We may profess great attainments in the divine life and wonderful devotion to God, but the proof is obedience to his commands. We have learned of people who have become so holy that they were raised above or passed beyond a great portion of the Bible and are not required to keep it. We have heard of but few things so ridiculously foolish. The better and more holy we become, certainly the more of the Word of God we will practise in our life; and who on earth can live a more perfect Christian life than he who lives in obedience to every word of the Bible? When one gets in possession of something that exempts him from obedience to the Scriptures he gets in possession of some very mysterious thing. The only way to heaven is by the commandments of the Bible. "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have a right to the tree of life and enter in through the gates into the city."
We will consider some ordinances and ceremonies which belong to the church of God as recorded in the New Testament so plainly that a wayfaring man though a fool need not err therein.
"There was a man sent from God, whose name was John." John 1:6. In the thirty-third verse this same John declares that God sent him to baptize with water. Of the books written on this subject there is scarcely an end. The controversy is very great, and so often very ridiculous. Lexicographers have defined and analyzed the word baptize in its different forms. Liddell and Scott, Robertson, Parkhurst, Scapula, Stokins, Calvin, Luther, Campbell, Gill, Stuart, Vitringa, Brenner, Paulus, and many others of great erudition have defined the word, and to sum them all up we find the primary meaning is "to dip, to immerse, to plunge in water." Many of the English translators of the New Testament always render baptizo, immerse or dip, as "John the immerser," or "John the dipper."
This brief reference to the expositions of the learned must suffice for this work. It is with pleasure we resort to the plain and simple teachings of the Scriptures.
Baptism A New Testament Ordinance.
All Jerusalem, and Judea, and the region about Jordan, were baptized of John in Jordan. Mat.3:5, 6. Jesus baptized by proxy. John 4:1, 2. He commissioned his ministry to preach baptism unto all the world. "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Mat.28:19. "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Mark 16:15, 16. Those who have undertaken the dangerous and Christ uncommissioned task of freeing Christians from the obligations of this ordinance, hold high aloft the following texts: Eph.2:15; Col.2:14, 15; Col.2:20. Since the Savior's commission to his disciples was forty days after his resurrection, such teachers are driven from this position, and to substantiate their doctrine they flee to a more fatally exposed one when saying that the baptism of this commission was the baptism of the Spirit. It is a pity that precious time must be taken for the correction of such erroneous teaching. How can men baptize with the Holy Spirit? God alone can do that.
It is evident that the apostles understood this baptism to be with water, since they taught it and practised it throughout their ministry. We shall take time and space to refer to but two or three instances of the administration of this ordinance recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. The first is that of a Christ commissioned preacher by the name of Philip, who was sent by an angel to preach the gospel to a Scripturally ignorant man of Ethiopia. Unlearned as he was, he readily understood from the preaching of Philip the importance of water baptism; therefore when they came to a certain water he said, "See here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?" Acts 8:36. By reading the following verses you will learn that this man was baptized in water and God witnessed to his approval by sending him rejoicing on his way. Obedience to the commands of God brings a joy to the Christian heart.
The second instance of baptism to which we wish to invite your attention is that of the devout Cornelius. He sent for Peter to learn more concerning the ways of the Lord. Peter came and told them of Jesus, of his resurrection and his power to save. As he spoke the Holy Ghost fell upon all them which heard his words. Then said Peter, Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. How can an instance of water baptism be more plainly recorded? This occurred some eight years after the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus. To teach the abolition of this ordinance at the cross, in the face of these plainly stated instances of baptism, only proves to us the blinding and deceptive power of the spirit of error.
Mode Of Baptism.
Many of the professed teachers of the gospel have become very liberal. "We all have a right to our opinion," so many say; and "a thing becomes right unto us if we believe it to be right." Because of this teaching and the varied opinions, there have originated in the minds of the people several different modes of baptism. But this great liberality finds no warrant in the Word of God. The Scriptures teach that "there is one body." Eph.4:4. If I should hold in opinion, as many do hold, that there are many bodies, would my opinion prove the Word of God to be in error? Let me say here, with emphasis, that there can be but one true, rightful body. If the Catholic body should be the right body, it is the only body upon the earth that is right. If the Presbyterian body is the right and true body, it is the only body. And so with any other denominational body. If we were a member of the Methodist body we would have to believe that that was the one true body and that all the others were wrong. If there be but one body, how can two bodies be that one body when those two bodies are different?
