Posts Tagged ‘Systematic Theology’

A Treatise on Church Order: Baptism- Chapter 1- Section II- To Baptize is to Immerse




We have seen that the commission which Christ gave to his apostles, instituted baptism as an ordinance to be observed by his disciples to the end of the world. It becomes important, therefore, to ascertain the meaning of the word “baptizing,” by which this duty is enjoined.

The commission has come down to us in the Greek language; land the word translated ” baptizing” is a participle of the Greek verb baptizo. Our present inquiry is, what does this Greek verb mean?

In the ordinary process of translating the writings of a Greek author, when we wish to ascertain the meaning of some word that he uses, we satisfy ourselves, for the most part, by consulting a Greek lexicon.[13]

The laws of interpretation require us to take the primary signification of words, unless there be something in the context, or nature of the subject, inconsistent with this signification. As there is no such difficulty in the present instance, our first decision, if we follow the lexicons, must be in favor of the sense to immerse.

When, from any cause, the decision of lexicons is unsatisfactory, the ultimate recourse is to Greek authors who have used the word in question. We search out the various examples of its use; and, by an examination of these, we learn in what sense the authors used the word. Since use is the law of language, the sense in which Greek authors used a word is its true meaning. The lexicons themselves yield deference to this law, and cite examples from authors in proof of the significations which they assign to words.

Our search of Greek authors, for the use of baptizo, is greatly facilitated by the labors of learned men who have preceded us in the investigation.

Professor Stuart[14] has collected, from different Greek writers, a number of examples in which baptizo, and its primitive, bapto, occur, with a view to determine the meaning of the words. To his collection, which he considered sufficiently copious for the purpose, I have added many other examples, from a similar collection by Dr. Carson, and a few others, from a smaller collection by Dr. Ryland. All these are included in the following tables, which may, therefore, be regarded as a fair exhibition of the use made of these words in Greek literature. The examples are so classified as to render the examination of them easy. In rendering the words in question, I have not closely followed the learned men of whose labors I have availed myself, but have aimed at a more literal and uniform translation. This is always put in italics; and the reader may consider the spaces, occupied by the italicized words, as so many blanks which he may fill with any other rendering that he may think better fitted to express the author’s meaning. Let it be regarded as a problem to be solved, how these several blanks shall be filled, so that the supply may fit every example, and, at the same time, be consistent, throughout the table, as the meaning of the same word.

In a few of the examples the italicized words are marked with an asterisk. In these cases they are renderings, not of the verbs themselves, which are placed at the head of the tables, but of substantives or adjectives derived from them, and involving the same signification. In the English prepositions which are construed with the verbs, I have sometimes followed Professor Stuart, when, without his authority, I should have been inclined to adopt other renderings. This remark applies especially to the use of “with,” in Class III. of Table II. A different rendering would correspond more exactly with the idea of immersion; but it has been my wish to give immersion no advantage to which it is not clearly entitled.







1. For the purpose of imbuing or covering.–1. He took a thick cloth and dipped it in water.[15] 2. Dipping sponges in warm water.[16] 3. And a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the house.[17] 4. Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water.[18] 5. Cakes dipped in sour wine.[19] 6. Dip thy morsel in the vinegar.[20] 7. One of the twelve that dippeth with me in the dish.[21] 8. Who dippeth his hand in the dish.[22] 9. And when he had dipped the sop.[23] 10. Dipping hay into honey, they give it them to eat.[24] 11. Venus dipped the arrows in sweet honey.[25] 12. He put forth the end of the rod that was in his hand, and dipped it in a honeycomb.[26] 13. Ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood which is in the basin.[27] 14. The priest shall dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle of the blood.[28] 15. The priest shall dip his finger in the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it.[29] 16. He dipped his finger into the blood.[30] 17. And shall dip them and the living bird in the blood.[31] 18. And he shall dip it into the blood.[32] 19. The Greeks dipping the sword and the Barbarians the spear-head [in blood.][33] 20. Having dipped a crown into ointment.[34] 21. The priest shall dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand.[35] 22. :Dip the probes in some emollient.[36] 23. Dipping the rag in white sweet-smelling Egyptian ointment.[37] 24. :Dipping the rags in ointment.[38] 25. By reason of heat and moisture, the colors enter into the pores of things dipped into them.[39] 26. They dip it [into the dye-stuff.][40]

2. For the purpose of filling, or of drawing out, the verb sometimes taking the sense to dip out.–27. The youth held the capacious urn over the water, halting to dip it.[41] 28. Take a vessel, ancient servant, and having dipped it into the sea, bring it hither.[42] 29. The bucket must be first dipped and then be drawn up again.[43] 30. The lad directed his large pitcher towards the water, hastening to dip it.[44] 31. He dipped his pitcher in the water.[45] 32. Instead of water, let my maid dip her pitcher into honeycombs.[46] 33. Bubbling water dipped up with pitchers.[47] 34. To-day, ye bearers of water, dip not [from the river Inachis].[48] 35. Dip up the sea-water itself.[49]

3. For the purpose of cleansing.–36. The Egyptians consider the swine so polluted a beast, that if any one in passing touch a swine, he will go away and dip himself with his very garments, going into the river.[50] 37. It shall be dipped into water: so shall it be cleansed.[51] 38. First they dip the wool in warm water, according to ancient custom.[52]

4. For the purpose of hardening.–39. The smith dips a hatchet into cold water.[53] 40 Iron dipped.[54]

5. For other purposes.–41. Bring the torch, that I may take and dip it.[55] 42. They cannot endure great changes, such as that, in the summer time; they should dip into cold water.[56] 43. If the crow has dipped his head into the river.[57] 44. The feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water.[58] 45. Of which the remedy is said to be a certain stone which they take from the sepulchre of a king of ancient times, and having dipped it in wine, drink.[59] 46. If any one dips anything into wax, it is moved as far as he dips.[60] 47. Having melted the wax, he took the flea, and dipped its feet into the wax.[61] 48. With his own hand, he shall dip his sword into the viper’s bowels.[62] 49. He dipped his whole chin into the belly of the ram.[63] 50. The one dipped his spear between the other’s ribs, who at the same moment [dipped his] into his belly.[64] 51. Taking his sounding scimitar from the dead, he dipped it into the flesh.[65]



1. In appearance.–52. If the sun dip himself cloudless into the western flood.[66] 53. Cepheus dipping his head or upper part :into the sea.[67]

2. In effect.–54. From the dew of heaven, his body was dipped [as wet as if it had been dipped.][68] 55. Having dipped [wetted or filled as if he had dipped] the hollow of his hand, he sprinkles the tribunal.[69] 56. He was clothed with a vesture dipped [colored as if it had been dipped] in blood.[70]



1. By dipping.–57. The color of things dyed is changed by the aforesaid causes.[71] 58. The dyers,* when they are desirous to dye wool so as to make it purple; . . . and whatever may be dyed in this manner, the thing dyed becomes strongly tinctured. If any one dye other colors. That they may receive the laws in the best manner, as a dye,* that their opinion may be durable. And those streams cannot wash out the dye,* although they are very efficient to wash out.[72] 59. Some dyed with hyacinth, and some with purple.[73] 60. Thou hast well dyed thy sword against [in close conflict with] the Grecian army.[74] 61. For the wife has deprived each husband of life, dyeing the sword by slaughter.[75]

2. Without regard to mode.–62. When it drops upon the garments, they are colored.[76] 63. Nearchus relates that the Indians color their beards.[77] 64. He endeavored to conceal the hoariness of his hair by coloring * it. 65. The old man-with the colored hair.[78] 66. Does a patron affect to be younger than he is? Or does he even color his hair?[79] 67. This garment, colored by the sword of Aegisthus, is a witness to me.[80] 68. He fell, without even looking upward, and the lake was colored with blood.[81] 69. Garments of variegated appearance, colored* at great expense. 70. A colored* bird.[82] 71. Lest I color you with a Sardinian hue.[83] 72. Then perceiving that his beard was colored, and his head.[84] 73. The physiologists, reasoning from these things, show that native warmth has colored the above variety of the growth of the things before mentioned.[85] 74. Using the Lydian music or measure, and making plays, and coloring himself with frog-colored [paints.][86]



1. Allusion to dipping.–75. Let him dip his foot in oil.[87] 76. Thy foot may be dipped in the blood of shine enemies.[88] 77. Thou hast dipped me deeply in filth.[89] 78. They are all dipped in fire.[90] 79. Dipping up pleasure with foreign buckets.[91]

2. Allusion to coloring.–80. Dyer, who dyest all things, and dost change them by thy colors; thou hast dyed poverty also, and now appearest to be rich.[92] 81. For the soul is colored by the thought: color it then by accustoming yourself to such thoughts.[93]





I. Sinking ships.–1. Shall I not laugh at the man who immerses his ship by overlading it?[94] 2. Such a storm suddenly pervaded all the country, that the ships that were in the Tiber were immersed.[95] 3. When the ship was about to be immersed.[96] 4. For our ship having been immersed in the midst of the Adriatic Sea.[97] 5. The wave high-raised immersed them.[98] 6. They were immersed with the ships themselves. 7. How would not his ship be immersed by the multitude of our rowers.[99] 8. They were either immersed, their ships being bored through.[100] 9. Those from above immersing them [ships] with stones and engines.[101] 10. They immersed many of the vessels of the Romans.[102] 11. The ships being in danger of being immersed.[103] 12. Many of the Jews of distinction left the city, as people swim away from an immersing [sinking] ship.[104] 13. Whose ship being immersed.[105] 14. As you would not wish, sailing in a large ship adorned and abounding with gold, to be immersed.[106]

2. Drowning.–15. He would drive him from the bank, and immerse him headlong, so that he would not be able again to lift up his head above water.[107] 16. He may save one in the voyage that had better be immersed in the sea.[108] 17. The boy was sent to Jericho by night, and there by command, having been immersed in a pond by the Galatians, he perished.[109] 18. Pressing him down always as he was swimming, and immersing him as in sport, they did not give over till they entirely drowned him.[110] 19. The river being borne on with a more violent stream, immersed many.[111] 20. Killing some on the land, and immersing others into the lake with their boats and their little huts.[112] 21. The dolphin, vexed at such a falsehood, immersing him killed him.[113] 22. Many of the land animals immersed in the river perished.[114]

3. For purification.–23. Naaman immersed himself seven times in Jordan.[115] 24. He that immerseth himself because of a dead body.[116] 25. He marveled that he had not first immersed before dinner.[117] 26. Except they immerse, they eat not.[118] 27. Divers immersions.[119]* 28. She went out by night into the valley of Bethulia, and immersed herself in the camp at the fountain of water.[120] 29. He who is immersed from a dead [carcass] and toucheth it again, what does he profit by his washing?[121] 30. The immersion* of cups and pots, &c.[122]

4. Other cases.–31. The person that has been a sinner, having gone a little way in it [the river Styx], is immersed up to the head.[123] 32. He breathed as persons breathe after being immersed.[124] 33. Then immersing himself into the Lake Copais.[125] 34. Immerse yourself into the sea.[126] 35. They marched a whole day through the water, immersed up to the waist.[127] 36. The bitumen floats on the top, because of the nature of the water, which admits of no diving; nor can any one who enters it immerse himself, but is borne up.[128] 37. But the lakes near Agrigentum have indeed the taste of sea water, but a very different nature, for it does not befall the things which cannot swim to be immersed, but they swim on the surface like wood.[129] 38. If an arrow be thrown in, it would scarcely be immersed.[130] 39. As when a net is cast into the sea, the cork swims above, so am I unimmersed.[131]* 40. When a piece of iron is taken red hot out of the fire and immersed in water, the heat is repelled.[132] 41. Thou mayest be immersed, O bladder! but thou art not fated to sink.[133] 42. Having immersed some of the ashes into spring water, they sprinkled.[134] 43. I found Cupid among the roses; taking hold of him by the wings I immersed him into wine.[135] 44. The sword was so immersed in blood that it was even heated by it.[136] 45. He set up a trophy, on which, immersing his hand into blood, he wrote this inscription.[137] 46. They are of themselves immersed and sunk in the marshes.[138] 47. He immersed his sword up to the hilt into his own bowels.[139]



1. In appearance.–48. But when the sun immerses himself in the water of the ocean.[140]

2. In effect.–49. Certain uninhabited lands which at the ebb are used not to be immersed [covered over as if they had been immersed], but when the tide is at the full, the coast is quite inundated.[141] 50. And were all immersed [surrounded on all sides as if they had been immersed] unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.[142]



1. For drunkenness.–51. I am one of those who immersed yesterday [who drank wine freely].[143] 52. Having immersed Alexander with much wine.[144] 53. Seeing him in this condition, and immersed by excessive drinking into shamelessness and sleep.[145] 54.. They easily become intoxicated before they are entirely immersed.[146] 55. Immersed with wine.[147] 56. Immersed by drunkenness.[148] 57. He is like one dizzy and immersed.[149]

2. For afflictions.–58. Perceiving that he was altogether abandoned to grief and immersed in calamity.[150] 59. Since the things you have met with have immersed you.[151] 60. Iniquity immerses me.[152] 61. I have an immersion* to be immersed with.[153] 62. immersed by misfortune.[154] 63. Else what shall they do who are immersed for the dead?[155] 64. Are you able to be immersed with the immersion* that I am immersed with?[156]

3. Other uses.–65. The mind is immersed [drowned like plants by excessive watering] by excessive labor.[157] 66. Immersed with business.[158] 67. Immersed with innumerable cares–having the mind immersed on all sides by the many waves of business, immersed in malignity.[159] 68. Immersed into sleep.[160] 69. He [Bacchus] immerses with a sleep near to death.[161] 70. When midnight has immersed the city with sleep.[162] 71. Immersed with sins.[163] 72. But the common people they do not immerse with taxes.[164] 73. They immersed [sunk as a ship] the city.[165] 74. This as the last storm immersed [sunk as a ship] the tempest-tossed young men.[166] 75. Being immersed in debts of fifty millions of drachmae.[167] 76. He shall immerse you in the Holy Spirit.[168] 77. In one spirit have we been immersed into one body.[169]


The chief difficulty in classifying Table I., respects Class III. Under it I have placed all the examples in which the sense to color is given to the word, either by Professor Stuart, or Dr. Carson. Many of these examples might have been placed in Class I., 1; and others in Class II., 2.

