“If I, therefore, be a father, where is mine honour?”—Malachi 1:6
We might notice that the Speaker is the God of nature, that he is the Father of all in a natural sense, that he is the Father of the Jews nationally, but that principally he is the Father of all his heaven-born children, and deserving of all honour. And what proof do you give that you honour him?
Let us first consider him as being the Father of all heaven-born souls. What a field is open hero for our work. Can we honour him in it? He is their Father in his eternal council and love, in his personal election, in his choice of his children in Christ their Head,—the mystical body, the church; and these are bound together in one eternal union; for which reason Christ says, “I go to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” They are his children in a manifestive way. They are safe in Christ, though not in themselves; for “the carnal mind is enmity against God.” But when the Holy Ghost quickens their souls, he works in them a divine change, whereby they eventually cry, “Abba, Father!” thus manifesting that God is their Father.
The word “Abba” is one which, spelt backwards or forwards, is the same, and denotes our relation to him. It teaches us, look which way we will. If we look backward to eternity, he is our Father; and if we look forward to eternity, he is still our Father. If we examine the mysterious providences we have passed through, he has been to us a Father; and if we look to his promises, he is our Father. Not that we must therefore be indifferent as to our conduct as children. Christ has taught us better things. The love of Christ constraineth us, and we love him because he first loved us. God has provided blessings for us in Christ; we have our eternal glory in him, and he will bring all his children unto his Father. Like as Judah said concerning Benjamin, “I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him. If I bring him not to thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever.”
And for this reason it is said Christ will present his church a glorious church. Not that men might present it a glorious church, but that Christ should so present it. Some ministers think that the passage in Isa. 8:18: “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and wonders,” belongs to them, and that they will present before the Lord those who have been called under their ministry; but this is a piece of fleshly pride and lumber. It applies to Christ, with his children. The Lord, in his good providence, has provided blessings for the rest of mankind. He has given them this earth to live upon, with many of its riches and honours. But with the children of God it is often the reverse. They are very often tried and tempted; and if they happen to possess a little of this world’s goods, it is very often taken from them; but he has reserved for them an inheritance, incorruptible, and that fadeth not away. And thus do they outshine angels in glory; for, as a father, doth the Lord watch over them and keep them. Ah! If he had left you to yourselves, where would you have been? You would all have gone the downward road to destruction. You would have been cast away long ago, if it had not been for your Father’s care. But he checked you in your course of sin; he stopped your mad steps and put his fear in your hearts, and then propped up your hope and visited you with a manifestation of mercy, even though you had insulted him over and over again. And thus death is yours. “Ah!” some may say, “I wish it was not.” Do you know what you mean? There is a difference between death being yours and you being death’s. If you are death’s, then will you never have the victory over it; but if death is yours, it is your servant, and will carry you safely home. It will, strictly speaking, be subordinate to you. O, brethren, may your Father give you a lift by the way, that you may triumph over death!
There is honour due to God, as your Father. When you experience a settled solid belief in his Word, you give him honour. If, when your natural father spoke to you, you were to tell him he did not speak the truth, you would dishonour him; you could not have any regard for him as your father. Well, then; is not the Bible God’s Word? It is the testimony of him, and of his Son Jesus Christ; and sometimes, when you look at the Bible, and read about troubles or persecution, you say, “I don’t like that,” and turn over the leaf and read something else. Is that honoring your Father? No. It is like a father sending his son a letter, and the son does not like some portion of it; so he puts it into his pocket. Would that be honoring his father? It is so by many in our day, who have a great zeal for God, but only so far as it pleases their carnal mind. It is not the zeal of the Holy Ghost, or they would reverence his Word.
To honour your Father is to be concerned to give him glory in all things, to obey his precepts, to watch for his coming, to pray unto him, and to be cautious of your steps, to attend to his rebukes, to live righteously, soberly, and godly, and to exhibit Christ to view, as your all and in all.
Be concerned, then, brethren, to honour him, to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, to obey his commands; for he says, “If ye love me, keep my commandments;” and a son who honours his father will strive to keep his commands. O that he may give you a heart to keep his commandments, to yield obedience to his ordinances, the preaching of the Word, Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. He commissioned his disciples to go into all the world, discipling and baptizing in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; as an emblem of their being immersed in the love of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost; and that in so doing they should honour him. Some will ask the question, “Is it essential to salvation?” and others may say, “Ah, well! I know that such and such things are revealed in the Bible; but they are not essential to salvation; I can go to heaven without them.” It is an insult to God, and is telling Christ you know better than he, and that he has instituted ordinances which are useless and unnecessary! You give no proof that the love of God is shed abroad in your heart. You say you believe your salvation is secure in Christ, and, therefore, you need not yield obedience to his Word. Shame upon you! Shame! Blush, if you can, blush for shame, that you can bring forth such an unholy argument. Suppose a father secured an inheritance for his son for life, would that justify the son in not being obedient to his father and treating him with respect? True, that obedience and respect would not be essential to the inheritance, as that is irrevocably secured for him. His father has secured the inheritance for him, therefore he should honour him.
