A Sweet Savor Contact Miscellaneous Audio Messages Penmen


Discordant sentiment agree
To make the sons of Adam free.


TRUTH needs no apology, and error deserves none. Prefatory lies have often atoned for ignorance and ill will in the Eastern and European worlds; but let the sons of America be free. It is more essential to learn how to believe, than to learn what to believe.

The doctrine and spirit of the following remarks, are left for the reader to judge of for himself. Truth is in the least danger of being lost, when free examination is allowed. * * * * *


Christian writers generally agree to reproach the Jews, for treating the Rabbies with as much respect as they did the Prophets; giving as great credit to their traditions as they did to the sacred volume. But many Christian writers are guilty of the same absurdity. It is not more insignificant for Jews to quote the Talmud or the Argue, to prove a Mosaic rite, than it is for Christians to depend on Tertullian, Cyprian, Origen, and the other fathers of the church, for a gospel ordinance. In the following remarks, no attempts will be made to mend our translation of the Bible, and equal credit will not be given to any other writings.

The word baptism, is not to be found in the Old Testament; and if it were a thousand times, would be no precept for a New Testament sacrament. Nor is there but one place in the New Testament,[1] where the word refers to a transaction recorded in the Old Testament: let Cor. x., 2, “and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea,” referring to Ex. xiv., 19. “When Israel passed through the sea, the waters were a wall to them on the right hand and on the left,” see verse 22. The cloud returned and stood behind them, covering them over in an arched form, 1st Cor. x., 1. Now as the waters were a wall to them on the right and left, and the cloud over them, they were covered or buried in the cloud or in the sea; which is what Paul, in the above quoted text, calls baptism.

Some have feigned that the cloud at this time sprinkled down a shower of rain upon the Israelites, and a very vain fancy it is, for it is certain they all passed over dry-shod, which they could not have done had there been a shower of rain; Ex. xiv., 21, 29. Others have quoted this passage to prove household baptism; but it would be more natural to apply it to national baptism; for all the nation of Israel, and a mixed multitude besides, were there baptized to Moses: but if this is a proof for household or national baptism, in gospel times, it must be an equal proof for the baptism of quadrupeds. It is certain that their flocks and herds, even very much cattle went with them, not a hoof was left behind, and were all baptized: Ex. x., 26 – xii., 38. If this wondrous miracle is a precedent for New Testament baptism, it requires us all to have our cattle baptized as well as our children.

The New Testament is introduced with the history of a famous Baptist preacher and his order of baptizing. John, the forerunner of Jesus, is called a Baptist fifteen times in the four Evangelists. Is it ignorance or ill will, that so often reproaches the Baptists with novelty? Is it not certain that the first preacher spoken of in the New Testament was a Baptist? Why should they be called a new sect, when they can name their founders antecedent to the founders of any other society? Did not Jesus submit to John’s baptism, to fulfil all righteousness? Was not Jesus, therefore, a Baptist? These things are so. Baptism is no strange word in the New Testament. The noun, with its relative verb and participle, occurs one hundred times; which may be found in the following places: Mat. iii., 6, 7,11, 13, 14, 16. – xx., 22, 23. – xxi., 25. – xxviii., 19. Mark i., 4, 5, 8, 9, 10. – x., 38, 39. – xi., 30. – xvi., 16. Luke iii., 3, 7,12,16, 21. – vii., 29, 30. – xii., 50. – xx., 4. John i., 25, 26, 28, 31, 33. – iii., 22, 23, 26, 4, 1, 2. Acts i., 5, 22. – ii., 38, 41. – viii., 12, 13, 16, 39, 38. ix., 18. – x., 37, 40, 47, 48. – xi., 16. – xiii., 24 – xvi., – 15, 33. – xviii., 8, 25. – xix., 3, 4, 5. – xxii., 16. Rom. vi., 3, 4. 1st Cor. i., 13, 14, 15, 16, 17. – x., 2. – xii., 13. – xv., 29. Gal. iii., 27. Eph. iv., 5. Col. ii., 12. Heb. vi., 2. 1st Pet., iii. 21.

