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IS BAPTISM ESSENTIAL TO SALVATION?
This question is answered by many Christians, even by learned Divines, in the negative. A certain learned Divine in his Theological Dictionary says: "It is not however essential to Salvation, for mere participation of Sacraments, cannot qualify men for Heaven; many have real grace before they were baptized; besides to suppose it essential, is to put it in the place of that which it signifies."
Before I proceed to shew that Baptism is essential, I shall make a few remarks on the foregoing expressions. "It is not however essential," and for what reason? because "mere participation of Sacraments cannot qualify men for heaven." We admit that mere participation of Sacraments cannot qualify men for heaven, but is this a sufficient proof, that Baptism is not essential? if I were a Deist then I would argue upon the same ground: the Christian religion is not essential, for mere participation of it cannot qualify men for heaven, hence it makes no difference, whether a man is a Christian or not. O ye heralds of truth, instead that you should defend the holy institutions of God and shew their real virtue and use, you represent them as not essential to salvation, and thus sink them as low as possible in the estimation of your hearers, and give to the enemy an opportunity to make light of them; it is your fault, that they are slighted and received with indifference, and produce not so many good fruits, it is because you degrade these institutions, and pluck from the minds of the people, every sacred promise, which God stipulated to them, in them.
We are not to conclude, that if the Sacraments possess saving virtues, they must infallibly, and irresistibly save every one, to whom they are administered. They are spiritual means, hence the design of their operation is not physical but spiritual, they therefore can only prove salutary where they do not meet with too much opposition. It must alas! be admitted, that many of the baptized do not walk in newness of life, yet this is no evidence, of the deficiency of Baptism, or that it be not essential, but only that many stifle its blessed. operations.
Further: "many have real grace before they were baptized." This again is no proof, that it is not essential; for instance, Cornelius of whom we read in Acts 10, enjoyed grace before his Baptism; he had more good qualities, than many of those who slight or despise Baptism and view it as a mere insignificant ceremony; notwithstanding, it appears, that all his good qualities, his alms, his prayers, were not sufficient to obtain remission of sins and salvation; he was advised to send for the Apostle Peter, who should tell him, what he ought to do, and St. Peter after declaring unto him the word of faith, commanded them (Cornelius and kinsmen and near friends) to be baptized with water in the name of the Lord, Acts 10: 47 48, and besides this a person that hath real grace, will receive Baptism, and submit to all the institutions of his Lord & Redeemer, only self-righteous highminded people will omit it, because they can see no good in it. Further: "to suppose it essential, is to put it in the place of that which it signifies" a poor objection!-there is no passage in the New Testament, which tells us, that Baptism signifies something; under the Law, there were significations, emblems and types; for the Law had a shadow of good things to come, Hebrews 10: 1. But this is not the case under the Gospel Dispensation, there is nothing but reality!
The reason, why many call Baptism not essential, is, because it seems so insignificant a ceremony in their eyes, as if it could not be a means of grace and salvation. It is too simple, the grace of God can be had on too easy terms, they would rather do some hard and difficult task: something that looks great and meritorious, hence their language is: "what good can water Baptism do? shall a handful of water cleanse us from sin ?" But such must have carnal eyes, otherwise they would see more in it than water, they would see in it the Saviour's Command, the word and promise of God. They can justly be compared with Naaman, whilst in his rage, 2 Kings 5: 1 14. The cure prescribed by the prophet was too simple; and that circumvery stance made it hard, for it put the great man in a rage. If it pleased the Almighty God, to connect blessings with the viewing of a brazen serpent Numbers 21: 6 9, with the washing in the water of Jordan, 2 Kings 5, (for there was no medical virtue in Jordan's water) why should He not likewise connect blessings with water Baptism?
I shall now prove, from the clear testimonies of holy Scripture, that Baptism is essential, and that it is more, than, a mere insignificant ceremony.
