committed to historic Baptist & Reformed beliefs

 

Baptismal Regeneration

Delivered on Sunday Morning, June 5th, 1864, by the

Rev. C. H. SPURGEON,

At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

 

"He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." Mark 16:15-16

In the preceding verse to the one I just read, we find our Lord Jesus Christ giving us some insight into the natural character, of the apostles whom he selected to be the first ministers of the Word. They were apparently men of like passions with us, and needed to be rebuked even as we do. When our Lord sent out the Eleven Apostles to preach the gospel to every creature, he "appeared to them as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen" (Mark 16:14). From this rebuke we can certainly conclude that to preach the Word, the Lord was contented to choose imperfect men; men, who in themselves, were very weak in the grace of faith, that very important quality which they should have excelled in.

Faith is the conquering grace, and is of all things the main prerequisite in the preacher of the Word; and yet the honored men who were chosen to be the leaders of the divine crusade needed a rebuke concerning their unbelief. Why was this? Why, my brethren? because the Lord has ordained evermore that we should have this treasure in jars of clay, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us. If you should find a perfect minister, then the praise and honor of his usefulness might accrue to man; but God is often pleased to select for eminent usefulness men who are obviously honest and sincere, but who have some evident weakness by which all the glory is taken away from them and laid upon God, and upon God alone.

Let it never be assumed that we who are God's ministers either excuse our faults or pretend to perfection. We labor to walk in holiness, but we cannot claim to be all that we wish to be. We do not base the claims of God's truth upon the spotlessness of our characters, but upon the fact that it comes from him. You have believed in spite of our weaknesses, and not because of our virtues; if, indeed, you had believed our word because of our supposed perfection, your faith would stand in the excellency of man and not in the power of God. We often come to you with much trembling, grieving over our foolishness and weaknesses, but we deliver to you God's Word as God's Word, and we implore you to receive it, not as coming from us poor, sinful mortals, but as proceeding from the Eternal, Holy and Triune God; and if you receive it this way, and by its own vital force are moved and stirred up towards God and his ways, then the work of the Word has been accomplished, which it could not and would not be if it rested in any way upon man.

Our Lord, after he had given us an insight into the character of the persons, whom he had chosen to proclaim his truth, then goes on to deliver to the chosen champions, their commission for the Holy War. I ask that you note the words with solemn care. He sums up in a few words the totality of their work, and at the same time foretells the result of it, telling them that some would doubtless believe and so be saved, and some on the other hand would not believe and would most certainly, therefore, be damned, that is, condemned forever to the punishment of God's wrath.

The lines containing the commission of our ascended Lord are certainly of the utmost importance, and demand devout attention and implicit obedience, not only from all who aspire to the work of the ministry, but also from all who hear the message of mercy. A clear understanding of these words is absolutely necessary to our success in our Master's work, for if we do not understand the commission, then it is not at all likely that we will carry it out properly. To alter these words would be more than impertinence, it would involve the crime of treason against the authority of Christ and the best interests of the souls of men. O for grace to be very watchful here.

Wherever the apostles went they met with obstacles to the preaching of the gospel, and the more open and effectual was the door of utterance the more numerous were the adversaries. These brave men wielded the sword of the Spirit and put to flight all their foes; and this they did not by skill and deception, but by making a direct cut at the error which confronted them. Never did they dream for a moment of adapting the gospel to the impure tastes or prejudices of the people, but at once directly and boldly they brought down with both their hands the mighty sword of the Spirit into the center of the opposing error.

Now, this morning, in the name of the Lord of Hosts, my Helper and Defense, I will attempt to do the same; and if I should provoke some hostility—if I should, through speaking what I believe to be the truth, lose the friendship of some and stir up the hatred of others, I cannot help it. The burden of the Lord is upon me, and I must deliver my soul. I have been reluctant to undertake the work, but I am forced to it by an awful and overwhelming sense of solemn duty. As I am soon to appear before my Master's court, I will this day, if ever in my life, bear my testimony for truth, and run all risks. I am content to be thrown out as evil if it must be so, but I cannot, I dare not, hold my peace. The Lord knows I have nothing in my heart but the purest love for the souls of those whom I feel urgently called to rebuke sternly in the Lord's name.

Among those who hear this sermon, a considerable number will criticize if not condemn me, but I cannot help it. If I forfeit your love for the sake of truth, then I am grieved for you, but I cannot, I dare not, do otherwise. My soul will not allow me to hold my peace any longer, and whether you approve or not I must speak out. Did I ever seek your approval? It is sweet to everyone to be applauded; but if for the sake of the comforts of respectability and the smiles of men any Christian minister will keep back a part of his testimony, his Master in the end will require an accounting. This day, standing in the immediate presence of God, I will speak honestly what I feel, as the Holy Spirit will enable me; and I will leave the matter with you to judge concerning it, as you will answer for that judgment at the last great day.

