were also changed towards him; still, however, she continued in the state of a handmaid. Palemon offered her first his heart, and then his hand, and she accepted them. He vowed and she vowed before witnesses, and she became his wife. Then, and not till then, was her state changed. She is no longer a servant--she is now a wife. A change of views and of feeling led to this change in state; but let it be noted that this might not have issued in a change of state; for Maria, who was another handmaid of Palemon, and changed her views of him and her feelings towards him as much--nay, more than did Lavinia; yet Maria lived and died the servant maid of Palemon and Lavinia.
William Agricola and his brother Thomas, both Canadians, were once much opposed to the constituted government of New England They both changed their views, and, as a matter of course, their feelings were changed. William became a citizen of Rhode Island; but Thomas, notwithstanding his change of heart, lived and died a colonial subject of a British King.
John and James Superbus became great enemies to each other. They continued irreconciled for many years. At length a change of views brought about a change of heart; but this change for more than a year was concealed in the heart, and by no overt act appeared. They were not reconciled until mutual concessions were made and pledges of a change of feeling were tendered and reciprocated. From enemies they became friends.
A thousand analogies might be adduced, to show that though a change of state often--nay, generally results from a change of feelings, and this from a change of views, yet a change of state does not necessarily follow, and is something quite different from, and can not be identified with a change of heart. So in religion a man may change his views of Jesus, and his heart may also be changed towards him, but unless a change of state ensues he is still unpardoned, unjustified,  unsanctified, unreconciled, unadopted, and lost to all Christian, life and enjoyment. For it has been proved that these terms represent states and not feelings, condition and not character; and that a change of views or of heart, is not a change of state. To change a state is to pass into a new relation, and relation is not sentiment, nor feeling. Some act, then, constitutional, by stipulation proposed, sensible, and manifest, must be performed by one or both the parties before such a change can be accomplished. Hence, always, in ancient times, the proclamation of the gospel was accompanied by some instituted act proposed to those who changed their views, by which their state was to be changed, and by which they were to stand in a new relation to Jesus Christ.
This brings us to "the obedience of faith." From the time the proclamation of God's philanthropy was first made there was an act of faith proposed in it by which the believers of the proclamation were put in actual possession of its blessings, and by conformity to which act a change of state ensued.
To perceive what this act of faith is, it must be remarked that where there is no command there can be no obedience. These are correlate terms. A message or proclamation which has not a command in it, can not be obeyed. But the gospel can be obeyed or disobeyed, and therefore in it is a command. Lest any person should hesitate in a matter of such importance, we will prove,
That the gospel has in it a command, and as such must be obeyed.
And here I need not ask, Where are they who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord? Paul replies, (II. Thess. 1. 8,) "They who know not God, and obey not the gospel of his Son." To "obey the gospel," and "to become obedient to the faith," were common phrases in the apostolic discourses and writings. Rom. 1. 5, "By whom we have received apostleship, in order to the obedience of faith in all nations, on account of his name." Rom. xvi. 26, "By the commandment of the everlasting God the gospel is made known to all nations for the obedience of faith." Acts vi. 7, "A great company of the priests became obedient to the faith." Rom. x. 8, "But they have not all obeyed the gospel." And I. Pet. iv. 17, "What shall be the end of them who obey not the gospel?" From these sayings it is unquestionably plain, that either the gospel itself, taken as a whole, is a command, or that in it there is a command through the obedience of which salvation is enjoyed.
The obedience of the gospel is called the obedience of faith compared with the obedience of law, faith in God's promise through Jesus Christ being the principle from which the obedience flows. To  present the gospel in the form of a command is an act of favor because it engages the will and the affections of men and pats it in their power to have an assurance of their salvation from which they would be necessarily excluded if no such act of obedience was enjoined.
Whatever this act of faith may be, it necessarily becomes the line of discrimination between the two states before described. On this side, and on that, mankind are in quite different states. On the one side they are pardoned, justified, sanctified, reconciled, adopted, and saved: on the other they are in a state of condemnation. This act is sometimes called immersion, regeneration, conversion; and that this may appear obvious to all, we shall be at some pains to confirm and illustrate it.
That a relation or a state can be changed by an act, I need scarcely at this time attempt to prove; especially to those who know that the act of marriage, of naturalization, adoption, and of being born, changes the state of the subjects of such acts. But rather than attempt to prove that a state is, or may be changed, by an act; I should rather ask if any person has heard, knows, or can conceive of a state being changed without some act? This point being conceded to us by all the rational, we presume not to prove it. But a question may arise whether faith itself, or an act of obedience to some command or institution, is that act by which our state is changed.
