Universalist Faith: Menzies Raynor on Baptism

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Baptism

Remarks upon Baptism, with a Form for its Administration.

That baptism by water was practiced as a religious rite or ceremony, both by John the Baptist, and by the disciples of Christ, is unquestionable. And that its observance was continued by the apostles after the resurrection or our Saviour, is equally certain. That in all cases it was considered necessary and obligatory, it may not be so easy to determine. With respect to the proper mode of administering baptism, and what description of persons are the fit subjects for it, there have been, and there still exist different opinions in the Christian community.

That baptism was not, even in the days of the Apostles, regarded as an indispensable requisite of Christian faith and practice, it is thought may be plainly inferred from the language of St. Paul in reference to it. He was especially a planter of churches; a teacher of the first principles of the doctrine of Christ. As such it was clearly his province to inculcate every important doctrine and duty appertaining to the gospel system, and the Christian profession. Yet we hear this same apostle saying to the Corinthians, "I thank God that I baptized none of you but Crispus and Gaius, and the household of Stephanus, for Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel." He is here evidently speaking in reference to water baptism; and his language would seem to be utterly inconsistent with the idea that he viewed it a necessary and component part of the gospel coventant, or Christian economy.

But if baptism was not strictly necessary and obligatory in the time of the apostles, it has not been so since, and is not so now; especially in a country were the Christian faith is established, and is the common profession.

In the baptismal office in the Protestant Episcopal church, the public profession of the Christian faith is stated as the principle design of baptism, the minister says, "And as for you who have now by baptism put on Christ, (professionally,) it is your part and duty, also, to walk answerably to your Chrisitian calling, remembering always, that baptism representeth our profession; which is to follow the example fo our Saviour Jesus Christ, and to be made like unto him; that as he died and rose again for us, so should we who are baptized, die from sin, and rise again unto righteousness," &c. If then the original design of baptism was the public avowal of the Christian faith, its necessity and use would seem to have nearly or quite ceased where Christianity is the known and general profession of the religious community. Still, it is believed this is a matter in which a minister of the gospel may safely, and with propriety, yield to the views and wishes of individuals who may desire the administration of baptism, either for themselves or their children; for in such cases, although, as the apostle says, it is "Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh," it may yet be "the answer of a good conscience towards God."

The writer, however, begs leave candidly and respectfully to state an objection (which to him appears to be a valid one) to the common of administering the ordinance. The objection related to one particular part of the ceremony employed in the act of baptising; and one which is considered especially important. It is the name in (or into) which persons are baptized, viz., the Trinity, so called, or the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. This part of the ceremony is thought to be essential to a valid Christian baptism. The authority, and the only one, I believe, clamed for it, is the direction given by Christ to the eleven disciples, after his resurrection, as found in Matt. xxvii. 19. Jesus said to them, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." From a careful examination, and comparison of several passages, I am satisfied that water baptism is not here intended, or alluded, to.

St. Mark gives our Saviour's direction to the eleven apostles as follows: "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 (more properly, condemned) and these signs shall follow them that believe. In my name shall they cast out devils," &c. "And the went forth and preached everywhere; the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following," — or accompanying.

St. Luke, who is more particular in stating the communications made to the apostles by the risen Saviour, represents him as saving to them, among other things, as follows: "These are the worlds which I spake unto you while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms concerning me. The open he their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things."

It appears to me that from these somewhat various statements, that the direction given to the apostles was, that under the divine influence and guidance of the Holy Ghost, with which they were to be shortly and miraculously endued, they were to go forth and teach mankind in all places, Jews and Gentiles, the truths of the Christian religion: thoroughly to imbue their minds with the doctrines and spirit of the gospel: teaching them especially the ture character of God, and his gracious purposes concerning mankind, as therein revealed through his Son, the appointed Mediator, and the Saviour of the world. This would be baptizing those who embraced their doctrine, "by one spirit into one body," the head of which is Christ. Agreeably to this the apostle says, "As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ." Being baptized into Christ, means, without doubt, the being instructed into the knowledge of his truth as contained in the gospel message of grace and salvation: cordially receiving it, and faithfuly adhering to it. Such are truly baptized into Christ; of which water baptism was only the outward sign or representation.

