Friday, June 12, 2009

Gospel baptism by Rittenhouse

"Gospel baptism, in itself considered, although of the greatest importance to the child of grace, has no power to change from nature to grace, or to turn from darkness to light. It cannot purge the conscience from dead works, or afford any conceivable benefit to a natural, unrenewed man. What then is it? As an act of obedience to Christ, it gives evidence of the gracious and loyal state of its renewed subject as the "answer of a good conscience towards God."

"Is there in baptism a sign of death? Is it a burial and resurrection? Then in the subject that has right to it have its antitype. It is a language, and speaks in a voice that is understood, and finds an answer in the conscience of every renewed soul. As was said of Him who instituted it, it speaks with authority and not as the scribes.

"The administration of this ordinance, as a church ordinance, carries conviction of its divine authenticity to the mind of every unprejudiced beholder, and meets a response in the experience of ever gracious subject. It does not, however, present itself as a task for the subject to perform, but rather the mind is involuntarily led to ask for baptism. There has been a death of former enjoyments. Our former notions about getting religion and serving and pleasing God so as to get to heaven, and our prejudices against the Gospel method of salvation have all expired. We are dead to the law by the body of Christ. Our love of the world, and our satisfaction in the things of the world have given up the ghost. With our former associates we are ready to part. They have become strangers to us. In our feelings we are thus brought to the liquid grave – to the water side. The blessed Jesus has led the way. A company of saints are on the other side. We recognize them as our kindred, as loving friends and relations. Perhaps a solitary companion, a sympathizing friend, is about to enter the stream, and then we shall be left alone. What is baptism now? Among all the things that may be desired there is scarce anything that may be compared to it. Now it is a privilege to the administrator, a privilege to the candidate, and a heavenly season to the church. The candidate comes right. Christian experience has taught Christian baptism. Gospel baptism declares Christian experience. The candidate in the observance of this ordinance preaches the faith of Christ.

"While baptism may thus be considered as a fit and lively emblem of that experience of the Christian affecting his more outward life and conduct, the ordinance of breaking bread may be considered as an emblem of that internal communion with God, and living by faith upon Him which are hidden from public view. Christ is preached in this ordinance also. In these significant emblems the nature and ground-work of the Christian’s hope in all its distinguishing features are set forth. In fact, there is so much of Christ in a Gospel church, in her members, in her doctrine and in her ordinances, that the house of God becomes a home for all those that love Him. It is a fit and desirable place for all His children. However there may be places to stay at, there is no other home. However they may be induced to tarry at other places for a night, in this place alone out of all the earth, do they desire to dwell forever. The wants of the children of God are similar. They have mutual joys and sorrows. Loving one another and sympathizing with each other, they love to dwell together. They love their Father, and He has prepared a home for them. The provisions of His house suit them. They are abundantly satisfied with the goodness of His house, even of His holy temple.- Psalm 65:4. To such characters a Gospel church is presented to view, and they are encouraged to take up their abode in it. The Lord has made it their duty as well as their privilege to follow Him in this way. He has given them directions with regard to shewing their faith in Him, and with the keeping of these things He has connected great reward."
– From "Gospel Church and Gospel Ordinances", the 1859 Circular letter of the Baltimore River Association, written by Elder R. Rittenhouse (Daniel L. Harding, Moderator; Isaac P. Hellings, Clerk.)

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