Differences in judgment about water baptism, no bar to communion

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Object. Some say this bearing or receiving, were but in things indifferent.
Ans. That eating, or forbearing upon a civil account, are things indifferent, is true: but not when done upon the account of worship, as keeping of days, and establishing Jewish observations about meats, which by the death of Christ are taken away; and it is not fairly to be imagined the same church at Rome looked so upon them as indifferent; nor that the Lord doth; that it were all alike to him to hold up Jewish observations, or to keep days or no days, right days or wrong days, as indifferent things, which is a great mistake, and no less than to make God's grace little in receiving such. For if it were but in things wherein they had not sinned, it were no great matter for the Lord to receive, and it would have been as good an argument or motive to the church, to say the things were indifferent, as to say the Lord had received them. Whereas the text is to set out the riches of grace to the vessels of mercy, as Romans 9:15. That as at first he did freely choose and accept them; so when they fail and miscarry in many things, yea about his worship also, although he be most injured thereby, yet he is first in passing it by, and persuading others to do the like. That as the good Samaritan did in the Old Testament,[19] so our good Samaritan doth in the New, when priest and Levite passed by, pastor and people pass by, yet he will not, but pours in oil, and carries them to his inn, and calls for receiving, and setting it upon his account.
Object. That this bearing with, and receiving such as are weak in the faith, must be limited to meats and days, and such like things that had been old Jewish observations, but not unto the being ignorant in, or doubting of any New Testament institution.
Ans. Where the Lord puts no limitation, men should be wary how they do it, for they must have a command or example, before they can limit this command; for although the Lord took this occasion from their difference about meats and days to give this command, yet the command is not limited there, no more than Matthew 12:1-8. That when they made use of his good law rigorously in the letter, he presently published an act of grace in the 7th verse, and tells them, Had they known what this meaneth, 'I will have mercy and not sacrifice,' they would not have condemned the guiltless; as also Matthew 9:13, 'Go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice,' which is not to be limited unto what was the present occasion of publishing the command, but observed as a general rule upon all occasions, wherein mercy and sacrifice comes in competition, to shew the Lord will rather have a duty omitted that is due to him, than mercy to his creatures omitted by them. So in the text, when some would not receive such as were weak in the faith, as to matters of practice, the Lord was pleased to publish this act of grace: 'Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.' Now unless it be proved, that no saint can be weak in the faith in any thing but meats and days, or in some Old Testament observations, and that he ought not to be judged a saint that is weak in the faith as it relates to gospel institutions, in matters of practice; you cannot limit the text, and you must also prove his weakness SUCH, as that the Lord will not receive him; else the command in the first verse, and the reason or motive in the third verse, will both be in force upon you; to wit, 'Him that is weak in the faith receive ye,' or unto you, - 'for God hath received him.'
Object. But some may object from 1 Corinthians 12:13, 'For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles.' Some there are that affirm this to be meant of water baptism, and that particular churches are formed thereby, and all persons are to be admitted and jointed unto such churches by water baptism.
Ans. That the baptism intended in the text is the Spirit's baptism, and not water baptism; and that the body the text intends, is not principally the church of Corinth, but all believers, both Jews and Gentiles, being baptized into one mystical body, as Ephesians 4:4, 'There is one body and one Spirit,' wherein there is set out the uniter and the united; therefore in the third verse they are exhorted to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The united are all the faithful in one body; into whom? in the fifth verse, in one Lord Jesus Christ: by what? one faith, one baptism, which CANNOT be meant of water baptism; for water baptism doth not unite all this body, for some of them never had water baptism, and are yet of this body, and by the Spirit gathered into one Lord Jesus Christ (Eph 1:10), 'both which are in heaven and in earth,' Jew and Gentile (Eph 2:16), 'that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross.' The instrument you have in verse 18, 'by one spirit' (Eph 3:6). 'That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body' (v 15). 'Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.' And the reasons of their keeping 'the unity of the Spirit,' in Ephesians 4:3 is laid down in verses 4, 5 being 'one body,' 'one Spirit,' having 'one hope,' 'one Lord,' 'one faith,' 'one baptism,' whether they were Jews or Gentiles, such as were in heaven or in earth, which CANNOT be meant of water baptism, for in that sense they had not all one baptism, nor admitted and united thereby. So in 1 Corinthians 12:13, 'For by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit'; which cannot be meant of water baptism, in regard all the body of Christ, Jews and Gentiles, bond and free, partook not thereof.
