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ledged Jesus Christ as their lawgiver, guide, protector, and Saviour; bound themselves to be his disciples and followers, and to receive and obey his doctrines and laws, and risqued every thing upon his authority, wisdom, power, goodness, and faithfulness. Having been born of God under the old typical covenant, by being the natural descendants of Abraham, they were born again under the new covenant, by the incorruptible seed, the word of God, which by the gospel was preached unto them by faith in Jesus Christ.
You will not, I suppose, differ much from me in giving reformation and remission precedence to baptism. Do you not demand reformation before baptism? or do you administer baptism in order that men may afterwards reform? According to the ancient gospel” was not penitence before baptism? This question is answered by the first part of the verse, Acts ii. 31. “Repent and be baptized.” Did not remission of sins of course follow repentance, or gospel reformation ? Hlas not God always and every where granted remission, of course, to reformation? If so, how can obtaining remission be suspended on the act of baptism, an act dependant on the will and agency of another person, on the act of the administrator, and not on the penitent? These questions settle the matter when correctly answered, and prove that justification or the forgiveness of sin in the case of the Pentecostal Jews, preceded their baptism. If it be not the doctrine of the gospel, that the sins of penitent believers are remitted, through faith in Jesus Christ, or that sinners are justified by faith; then it follows that the grace of God through the atonement of Christ, and a living faith in him, do no more in the forgiveness of sin than to put it in the power of the administrator of baptism, to remit the sins of the believer by baptizing him; and should sickness or any thing else happen to prevent it, and he should die without being baptized, he would die in his sins. I lately heard of a young man who was in the last stage of consumption, becoming greatly concerned about the salvation of his soul, and was anxious to know what he should do to be saved. A proclaimer of immersion for the remission of sin visited him, and finding him too low to be baptized for the remission of sin, could not say a word to him by way of instruction or comfort; he could not say to him as Paul did to the Jailor, . Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,” but left him; and afterwards adduced this case by way of argument, in a powerful appeal he made to a congregation, to induce those who believed and had bodily health and strength, and had never been baptized for the remission of their sins, to be baptized lest they be involved in the hopeless condition of the young man. This I think was entirely consistent with the doctrine; and I would advocate it too, for the same reason he did, were I to believe that sin is actually remitted in baptism. He did not propose to baptize any one in unbelief, but considered faith of no effect without baptism; I too would urge þelievers to be baptized, but for a . different reason. I must attend a little to the remission of sing and baptism of the first Gentile congregation, in Acts x, 4. before I conclude this number.
I You did not bestow that attention upon the 2d number of Archippus which it demanded, and which was necessary for your understanding it. I am the more particular in attending to the facts and circumstances, which are recorded of the order and manner according to which the gospel was introduced to the Jews on the day of Pentecost, and to the first Gentile congregation, in Acts x. because it is here, as you have observed, that we can find a full and explicit developement of the institution of baptism, and its connexion with faith and the remission of sin, as what is said in the epistles and other remote documents, is by way of allusion, and does not teach the literal import of baptism and remission of sin in their relation to each other. Then we are not to learn from mere allusions, or oblique hints, or fugitive representations, such as appear in the conversation of Christ with Nicodemus, (John iii. 5, 7.) but from the direct and primary discoveries of the Apostles upon the subject.
