“Jesus baptized.  And John also was baptizing in Aenon, because there was much water there” (John 3: 23). 







One of the two criminals dying alongside Jesus made this final request of Him: “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom  This scoundrel lacked baptism and was absent of any good works; yet Jesus nevertheless assured him: “Today you shall be with Me in Paradise [based upon your faith alone]  (Notice, however, that the Lord’s reply made no mention of His kingdom [Luke 23: 42f.) …



(As an aside, let us wonder: “What shall we say about Jesus’ statement in Mark 16: 16? - ‘He who has believed, and has been baptized, shall be saved; but he who has not believed shall be condemned.”  Baptism is a work of righteousness [Matt. 3:13ff].  So, what does the future hold for the one who believes, but ignores baptism?  This is an important, kingdom question.)



We can see that to “be saved” does not always and only have to do with regeneration.  Such is the case in Mark 10: 26, where to “be saved” is not a reference to being born again, but to an abundant entrance into Christ’s kingdom.*



“It is sad to say but true: Most men are unwise, trusting in their own opinions and in the opinions of others more than they trust in the sure Word of God


*Taken from Charlie Dines’ book, Being Glorified With Him (The Reward of the Inheritance).






“Rome’s first and vital confusion is the confounding together of the saved and the unsaved, the regenerate and the unregenerate, the believer and the unbeliever, in one mixed mass which she calls the Church.  How did this arise?  Let a foremost ecclesiastical historian, himself a paedo-baptist, answer: - Upon the earlier conception of the nature of the Church ‘there supervened a most significant change.  The first cause of this change was the extension of the limits of Church membership which was caused by the prevalence of infant baptism.  When infant baptism became general, men grew up to be Christians’ - that is, not by conversion, manifested in public baptism; but – ‘as they grew up to be citizens’ (Dr. Edwin Hatch’s Early Organization of the Christian Churches, p. 139) - that is, by ordinary birth.  The Church opened her arms to great hordes of the unconverted: then, to justify her action, she assured these unregenerate members that they had been regenerated by their baptism: and so welded together, in one massed confusion, the Church and the World



- Taken from writings by D. M. Panton.














Deriving from the Creek baptisma, “baptism” denotes the action of washing or plunging in water, which from the earliest days (Acts 2: 41) has been used as the rite of Christian initiation.  Its origins have been variously traced to the O.T. purifications, the lustrations of Jewish sects and parallel pagan washings, but there can be no doubt that baptism as we know it begins with the baptism of John.  Christ himself, both by precedent (Matt. 3: 13) and precept (Matt. 28: 19), gives us authority for its observance.  On this basis it has been practiced by almost all Christians, though attempts have been made to replace it by a baptism of fire or the Spirit in terms of Matt. 3: 11.



In essence the action is an extremely simple one, though pregnant with meaning.  It consists in a going in or under the baptismal water in the name of Christ (Acts 19: 5) or more commonly the Trinity (Matt. 28: 19). Immersion was fairly certainly the original practice and continued in general use up to the Middle Ages.  The Reformers agreed that this best brought out the meaning of baptism as a death and resurrection, but even the early Anabaptists did not think it essential so long as the subject goes under the water.  The type of water and circumstances of administration are not important, though it seems necessary that there should be a preaching and confession of Christ as integral parts of the administration (cf. Acts 8: 37).  Other ceremonies may be used at discretion so long as they are not unscriptural and do not distract from the true action, like the complicated and rather superstitious ceremonial of the medieval and modern Roman Church.



Discussion has been raised concerning the proper ministers and subjects of the action.   In the first instance there may be agreement with Augustine that Christ himself is the true minster (“he shall baptize youMatt. 3: 11 ).  But Christ does not give the external baptism directly; he commits this to his disciples (John 4: 2).  This is taken to mean that baptism should be administered by those to whom there is entrusted by inward and outward       calling the ministry of word and sacrament, though laymen have been allowed to baptize in the Roman Church (cf. LAY BAPTISM), and some early Baptists conceived the strange notion of baptizing themselves. Normally baptism belongs to the public ministry of the church.



As concerns the subjects, the main difference is between those who practice the baptism of the children of confessing Christians and those who insist upon a personal confession as a prerequisite.  This point is considered in the two separate articles devoted to the two positions and need not detain us in this exposition of positive baptismal teaching.  It may be noted, however, that adult baptisms continue in all churches, that confession is everywhere considered important, and that Baptists often feel impelled to an act of dedication of children.   Among adults it has been a common practice to refuse baptism to those unwilling to leave doubtful callings, though the attempt of one sect to impose a minimum age of thirty years did not meet with common approval.       In the case of children there has been misgiving concerning the infants of parents whose profession of Christian faith is very obviously nominal or insincere.  The special case of the mentally defective demands sympathetic treatment, but there is no warrant for prenatal or forced baptisms, and even less for baptism of inanimate objects such as was practiced in the Middle Ages.



A clue to the meaning of “baptism” is given by three O.T. types: the Flood (1 Pet. 3: 19 f.), the Red Sea (1 Cor. 10: 1f.) and circumcision (Col. 2: 11f).  These all refer in different ways to the divine covenant, to its provisional fulfilment in a divine act of judgment and grace, and to the coming and definitive fulfilment in the baptism of the cross.  The conjunction of water with death and redemption is particularly apt in the case of the first two; the covenantal aspect is more particularly emphasized in the third.



When we come to the action itself, there are many different but interrelated associations which claim our attention.  The most obvious is that of washing (Titus 3: 5), the cleansing water being linked with the blood of Christ on the one side and the purifying action of the [Holy] Spirit on the other (see 1 John 5: 6, 8), so that we are brought at once to the divine work of reconciliation.  A second is that of initiation, adoption, or, more especially, regeneration (John 3: 3), the emphasis again being placed on the operation of the [Holy] Spirit in virtue of the work of Christ.



These various themes find common focus in the primary thought of baptism (in the destructive, yet also life-giving, power of water) as a drowning and an emergence to new life, i.e., a death and resurrection (Rom. 6: 3f). But here again the true witness of the action is to the work of God in the substitutionary death and resurrection of Christ.  This identification with sinners in judgment and renewal is what Jesus accepts when he comes to the baptism of John and fulfils when he takes his place between two thieves on the cross (Luke 12: 50).  Here we have the real baptism of the N.T., which makes possible the baptism of our identification with Christ and underlies and is attested by the outward sign.  Like preaching and the Lord’s Supper, “baptism” is an evangelical word telling us that Christ has died and risen again in our place, so that we are dead and alive again in him, with him, and through him (Rom. 6: 4, 11).



Like all preaching, however, baptism carries with it the call to that which we should do in response or correspondence to what Christ has done for us.  We, too, must make our movement of death and resurrection, not to add to what Christ has done, nor to complete it, nor to compete with it, but in grateful acceptance and application.  We do this in three related ways constantly kept before us by our baptism: the initial response of repentance and faith (Gal. 2: 20); the lifelong process of mortification and renewal (Eph. 4: 22 f.); and the final dissolution and resurrection of the body (1 Cor. 15).  This rich signification of baptism, which is irrespective of the time or manner of baptism, is the primary theme which ought to occupy us in baptismal discussion and preaching.  But it must be emphasized continually that this personal acceptance or entry is not independent of the once for all and substitutionary work of Christ, which is the true baptism.



It is forgetfulness of this point which leads to misunderstanding of the so-called grace of baptism.  This may be by its virtual denial.  Baptism has no grace apart from its psychological effects.  It is primarily a sign of something that we do, and its value may be assessed only in explicable religious terms.  The fact that spiritual gifts and even faith itself are true gifts of the Holy Spirit, with an element of the mysterious and incalculable, is thus denied.



