The elders and messengers of the Philadelphia Association,
To the churches they represent send Christian salutation.
Beloved brethren, - We were highly pleased, and much gratified, in the enjoyment of such a general representation of the churches, and the kind reception we met by our sister church at Hopewell, while the cause of our convening in this place gave us pain. Philadelphia being once more visited by trying dispensations of Providence, her situation demands our united cry, that God would turn away this calamity from her, and her inhabitants to himself.
Anxious for your increase in knowledge, and to be instrumental in advancing the kingdom of our Lord the Messiah, we have chosen as the subject of this our epistle - The Baptism of the Holy Ghost. In making this choice at the present time, the following reasons have guided our pen:
1. That though this point has been often mentioned, we think seldom clearly explained; and for want of a right idea of it, the glory of the Gospel lessened.
2. It has, almost universally, been so blended with the work of regeneration and sanctification, that it is commonly called the inward baptism, and the only necessary preparative for heaven; whereas, it was never inculcated in this light in the Gospel, and we think ought not to be considered as constituting any part of the office work of the Divine Spirit in renewing the heart.
3. That haply we may be of use to some of our respected friends, by showing them, that, though they may be regenerated, and enjoy the highest consolation in the sweet incomes of the Holy Comforter, and the most sensible communion with Christ; yet, as all this does not constitute the baptism of the Holy Spirit, nor is designed by it in the sacred Scriptures, it follows of consequence, that, rejecting the water baptism, they have no baptism whatever, and ought cheerfully to submit to that prescribed in the example of Jesus Christ.
4. It being extremely absurd to hold one point of the Christian religion under the denomination of another, especially when there is no well founded evidence of its present existence.
To render this subject plain, and the truth of it familiar, we call your attention to the following considerations:
The term baptism of the Holy Ghost, is only to be found in the New Testament, and was first taught by the harbinger of Jesus Christ, Matthew iii:11, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire;" confining it wholly to the office work of the Saviour, in executing the trust committed to him by the Father; and so in Acts ii:33, "Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear," which evinced the power of Christ, and confirmed the divine mission of John.
The subject itself is the fulfilment of prophecy and the accomplishment of the promise made by Jesus Christ to his disciples, Joel ii:28, and recorded (Acts ii:16-22), from the 16th to the 22d verse, "And it shall come to pass in the last days," saith God, "I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy," &c.; also in Luke xxiv:49, "And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high;" which promise is again mentioned by Luke, in Acts i:4, 5, as the ground on which the apostles went to Jerusalem, and there in holy concert joined in prayer and supplication for the accomplishment of such qualifying aid, to promulge the knowledge of their exalted Redeemer.
The nature of this baptism, most clearly evinces it to be distinct, and materially different from that of regeneration. The one a still small voice, saying, "This is the way;" the other, that of "a rushing mighty wind." One invisible, "A white stone, and a new name given, which no man knew save he that had received it;" the other, to be seen, "Cloven tongues of fire sat on them." One internal, filling the heart with secret consolation, joy and pleasure; the other external, "The whole house where they were sitting."
This renders the term baptism proper, because they were immersed in the fountain of the Spirit, and thereby made partakers of such extraordinary and miraculous influence, as in regeneration and conversion were never promised.
The design of this baptism, is another important argument in favor of this idea. To qualify otherwise ignorant and unlearned men, to cope with all the greatness of this world, and to meet the wisdom of men, in all their formidable attacks, putting them to silence. To establish the greatest doctrines in the councils of heaven, or among men, God and man dwelling in one Christ; and that Jesus of Nazareth, crucified by the envious and treacherous Jews, was he; and, though the master was exalted, the disciple could effect, in his name, visible evidence of his Godhead, and by signs and miracles, as well as Scripture prophecy, prove him to be the Messiah promised to the fathers.
To establish the gospel dispensation, by the instrumentality of a few illiterate persons, raised up in the land of Judea, (who declared that the whole economy made known to the ancient fathers, the costly grandeur of the temple and the expence of its worship, was fulfilled, and all its glory exceeded, in him who expired on the accursed tree,) needed the power of omnipotence, to make its way against the formidable force raised in opposition. Another reason was to assure the apostles, primitive Christians, and all subsequent believers, that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and only Saviour of Jews and Gentiles. For which reason, the Holy Ghost, in his miraculous gifts of speaking with divers tongues, fell on the Gentiles in a visible form, as upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost, Acts xi:15, 16, "The Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning;" which extraordinary gifts served to confirm Peter that he was doing right, in hearkening to the vision he had seen; and to satisfy the church of the divine right of all nations in common to partake of salvation by the cross of Jesus Christ.
