A sermon by B.H. Carroll

TEXT: Why baptizest thou then? – JOHN 1:25.

The occasion is so solemn and suggestive, that though scarcely able to stand or talk, yet, as your pastor, I feel constrained to impress upon your minds something of the nature and obligations of the religious duty you are now about to perform.

I see you appareled for baptism. The tones of the church bell have called us to attend a burial service. The carriages are waiting at the door to’ conduct you to a watery grave. You yourselves have declared that you are dead – dead to the world; and the dead should be buried. You have publicly and solemnly abjured the world, the things of the world and all its fleshly lusts; and have now come to set forth in a visible ordinance your everlasting separation from it – from its follies, its madness and its crimes.

When men die a natural death, “the places that knew them on earth know them no more forever.” (Job 7:10.) The name is stricken from the visiting list and fades from the memory of old associates. So when men are spiritually dead to the world and alive to Christ, when “their lives are hid with Christ in God,” then all the old haunts of folly and all the old scenes infidelity and rebellion are never to be frequented any more. After your burial from that world, you “rise to walk in newness of life.”

A remarkable feature of this burial service consists in the absence of any indications of mourning. Though so many of the young, beautiful and gifted are to be buried today, there are no tears here! The burial is figurative, and suggestive of hope and life.

Dear young brethren and sisters, the step that you are now about to take calls for a rational explanation. This ordinance is so peculiar that every inquiring mind, yea, and your own consciences, require a reason for its observance. And since it is no part of religion to perform an irrational, meaningless act, it is due to your intelligence that you know why you are baptized.

A reason is due to a curious world, who have, “from the days of John the Baptist until now,” thronged the river-side to witness the performance of this ordinance. Your present religious attitude is every way favorable to a full and clear understanding of this question. In fact, never before were you prepared to study and appreciate the import of the ordinance of baptism. According to your profession, you have just found Jesus precious to your souls in the forgiveness of your sins. Having surrendered yourselves, body, soul and spirit, to the service of the Redeemer, it is presumed that you are sufficiently docile to receive any of His laws, and sufficiently faithful to obey them.

You will bear witness that during the late meeting none of the ministers pressed this subject upon your minds. They did not believe that its solemnity, its import, its philosophy and obligations could be anticipated by impenitent and unbelieving hearts. But now the great question confronts you. It lies just in your path. You may not evade it. You dare not neglect it. For yourselves, in the fear of God, you must study it – must understand it – must decide upon it – must act upon its requirements.

I have therefore selected as an appropriate text the query propounded by the priests and Levites to the first great baptizer, “Why baptizest thou then?” (John l:25.)

This question is a trenchant one and probes for the reason of the thing. Why, why baptizest thou? In order that you may feel the full force, the penetrating power of this inquiry, it will be changed so as to apply directly to you as individuals – “Why art thou baptized?” Angels and devils, no doubt, stand in the same questioning attitude. The world which you have left reiterates the solemn interrogation. Let your own conscience take up and repeat to your soul, “Why, oh, why am I baptized?” I warn you before God this day to be able to give a reasonable answer to this question.

In order that you may be able to give a reason, a reason sufficient to satisfy God, angels, men and your enlightened consciences, I invite your prayerful attention, first, to a discussion of the question negatively and then to a consideration some Scripture references that in my judgment disclose the philosophy of this solemn institution.

In the first place then, bear in mind that you are not baptized “to cleanse you from original sin.” There is no intrinsic virtue in water to secure the object and no extrinsic virtue is given to it by authority of God.

No priestly mummery can impart this holy efficacy to water.

There is no holy water.

“The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin” – original sin, and every other kind of sin.

Nor are you baptized that you may obtain the “pardon of your actual sins.” The Word of God declares that “Whosoever believeth in Jesus shall receive the remission of sins.” (Acts 10:43, 13:39 and 26:18.)

Whatever may be your present religious condition, if your not blotted out now, they will not be blotted out when you are baptized. And if you are not now dead to sin and free from its claims, you have no right to be baptized. It would constitute the claim of burying a live man.

You are not baptized to “regenerate you.” For “Whosoever loveth is born of God.” (I John 4:7.) And “Whosoever that believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.” (I John 5:1.)

No, it is an absurd fallacy to make the water our mother as God is our Father. “Jerusalem which is above, is the mother of us all.” (Gal. 4:26.)

Nor are you baptized that “a mark may be put upon you, that will keep the devil from devouring you.” The Christian religion is not a system of magic and jugglery. We need no charms, no amulets, no consecrated wood or stone or metal. These are things of grossest superstition and idolatry.

Furthermore you are not baptized “to engraft you into Christ.” Baptism never put a man into Christ, only figuratively, formally.

The Apostle declares that it is “By faith we enter into this grace wherein we stand.” (Rom. 5:2.) If you be not now in Christ Jesus, your baptism will be a solemn mockery, an unmeaning farce.

Nor yet are you baptized that you may be sealed unto God. Nowhere in the inspired record is baptism called a seal. There is no safe ground for inference even that this ordinance is to be so regarded. If indeed you are a child of God, “the Holy Spirit seals you unto the day of redemption.” (Eph. 1:13.)