On the other hand, it may be by distortion or exaggeration.  Baptism means the almost automatic infusion of a mysterious substance which accomplishes a miraculous but not very obvious transformation.  It is thus to be regarded with awe, and fulfilled as an action of absolute necessity to salvation except in very special cases.  The true mystery of the Holy Spirit yields before ecclesiastical magic and theological sophistry.



But, when baptismal grace is brought into proper relationship to the work of God, we are helped on the way to a fruitful understanding.  First, and above all, we remember that behind the external action there lies the true baptism which is that of the shed blood of Christ.  Baptismal grace is the grace of this true reality of baptism, i.e., of the substitutionary work of Christ, or of Christ himself.  Only in this sense can we legitimately speak of grace, but in this sense we can and must.



Second, we remember that behind the external action there lies the inward operation of the [Holy] Spirit moving the recipient to faith in Christ’s work, and accomplishing regeneration to the life of faith.  Baptismal grace is the grace of this internal work of the Spirit, which cannot be presumed (for the Spirit is sovereign) but which we dare to believe where there is a true calling on the name of the Lord.



Third, the action itself is divinely ordained as a means of grace, i.e., a means to present Christ and therefore to fulfil the attesting work of the Spirit.  It does not do this by the mere performance of the prescribed rite; it does it in and through its meaning.  Nor does it do it alone; its function is primarily to seal and confirm, and therefore it does it in conjunction with the spoken and written word.  It need not do it at the time of administration; for, under the gracious sovereignty of the Spirit, its fruition may come at a much later date.  It does not do it automatically; for, whereas Christ is always presented and his grace remains, there are those who respond neither to word nor sacrament and therefore miss the true and inward meaning and power.



When we think in these terms, we can see that there is and ought to be a real, though not a magical baptismal grace which is not affected greatly by the detailed time or mode of administration.  The essentials are that we use it (1) to present Christ, (2) in prayer to the Holy Spirit, (3) in trustful dependence upon his sovereign work, and (4) in conjunction with the spoken word.  Restored to this evangelical use, and freed especially from distorting and unhelpful controversy, baptism might quickly manifest again its power as a summons to live increasingly, or even to begin to live, the life which is ours in Christ crucified and risen for us.



(G. W. Bromiley, Baptism and the Anglican Reformers; J. Calvin, Institutes, IV, pp. 14-15; W. F. Flemington,  The New Testament Doctrine of Baptism; HERE, “Baptism”; Reports on Baptism in the Church of Scotland, 1955 f.)












Where the gospel is first preached, or Christian profession has lapsed, baptism is always administered on confession of penitence and faith.  In this sense believers’ baptism, i.e., the baptism of those who make a profession of faith, has been an accepted and persistent phenomenon in the church.  Yet there are powerful groups amongst Christians who think that we should go further than this.  Believers’ baptism as they see it is not merely legitimate; it is the only true baptism according to the N.T., especially, though not necessarily, in the form of immersion.



This is seen first from the precept.  Which underlies its institution.  When Jesus commanded the apostles to baptize, he told them first to make disciples and said nothing whatever about infants (Matt. 28: 19).  In other words, preaching must always precede baptism, for it is by the word and not the sacrament that disciples are first made.  Baptism can be given only when the recipient has responded to the word in penitence and faith, and it is to be followed at once by a course of more detailed instruction.



That the apostles understood it in this way is evident from the precedents which have come down to us in Acts.  On the day of Pentecost, for example, Peter told the conscience-stricken people to repent and be baptized, nor did he mention any special conditions for infants incapable of repentance (Acts 2: 38).  Again, when the Ethiopian eunuch desired baptism, he was told that there could be no hindrance so long as he believed, and it was on confession of faith that Philip baptized him (Acts 8: 36 ff.).  Even when whole households were baptized, we are normally told that they first heard the gospel preached and either believed or received an endowment of the Spirit (cf. Acts 10: 45; 16: 32f).  In any case, no mention is made [at this time] of any other type of baptism.



The meaning of baptism, as developed by Paul in Rom. 6 supports this contention.  It is in repentance and faith that we are identified with Jesus Christ in his death, burial, and resurrection.  To infants who cannot hear the word and make the appropriate response, it thus seems to be meaningless and even misleading to speak of baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ.  The confessing believer alone knows what this means and can work it out in his life.  In baptism, confessing his penitence and faith, he has really turned his back on the old life and begun to live the new life in Christ.  He alone can look back to a meaningful conversion or regeneration and thus receive the confirmation and accept the challenge which comes with baptism.  To introduce any other form of baptism is to open the way to perversion or misconception.



To be sure, there is no direct prohibition of infant baptism in the N.T.  But in the absence of direction either way it is surely better to carry out the sacrament or ordinance as obviously commanded and practiced than to rely on exegetical or theological inference for a different administration.  This is particularly the case in view of the weakness or irrelevance of many of the considerations advanced.



Christ’s blessing of the children, for example, shows us that the gospel is for little ones, and that we have a duty to bring them to Christ, but it says nothing whatever about administering baptism contrary to the acknowledged rule (Mark 10: 13 ff.).  Again, the fact that certain characters may be filled with the Spirit from childhood (Luke 1: 15) suggests that God may work in infants, but it gives us no warrant to suppose that he normally does so, or that he does so in any given case, or that baptism may be given before this work finds expression in individual repentance and faith.  Again, the children of Christians enjoy privileges and perhaps even a status which cannot be ascribed to others.  They are reckoned in some sense “holy” by God (1 Cor. 7: 14).  But here too there is no express connection with baptism or the baptismal identification with Jesus Christ in death and resurrection.



Reference to the household baptisms of Acts is of no greater help.  The probability may well be that some of these households included infants, yet this is by no means certain.  Even if they did, it is unlikely that the infants were present when the word was preached, and there is no indication that any infants were actually baptized.  At very best this could only be a hazardous inference, and the general drift of the narratives seems to be in a very different direction.



Nor does it serve to introduce the O.T. sign of circumcision.  There is certainly a kinship between the signs.  But there are also great differences.  The fact that the one was given to infant boys on a fixed day is no argument for giving the other to all children some time in infancy.  They belong, if not to different covenants, at least to different dispensations of the one covenant: the one to a preparatory stage when a national people was singled out and its sons belonged naturally to the people of God; the other to the fulfilment, when the Israel of God is spiritual and children are added by spiritual rather than natural regeneration.  In any case, God himself gave a clear command to circumcise the male descendant of Abraham; he has given no similar command to baptize the male and female descendants of Christians.



Theologically, the insistence upon believer baptism in all cases seems better calculate to serve the true significance and benefit of baptism and to avoid the errors which so easily threaten it.  Only when there is personal confession before baptism can it be seen that personal repentance and faith are necessary to salvation through Christ, and that these do not come magically but through hearing the word of God.  With believers’ baptism the ordinance achieves its significance as the mark of a step from darkness and death to light and life.  The recipient is thus confirmed in the decision which he has taken, brought into the living company of the regenerate, which is the true  church, and encouraged to walk in the new life which he has begun.



This means that in believers’ baptism faith is given its proper weight and sense.  The need for faith is recognized, of course, in infant baptism.  It is contended that infants may believe by a special work of the Spirit, or that their present or future faith is confessed by the parents or sponsors, or that the parents or sponsors exercise vicarious faith, or even that faith is given in, with, or under the administration.  Some of these notions are manifestly unscriptural.  In others there is a measure of truth.  But none of them meets the required merit of a personal confession of personal faith as invariably fulfilled in believers’ baptism.



