"Let the prophets speak, two or three, and let the rest judge," contains a principle of great value for us all. Judgment must be exercised as to whatever is put forth for truth; and for this the means of judgment must be in our hands. Scripture, of course, is the one only standard of appeal, the measure of all truth such as we have now before us; but we cannot afford to be independent of one another's help in searching it, and especially to enable us to get rid of those merely personal influences which operate so powerfully often against the truth, even when they are engaged upon the side of truth. Error that we have received upon the authority of those who have rightful claim to our affection and respect finds thus, as we all know, its strongest support; but truth also needs often to be shaken free of just such human support, that it may stand in its own divine power. For this God would use the differences that arise among us, and which in themselves are evidence of insubjection to His word and Spirit, to teach us more subjection.
Controversy is only to be dreaded just so far as the personal element in the same sense enters into it, and perverts in the interests of a party quarrel the witnesses in the cause of God and truth.
Controversy is only to be dreaded just so far as the personal element in the same sense enters into it, and perverts in the interests of a party quarrel the witnesses in the cause of God and truth.
Seeking, then, to avoid all mere personalities, and to bring everything to the test of the word of God alone, I shall take up briefly the arguments which have been brought forward against a former tract of mine on the doctrine of baptism, not unwilling to be given opportunity to explain further some things which may be left obscure in the former one, and to show more fully what I conceive to be the error of the views advocated on the other side. For my own, I trust I may be permitted to refer to what I have already written, and thus to avoid what for those who have read this would be mere tedious repetition. We must still consider, in the first place, however, what is alleged as to THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN before we shall be prepared to take up the questions as to baptism and the relation to it of the households of believers. Here, in fact, is the main difficulty, as I believe, in regard to the reception of this, that the confusion which exists between the church and the kingdom, and the general ignorance as to the latter, obscure what would otherwise be simple. "Of such is the kingdom of heaven" would be a text at least very easily made plain were it seen that the kingdom is the sphere of discipleship, and that baptism is "discipling." it is not the fact that this discussion is irrelevant therefore, least of all where not household baptism only, but baptism as a whole is the subject of inquiry. On the contrary, it may be affirmed that the only hope of contention for our brethren lies just here. These points must therefore be looked at in the first place, if we would be clear.
But I shall be told," says one of our brethren (J.J.), "that I do not 'see' the kingdom. I quite grant that to 'see' it, one must be born again ; nay, I maintain that is the only way to see it, or to enter into it. And I further maintain, on the authority of Scripture, that baptism is no more introduction into the kingdom than the Lord's Supper is introduction into the Church. Introduction into the kingdom is by new birth; into the Church by the sealing of the Holy Spirit."
The last sentence is the strangest, perhaps, here, where much is strange. Had our brother been asked, in time past, " How are we introduced into the Church ?" I think there is little doubt he would have replied, in the very words of Scripture, that "by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body."( i Cor. xii 3.) Somehow this seems now to have slipped out of his mind: he speaks now as if we were "sealed" into it I suppose he would admit the incongruity in the term, at least ; but how could he forget that the Scripture mode of expressing introduction into the body of Christ is by this term "baptism"? Is it not plain, at least, that here Scripture uses "baptism'' as implying introduction into that which is of Christ?- and that if the kingdom were a circle of profession larger than and external to the body of Christ, then one could easily understand the analogy between the outward material and the spiritual baptism? How else can we, in fact, understand it? Perhaps our brother would be ready to agree to this: that baptism is the introduction into the profession of Christianity? But this is, in fact, the kingdom, the sphere of discipleship, where Christ is Master and Lord.
But he answers " No! introduction here is by new birth: to see this, or to enter into it, one must be born again."
