On “Theology Thursday,” we feature short excerpts on various areas of systematic theology, from a wide variety of colorful characters. Some are orthodox, but decidedly outside the Baptist orbit. Others are completely heretical. Regardless of heresy or orthodoxy, we hope these short readings are a stimulus for personal reflection, a challenge to theological complacency, and an impetus for apologetic zeal “to encourage you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints,” (Jude 3).
John Smyth on Believer’s Baptism
“[B]aptism is the external sign of the remission of sins, of dying and of being alive, and therefore does not belong to infants.”1
“The Holy Baptism is given unto these in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, which hear, believe, and with penitent heart receive the doctrines of the Holy Gospel. For such hath the Lord Jesus commanded to be baptized, and no unspeaking children.”
“The whole dealing in the outward visible baptism of water, setteth before the eyes, witnesseth and signifieth, the Lord Jesus doth inwardly baptize the repentant, faithful man, in the laver of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Ghost, washing the soul from all pollution and sin, by the virtue and merit of his bloodshed; and by the power and working of the Holy Ghost, the true, heavenly, spiritual, living Water, cleanseth the inward evil of the soul, and maketh it heavenly, spiritual, and living, in true righteousness or goodness. Therefore, the baptism of water leadeth us to Christ, to his holy office in glory and majesty; and admonisheth us not to hang only upon the outward, but with holy prayer to mount upward, and to beg of Christ the good thing signified.”2
John Smyth on Infant Baptism
“Now concerning this point of baptizing infants we do profess before the Lord and before all men in sincerity and truth that it seemeth unto us the most unreasonable heresy of all Antichristianity: for considering what baptism is, an infant is no more capable of baptism than is any unreasonable or insensible creature: for baptism is not washing with water: but it is the baptism of the Spirit, the confession of the mouth, and the washing with water …
Now that an infant cannot be baptized with the Spirit is plain, 1 Pet 3:21, where the Apostle saith that the baptism of the Spirit is the question of a good conscience into God, and Heb 10:22, where the baptism which is inward is called the sprinkling of the heart from an evil conscience: seeing therefore infants neither have any evil conscience, not the question of a good conscience, not the purging of the heart, for all these are proper to actual sinners: hence it followeth that infant’s baptism is folly and nothing.”3
1 “Short Confession of Faith in XX Short Articles by John Smyth,” Article 14, in Baptist Confessions of Faith, revised ed. William L. Lumpkin, ed. (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1969), 101.
2 “The Short Confession,” in Baptist Life and Thought: 1600 – 1980, ed. William H. Brackney (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1983), 36.
3 John Smyth, “The Character of the Beast,” in A Sourcebook for Baptist Heritage, ed. H. Leon McBeth (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1990), 20.