Differences in judgment about water baptism, no bar to communion

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'Should not the multitude of words be answered? and should a man full of talk be justified? should thy lies make men hold their peace? and when thou mockest, shall no man make thee an answer [unashamed?]'--Job 11:2, 3
London: Printed for John Wilkins, and are to be sold at his shop in Exchange Alley, next door to the Exchange Coffee House, over against the Royal Exchange, 1673.
Courteous Reader,
Be intreated to believe me, I had not set pen to paper about this controversy, had we been let alone at quiet in our Christian communion. But being assaulted for more than sixteen years, wherein the brethren of the baptized way, as they had their opportunity, have sought to break us in pieces, merely because we are not, in their way, all baptized first: I could not, I durst not, forbear to do a little, if it might be, to settle the brethren, and to arm them against the attempts, which also of late they begin to revive upon us. That I deny the ordinance of baptism, or that I have placed one piece of an argument against it, though they feign it, is quite without colour of truth. All I say is, That the church of Christ hath not warrant to keep out of their communion the Christian that is discovered to be a visible saint by the word, the Christian that walketh according to his light with God. I will not make reflections upon those unhandsome brands that my brethren have laid upon me for this, as that I am a machivilian, a man devilish, proud, insolent, presumptuous, and the like, neither will I say as they, The Lord rebuke thee; Words fitter to be spoken to the devil than a brother. But reader, read and compare; lay aside prejudice and judge. What Mr. Kiffin hath done in the matter I forgive, and love him never the worse, but must stand by my principles because they are peaceable, godly, profitable, and such as tend to the edification of my brother, and as I believe will be justified in the day of judgment.
I have also here presented thee with the opinion of Mr. Henry Jesse, in the case, which providentially I met with as I was coming to London to put my papers to the press; and that it was his judgment is asserted to me, known many years since to some of the Baptists, to whom it was sent, but never yet answered; and will yet be attested if need shall require. Farewell.
Thine in all Christian service, according to my light and power,


Your seemingly serious reflections upon that part of my plain-hearted confession of faith, which rendereth a reason of my freedom to communicate with those of the saints and faithful who differ from me about water baptism; I have read and considered, and have weighed them so well as my rank and abilities will admit me to do. But finding yours, if I mistake not, far short of a candid replication, I thought [it] convenient, not only to tell you of those impertinencies everywhere scattered up and down in your book; but also, that in my simple opinion, your rigid and church-disquieting principles are not fit for any age and state of the church.
But before I enter the body of your book, give me leave a little to discourse you about your preamble to the same, wherein are two miscarriages unworthy your pretended seriousness, because void of love and humility. The first is, In that you closely disdain my person because of my low descent among men, stigmatising me for a person of THAT rank, that need not to be heeded or attended unto.[1]
Ans. What it is that gives a man reverence with you, I know not; but for certain. He that despiseth the poor reproacheth his Maker; yet, 'a poor man is better than a liar.' To have gay clothing, or gold rings, or the persons that wear them in admiration; or to be partial in your judgment, or respects, for the sake, or upon the account of, flesh and blood, doubtless convicteth you to be of the law a transgressor, and not without partiality, &c., in the midst of your seeming sanctity.
Again, you say, 'I had not meddled with the controversy at all, had I found any of parts that would divert themselves to take notice of YOU.'
Ans. What need you, before you have shewed one syllable of a reasonable argument in opposition to what I assert, thus trample my person, my gifts, and grace, have I any, so disdainfully under your feet? What kind of a YOU am I?[2] And why is MY rank so mean, that the most gracious and godly among you, may not duly and soberly consider of what I have said? Was it not the art of the false apostles of old to say thus? To bespatter a man, that his doctrine might be disregarded. 'Is not this the carpenter?' And, 'His bodily presence is weak and his speech contemptible' (1 Cor 10:10), did not use to be in the mouths of the saints; for they knew that 'the wind bloweth where it listeth' (John 3:8). Neither is it high birth, worldly breeding, or wealth; but electing love, grace, and the wisdom that comes from heaven, that those who strive for strictness of order in the things and kingdom of Christ, should have in regard and esteem (James 3:17). Need I read you a lecture? 'Hath not God chosen the foolish, - the weak, - the base, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are?' (1 Cor 1:27,28). Why then do you despise my rank, my state, and quality in the world?
As for my confession of faith, which you also secretly despise. If it be good and godly, why may it not be accepted? If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou me? If you, and the brethren of your way, did think it convenient to shew to the world what you held; if perhaps by that means you might escape the person: why might not I, after above eleven years' endurance there, give the world a view of my faith and practice; if peradventure, wrong thoughts, and false judgments of me, might by that means be abated, and removed. But you suggest; I did it, because I was so willing to be known in the world by my SINGULAR faith and practice.[3] How singular my faith and practice is, may be better known to you hereafter: but that I did it for a popular applause and fame, as your words seem to bear, for they proceed from a taunting spirit, that will be known to you better in the day of God, when your evil surmises of your brother, and my designs in writing my book, will be published upon the house-tops (Luke 12:1-4).