To color.–Some learned men have maintained that the verb never signifies to color, without regard to mode. It is possible to explain the examples in which it appears to have this signification, like Ex. 56. Here the translators of the English Bible supposed the word, though denoting color, to be used with a reference to its primary meaning. :But when we consider how many words from the root BAP were used for things pertaining to the dyer’s art; and how frequently the verb bapto was used to denote to color; it seems most probable, that when employed for this purpose, it suggested to the minds of the Greeks in their familiar use of it, the idea of color directly, without that process of thought which was necessary to deduce this meaning from its primary sense to dip.

To smear.–Professor Stuart has assigned smear, as a secondary sense of the verb, and cites in proof from the Greek classic writers, Ex. 60, 61, 74. To the first two of these the rendering to smear is quite inappropriate. The warrior in battle does not redden his sword by smearing over it the blood of his enemies, but by plunging it into their bodies. In the other example, the rendering is less objectionable; but even here caution is necessary lest it mislead us. The verbs dip, plunge, immerse, wash, wet, pour, sprinkle, and smear, are construed with reference to two substances: one a solid, and the other a liquid. The first five have the solid for their direct object: to pour has the liquid for its direct object. We say to dip the hand in water, and to pour water on the hand; but not to dip water on the hand, or to pour the hand with water. The last two verbs, to sprinkle and to smear, admit both constructions. We say, to sprinkle the floor with water, and to sprinkle water on the floor; to smear the body with paint, and to smear paint over the body. In both these constructions, they always denote an application of the liquid to the solid, agreeing in this particular with the verb to pour. The verb bapto is always construed with the solid as its direct object. Throughout the table of examples, there can be found but one exception, which will be noticed hereafter. Even when it signifies to color, the verb takes for its object the solid, and does not signify that the color is produced by applying the coloring matter, as is done in the process of smearing. Hence, the rendering to smear is liable to mislead us into the belief that bapto like to smear, may signify an application of the liquid to the solid. The verb never signifies this process. It may signify the effect of it, but never the process itself.

To dip out.–The exception above referred to, is Ex. 35. In this, which is Nicander’s comment on the preceding example, the verb takes the liquid for its direct object, and assumes the sense to dip out. In the metaphoric use of the word, Ex. 79 conforms to this construction. It is worthy of remark that the English verb to dip is used in the same way, taking the liquid for its direct object, contrary to its usual construction; thus: He dips water from the pool. We never say, He plunges, or immerses water from the pool. In this sense of abstracting a part of the liquid from the rest, the verb bapto when it takes the solid for its direct object, may be construed with the genitive of the liquid, either with, or without the preposition apo This remark will explain Ex. 13,15, 21; to which Professor Stuart has given the sense to smear, because the verb is construed with APO They do not signify to smear with blood or oil by applying it; but to dip into it so as to bring away a part of it from the rest.


Our search is for the meaning of baptizo. This is a derivative from bapto; and because some aid in ascertaining its meaning, has been expected from the primitive word, examples in which this occurs, have been introduced in the preceding collection.

Some lexicographers have regarded baptizo as a frequentative, and have rendered it to immerse repeatedly. Robinson says it “is frequentative in form, but not in fact.” Professor Stuart has examined this question at length, and decides “that the opposite opinion, which makes baptizo a frequentative (if by this it is designed to imply that it is necessarily so by the laws of formation, or even by actual usage), is destitute of a solid foundation, I feel constrained, on the whole, to believe. The lexicographers who have assigned this meaning to it, appear to have done it on the ground of theoretical principles as to the mode of formation. They have produced no examples in point. And until these are produced, I must abide by the position that a frequentative sense is not necessarily attached to baptizo; and that, if it ever have this sense, it is by a specialty of usage of which I have been able to find no example.” The termination izo, is, with greater probability, supposed by others to add to the primitive word the signification of to cause, or to make, like the termination ize in legalize, to make legal; fertilize, to make fertile. According to this hypothesis, if bapto signifies to immerse, baptizo signifies to cause to be immersed. This makes the two words nearly or quite synonymous. But, however nearly two words may agree with each other in their original import, it seldom happens that they continue to be used in practice as equally fitted for every place which either of them may occupy. We must, therefore, examine the usus loquendi, to ascertain the peculiar shades of meaning which they acquire. In studying the preceding table of examples, the following things may be observed:–

1. bapto more frequently denotes slight or temporary immersion, than baptizo. Hence, the English word dip, which properly denotes slight or temporary immersion, is more frequently its appropriate rendering. In nearly one-half of the examples in which baptizo occurs in the literal sense, it signifies the immersion which attends drowning, or the sinking of ships.

2. bapto appears, in some cases, to be used in the secondary sense to color, without including its primary signification to immerse. No example occurs in which baptizo has lost the primary meaning. A similar fact may be observed in the use of the English words older and elder. The words have the same primary meaning; or, rather, they are different forms of the same word: yet, while older has inflexibly retained its primary meaning, elder has adopted a secondary signification, in which it denotes an officer without regard to age.

3. Bapto sometimes signifies to dip up: baptizo never takes this sense.


Though lexicographers frequently assign numerous significations to a word, they regard one as the primary or radical meaning from which all the rest are derived. If meanings have no relation to each other, they do not belong to the same word: hence to lie, signifying to be recumbent; and to lie, signifying to speak falsehood, though agreeing in orthography and pronunciation, are accounted different words, because their significations are independent of each other. No one imagines that there are two Greek verbs, baptizo. We must, therefore, seek for one primary or radical meaning, and endeavor to account by it for all the uses to which the word is applied.

An important distinction needs to be made between the proper meaning of a word, and the accidental signification which it may obtain from the connection in which it is used. This distinction may be illustrated by the following passage:–“If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean; yet thou shalt plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me.”[170] In this sentence the word plunge, besides its proper meaning, obtains the signification to defile, from the connection in which it is used. This accidental signification is the most prominent and important idea conveyed by the word; yet it is not, strictly speaking, any part of its meaning. We may substitute defile for it, and the general sense of the passage will be conveyed; yet to plunge and to defile are different things. We must not conclude that we have ascertained the meaning of a word, when we have found another word which may be substituted for it in a particular sentence.

Since the lexicons give immerse for the primary meaning of baptizo, let us try the meaning in the examples in which the word occurs, that we may ascertain whether this signification will suffice to account for all the uses to which the word is applied.

In the several examples, in which the word is applied to sinking ships, it obtains the accidental signification to cause to sink to the bottom. On this account it has been explained, in such connections, by the word buthizo, to throw into the deep. But the fact that immersed ships sink to the bottom is not affirmed by the word baptizo. It is a natural consequence of their immersion. There is no necessity for supposing it to be included in the meaning of the word. The same distinction must be made in the examples which relate to drowning. The drowning is a consequence of the immersion, and is not included in the meaning of the word baptizo. In several of the examples the immersion denoted by the word is clearly distinguished from the effect produced by it. So in 3, we must distinguish between the immersion and the purification resulting from it. The immersion only is properly denoted by the word. All the other examples in Class I. perfectly agree with the sense to immerse; and some of them clearly require it. From Ex. 36, 37, 38, 39, it appears that substances which float on water are not baptized. This proves conclusively that the mere application of water to a part of the surface does not satisfy the meaning of the word. Ex. 41 proves that sinking to the bottom is not necessary to its meaning; but the other examples just referred to, prove that descent below the surface is indispensable.

The examples in Class II. require the meaning to immerse. The same is true of the examples in Class III. The propriety and force of the metaphorical allusions cannot be understood, if the word does not signify to immerse.

After thoroughly examining the collection of examples, we find that they fully establish the meaning to immerse. Christ, in giving the commission, must have employed the word in its usual sense. The commission is given in the language of plain command, and every other word in it is used in its ordinary signification. We are not at liberty to seek for extraordinary meanings, but are bound to take the words according to their ordinary import, where no reason to the contrary exists. What they mean, according to the ordinary rules of interpretation, is the meaning of Christ’s command; and, if we do not receive and observe it in this sense, we are disobedient to his authority.

Let us now re-examine the collection of examples, trying any of the other significations which have been proposed, as, to wash, to purify, to wet, to sprinkle, to pour. The experiment will soon convince us that none of these is the proper meaning of the word. Immersion, and nothing but immersion, will always satisfy its demands.


The correctness of our deduction is confirmed by the circumstances which attended some of the baptisms recorded in the Bible. The forerunner of Christ is called “the Baptist,” because he administered this rite. He was sent to baptize, and it must be supposed that he understood the meaning of the word. Now, if a small quantity of water will suffice, why did John resort to the Jordan for the administration? The reason must have been that which the inspired historian has expressly assigned for his baptizing in Enon, near to Salim; namely, “because there was much water there.” The people were baptized by John in the Jordan. In this river our Lord was baptized, and his own example explains the meaning of his command.

The baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch is very circumstantially described. The style in which he travelled forbids the supposition that he had no drinking vessel, in which a sufficient quantity of water might have been brought into the chariot to wet the hand of the administrator. But, if they chose not to perform the rite in the chariot, there was certainly no need for both of them to go into the water, if the mere wetting of Philip’s hand was sufficient. Why did they both go into the water? and why did the sacred historian so particularly state this fact? “They both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and they both came up out of the water.” These circumstantial facts are described in language which no one ought to misunderstand, and which no one ought to overlook, who desires to know his duty.

The Greek language continued to be spoken for many years after the times of the apostles. During all this period they, to whom the word baptizo was vernacular, understood it to signify immerse; and immersion has always been the practice of the Greek church to the present day. The Greeks must have understood the meaning of their own word. The Latin fathers also understood the word in the same way; and immersion prevailed in the western as well as in the eastern churches, until near the time of the reformation. Affusion was allowed instead of immersion, in case of sickness; but it was accounted an imperfect baptism. The testimony to these several facts I prefer to give in the words of Professor Stuart:

“In the writings of the apostolic fathers, so called, i. e., the writers of the first century, or, at least, those who lived in part during this century, scarcely anything of a definite nature occurs respecting baptism, either in a doctrinal or ritual respect. It is, indeed, frequently alluded to; but this is usually in a general way only. We can easily gather from these allusions that the rite was practiced in the church; but we are not able to determine, with precision, either the manner of the rite or the stress that was laid upon it.

“In the Pastor of Hermas, however, occurs one passage (Coteler. Patr. Apostol. I., p. 119, sq.), which runs as follows: “But this seal [of the sons of God] is water, in quam descendunt homines morti obligati, into which men descend who are bound to death, but those ascend who are destined to life. To them that seal is disclosed, and they make use of it that they may enter the kingdom of God.

“I do not see how any doubt can well remain, that in Tertullian’s time the practice of the African church, to say the least, as to the mode of baptism, must have been that of trine immersion.

“Subsequent ages make the general practice of the church still plainer, if, indeed, this can be done. The Greek words kataduo and katadusis were employed as expressive of baptizing and baptism, and these words mean going down into the water, or immerging.

“The passages which refer to immersion are so numerous in the fathers, that it would take a little volume merely to recite them.

“But enough. ‘It is,’ says Augusti (Denkw. VII., p. 216), ‘a thing made out,’ viz., the ancient practice of immersion. So, indeed, all the writers who have thoroughly investigated this subject conclude. I know of no one usage of ancient times which seems to be more clearly made out. I cannot see how it is possible for any candid man who examines the subject to deny this.

That there were cases of exception allowed, now and then, is, no doubt, true. Persons in extreme sickness or danger were allowed baptism by effusion, &c. But all such cases were manifestly regarded as exceptions to the common usage of the church.”


