Alexander Campbell - Christian System - Remission of Sins Prop. XII

Alexander Campbell Christian System Remission of Sins Prop. XII: Baptism and regeneration: Episcopalian, presbyterian, Methodist and Baptists.

[195] PROP. XII.--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.

"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 the holy baptism

and by the baptism of thy well-beloved Son Jesus Christ in the river Jordan, didst sanctify the element of water, in 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."

After reading a part of the discourse with Nicodemus they are ordered to make the following exhortation.

"Beloved, ye hear in this gospel the express words of our Saviour Christ, that except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. Whereby ye may perceive the great necessity of this sacrament, where it may be had. Likewise immediately before 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; [196] but he that believeth not shall be damned. Which also showeth unto us the great benefit we reap thereby. For which cause of 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 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; then he will give them the blessings 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 practise her own creed!


The Presbyterian Confession, on Baptism, chap. xxviii. sec. 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 into 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."

Wesley, quoted below will clarify this:

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.

Of course, we cannot see what happens when God gives us A holy spirit but our baptism is an outward SIGN or MEANS by which God acts.

"A sign and seal of remission of sins!!" This is much nigher the truth than this church seems to be apprised of. However, she cannot 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 sectaries cannot 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 cannot think God does mean what he says. [198]

Spragizo (g4972) sfrag-id'-zo; from 4973; to stamp (with a signet or private mark) for security or preservation (lit. or fig.); by impl. to keep secret, to attest: - (set a, set to) seal up, stop.

So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch. Mt.27:66

Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. 2 Co.1:22


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 cannot please God but live in sin, committing many actual transgressions:) and that our Saviour Christ, saith,

None shall enter into the Kingdom of God, 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 cannot have; that they may be baptized with water and the Holy Ghost,

and received into Christ's holy church,
and made lively members of the same."

Then it is ordained that the minister say, or 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 believes, 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 the 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."

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! [199]

The Confession of Bohemia.--

"We believe that whatsoever by baptism--

is in the outward ceremony signified and witnessed,
all that doth the Lord God perform inwardly.

That is, he washeth away sin, begetteth a man again, and bestoweth salvation upon him;

for the bestowing of these excellent fruits was holy baptism given and granted to the church."

The Confession of Augsburg.--

"Concerning baptism, they teach that it is necessary to salvation, as a ceremony ordained of Christ; also, by baptism the grace of God is offered."

The Confession of Saxony.--

"I baptize thee--that is I do witness that by this dipping thy sins be washed away, and that thou art now received of the true God."

Baptism is a sign that one is doing what he has been commanded and as God's promises are true he is saved.

The Confession of Whittenberg.--

"We believe and confess that baptism is that sea, into the bottom whereof, as the Prophet saith, God doth cast all our sins."

The Confession of Helvetia.--

"To be baptized in the name of Christ, is to be enrolled, entered, and received into the covenant and family, and so into the inheritance of the sons of God; that is to say, to be called the sons of God, to be purged also from the filthiness of sins, and to be endued with the manifold grace of God, for to lead a new and innocent life."

The Confession of Sueveland.--

"As touching baptism, we confess that it is the font of regeneration, washeth away sins, and saveth us. But all these things we do understand as St. Peter doth interpret them. 1 Peter 3:21."

Westminster Assembly.--

"Before baptism the minister is to use some words of instruction--showing that it is instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ;

that it is a seal of the covenant of grace, of our engrafting into Christ, and of our union with him,
of remission of sins, regeneration, and life eternal."

The Roman Catholic and the Greek church say,

"We believe in one baptism for the remission of sins."

Calvin makes remission the principal thing in baptism {Institutes I.4.cxv. 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 [200] 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 Calvin and all others make the distinction between God's forgiveness by faith and our accepting it or confessing it or being "signed" by personal baptism. The important point is that no one has ever suggests that even "faith" procures salvation:

"I answer, we are said to receive, procure, and obtain, whatever according to the perception of our faith is exhibited to us by the Lord, whether he then attests it for the first time, or gives additional confirmation to what he had previously attested.

All then that Ananias meant to say was, Be baptised, Paul,

that you may be assured that your sins are forgiven you.
In baptism, the Lord promises forgiveness of sins: receive it, and be secure.

"I have no intention however, to detract from the power of baptism.

I would only add to the sign the substance and reality, inasmuch as God works by external means.

