Infant Baptism Scriptural and Reasonable Parts 3-4 - by Rev. Samuel MillerCovenant Theology - God's Master Plan to Give His Son Jesus Christ a Bride
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A Simple Overview of Covenant Theology
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Covenant Theology Made Easy
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A Masterful Work on Baptism
There is no better succinct, concise, precise and exegetically irrefutable work on infant baptism than Harrison’s work. It is not just about baptism – it’s about infant inclusion in the covenant of grace. It’s about church membership.
Discourses 3 and 4: The Mode of Administering Baptism
“Can any man forbid water, that these should be baptized?” Acts 10:47
Having endeavoured, in the preceding discourses, to show that the baptism of infants is a scriptural and reasonable service, I now proceed to inquire into the mode in which this ordinance ought to be administered.
And here, it is well known, that there is a very serious diversity of opinion. On the one hand, our Baptist brethren believe that there is no true baptism unless the whole body be plunged under water. While on the other hand, we, and a very great majority of the Christian world, maintain that the mode of baptism by sprinkling or affusion is a method just as valid and lawful as any other. It will be my object, in the present discourse, to support the latter opinion; or rather to maintain, from scripture, and from the best usage of the Christian church, that baptism by sprinkling or affusion not only rests on as good authority as immersion; but that it is a method decisively more scriptural, suitable, and edifying.
From the very nature of this subject it will require some little extent of discussion to place it in a proper light, and some closeness of attention to apprehend and follow the arguments which may be employed. Let me then request from you a candid and patient hearing. If I know my own heart, it is my purpose to exhibit the subject in the light of truth, and to advance nothing but that which appears to rest on the authority of him who instituted the ordinance under consideration and who is alone competent to declare his will concerning it.
And, 1. Let us attend to the real meaning of the original word which is employed in the New Testament to express this sacramental rite.
The Greek word baptizo, which we translate baptize, from the circumstance of its having been so constantly and so long the subject of earnest discussion, and from its near resemblance to the English word which we employ to render it (or we might rather say, its identity with that word) has become so familiar with the public mind, that it may almost be regarded as a naturalized term of our language.
Now, we contend that this word does not necessarily, nor even commonly, signify to immerse; but also implies to wash, to sprinkle, to pour on water, and to tinge or dye with any liquid; and, therefore, accords very well with the mode of baptism by sprinkling or affusion.
I am aware, indeed, that our Baptist brethren, as before intimated, believe, and confidently assert, that the only legitimate and authorized meaning of this word, is to immerse; and that it is never employed, in a single case, in any part of the Bible, to express the application of water in any other manner. I can venture, my friends, to assure you, with the utmost confidence, that this representation is wholly incorrect. I can assure you, that the word which we render baptize does legitimately signify the application of water in any way, as well as by immersion. Nay, I can assure you, if the most mature and competent Greek scholars that ever lived may be avowed to decide in this case, that many examples of the use of this word occur in scripture, in which it not only may, but manifestly must signify sprinkling, perfusion or washing in any way. Without entering into the minute details of Greek criticism in reference to this term which would be neither suitable to our purpose, nor consistent with our limits it will suffice to refer to a few of those passages of scripture which will at once illustrate and confirm the position which I have laid down.
Thus, when the evangelists tell us that the scribes and Pharisees invariably “washed (in the original, baptized) their hands before dinner” (Matt. 15:2); when we are told that, when they come in from the market, “except they wash (in the original, ‘except they baptize’), they eat not” (Mark 7:3-4); when we read of the Pharisees being so scrupulous about the “washing (in the original, the baptizing) of cups, and pots, and brasen vessels, and tables;” when our Saviour speaks of his disciples being “baptized with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 1:5), in manifest allusion to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost; when John the Baptist predicted, that they should be “baptized with the Holy Ghost, and with fire,” in reference to the Holy Ghost sitting upon each of them as with “cloven tongues of fire” on the same day (Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16; Acts 2:3): when we find the apostle representing the children of Israel as all baptized by a cloud passing over without touching them; and also as baptized in the Red Sea, when we know that none of them were immersed in passing through, or, at most, only sprinkled by the spray of the watery walls on each side for we are expressly told that they went through “dry shod” (1 Cor. 10:2; Ex. 14:16; 22, 29; 15:19; Heb. 11:29); when Judas, in celebrating the Paschal supper with his Master, in dipping a morsel of bread on a bunch of herbs in the “sop” in the dish, is said, by Christ himself, to “baptize his hand in the dish” (as it is in the original, Matt. 26:23), which no one can imagine implies the immersion of his whole hand in the gravy of which they were all partaking; I say, when the word “baptize” is used in these and similar senses, it surely cannot mean in any of these cases to immerse or plunge. If a man is said by the inspired evangelist to be baptized, when his hands only are washed; and if “tables” (or couches, on which they reclined at meals, as appears from the original) are spoken of as “baptized” (Mark 7:4), when the cleansing of water was applied to them in any manner, and when the complete immersion of them in water is out of the question; surely nothing can be plainer than that the Holy Spirit, who indited the scriptures, does not restrict the meaning of this word to the idea of plunging, or total immersion.
Again, the New Testament meaning of this term appears from the manner in which it is applied to the ablutions of the ceremonial economy. The apostle, in writing to the Hebrews, and speaking of the Jewish ritual, says it “stood only in meats and drinks and divers washings” (in the original ‘divers baptisms,’ Heb. 9:10). Now we know that by far the greater part of these “divers washings” were accomplished by sprinkling and affusion, and not by immersion. The blood of the paschal Lamb was directed to be “sprinkled” on the doorposts of the Israelites (Ex. 12:7), as a token of Jehovah’s favour, and of protection from death. When they entered into covenant with God at Sinai, their solemn vows were directed to be sealed by a similar sign (Ex. 24:8). After Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, and they had given their consent, and promised to obey; he took the blood of the sacrifice, and water, and “sprinkled” both the book and the people (Heb. 9:19). On the great day of the atonement, when the High Priest went into the most Holy place, he “sprinkled” the blood of the sacrifice on the Mercy Seat, as a token of propitiation and cleansing. When any individual was to be cleansed, and delivered from legal guilt, the blood of the sacrifice was to be “sprinkled” upon him seven times (Lev. 16:14-15). In like manner at other times, the consecrated oil was to be “sprinkled” upon him who applied for deliverance from pollution.
Thus the people were to be ceremonially delivered from their uncleanness. When Aaron and his sons were set apart to their office, they were sprinkled with blood, as a sign of purification. When tents or dwelling houses were to be cleansed from pollution, it was done among other things, by sprinkling them with water. When the vessels, used in domestic economy, were to be ceremonially cleansed, the object was effected in the same manner, by sprinkling them with water. (See Numbers 19:17-22.) In a few cases, and but a few, the mode of cleansing by plunging in water is prescribed. Now these are the “divers baptisms” of which the apostle speaks (Heb. 9:10). It is worthy of notice that they are divers (diaforois). If they had been of one kind immersion only this term could not with propriety have been used. But they were of different kinds some sprinkling, others pouring, some scouring and rinsing (see Leviticus 6:28), and some plunging: but all pronounced by the inspired apostle to be baptism.
But happily, the inspired apostle does not leave us in doubt what those divers baptisms were, of which he speaks. He singles out and presents sprinkling as his chosen and only specimen. “For,” says he, in the 13th, 19th, and 21st verses of the same chapter, explaining what he means by divers baptisms, “if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ …. For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people…. Moreover, he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry.” If the apostle understood his own meaning, then, it is manifest that in speaking of divers baptisms, he had a principal reference to the application of blood and of water by sprinkling (Heb. 9:13, 19, 21).
In short, it is perfectly manifest, to every one competent to judge in the case, that the Greek words which we translate baptize and baptism, do undoubtedly signify, in a number of cases in both the Old and New Testaments, the washing with water, or the application of water in any way. To immerse is, undoubtedly, one of the senses which may be applied to the words. But it is so far from being the universal, the necessary meaning, as our Baptist brethren assert, that it is not even the common meaning. And I am well persuaded that the venerable Dr. Owen, certainly one of the greatest and best men of the day in which he lived, is borne out by truth when he pronounces, “That no one instance can be given in scripture, in which the word which we render baptize, does necessarily signify either to dip or plunge.” In every case the word admits of a different sense; and it is really imposing on public credulity to insist that it always does, and necessarily must signify immersion.
In like manner, if we examine the senses manifestly attached to bapto and baptizo by the best Greek classical writers, as shown by the ablest lexicographers and critics, the same result will be established; in other words, it will appear that these words are used, and often used, to express the ideas of cleansing, pouring, washing, wetting, and tinging, or dying, as well as immersion; and, of course, that no certain evidence in favour of the doctrine of our Baptist brethren, can be derived from this source. Indeed, a late eminent anti-pædobaptist writer, while he strenuously maintains that baptizo always signifies to immerse, acknowledges that he has “all the lexicographers and commentators against him in that opinion.”  How far the confidence which, in the face of this acknowledgment, he expresses, that they are all wrong and that his interpretation alone is right, is either modest or well-founded, must be left to the impartial reader.
It is evident, then, that our Baptist brethren can gain nothing by an appeal to the original word employed in the New Testament to express this ordinance. It decides nothing. All impartial judges by which I mean all the most profound and mature Greek scholars, who are neither theologians nor sectarians agree in pronouncing, that the term in question imports the application of water by sprinkling, pouring, tinging, wetting, or in any other way, as well as by plunging the whole body under it.