And you should honour your heavenly Father by obeying his commands, by being baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. “If I be a Father, where is mine honour?” Would not such a son as the above grieve his father’s very heart? Surely, then, we should be concerned to honour our heavenly Father, by obeying his commands and following his example! You may say you have been baptized in the Holy Ghost, and, therefore, no other baptism is needed. But, if you have been thus baptized, or have even received (or realized) the Holy Ghost, you are the very characters who ought to be baptized in water. As saith Peter: “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?”
Some, there may be, who do not see the beauty of the ordinance of believers’ baptism. O that the Lord would open their eyes! “If I be a Father, where is mine honour?”
We read in Matt. 3:13 of Jesus being baptized and the Father and the Holy Spirit signalizing the act. Therefore, as the Father and the Holy Spirit crowned the deed with approbation, “Shall my pride disdain the deed That’s worthy of my God?”
On the day of Pentecost, God baptized the believers in the Holy Ghost; for the Holy Ghost filled all the house where they were sitting; so that all in the house must have been immersed. It is a solemn immersion when God fills his people with the Holy Ghost, or a manifestation of his love in their consciences. But how can any one experience the Baptism of the Holy Spirit if he does not believe in the Personality and Godhead of that blessed Being? There is no hope of salvation for such, dying as they are.
I remember reading of an aged minister who died, and a young man came in his place. Some of God’s family began to grumble and mourn, as their souls were not fed. Amongst the rest, one poor old woman seemed to make more stir than others of them. The minister got to hear of it, and went to her, and said, “I understand you find fault with my ministry.” She said, “I do; for I don’t profit under it.” “Well,” said the young man, “I don’t think you understand the first principles of religion, and, therefore, I am come to try you. How many Persons are there in the Trinity?” “Two,” emphatically answered the old lady. “I thought,” said the young man, “you did not know; for there are Three.” “I know,” said the good woman, “the Bible tells us there are Three, and our minister used to preach Three; but you only preach Two.” Now, did that minister know anything of the baptism of the Spirit? No; he had not even experimentally received him; much less been bathed by him in the love and blood of Immanuel.
John baptized in Enon, because there was much water there. Some say he only went ankle deep. How ridiculous I If sprinkling would have done, he might have had enough water in a bowl to serve a thousand. A minister once told me that the word rendered “much” in the passage signified in the Greek “many.” I told him if it did mean many, that did not mend it; for why should many waters be required for sprinkling?*
True, we read of households, and some argue that there must necessarily have been children amongst them. Why, I can count more than twenty families before me this morning without a young person in them. So there was the household of the jailor. The jailor believed in God “with all his house.” They were all believers. There was the household of Lydia. Whether Lydia was married or not we are not told, but those in her house were “brethren,” and Paul and Silas “comforted” them. There was the household of Stephanas, and these had addicted themselves to the ministry; so there could have been no children there. They that gladly received the Word were baptized; so there could have been no infants there. Cornelius and others were baptized, as they had received the Holy Ghost. Cornelius was one of God’s covenant people; he “feared God with all his house,” and the time of his deliverance was come.
As for baptism having come in the room and stead of circumcision, the very nature of the ceremony of circumcision utterly excludes so absurd an idea.
Some say the children only of believers ought to be baptized; others that it is sufficient if one of the parents be a believer; and others that all children ought to be baptized. But neither the one nor the other has a “Thus saith the Lord” for what they do. I once heard of two persons who were discussing this matter, when a third person who was present observed that they had forgotten the sign of the cross on the forehead. Upon which he was sharply asked where it was enjoined in the Word of God. To which he replied that it was the very next text to the one in which infant sprinkling was commanded.
Ah! To what shifts do men resort when they have not a “Thus saith the Lord” for what they do, or when they don’t like what the Lord has commanded, either as to his ordinances or his Gospel precepts!” “If I be a Father, where is mine honour?”
I once went into the collegiate church [now the cathedral] when a confirmation was going on. I heard a person say, “What a flock of lambs!” I looked at those scores of tittering girls, all dressed in white, and I said to myself, “What a flock of giddy creatures!” Yet all these were said to have been baptized! And what were they to be confirmed in? In awful delusion! The bishop, addressing God, said, “Almighty and everlasting God, who hast vouchsafed to regenerate these, thy servants, by water and the Holy Ghost, and hast given unto them forgiveness of all their sins,” &c. The bishop then laid his hands on them respectively, and said, “Defend, O Lord, this thy child,” &c. O, brethren, the hands of only one Bishop will do us any good, even those of the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.— Manchester .
William Gadsby (1773-1844) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher, writer and philanthropist.