- A number of inconsistencies perplexed me in my infant baptism, and Providence gave me an opportunity to disclose some of them. I happened to spend an evening with Mr. Tennant, and some of my Presbyterian friends, when I was drawn into the conversation, from the supposition that I was the person who conversed with him at the presbytery. He asked me, if I was yet satisfied, or wished to converse farther on the subject. I told him I did so, provided it would be agreeable to bring in all my objections; with which he complied.
I then related to him the thoughts with which I left him, and those which occurred after, and mentioned, that after conversing with him, I had an opportunity of attending the baptism of a child, when the minister, in his prayer, uttered these words: "Lord bless so much of this element as is used in this ordinance, the washing away of original pollution," which struck me very forcibly; he however condemned it. I also remarked to him, that the minister in speaking, called it a seal of the covenant of grace, which I told him appeared to be saying too much of any external ordinance. That the blood of Christ was the seal, and that He also, in my view, was the covenant; and that God's word and spirit applying to our consciences was a seal. I wished, if I was wrong, that he would put me right. I also mentioned, that I had my doubts, whether baptism was a substitute for circumcision, both being in use at the same time; and even ought to be, as "the cutting off of the Messiah," and the shedding of his blood, was pointed at in that ordinance till it was accomplished; that the same subjects relating to both were useless, if one was the substitute for the other.
Their subjects were different, and the end and design of the ordinances appeared to me to be different. I mentioned these, and other difficulties, with a sincere desire of being instructed; but I had neither my doubts confirmed or removed. I was however much pleased with the goodness and candour of the man, who closed with this address: "Dear young man, if the devil cannot destroy your soul, he will endeavour to destroy your comfort and usefulness; and therefore do not be always doubting in this matter. If you cannot think as I do, think for yourself."
I then endeavoured to learn my duty from the new testament, as being a new testament ordinance, and found that it was from Heaven, had its authority from God, and became binding by a positive command. The characters of those, who were to be baptized were, disciples, penitent believers, and such as had received the holy ghost. I could not find by any of the apostles' practice that any others were encouraged or permitted, unless they intruded as Simon Magus did. And the apostles declared him to have no part or lot in that matter. The end and design was to fulfil righteousness - to answer a good conscience. All things considered, I could see no ground for infant baptism in the new testament.
I next turned my attention to the mode, which appeared so plain in the example of Christ, in the places where he administered, and the reasons why he administered in those places, insomuch, that I was soon established in the belief, that immersion was the only mode, which could be gathered from the new testament; and with this mode my conscience pressed me to comply.
I then addressed my father on the subject. I told him "his constant religious care over me entitled him to all the gratitude I was capable of rendering, yet I must beg his indulgence. I believed he was conscientious in having me baptized in my infancy, as he had supposed, and I had tried to suppose, it right. But, on the whole, I was convinced it was my duty to be baptised by immersion; and that it relied on the profession of my own faith, if the church would receive me." He replied, "that what he did, he thought right, and in the discharge of his own conscience. If I was conscientious, (and he was thankful to God, that he had reason to believe I was), from his observance of my searching the scriptures and the time I had taken therein, and the books I had read, I had his full and free consent; and it was my duty to make profession. - That whenever I went to offer myself, he would go with me, and give the church his consent, and answer any inquiries respecting my life, if they chose to make any; and that he would go and see me baptized." - This he did; and there were a number baptized with me. I believe from this time, my father changed his opinion on the subject, although he never confessed it, until a few months before his death; which happened in the eighty-seventh year of his age.
[From Biographical Memoirs of the Late Rev. John Gano, 1806, pp. 23-27. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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