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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15

The True Nature of Baptism

Joseph Belcher

From the book, Religious Denominations of the United States, 1856

The following reasons have been given by the Baptists why they baptize ONLY professing Christians:

1. Because our Lord Jesus Christ, when he was about to ascend to heaven commanded it. Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15. As the command is so plain, positive, and solemn, they feel bound to reverence his authority and will.

2. Because the Saviour condescended to set his people an example, and requires them to follow in his steps. Matt. 3:13-19. Mark 1:9-11. Luke 3:21-22. 1 Pet. 2:21. He came from Galilee to Jordan, three days' journey, to John to be baptized of him, and he was baptized of John in Jordan.

3. Because baptism is acknowledged to be from heaven, or a divine institution. John was sent by God himself to baptize in water. John 1:33. This the Jews knew, though when Jesus put the question to them they pleaded ignorance, because they were ashamed or afraid to confess it. Matt. 11:24-27. Mark 11:29-33.

4. Because baptism is a part of the counsel of God which they dare not reject, oppose, or disregard. Luke 7:29-30. If God by his servants commands us to do it, shall we not obey? If the Pharisees and lawyers are found guilty for rejecting it, how can Christians be excused if they imitate their conduct?

5. Because baptism was administered by the Apostles of our Lord in his presence, by his command, and under his sanction. John 3:22. 4:2. If the Apostles baptized because Jesus commanded, so should we; and if he sanctioned them, no doubt but he will sanction us.

6. Because primitive Christians considered it a privilege to be baptized in the name of Jesus, and it has undergone no change since that time. Acts 8:36-39. 10:46-48. 18:8. How anxious the Eunuch appeared to be baptized, and Peter demanded a reason why the Centurion, and his friends who believed, should not enjoy the same privilege.

7. Because baptism is the answer of a good conscience toward God. 1 Pet. 3:21. When a man believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, he begins to search the Scriptures with prayer and anxious desire to know the will of God; whatever he discovers to be plainly revealed he receives, and whatever is positively commanded an honest conscience requires him to perform: seeing baptism to be a plain and positive institution of the Lord Jesus Christ, he cannot answer the demands of his conscience but by attending to it. He must be baptized or sin against his conscience and against God: but in baptism the requirement of conscience is answered, and his mind is set at rest.

8. Because baptism is an instructive ordinance, setting forth the doctrine of salvation by the vicarious sufferings, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Luke 12:50. Rom. 6:3-5 Col. 2:12. Jesus was baptized in sufferings, sorrows, and death: he arose from the grave, and so effected our deliverance from the law, sin, and death. Paul tells us that we were circumcised IN him as our Representative, but we are buried WITH him by baptism, as our living head.

We are planted TOGETHER in the likeness of his death, and we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. It teaches us also what is requisite to church membership under the gospel, as REPENTANCE, Acts 2:38: FAITH, Acts 8:36-37: CONFESSION, Rom. 10:9-10. Those only ought to be church-members who are in the way of salvation, but those only can be said to be in the way who repent of sin, believe in Jesus, and confess his name. Mark 8:38.

9. Because God still honors the baptism of believers by immersion, to the conversion of sinners and the edification of saints: we seldom find the ordinance administered without this being the case, and would God thus sanction what is contrary to his word or opposed to his will?

10. Because they desire to glorify God in obeying his commands; they believe all his commands flow from wisdom, love, and grace; and therefore desire to walk in them to his glory, and their own profit: and we find that in keeping his commandments there is a great reward. Ps. 19:11.

11. Because baptism by immersion is now generally considered to be a cross; and they would not avoid any cross which is laid in their way by their divine Master: but would take it up and cheerfully carry it after him, singing:

  "Through floods and flames, if Jesus lead,
     I'll follow where he goes
     Hinder me not, shall be my cry,
    Though earth and hell oppose."

12. Because they would not live in any allowed sin, which they must do if they did not baptize; for:

a. They view baptism as a good and holy ordinance of Jesus Christ, and are told that he that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. James 4:17.

b. They view it as a part of the divine Master's perceptive will, and they consider that they are bound to obey him; and he that knoweth his Master's will and doeth it not shall be beaten with many stripes. Luke 12:47.

c. They view it as an acknowledgment of Christ's kingly office and authority; therefore, neglecting to attend to it would be sin. Rom. 14:22-23.

The Baptists contend that the Examples of Scripture Baptism are all in favor of their views and practice, and are decidedly opposed to Infant Baptism. One of their eminent writers thus discusses this topic:

1. 'John baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus,' Acts 19:4. All baptized by John in the river Jordan, confessed their sins, Mark 1:5. John's baptism of repentance, confession of sins, and faith in the coming Messiah, could not be the baptism of infants.