But from this sacrament, as from all others, we gain nothing, unless in so far as we receive in faith.
If faith is wanting, it will be an evidence of our ingratitude by which we are proved guilty before God, for not believing the promise there given

"The ancient Christian church, from the highest antiquity, after the apostolic times, appears generally to have thought that baptism is absolutely necessary for all that would be saved by the grace of Jesus Christ."[Vitringa, tom. 1. 50. ii. c. 6. 9]

"Most of the ancients concluded that baptism was no less necessary unto salvation than faith or repentance itself." [Owen on Justification, c. ii. p. 183.]

John Wesley, in his comment on the New Testament, (p. 350,) speaks plainer than earlier 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 shall 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. 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 ancient and renowned Christian writers, and the creeds of ancient and modern reformers. We can assure our readers, however, that we have been led to these conclusions from the simple perusal, the 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.

[201 The propositions now proved, and illustrated, must convince all that there is some connexion between immersion and the forgiveness of sins. What the connexion is, may be disputed by some: but that such a connexion 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 offences;" and we not only say we think so, but we preach it as such, and practise it as such. Those who think of any other connexion, would do well to attempt to form clear ideas of what they mean: for we are assured there is no meaning in any other connexion.

To make it a commemorative sign of past remission is an outrage upon all rules of interpretation, and a perfect anomaly in all 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 others which may be presented to immersion for the remission of sins. There can be objections made to any person, doctrine, sentiment, or practice, natural, moral, political, or religious, that 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 these certain and sure things, not to be shaken, is the 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, &c.; 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 are not both blood and faith [202] less accessible to mankind than the element of water? How much more water than faith, or than candidates for immersion? And is there not as much power, wisdom, and goodness of God in creating water, as sin creating air, words, letters, faith, &c.;? Is not water more universal than language, words, books, preachers, faith, &c.;? 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 non-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 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, &c.; 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 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.

[203] 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, 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." [Mt 25:37] Not because you believed, or were born of water; but because "I was hungry, and yet fed me," &c.;

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, at the first birth; the spiritual, or the life of God in our souls, at the second birth; and the life eternal in the presence of God, at 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 the Jews, Turks, and Pagans!! Will they promise present salvation from the guilt, pollution, and 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 despise this salvation, and who, having the opportunity to be immersed for the remission of their sins, wilfully despise 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 natural 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 [204] 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 nature as to say, that he that imagines himself pardoned, will feel as 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 cannot have. And we have this advantage over them; we once stood upon their ground, but their hopes, felt their assurance; but they have not stood upon our ground, nor felt assurance. Moreover, the experience of the first converts shows the difference between their immersion, and the immersion, 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 cannot 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 revelation, or some new development of the revelation of God, must be made, before the hopes and [244] 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, cannot do this, vain are the hopes, and disappointed must be the expectations of the so called Christian world.


As Christian faith rests upon, and Christian practice proceeds from, the testimony of God, and not from the reasonings of men;--I will, in this recapitulation, only call up the evidences on one single [205] proposition, assumed, sustained, and illustrated in the preceding pages; that that is the
ninth proposition, as sustained by the apostolic testimony. We wish to leave before the mind of the diligent reader the great importance attached to Christian immersion, as presented in the Evangelists, the Acts, and the Epistles.

1. In the Evangelists--it is called the forgiveness of sins. Matthew and Mark introduce the Messiah in his own person in giving the commission. Luke does not. Matthew presents Jesus, saying, "Go, convert the nations, immersing them into the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things which I have commanded you." [Matthew 28:19,20] This, of course, in order to salvation. Mark presents him saying, "Go into all the world, proclaim the glad tidings to the whole creation; and he who believes, and is immersed, shall be saved; but he who believes not, shall be condemned." [Mark 16:16] Luke, however, does not introduce the Lord in his own person in giving the charge; but records it, in his own conception of it, in the following words:--That "reformation and forgiveness of sins should be announced in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." [Luke 24:47] No person, we presume, will question but that Luke thus records the commission;--and, if so, then it is indisputable,

that as Luke neither mentions faith nor immersion, he substitutes for them the received import of both, when and where he wrote.

Metonymically he places repentance, or rather reformation, for faith; and remission of sins, for immersion.

In Luke's acceptation and time forgiveness of sins stood for immersion, and reformation for faith--

the effect for the means or cause.

The only reference to the commission found in John, occurs John 20:21, 23. "As the Father has sent me, so send I you:--whose sins soever you remit, are remitted to them; and whose sins soever you retain are retained."

