My opponent attempts to prove, that baptism cannot be the means of regeneration, because water is a natural thing. The weakness thereof is shewn. A reply to what he says, with respect to the many who have been baptised ; and yet, remained unregenerated. He argues, that because we get remission for sins by repentance ; that therefore, baptism is not the means of regeneration. This is also examined. Lastly a reply to his criticism on 1 Cor. 1, 14-17.
In this section I shall consider some of Mr. M’s arguments, which he alleges as positive objections, to prove that baptism is not the means of regeneration.
1. He says, p. 6. “Regeneration is a spiritual birth, which takes place in the soul or spirit of man ; therefore, that which is natural cannot beget and produce that which is spiritual: every thing must beget and produce its like. Water is a natural thing, therefore cannot produce a spiritual birth.”
Answer. No one denies, that water is a natural thing, and as such it cannot produce a spiritual birth. But what is it to prove ?—that baptism is not the means of regeneration? It appears, to have been introduced for this purpose. Water is a natural thing, and as such cannot produce that which is spritual ; therefore, baptism cannot be the means of regeneration ! Such logick is false. Baptism does not consist of mere water, it is the most insignificant part thereof; for its substance is God’s name, and command. Now, to give a fair statement, the argument ought to stand thus: God’s name, and command are spiritual, and they are the substance of baptism ; therefore, as every thing begets and produces its like, baptism must produce the spiritual birth. But it appears, by some misfortune, my opponent got a film over his eyes; that although, his own brethren, when they baptise, use the name of God ; (and perhaps also he does it himself) yet, he can see nothing but water!
2. He says, p. 8, 9, “After the Christian religion became established by civil authority, men of corrupt minds came into the ministry for the sake of gain ; then it was that this opinion, among other errors, crept into the church, viz : that water baptism was regeneration. Hence scores, and hundreds, became Christians, joined the church, and got regenerated in this way. But were they any better, after they were thus regenerated, and became Christians, than they were before? Not a whit. For the most of them were as wicked as they were while in a state of heathenism. Hence that persecuting spirit that crept into the church ; and men, under the sacred name of Christians, would persecute, torment, kill and destroy their fellow men, just as bad as the heathens. And all this, for the crime of a little difference of opinion in some points of doctrine, & mode of external worship. Hence also the institution of the holy inquisition, which was a scandal to civil society, and a disgrace to human nature. These were some of the good fruits which those Christians brought forth, who were regenerated by Mr H’s ”heavenly flood.” And as like causes always produce like effects, we may be at liberty to think, that if he and his adherents get no better regeneration than what he talks about, that although he calls them Gods in his piece, page 15, yet their fruit will be no great deal better than those formerly were.”
Answer. There is no consistency in asserting, that because many of the Papists abused the baptismal grace ; that therefore, the doctrine I maintain is false, This is the argument, which deists employ, to oppose the Christian religion, they say, many of the bishops and priests were tyrants, and that Christianity has been the cause of many evils, and bloody wars; hence, conclude that it is nothing but priest-craft. Provided my opponent is not a deist, what would he answer to such an objection? Would he not say, what have prelacy, and tyranny to do with Christianity :—does the abuse of a thing, prove that the thing itself is bad ? Religion is not the cause of wars, nor other evils ; but corrupted men, who under its sacred garb ; notwithstanding, its benign precepts are governed by their evil passions. As little as Religion is the cause of wars, among those who profess it ; just so little is the doctrine of baptism, here in question, of the abominations which Mr. M. mentions. That many of the Papists made baptism, and other holy things, their panders, is no proof at all of their invalidity. My opponent exhorts his readers, to pray, that they might obtain the knowledge of the pardon of their sins, &c. and the Methodists practise fasting. Who prayed and fasted more than the Papists? But would he conclude, that all those persons, who fast, and pray, will have no better fruits than such Papists, who hoisted the bloody flag of persecution? If it be a proof, that because the Papists were baptised, believing it to be the means of regeneration, and yet continued wicked, that such a doctrine is false ; it equally follows, that praying with a view to obtain pardon for sins, must be false ; because the Papists prayed for this purpose, and continued wicked.
