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p47 Dear Mrs. Walter, - I should never, and never have, as you know, pressed any to baptise their children, or introduced the subject. Indeed, while fully recognising it as a christian ordinance, I am disposed to think that it is in scripture, for our present condition, purposely left in the background. While eternal life and union with Christ are fixed and sure in Him, the ordering of all on earth till Christ comes, and even then, is provisional; not that we have not duties in the state of things we are in; duties belong to that: but the ordering of things passes. We have a kingdom that cannot be moved, eternal life, membership of Christ; but this in actual full possession is to come, and what we have now, even of divine ordinances, is passing. But I repeat, our duties are now. I shall only therefore present to you what scripture affords me on the subject, for if ever I hesitated, and, like others, I was exercised about it, I have NO doubt as to infant baptism of the children of a Christian. But I have a full feeling that Christ did not send me to baptise; I leave to others activities on either side. The twelve were sent to baptise, but as to ecclesiastical matters, we are under Paul.

This for such questions is an all-important remark, because the commission to the Gentiles (on which you and all Baptists rest) was given up by the leading apostles into his hands. But in general he, and he only, taught what the Church was, and it is on that ground we are. Further remark, the commission to the twelve was not from heaven, nor consequently immediately connecting with heaven, but from Galilee, and a commission to bring the nations into connection with an accepted remnant of Jews on earth - not to bring Jew and Gentile into the body in an ascended Christ, which was Paul's commission especially, preaching withal reconciliation from heaven to every creature under it. His original commission is remarkable in this respect. A heavenly Christ was revealed to him - "delivering [separating] thee from the people and from the Gentiles, to whom now I send thee." He belonged neither to Jew nor Gentile in his service, but to heaven. Hence he in baptism knows nothing but baptising to death to all man is, and at the utmost resurrection with Christ into a new state of things. With Peter it is: you have crucified Christ, God has raised and exalted Him. Hence they were to repent and be baptised for the remission of sins, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Nor does he even go to our death with Christ, or our resurrection with Him. Nay, in Acts 3 he proposes to the Jews to repent, and Jesus would be sent back, and the people would be blessed by the times of refreshing of which the prophets had spoken.

You will say: This is a long story on what is simple; but it is on the mission of the twelve you found your doctrine. That was only to disciple Gentile nations and baptise them. Of the carrying out of this we have no account in scripture: the nearest to it is in Mark, the last verse. But we have an enlarged account of Paul's taking their place; and it is remarkable that Roman Catholics and Puseyites all rest on the commission to the twelve, not on that to Paul. But where in Mark baptism is spoken of it is upon wholly another ground: "he that believeth and is baptised, shall be saved." It was the gospel to a lost world, to every creature, and if a man believed and was baptised, he was saved. It concerns a heathen or a Jew confessing Christ, who before did not, and what is called joining Christians, and as "with the heart man believeth unto righteousness" so "with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." Here it had a saving force founded on faith, but that is not the question now. No one can in this sense say a man is saved by baptism, but that is the only use of it in Mark. The Campbellites have this view of it as an ordinance, but with grievous errors, and false in itself, as man's act and not as becoming a Christian. Further remark, that the hundred and twenty first formed into the Church by the coming of the Holy Ghost, or, at any rate, the twelve, were never baptised. I know it is said they had John's baptism, and no doubt rightly, some certainly, and all with little doubt; but that was the opposite of christian baptism. It was to receive Christ; christian baptism is to His death - to a rejected Christ as such at God's right hand; and one baptised with John baptism had to be baptised again, as in Acts 19.

