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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)



      I now proceed to show that immersion and regeneration are two Bible names for the same act, contemplated in two different points of view.

      The term regeneration occurs but twice in the common version of the New Testament, and not once in the Old Testament. The first is Matt. xix. 28. "You that have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Dr. George Campbell, following the punctuation adopted by Griesbach, and substituting the word renovation instead of regeneration, renders it--"That, at the renovation, when the Son of man shall be seated on his glorious throne, you, my followers, sitting also upon twelve thrones, shall," etc. Genesis, being the term used for creation, palingenesia denotes the new creation. Either literally at the resurrection of the dead, or figuratively, at the commencement of the Christian era, or at the commencement of the Millennium. Josephus the Jew called the return of Israel to their own land, and institution, "the regeneration," or "palingenesia."

      No writer of any note, critic or expositor, supposes that regeneration in Matt. xix. applies to what is, in theology, called the new birth, or regeneration of the soul--not even the Presbyterian Matthew Henry, nor Dr. Whitby, Campbell, Macknight, Thompson; nor, indeed, any writer we recollect ever to have read. Regeneration in this passage denotes a state, a new state of things. In the same sense we [539] often use the term. The American Revolution was the regeneration of the country or the government. The commencement of the Christian era was a regeneration--so will be the Millennial Era--so will be the creation of the new Heavens and new Earth. As this is so plain a matter, and so generally admitted, we proceed to the second occurrence of this term.

      "God has saved us by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Common version, Tit. iii. 5). God has saved us through the bath of regeneration, and the renewing of the, Holy Spirit. This is the second time the word regeneration is found in the New Testament; and here it is conceded by the most learned Paidobaptists and Baptists, that it refers to immersion. Though I have been led to this conclusion from my views of the Christian religion, yet I neither hold it myself, nor justify it to others on this account. I choose rather to establish it by other testimonies, than by those who agree with me in the import of this institution. Amongst these I shall place Dr. James Macknight, formerly prolocutor or moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and translator of the Apostolic Epistles. One of his notes upon Tit. iii. 5, is in the following words:--"Through the bath of regeneration." "Through baptism, called the bath of regeneration, not because any change in the nature" (but I would say in the state) "of the baptized person is produced by baptism; but because it is an emblem of the purification of his soul from sin." He then quotes in proof, (Acts xxii. 16,) "Arise, and be immersed, and wash thee from thy sins."--Paul. He supports this view also from Eph. v. 26, and John iii. 5. "The bath of regeneration," is then, according to the learned Paidobaptist, Christian immersion.

      Parkhurst, in his lexicon, upon the word loutron, connects this same phrase, the washing or bath of regeneration, with Eph. v. 26, and John iii. 5, as alluding to immersion. So say all the critics, one by one, as far as I know. Even Matthew Henry, the good and venerable Presbyterian commentator, concedes this point also, and quotes Eph. v. 26, Acts xxii. 16, and Matt. xxviii, 19, 20, in support of the conclusion, that the washing of regeneration refers to baptism.

      Our opponents themselves being judges, we have gained this point; viz.: that the only time the word regeneration occurs in the New Testament with a reference to a personal change, it means, or is equivalent to, immersion. Regeneration and immersion are, therefore, two names for the same thing. Although I might be justified in proceeding to another topic, and in supposing this point to be fully established, I choose rather, for the sake of the slow to apprehend, to fortify this conclusion by some other testimonies and arguments.

      As regeneration is taught to be equivalent to "being born again," and understood to be of the same import with a new birth, we shall [540] examine it under this metaphor. For if immersion be equivalent to regeneration, and regeneration be of the same import with being born again, then being born again, and being immersed are the same thing; for this plain reason, that things which are equal to the same thing, are equal to one another. All must admit, that no person can be born again of that which he receives. For as no person is born naturally; so no person can be born again, or born metaphorically, of that which he receives. It destroys the idea, the figure, the allusion, and every thing else which authorizes the application of these words to any change which takes place in man, to suppose that the subject of the new birth, or regeneration, is born again of something which he has received. This single remark shows the impropriety, and inaccuracy of thought; or, perhaps, the want of thought, which the popular notions of regeneration sanction, and sanctify.

      In being born naturally there is the begetter, and that which is begotten. These are not the same. The act of being born is different from that which is born. Now the Scriptures carry this figure through every prominent, point of coincidence. There is the begetter. "Of his own will he has begotten, or impregnated us," says James the Apostle. "By the word of truth," as the incorruptible seed; or, as Peter says, "We are born again, not from corruptible, but from incorruptible seed, the word of God which endureth forever." But when the act of being born is spoken of, then the water is introduced. Hence, before we come into the kingdom, we are born of water.

      The Spirit of God is the begetter, the gospel is the seed; and being thus begotten, and quickened, we are born of the water. A child is alive before it is born, and the act of being born only changes its state, not its life. Just so in the metaphorical birth. Persons are begotten by the Spirit of God, impregnated by the Word, and born of the water.

      In one sense a person is born of his father; but not until he is first born of his mother. So in every place where water and the: Spirit, or water and the Word, are spoken of, the water stands first. Every child is born of its father, when it is born of its mother. Hence the Saviour put the mother first, and the Apostles follow him. No other reason can be assigned for placing the water first. How uniform this style! Jesus says to Nicodemus, "You must be born again, or you can not discern the Reign of God." Born again! What means this? "Nicodemus, unless you are born of water, and of the Spirit, you can not enter into the kingdom of God." So Paul speaks to the Ephesians, (v. 26,) "He cleansed the church," or the disciples, "by a bath of water, and the Word." And to Titus he says, "He saved the disciples by the bath of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit." Now, as soon as, and not before, a disciple, who has been begotten of God, is [541] born of water he is born of God, or of the Spirit. Regeneration is, therefore, the act of being born. Hence its connection always with water. Reader reflect--what a jargon, what a confusion, have the mystic doctors made of this metaphorical expression, and of this topic of regeneration. To call the receiving of any spirit, or any influence, or energy, or any operation upon the heart of man, regeneration, is an abuse of all speech, as well as a departure from the diction of the Holy Spirit, who calls nothing personal regeneration, except the act of immersion.

      Objection 1.--"You then make every immersed person a child of God, by the very act of immersion; and you represent every person as born of God who is born of water, or immersed."

      Provided always, that he has been begotten of God; or, that he has been impregnated by the gospel. If quickened by the Spirit of God before he is buried in the water, he is born of God, whenever he is born of water; just as every other child is born of its father, when born of its mother. But if he do not believe the gospel, or in other words, if he be not quickened by the Word, he is not born of God when he is born of water--he is, to speak after the manner if men, still born.

      Objection 2.--"Then none are born of God, or of the Spirit, unless those who are immersed in water, and raised out of it."

      I admit the objection; for he that has never been buried in water, never has been raised out of it. He that has never been in the womb of waters, never has been born of water. Begotten of God he may be; but born of God he can not be, until born of water. It is worthy of remark, that Dr. Macknight, who certainly had no predilections for this view of the matter, has the word begotten in every passage in the first Epistle of John, where the common version has the word born, and with the greatest propriety, too.

      Objection 3.--"Then none of the unimmersed can be saved; for none can enter the Kingdom of God, but those born of water."

      This is, or is not true, according as you understand the term saved. If you understand the term as defined in the preceding page, they are not saved; for the present salvation of the gospel is that salvation into which we enter, when we become citizens of the Kingdom of God. But whether they may enter into the kingdom of future and eternal glory after the resurrection, is a question much like that question long discussed in the schools, viz.: Can infants who have been quickened, but who died before they were born, be saved? We may hope the best, but can not speak with the certainty of knowledge. One thing we know, that it is not a difficult matter for believers to be born of water; and if any of them wilfully neglect, or disdain it, we can not hope for their future and eternal salvation. But we [542] have no authority to speak comfortably to them who will not submit to the government of the Saviour.

      Many persons, I doubt not, who never were informed on these matters, but simply mistook the import and design of the Institution, who were nevertheless honestly disposed to obey, and did obey as far as they were instructed, may, as the devout Jews and Patriarchs who lived before the Christian era, be admitted into the Kingdom of future glory. But this by the way, to prevent the calumnies of those who are better disposed to censure every thing we write, than to obey the Lord. I am sure of one thing; because the decree is published, viz.: that he that believes the gospel, and is immersed, shall be saved; and he who submits not to the government of Jesus Christ shall be condemned.

