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COROLLARY. All mankind, therefore, according to the Campbellites, who are not immersed, perish forever.
This, then, is the ground occupied by the foregoing views. And our object here, is merely to give a plain and compendious summary of them, for the convenience of reference; and not to prove them false by their consequences. Mr. Campbell and his friends appeal to the Bible to sustain their views; and if that fairly sustains them, it is in vain to talk of consequences. Our next step will therefore be, to take up and consider the passages on which they profess to rely.
Argument founded on John 3: 5.
This passage has ever been regarded by Mr. Campbell and his friends as containing a complete, and unanswerable argument in favor of their position, that baptism is essential to regeneration, and consequently to salvation: "Jesus answered, 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." On this verse, with Tit. 3: 5, there has been more controversy with this sect, than on any other texts of Scripture.
To avoid the force of Mr. Campbell's argument, it has been observed, that the phrase "kingdom of God" does not refer to heaven, but to the invisible church on earth. Others have supposed that it referred to the visible church. Both positions, however, have been swept away simply by the Campbellites asking, Whether the objector did not believe that many were members of the invisible church who had never been baptized with water?' and whether there were not members of the visible church, who, though they had been baptized with water, had not been baptized with the Spirit?' As both are admitted by all evangelical Christians, the objectors could not, in consistency with their own sentiments, maintain such a view of the subject. And thus their false exposition has been refuted, and Campbellism has triumphed.
It is in vain that some have maintained that baptism is not here enjoined as essential, but merely as obligatory when it can be attended to. The Campbellites have triumphantly answered, that Being born of water is placed by our Saviour upon an equal footing with being born of the Spirit. If, therefore, the one may, under any circumstances, be dispensed with, the other may be likewise under the same, or similar circumstances.'
But as no Christian could admit such an inference, the position sustaining it must be abandoned.
Thus the Campbellites, from this passage conclude, that to be born of water is equally essential to salvation as to be born of the Spirit; for the text says, "Except a man be born of water AND Spirit." But all Christians admit that to be born of the Spirit is essential; and therefore agreeably to this admission, baptism is essential to salvation. This is the argument of Mr. Campbell and his friends; and the above is their method of wielding it.
Now to attempt to answer an argument of this kind by sneering at it, as has been already too often the case in this controversy, only betrays the utter imbecility of him who makes the attempt. However ridiculous an argument may appear, it is puerile to undertake its refutation by a witticism, when we know that our opponents rely upon it in support of opinions which they profess to believe to be as worthy of veneration and regard as we consider any of our own to be. If solid reasons cannot be given for dissenting from its conclusions, the argument will be deemed unanswerable, and its conclusions true, no matter whither they may lead.
Mr. Campbell and his friends have frequently avowed their conviction that this argument is unanswerable. We do not agree with them, however; for
1. They take for granted the very point in dispute. Without offering one particle of proof, they assume that üdwo, water, is here to be understood of the element water. But this is by no means so clear as might be thought. The same word is constantly employed in the New Testament in a sense quite the reverse. E. g. see John 4: 10. Eph. 5: 27. Rev. 22: 1, 17, and John 7: 38, 39. "He that believeth on me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this he spake of the Spirit." The argument is therefore of no value, unless it be shown that dog refers to the element water.
Of course Mr. Campbell will not plead in support of his argument that many divines have understood water here to refer to baptism; for in matters of this kind he professes to place no reliance on human authority.
But though Augustine and some other eminent men have understood the word in this manner, there are very great authorities, (and it is not improper here to refer to them,) on the other side. Basil understands it very differently. See his book on
the Holy Spirit, cap. 15. Bullinger, understands it not of external baptism of water, but of internal and spiritual regeneration. Brentius understands it metaphorically. See also Bellarmine, De Bap. lib. 1. c. 4. Lombardy, lib. 4. dist. 4. cap. D. E. Grotius, and Pareus also in loc.
Now since the Campbellites claim to deduce such sweeping conclusions from this passage, why should this point be granted without their offering a particle of proof?
But further: Let it be observed that dog here, even allowing it to refer to the element, cannot without manifest absurdity be understood of the water of Christian baptism. For the simple reason, that the Jewish dispensation was not abrogated at the time these words were spoken; and of course christian baptism was not instituted. That the ceremonial law was still in full force, is clear from the fact that when Christ had healed a leper on a certain occasion (Matt. 8: 4) he commanded him to go show himself " to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded for a testimony unto them." And the institution of christian baptism was immediately antecedent to the ascension. How then can Christ be understood here to refer to that ordinance, (at least so as to be understood by Nicodemus,) when that ordinance was not yet instituted? But,