That he say, if I and my adherents get no better regeneration, our fruits will be no better than those of the Papists, who tormented, and killed their fellow men, as bad as the heathens, is casting the most clandestine personal reflections. Why did he not point out, wherein I and my adherents manifested such bloody persecuting works, like unto the inquisitors among the Papists; so that we might have defended ourselves? It is beneath the dignity of a gentleman, to make any criminal insinuations. It betrays a cowardly spirit, who wishes to injure another’s good reputation with impunity. If he know such conduct, let him specify the charges, and then he may have an opportunity of proving them. By my adherents, I do not know, whom he can mean ; except they be my Lutheran brethren, who believe this doctrine. I disclaim this partial honour. I am neither the first, nor the only man, who maintains this doctrine. Luther the great Reformer diligently inculcated it. So did the apostles, and many of the primitive Christians. It is readily admitted, that all Lutherans are sinners ; although, some of them are also saints; and they rejoice, that they know it; for as such they have a Saviour : but for a trial, to ascertain whether they have no better fruits than such Papists, who persecute and kill their fellow men, I appeal in their and my behalf, from Mr. Moore’s tribunal, to an impartial publick. But are Mr. M. and his Methodist brethren no sinners?—that so many of them exclaim, with imperious language: there are many wicked Lutherans, who are utter strangers to the inward work, and are not going on unto perfection! O my Methodist friends! whereas I perceive, that many of you are almost ready, to thank God, that you are not such sinners as the Lutherans, who depend so much upon the divine promises, made to them in baptism, I indeed pity you, that you are no such sinners in your own view; for sinners only can have an interest in Christ, who is the Saviour of the lost ; the righteousness of the ungodly, to justify them, and the resurrection, and life of the dead ; for they that be whole need not the physician.
Mr. M also says. p. 10, “The case of Simon the sorcerer, recorded Acts 8, 18, 28, will fully establish this point. It is said Simon himself also believed, and was baptised, v. 13, i.e. he believed the doctrine which Philip preached, and in that faith was baptised : but he was not regenerated, for Peter said to him, I perceive that thou art still in the gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity.” Hence he had never been regenerated. Therefore, water baptism is not regeneration, &c.”
Answer. My opponent has said, that the preaching of the gospel is the ordinary means of regeneration. Now, Simon also heared the gospel preached, and was not regenerated; therefore, preaching of the gospel cannot be the means : so that, if this prove any thing against baptism, it does the same against preaching of the gospel ; and if it be against me, it is equally against himself. To say, if baptism were a means of regeneration, there would not be so many wicked people, that are baptised, as they would all be regenerated, has become a vulgar cant, and passes for a good argument ; whereas in reality it is only calculated to overthrow every thing that is sacred. For if this be a good reason, that baptism is not a means of regeneration, because there are wicked baptised ; then I may argue with equal propriety and plausibility: prayer is a useless exercise ; because there are many, who pray, and yet continue hypocrites—there is not the least virtue in preaching the gospel ; because there are many who hear it, and yet frequent unlawful assemblies—the holy scriptures are not the word of God ; because there are many, who read them, yet are and remain infidels—the Holy Ghost himself, cannot be a divine energy ; because the Jews, and many thousands beside, with whom he strove, were not turned, nor regenerated! Neither a deist, nor an atheist, could have invented a more diabolical objection, to overthrow the Christ an religion, than the one alleged by my opponent, against the doctrine of baptism, here in question. Many people possess such crude, and barbarous minds, that they, imagine, if baptism is to do any good, it must be like some carnel medicine, which if only applied, will operate physically, without any mental acquiescence; and when they cannot perceive a sudden, sensible alteration, they conclude, that it is nothing, but a shadow; and then in the most savage like manner, blaspheme this blessed institution. The mind of a man, is not like a weathercock on a spike, which is moved by the violence of the winds, without being capable of making any resistance; so that we are not to conclude, that if baptism possess regenerating virtues, it must infallibly, and irresistibly regenerate every one, to whom it is administered. Baptism is a spiritual means ; hence, the design of its operations is not physical, but spiritual ; it therefore, can only prove salutary, where it does not meet with too much opposition. It must alas! be admitted, that many of the baptised do not walk in newness of life; yet, this is no evidence of the deficiency of baptism; but only, that they stifle its blessed operations
3. Mr. M. says p. 10, 11, “Our Lord declares, ‘except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.’ Luke 13, 3, 5. And St. Paul says, ‘God commands all men every where to repent.’ Acts 17—And also to the elders of the church at Ephesus, he said, ‘that he had kept back nothing that was profitable unto you ; but shewed publickly from house to house, testifying both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance towards God, and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Acts 20, 20,21. Wherefore, says he, ‘I take you to record, that I am pure from the blood of all men, for I have not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God.’ verses 26, 27. Those scriptures undeniably prove, that water baptism is not regeneration, nor the ordinary means ; because it is by repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, that we obtain this blessing. Now, baptism is neither repentance nor faith ; because many have been baptised, who never repented nor believed ; and many have repented and believed, so as to be regenerated and born again, who never had been baptised. Therefore, water baptism is not regeneration, nor the ordinary means
Peter say, ‘Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord’ Acts 3, 19. Here note, we have to repent and be converted, in order to be regenerated ; then it is that all our sins are blotted out, and the refreshing showers of divine grace come into our souls, not from water baptism, but from the presence of the Lord. From the above quoted passages of scripture, it is evident that water baptism is not regeneration, neither a heavenly flood of, nor ordinary means by which we obtain this blessing; but we have to repent, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, with the heart unto righteousness, in order to be regenerated, and born again by a spiritual birth. Without which we shall likewise perish, whether baptised or not baptised with water.”
