Circular Letter

Elder Joe Hall

To the Union Association:

       Dearly beloved Brethren--Having been elected by you to prepare a circular letter for your inspection and consideration I will endeavor to do so by addressing you from Mark 14:23: “And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drink of it.” Here it is clear the Savior had instituted his supper which was to be kept up by the church until his second coming. I have not space in this letter to notice all the points of importance connected with this most solemn right, and shall therefore, only notice who it is that have a right to this consecrated cup of the Lord. It is clear from the context that none but Christ’s disciples took of this cup at the time spoken of by the evangelist Mark. Now, what were the qualifications of these disciples? First--They were required to be converted or regenerated persons, Matthew 18:3. Secondly--They must be baptized upon profession of their faith in Christ, Mark 1:5. From these scriptures it is evident these disciples were baptized believers in Christ, and as he took the supper only with his disciples who had been converted and baptized according to his own commandment we infer none others have a right to this cup of the Lord. It has been thought by some that if a person were converted they have an undoubted right to this cup of the Lord, but on examination of the scriptures that qualification, though primary of and of first importance, is not the only qualification, for they must have that other qualification which is necessary to this right, namely scriptural baptism and if I am correct on this point then it would follow that a person might be converted, might be one of the most godly and pious persons in the world, yet if he never had been baptized, and scripturally at that, he would have no right to take this cup of the Lord, and on this ground we rest our doctrine of close communion. On this practice of ours we have been accused of being unkind and uncharitable, but, dear reader, let me here remind you we treat even our own members just as we treat others in regard to this matter. It often happens in our churches that a person wishing to become a member of our church makes a profession of faith gives the church a reason of their hope in Christ, which is entirely satisfactory to the church and the church receives them as a candidate for baptism. Yet if the church should celebrate the Lord’s supper before such person is baptized the church does not permit them to take the supper with the rest of the members because the church believes scriptural baptism necessary thereto and refuse the sacrament to them just as we do persons belonging to other so-called churches. Why refuse it to members of these so-called churches? Why, because we believe them to be unbaptized persons who have never been scripturally baptized. This necessitates us making a few observations on what is scriptural baptism. Now three things must be present in every scriptural baptism: First, there must be a proper subject of baptism, namely a converted person or true believer. See Matthew 18:3; Acts 8:37; Acts 9:17-18, Matthew 5, Acts 10:43-47,and many others too numerous to mention. Secondly, there must be a proper mode and that mode scripturally is immersion in water. See Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:9-10; Romans 6:3-4. Thirdly, and most essential of all, there must be a proper administrator. Now, as to the first point, who does the scripture set forth as a proper subject of baptism, or in other words, who is commanded in the scriptures to be baptized? The scriptures cited above show converted persons; believers, for in Acts9:17-18, it is recorded that Ananias went to Paul and said “Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus that appeared unto you in the way you came, has sent me that you might receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Ghost.” From this it is clear that Ananias was sent to Paul that he might receive his sight and might be filled with the Holy ghost. Now, was this accomplished before Paul was baptized in water; that is to say, was his sight restored and he filled with the Holy Ghost before baptism? The 18th verse says, “And immediately there fell from his eyes, as it had been scales; and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.” Here it is clear Paul received his sight before he was baptized. Ananias was sent to him for the two-fold purpose that he might receive his sight and that he might receive the Holy Ghost. If he received his sight before his baptism, why not the other purpose be complete before baptism? So we conclude Paul received the Holy Spirit before Baptism. When Peter went to the house of Cornelius the Holy Ghost fell on them before they were baptized. The Eunuch was required to believe with all his heart that Jesus was the Christ before baptism, and John the Baptist required those whom he baptized to bring forth fruits meet for repentance before he baptized them, and they were baptized of him in Jordan confessing their sins, and none except such characters were ever baptized. The Pharisees who came to the baptism were forbidden to depend on the Abrahamic covenant for or as a right of baptism, and told to bring forth fruits for repentance. In these scriptures we see hereditary church membership set at naught and one regenerate church membership clearly taught and only true believers, or regenerate persons, fit subjects for baptism, and makes all those baptized in infancy before they can exercise faith, before they do repent and believe in Christ, baptized contrary to scripture, and therefore their baptism is null and void and they cannot scripturally claim themselves to be baptized persons. On the second point, that of the mode, the scriptures cited above show Christ to have been baptized in Jordan; that he came straight way up out of the water, which implies he first must have gone down into the water. This shows the believer’s baptism to be emblematical of a burial in Christ. A burial cannot be represented other than by a complete interment of the whole person into the element in which it is interred, and if baptism be emblematical of such interment then it cannot be performed other than by complete immersion of the whole person, and all writers of note admit that the ancient mode of the apostles was by immersion. Mosheim in his history of the church says, “The sacrament of baptism was administered in this century (the first century) without the public assemblies in places appointed and