Differences in judgment about water baptism, no bar to communion

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Ans. Is it an inward one? What is it?
'It is a command.'
Ans. But doth that install it in that place and dignity, that was never intended for it?
You object further, 'They cannot have the doctrine of baptism that understand not our way of administering it.'
This is your mistake, both of the doctrine and thing itself. But if you will not SCORN to take notice of me, I advise you again to consider, That a man may find baptism to be commanded, may be informed who ought to administer it; may also know the proper subject; and that the manner of baptizing is dipping; and may desire to practise it because it is commanded, and yet know nothing of what water baptism preacheth; or of the mystery baptism sheweth to faith. But that the doctrine of baptism is not the practice of it, not the outward act, but the thing signified; and that every believer hath that, must argue you more than too bold to deny it.
But say you, 'Who taught you to divide betwixt Christ and his precepts, that you word it at such a rate? That he that hath the one,' &c.
Ans. To say nothing of faith, and the word; verily reason itself teacheth it. For if Christ be my righteousness, and not water; if Christ be my advocate, and not water; if there be that good and blessedness in Christ, that is not in water; then is Jesus Christ better than water; and also in these to be eternally divided from water; unless we will make them co-saviours, co-advocates, and such as are equally good and profitable to men.
But say you, 'I thought that he that hath Christ, had an orderly right to all Christ's promises and precepts; and that the precepts of Christ, are part of the riches that a believer hath in and by Christ.'
Ans. A believer hath more in Christ than either promise or precept; but all believers know not all things, that of God are given to them by Christ. But must not they use, and enjoy what they know, because they know not all. Or must they neglect the weightier matters, because they want mint, and anise, and cummin? Your pretended orderly right is your fancy; there is not a syllable in the whole bible, that bids a Christian to forbear his duty in other things, because he wanteth, as you term it, the symbol, or water baptism.
But say you, 'He that despiseth his birthright of ordinances, our church privileges, will be found to be a profane person, as Esau in God's account.'
Baptism is not the privilege of a church as such. But what? are they all Esau's indeed? Must we go to hell, and be damned, for want of faith in water baptism? And take notice, I do not plead for a despising of baptism, but a bearing with our brother, that cannot do it for want of light. The best of baptism he hath, viz. the signification thereof: he wanteth only the outward shew, which if he had, would not prove him a truly visible saint; it would not tell me he had the grace of God in his heart; it is no characteristical note to another of my Sonship with God. But why did you not answer these parts of my argument? Why did you only cavil at words? which if they had been left out, the argument yet stands good. 'He that is not baptized [in water], if yet a true believer, hath the DOCTRINE of baptism; yea, he ought to have it before he be convicted, it is his duty to be baptized, or else he playeth the hypocrite. There is therefore no difference between that believer that is, and he that is not yet baptized with water; but only his going down into the water, there to perform an outward ceremony, the substance of which he hath already; which yet he is not commanded to do with respect to membership with the church; but to obtain by that, further understanding of his privilege by Christ, which before he made profession of, and that as a visible believer.'[11]
But to come to my fourth argument, which you so tenderly touch as if it burnt your fingers: 'I am bold [say I] to have communion with visible saints as before, because God hath communion with them, whose example in the case we are strictly commanded to follow.' 'Receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God' (Rom 15:7). Yea, though they be saints, in opinion contrary to you, or I. 'We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves' (Rom 15:1). Infirmities that are sinful: for they that are natural are incident to all. Infirmities therefore they are, that for want of light, cause a man to err in circumstantials: and the reason upon which Paul groundeth this admonition is; 'For even Christ pleased not himself, but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me' (Rom 15:3).
You say to this, 'That it is Paul's direction to the church at Rome how to receive their brethren church members.'
I answer, 1. What? are not the poor saints now in this city? are not they concerned in these instructions? or is not the church by these words at all directed how to carry it to those that were not yet in fellowship? A bold assertion! but grounded upon nothing, but that you would have it so. 2. But how will you prove that there was a church, a rightly constituted church, at Rome, besides that in Aquila's house? (chap. 16). Neither doth this epistle, nor any other in the whole book of God affirm it. Besides, since Paul in this last chapter saluteth the church, as in this man's house, but the other, only as particular saints, it giveth further ground of conviction to you, that those others were not as yet imbodied in such a fellowship. 3. But suppose there was another church besides; it doth not therefore follow, that the apostle exhorteth them only to receive persons already in fellowship; but 'Him,' even every 'Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations' (14:1). 4. Suppose again, the receiving here exhorted to, be such as you would have it, yet the rule by which they are directed to do it, is that by which we perceive that Christ hath received them. But Christ did not receive them by [water] baptism, but as given to him by the Father. Him, therefore, concerning whom we are convinced, that he by the Father is given to Christ, 'Him should we receive.' 5. But what need I grant you, that which cannot be proved? yet if you could prove it, it availeth nothing at all; because you may not, cannot, ought not to dare to limit the exhortation to receiving of one another into each other's affections only; and not also receiving saints into communion.
