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Home arrow Writers arrow William Fristoe arrow History of the Ketocton Association-Chapter 8
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Written by William Fristoe   

A reply to several complaints respecting the conduct of the Baptists in this association.

ALTHOUGH we feel no inclination to quarrel with our neighbors for thinking and acting different from what we do, seeing each individual has to give an account to the great Judge for the deeds done in the body; and we hold it sacred that each, and every person is entitled to be free in the exercise of religious worship, without compulsion or violence in cases of conscience –

Yet inasmuch as we stand accused by many of being too confined and uncharitable, and do not exercise that generosity of sentiment towards other religious denominations which is becoming Christians; if we are found guilty of bad conduct and the charge can be well supported, we ought to take conviction, confess our fault, reclaim our conduct, and act different in future; but if upon examination we stand justifiable on Bible ground, we shall deem it our duty to maintain our position, and proceed as hitherto we have done. -We have ever felt, and yet feel, quite willing to bring our sentiments and practice to the unerring standard of God's word, knowing that whatever is not right in that divine balance will not stand in the coming day, nor pass current in the kingdom above.

One heavy complaint is, that the Baptists with us are so confined they will not commune or partake of the Lord's Supper, with any but those of the Baptist church; while other denominations can have fellowship with each other, commune together, and be in entire friendship as brethren of the same family; such conduct in the Baptists must be too confined, shy and reserve; and in so doing they effect too much singularity. The statement respecting our refusing to commune with the members of other religious sects we acknowledge to be just; we shall proceed to give our reasons for conducting as we have done.

Our reason for not admitting mixed communion is as follows: when we carry our enquiries and make search into divine record, we have never, as yet, found, that any were admitted transient communion, nor incorporated into, and became members of the church of Christ, in primitive times, but such as were baptized upon profession of their faith; we are in the plainest manner told, that except we deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow Christ, we cannot be His disciples; the meek and lowly Saviour submitted to this sacred institution before He entered on His public ministry, and when traveling up and down, doing good, and preaching His own gospel, He made and baptized disciples (by the instrumentality of His disciples;) it appears the method Jesus Christ was pleased to adopt, was to make disciples and then baptize them; in like manner He gave instruction to His apostles and disciples to conduct at the time of His departure from them -He gave them commission to go and preach the gospel to every creature; He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned, the first thing to be done, according to the commission, was, to preach –by which they were to be brought over to believe and exercise faith in Christ, and then be baptized, after which these baptized persons, were to be taught all things that were commanded; in aftertimes, when persons were wrought upon, under the ministry of the apostles, received the Holy Ghost, or believed in the Lord Jesus, they were baptized; corruption had not taken place so early as the day of Pentecost; there we have a passage to the point, and if prepossession did not prevent, is enough to decide in this important question. While Peter was preaching on that memorable day, a number of the hearers were pricked in their hearts, and said unto Peter, and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do? then Peter said unto them, repent and be baptized everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost; then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls –and continued stedfast in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayer," Here we have a plain statement of the qualification of those that joined the church of Christ, they were such as had been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ; the marks of repentance appearing in them, and the forgiveness of sin experienced by them, and with this agrees the whole tenure of Holy Writ.

Were we to admit unbaptized persons to communion with us, we must feel guilty of departing from the primitive example, and bring guilt on our conscience; if any should desire to join us, and enjoy communion with us, let them believe and be baptized, and we shall consider it our duty to give them an hearty welcome to all the privileges of the Lord's house; but if the prejudice of education, or the sphere of life to which they are raised, deems it too mortifying to be baptized, they must continue where they are, though they were kings or emperors.

But here another complaint is brought forward, why none are baptized but professed believers, and that by immersion? for we believe those that were received into the church in their infancy, by having water sprinkled or poured on their faces, are as really baptized as any other, and of course have a right to partake at the Lord's table, and it appears ungenerous in the Baptists to object to such. -To which we reply -Could we find in the Holy scriptures, that infants were proper subjects for baptism, and sprinkling the mode, farther contending by us would cease; but until that can be found we shall continue to practice as we have heretofore done.