Object. But Ephesians 4:5 saith, there is but 'one baptism'; and by what hath been said, if granted, water baptism will be excluded, or else there is more baptisms than one.
Ans. It followeth not that because the Spirit will have no corrival, that therefore other things may not be in their places. That because the Spirit of God taketh the pre-eminence, therefore other things may not be subservient (1 John 2:27). The apostle tells them, That the anointing which they have received of him, abideth in them; and you need not, saith he, 'that any man teach you, but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things.' By this some may think John excludes the ministry; no such matter, though the Holy Ghost had confirmed and instructed them so in the truth of the gospel, as that they were furnished against seducers in verse 26 yet you see John goes on still teaching them in many things: as also in Ephesians 4:11-13, 'He gave some, apostles; - some evangelists, and some pastors, and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.' So in the Spirit's baptism, though it have the pre-eminence, and appropriateth some things, as peculiar to itself, it doth not thereby destroy the use and end of water baptism, or any other ordinance in its place: for water baptism is a means to increase grace, and in it, and by it sanctification is forwarded, and remission of sins more cleared and witnessed; yet the giving grace, and regenerating and renewing, is the Holy Spirit's peculiar. Consider (Titus 3:5), 'By the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost'; Baptism being the outward sign of the inward graces wrought by the Spirit, a representation or figure, as in 1 Peter 3:21, 'The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us [not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,] by the resurrection of Jesus Christ'; not excluding water baptism; but shewing, That the spiritual part is chiefly to be looked at: though such as slight water baptism, as the Pharisees and lawyers did (Luke 7:30), reject the counsel of God against themselves, not being baptized. And such as would set water baptism in the Spirit's place, exalt a duty against the deity and dignity of the Spirit, and to give the glory due unto him, as God blessed for ever, unto a duty.
By which mistake of setting up water baptism in the Spirit's place, and assigning it a work, which was never appointed unto it; of forming the body of Christ, either in general, as in 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 4:5 or as to particular churches of Christ, we may see the fruit; that instead of being the means of uniting as the Spirit doth; that it hath not only rent his seamless coat, but divided his body which he hath purchased with his own blood, and opposed that great design of Father, Son, and Spirit, in uniting poor saints, thereby pulling in pieces what the Spirit hath put together. 'Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, - for God hath received him'; being such as the Spirit had baptized and admitted of the body of Christ, he would have his churches receive them also: whose baptism is the ONLY baptism, and so is called the ONE baptism. Therefore consider, whether such a practice, hath a command or an example, that persons must be joined into church fellowship by water baptism; for John baptized many, yet he did not baptize some into one church, and some into another, nor all into one church, as the church of Rome doth. And into what church did Philip baptize the eunuch, or the apostle the jailor and his house? And all the rest they baptized, were they not left free to join themselves for their convenience and edification? All which I leave to consideration. I might have named some inconveniences, if not absurdities that would follow the assertion: as to father the mistakes of the baptizers on the Spirit's act, who is not mistaken in any HE baptizeth; no false brethren creep in unawares into the mystical body by him; and also, how this manner of forming churches would suit a country, where many are converted, and willing to be baptized; but there being no church to be baptized into, how shall such a church state begin? The first must be baptized into no church, and the rest into him as the church, or the work stand still for want of a church.
Object. 'But God is a God of order, and hath ordained order in all the churches of Christ; and for to receive one that holds the baptism he had in his infancy, there is no command nor example for, and by the same rule children will be brought in to be church members.'
Ans. That God is a God of order, and hath ordained orders in all the churches of Christ is true; and that this is one of the orders to receive him that is weak in the faith, is as true. And though there be no example or command, in so many words, receive such an one that holds the baptism he had in his infancy, nor to reject such a one: but there is a command to receive him that is weak in the faith, without limitation, and it is like this might not be a doubt in those days, and so not spoken of in particular.
But the Lord provides a remedy for all times in the text, 'Him that is weak in the faith receive ye'; for else receiving would not be upon the account of saintship; but upon knowing, and doing all things according to rule and order, and that must be perfectly, else for to deny any thing, or to affirm too much is disorderly, and would hinder receiving: but the Lord seals not so with his people, but accounts 'LOVE the fulfilling of the law,' though they be ignorant in many things both as to knowing and doing; and receives them into communion and fellowship with himself, and would have others do the same also. And if he would have so much bearing in the apostle's days, when they had infallible helps to expound truths unto them, much more now, the church hath been so long in the wilderness and in captivity, and not that his people should be driven away in the dark day, though they are sick and weak (Eze 34:16,21). And that it should be supposed such tenderness would bring in children in age to be church members, yea and welcome, if any body could prove them in the faith, though never so weak; for the text is, 'Him that is weak in the faith, receive ye': It is not He, and his wife and children, unless it can be proved they are IN THE FAITH.