And even now, before I go any further, I will give you a touch of the reason of my publishing that part thereof which you so hotly oppose. It was because of those continual assaults that the rigid brethren of your way, made, not only upon this congregation, to rend it; but also upon many others about us. If peradventure they might break us in pieces, and draw from us disciples after them. Assaults, I say, upon this congregation by times, for no less than these sixteen or eighteen years. Yea, myself they have sent for, and endeavoured to persuade me to break communion with my brethren; also with many others they have often tampered, if haply their seeds of division might take. Neither did they altogether fail of their purpose, for some they did rend and dismember from us; but none but those, of whom now they begin to be ashamed. The judgment of God so following their design, that the persons which then they prevailed upon, are now a stink, and reproach to religion. Neither were these spirits content with that discord they did sow among us, but they proceeded to seize upon others. But to pass these. The wild, and unsound positions they have urged to maintain their practice, would be too large here to insert. Now, Sir, to settle the brethren, the brethren of our community, and to prevent such disorders among others, was the cause of my publishing my papers: and considering my concern in the house of God, I could do no less than to give them warning, 'That every man might deliver his soul.'
You proceed, saying, 'It is my liberty, as well as others into whose hands it falls, to weigh what you have said in truth's balance, and if it be found too light, to reject it whether you will or no.'
Ans. Do but grant me, without mocking of me, the liberty you desire to take, and God helping me, I desire no more [than] to shift for myself among you. As to your saying, that I proudly and imperiously insult, because I say they are 'babes and carnal, that attempt to break the peace and communion of churches, though upon better pretences than water.' You must know I am still of that mind, and shall be, so long as I see the effects that follow, viz. The breach of love, taking off Christians from the more weighty things of God; and to make them quarrel and have heart-burnings one against another.
Where you are pleased to charge me with raging, for laying those eighteen particular crimes to the charge of such who exclude Christians from church communion, and debar them their heaven-born privileges, for the want of that, which yet God never made the wall of division between us. I say, when you can prove, That God hath made water baptism that wall, and that the stress of the after eighteen charges lie wholly and only in that; then you may, time enough, call my language such as wanteth charity: but I question though that was granted, whether your saying, I RAGE, will be justified in the day of judgment.
My great noise, as you call it, about an initiating ordinance, you say, you shall take no notice of.
Ans. 1. Although you do not, I must: For if baptism be not that, but another; and if visible saints may enter into fellowship by that other, and are nowhere forbidden so to do, because they have not light into water baptism: it is of weight to be considered by me; yea, and of others too who are unprejudiced. 2. How ignorant you are of such as hold it the initiating ordinance I know not: nor how long you have been of that persuasion I know not. This I know, that men of your own party, as serious, godly, and it may be, more learned than yourself, have within less than this twelve-month urged it. Mr. D. in my hearing, did from Romans 6:1, 2 in the meeting in Lothbury affirm it: also my much esteemed Mr. D. A.[4] did twice in a conference with me assert it. 3. But whatever you say, whether for, or against, 'tis no matter; for while you deny it be the entering ordinance, you account it the wall, bar, bolt, and door; even that which must separate between the righteous and the righteous; nay, you make want of light therein, a ground to exclude the most godly your communion, when every novice in religion shall be received into your bosom, and be of esteem with you because he hath, and from what ground God knows, submitted to water baptism.
I am glad that you conclude with me what is the initiating ordinance: but withal, give me leave to correct, as I think, one extravagant expression of yours. You say, 'It is CONSENT on all hands and NOTHING else, that makes them members of particular churches, and not faith and baptism.' You might have stopped at, and nothing else, you need not in particular have rejected faith: your first error was bad enough: what, NOTHING else but consent? What, not so much as a respect to the matter or end? Why then are not all the communities of all the highwaymen in the land, truly constituted churches of Christ; unless you can prove that they hold together, but not by consent? What? consent and nothing else? But why do YOU throw out FAITH? why, I throw out baptism; which because you cannot as to the case in hand fetch in again, therefore out must faith go too. Your action is much like that harlot's, that stood to be judged by Solomon, who because her own child was dead, would have her neighbour's killed also (1 Kings 3:26). Faith, Sir, both in the profession and confession of it, is of immediate and also absolute concern, even in the very act of the church's reception, of this or another member. Throw out faith, and there is no such thing as a Christian, neither visible nor invisible. You ought to receive no man, but upon a comfortable satisfaction to the church, that you are now receiving a believer. Faith, whether it be savingly there or no, is the great argument with the church in receiving any: we receive not men as men, but the man immediately under that supposition; He hath faith, he is a Christian. Sir, consent simply, without faith, makes no man a member of the church of God: because then would a church not cease to be a church, whoever they received among them. Yea, by this assertion you have justified the church of Rome itself, to be to this day both good, and godly, unless you can prove that they did at first, and do now receive their unbelieving members, without their own consent. The church hath no such liberty to receive men without respect to faith; yea, faith and holiness must be the essentials, or basis, upon, and for the sake of which you receive them: holiness, I say, yet not such as is circumstantial, but that which is such in the very heart of it: pray you in your next therefore word it better, lest while you slight and trample upon me, you stand before all, blame-worthy yourself.
