Alexander Campbell Immersion in Ancient Gospel
Number 6. January 7, 1828, pp. 401-410.
Ancient Gospel.--No. I.: Baptism by Alexander Campbell, pp. 401-402

Ancient Gospel.--No. I.

IMMERSION in water into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the fruit of faith in the subject, is the most singular institution that ever appeared in the world. Although very common in practice, and trite in theory, although the subject of a good many volumes, and of many a conversation, it appears to me that this institution of divine origin, so singular in its nature, and so grand and significant in its design, is understood by comparatively very few. In my debate with Mr. Maccalla in Kentucky, 1823, on this topic, I contended that it was a divine institution designed for putting the legitimate subject of it in actual possession of the remission of his sins--That to every believing subject it did formally, and in fact, convey to him the forgiveness of sins. It was with much hesitation I presented this view of the subject at that time, because of its perfect novelty. I was then assured of its truth, and, I think, presented sufficient evidence of its certainty. But having thought still more closely upon the subject, and having been necessarily called to consider it more fully as an essential part of the christian religion, I am still better prepared to develops its import, and to establish its utility and value in the christian religion. I beg leave to call the attention of the reader to it under the idea of the BATH OF REGENERATION.

In the outer court of the Jewish Tabernacle there stood two important articles of furniture of most significant import. The brazen altar next the door, and the laver between the brazen altar and the sanctuary. In this laver, filled with water, the priests, after they had paid their devotion at the altar, as they came in, and before they approached the sanctuary, always washed themselves. This vessel was called in Greek, louthr, and the water in it loutron, though sometimes the vessel that holds the water is called loutron--In English, the vessel was called laver, and the water in it loutron or bath. The bath of purification was the literal import of this vessel and its use. Paul, more than once, alludes to this usage in the tabernacle in his epistles, and once substitutes christian immersion in its place--that is, christian immersion stands in relation to the same place in the christian temple, or worship, that the laver, or bath of purification stood in the Jewish; viz. between the sacrifice of Christ and acceptable worship. In the Jewish symbols the figures stood thus: 1st. The brazen altar; 2d. The laver or bath; and 3d. The [401] sanctuary. In the antilupoi or antitypes it stands thus: 1st. Faith in the sacrifice of Christ, the antitype of the altar; 2d. Immersion, or the bath of regeneration, the antitype of the loutron or bath of purification; and 3d, Prayer, praise, and vocal worship, the antitype of the priests approaching the holiest of all. Now all christians being made priests to God, and made to worship in the place where the Jewish priests stood, Jesus Christ having now, as our great High Priest, entered into the most holy place, he has "consecrated a way" for us christians: he has authorized us christians to draw nigh to that place where stood the priests under the law. Paul's exhortation to the Hebrews, taken in the whole context, chapter x. stands thus:

"Brethren, we believing Hebrews are authorized to approach much nigher to God, in our worship, than were the saints under the former economy. The people worshipped in the outer court, the priests officiated, at the same time, in the holy place--but we christians stand not in the outer court, but in the sanctuary. Since Jesus, as our great High Priest, passed into the heavens the true holy place, he has made it lawful for us, or "consecrated a way new and living for us" to approach as priests to the entrance of the true holy place, having had our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience by faith in his sacrifice, and having had our bodies washed in clean water, in the bath of regeneration; we are now to draw near, with a true heart, in the full assurance of faith, and address Jehovah through the mediation of our great High Priest, in our prayers, praises, and thanksgivings." Such, I say in general terms, is the import of Paul's exhortation to the Hebrews, based upon the fact that christian immersion stands in the place of the bath of purification in that most instructive system of types or figures, which God instituted to prepare the way of this new and perfect economy.

But Paul, in connecting the bath of regeneration 1 with the renewal of the Holy Spirit, goes no farther than the Lord Jesus himself when he said, except a man be born of water and of spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.

Paul reasons well, for most certainly when a man is born of water there is the bath of regeneration. He is consistent with himself and with his Lord and Master. But it is not only for this that commendation is due the apostle, for he carries out this matter to its legitimate issue in Ephesians when he says, in the language of the Presbyterian translator Macknight, that the Lord Jesus gave himself for his bride, the church; and that she might be worthy of his affection, he had "cleansed her with a bath of water, and with the word."2 Instead of the bath of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit of Titus, iii. he has it here "a bath of water and the word," because here he speaks without a figure and teaches the church, that it is by the word that the spirit of the living God renews the spirit of the children of God.

Christian reader, put these three sayings together in your mind and meditate upon them till next I address you, and I think I will be able to open to your view this wonderful and gracious institution of "christian immersion," which you never did understand, if you know no more about it than what the Paido-Baptists, the Old Baptists or the New Baptists, I mean the baptized Calvinists and the baptized Arminians, have taught you. These sayings are found in Ephesians v 26. Titus i. 5. and Hebrews x. 23. To these sayings of Paul I ought to have added, and you must add, the saying of Jesus to Nicodemus. They read thus in the new translation:

"Unless a man be born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God." "I cleansed the church with a bath of water and the word." "According to his mercy he saved us--through the bath of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Spirit." "Therefore having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water, let us worship him."--Amen! I have not given the new translation as if the old differed from it in sense, for in all these instances it gives the same meaning, save that the new is clearer, and more forcible than the old.

Elder John Secrest told me on the 23d November in my own house, that since the Mahoning association last met, he had immersed with his own hands one hundred and ninety, thus lacking only ten of five hundred in about five months--for it is not more than about five months since he began to proclaim the gospel and christian immersion in its primitive simplicity and import. What might be done if this matter was generally well understood, and ably proclaimed, I cannot conjecture--for my own part I know of no person who has so fairly and fully tested it as he.


Ancient Gospel. No. II.

"JESUS CHRIST came by water and by blood." At the water he was proved to be the Only Begotten by the voice of his Father, and the designation of the Holy Spirit. Through the water of Jordan he passed into the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts, and began to do the work the Father gave him to accomplish. On the cross, and from the shedding of his blood to the moment of his interment, divine attestations, numerous and diverse, marvellous and grand, were afforded; all declaring that he was sent by, and came forth from God. With much propriety, then, and with great force, too, it is said that "Jesus came by water and by blood." In the same laconic style, we may say, that immersion, I mean christian immersion, is the gospel in water, and that the Lord's supper is the gospel in bread and wine. These two ordinances of the glorious and mighty Lord fully exhibit the gospel in the most appropriate symbols. The preaching of the Lord and his apostles, we all agree was the gospel in words. The historic books of the New Testament are the gospel in fact. Immersion is the gospel in water--the Lord's supper is the gospel in bread and wine--and a pure heart and a holy life is the gospel in its effects. But I am now to show that christian immersion, as instituted by Jesus Christ, (not as corrupted by men,) is the gospel in water. The whole gospel is exhibited in this symbolic action. The subject declares his belief of the testimony which God has given concerning his only begotten Son, all summarily comprehended in this one sentence, Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the only true God. But why recognize him in this character? Why submit to be immersed into this belief? Aye: that is the question. I say again, Why submit to be immersed into the faith of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as an act of obedience to Jesus Christ? Tell me, ye mitred heads! ye learned Doctors of Divinity. Many reasons ye may give, perhaps, without giving the only one which gives deep interest to the ordinance. Shall I have to disclose the secret? We are immersed, then, that we may be christened: Very true, indeed: but how christened? Married to Jesus Christ, as some old-fashioned christians used to say. I will take it in your own terms, you sons of the English hierarchy; or in your terms, you sons of the Scotch hierarchy--"Married to Jesus Christ"--united to him by the New Covenant. Well, now, [415] let us hear the words of this matrimonial compact:--"I take you, O Woman, to be my lawful spouse; and I promise to provide for you all the days of your eternal life. I will succor you, defend you, support and comfort you forever. My name, my honors, and my fortune shall be yours. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God." In reply, she says: "I take you to be my Lord and master; my sovereign, husband; and I pledge myself, by putting myself under your control, to love and serve you faithfully all the days of my immortal existence." This is enough to constitute the parties one in law, in name, and in fortune. Shall we have now to prove that the sins of the church are washed away? I say, after reading the marriage covenant, one clause of which is in these identical words, "Your sins and your iniquities I will remember no more." I say, after reading this covenant, shall we hesitate to say, that the sins of the baptized are washed away? But, dismissing the obsolete style of the ancient founders of the modern hierarchies, let us turn over the leaves of the inspired volume.