      Some curious criticisms have been offered, to escape the force of the plain declaration of Jesus and his Apostles, upon this subject. Some say, that the words, "Except a man be born of water and Spirit," are not to be understood literally. Surely, then, if to be born of water does not mean to be born of water, to be born of the Spirit must mean something else than to be born of the Spirit. This is so fanatical and extravagant as to need no other exposure. He who can not see the propriety of calling immersion a being born again, can see no propriety in any metaphor in common use. A resurrection is a new birth. Jesus is said to be the first born from the dead; because the first who rose from the dead to die no more. And, surely, there is no abuse in speech; but the greatest propriety in saying, that he who has died to sin, and been buried in water, when raised up again out of that element, is born again, or regenerated. If Jesus was born again, when he came out of a sepulchre, surely he is born again who is raised up out of the grave of waters.

      Those, who are thus begotten, and born of God, are children of God. It would be a monstrous supposition, that such persons are not freed from their sins. To be born of God, and born in sin, is inconceivable. Remission of sins is as certainly granted to "the born of God;" as life eternal, and deliverance from corruption, will be granted to the children of the resurrection, when born from the grave.

      To illustrate what has, we presume to say, been now proved, we shall consider political regeneration. Though the term regeneration is laxly employed in this association; yet, by such a license of speech, we may illustrate this subject to the apprehension of all. Yes, the whole subject of faith, change of heart, regeneration, and character.

      All civilized nations and kingdoms have constitutions; and in their constitutions they have declared who are members of the social compact. Besides those who constitute the community at the time a constitution is adopted, they say who shall compose the community in [543] all time coming; that is, who shall be admitted into it, and by what means they shall become members of it. They have always decreed, that their own posterity shall inherit their political rights and immunities. But they have, also, ordained that foreigners; that is, members of other communities, may become, by adoption, or naturalization, citizens, or fellow members, of the same community. But they have, in their wisdom and benevolence, instituted a rite or form of adoption, which form has much meaning; and which, when submitted to, changes the state of the subject of it. Now, as the Saviour consented to be called a King, and to call the community over which he presides, a Kingdom, it was because of the analogy between these human institutions and his institution; and for the purpose, not of confounding, but of aiding the human mind in apprehending and comprehending the great object of his mission to the world. And it is worthy of the most emphatic attention, that it was WHEN SPEAKING OF A KINGDOM HE SPOKE OF BEING BORN AGAIN. Yes, on that occasion, and on that occasion only, when he spoke of entering into his Kingdom, he did speak of the necessity of BEING BORN AGAIN. And had he not chosen that figure, he would not have chosen the figure of a new birth. With these facts and circumstances before us, let us examine political regeneration as the best conceivable illustration of religious regeneration.

      A B was born in the island of Great Britain, a native subject of George III., King of Great Britain. He was much attached to his native island, to the people, the manners and customs of his ancestors and kinsmen. With all these attachments, still increasing, he grew up to manhood. Then he heard the report of this good land; of this large, fertile, and most desirable country. The country, the people, and the government, were represented to him in the most favorable light. Sometimes these representations were exaggerated; but still he could separate the truth from the fable; and was fully persuaded not only of the existence of these United States, but, also, of the eligibility of being a citizen thereof. He believed the testimony which he heard, resolved to expatriate himself from the land of his nativity, to imperil life and property, putting himself aboard of a ship, and bidding adieu to all the companions of his youth, his kinsmen and dear friends. So full was his conviction, and so strong his faith, that, old Neptune and King Eolus, with all their terrors, could not appall him. He sailed from his native shores, and landed on this continent. He was, however, ignorant of many things pertaining to this new country, and government; and on his arrival asked for the rights and immunities of a citizen. He was told, that the civil rights of hospitality to a stranger could be extended to him as a sojourner; but not one of the rights, or immunities of a citizen, [544] could be his, unless he were born again. "Born again!" said he, in a disappointed tone, to Columbus, with whom he had his first conversation on the subject. "What do you mean by being born again?"

      Columbus--You must be naturalized, or adopted as a citizen; or, what we call being born again.

      A. B.--I do not understand you. How can a man be born when he is grown?

      Col.--That which is born of Great Britain is British, and that which is born of America is American. If, then, you would be an American citizen, you must be born of America.

      A. B.--"Born of America!" You astonish me! I have come to America well disposed towards the people and the country. I was once attached to England, but I became attached to the United States; and because of my faith, and attachments, I have come hither; and will you not receive me into your kingdom, because I could not help being born in England?

      Col.--Well disposed as I am, and we are, to receive you, most assuredly, I say to you, unless you are regenerated in a court-house, and be enfranchised by and before the judges, you can never become a citizen of these United States.

      A. B.--Yours is an arbitrary and despotic government. What airs of sovereignty you have assumed!

      Col.--By no means. Right, reason, wisdom, policy, and benevolence for you; as well as the safety, dignity, and happiness of the whole community, require that every alien shall be naturalized, or made a citizen, before he exercise, or enjoy the rights of a citizen.

      A. B.--You are certainly arbitrary--if not in the thing itself, of regeneration--in the place and manner in which it shall be done. Why, for instance, say, that it must be done in a court-house?

      Col.--I will tell you: because there are the judges, the records, and the seal of the government.

      A. B.--I understand you. Well, tell me, how is a man born again? Tell me plainly and without a figure.

      Col.--With pleasure. You were born of your mother and of your father, when you were born in England; but you were born legitimately, according to the institutions of England. Well, then, you were born of England, as well as born in it; and were, therefore, wholly English. This was your first birth. But you have expatriated yourself, as your application here proves--I say, sentimentally you have expatriated yourself; but we must have a formal, solemn pledge of your renunciation; and we will give you a formal, solemn pledge of your adoption. You must, ex animo, in the presence of the Judges, and the Recorders, renounce all allegiance to every foreign [545] prince and potentate; and especially His Majesty, the King of Great Britain.

      A. B.--Is that the thing? I can, with all my heart, renounce all political allegiance to every foreign prince and government. Is that all? I have, then, no objection to that.

      Col.--There is this also:--You are not only to renounce all political allegiance; but you must also, ex animo, from the soul, solemnly vow, in the presence of the same Judges and Recorders, that you will adopt, and submit to, the constitution and government of these United States.

      A. B.--I can do that also. I can renounce, and I can adopt. Nor do I object to the place where it shall be done. But, pray, what solemn pledge will you give me?

      Col.--So soon as you have vowed renunciation, and adoption, in the presence of the Judges and the Recorders; we will give you a certificate, with a red seal, the seal of state, attached to it; stating that you, having now been naturalized; or born according to our institutions, are born of America; and are now a son, an adopted son, of America. And that red seal indicates that the blood, the best blood of this government, will be shed for you, to protect you and defend you; and that your life will, when called for, be cheerfully given up for your mother, of whom you have been politically born; as it would have been for your own natural political mother, of whom you were first born.

      A. B.--To this I must subscribe. In my mother tongue it all means, that I give myself up politically to this government, and it gives itself up to me, before witness too. How soon, pray, after this new birth, may I exercise and enjoy all the rights of a citizen?

      Col.--They are yours the first breath you breathe under your new mother. 'Tis true, we have not, in these United States, any symbol through which a person is politically regenerated. We only ask a solemn pledge, and give one. Other nations have symbols. But we understand that the moment the vow is taken, the person is politically born again. And as every other child has all the rights of a child which it can exercise, so soon as it inhales the air; so have all our political children all political rights, so soon as the form of naturalization is consummated. But, remember, not till then.

      A. B.--You say other nations had their symbols. What do you mean by these?

      Col.--I mean that the naturalized had to submit to some emblematic rite, by which they were symbolically detached from every other people, and introduced among those who adopted them, and whom they adopted. The Indian nations wash all, whom they adopt, in a running stream; and impose this task upon their females. The Jews [546] circumcised and washed all whom they admitted to the rights of their institutions. Other customs and forms have obtained in other nations; but we regard simply the meaning of the thing, and have no symbol.

      A. B.--In this I feel but little interested. I wish to become a citizen of these United States; especially as I am informed I can have no inheritance among you, nor a voice in the nation, nor any immunity, unless I am born again.

      Col.--You must, then, submit to the institution: and I know, that so soon as you are politically born again, you will feel more of the importance and utility of this institution, than you now can; and will be just as anxious as I am, to see others submit to this wise, wholesome, and benevolent institution.

      A. B.--As my faith brought me to your shores; and as I approve your constitution and government, I will not (now that I understand your institutions) suffer an opportunity to pass. I will direct my course to the place where I can be born again.

      I ought here to offer an apology for a phrase occurring frequently in this essay and in this dialogue. When we represent the subject of immersion as active, either in so many words, or impliedly, we so far depart from that style which comports with the figure of "being born." For all persons are passive in being born. So in immersion, the subject buries not himself, raises not himself; but is buried and raised by another. So that in the act the subject is always passive. And it is of the act alone of which we thus speak.

      From all that has been said on regeneration, and from the illustration just now adduced, the following conclusions, must, we think, be apparent to all:--

      1. Begetting and quickening necessarily precede being born.

      2. Being born imparts no new life; but is simply a change of state, and introduces into a new mode of living.

      3. Regeneration, or immersion--the former referring to the import of the act; and the latter term to the act itself--denote only the act of being born.

