WE propose to consider the following question: May the rite of Christian baptism, as to its outward form, be administered to any person the second time? And if so, under what circumstances?
We shall take for granted during the discussion two propositions: first, that baptism is not to be administered a second time to any candidate, unless there be something in connection with the first administration which destroys its validity; secondly, that Christian baptism is a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, by the immersion of the candidate in water, in the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Ghost.
The first of these propositions is admitted by every man, and rests on the essential idea of baptism as understood not by one sect alone but by all branches of the Christian church. The second proposition may be assumed for the sake of simplifying the discussion, because the question to be answered has no reference to any external deficiency, but only to the repetition of what was in the first administration correct in form.
Our question then reduces itself to this, - what may so far impair the act of baptism when administered in due form, that the candidate may properly be required to receive the rite a second time before enjoying the privileges of church membership?
It will be seen at once that the specific cases which may occur are
numerous. For example, the baptism may have been administered by a layman, or by a person himself unbaptized, or by one who has been deposed from the ministry and excommunicated from the church, or by a minister holding heretical opinions; or it may have been administered to the candidate in infancy although in due form, or in adult age but while he remained without personal faith in Christ, or while he held opinions of Christian doctrine grossly imperfect or false. In which of these cases, if in any of them, must the outward act of baptism be repeated in order that the candidate may be regarded as a baptized person? Or rather, what principle shall decide the question in all these cases?
There is but a single passage in the New Testament which can by any possible interpretation be understood as teaching the propriety of rebaptism. This passage, according to the common English version, reads thus:
And it came to pass while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus. And finding certain disciples he said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what, then, were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues and prophesied. And all the men were about twelve. - Acts xix: 1-7.
The natural interpretation of this narrative certainly favors the idea that these disciples of John were rebaptized by, or at the suggestion of, the Apostle Paul. This interpretation has indeed been questioned, and questioned by such authority that it becomes necessary to vindicate it. Calvin was the first, so far as we have learned, to question the baptism of these persons. He evidently sought for an interpretation of the passage, which should rescue it from the use of the Anabaptists, and from the support of the dogma put forth by the Council of Trent, according to which there was an essential difference between the baptism of John and Christian baptism. For this reason he suggested that the baptism which they received after being instructed by Paul was not the baptism of the body in water, but the baptism of the Holy Ghost. This is so evidently a suggestion originating in his unwillingness to allow any advantage to accrue to the Anabaptists or
the Papists from the commonly received interpretation, and so utterly- unsupported by any thing in the passage itself, that no one has since been found to second his suggestion, and we need not spend time in attempting to show its weakness.
Beza was the first to suggest an interpretation which has found many adherents, and is still maintained by many who have the same reason for advocating, that he had for hunting up, a possible interpretation which is less liable to abuse than that which lies on the face of the passage. His view is that the fifth verse is a continuation of Paul's words, rather than a resuming of Luke's narrative - that the substance of the apostle's instruction was this: He told them that John baptized with the baptism of repentance, instructing those who were to receive his baptism that they were to believe on the coming Messiah, that is, Christ Jesus, and that only when the people had listened to these instructions of John did he baptize them, and that, in the name of the Lord Jesus. The narrative is then resumed, and Luke informs us that Paul laid his hands on these men who had been disciples of John, and they received the Holy Ghost.
It is said in defence of this explanation, that the Greek particle --- in the beginning of the 4th verse corresponds with -- in the 5th verse, showing that the two verses are to be considered parts of the same passage, and that, as the 4th verse contains the words of Paul, his address must continue through the 5th. But the use of --- does not necessarily imply a corresponding --. There are abundant examples in the New Testament in which this particle is not so accompanied, in some of which examples the --- has simply the force of truly, indeed, and in others the corresponding clause is understood rather than expressed. There would be no difficulty in filling out the ellipsis in this case if one were demanded. And it would be something like this. "John did indeed baptize with the baptism of repentance, instructing his disciples to believe on the coming Messiah, but you seem not to have understood the teachings of John."
Unless, therefore, there is some further reason for thus connecting these two verses, or, at least, unless such connection furnishes as probable an exegesis of the passage as can be obtained from the usual interpretation, we must set aside that now under consideration.
