THAT several passages in the New Testament Scriptures, when interpreted literally, affirm a connection between Christian baptism and the remission of sin, cannot be successfully controverted. The following texts have been cited as teaching that baptism is essential to remisssion: "John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for (eis) the remissions of sins." Mark i. 4. "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for (eis) the remission of sins." Acts ii. 38. "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins." Acts 22. 16. "The like figure whereunto baptism doth now save us." 1 Peter iii. 21.
On the other hand the New Testament Scriptures affirm, in very many places, that sin is remitted, and the sinner saved without baptism. "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. He that believeth on him, is not condemned." John iii. 14-18. "Verily I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life." John vi. 47. "He that believeth on me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die." John xi. 25. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Acts xvi. 31. "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that
believe." 1 Corinthians i. 21. "For by the grace of God ye are saved through faith." Ephesians ii. 8. Similar statements by Christ and the inspired apostles abound in the New Testament, affirming that sin is remitted through faith without baptism. To maintain, as does Alexander Campbell in his "Christian System," that in all those passages of Scripture treating of remission, baptism is necessarily implied, or that it is included in the idea of believing baptism being "an act of faith" involves too violent a strain upon the received rules of interpretation. Equally opposed to the same rules is the claim that in the quotations from the addresses of John and Peter, the Greek preposition eis may properly be translated on account of, instead of "for," in the sense of in order to. Dr. Hackett says that in order to the remission of sins is the literal and proper rendering of the words of Peter; but he suggests that the preposition ele in this passage indicates the relation of Baptism to the three words repent, believe, and be baptized, and not to the last alone. If this interpretation be correct, then baptism is essential to, but not alone the procuring cause of remission; and it cannot be true that "whosoever believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." Besides, James affirms that "we are saved by baptism," and Ananias directed Paul to "be baptized, and wash away his sins"; or, dropping the figure, to secure, by baptism, the removal or remission of his sins. Neither can it be said that the language of Paul and James is metaphorical; for in all metaphorical expressions there is an obvious disagreement between the subject and the predicate the repugnance between them being intuitively perceived. But there is no assignable reason other than that it was not so decreed by the lawgiver why the remission of sin should not be suspended upon the performance of a prescribed act, as was the removal of the leprosy in the case of Naaman.
Judicial questions are frequently decided according to the "weight of authority;" but such a method of reaching a conclusion in the case before us, would imply that the statement of one infallible witness contradicts that of another, or that the original statements of these witnesses are not correctly represented in the manuscript copies of their writings that have been transmitted to us. Either supposition would invalidate the New Testament record, and it would be ruled out of court as defective. If, however, it be conceded that this record is made up of the genuine declarations of men who wrote what and only what they were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write, it must also be conceded that there can be no real discrepancies between their several statements, but that the apparent antagonisms would disappear in
such a translation of their writings as would correctly represent the ideas intended to be conveyed by the authors, or that, in other words, if properly interpreted those apparently conflicting declarations would be seen to harmonize.
If, then, we accept as literally correct renderings of the original Greek, the quotations from our common English Version made in the first part of this article, and as teaching, when interpreted literally, the doctrine of baptismal remission, or of the necessity of baptism to remission, can it be shown that all these passages perfectly harmonize with those which declare that remission of sin, pardon of the sinner, justification and salvation come by grace through faith, and not through obedience to law requiring the performance of any physical act? We think it can be.
The few passages in our English Version of the New Testament which are claimed as teaching the doctrine of baptismal remission, are literal translations of idiomatic expressions which are of frequent occurrence in the Greek of the New Testament — the dialect of that language styled Hebraic.
The style of the New Testament [says Dr. Horne] has considerable affinity with the Septuagint version. The peculiarities of the Hebrew phraseology are discernible throughout. The Septuagint being written in the same dialect as the New Testament (the formation of whose style was influenced by it) it becomes a very important source of interpretation; for not only does it serve to determine the genuine reading, but also to ascertain the meaning of particular idiomatic expressions and passages in the New Testament, the true import of which could not be known but from their use in the Septuagint.
One of these Hebrew idioms, transferred by literal translation from the Hebrew of the Old Testament into the Greek of the Septuagint version, consists in attributing to a rite that of which it was merely symbolical or declaratory. This is of frequent occurrence in the ritual phraseology of the Levitical law, written in the language spoken by Christ and the New Testament writers. The law respecting lepers, as recorded in the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of Leviticus, requires the priest carefully to examine the person claiming to be healed of the leprosy. If the priest shall be satisfied that the applicant is free from the disease, "he shall pronounce him clean"; but if he discovers certain indications of the disease, "he shall pronounce him unclean." If the priest pronounces him clean he is required, by the terms of the law, "to cleanse" him. Take the case recorded by Mark, chap. i. 40-44.