That it is not faith, but an act resulting from faith which changes our state, we shall now attempt to prove.
No relation in which we stand to the material world--no political relation, or relation to society, can be changed by believing, apart from, the acts to which that belief, or faith, induces us. Faith never made an American citizen, though it may have been the cause of many thousands migrating to this continent, and ultimately becoming citizens of these United States. Faith never made a man a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a master, a servant, though it may have been essentially necessary to all these relations, as a cause, or principle preparatory, or tending thereunto. Thus, when in Scripture, men are said to be justified by faith, or to receive any blessing through faith, it is because faith is the principle of action, and as such, the cause of those acts by which such blessings are enjoyed. But the principle without those acts is nothing, and it is only by the acts which it induces to perform, that it becomes the instrument of any blessings to men.
Many blessings are metonymically ascribed to faith in the sacred writings. We are said to be justified, sanctified, and purified by faith--to walk by faith, and to live by faith, etc., etc. But these sayings as qualified by the Apostles, mean no more than by believing the truth of  God, we have access into all these blessings. So that as Paul explains, "by faith we have access into the favor in which we stand." These words he uses on two occasions (Rom. v. 2; Eph. iii. 12) when speaking of the value of this principle, contrasted with the principle of law; and in his letter to the Hebrews, when he brings up his cloud of witnesses to the excellency of this principle, he shows that by it the ancients obtained a high reputation--that is, as he explains, by their acts of faith in obedience to God's commands.
That faith by itself neither justifies, sanctifies, nor purifies, is admitted by those who oppose immersion for the forgiveness of sins. They all include the idea of the blood of Christ. And yet they seem not to perceive, that in objecting to immersion as necessary to forgive in connection with faith, their own arguments preclude them from connecting the blood of Christ with faith. If they admit that faith, apart from the blood of Christ, can not obtain pardon, they admit all that is necessary to prove them inconsistent with themselves in opposing immersion for the remission of sins; or immersion, as that act by which our state is changed.
But that an act of faith, and not faith itself, changes our state; we prove, not by reasoning analogically, but from the apostolic writings. And to these we shall now attend. This proposition is, we think, sustained by the following testimonies:--
The Apostle Peter, when first publishing the gospel to the Jews, taught them, that they were not forgiven their sins by faith; but by an act of faith, by a believing immersion into the Lord Jesus. That this may appear evident to all, we shall examine his Pentecostian address, and his Pentecostian hearers.
Peter now holding the keys of the kingdom of Jesus, and speaking under the commission for converting the world, and by the authority of the Lord Jesus, guided, inspired, and accompanied by the Spirit--may be expected to speak the truth, the whole truth, plainly and intelligibly, to his brethren the Jews. He had that day declared the gospel facts, and proved the resurrection and ascension of Jesus to the conviction of thousands. They believed and repented--believed that Jesus was the Messiah, had died as a sin-offering, was risen from the dead, and crowned Lord of All. Being full of this faith, they inquired of Peter and the other Apostles, what they ought to do to obtain remission. They were informed, that though they now believed and repented, they were not pardoned; but must "reform and be immersed for the remission of sins." Immersion for the forgiveness of sins, was the command addressed to these believers, to these penitents, in answer to the most earnest question; and by one of the  most sincere, candid, and honest speakers ever heard. This act of faith was presented as that act by which alone they could be pardoned. They who "gladly received this word were that day immersed;" or, in other words, that same day were converted, or regenerated, or obeyed the gospel. These expressions in the Apostles' style, when applied to persons coming into the kingdom, denote the same act as will be perceived from the various passages in the writings of Luke and Paul. This testimony, when the speaker, the occasion, and the congregation are all taken into view, is itself alone sufficient to establish the point in support of which we have adduced it.
