SH0ULD WE BE SPRINKLED OR IMMERSED?
Barton W. Stone was born in Maryland in1772, when America was tying to win their freedom from Great Britain. Unto him goes the honor of being one the first preachers to set forth the restoration idea of a complete return to New Testament Christianity, as it was practiced by the apostles and the Christians of the first century. The Encyclopedia Britannica contains this report about this man, ” the first pronounced appeal for Christian unity in the United states came from Barton W. Stone, Presbyterian minister of entucky in 1804, and from Thomas Campbell and his son, Alexander of the Seceder Presbyterian church in Western Pennsylvania in 1809.” One of his famous writings was called,”The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery.” The first item in that document says, “We will that this body die, be dissolved and sink into union with the Body of Christ at large. We heartily unite with our Christian brethren of every name which we hope will terminate in the universal spread of the gospel and the unity of the church.”
He started the Restoration Movement with great opposition from Calvinst preachers. He reached this conclusion from his own study of the word of God. When he began his restoration preaching, he was a man of twenty-eight years, living near Lexington, Kentucy. Thomas Campbell was yet in Ireland and Alexander, his son, was a boy of 12 years. I think it is fair to say that Barton Stone was one of the fathers of the Restoration Movement which gave the true church back to the world. It is our good fortune to have a number of his writings, and I will present several direct quotations of this man's preaching.
In 1800 while preaching for churches at Cane Ridge and Concord, Kentucky he said, “From reading and meditating upon the scriptures,. I became convinced that God did love the whole world, and that the reason why He did not save all, was because of their unbelief; and that the reason why they believed not, was not because God did not exert his physical, almighty power in them to make them believe, but because they neglected and received not His testimony, given in the word concerning His Son....I saw that the requirement to believe in the Son of God, was reasonable, because the testimony given was sufficient to produce faith in the sinner; and the invitations and encouragement of the gospel were sufficient, if believed, to lead him to the Savior, for the promised Spirit, salvation and eternal life. This glimpse of faith–of truth was the first divine ray of light, that ever led my distressed, perplexed mind from the labyrinth of Calvinism and error, in which I had so long been bewildered.”
Please note what he said about his reasoning from Scripture on who could be saved and why some would believe and others would not. He said this was his first glimpse of truth that led his distressed, perplexed mind from the labyrinth of Calvinism and error, in which he had so long been bewildered. This shows how convincing and deceptive the teachings of Calvin were. Most all the Protestant churches of early America were under the complete domination of John Calvin and his interpretation of the plan of salvation. As a Presbyterian and a member of the church founded by Calvin he too accepted Calvin's doctrines, but he never understood them and they bewildered him .
I agree with Stone that in early America all Roman Catholic churches were dominated by Papal Rome, and all the Protestant churches were completely dominated by Calvinistic preachers The Catholics could not think for themselves, and the Protestants could not think for themselves. From a religious standpoint, all of early America believed only what their religious leaders taught them to believe, and this continues to this day. . It was Stone's aim in life: to free his fellow men from religious slavery. He was able to throw off completely the bonds of Calvinism which was a dominant force in his day. He, as much as any man in America, was responsible for exposing the unbiblical features of the Calvinistic system of Christianity, which dominated thought in early America and continues to dominate the Protestant world in the 21st century.. What the Protestant world called freedom of religion, Stone called religious slavery.
Stone was questioned much about his ideas concerning the place of baptism in the scheme of the Christian religion, and one of the things that greatly disturbed him was the fact that most all people in early America who professed to be Christians had not been immersed. . For
example, he says, “Faith and baptism are the divinely instituted means of salvation.....This is the plan of heaven; but from this plan the Christian world has almost entirely departed and has invented and practiced plans subversive of that instituted by Christ.... Why is it that all have so universally and for so ling a time departed from Christ's plan? It cannot be that it is difficult to be understood for nothing can be plainer. But some objected, “ Ah, but you make baptism a saving ordinance.” But Stone responded, “ I have not made it such; for I have proved that it was made so eighteen hundred years ago by the great Head of the Church and practiced as such by his inspired apostles and evangelists.”
The “Polar star” of Stone's preaching was Christian unity, but his advocacy was of union on Bible principles. He envisioned the union of all Christians in the body of Christ. He was not blinded to the fact that there would be different opinions, but he was sure these should be kept to one's self as personal, and should never become the basis of a faction. He also said:
“We must believe that the Bible was addressed to rational creatures and designed by God to be understood for their profit. But believing it was written for our hearing and profit, and therefore addressed to our understanding, we are encouraged to read and diligently search its sacred pages. The man who does this, with prayerful attention to its instructions, will find the truth, and walking in it, will find her ways pleasantness and all her paths peace.....Were we all thus prepared, and were we in the spirit to read the Bible, great and glorious would be the effects. How soon would the divided flock of the great shepherd hear his voice and flow together unto him.”
Stone believed that immersion was the only scriptural form of baptism. The word baptism means to dip and never had the meaning of sprinkle or pour. The scriptural meaning of baptism is clearly set forth by the apostle Paul in Romans 6:3-5, “Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead, by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.” The word of God says that baptism is a burial. When the Ethiopian Eunuch was baptized, Philip the preacher, “commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more”(Acts 8:36-39). Consider what I say and the Lord give you understanding.