by L. F. W. Andrews
Of Water Baptism. — Universalists, so far as the writer has any information, do not consider the ordinance or the rite of water Baptism as of any binding obligation upon Christian professors of the present age, or of any age, since the establishment of the Gospel Dispensation upon the earth. On a critical examination of the scriptural use of the word Baptism, we find that there are different meanings attached thereto. FIRST: “Washing or sprinkling of the body or garments, or dipping the finger, foot, or food, or garments into divers liquids, such as oil, vinegar, honey, and blood.” Such washings, sprinklings and dippings are expressed in the Greek of the 70 by the same terms translated baptism, baptize &c. in the New Testament. SECOND:Water Baptism which was peculiar to John the Baptist. “John truly baptized with water.” “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance.” THIRD: The custom among the Jews of washing their hands before meals, is expressed by the same Greek words translated Baptize. FOURTH: The Baptism “in the cloud and in the sea,” 1 Cor. x. 1, 2, is a figurative allusion to the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea, and the pillar of cloud by day which guided them on their journeyings. FIFTH: Baptism is used to signify Doctrine, as in Acts xviii. 25, “He spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. Again, it is said, “when John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel,” — that is, the doctrine of repentance. SIXTH: We read of a Baptism which Christ was to suffer. “Are ye able to drink of my cup and b baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished.” Here manifest reference is to the agony of the crucifixion. SEVENTH: There is the “Baptism of Fire and the Holy Ghost,” which was peculiar to the Gospel of Christ. Says John the Baptist, I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” This is the true Christian Baptism of which John’s baptism was the figure, and hence, if it be true, that there is but “one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism,” we have no reason to give the preference to the figure over the reality, or the shadow over the substance.
The following are a few of the reasons why Universalists do not lay great stress upon the rite of Water Baptism. John the Baptist was the fore-runner of Christ — a prophet to predict the coming of the Messiah, and to “prepare the way of the Lord.” He was the “voice of one crying in the wilderness,” and preaching “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He expressly undervalues his own dispensation in view of the greater baptism of Christ, and declares that he came to baptizing with water, that Christ “should be made manifest to Israel.” He positively affirms that he was not the Christ, but was send before him. He must increase, (says he,) but I must decrease.” — thus proving that his dispensation was to be superseded entirely by that of Christ, of whom he was the fore-runner. If so, his ordinances can be of no value in the eye of the Christian. Furthermore, John the Baptist was not a Christian; that is, he was not a follower of Christ, but the last of the race of Prophets, whose duty it was to foretell future events. The dispensation of the Gospel was not then established, and of course John could not have been a member of the “kingdom of heaven,” which was not then in existence, though nigh “at hand.” Christ’s language, moreover, in reference to John settles the point. “Verily, I say unto you, among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist, notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Mat. xi. 11. He also says that the “law and the prophets were until John,” and that “since that time, (not before, nor at) the kingdom of God is preached and every man passeth into it.” From all which it appears to us that those who are so strenuous in regard to water Baptism, in this day, have more regard to the obsolete ordinances of John the Baptist than the teachings of Christ, and that such indeed may be very good Baptists, but are not thereby entitled to the name or character of Christian people!
There are still other considerations in favor of the view we have taken of this subject. “Christ baptized not but his disciples,” which could hardly have been the case if he had established the ordinance of water baptism. He would, in all probability, have enforces the observance of the same by practicing it himself on every opportunity. St. Paul also, “thanked God” that he had “baptized none but Crispus and Gaius and the household of Stephanus,” “lest any should say he had baptized in his own name,” — a very insufficient reason, certainly, for neglecting a known and positive duty, if he had viewed it as such. He declares, moreover, that he “was not sent to baptize but to preach the Gospel.”
In our humble judgment, therefore, it would be quite as well for those who have long quarreled about the mode of water baptism, and the proper subjects of it, to prove first, that it is, in truth, a Christian ordinance and of perpetual observance. This point has been taken for granted, when it is by no means easy to establish the truth, from the word of God. On this as upon other topics, however, the Universalists’s creed is “let every one be persuaded in his own mind.” To his own Master let every one stand or fall.</div> </div>