As John the Baptist was the first who baptized with water by divine authority, it appears necessary to make a few strictures on his baptism. The place of his preaching was the wilderness of Judea, Matt. iii., 1. His doctrine was repentance for sin, faith in the Messiah among them, and good works. See Mat. iii., 2, 11, 12.   John i., 26, 84.   Luke iii. 7, l5.

The places where he baptized, were the rivers Jordan and Enon, where there was much water: Mat. Iii., 6, 16 – John iii., 23. What he required of his subjects was confession of sins, and good fruits, Mat. iii., 7,10. Mark i., 5., and he would not admit the multitude of the Pharisees and Saducees to his baptism, without confession and reformation, although they were the children of Abraham: Mat. iii., 7, 10. Luke iii., 7, 8. What words soever John used when he baptized, whether the same that the apostles were taught to use at the ascension of our Lord, or a set of words telling his subjects to believe in him who should come after him, or any other words, is to me unknown; but he certainly received his commission from heaven, and Jesus, the head of the church, submitted to his baptism.

Whoever carefully considers the texts quoted under the above head, together with corresponding texts respecting the ministry of John, will find that John baptized none but those who are old enough and good enough to make confession of sin, which babies cannot do; that parental virtue was not a sufficient recommendation, without “fruits meet for repentance,” and that he baptized in the river Jordan and the waters of Enon. Not a word about infant sprinkling in the whole history of John, nor anything that looks like it.

In John iii., 22, and 4, 1, it looks as if Jesus himself baptized; which he did in the same manner that Solomon built the temple; that is, it was done by his orders, as John iv., 2, explains it. “Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples.” As Jesus never baptized any with water, consequently the children brought to him were not brought for baptism. The passages referred to are Mat. xix., 13, 16.   Mark x., 13, 17.   Luke xviii., 15, 18. These children were brought to Jesus, that he should put his hands upon them and pray; and the disciples forbade them. Had it been a usual thing for them to be brought to Jesus, for baptism or any thing else, it is not likely that the disciples would have forbidden them. Parents are generally too negligent about bringing their offspring to Jesus; but these, like the mother of James and John, seemed anxious for the good of their infants, and brought them to Jesus that he might bless them, which in great mercy he did, and said “Of such is the kingdom of heaven.” From this, it is certain that some, if not all children are meet for the kingdom of God; and indeed, whoever is thus blessed by Jesus, whether young or old, is graciously prepared for that holy place. There is no account that he ever did this but once, and not the least hint that he ever enjoined it upon his disciples; and with what propriety could he enjoin a work upon them, which none but God could do; that is, bless children.

From the passage under consideration, I have heard the following argument drawn, viz., “that if Jesus received children, ministers should; and that if he declared them meet for heaven, they have a right to all the ordinances of the church below.” If this argument has any weight in it, it equally pleads for the Lord’s supper; and truly, if a child has a right to baptism, he has the same claim to the communion. As the face of the child can bear a few drops of water, while in the arms of the preacher or father, so the mouth of the child can receive a crumb of bread and a drop of wine while in the arms of the nurse or mother. But what man in his senses will quote these passages to prove infant sprinkling, when there is not a syllable in them about water sprinkling or dipping? If there is, let it be named, and I will take conviction.

Infant sprinkling can be no proof of obedience in a child, who is ignorant of the meaning, and passive in the action. If any virtue, therefore, attend it, it must be either in the parents, gossips, or priest. A virtue in the parents it is not, unless they can prove from scripture that God has commanded it. This proof I have not yet seen, and am inclined to believe I never shall, while the Bible remains as it is.

