FOR SALE BY J. P. MAGEE, 5 CORNHILL
This unpretending volume is designed, in the first place, to answer the question so frequently asked the writer, ---- "How came you to be a Methodist?" Secondly, it is intended to supply a place which is not filled by any other book, by presenting, at one view, and in a brief and comprehensive manner, the distinguishing features and excellences of Methodism, both in its doctrines and economy; and also some of the evidences of their Scriptural character and great efficiency. Nothing is more evident than the fact, that Methodism still suffers greatly from the ignorance that quite generally prevails in regard to the true character of its distinguishing doctrines and usages, as well as from the misrepresentations of its enemies. To aid in removing the former, and refuting the latter is the design of this work.
Should any of our Baptist friends object to the title by which we have designated them, we would merely say, that our former worthy pastor, the most able and influential man in his Association, was accustomed to say, that he would be willing to have it written in large capitals on the front of his hat, "Close-Communion Calvinistic Baptist." For his manly, Christian frankness in declaring his sentiments we respected him, and for his earnest piety we loved him while living, and cherish his memory since he has gone to his reward in Heaven.
In submitting his manuscript to the press, the writer yields to the judgment of those, in whose opinions he places great confidence. May all be brought at last, however we may differ in opinion here, to join the general church above, is the humble, but earnest, prayer of the Author.
At the age of fifteen, I received my first serious impressions in regard to my true condition, as a sinner before God; and while attending a series of meetings, held in the Methodist Church in the neighborhood of my father's residence, I obtained the pardon of my sins, through the atonement of Christ. Had I, at that time, been brought under the watch-care of the Church, I think it would have saved me from that fearful state of backsliding, into which I subsequently fell. But at that time, my parents, though professedly pious, (and I doubt not really so at heart,) were neither of them members of any particular church; nor were any of the family save one sister, who was a member of the Freewill Baptist Church, in the adjoining town, where the family had attended meeting for some years. Having, therefore, no settled place of worship, and being left without the watch-care and restraining influences, which every Christian church exercises over its members; and also, being at a period of life when, of all others, I most needed them, I soon grew negligent of duty, sacrificed my peace of mind, indulged in the follies of youth, lost my confidence before the world, and in the presence of my Savior, refused to bear the Cross, and "walked again in the counsel of the ungodly, stood in the way of sinners, and sat in the seat of the scornful." So hardened did I become in sin, that I approached to the very verge of infidelity; but through the infinite mercy and compassion of the Redeemer, I was not left to make the dreadful plunge into the dark abyss. To this day, when I reflect upon my situation at that time, I shudder at the thought of my near approach to the pit of destruction, and can never feel sufficiently grateful to God for my happy deliverance through grace.
When about eighteen years of age, I was partially reclaimed from my backslidings, but still neglecting my duty to confess Christ before the world, and identify myself with the people of God, I soon relapsed in a measure, though never, I think, to the extent in sin, to which I had previously gone, I was far, however, from living the life of a Christian. At this time I sincerely endeavored to persuade myself that Universalism was true; I read several books advocating this doctrine, went to hear ministers of this order preach, but I soon found, that in exact proportion to my interest and confidence in their sentiments, was my entire indifference to all experimental godliness; and also that their sentiments were directly at war with the entire Scriptures.
At the age of twenty, God was pleased to call after me again, in a special manner, during a revival of religion in the town where I resided, and at that time I fully resolved to devote myself to the service of God, and no more trample upon his mercy and grace. This resolution, I have been enabled, by his grace, in some good degree, I trust, to keep until this time, and I still have a strong confidence that I shall, by the same grace, be enabled to continue in his service to the end of life. At that time my oldest brother and wife were members of the close-communion Calvinist Baptist Church; the only members of the family then living, (the sister referred to having died in peace some years before) connected with any church. I subsequently united with the same church, though not until some months had passed, and I had read to some extent on the subject of baptism, &c. I do not however recollect of having seen a single book in defense of the views of the Pedo-Baptists; for such works were not abundant and accessible in that vicinity, as those in favor of the exclusive views of the Baptists; neither do I recollect ever hearing a sermon on the subject of baptism up to that time, or for some years after, except those preached by Baptists. The latter, however, were neither few nor far between. I am confident that my experience, in this particular, is not unlike others. The truth is, that nearly all that is said on the subject of baptism, is said by Baptists, and of course all on one side.
I remained a member of that church about three years. During that time I was strongly urged by a celebrated Baptist Evangelist, who held a protracted meeting in the church, to enter the ministry, but I had not then any expectations of ever filling so responsible an office.
I felt it, however, my duty to be more active in the cause of religion than I had hitherto been. With this conviction, I went west, intending to teach--(an occupation I had followed during the winter seasons for several years). I hoped by this means to enlarge my field of usefulness, in thus placing myself in direct communication with the rising generation-one of the most hopeful fields of Christian effort.
While engaged in teaching in Ohio, I providentially fell in with President Mahan's Lectures on Christian Perfection, and was greatly interested in that (to me) new subject. About this time I became deeply impressed, by the Spirit, and the leadings of Divine Providence, that it was my duty to preach the gospel. But to yield my mind to these convictions was a most difficult task. I plead my age, my want of preparation, and many other circumstances in excuse; still I felt that "woe is me, if I preach not the Gospel." I often returned from the place of worship to weep and pray, all night; sometimes waking from my sleep in distress, and sometimes dreaming of my duty. Finding no rest, I yielded to my convictions, and promised the Lord I would submit to his will.
Having closed my school, I went to Oberlin, in the winter of 1841, and commenced my studies for the ministry. There my mind was still more deeply interested in the subject of Christian holiness, and more fully enlightened in regard to its nature, both by the preaching I heard, and the opportunity I had of association with those who stood as living witnesses of its truth, confirming their testimony by their daily walk and conversation. After much reflection and prayer, and as thorough an investigation of the Scriptures and other writings as I was able to make, I became fully satisfied that the doctrine was true. That, what God requires, what the prophets, apostles, and the Savior himself prayed for, and that which God has promised to give, might be obtained. That I- that every Christian-might love God with all his heart, and his neighbor as himself; - be made perfect in LOVE.
I commenced seeking to obtain so desirable a blessing as that of a pure heart, or in the language of the pious psalmist, "a clean heart and a right spirit." I was attentive to all the spiritual opportunities that I enjoyed, but I was yet ignorant of many things in regard to the means of obtaining the blessing I desired; and like the sinner oftentimes when seeking pardon, I was laboring to make myself better, to get ready to receive it, instead of carefully examining my heart, that I might know its deformity, and making, in the strength of Grace, an entire consecration of all to God, for time and for eternity, in faith relying upon his promise and faithfulness, to accept, "and cleanse me from all unrighteousness," But the Lord was leading me by his Spirit and providence in a way I knew not. I continued thus for some months, during which, I enjoyed the clearest evidence of my acceptance with God, and of his presence with me daily. But I saw clearly that it was his pleasure that I should live near the throne. I had not that strong faith I witnessed in others, and saw promised to all in the Bible. I found in the hour of temptation, that there were enemies within, propensities to evil, rising up and combining their influence with the enemy from without, in order to bring me into captivity to the law of sin. These were only kept down by constant watching while it was the will of God that they should be cast out. I had not that perfect lovewhich I saw plainly that the Bible required. I felt a burning zeal to do good, but I felt most sensibly the imperfections of my armor.
While in this frame of mind, I went one evening to a prayer meeting. The spirit of the Master was there, and at the close a fellow student, who was a backslider, taking me by the hand, said, "Brother S---------, you must go with me to my room. I cannot live so." I saw that he was in great distress of mind, and without hesitation accompanied him to his room. He seemed at times almost in despair, yet constantly crying for mercy, and entreating me to pray for him. This I endeavored to do, but he found no comfort. It was there I saw, and felt my want of faith; and I went from that room fully resolved never to rest until I obtained that faith which claims the promise, and which can be exercised only when "our heart condemns us not." Nothing less than that "perfect love that casteth out fear," could inspire me with that faith, and without it I was but poorly qualified to labor for the salvation of souls.