By "seeing'' it, he evidently understands such spiritual insight as could only come from spiritual life; but this is not what the passage means. The undoubted reference to Ezek. xxxvi. shows that it is not to a spiritual kingdom, invisible except to faith, that the Lord points, but to a kingdom which, when established, every eye will see. A Jewish teacher certainly could not be expected to know of any other. Nor does the Lord at all say that men are born again into it; but that they must be born again to have title to enter in,- a very different thing. Israel, in fact, must be converted, in order to escape the judgments which introduce the kingdom. (See, for example, Isa. iv. 2-4.) thus there is NO Scripture for new birth being introduction to the kingdom, but the two things are quite distinct ; nor is the kingdom one only to be seen by faith, but the opposite. Our brother evidently confounds the two things, stating sometimes that introduction is by new birth, sometimes that only the latter is necessary as a condition for the former, as if these things were the same. Matt. xviii, 3, speaks quite similarly, not of conversion as entering the kingdom, but "except ye be converted, ye shall not enter it". Here, however, it will be contended, all is admitted that is necessary to the argument new birth is necessary to enter the kingdom; and if this be true when the kingdom is set up in power, it is a "strong reason in itself, one would have thought, for its present application. . . . The Lord Himself, however, in the immediate context, makes it of the most important present application for our conduct in the kingdom now; and it is only by applying the passage to the present that the prevailing confusion is removed, and the whole subject of the Kingdom of Heaven becomes simple." Now no one, surely, doubts that there is to be a present application of such truths. The question is, how are they to be applied? If the long-suffering goodness of God ordain a door to be kept open now, which it is plainly warned will, bye and bye, be shut, are we to apply the future to the present by shutting the door beforehand?
However, the statement is definitely made that- "The kingdom of God covers all dispensations. In all ages God has reigned; and the Lord, in John iii, gives the moral truth concerning the kingdom: "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." New birth into the kingdom, in all ages, is the plain teaching of the Lord. Before the cross God was dealing with man as under trial, and therefore a nation was taken up, but in the midst of this nation only those born again were really in the kingdom of God."
These words are by another writer (J. J. S.), but they only express more boldly tile same thought - God had a kingdom in all ages. "Dealing with man as under trial," He takes up a nation. How? As His people, or not as belonging to His kingdom, or not? "Only those born again were really in the kingdom of God." In what way "really"? When Solomon "sat on the throne of the Lord," "on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel" (i Chr. xxviii, 5; xxix, 23), did he "really" reign only over the "born-again souls" there? And did he "really" reign over all truly converted persons elsewhere? And when the Lord pronounced the sentence Lo-ammi, "not my people," upon Israel, did this mean that He was casting off the "born-again ones," who were those over whom alone He had ever reigned?- or what else?
"Really"! Why, who doubts that it is, and also was, only the converted people in whose hearts God reigned? But was that what He meant when He took up a nation? Was it not of necessity a very different thing? Was this only the kingdom "as men saw it," or the kingdom also as God, who knoweth the hearts, proclaimed it? How could men "see" what we are told cannot be seen by any but those born again?
God did not, then, make the truths of eternity - or of the kingdom set up in power - truths for His people to act upon, then,- that is clear. And our brother's "really" is something foreign to the matter in hand, or else something absolutely untrue, and plainly so. We cannot so ignore the dispensations. Thus the kingdom of God in Israel is against this view decisively. Of course it must be different now; and the same writer, speaking of the mysteries of the kingdom, bids us - "Note in this parable, the seed are the people, and the Lord only sowed good seed; that is, 'born-again' souls. But now, as men see it, there are tares; that is, unconverted professors. Who sowed them? The devil. And so we must never forget the two stand-points from which the kingdom is seen. From God's standpoint, as He sees it in His counsels, the kingdom is composed of born-again ones only. But from man's standpoint, and as we see it, there is a mixture."
So when the angels "gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them that do iniquity," they simply gather out those whom men take to be in His kingdom, but who are not there. Is that just fair interpretation,- commending itself as honest and true? For this is the Lord's own account of the matter, at the end, to His disciples; and why should He say "out of" His kingdom, when we are bidden to believe that none but those born again are, or ever were, or could be, in the kingdom ? Was it not easily possible to avoid words so ambiguous? But the good seed are the "children of the kingdom" ; and the tares are unconverted professors: is not that true?
