The religion of Jesus consists partly of truths to be believed, and partly of precepts to be obeyed; and the ordinance of baptism furnishes motives for a faithful adherence to both.
We have been baptized “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit;” and have thus practically avowed our belief in them. It was at Jordan that the Father bore witness to his well-beloved Son, and that the Holy Spirit descended upon him; hither, therefore, in the early ages, men were directed to repair, that they might learn the doctrine of the Trinity. If we relinquish this doctrine, we virtually relinquish our baptism. Of this there need not be a more convincing proof, than the inclination which has been discovered by those who have renounced the doctrine to disuse the form of baptizing in the name of the Sacred Three.
We have also professed by our baptism to embrace that great salvation which is accomplished by the united influence of the Sacred Three. We have in effect declared our acquiescence in the freeness of the Father’s grace, in the all-sufficient atonement of the Son, and in the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit; for these are the principal things by which, in the New Testament account of the economy of grace, each is distinguished. Nor can we renounce them, without virtually renouncing our baptism.
The immersion of the body in water, which is a purifying element, contains a profession of our faith in Christ, through the shedding of whose blood we are cleansed from all sin. Hence, baptism in the name of Christ is said to be for the remission of sins. Not that there is any such virtue in the element, whatever be the quantity; nor in the ceremony, though of Divine appointment: but it contains a sign of the way in which we must be saved. Sin is washed away in baptism in the same sense as Christ’s flesh is eaten, and his blood drank, in the Lord’s supper: the sign, when rightly used, leads to the thing signified. Remission of sins is ascribed by Peter not properly to baptism, but to the name in which the parties were to be baptized. Thus also Saul was directed to wash away his sins, calling on the name of the Lord. Nearly akin to this is the idea conveyed to us in the First Epistle of Peter: “The long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water. The like figure whereunto baptism doth now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience towards God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” The salvation of Noah and his family by the ark was a figure of our salvation by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The ark for a time was surrounded, as it were, with waters from above, and from beneath; but it survived its trial, and those who were in it were at length brought safe to land. Christ, also, for a time sustained the deluge of wrath due to our sins; but survived the trial, rising triumphantly from the dead, and thereby saved us from everlasting death. Of this great transaction baptism is a like figure. It is another sign of the same thing. The resemblance of baptism by immersion to the death and resurrection of Christ, and the suitableness of the one to signify our faith in the other, are manifest. It is thus that baptism does now save us; not as putting away the filth of the flesh, (for all the virtue contained in the ordinance itself is “the answer of a good conscience toward God,”) but as affording a sign of our salvation by the victorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Excerpt from: “The Practical Uses of Christian Baptism” 1802, in Circular Letters.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Expositions—Miscellaneous. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 3, pp. 340–341). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.