      4. God, or the Spirit of God, being the author of the whole institution, imparting to it its life and efficiency, is the begetter, in the fullest sense of that term. Yet, in a subordinate sense, every one, skilful in the word of God, who converts another, may be said to have begotten him whom he enlightens. So Paul says, "I have begotten Onesimus in my bonds:"--and "I have begotten you, Corinthians, through the gospel."

      5. The gospel is declared to be the seed; the power and strength of the Holy Spirit to impart life. [547]

      6. And the great argument, pertinent to our object, in this long examination of conversion and regeneration, is that which we conceive to be the most apparent of all other conclusions, viz.:--that remission of sins, or coming into a state of acceptance, being one of the present immunities of the kingdom of heaven, can not be enjoyed by any person before immersion. As soon can a person be a citizen before he is born, or have the immunities of an American citizen while an alien; as one enjoy the privileges of a son of God before he is born again. For Jesus expressly declares, that he has not given the privilege of sons to any but to those born of God. (John 1. 12.) If, then, the present forgiveness of sins be a privilege, and a right of those under the new constitution, in the kingdom of Jesus; and if being born again, or being born of water and of the Spirit, is necessary to admission; and if being born of water means immersion, as clearly proved by all witnesses; then, remission of sins can not, in this life, be received or enjoyed previous to immersion. If there be any proposition, regarding any item of the Christian institution, which admits of clearer proof, or fuller illustration than this one, I have yet to learn where it may be found.

      But before we dismiss the fifth evidence, which embraces so many items, I beg leave to make a remark or two on the propriety of considering the term "immersion," as equivalent to the term "conversion." And this I do with special reference to the objection of Christianos.

      "Conversion" is, on all sides, understood to be a turning to God. Not a thinking favorably of God, nor a repenting for former misdeeds, but an actual turning to God, in word and in deed. It is true, that no person can be said to turn to God, whose mind is not enlightened, and whose heart is not well disposed towards God. All human actions, not resulting from previous thought or determination, are rather the actions of a machine, than the actions of a rational being. "He that comes to God," or turns to him, "must believe that God exists, and that he is a rewarder of every one who diligently seeks him." Then he will seek and find the Lord. An "external conversion" is no conversion at all. A turning to God with the lips, while the heart is far from him, is mere pretense and mockery. But though I never thought any thing else, since I thought upon religion; I understand the "turning to God, taught in the New Institution, to be a coming to the Lord Jesus--not a thinking about doing it, nor a repenting that we have not done it;--but an actual coming to him. The question then is, Where shall we find him? Where shall we meet him? Nowhere on earth, but in his institutions. "Where he records his name," there only can he be found; for there only has he promised to be found. I affirm, then, that the first institution in which we can meet with [548] God, is, the institution for remission. And here it is worthy of notice, that the Apostles, in all their speeches, and replies to interrogatories, never commanded an inquirer to pray, read, or sing, as preliminary to coming; but always commanded and proclaimed immersion as the first duty, or the first thing to be done, after a belief of the testimony. Hence, neither praying, singing, reading, repenting, sorrowing, resolving, nor waiting to be better, was the converting act. Immersion alone was that act of turning to God. Hence, in the commission to convert the nations, the only institution mentioned after proclaiming the gospel, was the immersion of the believers, as the divinity authorized way of carrying out and completing the work. And from the day of Pentecost, to the final Amen in the revelation of Jesus Christ, no person was said to be converted, or to turn to God, until he was buried in, and raised up out of the water. I call upon them who dissent, to specify an instance to the contrary.

      If it were not to treat this subject as one of doubtful disputation, I would say; that, had there not been some act, such as immersion, agreed on all hands, to be the medium of remission and the act of conversion and regeneration; the Apostles could not, with any regard to truth or consistency, have addressed the disciples as pardoned, justified, sanctified, reconciled, adopted, and saved persons. If all this had depended upon some mental change, as faith; they could never have addressed their congregations in any other way than as the moderns do: and that is always in the language of doubt and uncertainty--hoping a little, and fearing much. This mode of address and the modern compared, is proof positive that they viewed the immersed through one medium, and we through another. They taught all the disciples to consider not only themselves as saved persons; but all whom they saw or knew to be immersed into the Lord Jesus. They saluted every one, on his coming out of the water, as saved, and recorded him as such. Luke writes, (Acts ii.,) "The Lord added the saved daily to the congregation."

      Whenever a child is born into a family, it is a brother or sister to all the other children of the family; and its being born of the same parents, is the act causative and declarative in its fraternity. All is mental and invisible before coming out of the water: and as immersion is the first act commanded, and the first constitutional act; so it was in the commission, the act by which the Apostles were commanded to turn, or convert those to God, who believed their testimony. In this sense, then, is the converting act. No man can, Scripturally, be said to be converted to God until he is immersed. How ecclesiastics interpret their own language is no concern of ours. We contend for the pure speech, and for the apostolic ideas attached to it.1 [549]

      To resume the direct testimonies declarative of the remission of sins by immersion, we turn to the Gentiles. Peter was sent to the house of Cornelius to tell him and his family "words by which they might be saved." He tells these words. He was interrupted by the miraculous descent of the Holy Spirit. But it is to be noticed, that the testimony to which the Holy Spirit there affixed his seal, was the following words:--"To him gave all the prophets witness, that every one, who believes on him, shall receive remission of sins by his name." While speaking these words, concerning remission of sins by, or through, his name, the Holy Spirit, in its marvelous gifts of tongues, fall upon them.

      Many, seeing so much stress laid upon faith or belief, suppose that all blessings flow from it immediately. This is a great mistake. Faith, indeed, is the principle, and the distinguishing principle, of this economy. But it is only the principle of action. Hence, we find the name, or person of Christ always interposed between faith and the cure, mental or corporeal. The woman, who touched the tuft of the mantle of Jesus, had as much faith before as after; but though her faith was the cause of her putting forth her hand, and accompanied it; she was not cured until the touch. That great type of Christ, the brazen serpent, cured no Israelite simply by faith. The Israelites, as soon as they were bitten, believed it would cure them. But yet they were not cured as soon as they were bitten; nor until they looked to the serpent. It was one thing to believe, that looking at the serpent would cure them; and another to look at it. It was the faith, remotely; but, immediately, the look, which cured them. It was not faith in the waters of Jordan that healed the leprosy of Naaman the Syrian. It was immersing himself in it, according to the commandment. It was not faith in the pool of Siloam, that cured the blind man, whose eyes Jesus anointed with clay; it was his washing his eyes in Siloam's water. Hence the imposition of hands, or a word, or a touch, or the shadow, or something from the persons of those anointed with the Holy Spirit, was the immediate cause of all the cures recorded in the New Testament. 'Tis true, also, that without it it is impossible to be healed; for in some places Jesus could not work many miracles, because of their unbelief. It is so in all the moral remedies and cures. It is impossible to receive the remission of sins without faith. In this world of means, (however it may be in the world where there are no means,) it is as impossible to receive any blessing through faith without the appointed means. Both are indispensable. Hence, the name of the Lord Jesus is interposed between faith and forgiveness, justification and sanctification, even where immersion into that name is not detailed. It would have been unprecedented in the annals of the world, for the historian always to have recorded all the [550] circumstances of the same institution, on every allusion to it; and it would have been equally so for the Apostles to have mentioned it always in the same words. Thus, in the passage before us, the name of the Lord is only mentioned. So in the first letter to the Corinthians, the disciples are represented as saved, as washed, as justified, sanctified by the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. The frequent interposition of the name of the Lord between faith and forgiveness, justification, sanctification, etc., is explained in a remark in James' speech in Jerusalem. (Acts xv. 17.) It is the application of an ancient prophecy, concerning the conversion of the Gentiles. The Gentiles are spoken of as turning to, or seeking the Lord. But who of them are thus converted? "Even all the Gentiles upon whom my name is called." It is, then, to those upon whom the name of the Lord is called, that the name of the Lord communicates remission, justification, etc.

