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Written by Lemuel Potter   


As we have already observed that baptism is essential to the communion, we now wish to know what baptism is, and, in case we find anything practiced for baptism that is not baptism, we will not admit such to the communion.

As to the mode of baptism, three modes are advocated among Christian people, immersion, sprinkling, and pouring, and, while some admit either of these to be baptism, there are others who cannot conscientiously make the admission.

The Baptists honestly believe immersion to be the only mode, and that, so far as the action of baptism is concerned, there is no baptism without immersion.

This being true, and baptism being a prerequisite to the communion, how can we consistently commune with those who have never been immersed? If we hold that immersion is essential to baptism, and the whole Pedobaptist world says that sprinkling and pouring are as truly baptism as immersion is, do we not differ? If we differ so materially as that, can we commune together?

"Can two walk together except they be agreed?" Amos 3: 3.

1st. I argue that immersion is baptism, because the whole Christian world says it is. There are none who deny immersion being baptism, and gospel baptism at that. While many claim that sprinkling and pouring are baptism, yet they say immersion is baptism. So, for our doctrine that our baptism is gospel baptism, we have the testimony of all.

2nd. I argue that immersion is the only scriptural mode of baptism, because everything that is said in the New Testament pertaining to mode favors immersion.

But as it is not my intention to argue, at any great length, the mode of baptism, I will briefly call to mind a few things.

1st. "And were baptized of Him in Jordan, confessing their sins." Matthew 3: 6.

It is not necessary to go into the river to sprinkle or pour, and it is not always done. It is necessary to go into the water to immerse, and it is always done. I presume that John had business in the water, or they would not have gone into it. If they did have business there, it was to immerse, and not to sprinkle or pour.

2nd. "And Jesus, when he was baptized, went straightway up out of the water." Matthew 3: 16.

He evidently went into the water before he could have gone out of it. When you were sprinkled, did you go up out of the water? If you did not, you did not do as the Savior did. What do you suppose He went into the water for, if it was not necessary? Is it necessary for a person to go up out of the water after being sprinkled? If it is, then, of course, when a person is sprinkled he will certainly, in every case, go up out of the water. If any one is sprinkled, and does not go up out of the water afterwards, then, in case of sprinkling, it is not necessary to go up out of the water; but it is necessary in case of immersion, and in all cases of immersion the person goes up out of the water.

3rd. "And John, also, was baptizing in Enon, near to Salim, because there was much water there." John 3: 23.

Is much water necessary to sprinkle or pour with? It is not necessary to have much water to sprinkle or pour with. If it was, you would always see our Pedobaptist friends going to some place where there was much water. Do we always see that? Do they not often baptize, as they call it, with very little water? If a little water will do, much is not necessary. Then why did John select a place where there was much water? It is evident that for his purpose much water was necessary, and the text says he baptized there because there was much water there. It is necessary to have much water to immerse, and therefore he must have gone there to immerse. You will always see people who immerse go to where there is much water.

4th. "And they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him." Acts 8: 38.

This is always necessary in immersion, but it is never necessary in sprinkling or pouring.

5th. "And when they came up out of the water." Acts 8: 39.

6th. "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death."
Romans 6: 4.

A burial is absolutely essential to immersion, while such a thing never does take place in sprinkling or pouring.

7th. "Buried with him by baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead." Colossians 2: 12.

Now put all these together and you have a complete immersion - no more and no less. What is ever said on the subject of baptism that reminds us of sprinkling or pouring? Simply nothing.

4th. I argue that immersion, alone, is gospel baptism, because the Greek word from which we get the word baptize means primarily to dip, according to all the lexicons I have ever noticed.

5th. I argue that immersion is the only gospel mode of baptism from the practice of the early Christians.

Mosheim, in speaking of John, says:

"The exhortations of this respectable messenger were not without effect; and those who, moved by his solemn admonitions, had formed the resolution of correcting their evil dispositions and amending their lives, were initiated into the kingdom of the Redeemer by the ceremony of immersion or baptism. Christ, himself, before he began his ministry, desired to be solemnly baptized in the waters of Jordan, that he might not, in any point, neglect to answer the demands of the Jewish law." (London edition, p. 16.)