It is the truth, but, as to the last, not the whole truth. We must go more slowly, and look more carefully, to find that. For, while the good seed in the second parable is indeed said to be "children of the kingdom," in the first parable it is as plainly said to be the "word of the kingdom." Of course there is not the least inconsistency between these two views: the children of the kingdom are only those in whom the word of the kingdom has grown up - the wheat. Are the tares, then, produced in any sense by the word of the kingdom?- and does Satan sow such seed as this? Clearly not. He sows false doctrine, not true, and the fruit are heretics, not mere unreal professors. All this has been often told, and cannot be a thing unknown to J. J. S. Its consistency with the whole meaning of the second parable I have elsewhere pointed out.
Still, the good seed are the children of the kingdom and the wheat,- are they not?- gathered into the barn? Yes, the crop. But it does not follow that all the good seed goes into the crop, as every farmer too well knows. How much he would like to have all the seed he sows fulfill the likeness to these "born-again souls" which J. J. S., in complete disregard of all the congruities, would import from John into Matthew. He is the more inexcusable because the first parable is plainly given to guard against the very thing that lie is doing. Not all the good seed furnishes the crop, is its declaration; but here, as part of that good seed which gives the children of the kingdom, we are taught that the mere unconverted professors are really to be placed. In entire opposition to what our brethren teach, the 'children of the kingdom'is not a term convertible with those born again. And our Lord expressly teaches (Matt. Vii1, 12) that "the children of the kingdom" may, as none of the converted ever can, be "cast into outer darkness," where "there is wailing and gnashing of teeth." How plain, then, that the kingdom is not what they teach, when such as these are expressly called "the children of the kingdom"!
It is one thing certain, then, the infants cannot have place "AMONG THE TARES," as our brother puts it in small capitals, and this as "bringing them into A PLACE OF BLESSING." If these were his own views when he practised household baptism, it is not to be wondered at that he has given it up.
This is a full answer also to J. J., who allows that there are foolish virgins in the kingdom "ill its outward aspect,"- words that, as we have seen, Scripture never authorizes. He adds, "what makes them to be 'foolish'is their taking the place, probably by being baptized." Of course, not as infants: even our brother will acquit household baptism in this case. As for the rest, what shows their folly is their taking "no oil with them.they would not have become "wise" by throwing aside their lamps: no, nor by never having carried them.
KINGDOM AND CHURCH.
We turn now to look at the question of the distinction between the Kingdom and the Church; and here our brother C. deserves a first answer, as he has said all perhaps that can be said. As to the three circles of Eph. iv. he maintains that "even if verses 5 and 6 here could apply to something else than the Church or Assembly, we could have no right so to apply them." Why? "Because Paul's known and acknowledged subject is the Assembly, and verses 5 and 6 will apply to the Assembly." Now the Church is in tile Kingdom, and therefore what applies to the subjects of the Kingdom will apply to the members of Christ's body - the Church. It is freely granted, also, that the passage in Ephesians would not decide that the Church is not co-extensive with the Kingdom.
The relationships implied are different. All Christ's members are also children of God, but the family of God is nevertheless not identical with the body of Christ. Much that our brother says here misses the point, therefore. Moreover, the circle of the Kingdom is not "intermediate," as he puts it, between the Church and the world. This would imply that the Church was not in it, which it is. Nor do I need to discuss the question of the Church, for which the better word, as we all know, would be "assembly,"-a word, too, of various application, even to a heathen gathering.
By the Church here I mean always "the Church which is His body."