The scriptures you speak of, I did not in my first produce to shew persons unbaptized [in water] might hold communion with the church, though I am fully convinced they may, but to shew, that knowledge of those persons, of their faith and holiness in general, ought first to be shewed to the church, before she can lawfully receive them (Acts 9:26-31; 1 Cor 16:10; 2 Cor 8:23). As to my answer to a question which you have of your's corrupted, and then abused: I tell you again, That a discovery of the faith and holiness, and a declaration of the willingness of a person to subject himself to the laws and government of Christ in his church, is a ground sufficient to receive such a member.
But you descant; Is baptism one of the laws of Christ?
Ans. It is none of those laws, neither any part of them, that the church, as a church, should shew her obedience by. For albeit that baptism be given by Christ our Lord to the church, yet not for them to worship him by as a church. Shew me what church-ordinance it is; and when, or where the church, as a church, is to practise it, as one of those laws and appointments that he hath commanded his church to shew to him her obedience by. Again, That submitting to water baptism, is a sign or note, that was ever required by any of the primitive churches, of him that would hold fellowship with them; or that it infuseth such grace and holiness into those that submit thereto, as to capacitate them for such a privilege; or that they did acknowledge it a sign thereof, I find not in all the Bible.
I find not, as I told you in my first, that baptism is a sign to any, but the person that is baptized (Col 2:12; Rom 6:1-4; 1 Cor 15:29; Acts 2:38, 22:16). The church hath her satisfaction of the person, from better proof (1 Peter 3:21).
I told you also, That baptism makes thee no member of the church, neither doth it make thee a visible saint: It giveth thee therefore, neither right to, nor being of membership at all. Why, Sir, did you not answer these things? but slip them with others, as if you were unconcerned; troubling your reader with such kind of insinuations, as must needs be unsavoury to godly ears. You make the moral law none of Christ's but Moses'; not the son's but the servant's; and tell me, because I plead for faith and holiness, according to moral duties gospelized, (they are my words) whereby we ought to judge of the fitness of members; that therefore Moses is more beholden to me than Christ.
Sir, know you not yet, that a difference is to be put betwixt those rules that discover the essentials of holiness, and those that in themselves are not such; and that that of faith and the moral law is the one, and baptism, &c. the other. Is not love to God, abhorrence of idols, to forbear blaspheming, to honour our parents, to do no murder, to forbear theft, not to bear false witness, nor covet, &c. are not (I say) these the precepts of the Lord Jesus, because delivered by Moses? Or, are these such as may better be broken, than for want of light to forbear baptism with water? Or, doth a man while he liveth in the neglect of these, and in the mean time bustle about those you call gospel commands, most honour Christ, or best fit himself for fellowship with the saints? Need I tell you, That the faith of Christ, with the ten commandments, are as much now gospel commands as baptism; and ought to be in as much, and far more respect with the holy ones than that, or other the like.[5]
Yea, shall I tell you, That baptism will neither admit a man into fellowship, nor keep him there, if he be a transgressor of a moral precept; and that a man who believeth in Jesus, and fulfilleth the royal law, doth more glorify God, and honour religion in the world, than he that keepeth, if there were so many, ten thousand figurative laws. As to those commands that respect God's instituted worship in a church, as a church, I have told you that baptism is none of them, and you have been driven to confess it. The church then must first look to faith, then to good living according to the ten commandments; after that she must respect those appointments of our Lord Jesus that respects her outward order and discipline, and then she walks as becomes her, sinning if she neglecteth either; sinning if she overvalueth either. But why did you not answer those tests I produced for the strengthening of my argument (Rom 14:17,18; Deut 27:47; James 2:8-12; 1 Cor 9:21, 5:9-11; Gal 6:15,16; Phil 3; 1 Tim 1:9-11; Acts 20:28-32; Rom 13:13; James 4:11; 1 Cor 5:12). Deal fairly; Answer those texts, with the argument made upon them; and when you have after a godly manner done that, you may the more boldly condemn.
You tell me, that I say, 'None ever received baptism without light therein.'
What if I did? (as I did not) but you grant it: and now I will ask you, and pray deal fairly in your answer. May a man be a visible saint without light therein? May he have a good conscience without light therein? And seeing that baptism is none of the worship that Christ instituted in his church for them to practice as a church, must he be kept dark about all other things concerning the worship of God in his church, until he receive light therein?
