By Thomas Clarkson (1806)
Baptism—Two baptisms—That of John and of Christ—That
of John was by water, a Jewish ordinance, and used preparatory to religious
conversion and worship—Hence John used it as preparatory to conversion to
Christianity—Jesus submitted to it to fulfill all righteousness—Others as to a
baptism to repentance—But it was not initiative into the Christian church, but
belonged to the Old Testament—Nor was John under the Gospel, but under the law.
I come now to the arguments which the Quakers have to offer for the rejection of the use of baptism and of the sacrament of the supper; and first for that of the use of the former rite.
Two baptisms are recorded in scripture—the baptism of John, and the baptism of Christ.
The baptism of John was by water, and a Jewish ordinance. The washing of garments and of the body, which were called baptisms by the Hellenistic Jews, were enjoined to the Jewish nation, as modes of purification from legal pollutions, symbolical of that inward cleansing of the heart, which was necessary to persons before they could hold sacred offices, or pay their religions homage in the temple, or become the true worshippers of God. The Jews, therefore, in after times, when they made proselytes from the Heathen nations, enjoined these the same customs as they observed themselves. They generally circumcised, at least the proselytes of the covenant, as a mark of their incorporation into the Jewish church, and they afterwards washed them with water or baptized them, which was to be a sign to them of their having been cleansed from the filth of idolatry, and an emblem of their fitness, in case of a real cleansing, to receive the purer precepts of the Jewish religion, and to walk in newness of life.
Baptism therefore was a Jewish ordinance, used on religious occasions:
and therefore John, when he endeavored by means of his preaching to prepare the Jews for the coming of the Messiah, and their minds for the reception of the new religion, used it as a symbol of the purification of heart, that was necessary for the dispensation which was then at hand. He knew that his hearers would understand the meaning of the ceremony. He had reason also to believe, that on account of the nature of his mission, they would expect it. Hence the Sanhedrim, to whom the cognizance of the legal cleansings belonged, when they were informed of the baptism of John, never expressed any surprise at it, as a now, or unusual, or improper custom. They only found fault with him for the administration of it, when he denied himself to be either Elias or Christ.
It was partly upon one of the principles that have been mentioned, that Jesus received the baptism of John. He received it as it is recorded, because “thus it became him to fulfill all righteousness.” By the fulfilling of righteousness is meant the fulfilling of the ordinances of the law, or the customs required by the Mosaic dispensation in particular cases. He had already undergone circumcision as a Jewish ordinance, and he now submitted to baptism. For as Aaron and his Sons were baptized previously to the taking upon them of the office of the Jewish priesthood, so Jesus was baptized by John previously to his entering upon his own ministry, or becoming the high priest of the Christian dispensation.
But though Jesus Christ received the baptism of John, that he might fulfill all righteousness, others received it as the baptism of repentance from sins, that they might be able to enter the kingdom that was at hand. This baptism, however, was not initiative into the Christian church. For the Apostles rebaptized some who had been baptized by John. Those, again, who received the baptism of John, did not profess faith in Christ, John again, as well as his doctrines, belonged to the Old Testament. He was no minister under the new dispensation, but the last prophet under the law. Hence Jesus said, that though none of the prophets “were greater than John the Baptist, yet he that is least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.” Neither did he ever hear the Gospel preached; for Jesus did not begin his ministry till John had been put into prison, where he was beheaded by the orders of Herod. John, in short, was with respect to Jesus, what Moses was with respect to Joshua. Moses, though he conducted to the promised land, and was permitted to see it from Mount Nebo, yet never entered it, but gave place to Joshua, whose name, like that of Jesus, signifies a Savior. In the same manner John conducted to Jesus Christ. He saw him once with his own eyes, but he was never permitted, while alive, to enter into his spiritual kingdom.
Second baptism, or that of Christ—This the baptism of the
gospel—This distinct from the former in point of time; and in nature and
essence—As that of John was outward, so this was to be inward and spiritual—It
was to cleanse the heart—and was to be capable of making even the Gentiles the
seed of Abraham—This distinction of watery and spiritual baptism pointed out by
Jesus Christ—by St. Peter—and by St. Paul.
The second baptism, recorded in the scriptures, is that of Christ. This may be called the baptism of the Gospel, in contradistinction to the former, which was that of the law.