The significancy of baptism requires immersion. Paul explains it: “Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that, like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”[171] And again: “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”[172] Peter alludes to the same import of the rite, when he says: “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”[173]

The faith which we profess in baptism is faith in Christ; and the ceremony significantly represents the great work of Christ, on which our faith relies for salvation. We confess with the mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in the heart that God has raised him from the dead.[174] His burial and resurrection are exhibited in baptism, as his broken body and shed blood are exhibited in the supper. In both ordinances our faith is directed to the sacrifice of Christ. Under the name of sacraments they have been considered outward signs of inward grace; and, in this view of them, they signify the work of the Holy Spirit within us. But faith relies, for acceptance with God, on the work of Christ. It is a perverted gospel which substitutes the work of the Spirit for the work of Christ as the object of our faith; and it is a perverted baptism which represents the faith that we profess, as directed, not to the work of Christ, the proper object of faith, but to the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

Objection 1.–There is an antithesis between the burial and resurrection which are here mentioned. The resurrection is moral, being to newness of life; and the same appears in the parallel passage in Colossians, where it is said to be “by the faith of the operation of God.” If the resurrection is moral, the antithetic burial cannot be physical.

If consistency of interpretation requires the burial to be moral the baptism must also be moral. The Quakers suppose that the baptism first mentioned in the passage is moral: “So many of us as were baptized into Christ.” But Pedobaptists admit that physical baptism is intended in this clause. Now, in passing from physical baptism at the beginning of the passage, to moral resurrection at its close, there must be a point in the progress where we pass from what is physical to what is moral. Where is that point? Some have imagined that it stands between the clause last quoted, and that which immediately follows, “were baptized into his death;” they suppose that “to be baptized into Christ,” is physical; but that to be baptized into his death is moral. The passage in Galatians has been quoted as parallel: “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.” The first clause in this verse, they say refers to physical baptism; and the last to moral. But this is an erroneous interpretation. To put on Christ, is to put on his religion by outward profession, the profession which is made in baptism. The baptism and the profession are alike, in implying a moral change in the subject, only so far as he is sincere. Some are physically baptized, who do not morally put on Christ; but this, though unquestionably true, is directly contradicted by the passage, if the proposed interpretation of it is correct. So in the passage under consideration, it is affirmed that the same persons, and the same number of persons that are baptized into Christ, are baptized into his death. This could not be true, if the first baptism is physical, and the second moral. Between these two clauses, therefore, there is no place for a division between what is physical and what is moral.

We extend our examination further to find a place for the division, and we find it plainly marked by the word “should;” even so we also should walk in newness of life. Here the obligation to suitable morals is deduced from what goes before. This obligation is deduced from the physical baptism with which the passage begins, and everything in the passage, until we arrive at the word “should,” is closely connected with this physical baptism, and explanatory of it. These intermediate links of explanation are necessary to connect the moral obligation at the close, with the physical baptism at the outset of the passage. If these intermediate links were moral, the proper position for the word “should,” would be in the first sentence–thus, so many of us as are baptized into Christ, should be baptized into his death

In the parallel passage referred to in Colossians, the expression is “Buried with him in baptism.” The word baptism stands without adjuncts. It is not baptism into death; but simply baptism. If the word baptism, thus standing alone, can signify something wholly moral, it will be difficult to reject the Quaker interpretation of these passages, and of “baptizing” in the commission. In the preceding verse, circumcision is mentioned; but that we may know physical circumcision not to be intended, it is expressly called “the circumcision made without hands;” and “the circumcision of Christ.” No such guard against misinterpretation attends the mention of baptism; and when it is recollected that Christians are not bound to receive physical circumcision, but are bound to receive physical baptism, we must conclude that physical baptism is here intended. The completeness of Christians requires the moral change denoted by circumcision, and also the obedience rendered in physical baptism. In all who are thus complete, this physical act is performed “in faith of the operation of God.” This passage does not, like that in Romans, deduce moral obligation from baptism; and, therefore, the word should is not introduced: but it affirms the completeness of true believers in their internal moral change, and in their very significant outward profession of it.

0bjection 2.–Everywhere else in Scripture, water is an emblem of purification; and it violates all analogy to suppose that in baptism it is an emblem of the grave, which is the place of putridity and loathsomeness.

That water in baptism is an emblem of purification, is clear from the words “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins.” But that water is an emblem of nothing but purification, cannot be affirmed. In numerous passages it is an emblem of afflictions, of deep afflictions, without any reference to purification. When the Saviour said, “I have a baptism to be baptized with;” an immersion is intended, not into a means of purification, but into sufferings and death.

The grave is a place of putridity and loathsomeness, but not until the corruptible body is deposited in it; and when it leaves the grave the corruptible will put on incorruption. Even the- grave, therefore, is a place of regeneration and purification; and, instead of bearing no analogy to the purifying water of baptism, the analogy is striking.

Some of the Scripture allusions to baptism, are made to it as a purifying rite, but this is not true of all. An exception is found in 1 Cor. x. 2. On this Professor Stuart remarks: “Here, then, was the cloud which first stood before them, and then behind them; and here were the waters of the Red Sea, like a wall on their right hand and on their left. Yet neither the cloud nor the waters touched them. ‘They went through the midst of the sea upon dry ground.’ Yet they were baptized in the cloud and in the sea. The reason and ground of such an expression must be, so far as I can discern, a surrounding of the Israelites on different sides by the cloud and by the sea, although neither the cloud nor the sea touched them. It is, therefore, a kind of figurative mode of expression, derived from the idea that baptizing is surrounding with a fluid. But whether this be by immersion, effusion, suffusion, or washing, would not seem to be decided. The suggestion has sometimes been made, that the Israelites were sprinkled by the cloud and by the sea, and this was the baptism which Paul meant to designate. But the cloud on this occasion was not a cloud of rain; nor do we find any intimation that the waters of the Red Sea sprinkled the children of Israel at this time. So much is true, viz., that they were not immersed. Yet, as the language must evidently be figurative in some good degree, and not literal, I do not see how, on the whole, we can make less of it, than to suppose that it has a tacit reference to the idea of surrounding in some way or other.” This author urges the objection which we are considering, as his “principal difficulty in respect to the usual exegesis;” yet we have here, according to his own exposition, an allusion to baptism, without any reference to purification. Another such reference is found in 1 Peter iii. 21, and again in the words of Christ before quoted, “I have a baptism to be baptized with.”

Objection 3.–Very little resemblance can be found, between a man’s being dipped in water, and Christ’s being laid in a sepulchre hewn out of a rock. The supposed allusion requires resemblance.

Positive proof of allusion must be attended with difficulty; because, if it be mere allusion, it is always made without express affirmation,. The proof of allusion must therefore be circumstantial; yet there may be circumstances which exclude all rational doubt of its existence.

If there is no resemblance between immersion and Christ’s burial, the passage before us contains no allusion. If the resemblance is so slight, that but few persons are able to perceive it, the probability is, that the supposed allusion exists only in the fancy of those who imagine they see it. But if men have generally believed that allusion exists in the passage, the fact goes far to prove, that there is resemblance.

Have men generally believed in the existence of the supposed allusion? It is not necessary to examine the writings of authors attached to every different creed, and differing from each other in their views of baptism. Professor Stuart tells us their opinion in few words: “Most commentators have maintained, that sunetaphemen has here a necessary reference to the mode of literal baptism, which they say, was by immersion; and this, they think, affords ground for the employment of the image used by the apostle, because immersion (under water) may be compared to burial (under the earth). It is difficult, perhaps, to procure a patient rehearing for this subject, so long regarded by some as being out of fair dispute.” Now this general agreement of commentators, answers the objection which we are considering, far more successfully than any efforts of ours to point out the resemblance, which these commentators have perceived. The fact that it is seen is the best proof that it exists. The Scripture nowhere affirms that Paul, in this passage, alluded to a resemblance between immersion and Christ’s burial; and, therefore, “the common exegesis” cannot be sustained by positive proof from Scripture; but it finds proof, the best proof that the nature of the case admits, in the fact that men generally have seen and felt the allusion.

Although positive proof of the common exegesis cannot be found in Scripture, a circumstantial proof may be drawn from the passage itself, amounting to little less than full demonstration. After making mention of baptism into Christ’s death, Paul, before he refers to Christ’s resurrection, goes out of the usual course to speak of Christ’s burial. This was not necessary for the moral instruction which he designed to convey, if nothing but moral conformity to Christ’s death was intended. It was not necessary for the purpose of finding an antithesis to the resurrection of Christ. The Scriptures usually speak of Christ’s rising from the dead, not from the grave: and his death is the common antithesis to his resurrection. An example occurs in the present chapter, “If we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.” In Colossians, after the passage “Buried with him in baptism,” the antithesis is again made, between the death (not the burial) of Christ, and his resurrection: “Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ, from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, &c.”[175] “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above,” &c. “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”[176] Why did the apostle step out of the usual course, in two different passages to mention the burial of Christ? and to mention it in connection with baptism? It cannot be accounted for if the common exegesis be rejected.

The objection states that little resemblance can be found between immersion and Christ’s burial: and the same might be said with respect to the resemblance between a loaf of bread, and the body of Christ. A well executed picture of the crucifixion, such as may be seen in Catholic chapels, has much more resemblance to the body of Christ, than is furnished by a piece of bread; yet, considering all the ends to be answered by the Eucharist, the divine wisdom has determined that we should keep Christ’s death in memory, not by looking at a crucifix, but by the eating of bread. In like manner, some means might have been devised for representing the burial and resurrection of Christ, supplying a nearer resemblance than is furnished by immersion in water. But when we consider that baptism not only represents the burial and resurrection of Christ, but also our fellowship with him in both, and the consequent removal or washing away of our guilt, nothing could more conveniently, aptly, and instructively accomplish all these ends at once.

[13] The Lexicons of Donnegan, and of Liddell and Scott, are in common use and high repute. They give the meaning of the word as follows:–

Donnegan.–“To immerse repeatedly into a liquid; to submerge, to soak thoroughly, to saturate; hence to drench with wine Met., to confound totally; to dip in a vessel and draw.–Pass. Perf.. bebaptismai, to be immersed, &c.”

Liddell and Scott.–“To dip repeatedly, to dip under. Mid. to bathe; hence to steep, wet; metaph. oi bebaptismenoi, soaked in wine; to pour upon, drench, eisphorais ophlemasi beb. over head and ears in debt. Plut. meirakion Baptizomenon, a boy overwhelmed with questions, Heind. Plat. Euthyd.–to dip a vessel, draw water–to baptize. N. T.”

[14] Dissertation on the question, “Is the mode of Christian Baptism prescribed in the New Testament?”

[15] 2 Kings viii. 15.

[16] Hippocrates.

[17] Num. xix. 18.

[18] Luke xvi. 24.

[19] Hippocrates.

[20] Ruth ii. 14.

[21] Mark xiv. 20.

[22] Matt. xxvi. 23.

[23] John xiii. 26.

[24] Aristotle.

[25] Anacreon.

[26] 1 Sam. xiv. 27.

[27] Ex. xii. 22.

[28] Lev. iv. 6.

[29] Lev. iv. 17.

[30] Lev. ix. 9.

[31] Lev. xiv. 6.

[32] Lev. xiv. 51.

[33] Xenophon.

[34] Aelian.

[35] Lev. xiv. 16.

[36] Hippocrates.

[37] Hippocrates.

[38] Hippocrates.

[39] Aristotle.

[40] Plato.

[41] Theocritus.

[42] Euripides.

[43] Aristotle.

[44] Theocritus.

[45] Hermolaus.

[46] Theocritus.

[47] Euripides.

[48] Callimachus.

[49] Nicander.

[50] Herodotus.

[51] Lev. xi. 32.

[52] Aristophanes.

[53] Homer.

[54] Plutarch.

[55] Aristophanes.

[56] Aristotle.

[57] Aratus.

[58] Josh. iii. 15.

[59] Aristotle.

[60] Aristotle.

[61] Aristophanes.

[62] Lycophron.

[63] Philippus.

[64] Dionysius of Halicarnassus.

[65] Euripides.

[66] Aratus.

[67] Aratus.

[68] Dan. iv. 33, v. 21.

[69] Suidas.

[70] Rev. xix. 13.

[71] Aristotle.

[72] Plato.

[73] Josephus.

[74] Sophocles.

[75] Aeschylus.

[76] Hippocrates.

[77] Arrian.

[78] Aelian.

[79] Nicolas of Damascus.

[80] Aeschylus.

[81] Homer.

[82] Aristophanes.

[83] Aristophanes.

[84] Plutarch.

[85] Diodorus Siculus.

[86] Aristophanes.

[87] Deut. xxxiii. 24.

[88] Psalms lxviii. 23.

[89] Job ix. 31.

[90] Moschus.

[91] Lycophron.

[92] Helladius.

[93] Marcus Antoninus.

[94] Hippocrates.

[95] Dion Cassuis.

[96] Josephus.

[97] Josephus.

[98] Josephus.

[99] Dion Cassius.

[100] Dion Cassius.

[101] Dion Cassius.

[102] Polybius.

[103] Aesop.

[104] Josephus.

[105] Diod. Siculus.

[106] Epictetus.

[107] Lucian.

[108] Themistius.