I find that the great error which we have to contend with throughout our country (and it is growing more and more), is one in direct opposition to my text, well known to you as the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. We will confront this doctrine with the assertion, that BAPTISM WITHOUT FAITH SAVES NO ONE. The text says, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;" but whether a man is baptized or not, it asserts that "whoever does not believe will be condemned," so that baptism does not save the unbeliever, no, it does not in any degree exempt him from the common doom of all the ungodly. He may be baptized, or he may not be baptized, but if he does not believe, then he will most certainly be damned. Let him be baptized by immersion or sprinkling, in his infancy, or in his adult life, regardless, if he has not put his trust in Jesus Christ—if he remains an unbeliever, then this terrible doom is pronounced upon him—"Whoever does not believe will be condemned."

I am not aware that any Protestant Church in England teaches the doctrine of baptismal regeneration except one, and that happens to be the denomination, which without much humility calls itself the Church of England. This very powerful denomination does not teach this doctrine merely through a small portion of its ministers, who might be considered as evil branches of the vine, but it openly, boldly, and plainly declares this doctrine in her own appointed standard, the Book of Common Prayer, and with words so clear, that no one could ever doubt the plain meaning of those words nor make them say anything else.

Here are the words: we quote them from the Catechism which is intended for the instruction of young people, and is naturally very plain and simple, since it would be foolish to trouble the young with abstract statements. The child is asked its name, and then questioned, "Who gave you this name?" "My godfathers and godmothers in my baptism; wherein I was made a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven." Isn’t this definite and plain enough? I value the words for their candor; they could not speak more clearly. Three times it is said, lest there should be any doubt about it. The word regeneration may, by some sort of juggling, be made to mean something else, but here there can be no misunderstanding. The child is not only made "a member of Christ"—but he is made in baptism "the child of God" also; and, since the rule is, "if children then heirs," he is also made "an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven." Nothing can be more plain. I venture to say that while honesty remains on earth the meaning of these words will never be disputed.

It is as clear as the noonday sun, that, the rule of the Church of England states, "Fathers, mothers, and masters, are to cause their children, servants, and helpers," no matter how idle, giddy, or wicked they may be, to cause them to learn the Catechism, and to say that in baptism they were made members of Christ and children of God.

The formal prayer required to be recited with the administration of this baptism is just as plain and outspoken, seeing that thanks are expressly given to Almighty God, because the person baptized is regenerate. "Then the priest will say, 'Seeing now, dearly beloved brethren, that this child is regenerate and grafted into the body of Christ's Church, let us give thanks unto Almighty God for these benefits; and with one accord make our prayers unto him, that this child may lead the rest of his life according to this beginning.'" Nor is this all, for there is no mistake as to what is meant here, we have the words of the thanksgiving prescribed, "Then the priest will say, 'We yield thee hearty thanks, most merciful Father, that it has pleased thee to regenerate this infant with thy Holy Spirit, to receive him for thine own child by adoption, and to incorporate him into thy holy Church.'"

This, then, is the clear and unmistakable teaching of the Church of England. I am not dealing at all with the question of infant baptism: I will have nothing to do with that this morning. I am now considering the question of baptismal regeneration, that is, can a person be saved by baptism, whether they adults or infants, or have been baptized by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion. Here we have a Church which teaches every Lord's day in the Sunday-school, and should, according to their own rules, teach openly in the Church, that all children were made members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven when they were baptized! Here is a allegedly Protestant Church, which, every time its minister goes to the baptismal font, declares that every person receiving baptism is then and there "regenerated and grafted into the body of Christ's Church."

"But," then I hear many good people assert, that "there are many good ministers in the Church of England who do not believe in baptismal regeneration." To this my answer is prompt. Why then do they belong to a Church which clearly teaches that doctrine? I am told that many in the Church of England preach against her own teaching. I know they do, and I rejoice in their wisdom, but I question, gravely question their ethics. To take an oath which requires me to honestly agree and consent to a doctrine which I do not believe, would to my conscience appear to be much like perjury, if not downright lying; but those who do so must be judged by their own Lord. For me to take money for defending what I do not believe—for me to take the money from a Church, and then to clearly preach against its doctrines—I say for me to do this, or for any other honest man to do so, would be a great atrocity. In fact, I would consider myself a man who lacked truthfulness, honesty, and common decency.

I say to the Elders of this Church, that when I accepted the office of minister of this congregation, I reviewed your articles of faith; if I had not believed them I would not have accepted your call, and if I ever change my opinions, you can be assured, that as an honest man I will resign the office, for how could I profess one thing in your declaration of faith, and quite another in my own preaching? Would I accept your pay, and then stand up every Sunday and talk against your doctrines? For ministers to swear or say that they give their solemn agreement and consent to what they do not believe is one of the grossest pieces of evil perpetrated in England, and is most deadly in its influence, since it directly teaches men to lie whenever it seems necessary to do so, in order to make a living or increase their supposed usefulness: it is in fact an open testimony from priestly lips that at least in ecclesiastical matters: lies may express truth, and truth itself is simply unimportant.