Answer. No man I presume denies, that faith and repentance are necessary for the remission of sins; and also, the most superficial mind perceives, that neither of them is baptism. Has not my opponent asserted, that the preaching of the gospel is the means of regeneration ? now in the same manner he proves, that baptism is not the means, so I can prove, that preaching the gospel is not; for who does not know, that faith, and repentance are not preaching the gospel? In the same manner, I may also prove, that we cannot be saved by Christ; for we are to be regenerated by faith and repentance: now Christ is not faith, nor repentance ; therefore, we are not saved by Christ! Most horrid logick! It does not stop here; I may apply it further, viz: we cannot be regenerated by the Holy Ghost; because it is by repentance, and faith ; but the Holy Ghost is neither ; therefore, we cannot be regenerated by him. It is not necessary to prove, that baptism is faith and repentance, to establish the point in question. It is sufficient if it be proven, that baptism is the means, by which the spirit operates on a sinner, to produce repentance, by which we obtain pardon for sin: now that which is a means to produce repentance, is certainly the means of regeneration. The same maybe said of Christ, the Holy Ghost, and the preaching of the gospel. Christ sends the spirit ; the spirit operates through the gospel, to produce repentance ; and by repentance we obtain the remission for sins : and thus although, the scriptures ascribe it to repentance ; yet, it is easily perceived, that this does not exclude causes and means to produce repentance. Had my opponent proved, that baptism is no means, by which the spirit operates, then only could he have proved that it was not a means of regeneration. But as he has not done this, his argument is a barefaced sophism, by which he does not only, exclude baptism as the means ; but also, Christ, the spirit, and the preaching of the gospel. That baptism is the means has already been partly established, and shall yet further be illustrated and confirmed.
In this place I deem it expedient, and my duty, to reply to a false representation made by many, especially among the Methodists, against the Lutheran doctrines, and community. Such represent Lutherans as poor, ignorant, carnal people, without any knowledge of the inward work of the spirit; and that the most of their preachers, assert if one only be baptised with a little water, catechised, and receive the Lord’s supper, one shall infallibly be saved, without any repentance. They then like Mr M. quote sundry passages of scripture, to prove the necessity of repentance ; and when this is done, they imagine, they proved away the importance of baptism ; and to finish their declamation, add, if Lutherans do not repent, and experience the pardon for sins, they will all go to hell ; notwithstanding, their water baptism! It is admitted, that there are too many unregenerated sinners, who are called Lutherans, the same as there are, too many subtile hypocrites, among the Methodists : but I deny, that all the Lutherans are strangers to the new life in Christ; and I declare it as slander, that their confession books : or, that their ministers teach; or, that it is an opinion, which is generally received among them ; that if the sinner only be baptised, &c. that without repentance he shall be saved. Our symbolical books, many other treatises, written in our church, and our sermons insist on repentance ; although, we teach that baptism is the means of regeneration. The spirit by baptism as a means operates on the sinner, to effect repentance ; hence, the remission for sins ; this is the design for which we administer it; and if properly applied, and the operations thereof, be not too vioently, and incessantly resisted, will produce these blessings. Would not those Methodists consider us unfair, and censorious, if we would conclude, that because they preach and pray, and have sundry other exercises, that therefore, they deny the inward work of the spirit ; and if we would tell them, if you do not repent, you will go to hell, with all your preaching, praying and exercises? Would they not reply: we very well know, without being told, that repentance is necessary, and for this reason we preach, pray, &c. to produce it. As this undoubtedly would be treating them in an unfair, and ungodly manner; equally so unfair, such treat the Lutherans, by palming it on them, as if they denied the inward work of the spirit, when this is the very design, for which they administer baptism.