      Some captious spirits need to be reminded, that as they sometimes find forgiveness, justification, sanctification, etc., ascribed to grace, to the blood of Christ, to the name of the Lord, without an allusion to faith; so we sometimes find faith, and grace, and the blood of Christ without an allusion to water. Now, if they have any reason, or right to say, that faith is understood in the one case; we have the same reason and right to say, that water or immersion is understood in the other. For their argument is, that in sundry places this matter is made plain enough. This is, also, our argument--in, sundry places this matter is made plain enough. This single remark cuts off all their objections drawn from the fact, that immersion is not always found in every place where the name of the Lord, or faith is found connected with forgiveness. Neither is grace, the blood of Christ, nor faith, always mentioned with forgiveness. When they find a passage where remission of sins is mentioned without immersion, it is weak, or unfair, in the extreme, to argue from that, that forgiveness can be enjoyed without immersion. IF THEIR LOGIC BE WORTH ANYTHING, IT WILL PROVE THAT A MAN MAY BE FORGIVEN WITHOUT GRACE, THE BLOOD OF JESUS, AND WITHOUT FAITH: FOR WE CAN FIND PASSAGES, MANY PASSAGES, WHERE REMISSION, OR JUSTIFICATION, SANCTIFICATION, OR SOME SIMILAR TERM OCCURS, AND NO MENTION OF EITHER GRACE, FAITH, OR THE BLOOD OF JESUS.

      As this is the pith, the marrow, and fatness of all the logic of our most ingenious opponents on this subject, I wish I could make it more emphatic, than by printing it in capitals. I know some editors, some of our Doctors of Divinity, some of our most learned declaimers, who make this argument, which we unhesitatingly call a genuine sophism, the Alpha and the Omega of their speeches against the meaning, and indispensable importance of immersion, or regeneration. [551]

      The New Testament would have been a curious book, if, every time remission of sins was mentioned, or alluded to, it had been preceded by grace, faith, the blood of Jesus, immersion, etc., etc. But now the question comes, which, to the rational, is the emphatic question--WHETHER DO THEY THINK, BELIEVE, TEACH, AND PRACTICE MORE WISELY AND MORE SAFELY; WHO THINK, BELIEVE, AND TEACH, THAT GRACE, FAITH, THE BLOOD OF JESUS, THE NAME OF THE LORD, AND IMMERSION, ARE ALL ESSENTIAL TO IMMEDIATE PARDON AND ACCEPTANCE;--OR THEY WHO SAY, THAT FAITH ONLY, GRACE ONLY, THE BLOOD OF CHRIST ONLY, THE NAME OF THE LORD ONLY--AND IMMERSION, NOT AT ALL? To all men, women, and children, of common sense, this question is submitted.

      It is, however, to me admirable, that the remission of sins should be, not merely unequivocally, but so repeatedly declared through immersion, as it is in the apostolic writings. And here I would ask the whole thinking community, one by one, whether, if the whole race of men had been assembled on Pentecost, or in Solomon's Portico, and had asked Peter the same question, which the convicted proposed, would he, or would he not, have given them the same answer? Would he not have told the whole race to reform, and be immersed for the remission of their sins? or, to reform and be converted, that their sins might be blotted out?--to arise, and be immersed, and wash away their sins? If he would not, let them give a reason; and if they say he would, let them assign a reason why they do not go, and do likewise.

      Some have objected against the "seasons of refreshment," or the comforts of the Holy Spirit being placed subsequent to "conversion,;' or "regeneration," or "immersion;" (for, when we speak Scripturally, we must use these terms as all descriptive of the same thing,) because the gifts of the Holy Spirit were poured out upon the Gentiles before immersion. They see not the design of thus welcoming the Gentiles into the Kingdom. They forget the comparison of the Gentiles to a returning prodigal, and his father going out to meet him, even while he was yet a good way off. God had welcomed the first fruits of the Jews into his Kingdom, by a stupendous display of spiritual gifts, called the baptism of the Holy Spirit, before any one of the Jews had been immersed into the Lord Jesus. And, as Peter explains this matter in Cornelius' case, it appears that God determined to make no difference between the Jews and Gentiles in receiving them into his Kingdom. Hence, says Peter, "He gave them the same gift which he gave to us Jews at the beginning," (never since Pentecost.) Thus Peter was authorized to command those Gentiles to be immersed by the authority of the Lord, no man daring to forbid it. But these gifts of the Holy Spirit differed exceedingly from the seasons of refreshment, or the righteousness, peace, and joy, in the Holy Spirit, [552] the common enjoyment of all who were immersed into the name of the Lord Jesus for the remission of sins.2

      Let it be noted here, as pertinent to our present purpose, that as the Apostle Peter was interrupted by the baptism of the Holy Spirit, when he began to speak of the forgiveness of sins by the name of the Lord Jesus; so soon as he saw the Lord had received them, he commanded them to be immersed by the authority of the Lord. And here I must propose another question to the learned, and the unlearned. How comes it to pass, that though once, and only once, it is commanded, that the nations who believe should be immersed into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; and though we read of no person being immersed into this name in this way; I say, how comes it to pass, that all sects use these words without a scruple, and baptize or sprinkle in this name; when more than once persons are commanded to be immersed for the remission of sins, and but a few of the proclaimers can be induced to immerse for the remission of sins, though so repeatedly taught and proclaimed by the Apostles? Is one command, unsupported by a single precedent, sufficient to justify this practice of Christians; and sundry commands and precedents from the same authority insufficient to authorize, or justify us in immersing for the remission of sins? Answer this who can; I can not, upon any other principle than that the tyrant Custom, who gives no account of his doings, has so decreed.

      I come now to another of the direct and positive testimonies of the Apostles, showing that immersion for the remission of sins, is an institution of Jesus Christ. It is the address of Ananias to Saul. "Arise and be immersed, and wash away your sins, calling upon the name of the Lord." On this testimony we have not as yet descanted in this essay. It has been mentioned; but not examined.

      Paul, like the Pentecostian hearers, when convinced of the truth of the pretensions of the Messiah, asked what he should do. He was commanded to go into Damascus, and it should be told him there what to do. It was told him in the words now before us. Butt some this can not be understood literally.

      For experiment, then, take it figuratively. Of what was it figurative? of something already received,--of pardon formerly bestowed! a figure of the past! This is anomalous. I read one writer, and but one, who converted this into a commemorative baptism, like Israel's commemorating the escape from Egypt, or Christians commemorating the Lord's death. And, if I do not mistake, some preacher said it was a figurative expression, similar to "This is my body!!" One, whom I pressed out of all these refuges, was candid enough to say [553] he really did not know what it meant; but it could not mean, that Paul was to "be baptized for the remission of his sins."

      "To wash away sins" is a figurative expression. Like other metaphoric expressions, it puts the resemblance in place of the proper word. It necessarily means something analogous to what is said. But we are said to be washed from our sins in, or by, the blood of Christ. But even "washed in blood" is a figurative expression, and means something analogous to washing in water. Perhaps we may find in another expression a means of reconciling these strong metaphor. Rev. vii. 14, "They have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." Here are two things equally incomprehensible--to wash garment's white in blood, and to wash away sins in water! An efficacy is ascribed to water which it does not possess; and, as certainly, an efficacy is ascribed to blood which it does not possess. If blood can whiten or cleanse garments, certainly water can wash away sins. There is, then, a transferring of the efficacy of blood to water; and a transferring of the efficacy of water to blood. This is a plain solution of the whole matter. God has transferred, in some way, the whitening efficacy, or cleansing power, of water to blood; and the absolving or pardoning power of blood to water. This is done upon the same principle as that of accounting faith for righteousness. What a gracious institution! God has opened a fountain for sin, for moral pollution. He has given it an extension far and wide as sin has spread--far and wide as water flows. Wherever water, faith, and the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are, there will be found the efficacy of the blood of Jesus. Yes; as God first gave the efficacy of water to blood, he has now given the efficacy of blood to water. This, as was said, is figurative; but it is not a figure which misleads, for the meaning is given without a figure; viz.: immersion for the remission of sins. And to him that made the washing of clay from the eyes, the washing away of blindness, it is competent to make the immersion of the body in water efficacious to the washing away of sin from the conscience.

      From the conscience I say; for there its malignity is felt; and it is only in releasing the conscience from guilt, and its consequences,--fear and shame, that we are released from the dominion of sin, or washed from its pollution in this world. This immersion, says Peter, saves us, not by cleansing the body from its filth, but the conscience from its guilt; yes, immersion saves us by burying us with Christ, raising us with him, and so our consciences are purged from dead works to serve the living God. Hence, our Lord gave so much importance to immersion in giving the commission to convert the world, "He that believes, and is immersed, shall be saved." [554]

      But, while viewing the water and the blood as made to unite their powers, as certainly as Jesus came by water and blood, we ought to consider another testimony given to this gracious combination of powers, by Paul the Apostle. Heb. x. 24, "Being sprinkled in heart from an evil conscience, and being washed in body with clean water." The application of water, the cleansing element, to the body, is made in this gracious institution to reach the conscience, as did the blood of sprinkling under the Law.

