[Jeremiah B. Jeter, a Baptist pastor, wrote a ninety-four page book entitled Campbellism Examined and Re-examined in 1860. It was published by a New York book company and was a thorough examination of the theology of Alexander Campbell. Moses E. Lard, a follower of Alexander Campbell and his movement, wrote a critical review of Pastor Jeter’s book. Then Baptist pastor, A. P. Williams, wrote a review of Mr. Lard’s book entitled Campbellism Exposed, in an examination of Lard’s review of Jeter. The document following is a portion of Pastor Williams’ response to Mr. Lard’s "Review."]
Campbellism Exposed, in an examination of Lard's review of Jeter
By A. P. Williams, 1860
Mr. Moses Lard's Second Argument
"The passage on which we found our second argument," says Mr. Lard, is the following:
"'Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit' Acts 2:38."
Mr. Lard affirms that "this passage teaches that baptism, with repentance, is for - that is, is necessary to - the
remission of sins; that it makes remission depend on baptism in precisely the same sense in which it makes it depend on repentance; and that a connection is thus established between them of a nature so permanent that remission is, in all cases, (previous exceptions aside,) consequent on baptism and never precedes it.”
Now, is this true? I pronounce it untrue, for the following reasons:
1. It makes this text incongruous with the general tenor of Scripture on this subject, (see first two arguments.) and with the declarations of the Apostle Peter, made elsewhere. Acts 10:43: "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. Peter here asserts that the testimony of all the prophets is, that re-mission of sins is through the name of Jesus Christ, and received by every believer. But this Mr. Lard's interpretation of his language at Pentecost denies. He makes Peter there deny remission to the believer unless he is baptized.
And now, the reader must see that we must either pronounce Mr. Lard's interpretation of Peter's language at Pentecost false, or we must add to his language at Caesarea. We must understand him as saying, at the latter place, "To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believes, and is baptized, shall receive remission of sins." And now, suppose that Peter had actually said that, and we were to inquire which of the prophets had so testified, could our inquiry ever be answered? No. We might read from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Malachi, and we would meet with no such prophetic testimony. On the other hand, we meet with the testimony of many in support of the declaration as Peter has actually made it. Let us examine
the testimony of some of them. God said to Abraham: "And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." Genesis 22:18. Well, Paul tells us that the term "seed" here means Christ. "He saith not. And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." Galatians 3:16. And this was said to Abraham because the Scripture foresaw that God would justify the heathen through faith. Galatians 3:8. To justify is to pardon.
Again, Moses says: "Abraham believed God, and it (his faith) was counted to him for righteousness." Genesis 15:6. So Paul says of all believers: "To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness." Romans 4:5. And the fact that Abraham's faith was counted to him for righteousness "was not written for his sake alone, but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead." Romans 4:23, 24. And now, just as no act of Abraham's intervened between his faith and his justification as a condition of it, so no act of ours is to intervene between our faith and our justification as a condition of it. This, then, is the testimony of Moses as explained by Paul. Compare Galatians 3:14; and Romans 4:9-16.
Let us next examine Isaiah. "Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious-corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste" Isaiah 28:16. Here Isaiah testifies of Jesus Christ, and of the benefits the believer receives through him. What is the import of his testimony? When the prophet says, "He that believeth on him shall not make haste," does he include the forgiveness of sins? I will let Paul answer: "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord
Jesus, and shall believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart, man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed." Romans 9:9-11. Here, then, according to Paul, this language of Isaiah proves, that with the heart man believes unto righteousness, i. e., justification. It proves, then, that his faith eventuates in pardon: for, as before remarked, justification includes pardon. Be it noted that faith is, but baptism is not, in the testimony of Isaiah.
We have not only the commentary of Paul, but also of Peter, on this testimony of Isaiah:"Wherefore also it is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner-stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious." 1 Peter 2:6, 7. Here is a perfect agreement between the testimony and the commentary. And both agree with Peter's declaration at Caesarea.
We will next examine Habakkuk. His testimony is: "The just shall live by faith:” Well, what is the import of this testimony? I will let Paul answer: " For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith:" (or as Macknight, as I think, more correctly renders it, "For therein is the righteousness of God by faith revealed in order to faith;") as it is written, The just shall live by faith. Here, again, we see a perfect accordance between the testimony of Habakkuk and the commentary of Paul and the declaration of Peter at Caesarea.
Paul comments on this testimony of the prophet in another place thus: "But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith" Galatians 3:11. The apostle is here placing justification upon the condition of faith to the exclusion of works, and he sustains himself by the prophet's testimony. How different this from Mr. Lard's interpretation of Peter's words at Pentecost. He would keep the believer in a state of death and condemnation until baptized! Habakkuk says, the just live by faith; but Mr. Lard says, they live by faith and baptism!