You have answered already, 'That they ought to be ashamed, and to repent of that abomination [their sprinkling] BEFORE they come to have a sight of the pattern of the house of God, the goings in and the comings out thereof' (Eze 43:10,11). But, Sir, where do you find that want of light in water baptism, or because a man hath been sprinkled, that he is to be kept dark in all other temple-institutions, till he be ashamed and repent of that? Pray produce the texts, for Ezekiel helps you nothing: he speaks only of the pattern of the house, the goings out, and comings in thereof. As for the coming in, you have already confessed, That baptism is not the entering ordinance. And as for the worship that Christ hath instituted in his church, as a church, I say, (and you also have said it) baptism is none of the forms thereof, none of the ordinances thereof, none of the laws thereof; for baptism is, as to the practice of it, that which is without the church, without the house of God.[6] Then by your own text, if a man do repent him of his christening in his childhood, he may be received into fellowship without submitting to baptism: but I will not strain you too far.
You add, 'Is it a person's light that giveth being to a precept?'
Ans. Who said it? Yet it is his light and faith about it, that can make him to do it acceptably.
You ask again, 'Suppose men plead want of light in other commands?'
Ans. If they be not such, the forbearance of which, discapacitates him of membership, he may yet be received to fellowship.
'But what if a man want light in the supper?'
Ans. There is more to be said in that case than in the other: for that is a part of that worship which Christ hath instituted for his church, to be conversant in as a church; presenting them as such, with their communion with their Head, and with one another as members of him. 'The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread' (1 Cor 10:16,17). Wherefore this being a duty incumbent on the church, as a church; and on every member of that body as such, they are obliged in that case more closely to deal with the members, than in that wherein they are not so concerned; and with which as such, they have nothing to do. No man baptizeth by virtue of his office in the church; no man is baptized by virtue of his membership there.
'But what if a man want light in his duty to the poor?'
Ans. If he doth, God must give it him; I mean to know his duty as a church member. Now I will add, but what if he that can give a shilling, giveth nothing? I suppose all that the church can do in that case, is but to warn, to exhort, and charge him, and to shew him his duty: and if he neglect, to shew him, that 'He which soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly' (2 Cor 9:6). But to cut a man off for this, as you forwardly urge, would argue that church, at least I think so, a little too bold with so high and weighty a censure. I plead not here for the churl, but seek to allay your heat: and should it be granted that such deserve as you would have it, this makes no matter to the case in hand. Now whereas you suggest, 'That moral evils are but sins against men,' you are too much unadvised: the moral evil, as you call it, whether you respect the breach of the first or second table, is first and immediately a sin against God; and more insufferable, yea and damnable, than for a man for want of light to forbear either baptism or the Lord's Supper.
But say you, 'We have now found an advocate for sin against God, in the breach of one of HIS holy commands?'
Ans. As if none of the moral precepts were HIS. But, Sir, who have I pleaded for, in the denial of any one ordinance of God? Yea, or for their neglect of it either? What I say, is but that men must have light, that they may not do in darkness, or Papist-like, live by an implicit faith.
But I see you put no difference between an open breach of the law, and a forbearing that which to him is doubtful. But I will suppose a case: There is a man wants light in baptism, yet by his neighbour is pressed to it: he saith he seeth it not to be his duty; the other saith, he sins if he doth it not: now seeing 'whatsoever is not of faith is sin' (Rom 14:23); what should this man do? If you say, let him use the means: I say so too. But what, if when he hath used it, he still continueth dark about it; what will you advise him now? If you bid him wait, do you not encourage him to live in sin, as much as I do? Nay, and seeing you will not let him for want of light in that, obey God in other his institutions; what is it but to say, Seeing you live for want of light in the neglect of baptism, we will make you, while you continue so, live, though quite against your light, in the breach of all the rest. And WHERE you are commanded thus, you may shew the place when you find it.
Now where you urge, that you are one of them that say, 'The epistles were writ to particular churches, and so serve nothing at all for our kind of communion.' Urging further, 'That it will be difficult for me to prove, that they were also directed to particular saints.'
Ans. I wish there were nothing harder, that were good for me to do. But what should be the reason that our author, with others of his opinion, should stickle so hard to prove [that] all the epistles were wrote to particular churches? Why, because those members were, as they think, every one baptized; and so the epistles from which we fetch our arguments for the love and concord of saints, to be only proper to themselves.[7] But if this be true, there is virtue indeed, and more than ever I dreamed of, in partaking of water baptism: for if that shall take away the epistles, and consequently the whole Bible, from all that are not baptized; then are the other churches, and also particular saints, in a very deplorable condition. For he asketh me very devoutly, 'Whether any unbaptized persons were concerned in these epistles?' But why would they take from us the Holy Scriptures? Verily, that we might have naught to justify our practice withal: for if the Scriptures belong only to baptized believers, they then belong not to the rest; and in truth, if they could persuade us to yield them this grant, we should but sorrily justify our practice. But I would ask these men, 'If the word of God came out from them? Or if it came to them only?' (1 Cor 14:36). Or, whether Christ hath not given his whole word to every one that believeth, whether they be baptized, or in, or out of church fellowship (James 17:14). Or, whether every saint in some sort, hath not the keys of the kingdom of heaven, which are the Scriptures and their power? Would to God they had learned more modesty, than thus to take from all others, and appropriate to themselves, and that for the sake of their observing a circumstance in religion, so high, and glorious a privilege.
