CHAPTER 8

 

“Anabaptism”

 

Before the publication of the second number of the Advocate, Dr. Thomas decided to leave Philadelphia, and carry out his original project of going to Richmond in Virginia. On learning of his decision, the members of the Campbellite meeting in Philadelphia, among whom a coolness had prevailed for some time, nearly all withdrew their subscriptions to the Advocate, which strengthened his determination to go. On the way, he stopped for several weeks at Baltimore, where the second number was issued. Six weeks after leaving Philadelphia, he arrived in Richmond, where he had been expected for a long time, Mr. Campbell having sent word that he was on his way. The meeting in Richmond had no preacher, and Dr. Thomas was called upon to occupy the pulpit, a call from which there was no escape. The congregation offered him a salary, but he refused to accept it. He remarked on the subject in the Apostolic Advocate, vol. 5, p. 39: “The securing of our services as an evangelist was agitated among the brethren. But concerning this, our mind was and is made up. If any community of brethren ‘desire to be at charges with us,’ we should not so much object to receive the donation, but to become a hireling, and to have our pay, and so forth, discussed at cooperation meetings, at the bar of the church and the world, being unscriptural and degrading, we cannot away with it.” His ideas had been expressed in the following remarks, in the Apostolic Advocate, vol. 1, p. 186:

 

                “A man who devotes his time and energies to proclaiming the good news, has an apostolic and scriptural right to be supported. Common reason testifies the same thing. To preach to live is one thing; to live to preach is another; and this constitutes all the difference between paying a clergyman and a preacher of the gospel. It is as much the duty of every Christian man to preach the gospel as brother A. or any other proclaimer. But all have not the ability. Then those who feel so little interest in, and know so little about the cause they profess to love and serve that they cannot open their mouths to plead for or recommend it, and who from natural incompetency are incapable of doing as they would, are bound by all the principles of honour, justice and Christian virtue to minister of their substance to those who can. The congregation of the Lord is the ‘pillar and the support of the truth.’ The weekly fellowship was instituted to supply this body with funds. The poor saints, the aged widows, the apostles, evangelists, &c., depended upon these funds for their relief, sustentation, and travelling expenses. If the gospel, therefore, remains unknown to the regions round about us in Eastern Virginia, it is to be attributed to apathy—nay, rather, to the criminal delinquency of the congregations of disciples of this section of country relative to these matters. We do not say that this is their character; but if they do not do their duty in sounding out the gospel, the least that can be said is, they will deserve it.”

 

            Dr. Thomas told the Richmond Campbellites that he would rather live on bread and cheese, and maintain his independence of thought and action, than submit himself to the power of committees and trustees. He commenced the practice of medicine in Richmond for his own support, at the same time carrying on the Apostolic Advocate. During the first year, his receipts afforded a comfortable livelihood; but in the second year, they fell off greatly, in consequence of the frequency of his absence in various parts of the country, to which he was invited to speak.

 

            The troubles that ended in the Doctor’s separation from Campbellism began soon after his arrival in Richmond. The foundation of them may be said to have been laid in the publication of an article in the sixth number of the Advocate, entitled Anabaptism. In this article he contended that no immersion was valid that was not based on an intelligent faith on the part of the subject of it at the time of the immersion. Among the Campbellites, who at that time numbered many thousands, were large numbers who had been Baptists, and who had been received into the Campbellite communion without further immersion. Many of the preachers had been Baptist ministers. Dr. Thomas’s article, which was only a consistent application of Campbellite principles, proved very offensive to this class, and even to Mr. Campbell himself, who saw in this stringent doctrine a great barrier to denominational development. The following are extracts from the article:

 