That night a most glorious revival of religion commenced in the Institution; one of the most powerful I ever witnessed. It pervaded the entire Institution, then composed of nearly six hundred students, and the appropriate number of officers and teachers. I entered into a solemn covenant with a fellow student, to spend all the time, save that necessary for sleep, our meals and attending meeting, in earnest and united prayer, for the attainment of the blessing we so earnestly desired, until our efforts should be crowned with success. Many were the hours we spent in our rooms, in the fields, and wherever we could find a retired spot, earnestly pleading for "a clean heart and a right spirit." Oftentimes we seemed almost to grasp the prize, when the tempter, taking advantage of our ignorance and inexperience, would divert our minds from Christ and his promise, to looking to our feelings, comparing our state of mind with others, &c., and by these means lead us again into darkness.
After having labored in this way about a week, we were enabled, through the counsels of one of the tutors in college, and the grace of God, to commit ourselves entirely upon the promise and faithfulness of God our Saviour, believing, according to the divine assurance, that he accepted in the present tense. And although this exercise of faith was not attended at the time with any particular emotions of joy, or any other that a consciousness of having given all for Christ, and of relying implicitly and unwaveringly on his promise to save to the uttermost, or from all sin, I at once felt a degree of confidence in prayer, a strength of faith, I never realized before. I could pray directly to God through Christ. I seemed suspended by the single chord of God's love, revealed in his promise, holding on by the hand of faith, every prop, by way of works and every thing else, but the love of God in Christ, being removed from beneath me; and there I hung, perfectly safe, a sinner saved by grace, through faith. Satan buffeted me, but I held on, as for my life; yea, for eternal life. I was fully resolved never to let go my hold of the promise, come joy or sorrow.
Having remained in this state of mind about twenty-four hours, I received such a baptism of the Spirit, as I had never before known or anticipated; my soul was filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory. It was enough; my heart was overflowing with love, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. Of the reality of my experience at this time, I have no more doubt, than I have of my personal existence. But it was all of grace, through faith; and to the honor of that grace, in the Saviour provided, and in the gospel promised, it ever has been and ever shall be declared.
Up to this time, I had never had the least doubt of the correctness of my position as a close-communion Baptist. Indeed, so absorbed had I been in the pursuit of the ruling desire of my heart, that I had scarcely thought upon the subject at all. But a great change had taken place in my feelings toward the members of other churches. I had lost entirely, though almost insensibly, all those uncharitable feelings which are the natural and almost necessary result of holding and advocating the exclusive views of the Baptist Church. I found my confidence, love and sympathy flowing out to members of other churches with the same ardor with which they were extended to members of the Baptist Church. I had come to love Christians in the ratio of their likeness to Christ, and not according to the name they bore.
About this time the sacrament of the Lord's Supper was administered in the church. It was a season of great interest; a deep solemnity pervaded the entire congregation. The people of God were greatly refreshed and humbled; backsliders were tremblingly alive to a sense of their ingratitude, and the impenitent were awed into a solemn reverence. All felt that God was there of a truth, to bless and sanction his ordinance, and to comfort and sanctify his people in the performance of their most solemn duty. In accordance with my principles of close-communion, I sat one side, a silent looker on, but not an idle spectator; few, if any such, could be found in that large audience, for God was in the midst of them.
It was a combination of such circumstances and influences, that first led me to question the correctness of my principles in regard to the communion. This being a Congregational Church, few if any of the members had ever been immersed, and they were, therefore, in my view, unbaptized, and had no right to come to the table of the Lord; and in truth, upon such principles, there was no table of the Lord there, and no Church, and no authorized administrator of the sacrament. None of the persons having been baptized, they were none of them in the Church; as baptism is, according to the Baptists' doctrine, the only door into the Church; and as neither ministers nor members belonged to the Church, it was impossible for them to administer, or receive her exclusive privileges. Yet many of those communicants I personally knew, and knew them to be deeply pious, to enjoy the presence, communion and fellowship of God by his Spirit in an eminent degree; and I now perceived, that the Lord not only owned and blessed them, as Christians, extending to them what a Baptist would call Christian fellowship; but that he owned and blessed them in a remarkable manner, in the very act of administering and receiving the sacrament -in administering and receiving that which my principles pronounced them without authority to administer, and unqualified to receive. I was as well satisfied that many, at least, of those persons were Christians, and enjoyed communion with God our Saviour, as I was that religion was to be found in the world. I was as sensible of the presence and blessing of God among the people at that sacrament, as I was that God ever owns and blesses his children.
I began to inquire into the propriety of my being more particular and exclusive in my fellowship, than my Master! I reasoned thus: -- If God owns, blesses and communes with them at the sacrament, why should I refuse to participate with them in the blessings of our common Lord and Saviour? Many of them I knew enjoyed much more of God's presence and grace than myself, and if the mere fact that they had not been baptized according to the decisions of my fallible judgement, was a good reason why I should admonish them, by withholding my fellowship, why did not the Lord, the Great Teacher and Master in Israel, withhold his blessing, and rebuke them, by refusing to commune with them? He declares himself a God, jealous of his honor. Was I to be more jealous that he? Was I more holy, or was my sanction more dangerous? These reflections led me to my Bible - to carefully examine and review this whole subject. For most surely, thought I, nothing less than the most positive scriptural authority, can justify a practice so inconsistent with every noble, generous, Christian feeling of sentiment, as is that of close-communion. But after a careful examination of the Scriptures, and much prayer, I came to the settled conviction, that the Scriptures nowhere authorize us to exclude all unbaptized, much less all unimmersed persons from the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. That, although it is desirable as a matter of order, that baptism should precede the Lord's Supper, yet I am fully satisfied, that there is no authority in the Bible for making it a universal rule. There plainly, both from reason and the Scriptures, must be many exceptions. The proof of this, if any be needed, I shall have occasion to present hereafter.
But although the principle was established in my mind, yet the most difficult and unpleasant task remained. A greater cross was yet to be borne - to make known my views to my old friends, and especially to my brother whom I loved as Jonathan loved David, and whom I knew to be a strong Baptist. I feared the loss of his warm friendship, knowing very well that persons who for any cause left the Baptist Church were regarded with any other than a friendly feeling. I hesitated for a time, but finally yielded to my convictions of duty, and communicated to him my views on the subject of the communion, and was not a little surprised to learn from him that his mind had undergone the same change, and that he had been afflicted with similar apprehensions of losing that ardent affection and sympathy which had hitherto existed between us.
On the subject of Calvinism, my mind had never been fully settled, although I had been enabled to assent to it, so far as was necessary to be received into the Baptist Church. But the more I heard and studied upon the subject, the more I was convinced that it was dangerous in its tendency, and contrary to the experience and common sense of all men, and without foundation in the Scriptures. About this time my health failing me, I returned to the east, to my native town.
Here I must be allowed to digress from my main purpose, to pay a tribute of respect to an institution and a class of Christians, whom I have every reason to esteem, both for their faith and practice. Though I do not embrace every sentiment held and advocated by them, I can most cheerfully say, that, during my stay at Oberlin, I witnessed, both in the institution and among the people generally, as much deep and practical piety, as I have ever seen among any people whatever. And I think if those who have spent so much time in endeavoring to overthrow their sentiments, would have labored more to imitate their earnest piety, it would have been much better for them, and for the world at large. The Lord bless the brethren at Oberlin, has ever been the language of my heart since I made their acquaintance. I have been greatly benefited by their writings and their preaching, as well as by their godly examples.
No longer satisfied with being confined in my sympathies and fellowship to the limits of the Baptist Church; believing it also my duty, as well as privilege, to extend the hand of fellowship to all God's children, members of the household of faith, and no longer believing the doctrines of Calvinism, and regarding it as highly improper to practice or profess, what I did not believe, I went before the church and stated to them my views on communion, and my intention of putting them in practice. This I had not yet done, nor did I feel at liberty to do so until I had made my position known to the church. Whereupon the church voted to withdraw fellowship from me, on the account of my heretical sentiments in regard to the communion. But finally it was concluded, as a matter of policy, to withdraw that action, and wait till I had violated some rule of the church, at the same time expressing an unwillingness to receive me at their table. The next day being the Sabbath, I received the sacrament in the Congregational Church, and a short time after, I had the privilege of communing in the Methodist Church, and I could not perceive but that I was as much profited and blessed as I ever had been when communing with my Baptist brethren. A committee was very soon appointed by the church, to visit and labor with me, on this account, and I was notified to appear before the church for trial, on charge of embracing and practicing open-communion principles. The appointed day arrived, and I presented myself, with Bible in hand, to seethe end, and abide the consequences. During the trial, it was distinctly and repeatedly declared, by the elder, deacons and others, that they had nothing against me except my principles and practice in regard to the communion; that as a Christian they fellowshipped me, and as cordially extended to me the hand of Christian fellowship as they ever did; but they could not extend to me the hand of Church fellowship, because I did not walk orderly. There was a great difference, they said, between Christian and Church fellowship; the first they still had for me, but not the latter.