And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and said unto him, I will; be thou clean. And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.
Here was a real cleansing performed by Christ. Yet Christ directed him to go and show himself to the priest for examination that he might receive from him the ceremonial cleansing prescribed by the Levitical law which rite restored the recipient to those privileges from which the leprosy had excluded him. Now the point to be observed is this — that the same terms are employed to denote the act performed by Christ and that performed by the priest, whilst these acts were totally different in design and in their effects — the one actually cleansing the leprous man, the other being simply a public certification by an emblematic rite of the cleansing already effected. Christ by his Divine power healed the man — the priest in obedience to the mandate of the law declared the healing to be real. The apostles when first sent forth to preach were empowered to "heal the sick," and to "cleanse the lepers"; but they were forbidden by the law of Moses to perform the ceremonial cleansing. The priest only could offer the sacrifice of "atonement" which was an essential part of the cleansing performed by him. The cleansing performed by Christ and his apostles did not restore the persons cleansed to the privileges from which a loathsome disease had debarred them; nor did the rite performed by the priest in the slightest degree affect the physical condition of the person to whom and for whose benefit the rite was administered.
The fourteenth chapter of Leviticus prescribes the manner of cleansing a house that was believed to be infected with the plague of leprosy or other contagious disease. If upon inspection the priest should discover upon the walls certain indications of the plague, he directed that the stones should be taken away and cast into an unclean place, that the house should be scraped, that other stones should be put in the place of those removed, and that the walls should be replastered with new mortar. After this has been done, the law thus directs:
And if the priest shall come in, and the plague hath not spread in the house, after the house was plastered, then the priest shall pronounce the house clean, because the plague is healed. And he shall take to cleanse the house two birds, and cedar wood, and scarlet and hyssop. And he shall kill one of the birds in an earthen vessel over running
water; and he shall take the cedar wood, and the hyssop and the scarlet, and the living bird, and dip them in the blood of the slain bird, and in the running water, and sprinkle the house seven times. And he shall cleanse the house with the blood of the bird and with the running water, and with the living bird, and with the cedar, and with the hyssop, and with the scarlet; but he shall let the living bird out of the city into the open fields, and make an atonement for the house, and it shall be clean.
Here we have the house actually cleansed and declared by the priest to be clean, represented in the idiomatic phraseology of the Hebrew-Greek dialect, as again cleansed by the priest. The first cleansing was real, the second ideal or ceremonial. The cleansing effected by the removal of the old walls and the application of new mortar, left the house ceremonially unclean; the ceremony performed by the priest removed this ideal uncleanness, and the priest pronounced it clean — really and ideally.
It may be reasonably inferred that the writers of the New Testament Scriptures, speaking the dialect in which their Scriptures were written — the "Hebraic-Greek" of the Septuagint — and accustomed to speak of the Levitical rites as effecting that of which they were simply declarative or emblematical, would, when they should come to speak of a Christian rite employ the same idiomatic phraseology, and thereby represent it as washing away sin, when, in fact, it is simply an emblem of purification by the Holy Spirit. Christ and the apostles being in the daily habit of thus speaking of the rites of the Mosaic economy, are made by a literal rendering of their words into English, to speak of the remission of sin by baptism as well as by faith. Christ cleansed lepers and sent them to the priest to be cleansed; so now, when through faith the sinner has received remission of sins, he is commanded to "be baptized and wash away" his sins. But though Paul had been directed by Ananias to be baptized and "wash away" his sins, when the Philippian jailer inquired, "What shall I do to be saved?" the reply of Paul was, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." Had the jailer been a Jew, Paul might have replied as did Peter on the day of Pentecost, in the Hebrew idiom, "Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins"; or as Ananias had replied to him, "Be baptized and wash away thy sins." But the jailer was a Gentile, and the apostle addressed him in language that would not be likely to mislead him. So when Peter preached the gospel to the Gentiles, he directed believers among them to be baptized, without an intimation that the rite was administered for the remission of sin. So, also, when Paul preached at Athens and at
Corinth to the Greeks, he seems to have made no allusion to baptism as having any connection with remission of sin — a singular omission if he regarded the rite as essential to remission.
