William The Baptist

by James M. Chaney

Part V


W. -- "I have carefully examined the passages which occupied our attention during the last evening, and also had an interview with Mr. R. He told me the word found in Daniel is not the word used to designate the rite. He says there is a marked difference. I noticed the difference, one being bapto, and the other baptizo. But I remember that some of my Baptist friends used to urge that there was no difference, and even that the former is the stronger of the two, as it is the root of the other."

P.-- "This shows to what men will resort to accomplish a purpose. The same word occurs in Revelation, and is frequently translated 'to dip.' When used in such a sense it serves their purpose. If the word baptizo means immerse, much more its root would signify a similar action. If it could be shown that baptomeant to dip or immerse, and nothing else, an opposer of immersion might, with some show of reason, protest against the conclusion that baptizo, a derivative, should have the same intensive meaning. Derivatives are supposed to be used in a less intensive and restricted sense; but in these words they would reverse the order."

W.-- "That is the view I took of it. But I did not give much attention to it, as it would avail nothing for the other passages you quoted. So if you are willing, we will pass to the symbolical nature of the rite, as you said this would occupy our attention this evening. In this I will feel more at home, and am certain I will be proof against any arguments you can offer.

P.-- "I am glad you will feel at home in the consideration of this subject, but hardly know whether to commend your last statement, as it seems to imply --"

W.-- "What I meant is that I have such authority from the word of God on the question of the significance of baptism, that nothing that any one can advance can effect any change in my views."

P.--" Perhaps it will be best to have a statement at your views on the subject -- what you regard as symbolized by the rite."

W.-- "I can give them, and the reasons for them in very few words. I look upon baptism as commemorative of the burial and resurrection of Jesus. Nearly all the ordinances of God are of this character. Circumcision is, I believe, an exception. They are designed to commemorate some mighty event which has transpired in his divine interposition in behalf of his people..... And so the Lord's supper is commemorative of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. But now, have we no commemorative rite for his burial and resurrection? We have not, unless baptism is that rite. Now, I cannot believe that God would be careful to provide for the commemoration of those other events, and then fail to make any provision for this. It may be said that, in comparison with this, the rest are quite insignificant. The resurrection of Christ is the mightiest event that has ever occurred. It is the basis of the Christian religion. It is the foundation of all our hopes. Remove it, and the whole structure of Christianity tumbles into ruins. A fact, then, so grand, and of such magnitude, and of such importance, could not be allowed to go without commemoration. And cannot that eye of faith which sees the broken body of Jesus in the broken loaf; which sees the warm blood flowing from his cleft side in the flowing wine, see the buried Saviour in the immersion of one dead to sin; can it not see him risen in the emersion that follows?"

P.-- "It is very manifest that you are at home on this subject, and that you have given it careful attention; and from your emphasis it is no less evident that you feel the truth of what you affirm. This extended and clear statement of your views has somewhat changed my mind as to the order to be observed in the consideration of the subject. I agree with you in many of your statements; but may I ask what the burial of Jesus had to do with his great work for us?"

W.-- "I am at a loss to know what you mean by such a question. It would seem to imply that it had nothing to do with his work as a Saviour. Is this your meaning?"

P.-- "It is. I am at a loss to see any purpose it serves in his mediatorial work. Allow me to ask what would have been the character of his work. if, having died as he did, about the ninth hour on Friday, his body had been left on the cross till Sunday morning, and then he had come back to life, and had come down from the cross?"

W.-- "Burial is a proof of death. It shows that the Saviour was certainly dead."

P.-- "Do you think his burial was essential to prove that fact?"

W.-- "Well, no; I cannot say that it was."

P.-- "Will you, then, answer the question I propounded?"

W.-- "I cannot see that it would have detracted from the value of his work. But his burial was intimately connected with his resurrection, and that, surely, had much to do with his work."

P.-- "Do you mean that the essential part of his resurrection was his coming out of the tome?"

W.-- "It was his coming back to life."

P.-- "And this he could have done if he had not been buried at all."

W.-- "I never saw the subject presented in that light. But in any case his resurrection was a most important event -- fully equaling in importance his death. And as all such great events should have something to commemorate them, this is left without commemoration, if this office is not performed by baptism."