I urged, in my defense, the absence of any Scriptural authority for excluding from the Supper all unbaptized persons, or any true Christian; that the Scriptures represented all true Christians as one in Christ, members or his body, and entitled to the same privileges; that the examples left on record by the apostles, of church discipline, were either in cases of immorality or a wilful neglect of a plain duty, or a perversion of the fundamental principles of the Gospel, thereby endangering the salvation of souls; that the New Testament drew the line of distinction between saints and sinners-those who disobeyed, those who loved God, and those who loved him not, but nowhere between the baptized and unbaptized; and finally, that many good Christians, holy men and eminent for talent, who had studied the Bible prayerfully, to know their duty, as sincerely believed they had been validly baptized, by sprinkling, as they did that they had been by immersion. Although I was not prepared, at that time, to advocate their views of baptism, yet if the Lord was so far satisfied with their baptism as not only to commune with them by his Spirit, but to own, and bless them, in the act of partaking of the Supper, which he evidently did in an especial manner, I could no longer refuse to give them my hand in fellowship. Those that were good enough for the Lord to fellowship, were good enough for me. I dared not claim to be either better of wiser than my Master. Whom the Lord received, I received. Those He fellowshipped, I must fellowship.
The church then proceeded, without making any reply to my positions, (Though an elder said they could be answered without any trouble,) to vote upon the question of expulsion, and I was declared expelled from the church. The question being decided, I requested the church to give me a letter, recommending me to the Christian fellowship of the Lord's people, wherever my lot might be cast. Some objections being made, such as want of precedent, &c., I gave them these reasons for making the request, - I was expecting to go immediately among entire strangers, and should in all probability go before uniting with any church, and I might be placed in circumstances where the fact of my having been turned out of the church would prove a serious embarrassment to me, and where a letter of the kind I suggested would not only prevent any such difficulty, but also give me an introduction toe the Lord's children.
My second reason was, I wished to test the truth of a sentiment prevailing among all Baptists, and which they had so frequently avowed during the trial, viz., that they had Christian fellowship for me and others, for whom they could not have CHURCH fellowship. If they had it, as they said, I wished them to put it in black and white, and show that it was a reality, and not mere talk. But they refused to do it, thereby proving to a demonstration the correctness of an opinion I had entertained, and in which I have since been confirmed, viz., that their distinction between Christian and Church fellowship is a distinction without a difference; and that just in proportion to their confidence in, and zeal for, their exclusive views of baptism and the communion, will be found their want of charity for, and sympathy with, all who think differently from themselves in this matter-or are not Baptists.* That the course pursued in my case, is in accordance with their general practice, may be seen from the fact that an influential Baptist Church recently expelled one of her oldest members, on the charge of heresy, for merely holding the opinion that it was her privilege to commune with other Christians besides Baptists, though she had never even expressed the intention of doing it. Elder M., a popular preacher, and one of their strong men, was asked this question: "Do you believe that any who are not immersed will be saved?" He evaded a direct reply; but being pressed to answer, he said in substance, if not in these very words, "I do not profess to be wise above what is written. The Bible says none will be saved who do not obey the gospel. And none obey the gospel, who are not immersed."
That Baptists do at times, and in some individual instances, have charity for and fellowship with other denominations, is evident. But it is only when they lay aside their views on baptism and the communion, for the time, and give attention to the great and fundamental principles of the gospel, laboring to save souls. While they have this fellowship in exercise they would gladly commune with all God's children but for the rule, and when the spirit of Church fellowship disappears, we look in vain for Christian fellowship. Where one exists, the other is sure to be found, and when one ceases, the other ceases also. The moment you touch the subject of baptism, every zealous Baptist invariably loses all his Christian fellowship. Who has not seen an exhibition of these things in a revival? It is indeed inconsistent with their principles for them to recognize and other church or ministry that their own. For, according to their views of baptism, and its relation to the church, there can be no other church or ministry. Their principles are no less exclusive and bigoted than the High Churchman and Romanist.
*The clerk of the church subsequently gave me a certified copy of the record of my connection with the church, and stating that at such a time I embraced and practiced open-communion principles, "and for this and this only I was labored with, and cut off from the church."
And the fact that they utterly refuse to give their members letters, to any other church save a Baptist, proves conclusively, that they so regard it.
A man who had belonged to the Methodist Church became a Baptist; he was asked if he had called for a letter, or said any thing to them of his intention of leaving? He replied, "No, nor do I intend to, for I do not consider that they have any church, or any right to give a letter." This he had learned in his new school, and it is in perfect keeping with their general practice; though they are generally careful to tell it as publicly as possible after they have fairly secured one from another fold! But it is inquired, if they hold such sentiments, why do their ministers exchange with other denominations, thereby virtually recognizing their ministry and church membership? We answer, it is, in many instances, because their religion predominates over their exclusive sentiments, while in others it is undoubtedly a mere matter of policy. It would be any thing but popular, or policy, for them to refuse such intercourse. It would be obnoxious to the sentiments of Christian people generally. But we are well aware that many who belong to the Baptist Church have no sympathy for these bigoted sentiments. But being in favor of immersion, they have joined the Baptists as one branch of Christ's Church, not considering the exclusive character of their sentiments; while others saw, and revolted at first at the thought of their excluding from their fellowship all other Christians, and adopting such narrow and bigoted sentiments. But believing that immersion is the only mode of baptism, and assuming as true what they were falsely told by Baptists, that all denomination believed, viz., that no person, however pious, ought to come to the communion if he had not been baptized, they have, though reluctantly, embraced these sentiments in view of all their necessary conclusions, and set themselves to defend them. As a natural consequence, they soon find their feelings in agreement with the exclusiveness of their sentiments, which, as we have seen, are nearly allied to the intolerance of Romanism, as says their great apostle, Rev. Robert Hall, himself a Baptist, but rejecting close-communion. "I am fully persuaded," he says, "that few of our brethren have duly reflected on the strong resemblance which subsists between the pretensions of the Church of Rome, and the principles implied in strict communion; both equally intolerant; the one armed with pains and penalties, the other, I trust, disdaining such aid: the one the intolerance of power, the other of weakness." He also says in another place, that "the close-communion Baptists make the door to their church narrower than the gate to Heaven." back to index
Being now fully separated from the Baptist Church, and believing it my duty, as well as privilege, to belong to, and enjoy the spiritual aids of some branch of Christ's Church, I began carefully to examine the doctrines and usages of the different evangelical communions. Having no prepossessions in favor of any one in particular, I trusted, with divine assistance, that I might form, at least , an impartial judgement in my choice. But I would not intimate, that others had not been as impartial in their choice, and yet chosen differently. I shall endeavor to give, as briefly as possible, the reason for preferring the Methodist Episcopal Church, without reflecting in the least on those who are of a different opinion.
Three things demand the prayerful consideration of every person in determining with what branch of the Christian church he shall unite--viz., purity and simplicity of doctrine, the means afforded for spiritual improvement, and facilities for doing good, or of fulfilling the great design and commission of the church, to convert the world. After about six months diligent and prayerful investigation, and in view of these considerations, I deliberately, and from a solemn conviction of duty, united with the M.E. Church, because I sincerely believed her doctrines to be purer, more like the simplicity of the gospel, and in greater harmony with each other; that her usages afforded better opportunities for my spiritual improvement, and growth in grace, also, greater advantages for doing good, than any of the other churches with which I was acquainted. My reasons for this opinion, will be found in the following brief statement of some of the most important doctrines and usages of Methodism.