2. There is nothing in the thing signified by baptism which renders immersion more necessary or proper than any other mode of applying water in this ordinance.
Our Baptist brethren suppose and insist that there is something in the emblematical meaning of baptism which renders dipping or plunging the only proper mode of administering the ordinance. And hence nothing is more common, among the brethren of that denomination, than to pour ridicule on all other modes of baptizing, as entirely deficient in meaning and expressiveness. I am persuaded, my friends, that the slightest examination of the subject will convince every impartial inquirer that there is no solid ground for this representation.
It is granted, on all hands, that the thing principally signified by baptism is the renovation and sanctification of the heart, by the cleansing influences of the Holy Spirit. This was, undoubtedly, the blessing of which circumcision was an emblem. It signified, as the inspired apostle tells us, the “putting off the body of the sins of the flesh” (Col. 2:11). “He is not a Jew,” says the same apostle, “which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter” (Rom. 2:28-29). In like manner, baptism signifies the renovation of the heart by the special operation of the Spirit of God. It is intended ever to keep us in mind, by a very significant and striking emblem, that we are all by nature polluted and guilty, and that we stand in need of the pardoning and purifying grace of God by a crucified Redeemer.
Now, when the inspired writers speak of imparting the influences of the Holy Spirit to the children of men, by what kind of figure is that blessing commonly expressed? I answer as every one who is familiar with the Bible will concur in answering much more frequently by sprinkling and pouring out, than by any other form of expression. Thus the prophet Isaiah speaks again and again of the Spirit being poured out upon the people from on high. Take a single specimen: “I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring” (Isa. 44:3; cf. 32:15). The prophets, Ezekiel, Joel, and Zechariah, repeatedly employ the same language (Ezek. 39:29; Joel 2:28-29; Zech. 12:10); and this form of expression is also found more than once in the New Testament (Acts 2:17-18; 10:45). Indeed it seems to be the favourite language of the Spirit of God when speaking on this subject.
In other places the term sprinkling is employed to express the same idea. Accordingly, Jehovah says, by the prophet Ezekiel (36:25-26), “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” And in like manner, the prophet Isaiah, when speaking of the coming of the Messiah, and the benefits accruing to the church in New Testament times, foretells, “So shall he sprinkle many nations” (Isa. 52:15). Again, this divine sanctifying influence, in its application to men, is represented by the Psalmist, and by the prophet Hosea, under the similitude of rain, which we know descends in drops, sprinkling the earth, and its verdant furniture. “He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth” (Ps. 72:6; cf. Hos. 6:3).
But to come still nearer to the point in hand. We have not only seen that whenever the inspired writers wish to express the idea of the Holy Spirit being imparted to men, either to sanctify their hearts, or to furnish them with miraculous powers, the figure of “pouring out” is, in almost all cases, adopted, and that of immersion never. But, further, when they use the specific term which expresses the ordinance before us, when they speak of the “baptism of the Spirit,” how do they explain it? Hear the explanation by the Master himself. The Saviour, after his resurrection, told his disciples that “John truly baptized with water, but they should be baptized with the Holy Ghost” not many days from that time, and [he] directed them to remain in Jerusalem until this promise should be fulfilled on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:5). And how did the Holy Spirit baptize the people then? By immersion? Not at all, but by being “poured out” (Acts 2:17-18; 10:45). Accordingly, the apostle Peter, in giving an account to his brethren of what occurred in the house of Cornelius, declares, “And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning (that is, at the beginning of the New Testament economy, on the day of Pentecost). Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.” The baptism of the Holy Ghost, then, consisted in the pouring out, or effusion of the Holy Ghost. This was the baptism predicted by the prophets. This was the baptism which our Lord himself promised. And this was the baptism realized on the day of Pentecost. I ask, again, was this immersion? Yet it was baptism. And here, we may add is an indubitable example of the word baptism being used in a sense which cannot possibly imply immersion.
Surely it is not without design or meaning, that we find language of this kind so generally, I might almost say, so uniformly used. Can a single instance be produced from the word of God in which the cleansing influences of the Holy Spirit are symbolized by dipping or plunging into water, or into oil or blood? Or can a single example be found in which believers are represented as being dipped or plunged into the Holy Ghost? No such example is recollected.
Whenever the inspired writers speak of the Holy Spirit being imparted to the children of men, either in his sanctifying power, or his miraculous gifts, they never represent the benefit under the figure of immersion; but always, unless my memory deceives me, by the figures of sprinkling, pouring out, falling, or resting upon from on high. Now, if baptism, so far as it has a symbolical meaning, is intended to represent the cleansing of the Holy Spirit, as all agree; it is evident that no mode of applying the baptismal water can be more strikingly adapted to convey its symbolical meaning, or more strongly expressive of the great benefit which the ordinance is intended to hold forth and seal, than sprinkling or pouring. Nay, is it not manifest that this mode of administering the ordinance, is far more in accordance with Bible language, and Bible allusion, than any other? Surely, then, baptism by sprinkling or affusion, would have been treated with less scorn by our Baptist brethren, if they had recollected that these are, invariably, the favourite figures of the inspired writers when they speak of the richest covenant blessings which the Spirit of God imparts to his beloved people. Surely all attempts to turn this mode of applying the sacramental water in baptism into ridicule, is really nothing less than shameless ridicule of the statements and the language of God’s own word.
3. The circumstances attending the several cases of baptism recorded in the New Testament, render it highly probable, [if] not to say morally certain, that the immersion of the whole body could not have been the mode of baptism then commonly adopted.
The baptism of the three thousand converts made by the instrumentality of Peter’s preaching, on the day of Pentecost, is the first remarkable instance of Christian baptism which occurs in the New Testament history. Christ had promised, before he left his disciples, that he would send to them his Holy Spirit; and the favourite expression by which he was accustomed to designate this gift, was that he would pour out the Holy Spirit upon them. Accordingly, in ten days after his ascension to heaven, he was pleased, in a most extraordinary manner, to fulfil his promise. The Spirit was poured out with a power unknown before. And, what is remarkable, the apostle Peter assures the assembled multitude that what they then witnessed was a fulfillment of the prediction by the prophet Joel, that the Holy Spirit should be imparted in a manner prefigured by the term pouring out or affusion. Three thousand were converted under the overwhelming impression of divine truth, dispensed in a single sermon; and were all baptized, and “added to the church” in a single day.
From the short account given of this wonderful transaction, we gather that the multitude on whom this impression was made was convened in some part of the temple. They seem to have come together about the third hour of the day: that is, nine o’clock in the morning, according to the Jewish mode of computing time. At least, when Peter rose to commence his sermon, that was the hour. Besides the discourse of which we have a sketch in the chapter containing the account, we are told he exhorted and testified with many other words. All these services, together with receiving the confession of three thousand converts, must unavoidably have consumed several hours; leaving only four or five hours, at the utmost, for baptizing the whole number. But they were all baptized that same day. We read nothing, however, of the apostles taking the converts away from “Solomon’s Porch,” or wherever else they were assembled, to any river or stream for the sake of baptizing them. Indeed, at that season of the year, there was no river or brook in the immediate neighbourhood of Jerusalem which would admit of immersing a human being. Besides, is it likely that this great multitude, most of whom were probably strangers in Jerusalem, could have been furnished with such a change of raiment as health and decorum required? or that they could have been baptized without clothing altogether? or remained on the ground, through the public exercises, in their wet clothes? Surely all these suppositions are so utterly improbable that they may be confidently rejected.
But, above all, was it physically possible, supposing all the apostles to have officiated in the administration of this ordinance, for twelve men to have immersed three thousand persons in four or five hours; which we have seen must have been the case, if, as is evident, the preaching, the examination of candidates, and the baptizing of the whole number took place after nine o’clock in the forenoon? Those who have witnessed a series of baptisms by immersion know how arduous and exhausting is the bodily effort which it requires. To immerse a single person, with due decorum and solemnity, will undoubtedly require from five to six minutes. Of course, to immerse one hundred, would consume, at this rate, between nine and ten hours. Now, even if so much time could possibly be assigned to this part of the work, on the same day, which is plainly inadmissible, can we suppose that the twelve apostles stood, for nine or ten hours, themselves, in the water, constantly engaged in a series of efforts among the most severe and exhausting to human strength that can well be undertaken? To imagine this, would be among the most improbable, [if] not to say extravagant imaginations that could be formed on such a subject. Yet even this supposition, unreasonable as it is, falls far short of providing for even one half of the requisite number. The man, therefore, who can believe that the three thousand on the day of Pentecost were baptized by immersion, must have great faith, and a wonderful facility in accommodating his belief to his wishes.
