Index for this publication
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In offering to the public this little book on "Undenominational Christianity,"
I have no apology to make. It has seemed to me for years that the Christian
world stood in dire need of some direct teaching along this line.
I do not claim to offer in this book a "finished job" in any sense, for the work has been done amid the rush of daily school duties; in fact, the book is made of the articles that have appeared in the Gospel Herald. It is simply an earnest message sent on its way to honest, God-fearing hearts; a plain scriptural lesson for a plain people. If the unity for which Christ prayed be advanced one step the desired result shall have been attained. THE AUTHOR
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At this present time the world practically knows nothing of undenominational
Christianity. In fact, it is an unknown and an impossible quantity. That one
can be just a Christian and only a Christian is hard of acceptation. As soon as
one affirms that he is a Christian, the invariable question is, What
denomination do you belong to? That one can be a Christian and not belong to
some denomination is even denied. Should one dare to claim he is a Christian
and also deny any denominational affiliation, a denominational name will be
thrust upon him. Should a dozen of such Christians begin to work and worship as
a congregation of believers, claiming non-fellowship with any and all
denominations claiming to be Christians and only Christians, members of the
church of Christ and only that, without investigation the inevitable would
happen; they would be styled "Campbellites" and that would be a "Campbellite
Church". Just as if it were impossible for Christians to be only Christians and
a church to be only a church of Christ. Though this is true, I presume no body
would deny such an honor and distinction to the church which was at
Jerusalem in the days when men spoke by the spirit of God. The first seven
chapters of the book of Acts of Apostles gives the history of the organization
and early work of this congregation. It had it's thousands of members and yet
all of these believers were only Christians. Not one of them claimed to be more
than a disciple of our Lord and every man in being saved was added by the Lord
to the church--which church? What denomination did all these Christians belong
to? Certainly there was not one on the earth, at that time, to which they could
have belonged. Then if thousands of people at Jerusalem became disciples of
Christ, were saved, and added to the church, not one of them belonging to a
denomination, but only to "the church", why may not thousands of people do and
be the same today? Why are we denied the privilege of being just such
Christians, disciples, saved people, as they were? If they could be saved, live
the Christian life, work for, and worship God simply as disciples, and as
members of "the church", why may I not do it? What hinders me? If these people
were added to "the church" being guided by the very apostles of our Lord, is it
not safe, entirely safe, for us to be as they were? In fact, is it not
exceedingly dangerous to ignore this holy example of the Spirit in the holy
apostles" "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God".
To fail to follow this example of the early disciples is certainly to fail to follow the leadership of the Spirit of God, but to fail to follow the Spirit of God is to fail to be obedient children of God. The only way for us to be faithful children of God is to follow implicitly the Holy Spirit; and to follow the Holy Spirit is to belong to no denomination, but is to be disciples only, Christians only, saved and added to his church because we are saved.
Is not the religion of our Lord, given to the world through his holy apostles and prophets good enough? Pure enough? Would we dare to offer an improvement on it?
Suppose one takes the New Testament of our Lord, faithfully studies it, and heartily surrenders himself to its Christ, obeying from the heart the commandments of this Lord, persistently striving to do and be as this Christ of the New Testament teaches him to be, and refusing to do, or be anything save as he finds this Christ leading him, what would he become, and what would he be? He certainly would be a disciple of Christ, would certainly find salvation, and would certainly be added to "the church". In fact, he would be like, very like, the Jerusalem disciples. Suppose a hundred such religionists should live in one town, were to come together to worship God as a congregation, knowing no Lord but Jesus and no church save the church to which the Lord added them as they were being saved, what church would these hundred disciples constitute in that town? What denomination would they belong to?
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Many of the teachers of this day teach the people to become Christians and then
"to join the church of their choice". Thus they are admitting that men become
Christians, separate and apart from denominational affiliation; that it is
possible for one to become a Christian, and only a Christian, without and
independent of all denominationalism. Then I do not have to argue or prove
that, according to the popular teaching of the age, the first thing to be done
on the part of one desiring to become a worshiper of God, is to become a
Christian. Neither do I have to prove that, according to this popular teaching,
people not only become a Christian first, but they are saved by the blood of
Jesus, bought, redeemed, and purchased by the price, the precious blood of the
Lamb of God, before entering a denomination. These are all admitted facts. No
denomination in this country will receive one into its fellowship until it
believes that one to be a Christian, saved. They claim careful work at this
point, stressing its importance. Waiving then for the present the question
whether or not these teachers tell the people how to become Christians, it is
admitted by all that people must be saved, children of God, Christians, before
they can be denominationalists. This admitted fact is worth while in this
discussion; it, at least, gives us a start. To admit that one may hear of
Christ, may come to Christ, even to his blood, may be saved, and have his name
enrolled in the Lamb's book of life, without even a stain of denominationalism
on him, is to admit much. It is enough, also to cause one who wants to please
God to wonder why all this denominationalism any how. then the question to be
discussed is whether this saved man, this child of God, even this Christian,
has to join a denomination to belong to a church, to have church affiliation,
and be a regular attendant at church. This is the question: all else is
It will not be denied that the one hundred and twenty disciples assembled at Jerusalem with the Holy Spirit upon them and in them, were saved people, children of God, Christians; neither will it be gain-said that the three thousand souls added to them on the day of Pentecost, were saved people, Christians; for it is said; "The Lord added to them day by day those that were being saved." (Acts 2:47) Nor will it be denied that these disciples were "together" and that they "continued steadfastly with one accord in the temple praising God". Neither would it be denied that this people, "together" in the temple "praising God" is a church, working in a "church capacity", and that all of these disciples belonged to that church. But to be sure, we follow up the history of this people and find two of their preachers, Peter and John, imprisoned for preaching in his name; but after consultation the preachers are permitted to return "to their own company" to which company they reported their experience as prisoners. Then this company, "when they heard it lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and prayed. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken wherein they were gathered together; and they spoke the word of God with boldness". Therefore this people, these saved people, are meeting together and in an assembled capacity are worshipping God, praising him, and praying to him. Can we be mistaken in calling such meetings "church meetings"? Could it be a mistake to say that these saved people, thus meeting and worshipping "together" constitute a "church"' and that they are actually meeting and worshipping in "a church capacity"? But lest we go too fast and conclude too much we appeal again to the records. We want to hear the Holy Spirit call this people "church" then we shall be satisfied. Now in these days when the number of disciples was multiplying there arose a murmuring of the Grecian Jews against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. And the twelve called the multitude of disciples unto them and said, "I is not fit that we should forsake the word of God, and serve tables. Look ye out therefore, brethren, from among you seven appointed over this business . . . and the saying pleased the whole multitude". They selected the men and the apostles appointed them "over this business". Thus we find this people at Jerusalem meeting again, and in this assembled capacity are at work, selecting and appointing workers over a certain work, (may I say church work)? "And the word of God increased; and the number of disciples in Jerusalem multiplied exceedingly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith". Actually this people are in a "revival" and the number of the disciples multiplying in Jerusalem. What is this thing any how that is so actively engaged in religious services; praying, praising, preaching and saving sinners? Are we ready to call it a church? Shall be way that we have actually found disciples of the Lord, saved people, working and worshipping in "a church capacity" just as disciples of the Lord, and the daily other saved people are being added to them. While we feel that we could in all safety call this people a church, yet we shall fee all the more safe when we find the Holy Spirit so calling them, "And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church which was in Jerusalem".
Really this very people, these very disciples, whom we have seen meeting together for prayer and praise, for preaching the gospel and selecting men to see after the poor, are called by the Holy Spirit himself "the church which was in Jerusalem". Surely it is enough. Every saved person at Jerusalem is a member of a church, yet it will not be claimed that the church at Jerusalem is a member of a church, yet it will not be claimed that the church at Jerusalem was a denomination. Indeed, every denomination in this country will admit that this church in Jerusalem, including every saved one in the city, was God's church. Therefore, these disciples, Christians, these saved people, lived and died, only and simply, disciples of Christ, Christians, having never so much as heard of a denomination.
Truly, we have found undenominational Christianity pure and simple. Such as all the world will own as Christianity without alloy. With it, too, we have found God's people of one heart and one soul; there are no divisions among them, but they are being perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment, the holy prayer of our Savior, that all believers may be one, is really answered. With denominationalism how may divisions ever cease, and how may the prayer of our Master ever be answered?
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According to the records given us by the Holy Spirit not one of these disciples
was consulted about "joining the church"; absolutely no "choice of church
relation" was given in those days. No preacher ever said to "new converts",
"join the church of your choice". There was but one church and all the saved
belonged to it, not because they had "joined" it, not because they preferred it
to some other church, but because they and been bought with the precious blood
of our Lord. The very minute, hour and day, in which they were redeemed by the
blood they were God's by t\right of purchase and being his he added them to his
people and thus this body created by the Lord, by his adding daily such as were
being saved constituted the saved on earth, even the church which was at
Jerusalem. Now if the first Christians were nothing but Christians, religiously
speaking, and if they belonged to no denomination, but were simply
undenominational Christians and belonged only to the church of God, the saved,
and belonged to this people because God had added them to his church, if they
lived and died this, and only this, who would deny me the right to become,
live, and die, such as these first Christians were! Yea, who will deny that it
is not only my right to be such a Christian as they, but that it is my
imperative duty so to be?
Verily, can I be a faithful follower of the Holy Spirit and be more than these Christians were? If the first Christians on the earth were free from denominationalism; that is, belonged to no denomination; if they were so made and so directed by the Holy Spirit, will one not have to depart from the Holy Spirit's leadership to be a denominational Christian? Since, therefore, it is my inalienable right and my imperative duty to be a Christian and only a Christian; since in no other way I can faithfully follow the Holy Spirit, may I be allowed to make a faithful effort to follow without having thrust upon me a denominational name, and without being accused of trying to un-christianize others? Since it is my obligation, laid upon me of Heaven, to lead every soul possible to the blood of Christ that he may be saved; since it is my duty to bring every soul under the holy and safe leadership of the Spirit of God, and since Christians made by this divine Spirit were undenominational Christians, does it not become my duty to help and encourage every one who wants to please god to strive to be such a Christian as the Holy Spirit led people to be in New Testament times? For this reason I exhort every one who wants to be a christian, just such Christians as the Holy Spirit led souls to be in other days, to strip himself of all denominationalism to have no fellowship with it. Certain it is that no Christian can affiliate with and fellowship denominationalism in following the Holy Spirit for that this divine Spirit never led a Christian into denominationalism is more certain than that the sun will rise in the morning.
Then it is not a question of whether the Holy Spirit is the founder of the denominationalism of this age, for it is certain he was not; but the question is, am I content to be just such a Christian as those made by his holy instruction. This is the question. Am I satisfied with his plain simplicity? Or, am I willing to take the responsibility of disregarding his divine pattern? To be sure God does not force men to be his servants, but leaves them free to choose, Indeed, if men prefer to follow the wisdom of men in religion, the consummation of which wisdom is the denominationalism of this age, rather than the wisdom of our God. God will allow it, "but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment". (Ecc. 11:9)
"And now, O Israel, hearken unto the statutes and unto the ordinances, which I teach you, to do them; that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which Jehovah, the God of your fathers, giveth you, ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish from it, that ye may keep the commandments of Jehovah your God which I commanded you". (Deut. 4:1,2) "What things soever I command you, that shall ye observe to do: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it". (Deut. 12:32) "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven". (Matt. 7:21) "Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God; he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son". (2 John 9) "I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto them, God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the Holy city, which are written in this book". (Rev. 22: 18, 19) That the Holy Spirit throughout his teaching forbids in strong terms all additions, subtractions, amendments and alterations, to his teaching is as certain as that we have to die. That denominationalism with all its complications and contrivances is an addition made by human wisdom to the simplicity of Christ is as certain as that Jesus came up from the grave. Since it is true that the Holy Spirit stoutly forbids additions to his work, and since through Christ he has given undenominational Christianity only, it is inexplainable how devoted hearts, hearts determined to follow only the Spirit of God in religion, can continue in denominational Christianity. What will you do about it? It is your responsibility.