2. Our Lord was baptized, not in infancy, but when he 'began to be about thirty years of age,' Luke 3:23.

3. 'Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not but his disciples,') John 4:1, 2. Those baptized were disciples, and these could not be infants.

4. On the day of Pentecost, when those who 'were pricked in their hearts' inquired 'What shall we do? Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you.' And 'they that gladly received his word were baptized,' Acts 2:37-41. On this occasion 'about three thousand' were baptized; but not one of these was an infant.

5. 'Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ them.' And 'when they believed Philip, they were baptized both men and women,' Acts 8:5-12. Had Philip, baptized infants would they not have been mentioned as well as men and women!

6. Philip preached Jesus to the Eunuch, who desired to be baptized and after his baptism went on his way rejoicing. Acts 8:9.

7. Paul repented, prayed, addressed Jesus as Lord, desired to know, that he might do his Lord's will, and received his sight, before he was baptized, Acts 9:11-18.

8. At Caesarea 'the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord,' Acts 10:44-48. These were not infants but believers.

9. Lydia's heart was opened, and she attended to the things which were spoken of Paul, and 'she was baptized and her household,' Acts 16:14, 15. The baptism of this household is no evidence of infant baptism.  For:

1. There is no evidence that there was an infant this household.

2. There is no evidence that Lydia had any family.

3. There is no evidence that she was even married.

4. A household does not necessarily require or imply, an infant―there are multitudes of households in which there is not an infant.

5. From John 4:53, and Acts 18:8, we learn that there were believing households in the days of the apostles.

6. There are believing households in the present day.

7. Those who now baptize none but believers sometimes baptize whole households. As it cannot be proved that there was an infant in Lydia's household, the baptism of her household can be no proof of infant baptism.

10. Paul and Silas spake unto the jailor 'the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he was baptized, he and all his straightway.' And he 'rejoiced, believing in God with all his house,' Acts 16:31-34. The apostles would not 'speak the word of the Lord' to infants; nor could infants rejoice, believing in God.' This baptized household believed in God. There is nothing here in favor of infant baptism.

11. 'Crispus believed on the Lord with all his house and many of the Corinthians hearing, believed, and were baptized,' Acts 18:8. All the house of Crispus believed. There were no infants here.

12. The twelve disciples baptized at Ephesus, believed before they were baptized, Acts 19:2. None of these were infants,

13. Paul baptized Crispus and Gaius and 'the household of Stephanas,' 1 Cor. 1:14-16. 'Ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,' 1 Cor. 16:15. These first converts in Achaia, and ministers to the saints, could not be infants.

14. So many of the Romans as were baptized, were capable of knowing that they were baptized into the death of Christ, and of walking in newness of life, Rom. 6:3, 4. Therefore, there were no baptized infants among them.

15. As many of the Galatians as were baptized, had 'put on Christ,' and were by profession 'the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus,' Gal. 3:26, 27, There were, therefore, no baptized infants,. among them.

16, In their baptism the Colossians had “risen with Christ: through faith,' Col. 2:12. Hence their baptism was that of believers."

"These, we believe, are all the scripture examples of baptism. Is it not with good reason Dr. Wall says, in his History of Infant Baptism, 'Among all the persons that are recorded as baptized by the apostles; there is no express mention of an infant?' The baptism of believers frequently mentioned in the Scriptures, but the baptism of infants never. This would be unaccountable, were it the will of God that infants should be baptized.

“Had the Saviour commissioned the apostles to baptize; infants, it would have been their duty to baptize all infants. Had they baptized all infants, their baptism would have been one of the most important acts of the apostles; in that case would it not be strange indeed that Luke, in writing the Acts of the Apostles, never mentions; the baptism of infants as one of their acts? He plainly tells us they baptized men and women, but never tells us they baptized infants. We cannot account for the entire omission of infant baptism in the written Acts of the Apostles, without admitting its entire omission in their living acts."

The Baptists believe, therefore, with the Chevalier Bunsen, a most distinguished pedobaptist of the present day, in his remarkable work, Hippolytus and His Age. He says, "The Church adhered rigidly to the principle, as constituting the true purport of the baptism ordained by Christ, that no one can be a member of the communion of saints, but by his own solemn vow made in the presence of the Church. It was with this understanding that the candidate for baptism was immersed in water, and admitted as a brother, upon his confession of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost."

The same extraordinary man says in his edition of a lost work of Hippolytus, Bishop of Portus, The New Harbor of Rome, from A. D. 198-236, which has been recently discovered, and which the Chevalier has most ably edited and published, “Pedobaptism, in the more modern sense, meaning thereby the baptism of new-born infants, with the vicarious promises of parents or sponsors, was utterly unknown in the early church; not only down to the end of the second, but indeed to the middle of the 3rd century.”