Again, believers’ baptism also carries with it a genuine, as opposed to a spurious, baptismal grace.  The expression of repentance and faith in baptism gives conscious assurance of forgiveness and regeneration and carries with it an unmistakable summons to mortification and renewal.  Properly understood, this may also be the case with infant baptism, as in the Reformed churches.  But a good deal of embarrassed explanation is necessary to make this clear, and there is always the risk of a false understanding, as in the medieval and Romanist view of baptismal regeneration (q.v.).  Baptism on profession of faith is the only effective safeguard against the dangerous notion that baptism itself can automatically transfer the graces which it represents.



To the exegetical and theological considerations there may also be added some less important but noteworthy historical arguments.  First, there is no decisive evidence for a common Jewish practice of infant baptism in apostolic times.  Second, the patristic statements linking infant baptism with the apostles are fragmentary and unconvincing in the earlier stages.  Third, examples of believers’ baptism are common in the first centuries and a continuing, if suppressed, witness has always been borne to this requirement.  Fourth, the development of infant baptism seems to be linked with the incursion of pagan notions and practices.  Finally, there is evidence of greater evangelistic incisiveness and evangelical purity of doctrine where this form of baptism is recognised to be the baptism of the N.T.






(K. Barth, The Teaching of the Church Regarding Baptism; A Booth, Paedobaptism examined; A Carson, Baptism in the Modes and Subjects: J. Gill, Body of Divinity, Vol. III Infant Baptism To-day (1948); J Warns, Baptism, Eng. Trans.)



- Geoffery W. Bromiley




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The Testimony of History



It will be accepted without challenge that Mr. Gwatkin, professor of ecclesiastical history in the University of Cambridge, is second to none among English ecclesiastical historians.  Here is the testimony on baptism by this Anglican clergyman.



“Christian life [in the early church] properly began with baptism, for baptism was the convert’s confession before men, the soldier’s oath which enlisted him in the service of Christ.  The rite was very simple, as described by Justin in the 2nd century.  After more or less instruction, the candidate declared ‘his belief in our teachings, and his willingness to live accordingly Then he might be directed to fast a short time, in way of preparation.  He was then taken to a place ‘where there was water  Here he made his formal confession, and here he was baptized by immersion in the name of the Trinity.  After this he was taken the meeting and received by the brethren.  We have decisive evidence that infant baptism is no direct institution either of the Lord Himself or of His apostles.  There is no trace of it in the New Testament.  Immersion was the rule: the whole symbolism of baptism requires immersion, and so St. Paul explains it” (Early Church History, vol. i., pp. 248-250).  Thus the Early Church baptized only believers, and baptized only by immersion.



The Testimony of the Old Testament



The Holy Ghost has selected the two mightiest catastrophes by water in all history to picture baptism, and thus to reveal its significance and its mode. These two catastrophes were judgments in which, in the one case thousands, and in the other millions, were drowned; while, in both cases, the people of God, though in the water, and overwhelmed by the water, nevertheless came through it dry-shod.



(1) God “waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water: which also after a true likeness” - no fancied analogy, but a real type - “doth now save* you, even baptism” (1 Pet. 3: 20).  Sin provoked the Flood, which turned the world into one vast watery grave: all mankind perished: but the household of faith, passing through judgment unscathed, arose on Ararat out of the grave of the world.  (2) At the Red Sea both church and world are again plunged into a common grave: the mountainous walls of water roll down on the Egyptians, wiping them out of existence: while God’s [redeemed] people, threatened on every hand with a watery death - for they “were all baptized in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Cor. 10: 2), the two forming together a stupendous coffin - nevertheless emerge alive on the further shore.  Thus baptism, as foreshadowed in the Old Testament, pictures death overwhelming all - all flesh drowned in the judgments of God: but, while one group perishes irremediably, the other - because God is with them in the Ark, and in the cloud - survives judgment.  Thus again, the Old Testament being witness, [regenerate] believers only are to be baptized, and baptized only by immersion.


[*Note. We do not believe or interpret this text as evidence of ‘Baptismal Regeneration’ as some erroneously teach today!  The Word of God uses the words “save” and “salvation” to mean various things; there is both a present and future aspect to salvation, as the context will always make clear.  See for example, 1 Pet. 1: 5, 9-11.]



The Testimony of the New Testament



It is with exquisite appropriateness, therefore, that one of the first allusions to baptism in the New Testament runs thus: “Jesus baptized.  And John also was baptizing in Aenon, because there was much water there” (John 3: 23).  A tumblerful could have sprinkled a thousand converts: not so immersion: nor without the destruction of the symbolism.  For “we were buried therefore with Him through baptism into death” (Rom. 6: 4); “having been buried with Him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with Him” (Col. 3: 12).  Burial is total immersion in earth; and when it is ocean-burial, it is no less total.  “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ” (Gal. 3: 27) - clothed with Christ in Ark and Cloud, to pass safely through judgment.  It is the ritual bath: “be baptized and wash away thy sins” (Acts 22: 16); for “he that is bathed is clean every whit” (John 13: 10): for a bath is total immersion. 



“Of all revealed truths, not one is more clearly revealed in the Scriptures [than believer’s baptism] - not even the doctrine of justification by faith; and the subject has only become obscured by men not having been willing to take the Scriptures alone to decide the point” (George Muller).  Judgment passed over the believer on Calvary, and therefore he now passes safely through the waters of death and judgment: that is, the New Testament witnesses that baptism is only for believers, and that baptism is by immersion only.



The Testimony of Experience



Experience exquisitely confirms baptism, so administered, as of God.  Here are some testimonies the writer has himself received.  “Last night I was smitten to the dust.  Of course I shall obey Him in baptism!  There is nothing else to do.  I do so gladly, humbly, thankfully, gratefully.” - “Sunday night was far more beautiful even than I had thought: I saw no one - the Master was there.” - “I shall never forget how I realized the preciousness of Christ after I obeyed Him in baptism.” - “I have been thinking over the matter for 25 years: I only wish now it had taken place years ago.” - “It has brought greater joy into my life, and it has given me a stronger passion for service. ‘To obey is better than sacrifice.’ The blessedness that has been mine since my baptism is more than words can express.” - “I was just trembling in every limb, - but when the time come to step into the water, it was just as if He held my hand, and led me. Never in my whole life has He been so near: I cannot tell you all that it meant to me, as I laid my whole life at His feet.” - “Each moment of this evening last week comes to my mind to night; so overpoweringly, that I was forced to my knees in an ecstasy of joy. What hath God wrought!”  Is it likely that such experiences flow from an illusion, an error, a misunderstanding, or a falsity disapproved by the Holy host?  Then obey!



“He that hath My commandments, AND KEEPETH THEM, He it is that loveth Me” (John 14: 21): “why call ye me, Lord, Lord, AND DO NOT THE THINGS WHICH I SAY?” (Luke 6: 46).



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Baptism and the Lord’s Supper



Powerful and tempting arguments are now being used for the union of all disciples on a basis of the spiritual divorced from the external.  Possessing the realities for which the rites stand - it is asked - why maintain the forms, so creating, and perpetuating, division? Our Lord, in principle, has graciously revealed a profound answer. “Why do thy disciples fast not?”(Mark 3: 18): why, as a Teacher come from God, - for this is the underlying question to which our Lord addresses His answer - dost Thou add no ritual to Moses’ Law?  The Lord’s reply is the great RUBRIC OF RITUAL.



