three years before this, or in March, 1639, Roger Williams was baptized by Ezekiel Holliman in Rhode Island. Williams afterwards doubted its validity, thus clinging still to the notion of apostolic succession.
(c) As entrusted with the administration of the ordinances, however, the church is, on its part, to require of all candidates for baptism credible evidence of regeneration.
This follows from the nature of the church and its duty to maintain its own existence as an institution of Christ. The church which cannot restrict admission into its membership to such as are, like itself in character and aims, must soon cease to be a church by becoming indistinguishable from the world. The duty of the church to gain credible evidence of regeneration in the case of every person admitted into the body, involves its right to require of candidates, in addition to a profession of faith with the lips, some satisfactory proof that this profession is accompanied by change in the conduct. The kind and amount of evidence, which would have justified the reception of a candidate in times of persecution, may not now constitute a sufficient proof of change of heart.
If an Odd Fellows? Lodge, in order to preserve its distinct existence, must have its own rules for admission to membership, much more is this true of the church. The church may make its own regulations with a view to secure credible evidence of regeneration. Yet it is bound to demand of the candidate no more than reasonable proof of his repentance and faith. Since the church is to be convinced of the candidate?s fitness before it votes to receive him to its membership, it is generally best that the experience of the candidate should be related before the church. Yet in extreme cases, as of sickness, the church may hear this relation of experience through certain appointed representatives.
Baptism is sometimes figuratively described as ?the door into the church.? The phrase is unfortunate, since if by the church is meant the spiritual kingdom of God, then Christ is its only door. If the local body of believers is meant, then the faith of the candidate, the credible evidence of regeneration which he gives, the vote of the church itself, are all, equally with baptism, the door through which he enters. The door, in this sense, is a double door, one part of which is his confession of faith, and the other his baptism.
(d) As the outward expression of the inward change by which the believer enters into the kingdom of God, baptism is the first, in point of time, of all outward duties.
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