Pittsburgh Gazette, April 25, 1905


The second installment of Pastor C T Russell's "Discourse on Baptism," delivered in Carnegie Hall, Allegheny, Sunday last, is printed below this morning as a continuation of the matter which appeared last Monday morning:


From this standpoint it will be observed that there may be members of the true church baptized into Jesus Christ by being baptized into His Church among Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Congregationalists, Roman Catholics, etc., as well as among Disciples and Baptists. On the other hand, undoubtedly the great majority in all denominations (including Disciples and Baptists immersed in water) have neither part nor lot in "the body of Christ," the true Ecclesia, because of not having come through the real door into the real Church by the real baptism into "His death." This proposition is incontrovertible.

Having thus laid all the stress, as the apostles do, upon the true baptism, we turn to the symbol of it, water baptism, and inquire, first, is the symbol proper or necessary to those who have the real baptism? Second, if so, which is the proper symbol?

The testimony of the Lord and the apostles clearly indicates the propriety of the symbolical or water baptism, because not only they themselves were baptized with water, but taught water baptism in respect to others not Jews only, but also Gentile converts. We have already shown that our Lord Jesus' baptism was separate and distinct from that of John's baptism to the Jews in general; that it was not unto repentance for remission of sins; that John did not understand the matter, and that our Lord in thus instituting a symbol of His own death, did not attempt to explain what John and others of that time could not have understood, because the Holy Spirit was not given, for Jesus had not yet accomplished His sacrifice for our sins, nor been glorified so as to present the sacrifice on our behalf.

We note the commission given by our Lord to the apostles, and to us through them, as recorded in Matt. 28:19-20: "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name (by the authority) of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." This commission has applied to this entire gospel age, and under it all the ministers of the Truth to-day labor. The Lord did not here refer to the Pentecostal baptism of the Spirit, because it was not in the power of the Apostle thus to baptize anyone. The Lord Himself, and He alone, had this authority and retained it. It was, however, granted to the apostles, and to all the faithful teachers of the Lord's Word, to instruct people respecting the grace of God in Christ, respecting their justification and respecting their sanctification, or consecration, or baptism into death with Christ, if they would be partakers of His new nature and coming glory. And the baptizing included also the symbolical, or water baptism, which was to be the outward sign by which the inward or heart consecration of the believer would be made known unto his fellows, even as our Lord Himself first made the heart-consecration to the Father and then symbolized it in water. [HGL55]


That the inspired apostles so understood their commission and ours is evident from all their teachings. They first taught the people respecting the grace of God in the work of redemption, encouraging them to believe unto justification of life. They next urged upon them a full consecration of heart, saying, "Beseech you, brethren (no longer sinners and aliens, but justified through faith in Christ, and, hence, designated members of the "household of faith" or "brethren"), that ye present your bodies living sacrifices, holy (justified), acceptable to God, your reasonable service." This was the invitation to consecrate, or sacrifice, or to be "baptized into His death." So many as heard the word gladly, in the proper condition of heart, appreciatively, were baptized not only really baptized in their consecration vow, but also symbolically baptized in water, as an outward testimony of this.

Notice the following testimonies that baptism was the custom of all the Apostles not merely with the Jews, but also with the Gentiles. We read of the people of Samaria, "When they believed Philip. . . they were baptized, both men and women (not children)." Acts 8:12 The Ethiopian eunuch converted by the preaching of Philip was also baptized in water (Acts 8:35-38). After Peter had preached to Cornelius and his household, "The Holy Spirit fell upon all them that heard (appreciated) the word (no infants, therefore). . . and he commanded them to be baptized." (Acts 10:44-48) Again we read, "Many of the Corinthians hearing, believed, and were baptized." (Acts 18:8.) Again we read, "Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, one that worshipped God, heard us; whose heart the Lord opened to give heed unto the things spoken by Paul. . . . She was baptized and her household." (Acts 16:14-15) The Philippian jailer, when he had believed, was baptized by Paul and Silas in the prison. (Acts 16:33) Again we read, "I baptized also the house of Stephanus." (1 Cor. 1:16)

True, the apostle in this last case mentions how few he had baptized, but this undoubtedly was because of his thorn in the flesh, his imperfect eyesight; and a few whom he baptized probably received this service at his hands because no one else suitable to perform it was conveniently at hand. He thanked God that he baptized so few; but this does not imply that he had changed his mind in respect to the fact that a dispute had arisen in the church a sectarian or faction spirit leading some to say, "I am of Paul," others, "I am of Apollos," others, "I am of Peter," etc. the Apostle was glad that he could say he had baptized very few of them himself, lest any of them might be led to claim that he had been making personal disciples, baptizing them in his own name instead of making disciples for Christ, and baptizing them into the name of Christ.