I know of nothing that can cause the loss of public trust more than a lack of truthfulness in ministers. When worldly men hear ministers denouncing the very things which their own Church doctrine teaches, then they assume that words have no meaning among ministers, and that vital differences in religion are merely a matter of tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum, and that it does not really matter what a man believes as long as he is charitable towards other people.

If baptism does, in fact, regenerate and save people, then let the fact be preached with a loud voice, and let no man be ashamed of his belief in it. If this is really their belief, then by all means let them have full liberty in its propagation. My brethren, those are honest ministers, who in this matter, uphold the doctrines of the Church, believing in baptismal regeneration, and plainly preach it. God forbid that we should condemn those who believe that baptism saves the soul, because they adhere to a Church which teaches the same doctrine.

Let us oppose their teaching by all Scriptural and intelligent means, but let us respect their courage in plainly giving us their views. I hate their doctrine, but I love their honesty; and because they speak what they believe to be true, then let them speak out, and the more clearly the better. Out with it, sirs, be it what it may, please let us know what you mean. For I love to stand foot to foot with an honest opponent. In open warfare, bold and honest hearts never object to being in disagreement. But it is the dishonest enemy which we must fear the most, and have the best reason to detest. That crafty kindness which lures me to sacrifice my principle is the snake in the grass—deadly to the unwary traveler. It is time that we should put an end to the association of honest men with those who believe one way and swear another. If men believe baptism saves people, then let them say so; but if they do not so believe it in their hearts, but continue to receive pay because they declare that they believe in all the Church’s doctrine, then let them find associates among men who can lie and mislead, for honest men will neither ask for, nor accept their friendship.

We ourselves are not unsure on this point, we declare that persons are not saved by being baptized. In such an audience as this, I am almost ashamed to go into the matter, because you surely know better than to be misled. Nevertheless, for the good of others we will discuss it.

We firmly believe that persons are not saved by baptism, for we understand, first of all, that it appears completely out of character with the spiritual religion, which Christ came to teach, that he should make salvation depend upon mere ceremony.

Judaism might possibly accept the ceremony as being essential to eternal life; for it was a religion of rituals and ceremony. The false religions of the heathen might teach salvation by a physical process, but Jesus Christ claims for his faith that it is purely spiritual, and how could he connect regeneration with a particular application of water to the body? I cannot see how it would be a spiritual gospel, but I can see how it would be mechanical: if I were sent out to teach that the mere dropping of so many drops of water upon the forehead, or the plunging of a person in water could save the soul. This seems to me to be the most mechanical religion now existing, and to be on a par with the praying windmills of Tibet, or the climbing up and down of Pilate's staircase to which Luther subjected himself in the days of his darkness.

The operation of water-baptism does not appear even to my faith to touch the point involved in the regeneration of the soul. What is the necessary connection between water and the overcoming of sin? I cannot see any connection which can exist between sprinkling, or immersion, and regeneration, so that the one will necessarily be tied to the other in the absence of faith. Without faith or even consciousness, as in the case of babies, how can spiritual benefits be connected necessarily with the sprinkling of water? If this is your teaching, that regeneration is a result of baptism, I say it looks like the teaching of a false Church, which has cleverly invented a mechanical salvation to deceive ignorant, and carnal minds, rather than the teaching of the most profoundly spiritual of all teachers, who rebuked Scribes and Pharisees for regarding outward rites as more important than inward grace.

But it strikes me that a more forcible argument is that the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration is not supported by facts.

Is every person who is baptized a child of God?

Well, let us look at the divine family. Let us note their resemblance to their glorious Parent! Am I untruthful if I say that thousands of those who were baptized as infants are now in our jails and prisons? You can verify the fact if you please, by asking prison authorities. Do you believe that these men, many of whom have been living lives of felony, burglary, or forgery, are regenerate? If so, the Lord deliver us from such regeneration. Are these criminals members of Christ? If so, Christ has been sadly altered since the day when he was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. Has he really taken baptized drunkards and prostitutes to be members of his body? Don’t you revolt at the idea? It is a well-known fact that baptized persons have been hanged. Surely it can hardly be right to hang the inheritors of the kingdom of heaven! Our sheriffs have much to answer for when they officiate at the execution of the children of God, and suspend the members of Christ on the gallows!

What a detestable farce it is, when at the graveside, "a dear brother" who has died drunk is buried with a "sure and certain hope of the resurrection of eternal life," and the prayer is read, that "when we will depart this life we may rest in Christ, just as our dear departed brother does." Here is a regenerate brother, who having defiled the society by constant wickedness and savage drunkenness, died without a sign of repentance, and yet the professed minister of God solemnly accords him funeral rites which are denied to unbaptized babies, and puts the reprobate into the earth with the "sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life."