There is but one Holy Spirit, one true Lord, one gospel faith, and one true mode of baptism. God has not left us to follow our own peculiar fancies, but all must go the same way. Whatever is required of one individual, that same thing is required of every other individual. If sprinkling is a right mode of baptism it is the only right mode, and all others are wrong. If pouring is right it is the only mode that is right. If three dips, face forward is right it is the only mode that is right. If one single immersion is right it is the only mode that is right. The Lord did not set the example in all these different ways. He was baptized. He also baptized by proxy, and we believe that he thus baptized in the same manner he was baptized. This one mode was all they understood by baptism. The apostles perhaps had seen the Lord baptized, they administered baptism under his direction, and when he commissioned them with the authority to administer baptism after he had ascended to the Father, they did not question him as to which mode. The word baptism meant but one thing and the same thing unto them all. In the after years of their ministry they practised just what they had seen their Lord practise.
Now let us learn from the plain, easy language of the Scripture the mode as administered by John, the Lord and the apostles. In the third chapter of Matthew the inspired writer has given an account of John's baptism, which we kindly invite you to read. Now the way to correctly understand the Scripture is to take it in its easiest, plainest, most sensible way. Do not attempt to give it some complicated, mysterious meaning, but receive it as you would any easily understood historical fact of this present time. If you should read in your county paper of a man down by one of the rivers of your adjoining county who was administering baptism to the people, and the whole neighborhood round about went out to him and were baptized of him in the river, and when he had baptized a certain individual he went up straightway out of the water, what idea would you form as to the mode of the baptism? Would you think it was a little water sprinkled on the head somewhere in a meeting-house? There is nothing in the account to convey such an idea. How unreasonable it would be for you to study to change the meaning of the plain account and mystify it because it was not congenial to your desires.
Suppose you should read in your paper of two men traveling along the way. One of them had never heard of Jesus nor of the ordinance of baptism; the other talked to him of the Savior, of his death and his resurrection, and how he had authorized him to go into all the world and preach this gospel to every creature, and he that believed and was baptized, the same should be saved. And as they traveled on their way they came to a certain water, and the one said to the other, "See here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized?" The other replied, "If thou believest with all thine heart thou mayest." He answered, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." Then they stopped their carriage and they went down both into the water and there the one was baptized of the other, and when they came up out of the water the one went one way and the other another way, and they saw each other no more. What idea would you form as to the mode of baptism? This is all very plain to the candid heart.
The other instances of baptism recorded in the New Testament do not express so clearly the mode as the two we have given, yet they can not with propriety be made to express anything contrary to immersion. The apostle Paul in his letter to the Roman brethren speaks of baptism as a burial. Rom.6:4. This only confirms in our mind (concerning the mode) the ideas suggested by the baptism of the Savior and of the man of Ethiopia. For yet greater clearness we will present a few thoughts suggested to us by the recent writings of a brother, which we consider very conclusive.
A word, perfectly synonymous with another word can be used in its stead with the same correctness of diction. As, for example, "The snow is slowly descending from the dark cloud." To use a word synonymous with "descending" in the above sentence it must express the same thought and present the same elegance of style. We find such a synonym in the word "falling." "The snow is slowly falling from the dark cloud." The idea expressed by these two sentences is precisely the same, and both are good grammar. Let us now read Rom.6:4: "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death." To find a word synonymous with baptism it will not deprive the word "burial" of its proper meaning. Try the word "sprinkle." "Therefore we are buried with him by sprinkling into death." Please read Mat.3:5, 6; Mark 1:9; John 3:2, 3, and use the word sprinkle or pour where the word baptize is used, and note the great absurdity. Why is so much time spent in discussion over declarations so simple, clear and plain? Because of the perversion of plain language by the spirit of error to a self-conceited mind.
There is a religious class of people that teach and practise three immersions; one in the name of the Father, one in the name of the Son, and one in the name of the Holy Ghost. Such teaching is based upon the construction of Mat.28:19. Only a little unprejudiced consideration will enable you to see the fallacy of such an interpretation. These three are one. If they were separate and distinct so we could act in the name of the one to the exclusion of the others then we could better understand such an interpretation of the above text. The apostles well understood that to act in the name of one was to act in the name of the whole trinity; therefore Peter says, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ." Acts 2:38. Why did not Peter use the formula of Mat.28:19? Because to act in the name of one is to act in the name of all. "And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord." Acts 10:48. "They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." Acts 8:16. "When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus." Acts 19:5.
Nowhere in the Acts of the Apostles is the triune name used in baptism. Pages could be written showing the absurdity of the teachings of trine immersionists, but we consider that what has been written is clear enough to convince candid, unbiased minds, and any amount of argument will not convince those who defiantly set themselves against any reasonings contrary to their established notions.