Methodists hold, in common with other evangelical churches, the doctrine of the Trinity, the depravity of man's nature, the vicarious atonement of Christ, the immortality of the soul, and a future state of everlasting rewards and punishments. They believe that man was created holy, "in the image of God," possessing the power of choice, or the ability to choose between good and evil; that he did, of his own free will, choose evil, thereby incurring the penalty, which God had denounced against him, in case of such disobedience. This was death.
"In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die." They believe on that day he died; his body became as dead, in the eyes of the law; for its sentence was pronounced against him, "dust thou art, and unto the dust shalt thou return;" and he at once entered into a state of spiritual death, losing God's image from his heart, which consisted in "righteousness and true holiness." In this state of death, both body and soul were involved; all ability to do good was lost, and man would have been forever dead in sin; (and consequently the whole prospective race in him;) for this must of necessity have remained to all eternity, unless it can be shown that death will sometime bring forth life. This must have been the end of the race, but for the promise of a Redeemer, "the seed of the woman." Through this gracious provision, there was secured to man another state of probation, in which he might regain what he had lost by sin, viz., the image and favor of God. This provision, or the atonement of Christ, is an unconditional and universal remedy for sinful man. He was "a Lamb slain from the foundation of the world," "not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world." The benefits of the atonement are in part, unconditional, and in part conditional. Among the unconditional benefits, we notice the resurrection of the body, "both of the just and of the unjust;" the removing of the guilt of original sin, so that we are not held accountable for it, and restoring to man the ability to turn from his sins and seek the grace and mercy of God, through Christ--"that grace of God which bringeth salvation (and) hath appeared to all men," "that light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." Among the conditional benefits of the atonement, are, the pardon of our sins, the renewing or regeneration of our hearts by the Holy Ghost, the sanctification of our spirits; in short the present and eternal salvation of our souls is offered to us on condition of our faith in Christ; that we repent of our sins, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and bring forth the fruits of obedience. Hence we believe "In God the Savior of all men, (and) the special Savior of them that believe." "That Christ gave himself a ransom for all," yet "he that believeth not shall be damned."
These views of the atonement, though adopted by some others, are nevertheless peculiarities of Methodism, distinguishing it from the doctrine of the high Calvinists, who hold that Christ died only for the elect. Methodists believe, in accordance with the whole tenor of the Scriptures, that life and salvation are freely offered to every man, and that God gives to every intelligent, accountable being, grace sufficient to enable him to receive the offer of life and be saved, and then calls upon every individual to choose for himself whom he will serve; persuading and entreating him to choose life, but leaving him free to choose death. They believe that God never did, and never will bring any irresistible influences to bear upon any person, to insure their salvation,(1) but that there is one universal offer and invitation made to all, which all are alike free to accept, and all alike free to reject. With propriety, then, may God say, "Are not my ways equal?" And Paul may assert that, "He is no respecter of persons," a God "without partiality."
Thus does Methodism give all the praise and glory of man's salvation to God's grace, while it casts all the blame of the
sinner's neglect and consequent destruction upon himself. They might have come but they "would not." In this, the
Methodist Church differs, materially from all Calvinistic churches; from the old school Calvinists who hold with Calvin
that God decreed from all eternity whom he would save, without any regard to their faith or obedience, and, also, whom he
would damn, without any regard to their unbelief and disobedience," and that "the number of the elect, and also of the reprobates, was so definitely fixed, that it could not be increased or diminished." No wonder Calvin called it "a horrible decree." Yet most Calvinists in past ages have believed it; in some form or other, it is found in their creeds. They differ no less in reality, though some less in appearance, from the modern Calvinists, who hold that God foreordained whatsoever comes to pass; so that not only nothing comes to pass without his knowledge and permission, but "not without his foreordaining it," sin not excepted.
We shall next notice the sentiments of the Methodist Church in reference to the Sacraments; Baptism, and the Lords Supper
On the subject of baptism, Methodists are Pedo-Baptists. And although they do not make these views of the proper subjects, or mode of baptism, a test of communion or church membership, yet as a church they believe, that baptism is both a sign and seal; an external and visible sign of an internal and invisible work of grace, accomplished in the heart by the Spirit, purifying the soul. It is a sign of the righteousness we have through the covenant of grace. It is also a sign and seal of that covenant between God and our souls; a solemn and public acknowledgment on our part of this covenant relation, and consequently of its obligations. It is a public profession of our faith in Christ the only Savior.
That believers and their infant children are the proper subjects of baptism, they think is evident from the following considerations:
1. Baptism was manifestly considered by Christ and the apostles as succeeding the rite of circumcision, as the Lord's Supper is admitted to have succeeded that of the Passover. As the former rite was to be administered to believers and their children, so is would be expected that the one succeeding it would be extended to them unless prohibited, and no such prohibition is to be found. If the infant children of believers were then entitled to the covenant benefits of circumcision, so they are now entitled to the covenant benefits of baptism. Here let it be remembered, that the covenant of which circumcision was the seal, is in all essential points the same as that of which baptism is the seal. It is not, therefore, as some say, a rite of the old covenant, and consequently no longer in use; it is the rite or seal, of the Abrahamic covenant, of faith. Abraham received the sign of circumcision as "a seal of the righteousness he then had, which was a righteousness of faith." "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." The church is therefore essentially the same now as then; only its principles have been more fully developed, perfected, and brought to light through the gospel, and in all things adapted to the present stage of the church under the fullness of the gospel dispensation. Consequently either one of the prominent rites of the church has been entirely lost, or the more reasonable conclusion follows, viz., that baptism takes the place of circumcision. Therefore as the original rite was extended to the child, so (unless prohibited, which is not even pretended) should the substitute be. These words of Paul in his letter to the Colossians settle the relation between baptism and circumcision; "In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ; buried with him in baptism." Does any one teach you to be circumcised? This is our circumcision even baptism. This was the sentiment of the primitive church. Justin Martyr, who lived forty years after the apostles, says: "We, who by him (Christ) have had access to God, have not received this carnal circumcision, but spiritual, and we have received it by baptism." Again he says, "we are circumcised by baptism, with Christ's circumcision."
2. Children are declared by Christ to be members of his kingdom. "Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of heaven." If they are included in the covenant of grace as nearly all at the present day profess to believe, why deny them the rite and seal of that covenant?
3. The Savior commanded his disciples to "go and teach (make proselytes of) all nations, baptizing them," &c. Now these disciples were familiar with the manner of making proselytes to the Jewish religion, and they would naturally understand that they were to go forth and make proselytes to Christ's religion, in the same way, as they were directed to use the same ceremony, unless told to the contrary, of which there is no intimation; and the Jews' custom was to receive parents and their children by baptism as proselytes. They would naturally, therefore, pursue the same course with those who became proselytes to the Christian religion.
4. It is said in the Scriptures that the apostles baptized the households of them that believed. The case of Lydia and the jailer, are instances. These facts are recorded in a way which would naturally lead the reader to believe that the children were baptized. This, though not absolutely certain, is yet highly probable, as families are generally made up in part, of children. Peter's language on the day of Pentecost, has the same tendency. Addressing himself to the Jews who had always considered their children as included in the covenant privileges, he says, "For the promise is to you, and your children," &c. Who can believe that the Jews would have given up, without the least controversy or objection, a privilege and ordinance for which they had ever had the most sacred and affectionate regard? Yet no controversy existed between the believing Jews and the primitive church on this subject. I see a company of Jewish parents, who have embraced Christianity, and in accordance with their custom and duty in all past ages of the church, they come to present their children before God, but the disciples, for some cause, object. They appeal to the Master. Now an important question is to be settled, one of infinite interest to every Jew, viz., whether their children are to be recognized, in the initiatory ordinance of the Christian church , or not? The Savior replies, "suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven." The question is settled, and the Jew is satisfied, their children are recognized. No controversy existed on the subject for eleven hundred years.