That the 5th verse is not a continuation of Paul's address is evident from the following considerations: First, the natural meaning of the whole passage is evidently that these disciples were re-baptized; so unmistakably so, that through all the early centuries of the Christian church no writer ever suggested any other understanding, although the question of rebaptism was frequently and sometimes acrimoniously
discussed. All the early writers who alluded to this passage, without exception, considered these persons to have been re-baptized. The example of Paul is adduced by Tertullian and Cyprian as favor- ing rebaptism, and their opponents, including Augustine, simply endeavor to overthrow the force of the argument, not questioning for an instant the reality of the fact to which they refer.
A second reason for rejecting the proposed interpretation is found in the fact that such an interpretation involves a misstatement of the case. It makes Paul say that the disciples of John were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. That they were not so baptized is evident from the account given by the evangelist, as well as by the words of Paul himself in this very connection. "John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people that they should believe on him that should come after him," meaning by this teacher yet to come, the Lord Jesus Christ, whom John so far as ap- pears, did not mention by name. It would be contrary to the fact which the apostle had just stated, to say that John's disciples were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. For these two reasons we are constrained to reject the suggestion of Beza, and must receive it aa a fact, however difficult to explain that these twelve men in Ephesus were re-baptized after receiving instructions from the apostle Paul.
This being admitted, we next inquire into the reasons for this decision of the apostle. Let us then look at the passage somewhat carefully. The narrative is a brief one and has but slight connection with what precedes or follows in the sacred text. These twelve men are suddenly introduced to us, and as suddenly after the statements made in seven verses withdrawn from our notice, so that we can learn nothing of their subsequent history. If the passage were omitted from the narrative of Luke, this omission would make no break in the history. The men themselves seem to have been strangers in Ephesus, having arrived there just before the apostle and after the departure of Apollos. The conversation which took place between them and Paul was doubtless a full and explicit one, of which we have only the merest outline in the Bible. Something in their conversation probably awakened the suspicion of Paul who had at first recognized them as disciples, and led him to inquire whether when they believed they received the Holy Ghost.
The form of this question is noticeable, it is not "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?" but, "Did ye in believing receive the Holy Ghost?" Again, although the question is a direct one it is introduced by the
particle [--], a form peculiar to New Testament Greek, and perhaps originating, as Winer suggests, in an ellipsis, I should like to know if. What more natural supposition than the following? Paul met with these disciples newly arrived at Ephesus, and had at first no knowledge of their previous history, but observed that they professed to be disciples. In the course of conversation something led him to sup- pose that there was some deficiency in their experience. Perhaps they expressed wonder at seeing the miraculous powers bestowed on their fellow-disciples. At least, in some way, the suspicion of Paul was aroused regarding their knowledge of Christian doctrine; and taking for granted that they had believed under the instruction of some Christian teacher, he asked in a tone of surprise " I should like to know if ye did not receive the Holy Ghost when ye believed?" Their answer must have increased his surprise, for they said, using the same tense as that in which he asked the question, "We did not so much as hear if there be a Holy Ghost." This answer must be understood in a broad sense, as a disavowal of any particular knowledge of the Holy Ghost as connected with the mission of Christ; and it led to the further question from Paul, "Unto what then were ye baptized?" As if he had said, "No knowledge of the Holy Ghost! How could you have received baptism without knowing of the Holy Ghost? Into what faith were you baptized?" And they answered, "we were baptized as disciples of John." It may have been by John himself, or it may have been by some one of his followers. It may have been in Judea, or in some distant country. It may have been before Jesus made himself known as the Messiah, or long after the crucifixion of the Son of God. But at some time, and in some place, and by some teacher, they had received baptism as John's disciples, accepting his instructions as those of a messenger from God. On learning this fact, and probably on hearing a full statement of their connection with the teachings of John, Paul explained to them the meaning of John's baptism; and the result of the whole was that these twelve men were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Thus we have the external facts of the case so far as the Bible states them. Are we now able to answer the question, "Why was baptism administered again?" In the silence of the Scripture narrative as to the exact reason for the repetition of the baptism, we must inquire into the probable reason.