The Object Of Baptism.
There is a baptism taught in the Scriptures that is not water baptism. There is a baptism of the Spirit. See 1 Cor.12:13; Mat.3:11. Some not being able to rightly divide the Word of God have taken some texts that teach the baptism of the Spirit to be the baptism of water, and thus confused the true object of water baptism. We will frankly admit that there are some texts which if taken alone and interpreted literally do apparently teach that baptism is a saving ordinance. We will refer the reader to a few of these texts. Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16. These texts seem to plainly teach that water baptism does wash away or remit sins. I always prefer to give each text the simplest, plainest rendering when it does not conflict with some other text. Now to teach that baptism by water is a saving ordinance, and so interpret these texts, we place ourselves in direct opposition to other plain teaching. Some do teach that there is none righteous and base such teaching upon Rom.3:10. We would ask such teachers to interpret Titus 2:12; 1 John 3:7, 10; 1 John 2:29; Luke 1:75. By such texts they are brought to confusion.
Elsewhere in this work we quote the scriptures teaching salvation from sin to be by the grace of God. Then to teach that water baptism saves us from sin makes the Word of God contradict itself. All is beauteous harmony in the Scriptures when all is correctly interpreted. Water baptism represents a burial. A burial must of course be preceded by death. We die or separate ourselves from a life of sin and accept Christ; he accepts us. The real death to, and destruction of sin and resurrection to life is performed by the power of God's grace, while baptism expresses in a figure the burial and resurrection to spiritual life. This is the true object of baptism.
Proper Applicants For Baptism.
Water baptism is the answer of a good conscience toward God.1 Pet.3:19-21. We must obtain a good or "undefiled conscience" before we are a Scriptural candidate for baptism. How can defilement be purged from the conscience? By the blood of Jesus. Heb.9:14. We are taught in Mat.3:8 that we must bear fruits of repentance to be worthy applicants for baptism. The man of Ethiopia was asked to profess faith in Christ before Philip considered him to be a proper subject for baptism.
Infants can not profess faith in Christ, therefore their baptism is unscriptural. We are aware that there are many who teach "infant baptism," and use a few texts of Scripture and by their misapplication make it look as plausible as possible. The commission of the Lord to his ministry is to "preach the gospel to every creature; he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Faith precedes baptism in the commission. Infants have not faith. Peter says, "Repent and be baptized." Acts 2:38. Repentance, therefore, precedes baptism. John understood it thus. Mat.3:8. Infants need no repentance. There is not a case recorded in the New Testament of infant baptism. After one has reached the years of accountability and repents of his sins and is born of the Spirit he is then, and not until then, a proper candidate for baptism.
The Lord's Supper.
In the teachings of the holy inspired and unblamed apostle Paul, the expression, "The Lord's Supper" is to be found. In reproving the Corinthians for corrupting the sacred communion service, he says, "When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper," 1 Cor.11:20. In the preceding chapter he uses the word communion when speaking of the same divinely originated ordinance. "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?" 1 Cor.10:16.
The apostle in these texts is referring to an ordinance of the New Testament instituted by the blessed Savior just prior to his passion as recorded by the writers of the gospels and observed by the church when it was the light of the world. If this sacred and very impressive ordinance was abolished at the death of the Savior, as some erroneously teach, why does Paul more than a score of years after exhort Christians to its observance and warn them so faithfully against corrupting so sacred a rite, telling them that if they eat and drink unworthily they eat and drink damnation to themselves, and admonishing them to examine themselves and so let them eat? 1 Cor.11. It must be clear to all unclouded, candid minds by the reading of this chapter that there was an ordinance solemnly observed by the Christians long after the Savior was "nailed to the cross." In very plain and positive language he tells us that the communion or Lord's Supper is a New Testament ordinance: "This cup is the New Testament in my blood." 1 Cor.11:25. This is corroborative of Mat.26:28: "For this is my blood of the new testament;" and of Mark 14:24: "And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many." Also of Luke 22:20: "Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you."
To one enjoying the full light of the precious gospel to teach the abolition of this solemn ordinance appears the very height of folly and ignorance. In the recording of the Acts of the apostles it is said that "upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them." Acts 20:7. The breaking of bread as here spoken of signifies nothing else but the observance of the Lord's Supper.