2. The Campbellite exposition of this passage is directly contrary to fact.
To say nothing on the subject of the emphasis being laid by our Saviour upon Spirit and not water, as appears from the fact that he directly, in the explanation of his meaning, entirely drops the mention of water and speaks of being born of the Spirit alone; there is another consideration which we might largely insist upon; to wit, that if regeneration and immersion in water are one and the same thing, the illustration adopted by our Redeemer is necessarily inappropriate: "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth, so is every one that is born of the Spirit;" which certainly was intended to teach us that although the reality of the new birth could no more be doubted, than the existence of the wind; yet that there was something in its nature, and in the manner whereby it was effected, wholly inexplicable by man; and that there most assuredly is nothing in the act, and in the circumstances attendant on, immersion, that cannot be fully comprehended by any person. But, to say nothing on these topics, I would re
SECOND SERIES, VOL. I. NO. I.
mark that the Campbellite exposition is directly contrary to the conduct of our Saviour and to the word of God.
The reader will bear in mind that this exposition is, that "no one can be regenerated, or saved without being immersed." But I answer that unambiguous facts prove this to be a false exposition of the language of our Saviour: for after this conversation with Nicodemus he repeatedly remitted sins without baptism. Take for example the case of the palsy-stricken, Mark 2:1-12, with Matt. 9: 1-9: "Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee." Or the case of Mary, Luke 7: 36-50: "Her sins which are many are forgiven for [not she has been immersed, but] she loved much.-And he said unto the woman, thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace." But lest the advocates of the system under consideration rather than admit the only obvious and proper inference, should maintain that these instances did not occur after, but previous to the conversation with Nicodemus; or, that if they did occur afterward, they prove nothing, for the persons may not have been regenerated if even their sins were forgiven, we shall produce one more instance. It is that of the dying malefactor. He came to execution a hardened impenitent sinner, Matt. 27: 44, and Mark 15: 32. While hanging on the cross he repented, and was forgiven, Luke 23: 40-43. Now the foregoing objections cannot here apply. For 1. No one will maintain that this occurred before the conversation with Nicodemus; and 2. No person will maintain that the malefactor was not regenerated; he was saved, and no one can be saved unless regenerated. He therefore came to the cross impenitent; on the cross he repented; on the cross Jesus pardoned his sins; and from the cross received his soul to mansions of endless bliss. Here then, was a soul pardoned, regenerated, sanctified, and saved, without the application of water. Of course then, water is not essential to regeneration, nor baptism absolutely essential to salvation. And consequently the foregoing exposition of John 3: 5, is false.
But their exposition is equally contradictory to facts of another description. Mr. Campbell and his followers admit that the phrase "born of water and of the Spirit," is only another form of expression for "being regenerated," or "born again." In other words, that the term regeneration signifies everything that Christ intended by the phrase "born of water and of the Spirit." This is undoubtedly correct; for we have the fullest
confirmation of it in v. 3 and 8 of the same chapter. The question then arises, How are persons regenerated, agreeably to the Scriptures? And this question we shall answer in the phraseology of the Bible. God regenerates mankind through the truth. 1 Pet. 1: 23, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God," dia λórov Orov. John 8: 32, "The truth shall make you free." John 17: 17, "Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth." Jas. 1: 1, "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth." Mr. Campbell makes a distinction between "being born of God" and "being begotten of" him, but this distinction is unavailing. For the above cited passages declare that persons are both born of God, and begotten of God, "by the word of truth." Other passages in great abundance, declaring the same, can be easily. adduced. If therefore men are regenerated, or born again, by the truth, and if the phrase "born of water and of the Spirit,' signifies nothing more than being regenerated, which the Campbellites admit, it follows that Mr. Campbell's exposition of this passage, so far at least as regards his inferences from it, is false.
This passage being regarded as the great pillar of the system under consideration, it may reasonably be demanded, that, having exposed the falseness of the foregoing exposition, I should at least attempt to make known the true import of the phrase ¿§ vðaros xai пveúμaros, of water and of the Spirit. I shall proceed to do so with brevity.
We shall first consider the occasion of Christ's introducing this phraseology, and then its import.
It is an excellent observation, which lord Bacon somewhere makes, that "being unlike man, who knows man's thoughts only by his words, Christ, knowing man's thoughts immediately, never answered their words, but their thoughts:"-that is, he always answered their thoughts, whether their words really expressed them or not. Le Clerc, profiting by this suggestion, has remarked upon the passage before us, (see his Harm. fol. p. 520,) that the answer of Jesus does not seem direct, but that Nicodemus, having premised what is contained in ver. 2, was about to ask Jesus what he ought to do in order to be admitted into the kingdom of heaven, which was at hand; and that it is this unuttered part of his address that the remarks of Jesus are a reply to." Hence nothing can be more to the point than our Lord's reply; though, without this clew, (or, at least, granting the supposition that the whole of the conversation is not recorded,) it