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Just before Jesus left the earth to be exalted at the right hand of the Father,
to be a Prince and a Savior, he said to his disciples: "Tarry ye in the city,
until ye be clothed with power from on high". (Luke 24:49) Even before his
death Jesus had promised them the Holy Spirit with the promise that He would
guide them into all truth. Again, he "charged them not to depart from
Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, ye heard
from me: for John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the
Holy Spirit not many days hence". (Acts 1: 4, 5)
Soon after giving this charge he was taken up from them "and a cloud received him out of their sight," and "then returned they unto Jerusalem, . . . And they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them tongues parting asunder, like as of fire; and it sat upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance". (Acts 2:1-4) (Read also Acts 1:9-12).
That this is a record of the fulfillment of the promise of the Savior that they should be clothed with power from on high, will not be denied by any intelligent Bible student. Our Lord was unwilling for these disciples to go forth to save the world until the Holy Spirit filled them and gave them utterance. So we may justly conclude that the work they do after they are thus clothed with power, is the work of the Holy Spirit; for no one will doubt that he did exactly what he came to do and that was to guide them into all truth. Surely their work as teachers, ever after, was the work of the Holy Spirit. To follow them is certainly to follow the Holy Spirit. Neither can one claim the guidance of the Holy Spirit in his religious life, who goes contrary to work done by these, thus filled with power from on high. Certain it is, in other words that a religionist is guided by the Holy Spirit just so far as his religious life and practice is in harmony with the life and practice of those clothed with the power. Certain it is, too, that he who does faithfully follow these guided by the divine Spirit is free from denominationalism, belongs to no denomination, but is simply a Christian, a disciple of the Lord. All who thus follow the guide that directed these teachers are member of the church to which they belonged, even the church of God. They became members, too, just as people did who were guided by this power, that is, they did not "join the church", but as they "were being saved" God added them to his saved, thus constituting his church. For surely no one will question that every one that faithfully follows the Holy Spirit will be saved, and that God will be as kind to them as he was to those who followed the Spirit at Jerusalem. If this be true, then every such one is saved and, by the Lord, is added to his church.
We are trusting to the fairness of our readers and their goodness of heart, not to be misunderstood in this series of articles. We are not claiming, nor do we teach, that one may not be guided by the Holy Spirit unto salvation and be added to the very church of God itself, and then go into, "join" and affiliate with, a denomination, and thus become a denominational Christian, belonging to two churches, having been added to the church of our Lord when saved, but, afterwards, joining a man made institution, called a church. We believe this very thing is sometimes done by noble hearts. But we are contending that every step that it takes to become a denominationalist is going beyond the Holy Spirit, and contrary to his very earnest pleadings; yea, that it is contrary to the example of every Christian and of every church in New Testament history; that not one single Christian in all New Testament times was ever guided by the Holy Apostles and prophets to join a denomination; and that he who becomes more than a Christian, a disciple of the Lord, and more than a member of his Holy church, takes the responsibility of doing in religion contrary to all the instructions and examples of holy men guided by God's own Spirit.
If one is willing to shoulder such a responsibility with pleadings of God against it, his business it is, but it is mine to lay the responsibility at his door. I leave it there. It is just as easy for men to be only Christians now as it was in New Testament times; and the only reason that men are not is, that they are unwilling to be, or they need knowledge of the fact.
Soon after the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples a large congregation came together and Peter or rather the Holy Spirit using Peter as an instrument, seized the opportunity and began to preach. Jesus had told them to go to Jerusalem and "tarry" or "wait" till the power came and then to preach the gospel to every creature. They had gone, they had waited, and the Holy Spirit had come, had entered into them, and they were thus prepared to preach.
Peter, an undenominational Christian, or disciple, an undenominational teacher, or preacher, representing no denomination, but simply a member of the church to which the Lord adds those being saved. Surely then his work was undenominational work, and could have built up no denomination. His audience was composed of unbelieving Jews, who had come, far and near, to worship God, the Lord's own Father. While they were devout Jews, very religious, and consecrated in life, they did not believe in Jesus, they did not believe him to be the Son of God. With this unbelief in their hearts they had assembled; and hence the burden of Peter's preaching was to demonstrate to them that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God. Fifty day before this day, these same Jews had stained their fingers with the very blood of the Son of God, believing they were putting to death a deceiver. So Peter had a fine audience; not a worldly minded people, not atheists, but men like the Hebrew children, and like Daniel, ready to die for God's service: prayerful, zealous, and pious; indeed a fine audience.
After Peter had removed some prejudice and mistaken views concerning the wonderful manifestations of power in Jerusalem that morning by quoting from their Bible, the Old Testament, he began his sermon proper: "Ye men of Israel hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth a man approved of God unto you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you, even as ye yourselves know; being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay: whom God raised up".
In this short speech the Holy Spirit through Peter preached the life of Jesus, his wonders, mighty works, and signs, even God's approval of his child, declaring that his audience by lawless men had crucified and slain the Son of God and that God had raised him from the dead. But did he come up from the dead? This is the proposition to be proved. So the Spirit introduced proof, quoting from David, the sweet song writer of Israel in whom they trusted as a divine teacher and writer. From the quotation it is certain that David speaks of somebody's resurrection: either his own, or he puts the language into another's mouth. The Spirit calls attention to the facts that David died, was buried, and that his tomb was with them till that day. Therefore he could not have meant himself. Whom did he mean? The Spirit says that David being a prophet and knowing that God had sworn, that of the fruit of David's loins he would set one upon his throne, spoke of the resurrection of the Christ. "This Jesus did God raise up, whereof we all are witnesses. Being therefore by the right hand of God exalted and having received of the Farther the promise of the Holy Spirit, he hath poured forth this, which ye see and hear. . . . Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified". This was enough to strike conviction home to the hearts of his honest and devout hearers. By this time they could almost see blood-stains on their hands, and feel in their hearts the murdering of God's own Son. So "when they heard this they were pricked in their hearts, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do?" Are they convinced? Who would doubt it? Do these crying ones believe that Jesus whom they crucified fifty days before is the Christ the Son of God? Do they doubt now that God approved him by those mighty signs? Had they done what the Spirit told them to do? That is, did they "know assuredly" that God had made him both Lord and Christ: If they really did know this great fact of the gospel, and if they knew it as the Spirit in Peter told them to know it; that is "assuredly" "with full confidence", "without doubt", "with full confidence"' that Jesus was God's own child, that his mighty works were God's approval of him; that he had been crucified, and that God hath raised him from the dead, and exalted him at his right hand, "both Lord and Christ", after one knows all this, knows it assuredly, with full confidence, what must he do further that he may believe? Does he who confidently accepts these great facts, so accepts them that it pierces his heart until he cries out, What shall I do? need to be told to believe? What more must he believe and how shall he believe it? To these believing people, to these people who knew assuredly these great things of Jesus, even to these convicted people, the Holy Spirit said: "Repent ye and be baptized every on of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is unto you and your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our god shall call unto him. And with many other words he testified, and exhorted them saying, Save yourselves from this crooked generation. They then that received his word were baptized: and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls . . . And the Lord added to them day by day those that were saved".
Let us remember that we are now reviewing a "church meeting" free from denominationalism, that we are beholding a church at work, saving the world; that the Teacher is the Holy Spirit sent by our Lord; that the man through whom he is speaking is a member of this undenominational church, simply a Christian; and that all of this teaching is undenominational teaching, pure and simple. Then at this undenominational church meeting this undenominational teacher called on unbelievers to "know assuredly", "without doubt", that Jesus is "both Lord and Christ", to all who did so know it that it wrought conviction in their hearts was delivered the commandment, Repent ye". So at this undenominational meeting unsaved people were commanded to accept without doubt the great facts of the gospel, then, to repent, and at last to be baptized "in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins".
By irrefutable logic, then, it follows that he, today, who preaches Jesus, the approved Son of God, the resurrected and coronated Lord and Christ, and calls upon the unsaved to believe it, or know "assuredly", exhorts all who do thus know it, to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of their sins, teaches undenominational teaching. It is just as certain, too, that every on who is pierced in the heart by knowing "assuredly" that Jesus is Lord and Christ, that repents, and is baptized in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of his sins, is saved, is a disciple of the Lord, simply a Christian added to the church of our Lord. This is so, or nothing is so, relative to Bible teaching. In other words, if we cannot rely on work today, as approved of God, and as Spirit-directed, that duplicates the Spirit's work which has been recorded for our learning, the Bible is valueless to us.
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In writing this little book, it is my purpose to stir every one of my readers
to a holy desire to be just such a Christian as Peter, James, John, and Paul
were; yea, just such Christians as composed the entire church oat Jerusalem. No
other goal is worthy the efforts of a Christian, nor is any other pleasing to
God. And I am persuaded that many of my readers want to please God; that they
should rather please him than to do anything else. Indeed, I like to believe
that with their whole hearts they want to follow the Lord in all that they do;
that if they be denominational Christians it is because they do not know it is
displeasing to God. I like to write for such hearts. Let us not forget that the
whole religious world is agreed that the first Christians on the earth were
undenominational Christians: that they were members of the church because the
Lord added them to it; that these Christians met together in praise and prayer
to God; held in this meeting, calls on unsaved people to meetings, preached the
gospel, saved sinners, appointed deacons, cared for the poor, in fact, did all
kinds of church work without affiliation with any denomination, but simply as
Christians and members of that body of saved people created by the Lord's
adding day by day such as were saved: that this body of saved ones was called
by the Holy Spirit "the church which was in Jerusalem".
In the last chapter we saw by an examination of the divine records that Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to has disciples to guide them into all truth, commanding them to wait in Jerusalem till they were clothed with power from heaven. By the eye of faith we saw them go to Jerusalem and wait for the power. By the same eye we saw Him come, enter into them, and begin His work. As an undenominational "Teacher", in an undenominational preacher, Peter, he taught undenominational Christianity, made undenominational Christians, and built up an undenominational church, even "the church which was at Jerusalem". It will be remembered, to, that we closed the last chapter with the thought, that he who conducts church meetings as this on was conducted, preaches the same things taught in this meeting, calls on unsaved people to do the things demanded of the unsaved at this meeting at Jerusalem, conducts undenominational meetings and teaches undenominational Christianity; and that those who receive such teaching become undenominational Christians; and that in no other way can be have undenominational Christianity, but by faithfully duplicating this work of the Holy Spirit. This is the how. He who faithfully follows the Holy Spirit in his work with these Christians at Jerusalem can be but a Christian.
When the Holy Spirit came with the noise of a hurricane into Jerusalem it collected a vast crowd together, a congregation of unbelievers in Christ, the very crowd that crucified him fifty days before. So the very first work to be done with this congregation of sinners, crucifiers of the Lord of glory, is to show them that they have really killed the Son of God. Hence the Holy Teacher in Peter begins to preach Jesus, alleging that he is both lord and Christ, exalted at the right hand of God. After he had, with irrefutable facts proved hat Jesus is the Son of God, he called upon the unbelievers to "Know assuredly that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified". This irrefutable testimony of Peter, guided by the Holy spirit, sent conviction to their hearts and with heart-distressing agony they cried out for relief of heart and soul.
