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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
Isaac Taylor Hinton
From A History of Baptism, 1849
It was the practice of John to baptize only those whom he had taught the necessity of repentance and faith in Christ. The historian John has testified with equal clearness, that the same course was pursued by Christ and his disciples. The only remaining evidence to be produced respects the commission which Christ gave to his disciples after his resurrection. This command has been recorded by Matthew and Mark, with a perspicuity equal to its brevity.
"Go ye, therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matt. 28:19, 20)
"And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark 16:15, 16)
The passage in Matthew contains the direction that the apostolic labors are to extend to all nations, whom they are first to teach—then to baptize, with the form prescribed; and after that to continue to instruct the baptized converts in all the details of Christian doctrine and duty. The observance of this order in every point is doubtless important, or otherwise, on an occasion so solemn as that on which the Son of God was about immediately to return to the right hand of his Father, it would not have been insisted on.
An attempt has been made to obscure the first clause of the commission by rendering it "disciple by baptizing;" but is it possible to disciple an adult (in any sense in which a Christian can regard the term) by baptizing him against or without his consent? And, if baptizing an adult in this manner will not "disciple" him, how can an infant be discipled by a process that leaves an adult unaffected?
But the futility of this attempt is rendered evident by referring to the language of Mark; there is the mission—preaching—believing—salvation—baptism. "He that believeth and is baptized" can language be more explicit?
Well Baxter observed:
"As for those that say they are discipled by baptizing, and not before baptizing, they speak not the sense of the text; not that which is true or rational—else why should one be baptized more than another? This is not like some occasional historical mention of baptism; but it is the very commission of Christ to his apostles for preaching and baptizing, and purposely expresseth their several works in their several places and order. Their first task is, by teaching, to make disciples, which are by Mark called believers. The second work is to baptize them, whereto is annexed the promise of their salvation. The third work is to teach them all other things which are afterwards to be learned in the school of Christ. To contemn this order is to renounce all rules of order; for where can we expect to find it, if not here? I profess my conscience is fully satisfied from this text, that it is one kind of faith, even saving, that MUST GO BEFORE BAPTISM; and the profession whereof the minister must expect." (Disput. of Right to Sacr. Pp. 91, 149, 150)
No Baptist could have expressed himself more decidedly than Mr. Baxter has done; it is surprising how, with such views, he could still continue the practice of infant sprinkling. Calvin, though not so decided in his expressions, seemed to be troubled with doubts in consequence of the language used in the commission.
Can any candid mind feel otherwise, than that the commission of Christ to his disciples is in exact conformity to his own practice, and that of John; with the exception that both the preaching and the administration of baptism were now, though as inseparably united as heretofore, to take a wider range through all nations, instead of being confined to the land of Judea?
Who can draw any other conclusion, after the investigation of every passage relating to the subject of baptism to be found in the writings of the four evangelists, than that in them not the least intimation of a direction to baptize or sprinkle infants exists; but that the practice of John, the example of Christ, the practice of his disciples, and the very terms of his great commission, all are utterly opposed to anything but immersion as the mode, and believers as the subjects of Christian baptism?