It has been urged again and again, that the children of the Jews were admitted into the Jewish church, and why should the infant tribe be prevented from entering into the gospel church, especially those of believing parents? Why this argument has been brought forward so often is not easy to account for, as there appears no similarity, or likeness between the two cases. When God gave to Abraham the law of circumcision, He commanded him to circumcise himself, and his male offspring; but we have no such command to baptize infants:  circumcision was confined to the males, baptism to male and female, men and women -besides, circumcision was confined exclusively to the Jewish nation, but the gospel dispensation is extended to all nations, and they that believe, both Jews and Gentiles, have a right to the ordinance of the New Testament; the Jewish church was national, the gospel church congregational, and where such dissimilarity appears between the former dispensation and the latter, why should we consider the latter as substituted in room of the former, or the former figurative of the latter? But the flimsy argument is brought forward by the pedobaptist, that baptism came in the room of circumcision, and as formerly faithful Abraham was enjoined circumcision, that his children had a federal right to circumcision, being the offspring of faithful Abraham -just so the children of believing parents have a federal right to baptism under the gospel, and may claim it as their covenant right. -Circumcision was a positive institution, and when it was enjoined on Abraham to circumcise his male offspring, it was right it should be done; but if there had been no such command, we know of no federal right they would have had to that institution.

We are much surprised, when we are told over and over, that baptism came in the room of circumcision; we are desirous to know where the information came from; we have before shown the  disagreement between the two, and we are well assured, from the whole of the New Testament, that the Old Testament dispensation is done away, the handwriting of ordinances blotted out, circumcision abolished among the rest, and the New Testament church established upon better promises.

When the gospel dispensation took place, we are informed by the New Testament writers, respecting typical things which served as shadows, or figures of good things to come; but the body or substance was Christ: among the many figures made use of under the old dispensation, a pointing out, and giving a lively representation of Christ and His church, which was explained, made use of, and improved by the writers of the New Testament; it is wonderful among the many things, they had not told us that circumcision was a type of baptism, and the latter came in room of the former -this would have ended all dispute about it: therefore as we can find no declaration of this kind, not a syllable about it in the New Testament, we shall conclude it is wrapped up among the unwritten traditions of the infallible council, whose traditions we have nothing to do with, neither in faith nor practice.

When the Abrahamick covenant is brought forward, seals of the covenant introduced, and federal claims set up, under the gospel dispensation, the New Testament knows so little of such terms, that we are at a loss for their meaning; and as they have been in use so long without any satisfactory explanation, we are left to conclude they have no relation to New Testament ordinances, and are words without meaning; it is enough for us to prove what is, we shall leave it to others to prove what is not.

But those of other persuasions say, that they are left to infer the divine right of infant baptism, from several parts of the New Testament, as well as by inference from the Old Testament. -For the support of which this portion of scripture hath often been cited -"for the promise is unto you, and to your children;" these words are cited with a view to confirm that idea, that where a parent is in the divine favor, their offspring are interested in the divine promises, and entitled to the same blessing with their believing parent; but when the passage has a fair reading, and the scope examined, the sense will appear very different, “the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even to as many as the Lord our God shall call." The sense is the blessings procured by the Lord Jesus were designed for those that were, or shall be called, by efficacious grace, and to none else; their being Abraham's descendant did in no way entitle them to the blessing; the qualification necessary was that of being called, whether His professing people the Jews, or whether remote idolatrous Gentiles -if called, the promise was made to them; it was not a transfer from their progenitors of anything of a spiritual nature, but was bestowed upon them by the Father of mercies, and it appears that such called ones and such only, to whom the promise will apply, are the proper subjects for baptism.

Another passage is brought, supposed to be much to the purpose, where the apostle instructed the believing husband, or wife, to continue with the unbelieving or idolatrous husband, or wife; for the unbelieving was sanctified by the believing party, else were your children unclean, but now are they holy; and after the long ramble it is supposed we are brought to the holy seed; but after all, it does not appear to answer the purpose for which it is brought; the apostle is not urging the right of those children to baptism, nor so much as dropping an hint about baptism, but concerning himself about a very different thing. It appears the young converts were under severe trials, and could not decide whether they should continue with their idolatrous husbands and wives, or whether they should leave them; the apostle very seasonably instructs them to continue with them; marriage being instituted by God himself, and is honorable in all, that by the solemn institution of marriage, they were set apart for the use, and enjoyment of each other as husband and wife; for where the word sanctification occurs, in different places of scripture, a setting apart a person or thing is meant, for instance, when the priests under the law, were (in the ceremonious way prescribed) set apart- it was said they were sanctified; it is clear that heart sanctification was not meant, for numbers of them were notoriously wicked.

