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OBEDIENCE AND HAPPINESS.
all the rites observed by the church-going people;-at the proper time she was confirmed by the bishop, and went to the Lord's table: having grown up to womanhood, she was regular in her attendance upon the service of God, and moral in her conduct: in her old age, however, there can be no doubt that she was rich in faith, and an heir of the kingdom which God has promised to them that love him.
Life, with all its scenes of hope, and joy, and sorrow, was passing away like a tale that is told; and yet, up to her eightieth year, nay, beyond that period, no suspicion had arisen in the mind of Miss P that in her case, baptism, so called, had been nothing more than a human invention substituted for a divine ordinance. On this point, her mind had now happily undergone a thorough change; not by reading books on the baptismal controversy, nor by seeing the rite administered according to the ancient custom, nor by a spirit of proselytism among the baptists, but by perusing the word of God under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and in answer to fervent and unceasing prayer. God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, so enlightened the eyes of her understanding, that she sat at the feet of Jesus clothed in her right mind; and, while her days were declining like a shadow, her early views on baptism became unsettled, and changed, and improved, till she arrived at the full conviction that nothing but the immersion of believers, on a credible profession of their faith, had been appointed by Christ and his apostles.
From a sense of duty, as well as from the respect due to her clergyman, she made known to him the anxious state of her mind on this subject, when, as may be supposed, he used every means in his power to convince her that baptism, within the pale of the established church, was both valid and sufficient; but his appeals to authority, tradition, and custom, having failed to remove her doubts, as a final argument, he brought the register of baptisms that she might see her own name written in it by the minister who sprinkled her in infancy. It is easy enough to imagine that an earnest inquirer after truth was not silenced by this kind of logic and proof, which indeed touched none of her scruples, produced no change in her views on the main question at issue between them, and left her fully persuaded that she had never been baptized according to the mode described in the New Testament.
Now what could she do under these circumstances? All her modes of thinking, her reading, her notions, her feelings, were so thoroughly churchified, that she lived many years beyond the common period of human life a stranger to what is called the religious world, ignorant of the numerous branches of the dissenting family -and, what is not uncommon among persons of her class, she had not even heard of the baptists as a distinct section of the christian church. Where, then, could her mind find relief from anxious and consuming solicitude? When month after month had been spent
OBEDIENCE AND HAPPINESS.
in this state of mental conflict and sorrow, without any prospect of obtaining the desire of her heart, serving God with fastings and prayers night and day, the thought arose in her mind that in the town of she had a female acquaintance who might be able to give her advice, or to render her assistance; and therefore she resolved to pay her a visit, whatever might be the result, hoping to find some one there who could lead her into all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
Behold, then, this aged disciple of Jesus Christ leaving home on a journey amounting to 130 or 140 miles in search of a neglected ordinance of God, which had long absorbed every other thought and feeling of her soul; while her determination to follow the scripture rule and pattern in this duty became stronger as new difficulties crossed her path, and fresh objectors stood in her way. She was old and stricken in years at the time this journey was undertaken -her hair was white, almost as snow-her eyes had lost the fire and brilliancy of youth-her health was in afeeblestate-she was going into an unknown part of the country-friends laughed at her singular opinions-poured contempt on what they deemed her delusions and did all in their power to hinder her from becoming one of the sect everywhere spoken against. But they might as easily have rolled back the advancing tides of the sea, or stopped the sun, 'which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race:" for believing that it was right in the Lord, enjoined by the Saviour, enforced by his own example, practiced by the apostles and their followers, without any exceptionno jests, nor frowns, nor threats, nor entreaties, could shake her constancy, or induce her to make a sacrifice of the claims of truth upon the altar of worldly policy.
Bent upon going the journey, and having a man-servant for her guardian, she travelled the distance already named to ease her conscience of a heavy load, by following the Saviour in the baptismal rite; and the same Providence which led Philip toward the south, where he met and baptized the Eunuch, directed the person under consideration, into the north, where she found peace and satisfaction. Having reached the house of her friend, and received the gratulations of her family, she took the earliest opportunity of making known her doubts on infant baptism, declaring plainly her opinion that it derived no sanction from the precepts and examples found in the records of the New Testament churches. Discouragement awaited her here in the outset, for the family she had come to visit were members of the established church, and knew nothing of the baptists beyond the common report that such people did exist in the town, though very few church people knew anything about the history, the principles, the sufferings, the piety of their denomination, or the ground on which they founded their claims to be regarded as the nearest approach to the constitution and practice of apostolic churches. Moreover, she found no small difficulty in
OBEDIENCE AND HAPPINESS.
making her friends understand that she wanted to be buried with her Lord in baptism; but there was an unerring, though unseen, power at work on her behalf; for it came to pass one morning, at family worship, that the master of the house was reading, in due order, the eighth chapter in the Acts of the Apostles, and when he came to the verse, "They went down both into the water, both Philip and the Eunuch, and he baptized him," the greyheaded saint, who had been listening with fixed attention as the narrative was read, unable to restrain her feelings any longer, eagerly seized him by the arm and interrupted him by saying, "There! that is what I want! I have never been down into the water to be baptized."
Having grown up under the influence of these unfounded prejudices which church people cherish against dissenters, but against none so much as the baptists, the family were not a little surprised at this discovery, though at first disposed to regard it as a subject for merriment; but those who follow truth wherever it leads them are not easily turned aside from the path of duty by scoffs and jokes: nor was it likely that a person of her advanced years could be persuaded to rob herself of "the answer of a good conscience towards God" for the sake of pleasing mistaken, though affectionate, friends. "Whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven."
"Should it rend some fond connexion;
When I faint beneath the cross."