That the apostles did not understand it as being enjoined upon them to administer water baptism in the name of three persons, under the distinct titles of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is, I shoud think, pretty certain from the fact that the never did so administer the ordinance, in a single instance, that we have any account of. But they did baptize in the name of the Lord Jesus, and in that name alone, as far as can be learned from the record. Thus, when under Peter's pathetic discourse on the day of Pentecost, many were "pricked in their hearts," and inquired what they should do, Peter said unto them, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins." And they that [sic] gladly received the word were baptized accordingly. Again, the history states that "when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John; who when they were come down, prayed for them; only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost."

In the case of Cornelius the centurion, when Peter, by divine direction, came to his house and found many gathered togather; after instructing them concerning the mission and office of Christ: his benevolent labours, his sufferings, death, and resurrection; his directions to the apostles, &c., the historian says, "while Peter yet spake, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word." Peter then says, "Can any man forbid water, that these shold not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?" "And he commanded them to be baptized" —  not in the name of three persons, but of one — the name of the Lord, even Jesus, whom as he says in another place, "God hath made both Lord and Christ."

A remarkable instance is recorded in the 19th [sic] of Acts. "Paul came unto Ephesus, and finding certain disciples, he said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance; saying unto the people, that they should come after him; that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this they were baptized in the name of the the Lord Jesus." No intimation is given that they ought to be baptized in a trinity of names; which if that had been the divinely appointed mode, St. Paul would have known it, and would doubtless have so directed. But they were baptized in the one name of the Lord Jesus.

In St. Paul's language to the contentious Corinthians, contained in the first chapter of his first Epistle to them, there is, I think, an implied argument which strongly corroborates the opinion that the only proper name to be employed in Christian baptism, is that of our Saviour Jesus Christ. He reproveS them for their contentions, and their forming themselves into parties under different leaders. "Now this I say (says he) that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ." He then asks, nor indeed to obtain information as to the several interrogatories, for he knew a decided negative must be given to each; but to impress deeply the minds of the Corinthians with a sense of the impropriety of their divisions and contentions. "Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?" Upon this last interrogation, the coomentator Dr. Adam Clark, remarks, that "to be baptized in, or into the name of one, implied that the baptized was to be the disciple of him into whose name, religion, &c. he was baptized." This, it appears to me, furnishes a rational argument for the administering of Christian baptism (if the external ordinance be still necessary or expedient) only in the name of Christ, who is the founder of the Christian religion, and the great High Priest of our profession, and whose disciples it is our duty, and our highest honour to be.

It seems most agreeable to the nature and design of outward baptism, that it should be administered in public; and alos that ir be accompanied by some other appropriate religious services; as well for the satisfaction of the person or persons to be baptized, as for the edification of the people who may be in attendance on the occasion. It is not necessary that such services should always be precisely the same; they may be varied according to the time, place, and circumstances, at the discretion of the officiating minister.

The following form and mannerof proceeding, are, with much diffidence, respectfully suggested. If on the Sabbath, and in the church, the baptism may take place, either directly before, or immediately after the sermon.

A proposed Form and Manner of Administrating the Ordinance of Baptism.

Water having been provided and conveniently placed, the minister may request the persons to be baptized to present themselves before the altar. Then leaving the pulpit and going within the altar, he may begin the baptismal service by offering some short observations upon the nature and design of baptism; which may be, in substance, as follows: —

Beloved Brethren: Baptism appears to have been originally designed as an initiatory ordinance into some divinely appointed system of faith and practice, by which persons to whom it was administered, were publically recognised as having embraced such system. The founder or chief minister of the system or institution was distinguished as leader, master, or teacher, and his followers and adherents as his disciples. Accordingly, the Israelites are said to have been baptized unto Moses: and they valued themselves on being his disciples. Thus in the case of the blind man to whom sight was miraculously given by our Saviour; when the Pharisees inquired of him how he had been made to see, he told them that a man called Jesus had done it; and in what way. Not being satisfied, they inquired again what Jesus had done to him, and how he had opened his eyes. He replied, "I have told you already, and ye did not hear; wherefore whould ye hear it again? Will ye not also be his disciples?" Then they reviled him, and said, "Thou art his disciple, but we are Moses' disciples. We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow, we know not whence he is."