[109] Josephus.

[110] Josephus.

[111] Diodorus Siculus.

[112] Heliodorus.

[113] Aesop.

[114] Diodorus Siculus.

[115] 2 Kings v. 14.

[116] Ecclus. xxxiv. 30.

[117] Luke xi. 38.

[118] Mark vii. 4.

[119] Heb. ix. 10.

[120] Judith xii. 7.

[121] Ecclus. xxxiv. 25.

[122] Mark vii. 8.

[123] Porphyry.

[124] Hippocrates.

[125] Plutarch.

[126] Plutarch.

[127] Strabo.

[128] Strabo.

[129] Strabo.

[130] Strabo.

[131] Pindar.

[132] Heraclides Ponticus.

[133] Plutarch.

[134] Josephus.

[135] Anacreon.

[136] Dionysius.

[137] Plutarch.

[138] Polybius.

[139] Josephus.

[140] Orpheus.

[141] Aristotle.

[142] 1 Cor. x. 2.

[143] Aristophanes.

[144] Plato.

[145] Josephus.

[146] Philo Judaeus.

[147] Chrysostom.

[148] Justin Martyr.

[149] Lucian.

[150] Heliodorus.

[151] Heliodorus.

[152] Isa. xxi. 4.

[153] Luke xii. 50.

[154] Heliodorus.

[155] 1 Cor. xv. 29.

[156] Mark x. 38.

[157] Plutarch.

[158] Plutarch.

[159] Chrysostom.

[160] Clemens Alexandrinus.

[161] Plutarch.

[162] Heliodorus.

[163] Justin Martyr.

[164] Diod. Siculus.

[165] Josephus.

[166] Josephus.

[167] Plutarch.

[168] Matt. iii. 11; Acts i. 5.

[169] 1 Cor. xii. 13.

[170] Job ix. 30,31.

[171] Rom. vi. 3,4.

[172] Col. ii. 12.

[173] 1 Peter iii. 21.

[174] Rom. x. 9.

[175] Col. ii. 20.

[176] Col. iii. 1-3.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology- Volume 2


A Treatise on Church Order: Baptism- Chapter 1- Section I- Perpetuity of Baptism





The commission of Christ to his apostles reads thus: “Go, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”[1] It is not expressly stated in these words that water must be used in the baptizing which is enjoined; but so common is the use of water, that a command to immerse, wash, or sprinkle, naturally implies the use of it, unless something in the circumstances of the case, or connection of the word, suggests the use of some other liquid. The word baptize is often used in Scripture where water is implied without being expressly mentioned. The apostles had been accustomed to the administration of water baptism. They had been chosen to be Christ’s attendants and witnesses, from the baptism of John;[2] and, in all probability, many of them saw their Master baptized in the Jordan. They had witnessed John’s baptism in other cases; and some, if not all of them, had been baptized by him. After Jesus entered on his ministry, it was said that he “made and baptized more disciples than John.”[3] Water baptism must be intended here; and we are expressly informed that the disciples, and not Jesus himself, administered it. This they did while they were under the immediate direction of their Master, and were his personal attendants. His ministry, and their baptisms, were confined to the nation of Israel. The commission quoted above enlarged the field of their operation. The presence of their Master was promised, though his body was about to be removed from them; and the command to teach or make disciples, and to baptize, would naturally be interpreted by them according to the use of terms to which they had been accustomed. In their subsequent ministry, they preached and baptized; and the record, called the Acts of the Apostles, contains frequent mention of baptisms. In these, no reasonable doubt can exist that water was used: and sometimes it is expressly mentioned.

The commission was given, just before Christ ascended to heaven, and was designed for the dispensation which was to follow. The apostles, before proceeding to execute it, were commanded to tarry in Jerusalem until they should be endued with power from on high. This promised power was given when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon them on the day of Pentecost. It is clear, therefore, that, in the view of the Lord Jesus, water baptism was not inconsistent with the spiritual dispensation which the day of Pentecost introduced.

Besides its literal use, the word baptize is sometimes employed figuratively, when spiritual influence, or overwhelming sufferings, are intended. In such instances there is always something in the context, or circumstances of the case, directing to the proper interpretation. When there is nothing that directs to a figurative interpretation, we are required, by a well known law of criticism, to take the word in its literal sense. According to this law, we are bound to interpret literally the language of plain command used in the commission; and, if “baptizing” must be taken literally, no doubt can exist that the use of water was intended in the command.

Since the ascension of Christ, no change of dispensation has occurred by which the commission could be revoked. The promise which it contains, of Christ’s presence until the end of the world, implies its perpetuity. Under this commission the ministers of Christ now act, and by it they are bound, according to the manifest intention of his words, to administer water baptism.

In different ages of Christianity some persons have denied the obligation of water baptism. The modern sect, called Quakers, are of this number. The objections which they urge deserve our attention.

Objection 1.–The proper rendering of the commission, is, “baptizing into the name of,” &c. The name of God signifies his power, or some influence proceeding from him. The baptism into spiritual influence cannot be water baptism.

We admit the correction of the translation, but not the inference drawn from it. The same Greek preposition is used in other passages which forbid the inference now drawn. John said, “I baptize you unto [into] repentance.” Repentance is a spiritual duty: but baptism into repentance is not, therefore, a spiritual baptism; for the words of John fully quoted, are: “I baptize you with water into repentance.” In another passage it is said, “John preached the baptism of repentance for [into] the remission of sins:” and Peter, on the day of Pentecost, commanded, “Repent and be baptized for [into] the remission of sins.” The remission of sins is a spiritual blessing, but it does not follow that baptism into the remission of sins must be a spiritual baptism. John’s we know was water baptism; and when those who received Peter’s command are said to have been baptized, the sacred historian employs the simple language of plain history: “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized.[4] These examples prove that the use of the preposition into, is not inconsistent with the literal interpretation of the commission.

Objection 2.–The baptism of John is, in the Scriptures, carefully distinguished from the baptism of Christ; the former being with water, the latter with the Spirit. The apostles were to act for Christ, and the commission authorized them to administer his baptism. Parallel texts may be found, in which the apostles are said to impart spiritual gifts.

Although John had predicted, that Christ would baptize with the Holy Spirit; yet the disciples made by Christ during his personal ministry, were baptized with water. This was administered by his disciples, and doubtless with his sanction. The careful mention by the evangelist that Jesus did not himself baptize, shows that baptism with the Holy Spirit is not in this case intended. John’s words, “He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost,” describe spiritual baptism as Christ’s peculiar personal work, and we do not find any passage of Scripture which speaks of the apostles, or any other ministers of Christ, baptizing with the Holy Spirit. Such baptism as they had been accustomed to administer, in the presence and by the authority of Christ, the commission required them to administer.

It is true that Paul was sent to the Gentiles, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God; but these things are mentioned as the effects of his mission, and not as things directly commanded. The duty commanded, was to preach the gospel. The blessing of God on his ministry rendered his mission effectual to open the eyes of the Gentiles, and to confer the spiritual benefits mentioned in the special commission which he received. But the baptizing mentioned in the commission given to the other apostles, is a commanded duty, and the command must be understood according to the literal import of the words.

Objection 3.–Paul teaches that there is one baptism. Now, there is a baptism of the Spirit; and if water baptism is a perpetual ordinance of Christianity, there are two baptisms, instead of one.

Paul says, “One Lord, one faith, and one baptism.” As he uses the words Lord and faith in their literal senses, so he uses the word baptism in its literal sense. In this sense there is but one baptism. John the Baptist foretold that Christ would baptize with the Holy Spirit: and Jesus said to his disciples,” Ye shall be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with.” Both these baptisms were known to Paul. These figurative baptisms were two in number; while the literal baptism was but one. He must, therefore, have intended the latter.

Objection 4.–Peter has defined the true Christian baptism, both negatively and positively. It is (“not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.[5] The first clause denies that it is water baptism; and the second affirms that it is spiritual baptism. This is confirmed by the fact that it is said to save, which water baptism cannot do. Moreover, the words “the like figure,” should be rendered the antitype. When spiritual things are compared to literal, the literal are the type, and the spiritual the antitype. Hence, as baptism is called the antitype, spiritual baptism must be intended.

Water baptism, as a Christian rite, is not administered to cleanse the flesh, either literally or ceremonially. It figuratively represents the burial and resurrection of Christ, on which the believer relies for salvation. The answer of a good conscience is obtained by faith in the finished work of Christ, represented in the rite. In the language of Scripture, a thing is said to be that which it represents: thus, “The field is the world.” “This is my body.” “This cup is the new testament.” So Paul was said to wash away his sins in baptism, because it represented their being washed away: and so in this passage, baptism is said to save, because it represents our salvation, which is effected by the burial and resurrection of Christ; not by the removing of any corporeal defilement.

The criticism on the word antitype is inaccurate. The antitype is that which corresponds to the type; but it is not necessarily spiritual. The earthly sanctuary is, in one place, called the antitype of the heavenly, “which are the figures [antitypes] of the true. [6] In this passage “the holy places made with hands” are the antitype; and heaven is the type to which the antitype corresponds. This relation between the type and antitype, reverses the order which the objection assumes to be universal.

Objection 5.–The Jews had divers baptisms, which Paul calls “carnal ordinances imposed on them till the time of reformation.[7] An ordinance is not rendered carnal by the time when it is observed; but by its own nature. The Jewish baptisms were commanded by God, and were significant of spiritual things. Water baptism cannot have higher authority, or be more significant; and is, therefore, a carnal ordinance in its own nature, and not suited to Christ’s spiritual dispensation. It belonged properly to John’s dispensation, and was designed to be superseded by Christ’s spiritual baptism, according to the words of John, “He must increase, but I must decrease.[8]

In speaking of the Jewish ceremonies, Paul says, “Which stood in meats and drinks, and divers baptisms, and carnal ordinances.” This passage does not confound baptisms, with carnal ordinances, but seems rather to distinguish between them. Nevertheless, as the Jewish baptisms sanctified to the purifying of the flesh, there may be a propriety in denominating them carnal. Christian baptism is not administered for this purpose; and, therefore, is not carnal in the same sense. But, whatever it may be called, if Christ instituted it for the observance of his followers, we dare not account it unsuitable to his dispensation. The Jewish dispensation abounded with ceremonies; but amidst them all, a spiritual service was required; for even then the sacrifices of God were a broken spirit. The ceremonies were wisely adapted to promote spirituality, rather than to hinder it. Our more spiritual dispensation needs fewer helps of this kind: but we are yet in the body, and God has judged it fit to assist our faith by visible representations. To reject their use, is to be wiser than God.

Water baptism was not superseded by the baptism of the Spirit. While Peter was preaching to Cornelius, and those who were in his house, the Holy Ghost fell on them. The apostle did not consider this a reason for omitting water baptism; but, on the contrary, argued the propriety of administering it, from this very fact: “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized which have received the Holy Ghost, as well as we?[9] Contrary to all his previous views, the Holy Spirit had guided the apostle to preach the gospel to these uncircumcised gentiles, and to admit them to Christian baptism. If this rite had been designed for Jews only, or to be superseded by the baptism of the Spirit, Peter committed a mistake in commanding these first Gentile converts to be baptized with water. It is true that he had been mistaken before, in confining his ministry to the circumcised; and it may be argued, that he may have been again mistaken in commanding water baptism to the uncircumcised. But the Holy Ghost was now correcting the first error, and it is wholly improbable that in doing this, he should have led him into a second. The propriety of admitting gentile converts had not been determined, as it afterwards was, by a council of the apostles; but Peter followed the teaching of the Holy Spirit, and the subsequent council justified his act. Now, if he had again mistaken the mind of the Spirit in commanding the use of water baptism, it is unaccountable, and inconsistent with the perfection of the Scriptures that neither he nor the council, in reviewing the transaction under the influence of the Holy Spirit, discovered the mistake; and that no correction, such as was made of the former error, is anywhere to be found in the inspired writings.

When John spoke the words, “He must increase, but I must decrease,” the Jews had said to him, “Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, behold the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.” The baptism which they reported must have been water baptism, and so far as John’s words applied to it, they must denote that water baptism, instead of ceasing under Christ’s dispensation, would be greatly extended.

Objection 6.–Paul states in 1st. epistle to the Corinthians, “Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel;” and he thanked God that he had baptized so few of them. Now, as he was not a whit behind the chief of the apostles, water baptism would not have been omitted in his commission, if it had been designed to be a perpetual ordinance; and if it was as much his duty to baptize as to preach, he would not have thanked God that he had baptized so few. He would as soon have thanked God that he had preached so little. He baptized some, as he circumcised Timothy, accommodating himself to the weakness of men; but he was thankful that such acts of accommodation had been seldom needed. As he was the chief opponent of the prevailing judaizing tendency, he was thankful that, in the matter of baptizing, he had yielded to it in so few instances.

In this quotation from Paul, the word baptize stands alone, without the mention of water. The objection very properly assumes that water baptism is meant; but, in so doing, it confirms our rule, that the word baptize, when alone, implies the use of water. If the word, when standing alone in such a sentence, could mean the baptism of the Spirit, and if Paul and the other apostles had been commissioned to administer this baptism, he could not have declared with truth, “Christ sent me not to baptize.”

