A PERSONAL TESTIMONY
Being brought up in Holland under the doctrine of infant baptism, there was never much thought about believer’s baptism, only that it was wrong; but now, with the desire that the Lord may be honoured and glorified I shall try to relate as simply as possible how the Lord worked in my heart and made me see that it is right.
From about the age of seventeen I can trace God’s work of searching in my heart, although to my shame I was still trying to serve two masters, and those who knew me in my early years could point many fingers at me. But I can only say it was a good thing they could not see my sins as God sees them because, when the Lord did show them to me, they were a hundred times worse.
One thing in our church I could not understand was the infant baptism formula, when something was read out we did not believe in, namely that the rite of baptism washed away the child’s sins. When this was questioned, we were told that it did not really mean that; although all the other formulae which were used for Holy Communion and in the Catechism were to be understood exactly as read. I put it down to my ignorance and tried not to let it worry me. Later as a student nurse I came into contact with people who believed that what the formula said was literally true, or in other words they believed in baptismal regeneration. I could see their point, after all that was how it was set forth; but when I stopped to think, and looked at those who held such views it was obvious that this was a wrong doctrine, as with so many of them their walk and profession did not harmonize.
About the age of 23, I felt I could no longer leave the responsibility of my baptism on my parents shoulders. There was a longing in my heart as Ruth put it, that “Thy people should be my people and thy God my God”; but I did not let anyone know it. At the age of 24 I became a member of the church (a Presbyterian church in Holland) together with some other young people, and the above text was given out, much to my comfort.
It was whilst I was nursing that the Lord answered my many prayers for a God fearing husband and caused me to become acquainted with an Englishman whom I later married. In his correspondence to me he wrote about his faith which assured me that my prayers had been heard, but . . . what now? He was a member of the Baptist Church, and that was wrong! or was it?
Much searching began, but I could not see any clear way in it and being in my final examination studies, I put if off till later; if this was God s way. He would make it clear. After my exams I came to England and worked for a time in one of the Aged Pilgrim’s homes, where I came into close contact with the Baptist people. Although I
did not understand or speak much English, I felt a close bond to them.
After we were married I had plenty of time to think. Oh what storms there were in my heart! I could not sing the hymns they sang;
they seemed to be only for God’s people; and the people themselves
seemed so sure that they were right in what they held; but what about the seekers? When the communion service was held, the other members of the congregation used to go out, and the thought would rise in my mind that the Lord had cast me off.
O, how Satan played havoc with my soul that first year, not only with the differences in church order but also by accusing me of going my own way in coming to England in the first place. During this period it was often my earnest prayer that it might please God to make my dear husband see things my way.
The reason that I record this stormy and rebellious time is, that others who, having been brought up to believe in infant baptism and who are brought to see believer’s baptism, may not be surprised when they too have to experience such rough waters. Once when we went back to my home for a holiday, I made up my mind to talk about it with various friends who had become dear to me during my nursing time. Some were not at home; here the subject was squashed; there it did not even get mentioned and so on.
I went to bed one night very downcast.
During the night the words “The entrance of thy words giveth light”; (Psalm 119 v 130), came to my mind so clearly that I saw that it was God and not men, who must give me light in this matter.
Another year or so went by and again we planned to go to Holland and I felt I must talk with somebody about it this time. On the two Wednesday evening services proceeding the date of departure, two different ministers both preached from the text in Ruth:
“Sit still my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall” (Ruth 3, 18). It seemed strange that two different ministers should talk about the same text, but I got the message; I was not to deliberately start any discussion on the matter. During that holiday nothing was said about the subject, but there was a sweet peace in my heart.
After that, all I wanted was the plain facts, no formulas or hymn-verses could convince or persuade me, only what the Word of God the Bible said. At that time I read a little booklet written by John Ritchie, wherein he writes about himself and three other friends coming together for prayer and Bible searching once a week. When the subject of baptism came up, they found that they had different opinions one from another. At first they tried to pass the subject by, but they were not satisfied with such a solution and so agreed among themselves that each one would try to find out as much as possible about baptism and then they would discuss it at the next meeting. By reading this booklet, I was presented with the plain facts as set out in God’s Word, and the Lord blessed me with an agreeable spirit, although the statement that they could not find any command about infant baptism, was very hard to swallow.
This made me cry before the Lord asking if there was then nothing of my former belief that I could still hold on to? No, there was nothing and the more I probed, the more I was convinced to the contrary; I was even made to see that the much quoted text: “For the promise is unto you and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call”, stated that calling
is essential first, as seen in the latter part of the text; and of course it is for our children, from generation to generation, and whether the child is younger or older, there must first be that calling of God in their heart.
The same with the jailer and his household, they were all baptized, but only after Paul had preached to them and had set forth the forgiving of sins through faith in Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation.
In the formula for infant baptism, it is presented as taking the place of circumcision, the Israel of the Old Testament being a picture, as it were, of the spiritual Israel in the New Testament. This view was knocked down, as it was brought to my attention that a child in the Old Testament could not be circumcised until it had been born. Now if we want to put this over spiritually in the New Testament, then a child of God cannot be baptised until he shows some sign of spiritual life. As the cry in the natural birth is a sign of life, so the cry of a burdened soul is the sign of spiritual life.
So gradually I was convinced that believer’s baptism was right, but there remained the big question: was it for me?
This again brought forth much heart searching and prayer, and in His time the Lord did melt my heart under loving preaching and through reading. I was much helped by a book of John Norcott (d. 1676) on Believer’s Baptism and its method.
The prayer of David in Ps. 139 “Search me, O God, and know my heart, try me, and know my thoughts; And see if there be any wicked way in me and lead me on the way everlasting”, was much in my heart. So after many unhappy years of being tossed between two minds, the Lord did open the door wide, and enabled me to follow Him, and in that following He granted me a peace in my soul that I cannot fully describe, and, if the Lord gives peace, who then can make trouble?.
R. H. August 1974