5. That the whole primitive church practiced infant baptism, is evident from the following quotations from the early fathers. Justin Martyr, who lived forty years after the apostles, speaking of members of the church, says, "a part of these were sixty or seventy years of age, who were made disciples of Christ, from their infancy." Consequently they must have been so made (that is baptized) in the time of the apostles, is proved by one of the earliest and most credible Christian writers. Ireneus, who was a disciple of Polycarp, who was himself a disciple of St. John, says, "Christ came to save all persons, who by him are baptized under God; infants and little ones, children, youth and elder persons." Origen, who was born in the second century, says, "The church hath received the tradition from the apostles, that baptism ought to be administered to infants." Tertullian also bears his testimony to the practice of infant baptism. Cyprian, who was also born in the second century, says that "sixty-six bishops being convened at Carthage, having the question referred to them, whether infants might be baptized before they were eight days old, decided unanimously, that no infant is to be prohibited the benefit of baptism." Gregory Nazianzen, of the fourth century, says, "The whole church practices infant baptism; it was not instituted by counsels, but was always in use." Pellagias declared that he had "never heard even an impious heretic, who asserted that infants are not to be baptized." Ambrose, and Augustine, the great luminaries of the age, bear their positive testimony to the practice of infant baptism from the first. Augustine says, "It came not by any council, or by any authority later or less than that of the apostles."
The antiquity of infant baptism, as proved by these quotations from the early fathers, furnishes evidence of its divine authority that cannot be successfully controverted. If the infant children of believers were not baptized in the days of the apostles, when did the practice commence? If introduced after the apostolic age, it must have been a great innovation. But no mention is made by any writer of its introduction, nor of any controversy, which must necessarily have grown out of such an innovation; nor does it appear that any one ever questioned its propriety or validity, until the twelfth century, when it was started by Peter Bruis, a Frenchman, whose followers were called Peter Brusians. And then in the fifteenth century, by the Ana-Baptists, in Germany. Only about two hundred years after Christ we see sixty-six pastors convened in a council, having the subject of infant baptism distinctly before them, and not one even intimates that he has a doubt of the validity of the practice, but, on the contrary, they unanimously resolve, that no infant, however young, shall be prohibited from this rite. Certainly, if the apostles and their converts were all Baptists, as we are told, they had lost ground strangely to have become extinct in so short a time, and they must have been a different kind of Baptists from those of the present day, to have given up, without controversy. But we cannot believe this to have been the case, but must believe with Origen, that the church received this practice from the apostles.
6. We close the argument, by presenting the statements of two individuals, whose testimony ought to have an influence with every Christian. "Mr. Wolff, the celebrated converted Jew and missionary among that people, informs us, that in his wanderings in the interior of Asia, he found, in a retired spot, a small village of Christians surrounded by Mohammedans. They have remained there from time immemorial, undisturbed amid the changes which have been going on around them in the distant parts of the earth. Mr. Wolff, among other questions which he put to them, asked them if they baptized their children; they answered, "yes, always." "How do you do it?" "We take them to the water, hold them over it, and sprinkle water upon them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost." And they aver this to have been their practice from the time of John the Baptist. The other witness is the Nestorian Bishop Mar Yohanan, who came to this country in company with Mr. Perkins from the interior of Asia. The church over which he was set had preserved their primitive simplicity, and the form of church government which had universally prevailed in the times immediately following the days of the apostles; they had no connection with the Roman or Greek churches. In a conversation with some gentlemen in New York, Mar Yohanan was asked, "Do you baptize infants?" "Yes, always, every child is baptized." "How do you baptize adults?" "We have none to baptize; every child as soon as possible is baptized." No modern Baptist can say that with them this practice is of Popish origin, inasmuch as they have no connection with that hierarchy. When asked, "how do you regard the Roman and Greek churches?" Mar Yohanan replied, "We love them not, no good, we from the apostles; we pray not to the Virgin Mary; we have no relics, no images; in our churches, one simple wooden cross, that's all." These recently developed facts, are strong evidence of both the antiquity and validity of infant baptism.
7. But we are asked, and it is a very common objection, "What good will it do infants to baptize them?" Abraham might have inquired of Jehovah, by way of objection, "what good will it do to circumcise my children?" with equal if not greater propriety. What do you think would have been the result? But his faith was so strong in the Lord that he did not stop to question the utility of obedience for a moment. We would suggest to such inquirers, the propriety of imitating the faith of Abraham. But we might ask in return, what good does it do any one to be baptized? Does the mere act of applying water to the person, though they be entirely covered with it, do them any good? But it is our duty! Very well, so we believe this to be. Thus this objection is equally valid in one case as in the other. But you say you do not believe it is a duty to baptize infants; and so the Friend Quaker says of all baptisms by water.
But it does the parents good. They feel that "the vows of God are upon them." They will feel more sensibly their obligation to train up their children for God, having consecrated them to him, in this public and solemn manner. It will do the child good, if the parents are faithful in admonishing and instructing him in regard to it. It will hold a restraining influence over him in after life; he will not forget it; it will give interest and weight to the obligation urged upon him to early dedicate himself to God. Says Matthew Henry, the learned and pious commentator upon the Bible, "I cannot but take occasion to express my gratitude to God, for my infant baptism; not only as it was an early admission into the visible body of Christ, but as it furnished my parents with a good argument, for an early dedication of myself to God. If God has wrought any good work upon my soul, I desire with humble thankfulness to acknowledge the influence of my infant baptism upon it."
As Methodists believe that baptism is an outward visible sign, of an inward and invisible work of grace, as well as a covenant seal of our consecration to God, so they believe that the application of water (without regard to quantity) to a proper candidate, by a proper administrator, in the name of the Trinity, is valid baptism. They give therefore to every person desiring the ordinance at their hands, the choice as to the mode. If immersion is desired, they immerse; if sprinkling is preferred, or pouring, they regard it equally valid and no less acceptable to God.
It is not, therefore, necessary for Methodists or any Pedo-Baptist to disprove the practice or validity of immersion, nor have they any desire to do it, but simply to disprove exclusive immersion, or the sentiment of the Baptists that immersion is the only mode of baptism. The labor therefore is all on their side: and it only remains for us to refute their arguments.
They confidently assert that the literal and only meaning of the word baptize, is to immerse; and that the translators of the Scriptures are verily guilty for not having so translated the original "baptizo," to which, they say, they only gave an English ending, to please the King, or somebody else. Hence their Baptist Bible was prepared, a few years since, to finish what the translators left imperfect; but it proved a splendid failure. What are the facts in reference to the translation of this word? Simply these; the translators foun d in the Scriptures a number of words in the original, each one of which were used in a variety of different senses; and also others, the meaning of which could not be expressed by any one English word. This, every Greek scholar knows to be the case in that language. Among these words was "baptizo;" which, though it might admit of the term immersion in English, in many instances, yet in others it was altogether improper, and inconsistent both with the Scriptures and matter of fact. Take the following as examples, "I indeed (immerse) you with water, &c., but there cometh one, who shall (immerse) you with the Holy Ghost and with fire." What an idea! Again, notice the Savior's promise. "For John indeed (immersed) with water, but ye shall be (immersed) with the Holy Ghost not many days hence." Now, besides this being monstrously absurd in itself, it does not agree with the manner of the fulfilment of the promise, for it is said, "And they were filled with the Holy Ghost," not immersed with it. The apostle speaking of the children of Israel, says, "they were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea." To say they were immersed unto Moses would be to testify falsely, as the Bible says they went through "dry shod." But says the Baptist, "They were surrounded with water, and were therefore immersed." But he should remember that the Holy Ghost saith that the "pillar of cloud" was behind them at this time to screen them from their enemies, and as there was no water above, beneath, or before them, and the Scriptures assert that they went through "dry shod," they could not in any proper sense be said to be immersed. It is very easy to prove that the Egyptians were immersed, but not the children of Israel. These were some of the many difficulties which presented themselves to the minds of the translators, in regard to this and other words of the same character. Hence they agreed to leave all such words untranslated, merely giving them an English form; and who does not see the wisdom of such a course? It is much easier to find fault with a piece of work, than it is to improve it. So we conclude our Baptist brethren found it, as they seem themselves little pleased with their new Baptist Bible. It may do to give such to the poor heathen who have seen no other, but it will never succeed among enlightened, Christian people. That the word baptizo means to immerse, we admit, but that it never means any thing else we deny. We read in one of the classical writers, of "baptizing the sea with the blood of a mouse." Now we do not think that even the Baptist' faith would be strong enough here, to enable him to believe that the sea was immersed in the blood of the mouse. The meaning is plain, the sea was sprinkled with the blood, but the Greek writer uses the term baptizo. Numerous are the instances where the word is used by the best Greek writers with the above meaning, and also to pour, to wash, to purify, cleanse, &c. Greek lexicons give to this word the following meanings, "to dip, immerse, to wash, cleanse, purify, sprinkle," &c. Bapto, from which it is derived, has the following meanings: "to dip, plunge, immerse, wash, to wet, moisten, sprinkle, to steep, imbue, to dye, stain, color."