The subjects of this baptism differ essentially from those of regeneration. The work of grace is upon the hearts of the unregenerated, bringing them from a state of moral death to life, from darkness to light, and from the power of sin, and service of Satan, to the liberty of the gospel, and the enjoyment of fellowship with God. Whereas, the baptism of the Holy Ghost was upon the apostles; who, having experienced the work of grace upon their souls, and being thereby made partakers of all that is peculiar to regeneration, could not be regenerated by the descent of the sacred Spirit, which being a work only once in the divine life, could not be effected again. As an assurance of this fact, they are declared to have "their names written in heaven," and Jesus Christ had manifested the Father to them, (John xvii:6,) and "that they had known surely Christ came from God, and had believed on the Son of God," (verse 8.) "Flesh and blood had not revealed it unto them, but the Father in heaven." They are called by every near and dear appellation, that could expressthe love of God to them. And as for Cornelius, he had intercourse with God, and was acquainted with the power of renewing grace, as the cause of sending for Peter. As for the twelve on whom Paul laid his hands, none can doubt of their previous interest in Christ; for they are said to have believed. To render this point more clear, not only regeneration is not the baptism of the Holy Ghost, nor yet the receiving of the sacred Spirit; this is most clearly manifested in the case of the disciples, who, after the resurrection of Christ, were visited by him, and he breathed on them and they received the Holy Ghost, (John xx:22,) no doubt as much, if not, more, than believers in common; and yet, notwithstanding, they are ordered to tarry at Jerusalem until baptised of the sacred Spirit. All which join to show, that whatever any Christian may have gained in the experience of grace, he has no right to the term, baptised by the Spirit, unless such a person professing this miraculous attainment, for no other is called the baptism of the Holy Ghost, prove it by signs and wonders, as did the primitive Christians.
The effects which followed this baptism: Casting out devils; Paul dispossessed the damsel that had a spirit of divination, commanding the spirit, in the name of Jesus Christ, to come out of her, and it did; and also of others, by the power and in the name of Christ; speaking with new tongues - not such as all others were ignorant of, but such as they had never learned or understood before; taking up serpents without injury - so Paul had a viper fastened on his hand, which he shook off, and to the amazement of the beholders, received no harm, but their united testimony that lie was more than mortal drinking deadly poison, without hurt; laying hands on the sick, and they recover; the father of Plubius was healed of a fever and the bloody flux; the lame man from his mother's womb made whole, and the shadow of Peter effected the cure of many; (Acts v:15, 16;) others were healed by handkerchiefs and aprons taken from the body of Paul: (Acts xix:12:) all of which were then necessary for the confirmation of the gospel, and the establishment of Christianity in the world.
Here it is proper to remove some apparent difficulties, which are a means of puzzling the minds of many. First, What baptism the apostle denominates one baptism? We answer, The instituted appointment of Jesus Christ, which he authorised after his resurrection, which remains a standing ordinance in the church, and which Peter, when filled with the Holy Ghost, enjoined on Cornelius and the rest of the believing Gentiles, even after they were baptised with the Holy Spirit; though the baptism of the Spirit was never an essential prerequisite to water baptism; but a striking evidence to the Jews of the salvation of the Gentiles, and confirmation of the existence of grace in the heart; as only such were the subjects of his miraculous operations.
The next we meet is in 1 Corinthians xii:13: "For by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body, whether Jews or Gentiles, and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." By attending to the chapter, you will at once perceive that the scope of it is upon the extraordinary work of the Spirit, and indeed miracles are named in verse 10, and divers tongues, which, as we have shown, were given to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. The former stood now, under the gospel dispensation, on an equal ground with the latter, and had come into the fellowship of the saints by the same miraculous evidence from heaven; and to us there seems no absurdity in saying that the same Spirit influences all, nations to yield an obedience to the instituted appointments of Jesus Christ, and so come into the union of the body the church. As for sundry other Scriptures, such as Romans vi:3, 4., Colossians ii:12, 1 Peter, iii: 21, Galatians iii:27, they have an evident relation to water baptism, and are no way connected with, nor yet refer to, the work of grace in the heart.
The narrow limits of a letter call us to a close. We must, therefore, leave you to gather further instruction from the few inferences deducible from the whole.
1. That though regeneration and sanctification be essential to the character of a Christian; yet neither of them constitute the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
2. However much you may enjoy of the Spirit, as the Spirit of life, light, and love; you have no Scripture grounds to call this inward baptism, and so the one baptism, and thereby live in the neglect of the appointments of Jesus Christ.
3. That as the baptism of the Holy Ghost was given for the confirmation of the gospel dispensation, it has effected its design; the sacred prophecy is fulfilled, and it has ceased.
4. That as the extraordinary work, and no other, is known in the gospel as the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and that took place after faith in Christ, or regeneration, we have no right to call regeneration baptism.
5. Though we are the hopeful subjects of divine grace, and live in the smiles of heaven; it is both our duty and privilege to submit to the appointments of Jesus Christ, as laid down in his word.
And now, dear brethren, you may perceive, that our intention is not to deny any of the blessed operations of the holy Ghost upon the human mind; but to distinguish between truth and error. While we write these things to you, we hope that God may give you and us more of his Spirit, that we may live unto Him, who has died for us. And as churches, we would exhort you to live in the Spirit, and grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed until the day of redemption. In the mean time, pray for us, that as instrumental of your joy, you and we may honor our profession by holy living, in the smiles of God's gracious Spirit.
Signed by order of the Association.
HEZEKIAH SMITH, Moderator.
BURGISS ALLISON, Clerk.
[From A. D. Gillette, Minutes of the Philadelphia Baptist Association, 1851; reprint, 2001, pp. 372-376. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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