Again, we halt to view the work. What has really been done and how has it been accomplished? Certainly nothing has been done in this meeting thus far but powerful preaching. The preacher has labored hard to establish in every heart the great truth that Jesus was all he claimed to be; that they, with wicked hands, had murdered him; and that God had raised him from the grave and exalted him at his own right hand both Lord and Christ. With great and convincing argument, he hurled this truth home to thousands of hearts until they burst with distress. But all this effect was accomplished by preaching Jesus to them. No other effort was made.
When these hearts came together to hear this sermon, they believed Jesus' body was sleeping in the earth; that all his claims were false; and that they were right fifty days before when they nailed him to the cross, thought they did service to God. But how changed are these honest hearts! How grieved are they! They believe the very opposite now; namely, that all his claims are true, that actually they slew the Christ of God and that he is alive again, even Lord and Christ at God's right hand. This must be their faith and it is this conviction that distressed them.
Now with all this faith, conviction, and grief of heart, the preacher, to help their distressed hearts, even to relieve them, said unto them; "Repent ye". So the change wrought in these hearts that caused them to cry out, the grief and sorrow in them, does not include repentance. All the change thus far, even the cry itself, is outside, and independent of repentance, and is a change to be wrought in unsaved hearts before repentance. This is as certain as that the Holy Spirit replied to their cry of grief. For in order to relieve them of this grief and sorrow, they are told to repent. May we never forget that this is undenominational teaching!
But what was this great something the effects of which was grief and sorrow? Certainly a great change has come in these hearts, a cause of grief and sorrow, and that too, before repentance. Surely;--must I say it? it is faith in Christ as the Lord and Christ. This much faith then certainly must precede repentance, and does precede repentance in every conversion to Christ; and to be undenominational in teaching I must teach this change comes before repentance.
Indeed the Holy Spirit in Paul teaches this same order, "I now rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye were made sorry unto repentance; for ye were made sorry after a godly sort, that ye might suffer loss by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation". (2 Cor. 7:9-10)
Without doubt the congregation we are considering have sorrow; no doubt godly sorrow, and to them Peter says, "Repent ye". This is no doubt Heaven's order.
I feel inclined at this station of our route to sit down with my readers and have a "heart to heart" talk about these matters. It is so essential to the salvation of the world that the saints of the Lord be as these early Christians were; that is, "of one heart and one soul", that I am very anxious for us to see these things as they are: that there be no divisions among us but that we be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment "that the world may believe that thou didst send me". I am trying to be fair in the examination of this undenominational meeting of Christ's people; and really the Spirit has been so plain in his record of the meeting that I can't see for my life, a place for honest hearts to disagree. If we are glad to be, and do \, s these early disciples, I don't believe we can disagree about these inspired facts. Of course, if I have a theory of my own, or, of some other man, and I love his theory more than I love the union of saints and the truth of my Lord, most assuredly I can find my theory in these records. If I am affiliating with a denomination, and am determined to continue in this affiliation this simple, undenominational teaching, will not change me. But I must earnestly entreat all honest hearts to let these plain facts of this meeting directed by the Holy Spirit weigh heavily upon their hearts. "Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of they heart. For they are life unto those that find the . . . . Let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Make level the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove the foot from evil". (Proverbs 4:21-27)
Again we move on to our examination of this meeting at Jerusalem. These grieved and sorrowing hearts are told: "Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins". Remember this answer was given to distressed hearts to relieve them of the weight of the awful sin of murdering the Son of God. This was the sin that weighed heavily on their hearts. They were in deep sorrow for having done it and are ready, heartily ready, to fix it. But how can it be fixed? "What shall we do?" was the cry of their hearts. No doubt they wondered whether anything could be done to rid them of so terrible a sin. But the answer is "Repent", surrender yourselves to Christ, as Lord; make his will yours; unreservedly turn yourself unto him", and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit". All of us are heartily agreed that the Holy Spirit in this answer includes the conditions of pardon, riddance for these hearts. Somewhere in complying with the terms of this answer relief, riddance, to them, pardon was found. Certain it is that this riddance did not come till after repentance; but when they repented, gave themselves unreservedly to Christ, they were told to be baptized unto the remission of their sins. This is the only riddance, pardon is mentioned in the entire record (though it is the very thing burdening the heart of the inquirers) and this time the distressed hearts are to be baptized unto it. Is it possible that these hearts have already reached, come unto, the very thing that they are here told to be baptized unto? Then, too, it is certain that these hearts were promised the gift of the Holy Spirit after their baptism. It is said, "they then that received his word were baptized. and there were added unto them in that day about three thousand souls". In those days God was adding to the saved 'those that were saved", (margin "that were being saved"). We have seen, too, that this people constituted the church of God; and that they were members because, and when, added, and not till then. But these three thousand souls were added after baptism and became members of God's church when they were added. Scripturally certain it is, that in this undenominational meeting, people were told to believe ("know assuredly"), to repent, and be baptized unto remission of sins; and it is, also, scripturally certain that people were added to the saved body of disciples after being baptized and that they were also given the gift of the Holy Spirit after their baptism. These are significant facts that the honest heart will weigh. Waiving until another time the meaning of "unto" in the expression, "unto the remission of sins", it is certain that he that teaches people to believe that Jesus is both Lord and Christ, unto godly sorrow, and calls upon those believing, and consequently sorrowing ones to repent, and, lastly, calls upon those believing, sorrowing, and repenting ones to be baptized unto the remission of their sins, promising them that they shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and be added to the saved, even the church of God, after such obedience, can read his teaching in the very words of the Bible; can be certain that he is undenominational and that he building up the very church of God. If such a one is not just such a Christian and preacher as Peter and if those brought to Christ under his preaching are not just such Christians as the three thousand, and members only of the church to which they belonged when God added them, then you ma all burn up your Bibles.
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That the Holy Spirit in his teaching in the New Testament requires the people
of God to be of one heart and one soul goes without saying. He that does not
know that divisions among believers in Christ are sinful, and destructive to
real Christianity is indeed ignorant of the plainest of Bible teaching.
"Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in
unity". (Psalm 133:1) "Neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that
believe on me through their word; that they may all be one; even as thou,
Farther, art in me, and I in thee that they also may be in us: that the world
may believe that thou didst send me. And the glory which thou hast given me I
have given unto them; that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them, and
thou in me, that they may be perfected into one; that the world may know that
thou didst send me". (Jno. 17:20-23)
This prayer of the Savior for every believer in the world, that he may be one, as the Father and Son are one, with every other believer, is enough to convert all true lovers of Christ to the doctrine of the oneness of Christ's people. That he has prayed for this very thing in the hour of his deepest concern should make it important to every disciple, yes, it should place this interest heavily upon his heart. Especially so, when he knows the Master's purpose for wanting this unity. It is very possible that no other sin among believers so hinders the world from faith in Christ as does this grievous sin of division. "Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment". (1 Cor. 1:10) With such entreaties on the part of the Holy Spirit for unity, how can a true spirit, and obedient heart, treat lightly this sin among us? How can one fail to feel it imperative upon him to give up anything and everything not specifically required by the Holy Spirit that he may be one with every other disciple? Indeed, one should feel sinfully guilty as long as one is holding to one thing in religion that perpetuates the divisions among Christians. There are two real causes for the perpetuation of divisions in the world. One is, that many people, some good pious people, too, that have never regarded it a sin, but treat it lightly, are not concerned about it; the other cause is, that many pious and otherwise faithful hearts, deeply regret the awful divisions that exists, but consider the trouble to deep=seated ever to be remedied.
Hence neither class makes any effort to bring about the very thing our Lord teaches and commands, but continues on the disobedience to God. But there are some who are ready to "tread the wine press alone" to obey Jesus. Like Saul of Tarsus they are crying out in their hearts, "Lord what wilt thou have me to do?" They are willing to give up business, social standing, and become a "gazing stock", "the filth of the world, the off scouring of all things", that they may please their Lord and do his will. For these I write.
This beautiful result of unity among saints can never be reached so long as denominationalism is perpetuated, and he who encourages it, encourages the very thing that hinders every effort to accomplish the glorious end for which Jesus prayed: encourages the greatest evil in the religious world. Think of it -- some of the best people (in heart) in the world winking at, encouraging, yea, supporting, that which hinders Christ's cause in the world as few other things have done.
We could wish that whole denominational churches would "break line" and "come out of her" but we could not hope for it. The only way by which denominationalism will be checked in the onward progress is for individual hearts that see these evils to forsake it, renounce it, and be just such Christians as New Testament Christians were. But to be just such Christians as they were means, to be guided absolutely by the Holy Spirit: to teach, work, serve, and worship, as he led people to do when he came into the world to guide them into all truth. If we duplicate his work with the children of men, certain it is that we are such Christians as New Testament Christians were; just as certain it is, too, that we are absolutely free of denominationalism. Certain it is, that Jesus would not let the first Christians begin the great work of saving the world till the Holy Spirit came to guide them. The command was "waits", "tarry". They did it. He came and we have been examining his first work in, and with, these disciples. Who believers that Jesus was any more anxious to have his first disciples, guided by the Holy Spirit than he is to have his disciples today guided by that same Holy Spirit? If he would not let them proceed in their work without the Spirit's guidance, is he willing for us to go on without the same guidance? But he today that trustfully, and from the heart, follows implicitly the work the Spirit did when He came to guide the early disciples, is certainly following the Holy Spirit's guidance. In fact it is, so far as we know, the only way to be guided by him.
As his work with them is to be our example, our guide, and as our work must be true to this divine model, it behooves us to examine conscientiously, and carefully every phase of the work. And we have seen that, in this first work there was the preaching of Jesus, there was hear, there was knowing assuredly, there was then repentance, and then, baptism. He then that preaches Jesus as he is revealed in the New Testament, and entreats his hearers to know confidently that the Jesus that was crucified is Lord and Christ, and commands all who do so know it, to repent and be baptized unto the remission of their sins, follows the guidance of the Holy Spirit as Peter and his hearers did on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus. Such a preacher does not preach Lutheran doctrine, Presbyterian doctrine, Baptist doctrine, or Campbellite doctrine, but Bible doctrine. To call such a preacher a "Baptist preacher", a "Campbellite preacher", is to misrepresent the man himself, and the doctrine of our Lord. With his plain example of the Holy Spirit, where is the chance for true hearts to be divided in the work of preaching the gospel and saving the world? Is the example plain? Can we follow it? Surely it is as plain as the road market. No prophet, priest, or preacher, is necessary to interpret it that the unlearned and unschooled may understand it, but it is so plain that the who runs may read. Is it possible that the Holy Spirit has so confusingly spoken that hearts searching for truth, even for the blood of Jesus, so misunderstand the Spirit's teaching that they must separate into parties, each building up his own party, when Jesus begs and entreats them to be of the same mind and same judgment? Where is the fault? If the Holy Spirit has taught so that hearts can't understand him, surely the entreaties of the Holy Spirit for us to be one are misspent. But were the people to whom Peter preached saved before baptism, or after it? I realize here is a fork in the road. Here good and true hearts separate from one another. But is it necessary? Did the people, the three thousand, that were baptized on that Pentecost disagree at this point? Or, were they one? Was there one party that believed, when the meeting was over, that they were saved before baptism, and another division that believed they were saved after baptism? Verily there was not, and every body knows there was no such division. Why not? Did not those people assemble from all parts of the world? Did they not speak different tongues, and had they not been brought up under different influences and in different environments" In other words, were they not as varied in their temperaments, dispositions home influences, early training, as our audiences today? But as soon as Peter said "be baptized unto the remission of your sins" every one of that vast audience no doubt understood Peter's speech: Why can't we? What makes the difference? True we have a translation of Peter's speech, but is our translation true? Are the English words into which Peter's ideas have been put harder of understanding? In other words, my beloved friends do you believe that honest hearts ought so to misunderstand the little word "unto" in the expression "unto the remission of your sins" as to separate into parties, build up factions, division, among God's people while all the time Jesus is praying and entreating that they may be one? Surely that little word "unto" is not so ambiguous as all that. The meaning of that simple Anglo-Saxon word tells the story. It is the key to the meaning of the passage. "Surely", says one, "the great division in the religious world on the question when we are saved, whether before baptism, is not over the meaning of words like "unto". Most assuredly that is the fact. Surely there is no excuse for the division. It can be continued only by a complete ignoring of all the pleadings of our Savior for us to be one. When Peter said for these people to be baptized unto the remission of sins, he connect baptism with remission of sins in a n important sense. What did he mean? we shall see in the next chapter.
