John Ryland, Jr. On Believer’s Baptism

John Ryland, Jr. (1753-1825), to be distinguished from his father, John Collett Ryland, about whom I blogged a few days ago, detailed his commitment to the Baptist way in a sermon that he preached in June, 1812, to the students and subscribers of Stepney Academy, founded two years prior to train men for ministry among the Calvinistic Baptists. Ryland gives the following solid advice to the students in his audience:[1] “Always show you are more concerned to turn sinners to God, than to make proselytes to a party. While you teach men to observe all things whatsoever our blessed Lord has commanded, whether with reference to moral duty, or positive institutions, let it appear, in the latter case, that you regard the thing signified as far more important than the sign.

“In administering the Ordinances of the New Testament be careful to point out their important signification. Urge them who are buried with Christ by Baptism into death, to remember their obligations to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness; to be separate from the world and devoted to God. What avails observance of a more significant and scriptural mode of administering the ordinance, if its end be not kept constantly in view? It is not the Baptism of adults, but of believers, for which we plead; let them who profess to have believed, be urged so to walk as to prove they abide in him, whose name they bear. Let them live the life of faith, and fight the good fight of faith. “He that believeth and is Baptized shall be saved” [Mk 16:16]. Were the Greek term translated, I am persuaded it should be rendered, He that believeth and is immersed or overwhelmed etc. Overwhelmed with what? with Water? Yes, that is the sign, and thus only we think the ordinance should be administered. But, what is the thing signified? He that is overwhelmed with a sense of Obligation, of Guilt, of Danger, of Gratitude, of Love; he that is immersed in the Holy Spirit, shall be saved. We had rather have the thing signified without the sign, than the sign without the thing signified: though we think both should go together.”

[1] Advice to Young Ministers, respecting their preparatory Studies (Bristol, 1812), 28-29.