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the Gift of the Reverend
Luther Fronilon, 15 of boncooo,
IN THE NEW TESTAMENT ?
BY M. STUART, !
FROM THE BIB. REPOSITORY, VOL. III. NO. II.
PUBLISHED BY FLAGG, GOULD, AND NEWMAN.
The immediate occasion of writing the present dissertation, it may not be improper to state, by quotations below from two among the many letters that I have received in relation to the subject of it. It has been impossible for me to give any satisfactory answer, in the way of private letters, to my correspondents making inquiries with regard to the subject of baptism. It would occupy all my time, and be nearly a fruitless labour to attempt it. I hope to be borne with, by that class of readers, who are not deeply interested in a dispute about rites and forms, when I appeal to them and ask them, Whether it is not time, that the stumbling-block so often thrown in the way of Christians respecting the mode of baptism, should be removed, and the churches no longer divided by contentions about it? If so, and if the following pages may have any tendency toward effecting so desirable an end, then such readers, I would hope, will not, all things considered, task me with doing amiss, because I have engaged in the present discussion.
The letters above alluded to, are the following; to which a brief reply will be found, at the close of this discussion.
Maulmein and Rangoon, May, 1832. Rev. and Dear Sir,
-We beg leave to request your decision on the following questions, concerning which some discrepancy of opinion obtains among the members of our mission :
1. In translating and publishing the New Testament in the language of Burmah, shall we retain or reject the disputed passage in 1 John 5: 7?
2. Shall we transfer the Greek word Panticw into the Burman language, when it relates to the ordinance of baptism; or translate it by a word significant of immersion, or by a word of some other import?
3. Are the words contained in Acts 19: 5, the words of Paul, or of the author; and if there be an ambiguity in the original, how shall we decide, when translating into a language like the Burman, whose idiom positively requires that the question be ascertained ?
We remain, Rev. and dear Sir, most respectfully yours, C. Bennett, Jno. Taylor Jones, A. Judson, EUGENIO KINCAID, J. WADE.
The second letter is anonymous ; but is evidently from some friend, who appears to have thought seriously on the subject of baptism. It was received last December. I give only those parts which have relation to the arguments in the case. They are as follows. - Rev. and Dear Sir,
Dec. 3, 1832 – Allow me to submit the following remarks to your consideration.
First, we do not obey the command of Christ to be baptized, unless we are immersed. You probably will not question the two following propositions : Baptism is nothing but a rite ; a rite is nothing but a form. Are not then the following conclusions just, viz. that if we would receive the baptism, we must perform the rite; and that if we would perform the rite, we must observe the form? If these deductions be correct, will it not follow, that if we are immersed, we have observed the form ; that if we have observed the form, we have performed the rite; and that if we have performed the rite, we have received the baptism, or in other words have obeyed the Saviour's command to be baptized ? If we are sprinkled, will it not also follow, that we have not observed the form ; that if we have not observed the form, we have not performed the rite ; and that if we have not performed the rite, we have not received the baptism, or (in other words) have not obeyed the Saviour's command to be baptized ? If a rite be nothing but a form, when we change the form do we not change the rite itself? If we change the rite, though we may adopt another, which we may think will answer the design of the institution as well, do we obey his directions ? Are we not, on the contrary, undertaking to alter what we have every reason to believe is best, as he ordered it to be ?
It is sometimes said, that if the feelings be right, it is no matter about the form ; but from the reasoning of the preceding paragraph it appears, that while the feelings are right, the form should be observed, if we would obey. This may also be argued from the command to “believe and be baptized." Ilere are two duties enjoined. The first, to believe; the second, to be immersed. The one relates to the feelings, with which we are to perform the rite ; the other relates to the rite, or form enjoined, viz. immersion. The application of water in any other way may be a rite, but it is not the rite commanded. He who has believed, bas discharged the first duty ; but he who has been sprinkled, has not discharged the second
Secondly, the evil of the separation which is produced among Christians, by their different views of baptism, is very great. You doubtless have noticed the hard and angry feelings, which by conversation upon this subject, have been excited in the bosoms of the truly pious. You have lamented the influence of this in prejudicing impenitent men against the Gospel; in delaying the auxious, and in destroying the piety of Christians. You have seen that the evil is
great. But who causes it? Evidently he who has departed, in practice, from the form laid down in Scripture. If this form be immersion, then those who practise sprinkling, have departed from the Bible. They have caused the evil; and to them belongs the guilt.
Thirdly, it is desirable that this should be done away. Now how can this best be effected ? How, but by every Christian's practising the form laid down in Scripture ? Is it not then the duty of every one to learn the form, and having learned it, to adhere to it? If you believe the form to be immersion, ought you not to practise this, hoping that all Christians will do the same?
Perhaps you may say, if I should renounce sprinkling, others would not; and thus the separation would still continue. Suppose it should, yet you have done your duty, and given your influence to truth. If you excuse yourself, by such reasoning, from pursuing this course, the moderate drinker may excuse himself from total abstinence on the same ground.
Fourthly, if we depart in the least from the Bible, either in doctrine or form, we are not safe, we have no stopping-place. The Roman Catholics have departed widely from the Bible in their ceremonies. The forms which they have introduced are numerous. They have destroyed the life of religion among them. These, however, were not introduced all at once. There was one, that was first in order. If however the entrance of this one had been opposed, how different would have been the state of that church! Instead of being corrupt, it would have been pure. We are safe only by adhering closely to the Bible. Is it not then the duty of every Christian, who believes immersion only to be baptism, to practise it? - Fifthly, as those who are not immersed, but adopt a forin of man's invention, do not obey the Saviour's command, so they will not (all other things being equal) enjoy the highest seat in heaven. Regeneration is the only qualification necessary to enter there. All who have been born again, will see God. But in heaven, there are different grades [degrees] of happiness. The degree which each will enjoy, will be proportioned to the fidelity of his obedience. To explain more fully my meaning; of two persons, who have in every other respect thought and acted and spoken alike, but the one was immersed and obeyed, while the other was sprinkled and did not obey; the former must have a higher place in heaven, than the latter. If then he would be as happy as possible in heaven, ought pot he who believes immersion only to be baptisin, to practise it?
Nothing is more common, than to hear persons say that the observance of the form is not essential. If they mean, it is not essential in order to enter heaven, we grant it. But to enjoy the most happiness there, it is essential; since we cannot obcy noless we do it, Ti. e. unless we are immersed).