God’s Sensible Pledge: Alexander Campbell on Baptism

Now available on my Academic Materials page is the lead article of the then new academic periodical the Stone Campbell Journal entitled “God’s Sensible Pledge: The Witness of the Spirit in the Early Baptismal Theology of Alexander Campbell”.

The article suggests that Campbell regarded baptism as God’s sensible (empirical) pledge of assurance. It is an objective assurance of God’s forgiving grace which we receive by faith. Assurance, then, has an objective dimension. Instead of depending solely or wholely on a subjective experience at the “mourner’s bench” (a conversion strategy common on the frontier of early 19th century America), believers are assured by the divine promises attached to baptism. Baptism, then, is more about what God does than what we do. It is God’s act by which he assures believers of his grace.

3 Responses to “God’s Sensible Pledge: Alexander Campbell on Baptism”

  1.   Royce Says:

    Thanks for investing the time and talent required to produce this study of Campbell’s journey of seeking assurance of salvation.

    Two observations come to mind. First, to completely agee with Campbell’s final position on baptism one must logically suppose that every person immersed is saved. That of course is flawed thinking. Secondly, and for the same core reason, assurance of God’s salvation should rest solely upon faith, and that objective faith.

    There is a lurking danger, whether recognized and admitted or not, for those who trust their submission to the waters of baptism for salvation or the assurance of it. The danger is that some might be led to trust the act rather than the one who promised.

    I personally know dozens of believers who have been baptised multiple times seeking that assurance that can only be realized by taking God at His word.

    Water baptism is in truth “believer’s baptism”. It is only for those who “believe with all your heart”. Most of us will agree that the gift of the abiding Holy Spirit accompanies the grace of salvation. From Peter’s own mouth he twice stated he received the divine gift when he “believed”.

    His peace,
    Royce Ogle

  2.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    I would not agree that “logically” one must suppose that every immersed person is saved. Rather, Campbell would affirm that every believer who is immersed is assured of salvation.

    It is not a matter of trusting “their submission to the waters of baptism,” but trusting in Christ who assures us through the waters of baptism.

    Whether Campbell is right or wrong, I don’t think your characterizations are fair to his position or your points count against his position.

  3.   John Mark Hicks Says:


    My responses to you were rushed. My apologies.

    Your response to the article seems more rooted in what some have done with Campbell’s perspectives (e.g., gospel system) rather than to what Campbell himself believed.

    His descendents, as I point out in my book “Down in the River to Pray,” have sometimes reworked the “plan” to focus more on human obedience than on what God does and has done for us.

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