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

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