4. Mr. M. says p. 8, 9, 10, “The first passage I will call your attention to, is in 1st Cor. 1. 11, 17. where Paul said, ‘I thank God, that I baptised none of you. but Crispus and Gaius; and also the household of Stephanus ;— For Christ sent me not to baptise, but to preach the gospel.’ Now if water baptism is regeneration, or as Mr. H calls it, a ”Heavenly flood of regeneration,” is it not surprising that St. Paul thanked God that he had regenerated so few of them? Or, that he had applied the “heavenly flood” by which they were to be regenerated, to so few? To me, it would be very surprising indeed! That the inspired apostle, whose flaming zeal for the glory of God, and the salvation of immortal souls, had led him to sacrifice every worldly consideration, and give himself wholly to the work of the ministry, that if by any means he might save some ; yet, that he should thank God that he had been the means of regenerating so few, would be very strange and surprising! This undeniably proves that St Paul did not believe that water baptism was a heavenly flood, by which men are regenerated and born of the spirit. If that had been his opinion, instead of thanking God that he had baptised so few, he would have been very sorry, that he had not baptised a great many more. But St. Paul knew, that if they had no better conversion and regeneration than water baptism could confer upon them, they would be as much the servants of wickedness after, as before they were baptised. And, if they had been baptised by him with water, this might have led them to depend upon what he had done for salvation.— Therefore, he thanks God that he had done nothing, that would give them any ground to build a false hope upon.”
“Again, St. Paul says ;— “Christ sent me not to baptise, but to preach the gospel,” &c. Now if baptism is regeneration, or a ‘heavenly flood’ by which people are regenerated, this would prove that St. Paul was not sent to be a means of regenerating the people, but only to teach them ; which is contrary to his own words—see Acts 26, 17,18 :—’Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles to whom I now send thee ; to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance among them which are sanctified.’ Here St. Paul states what Christ sent him to do, (not to baptise with water) but to regenerate the people ; or, which is the same, ‘to open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God ; that they, thereby might receive forgiveness of sin, and be partakers of those great blessings which alone belong to those who are sanctified.’ This certainly is the work of regeneration, by which the soul is begotten and born again by a spiritual birth.”
“In 1st Cor. 4, 15, St. Paul says :—’Though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet ye have not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus, I have begotten you through the gospel ! This undeniably proves, that water baptism is not regeneration, neither is it the ‘heavenly flood,’ nor the ordinary means by which men are regenerated. Because Paul said, he had baptised none of them, except Crispus and Gaius, and the household of Stephanus ; yet, ‘in Christ Jesus he had begotten them [including the whole church] through the gospel,’ and not through water baptism, even as a means. Therefore, according to Paul, water baptism is not regeneration.”
Answer. My opponent and his brethren baptise, but why do they it, when Paul thanked God, that he baptised but a few? Suppose according to Mr. M’s theory, baptism is only an emblem ; then Paul thanked God, that he administered this emblem to but few? So, if this text prove any thing against the doctrine contained in my treatise, it equally proves against the doctrine, of baptism being an emblem. My opponent by this gloss, is led to deny the use of all baptism, performed with water ; and thus makes Paul contradict Christ, who commanded to baptise all nations. In this same manner, the Quakers handle this text, for the purpose of denying the use of baptism, as performed with water. They do it with equal propriety ; for if Paul thanked God, for having baptised but a few, what use is there for us to perform it, whether we consider it, as a mere emblem, or any thing else? Mr. M. must either acknowledge himself a Quaker, and deny the use of baptism ; or else own his gloss to be a sophism.