1st. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, after his glorious resurrection and shortly before his ascension, commanded his Apostles Mathew 28: 19. "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. By this command and name the value of Baptism is ascertained. If an earthly Monarch gives a command to his subjects, would any one of them venture to say: "it is not essential, it makes no difference whether we obey that command or not?" surely not! else he would be considered as a rebel, and be punished. Now if Christ, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, giveth a command, and by this command institutes a Holy Sacrament, has any mere mortal and sinful being,
right and authority to declare: "the performance of that command and institution is not essential!"—especially, when he unites a blessing therewith, whilst the command of an earthly King is perhaps a heavy burden to his subjects-for what reason did Christ command his Apostles: "Baptize all nations," if it is not essential? Can any intelligent and enlightened Christian, imagine himself, that Jesus who is the fountain of all wisdom, would ordain and command an ordinance, which is to be performed in the name of the Triune God, that is not essential, not a means of Salvation?-that He who shed his precious blood for the Salvation of mankind, should present them with emp ty insignificant ceremonies? Indeed such thoughts are nothing but mockery, and do highly dishonour the Saviour, and likewise prove a great deal of unbelief!
2d. Jesus declares Mark 16: 16, He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; this Declaration of the Saviour, is a strong and undeniable proof, that Baptism is essential, yea that it is a means of Salvation.
3d. On the day of Pentecost, when the Apostle Peter declared the word of life unto the multitude at Jerusalem, many were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the Apostles: "Men and brethren what shall we do?" Then Peter said unto them: "Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Now observe: what was the question of the multitude? "What shall we do?" undoubtedly to be saved, to receive remission of sins &c.--and what was required by the inspired Apostle? repentance (which implies, sorrow for sin and faith in Christ) and Baptism, and in verse 41, we read "then they that gladly received his word, were baptized, and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. Now those who deny Baptism to be essential, admit that repentance is required, but proves not this passage, that Baptism is just as requisite as repentance? The Apostle did not say (as perhaps some professors in our days would have said, if they had been in the place of St. Peter) "Repent, and if you please, or if you think it to be necessary, be baptized, however it is not essential." No, such was not the language of an inspired Apostle of Jesus, who had received of his great Master, the solemu Command, "teach and baptize them." Peter answered the important inquiry of his hearers distinctly-"repent and be baptized every one," He spake the language of the holy spirit, hence the language of God, who had taught him what he should say, John 14: 26. Now suppose, the Holy Spirit would personally come down to us, and tell us the same words, which Peter told unto the Jews, would any of us be so bold, and refute or contradict Him, by saying it is not essential to be baptized!-it imports nothing! I think not. But are not the words which we have in divine record of the same authenticity, as if spoken by God himself? But says one, the Apostle spoke them to the Jews, hence they have no reference to us-I answer, with the same propriety I can say nothing in divine revelation hath any reference to us, because it was first declared to the Apostles, Jews and Gentiles. Therefore if it was ce Vol. V. No. 1.
sential for the first converts of the Christian Church, for those at Jerusalem, for Cornelius and others Acts 10, for Lydia and her household and the Jailor and his family Acts 16, for the Apostle Paul Acts 22: 16, then it is manifest, that it must be essential for us too, or are we better than they were? The scripture declares Romans S, in no wise, for there is no difference, for all have sinned, and it would be abominable to think, that they should have been baptized merely for the sake of a useless custom. The order of salvation is not altered since the time of the Apostles, for the holy spirit is not changeable or double-tongued, that he at one time says so, and at an other time otherwise. Gallations 1: 8.
4th. Our Saviour declares, John 3: 5, "verily verily I say unto thee except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God." This passage in connection with Paul's Declarations Titus 3: 5, and Ephesians 5: 25 26, shew clearly, that Baptism with water, is a means of regeneration-now if regeneration is essential, which is not denied then Baptism must be 'the same, for it is a means of regeneration. The limits of a periodical, will not permit, to answer all the objections which are made against the doctrine of Baptism being a means of religion. However I shall quote some, and answer them. I would also observe, that many have composed Sermons, Hymns, &c. to prove that: "Baptism is not regeneration," no reasonable Christian will believe, that it is regeneration itself to state, Baptism is regeneration, is just as absurd as to say, the mother is the child-hence such intend to prove the inconsistency of something, which is not in existence, therefore they fight as on ethat beateth the air, 1st Corinthians 9 26. and it would be of no use to spend time and paper to answer their arguments.