Jesus, having guarded Himself from any condemnation of fasting, of which He approves in His absence (Matt. vi. 16), answers: - “No man rendeth a piece from a new garment and putteth it upon an old garment” (Luke v. 36).  The ritual of Moses for two thousand years draped the Law of Jehovah: as an outward vesture, it clothed and expressed that which God Himself now calls “the old covenant” (2 Cor. 3: 14), “the oldness of the letter” (Rom. 7: 6), the Covenant grown “old” (Heb. 8: 13). No man - Jesus says it is a truism - patches an old garment: the reasons are obvious.



(1) It is useless: “else he will rend the new  The patch will be stiffer and stronger than the garment: the old worn, vesture, too threadbare to stand the strain, will rend: and “that which should fill it up taketh from it, and a worse rent is made” (Mark 2: 21).  Both patch and garment perish.  Moreover (2) it is unsightly: “also the piece from the new will not agree with the old  It does not match: the ‘patch of unbleached rag’ - unwhitened by sunlight or chemicals - is not only a badge of poverty, but a positive ugliness.  God rejects it.



Profound ritual principles here stand revealed.  The Son of God refuses to add a single rite to the ritual of the Law.  He removes the robe, to replace it with a better: but patchwork is abhorrent to His eye: so long as God preserves the vesture, no human hand may tamper with its handiwork.  This is the condemnation of all man-made rituals, such as the ‘Seven Sacraments’ of Rome.  To Christ’s new ritual, no church, episcopal or other, may add rites: even so simple a rite as hand-washing before eating - a patch sewn on to the Law by Pharisees - evoked our Lord’s drastic censure.  “Ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your tradition” (Mark 7: 9).  No man has got God’s loom: he cannot manufacture fabric of the same texture or pattern: and his clumsy and ugly patches offend the eye, and only end in new and more disastrous schisms.



Ritual principles deeper still are now revealed.  “No man putteth new wine into old wineskins; else the new wine will burst the skins As the skin yields to the pressure of the wine, and yet the wine is exactly delimited by the skin, so a rite enshrines and expresses a doctrine, and the doctrine is exactly defined by the rite.  Christ therefore had to make new rites.  The old skins had become rigid: new wine, poured in and fermenting, would have expanded the skins, till they burst: the strong, seething, expansive spirit of the Gospel would have ruined the old rituals.  The modern Jew instinctively realizes this peril to the Law.  “If ever there was a converted Jew,” says a worker, concerning a recent convert, “he is one”.  And yet, whilst his religious conviction is well known to the Jews, and even to his employer, he cannot accept baptism.  While not baptized, it is little matter to the Jews what his religious opinions may be: they still consider him as one of their own.  Once he submits to baptism, however, he becomes an outcast, and is regarded as worse than a heathen.  For the Jew prefers the doctrine which sets the flesh on its trial - as in Circumcision - to the doctrine which buries it as incurable - as in Baptism: “for he saith, The old is better” (Luke 5: 39), - that is, is milder.  The Decalogue from the Mount is an easier rule of life than the Sermon from the Mount.



Our Lord now establishes His Ritual Rubric.  Doctrine must be enshrined in rite: “new wine must be put into fresh wineskinsWhy?  “They put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved” (Matt. 9: 17): for if the skins are rent, “the wine itself will be spilled, and the skins will perish” (Luke 5: 37).  Says Dr. Marcus Dods:- “We are in possession of descriptions of proselyte baptism which make it impossible to doubt that the rite was performed by immersion.  And it is probable that unbiased interpreters of the Pauline Epistles will continue to believe that his allusions to baptism are intelligible only on the supposition that he had in view baptism by immersion.  Of course it is also the fact that owing to the inconvenience and frequent impossibility of performing the rite in the ideal manner, another and also significant mode was commonly adopted.  But if the meaning of baptism is understood, why fuss about the mode  Because to rend the skin is to lose the wine: the meaning evaporates with the mode.  Burial and resurrection disappear from a baptistry that is no more a grave: a priest, standing before an altar, swathing a water with incense, and offering a sacrifice of masses - what of truth lingers when the Feast of Communion is visibly gone? “New wine must be put into fresh wineskins



So long as our Saviour’s sacrificial death for sin is to be kept before the eyes of the world, so long are the wounded Bread and the shed Wine to be kept before the eyes of the Church, showing forth “the Lord’s death till He come” (I Cor. 11: 26): so long as the flesh is to be buried as incurable, and saved souls are to rise to newness of life, so long is baptism to be the funeral service and the resurrection rite of the Church of God - “baptising them ... even unto the end of the age” (Matt. 28: 19, 20). “So both [doctrine and rite] ARE PRESERVED






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Burial to Sin



A Grave



So urgent is God on our separation from the world that He has taken two of the mightiest events of all history - the drowning of the old world in the Flood, and the drowning of the Egyptians in the Red Sea - as types of a perpetual Rite. 1 Cor. 10: 2; I Pet. 3: 21.  The trench, deep, black, abiding, which He keeps before the eyes of His Church between Advent and Advent, is nothing less than a grave.  “All we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death”: “we were buried therefore with Him through baptism” (Rom. 6: 3). What a lightning-like illumination of baptism!  It is the dead who are buried; if an unbeliever - alive to sin and to the world - is baptised, it is burying a man alive; it is entombing the un-crucified; it is burying one who has no right to a grave.  I must be one with Christ on the cross before I can be one with Him in the tomb.  “We died to sin: ... we were buried therefore  So the converse is also true.  Every dead man ought to be buried: the moment Jesus has become my death, that moment I must prepare for my burial. “We died to sin: ... we were buried therefore



A Burial



So baptism is the sole God-given ritual of consecration.  For the Rite next reveals a new and wonderful aspect.  The believer is judicially dead with Christ, but he is not actually dead to sin: baptism, therefore, enters as a self-inflicted death, by which he drowns the old life, and smothers and suffocates the past.  The waters of death and judgment fill the grave; the living man steps down, and plunges beneath them; and so real is the ritual that, left but for a few minutes, he would die.  “Very soon,” said a Bechuana convert, a shepherd, “I shall be dead, and they will bury me in my field.  My sheep will come and pasture above me.  But I shall no more go to them, or they come to me: we shall be strangers.  So am I in the midst of the world from the time that I believed in Christ  This is the meaning of baptism.  Crucified with Christ - this is the order of the prepositions in the passage - baptised into Christ, buried unto sin like Christ, we are now alive in Christ. Gal. 3: 27.



A Consecration



Alas, how little we baptised have lived the exquisite ritual!  It ought to be - in God’s design it is - as unnatural, as monstrous, for a believer to live in sin as for a dead man to cross his grave back into life.  The whole man and the whole life are baptised into Christ.  A heathen tribe in the middle ages, about to be immersed, asked that their right arms might remain out of the water, that they might still slay their enemies!  Baptism buries all the man into all the holiness of God.   “There was a day,” says George Muller, “when I died, died utterly; died to George Muller, his opinions, preferences, tastes, and will - died to the world, its approval or censure - died to approval or censure even of my brethren and friends - and since then I have studied to show myself approved unto God Baptism not only buries our past, but ourselves. “Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Jesus Christ



A Resurrection



But baptism has a still lovelier side: it is not only immersion, but also emersion: “that like as Christ was raised from the dead, so we  Passive as a corpse under redemption, we are at once to pass into intensest activity: “alive” - not to a creed, or a church, or a philanthropy, but - “unto God  On one half of us we are dead: the calls to wealth, to fame, to pleasure, to sin, are to reach us on our dead side, all the avenues of which, into our souls, are blocked.  So it was with Jesus. “Who is blind, but my servant? Or deaf, as my messenger that I send? Who is blind as he that is at peace with me, and blind as the Lord’s servant?” (Is. 42: 19).  The kingdoms of the world and the glory of them appealed to a dead man in Christ.  But on one half of us we are to be all a-quiver with life: the calls to God, to heavenliness, to service - these are to find us as responsive as the harp to the wind, or the sunflower to the sun.  So also was it with Jesus.  “He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth mine ear to hear as they that are taught” (Is. 1. 4).  Our bodies are to be a living sacrifice (Rom. 12: 1), pulsating with life God-wards.