Was it because baptism by the disciples of John or by John himself was so unlike Christian baptism that the first could not be regarded as satisfying the law which demands the second? That is, was the rebaptism of these men in accordance with the usage of the early
church which required the baptism of all who had been disciples of John, just as it did of all other persons? This is the answer to our question given by Neander, who infers from this narrative alone that such was the practice of the apostles. But if this be so, it is certainly a most remarkable and unaccountable fact that in no other instance in the New Testament is there any allusion to such a practice. Can we believe that all the disciples of Jesus who had been previously baptized by John were re-baptized on their becoming Christ's disciples? The very chapter preceeding that in which this narrative is found contains the story of Apollos the eloquent Christian teacher, who, when first introduced to us, was acquainted only with the baptism of John, and who was more fully instructed in the way of the Lord by the Christians that first met him. But not a hint is given of his being rebaptized. The particulars of his case are stated, and the names of the persons who taught him concerning the life and death of Jesus. If he had been re-baptized, nothing would have been more natural than to state the fact. Yet the narrative is silent on this point. In the case of very many converts from Judaism and from idolatry, the mention of their baptism is specific and full; so that no person can read the Acts of the Apostles without receiving the impression that it was the unvarying practice of the apostles to require baptism of every such convert. If the disciples of John were also baptized anew on becoming convinced of the Messiahship of Jesus and giving in their adherence to his cause, how happens it that no mention is made of such baptism having been administered to the apostles themselves? How happens it that in no single instance, if we leave out of the account this doubtful one which we are considering, there is no allusion to such baptism? There would be some reason for taking it for granted as a thing so obvious as not to need statement, if John's baptism and Christ's baptism were so unlike as not to render the opposite supposition more natural. In both cases the candidate was baptized on profession of repentance for sin, in both cases on profession of faith in Christ, although in the one case a Christ yet to come, and in the other a Christ already come. If John's baptism meant any thing, it meant just the same that is signified by Christian baptism, with this single difference, - that the disciple of John avowed his belief that Christ was soon to come, and his readiness to receive him as a divine teacher and the hope of the world when he should come; while the disciple of Jesus in his baptism avowed his belief that Christ had already come in the person of Jesus of Nazaeth, and that he is the Saviour of the world. The same state of mind which would lead any one listening to the preaching of John to ask
for baptism at his hands, would in a person living a few years later lead him to ask for baptism at the hands of the Christian teachers. There is then no antecedent reason for our supposing that John's baptism would be regarded as invalid for membership in the Christian church, and we think that we are fully warranted in saying that unless the case of the twelve men at Ephesus constitutes such an in- stance, there is no passage in the New Testament which teaches this doctrine. We are compelled therefore to look elsewhere for an explanation of this apparently anomalous fact. If indeed no other ex- planation can be given, or if any which may be suggested is attended with difficulties greater than surround this, we can return from our exploration better prepared than at present to admit that rebaptism was demanded of all the disciples of John who became followers of Jesus.
And even if we cannot show beyond a reasonable doubt what the ground of the apostle's decision was, still if we can suggest any probable fact not stated in the record, which if stated would remove the difficulty, - if we can offer any explanation at once satisfactory if it were susceptible of proof, and not in itself unlikely to be true, we may feel relieved of the necessity of adopting a view quite at variance with our idea of the baptism of John.
Such a reason has been found, in the judgment of some, in the sup- position that the twelve men had regarded John as the Messiah, - that having been instructed, not by John himself but by some of his followers who had misunderstood or perverted his teachings, they had received him as the long expected Christ. That there were such in that age, and that the sect has been perpetuated till now, is commonly believed by students of church history. And there is nothing strange in the fact that some of the disciples of John, having joined themselves to him as the preacher of a new faith, were slow to receive his suggestions respecting Jesus as the Messiah, and after his death retained their existence as a sect separate from the Christians and opposed to them. If the preachers of this sect exerted themselves to gain new adherents, we might expect to find companies of their disciples in different places, and these men at Ephesus may have been of this class. If they were honestly desiring to learn the truth, and if they had received but little instruction concerning the teachings of John, especially if they were strangers in Ephesus as the narrative supposes them to have been, they might naturally think at first that Paul was of their sect, or at least not fully understand the difference between him and themselves, and might meet in worship with the Christians. The intercourse which followed showed both to them and
to Paul their real position; and being enlightened in regard to the true mission of John, and being already in a mental and moral state prepared for these instructions, they abandoned their belief in John as the Messiah, and assented to the teachings of the apostle, being baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. They are indeed called [-------] in the first verse, the use of which word seems to imply something more than believers in the Messiahship of John the Baptist. But may not Luke have ascribed this character to them on the ground that, although they had not yet heard of Christ, and therefore were not properly called Christians, they yet possessed the elements of a true faith, and were ready to acknowledge the name of Christ as soon as the apostle made it known to them? They had the spirit of [--------].