This baptism is totally distinct from the former. John himself said, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but he that cometh after me, is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear. He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.”
From these words it appears, that this baptism is distinct, in point of time, from the former; for it was to follow the baptism of John: and secondly, in nature and essence; for whereas that of John was by water, this was to be by the spirit.
This latter distinction is insisted upon by John in other places. For when he was questioned by the Pharisees “why he baptized, if he was not that Christ, nor Elias, nor that prophet,” he thought it a sufficient excuse to say, “I baptize with water;” that is, I baptize with water only; I use only an ancient Jewish custom; I do not intrude upon the office of Christ, who is coming after me, or pretend to his baptism of the spirit. We find also, that no less than three times in eight verses, when he speaks of his own baptism, he takes care to add to it the word “water,” to distinguish it from the baptism of Christ.
As the baptism of John cleansed the body from the filth of the flesh, so that of Christ was really to cleanse the soul from the filth of sin. Thus John, speaking of Jesus Christ, in allusion to this baptism, says, “whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into his garner, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” By this he insinuated, that in the same manner as the farmer, with the fan in his hand, winnows the corn, and separates the light and bad grains from the heavy and the good, and in the same manner as the fire afterwards destroys the chaff, so the baptism of Christ, for which he was preparing them, was of an inward and spiritual nature, and would effectually destroy the light and corrupt affections, and thoroughly cleanse the floor of the human heart.
This baptism, too, was to be so searching as to be able to penetrate the hardest heart, and to make even the Gentiles the real children of Abraham. “For think not, says John, in allusion to the same baptism, to say within yourselves, we have Abraham to our Father; for I say unto, you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” As if he had said, I acknowledge that you Pharisees can, many of you, boast of relationship to Abraham by a strict and scrupulous attention to shadowy and figurative ordinances; that many of you can boast of relationship to him by blood; and all of you by circumcision. But it does not follow, therefore, that you are the children of Abraham. Those only will be able to boast of being his seed, to whom the fan and fire of Christ’s baptism shall be applied. The baptism of him, who is to come after me, and whose kingdom is at hand, is of that spiritual and purifying nature, that it will produce effects very different from those of an observance of outward ordinances. It can so cleanse and purify the hearts of men, that if there are Gentiles in the most distant lands, ever so far removed from Abraham, and possessing hearts of the hardness of stones, it can make them the real children of Abraham in the sight of God.
This distinction between the watery baptism of John, and the fiery and spiritual baptism of Christ, was pointed out by Jesus Christ himself; for, he is reported to have appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, and to have commanded them “that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, says he, ye have heard from me. For John truly baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.”
Saint Luke also records a transaction which took place, in which Peter was concerned, and on which occasion he first discerned the baptism of Christ, as thus distinguished in the words which have been just given. “And as I began to speak, says he, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John, indeed, baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized by the Holy Spirit.”
A similar distinction is made also by St. Paul; for when he found that certain disciples had been baptized only with the baptism of John, he laid his hand upon them, and baptized them again; but this was with the baptism of the spirit. In his epistle also, to the Corinthians, we find the following expression: “For by one spirit are we all baptized unto one body.”
Question is, which of these baptisms is included in
the great commission given by Jesus to his Apostles, “of baptizing in the name
of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost?”—Quakers deny it to be that of John,
because contrary to the ideas of St. Peter and St. Paul—because the object of
John’s baptism had been completed—because it was a type under the law, and such
types were to cease.
It appears then that there are two baptisms recorded in Scripture; the one, the baptism of John, the other that of Christ; that these are distinct from one another; and that the one does not include the other, except he who baptizes with water, can baptize at the same time with the Holy Ghost. Now St. Paul speaks only of one baptism as effectual; and St. Peter must mean the same, when he speaks of the baptism that saveth. The question therefore is, which of the two baptisms that have been mentioned, is the one effectual, or saving baptism? or, which of these it is, that Jesus Christ included in his great commission to the Apostles, when he commanded them “to go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
The Quakers say, that the baptism, included in this commission, was not the baptism of John.