Object. 'By this, some ordinances may be lost or omitted, and is it to be supposed the Lord would suffer any of his ordinances to be lost or omitted in the Old or New Testament, or the right use of them, and yet own such for true churches, and what reason can there be for it.?'
Ans. The Lord hath suffered some ordinances to be omitted and lost in the Old Testament, and yet owned the church. Though circumcision were omitted in the wilderness, yet he owned them to be his church (Acts 7:38); and many of the ordinances were lost in the captivity: see Ainsworth upon Exodus 28, 30 &c. which shewed what the high-priest was to put on, and were not to be omitted upon pain of death, as the Urim and Thummim, yet being lost, and several other ordinances, the ark, with the mercy-seat and cherubims, the fire from heaven, the majesty and divine presence, &c. yet, he owns the second temple, though short of the first, and filled it with his glory, and honoured it with his Son, being a member and a minister therein (Mal 3:1), 'The Lord whom ye seek shall suddenly come to his temple': So in the New Testament, since their wilderness condition, and great and long captivity, there is some darkness and doubts, and want of light in the best of the Lord's people, in many of his ordinances, and that for several ages, and yet how hath the Lord owned them for his churches, wherein he is to have glory and praise 'throughout all ages' (Eph 3:21). And so should we own them, unless we will condemn the generation of the just. It must be confessed, That if exact practice be required, and clearness in gospel institutions before communion; who dare be so bold as to say his hands are clean, and that he hath done all the Lord's commands, as to institutions in his worship? and must not confess the change of times doth necessitate some variation, if not alteration, either in the matter or manner of things according to primitive practice; yet owned for true churches, and received as visible saints, though ignorant either wholly, or in great measure, in laying on of hands, singing, washing of feet, and anointing with oil, in the gifts of the Spirit, which is the Urim and Thummim of the gospel. And it cannot be proved, that the churches were so ignorant in the primitive times, nor yet that such were received into fellowship; yet now herein it is thought meet their should be bearing, and why not in baptism, especially in such as own it for an ordinance, though in some things miss it, and do yet shew their love unto it, and unto the Lord, and unto his law therein, that they could be willing to die for it rather than to deny it; and to be baptized in their blood; which sheweth, they hold it in conscience their duty, while they have further light from above, and are willing to hear and obey as far as they know, though weak in the faith, as to clearness in gospel institutions: surely the text is on their side, or else it will exclude all the former, 'Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, - but not to doubtful disputations' (Rom 14:5). Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind, and such the Lord hath received.
As to the query, What reason is there, why the Lord should suffer any of his ordinances to be lost?
Ans. If there were no reason to be shewn, it should teach us silence, for he doth nothing without the highest reason; and there doth appear some reasons in the Old Testament, why those ordinances of Urim and Thummim, &c. were suffered to be lost in the captivity, that they might long and look for the Lord Jesus, the priest, that was to stand up with Urim and Thummim (Ezra 2:63; Neh 7:65), which the Lord by this puts them upon the hoping for, and to be in the expectation of so great a mercy, which was the promise of the Old Testament, and all the churches losses in the New Testament. By all the dark night of ignorance she hath been in, and long captivity she hath been under, and in her wandering wilderness state, wherein she hath rather been fed with manna from heaven, than by men upon earth; and after all her crosses and losses, the Lord lets light break in by degrees, and deliverance by little and little; and she is 'coming out of the wilderness leaning upon her beloved'; and the Lord hath given the valley of Achor for a door of hope, that ere long she may receive the promise of the gospel richly, by the Spirit, to be poured upon us from on high (Isa 32:15), and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field become a forest, and then the Lord will take away the covering cast over all people (Isa 25:7), and the vail that is spread over all nations (Isa 11:9); 'For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea' (v 13). Then 'Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim.' Thus will the God of peace bruise Satan under foot shortly; and one reason why the Lord may suffer all this darkness and differences that have been, and yet are, is, that we might long and look for this blessed promise of the gospel, the pourings out of the Spirit.
Object. But many authors do judge, that the weak and strong were all in church fellowship before, and that the receiving (Rom 14:1) was but into mutual affection.