Do we find—we who baptize on profession of faith, and baptize by immersion in a way which is confessed to be correct—do we who baptize in the name of the sacred Trinity as others do, do we find that baptism regenerates? We do not. Neither in the righteous nor the wicked do we find regeneration brought about by baptism. We have never met one believer, however instructed in divine things, who could trace his salvation to his baptism; and on the other hand, we confess it with sorrow, but still with no surprise, that we have seen those whom we have baptized ourselves, according to apostolic precedent, go back into the world and wander into the foulest sin, and their baptism has scarcely been a restraint to them, because they have not believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Facts all show that whatever good there may be in baptism, it certainly does not make a man "a member of Christ, the child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven," or else many thieves, prostitutes, drunkards, fornicators, and murderers, are members of Christ, the children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. Facts, brethren, are against this Roman Catholic doctrine; and facts are stubborn things.

Yet I am further persuaded that the actual act of baptism prescribed by the Church is not at all likely to regenerate and save.

How is the baptism done? One is very curious to know when one hears of an procedure which makes men members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven, exactly how it is done. It must in itself be a holy thing truthful in all its details, and edifying in every portion. Now, we will assume we have a group gathered around the water, and the process of regeneration is about to be performed. We would assume all of them to be godly people. The minister officiating is a profound believer in the Lord Jesus, and the father and mother are model Christians, and the godfathers and godmothers are all gracious persons. We will, in love, assume this—and it may even be a correct assumption. What are these godly people supposed to say? Let us look to the Church’s Prayer Book.

The minister is suppose to tell these people, "You have heard that our Lord Jesus Christ has promised in his gospel to grant all these things that you have prayed for: which he promised, and will most surely keep and perform. Wherefore, after this promise made by Christ, this infant must also faithfully, on his part, promise, by you, his representatives (until he comes of age to take it upon himself) that he will renounce the devil and all his works, and constantly believe God's holy Word, and obediently keep his commandments."

This small child is to promise to do this, or more truly others are to take upon themselves to promise, and even vow that he will do so. But we must not break the quotation, and therefore let us return to the Church’s Prayer Book, it continues, "I demand therefore, that you, in the name of this child, renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the carnal desires of the flesh, so that you will not follow, nor be led by them?" The godparents answer "I renounce them all." That is to say, on the name and behalf of this tender infant about to be baptized, these godly people, these enlightened Christian people, these who know better, who are not fools, who know all the while that they are promising impossibilities—renouncing on behalf of this child what they find very difficult to renounce in themselves—"all covetous desires of the world and the carnal desires of the flesh, so that they will not follow nor be led by them."

How can they harden their faces to utter such a false promise, such a mockery before the presence of the Almighty Father? Most likely angels weep as they hear the awful promise uttered! Then in the presence of heaven they profess on behalf of this child that he faithfully believes the creed, when they know, or might intelligently judge that the little creature is not yet a faithful believer in anything, much less in Christ. Note, they do not merely say that the baby will believe the creed, but they affirm that he does, for they answer in the child's name, "All this I faithfully believe." They don’t say, "we faithfully believe," but I, the little baby there, unconscious of all their professions and confessions of faith.

In answer to the question, "Will you be baptized in this faith?" they reply for the infant, "That is my desire." Surely the infant has no desire in the matter, and no one has been authorized to declare any desires on his behalf. But this is not all, for then these godly, intelligent people next promise on the behalf of the infant, that "he will obediently keep all God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of his life." Now, I ask you, dear friends, you who know what true religion means, can you walk in all God's holy commandments yourselves? Do you dare make this vow on your own part, that you would renounce the devil and all his works, the attractions and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh? Dare you, before God, make such a promise as that? You desire such holiness, you earnestly strive after it, but you look for it from God's promise, not from your own. If you dare make such vows I doubt your knowledge of your own hearts and of the spirituality of God’s law. But even if you could do this for yourself, would you venture to make such a promise for any other person? For the best-born infant on earth? Come, brethren, what do you say?

I can understand a simple, ignorant farmer, who has never learned to read, doing all of this at the command of a priest. I can even understand persons doing this when the Reformation was in its beginning, and men had barely crept out of the darkness of Roman Catholicism; but I cannot understand gracious, godly people, standing at the baptismal font, insulting the all-gracious Father with vows and promises based on fiction and lies. How can intelligent believers in Christ, dare to utter words, which they know in their conscience to be wicked and opposed to truth? I have a confirmed belief that the God of truth never did and never will confirm a spiritual blessing of the highest order in connection with the utterance of such false promises and untruthful vows. My brethren, does it not strike you that declarations so fictitious are not likely to be connected with a new birth brought about by the Spirit of truth?

I have not finished with this point yet, I want us to look at another example. Suppose the sponsors and others are ungodly, and that is not a difficult assumption, for in many cases we know that godfathers and parents have no more thought of religion than that idolatrous baptismal font which they gather around. When these sinners have taken their places, what are they about to say? Why, they are about to make the solemn vows I have already recounted to you! They are totally irreligious, but yet they promise for the baby what they never did, and never thought of doing for themselves—they promise on behalf of this child, "that he will renounce the devil and all his works, and constantly believe God's holy Word, and obediently keep his commandments."

