The Baptist, 1867
(Reported by Elder J. R. Graves, Memphis, Tenn.)
I am an old-fashioned man - a Landmark Baptist. You may expect a Baptist sermon. I advise you always to leave three things at home - your prejudices, your dogs, and your politics. I advise you to listen to the truth, as it is in Jesus. My text is a short one, "One Lord, one faith, one baptism." - Ephesians iv.5.
It is a great pity that this passage is so little studied - so little attention paid to it - not this verse, but this chapter, and not only the chapter, but the whole epistle. In it we learn what is the characteristic of a pure Christianity - oneness. It grieves me to look over society and see the pseudo-chrisitanity that divides and distracts the race. It is the greatest curse of the age. The apostle urges us to walk worthy of one calling. We are called to testify, for His truth, and we should appreciate it, for it is indeed a "high calling." We should not make the promotion of Christianity one of the aims, but the aim of our life. Notice its oneness:
I. Christianity knows but one Lord.
It teaches us to call no man master, or father. For one is our master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren. It teaches that there is but one Lawgiver - that Christ is head over all things to the church, which is his body. We learn from history that in the early ages there was a people known as the "The Headless," i.e., a denomination of Christians without a visible head, and no human founder. They have been called by different names, in different periods, but this characteristic remains - without an acknowledged head or human founder. The people called Baptists, alone, represent that people to-day. It is true some societies claim this honor, but such claims are false - they were founded on men. Any system of religion that can form an alliance with an earthly head, is not the religion of Christ; nor one invented by a man, as Wesleyanism, Campbellism, Mormonism. I have been a reader of the Bible thirty-five years, and I have never yet found an "establishment" in it. It teaches that the greatest must be the servant of all - the road to exaltation is humility. He that would be exalted, let him be abased. We Baptists have no earthly founder, and no earthly head, and let us see to it that we maintain this feature. It is our peculiar characteristic, and ours alone. Others have their god-fathers and god-mothers, even. We have no such custom, neither have the churches of Christ. Christ is King of kings, and Lord of lords, and to him all owe perfect and entire obedience.
II. Christianity knows but one faith.
I understand the apostle to teach that there is but "one faith" that justifies before God, and that is the faith we should contend for. Paul says we should not only profess to the world that we believe it - not only to profess it openly, before the world, but to contend, and more, to contend earnestly. Some tell us we should not preach those doctrines, or those parts of the gospel about which there are different opinions; but we are commanded to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, and but once delivered, and this includes all Christ taught. We will hear God rather than men. There is just one faith - it does not read faiths, or a faith, but "the faith." There is one great system of doctrine that we are to preach, believe and practice in our lives. I do not, like the false teachers in our midst, tell men that there is one fact and one act that constitutes Christianity - that fact, the belief of the historical statement that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that one act immersion in water. I teach that the faith that saves is more than mere evidence of the truth; it embraces the atonement, the whole remedial scheme of salvation, in the love of it. Faith and belief, which, abstractly considered, are not synonymous terms, placed in certain position in a sentence, they are. Simon Magus, it is said, believed, but he had not that gospel faith that unites to Christ, and is accomplished by pardon. The devils believe and tremble, but they have not the faith that justifies. No individual ever yet exercised faith without receiving pardon and justification, and such are saved. If mere credence in the historical statement that Jesus is the Son of God constitutes one a fit subject of Christian baptism, then the devil and his angels are fit subjects. These facts sustain my position. I can, therefore, come and tell you that these are false teachers who tell you that faith is only the effect of words and arguments addressed to the mind - it is more. With the heart man believeth unto righteousness. There must be testimony presented to the heart. True faith is accompanied by a true repentance - repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Neither of these had Simon Magus, nor do the devils exercise. Whenever these are exercised, and never before, do we receive remission of sins, and are made heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ. This faith lays hold of the whole remedial system and enables the individual to do the will of God. Paul, when he embraced it, did not ask how much of God's will he was to do, but "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" The grace of this faith does enable us to do His will - to wish to do it, and the faith that does not prompt us to obey Christ is not the faith of the Gospel. When we believe, we are commanded to obey. He that hears not Christ, and obeys him not, does not love him.
III. Christianity knows but one Baptism - literally one Immersion.
Christian baptism has a declarative salvation connected with it. All God's people should understand this. Here is the Campbellites' great mistake. Can we declare what does not exist? The sign over the merchant's door does not fill his shelves with goods, but it is placed there to declare the goods are within. Baptism is the first duty after faith. It is a declaration of our Christianity - that we are Christian - disciples of Christ. I do not understand baptism as a door into the church, but into the visible kingdom. The church is the judiciary of that kingdom. Fellowship is the door into that judiciary. Seeing that baptism draws the line between the world and the church, every Christian should be baptized. We read, "when they believed they were baptized, both men and women," and children? and infants? Does it read it so? Many read it so, or practice it so. But they cannot find the precept or example in the Book. How do we best declare to the world the fact that man is dead? But burying him, of course. So we are buried with Christ, by baptism, into death, for a declaration of it - we are planted in the likeness of death. Paul says baptism is a burial and a resurrection. It is a declarative salvation. We say to all, we are saved.