But we will come a little to proof: what church will this author find in Rome, that time the epistle was sent to the brethren there, besides that church that was in Aquila's house, although many more saints were then in the city? (Rom 16:5). Yea, the apostle in his salutation at the beginning, embraceth them only as brethren, without the least intimation of their being gathered into fellowship: 'To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you,' &c. (1:7). To all there, to all in that city, beloved of God, and that are converted to the Lord Jesus Christ. A church there was in Aquila's house, and that there were many more saints besides, is, and that by the text, as manifest. Besides, considering the rules that are given them in the 14th and 15th chapters about their receiving one another, doth yet strongly suggest to me, that they were not yet in fellowship, but as it were now about it, when Paul wrote his epistle to them.
The first epistle written to Corinth, was also wrote to all them 'that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord' (1:2). But it will be hard work for our author to make it manifest, that none in those days did call on the name of our Lord, but those that were first baptized. The second epistle also, was not only written to the church at Corinth, but also to 'all the saints which were in all Achaia' (2 Cor 1:1). To the Galatians and Thessalonians indeed, his salutation was only to the churches there: But the three epistles before were as well to all other [saints]: As also that to the Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, in which the faithful and SAINTS in Christ Jesus were also every one comprehended. Besides, to what particular church was the epistle to the Hebrews wrote? Or the epistle of James? Both those of Peter, and the first of John? Nay, that of John was wrote to some at that time out of fellowship, 'that also may have fellowship with [us]' the church (1:1-4). So that these brethren must not have all the scriptures. We have then a like privilege with all saints, to use the scriptures for our godly edifying, and to defend ourselves thereby, from the assaults of those that would make spoil of us. But to pass this, and come to the next.
You object for that I said, 'If water baptism [as the circumstances with which the church was pestered of old] trouble the peace, and wound the consciences of the godly, dismember and break their fellowships; it is, although an ordinance, for the present prudently to be shunned.' At this (as I said) you object, and say, 'Did I ever find baptism a pest or plague to churches? And did ever God send an ordinance to be a pest and plague to his people?'
I answer: I said not that God did send it for any such end at all; God's ordinances are none of this in themselves: nor if used as, and for the end for which God sent them. But yet both baptism, and the supper of the Lord, have, by being wrested out of their place, been a great affliction to the godly both in this and other ages. What say you to breaking of bread, which the devil, by abusing, made an engine in the hand of Papists, to burn, starve, hang and draw thousands? What say you to John of Leyden? What work did he make by the abuse of the ordinance of water baptism? And I wish this age had not given cause, through the church-rending spirits that some are possessed with, to make complaint of this matter; who have also had for their engine the baptism with water. Yea, yourself, Sir, so far as I can perceive, could you get but the opportunity; yourself (I say) under pretence of this innocent ordinance, as you term it, would not stick to make inroads, and outroads too, in all the churches, that suit not your fancy, in the land. For you have already been bold to affirm, 'That all those that have baptized infants, ought to be ashamed and repent, before they be showed the pattern of the house.' And what is this but to threaten, that could you have your will of them, you would quickly take from them their present church privileges, and let them see nothing thereof, till those qualifications, especially subjection to water baptism, was found to attend each of them.
As to the persons you speak of, 'Who have rent churches in pieces, by making preaching by method, doctrine, reason and use, to be anti-christian': Or, because they could not have other ministrations performed after their fancies 'the imprudence of such with yourselves, hath been heart-breaking to many a gracious soul; an high occasion of stumbling to the weak, and a reproach to the ways of the Lord.' That it may be prudently shunned, I referred you then for proof, to what should be offered after: but at this you cry out, and so pass it.
And now, reader, although this author hath thus objected against some passages in this my first argument for communion with persons unbaptized; yet the body of my argument he misseth and passeth over, as a thing not worth the answering; whether because he forgot, or because he was conscious to himself, that he knew not what to do therewith, I will not now determine. 1. I effectually prove, 'That baptism is not the initiating ordinance.' 2. I prove, 'That though it was, yet the case may so fall out, that members might be received without it.' 3. I prove, 'That baptism makes no man a visible saint, nor giveth any right to church fellowship.' 4. I prove, 'That faith, and a life becoming the law of the ten commandments, should be the chief and most solid argument with true churches to receive saints to fellowship.'[8] 5. I prove, 'That circumcision in the flesh, which was the entering ordinance of old, was a type of circumcision in the heart,' &c. These things, with others, our author letteth pass; although in the proof of them abideth the strength of this first argument; to which I must entreat him in his next, to cast his eye, and give fair answer; as also to the scriptures on which each are built, or he must suffer me to say, I am abused. Further, I make a question upon three scriptures, Whether all the saints, even in the primitive times, were baptized with water? to which also he answereth nothing; whereas he ought to have done it, if he will take in hand to confute. The scriptures are 1 Corinthians 1:14-16; Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27. Yet were they effectually answered, my argument is nothing weakened.
