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A Religious Controversy | Charles E. Orr

Conversation 11

Mrs. Wiseman (after the evening meeting)—I have good news to tell you tonight, dear. The very God of peace sanctifies me wholly. My soul is as pure as heaven. I’m conscious of a sweet, internal clearness and purity. Just as heaven is, so is my soul.

Mr. Wiseman—But where are your wings?

Mrs. W.—They are in my soul, and I have a perfect consciousness of deliverance from inherited depravity.

Mr. W.—Why would the Lord keep you here in this world of sin if you had such an experience?

Mrs. W.—For the good of others. The Bible says, “Wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; while they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.”* (1 Peter 3:1-2) I’m ready to lay aside this earthly tabernacle this night and go to Him whom my soul loves, but for me to abide in the flesh may, be more needful for you.

Mr. W.—I’ll tell you, wife, I’m all right. You insinuate now and then that I’m not a Christian, but I tell you I am. Now, if you want to go with these people you may go, but I shall go my way, and if you’ll not interfere with me I shall be very grateful to you. Those preachers have you excited. You’ll soon come to your senses and settle down to the common, ordinary life of men.

Mrs. W.—By the help of my God I’ll not settle down to a life of more or less sin. I expect to live a holy life and keep Jesus reigning in me. I’m glad you are willing for me to do as I wish. I’ve been wanting to tell you for several days that I’m going to be baptized.

Mr. W.—To be baptized! Why, woman, you’ve been baptized.

Mrs. W.—When was I baptized?

Mr. W.—You were baptized by Bishop Long in the old Bethel church when only a little girl, so the records say, and I have heard your mother say so many a time. Surely you’re not going to ignore the faith of your mother and cast a reflection on her religion. You’ll bring down her gray hairs in sorrow.

Mrs. W.—I have a tender regard and great love and respect for my mother, and should be sorry to cause her any grief in her old days; but she’s only human and may have erred, as many others have. My mother knew no better. Her teachers taught her that she should have her children baptized, but the Bible teaches no such thing.

Mr. W.—Why, Jesus says plainly, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”* (Matthew 19:14)

Mrs. W.—But please tell me where and how this refers to baptism; I fail to see that it does. Please tell me what benefits are bestowed upon a child by baptism.

Mr. W.—It places the parents under greater responsibility for the care and training of the child.

Mrs. W.—It cannot possibly. Every parent should feel the greatest possible responsibility for the training of their child from the moment it is born. I’ll ask you to give me a command from the New Testament to baptize infants, or one single instance where infant baptism was practiced, or even one allusion to it.

Mr. W.—I don’t know that there is any clear and express command, but the rite has been practiced for so long that we feel that it has become an obligation.

Mrs. W.—The long practice of error doesn’t make it right. Ten thousand years of constant practice by the most conscientious people will not convert an error into truth.

Mr. W.—The Bible speaks of Lydia and her household being baptized and this is as much as to say that her children were baptized.

Mrs. W.—She may have had no children. Let us examine the record of the instance. In Acts 16:14-15, we read of her. She was a tradeswoman—a seller of purple. Her home was in the city of Thyatira. She was at Philippi, where she had gone to sell purple, when she heard the gospel. Philippi is three hundred miles from Thyatira. If she had small children she must have taken them with her, which is not at all probable. Her household consisted, no doubt, of servants or children old enough to aid her in the selling of the purple.

Mr. W.—It seems you’ll find some way to prove your point, but I’ll give you another instance in which you’ll have to admit infants were baptized. The Bible says the jailer and all his children, from the youngest to the oldest, were baptized.

Mrs. W.—Why, Husband! I’m greatly surprised at you. There’s nothing like that said about the baptism of the Philippian jailer.

Mr. W.—I heard our pastor say so only a few days ago. He also said that Paul baptized whole families—the father and mother and children.

Mrs. W.—There’s always one way to prove a statement. Let’s see what the Bible says. The thirty-third verse of this same chapter of Acts says, “And was baptized, he and all his.”* (Acts 16:33) Now, this is all that’s said about those who were baptized—just “he and all his.” I don’t know whether it was his wife, his children, or his servants, or all of these. The language doesn’t imply that he had young children. Let’s see what the next verse says—“And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.”* (Acts 16:34) Not only he, but all his house, were capable of believing in God. Surely, then, there were no infants in the household.

Mr. W.—Well, be that as it may, I know infants should be baptized.

Mrs. W.—How do you know they should? Can you give me any text in the Bible that says they should?

Mr. W.—I can’t call any to mind just now.

Mrs. W.—Tell me what good it does. Does it make them any better?

Mr. W.—I don’t think it does—it has never seemed to have much effect on ours.

Mrs. W.—It doesn’t take them to heaven; it doesn’t make them any better—it does no good in any way.

Mr. W.—Well, if it doesn’t do any good, of course it can do no harm.

Mrs. W.—Yes, but it does do harm.

Mr. W.—I don’t see wherein it can do any harm.

Mrs. W.—It does harm because it deprives a Christian of being Scripturally baptized. You were baptized when an infant. Later in life you say you were converted.

Mr. W.—I was.

Mrs. W.—Then was the time when you should have been baptized. “Repent, and be baptized”* (Acts 2:38) is the Bible way. Your infant baptism, which is no baptism at all, prevented you from being baptized after your conversion, and consequently you’ve never been baptized.

Mr. W.—You’re a very bold-spoken woman. My father and mother had me baptized when I was a child, and I’m sure it’s good enough for me.

Mrs. W.—I’ll give you another way in which infant baptism does harm. In the very performance of the act the minister declares what is false. He says, “I baptize thee,” and does nothing of the kind. Some people even say it regenerates the child. Christ never taught nor practiced infant baptism. He commissioned his disciples to go preach His Word, that those who believed and were baptized should be saved. Only believers were to be baptized.

Mr. W.—The parents of children in the Old Testament times had their children circumcised, and it seems to me that having ours baptized is something like that.

Mrs. W.—In the old dispensation the children were Jews because their parents were; but the children are not Christians now because their parents are. If they were, it would be Scriptural to baptize them as soon as they are born. The apostle Paul tells us plainly that the circumcision of the Old Testament was typical of the regeneration of the heart. It is the act of the Spirit of God that separates from the world. But it’s growing late, and we’d better conclude our talk on this subject tomorrow, so I’ll say good night.

Mr. W.—Just a moment. Our pastor said that Paul baptized children, which of course you can not deny; but you’d like to get off without saying anything about it.

Mrs. W.—I remember your speaking about that before, but it escaped my mind. Now, I ask you to find one place in all the history of Paul where he baptized any children.

Mr. W.—I read not long ago where Paul baptized the children of Stephen.

Mrs. W.—I certainly would advise you, my dear, to make no boast of your Scriptural knowledge. Let me read you what the Bible says—“And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.”* (1 Corinthians 1:16) Nothing is said about children. It may have been servants or children old enough to be saved. Let me read to you again. Paul says, “Ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints.”* (1 Corinthians 16:15) Those of Stephanas’ household were old enough to minister to saints; consequently, there were no infants in it.

Mr. W.—It’s getting late, so we had better go to bed. Good night.