But you object: 'To make God's receiving the rule of our receiving, in all cases will not hold.'
Ans. Keep to the thing, man: if it hold in the case in hand, it is enough, the which you have not denied. And that it holds thus, is plain, because commanded. But let the reader know, that your putting in that way of his receiving which is invisible to us; is but an unhandsome straddling over my argument, which treateth only of a visible receiving; such as is manifest to the church. This you knew, but sought by evading to turn the reader from considering the strength of this my argument. 'The receiving then [said I] because it is set as an example to the church, is such as must needs be visible unto them; and is best discovered by that word that describeth the visible saint. Whoso then you can judge a visible saint, one that walketh with God, you may, nay ought to judge by the same word, that God hath received him. Now him that God receiveth, him should you receive.' But will any object; they cannot believe that God receiveth the unbaptized saints; I will not suppose you so much stupefied, and therefore shall make no answer.
But you seem to be much offended, because I said, 'Vain man! Think not by the straightness of thine order in outward, and bodily conformity to outward and shadowish circumstances, that thy peace is maintained with God?' But why so much offended at this? [It is say you] 'Because you intend by this the brethren of the baptized way.'
Ans. If they be vain men, and set up their OWN order, how straight soever they make it, they are worthy to be reproved; if 'they have rejected the word of the Lord; what wisdom is in them?' (Jer 8:9). And as you suggest the first, I affirm the second. But if you would be justified in excluding those, with whom yet you see God hath communion, because they yet see not a shadow with you; produce the scripture for such order, that we may believe it is the order of God. But deal fairly, lest we shew your nakedness, and others see your shame. You tell me of the order of the Colossians (2:5). But if you can prove that that church refused to hold communion with that saint whom they knew to be received by Christ, and held communion with him [Christ], or that none but those that are baptized [in water] are received by and hold communion with him, then you justify your order. In the mean while the whole of mine argument stands firm against you; 'You must have communion with visible saints, because God hath communion with them, whose example in the case we are strictly commanded to follow.'
But you ask me, 'If outward and bodily conformity be become a crime?'
Ans. I nowhere said it; but know that to glorify God with our bodies, respecteth chiefly far higher and more weighty things, than that of water baptism; 'Whatsoever is not of faith is sin' (Rom 14:23); and to set up an ordinance, though an ordinance of God, that by it the church may be pulled in pieces, or the truly visible saints excluded communion with their brethren; I say again, to make water baptism a bar and division between saint and saint, every whit otherwise gracious and holy alike: This is like fasting 'for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness' (Isa 58:4); and is not to be found within the whole bible, but is wholly an order of your own devising. As to the peace you make an objection about you have granted me what I intended; and now I add further, that for church peace to be founded in water baptism, or any other external rite, not having to do with the church, as a church, is poor peace indeed: Church peace is founded in blood; and love to each other for Jesus' sake (Phil 2:1-4). Bearing with, and forbearing one another, in all things circumstantial, that concern not church worship as such (Eph 4:31,32). And in my other [treatise] I have proved that baptism is not such, and therefore ought not to be urged to make rents and divisions among brethren.
But you ask, 'Is my peace maintained in a way of disobedience? and conclude if it be, you fear it is false.'
Ans. If the first were true; you need not to doubt of the second; but it may be thought he hath little to say in the controversy, who is forced to stuff out his papers, with such needless prattles as these.
My fifth argument is, 'That a failure in such a circumstance as water baptism, doth not unchristian us'; this you are compelled to grant. And I conclude with your words, persons ought to be Christians before visible Christians; such as any congregation in the land may receive to communion with themselves, because God hath shewed us that he has received them. 'Receive him to the glory of God.' To the glory of God, is put in on purpose, to shew what dishonour they bring to him, who despise to have communion with such, whom they know do maintain communion with God. I say again, How doth this man, or that church, glorify God, or count the wisdom and holiness of heaven beyond them, when they refuse communion with them, concerning whom yet they are convinced, that they have communion with God? But my argument you have not denied; nor meddled with the conclusion at all; which is, 'That therefore, even because a failure here, doth not unchristian us, doth not make us insincere'; and I add, doth not lay us open to any revealed judgment or displeasure of God (if it doth, shew where) therefore it should not, it ought not to make us obnoxious to the displeasure of the church of God.
But you say, 'I rank gospel precepts, with Old Testament abrogated ceremonies.'