      Some ask, How can water, which penetrates not the skin, reach the conscience? They boast of such an objection, as exhibiting great intellect, and good sense. But little do they think, that in so talking, they laugh at, and mock the whole Divine Economy, under the Old and New Institutions: for, I ask, did not the sacrifices, and Jewish purgations, some way reach the conscience of that people!! If they did not it was all mere frivolity throughout. And can eating bread, and drinking wine not influence, nor affect, the soul! And can not the breath of one man pierce the heart of another, and so move his blood, as to make his head a fountain of tears! He, who thus objects to water, and the import of immersion, objects to the whole remedial institution, as taught by Moses and by Christ, and insults the wisdom and goodness of God in the whole scheme of salvation. And he, who objects to water, because it can only take away the filth of the flesh, ought rather to object to blood; because it rather besmears and pollutes, than cleanses the body, and can not touch the soul. But all such reasoners are foolish talkers. To submit to God's institution is our wisdom, and our happiness. The experience of the myriads who were immersed for the remission of their sins, detailed in the Christian Scriptures, to say nothing of those immersed in our times, is worth more than volumes of arguments from the lips and pens of those who can only regard, and venerate the traditions of their fathers; because it is presumed their fathers were wiser, and more able to judge correctly than their sons.

      But as it is not our object to quote, and expatiate upon all the sacred testimonies, direct and allusive to immersion for the remission of sins, we shall close the proof and illustration of this proposition with an incidental allusion to the cleansing efficacy of this institution, found in the 2d Epistle of Peter, i. 9. After enumerating the additions to faith necessary to securing our calling and election, of which courage is the first; and charity, or universal love, the last; the Apostle says, that "he who has not these things is blind, shutting his eyes, and forgetting that he was purified or purged from his old sins." I need not here say that this is, perhaps, (and certainly as far as I know,) universally understood to refer to Christian immersion. The "old sins," or "former sins," can, we presume, mean no other sins than [555] those washed away in immersion. No person has yet attempted to show that these words can import any thing else. It is one of the most unequivocal, and, because incidental, one of the most decisive proofs, that, in Peter's judgment, all former sins were remitted in immersion. With Peter we began our proof of this position, and with Peter we shall end our proof of it. He first proclaimed reformation for the remission of sins; and in his last and farewell letter to the Christian communities, he reminds them of that purification from sin, received in, and through immersion; and in the strongest terms cautions them against forgetting that they were so purified.

      Were any person to reason upon the simple import of the action commanded by Jesus, I think it might be made apparent from the action itself, in its two parts, the burial and the resurrection, that it must import every thing we have heard the Apostles ascribe to it. Corruption goes down into the grave literally; but does corruption come forth out of it? Is there no change of state in the grave? Who is it that expects to come forth from the grave in the same state in which he descends into it? The first born from the dead did not; nor shall any of them who fall asleep in him. How, then, can it be, that any person, buried with Christ in immersion, can rise with Christ, and not rise in a new state! ! Surely the Apostle exhorts to a new life from the change of state effected in immersion. If, indeed, you have risen with Christ, set your affections above. Walk in a new life.

      Again, and in the last place here, is a child in the same state after, as before its birth? Is not its state changed? And does it not live a new life, compared with its former mode of living? As new born babes desire the milk of the breast, so let the newly regenerate desire the unadulterated milk of the Word, that they may grow thereby. Call immersion, then, a new birth, a regeneration, a burial and resurrection, and its meaning is the same. And when so denominated, it must import that change of state which is imported in putting on Christ, in being pardoned, justified, sanctified, adopted, reconciled, saved, which was the great proposition to be proved and illustrated, and which, we think, has been proved and illustrated by the preceding testimonies and reflections.

      Though no article of Christian faith, nor item of Christian practice, can legitimately rest upon any testimony, reasoning, or authority, out of the sacred writings of the Apostles, were it only one day after their decease; yet the views and practices of those who were the contemporaries, or the pupils, of the Apostles and their immediate successors, may be adduced as corroborating evidence of the truths taught, and the practices enjoined, by the Apostles; and, as such, may be cited; still bearing in mind, that where the testimony of the Apostles ends, [556] Christian faith necessarily terminates. After this preliminary remark, I proceed to sustain the following proposition:--


      All the Apostolical Fathers, as they are called; all the pupils of the Apostles; and all the ecclesiastical writers of note, of the first four Christian centuries, whose writings have come down to us; allude to, and speak of Christian immersion, as the "regeneration" and "remission of sins" spoken of in the New Testament.

      This proposition I shall sustain by the testimony of those who have examined all Christian antiquity, and by citing the words of those usually called the Apostolic Fathers, and other distinguished writers of the first four hundred years. Whether the writing, attributed to Barnabas, be genuine or spurious, it is on all hands admitted to be a fragment of the highest antiquity:--


In his Catholic Epistle, chapter xi., says, "Let us now inquire whether the Lord took care to manifest any thing beforehand, concerning water and the cross: Now, for the former of these, it is written to the people of Israel, how they shall not receive that baptism which brings to forgiveness of sins: but shall institute another to themselves that can not. For thus saith the Prophet, "Be astonished, O Heaven! and let the Earth tremble at it; because this people have done two great and wicked things: They have left me, the fountain of living waters, and have digged for themselves broken cisterns that can hold no water. Is my holy mountain, Zion, a desolate wilderness? For she shall be as a young bird when its nest is taken away." "Consider how he hath joined both the cross and the water together. For this he saith, "Blessed are they, who, putting their trust in the cross, descend into the water; for they shall have their reward in due time: then, saith he, will I give it them." But as concerning the present time, he saith, "Their leaves shall not fail." Meaning thereby, that every word that shall go out of your month, shall, through faith and charity, be to the conversion and hope of many. In like manner does another Prophet speak: "And the land of Jacob was the praise of all the earth;" magnifying thereby the vessels of his Spirit. And what follows? "And there was a river running on the right hand, and beautiful trees grew up by it: and he that shall eat of them shall live for ever." The signification of which is this:--that we go down into the water, full of sins and pollutions; but come up again bringing forth fruit; having in our hearts the fear and hope which are in Jesus by the Spirit: "And whosoever shall eat of them shall live forever." That is, whosoever shall hearken to those that call them, and shall believe, shall live for ever." [557]


      The former gives no testimony on the subject. The latter deposes as follows. [Book of Similitudes, chapter xvi.]--

      In speaking of a tower, built upon the water, by which he signified the building of Christ's church, he thus speaks:--"Hear, therefore, why the tower is built on the waters:--Because your life is saved, and shall be saved by water." In answer to the question, "Why did the stones come up into this tower out of the deep?" he says, "It was necessary for them to come up by (or through) water, that they might be at rest; for they could not otherwise enter into the kingdom of God: for before any one receives the name of the Son of God, he is liable to death; but when he receives that seal, he is delivered from death, and assigned to life. Now that seal is water, into which persons go down, liable to death; but come out of it, assigned to life: for which reason to these also was this seal preached: and they made use of it, that they might enter into the kingdom of God."

      Both Clement and Hermas wrote about the end of the first, or beginning of the second century.

      Hermas, moreover, deposes as follows, in another work of his, called "The Commands of Hermas." [Com. 4, chap. iii.]--

      "And I said to him, I have even now heard from certain teachers, that there is no other repentance besides that of baptism; when we go down into the water, and receive the forgiveness of sins; and after that we should sin no more, but live in purity. And he said to me, Thou hast been rightly informed."

      Having closely and repeatedly examined the Epistles of Clement; of Polycarp, to the Philippians; of Ignatius, to the Ephesians; that to the Magnesians; that to the Trallians, the Romans, the Philadelphians, the Smyrnians, and his Epistle to Polycarp; together with the Catholic Epistle of Barnabas, and the genuine works of Hermas, I can affirm that the preceding extracts are the only passages, in all these writings, that speak of immersion. This closes the evidence from the Apostolic fathers. Much more might be brought forward, but these voices are sufficiently clear and distinct. Let him who hath eyes see, and who hath ears hear these testimonies as to what was the custom and teaching during the times of the Apostolic Fathers.

      Having heard the Apostolic Fathers, as they are called, depose to the views of the pupils of the Apostles, down to A. D. 140; I will summon a very learned Paidobaptist antiquarian, who can bring forward every writer and Father, down to the fifth century; and before we hear any of his witnesses, we shall interrogate him concerning his own convictions after he had spent several years in rummaging all Christian antiquity:-- [558]


      Pray, Doctor, have you examined all the primitive writers, from the death of John down to the fifth century?

      W. Wall.--I have.

      And will you explicitly avow what was the established and universal view of all Christians, public and private, for four hundred years from the nativity of the Messiah, on the import of the saying, (John iii. 5,) "Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he can not enter into the kingdom of God?"

      W. Wall.--"There is not any one Christian writer, of any antiquity, in any language, but who understand it of baptism; and if it be not so understood, it is difficult to give an account how a person is born of water, any more than born of wood."--4th London edition, page 116, vol. 1, A. D. 1819.

      Did all the Christians, public and private, and all the Christian writers from Barnabas to the times of Pelagius, (410,) as far as you know, continue to use the term regenerate as only applicable to immersion?