After Peter had delivered a short but comprehensive discourse to Cornelius and household, under the authority of previous revelations made to himself and Cornelius, which occasioned the meeting between them, in which he exhibited the most conclusive proof that Jesus Christ was Messiah and Saviour, and just as he concluded his testimony in the following words: “To him gave all the prophets witness, that whosoever, or every one that believeth on him, shall receive remission of sins through his name," the Holy Ghost fell upon all them that heard the word, and they spoke with tongues, and glorified God. Then said Peter, Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Acts x. 34–48. Were these people in their sins when they received the gifts of the Holy Ghost and glorified God, which occurred before they were baptized ? I answer, No; because they had now received the comforter whom Christ had promised to his disciples, and whom the world could not receive; after that they believed, before they were baptized, they were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, Eph. i. 13. In the next chapter, Acts xi. we have this subject made very clear, which records Peter's defence before the Apostles, elders, and brethren against a complaint made by some of the Jewish converts against him, for going to the Gentiles and eating with them. In his defence he rehearsed the matter in order to them as it occurred. He told. them that after he delivered his testimony, "the Holy Ghost fell on them as on us at the beginning ” Acts ii. 1-4. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, (Acts i. 5.) John indeed baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Hely Ghost. For as much, then, as God gave them the like gifts as he did unto us who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, what was I that I could withstand God? When they heard these things they held their peace and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." This plainly proves that the Apostles and elders judged that the sins of the Gentiles who believed, were remitted, and that the gifts of the Holy Ghost were bestowed upon them in consequence of
it, and in proof of it, before a word was said about baptism, and before they were baptized, they are represented as being in the same state of divine favor that the one hundred and twenty disciples were on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Ghost was poured out upon them, We have further information upon this same subject from Peter. In the apostolic council at Jerusalem, Peter rose up and said unto them, “Men and brethren, ye know that God a good while ago made choice among us that the Gentiles, by my mouth, should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God who knoweth the heart bear them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost even as he did unto us, and put no difference between us and them, having purified their hearts by faith." And thus by the miraculous gifts of one spirit the Jews and Gentiles were baptized into one body, (Cor. xii. 13.) before either of them had been baptized with water into the name of Jesus Christ, and of course neither of them entered into the kingdom by the ordinance of baptism. When the hundred and twenty disciples in Acts chap. i. verse 15. and Acts ii. 1-4. were baptized in water, the new covenant was not ratified, for the blood of it was not shed, the new kingdom was not set up, and the King was not crowned. And the Gentiles were in the kingdom before Peter commanded them to be baptized, Rom. xiv. 17. through faith they had received the remission of their Bins and glorified God by the gifts of the Holy Ghost. The miraculous gifts saved no person who possessed them, but they were the witness and seal of God that those upon whom he bestowed them were saved by faith and enjoyed the divine favor. They moreover sealed and confirmed the testimony that whoever believed in Jesus Christ received remission of sin, and that he actually does receive it by faith at the moment of believing, without respect to baptism, altogether, as was the case with the first Gentile congregation and they of course seal the testimony that it is altogether an error to baptize any person in order to obtain remission for sin.
I have been thus particular in attending to the case of Cornelius and household in relation to faith, remission of sins and baptism, because they were the first Gentile congregation to whɔm the gospel was preached, and they are always spoken of and attended to as public characters and as the representatives of the Gentile world through all succeeding ages, in relation to God's order and method of remitting their sins, or of justifying them, and of receiving them into his faror, Hence they are denominated the Gentiles." Acts 10, 45, ch. 11, 18. And their faith is referred to as a rule and example in all other cases. Acts xv. 7-9, xiv. 23-29. Their case shows that faith in Jesus Christ is the radical principle in the christian character, as it is the principle of communion with God, and of christian union and fellow. ship. We are justified by faith; but faith is not baptism, as faith in the case of Abraham was not circumcision. Although our sins are not remitted by baptism, it is nevertheless the duty of all who are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, to be baptized into Christ and put him on
In my next letter I will endeavor to show the distinction between the justification of a sinner by faith only, without works, in making
him a righteous man, and the justification of a righteous man by works and not by faith only.
I shall expect you to give this communication a place in the Har. binger, and hope that you will acquiesce in the reasons it contains, "why sentence of heresy shall not be passed upon me for maintaining that sinners and.ungodly men are justified, or that their sins are remitted by faith without baptism,” which you demanded of me in the Millennial Harbinger, voi. 2, page 408. Tam, in the faith and love of Christ, your brother,
REPLY. BROTHER FISHBACK,
Dear Sir,—THE substance of your letter quoted above is but a reiteration of one of your former letters, signed Archippus. It has, in my review of that series, been fully examined, and I think fairly and fully met, with arguments to which you seem not to have attended. Unwilling, however, to pass it by with a simple reference to my former remarks, I shall briefly suggest to your consideration a few remarks upon it, for few of my readers can at all think that you have either sound logic or sacred documents to sustain your oppo. sition to the scriptural doctrine of remission.