A Jew would just as naturally speak of baptism for the remission of sin, as of the offering of an atonement by the priest for the cleansing of the leper; and in neither case would the idiomatic phraseology mislead a Jewish audience. Peter's address at Jerusalem to the "Men of Israel," and Paul's address to the Greeks on Mars' Hill presented one and the same method of securing remission of sin. If this method of interpreting the passages under discussion be correct, it follows that the grammatical construction does not necessarily determine the meaning of a sentence; that because the expressions "I, indeed, baptize you with water unto (eis) repentance," "be baptized every one of you for (eis) the remission of sins," and "my blood shed for many for (eis) the remission of sins," have the same grammatical structure, and because the above are correct translations from the original, they must, therefore, be similarly interpreted. John the Baptist was emphatic in demanding repentance as a pre-requisite of baptism; but his words above cited, if literally interpreted, represent baptism as preceding and in order to repentance. The obvious explanation of this seeming contradiction is that his language was ritual; and the same is true of Peter's address to the Jews on the day of Pentecost. But the shedding of Christ's blood was literally for the remission of sins, and not a ritual representation thereof. Hence the literal rendering of the passage in its proper interpretation.
What then is the relation of Christian Baptism to Remission?
1. It is not essential to remission. It is not, as is claimed by the disciples of Alexander Campbell, "the third of three gospel requirements or conditions, to which, jointly, is annexed the promise of remission," the other two being repentance and faith. Christ and the apostles insisted upon faith and repentance as essential to the salvation of those to whom the gospel was preached; but they never taught Jew or Gentile that without baptism no one could be saved. The language of the "commission," as recorded by Mark: — "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned" — has been claimed as teaching a connection between baptism and remission. It must be conceded that if this were the only passage of Scripture bearing upon the subject, one might reasonably infer that faith and baptism are both essential to remission, though Mark's language does not affirm it; for, whether baptism be or be not a pre-requisite, it is true that "he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." And if Christ had intended to instruct
his apostles to preach to all nations the necessity of baptism to remission, he would not have failed to employ words that would clearly express that idea.
2. The relation of Baptism to Remission is the same as was that of the Levitical rite of " cleansing " to the healing of the leprosy — the relation of the symbol to the thing symbolized, of the declarative rite to the thing declared. The cleansing effected by the priest was ritual not real. So the remission spoken of as an accompaniment of baptism is simply ritual. In the one case the rite followed the real cleansing; in the other, it followed the actual remission. The applicant for cleansing was required to present himself to the priest for examination, and the priest was to declare him elean before he could administer to him the rite of cleansing. So the candidate for Christian baptism is required to furnish satisfactory evidence to the administrator that, through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, his sins have been remitted, and that he has passed from death unto life, before he is entitled to the privilege of being baptized for the remission of his sins. As the cleansed leper was required to "wash his flesh in water," that he might "be clean," so, in the same idiom of the language of the Jews, Paul was directed to be baptized, and "wash away" his sins. As the rite of cleansing was a pre-requisite of restoration to citizenship in the Jewish commonwealth, so baptism properly precedes admission into a visible Christian church or congregation.
The Christian rite of baptism, in its mode, its form, symbolizes the burial and resurrection of the Saviour — without which there can be no remission, but by the application of which those "out of Christ'' can become "one in him," and hence the believer is said to be baptized into Christ.
It has been said that the leprosy was regarded by the Mosaic code as a sin, and so treated. This is not true, though the priest was required to make, as a part of his ritual cleansing, a sin offering for an "atonement." Yet there was no real atonement. The sacrifice of the lamb, or of the dove offered by the priest, was a type of Christ's sufferings and death, and was hence called an atonement — the symbol for the thing symbolized. I might multiply these illustrations almost indefinitely by examples from other portions of the Levitical or ceremonial law; but it seems to me unnecessary.
If in respect to one of the Christian rites all Protestants recognize the employment by Christ himself of the idiomatic phraseology contended for in this essay; if Christ spoke of the bread and the wine as being his body and his blood, when they were only ritual representations
or symbols of what he declared them to be, was it not antecedently probable that his disciples would, occasionally, at least, speak of baptism as if it effected that of which it is declarative or symbolical?