The few plain, comprehensive texts of apostolic teaching we have quoted upon this subject must make obvious to the mind of the reader that Christians of the morning time of this gospel day observed an ordinance termed the Lord's Supper or communion, done in remembrance of Jesus and showing his death till he come. We will learn in the noontime's awful darkness how the blinded minds and unregenerated hearts of teachers by misunderstanding and misapplying these plain texts caused their clear light to cease to shine.
The Holy Kiss.
True love manifests itself in many ways. We embrace with the arms, we greet with a kiss, the object of our love. We speak of these love tokens ofttimes in a spiritual way: "Folded in the arms of Jesus;" "Leaning on his breast;" "Sheltered beneath his wing." The Psalmist says, "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry." Psa.2:12. These were literally practised by the Savior and his beloved followers while he was here. After Jesus arose and went to the Father the apostles practised the holy kiss. "They all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck, and kissed him." Acts 20:37. We behold the love they bore for him. It was not a cold kiss of formality, but of love. In the first verse we see the love Paul had for the disciples: "Paul called unto him the disciples and embraced them."
In the epistolary law of the New Testament the holy kiss is five times commanded. "Salute one another with a holy kiss." Rom.16:16. "Greet ye one another with a holy kiss." 1 Cor.16:20. "Greet one another with a holy kiss." 2 Cor.13:12. "Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss." 1 Thes.5:26. "Greet ye one another with a kiss of charity." 1 Pet.5:14.
Satan ever ready to corrupt the pure precepts and practises of the sacred Word has led people into the disgraceful fanaticism of promiscuous kissing. Such is not a kiss of love, but a kiss of lust. Everything done in the order of the kingdom of heaven is done in the perfection of decency and respectability. How natural for the fond husband to embrace and kiss the beloved wife, and the devoted mother her child, the brother his sister, all because love exists consistent with natural relation. But the strongest tie of love that binds hearts together is the Christian love. Then how natural and becoming for the Christian to greet with a kiss his brother, and the Christian sister her sister in the Lord.
Christian love continued after the apostles' days were ended, and consequently the practise of greeting with a holy kiss. We will conclude this subject by referring the reader to history as quoted in "Ordinances of the New Testament": "The fraternal kiss used on admission to the church and at the Lord's Supper were not empty forms, but the expression of a true feeling, and of a real experience." -- Butler's Ecclesiastical History, p.132.
"After the prayers ... we greet one another with the brotherly kiss." -- Justin Martyr, p.146.
"The communion was a regular part of the Sunday worship. In many places it was celebrated daily. It began after the dismissal of the catechumens, by the kiss of peace given by men to men and women to women." -- p.147.
It is natural for Christians filled with the love of God to greet each other with a kiss, but the cold distant forms of men have prevented Christians following the natural inclination of the heart.
Lifting Up Of Holy Hands.
In the olden time when the chosen children of God were battling in the wilderness against their enemies, as long as the hands of Moses were kept uplifted Israel prevailed, and when his hands were let down the enemy triumphed. Ex.17:8-12. See also Psa.28:2; 63:4; 88:9; Lam.3:41. This signal act of triumph is conveyed into the spirit of the New Testament. Paul says, "I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting." 1 Tim.2:8. This is a single text of the New Testament teaching this ordinance. In connection with this text some have used Heb.12:12; but to our mind it is only an exhortation to encourage the feeble and faint-hearted, and not an express command to the literally raising of the hands. However the one text quoted is sufficient for those who love the Lord, for those who love him keep his commandments.
This ceremony is suggestive of submissiveness and reliance upon God. It is natural for the Spirit-born child of God to imploringly lift his hands to God in petition or praise and thanksgiving. In the time when the spiritual battles wax hot we seek God in earnest imploring prayer, and the lifting up of our hands adds strength to our faith and draws God nearer. But, oh, let us make sure that our hands and hearts are holy. It is but mockery to spread forth your hands unto God when they are full of blood. From such the Lord hides his eyes, and closes his ears against their prayer. Isa.1:15.
To the proud heart the commandment to "wash one another's feet" is perhaps the most ridiculous ever given by the Son of God. In the semi-theatrical church entertainments men may pay a large sum for the privilege of kissing the most handsome lady, and for similar or more shameful indulgences, but to humbly wash a brother's feet would be shocking in the extreme. "If a man love me he will keep my words." John 14:23. Where true love exists there is no disposition to spurn any of the Lord's commandments, however humiliating they may be.
