Jan 30

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In the early years as men were “searching for the ancient order of things” questions came up, articles were written, sermons were preached, and debates were conducted, and even division resulted over a number of subjects. One subject was that of baptism! As truth was learned on one subject, it was put into practice, but over time, this resulted in men leaving the denomination they were members of, as most were members of some denominational church. We of today need to learn to appreciate their struggles! All of these “truth searchers” were confronted with great opposition from their denominational friends and even family members at times. Yet, their love for truth burned so deep within their hearts, nothing would stop their march toward truth that would save their souls!
Of course, many subjects came up and became the object of searches to determine just what the inspired writers taught on the subjects. They understood truth stood in the inspired word and not within the thought and writings of men! Jesus himself settled this point when he asked: “The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?” (Matt. 21:25). Prior to the 1800’s many men had written on the subject of baptism, but it was still true, it was “of men,” and not “from heaven.” If these men had written truth on the subject of baptism, the truth was “from heaven,” and the authority was still not in the men who wrote. This brings us to the subject of quoting men from the time which we fondly call, “the search for the ancient order of things.”
These men were truly giants of the time! They stood equally with the founding “fathers” of our nation, in devotion, intelligence, and statesmanship. In fact, some of these men were friends with the politic leaders of their time. But, it must never be forgotten, they were just men, subject to the failities of mind of other men, then and now. In fact, it is not uncommon to find within their writings where they wrote two different ways on the same subject. Keep in mind just here, that Thomas and Alexander Campbell were Presbyterians and as such had received infant baptism, sprinkled; thus, the first study was what is called the mode of baptism. After much study of the subject, it was rightfully concluded that baptism in the New Testament was immersion. At this time, neither Thomas nor Alexander questioned their own baptism, though neither had been immersed. This helps us see the difficulty they had in putting together their learning and practice. In this case, both had been taught wrong and been baptized wrong, but came to understand that what they had learned was wrong.
It was in 1812 at the birth of Alexander’s first child that a serious study of scriptural baptism was made. The Campbell’s had all been sprinkled as babies, therefore, they concluded that they had not been scripturally baptized; that is, they had not been immersed. Mathias Luce, a Baptist preacher, was persuaded with some effort to immerse them. Here a question needs to be asked, “Why was it hard to persuade a Baptist preacher, who believed that baptism is immersion, to immerse them? Is there something missing in the story to this point?” For one thing, Campbell stipulated there was to be no “religious experience” called for, as there was no New Testament account of any converts ever being called upon to do so.
Though Campbell had come to understand the correct “mode” of baptism, immersion; had he in his “search for the ancient order of things” come to understand the purpose of baptism as it relates to remission of sins? Maybe we cannot answer this question, as we were not there and only have what he and others have written. However, it would only be a few years later that Campbell would write: “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.” Let it be understood, what Campbell knew, when he was immersed or did not know, does not change truth!
In this first article in this series, may I be so brave as to ask what others will not ask, was Campbell, at the time of his being baptized, if he failed to understand that baptism is unto the remission of sins; thus, his learning being wrong, was he baptized biblically? Be it before far from me to put myself upon the Throne of God; but I will not give comfort to those today who have not been taught why they must be baptized into Christ, and that baptism is unto the remission of their sins! Neither my salvation, nor anyone else’s depends on Alexander Campbell and his baptism! It is my responsibility to teach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing, but the truth! Why would any gospel preacher do less?

— Frank R. Williams

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