      W. Wall.--"The Christians did, in all ancient times, continue the use of this name, 'regeneration,' for baptism; so that they never use the word 'regenerate,' or 'born again,' but they mean, or denote by it, baptism. And almost all the quotations which I shall bring in this book, shall be instances of it."--Vol. 1, p. 24.

      Did they not also substitute for "baptism" and "baptize," the words renewed, sanctified, sealed, enlightened, initiated, as well as regenerated?

      W. Wall.--"For to baptize, they used the following words:--Most commonly, anagennan, to regenerate; sometimes, kainopoien, or anakainizo, to renew; frequently, agiazein, to sanctify. Sometimes they call it the seal; and frequently, illumination, as it is also called, Heb, vi. 4, and sometimes, teliosis, initiation."--Vol. 1, p. 8. "St. Austin, not less than a hundred times, expressed baptized by the word sanctified."--P. 194.

      We shall now hear some of W. Wall's witnesses; and I choose rather to introduce them from his own pen, as he can not be supposed partial to the views I have presented in this essay:--


      Justin Martyr wrote about forty years after John the Apostle died, and stands most conspicuous among the primitive Fathers. He addressed an apology to the Emperor Antoninus Pius. In this apology he narrates the practices of the Christians, and the reasons of them. [559] Concerning those who are persuaded and believe the things which are taught, and who promise to live according to them, he writes:--

      "Then we bring them to some place where there is water, and they are regenerated by the same way of regeneration by which we were regenerated; for they are washed in water (en tu udati) in the name of God the Father and Lord of all things, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit: for Christ says, Unless you be regenerated you can not enter into the kingdom of heaven; and everybody knows it is impossible for those who are once generated (or born) to enter again into their mother's womb.

      "It was foretold by Isaiah, as I said, by what means they who should repent of their sins might escape them; and was written in these words, 'Wash you, make you clean, put away the evil,' etc.

      "And we have been taught by the Apostles this reason for this thing. Because we being ignorant of our first birth, were generated by necessity (or course of nature) and have been brought up in ill customs and conversation; that we should not continue children of that necessity and ignorance, but of will (or choice) and knowledge, and should obtain forgiveness of the sins in which we have lived, by water (or in the water.) Then is invoked over him that has a mind to be regenerated, the name of God, the Father, etc. And this washing is called the enlightening."

      As you trace the history of infant baptism, Mr. Wall, as nigh the apostolic times as possible, pray why do you quote Justin Martyr, who never mentions it?

      W. Wall.--"Because his is the most ancient account of the way of baptizing, next the Scripture; and shows the plain and simple manner of administering it. Because it shows that the Christians of those times (many of whom in the days of the apostles) used the word 'regeneration' (or 'being born again') for baptism; and that they were taught to do so by the Apostles. And because we see by it that they understood John iii. 5, of water baptism; and so did all the writers of these 400 years, NOT ONE MAN EXCEPTED."--P. 54.

      Did any of the ancients use the word matheteuin (to disciple) as it is used in the commission; or did they call the baptized discipled?

      W. Wall.--"Justin Martyr, in his second apology to Antoninus, uses it. His words are:--Several persons among us, of 60 and 70 years old, of both sexes, who were discipled (matheteuin) to Christ, in or the writers of these 400 years, NOT ONE MAN EXCEPTED."--P. 54.

      So soon as they began to mysticise they began to teach that immersion without faith would obtain remission of sins, and that immersion without faith was regeneration. Then came the debates about original sin; and so soon as original sin was proved, then came the necessity of infant immersion for the remission of original sin. And [560] so undisputed was the import of baptism for remission, that when the Pelagians denied original sin, pressed with the difficulty, "Why immerse those who have no sins?" they were pushed to invent actual sins for infants; such as their crying, peevishness, restlessness, etc., on account of which sins they supposed that infants might, with propriety, be immersed, though they had no original sin.


      Tertullian, the first who mentions infant baptism, flourished about A. D. 216. He writes against the practice: and among his most conclusive arguments against infant immersion, (for then theme was no sprinkling,) he assumes, as a fundamental principle not to be questioned, that immersion was for the remission of sins; and this being universally conceded, he argues as follows:

      "Our Lord says, indeed, 'Do not forbid them to come to me;' therefore let them come when they are grown up--let them come when they understand--when they are instructed whither it is that they come. Let them be made Christians when they can know Christ. What need their guiltless age make such haste to the forgiveness of sins? Men will proceed more warily in worldly goods; and he that should not have earthly goods committed to him, yet shall have heavenly! Let them know how to desire this salvation, that you may appear to have given to one that asketh."--P. 74.


      Origen, though so great a visionary, is, nevertheless, a competent witness in any question of fact. And here I would again remind the reader, that it is as witnesses in a question of fact, and not of opinion, we summon these ancients. It is not to tell their own opinions, nor the reasons of them; but to depose what were the views of Christians on this institution in their times. There was no controversy on this subject for more than four hundred years, and therefore we expect only to find incidental allusions to it; but these are numerous, and of the most unquestionable character. Origen, in his homily upon Luke, says:

      "Infants are baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. Of what sins? Or when have they sinned? Or how can any reason of the law, in their case, hold good, but according to that sense that we mentioned even now? (that is) none is free from pollution, though his life be but the length of one day upon the earth."

      And in another place he says, that

      "The baptism of the church is given for the forgiveness of sins."

      And again:

      "If there were nothing in infants that wanted forgiveness and mercy, the grace of baptism would be needless to them." [561]

      In another place he says:

      "But in the regeneration, (or new birth,) by the laver, (or baptism,) every one that is born again of water and the Spirit, is clear from pollution: clear (as I may venture to say) as by a glass darkly."--P. 82.

      But now let me ask Dr. Wall--Do Gregory, Nazianzen, Basil, Ambrose, Chrysostom, and St. Austin, concur with all their predecessors in those views of regeneration and remission?

      W. Wall.--Yes, exactly. I have observed, among the several names which the ancients give to baptism, they often, by this phrase, 'the forgiveness of sins,' do mean the sacrament of baptism."--P. 179. "And as for Chrysostom, he expressly says: "In baptism, or the spiritual circumcision, there is no trouble to be undergone but to throw off the load of sins, and receive pardon for all foregoing offenses."--P. 182. And again: "There is no receiving or having the bequeathed inheritance before one is baptized; and none can be called a son till he is baptized."--P. 183.

      The controversy about infant baptism and original sin were contemporaneous, and just as soon as they decided the nature and extent of original sin, baptism for the remission of sins was given to infants because of this pollution, and defended because of the necessity of regeneration and forgiveness to salvation; and because immersion was universally admitted to be the Scriptural regeneration and remission. In this way, there is no reasonable doubt, but infant baptism began; and for convenience' sake, as Dr. Wall contends, it was substituted by infant sprinkling.

      Unless we were to transcribe all the testimonies of antiquity, one by one, no greater assurance can be given, that, for more than four hundred years after Christ, all writers, orthodox and heterodox, Pelagius and Austin not excepted, concurred in the preceding views. Were I to summon others--Eusebius, Dupin, Lightfoot and Hammond, cum multis aliis--will depose the same.

      This proposition we will dismiss with the testimony of the most renowned of the Bishops of Africa. I extract it from a work now generally read, called the "History of the Martyrs." It is from the account Cyprian gives of his conversion.--P. 317.


      "While (says he) I laid in darkness and uncertainty, I thought on what I had heard of a second birth, proposed by the divine goodness; but could not comprehend how a man could receive a new life from his being immersed in water; cease to be what he was before, and still remain the same body. How, said I, can such a change be possible? How can he, who is grown old in a worldly way of living, [562] strip himself of his former inclinations, and inveterate habits? Can he, who has spent his whole time in plenty, and indulged his appetite without restraint, ever be transformed into an example of frugality or sobriety? Or he who has always appeared in splendid apparel, stoop to the plain, simple, and unornamental dress of the common people? It is impossible for a man, who has borne the most honorable posts, ever to submit to lead a private and an obscure life: or that be who was never seen in public without a crowd of attendants, and persons who endeavored to make their fortunes by attending him, should ever bear to be alone. This (continues he) was my way of arguing; I thought it was impossible for me to leave my former course of life, and the habits I was then engaged in, and accustomed to: but no sooner did the life-giving water wash the spots off my soul, than my heart received the heavenly light of the Holy Spirit, which transformed me into a new creature; all my difficulties were cleared, my doubts dissolved, and my darkness dispelled. I was then able to do what before seemed impossible; could discern that my former life was earthly and sinful, according to the impurity of my birth; but that my spiritual birth gave me new ideas and inclinations, and directed all my views to God."

      Cyprian flourished A. D. 250.


