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Thoughts on Baptism

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    CHAPTER XII. “A SAVING ORDINANCE.”

    It is fitting that we notice an objection which is presented in the form of a query respecting baptism as a saving ordinance.TOB 128.1

    There may be those who have so often heard the question, “Is baptism a saving ordinance?” asked by those in whom they have confidence, that they have come to think it allowable and proper. For such we desire to exercise the largest charity; yet we must express our conviction that the question originated in a spirit of rebellion and self-will. Its evident intention is this: If it is saving, if we cannot possibly be saved without it, then we will observe it; but if we can be saved without it, then we will disregard it. Or, in other words, we know that the Lord commanded it, and it is our duty to obey; but if we can be saved some other way, we choose to disregard his commandment. If this is not what the question amounts to, we must confess we cannot understand the language. A heart thus disposed would ask, “Lord, what may I do?” and not “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”TOB 128.2

    Moreover, this question is almost always asked by those who repudiate immersion and advocate “infant baptism.” This is a strange inconsistency on their part. If their views of “infant baptism” are correct, then baptism is to infants “a saving ordinance” to the fullest extent of the term. It is made the means, the only means, of grace to them. Without faith, without repentance, without any act of accepting the gospel or of following Christ, they are, by baptism, alone, made heirs of God, partakers of the Heavenly Gift, and inheritors of eternal life. Many, even in our own day, and in our own land, hold baptism in this very light. Yet they are often the very first to blame us for our tenacity in holding to baptism, in its form and design, as we find it revealed in God’s word.TOB 128.3

    It is not our province to inquire whether it is necessary to our salvation or not. We should look to duties, and leave results with God. It is not the part of a faithful servant to ask, “Why am I required to do this?” It is enough to know that we are required to do it. James, the apostle of the Lord, gave a stern reproof to this spirit of caviling inquiry, in condemning those who assume to be judges of the law, rather than doers of it.TOB 129.1

    Our answer to the question is both Yes, and No. Everything which the Lord requires is saving; yet no one duty has salvation in itself alone. If the question means this: Will baptism save me if I neglect other duties? then we answer, No; there is nothing in the Bible which is saving in this sense. Salvation was never made to rest on any such grounds. But if it means: Must I submit to everything which God commands in order to be saved? then we reply, Yes: there is no other way of salvation but conformity to the divine will. Man shall live “by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”TOB 129.2

    The spirit which prompts such a question is only a selfish one, and we aver that selfishness has no place in the gospel. The duty of the Christian is to follow Christ; and not a shade of selfishness was shown in all his life. He said he came not to do his own will; and if he, the Lord of life and glory, renounced his own will, is it too much for us to renounce ours? Can we indeed follow Christ and indulge our selfishness and self-will? If so, his example must pass for nothing.TOB 130.1

    If we can be saved in a way of our own choice, then did God reveal his will in vain, and Christ died in vain. We could follow our own ways and indulge our selfish feelings without the Bible and without the death of the Son of God. But the querist may say: “It was necessary for us that Christ should die, and open the way of salvation; but since he has died for us it is not necessary for us to be so strict in conforming to the rules laid down in the Scriptures. Before Christ died, in the dispensation of law, men were bound by the express terms of the revelation; but not so in this dispensation of grace, in which a larger liberty is allowed.” This statement is no mere supposition, or “fancy sketch.” It has actually been urged, not on this subject alone, but on other subjects also. It is equivalent to saying that without the death of Christ obedience to the revealed will of God was necessary; but since he has died we may be saved without conforming to the rules he has laid down. But what is this but making “Christ the minister of sin”? whereas the Scriptures declare that he is the minister of righteousness. Have we yet to learn, in this our age, that he came to serve his Father’s will; to “save his people from their sins;” “to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself”?TOB 130.2

    That antinomian position is so far from being true, that Jesus himself shows that sin would have been more excusable (if it be allowable to use the word in such a case), if he had not come into the world; “but now they have no cloak for their sin.” If God would suffer and bear with those times of ignorance, he does so no longer, “but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent,” or to turn from sin. Would that men would put aside their lawlessness, and learn to submit to all the divine requirements. It is the self-same spirit which rejects the law of God and the ordinances of the gospel, for the gospel is the means appointed of Heaven to put away transgression and to bring sinful man to obedience to God. And it is the same spirit of submission to divine authority which leads to keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. Revelation 14:12. Jesus said, “I and my Father are one;” and men are now to honor the Son even as they honor the Father,—neither more nor less. They who do not find the gospel the means of glorifying God the Father, have studied in vain.TOB 131.1

