Alexander Campbell on John Calvin on Baptism.

      MY attention was this morning called to the 15th chapter and 4th book of Calvin's Institutes. From this section I may have given some extracts on baptism in my former numbers; but I think the following remarks of this great reformer have not been presented in this work. To those who think that we are extravagantly fanatical, enthusiastic, or egregiously astray on this subject, we would recommend the perusal of the whole of this 15th chapter of book 4; not, indeed, as [543] altogether orthodox in our view,
        but as containing so much clear and unequivocal testimony in favor of the true intent and meaning of Peter's opening speech in Jerusalem some 1800 years ago. I say testimony, for John Calvin's opinions are of the force of semi-apostolic testimony with many very worthy citizens who may happen to see the following excerpts.

      Disliking, as much as I do, partial extracts, I have resolved to give whole and entire the first five paragraphs of the 15th chapter:--

      "Baptism is a sign of initiation, by which we are admitted into the society of the church, in order that being incorporated into Christ, we may be numbered among the children of God. Now it has been given to us by God for these ends, which I have shown to be common to all sacraments:--

First, to promote our faith towards him;
secondly, to testify our confession before men.

We shall treat of both these ends of its institution in order. To begin with the first: from baptism our faith derives three advantages which require to be distinctly considered. The first is, that it is proposed to us by the Lord as a symbol and token of purification; or, to express my meaning more fully, it resembles a legal instrument, properly attested, by which he assures us that all our sins are cancelled, effaced, and obliterated, so that they will never appear in his sight, or come into his remembrance, or be imputed to us: FOR HE COMMANDS ALL WHO BELIEVE TO BE BAPTIZED FOR THE REMISSION OF THEIR SINS.2 Therefore, those who have imagined that baptism is nothing more than a mark or sign by which we profess our religion before men, as soldiers wear the insignia of their sovereign, as a mark of their profession, have not considered that which was the principal thing in baptism--which is, that we ought to receive it with this promise, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved."

      "2. In this sense we are to understand what is said by Paul, that "Christ sanctifieth and cleanseth the church with the washing of the water by the word;" and in another place, that "according to his mercy he saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost;" and by Peter, that "baptism doth save us." For it was not the intention of Paul to signify that our ablution and salvation are completed by the water, or that water contains within itself the virtue to purify, regenerate, and renew; nor did Peter mean that it was the cause of salvation, but only that the knowledge and assurance of it are received in this sacrament, which is sufficiently evident from the words which they have used: for Paul connects together "the word of life" and "the baptism of water," as if he had said that our ablution and sanctification are announced to us by the gospel, and by baptism this message is confirmed. And Peter, after having said that baptism doth save us, immediately adds, that "it is not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God," which proceeds from faith. But on the contrary, baptism promises us no other purification than by the sprinkling of the blood of Christ, which [544] is emblematically represented by water, on account of its resemblance to washing and cleansing. Who, then can contend that we are cleansed by that water which clearly testifies the blood of Christ to be our true and only ablution? So that to refute the error of those who refer all to the virtue of water, no better argument could be found than in the signification of baptism itself, which abstracts us, as well from that visible element which is placed before our eyes, as from all other means of salvation, that it may fix our minds on Christ alone.

      "3. Nor must it be supposed that baptism is administered only for the time past, so that for sins into which we fall after baptism, it would be necessary to seek other new remedies of expiation in I know not what other sacraments, as the virtue of baptism were become obsolete. In consequence of this error, it happened in former ages, that some persons would not be baptized except at the close of their life, and almost in the moment of their death, that so they might obtain pardon for their whole life--a preposterous caution, which is often censured in the writings of the ancient Bishops. But we ought to conclude at whatever time we are baptized, we are washed and purified for the whole of life.3 Whenever we have fallen into sin, therefore, we must recur to the remembrance of baptism, and arm our minds with the consideration of it, that we may be always certified and assured of the remission of our sins. For though when it has been once administered, it appears to be past: yet it is not abolished by subsequent sins. For the purity of Christ is offered to us in it, and that always retains its virtue, is never overcome by any blemishes; but purifies and obliterates all our defilements. Now from this doctrine we ought not to take a license for the commission of future sins: for it is very far from inculcating such presumption. It is only delivered to those who, when they have sinned, groan under the fatigue and oppression of of their transgressions, in order to afford them some relief and consolation, and to preserve them from sinking into confusion and despair. Thus Paul says that Christ was set forth to be a propitiation for the remission of sins that are past. He does not deny that we have a constant and perpetual remission of sins in Christ; but signifies that this has been given by the Father only to miserable sinners, who sigh for the Physician to heal the wounds of a guilty conscience. To such the mercy of God is offered; while those, who, from a remission of punishment, seek to derive an occasion and license from sinning, do nothing but draw down upon themselves the wrath and vengeance of God.

      "4. I know the common opinion is, that remission of sins, which at our first regeneration we receive by baptism alone, is afterwards obtained by repentance and the benefit of the keys. But the advocates of this opinion have fallen into an error, for want of considering that the power of the keys of which they speak, is so dependent on baptism that it cannot by any means be separated from it.

It is true that the [545] sinner receives remission by the ministry of the church, but not without the preaching of the gospel. Now what is the nature of that preaching? That we are cleansed from our sins by the blood of Christ. What sign or testimony of that ablution is there, except baptism? We see, then, how this absolution is referred to baptism. This error has produced the imaginary sacrament of penance, on which I have touched a little already, and shall finish what remains in its proper place. Now it is no wonder, if men whose grovelling minds were inordinately attached to external things, have betrayed that corrupt propensity by a discontent with the pure institution of God, and an introduction of new expedients invented by themselves, as if baptism were not a sacrament of repentance: but if repentance be enjoined upon us as long as we live, the virtue of baptism ought to be extended to the same period. Wherefore, it is evident the faithful, whenever in any part of their lives they are distressed with a consciousness of their sins, may justly have recourse to the remembrance of baptism in order to confirm themselves in the confidence of their interest in that one perpetual oblation which is enjoyed in the blood of Christ.