P.-- "I fully agree with you as to the importance of the resurrection,-- his coming to life again,-- not simply his coming out of the tomb; this was a matter of no consequence. I agree with you also as to the desirableness of having so great an event as his resurrection commemorated. But let us, for a moment, change the subject, and permit me to ask you what day of the week was observed as the Sabbath when Christ was on earth?"

W.-- "I do not see the object of such digression, but I will answer you. It was Saturday.

P.-- "And now what day is so kept?"

W.-- "We observe Sunday."

P.-- "And why the change?"

W.-- "I see your point, but cannot evade an answer. The change was made because on this day Christ arose from the dead."

P.-- "Then, that important event is not left uncommemorated."

W.-- "No, sir; I never thought of it before, but it is really commemorated better than any other event connected with his work."

P.-- "I would have you note the two facts thus brought to light: 1st, That the burial of Jesus had nothing whatever to do with his work in saving sinners. 2nd, That his resurrection is abundantly commemorated in the day we observe as the Sabbath."

W.-- "But I am not satisfied with the conclusion to which you have come in reference to the burial of Christ. You have, apparently, demonstrated that it had nothing to do with our salvation, and therefore, needed no commemoration. Though I am unable to see it, and point it out, yet I know your conclusion involves some fallacy, because Paul says emphatically, that 'baptism symbolizes the burial of Jesus.' "

P.-- "I suppose you refer to Rom. 6:2-4?"

W.-- "I do; and no language could be plainer."

P.-- "Do not the facts already brought to light tend to beget a suspicion in your mind as to the correctness of your interpretation of that passage?"

W.-- "If his statement were not so plain, it might. But the reference is too natural and the language too plain to allow such a suspicion to suggest itself."

P.-- "Perhaps, then, before examining the passage, it may be well to make a few inquiries in reference to its utterance. May I ask you where we meet with the first passage that, to your mind, seems to intimate that baptism has any reference to a burial, or to Christ's burial?"

W.-- "This one in Romans and a similar one in Colossians are the only ones that teach it clearly."

P.-- "Is there nothing in the four Gospel histories, or in the Acts of the Apostles, from which you could draw such a conclusion?"

W.-- "Nothing that I am aware of."

P.-- "And is Paul, in the sixth of Romans, discussing the subject of baptism in a didactic manner. Does the context intimate that his object is to supplement what Christ and his apostles had omitted, in the five books named, on this matter of baptism as a rite in the church?"

W.-- "I cannot say that he does. He refers to it because it serves to illustrate a very important truth, which it does most perfectly, i. e., our death to sin."

P.-- "Now, my friend, allow me to ask you what would you think or say if a fundamental peculiarity of our denomination was based on a passage of Scripture, written thirty or forty years after Christ's ascension, when the writer was not professedly intending to teach anything on the subject, but only referred to it incidentally, by way of illustrating a point having no direct bearing on the subject; when, too, we would search in vain the four Gospels and Acts for any warrant for our particular views; and when, in the whole Bible, except one similar reference, we could find no passage that intimated anything of the kind. What, under such circumstances, would you think or say?"

W.-- "In general, I would say it was very presumptuous. But if the incidental reference was as plain as this one, I would be compelled to acknowledge your right to do so."

P.-- "And suppose the passage admitted an interpretation entirely different from the one we gave it?"

W.-- "Then your presumption would be unbounded. But this one does not."

P.-- "But a respectable portion of the Christian world says it does."

W.--"But they are mistaken."

P.-- "Then I see we are not yet prepared to examine the passage. We must step aside, and examine it from a favorable standpoint.

W.--"By any method to reach the truth."

P.-- "A few questions then. Was Christ buried?"

W.-- "The Bible says so."

P.-- "Will you give me the facts relating to his burial?"

W.-- "He was taken down from the cross and laid in the new tomb of Joseph of Arimathea."

P.-- "Please describe the tomb as well as you Can."

W.-- "It was hewn out of the rock."

P.-- "And the burial, so far as the history enlightens us."

W.-- "His body was carefully laid in this tomb and a stone was rolled against the door of it."

P.-- "Would it have been materially different if they had taken the body to Joseph's house, and there placed it in a small room or apartment, and then closed the door?"