This then is one possible explanation of the rebaptism of the men at Ephesus. There is another scarcely less satisfactory. Twenty years or more had elapsed since the ministry of John the Baptist had been terminated by his imprisonment and martyrdom. It is certainly not an impossible thing, that these men had been baptized long after the death of John, by some one of his disciples, who journeying from Palestine had remained ignorant of the important events which had transpired, in the crucifixion of Christ and the establishment of the Christian church, and who had continued to preach the doctrine of John and to administer the baptism of John, announcing a Messiah yet to appear. If such had been the history of these men, if they had, within a few years of their coming to Ephesus, been baptized on profession of their faith in a Messiah yet to come, their case was quite different from that of the early disciples of John, whose baptism took place before the Christian church was established and when the Messiah had not yet been revealed. These men had indeed been immersed according to the practice of John; but it was long after the reason for such a practice had ceased to exist, and in ignorance of the very teacher whom John had announced and whom his disciples were to receive as the Saviour of men. In an important sense, therefore, it was not John's baptism which they had received, but something in the same form, administered when from the nature of the case the true baptism of John could not be administered. If such was the position of the men whom Paul found at Ephesus, we can easily understand the reason why he instructed them to be baptized. They had not received the ordinance as it was to be perpetually observed in the Christian church, nor were they of the number of those who, previous to the manifestation of Jesus as Christ, had been baptized on profession of their faith in the Messiah yet to come. Their
baptism was not a proper profession of faith in the true Messiah, and was received while they \^ere in ignorance of his mission and teachings. That which invalidated their baptism was the absence of that knowledge and faith which the ordinance is designed to avow. Their reception of the rite could not be understood as declaring what is always understood in the ordinance of Christian baptism. The essential thing was wanting. It was therefore no true baptism, and when they learned of Jesus the true Christ, and received his doctrines and were ready to pledge their service to him, it was doubtless the prompting of their own hearts, no less than the suggestion of the apostle that they should be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
We present this supposition, not as a thing which can be proved, but as a possible, if not a probable fact, and as illustrating the statement, that it is not difficult to account for the rebaptism of these men, without doing any violence either to the Scripture record or to our ideas derived from other parts of the New Testament respecting the nature of baptism. It may be that one or the other of the two suppositions we have made is the true one, or some other fact less likely to occur to us may have vitiated their baptism; but in either case the former immersion was invalid as Christian baptism, because it did not involve that avowal of faith in the Lord Jesus and that consecration to his service which constitute the very essence of Christian baptism 'We cannot help believing that the baptism was in this case repeated, not because of any mere informality in the former administration, but because the essential thing in Christian baptism was wanting.
What that essential thing is, may be determined from the very nature of the ordinance. Christian baptism is not merely the immersion of the body in water, nor such immersion while certain words are repeated by 'the administrator. It is a profession, on the part of the candidate, of faith in Christ and of allegiance to Christ, by his being immersed in water in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. If the immersion is wanting, the act performed, what- ever it may be, is not Christian baptism. If the profession of faith and allegiance is wanting, the act, whatever it may be, is not baptism. In the case of the men at Ephesus, the immersion was not wanting; but there must have been the absence of an intelligent profession of faith in Christ.
From the very nature of the ordinance, baptism is not to be administered to any person the second time. The repetition of the outward act is allowable, only when the first performance of it was not a proper Christian baptism, that is, did not involve a voluntary profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the general principle.
It remains for us to apply this principle to the several cases which have been already stated.
1. Can any failure of qualification on the part of the administrator vitiate the ordinance? We at once see what answer must be given to this question. The character or standing of the administrator is not an essential part of the ordinance. If he is not called of God to be a Christian minister, there is an irregularity in his administering the ordinances of the church, - an irregularity which ought not to be allowed except in extreme cases, as when the service of a duly authorized minister cannot be obtained. But there is a difference between the wrong or unwarranted administration of an ordinance and the invalidity of the ordinance when thus administered. It is contrary to law for any person not specified for that service to solemnize marriages. But if any person not so specified should perform the marriage service, although he will be held answerable to the law for his illegal act, the parties thus joined would be regarded by the law as truly husband and wife. The act would be illegally performed; but when performed, would be valid. So if baptism is administered in due form, by a layman, or even by a person who has no membership in any church, although he acts without authority, and may incur the censure of the great Head of the Church, and although the candidate, in ordinary cases, would do wrong in knowingly seeking baptism from such hands, yet if he receives it as an ordinance of Christ, and intends by it to avow his discipleship to the Lord Jesus, it has all the essential qualities of valid baptism and should not be repeated. This has been the prevalent doctrine in the different divisions of Christendom. The Roman Catholic Church, previous to the Reformation, always recognized the validity of lay baptism; so does the Church of England, although some ministers of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States, without any canon to that effect, have practised a repetition of baptism, when in the first instance it was administered by one whom they regarded as unordained.