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That Jesus, our Lord, gave to the world Christianity entirely free from
denominationalism, is admitted by all fair-minded students of the Bible. That
so long as Christians were faithful to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, so long
they were free from the curse of denominationalism, and just so long, too were
they of "one heart and one soul"; every Christian in the world was one with
every other Christian, and division was impossible. They all spoke the same
things, and were joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
Husbands and wives, neighbors and friends, could sit down and discuss with
perfect freedom and pleasantness any and every phase of the teaching of our
Lord; could meet and worship God at the common altar of our Father; and all
god's children could meet around the Lord's table and eat their Lord's body and
drink his blood; children did not have to decide the sad question, "Will we
join mother's church of father's?" There was but one church and father's and
mother's influence was one united force in the house to lead them to be
Christians only. Nobody ever said mother's church and father's church; for
there was but one church in the world and that was the church of God. Every
Christian in the world belonged to it. Nobody ever said: "I will go with you to
your church this morning, if you will go with me to mine tonight". No husband
ever went with his wife to her church and then went on to his. Such talk and
such procedure was absolutely impossible, for the simple reason the holy
disciples were one and there were no divisions among them. What a happy
condition! Who could not wish for such beautiful harmony again? Especially
since it is our God's will fir it to reign in his saints, and since our blessed
Lord prayed so earnestly for this oneness. Can a faithful Christian treat
lightly so good a thing; a thing so zealously prayed for on the part of the
Master; and so plainly required of all saints? But however much we may desire
this divinely ordained arrangement and condition, it can never be, so long as
denominational churches exist. So the question devolves itself into this: Do we
prefer denominational churches to our Lord's church? Should we rather have what
we do have than to have that divine and heaven-born child, Christianity, just
as it appeared in the earth in its new-born state? I am persuaded there are
many hearts that are reaching out for the genuine article, and that will have
it. But how may the disciples, all Christians, be one as the Savior prayed?
Only by duplicating the work given in the divine records. We must make this
work our model. Jesus would not allow this work to be done except those doing
it be guided by power from on high. It was too important to be left in the
hands of mere humans, unaided by the divine Spirit. So the command was to
"wait", "tarry", till the power came. But they could have done it without this
aid from on high, as well as we could do it, even better, because they had been
to school to our Savior for more than three years, and if anybody could have
proceeded with this great work unaided, they could. But the Lord would not
allow these specially trained by himself to go without an infallible guide. How
much more important that we today be guided by the same infallible guide! Hence
his work has been written for our guidance. We are urged not to add to it or to
take from it, that we may be as perfectly guided as were they. It is certain,
too, that the religious, or church, work today, that is not in harmony with the
work done by the Holy Spirit in the apostles of the New Testament is not done
under the guidance of the Holy Spirit; it is just as certain, too, that he work
done today in harmony with the records of the New Testament is infallibly
guided by the Spirit of God, and is therefore undenominational. As this is the
only way to be infallibly guided by the Holy Spirit today, I wish to emphasize
again the importance of scrutinizing the meeting at Jerusalem that we may
thoroughly understand the divine work, our pattern.
Then let no one tire as we again review the records. Some may depend on this review for everlasting life. The believing, convicted, and distressed hearts at Jerusalem were commanded by the Spirit to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission, or forgiveness of their sins. That this is the order of the procedure of the work of the Holy Spirit is certain, and we cannot disagree about these facts and the order of them. We are agreed, also , that somewhere in the process these anxious hearts found comfort in the forgiveness of their sins. In other words, we are agreed that they first knew assuredly that God had made Jesus Lord and Christ, then were told to repent, and then were baptized unto forgiveness of sins, and that somewhere in this obedience they were forgiven.
According to our King James translation of the Spirit's teaching, Peter said: "Be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins". The question is, were they saved before baptism or after it? As every one knows, all depends on the meaning of the little word "for". If this word "for" means what it does in the following sentence, "Son, go to town for the mail", then certainly they were not saved before baptism but were commanded to be baptized to obtain remission, or salvation. Just as the boy on the way to town was going to obtain the mail, so these were to be baptized to obtain remission of sins. But on the other hand if "for" in Peter's speech means what it does in the following sentence, "Son, be honest for the worthiness of your mother", "Be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake", "Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness sake", "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife", then they were saved before baptism. In other words, the English preposition "for" sometimes means "to obtain" and again it means "on account of", "because of". Every fair student is ready to admit facts, and never loses anything by doing it, but always gains. Which "for" did Peter use? What did Peter mean by the word he used that was translated "for" in the common version? Some of us know that Peter spoke in Greek; that the little word translated "for" in the version mentioned is "eis". Now if this little word has the two meanings of "for" in it, namely, one looking forward and the other looking backward, then "for" might be a good translation of the Greek word. But if it turns out that the Greek word has only one of the meanings or "for", then it is not a good translation, but is calculated to mislead. On investigation it is found that the retrospective meaning of the English "for" is never found in the Greek word, that it never looks backward; in other words, it never means "on account of" or "because of". That is to say, no Greek ever used the word Peter used with a retrospective meaning.
When the two committees, American and English, began their work, the final result of which is our Standard Revised Version, a covenant was formed; namely, that they would not change the King James translation, save where the original, the Greek, forced a change, and then only when two thirds of the committee said the original required a change. Under this agreement they did their work and when they came to this "for" in Acts 2:38, they changed it to "unto". Instead of making Peter say, "Be baptized for" remission, they made him say, "Be baptized unto" remission, thus translating out of "for" the meaning "because of" or "on account of". They had to do this to make a true translation. The English word "unto" never looks back, but always forward, so did the Greek word used by Peter. Peter's word , or rather the Holy Spirit's word, "eis", always follows an expression that expresses motion, or implies it, and this motion brings the thing involved "to", "unto", or "into" the thing or state indicated by the object controlled by the "eis". Since it is true that Peter's word never means "because of", or "on account of" but always looks forward, it irrefutably follows that those baptized on the day of Pentecost came unto, or into, remission of their sins, when they were baptized, and not before. It would have been impossible to baptize them "unto" forgiveness if they had come into possession of remission before baptism.
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Colonel Roosevelt is a great teacher, both as a lecturer and as a writer. In
his line of work he is almost peerless. Few men have so many American people
sitting at their feet for instruction as does he. They are his
disciples,--learners, but not his disciples only. Not many of them are so very
foolish as to exclude all other teachers and hold to the Colonel only.
Though few of us would encourage one to commit himself so unreservedly to this eminent politician, yet should one make up his mind to be a student only of Roosevelt in politics, believing, teaching, and living doctrines just because Roosevelt taught them, none of us would fail to seethe faith and loyalty of this heart to the Ex-President, neither would we fail to see the crown of honor it would place upon his brow.
To show such faith in, loyalty to, and bestow such honor upon, a mere man would be more than foolish to free-thinking America. But to prostrate ourselves thus at the feet of the Man of Galilee is the divine requirement; to be his disciple, and only his disciple in religion, is the thing required of heaven. "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other:, "One is your master, even Christ", "One is your teacher, and all ye are brethren". (Matt. 6:24; 23:8-10) "If ye abide in my word, then are ye truly (really) my disciples and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:31-32) "Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching the same hath both the Father and the Son." (2 John 9th verse)
But he who takes Jesus to be his teacher, believes, teaches, and lives, only that endorsed by Christ, and sanctifies himself to such a life, for the Lord's sake, is truly a follower of Jesus, a disciple of Christ, and only a disciple of Him; and if there were Christians on the earth, without dispute he is one. He is simply, and only a Christian. He disclaims any relations, religious or church, save relations to Christ. He stoutly refuses and rejects from his religion all doctrines but Christ's. He refuses to be known save by names that identify him with the Lord.
Howsoever far such a one may fall short of his claims, every Bible student must grant that his religious position is thoroughly scriptural. We should be fair enough, too, to admit that this is the position to which every heart desirous of pleasing God should come. Until we are willing to come to this undenominational position we cannot even hope for the union for which Jesus prayed.
But he who does not desire and work for that for which Jesus prayed and worked is un-Christian. This is Jesus' test. "If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham." Why may we not say: "If ye are Christ's, ye want what Christ wants, ye desire that for which he prayed, and ye are working for that unto which Christ works?" Neither am I unkind when I say that men who encourage denominationalism encourage also divisions among those professing Christianity; but he that encourages divisions does it over the blood-sealed protest of Jesus Christ our Lord, and is therefore, un-Christian.
May I ask my readers to return with me to that undenominational meeting at Jerusalem? It is important. We want to "see things alike, if we are truly Christian in heart. Husbands and wives, true ones, want to agree with each other. The beautiful home-life of our country is due to the unison of hearts. But should young husbands and wives not make an effort to "see" alike, minify their differences and magnify their agreements, home-life would be wrecked. So the Holy Spirit lovingly pleads with God's children to endeavor to keep the unity of the spirit in the bonds of peace. I am certain that his undenominational work at Jerusalem is plain, and that there is absolutely no reason for the disagreement of loving loyal hearts.
Three time at least in our King James translation of the scriptures we find the expression, "For the remission of sins". It is said that John the Baptist "preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins"; again, on the day of Pentecost, as we have seen, Peter said to the believing, penitent hearts: "Be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins": then our Master said when he gave the Lord's supper: "Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins". (See Mark 1:4; Matt. 26:27,28; Acts 2:38)
So again, I inquire what the meaning of this phrase is. It tells the story. Distressed hearts cried out because they were burdened with sin, and especially with the sin of murdering our Lord. They wanted relief, and their wants had burst into cries for this relief. All of us, too, are agreed that they found relief, but honest hearts have disagreed as to when they found it, whether before or after baptism.
As was seen in the last chapter our word "for" is an equivocal, or ambiguous, term, since it has more than one meaning. Lovers of denominational interests have taken advantage of this fact, and misled honest hearts, making the believe that "for" in the phrase "for the remission of sins" means "because of", or "on account of". Hence Peter's speech to those distressed hearts has been made to support the theory that men are saved before baptism. But on investigation the word "for" in the three places cited above is found to be from the same word in the Greek. Certain it is that Jesus did not shed his blood for "because of", remission, but that sins might be remitted. Neither is there a dissenting voice from this interpretation. Here we speak the same things are perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. Why is it that we are a unit as to "for" in the one passage and disagree as to the "for" in the other passages, since all three "for's" come from the same Greek? To be sure, if the word from which these "for's" come, has the two meanings that our "for" has, then it may mean "because of" in Peter's speech and "in order to obtain" in Christ's speech. Then, too, the ambiguity might have to be cleared up from other passages. But as a matter of cold fact, there is no such ambiguity in the Holy Spirit's word. The accumulated scholarship of the ages gives the word from which these "for's" came one unequivocal meaning, namely, looking unto, reaching to, or into, an object, end or condition. Absolutely there is not one voice against this prospective meaning of "eis". This meaning is inherent in the word. Hence, in the revised versions, the English Revised Version, the American Revised Version, and the Standard American Revised Version, of the King James translation, which is the work of the ripest scholarship of the world, these scholarly committees were forced by their knowledge of this unquestioned fact, to change these "for's" to a word that looks forward; they would have been unfaithful if they had not done it, traitors to a most sacred trust. What do they give us" The unequivocal word "unto" takes the place of "for" in the passages. Hence, we have John baptizing "unto remission", and Peter commanding souls to be baptized "unto remission". So we have the combined scholarship of Europe and America declaring that the word means the same in all three passages.