Not because baptism is not the means of regeneration, is the reason why St. Paul thanked God, that he had baptised but few of the Corinthians. There were some disagreeable divisions among them, which is indicated by the context :— “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ. Is Christ divided ? was Paul crucified for you ? or were ye baptised in the name of Paul?” v. 12, 13. These verses shew, that some of the Corinthians were about to consider Paul, some Apollos, and others Cephas, as the head of their party. Had St. Paul baptised a goodly number of them, they might have considered themselves more justifiable, in preferring him before all other apostles as their head ; and as he himself states, some might have said, that he had baptised them in his own name, v. 15 :-—and thus prostituted this blessed institution to a carnal purpose. But us Paul had only baptised a few, they were bereft of the opportunity of establishing a party, on this ground ; and as divisions are injurious to Christianity, it was very rational, that he should be thankful, that this abuse of baptism had been prevented. There would have been no danger, that any of the Corinthians would have constituted Paul, the head of their party, because he had baptised them; provided, baptism was so insignificant a thing; for what society of people, would crown a man their head, and almost deify him, for having according to Mr, M’s notion, poured on them a little water? Had St. Paul, like Mr. M. considered baptism a mere emblem, he would have inculcated the same into the minds of the Corinthians ; if so, they would have had no cause, on that ground, to deify him, whether he baptised few, or many ; and what reason, would he then, have had, to thank God, or having baptised but a few? But we will suppose, baptism to he the means of regeneration, and the Corinthians being taught so by the apostle ; would not this have magnified their veneration for him ; provided, he had baptised them : and held out stronger inducements, to constitute him the head of their party? for the greater the ministry, and the more valuable the things, that are thereby administered, the more the person, who sustains it, is esteemed. Had my opponent, instead of St Paul, laboured among the Corinthians, they would not have said, “I am Joseph Moore!” although, he had baptised ever so many ; for had he represented baptism as mean, and insignificant, in their sight, as he has in his pamphlet, there would not have been the least danger, that they, on that account would have deified, and constituted him the head of their party ; and thus he would have had no reason at all, like St Paul had, to thank God, for only having baptised a few.
When the apostle asks: “was Paul crucified for you?” he connects with being crucified: “or were ye baptised in the name of Paul?” The one that was crucified for them, is their Saviour; hence if Paul bad been crucified for them, they ought to have deified him ; hence also, being baptised in his name, being connected with being crucified, gives baptism a great importance. But this is inapplicable to Paul ; yet it fully applies to Christ. To be baptised in Christ’s name, involves also, being baptised into his death, as illustrated by St. Paul Rom. 6, 3 5.
Notwithstanding, Paul baptised but a few of the Corinthians ; yet does it prove, that they were not baptised? No— for if they were not, why would he ask them, were ye baptised in the name of Paul? This presupposes them all, as being baptised. Although, the apostles in many instances, did not themselves perform baptism ; yet they caused, or ordered others to do it. Thus St. Peter commanded the Gentile congregation, in the house of Cornelius, to be baptised Acts 10, 46, 48. Paul either baptised, or ordered Lydia and her household, to be baptised. Acts 16, 15. Either Paul, or Silas baptised the Jailor, and his household v. 33. It does dot require as much skill to baptise, as to teach, and preach ; hence it was very expedient, for the divinely inspired apostles, to devolve the office of baptising upon the deacons ; so that they might acquire more time, for the purpose of enhancing their other labours. That the deacons baptised, is evident from Acts ch. 8. The household of Stephanus it is said, was the first fruits of Achaid, 1 Cor. 16, 15 ; hence, then as yet, there was no congregation organized ; consequently no deacons appointed ; so that Paul himself performed baptism. This also applies in some other instances.
That St. Paul was not sent to baptise, is no evidence, that baptism is not the means of regeneration ; although, he was appointed as a means to regenerate sinners. For if he did not himself baptise; yet he instructed the people with respect to the nature, and design of baptism ; so that, if he was not sent to baptise; yet he was sent to preach the doctrine of baptism. Now what is the difference, as to the point in question; whether Paul was sent to baptise, or whether he was sent, to preach the doctrine of baptism ; for he that preaches baptism, thereby causes people to be baptised by other instruments.
When Paul preached repentance, he thereby caused people to repent ; equally so, when he preached baptism, he caused them to receive baptism. Will my opponent deny, that Paul preach the doctrine of baptism ? The following texts, will shew, that Paul diligently inculcated the importance of baptism: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptised into Jesus Christ were baptised into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death ; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Rom 6, 3, 4. ”For as many of you as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ.” Gal. 8, 27. Who else was it, that taught the Jailor to be baptised, but Paul and Silas. See also Eph. 5, 25, 26. Tit. 3, 5, These texts describe the design of baptism, and all are St. Paul’s writings. Since Mr. M. cannot prove, that Paul did not teach the people, to be baptised his argument amounts to nothing.