W.-- "It was a sepulcher, and so spoken of."

P.-- "Very good. But was it different, materially, from the case we have suggested as possible? Or if you do not like to answer that question, was the body at burial put down into the earth, and at the resurrection did it come up out of the earth"

W.-- "Let me hear your interpretation of the passage."

P.--"In a moment. Another question, if you please. Did the burial of Jesus have any resemblance to burial as we now perform that sad duty?"

W.-- "Not much."

P.-- "And suppose it had been precisely in accordance with our mode of burial, would it be aptly symbolized by immersion?"

W.-- "It certainly would."

P.-- "Immersion, then, is applying such a quantity of water to a person that by it he shall be hidden from view?"

W.-- "They are covered; out of sight; buried."

P.-- "The action, then, is nothing. The putting down in is not essential to immersion. It is enough if the element is put or poured on till the individual or object is covered."

W.-- "Such a burial will answer as a figurative immersion."

P.-- "And yet lack the essential part?"

W.-- "But it is enough that Paul says, that baptism symbolizes the burial of Jesus."

P.-- "There is one question to which I would like very much to get a candid answer. It is this: Dismissing from your mind all notions of our modern mode of burial, and taking into consideration the simple facts related in the gospel history concerning the disposition that was made of the body of Jesus after the crucifixion; that he was laid in that little apartment hewn out of the solid rock; and supposing that this that was done with his body was to be symbolized with water, would the immersion of a person in water symbolize it any better than would sprinkling water upon him?"

W.-- "I do not see that sprinkling would symbolize it at all."

P.-- "Not even figuratively?"'

W.--"It would strain one's imagination to see it."

P.-- "Remember the baptism of Nebuchadnezzar with the dew of heaven; remember how often you have said that envelopment would answer all the requirements."

W.-- "Do you imagine that sprinkling would serve to symbolize Christ's burial?"

P.-- "Only by a stretch of the imagination that would he painful."

W.-- "Then why do you put the question to me?"

P.-- "My question is, would not sprinkling symbolize it as well as immersion?"

W.-- "To be candid, I do not see that either will do it without some effort of imagination; but Paul says baptism does symbolize it?

P.-- "That is the question we will now consider. Let us first inquire what fact the apostle wishes to establish, or what point he wishes to make. Baptism is introduced as an illustration. Will you tell me what is the fact to be illustrated?"

W.-- "He had stated that where sin abounded, there grace did much more abound. From this it might seem to follow, that as grace abounds most where sin abounds most, we may make, or let sin abound in order that grace may abound. To meet this monstrous conclusion, he says, 'How shall we that are DEAD to sin, LIVE any longer therein?' He then brings in the illustration, 'Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?' "

P.-- "I see you have a clear view of the connection, and of the point to be illustrated. In the passage last quoted, baptism is introduced twice; will you repeat the two things affirmed of it?"

W.-- "First, we are baptized into Christ: second, we are baptized into his death."

P.-- "Very good. What do you understand by the first?"

W.-- "To get into Christ must mean to get into union with him, as we are so often said to be 'in Christ.' And to say that we are baptized into him is to affirm that, in some way, baptism secures this union."

P.-- "You are an excellent theologian; and now for the second fact affirmed?"

W.-- "I suppose that has a similar meaning. To be baptized into His death, must mean to come into union with it, so that, as by the first Christ becomes ours, so by the second his death becomes ours."

P.-- "Very good, and a most important doctrine. Christ, as our Saviour, must be seen in all things as our Substitute. His death was not, so to speak, a personal death; that is, it was not simply the death of the individual Christ Jesus. It was a representative death, or he died as representing us. Look on the cross, and tell me whom do you see there, forsaken of God, suffering and dying?"

W.-- "I understand your meaning. We see God's people in the person of Jesus, their representative."

P.-- "Then whose death was it?"

W.-- "It was our death."

P.-- "And by what means, according to the statement of the apostle, does his death become our death?"

W.-- "By our union with him."

P.-- "And how, according to his statement, is that union secured?"

W.-- "By baptism: 'baptized into Christ.' "

P.-- "And now the next statement."

