(Article for publication week of 5-21- AD 2015)
"He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16).
For the past several weeks we have been writing on the Great Revival that was sent from heaven among the Confederate armies during the War for Southern Independence. Reliable reports indicate that upwards of 150,000 Confederate soldiers found peace in believing in the Lord Jesus Christ during the War. Our sources for the historical part of these articles have been gleaned from "Christ in the Camp" by Dr. J.W. Jones, "The Great Revival in the Southern Armies" by Dr. W.W. Bennett, and "The Sixteenth Mississippi Infantry", by the Honourable Robert Evans. We have recounted that the Revival was preceded by and attended with fervent prayer, faithful preaching, Christian unity, and notable helps. We have also mentioned that the Revival was evidently genuine by its lasting fruits. This week we want to note the apparent genuineness of the Revival by the urgency with which converts followed after gospel duties. For example, Dr. Jones relates that when the Army of Northern Virginia was entrenched along the Rapidan River, and the Yankees just across on the other side, that baptismal services were conducted in the river in plain view of the federal pickets. This was the urgency that these new believers felt to follow Christ in Baptism. Dr. Jones also relates that to their credit the Yankees never fired on the baptismal services.
Dr. Jones also relates that numerous baptisms were held in the dead of winter. (Those of you who have been in Virginia in the winter time know their winters are far more severe that ours in Mississippi.) Dr. Jones relates that on several occasions the ice had to be broken to baptise the new converts. Such zeal always attends true revival. Elder Wilson Thompson, a Baptist preacher the Lord used in local Revivals in the North Central States in the first half of the nineteenth century relates that he also often broke the ice to baptise zealous converts. Another useful minister, Elder John Leland, who preached in the late 18th and early 19th centuries from Massachusetts to Virginia relates similar accounts. Elder Leland wrote a baptismal hymn which begins, "Christians if your hearts are warm, ice and snow can do harm"!
Now compare that kind of zeal with the Laodicean spirit of our generation. We can't have a baptism nowadays until Spring of the year, or until we get the baptistery warm. This is a sad commentary of our cold zeal. Have you ever noticed that in the scriptures believers were generally baptised as soon as they professed faith in Christ. You never read of folks waiting for warmer weather, or waiting for their grandma to come so grandma could see them get baptised, or waiting for their "favourite" preacher to come baptise them! Baptism is an urgent duty after we have been converted.
Note well, that I said baptism is an urgent duty after faith. The ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper are for believers only and if you are not a believer in Christ they are not your first concern. If you have not come to saving faith in Christ the urgent thing for you is to seek Christ, not the ordinances. Some may inquire, "if there is no saving power or merit in the ordinances, then where is the urgency?" The answer is, the Lord commands it"! We may not be indifferent to any of the Lord's commands, if we are truly saved, and such indifference indicates that you are yet unsaved.
Now, notice in our text that lack of baptismal water does not damn a sinner, but lack of faith certainly does. Note well, the first half of the text says that the baptised believer will surely be saved, but the second half says "he that believeth not shall be damned." It is faith that joins us to the Saviour, not water. But, baptism is the first gospel duty and the neglect of it is grievous to the Dear Saviour. By submitting to baptism we publicly declare we are believers in the Saviour Who died for our sins, arose the third day for our justification and is now seated at His Father's right hand interceding for all for whom He died. This makes it an urgent matter. May the Lord inspire us with an holy zeal in all gospel duties, and may He favour His Church with another great Revival.