A virtue in the gossips it cannot be, without religious lying is a virtue. They promise, before God and the congregation, to renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil, for the child, and keep God’s holy law as long as life lasts; which an angel could not do, and which they take no pains to do. This, they promise, not only for the children of their neighbors, but for many that they never see afterwards; and priest, clerk, parents and gossips, all thank God that he has blessed the water to the mystical washing away of sin.

How inconsistently men talk! First, they say that children come into the world innocent, free from sin, fit for heaven; and next inform us that water, in baptism, washes away sin. If they are clear of guilt and corruption, how can water wash them away? If they are unclean, what can cleanse them but the blood of the Lamb? In one breath, we are informed that none have a right to baptism until they repent, believe, and are in the visible church; in the next, we are told that baptism is an initiating ordinance. While men speak so inconsistently, who can believe them? Can we think that they believe their own testimonies?

A virtue in the priest it is not, because he has no New Testament commission for it; and what is not virtuous must be vicious, and everything vicious should be abandoned.

After the resurrection of our Lord, just as he was going to heaven, to leave his apostles, he renewed their commission, made some enlargements and additions thereto, and more fully described their work; which Mat. xxviii., 19, expresses thus: “Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Mark, in xvi., 15, 16, has it – “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be damned.” Matthew seems to speak most on the work of the preacher, and Mark on the character of the disciple. This enlargement of the commission authorized them to go and preach among the Gentiles, as well as the scattered Jews. Wherever they went, they were to preach, and those who were taught and believed, were to be baptized; and those who were taught, believed, and were baptized, had the promise of salvation.

Those who practise infant sprinkling, often have recourse to this commission of the apostles, as a foundation for their practice. It is altogether likely that the apostles understood their own commission, and acted accordingly. The surest way, therefore, to get a true understanding of the nature of the commission, is carefully to consider their conduct. Let Peter take the lead. In Acts xi., 14, 37, Peter lifted up his voice, and preached a very pointed sermon; and when the people heard his doctrine, “they were pricked in their hearts, and said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; for the promise is unto you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. Then they who gladly received his word, were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfast in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” – 37, 42. From this passage, we find that Peter preached according to his orders; the people heard, which was their duty; the Holy Ghost applied the truth to their hearts. Filled with godly sorrow for sin, they cried out, “what shall we do?” which is the language of grace in its first operation; Peter had an answer ready, and said, “repent,” (this little word is always a prerequisite to baptism,) “And be baptized, every one of you.” He does not say, be baptized if you feel the weight of it upon you, but enjoins it upon every one of them, that they might receive remission of sins; and, to encourage them in their godly sorrow for their sins, in general, and crucifying the Lord, in particular, he adds: “For the promise (of the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Ghost) is to you, (fathers,) and unto your children, and to all that are afar oily, (both scattered Jews and Gentiles,) even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”

The promise here does not intend baptism, which is never viewed in the light of a promise, but always as a command. Here, observe, none were baptized. but such as asked what they should do? who did repent, gladly receive the word, continue steadfast in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in prayers; all of which things infants can not do.

The objection raised here, that three thousand could not be baptized by immersion in one day, equally militates against sprinkling, which takes as long a time. The twelve apostles, and seventy disciples, could soon do it. Three thousand, divided among eighty-two, would be about thirty-six or thirty-seven for each, who could easily be baptized in less time than an hour. It is no novelty in Virginia, for a Baptist minister to baptize more than thirty seven in a small part of a day.

The next account of Peter’s baptizing, is in Acts x. Cornelius was warned of God by a holy angel, and Peter was called by a vision to go to Cornelius. When he came to his house, and preached to him and his neighbors, the Holy Ghost fell on all those who heard. “Then answered Peter, can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” No account that he went to baptizing before they were converted, but as soon as they received the Holy Ghost, he commanded them, in the name of the Lord, to be baptized. And these were Persons who heard Peter, spoke with tongues, and magnified God.