Here is neither faith, repentance, nor baptism; but the object, remission of sins, is literally proposed. In the commission, salvation is attached by the Lord Jesus to faith and immersion into his name. He that believes and is immersed, shall be saved. Thus immersion is taught in the testimonies of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

2. In the Acts of the Apostles--

Sermon 1, Peter says, "Reform and be immersed, every one of you, in the name of the Lord Jesus, for the remission of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." [Ac 2:38]

Sermon 2, he says, "Reform and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out; that seasons of refreshment from the presence of the Lord may come, and that he may send Jesus," &c.; [Ac 3:19]

In the same discourse, he says, "God having raised up his Son Jesus, has sent him to bless you,

every one of you, turning from his iniquities." [Acts 3:26]

In his 3d Sermon, recorded Acts 10:43 he says, [206] "To him all the Prophets bear witness,

that every one who believes in him shall receive remission of sins by his name."

Paul at Antioch, in Pisidia, declares, that through Jesus was proclaimed the remission of sins; and by him all that believe are justified from all things. [Ac 13:38,39]

Ananias commanded Paul to arise and be immersed, and to wash away his sins, calling upon the name of the Lord. [Ac 22:16] Thus it is spoken of in the acts of the Apostles.

3. In the Epistles.--The Romans are said to have been immersed into Christ Jesus--into his death; to have been buried with him, and consequently to have risen with him, and to walk in a new life. [Ro 6:3,4] The Corinthians are said to have been washed, justified, and sanctified by the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. [1Co 6:11] The Galatians "were immersed into Christ, and had put him on." [Ga 3:27] The Ephesians were married to Christ, by immersion, as brides were wont to be washed in order to their nuptials. The assembly of the disciples, called the congregation of the Lord, making the bride of Christ, were said to be cleansed by the bath of water and the word. [Eph 5:25-27] The Colossians were buried with Christ, raised with him, and are said to have been forgiven all trespasses, when they were raised with him, where their resurrection with Jesus and their having all sins forgiven are connected. [Colossians 3:11, 13, 14} All the saints are said to be saved by immersion, or, "the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit." [Titus 3:5] The believing Jews had their hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and their bodies washed with clean water, or water which made clean. [Hebrews 10:22]

Peter taught all the saints in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, that the water of baptism saved them, as water of the deluge saved Noah in the ark; and that in immersion a person was purged from all his former sins. [1Peter 3:20,21]

And John the Apostle represents the saved as having "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb," [Re 7:14] and all the baptized little children as "having their sins forgiven." [1John 2:12] Such are the evidences found in the Epistles. How numerous! how clear! and how unequivocal! Are we not, then, warranted to say, Except a man be regenerated of water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God? [John 3:5] and that all who, believing, are immersed for the remission of their sins, [Ac 2:38] have the remission of their sins in and through immersion?


A word to the regenerated.--You have experienced the truth of the promise; and being introduced by that promise, you have become like Isaac, children of promise. You heard the testimony [207] of God concerning Jesus of Nazareth, and you believed it. You were, in consequence of your faith, so disposed towards the person of Jesus, as to be willing to put yourselves under his guidance. This faith, and this will, brought you to the water. You were not ashamed, nor afraid to confess him before men. You solemnly declared you regarded him as God's only Son, and the Saviour of men. You vowed allegiance to him. Down into the water you were led. Then the name of the Holy One upon your faith, and upon your person, was pronounced. You were then buried in the water under that name. It closed itself upon you. In its womb you were concealed. Into the Lord, as in the water, you were immersed. But in the water you continued not. Of it you were born, and from it you came forth, raised with Jesus, and rising in his strength. There your consciences were released; for there your old sins were washed away. And although you received not the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which confirmed the testimony of the first disciples, you felt the powers of the world to come, were enlightened, and tasted the bounty of God: for seasons of refreshment from the presence of God came upon you. Your hearts were sprinkled from evil consciences, when your bodies were washed in the cleansing water. Then into the kingdom of Jesus you entered. The King of righteousness, of peace, and joy, extended his sceptre over you, and sanctified in state, and in your whole person, you rejoiced in the Lord with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Being washed, you were sanctified, as well as acquitted. And now you find yourselves under the great Advocate, so that sin cannot lord it over you; for you always look to the great Advocate to intercede for you; and thus, if sin should overtake you, you confess and forsake it, and always find mercy. Adopted thus into the family of God, you have not only received the name, the rank, and the dignity; but also the spirit of a son of God, and find, as such, that you are kings, priests, and heirs of God. You now feel that all things are yours, because you are Christ's; and Christ is God's. The hope of the coming regeneration of the heavens and the earth, at the resurrection of the just, animates you. You look for the redemption, the adoption of your bodies, and their transfiguration. For this reason, you purify yourselves even as he is pure. Be zealous, then, children of God; publish the excellencies of him, who has called you into this marvellous light and bliss. Be diligent, that you may receive the crown that never fades, and that you may eat of the tree of life, which grows in the midst of the Paradise of God. If you suffer with Jesus, you will reign with him. If you should deny him, he will deny you. Add, then, to your faith, courage, knowledge, temperance, patience, [208] brotherly kindness, and universal benevolence; for if you continue in these things and abound, you shall not be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. But should you be deficient in these things, your light will be obscured, and a forgetfulness that you have been purified from your old sins, will come upon you. Do, then, brethren, labor to make your calling and election sure; for thus practising, you shall never fall; but shall have an easy and abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