2. What shall we say of baptism, administered in due form, but while the candidate is an infant, as e. g., the baptisms of the Greek Church? Here also the answer is beyond a doubt. Such baptisms are not valid, because they are not a profession of repentance and faith. This essential element is wanting, and therefore such a person cannot be considered as truly baptized. If an avowal of one's personal discipleship to Christ is involved in the very idea of baptism, and there can be no genuine baptism without this, - then for one to receive the form of this rite in irresponsible childhood, although every particular of that form is scrupulously observed, and the words are
repeated which are used in the baptism of believers, it is evidently not valid baptism. There is no profession of personal faith. But it may be asked whether such a person in coming to years of discretion might not endorse the act of his parents, and so, by his acceptance of their act, be accounted as truly baptized. He may give in his assent to the promises which they made in his name, and such promises when ratified by him will be as binding upon him as if they were originally his own. But the idea of a promise does not exhaust the significancy of baptism; and there can be no possible way for a man to make profession of his personal faith in Christ but by some act for which he is originally responsible.
3. A more important case to which we must apply our principle is the case of those who received baptism in an unrenewed state, and who believe that they have, since baptism, become personally allied by faith to Christ. Shall the baptism of such be repeated? The answer to this question is not difficult or doubtful. If the former baptism was received in such ignorance of its meaning as to destroy its character as a profession of faith, - if for example the candidate was a heathen, and regarded the ordinance not as an avowal of discipleship, but as a form the submission to which procures the pardon of sin, and without which there is no forgiveness, - it could not be esteemed valid baptism, for the chief element of baptism was wanting. Or if the rite was received, not in good faith, but hypocritically, the candidate pretending, for the time, to be what he was not, either for the sake of ridiculing the ordinance, or to procure some temporary advantage, the outward form must be regarded in such a case, as a mere mockery, meaning nothing in the view of the candidate, and involving no real profession of discipleship to Jesus.
But, on the other hand, if the person who is baptized did believe himself at the time an accepted disciple, and intended to declare himself such, - if he thought he had passed from death unto life, and wished to avow before his fellow-men this belief and hope, - if he regarded the act of baptism as a solemn declaration of his allegiance to .he Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, and intended to adhere to the consecration thus declared, he must be considered as truly baptized. If he afterwards decides that he was mistaken in the hope he cherished, that is the same as deciding that he was not a suitable candidate for baptism, not that his baptism was invalid. Many a man is elected to office under the laws of our government who is wholly unsuitable for the place; and that unsuitableness furnishes a reason why he should not be elected, but does not destroy the validity of the election. There are many things wrongly done,
which when done are valid. That a person ought not to have been baptized is a very different thing from his baptism being invalid after he has received it. True, he professed faith when he had no true faith, but the deficiency was wholly in the faith and not at all in the profession. The act by which he made the profession was complete and in due form, lacking nothing. Why should that be repeated? On the supposition that he afterwards becomes convinced of his unregenerate state, and obtains evidence which satisfies him that he has at length been born again, how can he by a repetition of his baptism, make his avowal of discipleship, or his pledge of consecration any more serious or binding than it already is. Baptism is an outward act. That outward act he has preformed in the most solemn manner possible, and any repetition of the scene will rather diminish than increase the moral effect of it on himself and on other men. Although his reception of the ordinance was premature, and he now believes that he was then in an unregenerate state, the vow which he assumed is none the less binding on that account, nor his obligation to abide by his own free act of dedication any the less stringent. He ought not to be re-baptized, because rebaptism would imply that his first reception of the ordinance, with all the avowal and promise and consecration which it involved, goes for nothing. But these cannot go for nothing. The most serious act which a man ever performs cannot be thus nullified. The avowal is remembered by his fellow-men; the promise is recorded in the book of God's remembrance; the consecration binds him through all the years of his life here and hereafter; and no subsequent abandonment of his hope can destroy their validity or impair their binding force.