You come to my second argument, drawn from Ephesians 4:4-6. Upon which a little more now to enlarge, and then to take notice of your objection. The apostle then in that fourth of the Ephesians, exhorteth the church there 'with all lowliness and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace' (vv 2,3). This done, he presents them with such arguments, as might fasten his exhortation to purpose upon them.
1. The first is, because the body is ONE; There is 'one body'; therefore they should not divide. For if the church of Christ be a body, there ought not to be a rent or schism among them (1 Cor 12).
2. His second argument is, There is 'one spirit,' or one quickening principle by which the body is made to live; for having asserted before that Christ hath indeed a body, it was meet that he showed also, that this body hath life, and motion. Now that life, being none other, than that nourishment, or spirit of life, from which 'the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working of the measure in every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love' (Eph 4:16). Now this spirit, being first, and chiefly, in the head, therefore none other but those that hold the head can have this nourishment ministered to them: besides, this is the spirit that knits the body together, and makes it increase with the increase of God (Col 2:19). This is 'the unity of the spirit' which he before exhorts them to keep.
3. The third argument is, Because their hope is also but one. 'Even as ye are called [saith he] in one hope of your calling': as who should say, My brethren, if you are called with one calling, if your hope, both as to the grace of hope, and also the object, be but one: if you hope for one heaven, and for one eternal life: then maintain that unity of the spirit, and hope, while here, in love, 'and the bond of peace' (Eph 4:3).
4. The fourth argument is, There is 'one Lord,' or husband, or prince, to whom this church belongs: therefore if we have husbands, but one, Lord and prince but one, let us not read into many parties, as if we had many husbands, lords, and princes, to govern us, as his wife, his house, and kingdom. 'Is Christ divided?' (1 Cor 1:13).
5. The fifth argument is, There is 'one faith,' by which we all stand justified by one Lord Jesus Christ; 'one faith' by which we escape the wrath of God; 'one faith' by which only they that have it are blessed; yea, seeing there is but 'one faith,' by which we are all put into one way of salvation, let us hold together as such.
6. The sixth argument is, There is 'one baptism.' Now we are come to the pinch, viz., Whether it be that of water, or no? which I must positively deny. (1.) Because water baptism hath nothing to do in a church, as a church; it neither bringeth us into the church, nor is any part of our worship when we come there; how then can the peace and unity of the church depend upon water baptism? Besides, he saith expressly, It is the 'unity of the spirit,' not water, that is here intended: and the arguments brought to enforce it, are such as wholly and immediately relate to the duty of the church, as a church. (2.) Further, That other text, that treateth of our being baptized into a body, saith expressly it is done by the spirit: 'For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body' (1 Cor 12:13). Here is the church presented as under the notion of 'one body'; here is a baptism mentioned, by which they are brought, or initiated into this body: Now that this is the baptism of water, is utterly against the words of the text; 'For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body.' Besides, if the baptism here be of water, then is it the initiating ordinance; but the contrary I have proved, and this author stands by my doctrine. So then, the baptism here respecting the church as one body, and water, having nothing to do to enter men into the church, nor to command them to practise it as a church, in order to their peace or communion, or respecting the worship of God as such: and (I say again) the baptism in the sixth argument, being urged precisely for no other purpose, but with respect to the church's peace as a body; it must needs be THAT baptism, by virtue of which, they were initiated, and joined together in one; and that baptism being only that which the Spirit executeth; this therefore is that one baptism.
7. The other argument is also effectual; there is 'One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all' (Eph 4:6). If we are 'one body'; if to it there be but 'one spirit'; if we have but 'one hope, one faith,' and be all baptized by 'one spirit' into that 'one' body; and if we have but 'one Lord, one God,' and he in every one of us; let us be also 'one': and let them that are thus qualified, both join together, and hold in one.
But our author against this, objecteth, That, 'now I employ my pen against every man; and give the lie to all expositors, for they hold this one baptism, to be none other than that of water.'[9]
Ans. What if I should also send you to answer those expositors that expound certain scriptures for infant baptism, and that by them brand us for anabaptists; must this drive you from your belief of the truth? EXPOSITORS I reverence, but must live by mine own faith (Habb 2:4). God hath no where bound himself to them more than to others, with respect to the revelation of his mind in his word. But it becomes not you to run thus to expositors, who are, as to your notions in many things, but of yesterday: 'to the law, and to the testimony' (Isa 8:20): for 'Out of the mouth of babes' the Lord hath 'ordained strength' (Psa 8:2).