But the second discourse, recorded by Luke from the lips of the same Peter, pronounced in Solomon's Portico, is equally pointed, clear, and full in support of this position. After he had explained the miracle which he had wrought in the name of the Lord Jesus, and stated the same gospel facts, he proclaims the same command "Reform and be converted that your sins may be blotted out;" or, "Reform and turn to God, so that your sins may be blotted out; that seasons of refreshment from the presence of the Lord may come, and that he may send Jesus whom the heavens must receive till the accomplishment of all the things which God has foretold," etc. Peter, in substituting other terms in this proclamation, for those used on Pentecost, does preach a new gospel, but the same gospel in terms equally strong. He used the same word in the first part of the command, which he used on Pentecost. Instead of "be immersed," he has here "be converted," or "turn to God;" instead of "for the remission of your sins," here it is, "that your sins may be blotted out;" and instead of "you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit," here it is, "that seasons of refreshment from the presence of the Lord may come."2 On Pentecost, it was, 1. "Reform." 2. "Be immersed." 3. "For the remission of your sins." And 4. "You shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." In Solomon's Portico, it was, 1. "Reform." 2. "Be converted." 3. "That your sins may be blotted out." And 4. "That seasons of refreshment from the presence of the Lord may come;" that "you may have righteousness, peace, and joy, in a holy spirit." So read the different clauses in these two discourses to the Jews, expressive of the same acts.
There is yet, in this discourse in the Portico, a very strong expression, declarative of the same gracious connection between immersion  and remission. It is the last period in the discourse. "Unto you, first, brethren of the Jews, God having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, every one of you, in the act of turning from your iniquities;" or, as we would say, in the act of conversion. Why the Apostle Peter should have used "converted," or "turning to God," instead of "be immersed," is, to the candid and unprejudiced reader of this narrative, very plain. After Pentecost, the disciples immersed on that day, having turned to God through Jesus, were spoken of by their brethren as discipled or converted to Jesus. The unbelieving Jews, soon after Pentecost, knew that the disciples called the immersed, "converted;" and immersion being the act of faith which drew the line of demarcation between Christians and Jews, nothing could be more natural than to call the act of immersion the converting of a Jew. The time intervening between these discourses was long enough to introduce and familiarize this style in the metropolis; so that when a Christian said, "Be converted," or, "Turn to God," every Jew knew, the act of putting on the Messiah to be that intended. After the immersion of some Gentiles into the faith, in the house and neighborhood of Cornelius, it was reported that the Gentiles were converted to God. Thus, (Acts xv. 3,) the Apostles, in passing through the country, gave great joy to the disciples from among the Jews, "telling them of the conversion" or immersion of the Gentiles. Indeed, in a short time it was a summary way of representing the faith, reformation, and immersion of disciples, by using one word for all. Thus, (Acts ix.,) "All the inhabitants of Sharon and Lydda turned," or were converted to the Lord."
While on the subject of conversion, we shall adduce, as a fourth testimony, the words of the Lord Jesus to Paul, when he called him. Paul is introduced by Luke in the Acts, telling what the Lord said to him when he received his apostleship. Acts xxvi. 17, 18, "I send you Paul, by the faith that respects me, to open their eyes; to turn or convert them from darkness to light; and from the power of Satan to God; that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among the saved." Every thing to be accomplished among the Gentiles was to be effected by the faith or truth in Christ. The Saviour connected that with opening their eyes; their conversion from the ignorance and tyranny of sin and Satan; their forgiveness of sins, and finally, an inheritance among the saved or sanctified. First, faith or illumination; then, conversion; then, remission of sins; then, the inheritance. All these testimonies concur with each other in presenting the act of faith--Christian immersion, frequently called conversion; as that act, inseparably connected with the remission of sins; or that change of state, of which we have already spoken. 
One reason why we would arrest the attention of the reader to the substitution of the terms convert and conversion, for immerse and immersion, in the apostolic discourses and in the sacred writings, is not so much for the purpose of proving that the forgiveness of sins, or a change of state, is necessarily connected with that act of faith called "Christian immersion;" as it is to fix the minds of the Biblical students upon a very important fact, viz.: that immersion is the converting act; or, that no person is discipled to Christ until he is immersed. It is true, that this view of the matter bears strongly upon the question; but it bears upon other great matters pertaining to the present and ancient order of things.
Discovering that much depended upon having correct views on this point, we have minutely examined all those passages where "conversion," either in the common version, or in the new version, or in the original, occurs, and have found an uniformity in the use of this term, and its compounds and derivatives, which warrant the conclusion, that the converting act is immersion; or that the assumption of the Lord's name is in this Institution. That such was the apostolic import of the term, we have no doubt. No person was said to be converted until he was immersed; and all persons, who were immersed, were said to be converted. If any apostatized, and were again converted, it was in that sense in which our Lord applied the word to Peter, "When you are converted, strengthen your brethren;" or, as James used it in his letter when he said, "If any of you err from the truth, and one convert him, let him know that he who converts a transgressor from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and hide a multitude of sins."
