Brethren Archive


by B.W. Newton

Baptism, like the Lord's Supper, is an ordinance attached to the New Covenant, which is a Covenant not of works, but of PROMISE and GRACE.
Nothing, perhaps, shows more clearly how peculiarly Baptism is an ordinance of GRACE than the period in the life of faith that is appointed for its administration.  When we consider the extent and greatness of the blessings of which Baptism is the sign, we may be disposed to ask whether its administration should not be delayed until increased experience and knowledge enable us in a measure to appreciate its meaning.  But God has appointed otherwise.  It is not an ordinance reserved for the advanced and experienced in the school of Christ.  It meets us in the infancy of our faith and knowledge.  It meets us where the Cross finds us.  Therefore, although Baptism is the sign and the pledge of blessings that will not be developed fully till we are conformed to the image of Christ in glory, yet, babes in faith receive the seal of their being His, in token that they are inherited entirely on the title of the name of Another.
The aspect in which we are wont to regard Baptism when first we believe, is as the appointed ordinance in which we confess the name of Jesus, and show forth the remission of sins through Him received, and also as the ordinance by which we are formally and visibly introduced into that body which as baptized in the name of Jesus, stands, or should stand, as His confessing people in the midst of a gainsaying world.  These aspects of Baptism are indeed of great moment; but we must beware of making them exclusive aspects.  Baptism is not merely an act of confession on our part, or a rite by which we visibly enter the communion of God's people; it is also on the part of God towards us, His seal and sign of a work which His grace has effectually accomplished for us in the death and resurrection of His Son.
In the Epistles, Baptism is frequently referred to as the sign to believers of their death
and resurrection in Christ their representative.  "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore, we WERE BURIED WITH HIM in baptism into death," &c. (Rom. vi. 3, 4).  And again, "If we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection." (Rom. vi. 5.)  And again, "BURIED WITH HIM in baptism, wherein also ye WERE RAISED WITH HIM through faith in the operation of God who raised him from the dead." (Col. ii. I2) No words can be more plain than these.  When, therefore, at Baptism, we are placed beneath the typical waters of death, God by that sign signifies that He regards us as having gone under that power of death into which Jesus went as our Representative; and in commanding us to be raised from the water, God further signifies that He regards us as raised IN, and TOGETHER WITH HIM who continues to be our Head and Representative in the new world of glory.  Baptism is on the part of God a seal also, whereby He visibly pledges His faithfulness and His power to maintain the blessings and effectuate the results that are in this sign signified.  Baptism, therefore, viewed as a sign, directs our thoughts to blessings already secured by the finished work of Christ.  It symbolizes not only uncompleted or future acts of God towards us, but that which He hath already accomplished for us by the death and resurrection of His Son.  If anyone were to teach that the emblems of the broken body and shed blood set before us in the Lord's Supper did not point to the finished work on Calvary, but to some work of the Holy Spirit or other uncompleted or future operation of God, should we not reject such doctrine as heresy?  Let us then be equally careful not to corrupt the doctrine of Baptism. The work of the Son is not to be confused with the work of the Holy Spirit; and that which is accomplished and past, is to be distinguished from that which is continuous and future.  When the Apostle says, "I HAVE BEEN CRUCIFIED with Christ" (Gal. ii. 20); or again, "YE DIED" (Col. iii. 3), and ye WERE QUICKENED together with Christ" (Eph. ii. 5), he directs to something past and accomplished.  The practical exhortations to live as those who HAVE DIED and HAVE RISEN are grounded on the fact of our HAVING already died, and already risen in our Representative.
"Perilous Times" 1907

Timothy Stunt said ...
BWN's attitude to Baptism is problematical. From the early 1830s he was taking a strong line against Anglican services of confirmation, but seems to have avoided the question of infant baptism — possibly to avoid conflict with JND.
Most peculiar is the fact that I can find no reference to BWN being baptized at all. Brought up among Quakers he wouldn't have been baptized as an infant, but to have matriculated at Oxford he almost certainly required a certificate of baptism. This could have been arranged with his tutor Thomas Byrth, another former dissenter who was baptized in 1819 prior to attending Magdalen Hall, Oxford. Whether BWN thought such a baptism (which would have occurred before his conversion in 1826) was valid is hard to establish.
Interestingly, his cousin by marriage, S P Tregelles was also raised as a Quaker and wouldn't have been baptized as an infant. Not having attended either of the English Universities, he had no need to be baptized. However as one who agreed with BWN on most things, he would probably have taken a similar position over baptism, but again, as with Newton, I can find absolutely no reference to Tregelles being baptized. Can anyone enlighten me? Timothy Stunt
Monday, Mar 23, 2020 : 02:15
Jim Brown said ...
Revisionism. Don't believe everything you read.

The writer of this was Benjamin Wills Newton. However, these sayings are just excerpts taken from his full study, "The Doctrine of Scripture respecting Baptism."