It should be remembered that the learned historian that we have quoted was not a Baptist, but that he was a Lutheran, and, notwithstanding the practice of the Lutherans relative to baptism, our historian calls the sacrament of baptism the ceremony of immersion.

But we wish to hear him again. He says:

"The sacrament of baptism was administered in this (first) century, without the public assemblies, in places appointed and prepared for that purpose, and was performed by immersion of the whole body in the baptismal font." (p. 36.)

It seems very clear that if baptism was performed by immersion in the first century, and that John immersed, that immersion certainly was the apostolic mode. Such a thing as sprinkling had never been mentioned in history yet.

But we wish to see what he says about it in the second century.

"The sacrament of baptism was administered publicly twice a year, at the festivals of Easter and Pentecost, or Whitsuntide, either by the bishop or the presbyters, in consequence of his authorization and appointment. The persons that were to be baptized, after they had repeated the Creed, confessed and renounced their sins, and particularly the devil and his pompous allurements, were immersed under water, and received into Christ's kingdom by a solemn invocation of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, according to the express command of our blessed Lord." (p. 58.)

You will please bear in mind that this is the way our historian tells us baptism was administered in the second century.

But I also have another historian that I wish to introduce, who, by the way, is not a Baptist. In fact, while we have plenty of Baptist historians, it is not our intention, in these lectures, to introduce any of them on these questions. We intend to make our opponents our witnesses. Neander, in his history of the Christian religion and church, says:

"In respect to the form of baptism, it was in conformity with the original institution and the original import of the symbol, performed by immersion, as a sign of entire baptism of the Holy Spirit, of being entirely penetrated by the same." (Vol. 1, p. 310.)

The historian says it was performed by immersion in conformity with the original institution and original import of the symbol. It occurs to me that whatever the original import of the symbol of baptism required is still required, and if immersion was the act by which the original institution and original import of the symbol is represented, we should continue to immerse so long as we wish to represent, by the action of baptism, its original meaning.

I shall not take time to discuss the act of baptism any farther by quoting history. As we have so learned the mode of baptism, so we believe it, and so we practice it. Neither do we believe anything else is baptism. So as we Baptists claim that baptism is a prerequisite to the communion, and we are not alone in that doctrine, for we quoted to you on last evening a Methodist author that teaches the same thing, how can we consistently commune with those who have not been immersed, if we recognize immersion as essential to baptism.

I charge our General Baptist brethren of being Pedobaptists. They say, in their confession of faith, that the "Lord's Supper is an ordinance of Jesus Christ appointed in the church," and, if it is, and as the apostles taught, the church must come together to partake of it, then it must necessarily follow that when an assembly of saints meet for that purpose, such an assembly must be a church. Then suppose we see about ten General Baptists and about twenty Methodists and about fifteen Presbyterians, all sitting in a congregation together, engaged in taking the Lord's Supper, is such an assembly a church? If it is not, they have no right to the ordinances of the church. But, if it is, what sort of a church is it? It certainly is not a Baptist church, for only about ten of the whole company have ever been immersed.

Now bear in mind the church has come together to break bread. Has any a right to participate who do not belong to the church?

This whole assembly make up a church. So this church is composed of members of all the different denominations that I have mentioned. What sort of a church is it? It is a Pedobaptist church, and about a dozen of its members are General Baptists, yet they, for the time being, are members of a Pedo-baptist body.

In this transaction they have compromised every feature of anything that entitles them to the name of Baptists. When they make such a compromise as that they become, in the fullest sense of the term, Pedobaptists. A Pedobaptist church can have immersed members in their body, but Baptist churches cannot have unimmersed members in their body.

Hence, so long as we cannot commune with the Pedobaptists, we cannot commune with the General Baptists, for that is what they are.