And now I propose to do three things. 1st. To shew that the apostles addressed christians as having their sins remitted. 2d. That frequent allusions to baptism in the sacred epistles, represent it as an ablution. And in the third place I must shew that it is as plainly affirmed in the New Testament that God forgives men's sins in the act of immersion, as that he will raise the dead at the voice of the archangel, or as that Jesus Christ will come again to judge the world.

In the first place, then, let it be noticed that Paul affirms that the Gentile disciples of Christ (Col. ii. 13) had their sins forgiven: "And you being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, has he quickened, together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses." To the Hebrews he says, (chap. x. 17, 18,) "Where remission of sins is, no more offering for sin is needed." Therefore, inasmuch as no sin offerings are appointed for christians, remission of sins is enjoyed by them. This is necessary to make his argument conclusive. For the drift of that passage is to shew that one promise in the New Covenant secured the forgiveness of sins to all who embraced it; and that the fact of their sins having been forgiven, is the reason why there are no sin offerings under the New Testament.

To the same purpose the apostle speaks in all his epistles. Of the Lord Jesus, he says in general terms, "In him we have redemption through his blood; even the forgiveness of sins," &c. I do not wish to make a display of scriptural authorities where it is not necessary. This matter needs not to be proved to, but only to be remembered by, all intelligent christians. Suffice it, then, to remember that the ancient christians, both Gentiles and Jews, were taught to consider that their sins were forgiven them. Now here the inquisitive will ask, When, or at what time, were these sins forgiven? This we are not now to answer.

In the second place, we proceed to the allusions to immersion, which represent it as an ablution, or a washing away of sins.

Allusion 1st. Cor. vi. 11. "And such were some of you, but you are washed in the name of the Lord Jesus." We all admit that there is no public, outward, or symbolic washing in the name of the Lord Jesus, save christian immersion. To refer to it as a washing, indicates 'hat it was an ablution.

Allusion 2d. Eph. v. 26. "That he might cleanse the church by a bath of water."
Allusion 3d. Titus iii. 5. "God has saved us by the bath of regeneration."
Allusion 4th. Heb. x. 22. "Our bodies are washed with clean water."
Allusion 5th. 2 Pet. i. 9. "He has forgotten that he was purified from his old sins."

On this last quotation let me ask, What are the old sins or former sins except those committed before baptism. We affirm that no solution can be given to this question, except that which represents it as referring to immersion in the ancient sense. Four things are fairly implied in these words:
1. That the ancient disciples were taught to consider themselves as pardoned.
2 That there was a time when, and a certain act by, or in which their sins were forgiven.
3. That they were not unconscious of this act at the time when it was performed, for it was an action which could and should have been remembered; otherwise, how could any person be blamed for having forgotten that he had been purified from his old sins.
And 4th, it is implied that these sins were those which had accumulated during a state previous to this purification. Let any person illustrate this matter to himself, by considering what is implied in telling a person, You have forgotten that you have been married.
Allusion 6th. 1 John ii. 12. "I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake."

This last allusion few consider correctly; but, in my judgment, it is just equivalent to saying, I have written to you, exhorting you, little children; because you have been immersed into the name of the Lord Jesus. To these might be added other allusions, such as those sayings concerning apostates--"The sow that was washed has returned to its wallowing slough." Such were they who had tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come. Such were they who had made shipwreck of faith and a good conscience. But those less explicit allusions we consider unnecessary, as the above six allusions are more than sufficient for our purpose.

In the third place, I proceed to shew that we have the most explicit proof that God forgives sins for the name's sake of his Son, or when the name of Jesus Christ is named upon us in immersion:--that in, and by, the act of immersion, so soon as our bodies are put under water, at that very instant our former, or "old sins" are all washed away, provided only that we are true believers. This was the view and the expectation of every one who was immersed in the apostolic age; and it was a consciousness of having received this blessing that caused them to rejoice in the Lord, and, like the eunuch, to "go on their way rejoicing." When Jesus commanded reformation and forgiveness of sins to be announced in his name to all nations, he commanded men to receive immersion to the confirmation of this promise.

Thus we find that when the gospel was announced on Pentecost, and when Peter opened the kingdom of heaven to the Jews, he commanded them to be immersed for the remission of sins. This is quite sufficient, if we had not another word on the subject. I say it is quite sufficient to shew that the forgiveness of sins and christian immersion were, in their first proclamations by the holy apostles inseparably connected together.

Peter, to whom was committed the keys, opened the kingdom of heaven in [416] this manner, and made repentance, or reformation, and immersion, equally necessary to forgiveness. In the common version it reads thus: "Repent and be baptized every one of you, for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." When any thing is done for any purpose, it is always understood that there is a necessary connexion betwixt that which is done, and the object in view. When a person is immersed for the remission of sins, it is just the same as if expressed, in order to obtain the remission of sins. But my limits are filled up, and I must interrupt my argument for the present, promising, all things concurring, to bring it to a legitimate or logical close in my next. In the mean time I have only to request my devout readers to remember one fact, which speaks volumes to all Christendom. It is this: The first three thousand persons that were immersed after the ascension of Christ into heaven, were immersed for the remission of their sins with the promise of the Holy Spirit. I am hold, therefore, to affirm, that every one of them who, in the belief of what the apostle spoke, was immersed, did, in the very instant in which he was put under water, receive the forgiveness of his sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. If so, then, who will not concur with me in saying that Christian immersion is the gospel in water.


Number 8. March 3, 1828, pp. 420-429.
Ancient Gospel.--No. III: Immersion by Alexander Campbell, pp. 421-423.

Ancient Gospel.--No. III.

1. THAT the apostles addressed Christians as having their sins forgiven, was fully proved in our last.
2. That frequent allusions to baptism in the apostolic epistles represent it as an ablution or purification from sins, was demonstrated. And
3. That it is expressly said, and explicitly taught in the New Testament that God forgives men's sins in the act of immersion, was also attempted to be shown. In this we had advanced so far as to state that when Peter, to whom was committed [421] the keys of the kingdom of heaven, opened that kingdom to the Jews on Pentecost, he opened it by an authoritative annunciation of the remission of sins through immersion into the faith of Jesus.

When asked by thousands what they should do to escape the impending vengeance, and to obtain forgiveness for their transgressions, he said, "Reform," or, as in the common version, "repent and be immersed every one of you for the remission of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." When he commanded them to be immersed in the name of the Lord, or by the authority of the Lord, into the name of the Lord, it was for some end, and that end or object was stated so explicitly as to authorize us to conclude our last essay with the declaration of one fact of immense meaning--viz.
That the first three thousand persons that were immersed after the ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven were immersed for the remission of their sins. When any action is performed for any purpose the purpose is gained, provided that there is an established connexion between that which is done, and the purpose for which it is done.

This must be the case always when infallible wisdom and perfect benevolence appoint the action and the end. The laws of grace are as sure in their operation, and as certain in their effects, as the laws of nature.

When I put my finger into the fire, by a law of nature, it is burned: and just as certainly am I forgiven of all my trespasses, by a law of grace, when in faith I am immersed in water into the name of the Lord Jesus. This is the apostles' doctrine, and to all believers in revelation, this being proved, the above assertion is proved. To those who are aware of the use and importance of being explicit in the promulgation of law, or in the commencement of any institution, it will at once appear that had not christian immersion been designed primarily for the remission of sins, the apostles committed a most injurious error in giving birth to the idea, and in raising the expectation of an inquisitive audience to look for the remission of sins by or through immersion into the name of the Lord Jesus. Suppose, for example, when these three thousand were afterwards dispersed through the community, as many of them were to a great distance from Jerusalem, and that one or all of them had been asked, for what they had been immersed on the day of Pentecost; what answer could they have given but "for the remission of their sins?" If they believed either the words of Peter or their own experience they could not otherwise respond. Had not this been the true meaning of immersion, the apostles laid the foundation for universal imposition and deception, by thus commencing the administration of the reign of heaven. If ever any practice demanded circumspection in the institution and explanation of it, this one did; and if ever any person or persons were qualified so to do, these persons were. So that the inference is inevitable that the apostle meant what he expressed, and that in the act of immersion the remission of sins was bestowed.

That such was the universally received sense of immersion amongst the teachers and preachers of christianity, is most certain from express declaration and incident. For example: When Paul was immersed, it was declared and understood by the parties that all his previous sins were washed away in the act of immersion. The person sent to immerse him was sent expressly by heaven--Ananias said to him, "Arise and be immersed, and wash away your sins, calling upon the Lord."

