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Thoughts on Baptism

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    A most important point remains to be noticed. It is that of the reasons offered for three immersions. It will generally be found that in regard to religious rites and institutions, scriptural reasons and scriptural methods stand or fall together. When any people give an unscriptural reason for their practice, the presumption is that their practice is itself unscriptural, or a perversion of Scripture. Very early in the Christian Church, reasons were assigned for three immersions which are either contrary to the Scriptures, or others than those given in the Scriptures. While on the other hand, wherever we find “one baptism” literally and strictly followed, there we find the scriptural reason assigned for the action.TOB 174.3

    1. Paul says we are baptized into the Saviour’s death, and raised in the likeness of his resurrection. But this reason was not only ignored, but condemned, by those who advocated three immersions. This speaks more against the theory and practice than whole volumes of history can speak in its favor. It brands it as an innovation, setting aside both gospel faith and gospel practice. Speaking of trine immersion, Bingham says:—TOB 175.1

    “Two reasons are commonly assigned for this practice: 1. That it might represent Christ’s three days’ burial.... 2. Another reason was that it might represent their faith in the holy Trinity.”TOB 175.2

    Pope Gregory the Great wrote to one who inquired of this:—TOB 175.3

    “Concerning the three immersions in baptism, you have judged very truly already, that different rites and customs do not prejudice the whole church, whilst the unity of faith remains. The reason why we use three immersions (at Rome) is to signify the mystery of Christ’s three days’ burial, that whilst an infant is thrice lifted up out of the water, the resurrection on the third day may be expressed thereby.”TOB 175.4

    This reason is unscriptural and inconsistent. We are baptized into Christ’s death; he died but once. We are raised in the likeness of his resurrection; he was raised but once. “Thrice lifted up out of the water” cannot be made to represent his resurrection, even though a great pope says it; while the Scriptures say nothing at all of the three days being represented by baptism.TOB 176.1

    The very first witness claimed by trine immersionists as speaking in favor of the practice, gives the same unscriptural reason. This is Clement of Alexandria. We incline to the belief that the testimony is apocryphal; but if it is not, it only serves to show how very early this erroneous view was grafted into the Christian faith. These are the words ascribed to Clement:—TOB 176.2

    “Ye were conducted to a bath, just as Christ was carried to the grave, and were thrice immersed to signify the three days of his burial.”TOB 176.3

    Thus this testimony, whatever its origin, stands self-condemned, as being directly outside of the scriptural ideas of baptism. It is based on a false view of the ordinance.TOB 176.4

    And the famous fiftieth “Apostolical Canon,” which does such good service in the cause of trine immersion, says:—TOB 176.5

    “If any bishop or presbyter do not perform three immersions of one initiation, but one immersion which is given into the death of Christ, let him be deposed.”TOB 176.6

    The word of the Lord is yea and amen, not yea and nay. If we had no other evidence that the three-immersion theory is based on a false construction of our Lord’s commission, this is sufficient, that it could only be maintained by setting aside the words of Paul in Romans 6. There is no discrepancy in baptizing into the names of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and baptizing into the death of Christ, if we preserve, in the action, the likeness of his burial and resurrection. But it was clearly seen by the originators and early advocates of three immersions, that that practice could never be harmonized with the words of Romans 6. Therefore an order of deposition was issued against any one who baptized into the death of Christ, notwithstanding that such was the baptism of the gospel according to the writings of the apostle Paul, not according to “apostolical tradition.”TOB 176.7

    And not only the early advocates of three baptisms denied the words of the apostle on this subject, but their followers of the present day maintain the same unscriptural position. Thus Mr. Moore, speaking of the words imputed to Clement, says:—TOB 177.1

    “Christ was placed in the grave, they in the water; Christ three days, they three times.”TOB 177.2

    It is only by a wondrous strain of the language that any analogy can be found between three immersions and lying three days in the grave. If Christ had been buried once each day, or had three times died and been buried, then they would have their case. But as he died once, and was buried once, and was raised up once, we can be baptized into the likeness of his death, and raised in the likeness of his resurrection, only by a single burial or immersion, and a single rising out of the water. And all the flourish about “the fathers” so well understanding the Greek language, amounts to nothing on this question. The Greek can never be forced to favor “three baptisms,” three burials, or three resurrections. Good common sense and reverence for the exact words of Scripture are quite as essential as a knowledge of the Greek.TOB 177.3

    We know that these same fathers were advocates of innovations and absurdities in both faith and practice. And we are assured that if they speak not according to the law and the testimony their words are not light, but darkness.TOB 178.1

    Again: Mr. Moore makes the Scriptures conflict with themselves in the following language:—TOB 178.2

    “The law of holy baptism demands that all persons should be baptized ‘into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,’ while the contrary law requires baptism ‘into the death of Christ.’”TOB 178.3

    We know not in what words to express our surprise that a man should quote the exact words of Scripture which refer to baptism, and denounce them as a “contrary law” and a perversion of the doctrine of baptism! The words of Romans 6:3-5 are as follows:—TOB 178.4

    “Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.”TOB 178.5

    These words, according to Eld. Moore, contain the “contrary law” which he and his associates refuse to follow! We fully agree with him that it contains a rule clearly and explicitly contrary to “trine immersion.” But we never shall admit that these words of Paul’s are contrary to the commission of the Saviour while we retain any reverence and respect for the Bible.TOB 178.6