What Peter thought baptism figured out, appears from his First Epistle, iii., 21. “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us, (not the putting away the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Here observe, that baptism does not remove the filth of the flesh, but figures out the way in which we are saved: viz., by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When we are plunged beneath the wave, we figure out the death and burial of Jesus; and when we rise from beneath the wave, we figure out the resurrection of the Saviour; in doing which, we have a good conscience.

From the history of Peter, then, we have every reason to believe that he understood his commission in such a manner as did not entitle him to baptize any but penitent believers.

The next baptizer to be taken notice of, is Philip. Whether this was Philip of Bethsaida, one of the twelve, or Philip the deacon, who was an evangelist, or another man of the same name, is not certain; but Philip went down to Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. Acts viii., 5. “And when they believed Philip, preaching concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” See verse 12. They were not baptized until they believed, and yet were baptized before they received the Holy Ghost in its great effusion; which proves that faith should be antecedent to baptism, and that the receiving of the Holy Ghost in this sort, is something distinct from that grace which makes men saints.

In this same chapter, from verse 26, to the end, we have another account of baptism by Philip. A certain eunuch of Ethiopia had been up to Jerusalem, to worship the God of Israel; and, as he was returning home ward in his chariot, was reading the 53d of Isaiah; from which it appears that he was a Jewish proselyte, and, no doubt to me, a real saint, who had not yet been taught a risen Saviour. Philip was commanded by the Spirit to go and join himself to the chariot, which he did, and began at the same scripture which the eunuch was reading, and preached unto him Jesus. And as they came to a certain water, the eunuch said, “See, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized?”

How the eunuch came to the knowledge of his duty, in this ordinance, is not certain. Whether he had learned at Jerusalem, or some other place, that such was the practice of flee Christians; or had some impressions of the Spirit upon him, teaching him his duty; or whether Philip taught it to him, I cannot say; but he certainly requested baptism of Philip. “And Philip said unto him, if thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water,” &c. What can be plainer? Philip preached Jesus; the eunuch believed in him; they came to a certain water; they went down both into it, both the administrator and the subject; baptism was administered; and then they came up out of the water.

The next baptizer in course, is Ananias. Where Saul was struck to the earth by the power of God, and led blind to Damascus, the Lord sent Ananias unto him, who went and laid his hands on him, and he received his sight. Then said Ananias unto him, why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord. And he arose, and was baptized. Acts ix., 1, 19 – xxii., 16.

Paul, the chief apostle of the Gentiles, comes next before us. The first place where he baptized any, that we have an account of, was in Macedonia. (Acts xvi., 14.) He was called by a vision to go to Macedonia; and when he came to that part of it called Philippi, “Upon the Sabbath day went out of the city by a river’s side, where prayer was wont to be made; and he sat down, and spake unto the women who resorted thither; and a certain woman, named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, who worshipped God, heard him, whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things that were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought Paul, and his companions, saying: If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house.”

This woman came from Thyatira to Philippi, trading in purple: she was a female merchant, and, perhaps, a manufacturer, who first made her purple, and then sold it. She employed either her own children or journeymen to assist her in her trade. She was a worshipper of God, heard the gospel, had her heart opened, attended to the things spoken by Paul, and was judged to be faithful to the Lord, and, therefore, a proper subject for baptism.

The character of her household is not given in this place; but, in the last verse of the chapter, they are called brethren, and were comforted by Paul; which could with no propriety be said of children or unbelievers.

In the 33d verse of the same chapter, an account is given of the baptism of a certain man, and his household. The jailer being alarmed by the earthquake, and the open doors of the prison, drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had made their escape; rather, therefore, than be tried, condemned, and executed for his neglect, he would have been his own judge, jury, and executioner. “Which Paul perceiving, cried out: do thyself no harm, for we are all here. Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said, sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And he took them, the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes, and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he sat meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God, with all his house.”