With regard to the baptism of John, many of the same remarks are entirely applicable. Our Baptist brethren universally take for granted that John’s baptism was performed by immersion; and on the ground of that assumption, they speak with great confidence of their mode of baptism as the only lawful mode. Now, even if it were certain that the forerunner of Christ had always baptized by immersion, still it would be little to the purpose, since it is plain that John’s baptism was not Christian baptism. Had this been the case, then, it is evident, that a large part of the population of “Jerusalem and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan” (Matt. 3:5), would have been professing Christians. But was it so? Every reader of the New Testament history knows it was not; that, on the contrary, it is apparent from the whole narrative that a great majority of those whom John baptized continued to stand aloof from the Saviour. But what decides this point, beyond the possibility of appeal or cavil, is the statement in the nineteenth chapter of the Acts of the apostles, where we are told that some who had received John’s baptism were afterwards baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Some opponents of this conclusion have suggested that, in the narrative given of this transaction, we are to consider the 5th verse, not as the language of the inspired historian, but as a continuation of Paul’s discourse, as recorded in the 4th verse. Professor Stuart, in his remarks on the “Mode of Baptism,” in the Biblical Repository (No. 10, p. 386) has shown conclusively that this gloss is wholly inadmissible, and even leads to the most evident absurdity.
But there is no evidence, and I will venture to say, no probability, that John ever baptized by immersion. The evangelist informs us that he baptized great multitudes. It appears, as before suggested, that “Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan,” flocked to his ministry, and “were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins” (Matt. 3:5-6). Some have supposed that he baptized two millions of people. But suppose the number to be one-twentieth part of this computation. The smallest estimate that we can consider as answering the description of the inspired historians is, that he baptized one hundred thousand individuals. And this, in about one year and a half. That is, he must have immersed nearly two hundred, upon an average, every day, during the whole of the period in question. Now, I ask, is it possible for human strength, day after day, for more than five hundred days together, to undergo such labour? It cannot be imagined. The thing is not merely improbable; it is impossible. To accomplish so much, it would have been necessary that the zealous Baptist should spend the whole of every day standing in the water, for a year and a half, and even this would have failed altogether of being sufficient. I say again, with confidence, it is impossible.
But that John baptized by immersion is utterly incredible on another account. Can we imagine that so great a multitude could have been provided on the spot with convenient changes of raiment to admit of their being plunged consistently with their health? Or can we suppose that the greater part of their number would remain for hours on the ground in their wet clothes? And if not, would decency have permitted multitudes of both sexes to appear, and to undergo the administration of the ordinance in that mode, in a state of entire nakedness? Surely we need not wait for an answer. Neither supposition is admissible.
Nor is this reasoning at all invalidated by the statement of one of the evangelists, that John “baptized in Ænon near to Salim, because there was much water there;” or, as it is in the original, ” because there were many waters there” (John 3:23).For, independently of immersion altogether, plentiful streams of water were absolutely necessary for the constant refreshment and sustenance of the many thousands who were encamped from day to day, to witness the preaching and the baptism of this extraordinary man, together with the beasts employed for their transportation. Only figure to yourselves a large encampment of men, women, and children, consisting almost continually of many thousand souls, continuing together for a number of days in succession; constantly coming and going; and all this in a warm climate, where springs and wells of water were comparatively rare and precious; only figure to yourselves such an assemblage, and such a scene, and you will be at no loss to perceive why it was judged important to convene them near the banks of abundant streams of water. Had not this been done, they must, in a few hours, have either quitted the ground, or suffered real distress.
It is evident, then, that often and confidently as the baptism of John has been cited as conclusive, in favour of immersion, it cannot be considered as affording the least solid ground for such a conclusion. There is not the smallest probability that he ever baptized an individual in this manner. As a poor man who lived in the wilderness, whose raiment was of the meanest kind, and whose food was such alone as the desert afforded, it is not to be supposed that he possessed appropriate vessels for administering baptism to multitudes by pouring or sprinkling. He, therefore, seems to have made use of the neighbouring stream of water for this purpose, descending its banks, and setting his feet on its margin, so as to admit of his using a handful, to answer the symbolical purpose intended by the application of water in baptism.
The circumstances attending the baptism of our blessed Saviour by John, have been often adduced by our Baptist brethren as strongly favouring the practice of immersion: but when they are examined, they will be found to afford no real aid to that cause. In our common translation, indeed, the evangelist Matthew (3:16) tells us that Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water, etc.; and the evangelist Mark (1:9-10) tells us that Jesus was baptized of John in Jordan; and straightway, coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, etc. This is considered by many superficial readers as decisive in establishing the fact that immersion must have been used on that occasion. But the moment we look into the original, it becomes evident that the language of both the evangelists imports only that Jesus, after he was baptized, went up from the water: that is, ascended the banks from the river. Nothing more is, unquestionably, imported by the terms used; and this leaves the mode of administering the ordinance altogether undecided. Laying aside his sandals, he might only have stepped a few inches into the river, or he might have gone merely to the water’s edge, without stepping into it at all.
The baptism of Paul, by Ananias, is another of the scriptural examples of the administration of the ordinance in question, which yet affords not the smallest hint or presumption in favour of immersion; but rather the contrary.
We are told that Paul, the infuriated persecutor, while “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord,” was met on his way to Damascus, and by the mighty power of the Saviour whom he persecuted, was stricken down, and fell prostrate and blind to the ground (Acts 9:1ff.). In this feeble state he was lifted up, and “led by the hand, and carried into Damascus; and he was there three days without sight, and did neither eat nor drink.” In these circumstances, Ananias, a servant of God, is directed to go to him, and teach him what to do. “And Ananias,” we are told, “went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him, said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way, as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And now, why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord? And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales; and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. And when he had received meat he was strengthened” (Acts 9 and 22 compared).
The attentive reader will, no doubt, take notice that in this narrative there is not a single turn of expression which looks like baptizing by immersion. There is no hint that Paul changed his raiment; or that he and Ananias went out of the house to a neighbouring pond or stream. On the contrary, every part of the statement wears a different aspect. Paul, when Ananias went to him, was evidently extremely feeble. He was sitting or lying in the house, perfectly blind, and having taken no sustenance for three days. Can it be imagined that a wise and humane man, in these circumstances, would have had him carried forth, and plunged into cold water, which, in his exhausted state, would have been equally distressing and dangerous? It cannot be for a moment supposed. Nothing like it is hinted. Ananias simply directs him to “stand up and be baptized.” “And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales; and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.” It was after the baptism, as we learn, that he received sustenance and was “strengthened.” It would really seem as if no impartial reader could receive any other impression from this account, than that Paul stood up, in the apartment in which Ananias found him, and there received baptism by pouring or sprinkling on him a small quantity of that water which is applied in this ordinance as a symbol of spiritual cleansing.
Again, the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:27-39), when duly considered, will be found equally remote from affording the smallest countenance to that conclusion in favour of immersion, which has been so often and so confidently draw from it.
The eunuch was travelling on the public highway when Philip met him. They had been reading and commenting on a prophecy of the Messiah, in which mention is made of his sprinkling many nations. When they came to a rivulet of water, the eunuch said, “See, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized?” Philip had, no doubt, been explaining to him the nature, design, and obligation of this ordinance, or he would not have been likely to ask such a question. The servant of God consented to baptize him; and, as they were travelling, and probably destitute of any convenient vessel for dipping up a portion of water from the stream, they both went down to the water, probably no further than to its margin: far enough to take up a small portion of it to sprinkle or pour on the eunuch. The narrative, in the original, ascertains nothing more than that they both went to and from the water. In our translation, indeed, it is said they both went down into the water, and came up out of the water. But, when we look into the original text, we find the strict meaning of the terms employed to be, that Philip and the eunuch went down the banks to the water, and coming from the water, reascended the banks again, to the place where the chariot in which they rode had been left. The same form of expression is used as in the case of Peter and the tribute money. “Go thou to the sea, and cast an hook,” etc. (Matt. 17:27). Here we cannot suppose that our Lord meant to command Peter to plunge into the sea, but only to go to the water’s edge, and cast in a hook. The same form of expression is also employed in many other passages of the New Testament, where immersion is wholly out of the question: as in John 2:12, where it is said, Jesus went down to Capernaum; Acts 7:15, Jacob went down into Egypt; Acts 18:22, he went down to Antioch, etc. Surely, no one will dream of immersion in any of these cases. There is nothing, then, in any of the language here used, which necessarily, or even probably, implies immersion. At any rate, the terms employed apply equally to both. There is the same evidence that Philip was plunged, as that the eunuch was. It is said they both went to the water. Nor can we consider it as at all likely that, in the circumstances in which they were placed as travellers, they were either of them immersed. It is plain, therefore, that all the confidence which our Baptist brethren have so often expressed, that the case of the Ethiopian eunuch is a certain example of immersion, must be regarded as presenting no solid evidence in their favour, and as really amounting to a gross imposition on popular credulity.
The next remarkable instance of baptism recorded in the New Testament is that of Cornelius and his household. Cornelius, a “devout man” who “feared God” (Acts 10:2), was directed in a vision to send for Peter, the apostle, who should impart to him the knowledge of the gospel of Christ. Peter, on his arrival, having ascertained wherefore Cornelius had sent for him, unfolded to him, and to all who were convened in his house, the way of salvation. While he was yet speaking, “the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word…. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:44-45).
In this passage, there is nothing that has the remotest appearance of immersion. No hint is given of the candidates for baptism being led out of the house, to a river or pool, for the purpose of being dipped. The language of Peter has an entirely different aspect. “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized?” That is, “Can any man forbid water being brought in a convenient vessel, to be applied by pouring or sprinkling?” He had just spoken of the Holy Ghost being poured out upon them; and what could be more natural than that he should apply water, the emblem of spiritual cleansing, in conformity with the same striking figure? They were not dipped into the Holy Ghost; but the Holy Ghost was poured out upon them. They were not applied to the Holy Ghost; but the Holy Ghost was applied to them. He “fell upon them;” and the introduction of water, to be applied in a corresponding manner, was immediately authorized.