    One thing is now most clearly proved, which is this: Romans 6:3-5 is contrary to the construction which is put upon the commission by the trine immersionists. This is proved by their arguments and their own admissions. The conflict is evident and the issue is a plain one. And one question alone remains: Which is correct, Horn. 6:3-5, or their construction of the commission? We are at no loss for the answer. We do not see how any one can have confidence in their view of the commission while it involves such a plain contradiction of the Scriptures. The trine-immersion theory stands self-condemned.TOB 179.1

    2. Those who will have the patience to read the writers of the early centuries in their controversies over the doctrine of the Trinity, must agree in this, that very much which was then written on the subject was an interminable jargon, a bitter contention over words to no profit; made up more largely of invectives and personal criminations than of argument; showing more zeal for party success than piety. With one thing we have been particularly struck,—that the dominant or orthodox writers sometimes expressed their faith in the very same words which were bitterly assailed as the rankest heresy when used by an opposing party. The “Athanasian creed” was saved only by the greater influence of the bishop of Rome. Athanasius himself was not always considered orthodox; he was not only banished from his place in the church, but a reward was set upon him by the emperor Constantius “to whomsoever should bring him alive or dead.” The bishop of Rome endeavored to procure his pardon, to whom the emperor replied:—TOB 179.2

    “All without exception have been injured by him, but none so deeply as I have been. Not content with occasioning the death of my eldest brother, he endeavored to excite Constans, of blessed memory, against me; and had not his aims been frustrated by my moderation, he would have caused a violent contest between us. None of the victories which I have gained, not even those obtained over Magnentius and Silvanus, appear so satisfactory to me as the ejection of this despicable man from the government of the church.”—Theodoret, book 2, chap. 16.TOB 180.1

    The creed was formulated and the faith defined by Athanasius. Previous to that time there was no settled method of expression, if, indeed, there was anywhere any uniformity of belief. Most of the early writers had been pagan philosophers, who to reach the minds of that class, often made strong efforts to prove that there was a blending of the two systems, Christianity and philosophy. There is abundance of material in their writings to sustain this view. Bingham speaks of the vague views held by some in the following significant terms:—TOB 180.2

    “There were some very early that turned the doctrine of the Trinity into Tritheism, and, instead of three divine persons under the economy of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, brought in three collateral, co-ordinate, and self-originated beings, making them three absolute and independent principles, without any relation of Father or Son, which is the most proper notion of three gods. And having made this change in the doctrine of the Trinity, they made another change answerable to it in the form of baptism.”Antiquities, book 11, chap. 8, § 4.TOB 180.3

    Who can distinguish between this form of expression and that put forth by the Council of Constantinople in a. d. 381, wherein the true faith is declared to be that of “an uncreated and consubstantial and co-eternal Trinity”? The truth is that we find the same idea which is here described by Bingham running through much of the orthodox literature of the second and third centuries. There is no proper “relation of Father and Son” to be found in the words of the council, above quoted. And we willingly leave it with the good judgment of every unprejudiced reader that three baptisms are more consistent with the idea of “three collateral, co-ordinate, and self-originated beings,” than with the idea of baptism into the names of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and in the likeness of the Saviour’s death and resurrection.TOB 181.1

    Bingham says this error in regard to a Trinity of three co-ordinate and self-originated and independent beings arose in the church very early; and so we find it in the earliest authors after the days of the apostles. He said that a change was made in the form of baptism corresponding to this form of belief; and so we find that three baptisms were announced by the same writers. Three baptisms are contrary to the express words of the Scripture, and contrary to the Scripture ideas of baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ. We must determine, and that to a certainty, that three baptisms is that erroneous form which was made to correspond to the doctrine of three co-eternal beings, which did not regard the true relation of Father and Son, and which gave rise to a rejection of the baptism of the gospel, into the death of Christ.TOB 181.2

    Eld. Moore says:—TOB 182.1

    “We have shown conclusively that Justin was baptized ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,’ and by trine immersion, which traces trine immersion in an unbroken line to within thirty-three years of the close of the apostolic age.”TOB 182.2

    We quote this to show with what surpassing confidence he claims to have proved conclusively that of which he has not given one particle of evidence. And this seems to be characteristic of that class. The most absurd and improbable things are put forth with as much assurance as if they were demonstrated. Again he says:—TOB 182.3

    “The origin of single immersion can be found among the innovations of the fourth century, while sprinkling and pouring, as well as infant baptism, can boast of no better birth.”TOB 182.4

    We say that single immersion has not been and cannot be traced to the innovations of the fourth century. It is according to the plain teachings of the New Testament; and the historian or tradition-monger who seeks to elevate another form to its place only proves that he does not follow the light of divine truth. And, if Eld. Moore means to say that sprinkling and pouring and infant baptism are also among the innovations of the fourth century, then he states what every one knows to be untrue who does not take all his historical knowledge at secondhand. Or, if he means to say that sprinkling and pouring and infant baptism, and, we may add, infant communion, have not as good historical evidence in their favor as trine immersion has, he then speaks against his own knowledge, or shows that his knowledge of history is very limited. Let this be specially noticed: While history is the chief dependence of trine immersion, it is not one whit more strongly fortified by history than are sprinkling, infant baptism, and infant communion. On this point we are willing to rest the case on the evidence herein presented.TOB 182.5

    Chrystal, who is quoted so largely by the advocates of trine immersion, advocates infant baptism as strongly as he does trine immersion. And he defends tradition, because by it he proves these dogmas. But it is a suspicious circumstance that he is silent in regard to infant communion, which, he must know, is as strongly entrenched in tradition as are infant baptism and trine immersion. Infant baptism and infant communion are logically inseparable; they stand or fall together, so far as reason and traditional evidence are concerned.TOB 183.1

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