But you bid me tell you, 'What I mean by spirit baptism?'
Ans. Sir, you mistake me, I treat not here of our being baptized with the Spirit, with respect to its coming from heaven into us; but of that act of the spirit, when come, which baptizeth us into a body or church. It is one thing to be baptized with the Spirit in the first sense; and another to be baptized by it in the sense I treat of: for the Spirit to come upon me, is one thing; and for that when come, to implant, embody, or baptize me into the body of Christ, is another. Your question therefore is grounded on a mistake, both of my judgment, and the words of the apostle. Wherefore thus I soon put an end to your objections. For the Spirit to come down upon me, is one thing; and for the Spirit to baptize, or implant me into the church, is another: for to be possessed with the spirit, is one thing; and to be led by that spirit, is another. I conclude then; seeing the argument taken from that one baptism, respecteth church fellowship properly; and seeing water baptism meddleth not with it as such; it is the other, even that in 1 Corinthians 12:16 that is here intended, and no other.
But you add, 'If nothing but extraordinary gifts are called the baptism of the Spirit in a strict sense; then that baptism (1 Cor 12) must be water baptism, as well as that in the Ephesians.'
Hold: you make your conclusions before you have cause; first, prove that in the Ephesians to be meant of water baptism, and that the baptism in 1 Corinthians 12:16 is the baptism you would have it; and then conclude my argument void. That it is the baptism of the Holy Ghost according to the common notion, I say not; for you to assert it is the baptism of water, gives the lie to the text: but that it is an act of the Holy Ghost, baptizing the saints into a body, or church, you will hardly be able to make the contrary appear to be truth. 'But behold, while here you would have this to be baptism with water, how you contradict and condemn your own notion: you say water baptism is not the entering ordinance; yet the baptism here is such as baptizeth us into a body: wherefore before you say next time that this in 1 Corinthians 12:16 is meant of water baptism; affirm that water baptism is the initiating or entering ordinance, that your opinion and doctrine may hang better together.'
We come to my third argument; which is to prove, that it is lawful to hold church communion with the godly sincere believer, though he hath not be baptized with water, because he hath the DOCTRINE of baptisms (Heb 6:2). Which doctrine I distinguish from the practice of it; the doctrine being that which by the outward sign is presented to us; or which by the outward circumstance of the act is preached to the believer, viz., the death of Christ, my death with Christ; also his resurrection from the dead, and mine with him to newness of life. 'This our author calleth one of the strangest paradoxes that he hath LIGHTLY observed.'
Ans. How light he is in his observation of things, I know not; this I am sure, the apostle makes mention of the doctrine of baptisms; now that the doctrine of a man, or ordinance, is the signification of what is preached, is apparent to very sense. What is Christ's doctrine, Paul's doctrine, scripture doctrine, but the truth couched under the words that are spoken? so the doctrine of baptism, yea and the doctrine of the Lord's supper, are those truths or mysteries that such ordinances preach unto us. And that the doctrine of baptism, in this sense, is the great end for which that, and the Lord's supper, was instituted, is apparent from all the scriptures: it is that which the apostle seeketh for in that eminent sixth of the Romans, 'Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized 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. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection' (3-5). What is here discoursed, but the doctrine of or that which baptism teacheth; with an intimation; that that was the chief, for the sake of which that shadow was instituted; as also that they that have the doctrine, or that which is signified thereby, they only must reign with Christ.
Again, This is that which he seeketh for among the Corinthians; 'If the dead rise not at all,' [saith he], 'why then were you baptized for the dead?' (1 Cor 15:29). Why then were you baptized? What did baptism teach you? What doctrine did it preach to you? further, 'Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead' (Col 2:12). What is here in chief asserted, but the doctrine only which water baptism preacheth? with an intimation, that they, and they only, are the saved of the Lord, that have heard, received, and that live in this doctrine.
The same may be said of the Lord's supper, it also hath its doctrine. But against this our author objecteth, saying, 'That this is called the doctrine of baptism, I am yet to learn.'
Ans. Your ignorance of the truth makes it not an error: but I pray you, what is the doctrine of baptism, if not that which baptism teacheth, even that which is signified thereby? As that is the doctrine of Christ, and the scriptures; which he and they teach as the mind of God.
But you say, 'I took the doctrine of baptism to be the command that a believer should be baptized, for such ends as the gospel expresseth.'
Ans. To assert that a figurative ordinance is of God, is one thing; but the doctrinal signification of that ordinance is another. A man may preach the command, yet none of the doctrine which baptism preacheth. The doctrine lieth not in the command, but the mystery discovered to faith, by the act.