In the first place, St. Peter says it was not, in these words: “Which sometimes were disobedient, when once the long suffering of God waited in the days of Noah while the Ark was preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water; whose antetype baptism doth also now save us, (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
The Apostle states here concerning the baptism that is effectual and saving; first, that it is not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, which is effected by water. He carefully puts those upon their guard, to whom he writes, lest they should consider John’s baptism, or that of water, to be the saving one, to which he alludes; for, having made a beautiful comparison between an outward salvation in an outward ark, by the outward water, with this inward salvation by inward and spiritual water, in the inward ark of the Testament, he is fearful that his reader should connect these images, and fancy that water had any thing to do with this baptism. Hence he puts his caution in a parenthesis, thus guarding his meaning in an extraordinary manner.
He then shows what this baptism is, and calls it the answer of a good conscience towards God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In fact, he states it to be the baptism of Christ, which is by the Spirit. For he maintains, that he only is truly baptized, whose conscience is made clear by the resurrection of Christ in his heart. But who can make the answer of such a conscience, except the Holy Spirit shall have first purified the floor of the heart; except the spiritual fan of Christ shall have first separated the wheat from the chaff, and except his spiritual fire shall have consumed the latter?
St. Paul makes a similar declaration: “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. ”But no man, the Quakers say, merely by being dipped under water, can put on Christ, that is, his life, his nature, his disposition, his love, meekness, and temperance, and all those virtues which should characterize a Christian.
To the same purport are those other words by the same Apostle: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized unto Jesus Christ, were baptized into his 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.” And again-- “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him, through the faith of the co-operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” By these passages the Apostle Paul testifies that he alone is truly baptized, who first dies unto sin, and is raised up afterwards from sin unto righteousness, or who is raised up into life with Christ, or who so feels the inward resurrection and glory of Christ in his soul, that he walks in newness of life.
The Quakers show again, that the baptism of John could not have been included in the great commission, because the object of John’s baptism had been completed even before the preaching of Jesus Christ.
The great object of John’s baptism, was to make Jesus known to the Jews. John himself declared this to be the object of it. “But that he should be made manifest unto Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.” This object he accomplished two ways; first, by telling all whom he baptized that Jesus was coming, and these were the Israel of that time; for he is reported to have baptized all Jerusalem, which was the metropolis, and all Judea, and all the country round about Jordan. Secondly, by pointing him out personally. This he did to Andrew, so that Andrew left John and followed Jesus. Andrew, again, made him known to Simon, and these to Philip, and Philip to Nathaniel; so that by means of John, an assurance was given that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ.
The Quakers believe again, that the baptism of John was not included in the great commission, because it was a type under the law, and all types and shadows under the law were to cease under the Gospel dispensation, or the law of Christ.
The salvation of the Eight by water, and the baptism of John, were both types of the baptism of Christ. John was sent expressly before Jesus, baptizing the bodies of men with water, as a lively image, as he himself explains it, of the latter baptizing their souls with the Holy Ghost and with fire. The baptism of John, therefore, was both preparative and typical of that of Christ. And it is remarked by the Quakers, that no sooner was Jesus baptized by John with water in the type, than he was, according to all the Evangelists, baptized by the Holy Ghost in the antetype. No sooner did he go up out of the water, than John saw the Heavens opened, and the spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him. It was this baptism of Jesus in the antetype which occasioned John to know him personally, and enabled him to discover him to others. The baptism of John, therefore, being a type or figure under the law, was to give way, when the antetype or substance became apparent. And that it was to give way in its due time, is evident from the confession of John himself. For on a question which arose between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying, and on a report spread abroad, that Jesus had begun to baptize, John says, “He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease.”—This confession of John accords also with the following expressions of St. Paul: “The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the Holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing, which was a figure for the time then present,”—which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances imposed on them until the time of reformation.
Quakers show that the baptism, included in the great
commission, which appears not to be the baptism of John, is the baptism of
Christ, from a critical examination of the words in that commission—Way in which
the Quakers interpret these words—This interpretation confirmed by citations
from St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. Paul.
Having attempted to show, according to the method of the Quakers, that the baptism of John is not the baptism included in the great commission, I shall now produce those arguments, by which they maintain that that baptism, which is included in it, is the baptism of Christ.
These arguments will be found chiefly in a critical examination of the words of that commission.
