Page:Historical Lectures and Addresses.djvu/69

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his friends in holding the opinion that "baptism ought to be administered as a sign of admission into the Church to persons of an age competent to understand its meaning, and not to children who happened to be of the seed of the faithful". Having come to this conclusion, Smith and his friend Helwys were in distress because there was no Church which they could join with a good conscience. In this dilemma Smith first baptised himself and then Helwys, and by this means obtained two elders who were qualified to baptise others. For this reason he was called a Sebaptist, or Self-baptiser, and his unauthorised act created much horror amongst the Independents. It is hard to see why this should have been the case; Smith was only acting logically upon the general principles of the Separatists. If the history of the Church was to begin again, it might as well begin from the beginning. Yet still Baptist writers reject this story about Smith with some warmth, though the balance of evidence is strongly in its favour. Smith afterwards repented of his rashness and asked to be admitted into communion with the Mennonites in Amsterdam. He allowed that "it is not lawful for every one that seeketh the Truth to baptise, for then there might be as many Churches as there are couples in the world". Helwys, however, was not prepared to withdraw from his position. He took the view that if elders only could baptise, that was to go back to the idea of an Apostolical succession, and he asked, "Hath the Lord thus restrained His Spirit, His Word and ordinances as to make particular men lords over them, or the keepers of them? God forbid." How-