Goodwin, author of Goodwin's Greek Grammar used in the leading colleges and universities of the land says: "I think eis in Acts 2:38 expresses purpose or tendency and is rightly translated for or unto (in the sense of for)". Thayer, author of the best New Testament Greek-English Lexicon, says: "I accept the rendering of the revised version 'unto the remission of your sins' (the eis expressing the end aimed at and secured by 'repentance and baptism' just previously enjoined)".
Willmarth, member of the Board of the American Baptist Publication Society, says: "It is feared that if we give to eis its natural and obvious meaning, undue importance will be ascribed to Baptism and the Atonement will be undervalued, and the work of the Holy Spirit disparaged. Especially is it asserted that here is the vital issue between Baptists and Campbellites. We are gravely told that if we render eis in Acts 2:38, in order to, we give up the battle, and must forthwith become Campbellites; whereas if we translate it on account of, or in token of, it will yet be possible for us to remain Baptists . . . . It is our business, simply and honestly, to ascertain the exact meaning of the inspired original . . . Away with the question, 'What ought Peter to have said in the interest of orthodoxy?' The real question is, 'What did Peter mean?' The truth will suffer nothing by giving the eis its true signification. When Campbellites translate "in order to" in Acts 2:38 they translate correctly. Is a translation false because Campbellites endorse it." I might wear out your patience quoting from scholars, but these three quotations from "Shepherd's Handbook on Baptism" are sufficient to establish the fact that Peter taught believing penitent hearts to be baptized that they might be saved, or receive remission of sins. I am glad too, that, as Mr. Willmath says, I do not have to run from this passage, rejecting its obvious meaning because Campbellites so interpret it. I am glad that a translation is not false just because Campbellites endorse it. I am glad, too, that one does not have to be a Campbellite just because he teaches that the Holy Spirit teaches people to be baptized that they may be forgiven. I rejoice that one may be just a Christian, and only a Christian, in teaching people to be baptized to obtain remission of sins. From Mr. Willmath's reference to the Campbellites, it is pretty clear that, like other denominations, they hold to some truth. While I regret that they are Campbellites, I rejoice that they do advocate some truth. I am read to help them to a clearer knowledge of God's truth, and did I have an opportunity I should work mightily upon them to get them to give up their denominationalism and should strive hard to get the to be Christian, only Christians. Neither would I ask them to give up the doctrine that people are saved from their sin in baptism, and not before. This is undenominational Christianity. Then I close with the thought that according to this eminent Baptist scholar, at this undenominational meeting people were commanded to be baptized that their sins might be blotted out.
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Some good true hearts have failed to accept the plain teaching of the Spirit on
Baptism because they feared that it gave too much importance to baptism and as
a consequence undervalued the power of the blood.
While I have nothing in the world to do with the consequences or results, of the unequivocal teaching of God, yet allowing the Spirit's teaching on Baptism to have its natural and obvious meaning, in no way detracts from the cleansing power of the blood. For all obedience is acceptable, yea, is obedience, only as the one rendering it believes in the blood; "through faith in his blood" leaning upon, looking to, the cleansing power of the blood of the Lamb, may one obey God, and only in this way may one obey. No obedience, in and of itself, saves.
Faith itself is just as powerless to save as baptism. Both without the blood are but vain attempts for a blessing. Faith itself is made powerful only by the glorious, but shameful, death of our Lord.
It took this death of Christ to make it possible to God to save sinners. As God cannot lie, even so he cannot be unjust. Hence God set forth Christ "to be a propitiation . . . that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus". In fact, when God permitted Jesus to die on the cross he was opening the door of mercy, which door he could not otherwise open. He had loving kindness for thousands and his boundless heart was full of mercy but he could not extend it to sinners, and at the same moment be just. So the death of Jesus makes it possible for God to save sinners at all. Absolutely, all the conditions, conceivable conditions, could not avail, apart from this blood. Without this blood, one could have believed with all the implicitness possible to a human heart, and still the Almighty One could not have saved him. Else God was extravagant in the us of his own child's life-blood, when at the same time that child was begging the Father-heart, with all the intensity of a soul, not to use that blood, if it could be helped. No, no, my beloved, God has not put himself to more cost than was absolutely essential to enable him to save sinners. Still it is not undervaluing this severe expense to which God put himself when we teach people, that faith saves, that without repentance they must perish. Again, does Paul undervalue the triumphant death of my Lord when he says, "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shall believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved". Not one of those who have been made to fear the plain teaching concerning baptism, for fear it detracts from the meritorious death of Jesus, has ever run from Paul's teaching given above. Yet confessing Jesus as Lord is made a condition by the apostle. How, in the name of all that is good and true, could confessing with the mouth the Lord Jesus Christ save? There is absolutely nothing in the net itself to save. Were there, then confessing twice, three times, would help the more. For instance, the cultivation of a crop is a condition on which the crop rests; it causes the crop, and a little cultivation makes a little crop, more cultivation causes more crop to grow, and hence the more thoroughly, or scientifically, one cultivates the crop the better the crop. So confessing Jesus as Lord helps to save the sinner, but not as the cultivation helps the crop. How does it help unto salvation? Absolutely only as it borrows power from the blood; or, in other words, just as it helps to connect the soul, or bring it in contact with the blood. So when Peter said: "Which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ", he, by no means, undervalues the blood of his Lord, but rather exalts its power to save; for to declare that faith, repentance, confession, and baptism, that have no power, no virtue, to save, are given saving power by virtue of their connection with the blood, is really ascribing power to the blood; that a simple act becomes obedience to God, efficacious, simply, solely, and only, because it is blood-stained, and that, too, not the blood of a goat, but the blood of my Lord, certainly does not undervalue the blood of our Christ. Then let us be far from fearing plain teaching concerning any act of obedience that derives all its virtue from the blood.
If God has sanctified the simple acts of believing, repenting, and confessing, by the blood, and made them efficacious through that blood, when not one of those acts could avail apart from the blood, and if he has actually done this without in anyway, detracting from the saving power of my Lord's blood, could he not have done as much with the simple act of burying the body in water, as an expression of the faith in the heart? If he could have done so without reflection on the saving power of the blood, maybe he has done this very thing. Who knows? None but those who know his will can answer.
Then away with my opinions and preconceived notions; away with my party, or what the spirit should have said in the interest of that party. They shall have nothing to do with it. The question is, "What has God said and what does he mean"?
Last week we quoted from three eminent scholars on the meaning of Peter's speech on Pentecost. All three of these scholars agree that Peter taught that repentance and baptism were in order to remission of sins; that actually God by his Holy Spirit in Peter did teach people to be baptized in order to the remission of their sins. No scholar I presume would deny that this is the most natural and obvious meaning of Peter's language. I take it that only those that have a theory to care for, or a party to support, would deny this obvious meaning. As the eminent Baptist scholar, Mr. Willmath, from whom I quoted last week, says: "As to Campbells, that specter which haunts many good men and terrifies them into a good deal of bad interpretation shall we gain anything by maintaining a false translation and allowing the Campbellites to be champions of the true, with the world's scholarship on their side as against us"? All lovers of truth should rejoice that men like Mr. Willmath, respect their scholarship and truth before their party, and in spite of their party are big enough in soul to give true interpretations of God's word. Big enough, also, is he not to be driven to a false position by the "Campbellites". Correct he is, too, in his statement, that because the "Campbellites" give an interpretation of a passage this does not necessarily make it false; neither does it mean that they have a "copyright" on that interpretation, or that one has to be a "Campbellite" because he endorses some teaching which that party endorses, therefore, to endorse the doctrine that Peter commanded believing, repenting souls, to be baptized in order to forgiveness, does not make one a Campbellite, nor does it make him a Baptist though Mr. Willmath, himself, being a Baptist endorses it. For certain it is that Peter was neither a Campbellite nor a Baptist. One may believe that Peter taught penitent believers to be baptized that sins might be blotted out, and be a "Campbellite", at least, this eminent Baptist scholar says they so believe. I know nothing of this people, but judge that Mr. Willmath knows them and has not misrepresented them. Then he may be a Baptist and believe it, for Mr. Willmath at the very time that he endorsed what he called the "Campbellites" interpretation of Acts 2:38, was a Baptist in full fellowship, "Member of the Board of the American Baptist Publication Society, and Chairman of its committee of Publication" and said what I have given from him in 'Baptist Quarterly, July 1877, PP. 304, 305'. Then I am certain too that one may be a Christian, only a Christian, and believe this same doctrine, for Peter was a Christian, only a Christian, and he believed it, and taught it. I am indeed glad that this scholarly Baptist, and even the "Campbellites" (according to Mr. Willmath, I give it on his authority) endorse this undenominational teaching, and, so, heartily agree at this point, with those that are striving to be just Christians and that belong to no denomination, but, simply to the church of God, and belong to it because they were added to it by the Lord at the time they were saved. How glad I should be to see Mr. Willmath and his denomination, with the "Campbellites" (if indeed he is not mistaken as to their doctrine at this point) be as undenominational in all their teaching, as he is on Acts 2:38, and as he says the Campbellites are. Even on this mooted question of baptism, Mr. Willmath and the "Campbellites", provided the "Campbellites" teach baptism is immersion, could be "of one heart and one soul" with every Christian only, in the world. Are we really ready to give up "parties", "sects", denominationalism, and be Christians only? Are we ready to do all we can to make God's children one? Remember that one to be an undenominational preacher must preach that Peter commanded baptism unto, or in order to, remission of sins; that in so teaching he is advocating, not Baptist, or Campbellite doctrine, but Christ's doctrine, and that one misrepresents Christ and his doctrine who names it other doctrine than the teaching of Christ. He has stained it with his own blood; it is, therefore, his, and he is due all honor from it.
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The word in Peter's speech that declares baptism to be "in order to" remission,
or forgiveness, was as definite in meaning, as clear of ambiguity, as our words
"unto" and "into". NO doubt every one in Peter's vast audience understood that
he was offering salvation from sins on the conditions of repentance and
baptism. Not one of them could have misunderstood the meaning. To have made the
word "eis" used by Peter mean "because of" "in token of" would have been to
give it a new meaning, a meaning never given it before or since, by a Greek.
Not only did that vast audience, even to a man, understand Peter's unequivocal
speech, but for many hundred years following this undenominational meeting at
Jerusalem, no student of the language, I suppose, eve did fail to see that
Peter offered those inquiring souls pardon on the two conditions. We venture
the assertion that every teacher of the language, for many hundred years, so
The fact the language was given one meaning for many hundred years is strong proof of the correctness of the interpretation. Especially so, since this interpretation is in harmony with the interpretation given by the ripest scholarship of this hour.
Though this doctrine that offers believing, sorrowing, hearts forgiveness on the condition that they repent and be baptized prevailed for hundreds of years, not a single Campbellite lived during this entire period. This sect had not yet sprung up, and, therefore, one may teach the doctrine and not belong to that people.
One may be a Baptist and teach it, and he may be a Baptist and not teach it; again, he may be a Campbellite, and teach it (Mr. Willmath being the witness): and he may be a Campbellite and not teach it. For that doctrine doesn't make Baptists, neither does it make Campbellites; but through humble obedience to it people become Christians.
Then one may be a Baptist and not believe and teach this Bible doctrine; he may be a Campbellite, a Methodist, and so forth, and not teach it; but can he be simply a Christian, an undenominational Christian, even a Christian like Peter, and not believe and teach it?
