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Christian hearts I will not doubt. No; it is the poison, the delusion of a false system that has done this.
No less is the Baptist system injurious to the highest interests of the whole Christian community. The implications of the Baptist system, and the proselyting spirit generated by it, and their charges on the rest of the Christian community, tend directly to irritate and alienate, to cherish the spirit of hostility, to nourish unholy controversy, to corrupt the love of truth by the desire of victory, and to breed an unchristian contempt towards our Baptist brethren, as exclusive, narrow-minded and contracted. All this is wrong, and it is an infinite evil. Over it all true Christians ought to mourn; against it they ought to strive and pray. But the Baptist system tends directly to produce it. For it is based on a mere external act which has in itself no importance, except what is supposed to be created by a positive command. It is not like the law of God, and holiness founded in the nature of things; and yet it cuts with the sharp edge of exclusion, and with charges of rebellion against God, as keenly as if it were as important as the being of God himself
. Now, though to yield to temptation is wrong, and Christian endurance ought to rise superior to every trial, yet it is and ever will be an infinite calamity to the church, to be harassed and tried by a system so exquisitely adapted, both in theory and practice, to irritate and provoke; and the cessation of an influence so malignant would be to the church almost like life from the dead. Of course,
2. There is no higher duty resting on the church at this time than that of bringing this long protracted and exceedingly injurious controversy to a close. The last great Papal war is coming on; our own civil and religious liberties are in danger; and is this a time still more to embitter the divisions of real Christians at home, and to sow the seeds of future discord, by translations unintentionally but really erroneous, in all parts of the heathen world? The power of Satan's harlot church lies in organic unity on false and worldly principles. But still unity gives power, and till the true church discovers the true law of Christian unity and unites, the power of Satan cannot be and will not be overcome. He knows the full worth of the maxim, divide and conquer. The worth of the maxim, unite and conquer, the church has yet to learn; and to learn it and reduce it to practice is the great work and duty of the present age.
3. This controversy can be brought to a close. The real is. sue is one and simple. False issues can be avoided-false principles rejected—and the real issue decided; for it all depends upon a simple question in philology, and with regard to that question there is abundant proof.
The settlement of this question has been greatly hindered by attempts to prove that Bantitw means to sprinkle or pour. I have never seen the least evidence that it has either of these meanings, and to attempt to defend the cause of sprinkling or pouring on such grounds is, in my judgment, to make a false issue, and in effect to betray the cause; and yet it has been often done, and is still done. I shall not wonder if Baptists remain forever unconvinced by such arguments as these.
The settlement of this question is also greatly hindered by admitting that Benrítw in the command means to iminerse, and yet claiming the right, on the ground of expediency, to practise sprinkling, because in our judgment it retains the essence of the command. Especially, if it is at the same time conceded that Rom. 6:3, 4, and Col. 2: 12, relate to the external rite, and 'that the early church understood Banrítw as meaning immerse, and practised immersion for that reason. When all this is conceded, the whole question is conceded. It is perfect logical demonstration in favor of immersion. But I have abundantly shown that none of these things are so. Hence, to concede them is to give up the whole question, and thus, on grounds of expediency, to claim the right to alter a command of God. This is placing the defence of the right to sprinkle on a false principle, for no such right as is claiined exists. Nor shall I wonder if the Baptists reinain forever unconvinced by such reasoning as this.
The real and the only issue is this. Is the command an open command? Is it a command to purify, or a command to perform an external specific act? One or the other it is. Which? If the latter, then let us all obey. If a command to purify, then let us all cease to dispute about forms, and obey in that mode which seems to us most significant, decorous and solemn.
This brings the whole question to an issue definite and simple, and as it regards every point upon which this issue depends, there is abundant proof, and that of a kind which is in its nature absolute and decisive.
4. The responsibility of terminating this discussion rests
mainly, if not entirely, with the learned scholars and leading minds of the Christian world.
It depends upon a question in philology: On such questions original investigation is and must be limited to a few. It extends over a wide field, and calls for nice discrimination, and accurate principles of philology. Hence, the mass of the Christian cominunity are peculiarly in the power of their leadersand their leaders are exposed to peculiar temptations. By bold and united assertions, and by overlooking or suppressing eridence, they can keep their parties together, and inspire them with zeal even against the truth.
Hence, on no class of men do such responsibilities rest as on the learned leaders in this cause, to make themselves fully acquainted with the evidence on which a decision depends, to avoid all false issues, to reject all unsound principles, and sincerely and honestly, as in the sight of God, t:) meet the main question, avoiding all personalities, and all unchristian excitement, and suppressing and concealing no part of the truth. If they will do this, and look to God for the illumination and guidance of the Spirit, then he will cause the watchmen to see eye to eye, to lift up the voice together, and together to sing. If not, let them fear lest they become not merely blind leaders of the blind, but treacherous guides of confiding but dependent minds. All error in the discussion of this subject is not on one side. There have been false defences of the truth, which need as really to be abandoned, as positive error. regard to the glory of God should lead each to inquire, not how can I prove that all my past positions have been true, but how can I discover all errors which I have incautiously embraced, and retain the truth alone? So soon as leading minds agree on this point, the inind of the community will be at rest, and not till then.