He obeyed and was immersed, and his sins were washed away. Had any person met Paul and Ananias when on their way to the water, and asked Paul for what was he going to be immersed; what answer could he have given, if he believed the words of Ananias, other than, I am going to be immersed for the purpose of washing away my sins? Or had he been accosted on his return from the water, and requested to tell what benefit he had received through or by the immersion, what answer could he have given other than, I have washed away my sins? I argue, and who can argue otherwise? that whatever immersion was to Paul, it is the same to every person, man, woman and child; barbarian, Scythian; bondman or freeman, who has the same faith Paul had when Ananias immersed him.

What made the Eunuch go on his way rejoicing? Was it because he had some difficult texts explained? Or was it because he had some distant hope or remote prospect of enjoying pardon and acceptance after death, or after the lapse of certain years of travail and of trial? No, indeed; he had found what thousands before him had experienced, peace with God, from a conviction that his sins had been actually forgiven in the act of immersion. Indeed the preaching of all the apostles, as well as all their writings, embrace this as a fact never to be called into question. And it is impossible for us to understand many things which they have said upon other subjects unless we understand them aright upon this one. This is a beautiful and well-defined stripe which runs through the whole evangelical web. This authorized John the apostle when he wrote to the least child in the christian church, to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee--"I write to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for or through his name." This authorized Peter to say, "Immersion does now save us; not the putting off the filth of the flesh in the water; but the answer of a good conscience, through the rising of Christ"--denoted in our rising with him in immersion. Hence, says Paul, "If, indeed, you are risen with Christ, (as you say you were both buried and raised with him)--if then you be risen with Christ, seek the things which are above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God."

Paul, in the sixth chapter of his letter to the Romans fitly illustrates the practical uses of this doctrine. He argues that as the disciples had died by sin, and were buried in water, in consequence of having died by sin; and as they had been raised to a new life out of the grave of water in which they had been interred, so they were as cleansed in conscience to live a new life. The argument for a new life is therefore drawn from the fact of a death by sin, of a burial and a resurrection with Christ, in this institution; and as "he that is dead is freed from sin," can sin no more, so he that is immersed is freed from the guilt and dominion of sin; because he is, after his metaphorical resurrection, in or under a new dominion. "Sin, says the apostle, shall not lord it over you, for you are not under law, but under favor."

Still it is possible for persons to sin under favor, and should they be deceived into transgression after they have been purified from their old sins, through confession, reformation, and petition, the blood of Christ will cleanse them from this also. The most effectual argument which Paul and John could urge upon christians to abstain from sin, was drawn from the love of God exhibited in the gift of his Son, and from the fact that they had been pardoned in baptism, and were under favor and not under a law which kept up a [422] remembrance of sin Some weak and erroneous philosophers have argued that to guard against a licentious tendency it is best not to make the forgiveness of sins a matter too cheap. They who found their plea either upon the cheapness or dearness of pardon, reason not as christians but as men who never knew the love of God. No heart that has felt the sovereign charms of that love can from a sense of its forgiving favor be induced to guard less against every appearance of evil. But this is only by the way and not exactly in the path now before us.

Let us now look back. It has been shewn that the Apostle Paul taught that immersion was the bath of regeneration. Now if a person can be regenerated and not forgiven; if he can have a pure heart, and a guilty conscience at one and the same time--then is my reasoning erroneous, and my conclusions false. But if immersion is the bath of regeneration, and if a pure heart must have a good conscience, as Paul teaches, then is my reasoning correct, and my conclusions to be relied on. "The end of the commandment, or charge, or gospel, is, Love out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and a faith unfeigned." This is the philosophy of Paul. But why reason to prove that for which we have a broad precept, an explicit promise, unequivocal precedents, and apostolic reasoning? Faith is not more evidently connected with immersion, than is immersion with the forgiveness of sins. In the ancient gospel, it was first a belief in Jesus; next immersion; then forgiveness; then peace with God; then joy in the Holy Spirit. Thus it stood in the order of nature; though the effects of pardon, peace, and joy, appeared in many instances to be simultaneous. But I must reserve something for another essay.


Number 9. April 7, 1828, pp. 429-436.

Ancient Gospel.--No. IV.: Immersion by Alexander Campbell, p. 436.

Ancient Gospel.--No. IV.

IN shunning one extreme, we are wont to run into the contrary. The Papists in former times made the mere act of immersion or of sprinkling, irrespective of the sentiments, faith, or feelings, of the subject, wash away all sins.

They used the naive of the "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost," or of "the Trinity," as they termed it, just as conjurors use the words of a charm. They supposed that the mere pronunciation of the names constituting "the Holy Trinity," together with two or three drops of water from the baptized finger of an ignorant priest, forgave all sins, whether "original or actual," and therefore contended, "no baptism, no salvation." Because they terminated in this abominable delusion and carried their notions to this immense extreme, the Protestants ran to an equal extreme on the other side of the equator of truth; and therefore gave to baptism, however administered, no connexion with the remission of sins. So much did they hate the errors of popery, that they did scarcely name "the forgiveness of sins" on the same day on which they "administered baptism." This is not the only instance in which the Protestants were driven entirely to neglect their duty, because the Catholics ran into some absurdity. Thus, as the Romanists laid so much stress upon fasting, as to make it almost more than "a sacrament," the Protestants will not fast at all, lest they should become Papists; and therefore, although they have some days called "fast days," they take good care to eat as abundantly on those holy days as upon other occasions.

Now, methinks we are not to be scared out of our duty or privilege because of the errors or follies of others. Nor do we lose sight of the forgiveness of our sins in immersion, because Papists have made a saviour of a mere ceremony. We connect faith with immersion as essential to forgiveness--and therefore, as was said of old, "According to your faith, so be it to you," so say we of immersion. He that goes down into the water to put on Christ, in the faith that the blood of Jesus cleanses from all sin, and that he has appointed immersion as the medium, and the act of ours, through and in which he actually and formally remits our sins, has when immersed the actual remission of his sins. So that he is dead by sin, buried with Jesus, and is born again, or raised to life again, a life new and divine, in and through the act of immersion. This we have seen in the preceding essays is the Bible import of the one immersion. In it we put on Christ, are buried with him, rise with him, have our sins remitted, enter upon a new life, receive the Holy Spirit, and begin to rejoice in the Lord.

Infidels and skeptics in general, as well as some weak minded christians, object to this doctrine because it is not complex or mysterious enough. It is too easy, too cheap, too simple to have such immense advantages attached thereto. What! say they, is a man to put on Christ, to be born again, to begin a new life, to rise with Christ to a heavenly inheritance, to have all his sins remitted, to receive the Holy Spirit, to be filled with joy and peace, through the mere act of a believing immersion in water into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I say yea--most assuredly; and request the weak christian who objects to all this goodness and mercy, obtained so easily, so simply, so cheaply, to consider that it is just "thus and so," that God has always dealt with man in things natural and supernatural. Does not a man enjoy life itself and all its thousand joys, by the simple, cheap, and easy method of breathing atmospheric air? and is not this done with so much ease as never to interfere with eating, talking, sleeping, &c.? What so common and so accessible as the oxygen, which is the pabula vitæ, the very food of animal life. Are not all heavens best blessings the cheapest, the most common, the most accessible of all others? And who from natural analogies can object to the communication of so many heavenly blessings through the medium of a believing immersion in water into the sacred name of the Holies? But is not this also analogous to every thing in the Bible? What, says the sceptic, can the Deity, so wise and benevolent, doom mankind to temporal, and, in some instances, to perpetual miseries, because Adam took a bite of an apple in Eden! Tell me, Mr. Sceptic, why should one drop of Prussic acid, or a simple inhalation of a few mouthfuls of mephitic gas, be able to deprive the strongest man on this continent of temporal or animal life for ever and ever! Tell me why a puncture from the point of a needle should deprive the wife of a beloved husband, and the children of a kind and useful parent for ever and ever:--tell me this, and I will tell you why the "eating of one apple," to speak in your own style, should entail so many calamities on the human race. You weak christians, who object to the import of immersion as here taught, remind me of Naaman, the Syrian, who you know was a leper. When told to dip in Jordan seven times and he should be healed of his leprosy, he replied as you--"Are not any of the streams of Damascus or of Egypt as good as the waters of Jordan?" Yes, says his servant, if the Lord had required you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? But he has offered his cure too cheap. It is too easy, too simple. Go, Naaman, and try, but go in faith. He went, he dipped himself in Jordan, and came up from its waters sound and cleansed. The divine appointment and faith gave all this efficacy to the waters of Jordan. Why then should it be thought incredible that the divine appointment should give such efficacy to believing immersion? But I have not yet done with the subject. I must resume it in my next, and shew why the Holy Spirit is promised through immersion.




