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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
Taken from The Baptist Reporter, 1856
What a strange question! Some will say. A strange question I too should have thought it once; for, having been baptized, as it is called, in my infancy, I thought nothing more was needed. At one period of my life, I knew little of the Baptists; I heard of them certainly, and knew some of them, but seldom did I hear them spoken of with respect. I have sometimes indeed heard them spoken of with respect, as men who professed a supreme regard for the Scriptures, and who differed from other Christians from motives of conscience; but I have more frequently heard them reviled as Anabaptists, and ridiculed as fanatics.
And when I myself had no sense of religion, when I was a mere formalist, and was satisfied that I had been made a Christian by baptism, I too could join the laugh against the poor Baptists, the sect every where spoken against, and I should have been greatly ashamed to be thought one of their number. But now my views are changed, and I cannot but feel that baptism is a subject worthy of the serious consideration of every Christian.
Once I was careless about my soul; a mere worldling; I knew not the right way; I inquired not after it, and thought not of it, but I hope it has pleased the Lord to awaken me; to show me that I am a sinner, and that as a sinner, I am in a dangerous and helpless condition. I hope, too, that I have been brought to trust on the great Saviour, and I feel that it is only by his great sacrifice that my sins, my great and numerous sins, can be forgiven.
The blood of Jesus cleanseth from all sin; this is a sweet truth to me, for I have no hope but in this great Saviour. Were I now to be asked whether I have been born again, whether I have been made a new creature in Christ, I should express a hope that the great change has been wrought in me. Conscious I am of many new views and new feelings, and I hope they are such as indicate the new creature. If love to the people of God is an undoubted evidence that a person has been turned from darkness to light, then I hope I have that evidence, for I do love the people of God. I love those who love the Saviour, and I hope and pray that I may have my portion with them for ever.
Does the Saviour now require any thing from me? Must I, in any way make an open profession of his name He certainly requires that his people should confess him before men. Will it then be sufficient, if openly attach I myself to the good men found in the Church of England among whom I live? Would not this be a decided step? It would; and were I to consult only my present comfort, this would perhaps be the best step I could take.
Few would reproach me for my piety; and some of my dear relatives and old friends would rejoice to see me take this step. But this step is not a sufficient decided one to satisfy my conscience. I do not believe in all the doctrines of the Prayer Book; why then should I give them my countenance? And why should I, by appearing to believe in doctrines which I consider erroneous, encourage others to believe them?
I have, since I have been thinking seriously of the concerns of my soul, heard many ministers among the dissenters, and I think the principle which they adopt, that of making the Scriptures the only rule of faith and practice, is perfectly correct. I have been led by their preaching to read the Scriptures with much attention, and to search them in order to know whether certain doctrines and certain practices are of divine authority or not.
I have thus, I hope, obtained a clearer knowledge of truth and error than I ever had before. I have prayed that the Lord would open my understanding, that I might understand the Scriptures; and I trust he has heard my prayers. I hope the word of God has proved a light to my feet and a lamp to my path; I hope that through his precepts I am getting understanding, and learning to hate every false way.
I once heard a very excellent discourse from a pædobaptist minister, on the duty of searching the Scriptures. His text was that noted passage in Acts 17 and 11, "And they searched the Scriptures daily whether these things were so." He said, among other things, that the original word rendered searched, rather meant to try or judge; and that every thing, every doctrine, every practice, should be tried and judged of by the Scriptures: "yes, every thing," said he emphatically, "should be determined by the Scriptures." This I thought excellent; and I begged the Lord to enable me to act in that manner.
Some days after, while I was musing on that point, the thought occurred to me that I did not remember to have found the baptism of infants in the Scriptures. This was not a pleasant thought, for I saw what must be the result, should this surmise prove true. "I must," said I, "in that case, become a Baptist." I felt, however, that it was my duty to investigate the subject, and I searched out every passage which I thought had any reference to baptism.
I could find nothing to support infant baptism; nothing on which I dared to rest that very common, but, as I now believe, erroneous practice; I am sorry for the feelings which then occupied my mind, for I was very unwilling to relinquish infant-baptism, though I could see it was not in the Scriptures. I wished it true, even while I was convinced that it was not so. But on praying the matter over, my mind became more composed; and I began to reflect, that I ought to be satisfied with the path that the Scriptures point out. "My duty," said I, "is to adhere to the Word of God."
A few days after I went to hear a Baptist minister, and to witness a baptism; I had often heard this good man preach before, but I was never before present on a baptismal occasion. He preached on the subject of baptism; his arguments against infant-baptism, and in favour of the immersion of believers, were clear and Scriptural; I felt convinced, but still not very well pleased, because I knew it would cost me much; yes, very much, to become a Baptist; but my conscience told me that I must yield, that I must follow the Saviour in this despised, but as it then appeared to me, scriptural ordinance.
And when the good man went down into the water, and the candidates, one by one, followed him, and were baptized by him on a profession of repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, I was deeply impressed. "This," I said, "is the primitive mode; I am to-day transported back to the times of our Lord and his apostles." All my opposition, all my reluctance, were then annihilated. I said, "Lord, help me to follow thee fully."
More than a month has passed since that, to me, most interesting baptismal occasion; and, during this time, I have not concealed my sentiments, and have spoken openly of my intention of being baptized, and I have wondered to see Christians so much opposed to a Christian ordinance. I shall suffer a dereliction of friends; some of my dearest relatives will disapprove; but I must be faithful to my Saviour. I must own him before men, or he will not own me at last.
Help me, Saviour, to take up my cross and follow thee; help me to follow thee through good report and evil report; and, O! in mercy, keep me to the end. I must go and offer myself for baptism, for duty requires this, and gratitude to the Saviour urges me on. He has said, "If you love me keep my commandments," I want, my Saviour, to show thee this proof of my love; I will cast in my lot with thy poor, despised people.
Own me as thine at the last day.
A Baptist in Heart