My brethren, do not think I that I am speaking too harshly. I really think there is something here to cause devils to mock Christianity. Let every honest man grieve, that God's Church should tolerate such a thing as this, and that there should be found gracious people who will feel grieved because I, in all kindness of heart, rebuke the atrocity. Unregenerate sinners promising for a poor baby that he will keep all of God's holy commandments, which they themselves flagrantly break every day! How can anything but the patience of God endure this? What! Do you expect me not to speak against it? The very stones in the street would cry out against the disgrace of wicked men and women, promising that another should renounce the devil and all his works, while they themselves serve the devil and do his works with greediness! As a climax to all of this, I am asked to believe that God accepts that wicked promise, and as the result of it, regenerates that child. You cannot believe in regeneration by this procedure, regardless of whether saints or sinners are the performers. If they are godly, then they are wrong for doing what their conscience must condemn. If they are ungodly, then they are wrong for promising what they know they cannot perform; and in either case, God cannot accept such worship, much less provide spiritual regeneration through such a baptism as this.

But you will say "Why do you preach out against it?" I preach out against it because I believe that baptism does not save the soul, and that the preaching of such a doctrine has a wrong and evil influence upon men and women. We meet with persons who, when we tell them that they must be born again, assure us that they were born again when they were baptized. The number of these persons is increasing, fearfully increasing, until all levels of society are misled by this belief. How can any man stand up in his pulpit and say "You must be born again" to his congregation, when he has already assured them, by his own "genuine approval and consent" to it, that they are themselves, every one of them, born again in baptism. What is he to do with them? Why, my dear friends, the gospel then has no voice; they have rammed this ceremony down its throat and it cannot any longer speak to rebuke sin. The man who has been baptized or sprinkled says, "I am saved, I am a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven. Who are you, that you should rebuke me? Who are you that you would call me to repentance? And call me to a new life? What better life can I have? for I am a member of Christ—a part of Christ's body. What! rebuke me? I am a child of God. Can’t you see it in my face? No matter what my walk and conversation is, I am a child of God. Moreover, I am an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven. It is true, that I drink and swear, and all of that, but you know I am an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven, for when I die, though I live in constant sin, you will put me in the grave, and tell everybody that I died with a sure and certain hope of resurrection to eternal life."

Now, I ask you, what can be the result of such preaching as this upon our beloved England? Upon my dear and blessed country? The result would be the worst of evils? If I did not love her, but loved myself more, then I might be silent here, but, loving England, I cannot and dare not; and having soon to render an account before my God, whose servant I hope I am, I must free myself from this evil as well as from every other, or else on my head may be the doom of souls.

Now, let me bring in another point. It is a most fearful fact, that in no age since the Reformation has the Roman Catholic Church made such fearful strides in England as during the last few years.

I had comfortably believed that Roman Catholicism was only feeding itself upon foreign converts, upon a few christened perverts, and imported monks and nuns. I dreamed that its progress was not real. In fact, I have often smiled at the alarm of many of my brethren at the progress of Roman Catholicism. But, my dear friends, we have been mistaken, grievously mistaken. If you will read a valuable article in the magazine called "Christian Work," those of you who are not acquainted with it will be perfectly startled at its revelations. This great city is now covered with a network of monks, and priests, and sisters of mercy, and the conversions made are not by ones or twos, but by scores, till England is being regarded as the most hopeful spot for Roman Catholic missionary enterprise in the whole world; and at the present moment there is not a mission which is succeeding anything like the extent to which the English mission is. I do not covet their money, I despise their tricky reasoning, but I marvel at the way in which they gain their funds for the erection of their ecclesiastical buildings.

It really is an alarming matter to see so many of our countrymen going off to that superstition which as a nation we once rejected, and which it was supposed we would never receive it again. Roman Catholicism is making advances such as you would never believe. Close to your very doors, perhaps even in your own houses, you may have evidence of what a progression Catholicism is making. And to what can it be ascribed to? I say, with every ground of probability, that it is no marvel that Roman Catholicism should increase when you have two things to make it grow: first of all, the lie of those who profess a faith which they do not believe, which is quite contrary to the honesty of the Roman Catholic, who does, no matter what, hold to his faith; and then you have, secondly, this form of error known as baptismal regeneration. You have this baptismal regeneration preparing stepping-stones to make it easy for men and women to step into Roman Catholicism.

I only have to open my eyes a little to predict that Roman Catholicism will become rampant everywhere in the future, since its germs are spreading everywhere in the present. Last Tuesday, in one of our courts of legislature, the Lord Chief Justice showed his superstition, by speaking of "the risk of the calamity of children dying unbaptized!" Among the Protestants, you see a veneration for structures, a modified belief in the sacredness of places, which is idolatry; for to believe in the sacredness of anything but of God and of his own Word, is to idolize, whether it is to believe in the sacredness of the men, the priests, or in the sacredness of the bricks and mortar, or of the fine linen, or what not, which you may use in the worship of God. I see this everywhere—a belief in ceremony, a resting in ceremony, a veneration for altars, baptismal fonts, and Churches—a veneration so profound that if we even attempt to speak out against it, then we are quickly regarded as the chief of sinners.