There are good and divine purposes subserved by submission to this ordinance, but it does not cleanse us from original sin, nor secure pardon for actual transgression, nor engraft into Christ, nor regenerate, nor is it a mark that saves us from Satanic malice, nor seals us, nor becomes our spiritual mother, and finally, it is not a prerequisite to “the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Bear in mind that you are not baptized that you may receive the Holy Ghost.

The discussion of this question negatively might be extended to indefinite limits, but as these are, according to our conception, some of the most frequent and prominent errors with regard to the ordinance, let us now consider positively and affirmatively some of the scriptural reasons that induce obedience to this commandment. The question then recurs, “Why art thou baptized?”

My first reason is, Because my Savior commands it. (Matt. 28:19.)

This is my grand reason. I have promised to obey all His known commandments. The simple fact that a father commands is an all-sufficient reason to a dutiful child. I believe that I love Jesus, and He says, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15.) Like the Psalmist of old, “I will have respect to all His commandments.” (Psalms 119:6.)

And if it was my Savior’s “meat and drink to do His Father’s will,” then to obey His will shall be “more to me than my necessary food.” Yes, this shall be my chief reason. He commands it, and He is the Christ of God.

My second reply to the question is, I am baptized to complete righteousness. (Matt. 3:15.) If the Son of God, high and holy as He was, thus fulfilled righteousness, in obedience to a purpose and revelation of God, I shall perform a righteous act in submitting myself to His law.

My third reason is, “Baptism is becoming.” I know that some declare the hated immersion to be indelicate to the refined mind, immoral to the soul, and unhealthy to the body, but the Master, in submitting to it, said, “Thus it becometh us.” (Matt. 3:15.) If His immaculate purity was not shocked at it, no false delicacy in me, a guilty sinner, need apprehend pollution. If while His body was dripping, from the sacred submersion, the infinitely Holy Spirit rested in approbation upon Him, surely my imitation of His submission will not be unbecoming. If the glory of God flashed upon the disturbed and divided waters, and the Father’s voice was heard saying, “I am well pleased,” surely a worm of the dust ought not to be displeased at any supposed indecency in this holy ordinance.

Yes, I believe that it is becoming, not only where there much water, but in the land of drouth and in the frozen zone. For the omniscient Savior contemplated every desert and every ice-bound coast when He said, “Go teach all nations, baptizing them.” (Matt. 28:18.)

My fourth reason is my desire “To follow Jesus.” In all things commanded or permissible, I wish to follow Jesus. My soul hears His voice echoing through the centuries, “If any man would be my disciple, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23.) And ever on the King’s highway my song shall be:

His track I see, and I’ll pursue
The narrow way till Him I view.”

It is of sublime importance to me to know how Jesus was baptized. And though there should be a thousand ways admissible, I prefer to follow Jesus.

My fifth reason is that in being baptized I “publicly profess Christ.” (Gal. 3:27.) Paul says, “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.”

I know that in the sight of the holy heavens, of the damning law, of the malice of hell, of the contradiction of sinners, the Savior professed His love for me. In the most conspicuous place on earth, in a central blaze of light, in the presence of three worlds, He stood out and confessed His love for me, a vile and guilty rebel.

And shall I be ashamed of the Son of God before a sinful generation? How solemn to my heart is that fearful declaration, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father in heaven. And whosoever shall deny me before man, him will I also deny before my Father in heaven.” (Matt. 10:32, 33.)

My sixth reason is that I voluntarily and deliberately choose to be baptized. That is, I am not baptized because another wills it. I am not coerced. I am not baptized because my father or mother or priest forces me to submit to the ordinance. Mine is an individual, conscious act, whose sole responsibility belongs to myself. I have no proxy, no sponsor. The knowledge of my baptism is not derived from parental testimony, nor parish records. I desire that my own baptism in this particular shall conform to Biblical example, where it is stated, “Then cometh Jesus to the Jordan to be baptized of him.” and “then went the people to John to be baptized of him.”

My seventh reason is that by being baptized I recognize the three manifestations of the Godhead and thereby express my belief in the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit. Being, by command of Jesus, baptized into the joint names of these glorious personages, I thereby declare that I love God the Father, believe in God the Son and have felt God the Holy Spirit. If there be force in this reason, it follows that not only is baptism inadmissible to an infidel or atheist, but also to one who has not from the heart believed in the Son of God as a personal Savior and yet again to one who has not experienced the life-giving breath of the Spirit of God. (Mat. 28:19.)

My eighth reason is that by being baptized, I formally, figuratively, declaratively wash away my sins. Having been really cleansed from all sin by the blood of Christ, and having been justified from all things by the faith in Jesus, by baptism this remission is set forth in a figure. The baptism is a public declaration of a previously existing fact. Hence Ananias said to Paul, “And now why tarriest thou, arise and be baptized and wash away thy sins.” (Acts 22:l6.) Paul had not any power really to wash away his sins and water was not the real element of spiritual cleansing.

