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The Signs of the Times, vol. 13

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    “‘A Complaint’ Indeed” The Signs of the Times 13, 13, p. 200.

    UNDER the heading of “A Complaint,” a Presbyterian elder writes to the Interior of March 17, 1887, as follows:—SITI March 31, 1887, page 200.1

    “I listened to the argument of a Baptist clergyman a short time ago, who, as usual, claimed that there was but one mode of baptism—that by immersion. Returning home, I took down Dr. William Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, an abridged edition prepared by him alone, for universal use among Sabbath-school teachers, and Bible students. I expected to find a statement of the different views held by Christian denominations of the world on baptism, briefly and concisely stated, such as can be usually found in Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias for general use. I was much surprised in not finding any reference to the mode by sprinkling, as practiced by the great majority of Christians; but on the contrary, Dr. Smith says, ‘Baptism properly and literally means immersion.’ As to the mode, he says, ‘The language of the New Testament, and of the primitive fathers, sufficiently points to immersion, as the common mode of baptism.’ He says further, that ‘the ancient church mostly adopted immersion.’ His larger edition prepared by him and seventy others, may treat the subject exhaustively, but this one prepared by him alone for universal use, does not, to my mind, deal fairly with the subject. I picked up ‘Watson’s Dictionary of the Bible,’ and there I found the strongest arguments of those who favor, and those who oppose immersion, candidly set forth and the subject fairly treated. The ‘Smith’s Dictionary’ that I have is an American reprint published by Jansen McClurg & Co., 1875. I cannot understand (unless Dr. Smith is a Baptist), why all reference to sprinkling, as a mode of baptism—practiced by such a large body of Christians—is omitted by him. Can you enlighten me?”SITI March 31, 1887, page 200.2

    That is “a complaint” with which a great many people are afflicted nowadays. They find themselves believing and preaching something that is practiced “by a large body of Christians,” but which is totally at variance with the teachings of Christ, and then when their error is shown them they look for something that will confirm them in their error, and if they do not find it they enter their complaint. If their error be, as in this instance, in practicing sprinkling for baptism; and the Scriptures are set before them, and their error pointed out and the truth shown them, then instead of accepting the truth and obeying the word of God, they will go to some commentary or dictionary to find arguments to confirm them in their disobedience. And then if the dictionary is against them and in harmony with the Bible, they “cannot understand” it unless the writer, as in this case, Dr. Smith, “is a Baptist”! Unless the writer of the book is a Baptist they cannot understand why all reference to sprinkling as a mode of baptism is omitted by him, when it is “practiced by such a large body of Christians.” They cannot understand how the Scriptures can be right and the people wrong. They cannot understand how a writer can “deal fairly with the subject” when he gives the plain meaning of the Scriptures, instead of the corrupt practice of a large body of Christians, and so they enter “a complaint.” That is to say they cannot understand how it is that the practice of the people should be regulated and tested by the Bible, instead of the Bible being interpreted by the practice of the people.SITI March 31, 1887, page 200.3

    It is the same way in regard to Sunday-keeping. The Lord says, “The seventh day is the Sabbath,” and commands all men to “remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy.” “A large body of Christians,” make the Sabbath a working day, and keep Sunday instead. When the word of God is set before them and their sin in working on the Sabbath is shown them, then too many are just like this Presbyterian elder with baptism; instead of going to the word of God to see indeed their duty, they will go to commentaries or dictionaries to find something to confirm them in their wrong doing. We actually knew a minister to warn his congregation against “Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible” (Barnum’s edition, Appleton, etc.) as being published in the interests of Seventh-day Adventists; and now here comes this Presbyterian elder and suspects Dr. Smith of being a Baptist! And in both instances they will refuse to obey the word of God, because it is contrary to their practice.SITI March 31, 1887, page 200.4

    This is a very sad “complaint,” and afflicts a very “large body of Christians.”SITI March 31, 1887, page 200.5