But as the General Baptists do not recognize anything as baptism but immersion, and at the same time say that baptism is not a prerequisite to the communion, then it must be an unbaptized church. It is certainly not a baptized church, when only about ten of its members have been baptized, and about forty of them have not.

I suppose our Methodist and Presbyterian brethren feel first rate to see their General Baptist brethren come to their communion. Let us see what such actions say. While the Methodists say they think that baptism must precede communion, the General Baptist brother says, no, you Methodists are wrong in your notion that baptism is necessary to communion, for, if you were correct in that, we could not commune with you, for we do not believe you are baptized, but then we can commune with you as we look at it, for we do not think baptism essential to the communion. O, how such a course as that must make our Pedobaptist brethren love the General Baptists!

But a word to our Pedobaptist brethren. You all believe that immersion is baptism, and we do not believe that sprinkling and pouring is. Now, if you wish to commune with us, or have us commune with you, why can you not all be immersed? You would have to make no compromise in that, for you believe immersion is baptism. If we commune with you as you are, and as we are, holding that baptism is essential to the communion, then we must admit that sprinkling and pouring is baptism.

On the mode of baptism, you have put up the barriers between us, in your practice of sprinkling and pouring, and to take your view of it, you have done so unnecessarily, for you could be immersed without any violation of your conscience, and, by so doing, you could get to us on the mode of baptism. Why not do it, only that you do not wish to commune with us?

You go where you know we cannot conscientiously go, and then complain at us because we will not go there and commune with you, when you could just as well not go.

That is asking too much of us, for us to admit what you could do without, when we cannot conscientiously make the admission.

We do not believe you are baptized, and we believe you could be and will not, and we believe baptism should precede the communion, therefore we will not commune with you.

Your actions indicate very clearly that you do not wish us to. So this is one reason we have for close communion.

We do not commune with Pedobaptist because they are not baptized, and, to be consistent, we cannot commune with the General Baptists because they commune with unbaptized persons.

But, leaving the mode of baptism, we wish to notice another feature of baptism. I believe it is admitted by all that no adult person should be baptized unless he is a believer, but it is claimed by some that infants, also, are gospel subjects of baptism.

Baptists say, that none but believers are to be baptized.

1st. I argue that none but believers should be baptized from the following scriptures:

Let us pay a little attention to Acts 2: 41: "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized, and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls." It occurs to me that this would be a better place to look for infants, with a probability of finding them, than at the house of the Philippian jailer, for certainly among three thousand people, there is a great probability that some of them would be fathers and mothers. If there were any infants, the children of any of the three thousand, and the apostles intended to baptize infants, it seems to me there would most certainly have been infants baptized on the day of Pentecost. But as it is so probable that there were infants among them, and yet none were baptized only such as received the word gladly, it is an absolute certainty that the apostles did not baptize infants.

But as our Pedobaptist brethren claim that there were infants at the jailer's house, it is their place to prove it, as we deny it; but as they cannot, I say there were no infants there, and now I will try to prove it. The text says, "And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house." It is not common for ministers to preach to infants, so all that were in his house were capable of being spoken to.

"And was baptized, he and all his, straightway." The same people that they spake to were baptized.

"And rejoiced, believing in God with all his house." So it seems they all believed.

They all heard the apostles preach, and they were all baptized. No; there were no infants in that company. While our Pedobaptist brethren can only infer a case of infant baptism here, the strongest inference is against them.

Where it is probable there were no infants, as on the day of Pentecost, it is not even claimed by them that infants were baptized.

So, away with the idea of infant baptism. There must be better grounds of inference than at the jailer's house, or the household of Stephanus, or the household of Lydia, who was in all probability an unmarried woman.

In discussion once with a Pedobaptist brother, I told him if he would find just one text in the Bible that even mentioned water baptism, and infants, both in the same text, I would give up the proposition, and we would proceed at once to the next question.

