There are two distinct and conflicting philosophies concerning the timing of baptism. One is to rush all those who make profession of faith into the baptismal pool at the earliest possible moment—before the mind changes or the flame of initial fervency cools off. Proponents of this plan hold that thorough instruction can come afterward, when right habits can be established and adjustment and stabilization brought about. Those of this school of thought hold that, despite greater losses likely under this procedure, a larger net increase still accrues in the end. Therefore, notwithstanding heavier losses, they deem this policy justifiable.
Those who maintain the other concept of baptism believe that more satisfying and lasting results are obtained by more thorough prebaptismal instruction—and that takes time. They believe that habits such as smoking, improper food and drink, wrong amusements and reading, should be thoroughly adjusted, and the individual should be clear and firm in desiring to join the remnant church, with precisely what that implies. They point out that we cannot take our pattern from the popular evangelists and revivalists of the -nominal churches, wherein church membership means little by way of change in life.
Citation of Paul and the Philippian jailer, and of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, is always made by proponents of the immediate baptism viewpoint. The rebuttal from the other side generally involves the recognized necessity of personal instruction or instruction within baptismal classes. Their plea is therefore for more adequate instruction and less haste, with consequently fewer losses. The advantageous results of rather extended instruction in some of our overseas mission fields is usually mentioned as a pertinent case in point.
The fact that we have such disturbing losses under the hasty-baptism program would seem to give justification to any sound reform that would lessen losses and ensure greater stability. Even if the effect on the candidate were not to be considered, this would appear justifiable from the influence on the church alone.
Substantial people—men and women of affairs who have much at stake in such a basic decision—clearly recognize the revolutionary involvements of such a fundamental decision in social, economic, vocational, and every other phase of life. Such do not make fundamental decisions as rapidly as less responsible and less thoughtful folk. We greatly need and want men and women of talent, means, and influence to throw in their lot with the remnant church. Such always require more time to make this, a vital step. When they come in, however, they usually stay in. The question then inevitably arises : If more adequate time for readjustment of the one group is required, why would not greater care and thoroughness with the other be similarly profitable?
The Christian church has passed through tremendous changes since Paul and Philip's day. The great apostasy of prophecy, developing through the early centuries, perverted practically all the principles and practices of the apostolic church. It introduced a host of things unknown to early Christianity and these perversions became crystallized into the mystery of iniquity. These errors were deep seated, and their later repudiation involved major readjustments of belief and practice. The great Reformation of the sixteenth century broke with the grosser perversions of Catholicism and restored much of the gospel platform. However, numerous errors were retained that weakened the early church's position, such as the Sunday sabbath, innate immortality, etc.
Then, the papal Counter Reformation succeeded in injecting many reactionary views. Next, higher criticism and rationalism sprang up within the ranks of Protestantism, neutralizing many of the clear principles of the Reformation. Finally, the rejection of the advent message by popular Protestantism, in the fourth decade of the nineteenth century, constituted the rejection of heavenly light, and darkness has since made increasing encroachments. Nominalism, the social gospel, and skepticism became rampant in the ranks of the rationalists. Added to these departures are the extremes of dispensationalism, futurism, and the secret rapture theory, which are prevalent in the fundamentalist wing of Protestantism. This calls for the re-establishing of the very fundamentals of Christian verity—God, Christ, the Bible, the atonement, salvation through grace, etc.
The acceptance of the advent truth therefore means more than the acceptance of certain neglected truths due the world today. It involves the breaking with false positions and concepts that have accrued through the centuries. These relationships and adjustments must be studied out and thought through individually. And this takes time.
There is yet another vital consideration. In the early decades of this message most of those who accepted the Sabbath, the sanctuary, and kindred truths were already devout Christians, who simply needed to have their doctrinal misconceptions corrected. In our early days a few weeks of contact usually sufficed to persuade the truth seeker. Having accepted these special truths, the 'sincere Christian signified that acceptance by baptism. Today, on the contrary, a living Christian experience is becoming increasingly rare in the world about us. Genuine conversion—an actual new birth with its attendant reformation of life—often takes time to bring about.
Consequently, all contributing factors call for sufficient time, so that birth into this new faith shall not be premature. There are few provisions for the proper care and nurture of the premature. Spiritual nurses and doctors are so few and so busy that they have not the time for bringing the premature to the place where they can secure their own proper 'spiritual nourishment. Hence, again sufficient time is called for to make reasonably sure the spiritual growth and health of those newly born into the faith.
Thorough work, such as will bring about an adequate understanding of present truth and a living connection with Christ, as well as an intelligent grasp of the expectations of the Lord and His church concerning members in the remnant church, will make for abiding strength.