In the light of these plain declarations of Scripture respecting the precept and practice of the Lord and the Apostles, it would be a bold man indeed who would declare that symbolical or water baptism is not taught in the Scriptures, or that it was taught as applicable to the Jews, or that it was intended only as an introductory work. It is surely with good reason that all Christian people respect water baptism as of Divine institution. If any are inclined to still controvert this question, we have no quarrel with them; but believe that if such a one is honest and has performed in his heart the true baptism of his will into the will of the Lord if he has become dead to self, and to the world, and alive toward God through Jesus Christ our Lord, God will reveal this matter also unto him in due season. (Philip. 3:15.)

Meantime we shall rejoice with such that they have found the real baptism and become participators in it; and we congratulate them upon the truth that it is far better to see and enjoy the real baptism while blind to the symbol than it would be to see the symbol and be blind to the reality. In view of this, however strongly we favor the symbolical baptism we could not base Christian fellowship upon it, but only upon the real baptism into death with Christ. All, therefore, who confess the Lord as their Redeemer, and confess a full consecration of heart and life to Him, we accept as brethren in Christ Jesus, members of the Ecclesia, whose names are written in heaven, new creatures in Christ, whether by birth Jews or Gentiles, bond or free, male or female, baptized with water or not baptized with water.


On the other hand, let it not be forgotten that every item of knowledge brings not only an increase of privilege and joy, but also an increase of responsibility. Whoever, therefore, comes to see the beauty and authority of the water symbol comes at the same time to another test as respects the deadness of his will

respecting his real baptism into death with the Lord. A failure to obey as to the symbol under these circumstances it will readily be seen would mean a withdrawal of the sacrifice and thus a failure to make the calling and election sure.

We will not attempt a discussion of the multitudinous pros and cons as between sprinkling, pouring and immersion as to which was the original apostolic mode of performing symbolical baptism. We will suggest, however, that no infant could possibly be in the condition of mind and heart which would permit it to make a consecration or baptism of its will into the will of Christ, so as to become dead with him to self and to the world: We will insist further that the symbolical baptism could not be performed prior to the real baptism with any validity, because symbolical baptism is intended to be merely the outward expression or confession of what has already transpired between our hearts, our wills and the Lord in secret.

These things being true, it follows that the great majority of Christian people have never had symbolical or water baptism, since they could receive it only after intelligently making their consecration vow. The immersion of adults prior to consecration would be no more efficacious than an ordinary bath, no more of a symbolic baptism than the sprinkling of an unconsecrated infant. It behooves all, therefore, to inquire earnestly which is the true water baptism, the true symbol designed by our Lord, and to obey it promptly. And every consecrated heart, "dead indeed" to self will and worldly opinion, will be on the alert to know and to do the will of the Lord in this and in every [HGL56] other matter. Such alertness is implied in the expression "Alive toward God, through Jesus Christ, our Lord" Rom. 6:11.

Suppose that the confusion on the subject of the mode of baptism were so complete and the testimony concerning the procedure of the early church so bewildering that we had nothing whatever to guide us in determining whether the apostolic mode of water baptism was by sprinkling or pouring or immersing, we are now in a place where, seeing clearly what constitutes the real baptism, it is possible for us to discern clearly what would and what would not constitute symbols or pictures of it. Scrutinizing every form practiced one only seems at all to picture death and burial with Christ. We fail to see any symbol of death to the world and self, and with Christ, in many or few drops of water upon the forehead or in a pail full of water poured over the person. If there is any symbolical likeness of death in either of these we are unable to perceive it.

But when we come to consider immersion we see at a glance a wonderful, a striking, a remarkable, a fitting illustration of all that is implied in the real baptism to death. Not only does the Greek word baptizo signify submergence, covering, burying, overwhelming but the whole procedure connected with one immersion backward into the water in the name of Christ is a most striking picture of a burial, fitting in every particular. The administrator in the symbol represents our Lord. As the candidate goes to him so we in our hearts go to the Lord for baptism. Confessing that we cannot of ourselves become dead to self and to the world, we give ourselves into the hand of the Lord, asking Him to accept the will for the deed and requesting that, our wills being given up, He will bury us into His death that He will cause such experiences, such disciplines, assistances and chastisements as will best enable us to carry out our covenant of consecration.