A word to the unregenerate.--Amongst you are sundry classes of character. Some of you who believe the gospel, and are changed in heart, quickened by the Spirit, are not generally ranked among the unregenerate. In the popular sense of this term you are regenerate. But we use it in its scriptural acceptation. Like Nicodemus, and like Joseph of Arimathea, you believe in Jesus, and are willing to take lessons from him in the chambers. You have confidence in his mission, respect and venerate, and even love his person; and would desire to be under his government. Marvel not that I say to you, You must be born again. [John 3:7] Pious as you are supposed to be, and as you may think yourselves to be, unless you are born again, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God. [John 3:3] Cornelius and his family were as devout and pious as any of you. "He feared God, gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God continually." [Acts 10:2] Yet, mark it well, I beseech you, it was necessary "to tell him words by which himself and his house might be saved." [Acts 11:14] These words were told him: he believed them, and received the Holy Spirit, [Acts 10:44 11:15] yet still he must be born again. For a person cannot be said to be born again of any thing which he receives; and still less of miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. He was immersed, and into the Kingdom of God he came. [Acts 10:47,48] He was then saved. You need not ask, how or why these things are so. Do as Cornelius did, and then you will think of it in another light--then you would not for the world be unregenerate. To have the pledge, the promise, and seal of God, of the remission of all your sins, to be adopted into his family, and to receive the spirit of a son of God, be assured, my pious friends, are matters of no every day occurrence; and when you feel yourselves constitutionally invested with all these blessings, in God's own way, you will say, that "his ways are not as our ways, nor his thoughts as our thoughts; for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are his ways higher than our ways, and his thoughts than our thoughts." [Isaiah 55:8,9] It is hard to make a slave feel and act as a freeman. As difficult, we often find it, to make the unregenerate feel and know the value and importance of regeneration. But the regenerate would not be unregenerate for the universe.

God has one way of bestowing every thing. We cannot gather grapes off thorns, nor figs off thistles. The reason is, there they do not grow. We can tell no other reason why they cannot grow there, but that they do not grow there. We cannot have any blessing, but in God's own way of giving it. We cannot find wool save on the back of the sheep, nor silk save from the worm which spins it from itself. Corn and wheat cannot be obtained save from the plants which yield them. Without the plant, we cannot have the fruit. This is the economy of the whole material system. And in the world of spirits, and spiritual influences, is it not the same? Moral law is as unchangeable as the laws of nature. Moral means and ends are as inseparable as natural means and ends. God cannot bestow grace upon the proud, and cannot withhold it from the humble. He does not do it, and that is enough. He could shower down wheat and corn, and give us rivers of milk and wine, were it a question of mere power. But taking all together, his wisdom, power and goodness, he cannot do it. So neither can he give us faith without testimony, hope without a promise, love without an amiable object, peace without purity, nor heaven without holiness. He cannot give to the unborn infant the light of the sun, the vivacity which the air imparts, nor the agility and activity which liberty bestows. He does not do it, and, therefore, we say, he cannot do it. Neither can he bestow the blessings of the Reign of Heaven upon those, who are the children of disobedience.