Likewise the vessels made use of in the temple are said to be sanctified; when no more than a setting them apart as vessels of the sacred ministry can be understood: Jesus Christ is said to be sanctified, “for this cause I sanctify myself;” the thought would be shocking, to suppose heart sanctification was meant here; it will not apply to Him, who was holy from His conception, and must allude to His being set apart to the office of mediator -and a number of other passages to the same purpose might be produced to prove that sanctification means nothing more than a setting apart -which will fitly apply to marriage engagement of husband and wife -such as the sanctification of the wife, or husband -such is the holiness of the children -were husband and wife to wander from each other, it would expose the children to scandal and disgrace –for we cannot gather from the passage an entire separation, never to come together again like a divorce -sure those that resort to this passage cannot believe that it is in the power of the husband to cleanse and sanctify the heart of his wife, nor the wife the husband internally -was that the case that such power rested with men, and women, there is no believer would have an unbelieving companion long, neither can it be supposed, that any can believe that in natural generation it is in the power of the parent, to transmit holiness of heart, when it is evident before their eyes, a faithful Abraham, begat a wicked, persecuting Ishmael, and a righteous Isaac a wicked Esau -all that can be gathered from that passage is that the apostle instructed them to a lawful, and honorable cohabiting together.

We are again told, there were children in the church in the Apostolic age, and as a proof of it Paul's writings to the churches are produced, wherein he exhorts children to be obedient to their parents, and honour father and mother, etc. -and as Paul's epistles were addressed to the churches, these children it must be concluded, were members in these churches with their parents.

It is readily granted Paul's epistles were addressed to the churches, and not to the world; and it will not be denied by us that there were parents, and their children, both members in the churches, but they were such children that could read Paul's address to them, or hear it read; could understand the contents of those epistles, and form their conduct according to the instructions given therein -and of course capable of believing in the Lord Jesus, and acting worthy as members of the church: as to the duties enjoined on them in these epistles, it is well known the obligation children are under, towards a parent respecting honouring them, is never removed; had these have been of the infant tribe they would not have had understanding sufficient to have obeyed parents, and therefore can have no allusion to them.

The Jailor and his household, Lydia and her household, have been often brought, with a "before the Baptists will agree there were infants among them, and inasmuch as the household was baptized, it furnishes a presumptive proof at least, in favour of infant baptism;" to which we answer,

As to the Jailor we have a plain statement, that he believed in God with all his house; rejoiced in God with all his house; and he and all his were baptized straightway -so then from the account given they all made mention of, they were all of understanding to receive the word delivered by the apostles, all capacitated to act faith in Christ, all rejoiced through having a saving knowledge of God; and all submitted to the sacred ordinance of baptism, and serves as demonstrative proof of the divine right of believers baptism.

As for Lydia we have no account that she had husband or children, the account is that she worshiped God -that she heard Paul preach -that her heart was opened and she and her household were baptized; the natural inference is, that she had servants or assistants, in carrying on honest trade, and that they believed and were baptized; as we cannot with the scriptures, admit any to church communion without being baptized, on profession of their faith, we are often asked if we think there IS not Christians among other denominations, as well as among the Baptists, and if so, it is very wrong to disown or reject such; answer –

We have never called in question, that of being Christians in other sects; it is not their Christianity we scrutinize, but the supporting, and maintaining the institutions of the Gospel, in their purity, is what we are aiming after; those of our neighbors who are privy to our conduct know full well; we purchase books and read them with satisfaction, and for improvement, wrote by eminent and spiritual divines, belonging to other denominations.

But provided a person possessed with grace, should be guilty of a wrong, does grace in his heart make a wrong in his conduct right? by no means –for could that be supported there would never be a wrong done by a Christian. Suppose a gracious man was seduced and led away to worship an idol, could that worship be acceptable to God, because he possessed grace? by no means. It is so far from lessening the crime, or making it no crime, that it is, greatly heightened and aggravated; so when persons are enlightened from above, and enjoy the teaching of the spirit of grace, and then live in the wilful neglect of a known duty, 'tis dishonorable to God, and unbecoming their high calling.

We are acquainted with none of the pedobaptists but what acknowledge that in the Apostolic day, baptism was by immersion, and the subjects were believers; but while that is allowed by them, it is thought unreasonable the Baptists should not be equally liberal, in allowing the sprinkling of infants to be right likewise. Here our suit has been long and continues still at issue -it is out of the question for both to be right, because there is but one rule laid down in Holy Writ for Christ's followers to go by, as it respects baptism; and that is He that believeth and is baptized -Repent and be baptized -If thou believest thou mayest be baptized -Why tarriest thou, arise and be baptized -And they believed and were baptized -and Who can forbid water that these should not be baptized? -This appears to be the uniform language of the New Testament, being consistent with the command of the great Lawgiver.

