Your thirteenth argument is, 'If obedience must discover the truth of a man's faith to others, why must baptism be shut out, as if it was no part of gospel obedience? Is there no precept for this practice, that it must be thus despised, as a matter of little use? Or shall one of Christ's precious commands be blotted out of a Christian's obedience, to make way for a church fellowship of man's devising.'
Ans. 1. This is but round, round, the same thing over and over. That my obedience to water, is not a discovery of my faith to others, is evident, from the body of the Bible, we find nothing that affirms it. And I will now add, That if a man cannot shew himself a Christian without water baptism; he shall never shew either saint or sinner, that he is a Christian by it. 2. Who [soever] they are that despise it, I know not but that church membership may be without it, (seeing even you yourself have concluded it is no church ordinance, nor the entering ordinance) standeth both with scripture and reason, as mine arguments make manifest. So that all your arguments prove no more but this, 'That you are so wedded to your wordless notions, that charity can have no place with you.' Have you all this while so much as given me one small piece of a text to prove it unlawful for the church, to receive those whom she, by the word, perceiveth the Lord God and her Christ hath received? No: and therefore you have said so much as amounts to nothing.
Your last argument is, 'If the baptism of John was so far honoured and dignified, that they that did submit to it, are said to justify God; and those that did it not, are said to reject his counsel against themselves: so that their receiving, or rejecting the whole doctrine of God, hath its denomination from this single practice. And is there not as much to be said of the baptism of Christ, unless you will say it is inferior to John's in worth and use.'
Ans. 1. That our denomination of believers, and of our receiving the doctrine of the Lord Jesus, is not to be reckoned from our baptism, is evident; because according to our notion of it, they only that have before received the doctrine of the gospel, and so shew it us by their confession of faith, they only ought to be baptized. This might serve for an answer for all: but, 2. The Baptism of John was 'the baptism of repentance, for the remission of sins' (Mark 1:4; Matt 3;6; Luke 3:3), of which water was but an outward signification. Now what is the baptism of repentance, but an unfeigned acknowledgment that they were sinners, and so stood in need of a Saviour, Jesus Christ. This baptism, or baptism under this notion, the Pharisees would not receive (Luke 7:29,30). For they 'trusted in themselves that they were righteous,' that they were 'not as other men,' that they had need of no repentance (Luke 18:9, 10:29, 15:7). Not but that they would have been baptized with water, might that have been without an acknowledgment that they were sinners (Matt 3:7); wherefore seeing the counsel of God respected rather the remission of sins by Jesus Christ, than the outward act of water baptism, ye ought not, as you do, by this your reasoning, to make it rather, at least in the revelation of it, to terminate in the outward act of being baptized, but in unfeigned and sound repentance, and the receiving of Jesus Christ by faith (Eph 1:7,8,11).
Further, A desire to submit to John's water baptism, or of being baptized by him in water, did not demonstrate by that single act, the receiving of the whole doctrine of God as you suggest. 'Why did John reject the Pharisees that would have been baptized (Matt 3:7), and Paul examine them that were?' (Acts 19:2,3). If your doctrine be true, why did they not rather say, Oh! seeing you desire to be baptized, seeing you have been baptized, you need not to be questioned any further; your submitting to John's water, to us is a sufficient testimony, even that single act, that you have received the whole doctrine of God. But I say, why did John call them vipers? And Paul asked them, Whether they had yet 'received the Holy Ghost?' Yea, it is evident, that a man may be desirous of water, that a man may be baptized, and neither own the doctrine of repentance, nor know on whom he should believe; evident, I say, and that by the same texts (Matt 3:7; Acts 19:2-4).
You have grounded therefore this your last argument, as also the rest, upon an utter mistake of things.
I COME NOW TO YOUR Questions; WHICH ALTHOUGH THEY BE MIXED WITH GALL, I WILL WITH PATIENCE SEE IF I CAN TURN THEM INTO FOOD.
[Quest. 1.] Your first question is, 'I ask your own heart, whether popularity and applause of variety of professors, be not in the bottom of what you have said; that hath been your snare to pervert the right ways of the Lord, and to lead others into a path wherein we can find none of the footsteps of the flock in the first ages?'
Ans. Setting aside a retaliation, like your question, I say, and God knows I speak the truth, I have been tempted to do what I have done, by a provocation of sixteen years long; tempted, I say, by the brethren of your way: who, whenever they saw their opportunity, have made it their business to seek to rend us in pieces; mine ownself they have endeavoured to persuade to forsake the church; some they have rent quite off from us, others they have attempted and attempted to divide and break off from us, but by the mercy of God, have been hitherto prevented. A more large account you may have in my next, if you think good to demand it; but I thank God that I have written what I have written.
Quest. 2. 'Have you dealt brotherly, or like a Christian, to throw so much dirt upon your brethren, in print, in the face of the world, when you had an opportunity to converse with them of reputation amongst us, before printing, being allowed the liberty by them, at the same time for you to speak among them?'