Number 10. May 5, 1828, pp. 437-444.

Ancient Gospel.--No. V.: Immersion by Alexander Campbell, pp. 438-439.

Ancient Gospel.--No. V.

THERE is a natural and a moral fitness of means to ends. In the vegetable and animal kingdoms there is a natural fitness existing between all the means employed in promoting all the changes of which vegetables and animals are susceptible. This is, however, owing to the Creator's own appointment. Why heat and moisture should contribute to vegetation--oxygen, food, and medicine, to animal heat and life, is, to us, very natural; yet it is owing entirely to the will of the creator that it is so. For he made the vegetable, the heat and the moisture; and the animal, the food and the medicine, for each other. The fitness which we discover in them we call natural, just because it appears invariably to exist. It is the law of nature, we say; yet this law of nature, when pushed back to its fountain, is only another name for the will and power of God.

In the moral empire, or the empire of mind, there is a moral fitness as well established, though, perhaps, not so clearly defined as that which is the object of sense. Intellectual light and love are as well adapted to mental health and vigor, as natural light and heat are to the animal and vegetable existences. There is natural and moral good, natural and moral evil, natural and moral beauty, natural and moral deformity, and natural and moral fitness. Kindness and beneficence are morally fitted to produce love;--forgiveness and generosity io overcome injuries, to destroy enmity, and to reconcile parties at variance.

Transgressions of law, whether natural or moral, are invariably productive of pain, though of different kinds. If I put my hand into the fire, corporal pain is not more certainly the consequence than that mental pain of guilt follows the infraction of moral law.

But were I thus to follow up the analogies in the natural and moral kingdoms, I might stray off from my present purpose altogether. It is sufficiently established that there is a moral as well as a natural fitness of means to ends.

Sometimes there is an apparent congruity or fitness between the means appointed by God and the end or object for which they are appointed, but at other times there is no discernible relation between them. The falling of the walls of Jericho upon the blowing of rams' horns; the anointing of a blind man's eyes with clay to recover his seeing; or the dipping of a leprous person in Jordan to remove a leprous affection, are all of the latter kind. But, perhaps, the amount of divine energy put forth in this way is no greater, though to us more extraordinary, than that employed in making a tulip grow, or a rose open and expand its leaves in obeisance to what we call a law of nature. I think it would not be more expensive on the treasury of divine power to rain loaves from heaven, than to give them to us in the ordinary way of twelve months vegetable and animal process. And, therefore, I can believe that it is as easy for God to forgive us our sins in the act of immersion as in any other way whatever.

But yet I have not arrived at the assigned point [438] to which I directed the expectation of my readers in my last.

Where there is a guilty conscience there is an impure heart. So teaches Paul: "To the unbelieving there is nothing pure; for even their mind and conscience is defiled." In such a heart the Holy Spirit cannot dwell. When God symbolically dwelt in the camp of Israel, every speck of filth must be removed even from the earth's surface. Before the Holy Spirit can be received, the heart must be purified; before the heart can be purified, guilt must be removed from the conscience; and before guilt can be removed from the conscience, there must be a sense, a feeling, or an assurance that sin is pardoned and transgression covered. For obtaining this there must be some appointed way--and that means or way is immersion into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So that, according to this order, it is incompatible, and therefore impossible, that the Holy Spirit can be received, or can dwell in any heart not purified from a guilty conscience. Hence it came to pass, that Peter said, "Be immersed for the remission of your sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

No man can have a holy spirit otherwise than as he possesses a spirit of love, of meekness, of humility; but this he cannot have unless he feel himself pardoned and accepted. Therefore the promise of such a gift wisely makes the reception of it posterior to the forgiveness of sins.--Hence in the moral fitness of things in the evangelical economy, baptism or immersion is made the first act of a Christian's life, or rather the regenerating act itself; in which the person is properly born again--"born of water and spirit"--without which into the kingdom of Jesus he cannot enter. No prayers, songs of praise, no acts of devotion in the new economy, are enjoined on the unbaptized.

Catholics and protestants think so too, if they only knew it. They know that baptism, as they understand it, is prior to every other religious institute. They make it, in fact, regeneration. They suppose that by it the inconscious babe is born into the kingdom of heaven in some sense. They err not in making it, in the order of things, previous to every other act, but in separating it from faith in the subject. It is not more natural or necessary in the kingdom of nature, that blossoms should precede the ripe apple, than that, in the empire of salvation, baptism should precede the remission of sins and a holy spirit. For the Spirit of God is the spirit of holiness, and where there is a guilty conscience it cannot dwell.

If baptism be connected with the remission of sins, infants require it not; for they have no sins to be remitted. At least the Calvinists and Arminians teach this doctrine; for they say that "original sin" is all that is chargeable upon infants. This original sin is but one, and is always found in their dialect in the singular number. Now as Christian baptism was always for the remission of sins in the plural number, in the primitive age, and never once said to be for the remission of sin, nor of original sin--infants, on the Calvinistic and Arminian hypothesis, need not be baptized: and in this I am both a Calvinist and an Arminian.

But I cannot, it seems, keep to the point. The question is, Why is the Holy Spirit promised as consequent upon immersion? I answer, 1st. Because forgiveness is through immersion; and because, in the 2nd place, the spirit of holiness cannot reside in any heart where sin is not absolved. This is an invariable law in the moral empire, over which the Lord Jesus reigns. The new constitution is based upon the fact that where remission of sins is there is no need for sacrifices; consequently I argue, that the reason why there are no sacrifices--no altars, priests, nor victims, under the reign of Jesus, is because remission of sins through immersion is enjoyed. And let it be noticed with great attention here, that God's dwelling in and among the people of the new reign, or his spirit ruling to their hearts, is based upon the fact that "the worshippers being once cleansed have no more conscience of sins." This admirably coalesces with the views exhibited in the previous essay, and indeed with all the essays upon the "Work of the Holy Spirit in the Salvation of Men," in the volumes of this work.

If men do not believe, and will not be immersed into the faith through what the Spirit of God has already done, there is not one promise in all the Book of God on which they can rely, or to which they can look as affording ground of expectation for the Spirit of God to dwell in their minds, or to aid them while in unbelief. Let him that says "Yea," tell us the promise.


Number 11. June 2, 1828, pp. 444-452.
Ancient Gospel.--No. VI.: Immersion by Alexander Campbell, pp. 445-447.

Ancient Gospel.--No. VI.