                “ANABAPTISM is a compound Greek word. It is constituted of ana, which, in composition signifies iteration or again, and baptisma, baptism. Used as a verb, it means to baptise again, or to rebaptise (anabaptizo) . . . Anabaptism, in the strict etymological and scriptural import of the term, is unjustifiable and highly to be deprecated. There is a case, however, in which re-immersion can not only be justified, but is really and obviously a duty. In the foregoing definition, I have purposely left undefined the much-disputed term baptism. With Schrevelius’ Greek Lexicon before me, I discover it means an immersion, a dyeing. Hence the idea conveyed to my mind is a dyeing by immersion. This is what logicians would call a profound idea. By further research, I find that the dyers among the Greeks, both ancient and modern, use the words baptised and baptism when speaking of stuffs that had been dyed. To dye by immersion is to baptise anything dipped in a coloured medium. The term is confessedly a dyer’s word. If you were to dip, plunge, or immerse a piece of white linen in clean water, and then present it to the Greek dyer, he would tell you it was louized, bathed, dipped, or washed, but not baptised or dyed; but if you were to take the same piece of linen, and dip it in a bright scarlet-coloured fluid, he would then tell you it was not only dipped but dyed. Hence the English word immersion only conveys half the idea intended by the word baptism. There is no single word in the language that exactly conveys the idea of baptisma. Immersion is but one half of baptism. A man may be immersed, and yet not baptised; a man, however, cannot be baptised without being immersed. The fluid into which he is plunged must be tinged of a bright scarlet colour. Let me not be misunderstood. It is not supposed that this tinge is obvious to the natural eye, but the eye of faith can see the crimson dye flowing from the pierced side of Jesus into all the baptismal waters. If a man confess Jesus to be the Son of God, and apprehend his blood shed for the remission of sins, and he be immersed in the waters of the Potomac, Rappahannock, Mattaponi, Pamunky, or James rivers, the eye of faith can see those waters dyed around him with the blood of Jesus. The eye of faith, however, must be open in the person baptised or dyed” . . .

 

            Much more followed but it was principally an elaboration of the principle set forth in this extract. One other extract, however, may be given. After referring to the inadequacy of baptism as administered by the sects around, Dr. Thomas said:

 

                “Take an infidel and convince him of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, by the arguments, etc., which the prophetic and apostolic testimony supplies; and, believing with his heart, or understanding divinely convinced by the Word, let him confess with his mouth before men that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father; let him glorify God in his body (1 Cor. 6:20) by being immersed into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and that man, and such an one alone, is dyed with the dyeing of God; his baptism is a divine baptism, he has been baptised with the true, ancient, apostolic, and ‘one baptism.’ Such a man can draw near unto God ‘with a true heart, and full assurance of faith, having had his heart sprinkled from an evil conscience, and his body washed with pure water’.”

 

            A little further on Dr. Thomas summed up the matter, saying, “Faith in the blood of sprinkling, unfeigned sorrow for sin, confessing that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Son of the living God, are essential and indispensably necessary to constitute immersion in water baptism . . .. Divine baptism is truly a dyeing process, and the object of it acquires a moral hue.”

 

            The discussion to which this article gave rise was stimulated a few months later by the publication of a letter Dr. Thomas to the church at Baltimore, from which the following is an extract: -

 

            “Brother Ware, of Howler’s Essex, Virginia, one of the Rappahannock brethren, tells me he has paid you a visit. Both he and brother P. are delighted with what they witnessed. I learn from these brethren that our sister Church in Baltimore, receives none from the ‘Old Baptists’ who do not confess Jesus publicly at the time of admission into her fellowship. I cannot express the satisfaction this intelligence affords me; for in this practice the Church of Christ in Baltimore recognises the principle I have contended for in my writings as well as addresses, which many brethren can testify. I rejoice not because what I contend for is admitted; but because the church in its practice is doing justice to the truth, which it is high time to do in the face of a frowning world. The principle is this—that the terms of admission into the Baptist Church are not adequate to a reception into a Church of Christ. But my satisfaction is not without alloy, for it appears to me, and with all deference I state the conviction, that the church has not carried out the principle according to knowledge. Illustrative of the matter I would respectfully submit the following queries to the candid and unflinching examination of the brethren:”

 

1.        “–Wherefore do you demand a confession of a Baptist? If it is because none has been made by him before, then of what value was the immersion of such a candidate, unconnected with the confession that Jesus is the Christ, whose blood cleanseth from all sin?