Here note, the word all is mentioned three times. The jailer and all his household heard the word of the Lord; he and all his house believed and rejoiced in God; he and all his house were baptized. Let his household be young or old, they all heard, believed, rejoiced in God, and were baptized. Now it is well known that infants can neither hear, (so as to understand,) believe, nor rejoice in God, and, therefore, are not fit subjects for baptizers. Next, observe, the jailer brought them out of prison into his house; and as he brought them again into the Muse to eat, after he was baptized, it is altogether likely that they were baptized out of any house.

The next instance of Paul’s baptizing, is, Acts, xviii., 8: “And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed, and were baptized.” Crispus, Gaius, and the household of Stephanas, were baptized by Paul: Cor. i., 14,16. The rest of them, to complete the many, very likely, were baptized by Silas and Timotheus, who were Paul’s companions at Corinth, verse 5. Paul was a wise master builder, among the Corinthians, who laid the foundation, and left Silas and Timotheus to build thereon: 1 Cor. iii., 10. It is not certain that the household of Crispus were baptized, but it is certain that they all believed, and very likely that they, with the other Corinthians, that heard and believed, were baptized. The character of Stephanas and his household is given, 1 Cor., iii. 15, where they are said to be the first fruits of Achaia, and they addicted themselves to the minis. try of the saints, which is a work too masculine for infants.

The family and neighbors of Cornelius, were baptized, even those who heard and received the Holy Ghost, and magnified God. The household of Lydia, were baptized, who are called brethren, and were comforted by Paul. The household of the jailer, were baptized; such as heard, believed, and rejoiced in God. The household of Stephanas were baptized, who were the first fruits of Achaia, and ministered to the saints. And, if the household of Crispus were baptized, they believed in God, as well as Crispus himself.

Now, if there is any account of any one household beside, that were baptized upon the faith of their father, or promises of their gossips, I should be glad to see it. I confess I have not yet found it in the New Testament.

Some have quoted 1 Cor. vii., 14, to prove the right of household baptism – “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; else were your children unclean, but now are they holy.” If this sanctity, or holiness, is truly gracious, we are all in a safe state. Noah, the father of the new world, was a strong believer, if his wife was not; before he married her, she was sanctified on the wedding day; their children, consequently, were holy, Ham among the rest; and so, by succession, down to this day, all are sanctified; which is a doctrine that good Pedobaptists do not believe, any more than we do. The word, therefore, must have a qualified signification, and if we attend to the context, we shall easily find their quality. Read the first part of the chapter. So many of the Corinthian church were connected with unbelievers, (who were idolaters,) in marriage, that they wrote a letter to Paul, to know whether they had not better part believers and unbelievers, that were joined together in wedlock; which Paul did not consent to. The text under consideration, is a part of his answer to their letter, and which, according to our common dialect reads thus: “For the unbelieving husband is legally bound to his wife, and the unbelieving wife is legally bound to her husband; else were your children bastards, but now are they a lawful offspring.” This text has no more relation to baptism, than the first verse of Genesis.

But one place more remains to be considered concerning Paul’s baptizing: Acts, xix., 1, 8. These twelve men believed, and were baptized unto John’s baptism, I suppose by apostles, who had not been taught a risen Saviour, nor received the Holy Ghost in its great effusion. Whether Paul baptized them again, or only explained Johns baptism to them, is not so certain. When John taught his disciples, he charged them to believe in one who stood among them, and when they heard it, they were baptized in the name of Jesus But if it is true, that John’s baptism is done away, and that the baptism instituted by Jesus, and practiced Myrtle apostles, is radically different from that of John, and so these twelve men were baptized again by Paul, it is no proof at all for the baptism of infants or unbelievers. If these men were baptized by Paul, they believed first, as the text is plain; and although they had been baptized by John, or more likely by apostles, (one of John’s order,) they were not baptized until they brought forth the fruits of repentance.