IN writing so much upon immersion under the head of the ancient gospel, I am not to be under stood as identifying christian immersion with the ancient gospel. Immersion we have before said is the gospel in water; or the gospel exhibited [445] in symbols the most significant and impressive. The truth to be believed is one thing, and the belief of the truth another. Both are prerequisites to immersion. The truth must be known and believed before we can be benefited by it. And one item of this truth is, that the blood of Jesus Christ, God's only Son, cleanses us from all sin. Yet God has made it accessible to us through water, as certainly as Jesus came by water and by blood. The virtue that cured all the blind, the halt and the maimed: the virtue that raised to life the dead, dwelt in the person of Jesus Christ; but something was necessary to elicit this virtue. The will of Jesus was the only absolute requisite. But he was pleased to institute certain media through which this virtue was to pass from him into the frame of the dead or the diseased. The media through which this virtue was communicated were various, but universally sensible. A word to the ear, a look to the eye, or a touch addressed to the sense of feeling, are equally sensible, and were occasionally employed in the impartation of divine restoratives to the sons and daughters of distress. As the electricity is drawn from the cloud at a certain moment of time, and by an established law in the material system; so the restoring virtue in the person of Jesus was elicited and communicated at a certain instant of time by a law in the spiritual system, as firmly established as any law of nature. So it is in the impartation of the blessings of salvation to the souls of men. There is an instant of time, and a medium through which the forgiveness of sins is imparted as well as the other blessings growing out of adoption into the family of God. This point is worthy of much investigation, and capable of the clearest demonstration. That there is a definite instant of time in which all former sins are absolved, is generally admitted; but that there is any sensible means ordained by which this blessing is conveyed, is not so generally apprehended. When Peter and John were addressed by the cripple at the beautiful gate of the temple, (Acts iii.) Peter said, "Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I you; in the name of Jesus the Nazarene, rise up and walk." The virtue which was reposed in the person of Peter was not imparted in the pronunciation of the words, "Silver and gold have I none," nor in the pronunciation of the words, "Such as I have I give thee;" but in saying, "In the name of Jesus the Nazarene, rise up and walk," and at the instant he took him by the hand, the healing virtue was communicated. But why select particular cases, when it was universally the case since the time when God put the rod of wonders into the hands of Moses, down to the imposition of the apostle's hands, that at a certain instant of time, and by sensible media, the powers called "supernatural" or "miraculous" were exhibited. Even the brazen serpent imparted no healing powers unless looked at by the stung Israelite. In respect to the remission of sins also in the religion of types, there was a definite moment, and an instituted way in which the conscience of a guilty Israelite was released. It would then be an anomaly in the history of the divine government, a defect to which there is nothing analogous in the natural or moral systems, should it have happened that there is no time fixed, nor sensible means appointed for the remission of sins in the new economy. Faith, indeed, is the grand medium through which forgiveness is accessible, but something more is necessary to the actual enjoyment of the blessing than a conviction that it is derived through the blood of Jesus. Hence those who had obtained this belief were commanded to be immersed for the remission of their sins, or to arise and be immersed and wash away their sins, invoking the name of the Lord. The miracles wrought by Moses, by Jesus and the apostles, the sacrifices under the law, and the doctrine and commandments of the apostles, all concur in teaching us that there is a fixed time and instituted means in which all divine favors are communicated.

From the time when Moses was shown the glory of God, down to the close of the Jewish ages, it was known that the God of heaven was merciful and gracious, abundant in goodness and compassion. But until Peter the Apostle opened the kingdom of heaven, and announced the coronation of Jesus as Universal Lord, the means by which this mercy was exhibited in the actual remission of sins as communicated to, and enjoyed by, sinful men, was not clearly and fully developed. And one of the better promises on which the new economy is established, one of the superior excellencies of the New Covenant, is, that under it the forgiveness of sins is imparted, and the conscience perfected in and by means addressed to our senses, and of the easiest access to every believer of the philanthropy of God. So that the instant of time, and the means by which, the formal remission is granted, is an object of sense, and a proper subject of remembrance. Hence those who apostatized from the faith are said to have "forgotten that they were purified from their old or former sins;" i. e. sins committed before immersion. From which it is as clear as demonstration itself, that the forgiveness of sins was through some sensible means, or it could not have been a proper subject of remembrance.

But the documents which the scriptures afford for the demonstration of this most important fact, are as extensive as they are luminous and convincing. We shall attend to another illustration in the present essay. It is this: Jesus represents himself as the bridegroom; his people are compared to a bride; and their union is explained under the similitude of a marriage. Now, we know, that if the relation between christians and their Lord be at all analogous to that of a husband and wife, it must follow that something analogous to a marriage must be celebrated between them. This must be done at some definite period, and in some formal way. Hence persons are said to "put on Christ" as a woman puts on the name of her husband. We christians are said to be married to him; and in consequence of this marriage we are invested with an indefeasible right to all the honors, emoluments, and felicities originating from such an alliance. The property that Christians derive from this alliance is thus described by the apostle Paul, "All things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Peter, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's." Because we are Christ's, we have all things. So reads the inventory of the Christian's estate. Among these "all things," we can easily find the forgiveness of our sins. This, then, becomes ours when we become Christ's; and if we formally and actually become Christ's the moment we are immersed into his name, it is as clear as day that the moment a believer is immersed into the name of Christ, he obtains the forgiveness of his sins as actually and as formally as he puts him on in immersion. But as no woman is legally or in fact her husband's property, [446] nor his property hers, until the marriage covenant is ratified and confirmed according to law; so no person can legally claim the blessings of pardon and acceptance who has not been according to law espoused to Jesus Christ. But so soon as the marriage is consummated, that moment the right is established and the blessings secured. And as nothing but a legal divorce can disannul the marriage covenant, so nothing but apostacy from Jesus Christ can alienate us from the rights and immunities guaranteed in immersion.

Some persons have thought that because they did not understand the import of christian immersion, at the time of their immersion, they ought to be immersed again in order to enjoy the blessings resulting from this institution; but as reasonably might a woman seek to be married a second, a third, or a fourth time to her husband, because at the expiration of the second, third, and fourth years after her marriage, she discovered new advantages and blessings resulting from her alliance with her husband, of which she was ignorant at the time of her marriage. It is true she may regret that she lived so long in that state without enjoying the privileges belonging to her; but her having the rites of matrimony celebrated ten times, or once for every new discovery she makes, would give her no better right to these enjoyments than she possessed through her first marriage. Nor will her repetition of the nuptial rites cause her to enjoy more fully the comforts of which she was deprived during the past years of her ignorance, than the mere consciousness that she now enjoys them. But of this more hereafter. We shall thank any of our intelligent readers for any objections they can offer to these essays on immersion so soon as we have brought them to a close.


Number 12. July 7, 1828, pp. 452-459.
Ancient Gospel.--No. VII.: Christian Immersion by Alexander Campbell, pp. 454-455.

Ancient Gospel.--No. VII.
Christian Immersion.

SOME say that we substitute water for the blood of Christ. This is so far from fact, that we give no efficacy to water, but through the blood of the Saviour. Had he not shed his blood, all the waters which once deluged the world would be unavailing. They who say that faith is necessary to salvation, include neither infants nor those who never heard of the Saviour, and argue that faith would be as unavailing as water, were it not for the blood of the Messiah. Yet they make faith necessary. Why then censure us for in making immersion necessary to our enjoyment of forgiveness. We, like them, neither include infants nor those who hear not of the Saviour; and like them we make immersion nothing independent of the blood of the great sacrifice, and of faith in that blood. But we make immersion as necessary to forgiveness as they and we make faith, or as necessary to our being entitled to the blessings that are contained in the New Covenant, as they make sprinkling or immersion necessary to admission into the church. They will not (I mean Baptists and Paidobaptists) receive into the church unbaptized persons. We say that baptism or immersion is just as necessary to our obtaining the forgiveness of our sins, as they make it, to admission into the church. And if they will allow that there is a possibility of salvation without faith, baptism, or admission into the church, why should they object to our remarks upon immersion, which are not more exclusive than their own, seeing they can take so much latitude after laying so much emphasis upon faith, baptism, and admission into the church as to admit the possibility of salvation to infants, idiots, and pagans, remote from christian privileges. I now argue with them upon their own principles.

In fact, I say no more than the Lord Jesus said, "He that believes and is immersed shall be saved." And he spoke only of them to whom the gospel was preached. I make immersion just as necessary as they make faith, or as the Catholics and Protestants make sprinkling to admission into the church. The only difference is, that I give to immersion with faith the precise import which the New Testament gives it; and they give to immersion or sprinkling, without faith, a significance which it has not. I do earnestly contend that God, through the blood of Christ, forgives our sins through immersion--through the very act, and in the very instant; just as, they say, God receives infants into the covenant or church in the very act, and in the very instant they are sprinkled. Their opinion I have long since shown has no foundation in reason or revelation. We have shown that the truth, of which their views are a perversion, is that when a person believes in Jesus, and is immersed, he has obtained in fact and form, that which they ascribe to an unauthorized tradition. If they have become more ashamed of this human invention than formerly, and will not say of it all that their fathers have said, namely, that a babe in the act of sprinkling "was regenerated to God, and made an inheriter of the kingdom of glory;" if they have degraded this rite to a "mere ceremony;"F and if some Baptists have made it mean no more than "making a profession;" they ought to remember that their ancestors did not do so.

We do most unequivocally connect immersion and the blessings of the New Covenant, as explained in our former essays. But we object to our objectors, the injustice they do us in representing us as ascribing to immersion the efficacy of Christ's blood; seeing we declare that it is through faith in his blood that we receive remission in the act of immersion. Hence faith and immersion are the media through which these blessings are conveyed to the minds of men as stated in our last. So that the actual enjoyment of forgiveness, acceptance, adoption, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, are by a gracious necessity, made consequent on a believing immersion into the name of the Lord Jesus. But this we presume was explicitly developed in our last essay.