I can make anyone seem like they believe a certain way if I piece together parts of their speech. The pretribulation rapture advocates did this with the writings of Iranaeus who was clearly posttrib.

Read his full study before casting any judgment. B.W. Newton opposed the Roman Catholic position of baptismal regeneration which the Anglican Church of England had adopted.

Shame on the person who wrote this article. Change it now... in the name of Jesus, because this man did not believe as you would have the reader think he did. Just because you don't like B.W. Newton or his posttrib rapture views, doesn't give this website the license to revise his writings period. What a disgrace!
Monday, Aug 3, 2020 : 05:11
Jim Brown said ...
From the rather long footnote written by B.W. Newton on page 27 of his work, "The Doctrine of Scripture respecting Baptism," we read the following:

If water in John iii. 5 meant Baptism, then no one who is not baptized (and that in the way appointed of God, for we could not suppose that a self-devised way would be recognized) could be saved; for the words are most positive: "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." I suppose no Protestant will affirm that every unbaptized person, and every person not baptized in the right way, is necessarily lost. "As regards this passage," says Calvin, "I am by no means induced to believe that Christ speaks of baptism." (Quantrum vero ad hunc locum attinet nullo modo adducor, ut Christum de baptismo verba facere credam.) It is true, indeed, that no one except he pass in the great Substitute through death which "water" SYMBOLISES, can be saved; but it is also true that every one who has believed (like Lydia, for example, when she received the words of Paul) has passed through the death that "water" symbolises, and is therefore "born of water" before he is baptized at all. If "water" signifies baptism in this passage, then the declaration of our Lord that "he that believeth HATH everlasting life," would be falsified, and St. Paul would have been unable to say, "Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel"; and Peter would have been unable to say we "are born again by means of the world of the gospel."

In John vi. 47 our Lord says, "He that believeth on me hath everlasting life"; and immediately afterwards adds, "Whose eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life," thus identifying faith with eating. Ritualism, however, teaches that this last verse refers to the Lord's Supper; and yet the thousands who believed at Pentecost had everlasting life, and therefore had eaten Christ's flesh, and drank His blood, before they had even heard of the Lord's Supper. The Lord Jesus necessarily instructed His disciples, before the Comforter came, in parables and figurative language; to be unfolded, like the types of the Old Testament, when the Comforter came to explain and bring to their remembrance what the Lord had said. If we refuse to explain symbolic language symbolically, we may as well adopt the doctrine of transubstantiation at once, and say that the material cup which the Lord held in His hand was not a cup at all, but the new covenant. When men wish to darken the truth they can easily perplex themselves.

In John iii. it should be observed that it is not the Spirit that is compared to the wind, but he that is born of the Spirit---"so is every one that is born of the Spirit." In other words, we become possessed (viewed as a part of the new creation of which Christ is the risen head) of a new condition of being, so that there we are no longer fettered by the laws of earth, but are as the wind. This will be manifested at the hour of resurrection, and will be the last great evidence of being born of the Spirit. Sometimes this verse is interpreted to mean that we know nothing as to the means by which the Spirit regenerates: but this is untrue. We know that He regenerates by means of the word of the Gospel directing to Christ. By directing the soul to Christ, He quickens.

Whoever discovers this post, who has any authority over this site, should remove this fallacious article at once, because it's degrading the character of a good man who's already been attacked enough for the truth. Thank You.

Monday, Aug 3, 2020 : 10:02
Tom said ...
Hi Jim,
The article appears to be taken from a magazine in 1907 ... I must confess I know little of BWN's teachings, but reading the article, what is it that you ate objecting to in it?
Monday, Aug 3, 2020 : 13:52
Jim Brown said ...
This article is taking some observations made by Newton against baptismal regeneration from a much larger work he wrote on the subject, and then arranging those observations to look as if he actually supported baptismal regeneration himself. Regardless of who made this article, their intent was not to refute baptismal regeneration but to make it look as if Newton supported it, which he did not. That's the only problem I have.

The first comment from Timothy Stunt seems to verify my conclusions.
Friday, Aug 21, 2020 : 10:34
Timothy Stunt said ...
My first comment merely indicates that in the early 1830s Newton was opposed to Confirmation and may therefore by implication have been opposed to infant baptism. Nothing in my note has any bearing on the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. I merely pointed out that there was no cast-iron evidence for Newton's having been baptized either as a child or as an adult. The age at which one is baptized has no bearing in itself as to whether the sacrament is regarded as regenerative or symbolic. Timothy Stunt.
Saturday, Aug 22, 2020 : 01:22
Tom said ...

Jim to me it reads like any other Brethren piece on Baptism.

I can see maybe how phrases like this one might be mis-interpreted but i don't think there was any intention to make it appear he had sumpathy for baptismal-regeneration in any way.

Baptism is not merely an act of confession on our part, or a rite by which we visibly enter the communion of God's people; it is also on the part of God towards us, His seal and sign of a work which His grace has effectually accomplished for us in the death and resurrection of His Son.

Wednesday, Aug 26, 2020 : 00:50

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