Alexander Campbell Christian System Remission of Sins Prop. X

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

[171] The term regeneration occurs but twice in the common version of the New Testament, and not once in the Old Testament. The first is Matthew. 19:28. "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," &c.;

Genesis, being the term used for creation, [172] 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 Matthew 19:28 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 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 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 saved us by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit." [Titus 3:5]

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.

Among 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 Titus 3:5, is in the following words:--"

Through the bath of regeneration." "Through baptism, called the bath of regeneration,

not because any change in nature" (but I would not 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."

Emblem is the Charakotos branded, stamped of the internal

He then quotes in proof, Acts 22:16 "Arise, and be immersed, and wash thee from thy sins."--Paul. He supports this view also from Ephesians 5:26, and John 3:5. "The bath of regeneration," is then according to this learned Paidobaptist, Christian immersion.  

Parkhurst, in his Lexicon, upon the word loutron, connects the same phrase, the washing or bath of regeneration, with Ephesians 5:26, and John 3:5, 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 Ephesians 5:26, Acts 22:16, and Matthew 28:19, 20, in [173] 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 that the phrase washing of regeneration occurs in the New Testament, with reference to a personal change, it means, or is equivalent to, immersion. Washing of regeneration and immersion, are therefore only 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 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 hath begotten or impregnated us;" says James the Apostle. [Jas 1:18] 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." [1 Peter 1:23] 

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. [Conception or life begins before the birth]

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 [174] 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 cannot discern the reign of God." [John 3:3]

Born again! What means this? "Nicodemus, unless you are born of water and the Spirit you cannot enter into the Kingdom of God." [John 3:5] So Paul speaks to the Ephesians 5:26, "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 born of water, he is born of God, or of the Spirit. Regeneration is, therefore, the act of being born [See Campbell on Regeneration] Hence its connexion 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.

Note: That John 3:5, and Titus 3:5, refer to immersion, is the judgment of all the learned Catholics and Protestants of every name under heaven.

The authors and finishers of the Westminster creed--one hundred and twenty-one Divines, ten Lords, and twenty Commissioners of the Parliament of England, under the question 165, "What is baptism?" quote John 3:5, Titus 3:5, to prove that baptism is a washing with water, and a "sign of remission of sins."

Michaelis, Horne, Lightfoot, Beveridge, Taylor, Jones of Nayland, Bp. Mant, Whitby, Burkit, Bp. Hall, Dr. Wells, Hooker, Dr. C. Ridley, Bp. Ryder:--but why attempt a list of great names? There are a thousand more who assert it.

Bp. White says, that "regeneration, as detached from baptism, never entered into any creed before the 17th century."

Whitby, on John 3:5,says, "That our Lord here speaks of baptismal regeneration, the whole Christian church from its earliest times has invariably taught."

Our modern "great divines," even in America, have taught the same. Timothy Dwight, the greatest Rabbi of Presbyterians the New World has produced, says, vol. iv. pp. 300, 301, "to be born again, is precisely the same thing as to be born of water and the Spirit."--"To be born of water is to be baptized." And how uncharitable!--He adds,

"He who understanding the nature and authority of this institution, refuses to be baptized,

WILL NEVER ENTER INTO THE VISIBLE NOR INVISIBLE KINGDOM OF GOD." Vol. iv. p. 302. So preached the President of Yale.

George Whitefield, writing on John 3:5, says, "Does not this verse urge the absolute necessity of water baptism? Yes, when it may be had. But how God will deal with persons unbaptized, we cannot tell." Vol. iv. p. 355.[cont. bottom p. 173] I say with him, we cannot tell with certainty. But I am of the opinion, that when a neglect proceeds from a simple mistake of sheer ignorance, and when there is no aversion, but a will to do everything the Lord commands, the Lord will admit into the everlasting kingdom those who by reason of this mistake never had the testimony of God assuring them of pardon or justification here, and consequently never did fully enjoy the salvation of God on earth.

But I will say with the renowned President of Yale, that "he who, understanding the nature and authority of this institution, refuses to be baptized, will never enter the visible nor invisible kingdom of God." By the "visible and invisible kingdom," he means the kingdom of grace and glory. He adds on the same page, "He who persists in this act of rebellion against the authority of Christ, will never belong to his kingdom." Vol. iv. p. 302.

John Wesley asserts, that by baptism we enter into covenant with God, an everlasting covenant, are admitted into the church, made members of Christ, made the children of God.

By water as the means, the waters of baptism, we are regenerated or born again." [Preservative, pp. 146, 150.]

[175] 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," [John 3:5]

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 cannot 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. [Col 1:18] And, surely,

there is no abuse of 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 monstrous supposition, that such persons are not freed from their sins. To be born of God, and born in sin, is conceivable. 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 the civilized nations and kingdoms have constitutions; and in their constitutions they have declared who are members of the social compact. Besides those who compose the community at the [176] time a constitution is adopted, they say who shall participate its blessings in 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, did he speak of the necessity of BEING BORN AGAIN. [John 3:5] 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 manner 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 friendly alien;

but [177] not one of the rights, or immunities of a citizen 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 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 here; 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 been 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; and 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 pledge of your adoption.