The baptism of the jailer and his household, at Philippi, still more decisively leads to the same conclusion. If we examine the circumstances which attended this baptism, they will be found to preclude, not only the probability, but I may say with confidence, the possibility of its having been performed by immersion. Paul and Silas were closely confined in prison when this solemn service was performed. While they were engaged in “praying and singing praises to God” (Acts 16:25), a great earthquake shook the prison to its foundation, and the bonds of the prisoners were immediately unloosed. The jailer, awaking from his sleep, called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway” (Acts 16:30-33).
This whole transaction, you will observe, occurred a little after midnight, and in a prison: that is, in the outer prison, for the jailor seems to have brought them out of the dungeon, “the inner prison,” into some other apartment of the edifice (Acts 16:24). For it was not until next morning, some hours after the baptism, that the magistrates gave the keeper permission to let them out of the prison. He and his family were evidently baptized “the same hour of the night:” that is, between midnight (when we are expressly told the earthquake occurred) and day, and while yet in the place of confinement.
Now, I ask, how can we imagine it possible that the jailer and his family should be baptized by immersion, in the circumstances in which they were placed? We cannot suppose that there was a river, or a pool of water, or a baptistry within the walls of the prison, adapted to meet an occasion as unexpected as anything could be, which had never occurred there before, and was never likely to occur in like circumstances again. He who can believe this must be ready to adopt any supposition, however extravagant, for the sake of an hypothesis. As little can we imagine that Paul and Silas would be dishonest enough to steal out of the prison by night, and accompany the jailer and his family to the river which runs near the city of Philippi, for the purpose of plunging them; especially as we know, on the one hand, how backward they were the next morning to quit the prison, unless brought out by the magistrates who had illegally imprisoned them: and on the other hand, how much terrified the jailer was at the thought of the prisoners escaping from confinement, and of his being responsible even with his own life, for their safe keeping.
In like manner, we might go over all the other cases of baptism recorded in the New Testament, and show that in no one case have we any evidence that the ordinance was administered by immersion. Now, as the disciples of Christ baptized such great multitudes (even more, at one period than John), can we imagine if the constant, or even the common mode of baptizing had been by plunging the whole body under water and, especially, if they had laid great stress on adherence to this mode can we imagine, I say, that amidst so many cases of baptism, some term of expression, some incidental circumstance would not have occurred, from which the fact of immersion might have been clearly manifested, or irresistibly inferred? One thing is certain. The inspired writers of the New Testament could not possibly have regarded immersion in baptism in the same light in which it is regarded by our Baptist brethren. The latter consider their mode of applying water, as essential to the ordinance; they dwell upon it with unceasing fondness, introduce it into every discussion, and lose no opportunity of recommending and urging it as that without which an alleged baptism is a nullity (nay, an offence to the Head of the church); while the former, though speaking directly or indirectly on the subject, in almost every page of the New Testament, and under a great variety of aspect, have not stated a single fact, or employed a single term, which evinces that they either preferred or practised immersion in any case. They have stated, indeed, some facts which can scarcely, by possibility, be reconciled with immersion; but in no instance have they made a representation which is not entirely reconcilable with the practice of perfusion or sprinkling. On the supposition that the doctrine of our Baptist brethren is true, this is a most unaccountable fact. What! not one evangelist or apostle though taught by the Spirit of God what to say kind enough, or wise enough, to put this matter beyond a doubt? The unavoidable inference is that the inspired writers did not deem the mode of applying water in baptism an essential matter, and did not think it necessary to state it precisely, and, of course, that they differed entirely from our Baptist brethren.
4. Even if it could be proved (which we know it cannot be) that the mode of baptism adopted in the time of Christ and his apostles was that of immersion; yet if that method of administering the ordinance were not significant of some truth, which the other modes cannot represent, we are plainly at liberty to regard it as a non-essential circumstance, from which we may depart when expediency requires it, as we are all wont to do in other cases, even with respect to positive institutions. For example, the Lord’s Supper was, no doubt, originally instituted with unleavened bread; and this was, probably, at first the common custom. But as being leavened or unleavened had nothing to do with the design and scope of the ordinance; as bread of either kind is equally emblematical of that spiritual nourishment which it is intended to represent; most professing Christians, and our Baptist brethren among the rest, feel authorized to celebrate the Lord’s Supper with leavened bread without the smallest scruple.
Again, the manner of sitting at the Lord’s Supper, was, in conformity with the then prevailing posture at feasts, to recline on the elbow on a couch. There can be no doubt that this was the uniform posture at the convivial table at that time; and in the narratives of the evangelists, we have abundant evidence that the same posture was adopted by our blessed Lord in the institution of the sacramental Supper. But as it was only a circumstance connected with the habits of those days, we do not feel bound and our Baptist brethren, among others, do not feel bound in administering this ordinance, to conform to the original mode. We consider the sacrament as completely and validly dispensed, if bread and wine be reverently received, in commemoration of the Saviour’s death, with any posture of the body. Nay, the example of our Saviour himself plainly shows that, under a change of circumstances, non-essential modes, originally used, may be dispensed with. The prescribed ritual of the Passover required that the lamb should be eaten with shoes on the feet, and with staves in the hand; but this custom was not followed by him or his disciples, and, perhaps, never was observed after the entrance into Canaan. But was the Passover rendered either less perfect, or less useful, for all practical purposes, by this omission? Surely we need not wait for an answer.
Now, unless it can be proved that plunging the body into water, and lifting it out again, was designed to be emblematical of something which cannot be otherwise expressed, we have full liberty given us by the example of our Lord himself, to consider this mode as an unimportant circumstance. If the cleansing element of water is applied, in any reverential mode, to the human body, the whole symbolical expression of the ordinance is attained, provided convenience and decorum be duly consulted. If the cleansing or purifying quality of the element used is the idea intended to be set forth in the emblem; and if the greater part, as we have seen, of the typical purifications prescribed under the ceremonial economy were effected by sprinkling; it is plain that the emblem is complete, however the cleansing element may be applied.
5. The difficulties attending the administration of baptism by immersion, in many cases, ought to satisfy us that this mode of administering the ordinance cannot be the only valid mode, and is not the most proper and edifying mode.
It is perfectly evident, to every reflecting mind, that the obstacles which may be conceived, and which very frequently, in fact, occur, to render baptism by immersion difficult, if not impracticable, are very many, and very serious. It will be sufficient to hint at a few of the more familiar and obvious. It is well known that some very large districts of country, in various parts of our globe, are so parched and dry, and streams of water so rare or rather, in many cases, so unknown, for many miles together that the means of immersing a human body, in any natural stream or pool of water, cannot possibly be obtained but with great trouble and expense: a trouble and expense impracticable to a large portion of every community inhabiting those countries. There are other parts of our globe, near the polar regions, where, during the major portion of every year, the constant reign of severe frost seals up every natural stream and fountain, and renders the immersion of a human body not merely difficult, but impracticable, without great labour and cost. Nor is this all; even in the temperate and well-watered latitudes, there are seasons of the year, often of four or five months continuance, when baptism by immersion is generally dangerous and, in many cases, highly so, to the health, and even the lives of both those who administer, and those who receive the ordinance. And, finally, at all seasons, persons labouring under disease can never be baptized in this mode, with safety, at all; and, of course, must be deprived entirely of the privilege of receiving this seal of the Christian covenant, so reasonable in itself, and so gratifying to the pious mind. It is also certain that Baptist ministers who are aged and infirm can never safely officiate in baptizing in any case; and when they are men remarkably frail and feeble in body, they can never undertake, without manifest danger, to baptize individuals of large stature, or more than common corpulency. To all which may be added, that the public baptism of females with all the delicacy and care which can possibly be employed, is certainly, as thousands attest, a practice little in keeping with those religious feelings and impressions with which it is desirable that every Christian solemnity should be attended.
Now, contrast all these difficulties which, surely, form a mass of no small magnitude with the entire absence of every difficulty of baptizing by sprinkling or affusion. According to our plan which, we have no doubt, is by far the most scriptural and edifying baptism may be performed with equal ease and convenience in all countries; at all seasons of the year; in all situations of health or sickness; with equal safety by all ministers, whether young or old, athletic or feeble; and in all circumstances that can well be conceived. How admirably does this accord with the gospel economy, which is not intended to be confined to any one people, or to any particular climate; but is equally adapted, in all its principles and in all its rites, to “every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation!” (Rev. 5:9).
Accordingly, it is a notorious fact that, in consideration of the difficulties which have been mentioned as attending immersion, a large body of Baptists in Holland, I mean the Mennonites, who were once warm and uncompromising contenders for this mode of administering baptism, at length gave it up; and while they still baptize none but adults, [they] have been, for more than a hundred years, in the practice of pouring water on the head of the candidate, through the hand of the administrator. They found that when candidates for baptism were lying on sick beds, or confined in prison, or in a state of peculiarly delicate health, or in various other unusual situations which may be easily imagined, there was so much difficulty (not to say, in some cases, a total impossibility) in baptizing by plunging, that they deliberately, as a denomination, after the death of their first leader, agreed to lay aside, as I said, the practice of immersion, and substituted the plan of affusion.