Moreover, our brother is right in refusing to find room under "One Lord, one creed, one baptism," for those who "deny that Jesus is God." This is the Kingdom as constituted of God, not designed surely to include the Satanic work of the second parable. The enemy, "while men slept," may have introduced his followers into the Kingdom, and Christians be power1ess to undo what has thus been done; but this, nevertheless, is only an intrusion. Satan's work is not Christianity, even in its lowest form. On the other hand, with those who are simply " unreal" (C. ix) the case is different. They come under the first parable, not the second,- while, of course, that does not mean any sanction of their unreality. On this subject it is more to my purpose to quote what I have formerly said than to restate it: "The kingdom of heaven, with its message of peace and reconciliation, remains the testimony of a love which goes out to all, and would gather in to God wherever the will of man is not hardening itself in opposition. We do not, in fact, in Scripture meet with the long delay of baptism and the preparation of catechumens, which came in as baptism itself came to be looked at as reception into the Church, and the symbol of the full Christian state. In the New Testament the catecumens were inside, not outside, the sphere of discipleship. Instead of being kept waiting at the threshold, the applicants were met with a generous and unsuspecting welcome. Three thousand were baptized on the day of Pentecost: how much preliminary instruction had they? And if, as at Sarnaria, a Simon Magus were received, with his heart not right in the sight of God, his reception had not defiled those tender arms of mercy which had been flung around him, and from which he had, as it were, to burst, to pursue the headlong path to everlasting ruin. It is evident, upon the face of Scripture, that baptism was not then fenced round, as many now would fence it round. It was a door, not carelessly, but readily and with a full heart, opened to the applicant for it. No question of Christ's heart, no " if Thou wilt,'' was to be permitted."
To this the meaning of baptism, and the Lord's words as to little children, unite their testimony. The doctrine of the Church as Paul declared it, and as to which our brother writes, "To profess to be a Christian is to profess to be a member of the body of Christ," was unknown for years after Pentecost; and therefore, whatever may be the profession now, NONE certainly made it then. The power of the Spirit was abroad; and, of course, in the same proportion there was earnestness and reality, yet with proof soon afforded that the first parable of the kingdom was fulfilling too. The more reality there was the more the Church and the Kingdom would be co-extensive. The fervour of divine love in souls refused to allow any neutrality. Men were drawn along with the current that was then in full tide, or flung out as drift by the eddies along the shore. And granting, for a moment, that there were growing up with the years that went by the families that were baptized,- these, too, would be no exception to the rule. Thus the inability to find more than the "within and without" of which our brother rightly speaks. When he uses it as an argument upon his side, he simply is unable to realize the true character of that which he opposes,- that the grace of the Kingdom was not meant to promote, and did not promote, the growth of a neutral class, impossible until love slackened and zeal cooled, and that confusion which the after-parables of the kingdom indicate as so soon to set in began to appear and grow.
The idea of the open sinners in the Church being left in any "intermediate circle," such as he imagines for us (C. 19), only shows how little our brother understands the position which he attacks. When men manifest themselves as " wicked persons," they cannot be treated as neutral.
"OF SUCH IS THE KINGDOM."
But the case of children shows more definitely the character of the Kingdom. Our brother C. finds abundant fault with the obscurity of my utterances on this point. This may be true, that they are obscure; but I believe it proceeds a good deal from believing that the Lord's words are not obscure, and may be trusted to speak for themselves. But our brother uses certainly many more words than are needed to explain the matter. "Of such," of course, means "likeness." In this I agree with him with all my heart: "'Of "much displeased" that His disciples would not have suffered it. "Suffer them to come," He says, which undeniably means here "Suffer them to be brought," as they were being brought; and which (as undeniably, one would have thought) did not mean "Suffer them to believe on Me"(!) which is C's interpretation ! Can he really mean that the disciples were trying to hinder the babes from believing on Jesus? Or would he, admitting the simple fact that "coming" means literally what it says, think it just as reasonable that the Lord should have received sheep or lambs, because it might be said "of such is the kingdom of heaven"? No; it is He who was Israel's king of old proclaiming for the new kingdom that was then "at hand," the continuance of no less goodness than He had shown in the one passed away. He would not be less gracious in the present than He had been in the past, nor less answer the craving of the hearts of His people for the children intrusted to them.
J. J. has less to say than this, and J. J. S. no more than J. J. For both these, "Suffer them to come" means "Suffer them to believe"; and "of such "is read so as to exclude those that are most of all "such"! "If we do not bring our children to Him in any other way than by baptism, we shall not do it at all"! And if we do not eat the Lord's flesh in any other way than in the Lord's Supper we shall not do it at all. Are we, then, indeed, such poor, pitiful ritualists, that we need to be reminded of such things as these?