Again, that baptism in such a case ought not to be repeated is evident from the consideration that if there is no valid baptism without a personal experience of renewal by the Holy Ghost, many a man will be utterly unable to tell whether he has been baptized or not, and of consequence will not be able to decide whether he is entitled to the privileges of the earthly church. The case is by no means rare in which a Christian having attained to a much higher and fuller experience of religious love and joy than he felt at first, comes to question whether his first hope was not unfounded, and inclines to the belief that he must date the beginning of his religious life at a period later than his baptism. Must he seek a second baptism? Or, if he is utterly at a loss, as some disciples are, to say when his Christian life began, must he always be troubled by the doubt whether he has truly obeyed the command of Christ respecting baptism?
Again, some Christians constitutionally variable in their temperament,
after having passed from a season of lukewarmness and indifference to one of high religious joy and fervor of religious zeal, seem to themselves to have been deceived before in supposing themselves Christians, and give some reason to the church to believe that they were not before truly converted. After a season of deep feeling and active service they subside into their former condition of sluggishness and apathy, showing no signs of religious life and neglecting the chief duties of a Christian, and then, by and by, come again to the same experience of hope and joy and zeal. If, on every renewal of this hope, they are to receive baptism again, the ordinance loses much of its significance and sacredness; each repetition of the rite declares that the former reception was a nullity; and it becomes an occasion for reproach and ridicule. Let the man in such a case recognize the vow he has already made, and begin without delay to live according to his profession already uttered before his fellow-men, and to fulfil the promises of that solemn consecration to the will of God which his public baptism has already announced.
Yet, again, that baptism is not to be repeated in the case of one who concludes that his reception of the ordinance was while he was still an unrenewed sinner, may be inferred from the fact that the apostles seem never to have contemplated such repetition. There were instances in their ministry, as there have been in every age of the Christian church, in which persons were baptized who afterwards gave evidence of an unrenewed nature. And such persons were exhorted to repent, but in no instance were they exhorted to be re-baptized. Peter addressed Simon the Sorcerer in words which plainly indicate that he regarded him as an unbeliever, declaring that his heart was not right in the sight of God, and that he had neither part nor lot in the matter. He exhorted him to repent and pray for pardon, but gave no intimation of the duty of rebaptism, and this, although his uniform custom was, in preaching to the most sinful, to exhort them to repent and be baptized. So also when Paul wrote to the Corinthian church in regard to one of their members who had fallen into gross sin, although he used language which most plainly implies that he considered him destitute of piety, and urged them to exclude him from the church, and afterwards when he saw signs of true piety, exhorted them to forgive the man and comfort him, and confirm their love towards him, yet he gave no hint whatever in regard to a rebaptism. Nor is there anywhere in the New Testament any indication that the apostles or any one of them thought of such a thing as administering Christian baptism a second time to any person, however far he had wandered from the way of virtue, however clearly
he had demonstrated that he had entered the earthly church, while still an unconverted man.
It can scarcely be out of place to remark that the repetition of the ordinance of baptism will naturally be attended with unhappy results. Not only does it bring the ordinance into contempt and encourage the idea that it is a nullity, provided the candidate afterwards abandons his hope in Christ, but it encourages the impression to which men are already too much inclined, that there is some efficacy in baptism to wash away sin. We know that in the early church this idea found much favor and gave origin to practices which still impair the integrity and purity of a large part of the true church of Christ. We are aware that in our own day the same tendency has been widely developed, supporting a dangerous heresy. Men naturally attribute too much efficacy to outward forms. And if the custom should prevail, as indeed it never has prevailed in the Christian church, to baptize a second time such as give evidence of having been renewed since their first baptism, the inference would be too readily drawn that baptism has a higher place in the Christian economy than was assigned to it by the founder of the church. So long as we keep the ordinance in its true place, we cannot make too much of it, nor be too scrupulous in obeying that command of Christ which enjoins it as a solemn duty on all his followers. But we may seem to make too much of it by taking it out of its true place, and in the end we shall thereby make too little of it, destroying its power and robbing it of its significance. It is too dear to us as an ordinance of Christ's appointment, for us to be careless of its right observance, or to allow ourselves in any practice which can interfere with its simple dignity and its undoubted meaning.
[From The Baptist Quarterly, April, 1867, pp. 129-142. H/T to Terry Wolever. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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