Certain writers connected with evangelical denominations, while rejecting "Campbellism" as a system, nevertheless accept as true its fundamental doctrine, that baptism (that is, immersion,) is essential to salvation, in the case of those to whom the Gospel has been made known. They deny, as does Mr. Campbell, that they are justly chargeable with advocating the dogma of baptismal regeneration "in the sense in which it is held by Papists and Episcopalians when they argue the necessity of baptism to the salvation of infants." They hold, with Mr. Campbell, that faith, repentance, and baptism, are pre-requisites of remission of sin; that all those passages of the New Testament Scriptures that seem to connect baptism with remission or salvation, are to be interpreted literally; and that, in fact, the unbaptised penitent believer in Christ is yet in his sins — unpardoned, condemned, lost. They also assume, as does Mr. Campbell in his "Christian System," that in all those passages which expressly connect remission, salvation, pardon or justification, with either faith or repentance, or with both, the rite of baptism is included by necessary implication. Paul's sins were really washed away, remitted, not because he was immersed, but because he was also a penitent believer, as the phrase "calling on the name of the Lord," clearly, and " by necessary implication," indicates. So also the jailer was told, not simply that he should be saved if he would believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, but if he would do all that is embraced in the meaning of the word faith, or " the faith " employed by the apostles as including in its implication the " form of doctrine " which Christ delivered to them, and which they were to enjoin upon all as conditions of discipleship.
It is not easy to perceive why, if their reasoning be correct, baptism alone, of all the acts commanded by Christ to be done by those who would be his disciples, is classed with faith and repentance. Faith and repentance, as well as certain specified acts of obedience, are required of all and at all times, while the Christian rite of baptism is to be performed but once. This mode of reasoning would include as essential to remission a large number of acts enjoined by Christ upon believers; and Paul's declaration, " By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. . . . not of works, lest any man should boast," (Ephesians ii. 8,9), would have to be essentially modified to sustain the hypothesis that the performance of a physical act
in obedience to law is included in the idea of faith which the apostle here so sharply contrasts with works. If faith was understood by Paul to include, by necessary implication, the idea of baptism, or any other physical act, it is strange that in defining and illustrating the meaning of this term, he should say, " Now faith is the substance [assurance] of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hebrews xi. 1. "By faith Noah prepared an ark for the saving of his house." v. 7. " By faith, Abraham when called, obeyed," etc. v. 8. Here we have faith denned to be an assured belief in something hoped for, something in the future; and this faith leads its possessor to do something commanded, or to expect something promised.
But do these writers really repudiate the dogma of baptismal remission? Let us see. "Baptism," they say, "consummates the union of the soul with Christ." "Baptism incorporates the believer into the church, the body of Christ." "The baptism of the true believer makes him a living member of the body ; and this membership will be eternal when the church is perfected in the world to come." "Is there not a special work of the Spirit on the believer's soul in baptism? Must there not be if he seals the pardon?" In other words — we are told by these religious teachers that the unbaptized penitent believer in Jesus Christ is not saved, is not pardoned, not justified; but that he is yet in his sins and a child of wrath. He is not two-thirds saved through faith in Christ and repentance towards God, the other third to be saved, if saved at all, by baptism. He is not yet in, but he is out of Christ If, then, "baptism incorporates the believer into the body of Christ," baptism saves him — and baptism alone saves him. Faith and repentance may make it possible for him to be saved; but baptism saves him now that he has become a penitent believer. This is the Campbellite theory precisely. It would be "current coin" among even the most pronounced of Kentucky "Christians."
Another end to be attained by the penitent believer in submitting to the rite of Christian baptism is, according to these writers, that it becomes to him a test of the genuineness of his professed repentance and faith. "A test of obedience," we are assured, "is necessary, which shall reveal the genuineness of professed repentance and faith, or show their spuriousness." This test seems not to have been thought of by John when he said, "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren." 1 John iii. 14. If the beloved disciple had entertained Mr. Campbell's views in reference to the best evidence of one's acceptance with Christ, he
would probably have said, "We know that we have passed from death unto life because we have been baptized." Mr. Campbell reverses the old Baptist rule that the validity of baptism must be tested by the genuineness or the spuriousness of the faith and repentance of the baptized.
In reference to the status of unbaptized penitent believers, we are thus instructed: " The Apostle seems never to have conceived of the possibility of a penitent believer refusing to be baptized; but if one professing this character had refused baptism, is it possible to doubt, with this record before us, that they would have warned him of the guilt and danger of rejecting the council of God concerning himself?" But if, as the writers referred to maintain, immersion is essential to baptism, it cannot be denied that what the Apostles seem "never to have conceived of," is, at this time, a pregnant fact, that multitudes professing to be penitent believers do refuse to be baptized — that is, they persistently refuse to be immersed. His theory furnishes no way of escape for this large class of persons; on the contrary, it pronounces their professed faith and repentance spurious counterfeits, inasmuch as they do not lead their possessors to obey the command, be baptized. Such is the status of four-fifths of the professed followers of Christ who make up the various Protestant organizations of Christendom. According to the Campbellite theory, it counts for nothing that these people believe sprinkling to be baptism ; that according to the dictate of their own consciences they worship God in spirit and in truthfulness, and sincerely aim to do his will. Mr. Campbell once thought it possible that somehow, in the unrevealed, uncovenanted mercies of God, there might be a way of escape for such; but he deemed it unwise to encourage any such expectation.