prepared for that purpose, and was performed by an immersion of the whole body in the baptismal fount.” See Mosheim’s Church history, Vol. 1, page 46. He further says of baptism in the second century, “The sacrament of baptism was celebrated twice a year publicly; the persons that were to be baptized, after they had repeated the creed, confessed and renounced their sins were immersed under water, and received into Christ’s kingdom by a solemn invocation of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.” See Vol. 1, page 69. From this you can see none were received into the primitive churches except those who renounced their sins, professed their belief in the doctrine of the apostles as well as their belief in Christ, and that these were received into the church or kingdom of God (as these words were interchangeably used) by immersion in water, and this for two hundred years after the apostles. And it shows sprinkling and pouring to be contrary to the ancient mode of administering that ordinance, and shows this practice as well as infant baptism to be unscriptural. Therefore, those who have pretended to be baptized that way their baptism is the same as none, it not being scriptural. As touching the third point, that of a legal administrator, we want to call the candid reader’s attention to the fact that the command or commission to baptize was given by Christ to his apostles who were his own servants whom he had himself called and appointed, or set in his divinely organized and appointed church, and that this church of his, through her own ministers given her of the Lord until his second coming, were the only one who could, or ever was given, or had the authority to baptize any one, and they were only to baptize those who renounced their sins and prepared their belief in him as their Saviour. In the days of the apostles none others except the duly authorized apostles or ministers could have given scriptural baptism, and the person who was baptized by them then and there became a member of the church. Had the converted person in those days gone to some one outside the poles of these apostolic churches and been immersed, sprinkled or poured, or so pretended to have been baptized by such person, would that baptism have been valid, and would the church then at that time have had the right to receive such person as a baptized person, and have admitted such person to the Lord’s table? I know not. Such would not have been counted scriptural baptism. Why not? Because such person who administered the so-called baptism would not have had the right to baptize. From this we lay down the gospel that no person except a minister of the church of Christ has the right to baptize and those baptized by such other persons are not scripturally baptized, and their pretended baptism is the same as none. We lay down the further proposition that Christ and his apostles organized but one visible church, or churches of one faith and order; that church alone has the right, has the authority to baptize; that she exercises that authority through her duly constituted ministers who are her only authorized agents to do this work; that it cannot be scripturally performed by any other; that this same church set up in the first century by Christ and his apostles has continued from that time until this; and that since the days of the apostles no man or set of men have ever had the right to get together and organize themselves into the church of Christ. Why not? Because the church is not a human organization but a divine organization. Jesus says to his disciples, “As my Father has appointed unto me a kingdom, even so I appoint unto you a kingdom, that you should eat and drink at my table in my kingdom.” This shows the church to be of divine appointment, and the Lord’s supper an ordinance of the church, and consequently of divine appointment and should not and cannot be scripturally used except by the members of this church or kingdom. Now then if these facts be true, then it is also true that no person except a person scripturally baptized has a right to take of the Lord’s supper. The disciples were at the time the first supper was eaten the church; they all drank of it, but none other were invited, not even the good man who owned the house in which it was instituted. Now, let us look at these so-called churches which claim to be churches of Christ. Were they organized in the days of the apostles? No. We know even centuries had passed away before they were organized. Then they have no authority to baptize any one. Their doings so is an act of presumption. Some of them proceed along line contrary to the practices of the apostles. They hold infant instead of believers baptism; hereditary instead of regenerate church membership. They practice some a different made from that instituted by Christ and his apostles, and no one of them but what has departed from the ancient doctrine, usage and practice of the church; they never were connected with the church of Christ; they could not have derived from their human organizations any authority to baptize: though every member in them be converted and be Christians they lack one qualification necessary to taking the Lord’s supper, they have not been scripturally baptized, and as I have shown a person who had not been thus baptized has no right to take this cup. Right here we want to say we Baptists do not judge as to whether you are Christians or not, we simply judge at to whether you have yet received scriptural baptism, and finding they have not we don’t invite them, or in other words we do as did the Saviour: we only eat with baptized disciples and say to all Christians be scripturally baptized and then come and take this cup of the Lord. We do not debar and Christian of this right. They debar themselves by doing as the Jews of old did. These Jews rejected the counsel of God against themselves by not being baptized with the baptism of John (the first baptism) and they, these modern Christians, reject the counsel of God against themselves by not being scripturally baptized by ministers of the church of God but go to some human organization and not to the church of Christ to be baptized. So, dear reader, this letter is getting too lengthy, and I must close, but I hope the God of all grace will help you to get right on this question as on all others, and lead you to honor his church as his own workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which he ordained that we, his children, should walk in them. Your in love of the truth.

       Joe Hall.