To enable the reader to judge of the propriety of their observations upon these words, I shall transcribe from St. Matthew the three verses that relate to this subject. “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in Heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”
The first observation, which the Quakers make, is upon the word “THEREFORE.” As all power is given unto me both in Heaven and in earth; and as I can on that account, and as I will qualify you, go ye therefore, that is, having previously received from me the qualification necessary for your task, go ye.
The next observation is, that the commission does not imply that the Apostles were to teach and to baptize as two separate acts, but, as the words intimate, that they were to teach baptizing.
The Quakers say again, that the word “teach” is an improper translation of the original Greek. The Greek word should have been rendered “make disciples or proselytes.” In several editions of our own Bibles, the word “teach” is explained in the margin opposite to it, “make disciples or Christians of all nations,” or in the same manner as the Quakers explain it.
On the word “baptize,” they observe, that because its first meaning is to wash all over, and because baptism with Christians is always with water, people cannot easily separate the image of water from the word, when it is read or pronounced. But if this image is never to be separated from it, how will persons understand the words of St. Paul, “for by one spirit are we all baptized into one body?” Or those of Jesus, “Can ye drink of the cup that I drink of, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” Or, if this image is not to be separated from it, how will they understand the Evangelists, who represent Jesus Christ as about to baptize, or wash all over, with fire? To baptize, in short, signifies to dip under water, but, in its more general meaning, to purify. Fire and water have equally power in this respect, but on different objects. Water purifies surfaces. Fire purifies by actual and total separation, bringing those bodies into one mass which are homogeneous, or which have strong affinities to each other, and leaving the dross and incombustible parts by themselves.
The word “in” they also look upon as improperly translated. This word should have been rendered “into.” If the word “in” were the right translation, the words “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” might be construed into a form of words to be used at the time of baptism.
But we have no evidence that such a formula was ever used, when any of the Apostles baptized. Indeed, the plain meaning of the word is “into,” and therefore all such formula is groundless. “Jesus Christ did not, says Zuinglius, by these words institute a form of baptism, which we should use, as divines have falsely taught.”
On the word “name,” the Quakers observe, that, when it relates to the Lord, it frequently signifies in scripture, his life, or his spirit, or his power. Thus, “in my name, shall they cast out devils.” And, “by what power, or by what name have ye done this?”
From the interpretation, which has now been given of the meaning of several of the words in the verses, that have been quoted from St. Matthew, the sense of the commission, according to the Quakers, will stand thus: “All power is given to me in Heaven and in earth. In virtue of the power which I have, I will give you power also. I will confer upon you the gift of the Holy Spirit. When you have received it, go into different and distant lands; go to the Gentiles who live in ignorance, darkness, and idolatry, and make them proselytes to my new dispensation; so purifying their hearts, or burning the chaff of their corrupt affections by the active fire of the Holy Spirit, which shall accompany your preaching, that they may be made partakers of the divine nature, and walk in newness of life. And lest this should appear to be too great a work for your faith, I, who have the power, promise to be with you with this my spirit in the work, till the end of the world.”
The Quakers contend, that this is the true interpretation of this commission, because it exactly coincides with the meaning of the same commission as described by St. Luke and St. Mark, and of that also which was given to St. Paul.
St. Luke states the commission given to the Apostles to have been “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” The meaning therefore of the commission, as stated by St. Luke, is precisely the same as that stated by St. Matthew. For first, all nations are included in it. Secondly, purification of heart, or conversion from sin, is insisted upon to be the object of it. And thirdly, this object is to be effected, not by the baptism of water, (for baptism is no where mentioned,) but by preaching, in which is included the idea of the baptism of the spirit.
St. Mark also states the commission to be the same, in the following words: “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved.” Here all nations, and the preaching of the Gospel, are mentioned again; but baptism is now added. But the baptism that was to go with this preaching, the Quakers contend to be the baptism of the spirit. For first, the baptism here mentioned is connected with salvation. But the baptism, according to St. Peter, which doth also now save us, “is not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ;” or the baptism of the spirit. Secondly, the nature of the baptism here mentioned is explained by the verse that follows it. Thus, “he that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved. And these signs shall follow them that believe: they shall speak with new tongues.” This therefore is the same baptism as that which St. Paul conferred upon some of his disciples by the laying on of his hands. “And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came upon them, and they spake with tongues and prophesied.” Thus, again, it is demonstrated to be the baptism of the spirit.