With regard to the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit mentioned in the second of the Acts, we beg the attention of our readers. The promise referred to in that discourse of Peter, was doubtless the promise quoted from Joel the Prophet, viz. "I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy," &c. This promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit, he represents as fulfilled on Pentecost in himself and his associates, who had before known and trusted in the Messiah; and as proposed to the present audience when they should believe, and be immersed into the name of the Lord Jesus. This is what the apostle proposed to his inquiring audience when he said, "Be immersed every one of you into the name of the Lord Jesus for the remission of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit; for the promise of this gift is to you and to your children," &c. This gift of the Holy Spirit was precisely and definitely that which was promised by Joel, and not that which continued in the church after the age of spiritual or miraculous gifts expired. Peter, in the house of Cornelius witnessed the outpouring of it upon the Gentiles, when he was called to call them; thus proving the truth of his own words on Pentecost, when he said this gift was not only promised to the Jews and their children who received the Messiah, but also to such others (the Gentiles) as the Lord the God of the Jews and Gentiles should call. Hence the Gentiles spake with tongues, and glorified God before immersion; for this reason, that God designed to ground their plea, as well as their right, to christian immersion upon the fact that he had bestowed upon them the same gifts he had vouchsafed upon the Jews, and thus established their claims for admission into his family. If, then, we were to suppose [454] that the gift of the Holy Spirit promised to the converts on Pentecost consequent upon their immersion for the remission of sins, was the same as that now expected, it might with propriety be said that the Gentiles were not to be immersed for the purpose of receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, inasmuch as God bestowed it upon them previous to immersion. But when we understand the gift of the Holy Spirit promised on Pentecost and that bestowed on the first converts from among the Gentiles, as the words import in the New Testament usage, we are perfectly exempted from every difficulty and from any reasonable objection, in proposing to mankind indiscriminately the remission of sins and the Holy Spirit through faith and immersion. For so soon as my person, through faith and immersion, is adopted into the family of God, and becomes one of the sons of God, then he receives the Spirit of Christ: for as says Paul, "Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, causing you to cry Abba, Father." This is the Holy Spirit, which all who are now immersed through faith in Christ's blood for the remission of sins, receive, as we explained in our fifth essay on this subject. It is in this sense only that the phrase "gift of the Holy Spirit" can now be understood. I have always contended for affixing the same ideas to the words used by the Apostles, which they affixed to them, and therefore would prefer, in this instance, to use the words Holy Spirit or Spirit of God, rather than the phrase gift of the Holy Spirit, being aware that this latter phrase is, in the New Testament, appropriated to what we now call "miraculous gifts" such as the gift of healing the sick, of speaking foreign languages, and of prophecy, &c. The phrases "Spirit of his Son" "Spirit of Christ," "Spirit of Holiness," "Spirit of God," "Spirit of Love," "the Spirit," "Holy Spirit," "fruit of the Spirit," and "a Holy Spirit," are never used as equivalent to the phrase "gift of the Holy Spirit." When, then, we mean not "spiritual gifts," but "the fruit of the Spirit," "the peace and joy in the Holy Spirit," "the Spirit of Christ," "the spirit of faith, of meekness, of truth, of a sound mind," we ought to use such terms as were by the Apostles used to express those ideas, and not those which by them always meant something else.1

The first disciples, when immersed into the name of the Lord Jesus for the remission of sins, obtained this blessing. Those on Pentecost obtained also the very gifts contained in the promise made by Joel; and also all those communications couched in the above expressions. For they not only possessed miraculous gifts, but were filled with peace and joy, with all the fruit of the Spirit of Holiness.

How gracious this institution! It gives to the convert a sensible pledge that God, through the blood of Christ, has washed away his sins, has adopted him into his family, and made him an heir of all things through Christ. Thus, having his heart sprinkled from an evil conscience, and his body washed with clean water, he becomes a habitation of God through the Holy Spirit.--Thus, according to the tenor of the New Testament, God dwells in him and he in God, by the Spirit which is imparted to him. Thus he is constituted a christian or a disciple of Jesus Christ.

We are now prepared to consider any objections made to these essays on immersion.


Volume VI: August 1828 to July 1829.
Number 1. August 4, 1828, pp. 461-470.
Ancient Gospel.--No. VIII.: Faith and Reformation by Alexander Campbell, pp. 466-467.

Ancient Gospel.--No. VIII.
Faith and Reformation.

I HAVE written seven essays under this head, on Immersion. I now proceed to Reformation. In the evangelical order, Faith is the first and capital item. But as we have said so much upon this item in the preceding volumes of this work, we thought it most expedient to call the attention of our readers to Christian Immersion, as exhibiting the gospel in water. Having exhibited the scriptural import and design of this christian institution in general terms, I feel at liberty to proceed to the other grand items associated therewith. And before we proceed to Reformation, we shall again call up the subject of Faith to the attention of our readers. As we have often said, no subject has been involved in greater mystery and darkness than the nature of faith. The labors of many commentators and of thousands of sermonizers have been employed to show that faith is something more than the mere belief of testimony, or something different from it. The people have been so often told what it is not, and what it is, that few of them know any thing certain about it. Before the age of metaphysical refinement, there was no difficulty in understanding this subject. Hence there is not an instance on record in the New Testament of any person inquiring of the Apostles what they meant when they proclaimed "reformation towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ." This is a striking proof that their hearers understood the Apostles as using this word in the common acceptation of their times; as denoting the persuasion of the truth, or the conviction of the certainty, of what they proclaimed. But to consider attentively the reason why so much stress or emphasis is laid upon faith or belief by our Lord and his Apostles, will do more than any definitions or descriptions, to render faith plain and intelligible to all.

And here let it be noted that the philanthropy of God, sometimes called his grace or his favor, must be known before it can reconcile, please, or comfort any human heart. This is the golden secret which unlocks all the bars of ignorance and superstition. I repeat it again--God's love of the world, his benevolence towards his ignorant, erring, and rebellious offspring, must be apprehended, known, and relied on, before any change in our views of his character, or of our conduct can be effected. And as the testimony given of the person, character, mission and work of Jesus Christ his Son, is that which developes this kindness, grace, favor, benignity, or philanthropy of God our Father, that testimony must be known, understood, or relied on, before it can operate upon our hearts, upon our understandings, wills, passions, appetites, and conduct.--Now as this testimony was first oral, then written; and as it is, and was from necessity oral or written, it cannot be known or acted upon as certain and sure, unless believed or relied upon as certain and true. This is just what renders faith necessary, and it is just precisely that which prevents any living man from enjoying the favor of God in this life, or the blessings of the salvation of the gospel without faith. For if it could have been possible that men could have enjoyed the favor of God without knowing it, or known the favor of God without hearing of it, or heard the favor of God without a report or testimony concerning it--faith never would have been mentioned, required, or made a sine qua non to our enjoyment of salvation. For as Paul says about the law, we may say of faith: If there could have been a righteousness obtained by law, then faith would not have been preached; and if salvation could have been conferred with out believing the report thereof, faith or belief had never been proclaimed to mortal man. But in no other way than by testimony, oral or written, could the love of God, through his Son, be known to men; and therefore in no other way than by believing the testimony, can the salvation of God be known or enjoyed in this life.--Now be it known to all men, that, so soon as any one is convinced, or knows certainly, that God will forgive sinners all offences, and accept of them through the mediation of Jesus Christ, upon their submission to the government of the Messiah, then that person has the faith or belief which the gospel proclaims; and upon the personal application of that individual for pardon and acceptance, then through immersion into the name of the Lord Jesus, remission of sins is granted. So that faith is understood when the necessity of it is understood and felt. Without it no man can know God; and, consequently, without it, no one can fear him, trust in him, love him, or please him. For he that comes to God or applies to him, must first know or "believe that he is, what he is, and that he is a rewarder of all who diligently seek him." Faith, therefore, is just to the mind what eating is to the body. The food must be discriminated before it can be eaten, and it must be eaten before it can contribute to the life of man. It is not the eating of it--we mean, the action of eating it; but the food, when eaten, that supports life. So it is not the action of believing, but the truth which is believed, that renews the heart of man. Eating brings the food in contact with the organs of life; believing brings the truth in contact with the spirit of man. And as the food, when adapted to the human constitution, nourishes, invigorates, and animates it; so truth adapted to the mind of man, (as the gospel exactly and perfectly is) nourishes, invigorates, and imparts new life to the spirit of man. So that as man lives by eating bread, his soul lives by eating, or receiving, or believing the love and mercy of God. Faith then is just the belief or persuasion that the gospel is true: which persuasion comes by hearing, perceiving, or understanding what the Holy Spirit imparts or teaches concerning the Lord Jesus.

