BAPTIST THOROUGH REFORMERS
THE FIRST FEATURE OF THE
REFORM AT WHICH BAPTISTS AIM
THE EXALTATION OF THE WORD OF GOD ABOVE TRADITION.
"Thus have ye made
the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition."
MATTHEW xv. 6.
reform in religion presupposes the existence of errors, evil in their tendencies and
results, which have gradually crept into eeclesiastical organizations, and which need to
be removed in order that such organizations may become pure and scriptural. A reforrn is
not the introduction of a new system of religion, but rather the revival of the old
system, and the assertion of its supremaey over the innovations of men. It is not a
movement based on the pretended reception of a new revelation, conflicting with previous
ones from an unchanging Jehovah, but it is the enforcernent of the commands and precepts
which have already been revealed, but which have been obscured, and invalidated, and made
of none effect by human tradition.
Thus it was with the Great Reform introduced by Jesus Christ. He declared that he came "not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it." In the prosecution of his mission, he utterly disregarded the religious rites which owed their origin to mere human invention, and, by a studied non-observanee of the traditions of the Jewish elders, he constantly exhibited his disapprobation of them. At the same time, he taught principles, which, if carried out, would restore the supremacy of God's law, and effectually remove every vestige of this usurpation of authority by man. This course brought down upon him the displeasure of those who were wedded to the rites of tradition, while they neglected the more important commands of God. They therefore came to expostulate with him in reference to the course pursued by him, saying, "Why do thy disciples transgress the traditions of the elders~" But Jesus, in reply, asked them a far more pertinent and weighty question: "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?" and then, after citing a case in point, he charged them, in the words of the text, with making void the law of God, by substituting their unscriptural observances for his divine commands: " Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition."
There exists to-day a body of Christians, who are laboring to effect the same kind of reforrn as that in which the blessed Saviour was engaged, more than eighteen hundred yeavs ago. That body, though designated since the days of Christ by various names, is known, at the present time, by the name of Baptists. The theme of this, and several succeeding Lectures will be,
FEATURES OF THAT REFORM
IN WHICH BAPTISTS ARE ENGAGED.
Many persons suppose, that the only difference between Baptists and other evangelical denominations, is respecting the mode and subjects of baptism. This is, indeed, the principal external difference: but this difference exhibits tlie adherence, on the part of Baptists, to a great and important principle, which is involved in their action, and which they believe to be violated by those who difer from them in this matter. An illustration of their position is found in the text and its connection. The washing of a person's hands before eating, was, in itself, a small matter; but it involved, in this instance, a sinful obtruding of human tradition in the place of divine commands. This is just the principle that is involved in the practice of infant sprinkling. We announce, then, as the First Feature of the reform in which Baptists are engaged,
The Exaltation of the Word of God above Tradition, in all Matters of Religious Duty.There has always been a conflict between Divine revelation and human tradition; and yet the advocates of the latter have almost invariably endeavored to reconcile it with the former, and thus the Word of God is often distorted in vain efforts to make it support that which is of merely human origin. The ultimate effect of these efforts is to divide the Bible against itself, and to cause it to be utterly disregarded as the standard of appeal in matters of religious duty. It was thus with the traditions of the Jewish elders. Those who followed them and practised their rites, ceased to regard the Scriptures which they possessed as the standard of duty; they became a dead letter, and the tradition of the elders not the Scriptures was the authority they cited for the support of their rites. "For God commanded, saying, Honor thy father and mother; and he that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me, and honor not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition."
"Q. Can Protestants prove to Baptists, that the baptism of infants is good and useful?
"A. No; they cannot; because, according to Protestant principles, such baptism is useless.
"Q. Why do you say this?
"A. One of the Protestant principles is, that no human being can be justified except by an act of faith in Jesus Christ; but no infant is capable of making this act of faith; therefore, upon Protestant principles, the baptism of infants is useless.
"Q.Can you draw the same consequence from any other principle?
"A. Yes; their first principle is, that nothing is to be practised which is not authorized by Scriptural example; but it does not appear from Scripture, that even one infant was ever baptized; therefore Protestants should reject, on their own principle, infant baptism as an unscriptural usage.
"Q. How do Baptists treat other Protestants?
"A. They boast that the Scripture is evidently for Baptist practice that other Protestants hold traditional doctrines, like the Catholics. They quote Matt. chap. 28: 'Go teach all nations, baptizing them,' from which they say it is clear that teaching should go before baptism; hence they conclude that as infants cannot be taught, so neither should they be baptized, until they are capable of teaching or instruction.
What use do they make of Mark, chap. 10: ' He who believeth and is baptized shall be saved?