There is one difficulty more, in reference to the mode of baptism by immersion, of which it is not easy to speak, on an occasion like the present, without appearing to intend ridicule of an ordinance so solemn and important. Fidelity to the subject, however, demands that I speak of it; and I trust no one will suspect me of a design to make any other than a perfectly grave and fair use of the matter to which I refer. The circumstance to which I allude is, that in the third, fourth, and immediately following centuries in the days of Cyprian, Cyril, Athanasius, and Chrysostom when, as all agree, the mode of baptizing by immersion was the most prevalent method; there is no historical fact more perfectly established, than that, whenever baptism was thus administered, the candidate, whether infant or adult, male or female, was entirely divested of all clothing: not merely of outer garments, but, I repeat, of all clothing. No exception was allowed in any case, even when the most timid and delicate female importunately desired it. This fact is established, not only by the most direct and unequivocal statements, and that by a number of writers, but also by the narration of a number of curious particulars connected with this practice.
Among the rest we are told of scenes of indecorum exhibited in the baptisteries of those days, which convinced the friends of religion that the practice ought to be discontinued, and it was finally laid aside.
Perhaps it will be asked, whether this fact in the history of Christian baptism is adverted to for the purpose of reflecting odium, in a sinister and indirect manner, on the practice of immersion? I answer, by no means; but simply for the purpose of showing that in tracing the history of baptism by immersion, we have the very same evidence in favour of immersing divested of all clothing, that we have for immersing at all: that, so far as the history of the church, subsequent to the apostolic age, informs us, these two practices must stand or fall together, and that an appendage to baptism so revolting, so immoral, and so entirely inadmissible, plainly shows that those who practiced it must have been chargeable with a superstitious and extravagant adoption of a mere form, which, from its character, we are compelled to believe was a human invention, and took its rise in the rudeness of growing superstition, perhaps from a source still more impure and criminal.
Besides, if the principle for which our Baptist brethren contend is correct; if the immersion of the whole body be essential to Christian baptism, and if the thing signified is the cleansing and purifying of the individual by an ablution which must of necessity extend to the whole person; it would really seem that performing this ceremony divested of all clothing is essential to its emblematic meaning. Who ever thought of covering the hands with gloves when they were about to be washed or expected really to cleanse them through such a covering? No wonder, then, when the principle began to find a place in the church, that the submersion of every part of the body in water, that the literal bathing of the whole person was essential both to the expressiveness and the validity of the emblematical transaction: no wonder, I say, that the obvious consequence should soon be admitted, that the whole body ought to be uncovered, as never fails to be the case, with any member of the body which may wish to be successfully cleansed by bathing. And we have no hesitation in saying that, if we fully adopted the general principle of our Baptist brethren in relation to this matter, we should no more think of subjecting the body to that process which must, in order to its validity, be strictly emblematical of a complete spiritual bathing, while covered with clothes, than we should think, in common life, of washing the hands or the feet while carefully covered with the articles of dress with which they are commonly clothed. Whereas, if the principle of Pædobaptists on this subject is adopted, then the solemn application of water to that part of the body which is an epitome of the whole person, and which is always, as a matter of course, uncovered, is amply sufficient to answer every purpose both of emblem and of benefit.
Besides, let me appeal to our Baptist brethren, by asking if they verily believe that the primitive and apostolic mode of administering baptism was by immersion, and that this immersion was performed in a state of entire nakedness; how can they dare, upon their principles, to depart, as to one iota from that mode? Let them not say, that they carefully retain the substance, the essential characters of the plan of immersion. Very true. This is our plea; and it accords very well with what we consider as the correct system. But in the mouth of a Baptist it is altogether inadmissible. The institute in question is a “positive” one; and, according to him, we must not depart one jot or tittle from the original plan.
These considerations strike me as affording decisive evidence that a mode of baptism attended with so many real and formidable difficulties cannot be of divine appointment; at any rate, that it cannot be universally binding on the church of God; and that laying so much stress upon the completeness of the submersion is servility and superstition. We may say of this ordinance, as our Lord said of the sabbath. Baptism was made for man, and not man for baptism. Where a particular mode of complying with a religious observance would be, in many cases, “a yoke of bondage,” and one, too, for which no divine warrant could be pleaded, it would surely argue the very slavery of superstition, to enforce that mode of the observance as essential to a regular standing in the visible family of Christ.
6. As a further objection to the doctrine of our Baptist brethren in relation to the mode of baptism, let us examine some of the figurative language of scripture which refers to this ordinance, and especially certain passages on which they are accustomed to place their greatest reliance for the support of their cause. Perhaps no passages in scripture have been more frequently and confidently pressed into the service of baptism by immersion than those that are found in Romans 6:3-4 and Colossians 2:12. In the former we find the following: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Corresponding with this, in Colossians 2:12, the following passage occurs: “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”
Now, our Baptist brethren, believing and insisting that baptism and immersion ought to be considered, in all cases, as synonymous terms, take for granted that the expression, “Buried with him in baptism,” is intended to refer to the resemblance between the interment of a dead body and its subsequent resurrection from beneath the surface of the earth, and the immersion of a baptized person entirely under the water and raising him up again from beneath the surface of the fluid. In a word, our Baptist brethren assure us that the design of the apostle in these passages is to say, that “the baptized person’s communion with Christ in his death and burial, is represented by his being laid under the water; and his communion with him in his resurrection, by his being raised out of it.” In this general interpretation of the figure many Pædobaptists have agreed; and have thus not a little confirmed the confidence of Antipædobaptists in their cause. I am persuaded, however, that a candid examination of the real import of the figurative language before us, will show that this confidence is entirely unfounded.
The apostle, in the preceding part of the epistle to the Romans, had shown that Christians are justified by faith in the righteousness of Christ. He proceeds in the sixth chapter [vvs. 1-4] to obviate the objection, that this doctrine tends to licentiousness. “What shall we say, then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid!” He rejects with abhorrence the odious thought. “How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” He then adverts to the significance of baptism, which, being the ordinance which seals our introduction into the family of Christ, may be considered as exhibiting both the first principles of gospel truth, and the first elements of Christian character. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” He then infers that, since baptism has so immediate a reference to the death of Christ, it must, by consequence, be connected also with his resurrection; and that, as in the former view, it teaches the regenerated the abandoning of the old life of sin; so, in the latter, it equally teaches them the pursuit and progress of the new life of righteousness. “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
The obvious design of the apostle is to illustrate the character and obligations of believers, from the circumstance that they are, in a certain respect, conformed to Christ’s death; that as he died for sin, so they are dead, or are under obligations to be dead to sin: that is, they are holy or are, by their profession, obliged to be holy. “So many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death” (Rom. 6:10). And this is explained by what follows. “In that Christ died, he died unto sin (or on account of sin) once, but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin (or in respect to sin), but alive unto God through Jesus Christ.” This is what was signified by baptism. And so believers were baptized into Christ’s death: not that baptism was a symbol of death, or the state of the dead; for water, or washing in water, never was a symbol of this. But water, used in ceremonial (whether by washing or sprinkling) and afterwards in Christian baptism, always signified the fact, or the acknowledged necessity of purification. Now being dead or in a state of death to sin, is the same thing as to be spiritually purified, or made holy. And this is the very thing that baptism, coming in the place of ablutions under the former economy, is exactly adapted to signify. Or, to say all in a word, water used in baptism is a sign of that moral purification of believers, which the apostle means to express by their being crucified, dead, and conformed to Christ’s death Their being dead in conformity with Christ, is the expression which contains the metaphor. And baptism, as an appointed token or symbol, denotes what is signified by the metaphor, not the metaphor itself. The sum of the apostle’s illustration, then, so far as the point before us is concerned, is simply this: that in baptism, as a rite emblematical of moral purification, Christians profess to be baptized into the death of Christ, as well as into (or into the hope of) his resurrection; that they are dead and buried in respect to sin: that is, in a moral and spiritual sense; so that every Christian can say, with Paul, “I am crucified with Christ; I have been made conformable to his death; being dead indeed to sin, and alive to God by Jesus Christ” (Cf. Gal. 2:20; Phil. 3:10; Rom. 6:11).
But besides all this which is sufficient of itself to show how little reliance is to be placed on the gloss of this passage adopted by our Baptist brethren the burial of Christ was by no means such as the friends of this exposition commonly suppose. The body of our Saviour was never buried in the manner in which we are accustomed to inter human corpses: that is, by letting it down into the bosom of the earth and covering it with earth. It was placed in a tomb hewn out of a rock; not a tomb sunk in the earth, but hollowed out of a rock, above ground, and containing separate cells for the reception of bodies, “as the manner of the Jews was to bury” (John 19:40). Even supposing, then, that it were yielded to our Baptist brethren that the design of the apostle is to teach the mode of baptism: by comparing it to the burial of Christ, it would by no means serve their purpose. There was not in fact any such subterranean immersion, if the expression may be allowed, as they imagine. The body of the Saviour was evidently laid in a stone cell, above ground, in which no earth came in contact with it, and in which, when the stone which closed up the door was taken away, the body was distinctly visible. In short, the burial of Christ no more resembled the modern interment of a dead body among us, than the depositing such a body, for a time, in an apartment in the basement story of a dwelling house, the floor of which was either not sunk below the surface of the earth at all, or if any, not more than a few inches; admitting of free ingress and egress as a common inhabited room. The figure in question, then, does not serve the turn of our Baptist brethren; thus affording another proof, that nothing more was intended by its use, than to set forth that, by being baptized into the death of Christ, we profess to be dead and buried in respect to sin, without any reference whatever to the mode in which either the burial or the baptism might be performed.