The command was to baptise, not to be baptised, and this makes all the difference. It is not an act of obedience, in this the scripture is quite clear. Acts 8. (verse 37 is not genuine*), he says, "what doth hinder me to be baptised?" it was a privilege to be obtained; but the words do not allow the idea of obedience, but exclude it. So Acts 10, 47, "can any man forbid water?" - a privilege, no idea of obedience, but an admission into the christian estate consequent on the proof that God would have him: and indeed it would be cruel to make it a matter of obedience, as no man can fulfil it; another must do it for him. The admission to a privilege cannot be a matter of obedience, though obedience gives privileges as such. But the real point is, the passages prove that it was the act of the baptiser, not of the baptised. And this changes its whole nature. It is said, Where are children commanded to receive baptism? of course they are not, nor believers. Ordinances are never the subject of commands. They are ordained and rightly used, but never obedience in him who profits by them; it would deny the very nature of Christianity, and destroy the blessing for him who partakes of it.

{*Griesbach rejects it, and it is cancelled or rejected by Grotius, Mill, Wetstein, Pearce, Tittman, Knapp, Lachmann, Tischendorf, and others; it is not found in the Vatican MS., nor in the ancient Syriac.}

Another important principle destroyed by the Baptist system is the existence of a divinely instituted place in which blessing is, independently of the question of personal conversion, and to which responsibility is attached according to the blessing: as the olive tree in Romans, whose branches are broken off and grafted in again or replaced by others who are broken off afterwards, branches where the root and fatness of the olive tree is, yet they come to nothing; so Hebrews 6, 10. So 1 Corinthians 10, where the sacraments, so-called, are shewn to be the ground of this in Christendom, and so the house in 1 Corinthians 3, where wood, hay and stubble are built in with false doctrines, but it is God's building. And in 1 Peter 4:17 judgment was to begin at the house of God, alluding to Ezekiel. So we see it as a principle in Romans 3: "What advantage then hath the Jew? . . . much every way." But he was condemned, not converted. So the wicked servant who ate and drank with the drunken: was "that servant" the same as the faithful one and Christ his Lord?

Another principle used by Baptists is that it is a formal testimony to what a person has already. This is quite unscriptural. We are baptised to death - not because we have died - rise therein, if I bring in resurrection: it saves us, says Peter - is not used as a witness of being saved. "Arise and be baptised (says Ananias) and wash away thy sins," not in confession that thy sins are washed away. Thus the whole system of Baptists I find to be unscriptural. It is not obedience: that the Baptist brethren now admit: it is not testimony to what we have. The apostles were not baptised, but the twelve were sent to baptise the Gentiles, being themselves received by Christ. Paul was not sent to do it at all, though he was formally sent, from and by a heavenly Christ, to the Gentiles by a new commission, the leaders of the twelve giving theirs up and going to the circumcision.

What is it then? A formal admission into the place of privilege. Water cannot be refused to Cornelius: nothing hindered the treasurer of Candace from being baptised. 1 Corinthians 10 clearly shews that it is the admission into public outward association with God, as when Israel crossed the Red Sea, as the Lord's supper is a sign and expression of food and drink in the desert. It is not a sign even of life - not of being baptised into Christ's body, nor of being made children. In Paul's teaching it is death; in Peter or Ananias, saving, washing away sins, as a sign, a passing from the state of sinful man into the place where God's privileges were, specially the presence of the Holy Ghost, who is among the saints in God's house as Satan is in the world. Paul in Titus 3 recognises the same truth.

