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A Religious Controversy | Charles E. Orr

Conversation 12

Mrs. Wiseman (next morning)—Well, James, you’ve had time to study our talk last night, and I suppose you are ready for me to tell you I’m going to be baptized.

Mr. Wiseman—No! I’m very much surprised, Sarah, that you’re going to be baptized again. That’s casting a reproach and insult on the rites practiced by our church. It’s a pity those preachers ever came to this town, but Satan is doing all he can to destroy the kingdom of God.

Mrs. W.—I was baptized when an infant, which is altogether unscriptural, as I proved to you last night; and, besides, I was only sprinkled, and that is also unscriptural. Immersion is the only true mode of Christian baptism.

Mr. W.—What! You don’t, mean to say you’re going to be immersed? You’re certainly losing your mind!

Mrs. W.—My one difficulty heretofore was the same as that of many others who have too much of their own minds. If they’d submit more to the mind of Christ and be guided by him, there wouldn’t be so much error practiced.

Mr. W.—Tell me, please, where you find immersion taught for baptism in the Bible.

Mrs. W.—I’ll do so with great pleasure; but before I do, let me ask you a question.

Mr. W.—Very well, I’m prepared to answer any question on this subject.

Mrs. W.—What is the true signification of baptism?

Mr. W.—Some teach that it’s a saving ordinance, but I don’t think so. What do you think?

Mrs. W.—No question, for the moment, as to what I think about it. Give me a text from the Bible which proves it isn’t a saving ordinance.

Mr. W.—Well, I know our church doesn’t believe it to be a saving ordinance, and I don’t believe it either. What do your preachers say about it?

Mrs. W.—Let me read you a few texts. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.”* (Mark 16:16) What do you think of that?

Mr. W.—Do you believe baptism is a saving ordinance?

Mrs. W.—Let me read you another text. “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us.”* (1 Peter 3:21) What answer can you give to this?

Mr. W.—I have always been satisfied with my baptism and the way our church teaches it. But tell me, do your preachers teach baptism to be a saving ordinance?

Mrs. W.—Let me read you one more text—“And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”* (Acts 22:16)

Mr. W.—I don’t think I ever read that text before. Can you tell me what it means, and do you believe that baptism, sprinkling or immersion, does really wash away our sins?

Mrs. W.—No, I don’t believe it does, and I’ll tell you why. John says, “Unto him who has washed us from our sins in his own blood.”* (Revelation 1:5)

Mr. W.—The Bible is a strange book. I tell you it isn’t for us common people to understand.

Mrs. W.—It’s not for any one to understand except by the Spirit of God; but the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth, so that all may know, from the least to the greatest. Only the blood of Jesus can cleanse from sin. He’s the cleansing Fountain. Salvation is not in water, but in Jesus.

Mr. W.—Well, now we agree, but those texts you read puzzle me.

Mrs. W.—I read again that baptism is not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God. Now, if you’ll listen, I’ll tell you what baptism signifies.

Mr. W.—I’ll certainly give the best of attention.

Mrs. W.—We, as sinners, in order to get saved must die to sin, self, and the world; we must sever our affections from all. All must be forgiven. Within us there must be a death. Without this there can be no spiritual, heavenly life. We separate ourselves from the world. Of course the world of bystanders cannot see that death has taken place in our inner being. They can’t see the soul washed from sin by the blood of Jesus; they can’t see the soul quickened into life by the Spirit of God. This is all done by the Spirit and blood far out of sight of the natural sense of seeing. But Jesus has instituted an ordinance in his church for us who are saved by grace, to practice openly so all can see. This ordinance outwardly represents what has been done inwardly. We experience a death and a resurrection in our hearts. Now, baptism is used to represent this. We’re buried in water (not a little sprinkled on), which testifies of a death, and then we’re raised up out of the watery grave, which testifies of the resurrection life in the soul. Baptism is a figurative death and resurrection, or, in other words, a figurative salvation. In 1 Peter from which I read to you, it says, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us.”* (1 Peter 3:21) In Mark 16:16 it’s the believing in Jesus that saves from sin, and the baptism that saves in a figure. In Acts 22:16 it’s the washing away of our sins in a figure, by water. There’s a real salvation from sin through faith in the blood, and there’s a figurative salvation, or an outward work, that all can see, which represents an inward work that the world cannot see.

Mr. W.—That’s all very beautiful except the immersion. I don’t believe in immersion. You said you would prove by the Bible that immersion is the mode of baptism.

Mrs. W.—The very signification of the ordinance proves it to be a burial. John the Baptist baptized in Jordan, and Jesus was baptized in Jordan. The Ethiopian went down into the water, and Philip baptized him there in the water. Just to have a little water sprinkled on our heads in a meeting house doesn’t look like being baptized in the manner of our Savior, who is our example.

Mr. W.—I’ve always been taught that any mode would do if you believed that way.

Mrs. W.—But it’s not as we believe. We must do what Jesus says and the way he says, or the true meaning will not be expressed. Sprinkling a little water on the head never conveys to the minds of the audience anything of a death and resurrection. The word baptizo is used many times in the New Testament, and is the only word used to express baptism. The word louo, the preacher said last night, is used six times, and means to wash the body. The word nipto, he said is used seventeen times and means to wash the hands, face, and feet. Rantizo is found four times, and means to sprinkle, but is never used in connection with baptism. Ekko means to pour; katharizo means to purify. But those are not used to express baptism.

Mr. W.—Well, I’m satisfied with my baptism. I’m not expecting some new preacher to change my mind.

Mrs. W.—If you had only heard the scriptures he read on the subject last night, it surely would have convinced you, but I haven’t time to tell you all of them and give you the explanation. However, they have a little book, “Christian Baptism,” on this ordinance, which they sell for fifty cents, and it thoroughly explains the doctrine. If you’ll give me the money I’ll get one.

Mr. W.—Not much! I wouldn’t have it in my house. I’m not as near converted to the saints as you think.

Mrs. W.—Well, it’s almost meeting time again, and I wouldn’t miss the sermon for a great deal, so I must get ready. Can I not prevail upon you to go with me tonight?

Mr. W.—No, indeed. We have our class tonight. So go your way, and I’ll go mine.

Mrs. W.—There are better things than this for us; we ought to go the Bible way.

Mr. W.—You’re the cause of all the division—but I don’t want to hear any more tonight.