Your third argument is, 'The practice of the first gospel-ministers, with them that first trusted in Christ, discovers the truth of what I assert. Certainly they that lived at the spring-head, or fountain of truth, and had the law from Christ's own mouth, knew the meaning of his commission better than we: but their constant practice in conformity to that commission, all along the Acts of the Apostles, discovers that they never arrived to such a latitude as men plead for now-a-days. They that gladly received the word were baptized, and they, yea they only, were received into the church.'
Ans. How well you have proved what you have asserted, is manifest by my answer to the two former arguments. I add, That the ministers and servants of Jesus Christ in the first churches, for that you are to prove, were commanded to forbear to preach other truths to the unbaptized believers; or that they were to keep them out of the church; or that the apostles, and first fathers, have given you to understand by their example, that you ought to keep as good out of churches as yourselves, hath not yet been shewed by the authority of the word. The second of the Acts proveth not, That the three thousand were necessitated to be baptized in order to their fellowship with the church, neither doth it say THEY, yea they only, were received into the church. But suppose all this, as much was done at the first institution of circumcision, &c., yet afterwards thousands were received without it.
Your fourth argument is, 'None of the scripture saints ever attempted this church privilege without baptism, if they did, let it be shewn. The eunuch first desired baptism before anything else; Paul was first baptized before he did essay to join with the church. Our Lord Christ, the great example of the New Testament, entered not upon his public ministry, much less any other gospel ordinance of worship, till he was baptized.'
Ans. That none of the scripture saints, if there be any unscripture ones, so much as attempted this church-privilege first, remains for you to prove. But suppose they were all baptized, because they had light therein, what then? Doth this prove that baptism is essential to church communion? Or, that Christ commanded in the 28th of Matthew, or gave his ministers by that, authority, not to make known to believers other parts of gospel-worship, if they shall want light in baptism? The eunuch, Paul, and our blessed Lord Jesus, did none of them, by their baptism, set themselves to us examples how to enter into church communion; what church was the eunuch baptized into, or made a member of; but where is it said, that the unbaptized believer, how excellent soever in faith and holiness, must, for want of water baptism, be shut out from the communion of saints, or be debarred the privilege of his Father's house? This you are to prove.
Your fifth argument is, 'If Christ himself was made manifest to be the SENT of God by baptism, as appears (Mark 1:9,10), then why may not baptism, as the first fruits of faith, and the first step of gospel-obedience, as to instituted worship, be a manifesting discovering ordinance upon others who thus follow Christ's steps.'
Ans. That Jesus Christ was manifested as the SENT of God by baptism, or that baptism is the first fruit of faith and the first step to gospel-obedience, as to instituted worship, is both without proof and truth; the text saith not, he was manifest to be the 'sent' of God by baptism; nay it saith not, that by that he was manifest to others to be anything thereby: you have therefore but wronged the text to prove your wordless practice by. Yea, John himself, though he knew him before he was baptized, to be a man of God, for, saith he, 'I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me' (Matt 3:14), and knew him after to be the 'sent' of God; yet not in, or by, but after he was baptized, to wit, by the descending of the Holy Ghost, after he was come out of the water, as he was in prayer, for the heavens were opened to John (John 1:30-34), and he saw, and bare record, because he saw the Spirit descend from heaven, and abide upon Jesus, after his baptism, as he was in prayer (Matt 3:13-17; Luke 3:21,22). Thus we find him made known before and after, but not at all by baptism, to be the 'sent' of God.
And that baptism is the fruit of faith, or that faith ought to be tied to take its first step in water baptism, in the instituted worship of God; this you must prove, it is not found expressed within the whole Bible. Faith acts according to its strength and as it sees, it is not tied or bound to any outward circumstance; one believeth he may, and another believeth he may not, either do this or that.