When the candidate has surrendered his will the administrator gently lets him down into the water, and while he is thus on his back, helpless in the water, he furnishes a complete illustration of our powerlessness to assist ourselves while in death; and as the administrator raises him to his feet again we see in the picture just what our Lord promised to us to raise us up from the dead in due time by His own power. We make no attempt to constrain the consciences of others who differ with us, but it seems to us evident from the fitness of this symbol that its author was the Lord. Who else could have arranged so complete a picture or symbol of the entire matter?

Whoever has already performed the real baptism whoever has already given himself into the hands of Christ, to become dead with Him, buried in the likeness of His death, and then sees the beauty of this symbolic picture, must, we believe, feel an intense desire to fulfill it in his own case. The language of his heart must surely be "I delight to do Thy will, O my God."

What advantages will accrue from obedience to this symbol? We Answer – that the advantage does not accrue on the fulfillment of any one part of our consecration vow, but will only be ours if we seek to fulfill all the requirements, first and last everything included in the full surrender of our wills to the Lord's will and a full endeavor to walk in His steps. But while the full advantage will accrue at the end of the journey, in the first resurrection and its glory, honor and immortality, there is a measure of advantage to be enjoyed even now. The satisfaction of mind, the peace of heart, the fact that like our Lord, we have endeavored to "fulfill all righteousness," these contribute to that peace of God which flows like a river, regularly and steadily and forcefully, through the lives of those who are His the peace of God that passeth all understanding in our hearts.


The apostle's testimony is that there is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all." (Eph. 4:4-6) It follows that as there is only one proper baptism, so there can be but one proper symbol of it; and Christian people in general are agreed that immersion in water corresponds most closely to the meaning of the Scriptural language. As illustrations of this agreement note the following comments from persons who, though probably really baptized into Christ's death, had become confused, so that they did not know how to identify its water symbol, and concluded that it is immaterial.

John Calvin, Presbyterian, says: "The very word 'baptize' signifies to immerse. It is certain that immersion was the practice of the primitive church." Institutes, Book 4, chapter 15, par. 19.

Dr. MacKnight, Presbyterian: "In baptism the baptized person is buried under the water." "Christ submitted to be baptized; that is, to be buried under the water."

Dr. Philip Schaff, Presbyterian: "Immersion, and not sprinkling, was unquestionably the original, normal form. This is shown by the very meaning of the Greek words 'baptizo,' 'baptisma,' 'baptismos.'"(History of Apostolic Church, p. 568.)

In a later publication (1885) he writes further on these "comparisons" that they "are all in favor of immersion, rather than sprinkling, as is fully admitted by the best exegetes, Catholic and Protestant, English and German." (Teachings of the Twelve Apostles, pp. 55-56.)

Martin Luther, Lutheran: "'Baptism' is a Greek word, and may be translated 'immersion.'" "I would have those who are to be baptized to be altogether dipped into the water." (Luther's Works, vol. 1, p. 336.)

John Wesley, Methodist: "'Buried with Him by baptism' alluding to the ancient method of immersion."

Wall, Episcopalian: "Immersion was in all probability the way in which our blessed Savior, and for certain was the most usual and ordinary way by which the ancient Christians did receive their baptism." (History Infant Baptism, vol. 1, p. 571, Oxford, 1862.)

Dean Stanley, Episcopalian: "For the first thirteen centuries the almost universal practice of baptism was that of which we read in the New Testament and which is the very meaning of the word 'baptize' that those who were baptized were plunged, submerged, immersed into the water." (Christian Institutions, p. 17.)

Brenner, Roman Catholic: "Thirteen hundred years was baptism generally and regularly an immersion of the person under water." (Historical Exhibition of the Administration of Baptism, p. 306.) [HGL57] "The whole person was immersed in water." Kitto's Encyclopedia.

"Baptism, that is, to dip, or immersion." Encyclopedia Americana.

"Baptism was originally administered by immersion." Brande's Encyclopedia.

"Baptism means immersion." Smith's Bible Dictionary.

"Baptize, to dip in or under water." Liddell and Scott's Greek Lexicon.

"To immerse to sink." Robinson's Greek Lexicon.

"To immerse, to submerge, sink." Greenfield's Lexicon.

A symbolic baptism in water concluded the service.

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