He said he would accept that proposition, and we would soon be on the next proposition. He then quoted the commission: "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them, etc." He said the pronoun "them" had for its antecedent, "nations;" that there were no such thing as nations without infants; that infants were a part of nations. Hence, "teach all nations, baptizing them," meant to baptize men, women and children. Then, he said: "Now, will Brother Potter give up the proposition? He said he would, and I claim that he is under obligation to do so."

I replied, that from his definition of nations, he had gotten me into trouble. If there are no such things as nations without infants, I want him to explain the text: "The wicked shall be turned into hell, with all the nations that forget God," and keep infants out of hell. He said that meant the wicked of all nations.

I told him the other meant the taught of all nations. So none of them have yet showed the text that mentions water baptism and infants.

1st. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Mark 16: 16.

2nd. "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them," etc. Matthew 28: 10. From this text we learn that teaching is before baptism.

3rd. "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized." Acts 2: 41.

4th. "And they were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins." Matthew 3: 6. Infants do not confess their sins.

5th. "But when they believed Philip preaching the Kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women." Acts 8: 12.

If infants were also baptized, the text should have read: Men, women and their children. It is about as evident, that among the men and women that were baptized, that some of them had children--that is infants, as that the jailer had, or that Lydia had, or Stephanus, or any other household. But if any of them did have infants with them, it is evident that they did not have them baptized.

6th. There is not a text in the New Testament where water baptism and infants are both mentioned.

7th. I argue against infant baptism, on the ground that it was not practiced by the Primitive Christians.

Let us read:

"Baptism was administered at first only to adults, as men were accustomed to conceive baptism and faith as strictly connected. We have all reason for not deriving infant baptism from apostolic institution, and the recognition of it which followed somewhat later, as an apostolical tradition serves to confirm this hypothesis." Neander, vol. 1, p. 311.


"Origen, whose system of infant baptism could readily find its place, though not in the same connection as in the system of the North African Church, declares it to be an apostolic tradition, an expression, by the way, which cannot be regarded as of much weight in this age, when the inclination was so strong to trace every institution which was considered of special importance to the apostles, and where so many walls of separation, hindering the freedom of prospect, had already arisen between this and the apostolic age. Also in the Persian Church, infant baptism was, in the course of the third century, so generally recognized that the sect founder Mani thought he could draw an argument from it in favor of a doctrine which seemed to him necessarily pre-supposed by this application of the rite." Neander, vol. 1, p. 314.

This historian does not admit the assertion of Origen, that infant baptism is apostolic, is of much force.

But let us hear him once more:

"Iraeneus is the first church teacher in whom we find any allusion to infant baptism." Neander, vol. 1, p. 311.

If Iraeneus was the first church teacher that taught infant baptism, it was not taught until the latter part of the second century. According to Robinson, Pedobaptism originated with the Mountainists, if we are allowed to rely on Brown's Religious Encyclopedia (page 386), and we have never heard it questioned as being good authority.


"According to the North African scheme of doctrine, which taught all men were from their birth, in consequence of guilt and sin transmitted from Adam, subjected to the same condemnation; that they bore within them the principles of all sin, deliverance from original sin and inherited guilt would be made particularly prominent in the case of infant baptism, as in the case of the baptism of adults; and this was proved by the ancient formula of baptism, which, however, originated in a period when infant baptism had as yet no existence, and had been afterwards supplied without alteration to children, because men shrank from undertaking to introduce any change in the consecrated formulas established by apostolic authority, though Christians were by no means agreed as to the sense in which they applied this formula." Neander, vol. 2, p. 665.

From this quotation the doctrine of baptismal regeneration is older than the practice of infant bap tism.

But another witness says:

"There were twice a year, stated times when baptism was administered to such as after a long course of trial and preparation, offered themselves as candidates for the profession of christianity." Mosheim, p. 78. This was in the third century, and it is very clear that infant baptism was not taught in the baptism mentioned here.

It has been argued that if infants are to be baptized, that they are also members of the church, and if they are members of the church, I cannot see why one member of the church does not have as much right to the communion as another.

But let us see if they are considered as members of the church by our Pedobaptist brethren.