A Life



‘Hebrew’ means a man who lives on the other side of the water: so we, beyond the ritual grave, are ‘to walk’ - dead men do not walk - not in a new life so much as “in newness of life  The deep, dark grave of Christ lies between us and the world that cast Him out; with Him we are to walk on the further shore: on which side, therefore, are the theatre, the whist-drive, the novel?  On which side is that love of money which is ruining untold multitudes of disciples?  Are these things ‘Hebrew’?  Are they newness of life?  So, naturally, the newness of life ends in “the life which is really life” (1 Tim. 6: 19). Rom. 8: 13.  “For if we have become united with Him [fellow-plants] by the likeness of His death [baptism], we shall be also [fellow-plants] of His resurrection  Sown together in the seed-bed of the baptismal grave, we shall spring together - heavenly snowdrops, the first to break up from under a frozen ground. Rev. 3: 4; 20: 6.  Baptism is the ritual act; sanctification is the truth it enshrines: when crystallised together into an actual experience, together they will lead into the Select Resurrection (Phil. iii. 11, Greek) from the dead.



Brother, have you been entombed (both spiritually and ritually) since you were crucified? “WHY CALL YE ME LORD, LORD, AND DO NOT THE THINGS WHICH I SAY?” (Luke vi. 46): “HE THAT HATH MY COMMANDMENTS AND KEEPETH THEM, HE IT IS THAT LOVETH ME” (John 14: 21).






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Burial to Law



A Jew might object against a Christian: LAW is Jehovah’s mind as to what a man ought to do; man was created to do that Law; that is, the soul of man and the law of God are wedded together for ever: therefore your desertion of the law of Moses for the worship of Christ is spiritual adultery.  It is an objection forcible and profound.



Paul, in reply, first aggravates the difficulty.  For he asserts that the failure of a marriage does not dissolve the union.  Wrath in the husband, revolt in the wife, utter incompatibility of temper in both, - nothing can dissolve what God united: “Are ye ignorant, brethren, how that the law hath dominion over a man for so long time as he liveth?” (Rom. 7: 1).  What God says man should be, he must be; what God says he should do, he must do: there is no option.  Now the marriage is a failure.  The wife is in constant revolt: the soul is in chronic DISOBEDIENCE.  What did the Law: itself say for such cases?  The husband could divorce the wife, or obtain sentence against her in the courts for unfaithfulness; but under no circumstances could a wife free herself from the law of her husband, Rom. 7: 2.  She is bound for life.  So all the Law, being a holy law, can do is to prosecute the Soul, being a sinning soul, in the courts of God: and the issue of the trial is known.  “The soul that sinneth it shall die”: “the wages of sin is death”: the wife is doomed.



So only God can solve the problem: how does He solve it?  He shuts us up to one startling, yet obvious, conclusion.  Without the soul’s death there can be no life: the only escape out of marriage is through death.  “If the husband die, she is discharged from the law of the husband: ... if the husband die, she is free from the law.” So the Christian begins to answer: - You charge me with spiritual adultery; but the wife of whom you are speaking is dead.  For observe a change in the apostle’s figure: he does not say, the Law dies; he says, the soul dies.  “Wherefore, my brethren, ye” - the wife - “were MADE DEAD” - put to death - “to the law  The Law remains in all its dread obligations and power: how else should God judge the world? but as earthly law runs no longer against a corpse, - as no officer of the Crown can deliver a writ on a dead body - so the soul dies to law: out of death to law arises life to God.



At this point the Gospel reveals its exquisite message.  “Ye were put to death through the body of Christ  Ye - through Christ’s body: Law slew you in the person of Christ.  Law, in capital punishment, takes effect on the body of the criminal:  CHRIST’S BODY came between me and the mortal blow of the Law.  Faith makes one with Christ. 1 Cor. 6: 17.  Law slew Him - Law slew me: Law was done with Him in His death - Law was done with me in His death: Christ is divorced from law - I am divorced from law, absolutely and forever.  “Christ is the end of the law unto righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. 10: 4). Eph. 2: 15.  It is all “through the body”: a Body, which met the Law’s dues in a life of obedience, and paid the Law’s debts on the tree. 1 Pet. 2: 21-24.  So the profound problem is solved.  The Husband lives: the Wife dies: the marriage union is dissolved for ever.



So vital is this truth that God has enshrined it in a rite of perpetual obligation.  Here is a watery trench, a grave, into which a man who is to be baptised steps down.  What of his spirit?  It died with Christ upon the cross. Gal. 2: 20.  But what of his body?  It must be put to death also.  He must be buried alive: he must go down into death: so actual is the picture that, if kept under the water, he would die.  The Law does not so keep him under only because it kept Christ under until He died.  “Are ye ignorant that all we who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death?  We were buried therefore with Him through BAPTISM into death” (Rom. 6: 3).  Baptism is our ritual answer to the circumcised Jew.  It shows the Christian not guilty of adultery against the Law: for the Law loses its last grip of the man in the water: it has no power over a buried man: baptism is a funeral rite over one dead to law.  So all who are in living union with Christ are commanded to proclaim, by this startling rite of God, their release, their discharge, their divorce from the Law.  “Repent ye, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 2: 38); for “by Him every one that believeth is justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13: 39).



Salvation closes, however, not in a funeral, but in a RE-MARRIAGE. Gal. 2: 19. “Ye were made dead to the law, ... that ye should be joined to another, even to Him who was raised from the dead  Death to law takes place on faith: burial to law takes place in the ritual grave, - thenceforth to walk together “in newness of life” (Rom. 6: 4). Col. 2: 12. “I espoused you to one husband” - re-marriage with a divorced husband Law itself forbids (Deut. 24: 3, 4) - “that 1 might present you as a pure virgin to Christ” (2 Cor. 11: 2): “not being without law to God, but under law to Christ” (1 Cor. 9: 21).  Earth knows no union so close, so tender, so miraculous: “this mystery is great: but I speak in regard of Christ and of the church” (Eph. 5: 32)  Without it we cannot be saved.  The flesh is under law, yet antagonistic to law, and is at last slain by law.  To lay hold of law - that is, morality, good works, inherent goodness - for salvation, is to grasp a live electric wire, to clutch a naked blade, to leap into; a burning caldron.  But to lay hold of Christ is to die to law, and to be lifted into union with the Son of God.  “For I through law died unto law, that I might live unto God.  I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live; and yet no longer I, but CHRIST; LIVETH IN ME” (Gal. 2: 19).



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Third Edition















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A READER conversant with Holy Scripture will at once understand from the title, that this tract is engaged with the well-known passage in the first Epistle to the Corinthians.



1 CORINTHIANS 7: 12-14.



“If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away,



“And the woman that hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.



“For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean, but now are they holy




The difficulty of this text has been felt by many. Paedo-baptists claim it as establishing infant baptism.



“How strongly this supports the doctrine of Paedo-baptism, is manifest says the learned Dr. Bloomfield.