It is very common for words to so change their signification, as to come to signify that for which the thing originally signified was used. Thus bapto originally signified to dip, but as things were generally dyed by dipping, it came in process of time to signify to dye, to stain, &c. So with the word baptizo, its derivative; as things were dipped, plunged, washed, &c., to cleanse, or to purify, it was used in this sense as we have seen. The ground we advocate, is that baptizo, when used in a ritual sense in the New Testament, signifies to purify or cleanse, without any reference to the mode of purification, save it be by water, as an emblem.
We believe this for following reasons:
1. Nothing less than this would have been sufficiently definite and significant. The title or command should give some definite idea, as to the nature or design of the rite enjoined. But suppose the Savior to have commanded his disciples to go teach, and immerse, that is, place the disciples under water, what signification would the command have had? What clue to the thing signified would have been given by this? Persons are put into the water for various purposes. But suppose we understand the Saviour as saying, "Go teach, (make disciples) of all nations, purifying them," &c. This would make the design evident; baptizo, the title, would then signify the grand object of the rite, the intention of the ceremonial use of water, namely, to represent the purification of the heart by the Holy Ghost.
2. The Jews expected that the Messiah would purify, when he came, for this had been foretold of him, but nowhere was it said he should immerse. Malachi said, "He shall purify the sons of Levi," &c. John reiterates it, saying, "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire," using the term baptizo in the sense of to purify. The inquiry of the Jews, "Why baptizest thou, if thou art not the Christ?" shows that they used it in this sense. It had been foretold of the Messiah that he should purify; they understood all this literally; and when a great purifier appears, as John the Baptist, they at once go out to see him; and he says, "I am not the Christ." They inquire at once, "Why baptizest (purifiest) thou then, if thou art not the Christ?"
3. The contrast made by John between his baptism and that of Christ, sustains and illustrates this view of baptizo. He says, "I indeed baptize you with water, but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and fire." Now whatever baptize means in one sentence, it means in the other. Hence if we say it means immerse, then we read, I indeed immerse you with water, but he shall immerse or dip you with the Holly Ghost and fire. How unmeaning! How much more natural and intelligent to read, I indeed purify or cleanse you with water, but he shall purify you with the Holy Ghost and fire.
4. The analogy between water, and spiritual baptism, is another proof of this view. We have seen that John represents them as closely connected. The Scriptures speak of the Spirit's "purifying us," "cleansing our hearts," of its being "poured upon us," our hearts are said to be "filled" with it, "sprinkled from an evil conscience," &c., but never, of immersing us in the Spirit, or dipping us in the Holy Ghost and fire. Yet this must be the reading of many passages if baptizo invariably means to immerse or dip.
5. The Scriptures also sustain this signification: Mark 7:4; "And when they came from the market, except they baptizontai (in English, wash or purify,) they eat not." Luke 11:38; "And when the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that he had not ebaptisthe (in English, washed or been purified) before dinner." Their manner of washing was for the servant to pour water on their hands. They also baptizontai, purified or washed their tables, beds, or couches, &c. That they did not immerse themselves before every meal is evident. Still more so that they did not immerse their tables, couches, &c., but they purified them with water. The Savior's reply to the Pharisee shows that he understood the term in the sense of purify. The Pharisee marveled that he had not ebaptisthe before dinner. The Savior replied, "Now do ye Pharisees katharizete, make clean, or purify the outside," &c., interpreting baptizo, with katharizo, which invariably means to purify. John 3:25,26; "Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about (katharismon,) purifying. And they came to John and said, Rabbi, he that was with us beyond Jordan, to whom thou bearest witness, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him." Here is the clearest possible evidence that baptizo is used in the New Testament, in the sense of katharizo, to purify. A question arose about purifying, and to settle it, they came to John and present the question, but use the term baptizo, or baptizeth. This shows that they used the two words, baptizo and katharizo in the same sense, that is, to purify. With this signification the command to baptize, in all its varied connections, will be found plain and intelligible, while with the sense of immerse, it is not only unmeaning but often contradictory. But it is said the apostles immersed, and their example is sufficient. This may have been the case, but there is no positive proof of it. There is not an instance mentioned in the Bible, but which admits of a reasonable explanation without involving the practice of immersion. Philip and the Eunuch went down into the water, but that does not prove that Philip immersed him. Besides, there are many difficulties in the way of such interpretation; such as changing raiment under those circumstances, by a man on a journey, and receiving the ordinance by the side of the highway; besides, no intimation is given of such preparation. The scarcity of water in that country sufficient to immerse, presents another obstacle. The Savior went into the mountain, but we do not suppose he went under the mountain. It is a well known fact that the prepositions into and out of, may, and often do signify merely to and from, and might have been so translated with perfect propriety. But if it be admitted that the apostles did baptize by immersion, in this and many other instances where it is contended for, yet it proves nothing for exclusive immersion. There are many other instances recorded, where it is at least as evident that they were not immersed: the day of Pentecost when three thousand were baptized, the jailer and his house, baptized by a prisoner at the dead of night, and even the case of John, of whom it is said, "And there went out to him all Jerusalem and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him." Can any one suppose that he immersed this multitude during his short ministry? Some writers suppose as many as two million were baptized by him; and some Baptist writers have supposed that as many as five hundred thousand were immersed. Now his ministry continued one year and a half. Allowing one minute for each person, to baptize that number he must have stood in the water sixteen hours per day for the entire time of his ministry! But it is said, "John did no miracle." Certainly then he could not have done this, or baptized this number by immersion.
The children of Israel though not baptized by the apostles, yet Paul the apostle says they were baptized; and yet, as we have seen, they could not as a matter of fact have been immersed, neither in the "sea" nor in the "cloud." Nothing therefore can be determined by the example of the apostles in this matter. But it is said the early Christian church practiced immersion. They also baptized the candidate in a state of nudity, but they did not even pretend that immersion was essential to the validity of the ordinance, but merely as preferable to other modes which they regarded as valid.
But there is no positive proof of the practice of sprinkling in the Bible, says the Baptist. Where is your thus saith the Lord? Can you put your finger on the passage that proves it? they confidently exclaim. To all this we reply, where is your thus saith the Lord, for immersion? Can you put your finger on the passage that proves it. No! For it is not in the Bible, not even the word immerse. But baptizo means to immerse and nothing else. That is not only denied, but we have already proved it false by the Bible itself. Well, says the Baptist, it is plain enough! But that is only your inference, not a positive precept. Others think it is plain enough that sprinkling is baptism, and that it was practiced in the apostles' times.
There is another argument much used by Baptists, and one by means of which they have induced more young converts to be immersed than by all others, viz., "Christ was immersed, and we ought to follow his example, for he was baptized as an example for us." Now the first premise is assumed. That Christ was immersed cannot be proved. He came up out of the water, but that does not prove his immersion; besides as we have noticed, the preposition which is translated "out of" has a variety of meanings, and might be rendered from with equal propriety. So if the translators (with whom the Baptists find so much fault for not doing their work better) had translated it thus, He went up straightway from the water, then there would have been no appearance of immersion. But there is not the least evidence that he was baptized as an example for us. And the fact, that he could not be baptized in the name of the Trinity, which is essential to Christian baptism, that he could not be baptized upon a profession of his faith in himself, nor for washing away his sins, emblematically, nor unto repentance to prepare the way for his own coming, according to the practice and design of John's baptism, is conclusive evidence that his baptism was essentially different from all other Christian baptisms, and could not have been intended as an example for us. But if the mode of his baptism be an example for us to follow, then the time of his baptism is also an example for us. But he was not baptized till about thirty years of age; therefore, if we must follow his example, we must wait till we arrive at the same age or have been pious as long. But who believes that? Methinks I hear the Baptist say, "Why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized."