      But even the reformed creeds, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist, substantially avow the same views of immersion, though apparently afraid to carry them out in faith and practice.

      This proposition will be sustained by an extract from the creed of each of these sects.


      The clergy are ordered, before proceeding to baptize, to make the following prayer.--Common Prayer, p. 165.

      "Almighty and everlasting God, who, of thy great mercy, didst save Noah and his family in the Ark from perishing by water; and also didst safely lead the children of Israel thy people through the Red Sea; figuring thereby thy holy Baptism; and by the Baptism of thy well-beloved Son Jesus Christ in the river Jordan, didst sanctify the element of water, to the mystical washing away of sin; we beseech thee, for thine infinite mercies, that thou wilt mercifully look upon these thy servants; wash them and sanctify them with the Holy Ghost; that they, being delivered from thy wrath, may be received into the Ark of Christ's Church; and being steadfast in faith, joyful through hope, and rooted in charity, may so pass the waves of this troublesome world, that finally they may come to the land of everlasting life; there to reign with thee, world without end, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen." [563]

      After reading a part of the discourse with Nicodemus, they are ordered to make the following exhortation.--P. 165:

      "Beloved, ye hear in this gospel the express words of our Saviour Christ, that except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he can not enter into the kingdom of God. Whereby ye may perceive the great necessity of the sacrament, where it may be had. Likewise, immediately after his ascension into heaven, (as we read in the last chapter of St. Mark's Gospel,) he gave command to his disciples, saying, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned. Which also showeth unto us the great benefit we reap thereby. For which cause St. Peter the Apostle, when upon his first preaching of the gospel many were pricked at the heart, and said to him and the rest of the Apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? replied, and said unto them, Repent and be baptized, every one of you, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost: for the promise is to you and your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words exhorted he them, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. For, as the same Apostle testifieth in another place, even baptism doth also now save us, (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Doubt ye not, therefore, but earnestly believe that he will favorably receive these present persons, truly repenting, and coming unto him by faith; that he will grant them remission of their sins, and bestow upon them the Holy Ghost; that he will give them the blessing of eternal life, and make them partakers of his everlasting kingdom."

      This, I need not add, is in accordance with the sentiments advanced in this essay. What a pity that the Episcopal Church does not believe and practice her own creed!


      The Presbyterian Confession, on Baptism, chap. xxviii., sect. 1., declares that--

      "Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized in the visible church, but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his engrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life: which sacrament is, by Christ's own appointment, to be continued in his church until the end of the world."

      "A sign and seal of remission of sins!!" This is much nigher the truth than this church seems to be apprized of. However, she [564] can not believe her own creed; for she does not believe that baptism is a sign and a seal of remission of sins, nor of regeneration, in her own sense of it, to her baptized or sprinkled infants. But in paying any regard to the Scriptures, she could not say less than she has said. It is no wonder that many sectarians can not be persuaded to think that the Scriptures mean what they say; for they are so much accustomed to say what they do not mean, that they can not think God does mean what he says.


      The Methodist Creed says:

      "Dearly beloved, forasmuch as all men are conceived and born in sin, (and that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and they that are in the flesh can not please God, but live in sin, committing many actual transgressions;) and that our Saviour Christ saith, None shall enter into the kingdom of Gad, except he be regenerate and born anew of water and of the Holy Ghost; I beseech you to call upon God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that of his bounteous goodness he will grant to these persons, that which by nature they can not have; that they may be baptized with water and the Holy Ghost, and received into Christ's holy church, and be made lively members of the same."

      Then it is ordained that the minister repeat the following prayer:--

      "Almighty and immortal God, the aid of all that need, the helper of all that flee to thee for succor, the life of them that believe, and the resurrection of the dead: We call upon thee for these persons, that they, coming to thy holy baptism, may receive remission of their sins, by spiritual regeneration. Receive them, O Lord, as thou hast promised by thy well-beloved Son, saying, Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you: so give unto us that ask; let us that seek, find; open the gate unto us that knock; that these persons may enjoy the everlasting benediction of the heavenly washing, and may come to the eternal kingdom which thou hast promised by Christ our Lord. Amen."--Dis., p. 105.

      Thus the Methodist Creed and Church are nearly as Scriptural as the church from which they sprang. She prays for those to be baptized, that in baptism they may receive remission of sins! Does she believe what she says?


      Chapter xxx., Section 1:--

      "Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized a sign of his fellowship with him in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life." [565]

      The Baptist follows the Presbyterian Church as servilely as the Methodist Church follows the English hierarchy. But she avows her faith that immersion is a sign of remission. A sign of the past, the present, or the future! A sign accompanying!

      Calvin and Wesley are with us here. Calvin makes remission the principal thing in baptism.--Inst. l. 4, c. xv., p. 327.

      "Baptism," says he, "resembles a legal instrument properly attested, by which he assures us that all our sins are cancelled, effaced, and obliterated, so that they will never appear in his sight, or come into his remembrance, or be imputed to us. For he commands all who believe to be baptized for the remission of their sins. Therefore, those who have imagined that baptism is nothing more than a mark or sign by which we profess our religion before men, as soldiers wear the insignia of their sovereign as a mark of their profession, have not considered that which was the principal thing in baptism; which is, that we ought to receive it with this promise--'He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved.'"

      John Wesley, in his comment on the New Testament, (p. 350,) speaks plainer than either the Methodist Discipline or the Regular Baptist Confession. His words are:--"Baptism administered to real penitents, is both a means and a seal of pardon. Nor did God ordinarily, in the primitive church, bestow this (pardon) on any, unless through this means." This is almost, if not altogether, as much as we have said on the forgiveness of sins through immersion.

      May we not say, that we have sustained this last proposition to the full extent of the terms thereof?

      With the testimony of John Wesley, the last of the reformers, I close my list of human vouchers for the import of Christian immersion. This list I could swell greatly; for, indeed, I have been quite disappointed in looking back into creeds, councils, commentators, and reformers, ancient and modern. I begin to fear, that I should be suspected to have come to the conclusions, which I have exhibited from consulting human writings, creeds, and reformers. My fears are not that we, who plead for reformation, may appear to have nothing original to offer in this reformation; that we are mere gleaners in the fields which other minds have cultivated. It is not on this account our fears are excited: for the reformation we plead is not characterized by new and original ideas, or human inventions; but by a return to the original ideas and institutions developed in the New Institution. Nor do we profess to have any originality of mind, strength of reason, or compass of imagination worthy of admiration, worthy of a temple, or a memorial of any sort whatever. But we fear lest any should suspect the views offered to be a human invention or tradition; because we have found so much countenance for them in the works of the most [566] ancient and renowned Christian writers, and the creeds of ancient and modern reformers. We can assure our readers, that we have been led to these conclusions from the simple perusal, unprejudiced and impartial examination of the New Testament alone. And, we may add, that we are as much astonished, as any reader of this essay can be, to find such a cloud of witnesses to the truth, and importance of the views offered.

      Though we had, many years ago, read most of these documents, we read them as many of our readers read the Bible; without attending to what is read, or feeling the import of it. We can sympathize with those who have this doctrine in their own creeds unregarded, and unheeded in its import and utility; for we exhibited it fully in our debate with Mr. M'Calla, 1823, without feeling its great importance, and without beginning to practice upon its tendencies for some time afterwards. But since it has been fully preached and practiced upon, it has proved itself to be all divine.

      We now press it upon all persons to believe the gospel, and to be immersed for the remission of their sins; that seasons of refreshment from the Lord, may come to them. Every one who has so much faith in the mission and character of Jesus Christ, and so much attachment to his person as to submit to his absolute government, we invite, command, entreat, to receive the bounty, and enlist during the war; to put on his regimentals, to stand in the ranks, and to fight the good fight of faith. We discover, in practice, that this change of state, this seal of remission, changes the affections still more and more, and reforms the lives of all who honestly submit to it. It produces more peace, love, joy, righteousness, and more holiness of heart and life, than we ever witnessed to result from the Calvinian, Arminian, or mixed gospels of the day. We love the ancient gospel for its fruits, its holiness of heart, and righteousness of life. None, but those who have frequently witnessed it, can form any adequate idea of the impulse which is given to the mind by a believing reception of this washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit. Like a strong impulse given to a ball which puts it in motion, immersion for the forgiveness of sins, carries the mind forward, far beyond all the experiences formerly demanded as preparatory to immersion. A change of state so great, so sensible, so complete, so sudden, operates more like the ancient cures, than the cold, dark, and tedious mental regenerations of the philosophizing theologues. He, that passes from Virginia into Pennsylvania, passes over a mere imaginary geographical line, without scarcely perceiving the transition; but he that passes from Virginia into the State of Ohio by swimming the river, the natural and sensible boundary, immediately realizes the change. Still greater, and more sensible is the change from the state of condemnation to the state of favor. [567]

      But to return to the argument. The propositions now proved, and illustrated, must convince all, that there is some connection between immersion, and the forgiveness of sins. What that connection is, may be disputed by some; but that such a connection exists, none can dispute, who acknowledge the New Testament to contain a divine communication to man. With John Wesley we say, it is "to the believing the means and seal of pardon for all previous offenses;" and we not only say we think so, but we preach it as such, and practice it as such. Those who think of any other connection, would do well to attempt to form clear ideas of what they mean: for we are assured there is no meaning in any other connection. To make it a commemorative sign of past remission is an outrage upon all rules of interpretation, and a perfect anomaly in all the revelation of God. To make it, prospectively, the sign of a future remission, is liable to the same exceptions. Nothing remains, but that it be considered, what it is in truth, the accompanying sign of an accompanying remission; the sign and the seal, or the means and the seal of remission then granted through the water, connected with the blood of Jesus by the divine appointment, and through our faith in it.

