Feb 26, 2009

The Baptist Alexander Campbell

Early in Alexander Campbell's life, when he was both more Calvinistic and Baptistic, he held the correct view on water baptism.

He was first taught wrong on the subject, being a son of a Presbyterian Pedo-Baptist, and not believing in immersion of believers only. When he "saw the light" on this topic, he became a Baptist and was baptized by Elder Luce. At this time he did not believe that baptism was essential for pardon of sin or eternal salvation; And, what he said at this time, as demonstrated in his debate with McCalla, about that topic, is what Baptists believe, is what I believe. It is this position that I will uphold, the Lord willing, in my upcoming August debate on the place of baptism. It is my opponent, who will not agree with what Campbell stated in that debate. Yes, Campbell did go into error on water baptism, but it was away from the truth as he formerly expressed it in that debate.

Here is what Campbell said about baptism being "for remission of sins" when he was "sound" on that point.

"I did not exaggerate its (baptism) import (this he would do later! SG), as mr. M. would have it. Nor did I elevate it so as to displace hope and charity (as he did later, or as his followers do today? By their sending many believers to Hell from not being properly baptized - SG). These are graces, the fruits of true faith, and true baptism. I know it will be said that I have affirmed that baptism "saves us," that it "washes aivay sins." Well, Peter and Paul have said so before me. If it was not criminal in them to say so, it cannot be criminal in me. When Ananias said unto Paul, "arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord," I suppose Paul believed him, and arose, was baptized, and washed away his sins. When he was baptized he must have believed that his sins were now washed away, in some sense, that they were not before. For if his sins had been already in every sense, washed away, Ananias' address would have led him into a mistaken, view of himself; both before, and after baptism. Now we confess that the blood of Jesus Christ alone cleanses us from all sins. Even this, however, is a metaphorical expression. The efficacy of his blood springs from his own dignity, and from the appointment of his Father. The blood of Christ, then, really cleanses us who believe from all sin. Behold the goodness of God in giving us a formal proof and token, of it, by ordaining a baptism expressly "for the remission of sins." The water of baptism, then, formally washes away our sins. The blood of Christ really washes away our sins. Paul's sins were really pardoned when he believed, yet he had no solemn pledge of the fact, no formal acquital, no formal purgation of his sins, until he washes them away in the water of baptism."

"To every believer therefore, baptism is a formal and personal remission, or purgation of sins. The believer never has his sins formally washed away or remitted until he is baptized. The water has no efficacy but whate God's appointment gives it, and he has made it sufficient' for this purpose. The value and importance of baptism appears from this view of it. It also accounts for baptism being called the Washing Of Regeneration. It shews us a good, and valid reason for the despatch with which this ordinance was administered in the primitive church.

I say, this view of baptism accounts for all these otherwise unaccountable circumstances. It was this view of baptism misapplied that originated infant baptism. The first errorists on this subject argued that if baptism was so necessary for the remission of sins, it should be administered to infants whom they represented as in great need of it on account of their "original sin." Affectionate parents, believing their children to be guilty of "original sin" were easily persuaded to have their infants baptized for the remission of "original sin," not for washing away sins actually committed; But of this again."

"Faith in Christ is necessary to forgiveness of sins, therefore baptism, without faith, is an unmeaning ceremony.

The intelligent and well instructed Christian, however, is baptized to obtain the formal remission of his sins."

"He appointed baptism to be, to every one that believed the record he has given of his Son, a formal pledge on his part of that believer's personal acquittal or pardon..." (pg. 135-37)


is by definition a ceremony. A ceremony involves what is formal. Baptism is a ritual, as the Lord's Supper is a ritual. It is part of a believer's protocol or convention. It is what he does once he becomes committed in heart to Christ, and is intended to formally express the fact, or confess it.

Being a ceremony, we do not mean to imply that it is a mere "empty ceremony" without any deep signification or lasting impression. It is not mere "pomp and circumstance."

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