The ordinance of feet-washing was instituted by the Savior, and is recorded in the thirteenth chapter of John. One objection that many bring against this sacred ordinance is that it is so seldom mentioned in the Bible. If a man does not love God deeply enough to obey him when he speaks but once, he would not obey him should he speak a dozen times. Jesus says, "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." Luke 16:31. It is never difficult to persuade a humble heart to believe the Word of God, though there be but one single commandment; but the proud in heart will not be persuaded by any number if they are not according to their inclinations. About the first objection offered against this humble ordinance is that it was a custom among the Jews to wash feet, and the feet-washing recorded by John was nothing more than the Jewish custom. There was more here than the mere custom of washing feet.
We will carefully weigh this objection. Bathing is a custom, naturally so, for cleanliness and health, and is observed by people of every civilized nation, and has been in every age of the world. Pharaoh's daughter went down to the river to bathe when she found the babe in the ark of bulrushes. Ex.2:5. Bathing was not a custom of any particular nation, but a universal custom. God separated Israel from the world to be his own chosen people. He gave them certain laws, which stood as a partition wall between them and the Gentile world. Among the many ceremonies was that of bathing. By reading the fifteenth chapter of Leviticus you will learn of the bathings required of the Jews for certain sins and uncleannesses. These bathings were peculiar to this people alone and served to separate them from other nations. They observed the universal custom of bathing, but these bathings were additional and given by the Lord. When Jesus came he abolished the Jewish ordinances that distinguished them from the world and offers salvation to every nation. By his grace he separates his people from the world and institutes for them the ordinance of baptism. This is not the universal custom of bathing, neither is it the Jewish ceremony of bathings for cleansings, but a New Testament ordinance for saved people of this gospel day, representing their death to sin and consequent separation from the world. All continue in the custom of bathing, but the Christian is baptized.
All people in every age are accustomed, if we may call it a custom, to eating; but when God separated Israel from Egypt and gave them a law, he instituted a supper called the Passover. This they kept in commemoration of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage. The Passover supper was not the mere custom of eating supper, but was an ordinance peculiar to the Jewish nation, and served to distinguish them as God's own chosen people. In Heb.9:10 we learn that these meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, were imposed on them until the time of reformation. When Jesus came he instituted a new order of things. The Passover supper was with the rest of the Jewish ordinances blotted out and nailed to the cross. Col.2:14. Jesus instituted a supper to be kept in remembrance of him by his peculiar, exclusive people. This consists of bread, which represents his body, and of wine, which represents his blood. This is not the custom of eating, neither is it the Jewish ordinance, but a newly instituted ordinance in this dispensation of grace. All continue the custom of eating, but Christians keep the communion.
When Abraham was in the plains of Mamre he was visited by three angels, unto whom he said: "Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree." Gen.18:4. Two angels came one evening to Sodom, and Lot rose up to meet them, and said: "Behold now, my lords, turn in, I pray you, into your servant's house, and tarry all night, and wash your feet." Gen.19:1, 2. By these instances and others we understand that washing feet was a custom in that time. It was not a law of God, but people of all nations observed it as a law of health, comfort, and cleanliness.
In Ex.30:19-21 and 40:30-32 we learn that God instituted an ordinance or ceremony of washing feet. This was not the mere custom of washing feet, but was a Jewish rite and served among other rites and ceremonies to distinguish them as God's own peculiar people. When the Son of God set up the kingdom of grace, this priestly ceremony was blotted out and a new ordinance of feet-washing was instituted. See John 13. This was not the ancient universal custom of washing feet. That still continues the same as eating and bathing. It is not the Jewish ordinance, because they were all nailed to the cross; but it is a humble ordinance the Savior instituted for his people saved from sin in this blessed gospel day. The Lord's people love this precious ordinance. Jesus set the example and intends his own to do as he did. "If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you." John 13:14, 15. Jesus set the example in baptism and intends for us to follow. Mat.3:15, 16. He set the example in partaking of his newly instituted supper and intends for us to walk in his steps.1 Cor.11:25.
Since the word ought is used some appear to rejoice in the thought that it is not obligatory. I, for one, ever since the Lord made me a Christian, have always been willing and glad to do just what I ought to do. We scarcely think a man loves God when he refuses to do what he knows he ought to do. "Ye ought to support the weak." Acts 20:35. "Men ought always to pray." Luke 18:1. "We ought also to love one another." 1 John 4:11. "Ye also ought to wash one another's feet." John 13:14. Let us as professed followers of Jesus live and do what we ought to do. Happy are ye if you do, but what shall be the result if you refuse? "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard." Heb.2:1. Will you do as you ought? Because the widow did what she ought she was recommended to the care of the church.1 Tim.5:9, 10.