But can we make the meaning of the "of such" a little plainer yet, and show how the babes and the grown people like them are linked together? Let us try to get at the point of the comparison; and this will be got, I think, by considering what "the word of the kingdom " must imply for those receiving it. It implies, of course, submission to the King; that is, to His commandment, the yoke of discipleship. For this they must be as little children; for what is the little child the type of but of the learner, of one under the yoke? The will of man it is that resists the claims of the Lord Jesus,- the independence of man that refuses submission : "we have turned every one to his own way" is the inspired description of the world as away from God. For blessing, therefore, that way must be given up; and men must become like children, and take, in obedience, the learner's place.
But the children are, in some sense, already there. The state of childhood is what God has ordained for blessing, when the will is in its plastic state, and when submission to authority is natural, as it is necessary. Here the parent is the designed minister of God for good, standing in the place of authority, which most of all represents God among men. That "that which is born of the flesh is flesh," is, of course, true: the little child, as soon as it begins to live, begins to manifest that it is a fallen being. Still, the child's being "flesh" may be pressed in a harsh way, with which those who press it are happily quite inconsistent. Rightly, they teach their children; and we are expressly assured, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." And we are expressly bidden, "Bring up your children in the discipline and admonition of the Lord." God must be with this for any good, but He will be with it: and here we are bidden to put our children in the place of disciples. "I know him," God says of Abraham, "that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment, that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which He has spoken of him." Now we know what God had spoken of Abraham's seed; and to us He has given as comforting assurance of what His mind is toward us: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." But to this we shall have to return later on.
DISCIPLES AND DISCIPLING.
C. is right as to the expression "discipled to the kingdom." He will find it given correctly a few lines further on (Reasons, p. 25), and the force is on the word "discipled." The phrase is the same as in Matt. xxvii. 57, where Joseph of Arimathea is said to have been "discipled to Jesus"; that is, of course, made a disciple of Jesus. It will not do, from any interpretation of Luke xvii. 21, to make the kingdom and the king convertible terms. The kingdom was in the midst of Israel, I do not question, in the person of the king; and those who were discipled to the kingdom were, of course, discipled to the king, but that is no ground for changing the one into the other. The phraseology of Scripture is always the most accurate; and in Matt. xiii, which treats of the "mysteries of the kingdom,"- things unknown before-we see at once how the Old Testament "scribe," brought to the understanding of these mysteries, would have new treasures added to the old ones. The parables show, also, if they show anything, that the kingdom is formed by the word of the kingdom being received into men's hearts: that is, it is the sphere of discipleship. The first parable also shows that there were disciples, and "disciples indeecl,"- disciples who "continued" in the word, and those who did not (Comp. John vi. 66). This merely means, and is only taken to mean, that the word is not at all equivalent to "child of God," or "member of Christ." Our brother C. complains, as '' unfair,'' of the use of our Lord's words in John viii. 31, "as if it implied the existence of a recognized class of disciples of a lower grade." It is simply used to show that continuance (as the wheat which had no proper root did not continue) distinguished true disciples from the unreal. C. says it is in contrast with some who had just then (v. 30) become convinced that He was the Messiah." There is no contrast at all; and there was, as yet, nothing to contrast with. It is a word of encouragement, and, at the same time, of admonition; and what they might turn out to be is of no account whatever. By the fact of their professed belief in Him they were taking the place of disciples, and He spoke to them in that character. As a fact, it is well known what "disciples" meant. There were "disciples" of John, of Moses, of the Pharisees: the word is a common word for the followers of any teacher, and does not decide as to the reality of the profession even. Who can deny it?
When the Lord is risen from the dead, and the kingdom is ready to be proclaimed, He says, "All authority"- not power-" is given unto Me, in heaven and in earth: go ye, and disciple all nations." It is plain He would not say "Make children of God": this was within His own power only. "Disciple" was the suited word in reference to the kingdom; and this
THE COMMISSION AND THE KEYS.