Again, if he was baptized as an example for us, why did he not partake of the sacrament of the supper for the same end? But this he did not do. Nor is there the least possible evidence that he is our example in baptism. He was baptized "to fulfil all righteousness." The Law required that every priest should be washed or baptized with water, and in obedience to that law, he, being about to fulfil the great work of the priest in making atonement for the sins of the people, submitted to that ordinance of the law. But it is said, "He was not in the regular line of the priesthood." But this no more released or excluded him from the ceremonies of that office, than it excluded him from the office, or prevented his making atonement for sin as our high priest.
Another favorite argument with the Baptists is this. "Baptism is designed to represent the death, burial and resurrection of Christ; and this can only be done by our being buried in, and raised up out of the water." But the Scriptures nowhere represent this to be the design of baptism. And how, we ask, does immersion represent the death of Christ? He died on the cross, suspended between the heavens and the earth, and who ever heard of a person being immersed in that manner? This would be quite as bad as sprinkling, which causes such horror to the Baptists. The candidate's being raised out of the water represents his coming forth from the tomb, about as truly. There are passages of Scripture on which this opinion is founded which we will examine. Rom. 6:2, &c. "How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therin: know ye not that so many of us as were (are) baptized into Jesus Christ (into or to faith in Christ) were baptized into (or to a faith in) his death? therefore we are buried with him by baptism into his death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so also we should walk in newness of life." Now here is no reference to the mode of baptism at all, but the idea is simply this: As Christ died for sin, (and buried simply denotes death,) so we should reckon ourselves dead with him, unto sin, and baptism is a sign of that death or separation from sin. Now unless Christ had been put to death by being buried alive, there can be traced no resemblance between immersion and his death. Much is said of "Christ's liquid grave," but we have never seen it, or found it in the Bible. Men ought to blush, and would, but for the hardening influences of bigotry and fanaticism, to be heard exhorting converts to follow "their Savior down into his liquid grave." But the apostle uses two other metaphors here to express the connection of a redeemed sinner with the Savior; "for if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death (if we are dead to sin, as he was for sin,) we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection," that is, we shall be raised from a death of sin, to a life of holiness.
Again: "Knowing this, that our old man (carnal nature) is crucified with him,--that henceforth we should not serve sin." The passage in Col. 2:12, is of similar import, and admits of the same explanation.
The practice of immersion in cold climates and especially at the cold season of the year, is altogether inconsistent with the mild and merciful economy of the gospel. Go to Greenland, and in the midst of the almost everlasting ice, with the streams frozen to the bottom, and their huts encased in ice formed from the breath of the inmates, and there proclaim to the people, "believe and be immersed," and you would truly bind a "yoke upon them which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear," a duty which they could not possibly perform. "Only have faith and there is no danger," says the Baptist. We answer that it is not faith that is wanting, but caloric, or heat.
It is not only inconsistent with the economy of grace, but it renders obedience in many instances actually impossible. It is frequently the case that persons who have neglected religion in health, or having sought the Lord, have for some reason neglected baptism, when they are brought to the gate of death, wish to confess the Savior and receive the sacrament before they die. But they cannot be immersed, sickness renders it absolutely impossible; must they be denied this privilege? To tell them that baptism is not their duty, would be to contradict the Bible. We could no more refuse the sacrament to such and let them die in grief, than we could break the Sabbath, or profane God's holy name. If the Baptists can, they are welcome to their consciences and their faith. But these difficulties are often too much even for them. A little boy of a neighboring state, the son of a Baptist mother, became a happy Christian. He bore the pains of a lingering sickness with the utmost patience, rejoicing in the hope of a glorious immortality. A little before his death he desired to be baptized and receive the sacrament. Said the mother, you are so sick you cannot be taken to be baptized. I know it, mother, said he, but I can be baptized in my cradle. Could the mother refuse? The Methodist minister was sent for, but being unordained, he called to his aid an Episcopalian, and repaired to the place, and little Robert was baptized. Arrangements were now made for the communion. The agitation of the anxious mother and her Baptist friends, may easily be imagined. What could they do? Thank God, prejudice and sectarian proscription gave way, and they all knelt around the cradle, Episcopalians, Methodists, and Baptists, and with the dying saint solemnized the holy sacrament. Was this wrong? Let those believe it who can! We cannot.
It was in view of the foregoing reasons, scriptures, and facts, that my mind, after a long and hard struggle between these and previous opinions, yielded to the force of conviction, and I wholly renounced the doctrine of exclusive immersion.back to index
Methodists regard the sacrament of the Lord's Supper as an ordinance appointed by the Lord, to be repeated in the church till his coming again at the last day. "Do this in remembrance of me," "till I come." It is a commemoration of the sufferings and death of Christ; but it is more than a mere commemoration, for God has taught us to expect his special presence and blessing, in the observance of this institution, and that faith is necessary in order to a proper observance of the same, for we must "discern the Lord's body," which we can do only through faith. Every person coming to the table of the Lord, should expect to meet the Savior, and receive spiritual profit; to go away a better Christian than when he came, more heavenly minded, more like Christ. In order to be prepared to approach the table of the Lord, a person must be a practical believer in the doctrine of the vicarious atonement by Christ; in "Christ our sacrifice for sin," and the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ Jesus. By receiving the sacrament he says to the world, that he believes these Gospel truths, and rests his hope of heaven on this foundation, and this alone. Every person possessing this qualification, and giving evidence of the same, has a right to come to the Lord's table. So Methodists believe and so they practice. It is the Lord's table, let none of his children be forbidden to approach it. They do not therefore regard baptism as an indispensable prerequisite to the communion. Though a desirable order, yet it is not an indispensable one. In accordance with these principles, they invite to the table of the Lord with them all persons in regular standing in any of the evangelical churches. But it is sometimes asked, why not invite all Christians, and say nothing about church membership? We answer: When a person is a member of a Christian church he is supposed to be a Christian; the church vouches for his Christian character, by receiving and retaining him within its pale; and on this their recommendation, or testimony, we welcome him to the communion, though he be a stranger to us. But to invite persons for whom no one is responsible, and of whom we know nothing, save that he says he is a Christian, would be to expose ourselves to imposition from those who claim to be Christians, though they give no evidence of it to others. There are not a few of this class at the present day. Hence the impropriety of a more general invitation. But those who are personally known as Christians are made welcome. There are persons who have experienced religion, but have not as yet been able to satisfy their minds in regard to the subject of baptism, (no strange occurrence in the midst of the conflicting sentiments of Baptists and others, and having no divinely inspired men as in the days of the apostles, to determine infallibly for us,) and wishing to act understandingly in all things, they have as yet, deferred being baptized, or uniting with the church. Or they may have delayed it from some peculiarity in their circumstances, or for want of a convenient opportunity to be baptized, yet giving evidence to all that they are true disciples of Christ; such persons are welcome to the table of the Lord among Methodists. That this is the sentiment of the Methodist church as a body, (though some individuals may hold differently) is evident not only from her practice and the writings of some of her most prominent men, but from the recent unanimous decision of the Bishops or Superintendents, viz.: "That baptism is not a Scriptural, and therefore not an indispensable, prerequisite to the communion." This, coming from the highest authority in the church, and approved by all, or at least nearly all of the ministry and membership, shows that it is the doctrine of the church.
And in perfect accordance with this is the language of the discipline, as seen in its ritual. "Ye that do truly and earnestly repent of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbors, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking henceforth in his holy ways; draw near, with faith, and take this holy sacrament to your comfort; and make your humble confession to Almighty God, meekly kneeling upon your knees."
It may be proper here to take a little notice of a tract written by Rev. S. Remington, a Baptist minister, (formerly a Methodist clergyman,) and circulated quite extensively by the Baptist church, styled a "Defense of restricted communion," in which there are several things deserving of attention; not on account of the ability or candor manifested by the writer, but for the misrepresentations it contains, and the fact that they are endorsed and circulated by the Baptist church.