I have dwelt on the work done in this meeting at Jerusalem because our Lord is so desirous that his followers speak the same things and that they be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. I wanted us all to see that there is no just reason for division concerning these important matters dealt with at Jerusalem, and that, if we divide unto parties over them it is inexcusable in us and shows us to be unfaithful to our Lord. I have especially dwelt upon the purport of baptism as taught in this first meeting conducted by the holy Apostles guided by the Spirit, fresh from heaven, because true, honest hearts have made a "fork" in the road at this place and have separated. While there is no reason for division here, there is some excuse, perhaps, for the division.
All true hearts hold that sinners must be taught of Jesus, must be shown, that he is the Savior of men: that he died for them, and arose again, and that he has been crowned King of kings and Lord of lords. These true hearts are also agreed that this knowledge of the crucified and risen Lord must so reach the hearts of the unsaved that they will realize their lost condition, and will thus be convicted of sins; these loyal hearts are also agreed that these believing, convicted, hearts, should repent, reject their former life, turning away from sins, and with a full purpose of heart and will to follow Jesus, as Lord, should surrender to him in the divine commandment of baptism. It is agreed, too, that this faith in unsaved souls, coupled with godly sorrow that leads to repentance, develops into confiding and trusting dependence upon Jesus for salvation, that in repentance which is the result of knowing "assuredly" that Jesus is Lord and Christ and the godly sorrow produced by such knowledge, the soul comes into a state of reliance upon, and trust in, God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. such a soul is a "given-up" spirit, and like Saul of Tarsus says, "Lord what will thou have me to do", and this "given-up" contrite, broken, spirit is ready to do anything the Lord wants; a truly converted soul. What shall we say more? Shall true hearts, loyal to Jesus, agreed thus far, separate into parties on the subject of baptism? How can they while Jesus begs them to have no divisions among them? To just such souls as described above Peter said: "Be baptized every one of you in (upon) the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins". Ananias said to Saul, when his spirit was "given up", when he was fully surrendered to the Lord: "Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord". Are we willing to say to these broken-up spirits, souls that by faith, godly sorrow, and repentance have come into a state of reliance upon God and Christ, exactly what inspired teachers said to such souls, and leave it at that? Are you afraid you will lose your party marks? Do you love your party better than you love the union of saints? Had you rather hold to your party than to please Jesus? I am willing to throw out to the contrite, broken, surrendered spirit, the very words of the Holy Spirit, concerning his duty pertaining to baptism. I am willing to risk him to understand it. For many hundred years not one soul failed, so far as we know. Have you a theory the salvation of which depends upon an explanation of the simplest of simple words? I repeat there is no excuse for division here except devotion to denominationalism. Christians can never be one: Jesus can never be pleased, and his prayer can never be answered, in and through denominationalism. We must choose between the two. "Choose ye this day whom ye will serve." Loyal hearts will have to give up denominationalism. To be a Christian, just a Christian, nothing more and nothing less, is the greatest object before human hearts.
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While I have dwelt on Peter's teaching in that first meeting, I have not done
it because it was the only teaching on the subject. By no means have I done so,
for such reason. There are even plainer passages, if possible, than this one. I
have dwelt on the teaching done in that first meeting because it was the first
work the Holy Spirit did in guiding the holy apostles into all truth. I wanted
to make plain his first teaching on this disputed question. I wanted all honest
hearts to see that there is no reason for division over the matter. If Peter
offered at this first meeting remission, or forgiveness of sins, on the
conditions of knowing assuredly that Jesus was made both Lord and Christ, of
repentance, and of baptism, surely this should settle Heaven's conditions of
pardon to a lost sinner. Especially so, since these teachers had been commanded
to go into all the world to preach repentance and remission of sins among all
nations beginning at Jerusalem, and since they ware told to "tarry" till power
came from heaven to guide them in their work, that the work might be infallibly
correct. If these teachers obeyed the orders of their Lord, if they waited at
Jerusalem till the Holy Spirit came to guide them, if they did begin at
Jerusalem (none of which do we doubt), then the work is absolutely correct,
cannot be wrong. If Peter offered remission of sins, the very thing he was sent
to do, surely he gave the conditions on which forgiveness could be obtained. If
the Spirit, therefore, offered pardon to convicted hearts on the conditions of
repentance and baptism at this meeting at Jerusalem, surely this is Heaven's
will and teaching. This is why I have dwelt on this work. That Peter did, under
the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, command people to be baptized that they
might be forgiven is as certain as that the spoke at all, the scholars of the
world being the interpreters of the language. I have labored diligently to make
this stand out clear to every honest heart. Nothing but rebellion will separate
hearts concerning the matter after a diligent examination of the language.
Now that it is settled as to what Peter taught in that first meeting, I ask is this clear teaching of Peter in harmony with any and all teaching of the Spirit on the subject? To ask this question is to answer it. For he could not have been a faithful teacher of remission of sins had his teaching conflicted with the teaching of the Spirit at any point. Therefore his teaching at Jerusalem must harmonize with all other teaching of the Spirit.
But just before this meeting at Jerusalem Peter with the other apostles was given orders from the Master concerning this great work. Peter was carrying out these orders in this meeting at Jerusalem. But what were his orders? According to Matthew's record they were: "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into (eis) the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world". (Matt. 28:18-20) These are the orders as Matthew gives them, and if Peter did not, on the day of Pentecost, observe them, he was an unfaithful teacher. If he taught anything concerning baptism that was not in harmony with these orders we should reject Peter as an inspired teacher. But on the day of Pentecost, at this first meeting, Peter taught them of Jesus, his life, his death, his resurrection, and coronation at the right hand of the Father, and called upon them to know assuredly that God had made the crucified Jesus both Lord and Christ. Without doubt, he who know all this of Jesus had been made a disciple, or learner, of Jesus. But after making disciples, according to orders, they were to baptize these disciples "into" something. Evidently, before their baptism these disciples had not entered that something, whatever it may have been. Else these holy preachers of the gospel could not have baptized them into" it. Again, I ask for careful consideration here. Everything depends upon slow and faithful deliberation. Because these are our Lord's everlasting orders on earth, and whatever these disciples were to be baptized "into" is the thing "into" which every disciple is to be baptized, and he can't possibly get "into" that thing without baptism. But what was the something "into" which Peter and others were to baptize disciples? "Baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." So, before baptism, the disciples made by these preachers were out of the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but entered it by baptism. But can one be in the family of God, a child of God, so long as he is out of the "Name" of the family? Can he be an heir of the Father's blessings until he enters the family name, the Father's name?
Two young people are to be married, the young man's name is Jones and the young lady's name is Smith. They are standing on the altar to be married. This young lady loves the young man, and has, perhaps, for months, but they are not married. She is still Miss Smith, but by a few words, called a ceremony, she is married to the young man, and by the same means, and at the same time, she passes "into" the father's and son's name and every after her name is "Jones". She has entered the name "Jones" and is an heir to the Jones' estate. Just so, these preachers were sent into the world to lead sinners to the marriage altar with Christ that they might be "married to another, even to him who was raised from the dead" that they might bring forth fruit unto God. When were they married to Christ, before entering the name of Father and Son, or at the entering of it? when did they enter the family, the God-family, before marrying the Son, or at the marriage? "Baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and, of the Holy Spirit." Who doubts but that these, made disciples of Jesus according to the divine order, were to become children of the God-family, by being baptized into the divine name? But on the day of Pentecost Peter, under these orders, told believing, sorrowing penitent hearts, even disciples of Christ, to be baptized "unto" (eis) the remission of sins, using the very same word that our Savior used in giving the orders; that is, to indicate that "unto" which, or "into" which they were to be baptized. Verily the only difference in the matte being the object following the word "eis". In the orders given by Christ they were to baptize "into" the great name of God whereas in Peter's language they were baptized "unto" the remission of sins. Who doubts that the soul surrendered to Christ, and, that, with a full purpose of heart, is baptized "into" the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is also, baptized unto remission of sins? Verily, he could not be baptized "unto" the one without entering "into" the other. Truly they are not identical purposes, but "into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" is the great comprehensive divine relation entered by baptism, and includes all the blessings found in that relation, and no one can be baptized "into" this great relation without at the same moment being baptized "unto" remission of sins and "into" all other blessings of that divine relation. So Peter, on the day of Pentecost, dealing with the murderers of our Lord whose hearts were bowed down with heavy grief for this special sin and who were crying for relief from it, told them to be baptized "unto" (eis) the remission of their sins. This was the thing for which they were longing, crying, sighing, and seeking, and Peter give them a specific answer; but had he told them to be baptized "into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit", and they had humbly obeyed the command they would have come "unto" remission of sins, which is one of the blessings found by all who enter that divine relationship.
At Ephesus Paul found about twelve men that had been baptized "into John's baptism", evidently after it has ceased to be a divine ordinance. They had been taught to believe that Jesus was still to come, and were baptized looking for him; when he had already come, had already died, and had risen from the grave, years before Paul's visit to Ephesus. To be sure, they had been baptized "unto" the remission of sins, for John's baptism was a "baptism of repentance unto remission". but they were baptized, prompted by a faith in a coming Lord, when it should have been in a crucified and risen Lord. They were ignorant of the great facts of the gospel of Christ; did not know that he had been exalted at the right hand of God to be a real Savior, "to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins". So Paul taught them these great facts and commanded them to be baptized "into (eis) the name of the Lord Jesus". But does this materially differ from Peter's answer to the three thousand penitent believers at Jerusalem? "In none other (than Christ) is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved". (Acts 4:12) Since Peter told the three thousand to be baptized "unto" (eis) remission and since there is remission, or salvation in no other name, it follows that Peter virtually commanded them to be baptized into that name in which we must be saved. Or, if salvation is in no other name, and Peter said to be baptized unto remission, or salvation, without question, his answer implies their entrance into that name. But salvation is "in" the name of the Lord Jesus and not "out or" it, neither is it "in" any other name. Therefore they were baptized that they might be saved. I beg permission again to say that honest hearts cannot separate here. There is no chance for division, if we want the union for which Jesus prayed. Again, I am willing to cry out to the believing, penitent heart, the broken will and contrite spirit, even in the one crying, "Lord what wilt thou have me to do"? "Be baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." "Be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins:" "Be baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus;" "Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord," without explanation, leaving the heart to understand the answer, risking it with him. Are you afraid your denomination will suffer without an explanation of the words "into" and "unto"? Are you not willing to sacrifice your denominationalism, if quoting and following the very words of the Book does it? Are you not content to be a Christian only, nothing more and nothing less; just such Christian as New Testament Christians were? Is it not enough to be a plain humble follower of the man of Galilee? Since there were no "Methodist Christians", "Baptist Christians", or "Campbellite Christians", in New Testament times, can you think of any Bible reason why there should be now? Since it forever hinders the prayer of the Savior that all that believe on him may be one, as he and the Father are one, and since the entreaty of our Lord that there be no divisions among us, but that we all speak the same things and that we be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment, can never be obeyed so long as such divisions exist, why not be just a Christian for Christ's sake?
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The word "into" is so well known to English speaking people that is hardly
seems necessary to dwell upon its meaning in an effort to make it clearer. But
at the risk of being tedious I want to call special attention to its definitely
fixed meaning. It may help some soul to a clearer view of the truth, and, if
so, we can afford to weary others for the sake of this one. To illustrate,
Should some one announce to a mother that her babe had fallen "into" the well,
the mother would know exactly where the babe was and would never stop till she
came to the well, and every effort would be made to get the babe "out" of the
well. Again, should it be announced on good authority that the thief had gone
"into" the house, the officer would never look for him on the outside. Should
the son tell the father that the mules had jumped "into" the corn-field,
without further explanation the father would understand that the mules had
jumped "out 'of" the lot, or pasture, where they had been put, "into" the
field. So well fixed and so definite is the meaning of "into" that all of us
always "see" it alike. In every use of it, we "see" a passing "out of"
something "into" something else. When the mules jumped "into" the corn, they
were compelled to jump "out of " whatever they were in. This is an absolute
necessity, and every person so "sees" it, agrees to it. Every "Methodist",
"Baptist", "Campbellite", and so forth, would be a perfect unit with every
other one on the meaning of "into" in such sentences. It is absolutely
impossible to misunderstand its meaning. I should be glad to see somebody
attempt the construction of an English sentence, containing the simple word
"into" in the interpreting of which sentence, two honest hearts could
misunderstand the word "into".