      We have heard some objections, and we can conceive of new objections which may be presented to immersion for the remission of sins. Some of them are anticipated and attended to in the preceding remarks. We could wish that we had them all drawn up numerically, that we might examine and refute them. There can be objections made to any person, doctrine, sentiment, or practice, natural, moral, political, or religious, which ever existed. But notwithstanding all the objections made to every thing, there are thousands of matters and things we hold to be facts and truths indubitable. Amongst those certain and sure things, not to be shaken, is this Christian institution.

      We will state and examine some objections partially noticed already: but, because they are the most common, or may become common, we will bestow upon them a formal statement, and a formal refutation.

      Objection 1.--"To make the attainment, and the enjoyment of present salvation, pardon, justification, sanctification, reconciliation, adoption, dependent upon the contingency of water being present, or accessible, is beneath the dignity and character of a salvation from God."

      And to make the attainment, and the enjoyment of present salvation, pardon, etc., dependent upon the contingency of faith being present or accessible--upon the blood of Jesus Christ being heard of, or known, is equally objectionable:--for what is faith but the belief of testimony? Or what is it in the most popular sense but something wrought in the heart, a compound of knowledge and feeling, of assent and consent? And what was the blood of Jesus shed upon Mt. Calvary but matter, and a few pounds of matter, viewed by itself abstractly [568] as some view water; I say, what was it but matter? And are not both blood and faith less accessible to mankind than the element of water? How much more water than faith, or candidates for immersion? And is there not as much power, wisdom, and goodness of God in creating water, as in creating air, words, letters, faith, etc.? Is not water more universal than language, words, books, preachers, faith, etc.? This objection lies as much against any one means of salvation as another; nay, against all means of salvation. Whenever a case shall occur of much faith and little water; or of a little faith and no water, we will repel it by other arguments than these.

      Objection 2.--"It makes void the value, excellency, and importance of both faith and grace." By no means. If a man say, with Paul, we are justified by faith; does it follow that grace is made void? Or, if one say we are justified by grace; does it make the blood of Christ of none effect? Or, if, with Paul, a man say we are justified by his blood; does it make faith, repentance, and grace of no effect? Nay, indeed, this gives to faith its proper place, and its due value. It makes it the principle of action. It brings us to the water, to Christ, and to heaven. But it is as a principle of action only. It was not Abel's faith in his head, or heart; but Abel's faith at the altar, which obtained such reputation. It was not Enoch's faith in principle, but Enoch's faith in his walk with God, which translated him to heaven. It was not Noah's faith in God's promise and threatening, but his faith exhibited in building an ark, which saved himself and family from the Deluge, and made him an heir of a new world, an heir of righteousness. It was not Abraham's faith in God's call, but his going out in obedience to that call, that first distinguished him as a pilgrim, and began his reputation. It was not faith in God's promise that Jericho should fall, but that faith carried out in the blowing of rams' horns, which laid its walls in ruins, etc. It is not our faith in God's promise of remission, but our going down into the water, that obtains the remission of sins. But any one may see why faith has so much praise, and is of so much value. Because, without it, Abel would not have offered more sacrifices than Cain; Enoch would not have walked with God; Noah would not have built an ark; Abraham would not have left Ur of the Chaldees, nor offered up his son upon the altar. Without it, Israel would not have passed through the wilderness, nor crossed the Jordan; and without it, none receive the remission of their sins in immersion. And, again, we would remind the reader, that when he talks of being saved by faith, he should bear in mind, that grace is not lost sight of, nor blood, nor water, nor reformation, discarded.

      We enter the kingdom of nature by being born of the flesh. We enter the kingdom of heaven, or come under the reign of Jesus Christ, [569] in this life, by being born of water, and the Spirit. We enter the kingdom of eternal glory by being born again from the earth, and neither by faith, nor the first regeneration. Neither by faith, nor baptism; but by being counted worthy of the resurrection of the just. "I was hungry, and you fed me." Not because you believed, or were born of water; but, because "I was hungry, and you fed me," etc.

      There are three births, three kingdoms, and three salvations. One from the womb of our first mother, one from the water, and one from the grave. We enter a new world on, and not, before, each birth. The present animal life, after the first birth; the spiritual, or the life of God in our souls, after the second birth, and the life eternal in the presence of God, after the third birth. And he, who dreams of entering the second kingdom, or coming under the dominion of Jesus, without the second birth--may, to complete his error, dream of entering the kingdom of glory without a resurrection from the dead.

      Grace precedes all these births--shines in all the kingdoms, but will be glorified in the third. Sense is the principle of action in the first kingdom; faith, in the second; and sight spiritual, in the third. The first salvation is that of the body from the dangers and ills of life, and God is thus "the Saviour of all men." The second salvation is that of the soul from sin. The third is that of both soul and body united, delivered from moral and natural corruption, and introduced into the presence of God, when God shall be all in all.

      Objection 3.--"It is so uncharitable to the Paidobaptists!" And how uncharitable are the Paidobaptists to Jews, Turks, and Pagans!! Will they promise present salvation from the guilt, pollution, and the dominion of sin, with the well-grounded hope of heaven, to Jews, Turks, Pagans, or even Roman Catholics? Or will the Roman Catholics to them!! How uncharitable are they who cry "uncharitable" to us! Infants, idiots, deaf, and dumb persons, innocent Pagans wherever they can be found, with all the pious Paidobaptists, we commend to the mercy of God. But such of them as wilfully neglect this salvation, and who, having the opportunity to be immersed for the remission of their sins, wilfully neglect or refuse, we have as little hope for them as they have for all who refuse salvation on their own terms of the gospel. While they inveigh against us for laying a Scriptural and rational stress upon immersion, do we not see that they lay as great, though an unscriptural and irrational, stress upon their baptism or sprinkling; so much so, as to give it without faith, even to infants, so soon as they are born of the flesh?

      Objection 4.--"But do not many of them enjoy the present salvation of God?" How far they may be happy in the peace of God, and the hope of heaven, I presume not to say. And we know so much of human [570] nature as to say, that he, that imagines himself pardoned, will feel happy as he that is really so. But one thing we do know, that none can rationally, and with certainty, enjoy the peace of God, and the hope of heaven, but they who intelligently, and in full faith are born of water, or immersed for the remission of their sins. And as the testimony of God, and not conceit, imagination, nor our reasoning upon what passes in our minds, is the ground of our certainty, we see and feel, that we have an assurance which they can not have. And we have this advantage over them, we once stood upon their ground, had their hopes, felt their assurance; but they have not stood upon our ground, nor felt our assurance. Moreover, the experience of the first converts shows the difference between their immersion, and the immersions, or sprinklings, of modern gospels.

      Objection 5.--"This has been so long concealed from the people, and so lately brought to our view, that we can not acquiesce in it."

      This objection would have made unavailing every attempt at reformation, or illumination of the mind, or change in the condition and enjoyments of society, ever attempted. Besides, do not the experience of all the religious--the observation of the intelligent--the practical result of all creeds, reformations, and improvements--and the expectations, and longings of society, warrant the conclusion that either some new relation, or some new development of the revelation of God, must be made, before the hopes and expectations of all true Christians can be realized, or Christianity save and reform the nations of this world? We want the old gospel back, and sustained by the ancient order of things: and this alone, by the blessing of the Divine Spirit, is all that we do want, or can expect, to reform and save the world. And if this gospel, as proclaimed and enforced on Pentecost, can not do this, vain are the hopes, and disappointed must be the expectations of the so-called Christian world.

[A. C.]      

      1 I must request Bro. Keeling to publish this, my reply, to Christianos, beginning on page 16, third paragraph, and ending here. [549]
      2 See Christian Baptist, volume VI., p. 263. [553]

      Alexander Campbell. "Remission of Sins" (Continued). The Millennial Harbinger Extra 1 (July 1830): 27-54.


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Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)