You object, 'If the resurrection be the doctrine of baptism, why doth the apostle make that, and the doctrine of baptism, things distinct, in Hebrews 6.'
Ans. The resurrection simply considered, is not the doctrine of baptism, but Christ's, and mine by him. Besides, there is more in it than the mystery of this resurrection; there is my death first, and then my rising with him.
But you add, 'Under the law, all the sacrifices of that dispensation, with their sabbaths, were types of that Christ, who was the substance of all those ceremonies. If any of them then that professed faith in the Messias to come, should upon scruples, or want of pretended light, neglect the whole, or part of that typical worship; why may not a man say of them, as this advocate of the practice under debate, they had the richer and better sacrifice.'
Ans. First, that the brethren which refuse to be baptized, as you and I would have them, refuse it for want of pretended light, becomes you not to imagine, unless your boldness will lead you to judge, that all men want sincerity, that come not up to our judgment. Their conscience may be better than either yours or mine; yet God, for purposes best known to himself, may forbear to give them conviction of their duty in this particular. But what, because they are not baptized, have they not Jesus Christ? Or, must we now be afraid to say that Christ is better than water baptism?[10] Yea, God himself for the sake of this better thing, hath suffered in his church a suspension of some of his ordinances, yet owned them for his truly constituted congregation. What say you to the church in the wilderness? I touched you with it in my first, but perceive you listed not to meddle therewith. That church received members, the way which was not prescribed by, but directly against the revealed mind of God; yet stood a true church, their members true members; also that church in that state, was such before whom, among whom, and to whom God continually made known himself to be their God, and owned them for his peculiar treasure.
And now I am fallen upon it, let me a little enlarge: this church, according to the then instituted worship of God, had circumcision for their entering ordinance (Gen 17:13,14), without which it was unlawful to receive any into fellowship with them: yea, he that without it was received, was to be cut off, and cast out again. Further, as to the passover, the uncircumcised were utterly forbidden to eat it (Exo 12:48). Now if our brethren had as express prohibition to justify their groundless opinion, as here is to exclude the uncircumcised from the communion of the church and the passover: I say, if they could find it written, 'No unbaptized person shall enter, no unbaptized person shall eat of the supper'; what a noise would they make about it? But yet let the reader observe, that although circumcision was the entering ordinance, and our author saith baptism is not; yea, though this church was expressly forbidden to receive the uncircumcised, and we have not a syllable now to forbid the unbaptized, yet this church received members without, and otherwise than by this entering ordinance. They also admitted them to the passover; yea, entertained, retained, and held communion with them so long as forty years without it. I say again, That the number of this sort of communicants was not so few as six hundred thousand. Moreover, to these uncircumcised was the land of Canaan given, yea, a possession of part thereof before they were circumcised; but the old circumcised ones might not enter therein. I am the larger in this, because our author hath overlooked my first mention thereof. And now I ask, What was the reason that God continued his presence with this church notwithstanding this transgression? Was it not because they had that richer and better thing, 'the Lord Jesus Christ?' For they did all eat of that spiritual bread, and drink of that 'spiritual rock that followed them: and that rock was Christ' (1 Cor 10:3,4). I confess I find them under rebukes and judgments in the wilderness, and that they were many times threatened to be destroyed; but yet I find not so much as one check for their receiving of members uncircumcised. Further, in the New Testament, where we have a catalogue of their sins, and also of their punishment for them; we find not a word about circumcision, nor the smallest intimation of the least rebuke for neglecting the entering ordinance (1 Cor 10:5-10). I will therefore say of them, as I have also said of my brethren, 'They had the richer and better thing.'
But you object, 'That this putteth the whole of God's instituted worship both under the law and gospel, to the highest uncertainties.'
Ans. This putteth our opposers out of their road, and quencheth the flame of their unwarrantable zeal. For if the entering ordinance, if the ordinance without which no man might be added to the church, was laid aside for forty years; yea, if more than six hundred thousand did communicate with them without it: I say again, If they did it, and held communion with God, that notwithstanding; yea, and had not, that we read of, all that time one small check for so doing; why may not we now enter communion, hold communion, maintain communion, church communion, without being judged, and condemned by you? because we cannot for want of light be all baptized before; especially considering baptism makes no man a saint, is not the entering ordinance, is no part of the worship of God enjoined the church as a church. To conclude, although we receive members unbaptized [in after], we leave not God's instituted worship at uncertainties, especially what he hath commanded us as his church; we only profess our want of light in some things; but see no word to warrant the forbearance of our duty in all, for want of persuasion in one.
You object, 'I call baptism a circumstance, an outward-shew I NICKNAME it.'
Ans. Deep reproof! but why did you not shew me my evil in thus calling it, when opposed to the substance, and the thing signified? Is it the substance, is it the thing signified? And why may not I give it the name of a shew; when you call it a symbol, and compare it to a gentleman's livery?
But you say, I call it an outward shew.

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