In a number of the Christian Baptist, nigh the close of seventh volume, we noticed, that in the commission to convert the nations, the act by which this work was to be completed, was the act of immersion. This was argued from the charge, as given by the Saviour, from the manner in which the order was ordained. "Going forth," says he, "disciple all nations, or convert all the nations--immersing them into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching the disciples to observe all the things I have "commanded you," etc. On this a question was proposed, viz.: "Does not the active participle always, when connected with the imperative mood, express the manner in which the thing commanded is to be performed? Cleanse the room, washing it; clean the floor, sweeping it: cultivate the field, ploughing it; sustain the hungry, feeding them; furnish the soldiers, arming them; convert the nations, immersing them--are exactly the same forms of speech. No person will, we presume, controvert this." This has, however, been warmly attacked by several writers. A writer in a New York paper, and Christianos,  and "No Theorist" in the Religious Herald, have warmly opposed this rule. They have only denied that it is universal. That is as a general rule, and that the examples given are all fairly under it, no one has, as yet, presumed to controvert. Its universality alone has been called in question. It was felt that its generality could not be, impugned. To escape from its force, it is necessary to prove it not universal. If, however, it were proved not universal, still its generality might prevent the possibility of escape from its applicability is this case. And what surprises me not a little is, that brother Andrew Broaddus, the most acute, and discriminating of those who have impugned its universality, does not observe that here it must apply were it only a general and not a universal rule. There is but one position he can take to elude its applicability in this case; and this I am persuaded he will not take. He will not say, that a disciple is finished, and made, or completed, without immersion. That the work of discipling is finished before immersion and without immersion. Neither Catholics, nor Protestants, will, as such, contend that a Pagan or a Jew was ever discipled or converted to the Christian faith without immersion. Indeed, I presume, that brother Broaddus has been so much engrossed in discussing the mere universality of the rule, and has been so much engaged in attempting to find exceptions to it, that he has not looked to the bearing, nor to the cui bono, the utility, o his examples. That the nations could be converted to Jesus Christ without immersion, he must affirm, if he allege the rule is inapplicable in this place. Will he take this ground? If he does not take this ground, he is only beating the air; or, what is still less profitable, he is sapping and mining that which he has been building up all his life--that immersion is a discipling institution. I care not whether he object to those words: it is a fact, a sober fact, that he has, as a Baptist, made immersion a discipling institution. I would not say of him what I have to say of many of my opponents, that he would rather go back to Judaism, or Presbyterianism, than that I should convince him of the import of Christian immersion. Indeed, they are, in principle, going back to Pedobaptism; and before this controversy is ended they will be driven there, or into the ancient gospel.
"No Theorist," whom we suspect to have written much in favor of immersion against Dr. Rice of pamphleteering memory, is well skilled in managing Paidobaptist arguments; yet I will engage to show him, that he must "give up the ship," if he will try me on the affirmative of this position--"a person may be converted according to the commission without immersion." I say, let him take the affirmative of this position, (which he obliges himself to do in attempting to show that my rule is not applicable here,) and I will attempt to  prove that his argument against Paido-ism is, vox et preterea nihil, sound and nothing else.
The question is, Who is to be immersed--a Christian, a disciple, a convert to Christ; or a believing candidate for discipleship? One who has put on Christ; or one who wishes to put him on? One who is under Christ; or one who wishes to be under him? One in the Kingdom of Jesus Christ; or one who wishes to become a citizen? This, brethren, is the question. And, although you may not have seen it, in opposing my rule in its application here, you take the Paidobaptist side, and I am the Baptist now.
But, perhaps, he does not oppose the application of the rule in this case; but only wishes to try his strength in critical disquisitions: and thinking that he has got an advantage over me in this case, he and brother Keeling are determined to push me to the wall and to carry this point by dint of critical investigation. Be it so. I ought not to envy them this pleasure. But I wish them to bear in mind, that in succeeding in this case, their success will be a serious loss to themselves.
But as the question of conversion, as well as the act of converting, is implicated in this controversy upon the participle, I will, though it may appear tedious, introduce brother Broaddus at his own request, and let him speak to my readers, in reply to my former criticism upon his criticism.
|Alexander Campbell. "Remission of Sins." The Millennial Harbinger Extra 1 (July 1830): 1-18.|
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|Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)