You must, ex animo, in the presence of the Judges and the Recorders, renounce all allegiance to [178] every foreign prince and potentate, and especially to 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, 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 Recorders,

we will give you a certificate, with a red seal, the seal of the 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 witnesses 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. It is 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. Some 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 some 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 [179 adopt in a running stream, and impose this task upon their females.

The Jews 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 as 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 that 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:--

First. Begetting and quickening necessarily precede being born.

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

Third. 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.

Fourth. 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 skillful 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:' [Philemon 1:10] I have begotten you, Corinthians, through the gospel.' [1 Corinthians 4:15] [180]

Fifth. The gospel is declared to be the seed;--the power and strength of the Holy Spirit to impart life.

Sixth. And the great argument, pertinent to our object, in this long examination of conversion and regeneration, is that which we conceive to 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, cannot be scripturally 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 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 cannot, in this life, be constitutionally enjoyed previous to immersion.

If there be any proposition regarding any item of the Christian institution, which admits a clearer proof, or fuller illustration than this one, I have yet to learn where it may be found.

But before we dismiss the sixth 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."

"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 action 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." [Heb 11:6]

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 pretence 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 [181] him? Where shall we meet him?
No where on earth but in his institutions. "Where he records his name
," there alone 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 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 the 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 divinely 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 and raised up out of the water.

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 and 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 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 as 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, of his coming out of the water, as saved, and recorded him as such. Luke writes,

"The Lord added the saved daily to the congregation." [Acts 2:47]

Whenever a child is born into a family, it is a brother or a sister to all other children of the family; and its being born of the same parents, is the act causative and declarative of 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 [182] believed their testimony.

In this sense, then, it 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.

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." [Acts 11:14] He tells these words. He was interrupted by the miraculous descent of the Holy Spirit. [Acts 11:15] But it is to be noticed, that the testimony, to which the Holy Spirit there affixed its 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."[Acts 10:43]

While speaking these words, concerning remission of sins by, or through his name, the Holy Spirit in its marvelous gifts of tongues, fell upon them. [Acts 10:44]

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.

      Acts 10:48 And he commanded them to be baptized
      in the name of the Lord
      Then prayed they him to tarry certain days

       Jesus commanded that baptism be in HIS Name to make disciples or Christians
       Peter baptised IN THE NAME of Jesus Christ IN  ORDER to the remission of sins.

       Therefore, Cornelius' sins were NOT remitted unitl the NAME had been called

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. [Matthew 9:20-22] 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 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 a 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. It is true, also, that without faith it is impossible to be healed; for in some places Jesus could not work many miracles, because of their unbelief.[Matthew 13:58] 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, [183] (however it may be in a 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 circumstances of the same institution, on every allusion to it; and it would have been equally so far 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. [1 Corinthians 6:11]

The frequent interposition of the name of the Lord between faith and forgiveness, justification, sanctification, &c.;, is explained in a remark in James' speech in Jerusalem [Acts 15:17] 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 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, &c.;

Some captious spirits need to be reminded, that as they sometimes

find forgiveness, justification, sanctification, &c., 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 and 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.


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 Christian immersion.

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, &c.;, &c.; But now the question comes, which, to the rational, is the emphatic question--


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? [Acts 2:38] or, to reform and be converted, that their sins might be blotted out? [Acts 3:19] 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," [Acts 3:19] 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 referring to 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 [185] 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's 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, from the righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, the common enjoyment of all who were immersed into the name of the Lord Jesus for the remission of sins.

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 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, [Acts 2:38 3:19 22:16] and

but 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 cannot, 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." [Acts 22:16] On this testimony we have not as yet descanted in this essay. It has been mentioned, but not examined.

[186] 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.[Acts 22:10] It was told him in the words now before us. But, say some, this cannot 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 find one writer, and but one, who converts 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, 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" [Acts 22:16] 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 metaphors. Rev.7:14. "They have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." Here are two things equally incomprehensible--to wash garments 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, [187] viz., immersion for the remission of sins.

And to him that made the washing of clay from the eyes, the washing away of blindness, [John 9:6,7] 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.

Thus immersion, says Peter, saves us, not by cleansing the body from its filth, but the conscience from its guilt; [1 Peter 3:21]

yes, immersion saves us by burying us with Christ, raising us with him,

and so our consciences are purified from dead works to serve the living God. [Hebrews 9:13]

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." [Mark 16:16]

But, while viewing the water and 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: "Being sprinkled in heart from an evil conscience, and being washed in body with clear water." [Hebrews 10:14]

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 purifications, 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 cannot 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 cannot 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 [188] 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. [2 Peter 1:9]

After enumerating the additions to faith necessary to secure 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 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 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 letters 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 which 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. "Since, indeed, you have risen with Christ, set your affections on things above." [Col 3:1,2] Walk in a new life.

[189] 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. 1 Peter 2:2 Call immersion, then, a new birth, a washing of regeneration, or a 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 (not included within) 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 Apostles ends, Christian faith necessarily terminates. After this preliminary remark, I proceed to sustain the following proposition:--

Prop. XI also begins on page 189.

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