The late Dr. Hackett has been claimed as sustaining the Campbellite view of baptism in his interpretation of Acts ii. 38; and xxii. 16. Dr.Hackett's language on these texts is as follows: "Baptism is represented as having this importance or efficacy, because it is the sign of the repentance and faith which are the conditions of salvation." Upon these words of Dr. Hackett a recent writer thus comments: "Certainly this venerated man did not mean that the representations of Peter and Ananias were deceptive or mistaken. Hence we conclude that his view was according to the hypothesis here stated." The hypothesis "here stated " is, that baptism, repentance and faith are represented by Peter and Ananias as effecting the salvation of the baptized, because these three — faith, repentance, and baptism, are essential to remission; but Dr. Hackett says that baptism is "represented" as having this efficacy (securing the remission
of sin) because it is the sign of the repentance and faith which (repentance and faith) are the conditions of salvation. The two theories are as unlike as it is possible to conceive. The one makes three things essential to remission ; the other affirms that one of these three things is represented as having this efficacy because it is the sign of the other two things which are the conditions of salvation. Dr. Hackett's translation of these passages and his interpretation of them is in perfect accord with my discussion of the subject of this article so far as relates to the two texts last cited. I affirm that Dr. Hackett's translation is literally correct; that if interpreted literally the two passages teach that baptism is essential to remission; but that they should be interpreted idiomatically in the light of that peculiar Hebrew-Greek idiom whereby a rite is spoken of as effecting that of which it is simply declarative or symbolic or typical; that this idiomatic phraseology pervades the ritual language of the Old and the New Testaments, as is shown by references to the Levitical laws relating to cleansing and purifying; that there is an antecedent probability that the writers of the New Testament — accustomed to speak of the Levitical rites as possessing a certain efficacy because they were the signs of things which did possess the efficacy ascribed to them — would, when they should come to speak of the Christian rites, employ the same idiom, occasionally, at least, especially when addressing Jews, and that they would hence speak of baptism as washing away or remitting sin, when it was only a symbol of purification from sin in one of its varied aspects.
In the rite of Christian baptism are grouped in symbol the essential doctrines of the Christian religion. Each phase of the panorama, as it passes before the observer, suggests an important truth connected with the scheme of human redemption. The voluntary submission to this rite symbolizes the faith of the baptized; and if the faith thus symbolized is a believing on the Son of God, the possessor of it is declared by the Saviour to "have eternal life." But to believe on the Son of God, or to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, is to believe what he taught in reference to man as a subject of God's moral government. The believer in Christ must, then, accent as true these propositions — that God's law is holy, commanding only what is right; that he (the believer) has violated that law by conscientiously refusing to comply with its precepts; that he is, therefore, without excuse and destitute of any claim upon the divine clemency; that God is, notwithstanding merciful, and willing to pardon for Christ's sake all that come unto him asking for mercy in the name of his Son. Such a suppliant must be a penitent believer, and of such an
one the Saviour declares he "shall never be brought into condemnation."
But because it is asserted, in idiomatic phraseology, that" baptism doth now save us," that baptism is "for the remission of sins," we are told that between the penitent believer and the favor of God there exists a chasm that nothing but immersion in water can bridge over; that it is not "by faith," as Paul assures us, but by "an act of faith" as Mr. Campbell affirms, that we are saved; that there is, in reality, no such thing as being in Christ by faith; that we must be baptized into him before we can be in him; that all rejoicing in Christ before baptism is the presumption of ignorance, not the fruit of the Spirit; that, in short, one who hears the Gospel of the Son of God cannot know whether he possesses that faith "which works by love and purifies the heart," or a spurious, worthless faith until he shall have tested its nature by a physical act which it may or may not be in his power to perform.