Paul gives us a third commentary on this testimony of the prophet, thus: "Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul. "Hebrews 10:38, 39. Here Paul does not say, we are of them who believe, and are baptized to the saving of the soul. And, had he said it, he could not have proved it by Habakkuk.
I might quote the testimony of other prophets, but these are ample. And I prefer these because we have apostolic comments upon them. The testimony of the prophet, and the commentary of the apostle, form a united testimony of such strength as cannot be resisted.
And now, reader, shall we force this statement of Peter at Caesarea, into an agreement with Mr. Lard's interpretation of his words at Pentecost, or shall we reject his interpretation and explain for ourselves Peter's words at Pentecost so as to make them harmonize with his declaration at Caesarea? Evidently we must do the latter, because this declaration is backed by the testimony of the prophets, as we have seen. And, methinks, if the prophets could again speak, they would with united voice say:
"We never, in all our lives, said that a believer in Jesus could not receive the remission of his sins unless he went into the water!"
Before I proceed to examine the meaning of Peter's declaration at Pentecost, there is one more objection which I must urge against Mr. Lard's interpretation. It is this: If the words of the apostle Peter make baptism and repentance equally necessary to remission, so do they make them equally necessary to the reception of the Holy Spirit. This also conflicts with Peter's statements else-where. Let us go to Acts 15. Here the apostles and elders have come together to consider the question which the Judaizing teachers had sprung upon them, viz.: that the Gentiles must be circumcised after the manner of Moses, or they could not be saved. Peter took the negative of this question. Now, let us hear his speech: "Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the Gospel and believe. And God, who knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us: and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith."
Here the apostle refers to the conversion of Cornelius and his friends, at Caesarea, which took place about ten years before this meeting at Jerusalem. (See Acts 10.) Now, let us inquire how God gave the Holy Spirit to these Gentiles. Did he bestow this gift upon them on condition of their baptism? No; they received the gift before they were baptized. Now, if God would not bestow this gift on the Jews at Pentecost, only on condition of their baptism, and yet gave it to the Gentiles without any such condition, then he put a material difference between them. But Peter says, in the above
speech, he did not! There is no escape from this. Peter most certainly understood his own language at Pentecost, and in the council. Did he contradict himself? No. Then there can be no doubt that he did not mean at Pentecost what Mr. Lard said he did.
This conclusion is corroborated by two other considerations, namely: The ground of the astonishment felt by those of the circumcision who accompanied Peter to Caesarea, and his defense before the Church at Jerusalem. The ground of the astonishment of these Jews was, not that the Gentiles received the gift of the Holy Ghost before baptism, but that they received it at all. But if they had understood Peter's words at Pentecost as Mr. Lard does, the former would have been their ground of astonishment.
In his defense before the Church at Jerusalem, Peter said: "And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on all them who heard the word, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch, then, as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, what was I that I could withstand God?" Hearing this the Church "held their peace and glorified God, saying, Then hath God to the Gentiles also granted repentance unto life."
Now, be it remembered, that the very three thousand, or at least the most of them, to whom Peter said, "Repent and be baptized, etc., and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost," and who then gladly received the word, were baptized and added to the Church, heard Peter's defense. Then is it not a wonder that they held their peace? When Peter said, that "God gave the Gentiles the like gift as he did unto us who believed on the Lord
Jesus Christ," is it not a wonder they had not said, "Stop, Peter! Are you not mistaken? Did you not tell us at Pentecost that we must repent and be baptized in order to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost? And did you not just now tell us, that while you were speaking the Holy Ghost fell on the Gentiles, and hence before their baptism? And are you going now to tell us that God gave this gift to them as he did unto us?" Now, these two considerations place it beyond doubt that Mr. Lard has mistaken the meaning of Peter's language at Pentecost. He could not have uttered sentiments there incompatible with those uttered by him at Caesarea and before the council and Church at Jerusalem.
I shall now undertake to show what Peter did mean. This, however, I must remark, is not necessary so far as the issue between me and Mr. Lard is concerned. It is enough for me to show, as I have done, that he has not given its meaning.
Peter does not make repentance and baptism sustain the same relation to remission of sins. The word repent is independent of the remainder of the sentence. It is not, "Every one of you repent and be baptized” etc. The nominative to "repent" is not "everyone," but "ye." The Greek is metanohsate, an imperative in the plural. It cannot, therefore, have a singular nominative. The word rendered "be baptized” is baptisqetw. It is not an imperative, nor is it plural. " Every one " is its nominative. Hence, the literal and correct translation would be: "Repent ye, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins." "For remission of sins," then, whatever may be its meaning, is stated as a reason for the latter command and not for the former. The command to repent is given imperatively, without a reason - Repent ye.