When any one out of the kingdom asks you what he shall do to get rid of his past sins, you say to him, Believe for the remission of your sins, and be immersed, if convenient, into the doctrine that you are forgiven. Your reprobation of him who would not say to the dying youth, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,” together with your various reasonings, authorize this conclusion. Now, my dear sir, it requires, I think, but a very superficial knowledge of your system and of the scriptures of truth, to discover the great contrariety between you and the ancient proclaim. ers of the gospel. To this I would first call your attention, supposing that if corrected in this one point, you would, yourself, be every way able to refute your own reasonings.
Few read the New Testament with the discriminating attention that is due to the most ordinary productions. Hence it is that we find so few, comparatively, who understand it, amongst the teachers or the taught. Nine tenths, perhaps, of the sect from which you and I separated, quote and apply the passage on which you rely so much, as if of universal application. As Paul once spoke to a Roman jail keeper, alike ignorant both of the religion of Jesus and its founder, so they speak to every inquirer. So did not any prophet or apostle of divine authority ever speak to men. They all regarded inquirers according to their state, views, prejudices, and general circumstances. Let me impress this again upon your attention, and permit me to enforce it by high authority: for it appears that your education, in this one instance, still triumphs over your better judgment and general accuracy. Pardon my plainness in elucidating and enforcing this remark. John, the harbinger, Luke tells us, was, at
a certain time, addressed by three sorts of inquirers. His general theme .was reformation, and the fruits worthy of it. A whole class for multitude asked him, “What shall we do?" His answer was, "Let him who has two coats impart to him who has none, and let him who has victuals do the same." A second class called publicans next coming to him, said, “What shall we do?" He answered, "Exact no more than what is appointed you." A third class called soldiers also inquired, and "What shall we do?" Again he answers them in character, “Injure no man, either by violence or false accusation, and be content with your allowance." Thus, while reformation was his topic, he answers every man with special regard to his circumstances and character. Now what is the force of this example? Not, surely, that we address every man as Paul addressed the Philippian jailor! And is not this, my dear sir, the censure you inflict upon the preacher of reform_"He could not say to a dying young man what Paul said to the jailor!” This remark of yours opens a window through which I can see the reason of your opposition to immersion for remission-you would preach faith for remission to every person, irrespective of all circumstances. You would preach to the whole multitude, to the publicans, and to the soldiers, what John preached to the soldiers !!
But this is not all-you are arbitrary, in selecting the answer to the jailor's question, rather than the answer given to the same question, proposed by others. Thousands said to Peter and the other Apostles, “What shall we do? Reform and be immersed, &c. was the answer of all the Apostles, through Peter. Saul says, "Lord, what shall I do?" Arise and go into the city and it shall be told you what you must do--Ananias comes, and the question is answered, arise and be immersed, &c. Cornelius long prayed to know what he should do-an angel taught him what to do. Peter said, The angel shall tell you what you ought to do to be saved and what did he do? The jailor inquires, “Gentlemen, what must I do to be saved ?" For what reason do you prefer the answer given to the jailor to that given to the others? Because every one is in the jailor's circumstances, alike ignorant and pagan! Perhaps you will say, Because the jailor laid the emphasis upon the word saved, whereas the three thousand, and Saul of Tarsus, laid the emphasis upon the word forgiven. Admitting this to be the fact, that the jailor thought only of salvation from impending evils; and the three thousand, pierced with a sense of guilt, thought only of remission, and Saul, affrighted to find that he had persecuted the Lord of glory, thought supremely of forgiveness-1 say, admitting this to be the fact, as all the circumstances avouch, then are you inconsistent with yourself in selecting the jailor in preference to the others: because the controversy is about remission, or justification.
But unless you admit that Paul preached repentance and immersion to the jailor afterwards, when he spoke the word of the Lord to him and all his house, you must affirm that neither repentance, nor immersion, nor the Holy Spirit, is necessary to salvation, for Paul