The words here, literally, are "Go and disciple all the nations, baptizing them . . . teaching them."
J. J. S. remarks upon a quotation: "The writer admits that the grammatical construction requires that the them should be connected with disciples.' " Grammatical construction makes this quite impossible, for there is no word "disciples" for "them " to be connected with. "Disciple all the nations, baptizing them."
I agree with C. that "it is certain that individuals, not nations collectively, are meant." I should have thought the other view impossible. How could nations be got at "collectively"? A nation could not be "discipled " in the mass, but only by individuals. The discipling is defined, I doubt not, as to be effected in two ways,.- by baptism and teaching. Our brother C. demurs, and produces passages in proof that the grammar does not necessitate this construction of it. Yet it is, at least, the most natural way of expressing mode: "Preach, saying"; "disciple, baptizing." But, moreover, if "teaching" must be allowed to enter into the very idea of discipling, as our brother would allow it must,- for it is what is taught that makes the real scholar,- then still more must the ''baptizing," put side by side with this, serve to fill out and explain further the same thing. It was fit, where the Master was at the same time the Lord,- where the school was at the same time the kingdom,-that there should be this sign of submission on the part of those taking their place there. They are "baptized unto the name of the Lord Jesus"; and this is connected with the authoritative "remission of sins."
The "keys of the kingdom" are here clearly to be seen. "But where does it say there were just two keys?" asks J. J. S. If he can find a third we shall not object; but it surely requires more than one to make a plural. The Lord Himself speaks of the "key of knowledge"; but there needs another, if the expression be an accurate one. Our brethren are evidently shy of the question. "The real truth is," says J. J. S. again, "that Peter had the authority given him to open the door, that being what the keys represent in Scripture; and when the door was once opened it did not need to be opened again, so we don't need any man with keys today." This settles the matter, if an assertion can settle it; but why should not the key of knowledge be enough, then, without "keys"? Why "keys" at all? Take the commission as it reads, and the whole is clear: we see that the keys are needed still, and that the door was not thrown open once for all.
But "the keys were given to Peter, and to Peter alone"! It is not said "alone." Was the promise "and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth" to Peter alone? Certainly as much as that of the keys. Did it hinder the Lord extending this to the assembly a little after? Why should the promise of the keys not have a similar extension in the commission to disciple here?
But, urges C., "if infants are in the kingdom, they are in it without the key of knowledge, why may they not also be in it without the key of baptism?" A fair question; and it call be as fairly answered. With regard to infants, they are received as the household of the parents, whom God has put in the place of authority over them. The key of knowledge is not set aside, but the parent acts as the guardian and representative of the child before God, charged with its interests, and not for the setting aside of the truth, but for its complete establishment over it. The exception is only apparent in this case, the spirit of the rule being perfectly observed.
Why could one only baptize among the heathen those who give evidence of some real conversion? It is because baptizing must be discipling; and where this is not meant to take the Lord's yoke really, it would be merely a mockery to baptize. For the child it is the parents' will that gives confidence as to this, and so one can "disciple." In either case the result may, alas, disappoint our hope.
One more objection only: it is that of J. J., who says: " As to baptism being one of the keys of the kingdom, if it be such it was an unaccountable omission not to give it to Paul, who was sent 'not to baptize.' But I question very much whether the Lord would have called an ordinance a 'key.'
Now I should think that the keys being given to all the disciples after the resurrection of the Lord would be the very best reason why they should not be given to Paul as part of his special commission Paul was the special minister of the Church (Col. i. 25) in its full character, and in this the baptismal commission could have no place.
Again, the simple and external nature of baptism would in no wise hinder its being a token of the Lord's authority, in its place very needful thus; and, when intelligently practised, a witness to much essential truth. Bnt we shall have to look at this further, presently.
It is evident that our brethren cannot show us any other keys; and thus these, spite of their protests, fit the lock in this way also.
THE MEANING OF BAPTISM.
"'Scripture speaks of baptism as a 'figure,'" says J. J. "'The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us' (i Pet. iii. 20). A figure is not efficacious in itself. It is a figure of something else which is efficacious." This is simple enough, surely. It is a figure of salvation; and a figure cannot really save.