Ans. You should have given your reader my words, that he might have judged from my own mouth: I said then, speaking before of Christianity itself, 'that thousands of thousands that could not consent to water, as we, are now with the innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect.' What was said of eating, or the contrary, may as to this be said of water baptism: neither if I be baptized, am I the better? neither if I be not, am I the worse? not the better before God, not the worse before men: still meaning as Paul, provided I walk according to my light with God; otherwise it is false. For if a man that seeth it to be his duty, shall despisingly neglect it; or if he that hath not faith about it, shall foolishly take it up: both these are for this the worse; I mean, as to their own sense, being convicted in themselves, as transgressors. He therefore that doth it according to his light, doth well; and he that doth it not, for want of light, doth not ill; for he approveth his heart to be sincere with God, even by that his forbearance. And I tell you again, It is nowhere recorded, that this man is under any revealed threatening of God, for his not being baptized with water, he not having light therein, but is admitted through his grace to as many promises as you. If therefore he be not a partaker of that circumstance, yet he is of that liberty, and mercy, by which you stand with God.
But that I practise instituted worship, upon the same account as Paul did circumcision, and shaving, is too bold for you to presume to imagine. What? because I will not suffer water to carry away the epistles from the Christians; and because I will not let water baptism be the rule, the door, the bolt, the bar, the wall of division between the righteous, and the righteous; must I therefore be judged to be a man without conscience to the worship of Jesus Christ? The Lord deliver me from superstitious and idolatrous thoughts about any of the ordinances of Christ and of God. But my fifth argument standeth against you untouched; you have not denied, much less confuted the least syllable thereof.
You tell me my sixth argument is, Edification.
Ans. If it be, why is it not embraced? But my own words are these: 'I am for holding communion thus. Because the edification of souls in the faith and holiness of the gospel, is of greater concern than an agreement in outward things; I say, it is of greater concern with us, and of far more profit to our brother, than our agreeing in, or contesting for, water baptism' (John 16:13; 1 Cor 14:12; 2 Cor 10:8, 12:19; Eph 4:12; 1 Cor 13:1,2; 8:1). Now why did you not take this argument in pieces, and answer those scriptures, on which the strength thereof depends; but if to contest, and fall out about water baptism, be better than to edify the house of God, produce the texts, that we may be informed.
You say, 'Edification is the end of all communion, but all things must be done in order, orderly.'
Ans. When you have proved that there is no such thing as an orderly edifying of the church, without water baptism precede, then it will be time enough to think you have said something.
You add, 'Edification as to church fellowship being a building up, doth suppose the being of a church; but pray you shew us a church without baptism.'
Ans. See here the spirit of these men, who for the want of water baptism, have at once unchurched all such congregations of God in the world; but against this I have, and do urge, That water baptism giveth neither being, nor well-being to a church, neither is any part of that instituted worship of God, that the church, as such, should be found in the practice of. Therefore her edification as a church may, yea and ought to be attained unto without it.
But you say, 'Shew us a New Testament church without baptism.'
Ans. What say you to the church all along the Revelation quite through the reign of Antichrist? Was that a New Testament church, or no? Again, If baptism be without the church, as a church, if it hath nothing to do in the constituting of a church; if it be not the door of entrance into the church, if it be no part of church-worship as such; then, although all the members of that church were baptized, yet the church is a church without water baptism. But all the churches in the New Testament were such: therefore, &c. Again, If baptism respect believers, as particular persons only; if it respects their own conscience only; if it make a man no visible believer to me, then it hath nothing to do with church-membership. Because, that which respects my own person only, my own conscience only: that which is no character of my visible saintship to the church, cannot be an argument unto them to receive me into fellowship with themselves. But this is true. Therefore, &c.
You proceed, 'If by edification, be meant the private increase of grace, in one another, in the use of private means, as private Christians in meeting together; how doth the principle you oppose hinder that? Endeavour to make men as holy as you can, that they may be fitted for church-fellowship, when God shall shew them the orderly way to it.'
Ans. What a many private things have we now brought out to public view? Private Christians, private means, and a private increase of grace. But, Sir, Are none but those of your way the public Christians? Or, ought none but them that are baptized to have the public means of grace? Or, must their graces be increased by none but private means? Was you awake now? Or, are you become so high in your own phantasies, that none have, or are to have but private means of grace? And, are there no public Christians, or public christian meetings, but them of your way? I did not think that all but baptists, should only abide in holes.
But you find fault because I said, 'Edification is greater than contesting about water baptism.'
Ans. If it be not, confute me; if it be, forbear to cavil: water baptism, and all God's ordinances, are to be used to edification; not to beget heats and contentions among the godly, wherefore edification is best.

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