W.-- " 'Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.' "

P.-- "How is this verse introduced?"

W.-- "By the participle 'therefore.' "

P.-- "What does this mean ?"

W.-- "It shows us that it is an inference from the previous statement."

P.-- "What do you understand by 'buried with?' "

W.-- "I examined the passage in my Greek Testament, and found no word corresponding to the preposition 'with'; the verb is a compound, made up of the verb signifying 'to bury,' and the word signifying 'with,' or 'together with,' as a prefix. It means 'buried together with'; that is, both burials were one -- the burial of Jesus and his people; they were buried together."

P.-- "To be 'buried together with,' implies more than one person, and you say the reference is to 'Christ and his people.' "

W.-- "That is manifestly the meaning."

P.-- "Then the apostle's statement is that, as Christ's death is our death, so his burial is our burial."

W.-- "Such is his statement."

P.-- "And how are we buried with him?"

W.-- "The apostle says, 'by baptism.' "

P.-- "Look again."

W.-- "By baptism into death."

P.-- "And do you think this statement is equivalent to 'by baptism into water?"

W.-- "I have always so understood it."

P.-- "But in the previous verse you had the expression, 'baptized into his death,' and you gave the only possible interpretation of it as it there stands. This second statement is an inference from that, which forewarns us that the apostle is about to apply the fact there stated. In the former statement, 'baptized into his death' means to be so united to him that his death becomes ours. Here it must mean the same thing, and it must mean we are buried with him by being united to him."

W.-- "That seems to be a legitimate inference, and the only possible interpretation.

P.-- "But where is the reference to the mode of baptism?

W.-- "I always thought it was there, but this piecemeal method of interpretation obscures it. I confess I do not see it. But does not the apostle assign a peculiar office to baptism? He seems to speak of it as accomplishing or doing more than either of us would admit?"

P.-- "Not at all. 'There are three that bear witness in earth -- the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three agree in one.' What is true of the thing signified, may be, and often is, affirmed of the sign.

"No one would draw the monstrous conclusion from the statement of the apostle that water baptism unites us to Christ."

W.-- "Then you do not think that the apostle here refers to water-baptism?"

P.-- "Manifestly the mode was not in his mind. What he said would have been just as appropriate of any rite intended to set forth what baptism does, that is, our union with Christ."

W.-- "Explain your meaning."

P.-- "Suppose, then, that circumcision had continued to be the rite of initiation into the church, and had signified our union with Christ. In such a case the same language could have been employed, substituting circumcision for baptism. It then would have been, 'Know ye not that so many of us as were circumcised into Christ [I. e., united to Christ by circumcision] were circumcised into His death? Therefore We are buried with Him by circumcision into death.' "

W.-- "I am not prepared to dispute the correctness of your interpretation; but I would like for you to explain how such a rite as circumcision could signify or symbolize the Spirit's work as baptism does?"

P.-- "There is no doubt but that circumcision was intended to do that very thing. Frequently we read of 'circumcision of the heart.' Paul so understood it, as appears from this same Epistle to the Romans, at the close of the second chapter, where he so speaks of circumcision. 'He is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew which is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the HEART, in the SPIRIT, and not in the letter.' This shows that circumcision had the same significance as baptism, I. e., the cleansing of the heart. And in the passage just quoted, the same kind of substitution can be made; that is, baptism for circumcision, and the same remains unchanged; 'that is not baptism which is outward in the flesh, but baptism is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter.' "

W.-- "Though I am unable to show that your interpretation is not correct, yet it weakens my cause without strengthening yours."

P.-- "How is that?"

W.--" Because it would then follow that the significance of the rite throws no light on the mode of its administration. But the undoubted examples of immersion recorded in the New Testament remain untouched and unanswerable."

P.-- "As to your last statement, that remains to be considered. As to the first, I think you are laboring under a mistaken view of the subject. I think it capable of demonstration: 1st, That baptism was not intended to symbolize nor commemorate a burial; 2nd, That it was intended to symbolize the work of the Spirit; 3rd, That this does throw light on the question of mode. The first we have already considered, and I hope to your satisfaction. The consideration of the other two statements we had better postpone till another evening."

Texts Scanned and Edited by Michael Bremmer

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