When we make search for infant sprinkling, and open our ears to hear what the scripture reports, a dead silence takes place, and we go off without any information about it. We read of a prostitute church in the revelation made to John the divine, which had departed from the true worship of God, and addicted herself to superstitious, idolatrous worship; what says the voice of God in this case? Come out of her, my people, and be not partaker of her crimes, that ye perish not in her plagues. From this it appears that God had a people in that corrupt apostate church, but it was no reason because they had grace that they should stay there, but quite the reverse.

From all that has been said, we see no cause for retraction -or a change of our custom; we feel it obligatory on us to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints, and maintain the ordinances in their purity, as delivered by Christ and His apostles. Viewing it as a dreadful sin to change God's ordinances, being forewarned to touch not, handle not, which all are to perish, with the using after the commandments and doctrines of men; our Lord informs us that he that breaks the least of His commands, and teaches men so to do, shall be called least in the kingdom of God.

When God was pleased to establish the Old Testament dispensation, He gave His people laws and ordinances for the governing them -Moses was admonished of God, when he was about to build the tabernacle: "See (saith God) that thou do it according to the pattern showed thee in the Mount." Among the many rites and ceremonies pertaining to that worship, the priests were to offer sacrifice on the golden altar, and instructions in what manner it was to be done, -observe the ruin and destruction that fell on Nadab and Abihu, when they disobeyed the divine orders, and offered strange fire on the altar. The Levites were directed to bear the ark of God, and none else; when others attempted to handle that sacred chest, they met with the resentment of God, who is jealous of His own institutions, and heavy judgments fell on numbers of them.

Now if a departure from these instructions, under that shadowy dispensation, met with the divine resentment, what can be expected when there is a refusal to obey Him that speaketh from heaven? the conclusion with us is that Jesus Christ, in His own ministry, and the ministry of His inspired followers, gave every necessary instruction, for the government of His church; so that the man of God is furnished to every good work.

Wherefore we, receiving a kingdom, that cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear, for our God is a consuming fire.

This New Testament kingdom, the saints enter into the possession of, cannot be moved; the old dispensation had been of a long time shaking, and ready to vanish away; but not so under the gospel dispensation: the laws, ordinances, rules and regulations, were to continue permanent, from the time Christ instituted them, until His second coming, nor will admit of any change, n or alteration, nor substitute of anything in their room.

From the acquaintance we have cultivated with the scriptures, diligent search and perusal of them, we are left to believe that believers exclusively, have a right to baptism, and the mode immersion; and whatever stands opposed to it, has no foundation in the word of God; and that infant sprinkling is no scripture baptism, and that persons that have received no other baptism are not entitled to the ordinances of the Lord's house, no more than if they had never been sprinkled.

It is well known, that when any of our own members prove disorderly in practice, imbibe anything erroneous, or neglect, or treat the institutions of the gospel with contempt -if they cannot be reclaimed they are put from among us by excommunication -if our own members meet with such treatment, which we are obliged in (for the fulness to the cause of God) to exercise towards them, how can those of other sects look at our conduct as unnatural, to deny them communion, when they live in the neglect of the ordinance of baptism?

We cannot willingly quit the subject here, as our desire is, for our neighbors and ourselves to do right; we will suppose a case -Provided one among the savages was converted, then taught to read English, then had the gospel put into his hand, free now from the prejudice of any and every religious education: upon reading the New Testament which side may we suppose he would decide in favor of, as it respects baptism; whether he would be led to believe the person desiring baptism, repented of his sins; that he believed in the Lord Jesus, or that he had received the Holy Ghost; that he was an adult, and acted upon choice when baptism was performed -whether he went into the water, and was baptized in the water? -or whether he would be led to believe, that parents brought their children to the place of worship and desired the preachers of that day, to take them in their arms, and sprinkle or pour water on their faces and call that baptism? - Judge ye which way he would decide.