Accordingly, in the verse immediately preceding that before commented on, in the epistle to the Colossians, the following passage occurs, evidently intended to teach the same lesson: “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ” (Col. 2:11). And in the verse immediately following that in which the burial of Christ is alluded to, the figure of circumcision, as an emblem of spiritual cleansing, is still pursued: “And you being dead in your sins, and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Col. 2:13). Here it is plain, the same general idea is meant to be conveyed, as in the reference to baptism, which has come in the room of circumcision. In both the putting away sin the “putting off the sins of the flesh” is emblematically represented and sealed: as a man dead and buried is cut off from all temporal connections and indulgences, so the baptized man is really, or at least by profession, dead to sin, and in this way made conformable to the death of Christ in its great design and efficiency, which are to purify to himself a peculiar people, dead to the world, dead to carnal ambition, and secluded from every unhallowed practice.
Another signal example of the figurative language of scripture applied to baptism occurs in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2. “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” Now, when we turn to the narrative given by Moses, in the fourteenth chapter of Exodus [vvs. 16, 22], we find that the Red Sea, through which the Israelites passed, was divided before them; that the waters stood up like a wall on each side; and that they passed through on DRY GROUND. We are also informed that the cloud by which their line of march was divinely directed, did not even fall upon them in the form of a shower, much less submerge them; but that it alternately went behind them and before them; now hanging in their rear, for the purpose of concealing them from their enemies; and then preceding them in their course, presenting a face of splendour to them, and a face of darkness to their pursuers. In all this, there was evidently nothing like immersion. The utmost that could have happened, in consistency with the inspired narrative, was their being sprinkled by the spray of the sea, or by drops from the miraculous cloud, when it passed over their heads.
The last passage of the class under consideration to which I shall advert, is that found in the first epistle of Peter (3:20-21), “The longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a-preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” The principle implied in this passage is plain; and it affords not the smallest countenance to the doctrine of our Baptist brethren. Every one sees, that in the case of Noah and his family, and of all the animals preserved with them in the ark, there was no immersion in the waters of the flood. Nay, this was the very evil from which the ark preserved them. Of course, whatever else the passage may prove, it is impossible that it should be legitimately considered as favouring baptism by plunging the whole body under water.
7. Further, that immersion is not necessary in baptism; and that to insist upon it, as indispensable, is superstition, appears from the indisputable fact, that both the significance and the effect of baptism are to be considered as depending, not on the physical influence of water, or upon the quantity of it employed, but on its symbolical meaning, and on the blessing of God upon its application as a symbol. There has always been a tendency in human nature to lay more stress than the Bible warrants upon outward forms; and to imagine that external rites have a virtue inherent in themselves, by which their recipients are of course savingly benefited. It is generally granted by enlightened Protestants to be one of the mischievous errors of Popery, that baptism, and the other appointed rites of our religion, when administered by authorized hands, have an inherent efficacy: a sort of self-operating power on those to whom they are administered. This we consider as a superstitious and dangerous error. We believe that no external ordinance has any power in itself; but that its power to benefit those who receive it depends altogether upon the influence of the Holy Spirit of God, making it effectual; and that this influence may accompany or follow the ordinance, whatever may be the outward form of its administration. If, indeed, we had reason to believe that the benefit of baptism was caused by the physical influence of water on any or every part of the body, and depended upon that influence if the least intimation of this kind were given us, either by the word of God, or the nature of the case it would be wise to insist on a rigorous adherence to that form. But as the benefit of the ordinance has no connection, so far as we know, with the operation of water on the animal frame; but is the result, solely, of a divine blessing on a prescribed and striking emblem; and as the word of God has nowhere informed us of the precise mode in which that emblem shall be applied; we infer that the divine blessing may attend upon any mode of applying it.
The language of our blessed Saviour on a memorable occasion [John 13:8-10] is full of instruction on this subject. In order to give his disciples a striking lesson both of humility and purity, he condescended, on a certain evening when they were assembled under solemn circumstances, to wash their feet. Simon Peter, when his Master came to him, like too many at the present day, misunderstanding the nature and significance of the symbolical action, at first strongly objected, and said, “Thou shalt never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “If I wash thee not, thou hast no part in me.” To which Peter, in the fulness of his fervent zeal, replied, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.” Jesus, however, meaning to convey the idea that the whole action was symbolical, and that the application of water to any part of the body was abundantly sufficient, rejoins to Peter. “He that is washed, needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit;” as much as to say, “It is not the physical ablution, but the symbolical meaning, to which I now wish to call your attention; and, for this purpose, the application of water to the feet only carries with it all the fulness of meaning, and all the richness of benefit, that could have resulted from the most plentiful application of it to the whole frame.”
8. Another, and in my view, [a] conclusive reason for believing that our Baptist brethren are in error, in insisting that no baptism unless by immersion is valid, is that the native tendency of this doctrine is to superstition and abuse. The tendency here alleged has been often observed and lamented by serious people, as likely to be connected with a false hope and to destroy the souls of multitudes. Facts in support of this remark have fallen under my own painful observation. I have known many Baptists who appeared to feel as if there was some inherent efficacy in being “buried under the water,” and that those who submitted to that self-denying rite, were, of course, real Christians. They have evidently appeared to think that that was the great step in religion; and that, having taken it, all was secure. Now, I contend, that this is the natural tendency of the Baptist doctrine; that their laying so much stress upon “going under the water,” and holding it up, with unceasing zeal, to the popular view, as the great distinguishing and indispensable badge of discipleship, is unavoidably adapted to betray “unwary souls” into a delusive confidence.
There is no disposition in depraved human nature more deeply inwrought, or more incessantly operative, than the disposition to rely upon something done by us for securing the divine favour. It is this disposition which has led to all that enormous mass of superstitious observances which distinguishes the papal system, and which we have every reason to believe is built upon by millions, as the foundation of hope, instead of Christ. Whenever, therefore, any external rite becomes the grand distinction of a sect, and the object of something approaching to sectarian idolatry, we may be sure there exists not only the danger, but the actual commencement, to some extent, of that superstitious reliance which he who has not learned to fear, “knows nothing of the human heart yet as he ought to know.”
That this suggestion has something more than mere fancy on which to rest, is evident from facts of recent and most mournful occurrence. A large and daily increasing sect has arisen, within a few years, in the bosom of the Baptist denomination, which maintains the delusive and destructive doctrine, that baptism is regeneration; that no man can be regenerated who is not immersed; and that all, without exception, who have an historical faith, and are immersed, are of course in a state of salvation. This pernicious heresy, so contrary to the plainest principles and facts of the word of God, and so manifestly adapted to destroy the souls of all who believe it, has been propagated to a melancholy extent, by a plausible, reckless, and impious demagogue, and is supposed to embrace one half of the Baptist body in the western country, besides many in the east. In short, the Baptist churches, in large districts of country, are so rent in pieces, and deluded by the miserable impostor referred to, that their prospects for many years to come are not only gloomy, but without a special interposition of the King of Zion in their favour, altogether desperate.
Now I maintain that this wretched delusion is by no means an unnatural result of the doctrine and practice of our Baptist brethren, in regard to the baptismal rite. Multitudes of them, I know, reject and abhor the heresy in question as much as any of us. But have they duly considered, that it seems naturally to have grown out of their own theory and practice in regard to baptism; their attaching such a disproportionate importance to the mode of administering that ordinance; often, very often, directing the attention of the people more to the river than the cross; excluding all from Christian communion, however pious, who have not been immersed; and making representations which, whether so intended or not, naturally lead the weak and the uninformed to consider immersion as a kind of talisman, always connected with a saving blessing? This, I sincerely believe, is the native tendency of the doctrine of our Baptist brethren, although they, I am equally confident, neither perceive nor admit this to be the case. If pious Christians who have not been immersed cannot be admitted to communion in the church below, there would seem to be still more reason for excluding them from the purer church above. And so far as this principle is received and cherished (though far from being alike mischievous in all cases), it can scarcely fail of predisposing many minds in favour of that awful delusion, by which we have reason to believe that not a few, under its higher workings, have been blinded, betrayed, and lost.
9. Finally, that immersion cannot be considered, to say the least, as essential to a valid baptism, is plain from the history of this ordinance.
It is not denied that, for the first few centuries after Christ, the most common mode of administering baptism was by immersion. But it is maintained that affusion and sprinkling were also practised, and when used, were considered as perfectly valid and sufficient. Of this the proof is so complete and indubitable, that no one really acquainted with the early history of the church will think, for a moment, of calling it in question. The learned Wall, whose History of Infant Baptism is generally considered by competent judges as one of the most profound and faithful works extant, on the subject before us; after showing conclusively that Pædobaptists ought not to refuse the admission that baptism by dipping was the most prevalent mode, even in the western church, for a number of centuries after Christ; goes on to remark that, on the other hand, the Antipædobaptists will be quite as unfair in their turn, if they do not grant, that in cases of sickness, weakliness, haste, want of a sufficient quantity of water, or any such extraordinary occasion, baptism by the affusion of water on the face was, by the ancients, counted sufficient baptism. Of the testimony which he offers in support of this statement, a specimen will be presented.