"The visible church consists of those who hold to the fundamental doctrines in christianity in respect to matters of faith and morals, and have entered into formal covenant with God and some organized body of Christians for the maintenance of religious worship. The children of such are included in the covenant relations of their parents, and are properly under the special care of the church." Cumberland Presbyterian Confession of Faith, page 52, Sec. 94.

It is a plain case that one branch of Pedobaptists recognize their children as church members. But let us hear another one of them speak.

"Does not our Savior explicitly say, in regard to young children, 'Of such is the kingdom of heaven'? The kingdom of heaven must mean either the kingdom of glory, the work of grace in the heart, or the church of Christ on earth. Now in whatever sense it is used in the text, it must include the idea of church membership. Is a young child fit for the kingdom of glory? Then why not for the kingdom of grace? If fit for the church triumphant, why not for the church on earth? And was not the promise of God given to christian parents, and to their children, and to 'all that are afar off'? If so, and there can be no reasonable doubt of it, then are infants entitled to the initiatory rite which will formally admit them into the visible church of Christ, and to debar them that privilege, is not only unwise, but unjust to the children, whom God has given us." History, M. E. Church, p. 174.

According to this Methodist writer, the children of their churches are members of their churches.

But let us see further:

"We regard all children who have been baptized, as placed in visible covenant relation to God, and under the special care and supervision of the church." Discipline, p. 41, sec. 54.

But we wish to give one more witness to this point:

"These 'partake of the root and fatness of the olive tree', and of course they have the right of placing their infant children in a covenant relation with God, as well as with the believing Jews, or the natural branches that have been cut off. But it is expressly said that children are members of the visible church, in Mark 10: 14 - "For of such is the kingdom of heaven." Jimeson, on the 25 Articles, p. 278.

We have now shown that Methodists and Presbyterians recognize their children as members of their churches, and we wish to show you what a predicament good men sometimes get themselves into by saying too much.

We will now read to you from the General Baptist Messenger, of March 13, 1886:

"We will be much obliged to any individual who will point us to the scriptural authority which says the members of one christian church are forbidden to take communion with those of another; or that will show us one, thus saith the Lord, that you must be baptized before you show forth the Lord's death in sacred communion."

Now, whether our editor believes it or not, our Pedobaptist brethren, with whom he communes, hold their children as members of the church, and if one of them should come to Brother Hale's communion, he cannot, according to his own statement, debar him.

If one of those infant members should come to your church, by what rule are you going to withhold the communion from it? You call on us--challenge us to show any scriptural authority which says members of one Christian church are forbidden to take communion with those of another. How are you going to debar those infant members of Christian churches from your communion. You say you cannot do it. Then you must commune with them, for you have no authority to debar them. But you may say that you meant adult members. All right; if he will give me the scriptural authority for debarring infant members, I will show him how we will debar adults from the communion. But then he did not make an exceptions in his paper. He said members of one denomination, and made no distinction between infants and adults. I would as soon, so far as I am concerned, take the communion with the infant members of a Pedobaptist church as the adults, for they are all members. I fancy I see a General Baptist minister, at his own communion, officiating, and just before him sits his wife and about three little children, and by her side sits a good Methodist sister with about the same number of little fellows, all members of the Methodist church, and while the minister speaks of the communion, he makes the challenge that Elder Hale made in his paper, that he would be much obliged to any man that would show him any scriptural authority for saying that the members of one Christian church are forbidden to commune with those of another. Then he starts around with the emblems, and when he comes to those little Methodist members, he gives the bread and wine to them, for he knows of no scriptural authority for not doing so, and then gives it to his wife and passes her children by.

I should suppose his wife and himself would feel very comfortable under those circumstances.

Why did he not give the bread and wine to his own children? Why, they are not members of the church, is the reason he did not give it to them. But why are they not members of the church? Because their papa does not believe little children like they are should be members of the church. He might as well take them in and commune with them as to recognize the children of others as members and commune with them.

But we have not come to the worst of it yet. Let us read more.