Here is the essence and soul of Roman Catholicism, being dressed up in the clothing of decent respect for sacred things. It is impossible to stop the spread of the Roman Catholic Church, when we who are the watchdogs of the fold are silent, and others are gently and smoothly preparing the road, and making it as soft and smooth as possible, that converts may travel down to the lowest hell of Catholicism. We need John Knox back again. Do not talk to me of mild and gentle men, of soft manners and modest words, we want the fiery Knox, and even though his passion would turn our pulpits into swords, it would be good if he stimulated our hearts to action. We want Luther to tell men the unmistakable truth, in simple language. Lately, our ministers mouths have become lined with velvet, but we must remove the soft fabric, and truth must be spoken, and nothing but truth. Of all the lies which have dragged millions down to hell, I look upon this as being one of the most atrocious—that in a Protestant Church there should be found those who swear that baptism saves the soul. Call a man a Baptist, or a Presbyterian, or a Dissenter from the Church of England, or a Minister, that is nothing to me—if he says that baptism saves the soul, then out with him, out with him, he states what God never taught, what the Bible never laid down, and what ought never to be perpetuated by men who profess that the Bible, and the whole Bible, is the religion of Protestants.

I have spoken a lot on this subject, and there will be some who will say, that I have spoken with bitterness. Very well, let it be so. Medicine is often bitter, but it will work the healing, and the physician is not bitter because his medicine is; or if he is considered bitter, it will not matter, so long as the patient is cured. No matter what the situation is, it is no business of the patient whether the physician is bitter or not, his business is with the heath of his own soul. There is the truth, and I have told it to you; and if there is one among you, who is resting on baptism, or resting upon ceremonies of any sort, I beg you, shake off this venomous faith into the fire as Paul did the viper which fastened on his hand. I pray that you do not rest on baptism.

"No outward forms can make you clean,

The leprosy lies deep within."

I do plead with you to remember that you must have a new heart and a right spirit, and that baptism cannot give you these. You must turn from your sins and follow after Christ; you must have a faith that will make your life holy and your speech devout, or else you do not have the faith of God's elect, and therefore you will never come into God's kingdom. I pray that you never rest upon this wretched and rotten foundation, this deceitful invention of antichrist. O, may God save you from it, and bring you to seek the true rock of refuge for weary souls.

In the second place, I come with much brevity, and I hope with much earnestness, to say that FAITH IS THE INDISPENSABLE REQUIREMENT FOR SALVATION. "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned."

Faith is the one indispensable requirement for salvation. This faith is the gift of God. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. Some men do not believe in Jesus; they do not believe because they are not Christ's sheep, as he himself said to them; but his sheep will listen to his voice: he knows them and they will follow him: he gives to them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one can snatch them out of his hand.

What is this believing? Believing consists in two things; first there is an acceptance of the testimony of God concerning his Son.

God tells you that his Son came into the world and was made flesh, that he lived upon earth for men's sake, that after having spent his life in holiness he was offered up as a propitiation for sin, that on the cross he then and there made atonement—made atonement for the sins of the world that "Whosoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life." If you want to be saved, you must accept this testimony which God gives concerning his own Son.

Having received this testimony, the next thing to do is to trust in it.

Indeed here lies, I think, the essence of saving faith, to base your eternal salvation upon the atonement and the righteousness of Jesus Christ, to forever forsake all reliance upon feelings or upon works, and to trust in Jesus Christ and in what he did for your salvation.

This is faith, receiving the truth of Christ: first, knowing it to be true, and then acting upon that belief. Such a faith as this—such real faith as this makes the man from this time on, hate sin. How can he love the thing which made the Savior bleed? It makes him live in holiness. How can he but seek to honor that God who has loved him so much, as to give his Son to die for him. This faith is spiritual in its nature and effects; it operates upon the entire man; it changes his heart, enlightens his judgment, and subdues his will; it subjects him to God's supremacy, and makes him receive God's Word as a little child, willing to receive the truth as spoken by the divine One; it sanctifies his intellect, and makes him willing to be taught God's Word; it cleanses within; it makes clean the inside of the cup and platter, and it beautifies the outside; it cleanses the exterior conduct and the inner motive, so that the man, if his faith is true and genuine, becomes forever more, a different man then he ever was before.

I believe it is reasonable that such a faith as this can save a soul; yes, in fact, I am absolutely certain, for we have seen men and women saved by it in this church. We have seen the harlot lifted out of the hellish ditch of her sin, and made an honest woman; we have seen the thief reclaimed; we have known drunkards in hundreds of cases, to be made sober; we have observed faith working such changes, that all the neighbors who have seen it have gazed and admired, even though they hated it; we have seen faith deliver men in the hour of temptation, and help them to consecrate themselves and their body to God; we have seen, and still hope to yet see more widely, deeds of heroic consecration to God and public witnessing against the common current of the times, which have proved to us that faith does affect the man, does save the soul.