There was reason enough for this found in their conscious guilt and consequent alarm. But the reason why they should be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ is not so apparent, hence a reason is given: "For the remission of sins". This fact cuts up Mr. Lard's argument by the roots, for it is based upon the hypothesis that "repent" and "be baptized" take the same nominative, when they do not.
In order to convince the reader that I am not here misrepresenting, I will give a long quotation: "Finally, we conclude, from the grounds now before us, that the relation of baptism to remission of sins is such that baptism, like repentance, is necessary to remission; or that remission depends on baptism in precisely the same sense in which it depends on repentance. And, if there is either value in criticism or reliance to be placed in argument, the conclusion is indisputable.
"But let us suppose this position to be denied, and that it is maintained that baptism sustains to remission the relation of a subsequent to a former act, and what follows? Clearly, that repentance likewise sustains to remission the relation of a subsequent to a former act. But this proves too much, and hence is false. But we wish to exhibit this position, together with its consequences, even to the eye; and, in order to do so, will again have recourse to the passage, from which, after transposing the clauses as before, we will first omit the word 'repent,' thus: Every one of you be baptized, («$,) because your sins are remitted. This is exactly Mr. Jeter's position—a tough one, truly. But let us grant that it is true, or, rather, that we have at last hit on the true meaning of the particle, and that it is unalterable. We will now replace the word 'repent:' "Every one of you repent eis remission of sins."
Just so Mr. Lard had expressed himself before: "Every one of you repent and be baptized, eis remission of sins." Now, reader, you see here that Mr. Lard makes " every one of you " the nominative to both verbs. Peter did not do so. Nor will any scholar do so. And Mr. Lard's doing so is to be attributed either to ignorance or dishonesty. Mr. Lard labors thus ingeniously and hard in order to force upon us his translation of eis. He knows we will not allow that repentance can be urged by the consideration of a past remission; and hence, if he can make both repentance and baptism be for remission, he thinks he has us cornered. But in the net which he hid, is his own foot taken. In making out his case he has misrepresented the apostle. Peter never said, "Every one of you repent." And now, I wish to inquire, why did Peter 'change the nominative and number of the second verb? Why did he not say: Repent ye, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ; or, as Mr. Lard has it: "Every one of you repent and be baptized," etc. There is surely some design in his using neither of these forms of expression, but instead thereof choosing the one he did. Not so did he speak in Acts 3:19: "Repent and be converted." Both verbs here are in the plural and have the same nominative.
The reason why the apostle did change the nominative after "repent," and before "be baptized," is found in the fact that repentance is a command of universal obligation, while baptism is not. Baptism is obligatory only on penitent believers. Peter commands the whole multitude to repent: but he commands such only of that multitude as obeyed the first command, to be baptized. Hence it is said in the forty-first verse: "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized."
This view of the subject is strengthened by the fact
that in no place are persons commanded to repent in the name of Jesus Christ. And one who will be at the pains of examining the following passages, can test the truth of this remark: Matthew 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15; 6:12; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 3:19; 8:22; 17:30; 26:20. But baptism is frequently if not always enjoined in his name. (See Acts 8:16; 10:48; 19:5; Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27.)
If Mr. Lard's view of the passage be correct, it might be read, and it must be understood, thus: Repent every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins; and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins. But, as we have seen, this will not do.
The foregoing considerations show, I think, conclusively, that "repent" must be considered by itself as resting upon the ground of universal obligation. And, thus considering it, let us now take up the phrase, "For the remission of sins” This, I have said, was given by Peter as a reason why they should be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. As they had denied Jesus before Pilate, when he put to them that significant interrogatory, “Shall I crucify your king?" by saying: “We have no king but Caesar;" and when he gave them the alternative of Christ or Barabbas, they rejected him and chose the murderer, it was now their duty to acknowledge his sovereignty. God had made him both Lord and Christ, that unto him every knee should bow; and now to him they must bow. But they must do it not only because of his authority, but also by way of acknowledging the great benefits they were to derive through him. One of these great benefits is the forgiveness of sins: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." Colossians 1:14. This was the consideration
mentioned by Paul to the Corinthians, in his reproof of them for their divisions: "Was Paul crucified for you? Or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" How closely should we cling to Jesus Christ in view of the fact he was crucified for us! Should not his dying love constrain us to move in swift obedience to all his commands!
