Baptism of Professor Jewett
of Marietta College, Ohio
The Baptist Magazine, 1839An interesting account of the process by which Professor Jewett, of Marietta College, Ohio, has been led to embrace our views of baptism, is contained in the following letter, which he addressed to a friend in New Hampshire, and which has subsequently appeared in some of the American Periodicals. It is dated, July 7, 1838.
"About eighteen months ago, an elder of the Presbyterian church to which I was preaching, in the county, became a Baptist. On the occasion of his baptism, the minister of Marietta preached on the peculiar sentiments of his own denomination. This sermon disquieted some of the church, and the session requested me to preach a discourse in answer to my Baptist brother. I declined, saying, I had not thought of the subject since I left Andover, and had no time for preparation. In a few days, the session repeated the request, saying the sermon must be preached, as two or three members of the church were about to ask a dismission to the Baptists. Finding this to be the case, I informed the church of my purpose to prepare a sermon as soon as practicable, and requested them to remain quiet till they should hear what I might have to say.
"Thus compelled to undertake the matter, I determined to enter into an examination of the whole subject with a spirit of candid inquiry; to take it up just as if I had never heard or read anything on either side. Not that I expected to find any difficulties in the way of my own opinions; on the contrary, I anticipated an easy victory over my opponent, and the more decisive because of the candour with which I proposed to examine objections. In commencing the investigation, I took up Professor Stuart on Baptizo, the ablest work on the mode of baptism. The inquiry before me was, what is the meaning of the words of Christ, in instituting Christian baptism? In following the researches of the learned Professor, I was astonished to find the accumulated evidence which he had collected against my views, and in favour of the Baptist interpretation. I went over the ground again and again. I laid aside his work and entered into an original investigation of the subject, independently of all authors, going through the whole range of classic writers, and over the Hebrew of the Old Testament. I pushed my inquiries to the utmost limit of my sources of information, and of my own capacities; and, the farther I prosecuted them, the stronger was the evidence in favour of my opponent. I would now have gladly abandoned the whole subject, but conscience would not permit me. Thus I laboured for several months, till at length, sorely against my will, I was compelled to conclude that immersion, and that only, is Christian baptism. As to the subjects of baptism, I feared difficulty, for when at Andover I did not easily satisfy myself on that point. However, I took Dr. Woods' treatise, and read it with intense eagerness, and with the utmost anxiety to find confirmation of my long cherished opinions. I soon perceived that if the Doctor's premises were admitted, his conclusions were irresistible. But I could not at once admit the premises. I could not avoid the impression, that the commission of the Saviour, which Baxter calls the 'Law of the church,' that is, by which the church is constituted, ought clearly to show who should belong to Christ's church, and how they should be admitted. I could not, therefore, think with Dr. Woods, that I was at liberty to receive infant baptism 'on proof made out in another way' than by the evidence of Scripture. I read Dwight, and Scott, and Henry, and Doddridge, and Barnes, and Stuart, and Knapp, and Calvin, and the German Commentators, &c. &c.; but the more I read, the greater was the obscurity in which the subject was involved. I wandered for months in the labyrinths of the Abrahamic covenant, the connexion between the old and new dispensations, the substitution of modern for ancient rites, &c.; till, at last, I was compelled to take the Bible in its simplicity, and acknowledge that the word of God represents believers, and them alone, as the proper subjects of gospel baptism.
"To the above conclusions I was forced by the power of truth, and in defiance of the resistance of education, prejudice, church relations, college connexions, and temporal interests. And as I could not escape them, I then resolved to postpone the results as long as possible. I could not bear to think of changing my denominational ground. But soon communion came, and I dared not go forward, as I verily believed myself unbaptized.
"To avoid the excitement in college and in town, it was thought desirable to take public steps as soon as possible, and accordingly on the Sabbath, June 24th, I was solemnly 'buried with Christ by baptism' in the waters of the Ohio. It was a season of great solemnity, and of serene, tranquil enjoyment. I found it pleasant to manifest my love for the Saviour, by endeavouring to keep his commandments. Since that time, also, I have been happy in reflecting on the steps I have taken."
[From The Baptist Magazine, London, 1839, Volume XXXI, pp. 124-125. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]