Hence the prophets and apostles say that the gospel or the truth concerning Jesus, converts the soul; for its admission renovates the moral character, and when apprehended as indubitable certainty, it must act and operate in reforming the life. And this leads to a remark or two upon Repentance or Reformation.

Repentance denotes a mere change of mind, generally accompanied with sorrow for the past; not necessarily, however, implying a reformation. But the term Reformation includes not merely a change of mind, but a change of life.

It is remarkable with what distinctness and precision the writers and speakers of the New [466] Testament use the terms metanoew and metamelomai. They never use these terms as synonymous; though, in the king's translation, they are indiscriminately rendered by the term "repentance;" which, as all critics know, is not consistent with the true and distinct import of these terms. The former signifies such a change of mind as issues in a change of conduct; the latter includes nothing more than change of mind or sorrow for the past. Hence Paul, when speaking of his repentance for having written such a letter to the Corinthians as gave them so much sorrow; when the repentance of Judas for having betrayed the Lord; and when the repentance of the son in the parable, who at first refused to go and work in the vineyard, but afterwards repented and went--are spoken of, and in all similar places, metamelomai is used; but when a real reformation, resulting from a radical change of mind is spoken of, it is always metanoeo which is employed. Therefore Dr. Campbell and other learned translators preferred reformation to the vague term repentance, as the proper representative in our language of the term used by the inspired writers when preaching or commanding that change of mind and behavior resulting from faith. Now this reformation of which we speak is the first fruit of believing, and hence the first act of reformation which was intended in the apostolic addresses to the Jews and Gentiles, was to be immersed in the name of the Lord Jesus. "Reform and be immersed everyone of you in the name of the Lord Jesus for the remission of your sins." This, by a circumlocution, was equivalent to saying, 'Change your views of the person and character of the Messiah, and change your behavior towards him; put yourselves under his government and guidance, and obey him.' Or to the Gentiles, 'Change your views of the character of God and of his government towards you, and receive the Son as his Ambassador; and yield him the required homage by receiving his favor and honoring his institutions.' This is reformation towards God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. An entire change of views, of feelings, and affections towards the Messiah, and an entire change of conduct, according to his gracious requirements, in submitting to him as our Teacher, Guide, Priest, King and Saviour, is the true import of that reformation enjoined by the ancient preachers of the Ancient Gospel. This is what we mean by "reformation," and not those movements of animal passion, those sudden panics of fear, or gusts of sorrow, which, like the repentance of Judas, frequently issue in no reformation of life, but leave the unhappy subjects of them in the same state of mind, and of the same character and deportment, as before. Let our readers bear in mind that such is our usage of this term, and let them apply it in this sense in its occurrences in the New Testament, and thereby test its importance.


Number 3. October 6, 1828, pp. 478-489.

Ancient Gospel--No. IX. by Alexander Campbell, pp. 486-488.

ncient Gospel--No. IX.

IN the natural order of the evangelical economy, the items stand thus;--1. Faith; 2. Reformation; 3. Immersion; 4. Remission of sins; 5. Holy Spirit; and 6. Eternal Life. We do not teach that one of these precedes the other, as cause and effect; but that they are all naturally connected, and all, in this order, embraced in the glad tidings of salvation. In the apostolic age these items were presented in this order. The testimony of God, concerning Jesus of Nazareth, must first be believed before a person truly repents of his sin and forsakes it. Men are commanded with a reference to their conduct in one point of view, to reform and believe the gospel. Thus Paul proclaimed "reformation towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ." But yet reformation, though sometimes first mentioned, is explained as resulting from faith or the accompaniment of it. Indeed the one is frequently used to the exclusion of the other, as supposed inseparable from it. Thus Peter proclaimed, [486] "Reform and be immersed for the remission of sins," and Paul said, "Believe and be saved." Both Matthew and Mark, in recording the commission, mention immersion; but Luke does not. He says Jesus commanded, "Reformation and forgiveness of sins to be proclaimed in his name, among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." He therefore, by a metonymy, substitutes forgiveness of sins, for immersion, and reformation for faith, or else we must say he omits this part of the institution altogether;--which hypothesis is inadmissible. He that comes to God, must first believe that he exists, and that he is a rewarder of all who diligently seek him. This view of God induces reformation, which in its first exhibition where the scriptures are understood, immediately carries the subject to immersion. Remission of sins as inseparably accompanies immersion, as reformation accompanies faith. Then the Holy Spirit is bestowed, and the disciple is filled with the spirit of adoption, which inspires him with filial confidence in God. The gift of eternal life in anticipation, induces him to the cultivation of that holiness, without which, no man shall see the Lord, as well as fills him with abundant joy.

But while in reference to our ways of reasoning and thinking in this speculative age we represent matters thus, it must be remembered that persons may now, as they did formerly, believe, reform, be immersed, obtain pardon and the Holy Spirit in the period of time occupied in a single discourse, as the history in the Acts of the Apostles abundantly proves. Persons are said to reform the moment they turn to the Lord. The turning point is therefore fitly called reformation. Thus all the inhabitants of Lydda and Saron are said to have turned to the Lord, when Peter, in the name of Jesus, raised Eneas from a palsy which had confined him to his bed for eight years.

To derange this order in the reign of Favor, is an error of no ordinary magnitude. Yet it is a common error. The Presbyterian arrangement of the items is as follows, viz.--1st. Baptism; 2d. the Holy Spirit in effectual calling; 3d. Faith; 4th. Forgiveness of sins; 5th. Reformation. Some Regular Baptists arrange the items thus:--1st. the Holy Spirit; 2d. Faith; 3d. Repentance; 4th. Forgiveness of sins; 5th. Baptism. The Quaker has it the Holy Spirit throughout, and no immersion. Other Baptists have it--1st. Regeneration, or the Holy Spirit; 2d. Repentance; 3d. Faith; 4th. Forgiveness of sins; and 5th. Baptism. A very different tune is played upon the same notes when the arrangement of them is changed, and so different gospels are preached upon the different ordering of these items. Those who proclaim faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and reformation in order to immersion; and immersion in order to forgiveness and the Holy Spirit, proclaim the same gospel which the Apostles proclaimed.

"Into what were you immersed," is a question which must decide the character of a man's profession of the faith. His views of the gospel, his conscience towards God, as well as the motives which influence all his religious behavior, are decided according to the response of his heart to this question. And very different, indeed, would be the response of the heart of a primitive disciple from that of most of our modern sectaries, were they to give full utterance to their hearts on such a question. Would not the Episcopalian, the Presbyterian, the ordinary Baptist, whether Calvinistic or Arminian, and the Pentecostian converts give very differing responses to such a question!--Methinks they would, And just as discordant would be their general views of the gospel and of the Christian religion, as their answers to the question, For what purpose were you immersed?

Were I then to describe the evangelical arrangement as I would describe the journey of the Israelites from Egypt to Canaan, I would proceed thus. And since I have mentioned the journey of old Israel, I will first tell their story in brief. First, Moses made a proclamation to them from the Almighty, and they believed it. Second, they changed their views of Egypt and began their march. They were, in the third place, immersed into Moses in the cloud and in the Red Sea. God then, in the fourth place, makes a covenant with them, or declares an institution through which they were to enjoy remission of sins; and, in the fifth place, promises to dwell among them and reign over them as their God and King. Thus they proceed towards Canaan, the type of the everlasting kingdom, with the promise of rest graciously tendered to them.

Now for the antitype. Jesus the Lord from heaven, makes a proclamation of mercy in his own person, and mediately through his Apostles, to all nations, in the name of the God and Father of all. Those that believe it, immediately turn to the Lord. This turning point is reformation unto life begun, The inward repentance and the outward reformation, which are coetaneous, are first constitutionally exhibited in the act of immersion into the name of the Lord Jesus for the remission of sins. The old sins are thus purified through faith in the blood of the Messiah, according to the divine appointment. The Holy Spirit is then given, for Jesus Christ is now glorified in heaven and upon earth. He is glorified in heaven, because God our Father has exalted him a Prince and a Saviour to his own throne; and he is, by every disciple who thus surrenders himself to his authority and guidance, glorified on earth,--and then he glorifies them whom he has thus justified, washed, and sanctified, by adopting them into the family of God, and honoring them with the most honorable title in creation, namely, Sons of God.