The commission also, which has been handed down to us by St. Matthew, will be found, as it has been now explained, to coincide in its object with that which was given to Paul, as we find by his confession to Agrippa. For he declared he was sent as a minister to the Gentiles “to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they might receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith in Christ.” But what was this, the Quakers say, but to baptize them into the life and spirit of a new and divine nature, or with the baptism of Christ?
And as we have thus obtained a knowledge from St. Paul of what his own commission contained, so we have, from the same authority, a knowledge of what it did not contain; for he positively declares, in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, that “Christ sent him not to baptize (evidently alluding to the baptism by water) but to preach the Gospel.” It is clear therefore that St. Paul did not understand his commission to refer to water. And who was better qualified to understand it than himself?
It is also stated by the Quakers, as another argument to the same point, that if the baptism in the commission had been that of water only, the Apostles could easily have administered it of themselves, or without any supernatural assistance; but, in order that they might be enabled to execute that baptism which the commission pointed to, they were desired to wait for divine help. Jesus Christ said, “I send the promise of my father upon you; but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with the power from on high; for John truly baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.” Now, the Quakers ask, if baptism by water had been the baptism contained in the great commission, why could not the Apostles have performed it of themselves? What should have hindered them more than John from going with people into the rivers, and immersing them? Why were they first to receive themselves the baptism of the spirit? But if it be allowed, on the other hand, that when they executed the great commission, they were to perform the baptism of Christ, the case is altered. It became them then to wait for the divine help. For it required more than human power to give that baptism, which should change the disposition and affections of men, and should be able to bring them from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God. And here the Quakers observe, that the Apostles never attempted to execute the great commission, till the time fixed upon by our Savior, in these words: “But tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” This was the day of Pentecost. After this “they preached, as St. Peter says, with the Holy Ghost sent down from Heaven,” and with such efficacy, that “the Holy Ghost fell upon many of them, who heard their words.”
Objection to the foregoing arguments of the
Quakers—namely, “If it be not the baptism of John that is included in the Great
Commission, how came the Apostles to baptize with water?”—Practice and opinions
of Peter considered—also of Paul—also of Jesus Christ—This practice, as
explained by these opinions, considered by the Quakers to turn out in favor of
their own doctrine on this subject.
I have now stated the arguments by which the Quakers have been induced to believe that the baptism by the spirit, and not the baptism by water, was included by Jesus Christ in the great commission which he gave to his Apostles, when he requested them “to go into all nations, and to teach them, baptizing in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”
Against these arguments the following question has been usually started, as an objection: “If it be not included in the great commission, how came the Apostles to baptize; or would they have baptized, if baptism had not been considered by them as a Christian ordinance?”
The Quakers, in answering this objection, have confined themselves to the consideration of the conduct of the Apostles Peter and Paul. For though Philip is said to have baptized also, yet he left no writings behind him like the former; nor are so many circumstances recorded of him, by which they may be enabled to judge of his character, or to know what his opinions ultimately were, upon that subject.
The Quakers consider the Apostles as men of the like passions with themselves. They find the ambition of James and John; the apostasy and dissimulation of Peter; the incredulity of Thomas; the dissention between Paul and Barnabas; and the jealousies which some of them entertained towards one another, recorded in holy writ. They believe them also to have been mostly men of limited information, and to have had their prejudices, like other people. Hence it was not to be expected that they should come all at once into the knowledge of Christ’s kingdom; that, educated in a religion of types and ceremonials, they should all at once abandon these; that, expecting a temporal Messiah, they should lay aside at once temporal views; and that they should come immediately into the full purity of the gospel practice.
With respect to the Apostle Peter, he gave early signs of the dullness of his comprehension with respect to the nature of the character and kingdom of the Messiah. For when Jesus had given forth but a simple parable, he was obliged to ask him the meaning of it. This occasioned Jesus to say to him, “Are ye also yet without understanding?”
In a short time afterwards, when our Savior told him, “that he himself must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things, and be killed, and be raised again the third day, Peter took him and rebuked him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord. This shall not be unto thee.”