. Paul, indeed, affirms, "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe with thy heart that God hath raised him up from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." Romans x. 9-10. And Philip said to the eunuch, "If thou believest with all thy heart thou mayest." Acts viii. 37. But Paul was directed by Ananias to "be baptized and wash away his sins, calling upon the name of the Lord." Paul's sins were not, therefore, remitted by faith alone, but by faith and baptism, notwithstanding Peter on the Day of Pentecost declared to the Jews, on the authority of the prophet Joel, that "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Such is the reasoning by which the advocates of baptismal remission attempt to harmonize the apparently discordant declarations of the inspired writers. In one place calling on the name of the Lord implies faith and repentance; in another it implies faith, repentance and baptism.
Just as clearly and by the same manner of reasoning could it be demonstrated that neither Christ nor the apostles cleansed the lepers who came to them to be cleansed. For, as has already been shown, was not the priest required by the Levitical law to cleanse those very persons whom it is claimed Christ had already cleansed ? Did not the priest require of him that "was to be cleansed " to bring "the gifts commanded by Moses respecting cleansing, for a testimony unto them?" Did not the law style the applicant for cleansing a "leper," and after the rite had been performed did not the priest declare him "clean?" And are we not, therefore, forced to the conclusion that
the rite performed by the priest was necessary to perfect or consummate" the cleansing which was only partially effected by divine power?
In the light of the method of interpreting these seemingly conflicting passages, suggested in the commencement of this article, all discrepancies disappear. As in all figurative language, the terms employed are taken in their literal signification. The Greek preposition eis is not to be mistranslated on account of or in declaration of, but should be rendered for in the sense of in order to. So, also, of all the terms which make up the declaration, "be baptized and wash away your sins." But this literal translation is not recognized as a true interpretation of the passage — not because there is any obvious disagreement between the subject and the predicate, as is always the case in the metaphor; but because the passage translated literally is seen to conflict with other declarations in reference to the same subject. That "Washington was the father of his country" is a literal untruth — an obvious impossibility. The predicate is incompatible with the subject; but a literal rendering of the word suggests their metaphorical significance. In the expression, be baptized for the remission of your sins, there is no apparent disagreement between the subject and the predicate; for the remission of sins might have been suspended upon the baptism of the sinner, as was the cleansing of Naaman upon his baptism in the Jordan. On no other hypothesis than that these few passages of New Testament Scripture are examples of an idiom of the language spoken by Christ and the sacred writers, can it be shown that they are in harmony with the general tenor of the teachings of Christ and his apostles on the subject of human salvation.
All attempts at interpreting literally the six or seven passages claimed to teach the necessity of baptism to remission, must involve either contradiction or absurdity on the part of the inspired writers. Rev. R. T. Anderson, author of a new version of the Greek New Testament, for example, translates eis _____ for the remission of sins, for the same reason that he similarly translates the same Greek phrase in Matt. xxvi. 28. Both passages, he contends, must be interpreted literally; and accordingly if Christ's blood was shed for the remission of sins, and if the shedding of his blood was essential to such remission, then is baptism for the remission of sins and is essential thereto. If Mr. A.'a theory be correct, John Baptist baptized for repentance in order that those who received baptism at his hands, might repent; for he employed the same form of expression eis _____ when he proclaimed, "I
indeed baptize you with water unto repentance." The obvious solution of the difficulty in this case is suggested by the fact that baptism is a ritual act, while the shedding of Christ's blood was not. The ritual shedding of blood upon the Jewish altar was represented as removing sin, as "an atonement," though it possessed no such efficiency in fact; it was so represented simply because it was the prophetic symbol of that without which there can be no remission. The postulate of Mr. Anderson, that "if a phase be idiomatic in one case, it must be so in all cases," is untenable.
This view of the design of Christian baptism can be taken only from the Baptist position. The voluntary immersion in water of a penitent believer in Jesus Christ, in obedience to his command, is the only baptism that properly symbolizes the wondrous acts of divine benevolence and power which rendered it possible for man to be saved. Thus viewed the Christian rite possesses a significance which is beautifully reflected from the mirror of God's word undefaced by human devices and unobscured by the mists of tradition.
For I delivered unto you first of all, that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. 1 Corinthians xv. 3, 4.
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death ? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should walk in newness of life." Romans vi. 3, 4.
Having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye also are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. Colossians ii. 12.
Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans v. 1.
Unto him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood, be glory and dominion forever and ever. Revelation i. 5.
=========== J. E. Farnam. Georgetown, Ky.
[Henry G. Weston, editor, The Baptist Quarterly Volume XI, October, 1877, pp. 476- 489. Document from Google Books. — jrd]
Baptists: Various Subjects Index
Baptist History Hompeage