But while this is very well as a protest against ritualism, it is not the whole thing. An ordinance may accomplish something, and yet be a figure of that which it does not accomplish. Yet J. J. says: "Any system of doctrine which attaches efficacy to an ordinance is ritualistic, and is so far a departure from the truth. It is an unintentional but practical denial of the fact that ordinances are taken out of the way and nailed to the cross of Christ. It is to take them down again from the cross, and to assume to use them to effect what only a work of grace can accomplish. The two ordinances of Christianity - Baptism and the Lord's Supper - are not ordinances at all in this sense: they have no power whatever to 'effect' anything."
Where does our brother find this teaching in Scripture? The passage which he quotes for it does not bear him out, and his appeal to it is of the loosest kind. The apostle is speaking of "the obligation of ordinances (or decrees) which was against and contrary to" those in Judaism. 'l'his Christ has "wiped out," and stricken through with the nails of His cross. Without any ordinance whatever, the dying thief, according to the word of the Lord, goes to Paradise with Him. Cornelius receives the Holy Ghost, with all his company, before they are baptized. This is the grace of God in Christianity, gloriously free. But this household Baptism granted fully - and the meaning left wholly unimpaired - how should this hinder that for the entrance into the company of His people on earth there should be this simple but significant and authoritative admission? Must we say, with J. J., that baptism, though to Christ, effects nothing?- that even though one is baptized unto remission of sins,- is baptized and washes away his sins,-still this is nothing?-and as he would not, but still we must, say that baptism is discipling, yet it accomplishes nothing?
Nor are we sacramentalists because we cannot grant this (C. 21). Our brother may find, if he please to look, whether in the Episcopal prayer-book, or the Westminster Confession of Faith, that a sacrament is understood to be an ordinance that conveys the grace it signifies. Thus if baptism is figuratively (as they hold) "the washing of regeneration," it imparts this grace- it regenerates. This, assuredly, I do not hold. And yet I do hold that there is a congruity between the figurative meaning and what is accomplished by the baptismal act.
Baptism is "discipling." It brings a person out of the outside world into the company of disciples, the Lord's followers on earth. It does not work the spiritual change which this would imply for one becoming in heart a disciple, but it does figure this. It does not save in fact, but it does in figure. (i P. iii. 21.)
It is easy to see why the figure of the internal work should be found in what is external. The outward discipling becomes in this way a witness to the inward necessity,- a gospel pledge or assurance that if that be truth in the heart which is here outwardly declared, then the highest and fullest blessing which it witnesses an "if," from the human side. God knoweth the heart; and hence the conditionality always connected with the kingdom.
Take the "remission of sins." In the absolute way we know that the Jews were right in their question, guilty as they were in their unbelief of Christ's glory, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Yet the Lord can say, and does, to His disciples, "Whose sins ye remit they are remitted to them"; and baptism at disciples' hands is to the remission of sins. Is this, then, the same kind of remission as His? No, assuredly: it is for the present kingdom, and for earth,- not for heaven and eternity. Yet it is the witness and conditional declaration of the other. And such conditional remission we have in the parable of the unforgiving debtor (Matt. xviii. 23-35), a parable of the kingdom of heaven.
"The reference here is plainly" however, J. J. S. says, "to the Jewish nation"; although there is nothing that I can see in the Lord's words to Peter to suggest such a thought. The Jewish nation never sued for forgiveness at his hands, never took the place of those forgiven; and there is nothing in the context of the parable to make it likely. The connection with baptism, which our brother cannot find, is simply that it is a parable of the kingdom.
