1883 Ecclesial Guide

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6. -- What is the Solitary Man To Do?

When the inevitable course of the earnest man is adopted, and he finds himself outside the orthodox pale, the question presses, what is he to do? If he is alone, his case will be more difficult than if there are others to keep him company. His first difficulty will be about baptism. He cannot ask former associates to baptise him. They would either refuse or misconstrue his submission at their hands. He has no friend of the truth to whom he can apply for assistance; and distance may be too great an obstacle to his availing himself of the help of the nearest. He naturally thinks it essential that he should be baptised by one already in Christ; and he is in distress that he cannot obtain the services of such. The best advice at such a stage is to let him get the help of some devout, even if unenlightened, friend to put him under the water. There have been cases where, unable to get even this help, the believer has buried himself, though this is not to be recommended. The example of Dr. Thomas in a similar position is doubtless a good guide. He asked the assistance of a devout acquaintance, on the understanding that the participation of said acquaintance could impart no character or efficacy to the act about to be performed, which was purely an act of obedience rendered by Dr. Thomas to God, to which the acquaintenance was but mechanically accessory.


7. -- The Administration of Baptism.

Those who think the efficacy of baptism depends upon the administrator have been troubled by the question "Who has authority to baptise?" There is no real ground for doubt on this point. Believers in the nineteenth century have just the same "authority" in the matter of baptism as believers in the first. The lapse of time has not invalidated the appointment of Christ for the salvation of men. Baptism as an act of obedience performed in an apostle's presence had no more acceptability before God than the same act performed miles and years away. The act is to God, and not to men. It matters little by whose actual hands assistance is rendered in the act of baptism.

"Jesus made and baptised more disciples than John" (Jno. iv. 1), yet he did not himself perform the baptism. A parenthesis is added to state this: "Jesus himself baptised not, but his disciples." Jesus baptising, then, literally meant his disciples doing it at his command. To with the apostles. Paul made light of the personal participation by an apostle in the act of baptism. He says: "Christ sent me not to baptise, but to preach the gospel" (1 Cor. i. 17). He also says: "I thank God that I baptised none of you but Crispus and Gaius." In the house of Cornelius, Peter "commanded them to be baptised in the name of the Lord;" but this is no evidence that Peter officiated. If it was done at his command, that was enough.

Anyone can bury a dead man; but only the constituted authority can give the order. Anybody can do the hanging of a murder if the law issue the warrant. A Scriptural baptism is the burial of the dead (Rom. vi. 4), such as have become so to sin by the power of the truth, and such as recognize their death-state in Adam. It has been commanded, centuries ago, by the apostles, that all such should be buried in baptism. It does not matter who performs the mechanical part. If it is done in obedience to the apostolic command, it is an apostolic act. The "authority" arises more from the state of the baptised than the state of the baptiser. The notion that a personal "authority" is necessary to give validity to it, is a relic of the apostacy. Philip, not an apostle, baptised the eunuch (Acts viii. 38.) The three thousand who were baptised on the day of Pentecost, could not have been baptised by the apostles, but must have had numerous assistants. The apostles have assistants in the nineteenth century as well as in the first. The lapse of time does not affect the principle.


8. -- Form of Procedure.

Where more than one come to the truth at the same time, the best course, in the absence of an enlightened assistant, would be for them to baptise one another. As to the exact form of procedure, in such a case, we have no New Testament guidance, and must therefore act under the general apostolic exhortation to do all things "decently and in order." Let persons in the position described (having assembled for the purpose) read a selection from the apostolic Scriptures appropriate to the occasion; then, in few and suitable words, let one of them ask God to recognise what they are about to do, thanking Him for the invitation to become associated with His son. Then let one of their number (all things being ready) ask the person about to be immersed, "Do you believe the things concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ?" When the person to be immersed has said, "Yes, I do," let the immerser say, "Upon this public confession of your faith, you are baptised, by God's commandment, into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, for the remission of your sins," and then let the act of immersion be performed. Nothing depends upon a set form of words. It is the believer's submission to the commandment of God that is counted to him for righteousness and union with Christ. Still it is, however, seemly that a Scriptural and appropriate description should accompany the act performed. The use of the form suggested secures the exhibition of some features of the institution easily lost sight of, and that are important to always hold in view: 1, that it is from the commandment of God, and not from the officiation of the immerser, that the act derives its validity; 2, that the essence of the act is the submission to burial on the part of the baptised, and not the performance of the burial by the immerser; 3, that there is, in the act, a public profession of the name of Christ; 4, that, until that moment, a man is "in his sins;" 5, that after immersion his sins are forgiven, and that he is called to newness of life.