      "5. Baptism is also attended with another advantage: it shows us our mortification in Christ, and our new life in him. For, as the Apostle says, "So many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death; therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death, that we should walk in newness of life." In this passage he does not merely exhort us to an imitation of Christ, as if he had said, that we are admonished by baptism that, after the example of his death, we should die to sin; and that, after the example of his resurrection, we should rise to righteousness: but he goes considerably farther, and teaches us that by baptism Christ has made us partakers of his death, in order that we may be engrafted into it. And as the scion derives substance and nourishment from the root on which it is engrafted,
        so they who receive baptism with the faith with which they ought to receive it,
        truly experience the efficacy of Christ's death in the mortification of the flesh,
        and also the energy of his resurrection in the vivification of the Spirit.

He uses the same argument in another place--that we are circumcised, putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, after we have been buried with Christ in baptism; and in this sense, in the passage already quoted, he calls it the washing of regeneration and renewing.
        Thus we are promised, first, the gratuitous remission of sins and imputation of righteousness;
         and, secondly, the grace of the Holy Spirit to reform us to newness of life."

      Now let me ask the candid reader of this essay from the pen of John Calvin himself, how much more orthodox than ourselves was this celebrated reformer? We have heard him explain himself fully on these great items, and may we not say that the chief difference between him and us, is, that we practise what we teach. "There is," says the reformer Calvin, "one other advantage received from baptism--this is the certain testimony it affords us that we are not only [546] engrafted into the life and death of Christ, but are so united as to be partakers of all his benefits"--"All the gifts of God which are presented in baptism, are found in Christ alone."

      We leave it to the good sense of the reader, whether John Calvin ought not to be called a Campbellite as well as the Apostle Peter.
EDITOR.      
      Fredericksburg, Va. October 14, 1833.


Believers Baptism and Infant Sprinkling,
CONTRASTED.

Believer's Baptism.   Infant Sprinkling.
      Believer's baptism is commanded.--Matth.         Infant sprinkling has not a single command.
      Believer's baptism has examples.         Infant sprinkling has no example.
      Believer's baptism is from heaven. Matth. xxi.         Infant sprinkling is from men.
      Believer's baptism is the counsel of God.         Infant sprinkling has the counsel of men.
      Believer's baptism has been sealed from heaven.         Infant sprinkling never was sealed of God.
      In believer's baptism the person submits in acts of obedience to the gospel.         In infant sprinkling the infant puts forth no acts of obedience to the gospel, but to men.
      Believers are buried with Christ by baptism.--Rom. vi. 4.         Infants are not buried, but only sprinkled.
      All believers that are baptized are thereby brought into Christ.--Gal. iii. 27.         Infants are not thus brought into Christ.
      All believers baptized receive the remission of sins.--Acts ii. 37, 38.         Infants do not receive remission of sins. They have no sins to be remitted.
      God has promised that all who believe and are baptized shall be saved.--Mark xvi. 16.         God has not promised that all sprinkled infants shall be saved.
      Believers rejoice when they are baptized.--Acts viii. 37. & xvi. 34.         Infants cannot rejoice.
      All the world may undeniably affirm that believers were baptized by the Apostles.--Acts viii. 12.         But none can affirm that any infant was sprinkled by the Apostles.
      Those who practise infant sprinkling are compelled to confess believer's baptism.         But all baptized believers do not acknowledge, but deny infant sprinkling.
      All baptized believers are living stones, fit for God's building.--1 Pet. 2.5.         But all sprinkled infants are not living stones, fit for God's building.
      Baptized believers build on Christ by their own faith.         Sprinkled infants are builded on the faith of others.
      They that receive Christ upon their own faith, shall never perish.--John x. 28.         But such as are sprinkled upon another's faith, have no such assurance.
      Baptized believers know Christ to be precious.--2 Pet, ii. 7.         Sprinkled infants have no such knowledge.
      Baptized believers love Christ and keep his commandments.--John xiv. 15.         Sprinkled infants do not love Christ nor keep his commandments, for they are incapable. [547]
      Baptized believers may repel Satan as Christ did, saying, "IT IS WRITTEN, They believed and were baptized."         But infant sprinklers cannot say, 'It is written, Infants were baptized;' for it is not written.

      The foregoing contrast is enough, I would think, to convince every mind, which is not so shackled and trammelled by prejudice, prepossession, and parental education, as to be rendered invulnerable to the truth, though strongly enforced by the infallible word of God, reason, and every thing that merits the name of evidence. But the time is evidently near at hand, when, I awfully fear, they will lament their folly. I tremble when I consider the near approach of the time when every thing of human policy, invented in place of the pure religion of Jesus Christ, must be lost in one universal wreck of irreparable ruin. My apprehensions proportionably increase as I view, (as to me appears evident,) that by far the greater part of the world is in an unprepared state; nay, the greater part of professors of Christianity, are not prepared to say, "Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly;" nor the societies, to which they belong, ready to respond, "Amen; come, Lord Jesus." S. K. MILTON.

Home Page
Resource


6.2.11

<img src="/cgi-bin/Count.cgi?df=piney/counter_Alexander.Campbell.John.Calvin.Baptism.html.dat">

--

--