John the Baptist, the forerunner of our Saviour, and whose ministry and teachings were to prepare the way for the ministry of Christ, baptized with the baptism of repentance. And those who were baptized by him, and who followed his teachings, were called the disciples of John. And althought our Saviour did not himself baptize with water, yet his chosen messengers did it in his name: and htose thus baptized into the name and the faith of Christ, were called his disciples. So that baptism was an outward and visible badge and token of their Christian profession.

That these persons may be publicly enrolled under the banner of Christ, the great "Captain of our salvation," they have here presented themselves to be baptized in his name, that they may be recognized and received as his disciples: steadfastly purposing, as we trust and believe, to endeavour to "learn of him," and to govern themselves in their desires, and in all their doings by the dictates of his holy religion, and his blessed example; and earnestly desiring to receive and enjoy the blessings of his grace, and the benefits of his heavenly washing, which cleanseth from all sin and impurity.

Such being, as we charitably believe, the good motives and intentions of those persons, in presenting themselves to receive baptism; let us devoutly give thanks to God, and make our prayers unto him in their behalf, that they may persevere, in this their Christian and godly purpose, unto their lives' end.

The following short thanksgiving and prayer, or such like, may then be offered:

Almighty God, and heavenly Father, we give thee humble thanks that thou hast been pleased to call us to the knowledge of thy grace and faith in thee, and in thy Son Jesus Christ our Redeemer. We pray thee to increase this knowledge, and to confirm this faith in us evermore. Especially we pray for thy blessing upon tese thy servants, who now publically profess their faith and hope in thy mercy and goodness, as declared in the gospel of thy Son, the new and everlasting covenant of thy grace. And as in ancient time, Noah and his family were preserved on the flood of waters by the ark, which was a type of the true ark of safety revealed in the gospel; and as of old, also, thy people, the children of Israel, were led throught the Red sea, and were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; which was also a figure of the great salvation set forth in the Christian covenant, into the faith of which these persons come now to be baptized with the element of water; so, we beseech thee to extend thy contant protection, and thy bounteous mercy to these servants, and to have them in thy holy keeping. Shower down upon them thy blessed influences of that grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ. Endue them plenteously, O Lord, with might in the inner man; that they may be enabled to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered unto the saints; be safely carried though all temptations and dangers, steadfast in the truth, joyful through hope, and rooted in charity. And finally, having passed the waves of the troubled sea of life, may they reach the shores of a blessed immortality, and be inheritors of thy heavenly kingdom, in a world without end. Amen.

The persons then, either kneeling at the altar, or standing before it, as may be preferred; the minister, having the name of each given him, may sprinkle or pour water on the head of each, pronouncing as follows: —

N. (naming the person)  I baptize thee in the name of the Lord Jesus, and into the faith and profession of his holy religion.

This being done to each separately, he may then further say as follows: —

In the name of the Christian church universal; and in behalf of this section of it in particular, we receive these persons, now baptized as members thereof; and cordially greet them as fellow-disciples of our one common Lord and Redeemer, who died for our sins, and rose again for our justification; and who was sent by the Father to be the Saviour of the World.

The minister then addressing himself to the baptized persons, may say as follows: —

Beloved in the Lord: as you have now by baptism publicly professed your faith in Christ, and in the truth and excellence of the holy religoin of the gospel; you should constantly keep in mind your obligation to live answerably to your Christian calling: remembering always that baptism representeth unto us our profession; which is, to follow the example of our Saviour Christ, and to be made like unto him; that as he died and rose again for us, we also, as Christians, should die to sin and rise unto righteousness, and thus set forth the praise of him who hath called us to glory and virtue.

The baptismal service may then be concluded with the Lord's Prayer; the baptized persons, and others present, if so disposed, repeating it audibly with the minister.