Now a conscience cast into this mould, I am certain, differs very much from a conscience cast into any systematic mould of human contrivance. For the gospel according to John Calvin, or the gospel according to John Wesley, or the gospel according to Martin Luther, or the gospel according to George Fox, are not exactly the same as the gospel according to Matthew, Luke, Paul, and Peter. The views, feelings, consciences, and practices of those who are immersed into each of these gospels, differ from each other as much as the vowels and consonants in the names of the founders of these gospels differ from one another. Some of them are the same, but others as far apart as A, B, C, and X, Y, Z.

Before I conclude these essays on the Ancient Gospel, I wish to present my readers with an essay on the spirit which it inspires, which I propose in my next number; and in the mean time, I conclude with remarking that we have one objection to the phrase "ancient gospel;" and that is, so far as it may tend to any thing like a rallying or discriminating badge amongst Christians. We know how easy it is to lay the foundation for names; and we know too that the world is ruled by names. If, then, the phrases "Ancient Gospel,' or "Ancient Order of Things," should become a dividing discrimination among Christians, we must enter our protest against them in such acceptations. We now use them not for [487] the discrimination of persons, but for the discrimination of truth from error, and of primitive from modern usages. As such we conceive them to be every way appropriate and just. And in so doing, we do no more than is usually done by those who define or describe the gospel which they preach. But the time will come when the terms glad tidings, christian, and congregation, without any epithet or adjunct, will be universally received as representing the same ideas as those attached to them in sacred scripture. For the speedy approach of that blissful era we labor and pray. We hope always to persevere in so doing, so long as the Lord sets before us an open door which no man can shut. May the gracious Lord ever patronize our efforts, and the efforts of all who labor for these sublime objects, and keep us and them from failing into error, either in sentiment or practice! Amen!


Number 4. November 3, 1828, pp. 489-498.
Ancient Gospel.--No. X. by Biblicus, pp. 495-497.

Ancient Gospel.--No. X.
I substitute the following Narrative for an Essay.

MY father was a Scotch Presbyterian, and my mother was a regular Baptist--I was religiously [495] brought up, and being taught the system of doctrine laid down in the confession of faith, I became a speculative Calvinist. My mother's views of baptism appeared the most scriptural, and although I always helped my father, when he and mother, of a winter evening, had their good natured fire side debates, yet still I gradually leaned more and more to my mother's side in my real sentiments. I finally became as firmly convinced of baptism as of Calvinism; and was a speculative calvinistic baptist, of the supralapsarian school. But as yet I had no real devotion, nor practical views of the Gospel. I went to meeting, sat as a judge upon every preacher who came amongst us, and when sermon was over, I had a little crowd around me listening to my criticisms and censures. I was very severe, and valued myself no little upon my quick discernment in all the doctrines of the day. So acute was my religious scent, that I could almost tell a man's whole system before he had spoken half a dozen of sentences. During these days of my vain and foolish behavior, a very practical calvinistic preacher came to our congregation, and so engagedly addressed us on justification by faith, in the imputed righteousness of Christ, that I saw a fitness and beauty in this scheme which wonderfully charmed me; I became quite religious, prayed twice each day in secret, and attended meeting with views and designs quite different from those which formerly actuated me--I had heard much upon faith, and was very precise in my definitions and disquisitions upon true and saving faith. I at length fancied I had obtained it, and had serious thoughts of joining the church. Baptism came up to my consideration again, and I concluded I ought to be baptized, for I perceived it to be a very plain duty: and a very commendable way of making a profession. I had fixed the day for making my profession, and had given in my experience to a baptist church. I was approved by the whole congregation, but the intended administrator taking sick, it was put off for another month. In the mean time a Mr. J. S. came round, who was accused of not being very orthodox, for he preached a gospel which some of his friends called the ancient gospel; and his enemies the water gospel. I went to hear him without any other object than to gratify my curiosity, and to be able to oppose this new heresy. But to my utter astonishment, in one hour and twenty minutes, I was as completely and entirely converted to this ancient gospel, or as some of the wits who cared for no gospel, called it, the water gospel. My whole views of God's character, philanthropy, and scheme of salvation were as radically changed as if I had heard nothing worthy of the name of gospel ever before. And strange as it may appear, I was immersed for the remission of my sins before I left the ground. I now saw for the first time in my life, that sinners were called to act upon the divine testimony alone--that they were not to wait for any change for the better to be discovered in themselves, nor any secret drawings, remarkable or sensible impressions, before they obeyed the commandment "to be baptized for the remission of sins?' This command I saw to be binding upon all who feel any interest in the question "what shall I do to obtain pardon and peace with God?" The blood of Jesus I well knew, was the only sacrifice for sin, and was the only thing in the universe which could take away sin from the conscience, and present us without fault to God: but I now found that by this gracious institution we came to the blood of Jesus, in God's own appointed way, and thus washed our robes and made them white, not red, in the blood of the Lamb. But my mind as the needle touched with the loadstone, always terminated upon the divine testimony and veracity, and the command, "to day if you will obey his voice, harden not your hearts," compelled me to take God upon his own word. I went to the river edge believing the promise of God, and that he could do this thing, even wash away my sins in the very act of immersion. Down into the water I went, and was immersed into the name of the Lord Jesus for the remission of my sins--and you may rest assured, for it is a fact, that I declare to you, I felt myself as fully relieved from the burthen of my former transgressions, as ever did a man to whom the Lord said, your sins are forgiven you: go and sin no more.--I had read about peace and joy before. I had thought I once understood these terms, and felt something worthy of the name; but I can assure you that all I ever knew of the import of these words before, was as unlike to my present feelings, as a marble statue is to a living man. Most assuredly, said I, and felt I, God is as good as his word, and I have found his promise yes and amen in Christ Jesus my Lord. But in all probability I would not have derived so much happiness from being buried with Christ by immersion into his name, had I not previously understood from the many declarations found in the sacred testimonies, that God's philanthropy embraced all those who were pleased to come to him in the appointed way, and had I not also been assured of two things; first, that the scriptures mean just what they say, and secondly, that they say, Be immersed for the remission of your sins--I went down to the very water just for this very purpose, in the honesty and simplicity of my heart, believing that it would be as God said, and according to my faith so has it been to me. And one thing more I well tell you, that "whereas I was blind now I see."

With regard to the Holy Spirit, which is also promised, I will tell you what I have since that time experienced--and you will please inform me whether you think I have received that promise. While I thought about religion before, and determined to act some day, I felt a considerable attachment to the distinctions found in society, growing out of wealth and popularity. I was strongly disposed to have as good a share of these as I could honestly obtain. I felt moreover a good deal of that sort of spirit which presumes upon the electing love of God, and so soon as I began to think I was a Christian, I saw in my secret devotions, as well as in my public exercises, a good degree of likeness to him who said, "I thank you, O Lord! that I am not like other men--I fast and pray, &c."--But now I am content with my lot, thank the Lord for what I have, and pray to him that I may be a good steward of what he has committed to me already: I feel the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof; and therefore, I hold every thing as a tenant at will of his landlord. I find it is more blessed to give than to receive--I know none of those little sectarian feelings which I once felt--I rejoice in the Lord, and in his people, and feel that every thing that affects his honor and glory, affects mine. I feel the same sort of interest in my Saviour's Kingdom, I used to feel in my father's character and estate--whatever added to either, I thought added to my fortune and fame: and now I feel that whatever advances the interest and reputation of the kingdom of my sovereign, adds to my individual gain [496] and honor--I feel myself his, and him mine; and I would rather be the meanest soldier in his army, than the greatest potentate on earth--I do rejoice exceedingly in him all the day, and when I walk in the fields, or sit by the fire, my heart wanders after him; when travelling along the way, I sometimes speak out to him as if I were conversing with him: and the very idea that the eyes of the King of Kings are upon me, makes me bold in danger, and active in all the obedience of faith--I sometimes retire from the best company, to talk a few minutes to my Lord, and nothing is sweeter to my taste, than is an interview with Him who pardons my sins--takes me into his family, and promises to take me home to his own glorious abode by and by--I think no more about tenets or doctrines, but upon the love of God, the death of Jesus--his resurrection from the dead--his coming to judge the world, and the resurrection of the just. This is the spirit I have received and enjoyed since I put on the Lord. Now tell me is this the holy spirit promised?



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