My friends, if you want to be saved, you must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let me urge you with all my heart to look nowhere but to the crucified Christ for your salvation. Oh! if you rest on any ceremony, even though it is not baptism—if you rest on any other than Jesus Christ, you must perish, as surely as this Bible is true. I pray that you do not believe every spirit, and even if I, or an angel from heaven, would preach any other doctrine than this, let him be accursed, for this, and this alone, is the soul-saving truth which will regenerate the world—"Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved." Away with all the relics, wax candles, and vestments of Catholicism! away with all the splendid ceremony of the Roman Catholic Church! away with all the baptismal fonts! We invite you to turn your eyes to that naked cross, where hangs, as a bleeding man, the Son of God.

"None but Jesus, none but Jesus

Can do helpless sinners any good."

There is life to be found when we look at the crucified; there is life at this moment for you. In any among you can believe in the great love of God towards man in Christ Jesus, then you will be saved. If you can believe that our great Father in heaven desires us to come to him—that he pants for us—that he calls us every day with the loud voice of his Son's wounds; if you can believe now that in Christ there is pardon for past sins, and cleansing for years to come; if you can trust him to save you, then you already have the marks of regeneration. The work of salvation is begun in you, so far as the Spirit's work is concerned: it is finished in you so far as Christ's work is concerned.

O, I plead with you—embrace Jesus Christ. This is the foundation: build on it. This is the rock of refuge: fly to it. I pray that you fly to it now. Life is short: time speeds with eagle's-wing. Swift as the dove pursued by the hawk, fly, fly poor sinner, to God's dear Son; now touch the hem of his garment; now look into that dear face, once marred with sorrows for you; look into those eyes, once shedding tears for you. Trust him, and if you find him false, then you must perish; but false you never will find him while this word stands true, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." God give us this vital, essential faith, without which there is no salvation. It makes no difference if you were baptized, re-baptized, circumcised, confirmed, received all the sacraments, and buried in consecrated ground—yet, you will all perish unless you believe in him. The word is explicit and plain—he that believes not may plead that his baptism saved him, he may plead anything he likes, "But whoever does not believe will be condemned;" for there is nothing for him but the wrath of God, the flames of hell, eternal damnation. So Christ declares, and so it must be.

But now to close, there are some who say, "Ah! but baptism is in the text; where do you put that?" That will be our last point, and then we will be done.

THE BAPTISM IN THE TEXT IS CLEARLY CONNECTED WITH FAITH. "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved."

It strikes me, that there is no presumption here, that it is not presumed that anybody would be baptized who did not believe; or, if there is such a assumption, it is very clearly laid down that his baptism will be of no use to him, for he will be damned, baptized or not, unless he believes. The baptism of the text seems to me—my brethren, if you differ from me I am sorry for it, but I must hold my opinion and express it—it seems to me that baptism is connected with, no, directly follows belief. I would not insist too much upon the order of the words, but for other reasons, I think that baptism should follow believing. At any rate it effectually avoids the error we have been combating. A man who knows that he is saved by believing in Christ does not, when he is baptized, lift his baptism into a saving ordinance. In fact, he is the very best protester against that mistake, because he holds that he has no right to be baptized until he is saved. He bears a testimony against baptismal regeneration in his being baptized as an already regenerate person. Brethren, the baptism here meant is a baptism connected with faith, and to this baptism I will admit there is very much ascribed in Scripture. Into that question I am not going; but I do find some very remarkable passages in which baptism is spoken of very strongly. I find this— "Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name." I find as much as this elsewhere; I know that believer's baptism itself does not wash away sin, yet it is the outward sign and emblem of it to the believer, that the thing visible may be described as the thing signified. Just as our Savior said—"This is my body," when it was not his body, but bread; yet, inasmuch as it represented his body, it was fair and right, according to the usage of language to say, "Take, eat, this is my body." And so, inasmuch as baptism to the believer represents the washing away of sin—it may be called the washing away of sin—not that it is so, but that it is to saved souls the outward symbol and representation of what is done by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the man or woman who believes in Christ.

What connection does this baptism have with faith? I think it has just this, baptism is the confession of faith.

The man was Christ's soldier, but now in baptism he puts on his uniform and insignia. The man believed in Christ, but his faith remained between God and his own soul. In baptism he says to the baptizer, "I believe in Jesus Christ;" he says to the Church, "I unite with you as a believer in the common truths of Christianity;" he says to the onlooker, "Whatever you may do, as for me, I will serve the Lord." It is the confession of his faith.

Next, we think baptism is also to the believer a testimony of his faith.

In baptism, he tells the world what he believes. "I am about," he says, "to be buried in water. I believe that the Son of God was symbolically baptized in suffering: I believe he was literally dead and buried." In baptism, the rising of the person out of the water, declares to all men that he believes in the resurrection of Christ. There is a picture in the Lord's Supper of Christ's death, and there is a picture in baptism of Christ's burial and resurrection. It is a type, a sign, a symbol, a mirror to the world: a mirror in which religion is reflected. We say to the onlooker, when he asks what is the meaning of this ordinance, "It is meant to show you that we believe that Christ was buried, and that he rose again from the dead, and we earnestly declare this death and resurrection to be the basis of our trust."