Eusebius states (Book 6, chapter 43), on the authority of preceding writers, that Novatian being sick, and near death, as was supposed, was baptized on his bed by affusion. He, however, recovered, and was afterwards ordained to the work of the ministry. And although some questioned whether a man who had been brought to make a profession of religion only on a sick bed, and when he considered himself as about to die, ought to be made a minister; yet this doubt arose, we are assured, not from any apprehension that the baptism itself was incomplete; but on the principle that he who came to the faith not voluntarily, but from necessity, ought not to be made a priest, unless his subsequent diligence and faith should be distinguished and highly commendable.
Of the character of Cyprian, who flourished in the former part of the third century, enough has been said in a preceding discourse. A certain Magnus, a country minister, consulted him on the question, whether those who had been introduced into the Christian church, by baptism on their sick beds, and, of course, by affusion or sprinkling, ought to be baptized again, if they recovered? Cyprian’s answer to this question is as follows:
“You inquire, my dear son, what I think of such as attain grace in time of sickness and infirmity: whether they are to be accounted lawful Christians, because they have not been washed all over with the water of salvation, but have only had some of it poured on them. In which matter I would use so much modesty and humility, as not to prescribe so positively, but that every one should enjoy the freedom of his own thought, and do as he thinks best. I do, however, according to the best of my mean capacity, judge thus: that the divine favours can in no wise be mutilated or weakened, so that anything less than the whole of them is conveyed, where the benefit of them is received with a full and complete faith, on the part both of the giver and receiver. For, in the sacrament of salvation, the contagion of sin is not washed off in the same manner as the filth of the body is in a carnal and secular bath. It is entirely in a different way that the heart of a believer it is after another fashion that the mind of man is by faith cleansed. In the sacraments of salvation, through the indulgence of God, when necessity compels, the shortest way of transacting divine matters conveys the whole benefit to those who believe. Nor let any be moved by the fact that the sick, when they are baptized, are only perfused or sprinkled, since the scripture says, by the prophet Ezekiel (36:25-26), ‘I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you; a new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.’ It is also said in the book of Numbers (chapter 19), ‘And the man which shall be unclean until the evening, shall be purified on the third day, and on the seventh day, and he shall be clean. But if he shall not be purified on the third day, and on the seventh day, he shall not be clean, and that soul shall be cut off from Israel, because the water of aspersion hath not been sprinkled upon him.’ And again, the Lord spake unto Moses, in the book of Numbers (chapter 8:), ‘Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them. And thus shalt thou do unto them, to cleanse them: Sprinkle water of purifying upon them.’ And again, ‘the water of aspersion is purification.’ From which it appears that sprinkling is sufficient instead of immersion; and whensoever it is done, if there be a sound faith, on the part both of the giver and receiver, it is perfect and complete.”
From these passages, as well as from a number of others, which might be quoted, found in the works of Cyprian, it is evident that, in a little more than one hundred and fifty years from the death of the last apostle, cases of baptism by perfusion or sprinkling had notoriously, and in repeated instances, occurred; that such examples were found among the heretics, as well as in the orthodox church; that a man so learned and pious as the venerable Cyprian was decisively of the opinion that they were to be justified; and, finally, that he considered this as a point concerning which Christians were at liberty to entertain their own opinion, and to do as they judged best plainly implying that he did not consider it at all as an essential matter.
Origen was contemporary with Cyprian. He wrote in the Greek language. It was his vernacular tongue; and he was, probably, the most learned man of the century in which he lived. This venerable Christian father, commenting on 1 Kings, 18:33, in which we read of Elijah’s ordering water to be poured on the burnt sacrifice, tells us that he baptized the wood on the altar. Was not Origen a good judge of the meaning of a Greek word? Can we imagine that he would have used the word baptize in this sense, if he had regarded immersion as its exclusive meaning?
When Laurentius, a Roman deacon, about the middle of the third century, was brought to the stake to suffer martyrdom, a soldier who had been employed to be one of his executioners, professed to be converted, and requested baptism from the hands of him whom he had been engaged to assist in burning. For this purpose a pitcher of water was brought, and the soldier baptized at the place of execution. In circumstances so solemn as these, surely no conscientious man would have sported with a divine ordinance, or subjected it to any essential mutilation. It was, doubtless, deemed a sufficient mode of administering baptism.
Gennadius, a distinguished ecclesiastic of Marseilles, in the fifth century, speaks of baptism as administered in the French Church indifferently, by either immersion, or affusion, or sprinkling. For having said, “We believe the way of salvation to be open only to baptized persons;” he adds, “except only in the case of martyrdom, in which all the sacraments of baptism are completed.” Then, to show how martyrdom has all in it that baptism has, he says, “The person to be baptized owns his faith before the priest, and when the interrogatories are put to him, makes his answer. The same does a martyr before the heathen judge. He also owns his faith, and when the question is put to him, makes answer. The one, after his confession is either wetted with the water, or else plunged into it; and the other, is either wetted with his own blood, or plunged into the fire.” This language plainly evinces that in the time of Gennadius, both modes of baptism were in use and deemed equally valid.
Thomas Aquinas, and Bonaventura, are well known as two learned ecclesiastics of the twelfth century. In their time it is evident that both plunging and affusion were used in the churches of Italy, in the administration of baptism. Aquinas, in writing on the subject, expresses himself thus: “Baptism may be given not only by immersion, but also by affusion of water, or by sprinkling with it. But it is the safer way to baptize by immersion, because that is the most common custom.” On the other hand, his contemporary, Bonaventura, observes, “The way of affusion in baptism was probably used by the apostles,” and was, in his time, “used in the churches of France, and some others;” but remarks, “The method of dipping into the water is the more common, and therefore the fitter and safer.”
The Synod of Angiers, A.D. 1275, speaks of dipping and pouring as indifferently used; and blames some ignorant priests, because they dipped or poured on water, but once; and at the same time declares that the general custom of the church was to dip, or to pour on water three times. ‘The Synod of Langres, A.D. 1404, speaks of pouring or perfusion only. “Let the priest make three pourings or sprinklings of water on the infant’s head,” etc. The Council of Cologne, in 1536, evidently intimates that both modes were constantly practiced. Their language is, “The child is thrice either dipped or wetted with water.”
Fifteen years afterwards, in the Agenda of the Church of Mentz, published by Sebastian, there is found the following direction: “Then let the priest take the child on his left arm, and holding him over the font, let him, with his right hand, three several times, take water out of the font, and pour it on the child’s head, so that the water may wet its head and shoulders.” Then they give a note to this purpose; that immersion, once or thrice, or pouring of water may be used, and have been used, in the church; that this variety does not alter the nature of baptism! and that a man would do ill to break the custom of the church for either of them. But they add that it is better, if the church will allow, to use pouring on of water. “For suppose,” say they, “the priest be old and feeble, or have the palsy in his hands; or the weather be very cold; or the child be very infirm; or too big to be dipped in the font; then it is much fitter to use affusion of the water.” Then they bring the instance of the apostles baptizing three thousand at a time; and the instance of Laurentius, the Roman deacon, before spoken of, and add, “That, therefore, there may not be one way for the sick, and another for the healthy; one for children, and another for bigger persons; it is better that the administrator of this sacrament do observe the safest way, which is, to pour water thrice; unless the custom be to the contrary.”
One more historical record, which though apparently inconsiderable in itself, is, in my view, decisive, shall close the present list of testimonies. It is one referred to in a former discourse, when speaking of infant baptism. I mean the undoubted fact that the Waldenses, those far-famed and devoted witnesses of the truth who maintained, during the darkness and desolation of the Papacy, “the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 1:2,9; 12:17; 19:10), very soon after the Reformation opened, approached with the most cordial friendliness, the Reformed churches of Geneva and France; recognized them as sisters in the Lord; received ministers from them; and maintained with them the most affectionate communion. Now it is certain that, at that time, in the churches of both Geneva and France, the baptism of infants, and the administration of the ordinance by sprinkling, were in constant use. On such an incontestable fact, the argument is this: The Waldenses either baptized by sprinkling or by immersion. If by sprinkling, an important testimony is gained in favour of t hat mode, from ecclesiastical history. If by immersion, they plainly laid no such stress upon the mode as our Baptist brethren now do; since they were willing to commune with, and to receive ministers from, churches which were in the habit of using sprinkling only. In my view, as I said, this argument is decisive. We know that the Waldenses habitually baptized infants; but in what mode they administered the ordinance is not quite so certain. But one thing is unquestionable; and that is that those pious witnesses for Christ, even if they did immerse, did not consider the mode as essential, but were ready to hold the most unreserved communion with those who practised aspersion.
These testimonies, and many more to the same purpose, which might be presented if it were necessary, must, it appears to me, satisfy every impartial mind, that, from the days of the apostles down to the Reformation, affusion and sprinkling in baptism, as well as immersion, have been in constant use; that some of the gravest and most sober-minded writers have firmly defended the two former, as well as the latter; that the strong arguments in favour of affusion or sprinkling, as the preferable mode, have been, in all ages, distinctly appreciated; and that it has ever been considered as a part of Christian liberty to use either mode, as may be conscientiously preferred.
Suffer me now to close this discussion by presenting two or three practical inferences from the view which has been given of this latter part of the subject.