And Neale relates, that the powerful Baptist controversialist, Mr. Tombes, “so early as the year 1627 being led in the course of his lectures to discuss the subject of baptism, was brought into doubt concerning the authority for that of infants, which for some years he continued to practise only on the ground of the Apostle’s words - 1 Cor. 7: 14History iv. 559.



Baptists in general, too, since that date, have not felt themselves at home upon the verse: the reason of which, I shall endeavour to show.



But let us hear the argument for infant baptism derived hence, as stated by Paedo-baptists.






“If this had not so been appointed, but Christians had been commanded to put away their unbelieving partners, as the Jews did their idolatrous wives, the children of such marriages would have been accounted relatively unclean, and so excluded [Page 4] from baptism, as those of the Jews in the above-mentioned case were from circumcision; but on the contrary they were accounted holy in the Christian churches, and thus admitted among them as a part of the visible kingdom of God.  This exposition of the Scripture before us has indeed been much controverted; and some have explained ‘holy’ or ‘unclean’ to mean ‘legitimate’ or ‘illegitimate:’ but in all the places where these words are found in Scripture, there is not one that will fairly admit of this sense.  No doubt the children of heathens who were lawfully married were as legitimate as those of Christians, yet they are never said to be ‘holy Something more must he meant by the believer sanctifying the unbelieving party, than merely legalising their marriage; for that would have been the case had both been unbelievers: and the children would not really be more holy in respect of their nature if one parent was a believer, than if both were unbelievers.  But as the word ‘unclean’ is frequently used in a relative sense, denoting ‘unfit to be admitted to God’s ordinances and ‘holy’ the contrary: as in this sense the male children of the Jews were holy, and so partakers of circumcision: while those of the Gentiles, and even such as had one idolatrous parent, were unclean and excluded from circumcision: so I cannot but conclude after long attention to the subject, that the baptism of the infant off-spring of Christians is here referred to, as at that time customary in the churches; and that the Corinthians knew that this was not objected to, when only one parent was a Christian.  Hence then the argument for infant baptism runs thus. '’If the holy seed among the Jews was therefore to be circumcised, and to be made federally holy by receiving the sign of the covenant, and being admitted into the number of God’s holy people, because they were born in sanctity, or were seminally holy, for ‘the root being holy, so are the branches also:’ then by like reason the holy seed of Christians ought to be admitted to baptism and receive the sign of the Christian covenant, ‘the laver of regeneration,’ and so be entered into the society of the Christian Church.” - Whitby.






“For in such a case as this, the unbelieving husband is so sanctified to the wife, and the unbelieving wife is so sanctified to the husband, that their matrimonial converse is as lawful as if they were both of the same faith: otherwise your children in these mixed cases were unclean, and must be looked upon as unfit to be admitted to those peculiar ordinances by which the seed of God’s people are distinguished; but now they are confessedly holy, and are as readily admitted to baptism in all our churches, as if both the parents were Christians: so that the case, you see, is in effect decided by this prevailing practice.”



“Now are they holy On the maturest and most impartial [Page 5] consideration of the text, I must judge it to refer to infant baptism.  Nothing can be more apparent than that the word holy signifies persons who might be admitted to partake of the distinguishing rites of God’s people.  Compare Exod. xix. 6; Dent. vii. 6; xiv. 2; xxvi. 19; xxxiii. 3; Ezek. ix. 2, with Isa. xxxv. 8: Iii. 1; Acts x. 28, &c.  And as for the interpretation which so many of our brethren, the Baptists, have contended for, that holy signifies legitimate, and unclean, illegitimate, (not to urge that this seems an unscriptural sense of the word,) nothing can be more evident, than that the argument will by no means bear it; for it would be proving a thing by itself, idein per idem, to argue that the converse of the parents was lawful, because the children were not bastards; whereas all who thought the converse of the parents unlawful, must of course think that the children were illegitimate



Barnes gives up the argument for infant baptism from this place: nor does Matthew Henry plead for paedo-baptism from the passage.



Let us then consider - Does the passage establish the baptism of infants in apostolic times?



I.  First, be it observed, two principles are admitted on both sides as fundamental.











II. Secondly, let us inquire, what was the point in question between the Apostle and the Corinthian Church?



It appears from the first verse of the chapter, that the Corinthian believers wrote to desire the Apostle’s decision upon certain practical points: 1 Cor. 7: 1.



Of these, the one before us was a scruple, Whether it was lawful for a believing husband or wife to live with an unbelieving partner?  Ezra had required the Jewish husbands to put away their heathen wives: Ezra 10: 2-5.   Did the same law hold among Christians?



To settle this, then, is the Apostle’s intent in the words cited.



But in interpreting the fourteenth verse two main difficulties meet us.


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I. The nature of the holiness spoken of.



II. The gist of the argument used by the Apostle.



Let us discuss these questions in order.  That we may enter upon it the better, I would offer a translation of the passage more exact than that of our version.



14. “For the unbelieving husband hath been made holy in the wife, and the unbelieving wife hath been made holy in the husband: since if so* your children are unclean, but now are they holy


* If the husband and wife are to separate.






Of what kind is the holiness spoken of?



1. Holiness is real, or spiritual, when there is the renewal of the heart before God.  This, it is granted, was not possessed by the heathen husband, or by the children generally.  They were therefore not holy before God, nor pleasing to Him: Heb. 11: 6; Rom. 8: 8; John 3: 36.



2. But some contend for a ceremonial holiness, like that possessed by the Jewish people.  And herein opinion is again divided.  (1.) One party would make it a holiness by nature or by birth, giving a right to the reception of baptism.  (2.) The other would affirm it to be holiness acquired by actual reception of baptism.  The Church of England asserts all to be unholy before baptism.  Hence she rightly disowns any holiness of nature or birth, as giving a ground for baptism; and the idea is refuted in this verse.



But, (i.) If the holiness arose from baptism actually received, then a distinction must have been set up between the children baptized, and those not so.  It would have been said, that they were made, holy, like the wife.  But now it is said “they are holy All were holy in the same sense.



(ii.) This idea disturbs the equality of standing between them and the heathen wife.  The same holiness belongs to both; yet the one party is unbaptized, the other baptized.



(iii.) If the children spoken of were holy by baptism, then unbaptized children ought not to live with their [Page 7] parents, for they are unclean.  And where a heathen was father, or the children were adult, many were doubtless unbaptized.



(iv.) If it admits to baptism it will admit also to the Supper of the Lord.



(i.) Nor is it holiness of nature or of birth: for all alike are “by nature the children of wrath Eph. 2: 3.  (ii.) Again, it would overthrow one of our fundamental principles.  If, on the footing of this holiness, the children ought to be, and were baptized; the heathen husband or wife ought to be, and was, baptized also.  But this, it is granted, was not so; nor ought to be.



(iii.) Further, this holiness would admit to baptism not only infants of a believing parent, but adult unbelieving children also.  For the holiness attaches to the children universally, whether infant or adult.



3. Others, both of Baptist and Paedo-baptist views, contend for a civil holiness.  As though the Apostle had said - ‘Your marriage is legal, else your children are illegitimate.  But you esteem your children legitimate, and they are so; therefore the marriage is binding and legal



But this argument labours under two defects; one logical, and one moral.



(1.) As Doddridge observes, it is a proving a doubted point by the same point of doubtfulness.  For he who doubted whether the original relation of the marriage were lawful, would doubt also of the derived relation of the children of such marriage.



Ezra when he bade Israel put away their heathen wives, required also the putting away of the children born of them: Ezra 10: 3.



Booth, indeed, endeavours to get rid of this objection by saying, that Doddridge’s argument is founded on a mistake.  He would state it as follows - “The children are legitimate, because the converse of the parents is lawful; and that converse is lawful because they have been sanctified, or mutually set apart for the enjoyment of each other, exclusively of all other persons - Paedo-baptism Examined, ii. 220.