Paul claimed to be an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ. An apostle is one sent, and Paul was sent by Jesus, who said “to whom I now send thee.” He claimed to be an apostle in the highest sense, because he had received his commission directly from Christ: “Am I not an apostle? have I not seen Jesus Christ?[10] Now, in the commission which he received directly from Christ, he was not commanded, either to be baptized himself or to baptize others. He received the gospel which he preached without human instrumentality; but he did not so receive baptism. He submitted to it, at the command of Ananias, who was not himself one of those originally commissioned to administer it. In this act, Paul acknowledged the obligation to perpetuate the ordinance, and the right of Ananias to administer it by authority derived from the other apostles. At Antioch he was set apart with fasting, prayer, and imposition of hands, for ministerial labor; and, whether this was done with reference to the missionary service on which he immediately entered, or whether it was his first ceremonial investiture with the ministerial office, we learn, from what was done, that his direct commission from Christ, was not designed to set aside the Church order which had been previously established by the other apostles. Both in receiving his own baptism, and in being set apart to the work to which the Holy Ghost had called him, Paul acted as an ordinary Christian. His apostleship for preaching the gospel was directly from Christ, and not by man; but his baptism, and his authority to baptize, were received by man, and in a way which respected and honored the established order of things among the disciples of Christ. While he said with truth, “Christ sent me not to baptize,” it was nevertheless true, that the baptisms which he did administer were not unauthorized. He considered the administration of the ordinance not his proper apostolic work; and since the Corinthians had divided themselves into parties, claiming Paul, Apollos, and Cephas, for their leaders, he was thankful that so few of them could claim him as their leader on the ground of having received baptism from him.

Paul did not baptize out of mere accommodation to the weakness of others. Because of the Jews who were in that quarter, he circumcised Timothy, whose mother was a Jewess; but when the judaizers desired to have Titus also circumcised, who was a Greek, he steadfastly and successfully opposed them. As a minister of the uncircumcision, he watchfully and zealously defended the gentile converts in the enjoyment of liberty from the Jewish yoke of bondage. But not a word can be found in all that he said or wrote, claiming for them freedom from the obligation of Christian baptism. On the contrary, he uses considerations derived from their baptism, to urge them to walk in newness of life. The rule of interpretation, confirmed by the very objection which we are considering, requires us to understand literal baptism to be meant, when it is said, “So many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death;”[11] and again, when it is said, “As many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ.[12] A public profession of Christ was, in the view of Paul, the design of this ceremony, involving an acknowledged obligation to be his, and to walk in newness of life. All that Paul taught, like his own example, tends to establish the perpetuity of Christian baptism.

[1] Matt. xxviii. 19, 20.

[2] 2 Acts i. 22. 3.

[3] John iv. 1.

[4] Acts ii. 41.

[5] 1 Peter iii. 21.

[6] Heb. ix. 24.

[7] Heb. ix. 10.

[8] John iii. 30.

[9] Ps. li. 17.

[10] 1 Cor. ix. 1.

[11] Rom. vi. 3.

[12] Gal. iii. 27.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology- Volume 2

A Treatise on Church Order: Preface







That thou shouldst set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city.–Titus i. 5.

The rest will I set in order when I come.-1 Cor. xi. 34.


Entered, according to Act of Congress in the year 1858, by  THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST PUBLICATION SOCIETY,  In the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of South Carolina.


IN the Preface to the “Manual of Theology,” published last year, it was said:–“This volume contains nothing respecting the externals of religion. The form of godliness is important, as well as its power, and the doctrine respecting it is a component part of the Christian system; but I have been unable to include it in the present work.” The defect here acknowledged, the following treatise on Church Order, including the ceremonies of Christianity, is intended in part to supply.

In all religious investigations, the Holy Scriptures are our chief source of knowledge. This is especially true in regard to positive institutes, which derive all their obligation from the revealed will of the lawgiver. The present work, therefore, relies wholly on the Bible for proof of its positions, so far as they relate to subjects on which the Bible professes to give instruction. But the volume of inspiration was not given to teach us the meaning of words, or the facts of ecclesiastical history after the times of the apostles. When these subjects come under investigation, I have made such reference to human authority as the case seemed to require. It has been my aim, however, so to lay the facts before the mind of the reader, as to give full scope for the exercise of private judgment, and a consciousness that he is not bowing to the decisions of any fallible master.

In most of the investigations attempted in these pages, the sacred volume sheds its light on our path, and enables us to tread the way with confidence; but, at a few points, the light seems to shine with less clearness. Here, the inquiry becomes appropriate, whether the very silence of Scripture is not instructive? We may infer that whatever is not clearly revealed, must be of less importance; and that difference of judgment respecting it ought not to divide the people of God.

The objections and opposing arguments which this work encounters, are such as appear to me most likely to embarrass an inquirer. They are generally expressed in my own language; but, in the discussions on baptism, I am in a few instances indebted for the language, as well as the thoughts, to the Lectures of Dr. Woods. In controverting the opinions of Baptist authors, I have, in some instances, thought it best to present these opinions in the form of direct quotation.

The preparation of this treatise has yielded less religious enjoyment to the Author, than was experienced in writing the “Manual.” The subject has less to do with the heart, and furnished fewer occasions for those emotions in which religious enjoyment consists. But the work has been prosecuted under a calm conviction of duty; and if it shall tend to produce, in those who read it, a scrupulous adherence to the precepts of Christ, with expansive love to all who bear his image, the Author’s labor will not be in vain. With a hope that it may contribute somewhat to this result, it is commended to the blessing of him whose will it attempts to unfold.

Gratitude requires that I should acknowledge my obligations to the Rev. G. W. Samson, of Washington City, and the Rev. A. M. Poindexter, of Richmond, Va. These brethren have kindly made suggestions, from which the work has received valuable improvements; and Mr. Samson has directly contributed the chief article in the Appendix.

July 31, 1858.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology- Volume 2

A Treatise on Church Order: Introduction

September 27, 2017 Leave a comment



To love God with all the heart is the sum of all duty. Love must be exercised according to the relations which we bear. When a parent loves his child, he feels bound to exercise parental authority over it for its benefit; but the love of a child towards a parent requires obedience. So love to God produces obedience; for it is impossible to love God supremely without a supreme desire to please him in all things. Hence this one principle contains, involved in it, perfect obedience to every divine requirement.

The loveliness of the divine character is not abated, by being exhibited in the humble nature of man, in the person of Jesus Christ. In him the glory of the Father appears, claiming our supreme affections; and he is invested with the Father’s authority, to which perfect obedience is due. The divine perfections are rendered snore intelligible to us by his mediation; and, in proportion to the clearness of the discovery, the obligation to love and obey becomes increased.

A powerful motive, to love and obey Christ, is drawn from the love which he has manifested in dying for us. Paul felt this in an overpowering degree, when he said, I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”[1] The same overpowering impulse to love and obedience, is brought to view in another declaration of this apostle: “The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, thee were all dead; and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.”[2] When our love to the Saviour grows cold we should repair to his cross, and fix our thoughts on the exhibition of love there presented. And when we feel our hearts melt, the recollection that the suffering Saviour is God over all, must produce a full purpose to yield to him the obedience of all our powers during our whole existence. From the cross we come forth to be Christ’s, resolved to glorify him with our bodies and our spirits, which are his.

Jesus said to his disciples, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” This claim of obedience is cordially admitted by every true disciple. When the first emotion of love to Christ throbbed in the heart of the persecuting Saul, he inquired, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”

The first disciples were required to serve their Lord and Master by strenuous efforts to spread his religion through the world; and the same obligation devolves on us. He came to be the Saviour of the world; and, notwithstanding the humility of his appearance, and the feebleness of the instrumentality which he chose, the religion of the despised Nazarene must prevail over the earth, and bless every nation of mankind. The conquest of the world has not yet been achieved, but the work is before us; and, if we are loyal subjects of Zion’s King, we must give ourselves to its accomplishment.

The means which our King employs, for diffusing the blessings of his reign, are not such as human wisdom would have adopted. It has pleased the Lord, “by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe.” It has seemed good to infinite wisdom, that the religion which is to bless mankind, should be propagated by the simple instrumentality of the Christian ministry and the Christian churches. If we seek military force, or legislative enactments, to accomplish the work, we turn away from the simplicity of Christ, and convert his kingdom into one of this world; and, whenever human wisdom has attempted, in any particular, to improve the simple means that Christ ordained, the progress of truth and righteousness has been impeded.

Much that has existed, and that now exists, among the professed followers of Christ, cannot be contemplated by one who sincerely loves him, without deep distress. Different creeds, and different ecclesiastical organizations, have divided those who bear his name into hostile parties, and Christianity has been disgraced, and its progress retarded. The world has seen hatred and persecution where brotherly love ought to have been exhibited; and Christ has been crucified afresh, and put to open shame, by those who claim to be his disciples.

For these evils, what shall be the remedy? Shall we look to the wisdom of this world, to devise the cure? Human wisdom did not originate the institutions of Christianity; and it is now unable to give them efficiency. We must return to the feet of our divine Master, and again receive his instructions. Let us, in the spirit of obedient disciples, inquire for the good old paths, that we may walk therein. No individual can accomplish everything; but it is his duty to do what he can. Let each one show that he possesses the spirit of Christ, and carefully obey all the commands of Christ. If he cannot cure the existing evils, he will, at least, not increase them; and the influence of his example may produce salutary effects beyond his most sanguine hopes.

The true spirit of obedience is willing to receive the slightest intimations of the divine will. All the truths of Revelation are not equally clear; yet none of them may be disregarded because of difficulty in their investigation. If some most needful to be known, are presented prominently on the inspired pages, and written in characters so large that he who runs may read; there are others which are discoverable only by diligent search. Yet the truths, thus discovered, are precious gems dug from an exhaustless mine; and even the very labor of discovery brings its own reward in the mental and spiritual discipline which it furnishes. The diligent student of the Scriptures derives an abundant recompense for his toil, not only from the enlarged and clearer views of divine truth to which he attains, but also from that constant exercise of humility and faith, for which he finds occasion at every step of his progress.

As the truths of revelation differ in the clearness with which they are exhibited, so our faith embraces them with different degrees of strength. A man who does not investigate for himself, may receive, with unwavering confidence, and maintain, with obstinate pertinacity, every dogma of his party: but he who uses his own powers in the search after truth, will find some things to be received as undoubted articles of faith, others as opinions to be held with various degrees of confidence, according to the strength of evidence with which they have been severally presented to the mind. By not furnishing overpowering evidence on every question of faith and practice, the divine wisdom has given scope for the moral dispositions of men to exert their influence. A careful inquiry respecting the minutest portions of duty, and a fixed determination to observe the will of God in every particular, may exhibit proofs of obedience more strong and decisive, than would be possible, if all truth and duty were discovered by intuition.

Our obedience to Christ should be universal. The tithing of mint, anise, and cummin, is of less moment than the weightier matters of law, judgment, mercy, and faith; but it is not therefore to be disregarded. Christ taught that both were to be observed. “These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. [3] Church order and the ceremonials of religion, are less important than a new heart; and in the view of some, any laborious investigation of questions respecting them may appear to be needless and unprofitable. But we know, from the Holy Scriptures, that Christ gave commands on these subjects, and we cannot refuse to obey. Love prompts our obedience; and love prompts also the search which may be necessary to ascertain his will. Let us, therefore, prosecute the investigation” which are before us, with a fervent prayer, that the Holy Spirit, who guides into all truth, may assist us to learn the will of him whom we supremely love and adore.

[1] Gal. ii. 20

[2] 2 Cor. v. 14, 15.

[3] Matt. xxiii. 23.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology- Volume 2

Duty of Preparing for the Future World: Conclusion: Book Eight

September 20, 2017 Leave a comment

Book Eighth


This world is not such a habitation as a wise man would desire to live in for ever. The young and thoughtless expect to find happiness in it; but experience teaches that the expectation is vain and delusive. Disappointment, care, and sorrow form a large part of human life; and as men approach the end of their course, they can adopt the language of the patriarch Jacob: “Few and evil have been the days of my pilgrimage.”[1] This sad experience results from the fact, that God’s curse rests on the world, because it is full of sin: and what wise man would wish to live for ever in a habitation that God has cursed?

If this were the only world, it would be well for us to make the best of it: but we have abundant proof that another world exists; and a revelation from it has been made, by which we may learn how to obtain a portion there, that will be full of unmixed happiness, and will endure for ever. We are called on to relinquish our delusive hope of earthly good, and lay hold on the hope set before us, that is sure and certain: to give up our pursuit of the unsatisfying and short-lived pleasures of the present life, and to seek the substantial and eternal joys of the life to come. It is certainly the part of wisdom to obey this call.