At a subsequent time, namely, just after the transfiguration of Christ, he seems to have known so little about spiritual things, that he expressed a wish to raise three earthly tabernacles, one to Moses, another to Elias, and a third to Jesus, for the retention of signs and shadows as a Gospel labor, at the very time when Jesus Christ was opening the dismission of all but one, namely, “the tabernacle of God, that is with men.”
Nor did he seem, at a more remote period, to have gained more large or spiritual ideas. He did not even know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was to be universal. He considered it as limited; to the Jews, though the words in the great commission, which he and the other Apostles had heard, ordered them to teach all nations. He was unwilling to go and preach to Cornelius on this very account, merely because he was a Roman Centurion, or in other words, a Gentile; so that a vision was necessary to remove his scruples in this particular. It was not till after this vision, and his conversation with Cornelius, that his mind began to be opened; and then he exclaimed, “Of a truth, I perceive that God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation, he that feareth him and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”
The mind of Peter now began to be opened and to see things in a clearer light, when a new occurrence that took place nearly at the same time, seems to have taken the film still more from his eyes: for while he preached to Cornelius, and the others present, he perceived that “the Holy Ghost fell upon all of them that heard his words, as on himself and the other Apostles at the beginning.” Then remembered Peter the words of the Lord, how that he said, “John indeed baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost:” that is, Peter finding that Cornelius and his friends had received, by means of his own powerful preaching, the Holy Ghost, perceived then for the first time, to his great surprise, that he had been executing the great commission of Jesus Christ; or that he had taught a Gentile, and baptized him with the Holy Spirit. Here it was that he first made the discrimination between the baptism of John, and the baptism of Christ.
From this time there is reason to think that his eyes became fully open; for in a few years afterwards, when we have an opportunity of viewing his conduct again, we find him an altered man as to his knowledge of spiritual things. Being called upon at the council of Jerusalem to deliberate on the propriety of circumcision to Gentile converts, he maintains that God gives his Holy Spirit as well to the Gentiles as to the Jews. He maintains again, that God purifies by faith; and he delivers it as his opinion, that circumcision is to be looked upon as a yoke. And here it may be remarked, that circumcision and baptism uniformly went together, when proselytes of the covenant were made, or when any of the Heathens were desirous of conforming to the whole of the Jewish law.
At a time, again, subsequent to this, or when he wrote his Epistles which were to go to the strangers all over Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, he discovers himself to be the same full grown man in spiritual things on the subject of baptism itself, in these remarkable words, which have been quoted: “Whose antitype baptism doth also now save us, (not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” So that the last opinion of Peter on the subject of water-baptism contradicted his practice, when he was but a novitiate in Christ’s kingdom.
With respect to the Apostle Paul, whose practice I am to consider next, it is said of him, as of St. Peter, that he baptized.
That Paul baptized is to be collected from his own writings. For it appears, by his own account, that there had been divisions among the Corinthians. Of those who had been converted to Christianity, some called themselves after the name of Cephas; others after the name of Apollos; others after the name of Paul; thus dividing themselves nominally into sects, according to the name of him who had either baptized or converted them. St. Paul mentions these circumstances, by which it comes to light, that he used water-baptism, and he regrets that the persons in question should have made such a bad use of this rite, as to call themselves after him who baptized them, instead of calling themselves after Christ, and dwelling on him alone. “I thank God, says he, that I baptized none of you but Crispus and Gaius; lest any should say that I baptized in my own name. And I baptized also the house of Stephanas. Besides I know not whether I baptized any other, for Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel.” Now this confession of the Apostle, which is usually brought against the Quakers, they consider to be entirely in their favor, and indeed decisive of the point in question. For they collect from hence, that St. Paul never considered baptism by water as any Gospel ordinance, or as any rite indispensably necessary, when men were admitted as members into the Christian church. For if he had considered it in this light, he would never have said that Christ sent him not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel. Neither would he have thanked God, on account of the mere abuse of it, that he had baptized so few, for doubtless there were many among the learned Greeks, who abused his preaching, and who called it foolishness, but yet he nowhere says, that he was sorry on that account that he ever preached to them; for preaching was a gospel ordinance enjoined him, by which many were to be converted to the Christian faith. Again—If he had considered water baptism, as a necessary mark of initiation into Christianity, he would uniformly have adopted it, as men became proselytes to his doctrines. But among the thousands, whom in all probability he baptized with the Holy Spirit among the Corinthians, it does not appear, that there were more than the members of the three families of Crispus, Gaius, and Stephanus, whom be baptized with water.