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But this is not correct.  The point to be proved was the lawfulness of the married living together, not the legitimacy of the children.  ‘Else wore your children unclean, but now are they holy is the result of a previous premise regarding the lawfulness of their living together.  Besides, his argument labours under a mistake soon to be set forth.*


* Logically, it would be ignoratio elenchi.



(2) It has also a moral flaw.  It would prove no satisfaction to the questioner.  ‘Am I right before God in living with a heathen wife?’ is the inquiry.  To this it is no sufficient answer to reply - ‘Yes, you are right according to human laws, your marriage is legal, your children legitimate ‘I know that would be the speedy rejoinder: ‘so were the Jewish marriages legal according to the Persian laws.  But the wives and children must both be put away as unlawful before God



4. Some have supposed the holiness to consist in the hopefulness of the conversion of the wife and children under such circumstances.  (1.) But that could not pacify the inquiring conscience as to the lawfulness of the relation at that time.  Here nothing would avail but to point out that the position at that time, and under all possible events, was right.  (2) The sanctification is spoken of, not, as yet possibly future, but as actually possessed.  “The wife has been sanctified” -“Your children are holy



5. There remains yet a sense which directly satisfies the question, and accords with scriptural usage.  The husband’s living with his heathen wife was lawful before God.  She was not unclean, she was made holy to him.  It is a holiness regarding certain persons, which gives the privilege of living with them.  It is not sanctification by the renewing of the mind, nor by the Holy Ghost, but “by the husband  The scruple arose from perceiving, that the unbelieving wife was unholy and spiritually unclean before God.  The answer to the scruple is, that though spiritually unclean before God, she was yet clean to the believer.  The [Page 9] unbelieving wife communicated no spiritual defilement to the believing husband, nor need there be any conscientious scruple because of their living together, for the Lord permitted it.  The ‘holiness’ then or ‘cleanness’ respects the party making the inquiry.



The interchange of the words ‘unclean’ and ‘holy,’ shows in what sense each is to be taken.  Holiness in the sense supposed, belongs even to things inanimate.  The believer’s food is “sanctified or “made holy by the word of God and prayer1 Tim 4: 5.  “Give alms of such things as ye have, and behold, all things are clean unto youLuke 11: 41.  In the passage from Timothy the same point is in question.  Were certain kinds of food lawful to the believer? or did they defile him?  The answer to this difficulty is the same.  Every kind of food is lawful, and may be used without any trouble of conscience, for it is made holy by prayer.



The expressions used then concerning the unbelieving wife are paralleled by that of the believer’s food.  She may be lived with without defilement of soul or body, even as all kinds of food may be eaten.  “I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself, but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean:” Rom. 14: 14.



The question of the Christian husband was, ‘Is my heathen wife holy to me The answer is, ‘She was sanctified or made holy to you by marriage  It is not said, that she was holy in herself, or made holy towards God; she could not be, as long as she was heathen.  The two were “one flesh and her flesh was holy or clean to him.



The sense of ‘holy’ is fixed in this case, by the word ‘unclean When a word of several different meanings is employed, it may, in some cases, be difficult to decide which is the sense designed.  “Sweet” is the opposite of “bitter,” and of “sour” among tastes: it is the opposite also to “harsh,” among sounds.  If then we heard only the words - “This is sweet,” we [Page 10] might doubt in what sense it was to be taken.  But if the speaker said - “This is sweet, but if kept long it will turn sour,” we should know that the person was speaking of tastes, and that he meant the opposite of ‘sour



So here the word ‘unclean’ decides the sense of ‘holy “Your children were unclean, but now are they holy ‘Holy,’ then, means, ‘not unclean  ‘Your children else were unclean, but now are they not unclean Attempt to elevate ‘holy’ beyond its due place, and its antagonist in the other scale witnesses against the error. Depress ‘holy’ from its loftiest sense, and you are sustained by the word in the other scale.



II. We come now to consider the second difficulty.






This is equivalent to the inquiry - Who are the PARTIES ADDRESSED in the words, “Else were your children unclean”?



1. It has hitherto been universally assumed, that the Apostle is speaking to the mixed couples concerning their children.



(1.)  “Otherwise your children in these mixed cases were unclean,” says Doddridge.



(2.)  “The children of such marriages says Scott, “would have been accounted relatively unclean



(3.)  “From this it would follow that the offspring of such a marriage would be illegitimate,” says Barnes.



(4.)  “For otherwise, (namely, if one party be not sanctified,) your children would be considered impure and profane.  But now (that is, in this case,) they are holy.” - Bloomfield.



Here lurked the unnoticed fallacy, from which arose the difficulty of seeing the force of the apostle’s argument.



It followed as a necessary result, that Paul was arguing only as to the lawfulness of the mixed marriages in question.  But the force of such an argument is null: as has been shown.  If the lawfulness of the marriage were doubtful, the position of the children who were the result of it, was equally doubtful.  The [Page 11] legitimacy in human law of the children born under such circumstances, could not decide anything as to the question raised.



1. If Paul had intended to speak of the children of such mixed marriages, he would have used another relative. He would have said – “Else were their children unclean So does Barnes when arguing on the subject.



“The connexion produces a species of sanctification, or diffuses a kind of holiness over the unbelieving party by the believing party, so far as to render their children holy  “The Apostle was speaking of something then, and which rendered their children at that time holy “If the connection was to be regarded as impure and abominable, then their children were to be esteemed illegitimate and unclean  “They did not believe, and could not believe, that their children were defiled.”*


* Once, indeed, Barnes addresses the mixed pair directly, and uses then the word “your But Paul does not so.  He does not address directly any but believers.



These mixed marriages presented not the case of the Church generally, but of exceptions only.  He would have shown this, then, by speaking of such exceptive cases in a way that evidenced that he was addressing the Church generally about them.  The word “yours” supposes that he had before him the parties appealed to.  But the unbeliever was not of the Church, nor was he supposed to be present.



2. The Apostle’s actual use of the word “your,” proves that he was speaking Of THE CHILDREN OF THE CORINTHIAN CHURCH GENERALLY, and through that church to all churches and believers.  This will be apparent, if we consider the phraseology natural to the case and that which is constantly adopted by the Apostle.



1. “Dare any of YOU having a matter against another go to law before the unjust and not before the saints6: 1.



2.  “Know ye not that YOUR bodies are members of Christ  6: 15.  So 19, 20, and 5: 6, &c.



Again in the chapter before us:-



3.  “Now concerning the things, whereof ye wrote unto me


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4.  “Defraud ye* not one the other, except it he with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer, and come together again, that Satan tempt YOU not for YOUR incontinency



5.  “And this I speak for YOUR own profit, not that I may cast a snare upon YOU, but for that which is comely, that ye may attend upon the Lord without distractionver. 35.



It was the church at Corinth which wrote to him.  To them he addresses his reply.



Further, does the Apostle, by the word “your,” mean only the children of such mixed marriages?  Then confine it to that case!  Why do you apply it to the children of believing parents in general?  To them it does not directly apply.  On such a view Paul says only, ‘The children of such mixed marriages are not unclean, but holy Before the sentiment can apply to the children of Christian parents generally, there must be a further inference, - ‘And if the children of such exceptive cases be not unclean, much more must the children of families where both the parents are believers, be holy On this supposition only, have the words a general bearing.


* The italics mark the cases when the person is only contained in the form of a verb: the capitals, when the relative is expressed.  This explanation was first given by Hinton, of America.