Could a mule jump "into" a place when he is already in that place? Could a baby fall "into" a well when it is already in that well? Can anything pass "into", jump "into", fall "into", or, in any way, enter a place without first being on the outside of that place? Can a young lady enter the marriage relation after she is already married? Before she is married she is out of the relation, but, on marrying, does she not pass "into" that relation, and is therefore "in" the relation? Now with this clearly defined meaning of "into" I ask honest hearts to follow me in the examination of some clear passages of the holy Spirit. "Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit". (Matt. 28:19)
"And when they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus." (Acts 19:5)
"Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?" (Rom. 5:3)
"For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body." (1 Cor. 12:13)
"For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ." (Gal. 3:27)
Therefore, in New Testament times, holy men of God moved by power from on high, baptized people "into" (eis) the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; they baptized them "into" (cis) the name of the Lord Jesus; they baptized them "into" (eis) Christ: they baptized them "into" (eis) Christ's death; they baptized "into" (eis) one body; they baptized them "into" (eis) Christ, thus putting him on; they baptized hem "into" or into (eis) the remission of sins.
If we give "into" in these passages its unequivocal meaning, people in New Testament times, before their baptism were "out of" the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; were "out of" Christ's death, were "out of" the one body, were "out of" Christ, and were "away from" the remission of sins; but, by baptism, they entered these holy and divinely created relations and blessings.
Therefore whatever blessings are to be had by entering the holy names, by entering Christ's death, by entering the holy body of Christ, by entering Christ himself, and by coming unto the remission of sins, are dependent upon scriptural baptism. This is so, or language is not the instrument for the conveyance of thought, and we can rely upon nothing conveyed to us by the power of speech.
No Wonder that Ananias said to the weeping and mourning Saul of Tarsus; "Arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on his name." (Acts 22:16) No wonder that Peter said: "wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water; which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism." (1 Peter 3:21)
Indeed how could they have taught otherwise, when Jesus in giving them his last and final orders said unto them: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned." (Mark 16:15, 16) Verily, if Jesus and the holy apostles, guided by the Spirit of God, have not taught that the properly prepared heart is saved in, and at, the completion of the act of scriptural baptism, it cannot be done by human speech.
Once more I appeal to honest hearts. How can we make a "fork" in the road, divide into parties concerning the relation of baptism to salvation, or remission of sins, since the Holy Spirit has been so plain and clear in the matter, and since, too our blessed Lord entreats us to speak the same things, to have no divisions among us, but to be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment? How true hearts, loyal hearts, can continue loyal to Jesus and separate into divisions over unequivocal teaching of the Holy Spirit is beyond me. Yea, how they can even claim to be loyal and continue in division is more that I can see. How divisions can be purposely encouraged and continued in the face of His clear and unequivocal teaching, without wickedness and sin, crouching at the door, must yet be revealed. Again, I plead that, all beings willing to give up "parties", "theories", and denominationalism, being content, and glad, to be only Christians, just such Christians as Peter, James, and John were; just such Christians as all the members of the church at Jerusalem were; yea, just such Christians as all Christians were in New Testament times, the earnest prayer of the dying Savior may again be a reality. Who of us is willing to give up anything, and everything not required by the Holy Spirit, that we may be one, just for Jesus' sake, to please him and that the lost world may believe that God did send him? Is there not enough in it to move the true heart to oneness in Christ?
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In this discussion of undenominational Christianity we have come to another
point in the round at which honest hearts have separated. For there are true
hearts that are following me in these articles that believe baptism may be
sprinkling, pouring, or immersion, and that one may submit in either act and be
scripturally baptized. While I would not question for a moment the sincerity of
these hearts or their honest intentions, I am certain that they are mistaken
about it. I am just as sure too, that god has made himself so plain in this
matter that honest hearts must agree after a fair and careful examination of
the Holy Spirit's language. "God is not mocked" and he entreats us to be one;
therefore, we may be, if we will. Since we are driven by the language of the
Holy Spirit, to the conviction that baptism is a divine condition of pardon, it
behooves us to search diligently its meaning that we may obey our Lord. It is
important, again, since every truly converted heart wants to obey the Master,
to make it his daily "aim to be well pleasing unto him". It is important, too,
because every loyal heart want to be one with every other true believer. And it
is certain that we can never speak the same things and be perfectly joined
together in the same mind and in the same judgment, while one teaches that
baptism is sprinkling and another that it is immersion, and only immersion. So
if our hearts be right with God, if we want to please Christ, we are anxious to
know just what our Lord means by "baptism", by "baptize", and will never be
content till we do know his real meaning. Hence, we ask a careful and fair
examination of the word used by our Lord.
When I was a child my teachers taught me that words are signs of ideas, and that ideas are mental pictures. If this be correct, when two people understand the meaning of a word they both see the same picture. To illustrate, I write on the blackboard before a class of ten children the word "cow". If these children know the meaning of "cow" all of them see in the word the picture of the animal cow. Every one of them gets the same picture. If one of them should see in the word a sheep, another a pig, and still another, a chicken, all these would miss the meaning. Take the word "jump". Suppose one child sees the action of running, another sees walking, and still another sees the action of creeping. Again, al three miss the meaning. Suppose I should order from a "mail-order house" a chair and suppose the man who fills my order sees in my word "chair", a rug, what would be the result? Certainly I should receive a rug instead of a chair. Or suppose I should want to order from a stock-breeder a pig, but in the order should say "rooster", what would the man send me? In fact, the whole business world would be blocked in a week practicing the doctrine, "we can't see alike". Men, thousands of miles apart, are engaged in daily business buying and selling goods without misunderstanding an order, simply because they do understand words exactly alike. Why may not these same men do business with Heaven and understand His words alike?
Jesus used the word "baptize". This is an action word, and to get the meaning I must see the action that Jesus desired to set forth. Whenever we see the correct action we shall see alike. Unless, indeed, Jesus has used an ambiguous word, and in that case, Jesus himself might be responsible for the disagreement in the world over the action of baptism.
But what does his word mean? I suppose most of us know that the word "baptize" is a Greek term, having never been translated but made English only in form, (Anglicized). Since it is a Greek term, and not English it follows that to get its meaning I must go to the Greek dictionary rather than to the English. Any Greek teacher will endorse the statement that the word has been lifted out of the Greek language into the English without translation, having had performed on it only the process that makes a word English in form. This being true, it is evident that I must get from the word, the idea or picture, that Greeks saw in it.
This was not a new word, but an old one, and had been used by the Greeks without change of meaning for hundreds of years. Right at the time in which Jesus used this word, had it been placed on a black board before a thousand Greeks, every one of them would have seen the same picture, would have been a perfect unit in "seeing alike". They would have seen as nearly the same picture as a thousand English speakers would see today in the word "cow". Just that definite was the Savior's word.
Mr. Goodwin, author of Goodwin's Greek Grammar, in a letter to J. W. Sheppherd, dated "July 27, 1893", says of "baptize" (Greek baptize): "I have not knowledge about baptize which you will not find in the ordinary lexicons. It means dip, a form of bapto, and I am not aware of anything peculiar in its use". Liddell and Scott's Greek dictionary say, Baptizo: (1) to dip in or under water . . . (2) to draw wine by dipping the cup in the bowl.
Sophocles--"Baptizo . . .to dip, to immerse: to sink". Thayer--Baptizo: (1) prop., "to dip repeatedly, to immerge, submerge". With these imminent scholars agrees practically the scholarship of the world. No scholar has ever given, as a meaning of baptizo (our baptize) "sprinkle" or "pour". This means that no scholar, in all of his searching and researching of Greek literature, has found one occurrence of this world where it means "sprinkle" or "pour". It never was used by a Greek with either one of the meanings. As demonstration of this we cite the living fact that the Greek church has never practiced "sprinkling" or "pouring" for baptism. Though this church practices infant baptism, it has always immersed its babies. Actually the word was as definitely fixed among Greeks as "dip" is in our language. An English speaker could see sprinkling in "dip" as easily as a Greek could see it in 'baptizo".
No only are all scholars and the Greek people a unit respecting the definition of the word used by our Savior, but the whole English speaking world are one on the meaning of our word "baptize" as an English word. Should the hundreds of school children of St. Louis go into their homes tomorrow afternoon and say, "Our teachers baptized us with work", every parent would get about the same thought. Should the thousands of readers of the Dallas News read tomorrow, "Mr. Jones on Peak street is baptized in debt", not one would fail of the meaning, but all would understand that Mr. Jones was overwhelmed with debt, that he was much in debt. Not one intelligent reader would understand that the man mentioned owed a few small debts. We should "see" it alike. It is good English to say" "Baptized in trouble; baptized in work; baptized with sufferings" and so forth. Neither would any English reader fail of the meaning of "baptize" in such expression. Nor would there be any division concerning its meaning. Does this word have one meaning in the English and another meaning in the English Bible? why do we see it alike in the Dallas News, but divide over its meaning in our Lord's teaching? Let honest hearts ponder well before answering. There is absolutely no reason for the division in the religious world over the action of baptism. If we would be one, we could be. There is nothing to prevent it but our love for our party, even for out denomination.
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it is my purpose in this little book to lead every honest soul to see that
divisions among believers are wrong; that they are contrary to the will of our
Father through Christ; that Christ and his apostles prayed and worked for the
oneness of believers; and that to be Christian--like Christ--every Christian
must condemn these divisions and strive earnestly to keep the unity of the
Spirit in the bond of peace. (See Jno. 17:20, 21; Acts 4:32; 1 Cor. 1:10-13;
it is my purpose to show the faithful and loyal in heart, that denominationalism is the very source whence come these divisions; that to belong to a denomination is to support it; that no one can be a "Campbellite", a "Methodist", a "Baptist", a "Presbyterian", or any other denominationalist without directly setting his life against the plainest of teaching, Bible teaching; that if we ever do away with the evil of division among believers, we must sweep all denominationalism off of the earth.
Again I have sought to make stand out clear and strong the fact that a strict adherence to the word of God would obliterate and eliminate every principle of denominationalism from the present-day teaching. He that is guided by the Holy Spirit only, in his religious life, can be only what the Holy Spirit led people to be in New Testament times; he can be only a Christian, a disciple of the lord, a child of God. For hundreds of years, including the hundred years in which Jesus, the holy apostles and hundreds of other inspired men lived, no believer in Christ was known otherwise than by such names as given above. Then whence came denominationalism? Into which Church did holy men of God lead people? In what Church did Christians in the days of inspiration live, work, and worship? Nobody claims that any one of the denominational churches existed. It is more certain than death that, according to the enter Mew Testament history, there were only churches of God, churches of Christ. To only these did the Holy Spirit write. There is not one single line of instruction in all the New Testament to a "Campbellite church", a "Methodist church", or to any other denominational church. Certainly the Holy Spirit could not have written to that which did not exist. One can find instructions in the New Testament to the Masonic Lodge, to the Woodmen of the World, or to the government of the United States, as easily as he can find instructions to any denomination. By inexorable logic it therefore follows that they who faithfully observe, in their teaching and in their life, the Holy Spirit's teaching as given in the New Testament, must be Christians only; must be members of the Church of God. Nobody can deny this. Who will try to show that a faithful observance of the teachings and of the examples of the New Testament makes "Baptists", "Methodists", "Campbellites", or anything else save Christians, disciples, and so forth?