    Reader, have you followed the Saviour in this ordinance of his own appointment, which he honored by his own example? Have you died to transgression and been buried with your dying Lord in baptism? If not, then we inquire, “Why tarriest thou?” Some say they tremble and hesitate, because it is a very solemn thing to obey this ordinance. True; but is it not a very solemn thing to disregard and neglect it? If we should tremble at the thought of obedience to the divine requirements, much more should we tremble at the thought of disobedience.TOB 131.2

    We invite the young. We believe in baptizing the children when they turn to Jesus, the children’s loving friend. As personified by Wisdom, he says, “Those that seek me early shall find me.” Proverbs 8:17. This is a precious promise; but if you neglect it, you will soon grow beyond it. By and by we may hear him speaking thus: “He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” Proverbs 29:1. Do not think it a hardship to serve the Lord; Wisdom’s “ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” Proverbs 3:17. There is no peace found in sin. There is no sight more beautiful than to see young people give their hearts to God, and follow their Saviour in baptism. Angels in Heaven as well as saints on earth rejoice at the sight. Do not say that you will wait till you get older; if you are old enough to sin, you are old enough to repent. And remember, too, you are always old enough to die. There is no time for delay. “You know not what a day may bring forth.” Many, very many, have deeply regretted that they put off the work of obeying God. But not one, no, not one of all the multitudes who have served God all their lives, was ever known to utter one word of regret that he early set out to follow his beloved Lord. Come now. “Now is the accepted time.”TOB 132.1

    We invite the middle-aged. How often do those in the prime of life say, “When I get more settled in life, and old age comes on, then I will serve the Lord.” Think what this means. Do you realize what an insult this is to your Creator? what a contempt of the claims of the Saviour? It means that you take pleasure in trampling on the law of the great God; though he is the author of every blessing you enjoy, and has a just right to the affection of your heart and the service of your life, you choose to despise his authority and rob him of that which is justly his, as long as you can do it successfully, or can find pleasure in it. But when you have spent the strength of your manhood or womanhood; when you have insulted the love of God and defied his threatenings as long as you can,—then, when your energies are failing, and your power to work in his cause is gone, you will come to him and offer him the privilege of taking you, a moral wreck, to save you from the consequences of your unutterable folly and wickedness. Do you not wonder that God, the infinitely just God, spares you to pursue such a course? Is it not surprising grace that he ever saves an aged sinner? Are you sure that you will live to carry out your plans; that you will not be cut off in your obstinacy? Is the dear Son of God, who died to open a way of salvation to you, and now pleads his precious blood in your behalf—is he less worthy of your best efforts, of the strength of your manhood, than Satan, who is ever seeking to ensnare you and to lead you on to ruin? Young man, young woman, what are you doing? Whither are you going? Reflect. Stop! your next step may take you beyond the bounds of mercy. Turn now from sin; die, yes, die to the transgression of God’s holy commandments, be buried with your precious Saviour, and rise to live unto God: to enjoy peace—his peace—a peace that passeth all understanding, even in this life, and eternal life and glory in his kingdom. Think of this joy and glory. And can you have it? Yes, you may; but do not delay, for the future has no certainties for you.TOB 132.2

    We invite the aged. What excuse can the aged offer for persisting in disobeying God? What hope of this life—what joy of earth—can stand between them and their duty to their Saviour? They will answer that it is hard to repent of a whole life of sin; hard to overcome habits of life so long settled; hard to change the whole current of thought, of feeling, and of action, when all have been so long established. They say, “If I were only young, how easy it would be to give my heart to God. If my sins were not so many, if my heart had not grown so hard in the years of my trifling and folly. Oh that I had repented in my youth! But now I fear it is too late.” Let the youth listen to this and take warning. Too late! it is too late for you to linger, to trifle on the verge of eternity. Too late to waste any more precious time; you have none to spare. Jesus yet calls. Cast yourself on him now, and prove the depth of his love. It may indeed be too late to-morrow. His mercy has followed you all your life. It lingers for you still. You cannot afford to add to the ingratitude of your past life by spurning the last call of mercy.TOB 134.1

    “Let youth in its freshness and bloom, come!
    Let man in the pride of his noon, come!
    Let age on the verge of the tomb, come!”
    “And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
    TOB 134.2

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