9. -- Baptismal Formula.

As regards the form of words, it is better to say, "baptised into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit," than simply "baptised into the Lord Jesus," for this reason: the first form of words keeps the truth concerning Christ in the foreground--that he is the manifestation of the Father by the Holy Spirit and that what he did, he did not of himself as a man; whereas, the latter leaves the way open for the idea to grow up that Jesus came in his own name (which he expressly says he did not), and not in his Father's name (which he expressly says he did.) True, the formula is orthodox, but then it is also apostolic, and essential to the full expression of the truth concerning Jesus.


10. -- Course After Baptism Alone.

After baptism, it is Christ's will that the baptised should break bread and drink wine every first day of the week in remembrance of him. Supposing the obedient person is alone, he has no alternative but to do this alone. It will not be quite so profitable an exercise alone as in company with fellow-believers, but it will be much better than omitting it altogether. That this solitary exercise can be profitably conducted is evident, from the following (revised) extract from an account of such an exercise: --

"Compelled by circumstances to be separated from the brethren on a certain first day, I thought the best way of making use of my solitude would be to devote some part of the day to the worship of the God of heaven, and to endeavouring to gain instruction from His holy oracles, instead of simply enduring it as a weariness. The effort was successful beyond my anticipations. I have reason to remember with thankfulness that day alone. First of all, I opened with thanksgiving for mercies received. After this, I read two of the portions of Scripture allotted for the day in the Bible Companion. Then, after thanks for each, I partook of bread and wine in commemoration of the death of Jesus Anointed. I next received a beautiful and comforting exhortation by reading a 'Sunday Morning' (See Seasons of Comfort.) It gave me a true picture of the world in which we live, and of the duties which devolve upon us, as being in the world, but not of it. I thus had the advantage of the presence, in a certain sense, of a brother who was absent. After reading this exhortation, not being able, all things considered, to sing, I read one of the songs of Zion. I do not think it possible, with pen and paper, to convey an idea of the feelings with which I fulfilled the command, 'Do this in remembrance of me,' for the first time, alone. All extraneous distractions removed, I felt face to face with our beloved Elder Brother: and though I could not hear his voice, or look upon him with my eyes, I knew he was conscious of all I felt, and of all I said. Isolated from the brethren, suffering from bodily afflictions, 'lover and friend far from me,' I felt I could breathe forth my most inmost yearnings in prayer. In the evening I had a clear, comforting, and instructive lecture from our sleeping brother, Dr. Thomas, who, through the pages of Eureka, brought to my mind much that is in the Prophets and Apostles. I spent my 'day alone' with great profit, and I feel sure, some of our brethren, who are isolated, might spend their lonely first-days in the same way. Those who are not isolated are not at liberty to worship God alone. Paul tells us we are to break bread together in 'one place' (1 Cor. xi. 20; xiv. 23), i.e., the one place appointed by the brethren. And, doubtless, he intended there should be one meeting in every city where brethren might dwell. They were 'to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace' (Eph. iv. 3); to 'be of one mind' (1 Peter iii. 8); 'to strive together for the faith of the gospel' (Phil. i. 27; iii. 17; Col. ii. 2). No brother or sister ought, by breaking bread alone, to break this command. It is certainly our duty to meet with the brethren when circumstances permit, but when we have no control over these circumstances -- when we are compelled to be alone -- shall we not be doing an acceptable thing to God by remembering His Son in the breaking of bread and drinking of wine on any first day of the week?"

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