Another fact needs to be considered. Whether we will or not, we are compelled to leave this world, and take up our eternal abode in another habitation, either of joy or woe. If we had all possible enjoyment here, it would be but momentary, and would not deserve a thought in comparison with eternal happiness and misery. We are rapidly passing through this world, to our eternal home. Whether, in this lodging place of wayfaring men, our comforts shall be few or many, is a matter of very little moment, and unworthy of anxious care: but it is extreme folly to be unconcerned about the world to which we are hastening, and where our condition will be fixed for ever.

There are some things in religion which are hard to be understood, and about which some persons are inclined to be skeptical: but is there any other thing so incredible, as that intelligent and immortal beings should make the things of this fleeting world their chief care, and give themselves no concern about eternity? If the fact were not daily before our eyes, who could believe it? Were the Bible to inform us that there are intelligent immortals in a remote planet who thus act, the skeptic would appear almost excusable who should doubt the truth of the statement; but that book tells us of men, intelligent and immortal men, who are blinded by the god of this world, and led captive by him at his will, and who do not consider their latter end, but rush on to destruction, as the ox goeth to the slaughter. This testimony, than which the Bible contains nothing more incredible, is verified by the whole history of mankind. From this reigning folly even Christian men are but partly delivered. Even they perpetually need the exhortation, “Be not conformed to this world;”[2] and, to preserve them from the fascinating power of “the things seen, which are temporal,” they should look habitually at `the things which are unseen and eternal.” For this purpose, the doctrine concerning the future world is to them very important. “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith:”[3] and faith, being “the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen,”[4] must lay hold on the realities of the invisible and future world.

The doctrine concerning the future world teaches us to set a proper value on earthly good. If the honors of the world tempt us, let us remember that, in the grave, the king and the meanest of his subjects will lie on the same level, and mingle with the same dust; and that, in the resurrection, the noble of the earth, who have not sought the honor that cometh from God, will rise to shame and everlasting contempt. If the pleasures of the world invite, let us conceive of them as the bait with which Satan would ensnare our souls, and lead them into everlasting torments. If our hearts incline, at any time, to covetousness, let us contemplate the rich man in hell, stripped of all his possessions, and unable to procure a drop of water to cool his parched tongue. So let us keep eternity directly in view; and, in its light, the honors, pleasures, and wealth of this world will lose their lustre, and cease to charm.

This doctrine teaches us how to bear the afflictions of life. The heaviest affliction that can crush the spirit here, is far lighter than the weight of wrath which falls on the wicked in the world to come. Why, then, should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?[5] So long as he still lives, out of torment, out of hell, his suffering, however severe, is inconceivably less than his sins deserve. Moreover, his afflictions, if endured with humble resignation to God, are conducing to his holiness. Though light and momentary, they work out for him a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.[6] With eternity in view, the heaviest and, most enduring anguish of this life appears light and momentary; and we can rejoice to endure it, because of the glorious effects which it will produce in the eternal world.

This doctrine teaches the value of religion. Learning and talent, agreeable manners and amiable disposition, are all worthy to be prized; but they do not secure eternal blessedness. Religion is the one thing needful, the good part that will never be taken from us.[7] Let sinners despise religion and curl the lip with scorn, when you speak of its claim on their regard: but even they, when eternity is near in prospect, learn the value of what once they despised. With eternity in view, how precious is religion! how precious the Bible which teaches it!

This doctrine endears Christ to believers. He is precious, for what he is in himself; but this preciousness is enhanced by the consideration, that it is he who delivers us from the wrath to come, who is preparing a place for us in the world of bliss, who will come and take us to himself, and for ever lead us to the fountains of living waters, in that land of everflowing delight.

This doctrine consoles us, under the loss of Christian friends. We follow them to the tomb, and our tears flow freely: but we sorrow not as those who have no hope. They are not lost to us, but have only gone home before us; and we are waiting to be sent for, when it shall be the pleasure of our heavenly Father. Our separation from them is short, for we are fast approaching our journey’s end, and then we shall join them again, never more to part.

This doctrine, if received in lively faith, enables the Christian to meet death with joy. When a man repents of sin, and believes in Christ, he is prepared to die safely; but he may nevertheless, through the weakness of his faith, be afraid to die. To meet death without fear, requires strong faith in Christ, as the Saviour of sinners. To meet death with joy, requires strong faith in the doctrine concerning the future world. When we can stand, like Moses on Pisgah’s top, and view the good land in all its beauty, our hearts leap forward, with strong desire, to go over Jordan, and possess it. We long to join the happy company who dwell for ever in the presence of our God. O to be free from sin, as they are; to behold the face of Jesus, as they do; to partake of their bliss, and unite in their everlasting hallelujahs!

Reader, what are your prospects in the future world? Have you received the love of the truth, that you may be saved? Does the truth as it is in Jesus enter your heart, with sanctifying power? Are you daily striving, by a holy life, to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things?


[1] Gen. xlvii. 9.

[2] Rom. xii. 2.

[3] 1 John v. 4.

[4] Heb. xi. 1.

[5] Lam. iii. 39.

[6] 2 Cor. iv. 17.

[7] Luke x. 42.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology

Duty of Preparing for the Future World: Hell: Book Eight- Chapter 5

September 13, 2017 Leave a comment

Book Eighth




Natural religion teaches the doctrine of future retribution; and even the heathen had their notions of punishment to be endured in another world, for crimes committed in this. Conscience in every man’s breast, as the agent of him who placed it there, inflicts torture, often intolerably severe, for iniquities perpetrated, and it teaches the transgressor, when he hears God’s voice in the thunder, or beholds any remarkable display of the divine power, to tremble in the apprehension of suffering the wrath of heaven. Though conscience often sleeps, for a long period, over the sinner’s guilty deeds, yet some special dispensation of Providence sometimes awakens it, and calls upon it to inflict its tortures. So Joseph’s brethren, when brought into difficulties in Egypt, were reminded of their cruelty to their brother, and filled with anguish by the remembrance.[2] But conscience, in some hardened transgressors, sleeps undisturbed, while life lasts; and natural religion, in view of the proofs that a great God reigns, infers that it will be awakened in another life which is to follow. Moreover, in the allotments of the present life, a partial disclosure of God’s moral government is made, in the rewarding of virtue, and the punishing of vice; but it is so incomplete, as here seen, that we are compelled to conclude, that, either the Governor of the Universe is not perfectly righteous, or his distribution of rewards and punishments reaches into a future state. Hence, the expectation of future punishment for crimes committed in this life, accords with the dictates of conscience and reason.

But the strongest and most impressive proof of this momentous truth, is furnished by divine revelation. In God’s book, the lessons of natural religion are taught with clearness and force; and the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. From this infallible word, we learn that wicked men treasure up wrath against the day of wrath, and the revelation of the righteous judgments of God.[3] We know that this day of God’s wrath will be, when he shall be revealed in flaming fire, taking vengeance on all them that know not God, and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his power.[4] This day of judgment and wrath will not be in the present life: for “it is appointed to all men, once to die, and after this the judgment.”[5] “The rich man died, and in hell lifted up his eyes, being, in torments.”[6] Men will be called from their graves to the judgment; and from the judgment, the wicked will be sentenced to everlasting punishment. God is to be feared, because, beyond the destroying of the body, he can destroy both soul and body in hell.[7] Vain are the dreams of infatuated mortals, who suppose that the only punishment to be endured for sin is in the present life. Conscience and reason unite their voice, to awaken them from their delusion; and revelation depicts the future retribution before their eyes so clearly, that they must see it, unless wilfully and obstinately blind.

The magnitude of the evil included in damnation may be inferred from the importance which the Scriptures attach to salvation. It was a great work which Christ undertook, when he came to seek and to save them that were lost;[8] to save his people from their sins;[9] not to condemn the world, but to save the world;[10] to deliver from the wrath to come.[11] If wrath and damnation had been trivial matters, the sending of God’s only son into the world, the laying of our sins upon him, and the whole expedient adopted to deliver us from these inconsiderable evils, would have been unworthy of infinite wisdom. It would not deserve to be called “a great salvation;”[12] and the intelligence of the Saviour’s birth, brought by the angels, would not deserve to be called “good tidings of great joy.”[13] Paul declared, “It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners;”[14] and Paul was of this mind, because he believed the salvation of a sinner to be a work of vast magnitude. In this view of it, he said: “My heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.”[15] In this view, he relinquished every earthly hope, and gave himself to the ministry of the gospel, enduring all hardships and sufferings, if by all means he might save some.[16] Why did he labor thus, why suffer thus, if wrath and damnation are evils of little magnitude? Paul understood the matter otherwise, when he, said, “Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.”[17] It is said in the Scripture, “Who knoweth the power of thine anger? Even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.”[18] The utmost dread with which any finite mind can regard the wrath of God, will be realized, and more than realized, when that wrath is poured out on him. The power of God’s anger, finite intelligence cannot conceive; but God understands it well, and the full estimate of it was regarded, in the deep counsels which devised the scheme of salvation. An almighty Saviour, able to save to the uttermost, was chosen, because salvation was a work requiring such an agent for its accomplishment. The gospel is sent forth into the world; with the declaration of its great Author, “He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned.”[19] Every sound of the glorious gospel speaks of salvation and damnation. Every accent of mercy, inviting the sinner to come to Christ for life, is a warning to flee from the wrath to come. Diminutive views of sin, and of the wrath of God due to sin, permit the sinner to sleep in neglect of the great salvation that God has provided.

The human heart is prone to doubt the doctrine of eternal damnation. The facts reported in the gospel, that Christ came into the world, died, and rose again, are so abundantly attested, that few have the hardihood openly to deny them. These are past facts, which rational men cannot well permit themselves to doubt; but eternal woe is something future, unseen, and unfelt. The apprehension of it disquiets men, and disturbs their enjoyments; and hence they are prone to drive it from them. The threat of indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, is fearful; but if they listen to it, and interpret it in its full import, they cannot remain at ease. Hence arises a criminal and fatal tendency not to take God at his word, in these fearful warnings and denunciations; but to persuade ourselves that they will never be executed. Some relieving method of interpretation is adopted, or some view taken of God’s benevolence and mercy, by which the sinner may be permitted to remain at ease, and hope that all will be well. Hence we see the astonishing fact, that multitudes practically neglect the gospel, who dare not openly deny it. If they verily believed that the wrath of God abides on them; that the treasures of wrath are daily increasing, and that the accumulated vengeance is just ready to burst on their heads in a fearful tempest; they would not, they could not remain at ease. To appreciate justly and fully the gospel of eternal salvation, we must believe, thoroughly believe, the doctrine of eternal damnation. All our misgivings, as to the truth of this doctrine, proceed from an evil heart of unbelief; and lead to a neglect of the great salvation.

Some have sought relief, in the apprehension of future misery, from the idea that the language of Scripture, which describes it, is figurative. The descriptions of future happiness in heaven, are figurative; but the figures convey very imperfect ideas of the reality. So it is with the figures which describe future misery. The fire prepared for the devil and his angels;[20] the lake of fire;[21] unquenchable fire;[22] the worm that dieth not, and the fire that is not quenched;[23] are terrific descriptions; but they are not exaggerations. They are figures; but they come short of the reality. When God punishes, he punishes as a God. Who knoweth the power of thine anger? What omnipotent wrath can accomplish, all language fails to describe, and all finite minds are unable to conceive.

Of what elements future misery will consist, we cannot tell; but it will include poignant remorse, and a sense of divine wrath, with the absence of all enjoyment, and of all hope. It will produce, in the subjects of it, weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. They will realize that they are shut out for ever from the kingdom of heaven, into outer darkness; and they will remember the good things which they once enjoyed, never more to be enjoyed again and the opportunities of mercy, once neglected, never more to return. They will be tormented in the flame, without a drop of water to cool their tongues. Their hatred of God will be complete and they will blaspheme his name, while they feel themselves grasped in the hand of his almighty wrath, without power to extricate themselves. Devils, and wicked men, all under the same condemnation, will be their eternal companions: and the companionship, instead of affording relief, will be an aggravation of their woe. The whole throng, hateful, and hating one another, will be tormentors of one another. The malignant passions, which, on earth, caused wars, assassinations, cruelty, oppression, and every species of injury, will be let loose without restraint to banish peace and brotherhood for ever from the infernal society; and the passions which burn in the hearts of wicked men on earth, and destroy all internal peace, and sometimes drive to suicide, will then be unrestrained, and do their full work of torture; and relief by suicide, or self-annihilation, will be for ever impossible. O, who can endure such torments? Who will not, with every energy, and at every sacrifice, seek to escape from devouring fire and everlasting burnings?

As heaven is a place, so is hell. Judas went to his own place;[24] and the rich man desired that his brethren might not come to this place of torment.[25] In what part of universal space this place is situated, we know not. Heaven is above, and hell beneath; but astronomy has taught us, that, in consequence of the earth’s diurnal rotation, the up and down of absolute space is not to be determined by the position of the little ball which we inhabit, If the third heaven, where God resides, be a region of perfect light and glory, beyond the limits within which stars and planets revolve; and if its inhabitants see the sun and stars, as beneath their feet: the region of outer darkness may be in the opposite extreme of space, where sun and stars shine not, and where the glory of God is for ever unseen. But, wherever it is, the broad way that sinners go, leads to it; and they will at length certainly find it.