"As unregenerate persons are not excluded from baptism and hearing the word of God preached, neither should they be from partaking of the sacrament, for one and all of these are ordained means of grace, whereby may be edified and comforted in the Christian life." (Jimeson, p. 298.)

The people he speaks of here are seekers, or, as he calls them, penitent believers, who have not obtained a hope yet. He calls them unregenerate, and says they should be admitted to baptism and the supper.

As a qualification for membership, we ask that the applicant already has a hope before he comes into the church, but, if we commune with the Methodists, we are liable to have to commune with persons that we would not receive into our church if they are to come and offer themselves.

That is one reason we cannot commune with the Methodists. How will the General Baptists get along with that?

Hence, we cannot commune with the Pedobaptists, because their terms of membership and ours differ. Let us suppose a case. Mr. A comes to our church today and makes application for membership with us, and he tells us that he has been a mourner for quite a while, that is, what is usually called a seeker, but he has not professed a hope yet. We tell him we cannot receive him until he professes a hope. He then goes to the Methodist church, where they will receive him, and then tomorrow he attends our communion, and we are open communionists, would we not be obliged to commune with him? To be consistent, we had better received him into our own church than to reject him, and then commune with a member of another church that we would not have in our own.

We do not commune with our own members until they are baptized, but if we commune with Pedobaptists that we deem unbaptized, why not commune with our own unbaptized members.

The whole truth of the matter is this: If we wish to be consistent, we cannot afford to commune with others, or else we might as well dissolve at once.

For our open communion brethren to ask us to commune with them is equal to asking us to disband.

We certainly have a right to an existence as a church, and, if we have, we are not under obligations to commune with others. If we are under obligations to commune with others, we have no right then to exist, as a distinct organization, on the principles of faith and practice as we now hold them, for we must compromise our principles if we commune with other denominations.

We exclude a man to day for heresy, and he goes and joins another denomination, which he could do somewhere, and such a thing often takes place, and on tomorrow he comes back to our communion services, and we are open communionists, do we not have to commune with him? We obeyed the divine word when we excluded him, for the apostle says: "The man that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject." Then do we obey the Lord when we afterwards invite him to our communion? Is that the order of God's house? I cannot think it is made up of such inconsistencies as that.

But I wish to say another word to my free communion brethren before I conclude. That is this: You do not treat us justly on the subject of communion, for, while you censure us for refusing to commune with you, you will receive our excluded members, who have, from some cause or another, offended us to such an extent that we cannot tolerate their course, and when you receive them without any satisfaction whatever, if we were to invite you and your members to our communion, we would be compelled to commune with that member we had excluded. We might as well not have excluded him from our fellowship, if we must commune with him, and that is just what we must do if we open our communion to all.

If we exclude him for heresy, we must still commune with him. We do not treat you that way. If you exclude one of your members, and he comes to us, we require him to sit down here and give us a reason of his hope, as though he had never been a member of any church, and when we receive him we do not ask you to invite him to your communion, and, if you do invite him, we propose that he should not go.

How are you going to debar persons from your table that you do not want if you practice open communion?

You must invite all, or else you must have a boundary somewhere. If you have a boundary, that is close communion. I care not how far you set the boundary away, when you make a boundary, you limit your communion to that line, and that far your communion is limited. It is the same principle that it would be if your boundary extended no farther than your own church.

But one good brother wanted to hear me on the text, "Let a man examine himself,and so let him eat." Did you ever hear open communionists quote that text? I have, and I have thought that it was about all the text some of them could quote on the subject. It is often used in a manner to accuse us of examining other people at our communion service. That is a grand mistake. That text is not to the church to examine those outside or in, but to the individual members, to each one to examine himself and to eat.

I presume no one denies the rights of the church to examine the standing and soundness of her members.

Did you ever hear an open communionist quote the text, "With such an one no not to eat." I never have, and I have wondered if some of them knew there was such a text.

I tell you there is, but I do not know how it is to be observed by the church if she throws her doors open to commune with every person, letting each one examine himself.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 14 November 2006 )
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