And, 1. If our statement of evidence as to the mode of baptism be correct, then the conduct of our Baptist brethren, in not only denying to the infant seed of believers all right to membership in the church, but also making immersion indispensable to a valid baptism, are chargeable with taking ground which is plainly unscriptural, and with dividing the body of Christ, for a mere uncommanded circumstance: a circumstance in regard to which all reasoning, and all history are, on the whole against them. We do not deny that the baptisms of these brethren are valid; but we do deny that they rest upon any more solid ground than ours; and we are persuaded that, without the least authority, they lay on the recipients of baptism “a yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5:1) which has no warrant from the word of God, and which the whole genius of the gospel forbids. Surely, if the inspired writers had regarded immersion in the same light with our Baptist brethren, we should have had some explicit statements on this subject in the instructions given to the churches in the infancy of their New Testament course. And, surely, the attempt to lay burdens which the Spirit of God has nowhere authorized, is to incur the guilt imputed to those who “add to” the things which are contained in the book of life (Rev. 22:18). On this subject I feel that it is no longer our duty to content ourselves with standing on the defensive. Our opponents in this controversy, I verily believe, are chargeable with “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9); and, of course, I consider them as equally sinning against the Head of the church, and against “the generation of the righteous” (Ps. 14:15).
2. These things being so, we may see how the conduct of some of our Baptist brethren, in particular states of the church, ought to be regarded by the friends of Zion. The conduct to which I refer is, their having so often intruded into churches in which some religious attention has existed, and in which scarcely a family of their own denomination was to be found; and when the minds of many individuals were anxious respecting their eternal interests, immediately broaching the controversy respecting infant baptism, and immersion, and distressing the consciences of serious inquirers not with the great and momentous question, “What they shall do to be saved?” but, before their minds are at all settled as to their personal hope in Christ, or their fitness for any sacramental seal, perplexing them with the controversy about an external rite, which they themselves grant is not essential to salvation. I have personally known such proceedings to occur with a frequency as wonderful as it was revolting; and with an obtrusive zeal worthy of a better cause. Young and timid consciences have been distressed, if not with the direct assertion, at least by the artful insinuation, that their particular mode of baptism was all in all, that there could be no safe Christianity without it. The river, the river, really seemed, by some, to be placed in the room of the Saviour!
There is something in all this so deeply offensive to every enlightened and judicious Christian which involves so much meanness, and which manifests so much more concern for the enlargement of a sect, than the salvation of souls that it is difficult to speak of it in terms of as strong reprobation as it deserves, without infringing on the limits of Christian decorum and respectfulness. It is conduct of which no candid and generous mind, actuated by the Spirit of Christ, will ever be guilty. And, I am happy to add, it is conduct in which many belonging to the denomination to which I allude, have souls too enlarged and elevated to allow themselves to indulge.
3. Once more, let us all be careful, my Christian friends, as a practical deduction from what has been said, to forbear returning “evil for evil,” on this, or any other point of ecclesiastical controversy (Rom. 12:17; 1 Thess. 5:15; 1 Pet. 3:9). However other denominations may treat us, let us never be chargeable with treating them in an unchristian manner. We are conscientiously compelled to differ from our Baptist brethren. We believe them to be in error; in important and highly mischievous error. But what then? They are still brethren in Christ. Let us, therefore, love them and, however they may treat us, treat them with fraternal respectfulness, and seek their welfare. Let us never indulge a spirit of unhallowed proselytism. Let us never employ any other weapons against them than those of candid argument, and fervent prayer. Instead of “doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof come envy, strifes, railings, evil surmisings, and corrupt disputings” (1 Tim. 6:4); let us follow after patience, forbearance and charity; ever remembering that all who really belong to Christ, however they may differ in externals, are “one body in him, and members one of another” (Rom. 12:5). May we all be deeply imbued with the spirit which ought to flow from this precious truth; and may all that we do be done with charity! Amen!
Notes for Discourses 3 and 4
1. See Exodus 29:40; Leviticus 1, 3-5, 8-9, 14-15 chapters; Numbers 19, and Deuteronomy 12 and 15.
2. See this point set in a clear and strong light by the Rev. Dr. Woods, in his Lectures on Infant Baptism; by the Rev. Professor Stuart in the Biblical Repository, No. 10; by the Rev. Professor Pond, of Maine, in his “Treatise on Christian Baptism,” in the Biblical Repertory, Vol. 3, p. 475ff.
3. Carson on Baptism, p. 79.
4. “A gentleman of veracity told the writer that he was once present when forty-seven were dipped in one day, in the usual way. The first operator began, and went through the ceremony, until he had dipped twenty-five persons; when he was so fatigued, that he was compelled to give it up to the other, who with great apparent difficulty dipped the other twenty-two. Both appeared completely exhausted, and went off the ground into a house hard by, to change their clothes and refresh themselves.” Scripture Directory for Baptism by a Layman, p. 14.
5. See a very luminous and satisfactory view of the record of this baptism by Professor Stuart, of Andover, in the Biblical Repository, No. 10, pp. 319-20.
6. The Rev. Dr. Austin, in his answer to Mr. Merill, speaks thus: “In besieged cities, where there are thousands, and hundreds of thousands of people; in sandy deserts like those of Africa, Arabia, and Palestine; in the northern regions, where streams, if there be any, are shut up with impenetrable ice; and in severe and extensive droughts, like that which took place in the time of Ahab; sufficiency of water for animal subsistence is scarcely procured. Now, suppose God should, according to his predictions, pour out plentiful affusions of his Spirit, so that all the inhabitants of one of these regions or cities should be born in a day. Upon the Baptist hypothesis, there is an absolute impossibility that they should be baptized while there is this scarcity of water; and this may last as long as they live” (p. 41).
So also Mr. Walker, in his Doctrine of Baptisms (chapter 10) speaks of a Jew who, while travelling with Christians in the time of Marcus Aurelius Antonius, about sixty or seventy years after the apostles, was converted, fell sick, and desired baptism. Not having water, they sprinkled him thrice with sand, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. He recovered, and his case was reported to the bishop (or pastor, there being no prelates then) who decided that the man was baptized (si modo aqua denuo perfunderatur) if he only had water poured on him again. This record shows, not merely that the “difficulties” referred to are far from being ideal; but also that when the defect of baptism by sand was attempted to supplied it was not by any sort of immersion, but only by the pouring on of water.
7. The zealous Baptist Robert Robinson bears, on this subject, the following testimony: “The primitive Christians baptized naked. Nothing is easier than to give proof of this by quotations from the authentic writings of the men who administered baptism, and who certainly knew in what way they themselves performed it. There is no ancient historical fact better authenticated than this. The evidence does not go to the evidence of the single word, naked; for then a reader might suspect allegory; but on facts reported, and many reasons assigned for the practice” (History of Baptism, p. 85). He then quotes several examples dated in the fourth century.
8. The learned Wall speaks on the subject thus: “The ancient Christians, when they were baptized by immersion, were all baptized naked: whether they were men, women, or children. The proofs of this I shall omit, because it is a clear case. The English Antipædobaptists need not have made so great an outcry against Mr. Baxter for his saying that they baptized naked; for if they had, it would have been no more than the primitive Christians did. They thought it better represented the putting off of the old man, and also the nakedness of Christ on the cross. Moreover, as baptism is a washing, they judged it should be the washing of the body, not of the clothes” (Wall, chapter 15, part 2).
9. See Dr. Woods’ Lectures on Infant Baptism, pp. 188-89. See this interpretation of Rom. 6:3-4, and the corresponding passage in Colossians 2:12, well illustrated in the Essay on Baptism, by Greville Ewing, D.D. of Glasgow, and also in a Dissertation on Infant Baptism, by Ralph Wardlaw, D.D. of Glasgow; and still more recently by Professor Stuart, in the Biblical Repository,pp. 327, 332.
10. Wall, Part 2, chapter 9, p. 352 ff.
11. Walfridius Strabo, De Rebus Ecclesiast., as quoted by Wall.
12. Wall, Part 2, chapter 9, pp. 360-361.
Covenant Theology Poster
The Puritans made many posters, even in their day, to aid church members in understanding Scriptural truth. I created this new poster to cover the Covenant of Redemption, Covenant of Works and Covenant of Grace.
Check Out these Books on Covenant Theology
Presumptive Regeneration, or, the Baptismal Regeneration of Elect Infants by Cornelius Burges (1589-1665)
A Discourse on Covenant Theology and Infant Baptism by Cuthbert Sydenham (1622-1654)
Infant Baptism of Christ’s Appointment by Samuel Petto (1624-1711)
Covenant Holiness and Infant Baptism by Thomas Blake (1597-1657)
The Manifold Wisdom of God Seen in Covenant Theology by George Walker (1581-1651)
The Covenant of God by Thomas Blake (1597-1657)
A Chain of Theological Principles by John Arrowsmith (1602-1659)
The Covenant of Life Opened by Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661)
The Covenant of Grace Opened by Thomas Hooker (1586-1647)
The Covenant of Redemption by Samuel Willard (1640-1707)
The Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace by Edmund Calamy (1600-1666)
The Doctrine and Practice of Infant Baptism by John Brinsley (1600-1665)
God’s Covenant and Our Duty By Samuel Willard (1640-1707)
God’s Glory in Man’s Happiness by Francis Taylor (1589-1656)
Infant Baptism God’s Ordinance by Michael Harrison (1640-1729)
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