The question then is, are children entitled to be received? are believers? Believers, clearly, if they have not yet been; if they have, they cannot be again. But supposing they have not, they are clearly received by baptism; and, in an ordinary way, at the beginning, those in received the Holy Ghost, as said in Acts 2, and may be seen in Acts 8. Can children, or are they to be left out where Satan rules? Scripture, I believe, gives a Christian parent a title to bring them to Christ, but this can only be now scripturally by death as baptism figures it, for "that which is born of the flesh is flesh." If baptism be the reception of children where the Holy Ghost is, and where they can be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and taught to obey, which till they are Christians as to position they cannot be, the question is, Is a christian parent obliged to leave his child outside with the devil, or allowed to bring him in where the Holy Ghost and the care of God's house is? Scripture tells one that children of a christian parent are holy, have a right to be admitted, are not as children of a Jew who had married a Gentile unclean, that is, unfit to be admitted among God's people, but holy. I know it is said the husband was so too. It is not true where the sense is looked to, The Jewish husband was profaned not profane, could not be profaned if he had been: it is what is holy that is profaned, nothing else can be. Now it is grace, and the unbeliever is "sanctified," not holy; the child is "holy". The Lord Himself has said, "Of such is the kingdom of heaven." It is said, Why not give them the Lord's supper? Because that is the sign of the unity of the body, and it is the baptism of the Holy Ghost that forms that. Baptists always reason instead of going to scripture. I have no difficulty with Baptists who think they have never been baptised; of course they ought to be. They have never been regularly admitted among Christians on earth; they may be of the body (as Cornelius) by the baptism of the Holy Ghost, but they have never been formally admitted to the house on earth, the place where the Holy Ghost dwells.

This answers another question you put - the converted and unconverted being baptised together. If it is admission into the house they are all admitted together, cannot be on any different principle. If it be obedience, then indeed there is; but scripture is in the teeth of this: to separate them would be to deny the principle on which any are baptised at all.

I respect the conscience of a Baptist; I repeat, if he think he never has been baptised he ought to be, but it is as clear to me as the day that his principles are totally unscriptural.

Nothing can be clearer then, that in the New Testament it is never treated as obedience. If it were, we were saved by our own obedience, have our sins washed away by our own obedience; for this is what is said of baptism. I understand quite well that a heathen coming to baptism does administratively receive the remission of his sins: every one is baptised to it. I understand too that one who has been as a heathen and converted coming to the faith - to such it is practically a first confession of Christ and that they are very happy - but obedience of a believer to an ordinance is all wrong from beginning to end; as to the Lord's supper as well as baptism. If a man think it is - I do not blame him for doing it, but it is wholly unintelligent. If a friend was to say, keep this in remembrance of me, and I said, I will do what you bid me, my friend would have no thanks to give me. The gift was not valued. You see it is a wide subject, but the great principle is that the children of a christian parent are holy; and so far from children being unfit subjects, "of such is the kingdom of heaven" - not Christ's, note, on earth.

The truth Baptists have to learn is that there is a place, a system established by God, where the blessings are found - the olive-tree fatness - without the question of conversion being settled, in which heathen, Mohammedans, and now for a time Jews are not, but in which these last will hereafter again be, though not on our footing. I know it is said you are bringing us back to Judaism. I answer, in this respect the apostle does in 1 Corinthians 10 and Romans 11: and baptism does not refer to the body with which they had nothing to do, nor to giving life (which, if they had, was not brought to light, and they had it only in the state of servants), but the dwelling-place of God, which they were then, which Christendom is now, and according to which, or as which, it will be judged - a very weighty consideration. All is so in confusion that this house is hard to own, but that does not alter the truth of scripture.

A word as to the place of parents; God has given them children; but "that which is born of the flesh is flesh." But the love of God is trusted, and the grace of Christ who receives such, and also the word believed that blessing is there where God has placed it. They cannot leave their children without in Satan's world; they bring them to be received as holy, as regards God's ways and dealings. The Church cannot receive them but through death, but receives them in Christ's name as if receiving Him, as He says, and the name of Jesus is called upon them through this image of His death too; and while received into God's congregation where the Holy Ghost is, and where all should be a pattern to them, they are given back to the parents in grace with Jesus' name on them to bring them up for Him, not for the world, "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." I receive them then because they are holy relatively, because Christ received them, and "of such is the kingdom of heaven," and I can receive them in no other scriptural way - with the sign of Christ's death and of His love.

I have no objection to any one reading this letter, but . . . it is not the time to occupy the church with ordinances.

Ever sincerely yours in the Lord.

Elberfeld, November 4th, 1869.

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