Note.

The foregoing service contemplates the baptizing of several persons at the same time. When one person only is to be baptized, the singular number instead of the plural should be used. It is also here supposed that the act of baptizing would be by sprinkling or pouring on that person. Yet should a person choose to be baptized by immersion, the minister would doubtless comply with such a choice, when the season and circumstances render it convenient.

It cannot, we believe, be ascertained, that either John the Baptist, or any of the apostles ever administered baptism by immersion. That the latter did not always confer the ordinance in that made is, we think, nearly certain from the attending circumstances stated in some cases. And, indeed, "baptizing with water," more natually conveys the idea of applying water to the person, than applying the person to the water, as is done by plunging, or immersion. The use of water in baptism can only be emblematical, representing purity, or purification, and may fitly prefigure the purity, and the cleansing qualities of Christian principles and doctrine, into the public profession of which the person is baptized. And to answer the purpose of an emblem, a small quantity of water is sufficient. In the warm season and where it is convenient, immersion, if a person prefer that mode, need not, and we think should not, be objected to, by those who do not think it necessary. But in cold weather, in the depth of winter, to baptize by immersion in the open air, and even to cut throught the ice for the purpose, as of late is often practised, we apprehend cannot be required as necessary; and we cannot help viewing it as inconsistent with the genius of the gospel, asnd the nature and design of its institutions, none of which were intended to be, nor if judiciously administered, would be, irksome or disagreeable, in any season, in health or in sickness.

Form of the Public Baptism of Children

The Minister, either before or after sermon on the Sabbath, may desire the child, or children to be presented for baptism. Then going within the altar, he may begin the baptismal service, by offering some appropriate observations such as the following: —

Christian friends and brethren: Very gracious and endearing is the languarge of our Saviour, in relation to young children, as we find it recorded in the tenth chapter of the gospel by St. Mark. "They brought young children to Christ, that he should touch them, and his disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of God, Verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them."

St. Peter also, on the day of Pentecost, when under his preaching men were pricked in their hearts, and inquired what they should do, replied and testified, saying, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins —— For the promise is unto you, and to your children," &c. We see by these scripture, that the affection of our heavenly Father, and his covenant of promise, embrace little children. We also learn from other parts of the divine record, that in the days of the apostles, whole households, or families, were dedicated to the service of God in Christian baptism; and which appears to have been done on the faith, and doubtless at the request of the parents, or governors of such households, on their conversion to Christianity. In imitation of which examples, this child is [or these children are, if nore than one] now presented for baptism. Let us, therefore, invoke the divine blessing on this religious service.

Let us pray.

Almighty and everlasting God, who hast so loved the world of mankind, as to give thine only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, for their redemption and salvation: who was holy, harmless, and undefiled; who, when on earth, went about doing good, healing and delivering all that were oppressed. Who also, in the tenderness of his compassion, and his great benevolence, took little children into his arms of thy mercy and love, this present little child, who we now publicly offer and dedicate unto thee. Shed upon him [or her]  O Lord, the holy and purifying influences of Divine grace, emblematically set forth by the sprinkling of pure water. And if in thy good providence, the life of this child shall be prolonged to mature age, grant that he may be both disposed and enabled to honour thy Name and the holy religion, into which he is now to be baptized. May he be an exemplary and useful member of the Christian Church, and richly enjoy its inestimable privileges and blessings, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The minister may then take the child into his hands, or, it being conveniently placed before him, and its name given, he (distinctly pronouncing the name) may discreetly pour, or sprinkle water upon the child, saying: —

I baptize thee, in the name of the Lord Jesus; and receive thee, as a lamb of the Christian flock, into the fold of Christ the great Shepherd, [here laying his hands upon the child he may continue, saying] and do pronounce thee blessed, in the name of the Lord, a member of his kingdom of glory; accoding to the good pleasure, and eternal purpose of God, our heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Saviour. Amen.

The baptismal service may then be closed by some short advice to the parents concerning the bringing up of the child, and by devoutly, and unitedly repeating the Lord's Prayer; or in such other way as the minister may think expedient.