Inward Baptism

From The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended (1758)

The truth of the doctrine of original sin is very clearly manifest from what the scripture says of that change of state, which it represents as necessary to an actual interest in the spiritual and eternal blessings of the redeemer’s kingdom… [Scripture] speaks of it as absolutely necessary for everyone, that he be regenerated, or born again (John 3:3)…In order to proceed in the most sure and safe manner in understanding what is meant in scripture by being born again, and so in the inferences we draw from what is said of the necessity of it, let us compare scripture with scripture, and consider what other terms or phrases are used, where respect is evidently had to the same change.

And here I would observe the following things… I put repentance and conversion together because the scripture puts them together (Acts 3:19) and because they plainly signify much the same thing… In the change which the mind undergoes in repentance and conversion is attained that character of true Christians which is necessary to the eternal privileges of such…

As Christ says concerning conversion, Matt. 18:3, “Truly, truly, I say unto you, except you are converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven,” so does he say concerning being born again, in what he spoke to Nicodemus…

The change effected by repentance is expressed and exhibited by baptism. Hence it is called the baptism of repentance… The change effected in regeneration, repentance, and conversion is signified by baptism, as has been shown; and so is circumcision of the heart signified by the same thing. None will deny that it was this internal circumcision, which of old was signified by external circumcision; nor will any deny, now under the New Testament, that inward and spiritual baptism, or the cleansing of the heart, is signified by external washing or baptism.

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) was a Congregationalist minister and theologian, whose powerful sermons helped to spark the Great Awakening. He wrote The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended, one of his most influential theological treatises, while serving as parish minister and a missionary to the Housatonic Indians in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.


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