Is Man a Fit Subject for Baptism Before Conversion?
A short time before His ascension, our Savior said to his disciples, "Go ye into all world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned." This is the language of our Savior: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Is man then a fit subject for baptism before he is pardoned? The doctrine of Christ and the Apostles, and the same so earnestly contended for by the Baptist is, that none are fit subjects for baptism until they are converted, and know for themselves that their sins have been forgiven. For in the beginning of the Christian dispensation, the forerunner of Christ came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, the doctrine of repentance, as an important prerequisite, essentially so: to baptism. John's, like the Apostolic baptism, was from Heaven. Now, did John baptize in order to produce repentance, or to bring about any act of repentance in the hearts of those he baptized? Or did he not baptized them because they had repented and believed that which he preached to them? Most assuredly he baptized them because they had repented. For after a vast multitude had been baptized, a number of bigoted, self-righteous unrepentant Jews came and demanded baptism. Did he comply with their request? No! instead of complying he called them a generation of vipers, commanded them to bring forth fruits meat for repentnace.
Now, if baptism was, or had been for the remission of sin, those that John refused to baptize, composed part of the very class, who, above all others needed it the most, and should have been the first, to receive it. But adopt that idea of baptism, and you are necessarily compelled to go into all the jails and State prisons, gambling hells and houses of ill fame, andd tell their wretchedly wicked, miserable inmates that they are fit subjects for baptism. If the doctrine of baptism before conversion was true, then the virtue would be in the water and not in the blood of Christ. - But who dare to place that construction on the teaching of the Savior. For after all those who heard John's preaching, and gave evidence of genuine repentance, were baptized, then came Jesus to Jordan unto John to be baptized: but John knowing that he was perfectly pure, holy and sinless, the embodiment of love, purity humanity and righteousness, did not think he was worthy enough to baptize Him, and at first John demurred, but Jesus said: "Suffer it to be now, for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness" and John baptized Him. Now the Son of God had no sin nor ever had any to be repented of. He was ever, from all eternity, without guile; pure, holy and blameless. His baptism was an example for us to follow. And no man is entitled to baptism except those who are genuinely and truly converted and are by faith in Christ, and have the love of God shed abroad in their hearts, and are therefore in the eyes of the Law without sin, and consequently fit subjects for baptism.
On the day of Penticost, when Peter was preaching Christ and him crucified, a number of the Jews became terribly alarmed, powerfully operated on, in the anguish of their souls, cried, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Peter says unto them, as John had said unto the Pharisees, "Repent and be baptized every one of you." "Then they that gladly received the word were baptized." And all those who gladly received it believed it, and all who believed it were converted, and therefore entitled to baptism. Again, as Paul was going to Damascus with authority from the chief man at Jeruslaem, to prosecute the Saints, Jesus appeared unto him and smote him with blindness. Paul cried, "Lord, what will thou have me to do?" Jesus told him to "Go to Damascus and it should be told him." He went and remained there three days blind, but repenting and praying all the time. And when Ananias came to him and putting his hands on him said: "Brother Saul, the Lord hath sent me, that thou might receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost." And immediately he received his sight, beng converted, and therefore a proper subject for baptism. For if a person is not converted when filled with the Holy Ghost, I am not acquainted with the English language, and appeal to the learned theologians for its meaning, and also for information concerning how and when a person is converted. Testament of baptism before conversion. And all teaching to the contrary, is wrong and sinful, and the influences of such teaching are immoral, unhealthy and unchristian.
Kind reader, study the scripture closely and prayerfully, and learn for yourself whether the doctrine taught in this letter is true or false. For in the last day each one will be held accountable for the way and manner he spends his time and talent here. And when the Judge shall come, may we meet him in peace, and be numbered with that blood-washed throng, who shall stand on His right hand, and in the presence of God and the Lamb, and bathe forever in the diamond splendors of His throne.
J. R. Chinn
[From Greenup Baptist Association Minutes, 1875, p. 12. This document was transcribed from a microfilm copy at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Library, Lousiville, KY. The punctuation is unchanged; formatted by Jim Duvall]
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