The duration of future misery will be eternal. This is expressly declared in Scripture. “These shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal.”[26] The words everlasting and eternal are renderings of the same Greek word, which is applied alike to the future state of the righteous and the wicked. The punishment of these, and the happiness, of those, will be of equal duration. Both will be eternal or everlasting. The criticism which would take the word in a different sense, in one case, from that which it is admitted to have in the other, is rash and dangerous. The same truth is taught in other passages of Scripture:- “Where their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched.”[27] “The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever.”[28] “Suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”[29] The last passage, inasmuch as it refers to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, which were destroyed by fire from heaven, may contain an allusion to that fire; but this, viewed in itself, was not eternal fire. It was a type of future wrath, and may be regarded as its beginning, and first outbursting. The fire which consumed the cities of the plain, has long since ceased to burn; but the wrath due to their guilty inhabitants did not then cease to burn: for the day of judgment will find Sodom and Gomorrah,[30] with guilty Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, all doomed to suffer, according to their several measures of guilt, the vengeance of eternal fire. These cities, in their fearful overthrow, are set forth as an example; and from the visible beginning of their awful doom, we may faintly conceive what will be the end. But it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for those who hear and reject the gospel of Christ; who must, therefore, suffer the vengeance of eternal fire, in its fiercest burnings, and in its everlasting duration.

Future misery will not be purifying in its effect. The afflictions which the righteous endure in this world are fatherly chastisements, inflicted in love, and God designs them for the profit of his children, that they may be partakers of his holiness.[31] Future misery will be inflicted not on the children of God, but on the enemies of God; not in love, but in wrath. And it will not be designed for the profit of its subjects, but for the vindication of the law and justice of God, “to show his wrath and make his power known.”[32] Affliction purifies the righteous, not by any inherent tendency which it possesses, but by the accompanying influence of the Holy Spirit. The wicked, even in the present life, grow hardened under affliction, and sometimes blaspheme God, while they gnaw their tongues with pain.[33] In the world to come, the Holy Spirit will send forth no sanctifying influence to render future torments purifying. Many of the wicked he gives up to hardness of heart, even in the present life; and to all of them the day of grace will be past for ever. The opinion that they will be ultimately restored to the favor of God, and taken to heaven, is not authorized by the Scriptures.[34] On the contrary, it teaches that the Master of the house will “shut the door;” that there is a great gulf[35] between the two worlds rendering passage from one to the other impossible; that the unjust and filthy will remain unjust and filthy still.[36] Jesus said to some, “Ye shall die in your sins; and whither I go ye cannot come:”[37] and he said concerning Judas Iscariot, “It had been good for that man if he had not been born.”[38] The last words cannot be true, if Judas at any future time, however remote, shall be taken to heaven to enjoy for ever the perfect happiness of that world: for the eternal weight of glory which will then be awarded to him, will far more than outweigh all his previous sufferings. The Scriptures teach that the heavens have received Jesus Christ, “until the restitution of all things:”[39] but if his restitution implied a restoration of all to the favor of God, Christ’s second coming would be deferred until its accomplish-ment. But as Christ will come from heaven to judge the world, and will in the judgment, condemn the wicked to everlasting punishment, we must conclude that the restitution of all things will be regarded as complete and for ever fixed; when the final judgment shall have decided the eternal state of all, and the order which bad been disturbed by the enemies of God, shall have been fully restored in his kingdom.

Future misery will not be annihilating in its effect. It is called death, the second death: but the first death does not imply annihilation of either soul or body; and neither does the second. It is called destruction: but as the men of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed[40] in the overthrow of those cities, but are nevertheless to appear in the day of judgment,[41] destruction does not imply annihilation. An immortal spirit suffers destruction when it is separated from God and happiness, and doomed to eternal misery. So the wicked shall be punished with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.[42] Besides death and destruction, the word corruption is used as the opposite of life. “They that sow to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption, and they that sow to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”[43] Corruption is not annihilation. The death of the body is followed by corruption and the worm; so that we may say to corruption, Thou art my father; and to the worm, Thou art my mother and sister.[44] Hence, corruption, and the worm that dieth not, are figures employed to denote the consequences of the second death. By the flesh, to which men sow, and of which they reap corruption, we do not understand the material body, but the depraved mind. The corruption of this is its moral disorganization, or utter loss of holiness. Were annihilation intended, the worm that dieth not, would cease to have anything on which to feed; and the fire that cannot be quenched, would cease to burn for want of fuel. If the wicked are to be destroyed by instantaneous annihilation, that destruction, instead of being an infliction of torment, will be a termination of all suffering. This does not accord with the Scripture representations of the future portion of the wicked: and no good reason can be assigned for raising the bodies of the wicked, if they are to be immediately annihilated. If destruction is to be a process, whether rapid or lingering, by which annihilation is to be produced, it will not be everlasting destruction, or everlasting punishment; for the process and the punishment will sooner or later cease. To no purpose can it be called eternal punishment, when the subjects of it shall have eternally ceased to exist. To no purpose can any be said to surer the vengeance of eternal fire, when the fire itself shall have eternally terminated their suffering. And to no purpose will the smoke of their torment ascend for ever and ever, when the torments themselves shall have eternally ceased.

Some understand the words, “Every one shall be salted with fire,”[45] to import, that the fire of hell, instead of consuming its victims, will, like salt, preserve them. Whether this be its meaning, or not, there is no reason to doubt that the vessels of wrath fitted for destruction, will be adapted to the suffering which they will undergo. Instead of wasting away under its influence, or having their powers of endurance benumbed, we may rather conclude, that, as the righteous, will perpetually ascend in bliss, the wicked will perpetually sink in woe. Their deep is bottomless,[46] and being banished from the presence of God, they may continue to recede from him for ever. Their capacity for suffering, their tormenting passions, their hatred of God, and of one another, may all increase indefinitely, through eternal ages. As wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever, they will continue to fly further and further from God, the eternal source of light and happiness, into deeper, and still deeper darkness and woe. O, that men would seek the Lord, while he may be found.

Obj. 1. The justice of God does not require, and will not permit, the infliction of eternal torments for the sins committed in the short period of human life. If eternity be divided by the number of sins which any man commits, during the whole course of his probation on earth, the quotient will be eternity: and it follows, that future misery cannot be eternal, unless an eternity of torment be inflicted for every sin. An eternity of woe for one transgression, shocks all the sense of justice which God has implanted in the human breast.

This objection proceeds on the radical mistake, that men cease to be moral agents, bound by the law of God, when they have passed into the world of woe. God’s dominion is universal; and the inhabitants of hell are as much bound to love and obey him, as those of heaven or earth. Men who die in their sins, will carry with them not only the guilt accumulated during the present life, but the inclination, confirmed by habit, to continue in sin. They will hate God and blaspheme his name, and their sins cannot cease to be offensive to God, because their moral character has become fixed and unalterable. A sinner cannot become innocent by being confirmed in sin. Were it so, the inhabitants of hell would be innocent beings; their habitation would be as pure as the high and holy place where God dwells; and their blasphemies would be as little offensive to God and all holy beings, as the songs of angels. All this is manifestly absurd. Sin continued, will deserve and provoke continued wrath; and the future condition of the wicked is chiefly terrible, because they are abandon by God to the full exercise and influence of their unholy passions, and the consequent accumulation of guilt for ever and ever.

If God’s justice will not permit him to punish sinners with banishment from his presence, and confinement in the regions of woe, beyond a limited period of time; then it will follow, that when this limited period of suffering shall have passed, justice will not only permit, but will absolutely require, that they should be released. Who can believe that, after a thousand years spent in blaspheming God, and strengthening their enmity to his character and government, they shall be turned loose, to roam at large in God’s dominions, and to visit at pleasure the holy and happy place where nothing entereth that defileth?[47] Who can believe that God’s justice will demand this, and will authorize them to demand it? Yet all this will follow, if the ground assumed in the objection be not false.

Obj. 2. God’s benevolence will not permit him to inflict such misery on his creatures. He claims them as his offspring, and represents himself as their Father: and, as no human parent would so treat his children, it is not to be supposed that the benevolent Father of all will be so unfeeling and unmerciful. This objection, while it claims to honor God’s benevolence, dishonors his veracity. Our inferences from God’s benevolence may all be mistake; but God’s word must be true: and he who, relying on the deductions of his own reason, rejects the warnings that God has graciously given him, will find, in the end, that he has acted most foolishly and wickedly.

The objection assumes what is inconsistent, not only with the truth of God’s declarations as to the future, but also with known and undeniable facts of the past and present. Had the objector been present when man came forth in his original purity from the hand of his Maker, he would, on the principle assumed in his objection, have predicted, with confidence, that God would never permit this fair production of his creative power and skill to become involved in the fall and its consequent evils. Had he been present in the garden of Eden, when the serpent said, “Ye shall not surely die,” he would, in his professed honor of God’s benevolence, have confirmed the declaration made by the father of lies. The misery endured by the human race in every age, from the fall to the present moment, in every region of the globe, in every tribe, in every family, in the daily and hourly experience of every individual, is all inconsistent with the principle assumed in the objection. If, at the creation, it would have denied the possibility of what we know has occurred, how can we trust it when it now denies the possibility of what God says shall be? When our inferences oppose fact, and the truth of God, we may be assured that they are wrong.

When pestilence is desolating a land, God sees the wretchedness that is produced, and hears the cries of the suffering, and could, with one breath, drive far away the cause of the fatal malady. When a ship is wrecked in the raging ocean, God hears the cries of the sinking mariners, and understands well their terror and anguish, and could, without effort, bear the shattered vessel at once to its destined port in safety. Were the objector in God’s stead, would he be deaf to the cries of his children? Would he not promptly afford the needed relief? He would. What then? Is he benevolent, and is God unfeeling and unmerciful? So the objection would decide; and we know, therefore, that it is not according to truth.

God is of right the Father of his creatures: but he says, “If I be a father, where is my honor?”[48] and he complains, “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.”[49] By their rebellion, men have become the children of the wicked one. Christ said, “If God were your Father, ye would love me;”[50] implying that those whom he addressed were not the children of God. To such men God is not a Father, but an offended and insulted moral Governor. He is benevolent; but his benevolence does not overthrow his moral government. On the contrary, it enforces the claims of justice. To turn loose the guilty, and to permit the lawless to roam at large through his dominions, to disturb the peace and order of his government, and render the obedient unhappy, would not be benevolence. God’s benevolence is against the sinner; and when the walls of the infernal prison are broken down, and its guilty inmates are permitted to fill the universe with crime and wretchedness, it will no longer be true that God is love.

In contemplating the awful subject of future misery, and its relation to God’s benevolence, our minds may find some relief in regarding the misery as the natural and proper effect of sin. God has so constituted the nature of man, that he feels remorse for crime; and he has so constituted the nature of external things, that drunkenness, and many other sins, produce poverty and suffering. We have not the hardihood to complain that this constitution of things is not benevolent. He who, knowing that fire will burn, voluntarily puts his hand into the flame, has no right to charge God with want of benevolence, because he has made it the nature of fire to burn. Much of future misery may be regarded as the natural effect of sinful passions, tearing the soul by their violence, or of an upbraiding conscience, gnawing within, as the worm that dieth not. “God is a consuming fire,” ever-present to the workers of iniquity; and his nature must change if his wrath cease to burn against sin. The nature of things, as constituted by God, and as including the nature of God himself, must render the sinner miserable. If he would cease to be miserable, he must escape from himself, and must find another God, and another universe.

[1] Ps. ix. 17; Matt. x. 28; xiii. 40-42; xxiii. 29, 33; xxv. 41-43; Mark ix. 43; 2 Thess. i. 7-9; 2 Pet. ii. 4, 9, 10; Jude 7; Rev. xiv. 11; xx. 10, 14, 15; xxi. 8.

[2] Gen. xlii. 21.

[3] Rom. ii. 5.

[4] 2 Thess. i. 8.

[5] Heb. ix. 27.

[6] Luke xvi. 23.

[7] Matt. x. 28.

[8] Luke xix. 10.

[9] Matt. i. 21.

[10] John iii. 17.

[11] 1 Thess. i. 10.

[12] Heb. ii. 3.

[13] Luke ii. 10.

[14] 1 Tim. i. 15.

[15] Rom. x. 1.

[16] 1 Cor. ix. 22.

[17] 2 Cor. v. 11

[18] Ps. xc. 11.

[19] Mark xvi. 16.

[20] Matt. xxv. 41.

[21] Rev. xx.10.

[22] Matt. iii. 12.

[23] Mark ix. 44.

[24] Acts i. 25.

[25] Luke xvi. 28.

[26] Matt. xxv. 46.

[27] Mark ix. 44.

[28] Rev. xiv. 11.

[29] Jude i. 7.

[30] Matt. xi. 21.

[31] Heb. xii. 10.

[32] Rom. ix. 22.

[33] Rev. xvi. 10, 11.

[34] Luke xiii. 25.