I know how reluctant men are to submit to God's government; and yet they must all bow to it at last. "To Jesus every knee shall bow, and to him every tongue confess." [Romans 14:11 Philippians 2:10,11] But they will object to bowing now, and torture invention for excuses. They will tell me, all that I said is true of natural and moral means and ends; but immersion is not a moral means, because God forgave sins and saved men before immersion was appointed. "It is a positive, and not a moral institution." And is there no moral influence connected with positive institutions? A written law is a positive institution: for moral law existed before written law. But because it has become a positive institution, has its moral power ceased? The moral influence of all positive institutions is God's WILL expressed in them. And it matters not, whether it be the eating or not eating of an apple, the building of an altar, or the building it with, or without the aid of iron tools; the offering of a kid, a lamb, a bullock, or a pigeon: it is just as morally binding, and has the same moral influence, as "You shall honor your father [210] and mother;" [Exodus 20:12] or "You shall not kill." [Exodus 20:13] It is THE WILL OF GOD in any institution, which gives it all its moral and physical power. No man could now be pardoned as Abel was--as Enoch was--as David was--as the thief upon the cross was. These all lived before the second will of God was declared. He took away "the first will," says Paul, "that he might establish the second will," [Hebrews 10:9] by which we are sanctified. We are not pardoned as were the Jews or the patriarchs. It was not till Jesus was buried and rose again, that an acceptable offering for sin was presented in the heavens. By one offering up of himself, he has perfected the conscience of the immersed or sanctified. Since his oblation, a new institution for remission has been appointed. You need not flatter yourselves, that God will save or pardon you except for Christ's sake; and if his name is not assumed by you, if you have not put him on, if you have not come under his advocacy, you have not the name of Christ to plead, nor his intercession on your behalf--and therefore, for Christ's sake you cannot be forgiven. Could Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Aaron, think you, if living now--could they, I ask, find forgiveness as the altar? And will you imagine, that he, who honored every institution by Moses, by connecting rewards and punishments with the obedience or disobedience of his commands, be less jealous for the honor of the institution of his Son? And will that Son who for no other purpose than to honor his Father's institution, was immersed in the Jordan, bestow pardon or salvation upon any, who refuse to honor him, and him that sent him? He has been graciously pleased to adapt means to ends. He has commanded immersion for the remission of sins; and, think you, that he will change his institutions, because of your stubborn or intractable dispositions? As well, as reasonably might you pray for loaves from heaven, or manna, because Israel ate it in the desert; as to pray for pardon, while you refuse the remission of sins by immersion.

Demur not because of the simplicity of the thing. Remember how simple was the eating of the fruit of that tree, "whose mortal taste brought death into the world, and all our woe." How simple was the rod in the hand of Moses, when stretched over Egypt and the Red Sea? How simple was looking at the brazen serpent? And how simple are God's institutions? How simple the aliments of nature;--the poisons too, and their remedies? Where the will of God is, there is omnipotence. It was simple to speak the universe into existence. But God's will gives efficacy to every thing. And obedience ever was, and ever will be the happiness of man. It is the happiness of heaven. It is God's philanthropy which has given us something to obey. To the angels who sinned [211] he has given no command. It was gracious to give us a command to live--a command to reform--a command to be born again--to live forever. Remember light and life first came by obedience. If God's voice had not been obeyed, the water would not have brought forth the earth, nor would the sun have blessed it with his rays. The obedience of law was goodness and mercy; but the obedience of faith is favor, and life, and glory everlasting. None to whom this gospel is announced will perish, except those who know not God, and obey not the gospel of his Son. Kiss, then, the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish for ever.

To the unregenerate of all classes, whose education and prejudices compel them to assent to the testimony of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James, and Jude.--You own the mission of Jesus from the bosom of the Eternal--and that is all you do! Each of you is living without God, and without hope in the world--aliens from the family of God--of various ranks and grades among men; but all involved in one condemnation, because light has come into the world, and you love darkness, and the works of darkness, rather than light. [John 3:19] To live without hope is bad enough; but to live in constant dread of the vengeance of Heaven, is still worse. But do you not tremble at the word of God?

If you can be saved here, or hereafter, then there is no meaning in language, no pain in the universe, no truth in God--death, the grave, and destruction have no meaning. The frowns of Heaven are all smiles, if you perish not in your ways.

But you purpose to bow to Jesus, and to throw yourselves upon his mercy at last. Impious thought! When you have given the strength of your intellect, the vigor of your constitution, the warmth of your affections, the best energies of your life, to the world, the flesh and the devil; you will stretch out your palsied hands and turn your dim eyes to the Lord and say, "Lord, have mercy upon me!" The first fruits, and fatlings of the devil, the lame and the blind for God, is the purpose of your heart; and the best resolution you can form!