The opinion of Paul concerning baptism, may be seen in Rom. vi., 3, 4 – 1 Cor. xii., 13, Col. ii., 12, where baptism is called a burial; that it represents the death of Christ, and a putting on of Christ. Now, I appeal to common reason, whether believers, baptism, by immersion, upon confession of sin, and an annunciation of a life of obedience to Christ, or infant sprinkling, comes nearest to the sense of these expressions.

I have proved, and can prove, that persons were forbidden baptism on the claim of parental holiness, because they did not bring the fruits of repentance with them; that others were not suffered, until they gave satisfy faction of faith in Christ; that when they were baptized, they went down into the water; that they were baptized before they came out of the water; that baptism is a burial of the body; and that, after baptism, they came up out of the water. And, now, if any man can prove from scripture, that infants were ever baptized upon the faith of their parents. or promises of their gossips, in private houses, or meeting-hoses, by sprinkling water in the face, I will own that they have an equal authority with us for what they do: otherwise, we shall triumph and say, that we act according to the scripture, and they according to human tradition.

Some have run into a gross error respecting the baptism of the Holy Ghost; thinking that nothing more is meant thereby than regeneration. The phrase occurs six times in the New Testament, and is implied in other places, but always intends something extraordinary. Zachariah and Eliza. Beth were filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, but not in such a manner as to be called a baptism, and to speak with tongues. The disciples never received this blessing while Jesus was with them on earth; he always spoke of it as something to come; and after his resurrection, he told his disciples plainly, that they should be baptized with the Holy Ghost and fire in a few days; which was fulfilled, first at the day of Penticost, and afterwards at particular times, in a wonderful manner. Some were not baptized until they had thus received the Holy Ghost, and others were before; but though many were baptized before they were thus overwhelmed with if spirit, yet norm were until they had repentance and faith, or at least made profession of them.

It is said by some, that baptism, by immersion, before a large congregation, especially of the female sex, is very indecent. This objection may have weight with those who are too delicate to obey God rather than man; but will have no eject with those who simply regard the Bible. Circumcision was performed, not only on children, but on old Abraham, and upon more than six hundred thousand men at Gilgal; and the reader may judge for himself, which of the two is more indecent. If circumcision, therefore, was an institution of heaven, no man can object to baptism upon the principle of modesty.

Others observe, that, although the scripture says that Jesus was baptized by John in Jordan, and that Philip, and the eunuch, went down into the water, and came up out of the water; that nothing more is meant than that they went down to the water. Although this objection is void of good sense, yet I wish to make a few remarks upon it. If the observation be true, it is not complied with by any but the Baptists; other societies never go nigh the water to baptize, I have never known of an instance of a man, whose faith, in this sense, carried him to the water-side, but it also led him into the watery tomb.

The law of nature, is one criterion to explain scripture by. When it is said that Jesus went up into the mountain, nature says, that he went into, or among the trees, or whatever grew upon the mountain; for into the earth he could not go, without miraculous power, which we have no reason to think he exercised at that time: that he went further than the foot of the mountain, is certain, for he went up. Where it is said that Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, by the law of nature, the argument turns. A man can no more walk upon the water without sinking, than he can walk into the earth. This objection is no good criticism, it is mean pedantry: a desperate subterfuge, to shelter in, for want of plain truth. Can any man believe it, who is not blinded by tradition, prejudice, or systematical mists? If he can, he will then believe, that when the hogs ran down into the sea, and were choked, they only ran to the sea side, and were choked in the sand.

A like observation is made on Mark xvi., 16. “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved.” The argument is formed thus: that the auxiliary, is, and the participle, baptized, determine the sentence in the past tense. Why not then written, “He that believeth, and has been baptized, shall be saved?”

It is not certain that the Jews ever baptized their children; and if they did, it was one of their vain traditions, for they had no divine command to do so; and I wish to know who had been in the Gentile world to baptize before the apostles went thither? Matthew records the same commission: “Go teach all nations, baptizing them,” &c.; and I am inclined to believe that it would puzzle the greatest scholar in Virginia, to prove that the verb, teach, and participle, baptizing, place the sentence in the past time.