Ans. I have thrown no dirt upon them, nor laid any thing to their charge, if their practice be warrantable by the word; but you have not been offended at the dirt yourselves have thrown at all the godly in the land that are not of our persuasion, in counting them unfit to be communicated with, or to be accompanied with in the house of God. This dirt you never complained of, nor would, I doubt, to this day, might you be still let alone to throw it. As to my book, it was printed before I spake with any of you, or knew whether I might be accepted of you. As to them of reputation among you, I know others not one tittle inferior to them, and have my liberty to consult with who I like best.
Quest. 3. 'Doth your carriage answer the law of love or civility, when the brethren used means to send for you for a conference, and their letter was received by you, that you should go out again from the city after knowledge of their desires, and not vouchsafe a meeting with them, when the glory of God, and the vindication of so many churches is concerned.'
Ans. The reason why I came not amongst you, was partly because I consulted mine own weakness, and counted not myself, being a dull headed man, able to engage so many of the chief of you, as I was then informed intended to meet me. I also feared, in personal disputes, heats and bitter contentions might arise, a thing my spirit hath not pleasure in: I feared also, that both myself and words would be misrepresented; and that not without cause, for if they that answer a book will alter, and screw arguments out of their place, and make my sentences stand in their own words, not mine, when I say my words are in a book to be seen, what would you have done, had I in the least, either in matter or manner, though but seemingly miscarried among you. As for the many churches which you say are concerned, as also the glory of God, I doubt not to say they are only your wordless opinions that are concerned; the glory of God is vindicated: We receive him that God hath received, and that 'to the glory of God' (Rom 15:7).
Quest. 4. 'Is it not the spirit of Diotrephes of old, in you, who loved to have the pre-eminence, that you are so bold to keep out all the brethren, that are not of your mind in this matter, from having any entertainment in the churches or meetings to which you belong, though you yourself have not been denied the like liberty, among them that are contrary minded to you? Is this the way of your retaliation? Or are you afraid lest the truth should invade your quarters?'
Ans. I can say, I would not have the spirit you talk of; what I have of it, God take it from me. But what was the spirit of Diotrephes? Why, not to receive the brethren into the church, and to forbid them that would (3 John 9,10). This do not I; I am for communion with saints, because they are saints: I shut none of the brethren out of the churches, nor forbid them that would receive them. I say again, shew me the man that is a visible believer, and that walketh with God; and though he differ with me about baptism, the doors of the church stand open for him, and all our heaven-born privileges he shall be admitted to them. But how came Diotrephes so lately into our parts? Where was he in those days that our brethren of the baptized way, would neither receive into the church, nor pray with men as good as themselves, because they were not baptized; but would either, like Quakers, stand with their hats on their heads, or else withdraw till we had done.
As to our not suffering those you plead for to preach in our assemblies, the reason is, because we cannot yet prevail with them, to repent of their church-rending principles. As to the retaliation, mind the hand of God, and remember Adonibezek (Judg 1:7). Let the truth come into our quarters and welcome, but sowers of discord, because the Lord hates it (Prov 6:19), we also ourselves will AVOID them (Rom 16:17,18).
Quest. 5. 'Is there no contempt cast upon the brethren, who desired your satisfaction, that at the same time, when you have opportunity to speak to them, instead of that, you committed the letters to others, by way of reflection upon them?'
Ans. It is no contempt at all to consult men more wise and judicious than him that wrote, or myself either. But why not consult with others. Is wisdom to die with you? Or do you count all that yourselves have no hand in, done to your disparagement?
Quest. 6. 'Did not your presumption prompt you to provoke them to printing, in your letter to them, when they desired to be found in no such practice, lest the enemies of truth should take advantage by it?'
Ans. What provoked you to print, will be best known at the day of judgment, whether your fear of losing your wordless opinion, or my plain answer to your letter: The words in my letter are, 'As for my book never defer its answer till you speak with me, for I strive not for mastery but truth.' Though you did not desire to write, yet with us there was continual labour to rend us to pieces, and to prevent that, was my first book written. And let who will take advantage, so the truth of God, and the edification of my brother be promoted.
Quest. 7. 'Whether your principle and practice is not equally against others as well as us, viz. Episcopal, Presbyterians, and Independents, who are also of our side, for our practice, though they differ with us about the subject of baptism. Do you delight to have your hand against every man?'
Ans. I own water baptism to be God's ordinance, but I make no idol of it. Where you call now the Episcopal to side with you, and also the Presbyterian, &c. you will not find them easily persuaded to conclude with you against me. They are against your manner of dipping, as well as the subject of water baptism; neither do you, for all you flatter them, agree together in all but the subject. Do you allow their sprinkling? Do you allow their signing with the cross? Why then have you so stoutly, an hundred times over, condemned these things as antichristian. I am not against every man, though by your abusive language you would set every one against me; but am for union, concord, and communion with saints, as saints, and for that cause I wrote my book.