The thief upon the cross, had he done so, could not have found mercy. It is one thing to have known the way of salvation, assented to it, and to have in deliberate resolution rejected it for the present, with a promise of obeying it at some future period; and to have never known it, or assented to it, to the end of life. Promise not, then, to yourselves, what has never happened to others. The devil has always said, "You may give to morrow to the Lord--only give to me to-day." This has been all that he has asked, and this is what you are disposed to give. Promise not to-morrow to the Lord, for you will be still less disposed to give [212] it when it comes; and the Lord has not asked you for to-morrow. He says, TO-DAY, when you shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts. [Heb 3:15 4:7] But you say, you are willing to come to the Lord to day if you knew the way, or if you were prepared! Well, what does the Lord require of you as preparation? He once said, "Let the wicked man forsake his ways, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God for he will abundantly pardon." [Isaiah 55:7] He says also, "Draw nigh to me, and I will draw nigh to you;" "Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you men of two souls;" - [James 4:8] "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings;" [Isaiah 1:16] "Reform and be converted;" [Ac 3:19] "Turn to the Lord;" "Be immersed for the remission of your sins;" [Ac 2:38] and "Submit to the government of Jesus." "What! just as I am!" Pray, how are you? Have you such a persuasion in your heart of the mission of Jesus, as God's own Son, and the only Saviour; and have you so much confidence in his personal character, as to be willing to surrender yourself to him for the present and future--for time and eternity? "I have," you say. As one that has heard his voice, I say, then, Come and be regenerated, and seasons of refreshment from the Lord will come to you.

"But I thought I ought to feel like a Christian first, and to have the experience of a Christian before I came to the Lord." Indeed! Did the Lord tell you so? "His ministers taught me so." It is hard knowing who are his ministers now-a-days. His commissioned ministers taught you not so. They were not taught to say so. The Master knew that to wait for health before we went to the physician--to seek for warmth before we approached the fire--to wait till we ceased to be hungry before we approached the table--was not reasonable. And therefore he never asked, as he never expected, any one to feel like a Christian before he was immersed and began to live like a Christian. None but the citizens of any country can experience the good or evil of the government which presides over it. None but the married can experience the conjugal relation and feelings. None but sons and daughters can have the experience of sons and daughters; and none but those who obey the gospel can experience the sweets of obedience. I need not add, that none but the disobedient can experience the pains, the fears, and terrors of the Lord--the shame and remorse which are the first fruits of the anguish and misery, which await them in another world. As the disobedient, who stumble at the word, have the first fruits of the awful destruction from the presence of the Lord which awaits them; so the disobedient have the first fruits of the Spirit--the salvation of their souls, as [213] an earnest of the salvation to be revealed at the coming of the Lord.

And now let me ask all the unregenerate, What do you propose to yourselves by either delaying or refusing to come to the Lord? Will delaying have any tendency to fit you or prepare you for his salvation? Will your lusts have less power, or sin have less dominion over you, by continuing under their control? Has the intoxicating cup, by indulgence, diminished a taste for it? Has the avarice of the miser been weakened, or cured, by yielding to it? Has any propensity been destroyed by gratifying it, in any other way than as it destroyed the animal system? Can you, then, promise yourselves that, by continuing in disobedience, you will love obedience, and be more inclined to submit when you have longer resisted the Spirit of God! Presume not on the mercy of God, but in the way that mercy flows. Grace has its channels, as the waters have their courses; and its path, as the lightning of the clouds. Each has its law, as fixed as the throne of God; and think not God will work a miracle for your salvation.

Think you that the family of Noah could have been saved, if they had refused to enter into the Ark? Could the first born of Israel have escaped the destroying angel, but in houses sprinkled with blood? or could Israel have escaped the wrath of Pharaoh, but by being immersed into Moses in the cloud and in the sea? These things are written for our admonition, [1Co 10:11] upon whom the consummation of past ages has come. Arise, then, and be immersed and wash away your sins, calling upon the name of the Lord. [Ac 22:16] The many who refuse grace will neither prove you wise nor safe in disobedience.

"Multitudes are no mark
That you will right be found;
A few were saved in the Ark,
For many millions drown'd
Obey the gospel call,
And enter while you may;
Christ's flock have long been small,
Yet none are safe but they."

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