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Why They Believe It

by J. G. Bow, D. D.


Baptists believe that scriptural baptism is a "setting forth of the believers death to sin, burial to the world, entrance through a new birth into a new life, faith in the burial and resurrection of Christ and by consequence of his own resurrection, and if baptism symbolizes purification, then the subjection of his whole being to the purifying and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit?" (Burrows, on Symbols of Baptism.)

Baptists have often been accused of making too much of baptism, simply because they practice what they believe, and they believe with Paul, that there is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism."

No one believes that Jesus was baptized three or four different ways, but one way. That one way is baptism, and all other ways are not baptism. Most people who have investigated the subject believe that Jesus was immersed in the river Jordan. Baptists believe this, and because they have the courage of their convictions, and practice what they believe, they are styled illiberal, close, narrow, selfish, and bigoted, and accused of making too much of baptism. Dont be alarmed, brethren; they said worse things than that about our Master. "Stand fast." "Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." Baptists believe that no one is a scriptural subject for baptism till he is already saved. All well-informed people know that we teach this: then upon what ground can they say we believe baptism essential to salvation?

We believe it is a positive command, enjoined upon the believing, saved soul, and is essential to true, loving obedience. And we believe if such believers were properly informed and not prejudiced against the truth, they would all want to obey the Saviour in this simple yet sublime ordinance.

Baptists are the only denomination who are not amenable to the charge of making too much of baptism. The Catholics and all pedobaptist denominations attach a meaning and an importance to baptism not authorized by Scripture. In each and all there is a tinge of the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. But for this, infant baptism would never have been invented. The doctrines of the Catholics, Episcopalians, and Campbellites avow their belief in the necessity of baptism in order to be saved. Very many Pedobaptists also believe in baptismal regeneration, not because the Scriptures teach it, but because of the emphasis placed upon it by their books and teachers. If not, why rush off in such frantic haste to have a dying baby sprinkled? Such an act cannot confer any earthly good or privilege, for it is just ready to leave all that is earthly.

Baptists believe that the immersion of a believer is an open declaration to the world that such a one is dead to sin. "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:11). And because he is dead to the world and to sin, he is to be buried, and in a spiritual sense is separated from these. Again, the immersion is a proclamation to the world that we believe in him who "died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that be was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures." So it is a proclamation of our belief that Christ arose from the dead, and in this symbol and object lesson is set forth this resurrection of Christ to the world. Likewise it symbolizes not only our rising to walk in newness of life here, but proclaims the resurrection of our bodies, when they that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that have done good shall come forth unto the resurrection of life eternal.

As we believe that baptism so appropriately teaches these great fundamental truths, and so beautifully symbolizes so much of Christs work, the believers experience, the Christians hopes, the promises of God, and the provisions of the gospel, is it strange that we contend for that one act which is baptism, that qualification which entitles one to baptism, and strict obedience to the command of the great Captain of our salvation, and conformity to the example he set for us when he was baptized of John in Jordan? Baptism scripturally understood and properly administered preaches to the world the great underlying principles, the fundamental doctrine of the glorious gospel of Christ. In this simple but sublime object lesson we have a beautiful, impressive sermon which says to all beholders, We were dead in sins, helpless, hopeless, and lost. The great Saviour of sinners had compassion on us, he took our place, died in our stead, died that we might live. He arose again from the dead according to his promise, and according to the prophecy and Word of God. Then through the power of Gods truth and the Holy Spirit we died to sin, and being made alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord, we arise to walk in newness of life. We also declare by this simple and divinely appointed ordinance our hope in the resurrection of our bodies from the grave, when the fullness of the time for the redemption of our bodies shall come, when these vile bodies shall be changed and fashioned like unto the glorified body of our Lord Jesus Christ, when the time comes for the full satisfaction of Gods children when they shall awake in his likeness.

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