1) Can a person believe, as stated by you in the notice of mine, and receive water baptism, and still be unpardoned?
2) Is it your honest conviction from your knowledge of the Scriptures that no one is saved (living under Christian privileges and obligations) but those who comply with all the conditions mentioned by you?
Your first question is: “Can a person believe, as stated by you in the notice of mine, and receive water baptism, and still be unpardoned?” We answer, no, if baptized in every way according to the New Testament. There are several things necessary to constitute a person a proper subject of baptism. A man must not only believe with all his heart, as Philip said to the eunuch, but he is required to repent; for all men everywhere are required to repent, and have not the promise of pardon till they do repent. The Holy Spirit, through Peter, on the day of Pentecost, said to the inquiring believers: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” Now, those people, although they already believed, could not have been baptized according to the will of God without first obeying the command to repent; for that came first, and, therefore, is a prerequisite to baptism. And when a sinner first believes, and then repents, and upon the confession of his faith is baptized, he is then as certainly pardoned as that the word of God is true. There is no doubt about it. Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved and if that is not true, there is nothing in the Bible that can be relied on. When Jesus said “shall be saved,” he meant just what he said, or the New Testament is not worth anything to man. A man might believe, and then, without any repentance, without any love to God, but from some fleshly motive, might deceive men, might make the confession, and be put under the water, and not be pardoned. But this would not be baptism according to the New Testament, and such a one would only be a greater sinner in the sight of God than before. But when he has been prepared for baptism by a sincere faith in the gospel and a genuine repentance and confession of Christ with the mouth, and is then baptized with an honest desire to obey God — if that man is not pardoned when he does it, then there is no pardon and the Bible is a failure. Will you undertake to say that such a one is not pardoned? No; I am sure you cannot say so, and would not for the world. In this we must be agreed, if you believe the word of God. But if a man be put under the water from any other motive than to obey and honor God so as to obtain his promises, such is in no proper sense baptism and could be worth nothing in the world.
As to your second question, it amounts to asking me whether I honestly believe the Bible or not. The conditions that I mentioned in my other notice to your inquiries are the conditions that God has given in his word. The language you allude to in my other article is in these words: “When men hear the gospel as preached by the apostles, believe it with the heart, repent of their sins, confess Jesus, and are baptized into him, they have the promise of pardon, and not till then.” Now, which one of these will you leave out? For each one of them is mentioned somewhere as coming before pardon. Whether you regard the confession as a condition of pardon or not, it was required by Philip of the eunuch before he would baptize him, and it, therefore, comes in with faith and repentance and before baptism; and whether you regard is as a condition of pardon or simply as a verbal manifestation of one’s faith to the preacher, we are not concerned now, but it comes in with requirements that are conditions of pardon, and that, too, before baptism, and the promise of pardon does not come in till the last condition is complied with. Will you say that faith is not necessary to the promise of pardon? Surely not, for Jesus says: “He that believeth not shall be damned.” Will you leave out repentance? Jesus said: “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” Will you leave out baptism? It was said of those that rejected John’s baptism that “they rejected the counsel of God against themselves.” And do you suppose it will be a less matter to reject the baptism commanded by the Savior than that preached by John? If the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God in refusing to be baptized by John, do you not think you would also reject the counsel of Cod against yourself if you were to reject the baptism commanded by Jesus and practiced by the apostles everywhere they went and preached? And do you think you could have the promise of pardon and at the same time reject the counsel of God against yourself by refusing a positive command of God? How about those Pharisees and lawyers that rejected the counsel of God against themselves? Will you say they were saved while rejecting God’s counsel? I do not think you can say so. But you may say baptism is not a condition of pardon. If you do, then I will prove in precisely the same way that faith is not a condition of pardon. The language is: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Here faith and baptism are both of them inseparably connected together by the conjunction and, and both are to be done for the very same thing. And if faith is a condition of pardon, so is baptism; tor both of them are placed before pardon, and, we may safely say, in order to pardon. You will certainly say that faith is a condition of pardon; and if so, then you cannot deny that baptism is, for the two are inseparably joined together in order to bring the same result, or promise. But you may say you can find passages where pardon is connected with faith without any mention of baptism. Then I will also find passages where pardon is connected with baptism and no faith mentioned.
But, then, shall we put such passages against each other and some take one and some the other — some contend for salvation by faith only and some for the same blessings by baptism only? We cannot do that, because in the commission, as we have seen, both are inseparably joined together in order to pardon; and if, therefore, we find pardon connected with one without mention of the other, we may know the other is understood as being connected with it, and we have no right to promise pardon to either one without the other.
The same is true in regard to repentance. You may find passages where salvation is connected with repentance without either faith or baptism being mentioned. But must we conclude that, therefore, neither of them is necessary? By no means, because in the commission as given by Mark we have seen that both faith and baptism are inseparable conditions of salvation, or pardon. And then we have one place in which all three are connected before pardon. On the day of Pentecost, Peter, in the closing part of his discourse, most positively requires faith in these words: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” In requiring them to know assuredly, he meant that they should be fully assured in their hearts — should most confidently believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Never was there a more positive requirement to believe than this; and the command was no sooner given than some of them did believe, and cried out: “What shall we do?” Then to these believers the command is: “Repent, and be baptized … for the remission of sins.”
Here, upon their faith, both repentance and baptism are inseparably required in order to pardon. So that in this passage all three of them — faith, repentance, and baptism — are inseparably placed before pardon, or remission of sins. Or, still further, by comparing Mark 16 and Acts 2, we have in Mark faith and baptism before pardon. In Acts 2 repentance is also put in between faith and baptism, and all of them before pardon. So, then, if elsewhere we find salvation connected with any one of these without mention of others, we may be certain that both the others are included. God has joined them all together before pardon, and we have no right to interfere with his arrangements. If we promise pardon to the alien sinner without any one of them, we will then be taking from the word of God, and will thereby make ourselves liable to the wrath of God. We prefer to let things remain as God has placed them. In this Bible land, with “Christian privileges and obligations,” as you express it, all have a chance to do what God says. And we presume there are none in this country who have grown up to years of responsibility who do not know that the word of God requires faith, repentance, and baptism; and unless he is mocking us, he means what he says, and, therefore, all these things are necessary; and anyone that rejects any one of them rejects the word of God and refuses to obey him, and, while thus refusing to obey God, has no promise of pardon. True faith will never spend any time in trying to fix up a plan to be saved on less than God says, but will be all the time trying to do all that God commands.
Elisha G. Sewell