My ninth reason is that I have repented of my sins. It is recorded that John the Baptist preached the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And Peter, on the day of Pentecost, said to the convicted Jews, “Repent and be baptized.” (Acts 2:38.) Inasmuch then as I have repented toward God, I desire to be baptized in the name of God. It is idle, vain and impious mockery to baptize a man into the name of
God before his mind is changed toward God.

My tenth reason is that I have believed in Jesus as my Savior.

This reason harmonizes with the record, “He that believeth and is baptized.” (Mark l6:l6.) Since I trust the Son of God as my Redeemer, it is lawful for me to be baptized, for Philip said to the inquiring Eunuch, “If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest.” (Acts 8:27.) And when also the Samaritans believed this evangelist, preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, “They were baptized both men and women.” (Acts 8:12.) Likewise it is stated that “many of the Corinthians hearing, believed and were baptized.” (Acts 18:8.)

My eleventh reason is that baptism is essential to church membership. Paul declares, “For by (in) one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.” (I Cor. 12:13.) I am not content to love Jesus secretly, like Joseph of Arimathea (John 19:38). But wishing to be a member of His visible kingdom and to bear a part in the responsibility, joys and toils and rewards of His church, therefore I am baptized. I do not believe that I can be as good a Christian out of the church as in it. I wish to work in the Master’s vineyard as a recognized and appointed laborer.

My twelfth reason is that by being baptized I may approach the table of my Lord and in the Holy Communion show forth His death.

I believe that the Word of God clearly shows that no unbaptized man, however pious, has a right to commune. According to the Savior’s appointment we must “eat and drink at His table, in His kingdom.” (Luke 22:30.) We learn also that it was only when the Pentecostal converts were baptized that “they continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine, etc., and in the breaking of bread.” Other Scriptures also plainly show that it was only baptized Christians, assembled in church capacity, who celebrated the communion. (Acts 20:7-1l and I Cor. 10:16 and 11:18-34.)

My thirteenth reason is that baptism is the monument attesting the burial and resurrection of Jesus. That is a proof and pledge of my own resurrection at the last day. (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12; I Cor. 15:29; I Peter 3:21.)

A fourteenth reason, one that justifies my exclusive attachment to immersion as the only baptism, is that it is the only conspicuous monument. A monument is erected to be seen. It must be striking. It should have the power, by its grandeur or peculiarity, to attract attention and draw crowds to look upon it. It should have the power to suggest and impress. Now for the accomplishment of these varied purposes, immersion is pre-eminently fitting. The infinite wisdom of God discarded a monument of brass, iron or stone, for that would not only be local, but subject to the crumbling touch of time and the ravages of man. He selected a monument that could be seen by multitudes that no house could accommodate. He selected a monument that could draw these crowds of people together, chain their attention and solemnly impress their minds.

In fact, this ordinance is so peculiar, so striking, that when John the Baptist first administered it, there went out to him “Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region round about the Jordan.” (Matt. 3:5.) The gathering of the multitudes was like the assembling of the people at the great national festivals: Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, publicans and harlots. Our Savior remarked upon this strange influence when He said, “What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment?” (Matt. 11: 7, 8.)

Since that time in every generation, the administration of this ordinance by the Baptists has been eagerly witnessed by vast crowds of people.

As a fifteenth reason, it justifies God. (Luke 7:20): “And all the people that heard, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John.”

When we despise a message, messenger or ordinance of God, we reflect upon His wisdom and goodness. But when implicitly yield ourselves to any of His requirements and thereby profit ourselves, we not only honor God, but we justify His wisdom and goodness in making such a provision. We exhibit by the beneficial result that there pre-existed necessity for His requirement, and thus in the eyes of men exculpate the divine wisdom from the charge of foolish and unnecessary legislation.

As a sixteenth and final reason, I am baptized because it is the counsel of God. (Luke 7:30): “But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of John.” Profoundly grateful to the Father of mercies for His tenderness and love for me, I desire to be guided and controlled by His counsel. Lord, what wouldst thou have me to do?

Then when by any intelligence the question is propounded to me, “Why art thou baptized?” my answer is ready. I am prepared to give a reason for my faith to any inquirer. I am not baptized to be sealed, to be regenerated, to seek a spiritual mother in the water. I am not baptized to obtain the gift of the Holy Spirit, to be engrafted into Christ, nor to receive a magical mark of deliverance from Satanic malice. But I am baptized because my Savior commanded it, to fulfill righteousness, and to follow Jesus. I am baptized because I have repented toward God and have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. I am baptized to secure membership in the church, the visible kingdom of God, and to be permitted to show forth the Lord’s death in the Holy Communion. I am baptized so that I can publicly declare my allegiance to Christ and express my faith in the Holy Trinity. I am baptized because it is becoming, because I can thereby figuratively wash away my sins, and because it is the counsel of God. I am baptized, not because I am coerced by parental, priestly or national authority, nor to secure a Christian burial, nor to be eligible to office, but because I, myself, voluntarily and deliberately choose to obey Savior. I am baptized to justify God and to show forth the burial and resurrection of my adorable Redeemer, and to secure a pledge of my own future victory over death and the spirit world.

I am baptized to declare to that grim monster, death, who has made this old graveyard of a world populous with the buried victims of six thousand years, that risen millions will one day sing, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”