But still it is contended, that Paul says of himself, that the baptized. The Quakers agree to this, but they say that he must have done it, in these instances, on motives very different from those of an indispensable Christian rite.
In endeavoring to account for these motives, the Quakers consider the Apostle Paul as not in the situation of Peter and others, who were a long time in acquiring their spiritual knowledge, during which they might be in doubt as to the propriety of many customs; but as coming, on the other hand, quickly and powerfully into the knowledge of Christ’s kingdom. Hence, when he baptized, they impute no ignorance to him. They believe he rejected water-baptism as a gospel ordinance, but that he considered it in itself as an harmless ceremony, and that, viewing it in this light, he used it out of condescension to those Hellenistic Jews, whose prejudices, on account of the washings of Moses and their customs relative to proselytes, were so strong, that they could not separate purification by water from conversion to a new religion. For St. Paul confesses himself that “to the weak he became as weak, that he might gain the weak, and was made all things to all men, that he might by all means save some.” Of this his condescension many instances are recorded in the New Testament, though it may be only necessary to advert to one. At the great council at Jerusalem, where Paul, Barnabas, Peter, James, and others, were present, it was determined that circumcision was not necessary to the Gentiles. St. Paul himself with some others carried the very letter of the council, containing their determination upon this subject, to Antioch to the brethren there. This letter was addressed to the brethren of Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia. After having left Antioch, he went to Derbe and Lystra, where, notwithstanding the determination of himself and the rest of the council, that circumcision was not a Christian rite, he circumcised Timotheus, in condescension to the weakness of the Jews, who were in those quarters.
In addition to these observations on the practice and opinions of the Apostles, in the course of which the Quakers presume it will be found that the baptism of John is not an ordinance of the Gospel, they presume the same conclusion will be adopted, if they take into consideration the practice and opinions of Jesus Christ.
That Jesus Christ never forbad water-baptism, the Quakers readily allow. But they conceive his silence on this subject to have arisen from his knowledge of the internal state of the Jews. He knew how carnal their minds were; how much they were attached to outward ordinances; and how difficult it was to bring them all at once into his spiritual kingdom. Hence, he permitted many things for a time, on account of the weakness of their spiritual vision.
That Jesus submitted also to baptism himself, they allow. But he submitted to it, not because he intended to make it an ordinance under the new dispensation, but to use his own words, “that he might fulfill all righteousness.” Hence, also he was circumcised. Hence he celebrated the Passover. And hence, he was enabled to use these remarkable words upon the cross: “It is fulfilled.”
But though Jesus Christ never forbad water-baptism, and, though he was baptized with water by John, yet he never baptized any one himself. A rumor had gone abroad among the Pharisees, that the Jesus had baptized more disciples than John the Baptist. But John, the beloved disciple of Jesus, who had leaned on his bosom, and who knew more of his sentiments and practice than any other person is very careful, in correcting this hear-say report, as if unworthy of the spiritual mind of his master, and states positively; “that Jesus-baptized not.”
The Quakers, lay a great stress upon this circumstance: for they say, that if Jesus never baptized with water himself, it is a proof that he never intended to erect water-baptism into a Gospel-rite. It is difficult to conceive, they say, that he should have established a Sacrament, and that he should never have administered it. Would he not, on the other hand, if his own baptism had been that of water, have begun his ministry by baptizing his own disciples, notwithstanding they had previously been, baptized by John? But he not only never baptized, but it is no where recorded of him, that he ordered his disciples to baptize “with water.” He once ordered a leper to go to the priest, and to offer the gift for his cleansings. At another time, he ordered a blind man to go and wash in the pool of Siloam; but he never ordered any one to go and be baptized with water. On the other hand, it is said by the Quakers, that he dearly intimated to three of his disciples, at the transfiguration, that the dispensations of Moses and John were to pass away; and that he taught himself, “that the kingdom of God cometh not with observation;” or, that it consisted not in those outward and lifeless ordinances, in which many of those to whom he addressed himself placed the essence of their religion.
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