A faithful effort has also been made in this book to show that we may "see" alike; at least, so nearly so, that the beautiful flower of union planted in the garden of our God, in the first century, may grow unmolested and unhurt in the twentieth century; that the believers in this century may be of one heart and of one soul as truly as were the disciples in the first century; that the teaching of the Holy Spirit is so plain that there is no excuse, save love and devotion to denominationalism, for division over his plain guidance.
It will be remembered that, in our examination of the first meeting held after the "waiting" for guiding power, we have found two points of doctrine at which true hearts have divided, but, on a through examination of Peter's language, it has been shown that there is no scriptural reason for division of true hearts at the first fork o\in the road; that to let Peter's language have its ordinary and obvious meaning destroys the wicked division that has been made there, and unites every heart in Christ without the sacrifice of a single truth, the scholarship of the world being the judge. At this point it only remains to be seen how many hearts are willing to give up all but the teaching of God that oneness in Christ may be established.
In the chapter before this one we were examining the second "fork" in the road. This fork has been made over the action of baptism. There are good true hearts in the world who believe in Jesus, who have, through that faith, been brought to godly sorrow and through deep contrition of heart have deeply resolved (repented) to repudiate a life of sin and to live a life of righteousness but by unscriptural teaching they were led to accept "sprinkling" or "pouring" for baptism and thus they have failed to do, many of us believe, the commandment of our Lord that requires one to be baptized. Be it far from me to question the sincerity of these hearts. I grant them the same honesty that I claim for my own heart, but honest hearts, fair hearts, must allow that as sincere hearts as have lived have been wrong, have been mistaken. Then, since Jesus earnestly pleads for us all to be one, and since we can never be one while we thus disagree concerning what baptism is, it behooves us to examine carefully, honestly, and fairly all that God has said on the subject.
In the previous chapter I referred to the fact that our word "baptize" is an anglicized form of the Greek word used by our Lord, that it is not a translation of the Greek word but it is only a transposition of the word out of one language into another by simply changing its form enough to make it English in form and pronunciation. There is no dispute here. It was also contended in the last chapter that this fact forces us to Greek dictionaries for its meaning, that we must see the same picture in the word that the Greek saw in it when Jesus used it. This is self-evident unless, forsooth, Jesus used it with a new meaning. This no one claims. Any one who will take the pains to investigate may satisfy himself thoroughly that all standard lexicographers of the Greek language are so nearly a unit in three definitions of this word that two honest hearts have to agree as to its meaning. No standard lexicon (dictionary), Greek-English lexicon every gave "sprinkle" or "pour" as a meaning of the word. Lidell and Scott, in one edition of their lexicon did give "Pour upon" but when they revised it they eliminated this meaning, left it out, and by so doing have given their testimony that no Greek writer so far as they know ever used the word with the meaning "pour upon". It is entirely safe to say that no scholar would risk his scholarship in defense of "sprinkle" or "pour" as the meaning of the Greek word used by our Master in his command to us to be baptized. If scholarship can settle anything as to meaning of words, it has settled the meaning of baptizo (baptize), the word used by our Savior. According to this scholarship the word from Homer down has had on unvarying meaning. To dip, immerse, plunge, overwhelm, submerge, wash, are the meanings given and endorsed by the world--scholarship.
But aside from its meaning as a Greek word, to our English word for it, "baptize", is given by English writers the same meaning that Greek-english lexicons give to the Greek word "baptizo".Excluding now, for the moment its usage in religious writings and studying it purely from an English view, determining its meaning from its use in "secular" English, we shall find that it means submerge, overwhelm, plunge, immerse, or their equivalent. On the other hand, no secular passage can be found, in which the word baptize occurs having a meaning equivalent to "sprinkle" or "pour". That is, no standard English writer ever used the word "baptize" save with a meaning that immerses, plunges, overwhelms, or submerges the thing baptized, in or with the element employed. It is not an uncommon usage to find in English writers: "Baptized in debt", "baptized in troubles", "baptized with work", "baptized with questions", "baptized in suffering", and so forth. In every one of these expressions much of the element indicated is employed and the one baptized is overwhelmed, or submerged, in it, or by it. Nobody gets any other idea of it. It seems that the Lord has placed in my hand to aid in this discussion a most telling illustration of the meaning of this word in English in a well written article found in the February issue of "Pictorial Review". The article is the last installment of the "The Love Letters of a Confederate General". In the last of these "remarkable" letters the author, General George E. Pickett says:
"It is finished--the suffering, the horror, the anguish of these last hours of struggle of these men, baptized in battle at Bull Run, in the lines at Yorktown, at Williamsburg where they, with the Alabama Brigade of Wilcox, withstood the advance of the whole of McClellan's army, driving them back at Seven Pines, Gains' mill, Frazier's farm, Second Manassas, Boonsboro, Sharpsburg, Gettysburg, in the engagement in front of Bermuda Hundred, Fort Harrison, Five Forks and Sailor's Creek". Thousands, perhaps a million of readers will read the article referred to and every reader will understand "baptized in battle" exactly alike. Not only so, but all will understand it to mean they were overwhelmed in, or by, battle. That it means, that, at these places in which they were "baptized in battle", they engaged in light skirmishes, is never suggested in a single reader. Regardless of his religious convictions about our Lord's commandment, he understands it exactly as I do. So it is in every passage every written by standard English authors. The author always means much of the element used and that the thing baptized is submerged by it; and all English readers understand it exactly alike, except in our Lord's teaching. When we come to his holy teachings we put on our denominational glasses and see in the word baptize that which we see in it in no other English. We give it an entirely new meaning, a meaning we allow nowhere else. Is the fair? Will God excuse the English speaking world?
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In our study of the word "baptize" we have learned that it is not a translation
of the Greek word used by the Saviour, but, that it is the very word itself
changed in ending that it may be incorporated into the English tongue, without
translation. Why the great scholarship of an intelligent world so dealt with
this word, God only knows. Certainly this learning has not failed to translate
it for the lack of knowledge of the word. But it would be interesting to hear
the story of the failure from the earliest English translation of the
scriptures. Why not give to us a simple Anglo-Saxon word for this Greek? When
the secrets of men's hearts are known; when the reasons and wherefores of their
actions are written "on the wall" by the hand of Him who knows the hearts of
all men, then we shall find, I prophesy, that we have been burdened through all
these years with this Greek-English word to protect denominationalism in this
country. Just think of it--did we have a translation of this word, we should
have, "He that believeth and is dipped, immersed, submersed, or submerged, and
was away thy sins". "Go ye therefore and make disciples of all the nations
dipping, immersing, or submerging them into the into the name of the Father".
Repent and be dipped, immersed, or submerged in the name of Jesus Christ unto
the remission of your sins". My, what exposure this would be to the doctrine
that substitutes "sprinkling" and "pouring" for baptism. What defense could be
made for it? Was it to save the doctrine and practice of the great and popular
peoples in this country that hold to pouring and sprinkling? Let honest hearts
answer. But God is wiser than men. He has far outstripped them in every race;
he has defeated them in every battle. Though they have failed to give us a
single translation of this word of our Saviour, God has not failed to make its
meaning stand out so clear that he who runs may read. Thanks be to God, no step
that leads to the blood of our Lord is dependent upon the meaning of one word.
This highway of life through Jesus has been made plain in various ways, so that
men are without excuse. We may know his will, if we want to know it.
Suppose now we did not know the certain fact that the word "baptize" is the Greek word anglicized. Suppose we never heard of the Greek language, and did not know but that Jesus spoke in English, could we learn the meaning of this word and thus learn what to do in order to be baptized? Could one take the New Testament in English and be sure of his obedience? Most assuredly. The first man sent of Heaven to baptize was John the Baptist. It is possible, too, that he baptized more people than any other one man. This first baptizing of hundreds of souls was done in the historic river Jordan. Indeed, "they were baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing, their sins". "Jesus came from Nazareth, of Galilee, and was baptized of John in (eis, into) the Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens rent asunder, and the Spirit as a dove descending upon him". Without doubt then the first baptizing was done "in a river"; people were baptized (eis) into the river; Jesus came up out of the water. Let the honest heart decide whether these facts are in harmony with "sprinkling" "pouring" or "immersion". Which? god calls on you to decide. It is God's picture drawn for you that you may know how to obey him.
"And Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this scripture, preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on the way, they came to a certain water; and the eunuch saith, behold here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and the be baptized him". This is the ease of two men traveling on a lonely desert road. There is no crowd to obstruct the view of what is done. The preacher, very intent on his duty, preaches Jesus to his companion, but as they continue their journey the man preached to, not the preacher, beholds some water, and seemingly, in a very abrupt manner stops the preacher and directs his attention to the water asking that he may be baptized. The chariot is stopped and both men get out of the chariot, go "down into the water" and the eunuch is baptized, and then they both, Philip and the eunuch come "up out of the water". How long will the honest heart have to look upon this picture to see in it the "sprinkling" or "pouring"? Can the heart, intent on doing what God wants done, after watching this case directed by the Holy Spirit, be satisfied with "sprinkling" or "pouring"?
"Are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death". (Rom. 6:3, 4)
"Having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead". (Col. 2:12)
Paul says that he and all the Roman church had been "buried" through baptism. he also tells the Colossians that they were "buried" in baptism. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist church, says that Paul in the Roman passage is referring tot he "ancient mode of baptizing by immersion". "Let us draw near with a true heart in fullness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience; and having our bodies washed with pure water". (Heb. 10:22)
Facts of, and connected with, New Testament Baptism:
1. First baptizing was done in the river.
2. Jesus was baptized into the Jordan.
3. He came up out of the water.
4. Philip and the eunuch went down into the water.
5. While in the water the eunuch was baptized.
6. They both came up out of the water after the baptism.
7. Paul says that the entire church at Rome and also the congregation at Colossae including himself, had been buried by, through, or in baptism.
8. All the Hebrew brethren are said to have had their bodies washed with pure water.
Greek or no Greek, no honest heart can fail to see what New Testament preachers and teachers did when baptizing. Remember that for thirteen hundred years immersion was the universal practice; that anything else for baptism was denied. Since the entire Christian world for more than a thousand years was a unit on the action of baptism, it behooves somebody to account for the changing of the practice. Surely for a thousand years the whole world did not miss the meaning of the word; surely inspired men were guided in their obedience, to this commandment. But I leave it with the honest. May we be one on this mooted question? Jesus entreats it: the Holy Spirit pleads for it; and the entire teaching of the apostolic age demands it. Will we, for Jesus' sake?
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This closes the little book "Undenominational Christianity". I hope it may do
good. In writing it I have made no effort to display my learning, or my logic,
if I have either. But I have had one aim and that to be plain and simple, so
the common reader could read the book without a dictionary. If I have been
plain; if I have been simple; if I have been scriptural; I am satisfied. I
have no defense for the work otherwise. If critics desire to criticize it,
let them criticize the lesson that I propose to teach.
I pray God to use the truth the book teaches for the salvation of souls; for the uniting of his saints; and for the strengthening of Israel's forces all along the line. And when I am dead, if it can be said of me, "He was a Christian", meaning, that I was in spirit, zeal, courage, a real follower of the Christ; that I belonged to him, only to him; that I had no other ruler but Jesus; that my citizenship was in heaven, and that I was truly a sojourner and a foreigner in the earth, that all my efforts to do good, to prevent evil, to overcome wickedness, to bless the world, were done through him and by him; that it was the purpose of my life to reproduce among men his holy life; that I gave my life away in return for his blood, I ask for no other monument.
In His Name
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