Again, baptism is also Faith taking her proper place.

It is, or should be one of the first acts of obedience. Reason looks at baptism, and says, "Perhaps there is nothing in it; it cannot do me any good." "True," says Faith, "and therefore I will observe it. If it did me some good my selfishness would make me do it, but inasmuch as to my sense there is no good in it, since I am commanded by my Lord to fulfil all righteousness, it is my first public declaration that a thing which looks to be unreasonable and seems to be unprofitable, being commanded by God, is law, is law to me. If my Master had told me to pick up six stones and lay them in a row I would do it, without asking him, "What good will it do?" Why? (Cui bono?) is not a fit question for soldiers of Jesus. The very simplicity and apparent uselessness of the ordinance should make the believer say, "Therefore I will do it because it becomes a better test to me, a test of my obedience to my Master." When you tell your servant to do something, and he cannot understand why, if he turns around and says, "Please, sir, what for?" you are quite clear that he hardly understands the relationship between master and servant. So when God tells me to do something, if I say, "What for?" I cannot have taken the place which Faith ought to occupy, which is that of simple obedience to whatever the Lord has said. Baptism is commanded, and Faith obeys because it is commanded, and thus takes her proper place.

Once more, baptism is a refreshment to Faith.

While we are made up of body and soul as we are, we will need some means by which the body will sometimes be stirred up to co-work with the soul. In the Lord's Supper my faith is assisted by the outward and visible sign. In the bread and in the wine I see no superstitious mystery, I see nothing but bread and wine, but in that bread and wine I do see my faith an as assistant. Through the sign, my faith sees the thing signified. So in baptism there is no mysterious efficacy [or saving grace] in the baptistry or in the water. We attach no reverence to the one or to the other, but we do see in the water and in the baptism such an assistance as brings home to our faith most manifestly our being buried with Christ, and our rising again in newness of life with him. Explain baptism this way, dear friends, and there is no fear of Roman Catholicism rising out of it. Explain it this way, and we cannot suppose any soul will be led to trust in it for salvation; but it takes its proper place among the ordinances of God's church.

To lift up baptism in the other way, and say men are saved by it—ah! my friends, how much damage that one fabrication has done and may do, eternity alone will disclose. I pray to God that another George Fox would spring up with all his quaint simplicity and rude honesty to rebuke the idol-worship of this age; to harshly criticize their holy bricks and mortar, holy lecterns, holy alters, holy vestments and robes, and their use of the term "the right reverend fathers," and I know not what else. These things are not holy. God is holy; his truth is holy; holiness belongs not to the carnal and the material, but to the spiritual. O that a clear bold voice would cry out against the superstition of the age. I cannot, as George Fox did, give up baptism and the Lord's Supper, but I would infinitely sooner do it, counting it the smaller mistake of the two than perpetrate and assist in perpetrating the uplifting of baptism and the Lord's Supper out of their proper place.

O my beloved friends, those in partnership with my struggles and witnessings, cling to the salvation of faith, and abhor the salvation of priests. If I am not mistaken, the day will come when we will have to fight for a simple spiritual religion far more than we do now. We have been cultivating friendship with those who are either unscriptural in creed or else dishonest, who either believe baptismal regeneration, or profess that they do, and swear before God that they do when they do not. The time has come when there will be no more truce or negotiation between God's servants and those who are wasting time. The time has come when those who follow God must follow God, and those who try to trim and dress themselves and find out a way which is pleasing to the flesh and gentle to carnal desires, must go their way.

A great time of separation is coming to God's saints, and we will be more distinct, one of these days than we are now, from union with those who are upholding Roman Catholicism, under the pretence of teaching Protestantism. We will be distinct, I say, of those who teach salvation by baptism, instead of salvation by the blood of our blessed Master, Jesus Christ. O may the Lord prepare you for the battle. Believe me, it is no small thing. It may be that on this ground Armageddon will be fought. Here will come the great battle between Christ and his saints on the one hand, and the world, and forms, and ceremonies, on the other. If we are overcome here, there may be years of blood and persecution, and tossing back and forth between darkness and light; but if we are brave and bold, and do not flinch here, but stand on God's truth, the future of England may be bright and glorious. O for a truly reformed Church in England, and a godly race to maintain it! The world's future depends on it under God, for in proportion as truth is marred at home, truth is maimed abroad.

Out of any system which teaches salvation by baptism must spring infidelity, an infidelity which the false Church already seems willing to nourish and foster beneath her wing. God save this favored land from the offspring of her own established religion. Brethren, stand firm in the liberty with which Christ has made you free, and do not be afraid of any sudden fear or calamity when it comes, for he who trusts in the Lord, mercy will surround him, and he who is faithful to God and Christ will hear it said in the end, "Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your master's happiness!" May the Lord bless this word for Christ's sake. Amen.

 
 
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