Ans. It ought to be seriously weighed how any differ from so many worthy authors, is confessed; to whom the world is so much beholden for their help in many things; but it would be of dangerous consequence to take all for granted they say, and unlike the noble Bereans (Acts 17:11). Though they had some infallible teachers, yet they took not their words or doctrine upon trust; and there may be more ground to question expositors on this text, in regard their principles necessitate them to judge that the sense; for if it be in their judgments a duty to compel all to come in, and to receive all, and their children, they must needs judge by that text, they were all of the church, and in fellowship, before their scrupling meats and days, because that is an act of grown persons at years of discretion; and therefore the receiving is judged by them to be only into mutual affection, for it is impossible for them to hold their opinion, and judge otherwise of the text; for in baptism, they judge infants should be received into church fellowship; and then scrupling meats and days must needs be after joining. Their judgments might as well be taken, that it is a duty to baptize infants, as that they can judge of this text rightly, and hold their practice.
Object. But no uncircumcised person was to eat the passover (Exo 12). And doth not the Lord as well require the sign of baptism now, as of circumcision then? and is there not like reason for it?
Ans. The Lord, in the Old Testament, expressly commanded no uncircumcised person should eat the passover (Exo 12:48; Eze 44:9), that no stranger, uncircumcised in heart, or uncircumcised in flesh, should enter into his sanctuary.[20] And had the Lord commanded, that no unbaptized person should enter into his churches, it had been clear. And no doubt, Christ was as faithful as a son in all his house, as Moses was as a servant; and although there had been little reason, if the Lord had commanded it so to be, yet in God's worship we must not make the likeness of any thing in our reason, but the will of God, the ground of duty; for upon such a foundation some would build the baptizing of infants, because it would be like unto circumcision, and so break the second commandment, in making the likeness of things of their own contrivance, of force with institutions in the worship of God.
The most that I think can be said is, That we have no gospel example for receiving without baptism, or rejecting any for want of it. Therefore it is desired, what hath been said, may be considered; lest while we look for an example, we do not overlook a command upon a mistake, supposing that they were all in church fellowship before; whereas the text saith not so, but 'Him that is weak in the faith receive ye,' or unto you.
We may see also how the Lord proceeds under the law, though he accounts those things that were done contrary to his law, sinful, though done ignorantly; yet never required the offender to offer sacrifice till he knew thereof (Lev 5:5 compared with vv 15,16). And that may be a man's own sin through his ignorance; that though it may be another's duty to endeavour to inform him in, yet not thereupon to keep him out of his Father's house; for surely the Lord would not have any of his children kept out, without we have a word for it. And though they scruple some meats in their Father's house, yet it may be dangerous for the stronger children to deny them all the rest of the dainties therein, till the weak and sick can eat strong meat; whereas Peter had meat for one, and milk for another; and Peter must feed the poor lambs as well as the sheep; and if others will not do it, the great shepherd will come ere long and look up what hath been driven away (Eze 34:4,11; Isa 40:11). He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he shall gather the lambs into his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.


1. Who is there that reads these revilings of Bunyan for his poverty and mean descent, but must be struck with the unsearchable wisdom of the Almighty. The salvation of the church requires that 'GOD should be manifest in the flesh.' Does he appear in his glory? Does he honour riches, and power, and wisdom, by descending in one of these classes? No; the poor, the despised in this world, claim kindred with him--'Is not this the carpenter's son?' 'Have any of the rulers or pharisees believed on him?' Even with these examples before them, his Baptist ministerial brethren, who sat at his feet when he came to London, and listened to his eloquence, now, in their hot dispute, revile and taunt him with his imprisonment--his poverty--his want of book learning. Refused the communion of some eminent earthly saints, it drove him to closer communion with his God, and the prison, became a Bethel--none other than the house of God, and the very gate of heaven; and in a holy, happy frame of soul, he breathes forgiveness: 'What Mr. Kiffin hath done in the matter I forgive, and love him never the worse'!!--Ed.
2. How do these verses cut down all the carnal pride of man. Who is THE BLESSED? not the rich, or powerful, or worldly wise, but those that delight in the word of God.--Ed.
3. Nearly all the Baptist churches of that day limited communion to them who had been baptized in water on a profession of their faith. It is very different now; Bunyan's principles have spread, are spreading, and must soon become universal.--Ed.
