The First Practice of Baptism as a Christian Rite
Acts 2:38, 41
Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized... the Holy Ghost. "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized... three thousand souls." The sun of the day of Pentecost did not set without marking the moment of the inauguration of the rite of Christian baptism - a rite which has never ceased to prove the occasion of stir and difference of opinion down the history of the Church. Baptism, and the baptism of water, was of course a familiar thing to the minds of the disciples of Jesus. It was in no sense a novelty, for they had known it from the preaching and the practice of John the Baptist. And with the original of even this there can be no doubt the Jewish nation as such had long been acquainted. The rite, however, unavoidably invests itself with fresh dignity and fresh significance from the time that Jesus, in the interval between the Resurrection and Ascension, and especially in his very parting words before the latter event, enjoined his disciples to observe it, in the sense, not of submitting to it themselves at the hands of one another, but of calling others to it and administering it to them. They are expressly advised by Jesus that in their own case it would be utterly superseded by the baptism of the Holy Ghost, which the day of Pentecost was to bring, and which it now had brought. "This beginning," therefore, of baptism in the Name of Jesus Christ may well attract most interested notice. It practically owned to certain objects or requirements, whether more explicit or implicit in their character. And it is our duty to study it in the appearances it then offered to view.

I. IT IMPLIED THAT, GIVEN CERTAIN FAVORING CIRCUMSTANCES AND OPPORTUNITIES OF KNOWLEDGE IN THEIR RELIGIOUS LIFE, MEN ARE CALLED TO ENTER INTO A DEFINITE AND FIXED RELATIONSHIP TO CHRIST. Once the novel appeal to men was, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Now the more permanent appeal has taken its place: "Repent, and be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ."

II. IT SUPPOSES THAT THE ENTRANCE UPON SUCH RELATIONSHIP TO CHRIST BE OF THE NATURE OF A PROFESSION, AND MORE OR LESS PUBLIC PROFESSION. Not in the retirement of sacred shrine, or of more sacred closet, or of most sacred heart alone, must the relationship be established. There were reasons why a certain kind of notoriety should attend it. That notoriety might be expected to have in it:

1. Some share of useful influence on the individual character of the person making profession.

2. Some helpful influence in the founding and holding together of the Christian society.

3. Some tribute of grateful and willing acknowledgment to him who once was put to "open shame."

III. IT CONTAINED IN IT A TACIT CONFESSION, IN THE VERY NATURE OF THE RITE SUBMITTED TO, OF THE TAINT INHERENT IN NATURE, AND OF NATURE'S NEED OF PURIFICATION. The indistinctness of prophecy that went before by centuries, and the unequivocal distinctness of apostolic language in both history and Epistle, give the description of washing, cleansing, purifying, as the symbolic significance of the rite of baptism.

IV. IT DID NOT, TO ALL APPEARANCE, ASK FOR ANY INQUISITORIAL ELEMENT OR SEARCHING INVESTIGATION ON THE PART OF THE ADMINISTRATORS OF IT. It would seem impossible, in the nature of the circumstances described in the history before us, that even apostles, under the highest amount of inspiration, could have done more than accept simply the profession of those who offered themselves for baptism. The guarantee they took of the very repentance which they urged and preached as the deepest matter in question, was only that which belonged to the fact of the people's willingness and desire to be baptized. That was indeed a great and open change of mind, or repentance, which brought the people to this point. It seems impossible to imagine that baptism was now accepted as anything but the very first step toward holiness of heart and life. Those who were baptized did thus much - they "set their faces Zionward." These are the appearances that invest the first occasion of the observance or use of baptism as a Christian rite. These appearances by themselves scarcely amount to the assertion of a permanent institution; and they can scarcely be accounted as speaking with authority the subjects, or the convictions, or the methods of its administration for all time and all circumstances, even upon the supposition of its permanent obligation. They are not, therefore, the less interesting; nay, they may kindle keener and more observant inquiry. But they need such inquiry, and they must be interpreted under the light of Christ's ascending commission to his disciples, of obedience to which this is the first possible occasion, and in the light of the succeeding history of Christ's followers during the apostolic period. At present baptism may be said to hold the place of an initiatory rite. Through that first Christian baptism three thousand persons were introduced into the ranks of those who believed in Christ as the Messiah, and who were prepared to become learners in his school, and to put in practice (as was immediately seen) his principles. They no longer are of those who believe in sacrifices and ceremonial observances innumerable for "the remission of sins," but "in the Name of Jesus Christ." And they are introduced within the covenant of promise - that covenant the abiding promise to which was "the gift of the Holy Ghost." - B.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

WEB: Peter said to them, "Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

St. Peter's Prescription
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