Her sincerity, her earnestness, her anxious state of mind at this moment, may be judged by the fact, that as early as five o'clock in the summer mornings she was often sitting up in bed reading the word of God carefully weighing every passage which threw any light on the mode and subjects of baptism-praying for the comforts of the Holy Spirit; and on one occasion saying, with great emphasis and emotion, "I cannot die in peace, unless I am baptized." The distress of her mind now amounted to agony-"Without were fightings, within were fears." Obedience had been essential to her happiness. She was "constrained" by the love of Christ. Anxiety was consuming her. Believers' baptism had taken such hold upon her heart, that she was "straitened" till it was accomplished. Cannot anything be done to ease and satisfy her conscience? Is there no friend, no guide, no comforter within reach? Where is her prayer book? Alas! that authority prescribes immersion as the rule of baptism, and thus increases the anguish of her soul by strengthening her convictions that she has not been scripturally baptized. Is there no learned divine at hand to calm her excited feelings by bringing "a message from God." Happy thought! "How beautiful are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, and publisheth peace!" The clergyman! the clergyman! was now all
OBEDIENCE AND HAPPINESS.
the cry. So the lady of the house sent for the clergyman, on whose ministry she attended, taking it for granted that a learned man from one of the universities would be able to silence, if he could not reason her visitor out of the whims and fancies which engaged her attention both night and day. Vain attempt! The pretender to apostolic succession came and saw, but did not conquer. In the interview which took place between them, he justified the custom of sprinkling children by pleading the power of his church to decree rites and ceremonies; she rested her cause on an appeal to the sole and sufficient authority of the scriptures-the minister reasoned from the traditions of fallible men, the enquirer after baptism from the writings of inspired apostles the first defended the validity of sprinkling, the second insisted upon the necessity of immersion. The man of Oxford, or Cambridge, having thus met with a sturdy opponent, withdrew from the contest, without satisfaction on either side; she was confirmed in her opinion that infant bap→ tism was contrary to New Testament usage; he departed, saying his fair opponent was beside herself. "I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak forth the words of truth and soberness."
Every means having now failed to allay her anxieties, or to give her peace of mind, the family determined, after no small degree of fear and trembling, that one who had been "buried with Christ in baptism" should be introduced to her. A lady connected with one of the baptist churches in the town of - was put in possession of the main facts of the case, and requested to perform this labour of love, which was done with cheerfulness and without delay. In the interview between these pious women, a remarkable and an affecting seene took place. The moment she entered the room, and was introduced as a member of a baptist church, the greyheaded child of God underwent a sudden and marvellous change; the feebleness of old age gave place to the vivacity of youth, instead of darkness there was light, and joy succeeded sorrow. She seemed almost beside herself, embracing the lady with the utmost affection and tenderness, throwing her withered arms around her neck, and kiss. ing her repeatedly, saying with Ruth, "thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God;" and enquiring, as though she could hardly believe the news, have you gone down into the water in imitation of my adorable Saviour? This was the first time she had ever been in the company of a baptist. After a long season of darkness and uncertainty, having to grope her way through the errors of her education, the scene began to brighten with her setting sun, and the object for which she had struggled, prayed, wept, and suffered, was now within her reach. One more difficulty has to be removed before she can have the permission of her friends to "go down into the water" at the call of duty. Immersion in cold water may do very well in warm countries like Judea, but is it not dangerous in our northern latitude? Even though young people run no risk in doing this, is it safe, or even prudent, for a very old person
OBEDIENCE AND HAPPINESS.
thus to expose her health? What can be done to remove these scruples? Timidity and caution whisper that it would be well to send for a medical man and ask his opinion. Already the clergyman had used his efforts to turn away this child of God from the truth respecting baptism, but now the doctor was called in as a matter of prudence and safety, and requested to say, whether any danger would arise from her immersion in cold water? "Danger!" said he, 66 no, there can be no danger, but surely wonders will never cease!" While these interviews and consultations were taking place, the writer happened to visit the town of -, when the deacons of one of our churches, in the absence of their pastor, requested him to visit this candidate for baptism, in company with the lady before mentioned, and to immerse her without delay, should there be no doubt about her piety. From what passed between us, in the course of a long conversation, she gave abundant proof of her diligence in reading the word of God, and that her piety was above, rather than below, the ordinary standard, while her very appearance was calculated to produce in the mind of a spectator feelings of love and veneration. Having made an allusion to the motives which constrained her to request baptism, she answered in a prompt and earnest tone, "Motives, sir! what motives can I have for wishing to be baptized but love for my Saviour ?"
There was no longer any pretext for delay; the clergyman had been discomfited, the doctor had given his consent, the administrator was satisfied, and the candidate was panting for the privilege; accordingly it was arranged that her baptism should take place in the evening at seven o'clock. Let the reader, who has followed the narrative up to its present stage, now imagine himself in a good baptist chapel at the close of a midsummer's day, witnessing the ordinance of believers' immersion. At our baptismal services it is customary for hundreds of persons to come together, either from curiosity, or from better motives, and serious impressions are often made on the minds of candid spectators: but in the present instance comparatively few were made acquainted with the circumstances, some of these being members of the established church, who had never seen the ordinance administered according to the scripture mode. After singing and prayer, reading and expounding the scriptures, the minister and the candidate went down into the water, as Philip and the Eunuch had done in the first and purest age of christianity. Dear reader! behold the sight! there stands a woman of venerable appearance, who has come a long journey in search of christian baptism, having overcome no ordinary difficulties in the attainment of her object—eighty-four summer suns have bleached her her hands are clasped in prayer-her eyes are shut to every thing around-her attitude is calm and devotional-there is a death-like stillness among the spectators-hearts are full of emotion-tears are in every eye-sighs are but half suppressed