2.        –Is a Christian built upon immersion, or upon the confession made by Peter (Matt. 16:16)? If on the confession, then, as the foundation is always laid before the building is raised, the confession ought to come first and the immersion after; but by acknowledging the immersion valid without the confession (which the church does in practice, by requiring confession of Baptist candidates long after their immersion), the immersion is made the foundation and not the rock or confession, that Jesus is the Christ.

3.        –Is immersion, unconnected with belief in the written testimony of the Holy Spirit concerning Jesus, baptism in the estimation of the church? If it is (which I do not for a moment believe), then it is the water, and not the blood of Christ, that purifies, and washes away sins!

4.       –Would the Church immerse a man first, and then proceed to convince him that Jesus is the Christ? If she would not, why does she now receive persons into her fellowship who have been immersed first and are required to confess afterward?

5.       –If it be necessary for these to confess, why are they not required to be immersed again, in order that they may be baptised for the first time? Confession is not baptism, neither is immersion without confession.

6.       –Can the ordinances of the kingdom of heaven be administered validly by aliens and therefore, beyond the territories of the Great King; and independently of the church of Christ, which is the pillar and support of the truth?”

 

“If, brethren, we admit the premises, by all that is sacred in the truth, do not let us flinch from the conclusion, that, in nine hundred and ninety-nine cases out of one thousand members of popular Baptist Churches, both confession and re-immersion are necessary for their admission into the Church of Christ . . . The true Church of Christ is thus spoken of by the apostle: ‘Christ also loved the congregation and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it with a bath of water with the word (not separate nor distinct from, but with the word) ‘that he might present it to himself glorious, a congregation not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it might be holy and without blemish’ (Eph. 10:26) . . . The apostle exhorts us to ‘examine ourselves, whether we be in THE faith.’ Let us do it, therefore, even if it should bring us to the conviction that we ought all to be re-immersed that we may be for once baptised. If we are wrong at the foundation, all the rest is a mere rope of sand.”

 

“My conviction is that all among us who have not been immersed upon the confession that Jesus is the Christ, and who did not understandingly appreciate the value of his blood, had better be re-immersed upon that confession; and that all, from this time forth, who may wish to join us from the Baptist denomination (a few excepted who can show just and scriptural cause for exception) be required to make an intelligent confession, and to be re-immersed.”

 

“These things I submit to you, brethren, in your presbyterial and congregational capacity as matters of superlative importance to the well-being of us all, and of those who may hereafter declare for the truth. The church—the highly favoured church in Baltimore—is the pillar and support of the truth in that city. It behoves you, therefore, to scrutinise dispassionately this matter, which, if carried into practice, will be the purification of the churches. None will object who have embraced the principles of the Reformation from a love of the truth. Had I not good testimony, or rather the testimony of a good conscience, purified by faith in the blood of sprinkling, this day’s sun should not go down before I put on Christ intelligently. Let us act nobly in these matters, for the very perfection of the Christian nobility is, when we discover our errors, to abandon them even at the peril of liberty, of property, and of life.”

 

The leaders of the Baltimore church replied to this letter; and to their reply Dr. Thomas made a rejoinder. Both appear in the Apostolic Advocate for September, 1835. The Baltimore letter on one point refers to Mr. Campbell’s periodical (Millennial Harbinger, vol. 5, extra) for explanation. In the Doctor’s response to this, the first symptom of disagreement between him and Campbell appears; it also contains a clear indication of the Doctor’s knowledge of the kingdom of God at this early date. He says, “The reference to the ‘extra’ is not satisfactory. It is a hazardous affair to set one’s judgment in opposition to such a giant as our beloved brother Campbell; but in this instance, I cannot help it. He says, ‘The whole earth is the present territory of the kingdom of heaven’; but this is contrary to fact. China, India, the Mohammedan countries, Europe, Africa, and America, are all the territorial and actual possessions of the rulers of the darkness of the world. Jesus does not possess a foot of land that owns his undisputed sway. He will possess all these countries, but he will have to conquer them first.”