Let us look now at the figurative meaning of baptism, and we shall find that nowhere does it figure the state, but the process,of salvation. Says J.J. "Baptism is a figure of Christ's death; and . . . it supplies the answer to the demand for a good conscience, because it is the figure of the death of Christ; and as He is risen from the dead, faith finds in His death all the demands of conscience met." But it is not the action in baptism that expresses this. The death of Christ is what we are baptized to: we are baptized to Christ, to His death. The water, like Jordan after Christ had been in it, does express to us that by which salvation comes; but the baptism proper is the immersion into it. But, again, "it supplies the answer to the demand for a good conscience" ! Not at all: it is the "demand" itself, not the answer to the demand; and this shows that the one coming to baptism is not, in idea, one saved, but one seeking salvation. Baptism is the burial of the person himself, as judicially dead already, to meet Christ in His death. It is thus "burial with Christ,"- Christ remaining in the efficacy of His death for all who need Him, even while and because Himself risen; so that baptism is, in figure, salvation,- the process, not the state.
Again he says, speaking of those baptized upon the day of Pentecost, "their baptism was 'upon' their confession." Not exactly, either: their baptism was their confession. But this, too, he states elsewhere.
Again, "This forgiveness of sins was eternal re-mission, for it was founded upon Christ's death, upon the confession of whose name they were baptized." If this be so, what becomes of ordinances effecting nothing, as he tells us, when they were baptized to get eternal remission! Surely extremes meet here!
As to the gift of the Holy Spirit following, Heb. vii, 4, surely shows that it did not necessarily result that a person made "partaker of the Holy Ghost" was saved. The historical account, as in Acts, is not the record of the inward state of souls. Nor, indeed, do we know how far the signs of the Spirit's presence manifested themselves in the baptized. All did not work miracles, or speak with tongues.
Again, very strangely, J. J. quotes, "The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us," and adds "plainly linking it with a saved state." But in what way? As the result of the baptism, or in order to it?-absolute or conditional?-figure or fact?
J. J. S., commenting on Rom. vi., says:- "We are buried with Him by baptism: that surely implies death with Him. We are 'baptized unto His death'; that is, in recognition of His death. But we are buried,- not to His, but unto death; that is, an acknowledgment of our death with Him. The way our household baptists try to reason out of this plain Scripture is a remarkable instance of the really blinding effect of following human theories. The very truth it is taken up to develop - that is, in connection with sin - is enough to show it is only believers, and true believers, that could be in question here."
It is, however, " plain," if anything is, in J. J. S.'s argument, that the truth of our being "dead with Christ," which the apostle reaches only in the 6th and 7th verses, he implies in the beginning of the 4th; yet the apostle is carefully reasoning up to it. The truth of being dead with Christ has not been stated before at all. He reaches it in this way:- We were baptized to Christ: But the dead only can have title to the place of death: have we such title? Yes; but not because naturally dead in sins, for we could never find Jesus there: that could not be the death He took. Judicial death, then, the due of sin ? Yes; this is ours; we can take this place, and Christ is in it. We must be buried with Him,- buried in His sepulchre, so to speak; to touch and get virtue from Him, that we may live.
Remember that we are baptized to Christ, to His death; and baptism is the soul on its quest for Christ, the demand for a good conscience, not the declaration that we have found it. The baptism is to Him, to gain Him,- ends with effecting this. The rest is His work. The life, He gives. The satisfaction of conscience is the fruit of His cross. Buried with Him by baptism unto death, it is that, as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we also should walk in newness of life. For now (mark) if we have become united to Him (R. V.) in the likeness of His death - the quest of baptism attained - we shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.
Here, now, in this new state of things, we can look joyfully around. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him that the body of sin might be destroyed -(annulled)- that henceforth we should not serve sin."
Yes, now we may begin to speak of being dead with Christ: before we could not. This is the effect of what baptism speaks of - impossible before we had the effect. And now we can go on to the deliverance from the power of sin, where, as J. J. S. says, "only believers, and true believers, could be in question." But we have reached this point by a legitimate path, not implying, at the start, what was really the conclusion, as our baptist brethren do. That the conclusion is for believers, we are equally sure with them; but that does not involve the unscriptural thought of baptism being the expression of a saved state, instead of the "demand for a good conscience," and that which, as a figure, saves. These are two opposite thoughts, impossible to reconcile; and upon this rock J. J. S.'s argument is capsized and lost, without hope of recovery.