To prove that Baptism is not the means of regeneration, some allege: "that when our Lord uttered these words, Baptism as a chris tian ordinance, had not been instituted, though, the Baptism of John was generally practised, but it is not likely, that our Lord would insist in this solemn manner on the absolute necessity of Baptism, when as yet, it was not ordained by Christ himself, hence the term water in that passage cannnot mean water Baptism." If this is a sufficient proof, to argue that water Baptism cannot be the means of regeneration, because it was not yet ordained, when Christ uttered these words, then I may just as well argue, the holy spirit cannot be the means, for we read John 7: 39, "for the Holy Ghost, was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified." It is manifest from the contents of the passage John 3: 5, that Christ could mean nothing but natural water, together with the spirit; in the 12th verse, our Lord says: "If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things." Christ mentioned water in the 5th verse, which is an earthly thing. Now when Christ told Nicodemus of an earthly thing, he could not mean spirit, alone, for that is heavenly and divine. But why should they believe earthly things? because the heavenly thing are therewith connected. In the sacraments, God bestowed heavenly blessings unto the earthly man, hence he combines the earthly with the heavenly, in them
Therefore Baptism is not mere water, but it is that water which the Ordinance of God enjoins, and which is connected with God's holy word, and God has inseparably connected the Holy Spirit with the word, for the Saviour declares John 6: 63 the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. "By the preaching of Gospel the spirit is administered, Galatians 3: 2 5; "this only would I learn" says St. Paul, "received ye the spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing of faith," Romans 10: 17, "faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God." It is further evident that Christ, when he said “Except a man be born of water and of spirit &c." must have alluded to the Baptism with water; for thus we read in this same chapter v. 22 23, "after these things came Jesus and his disciples, unto the land of Judea, and there tarried with them and baptized. Others say the term water in that passage is to mean spirit, but why then would he add the word spirit? if the water is to signify spirit, then it would be the same as if Christ had said, "except a man be born of the spirt and of the spirit &c." which would be inconsistent. If he had said: except a man be born of water and not mentioned spirit at all, then there would be more reason to believe, that the word water should signify spirit; further, it is erroneous to suppose that water in this passage, is an emblem of the spirit, an emblem is an allusive picture hence an image, alluding to some person or thing. But is it possible that water can be an emblem of the holy spirit? the holy spirit is God, and cannot be represented by water, nor any thing else Isai 40: 18, "to whom will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him?" Others say we must be baptized with the inward Baptism of the Holy Ghost, of which the Baptism with water is only an emblem, hence they must teach, that there are two Baptisms, the one an emblematical with water, and the other the Baptism with the Holy Ghost. But the Apostle expressly said Ephesians 4: 5, "One Lord one faith, one Baptism." Thus agreeably to the apostle's declaration, there is but one Baptism, and not two, i. e. an emblematical and spiritual, and this one Baptism consists of Water and Spirit. We read of a Baptism of the spirit, but it can be sufficiently proved, that this Baptism, did allude to the effusion of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and that the Apostles received this promised Baptism of the spirit on that day, whose descent was signalized by a sound from heaven as of a mighty wind, and accompanied by the phenomenon of cloven tongues, as of fire, and thus they received those miraculous gifts, that they could speak in different Languages, heal the sick by the laying on of their hands, cast out devils, and raise up the dead. Christians in common during the primitive age, received miraculous gifts of the spirit by the imposition of the Apostle's hands; for they could speak with tongues, and prophecy. In this manner the divine authenticity of the religion of Jesus was established and confirmed; Hebrews 2: 4. But this Baptism ceased, for after the Christian religion was sufficiently attested by signs and wonders, their continuation became unnecessary. Such as pretend to have received this Baptism of the spirit, the same as the Apostles and primitive christians, let them manifest