 

The breach incipiently visible in these words was destined to widen, notwithstanding a manifest effort on both sides to avoid it, or the appearance of it. Some Campbellite professors in Fredericksburgh, who had been Baptists, and had been received among the Campbellites without re-immersion, called Mr. Campbell’s attention to the Doctor’s letter to the Baltimore church, and asked him what he thought of the statement that the majority of Baptists should be re-immersed? Mr. Campbell replied:

 

“It was with no ordinary feelings of regret and mortification too, that I saw, a few weeks since, an intimation in the Apostolic Advocate, to the church in Baltimore, that they ought to re-immerse all who came over to them from the Baptists . . . That the Baptists are greatly degenerate and fast immersing themselves into the popular errors of the age, I am sorry to confess is my sincere conviction in the presence of God; but among these hundreds of thousands, there are some tens that have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal, and are as worthy citizens of the kingdom of the Messiah as any of our brethren . . . Some few persons in this country have, under the impulse of their new discoveries, been re-immersed, but they generally were immersed at night or in secret. But in the ardour of our young brethren in Virginia, and in their zeal for truth, they have not only re-immersed in open day, but published to the world the prevalence of these ultraisms, and registered the converts . . . I need not tell you that I have not only a very great esteem for brother Thomas and brother Albert Anderson, but a most ardent affection for them; but had they made these bold and, at best, doubtful, measures matters of privacy, I could not have been induced either to have inserted your letter, or to have published this reply to it. But much as I love and esteem these brethren, I esteem and love the twelve apostles and the cause of my Lord and Master more; and, therefore, I must say, that the preaching up of re-immersion to the citizens off the kingdom of Jesus Christ, for the remission of their sins, is wholly ultra to our views of reformation, and, in our judgment, wholly unauthorised by the New Testament.”

 

This letter appeared in the Millennial Harbinger for September, 1835, and was re-published and answered by Dr. Thomas, in the Advocate of the following month. The Doctor heads his reply with the following quotation from Campbell’s own works, which is itself a sufficient answer to the objections sheathed in Campbell’s letter: “We have always said, and we say again, that persons who were without faith in Jesus as the Messiah, on believing should be immersed into his death. THEY DIFFER NOTHING FROM IMMERSED INFANTS. And if a person has been immersed solely into his own experience or conceit, instead of into Christ, as we believe sometimes happens, then, indeed, as respects Christian immersion, that person is as one unimmersed.”—Millennial Harbinger, vol. 6, number 9.

 

In the reply which follows, the Doctor repels the charge of “re-baptising the baptised” as unfounded. He says:

 

“I admit that I have baptised the immersed, and continue to do so still; but cannot the readers of the New Testament discern the difference between an immersed and a baptised person? If they cannot, then with them I have no fellowship as Christians; for with doctrinaires of such a mould, who maintain that water washes away sin, I cannot fraternise. The Scripture teaches ‘baptism’ and not water, ‘for the remission of sins’; this is what I contend for, and what I preach to the immersed and unimmersed. But what surprises me more than anything else, is that brother Campbell, upon such a vague testimony as ‘Susan’s,’ should have penned the second article, which contains his reply to this writer. Mr. Susan says he believes so-and-so, because he was told it! Is he in the custom of believing everything he is told? To believe what is told us without examination is credulity. Susan has credulously received a report, and our beloved brother C., has credulously adopted it. I ask Susan, did he ever read in the pages of the Advocate, with his own eyes, or hear from my own lips, with his own ears, that I ‘preached up re-immersion to the citizens of the kingdom of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins?’ I ask brother C., did he ever? I unhesitatingly affirm that there lives not the man, the woman, or the child, that ever heard or read such a sentiment from my lips or pen. If there be such a person living, let him come forward, and not only affirm, but attest the charge . . .

 

“Again, we wish it to be known, that in all things it is our intention to act openly, and in the face of day. If it is right to re-immerse privately and by night, it is equally so to do it publicly and by day; that is, if it may be done at all, it ought to be done openly; and if a necessity exist for re-immersion, it ought to be made known for the information and consideration of others. I agree that the ‘notion of re-baptism is wholly out of the Record’ in all cases except one, Acts 19. With the exception of this case, so is re-immersion. There is but ‘one baptism,’ and that ought not to be repeated. It is for the ‘one baptism,’ I contend, in opposition to the many immersions of the sects: the Greeks, Russians, Baptists, Mormons, &c.”

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