The author first assumes what is wholly void of truth, viz.: That Congregationalists, Methodists and all others, agree perfectly with the Baptists, that baptism is an indispensable prerequisite to the communion; and then on this false assumption as a foundation, he proceeds to erect his building, the materials of which are of the same character. He says, "we agree that it (baptism) is one of the essential requisites of an admission to the Lord's table, and that none, however pious, ought to be permitted to enjoy this holy ordinance previous to a compliance with this Christian rite." This he thinks so "obvious" as to need no proof. He even intimates that it has never been "affirmed to the contrary," which it seems that he must have known to be untrue, especially as in the same work, page 27, he mentions, by way of reproach, that a certain prominent Methodist minister has approved the contrary. And we have shown that not only one prominent man, but the church as a body, hold and practice the opposite. But he has condescended to attempt to furnish some proof of his position. His reference to the practice of the apostles will be answered in another place. He then quotes a number of authors, but not a Methodist writer is found in the whole list. Suppose we should affirm that all denominations agree that infants should be baptized, and quote a long list of Presbyterian and Congregationalist writers in proof; then assume the point as settled? What would the Baptists say to such proof? Yet we might do it with equal propriety! Still this false assumption is reiterated so frequently, that one is reminded of the saying, that men generally in defending a weak point, make up what is wanting in argument by confident and unqualified assertions. But we are told, on page 36, that "The Methodist E. Church, by a fair construction of her discipline, is far from being open in her communion." Now there is not a word in the Discipline to justify such a statement. The only argument which has the semblance of plausibility in it, is a quotation from a previous edition of our Discipline which was as follows, "Let no person that is not a member of our church be admitted to the communion without examination, and some token given by an elder or deacon. No person shall be admitted to the Lord's Supper among us, who is guilty of any practice for which we would exclude a member of our church."
Now this rule was adopted when some of the other denominations, with which we were associated in many places, did not make practical piety a condition of church membership; but Methodists, believing then as now, that no impenitent or ungodly person should come to the communion, it was necessary to adopt some rule by which such persons, who, though they might belong to the church, should be prevented from coming to our communion. But the circumstances having so changed in this respect as to render this rule no longer necessary, or of any practical use, it remained on the statute book of the church, as a dead letter, until the last General Conference, when it was stricken out. Let the reader of this work of our Baptist friend keep this fact in mind. This quotation forms an essential part of every succeeding argument against Methodism, and yet in every instance is this and every other quotation from the Discipline, most manifestly, and it would seem, wilfully perverted from the design and use of the same--as when he quotes the rule in reference to giving tickets for love-feasts, &c., an institution peculiar to Methodism, and applies it to communion, to which he knew it had no reference whatever. He next quotes from the Discipline where it is stated that ministers and members who hold and disseminate doctrines contrary to those of our church, endeavoring to sow dissension in our societies, &c., shall be treated as in cases of gross immorality, or be expelled. He then attempts to prove that because we expel those ministers and members who, having in the most solemn manner professed their faith in the doctrines of the church, and promised to observe its usages, violate all their obligations, and acting the part of traitors, makes use of their hypocritical profession, or connection with the church, in order to injure it, that, therefore, we have no right to commune with those ministers and members of other churches (differing in some points of doctrine from us,) who have always acted in perfect consistency with their profession. Wonderful logic this! Here we find the erased rule dragged in, to meet a case entirely remote from that for which it was designed.
Another instance of perversion is found on page 41, where, to make out his point against the Methodists, he professes to quote the rule relating to members set aside for a breach of our rules; but quotes the one referring to those expelled from the church for immorality. Now we cannot suppose him so ignorant as not to know that this was an utter perversion of the Discipline, which contains two distinct rules for the trial of these different classes of persons. But he entirely disregards this distinction, and applies what is said of persons expelled for immorality to those set aside for breach of rules. On the next page we find him repeating this manifest and strange perversion of the Discipline, and adding again the expunged rule, and professing with the help of these, to prove that because the Methodist Church requires her members to attend class-meetings, she has no right to commune with members of other denominations, who do not regularly attend class, though no such institution exists among them! Yes, he says: "Their rule says that they shall not be admitted." Now we do not like to say that he knew that was false; but we are constrained to exclaim, Poor human nature, how strangely will prejudice and bigotry blind thine eyes! The man who resorts to such reasoning to sustain his position, must have a bad cause to support, to say the least; but this is the sum of his arguments to prove that Methodists do not hold to open communion. Yet he has the audacity to affirm in opposition to reason and facts, that "The Methodist Episcopal Church is close communion." He is also very liberal in dealing out his charges of inconsistency, "violation of conscience," &c. Now all this will pass for sense and logic with bigoted sectarians; but all other minds will form a very different opinion. It is a strong argument in favor of Methodism, that a man who seems determined, even at the sacrifice of logic and sense, to findsomething against it, can find nothing more reasonable than these manifest perversions and misrepresentations. But the writer informs his readers in his preface, with an air of self-consequence, that he has been "stationed in eight different cities," and therefore must know all about Methodism; as though his having been stationed in that number of cities was an important fact to prove his knowledge of Methodism! We know that some restless spirits do manage to go (or be sent) from city to city, stopping only a year perhaps in a place; but we are not aware that such persons have any more correct knowledge of Methodism than others; and such a reputation is by no means enviable. The ability and standing of Methodist ministers, is not to be determined by the fact of their having been stationed in one or a dozen cities, or over wealthy churches. They are stationed according to the wants of the people, not according to their fulness.
As the question, Is baptism an indispensable prerequisite to the communion? is an important one; for the only hope of the Baptists is in sustaining this point. Therefore in order to lay the subject fully before the reader, with the arguments for and against, and at the same time answering the Scripture arguments of Mr. Remington, we here present an extract from a "Review of Rev. Jacob Knapp's sermon on restricted and mixed communion, by Rev. J. Porter." The circumstances, it appears, were these: Elder Knapp, a celebrated Baptist revivalist, visited Boston, and in perfect accordance with the practice of his colleagues, Andrews and others, represented himself, and was represented by his friends, as the decided antagonist of narrow sectarianism, and immediately began to denounce the "sectarian devil" as the powerful enemy (to the progress) of pure Christianity; and threatened to drive him from the city. By such professions he secured the co-operation of most of the Evangelical churches to aid and sustain him and his meetings. The result was, that a large number professed conversion. But when about to leave, Mr. Knapp had a notice circulated, that he would preach at such a time, his farewell sermon to the young converts. The plot thus artfully laid, he in accordance with his exclusive sentiments, and as Baptists are wont to do, improved, by preaching a sermon in favor of restricted, and against open of mixed communion.
His Baptist friends regarding it as a triumph, caught at once the zeal of their leader, and had the sermon published, and distributed it gratuitously among the young converts. This, others thought, looked a little like inviting "his Majesty," the "Sectarian Devil," back, but perhaps it was merely uncovering his "foot," which had been concealed for a time as a matter
of policy. Elder Knapp being one of their strong men, and not a man who deals in weak arguments, where better are to be obtained, we may properly regard his arguments, in favor of baptism, as a necessary prerequisite to the communion, the strongest, if not the only ones, to be found. Mr. K. takes the position "that no person, however pious, has a right to participate at the Lord's Supper until baptized." In proof of this he refers to the apostolic example, as indubitable evidence,
and exhibits that example in several Scriptures, of which the following is a specimen: "Then Peter said unto them, repent and be baptized, every one of you. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized, and the same day there were added unto them about 3000 souls." Not to question here what is intended to be proved by these Scriptures, viz.: that the practice of the apostles was, first to baptize their converts and then to administer the sacrament, I remark, to constitute their
examples into a valid and sufficient argument, it must be shown, 1. That is has the force of a divine precept. 2. That they regarded baptism an indispensable prerequisite to the communion, so that the communion could not be administered properly without it. And 3. That circumstances in the constitution of the church have not so altered, that some persons may
properly receive the communion who have not been baptized.
1. The case of Saul is said to be an instance of irresistible conversion. But he was miraculously convicted of the truth of Christianity, and no farther, for he says, "I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision," showing that obedience was wholly voluntary on his part. back
2. Isa. 1: 18, 25; Jer. 33: 8; Ps. 73:1; 119:136; Titus 2:14; John 4:16-18.back
3. Matt. 4:10; Ps. 51:2,7,10 back
4. Job 1:1; Luke 1:6; Phil. 2:15; Ps. 37:37; Matt. 5:8.back
Rev. MacMahon is the southeast district superintendent of the Evangelical Methodist Church. He has served in the Evangelical Methodist Church for many years and stands uncompromising for the Christian faith. For more information on this topic you may contact Rev. MacMahon for help.