[35] Luke xvi. 26.

[36] Rev. xxii. 11.

[37] John viii. 21.

[38] Matt. xxvi. 24.

[39] Acts iii. 21.

[40] Luke xvii. 29.

[41] Matt. x. 15.

[42] 2 Thess. i. 9.

[43] Gal. vi. 8.

[44] Job xvii. 14.

[45] Mark ix. 49

[46] Rev. xx. 3.

[47] Rev. xxi.27.

[48] Mal. i. 6.

[49] Isaiah i. 2.

[50] John viii. 42.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology

Duty of Preparing for the Future World: Heaven: Book Eight- Chapter 4

September 6, 2017 Leave a comment

Book Eighth




Godliness has the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. It often happens that the believer in Christ has an afflicted lot in the present world; but, in the midst of tribulations, be is enabled, through grace, to rejoice in hope of the glory of God. So much does the happiness of his present life depend on the hope of a better portion hereafter, that he is said to be “saved by hope.”[2] This hope has for its object an inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.[3] He is taught by the doctrine of Christ, to look for this portion, not in this world of sin, not in the pursuits and enjoyments of carnal men, but in another and better world, to which his faith and hope are ever directed.

The believer’s portion is laid up in heaven.[4] That heaven is a place, and not a mere state of being, we are taught by the words of Christ, who said, “I go to prepare a place for you;”[5] but in what part of universal space this happy place is situated, the Bible does not inform us. It is sometimes called the third heavens[6] to distinguish it from the atmospheric heaven, in which the fowls of heaven have their habitation, and from the starry heavens, which visibly declare the glory of God. The glory of the third heavens is invisible to mortal eyes; and the place may be far beyond the bounds within which suns and stars shine, and planets revolve. Some have imagined that it is a vast central globe, around which the stars of heaven are making their slow revolutions, carrying with them their systems of attendant planets. There is something pleasing in this conjecture, which connects astronomical science with the hopes of the Christian: but it must be remembered that it is mere conjecture. No telescope can bring this glorious place within the reach of human view. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”[7] Yet, though science cannot give us a knowledge of this happy world, divine revelation has made us to some extent acquainted with it. Paul adds to the words just cited, “but God hath revealed them to us by his Spirit.” By faith, which is the evidence of things not seen, we look at things unseen and eternal. The light of revelation brings the glories of the distant land before the eyes of our faith; and in the spiritual enjoyment which we are made to experience, even in this land of exile, we have an earnest[8] and foretaste of heavenly joy. These drops of heaven sent down to worms below, unite with the descriptions found in God’s holy word, to give such ideas of heaven as it is possible for us to form; but at best, we know only in part. “It doth not yet appear, what we shall be,” or where we shall be, or in what our bliss will consist. But though in looking forward to the inheritance in prospect, we are compelled to see through a glass darkly, we may yet discover that the future happiness of the saints will include following elements:

1. An intimate knowledge of God. Now we know in part, but then we shall know even as we are known.[9] Heaven is “the high and holy place, where God resides, the court of the great King.” He says, “heaven is my throne.”[10] Though present everywhere throughout his dominions, he manifests himself in a peculiar manner in this bright abode, of which the glory of God and the Lamb are the light. Here the blessed are permitted to see God. To see God, as human eyes now see material objects, by means of reflected light, will be as impossible then as it is now, for God is a spirit: but we shall have such a discovery of God, as is most appropriately expressed by the word see; otherwise, the promise of Christ would not be fulfilled. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”[11] The knowledge of God will be communicated through the Mediator. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”[12] Though God dwells in light which no man can approach unto, and is a Being whom no man hath seen, or can see;[13] yet the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ, the same that shines into the hearts of God’s people on earth, fills the world of bliss. There no sun or moon shines; but “the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.” The glory of God is the illumination, and the Lamb is the luminary from which it emanates. Jesus will still be our teacher there, and through him we shall acquire our knowledge of the perfections and counsels of God.

Our knowledge of God will be for ever increasing. On earth, believers “grow in the knowledge of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ,” and the advantages for attaining to higher knowledge, instead of ceasing at death, will be far greater in heaven. The perfections and counsels of the infinite God, will be an exhaustless source of knowledge, a boundless subject of investigation; and the Mediator, the equal of the Father, and his bosom-counsellor, will be our all-sufficient instructor; and our glorified spirits will be fitted to prosecute the study through eternal ages. It follows, that we shall continue to grow in the knowledge of God, while immortality endures.

The angels diligently study the dealings of God with his people on earth, and, by this means, acquire knowledge of God’s manifold wisdom. They saw his creative skill and power displayed, when the creation sprang forth from his hand in its unmarred beauty; and they rejoiced in songs and shoutings. They learned the justice of God, when some of their number were driven from heaven for their transgression, and doomed to interminable woe. While the angels have been making the dispensations of God’s providence and grace their delightful study, we cannot suppose that the spirits of the just, who are their companions in glory, have been indifferent to these subjects; which interested them so deeply while on earth. It must be, that they continue to make progress in the knowledge which, while here below, they so earnestly desired to acquire, and in which they made a small beginning. Here, the ways of God appear dark and mysterious, and the doctrine taught us in his word, is attended with difficulties, which our finite minds labor in vain to remove. We desire instruction on these points; and Jesus has said, “What I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.”[14] We wait now for the fulfilment of this promise; and we hope hereafter, with the spirits that are before the throne, to drink in the knowledge which we are here so desirous to obtain, which we so greatly long to acquire.

How far the learning of the future world will include the sciences which are taught in the schools on earth, it is of little use to inquire. It will certainly include whatever is necessary to the knowledge of God. We shall study his works, his moral government, and the mysterious scheme of redemption. New truths, of which we have now no conception, will be unfolded to our view; and the truths of which we have now some knowledge, will be exhibited in new relations, and with new attractions. The truths which now appear discordant with each other, will have light thrown on their connecting links; and the whole will be seen, in one grand system of beautiful proportion and perfect harmony, and in everything God will be displayed. All our knowledge will be the knowledge of him.

2. Perfect conformity to God. The first man was made in the image of God; and the subjects of regeneration are renewed, after the image of God. But the likeness given in creation has been lost; and that which is reproduced in regeneration is incomplete. God’s people are striving and praying for a higher degree of conformity; and they are looking to the future world for the consummation of their wishes: “Then shall I be satisfied, when I awake in thy likeness.”[15] They are predestinated to be conformed to the image of God’s Son,[16] who is the image of the invisible God.[17] As they study the divine character here, they grow in conformity to it: “We, beholding as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”[18] The same transforming influence which the knowledge of God exerts in this life, will continue in the future world. As we make progress in the knowledge of God, we advance from glory to glory, in the likeness of God; and this progress will be interminable, through all our immortal existence. “We shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”[19]

In being conformed to God, who is love, we shall love the display of divine perfection, of which we shall obtain increasing discoveries in our study of the character, works, and government of God. As our knowledge enlarges, our love to the things learned will become more intense, and the new developments which will be made at every stage of our endless advancement will be increasingly ravishing. What would be subjects of barren speculation to merely intellectual beings, will be to us as moral beings, having a moral likeness to God, sources of ineffable bliss, ever rising higher and higher in its approach towards the perfect and infinite blessedness of God.

3. A full assurance of divine approbation. In this world we groan, being burdened. A sense of sin, and God’s displeasure on account of it, often fills the mind with gloom. We see, in the gospel of Christ, how God can be just, and the justifier of the believer in Jesus: but our faith is often weak. We are conscious of daily offences against infinite love; and the bitterness of grief possesses the soul. Oh! to see our Father’s face, without a cloud between, and to feel that perfect love occupies the full capacity of our hearts, and governs every emotion! We pant after God, the living God. We long for heaven; because there we shall dwell for ever in the light of his countenance. The sentence of the last judgment, “Come, ye blessed of my Father,” will give an eternal assurance of divine acceptance, and perfect love in the heart will for ever exclude all fear.

4. The best possible society. Paul thus describes this society: “Ye are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first born, which are written in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant.”[20] Our brethren who have gone before us, with some of whom we took sweet counsel here, and went to the house of God in company, are there waiting to welcome our arrival. The angels that attend on us as ministering spirits, during our pilgrimage here, will convey us, when we leave the world, to the glorious abode, in which they ever behold the face of our Father in heaven, and will form part of the happy society into which we shall be introduced. There we shall be with Jesus, the Mediator, who loved us, and gave himself for us, in whose blood we shall have washed our robes, and made them white; there we shall approach to God, the Judge of all, who is our Father, the object of our love, and the source of our joy. In such society we shall spend eternity. We are travelling to our final home, through a desert land, a waste howling wilderness, but we seek a city; and God is not ashamed to be called our God, for he hath prepared for us a city.[21] A city is a place where society abounds. The rich and noble resort to cities, that they may enjoy life. Here they display their wealth, erect magnificent palaces for their residence, and multiply the means of enjoyment to the utmost possible extent. In our eternal home, we shall not be lonely pilgrims; but we shall dwell in the city of our God; where the noblest society will be enjoyed, where the inhabitants will be all rich, made rich through the poverty of Jesus, and all kings and priests to God; and where the King of kings holds his court, and admits all into his glorious presence.

5. The most delightful employment. The future happiness of the saints is called a rest: but it is not a rest of inactivity; which, however desired it may sometimes be, by those who inhabit sluggish bodies, is not suited to spiritual beings. The rest resembles the Sabbath, the holy day, in which the people of God now lay aside their worldly cares and toils, and devote the sacred hours to the worship of God. Such a sabbatism remains for the people of God, when the cares and toils of this life shall have ceased for ever. To the glorified saints, inaction would be torture, rather than bliss. Their happiness will not consist of mere passive enjoyment. They will serve God day and night; and, in this service, will find their highest enjoyment. They pray now, that his will may be done on earth, as it is done in heaven; and when they are themselves taken to heaven, they will delight to do his will, as it is done by all the heavenly host. The worship of God, and the study of his holy word, form a part of the delightful employment of the saints on the earthly Sabbath. So, to worship God with joyful songs of praise and suitable ascriptions of glory, constitutes, according to the Scripture representation, a part of the saints’ employment in glory. The subjects of their transporting songs, and rapturous ascriptions of praise and glory, will be supplied by their continually fresh discoveries of the divine perfections, the study of which will also form an important part of their blissful employment.

6. The absence of everything which could mar their happiness. Sin, which here pollutes all our joys, will never enter there; for nothing entereth that defileth.[22] Devils and wicked men will be confined in their eternal prison, and will be able to molest no more. The sorrows and afflictions of this world will have passed away. There will be no more sickness, no more curse; and death, the last enemy, will have been destroyed.

7. A free use of all the means of enjoyment. Future happiness is promised as a kingdom: “Fear not, little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”[23] “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom.”[24] A king is superior to all the nobles of his realm, and holds the highest place of dignity in his dominions. Christ, as king, is crowned with glory and honor; and believers also will be exalted to glory, honor, and immortality. The subjects of earthly despots are often deprived of their possessions by the injustice of those who have power over them; but the king is above the reach of such injustice. He commands the resources of his dominions, and makes them contribute to his pleasure. Hence, to minds accustomed to regal government, royalty conveys the idea of the most abundant resources, and the highest measure of undisturbed enjoyment; hence the language of Paul: “Now ye are full; now ye are rich; ye have reigned as kings.”[25] In this view, the children of God will be made kings. Besides the honor to which they will be exalted, their enjoyments will be boundless. All the resources of creation will be made tributary to them, and no one will dispute their claim, or hinder their enjoyment. Earthly crowns are often tarnished by the iniquity of those who wear them, but the crown bestowed on the children of God is a crown of righteousness, not only because it is righteously conferred, but because, without any unrighteous violence, the wearers will have all the honors and enjoyments of royalty secured to them for ever.

[1] Matt. xxv. 34; Luke xii. 32; John xiv. 2; Col. iii. 4; 1 Thess. iv. 17; Luke xxii. 29, 30; Acts xiv. 22; Rev. iii. 21; vii. 15-17; xiv. 4; 1 Pet. i. 3, 4; Matt. xxv. 21; John xvii. 24; Rev. xxi. 4; xxii. 3.

[2] Rom. viii. 24.

[3] 1 Pet. i. 3, 4.

[4] Col. i. 5.

[5] John xiv. 2.

[6] 2 Cor. xii. 2.

[7] 1 Cor. ii. 9.

[8] Eph. i. 14.

[9] 1 Cor. xiii. 12.

[10] Isaiah lxvi. 1.

[11] Matt. v. 8.

[12] John i. 18.

[13] 1 Tim. vi. 16.

[14] John xiii. 7.

[15] Ps. xvii. 15.

[16] Rom. viii. 29.

[17] Col. i. 15.

[18] 2 Cor. iii. 18.

[19] 1 John iii. 2.

[20] Heb. xii. 22-24.

[21] Heb. xi. 16.

[22] Rev. xxi. 27.

[23] Luke xii. 32.

[24] Matt xxv. 34.

[25] 1 Cor. iv. 8.

John L. Dagg- Manual of Theology