We can assure the reader, that this conduct among us, does not arise from a want to affect singularity, neither do we expect to promote our interest or rise in worldly honor -and it must be well known that if the increase of proselytes was our object, it would be wise to open our doors wider and make the way of access easier -but we dare not, at the expense of wounding our consciences, depart from what we conceive to be the example of the faithful in primitive times, and it is our choice to live alone and not be numbered among the people, than unite with those, who have departed from the doctrines of the gospel, or changed the form of Christ's ordinances.

It is our expectation to live alone, though few in number we do not conceive we have cause to fear, while truth is on our side; it has been the lot of the Baptists, in every age, to be a distinct people, from the present time back through the dark ages of popery, although they then might pass by different names, as Waldenses, Wycklifites, Hussites, etc. yet it is acknowledged, they held the same doctrines, and administered the ordinances in the same manner the Baptists do with us at this day -but we are at greater certainty still, we will not submit it wholly to historians, but trace it to its source, and there we find it open with the New Testament, and every opening leaf, and following page confirms the fact, John by name, Baptist by profession; now when all the people were baptized by John, shall we call them by this, that, or the other name, or shall we conclude they were Baptists? the latter is quite natural.

But it is said, by some, that John's baptism, and that of Christ's were very different; why, where is the difference? John baptized in the name of Him that was to come after, which was Christ Jesus; they were adults, they came to John, they confessed their sins, and believed on Him that was to come after.

After Christ had come, and accomplished the great work of redemption, how were they then baptized? why in the belief of Him who had already come, they were buried with Him in baptism, like unto His death, and raised up again like unto His resurrection; they relied on Him who had done everything necessary for their salvation, from which consideration there appears no difference in the qualification of the subject, nor the mode of administering the ordinance, and of course the supposed difference vanishes.

But the complaint has often been, and may be again, that we lay too great a stress on baptism: -For the satisfaction of the reader we will give you our opinion of its importance -we do not deem it essential to salvation; and it is well known, according to our principle and practice, before we proceed to baptize any person, we must be satisfied of his conversion, or at least have a charitable hope, that he or she, is a believer in Christ, and in a state of salvation, and were they to die, having never been baptized, beyond all doubt with us, would be received into glory -but we deem it essential to the orderly conduct of a Christian in this life: else why should Ananias have urged the speedy compliance with it on Paul, in these words, “why tarriest thou, arise and be baptized, and  wash away thy sins, calling upon the name of the Lord." Why the apostle strictly enjoining, or commanding, the young converts to be baptized, if they could as well express their subjection to Christ in some other way?

We likewise look on this ordinance, when administered to a believer, by immersion, as holding forth great and important truths, for therein Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, is held forth; also the crucifying the old man, a death to sin, and a resurrection to newness of life is by a figure, in the most lively manner, represented and held forth. It is likewise a prerequisite, and necessary it should be submitted to, in order to become a member of the church of Christ.

But complaints still arise -it is said it is but an external ordinance, and circumcision or uncircumcision, matters nothing, and that the kingdom of God does not consist in meats and drinks -he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart. -To which we reply -it is agreed by us, that the kingdom of God does not consist in outward forms, and that except it is set up in the heart, outward forms will be of little avail to any creature. But it is an improper way of arguing, to bring circumcision in competition with baptism; for although circumcision was binding on the Jews, under the Old Testament dispensation, yet, under the gospel, it became null and void, subsided and was entirely abolished -considering it in this light, it was not a duty incumbent on them, that part of the heavy yoke was taken off them, and it would be only bringing them into bondage again, for them to be circumcised, for it had now become quite useless and unnecessary.

But not so with baptism, which was enjoined as a duty on every believer, the omission of which brings guilt on the conscience.

As for the meats and drinks alluded to, they were matters of entire indifference -which if they eat or eat not of, they were none the better nor worse, and therefore will bear no comparison with the weighty and important institution of the New Testament now in full force, and serves as the distinguishing badge of Christ's humble followers.

As to circumcision of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God: is what we deem essentially necessary; we view this effected and brought about by the hand of omnipotence, on which all present consolation of the mind depends, and without which no real happiness can be enjoyed -it is this circumcision of the heart, that fits rational creatures for the service of God -and enables them to perform duty from a principle of life, and from honest motives -inclines them to make the scriptures the golden rule of their conduct, and their aim the manifestative glory of God -it is this that inclines them to pray fervently, converse heavenly, and walk circumspectly -this renewing of the mind, is what restores them from fallen nature, and draws the image of God, and an humble dependence on Christ as their all in all and prepares them for their incorruptible inheritance in glory.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 01 November 2006 )
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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.