I confess I am presumptuous enough to say that, let other Christians have ever so many promises made to them, yet the promise in Mark xvi., 16, is made to none but Baptists; and the same is true of Acts ii., 38.

But the most serious and weighty objection against believers’ baptism! that I have seen or heard of, is this: “That many great reformers, and very successful preachers, in past ages, have believed in, and practised infant sprinkling; and if this was an error, would not God have convinced them of it, when he was with them, in so great a degree?” As this ob Section appears judicious, I shall endeavor to give it a candid answer.

If our inquiries extend as far back as the first ages of Christianity, immediately after the close of inspiration, we shall find ourselves upon disputed ground. Some say that infants were never sprinkled, upon the faith of their parents, until the third century; others say they were, in the first; and, if we consider the carelessness of transcribers, and the partiality of translators, it will not be wondered at. My argument is, that if they were sprinkled the first day after John finished his Revelations, they had no order from Jesus, or his apostles, to do so; and, therefore, it was no way valid or exemplary. The mystery of iniquity began to work, and the man of sin to show his power, before the apostles were dead; and, by little and little, prevailed over all Christendom, and sunk the church into the greatest labyrinth of darkness, as all Protestants confess, which lasted a number of centuries. But in these last ages of the world, God has raised up men of renown, to reform his people, who have been successful in their work; and these have, for the most part, believed in, and practised infant sprinkling.

If we consider the principles of the great reformers, from Luther to the present day, we shall find no entire uniformity in sentiments; which proves them fallible, uninspired men. A number of the real, or supposed errors of one reformation, have been always opposed in the next. That Luther, Calvin, Truinglius, Knox, and the English reformers, did much for God, we do not deny; but what enlightened American would make any of them his complete pattern? If God never blessed a man, while holding some error, he could never have blessed but one of them, for no two of them agreed in all things. If the men of one reformation improve upon the doctrine and forms of a prior reformation, we cannot think it a piece of arrogance to say that, in point of baptism, all the Pedobaptist reformers were in an error.

The feast of tabernacles was instituted in the days of Moses. Lev. xxiii., 38-43. Deut. xvi., 13. At this feast, the children of Israel were to dwell in booths; but from the days of Joshua, the son of Nun, to the days of Nehemiah, this rite was never observed, (Neh. viii., 13-18,) which was more than a thousand years; in which time, all the good kings of Israel, and many prophets of high rank, lived. It is, then, not sophistry, but honest reasoning, to say, that if there had not been a Baptist in the world, since John the Divine, it would be no sufficient objection against believers’ baptism by immersion now.

I have human testimony to prove that a number of the reformers were Baptists, and, particularly, John Wickliff, the great reformer in England, called, by way of eminence, the Morning Star; but if there never had been one, from the days of Constantine to the present day, the Scripture is full of proof, that all were of that order, in the days of Christ and the apostles; at least, no account is given of any other way of baptizing, save only by immersion, upon profession of repentance and faith.

The argument, to prove infant sprinkling from circumcision, I have said nothing about. Consequences upon consequences, drawn from false premises, ate used so much in the argument, that it appears foolish to an accurate mind, and inconclusive to the vulgar. If its advocates can produce a single text, where the last is a substitute for the first, it will be worth regarding; otherwise, infant sprinkling may as well be procured from the Hebrew servant’s ear, that was bored through with an awl.

Elder John Leland
Published in Virginia before the year 1790; the precise year is not known.

The Writings of the Late Elder John Leland
Pages 78-90

[1] No notice is taken of Heb. vi., 2, because, it is doubtful whether the word refers to the Levitical customs of washings, or to the practice of Christians. The same Greek word is found elsewhere, but differently translated in our version.