"One" baptism. Some seek to evade the force of this by saying Paul referred to the baptism of the Holy Ghost! This Bible, my brethren, is God's last revelation to man. The days of miracles have passed. I have heard people pray that they might be baptized with the Holy Ghost. If their prayers were answered they would be alarmed - they do not know what they pray for. All leading commentators agree that the baptism of our text is water baptism. Adam Clark admits it. What does he make the one baptism? One formulary, that makes different acts one baptism. Not so. The Holy Spirit said it was one immersion, for this is the meaning of the word baptismos, and all scholars know it, and admit it. Baptidzein, the only word used to denote baptism, in its primary and proper sense, means to dip, to immerse, and never used to denote the Christian act of baptism. All the scholars of earth sustain us in our position. I never heard of but one Greek lexicon that gives any other meaning as the primary meaning. Am I not right? There are some before me who are Greek scholars, and they know I am right. Is it not so Brother Graves? It is a settled question among Greek scholars and lexicographers, that baptizein means to immerse, to dip, etc., and never anything else. See Liddell & Scott's Greek Lexicon.
Then the question is forever settled. Christ commanded his apostles to immerse, which we call baptism. Now a person may be immersed and not properly baptized. There are five things that constitute scriptural baptism: 1. A proper act - immersion. 2. A proper subject - a believer. Where in God's Word do we find authority for infants? That is a tradition of Rome, and she borrowed it from the heathen. It never was practiced until the doctrine of baptismal regeneration had been introduced, then they carried baptism down to infants, and those who sprinkle infants to-day, do it to regenerate them. 3. A proper administrator an officer of a scriptural church. The church has this work to do. It is laid upon her. No other body or organization has the right to administer ordinances or evangelize the world. No one but the one she may authorize has the right either to baptize or to preach. A church, what is it? A local organization, like this at Dongola. I know there is much written about a great "universal church." When men get into this faith they have branches, and then we have all branches and no trunk. It was not the church of Asia, Christ addressed through John, but the seven churches of Asia. 4. A proper body, authorizing the act, this is a scriptural church. Human societies, like those invented by Calvin, and Luther, Henry VIII and Wesley and A. Campbell, have no right to baptize. Convince me that any of these is scriptural, and I join the Methodists, and why? They make the best provisions for their ministers, Baptists are the most deficient in this respect of all others, they support their ministers worst. Why, brethren, I am a specimen, after a life's labor in the ministry, here I am broken down in constitution, poor, without a support, and not able to pay my honest debts, and disgraced before the world. I feel this crushing my spirits. Look to that aged wife yonder, in her tears. She feels it too. I tell you, brethren, it is not its benevolence, not its money power, that keeps up Baptist churches, but God's truth alone. I repeat, baptism to be valid, must be authorized by a church of Christ. Suppose these human societies around us are authorized to baptize, why not have one of their preachers for a pastor? Why not? He is authorized to baptize. If his baptisms outside are valid, how much more in it. Look to England, there you see liberality and compromise with error carried out. You will see Baptist churches with pedo ministers. We cannot compromise with error without sacrificing truth. Let this be remembered - it cannot be done without betraying the truth. There is no surer way of destroying our selves than by recognizing pedo-Baptist and Campbellite immersions. When we do it they claim that we recognize them as churches, and then why not commune with Christian churches? I have through that baptismal regeneration and transubstantiation are the two horns of the beast. Take hold of either, and you are gored to death. Campbell did not dare to teach the baptismal regeneration of Rome, in the same words, and he has it "baptism for remission," the same thing in another phrase; for show me a pardoned man and I see in him a regenerated men. 5. There should be a proper formula we should baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy spirit. Into is significant of a profession of allegiance to one God. We cannot be united to anything else, as the State, or to a human directing head. There is but one relation the church bears to any one, it is the body of Christ.
Finally, brethren of the Clear Creek Association, are not these your principles? Do you not believe them with all your heart? If so, what then? Declare them faithfully, constantly, boldly - witness for them stand up for Jesus, and stand by these at all sacrifices, and support those whom you have put forward to preach and to teach them. Quit yourselves like men, and the God of all grace be with you all. Amen.
[From The Baptist, Memphis, TN, October 5, 1867, p. 1. Transcribed and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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