"A. They say it is evident that belief or faith must precede baptism; but they add infants are not capable of believing; therefore neither are they capable of being baptized.
"Q. What can Protestants reply to this Baptist reasoning?
"A. They may give these passages another meaning; but they can never prove that their interpretation is better than that of the Baptists, because they themselves give every one a right to interpret Scripture.
"Q. How do Catholics prove that infants ought to be baptized?
"A. Not from Scripture alone, which is not very clear on this subject, but from the Scripture illustrated by the constant tradition of the church.
"Q. Can Proteatants use this argument of tradition against the Baptists?
"A. No; they have no right to use it in this matter, where it would serve them, since they reject it in every question where it is opposed to their novel and lately invented doctrines."
the President of the famous Council of Trent, a Roman Catholic Cardinal, speaking of the
Baptists: "And surely, how many soever have written against this heresy, whether they
were Catholics or Reformers, they were able to overthrow it, not so much by the testimony
of the Scriptures, as by the authority of the Church." And Bayle, in his Critical
Dictionary, says that the Protestants were obliged to meet the Baptists with arguments
which were turned against them by the papists. Dr. Woods furnishes us an illustration of
this assertion. He says: "It is unquestionable, that the knowledge of some
extraordinary events of providence, or of some divine injunctions, may be as truly and as
certainly communicated in this way, [by an unwritten tradition,] as in others; and we
should in many cases, consider a man who should refuse to admit the truth and authority of
a tradition, to be as unreasonable, as if he should refuse to admit the authority of
written or printed records." Now I ask
if this is not giving up to Rome all she claims? "We should consider a man who should
refuse to admit the authority of tradition, to be as unreasonable as if he shonld refuse
to admit the authority of written or printed records!" Will not Popery heartily
endorse this doctrine? Now on what kind of traditionary authority does infant sprinkling
rest? Why, upon the same as every other corruption of Rome; and if Romish tradition be
followed in this case, why not in all others? Thus, we have shown that infant sprinkling
requires Romish arguments. Now, the simple reason of this is, that, like the other rites
of Popery, it is founded in tradition.
Further, the commandment of God is made of none effect by this tradition. God has given express and plain commands, in reference to every duty and ordinance. He has commanded believers to be baptized; He has extended the command to none others. Those baptized in infancy, in a multitude of cases, grow up in unbelief, and never become believers. But where they do become converts, they are taught, by the tradition of the church, that their infant baptism is sufficient, and they are not expected to be baptized after believing. And even when persons sprinkled in infancy are led, by the study of the Bible, to desire baptism after they have believed, strong efforts are always made to dissuade them from it, and they are often compelled to go to the Baptists in order to be baptized. These things are of such common occurrence, that it is unnecessary to relate instances in proof. Thus the Word of God is made of no effect.
Again, Pedobaptists, like the Jewish elders, endeavor to reconcile their tradition with the Word of God. Look at their reasoning: "Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me, and honor not his father or his mother, he shall be free." Pedobaptists say: "If any persons be sprinkled in infancy, and be not baptized after they believe, it is sufficient." There is an exact parallel. Here you perceive the reasonings of men, in both instances, though opposed to the express command of God, are made the standard, instead of his Word. Would it not sound strange to hear a Pedobaptist minister urge his people to simply follow the teaching and example of Christ, in reference to baptism? Yet this is right; but this comes directly in contact with their tradition.
Now Baptists are opposed to tradition, any where and every where; whether they find it in the Church of Rome, or in Protestant churches. They aim to elevate the Word of God above tradition, as the standard of duty in all places. It is professedly the grand doctrine of Protestantiam which Protestants themselves have abandoned that Baptists steadily maintain. They aim to bring all to this standard. They, themselves, have always adhered to the Bible. Did any one ever hear of Baptists being charged with following tradition? The charge would be ridiculously absurd; for they have always opposed tradition as a guide in matters of religious duty.
From these remarks, it will be perceived, that while the subjects and mode of baptism is the external ground of difference between Baptists and others, that difference involves a great principle; and the primary question is not, Shall infants be baptized? but, whether God's Word or tradition shall be our guide. God has uttered his will in the matter. That will we follow, as we find it in his Word. Those who oppose us, by their own showing, follow tradition. We are laboring to effect a reform. In doing so we refer all to the Bible. We assert its supremaey above all human teaching, our own, as well as that of others.