4. Mr. H. D'Anvers: 'A seventh end of baptism is, that the baptized person may orderly thereby have an entrance into the visible church. None were esteemed members, or did partake of its ordinances, before they were baptized, being so God's hedge or boundary.'--Treatise of Baptism, p. 20, ed. 1674.
5. A modern writer, in a critique on Bunyan, says that he did as much justice to grace as his Calvinism would allow him!! May all the world be such Calvinists.--Ed.
6. 'Without the church,' previous to having entered into the church, a personal obedience to the divine command; having repented, then be baptized: neither of these are duties to be performed by the church, as such, but individually.--Ed.
7. 'To themselves,' to the particular churches only to which they were written. Contrary to the word, 'All scripture is given - to be profitable to the man of God' in every church (2 Tim 3:16).--Ed.
8. To these ten commandments must be added that new command given by the Saviour, 'That ye love one another' (John 12:34); or rather the evangelical sum of the whole law, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself.' This happy state of mind can only be attained by the baptism of the Holy Ghost. How awful the thought that multitudes of professing Christians rely upon outward ceremonies, a fleshly carnal confidence in ordinances, while they are dead as to union with God and to spiritual communion with his saints. Reader, how is it with your own soul.--Ed.
9. Bunyan's adversaries were wrong in stating that all the expositors agreed in referring this 'one baptism' to be that in or with water. John Caime, 1662, refers to 1 Corinthians 12:13, as an illustration of Ephesians 4:5, 'One baptism,' 'by one SPIRIT are we all baptized.' The Assembly's Annotations, 1657, infers that 'one' means 'once,' and refers to the Nicene creed, which says, 'one baptism for the remission of sins'; this surely cannot mean that the application of water remits sins. Diodati, 1648, is silent on this subject. Dr. Hammond, 1653, says, 'the same vow to be administered to all.' Very similar to this is the Dutch annotations of Theodore Haak.--Ed.
10. Heaven forbid that we should be afraid or ashamed of saying that Christ is better than water baptism. Christ is the heavenly manna, the sweet, pleasant, nourishing food of the soul. Baptism is only once for life, but Christ is our essential food all through the wilderness--every hour of life until we enter the gates of the celestial and eternal city.--Ed.
11. While we acknowledge the importance of water baptism, to which Christ submitted, yet we do well to consider that it was not intended as a means of purifying his infinite purity; no more does it purify the believer who follows his Redeemer in this ordinance. He was as much a believer before as he is after the ceremony. He submits to it as an act of obedience to the divine command, in the humble hope that his faith may be strengthened and his soul refreshed.--Ed.
12. 'The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God' (James 1:20). The angry passions of man work evil. Such fiery zeal is contrary to the spirit of Christ. The ignorant must be won by meekness to embrace the truth.--Ed.
13. It becomes all prayerfully to follow divine commands in ALL THINGS. Nothing is indifferent or non-essential that God hath ordained for the believer. But if disciples differ about days, or meats, or water, ought such differences to prevent their communion and fellowship more than differences in personal stature, or beauty, or in mental powers. Uniformity in anything but love to God and to each other is a fool's paradise, contrary to the experience of the apostolic and all ages, and opposed to every law of nature.--Ed.
14. This typographical error in 'The Reasons of my Practice' is corrected in this edition for the first time.--Ed.
15. The doctrine of the real presence, called transubstantiation, was the test of adherence to the Romish church, which unless all persons pretended to believe they were sacrificed with brutal ferocity.--Ed.
16. In Bunyan's days, both the laws of the land, the judges, and the commonalty, gave credence to the wicked gambols of wizards and witches. Many a poor iniquitous old woman, from some mysterious hints of her power to tell fortunes, or to gratify the revengeful feelings of her neighbours, was put to a cruel death. More enlightened times have dissipated this illusion, and driven these imaginary imps of darkness into benighted countries.--Ed.
17. 'Me-hap-soes,' a contraction of 'it may so happen.'--Ed.
18. Tyndale, and all the early English translations, rend it 'unto you,' until the Elisabethan State Bible, called the Bishop's, in 1568. Do not the words mean that Christians are to receive such as are weak in the faith into their hearts by love, without troubling their heads with perplexing disputes?--Ed.
19. Under the Old Testament dispensation; the parable or history is recorded in Luke 10.--Ed.
20. We cannot offer to God any acceptable sacrifice until spiritually baptized. First joined to God by a living faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and then bringing forth the fruits of this internal and purifying baptism, we must give ourselves to his church in the bonds of the gospel.--Ed.

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