Much evil has been done by speaking of this discussion as a mere dispute about forms, and as unworthy of the aitention of an expanded and liberal vind. It relates indeed to a form, but as I have shown it affects immense spiritual interests, and it is in its essential nature a question in philology—to be decided just as all other philological questions are—and the real difficulty has been not that it has been discussed too much, but that the discussion has not been sufficiently radical and extensive, and that much very important evidence has been sparingly used,
And a supreine
if used at all. Let this state of things cease, and the sanctified intellectual energies of the Christian community be brought to bear on this subject with humble prayer for divine guidance, and the clouds of error will pass away.
The present state of things ought not to continue, nay it cannot. The cause of God can never triumph whilst his church is so painfully divided and her energies so paralyzed, and so long as such errorists as the Campbellites and the Mormons are shieldled, in their most pernicious formalism, on a point so vital to thein as baptism, by the influence of the Evangelical Baptists.
Nor does it seem to me possible that all leading minds, through power of conviction, should ever accede to the Baptist position in all its rigor and extent, giving to the word but one sense, and that to immerse; and making this an iron rule for translation and practice. It is a system more rigid than that of the Fathers, even in the ages of the highest formalism. So rigid a system never did prevail in the church, nor can I believe that it ever will. There are not the elements of logical proof in existence. It disagrees with all of our ideas of fitness; there is no reason to wish it true, and its fundamental position can be logically destroyed.
The position defended by me, takes nothing from any one but the right to think others wrong and to censure and exclude them, and in itself considered there is every thing to recommend it. For
1. It is more adapted to the varying conditions of men, and to all changes of climate, times, seasons, and health.
2. It is more accordant with the liberal and enlarged spirit of Christianity, as a religion of freedom, designed for all countries and all times.
3. It better agrees with our ideas of what is reasonable and fit.
4. It offers no temptations to formalism, nor does it tend to foster arrogance and exclusion.
5. It is perfectly adequate to harmonize the church. 6. It is susceptible of any necessary degree of proof. I have by no means exhausted the proof that exists, nor even what I have on hand. To much I have not bad time even to allude. But what I have produced is sufficient, I trust, by the blessing of God, to secure the end that I proposed, “ to furnish some small share of the materials which God may use in producing the unity of his own church.” But for faith in God, I
nerer should have dared to undertake this work. But for his sustaining grace I could not have brought it thus far. Almost exhausted by efforts to sustain the college over which I preside, in a time of unparalleled pecuniary embarrassment, without an adequate library at the college, compelled to visit distant libraries, some more than a thousand miles distant, and to make researches at long intervals, loaded with pecuniary cares and anxieties, compelled often to write on journeys, in steam-boats, and canal-boats, and taverns, no one can be more deeply sensible than I am of the necessary imperfections of my performance. Yet, I have looked to my God to save me froin hurtful error, and to guide me into the truth, and it is my humble persuasion that he has heard my prayer. To him, in conclusion, I commend all that I have written, imploring him to pardon all its imperfections, to correct all its errors, and to use all its truth to the glory of his own great and holy name.
Christ PREACHING TO THE SPIRITS IN PRISON. “Οτι και Χριστός άπαξ περί αμαρτιών έπαθε, δίκαιος υπέρ αδίκων, ίνα ήμάς προςαγάγη τω θεώ, θανατωθείς μεν σαρκί, ζωοποιηθείς δε πνεύματι, εν ω και τους εν φυλακή πνεύμασι πορευθείς εκήρυξεν, 1 άπειθήσασί ποτε, ότε άπεξεδέχετο ή του θεου μακροθυμία εν ημέραις Νώε, κατασκευαζομένης κιβωτού, εις ήν ολίγαι τούτ' έστιν οκτώ ψυχαι διεσώθησαν δί ύδατος: ο και ημάς αντίτυπον νυν σώζει βάπτισμα, ου σαρκός απόθεσις ρύπου, αλλά συνειδήσεως αγαθής επερώτημα εις θεόν, δι αναστάσεως Ιησού Χριστού.–1 Ρet. 3: 18-21.
By Rev. Thomas H. Skinner, D. D., Pastor of Mercer Street Church, N. Y.
The course of Christianity from the beginning has been one of great conflict. That a religion from God should encounter such opposition was a mystery, and the apostles were not without the apprehension that it might shake the faith of some of their inexperienced disciples, as appears from the care which they show in their writings to guard them against defection on that account. .