But while it is universally assumed by opponents, that Paul was speaking of the case of mixed marriages alone, they nevertheless apply the passage, as if Paul spoke directly* of the whole Church.  They argue in [Page 13] relation to the Apostle’s reasoning, as though the children of the mixed marriages alone were intended.  But when they apply it to the subject of infant baptism, they take “your children” as embracing all believers.


* I propose a slight variation in the rendering of …  The established version renders, ‘Else were  That is, “Because if not, your children would be.”  But there is no negative in the Apostle’s expressions, nor is the verb in the subjunctive.  It should be, ‘Since - if so - your children are unclean, but now are they holy


The second inferential article (apa) takes up the consequence of their supposition, not the Apostle’s.  If their principle of separation was good, the children of church members were unclean to their parents.  Our translators suppose the Apostle to be arguing from the contrary to his own conclusion.  This requires “not” to be introduced; either openly, or covertly, as in ‘else But … apa means, ‘Since, if so Take a case – ‘Since, if so (if you are forbidden to keep company with fornicators) you must go out of the world1 Cor. 5: 10.  Or, as our authorized version has it – “For then ye must needs,” &c.



The expression then should be taken generally in both aspects.  The words “your children,” both in the immediate connexion and in the argument for infant baptism, have one meaning; and that its most general one. They mean, the children of the whole Church, whether infants or adults.  The holiness here supposed belonged to all alike.



See now, with this connexion, how the argument clears up and becomes wholly luminous.  The Apostle bids them trace out the results of the principle in question.



He says in effect: ‘Look at the consequences of your principle.  If the believing husband is not to live with his heathen wife, because she is an unbeliever and therefore unclean, the connexion between Christian parents and their children must be broken also; for all children are born unbelieving, and are therefore unclean  But you see that this result of the principle is unnatural and terrible.  So then is the other and more limited one.  Children, though unbelievers, are not unclean to their parents.  They communicate no defilement to them: their society is perfectly lawful, or sanctified by God.  “But now* are they holy  ‘Is it lawful for a believer to live with a heathen wife ‘Yes, as lawful as for believing parents to live with unbelieving children


* ‘Now,’ is here, not a particle of time, but of inference.  As in John 15: 22, 24; 18: 36, where it stands as the answer to ‘if



The holiness in question, then, in both cases, relates solely to the lawfulness of living together, both as it regards the wife with the husband, and the children with their parents.  ‘It is God’s will that they should dwell with you, and their bodies communicate no defilement.  But unless their souls be made holy, they will never dwell with God.’  Both were alike unclean before [Page 14] God, and before the Church, which, as an assembly of believers, upholds, both in theory and practice, God’s views of holiness.  Both were alike clean in the relations of the flesh.  If baptism belongs not to the original relation of husband and wife, who before God are one flesh: neither does it belong to the derivative relation of child to parent, which again is only a relationship of the flesh.



This inspired argument then places the unbelieving wife on the same level with the children of believers.  It is what logicians call an argument a pari, or from one case to another like it in principle. IF SO, THEN NO UNBELIEVING CHILDREN, EVEN OF BELIEVING PARENTS, WERE BAPTIZED IN PAUL’S DAY.  Corinth, though unsound on many points, was sound here, both in theory and practice; else reproof and instruction would have come in.



The heathen wife was not baptized.  This is granted.  Or, if any deny it, and outrage our first principles of faith, we can prove it.  If she had been baptized, she would have been received into the Church.  And if so, the scruple of conscience before us could not have arisen.  But if she was not baptized, neither were the infant children of the Corinthian Church.  For if so, they and the unbelieving wife were not on a level, as the argument assumes they were.



Imagine the Apostle to be arguing with a Church of modern Paedo-baptists, and this will fully appear.  ‘If you bid,’ says he, ‘the believing husband separate from his ungodly wife, you must also require pious parents to separate from their unbelieving children, upon the same principle But he would at once be met by the reply -  ‘The cases are not parallel: our children are in the covenant of grace, and are baptized members of the Church of Christ.  Therefore they do not stand on the same footing with the heathen wife, who has never been admitted within the Christian Church As, then, the Apostle could not have used such an argument, if in his day infants (aye, and the infants of believing parents) were baptized; it is clear THAT NONE WERE. [Page 15] Paul knew no difference before God between adults and infants, save the one of faith or unbelief.  Without faith, all of every age are “by nature the children of wrath



‘But can no infant be saved then?’  Yes, but not by faith - and baptism is only to be administered to those who not only believe, but give the answer of faith: 1 Pet. 3: 21.  The children of believers are, as truly as the children of unbelievers, “children of the flesh and such are not the children of God: Rom. 9: 8.  No natural relationship or connexion in the flesh gave to any unbeliever a right to any ordinance, or a place in the Church of Christ then, or can give it now.



The arguments on both sides may now be presented in a very small compass.



The Paedo-baptist argument will stand thus:



1. Those who are holy are fit subjects for baptism.



2. The children of believers are holy.



3. Therefore they are fit for baptism.



The refutation consists in defining the sense of ‘holy Rightly taken in this place, it gives no ground for baptism.  And the counter arguments are:-



1. The holiness which belongs to a heathen wife, is no lawful ground for baptism.



2. The holiness possessed by believers’ children, infant and adult, is the holiness

which belongs to a heathen wife.



3. It is therefore no lawful ground for baptism.



And in another form:-



1. Those who are by an apostle set on the same footing, received the same treatment at his hands.



2. The heathen wife and believers’ children are by an apostle set on the same footing.



3. Therefore they received the same treatment.



But the heathen wife was not baptized; as is granted.



Then neither were the children of believers, considered simply as such.  Of course if any of them believed, they were acknowledged and baptized.  They were then baptized as believers, not as children of believers.  But we are speaking of their position now, simply as they were children of the flesh.


[Page 16]

Behold then in the text before us a balance contrived by God, that we may weigh any theory that professes to explain this point.  Any interpretation which would set the unbelieving wife either higher or lower than the unbelieving children, is unsound.



It destroys the inspired argument, and the asserted equality of the two states.



The holiness in question will baptize both, or neither.  Make holiness to mean saying sanctification, and you overturn the Gospel.  You then assert, that unbelievers are holy before God!  Take holiness in its lower sense of civil legitimacy, and it gives no quiet to the conscience, no real reply to the question.  Regard holiness as ceremonial fitness for ordinances, and you must shrink from its application on one side of the balance.



Paedo-baptists would baptize the children, but not the heathen wife.  But this the Apostle will not allow.  If the children’s holiness fits them for baptism, it fits also the heathen wife.  If they were baptized, so was the heathen wife.  Do you start?  Is that absurd?  So then neither were the children baptized.  Faith is the indispensable requirement for baptism in all cases, whether in adults or children.  “The like figure whereunto even baptism also doth now save us: not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but THE ANSWER OF A GOOD CONSCIENCE BEFORE GOD 1 Pet. 3: 21.



And if the infants, even of believers, were not baptized in apostolic churches, because unable to give the answer of faith, none ought to be baptized now.  INFANT BAPTISM THEN IS A TRADITION OF MEN!



Is the argument of this tract fallacious?  Expose it!  Is it sound?  Obey the truth yourself, and spread it.



Believers! were you only sprinkled while an unbelieving infant?  Sprinkling is not baptism, for baptism means immersion.  And even the immersion of one who does not savingly believe, is not apostolic and scriptural baptism.  Are you unbaptized then?  Be immersed in obedience to your Lord! in memory of His burial and resurrection, and of your oneness with Him in both! (Rom. 6.)