This, then, is a prominent feature of the reform in which Baptists are engaged. And I observe it is most important and neeessary. Especially is it necessary
1. In combating error. If tradition be allowed in one particular, who will prohibit it in another? Romanism is gaining ground in this country; it is a religion of tradition. Who will oppose it? Those who are themselves trammeled by tradition? To every argument, they can retort, as they have done, "Where do you get your infant sprinkling?" The most staunch Romanist asks nothing more than the adoption of the principle, contained in the language already quoted, of a Protestant Pedobaptist in support of infant sprinkling: "We should consider a man who should refuse to adrnit the truth and authority of tradition, to be as unreasonable as if he should refuse to admit the truth, of written or printed reeords." No Pedobaptist can consistently oppose Romanism. There is no consistent position between the Romish and the Baptist church. Tradition 1eads to the one the Word of God to the other. Infidelity and Rationalism, also, are rearing their heads in our midst, and who shall meet them? Their cry is, "Priestcraft., and ministerial dictation!" Who shall meet them? Those who suffer their ministers to tell them what to believe, and to dictate wliether they shall investigate a subject or not? No! but those who are prepared, by an independent investigation, and a manly appeal to the Bible, to show the falsity of their charges. This feature of reform is neeessary
2. To the purity of the Church. No organization can be pure, without a pure standard. Tradition is liable to perversion; there is no certainty about it. To-day it assumes one position, to-morrow an opposite one. Thus it has ever been. The Church of Rome, though claiming infallibility, has constantly changed her ground of action, because governed by the variable standard of tradition. This is no less true of Protestant Pedobaptism. To-day, infants are sprinkled on one gronnd; to-morrow that ground is abandoned, and another, directly opposite to it, is urged, as a reason for administering the rite. Anon, both these are abandoned, and a new position, with a new set of arguments is introduced.
This is strikingly illustrated in the experience of Simon Menno, a Romish priest, who in 1580 was converted to Christ, and to Baptist sentiments, by reading the New Testaiaent. He says:
"I examined the Scriptures with diligence and meditated on them earnestly, but could find in them no authority for infant baptism. As I remarked this, I spoke of it to my pastor, and after several conversations he acknowledged that infant baptism had no ground in the Scriptures. Yet I dare not trust so much to my understanding. I consulted some ancient authors, who taught me that children must, by baptism, be washed from their original sin. This I compared with the Seriptures and perceived that it set at naught the blood of Christ. Afterward I went to Luther, and would gladly have known from him the ground; and he taught me that we must baptize children on their own faith, because they are holy. This also I saw was not according to God's Word. In the third place I went to Brucer, who taught me that we should baptize children in order to be able the rnore diligently to take care of them, and bring them up in the ways of the Lord. But, this too, I saw, was a groundless representation. In the fourth place I had recourse to Bullinger, who pointed me to the covenant of circumcision; but I found as before, that, according to Scripture, the practice could not stand. As I now on every side observed that the writers stood on grounds so very different, and each followed his own reason, I saw clearly that we were deceived with infant baptism."
the church be pure with such a contradictory guide as tradition? Never!
Finally, I inquire, Does the charge of the text lie against any of my Christian brethren? If you have neglected baptism since you believed, because you were sprinkled in infancy, it most assuredly does. Your sprinkling rests on tradition. The Bible says, "He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved." "Repent and be baptized, every one of you." If, because sprinkled in infancy, you refuse now to obey Christ, we say to you, in His own truthful langnage, "Thus have ye made the cornmandment of God of none effect by your tradition!"
 John xxi. 22, 23
 Lectures on Infant Baptism, p. 10, 11.
 Lectures on Infant Baptism, p. 17.
 This is strikingly illustrated in the celebrated Letters of "Kirwan" (Rev. Dr. Murray, a Protestant Pedobaptist) to Bishop Hughes. He says: "Once secure a just and scriptural view of the character of a true minister of Christ, and of the great end of a gospel ministry, and the whole framework of popery vanishes." "A true minister is one who, with the love of God and of the salvation of men filling his soul, goes out into all the ways which providence opens before him, preaching everywhere, as did Peter and Paul, 'repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.' He has only one object to lead men to the knowledge of the truth. He goes out with an open Bible, to expound. it, praying that the Holy Spirit may so apply its truths to the hearts of his hearers, that they may be created anew in Christ Jesus unto good works. To those who believe, he administers the rite of baptism, and, as God gives him opportunity, he administers the Lord's Supper to the faithful, for the purpose of commemorating the death of Christ, until he comes the second time without sin unto salvation. Such were the ministers of Christ before the rise of popery; and such only are the true ministers of Christ now." Kirwan's Letters to Bishop Hughes, Second Series, p. 90, 91.
No intelIigent reader need be reminded that this is language utterly at variance with Pedobaptist teaching and practice.
 Doctrinal Catechism of Catholic Faith and Practice, approved by the Most Rev. John Hughes, D. D., pp. 184-186.
 Lectures on Infant Baptism, p. 17.
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