Now, as these Jews were assured of pardon through Jesus Christ, as having been exalted a Prince and Savior to give repentance and remission, they should, by a submission to baptism, acknowledge it, and declare their hope and faith in it. And this I deem the force of eis to be. When eis is connected with an individual or person to whom the action of baptism has respect, it is expressive of the faith of the baptized in that person, and of his subjection to him. And when it is connected with a doctrine or fact, it is expressive of the faith of the baptized in that fact or doctrine and his reception of it. Let us test the truth of these remarks by examples:
Matthew 28:19: "Baptizing them (eis) into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Now, what is the force of eis here? Does it not indicate that the party thus baptized does by his baptism declare his faith in these Divine persons and his subjection to them? And when it is said of the Samaritans, (Acts 8:16,) that they were baptized (eis) into the name of the Lord Jesus, is it not meant that they, by their baptism, declared their faith in him, and their subjection to him? And when it is said, (1 Corinthians 10:1, 2,) that "all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized (eis) unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;" does it not mean that what they then did, which is called their baptism was expressive of their faith in, and subjection to,
Moses as their commander and leader? So true is it, therefore, that so many of us as have been baptized (eis) into Christ, believed on Christ, (Galatians 3:27.)
Of facts and doctrines we have the following examples: "Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized (eis) into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism (eis) into death." Romans 6:3, 4. Our faith is that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he arose again the third day, according to the Scriptures. Well, all this we profess and declare in baptism. We also acknowledge ourselves to be dead unto sin. This we also acknowledge in our baptism. And this is the force of eis in these passages.
Another example is found in Acts 19:3: "Unto (eis) what then were ye baptized? And they said, (eis) Unto John's baptism?" The persons addressed here were the twelve disciples whom Paul found at Ephesus, and unto whom he said: "Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed?" Their answer to him was, "We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost." This shows the meaning of Paul's question, "Unto what then were ye baptized?" Paul instantly inferred from their answer that there must be some defect in their baptism. They could not have been baptized aright if they were the victims of such ignorance. If they had been baptized into the Holy Ghost as the third adorable person in the godhead, of course they would have had some knowledge of him. They could not declare their faith in, and subjection to, a person whom they did not know. Their answer, "Unto John's baptism," means that their baptism was expressive of their faith in the doctrines inculcated by John, and their subjection to the obligations his baptism imposed,
the chief of which was, "that they should believe on him who should come after" John. So here, in our text: "Let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (eis) for the remission of sins." As Peter preached to these Jews remission of sins through Jesus Christ, in opposition to their former notions of justification by the law of Moses, (compare Acts 13:38, 39,) and they cordially embraced this doctrine - gladly received his word - he would have them declare it in the overt act of baptism. As this is the force of eis in such connection, it touches not the question whether these persons received the remission of sins before or after baptism. It simply teaches that they, by their baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, declared their faith in the doctrine of remission through him, and recognized it as the great blessing coming to them through him.
Here I must notice Mr. Lard's unfairness, (I do not know what else to call it,) in arraying before his readers ten examples of eis in the sense of "in order to" for the purpose of forcing upon them the acceptance of his interpretation of eis in this passage. He has given examples which are not parallel: for baptism is not in one of them. Let us take parallel examples and try his rendering, and see how it looks:
1. Matthew 3:11: "I indeed baptize you eis (in order to) repentance." Will that do?
2. Matthew 28:19: "Baptizing them eis (in order to) the name of the Father," etc. Will you have that?
3. Acts 8:16: "Only they were baptized eis (in order to) the name of the Lord Jesus." Does that suit?
4. Romans 6:3, 4: "Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized eis (in order to) Jesus Christ, were baptized eis (in order to) his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism.
5. 1 Corinthians 10:2: All our fathers "were baptized eis (in order to) Moses.”
6. Acts 19:3: "We are baptized eis (in order to) John's baptism."
7. Verse 5: "When they heard this they were baptized eis (in order to) the name of the Lord Jesus."
8. 1 Corinthians 1:13: "Were ye baptized eis (in order to) the name of Paul?"
9. Verse 15: "Lest any should say that I had baptized eis (in order to) my own name."
10. Galatians 3:27: "For as many as have been baptized eis (in order to) Christ, have put on Christ."
These are all the examples where baptism and eis are in similar connection to that in the passage we are considering, and we see that not one of them will allow eis to be rendered in order to. But, as before remarked, the force of eis in these examples is to show what the recipient of the rite declared and professed. If eis is followed by the name of a person, then the baptized declared his faith in that person, and his subjection to him. If eis is followed by a fact or doctrine, then the recipient of the rite declared his faith in that fact or doctrine, and his reception of it.
Reader, you have now my view of the passage in Acts 2:38, before you, and also my objections to Mr. Lard's interpretation, and I now leave it with you to decide whether or not I have wrested the passage from him. I have clearly shown that the command to repent and the command to be baptized are not to be construed together as sustaining the same relation to remission of sins, because they have not the same nominative, and because repentance is never commanded in the name of Jesus Christ. I have also clearly shown that to understand Peter as Mr. Lard does, is to make him contradict himself,
and to make him utter a sentiment in conflict with the general tenor of Scripture on the subject of remission.
[A. P. Williams, Campbellism Exposed, in an Examination of (Moses E.) Lard's Review of Jeter, 1860, pp. 295-310. H/T to J. C. Settlemoir for the document. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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